University of Chicago Library

Guide to the John Matthews Manly Papers 1892-1940

© 2006 University of Chicago Library

Descriptive Summary


Manly, John Matthews. Papers




5.5 linear feet (11 boxes)


Special Collections Research Center
University of Chicago Library
1100 East 57th Street
Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.


John Matthews Manly (1865-1940), Professor of English. The John Matthews Manly Papers contain personal and professional correspondence, manuscripts, copies of manuscripts from various libraries, articles, lectures, notes, and student papers. Correspondents include G.L. Kittredge, Barrett Wendell, A.W. Pollard, William A. Craigie, R.B. McKerrow, and H.S. Bennett. Papers document Manly's work on Chaucer and the Canterbury Tales and his interest in cryptography.

Information on Use


No restrictions.


When quoting material from this collection, the preferred citation is: Manly, John Matthews. Papers, [Box #, Folder #], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library

Biographical Note

Reputedly, after John Matthew Manly (2 Sept. 1865-2 Apr. 1940) earned his PhD in Philogy he then attempted to read the entire holding of the Harvard library. A child prodigy, Manly graduated from Furman University with his masters when he was 18 years old. Getting his early education at the Staunton Military Academy in Virginia and the Greenville Military Institute in South Carolina, Manly earned his MA degree in mathematics in 1883. Just 19 years old he went to teach Mathematics at William Jewel College in Missouri for the next five years. Manly then proceeded to Harvard to earn the PhD (1890). The graduate program at Harvard didn't provide for the education that Manly sought so he collected Professors from many fields to proctor his Philology degree. During his examination he was interrogated by each professor separately. His colleague at the University of Chicago, Robert Morss Lovett, was also a student at Harvard at the time; Lovett recalled the day of Manly's exam:

When Manly emerged with triumphant nonchalance, there was eager inquiry to secure data for future use. "What did Stubby ask?" "What did Kitteredge ?" when we got to Wendell, I remember Manly's reply was: " He didn't ask me anything. He only gave me a cigar"-an incident which was long cited as an instance of the highest academic chivalry.

After his first year of professorship in the English department at Brown University, Manly returned to Harvard to teach a summer course in Old English. He maintained his position at Brown until 1898 when President William Rainey Harper persuaded him to move to the University of Chicago. Manly's great incentive was that he would be the head of the English Department; he held that position until his retirement in 1933.

In the English department at the U of C Manly pursued studies in English literature and focused on Pier the Plowman, Shakespeare, Chaucer and general education. Manly was the first to theorize that the various versions of Pier the Plowman the work were not by just one author. Manly served as the Chicago Exchange Professor at the University of Göttingen (1909).

Circa 1913 Colonel George Fabyan invited Manly to examine Shakespeare's text to decipher codes placed in the text by the alleged author, Bacon. In six weeks Manly developed a system for deciphering the codes which he concluded did not validate Bacon's authorship. On the reputation of this work he was invited by the US government to join the Military Intelligence Division in the encoding and decoding of messages and the deciphering of enemy codes in 1915. Manly stepped down from the U of C for the duration of the war. As a successful decipher, Major Manly, earned the respect of his military peers before returning to the English Chair in 1919.

Deeply interested in language and mystery Manly turned his attentions toward Chaucer's writings. In the Oxford Lowell Institute lectures (1924) he asserted that Chaucer's characters were based on people that he knew. An idea widely accepted today but Manly had to delve deep into Chaucer's life to find the associates.

A devoted educator Manly published books for all ages and in particular edited texts of poetry for classroom use at various grade levels. As the editor of Modern Philogy Manly explored his more complex academic interests. Manly believed he would have been a better scholar if he would have either had fewer interests or loved the English department a little less.

For the last 15 years of his life Manly and his former student Edith Rickertt were engaged in an in depth study of the Canterbury tales. They, along with one or more of Manly's four sisters spent 6 months of each year in England examining texts and managed to get photostatic copies of all eighty five known Chaucerian manuscripts; they also discovered sixteen unknown fragments. Rickert and Manly amassed these in Chicago so that they could study them together and make them available to other scholars. The death of the young Rickert left Manly to finish the task of editing the eight volume set alone. He published this in 1939. just prior to his own death in 1940. The weight of the volume both intellectually and financially meant that individual scholars were not able to examine the books until after WWII.

Manly was involved in many academic organizations and received five honorary degrees for his work in addition to the honor bestowed on him by the University of Chicago when it named a chair after him.

Manly was groomed for academic success by his lineage. His great grandfather Basil Manly, was President of the University of Alabama and founded the Alabama Historical Society. Manly's grandfather, Basil Manly, Jr. ministered to churches in four states and was President of the Georgetown College of Kentucky in the midst of his fatherly duties to 18 children. The Manly's were a politically invested southern family and Basil Manly, Jr. delivered the inaugural prayer when Jefferson Davis was inducted into the Confederate Presidency. Manly's father, Charles Manly, carried on the pastoral and educational traditions set by his family and became a Baptist minister and the president of Central College and Furman University in the American south.

Manly's father married Mary Esther Hellen Matthews who mothered seven children. John M. Manly was born on 2 Sep 1865 in Sumter Co. Alabama. His brothers were quite successful, Charles Matthews Manly, (1876-1927) is noted for inventing the Langley Airplane in 1903. Basil Maxwell Manly was a noted economist with the Federal Power Commission.

A beloved teacher and brother, Manly passed away after a heart attack in Tucson, Arizona on 2 April 1940.

Scope Note

The John Matthews Manly Papers contain personal and professional correspondence, manuscripts, copies of manuscripts from various libraries, articles, lectures, notes, and student papers. Correspondents include G.L. Kittredge, Barrett Wendell, A.W. Pollard, William A. Craigie, R.B. McKerrow, and H.S. Bennett. The Papers document Manly's work on Chaucer and the Canterbury Tales and his interest in cryptography.

The collection is comprised of eight series: Series I: General Correspondence; Series II: Correspondence, Cryptography; Series III: Scholarly Manuscripts; Series IV: Miscellaneous Manuscripts; Series V: Piers Plowman Manuscript; Series VI: Voynich Manuscript and Cryptography; Series VII: Army Cryptography; Series VIII: Miscellaneous Materials and Addenda.

Related Resources

The following related resources are located in the Department of Special Collections:


Subject Headings


Series I: General Correspondence

Box 1   Folder 1

Correspondence, n.d. and 1889-92

Box 1   Folder 2

Correspondence, 1893-94 (Especially Agnes Furnivall)

Box 1   Folder 3

Correspondence, 1895 (Especially Agnes Furnivall)

Box 1   Folder 4

Correspondence, 1896 (Especially Agnes Furnivall)

Box 1   Folder 5

Correspondence, 1897-99 (including Lovett and Moody)

Box 1   Folder 6

Correspondence, 1900-03

Box 1   Folder 7

Correspondence, 1904-06 (including responses to the "Lost Leaf of Piers Plowman"

Box 1   Folder 8

Correspondence, 1907 (especially Basil Manly)

Box 1   Folder 9

Correspondence, 1908-1909

Box 1   Folder 10

Correspondence, 1910-13

Box 1   Folder 11

Correspondence, 1916-17

Box 1   Folder 12

Correspondence, 1918-19

Box 1   Folder 13

Correspondence, 1920-22 (including plan for English Department reorganization)

Box 1   Folder 14

Correspondence, 1923

Box 1   Folder 15

Correspondence, 1924-25

Box 1   Folder 16

Correspondence, 1926-27

Box 1   Folder 17

Correspondence, 1928-29

Box 1   Folder 18

Correspondence, 1930

Box 1   Folder 19

Correspondence, Jan. 1931

Box 1   Folder 20

Correspondence, Feb. 1931

Box 1   Folder 21

Correspondence, Mar. 1931

Box 1   Folder 22

Correspondence, Apr. 1931

Box 2    Folder 1

Correspondence, May 1931

Box 2    Folder 2

Correspondence, Jun.-Dec. 1931

Box 2    Folder 3

Correspondence, 1932-35

Box 2    Folder 4

Correspondence, 1937-40

Box 2    Folder 5

Correspondence, family business, re:Manly Corporation, 1930-31

Box 2    Folder 6

Correspondence, family business, C.M. Kendrick, 1930-31

Series II: Correspondence, Cryptography

Box 2    Folder 7

Correspondence, 1916

Box 2    Folder 8

Correspondence, 1917

Box 2    Folder 9

Correspondence, 1918

Box 2    Folder 10

Correspondence, 1919

Box 2    Folder 11

Correspondence, 1920

Box 2    Folder 12

Correspondence, 1921 Jan-May

Box 2    Folder 13

Correspondence, 1921 Jun-July

Box 2    Folder 14

Correspondence, 1921 Aug-Dec

Box 2    Folder 15

Correspondence, 1922 Jan-June

Box 2    Folder 16

Correspondence, 1922 Jul-Dec

Box 2    Folder 17

Correspondence, 1923

Box 3   Folder 1

Correspondence, 1924-26

Box 3   Folder 2

Correspondence, 1927-30

Box 3   Folder 3

Correspondence, 1931 Mar-July

Box 3   Folder 4

Correspondence, 1931 Aug-Dec

Box 3   Folder 5

Correspondence, 1932-38

Series III: Scholarly Manuscripts

Box 3   Folder 6

"Shall and Will in Chaucer," Ms and notes

Box 3   Folder 7

"Shall and Will in Chaucer," Ms, not in JMM's handwriting

Box 3   Folder 8

"Education that Educates," convocation address, Dec. 20, 1927

Box 3   Folder 9

"The Books of Frederic Ives Carpenter"

Box 3   Folder 10

Tribute to Charles R. Baskervill

Box 3   Folder 11

Final e in Chaucer's Legend of Good Women

Box 3   Folder 12

Review of Minutes and Accounts of the Corporation of Stratford-upon-Avon

Box 3   Folder 13

Review of The Book of Troilus and Criseyde, ed. by R.K. Root

Box 3   Folder 14

"The Rift in Education"

Box 3   Folder 15

"The Teaching of Literature"

Box 3   Folder 16

"Sidney Lanier"

Box 3   Folder 17

"Tales of the Homeward Journey"

Box 3   Folder 18

"English in the Public Schools"

Box 3   Folder 19

"The Place of Language in the English Course"

Box 3   Folder 20

"Narrative Writing in Anglo Saxon Times"

Series IV: Miscellaneous Manuscripts

Box 3   Folder 21

"Gregory, the Great," unfinished

Box 3   Folder 22

Notes for Manly-Bailey series of textbooks

Box 3   Folder 23

Notes from committee on the desirability of purchasing "one of the most notable private libraries in Europe--the Canal's a noble family of Venetia"

Box 3   Folder 24

Notes and ideas for stories

Box 3   Folder 25


Box 3   Folder 26

Unfinished stories and essays

Box 3   Folder 27

"James Morrison," completed story

Series V: Piers Plowman Manuscript

Box 3   Folder 28

Piers Plowman, Proofs; Jusserand's reply; bibliography: R.W.

  • Chambers' article; miscellaneous notes and notes on John Wycliffe;
  • 1928 Comprehensive Examination in English
Box 4   Folder 1

Thomas A. Knott "The Ms of Text A `Piers the Plowman' Used as the Basis of the Revision Known as Text B"; notes on Text B

Box 4   Folder 2-18

Student papers on Piers Plowman

Series VI: Voynich Manuscript and Cryptography

Box 4   Folder 19

Table of Latin Syllables

Box 4   Folder 20-21

Photographs of Voynich Ms

Box 4   Folder 22

"Key to the Library" (JMM's?)

Box 5   Folder 1


Box 5   Folder 2

Photographs of Mss (Including Français 24306, incomplete) and of one printed label

Box 5   Folder 3

Three working notebooks, labelled "Bacon Cipher"

Box 5   Folder 4

Notes on code for article; other notes on Sloane 830 and 414

Box 5   Folder 5

Worksheets on related ciphers: "Galen's Anatomy" and "Kazwini"

Box 5   Folder 6

Articles on the Voynich Roger Bacon Ms

Box 5   Folder 7-8

Notes: ciphers in other Mss; other notes on printed sources

Box 5   Folder 9

Notes on alchemical Mss, etc.

Box 5   Folder 10

Notes for Bacon Cipher; "Key to Aggas"

Box 5   Folder 11

Notes on texts in cryptography

Box 5   Folder 12

Miscellaneous notes and worksheets

Box 5   Folder 13


Box 5   Folder 14

Photostats of Mss: John Dee (Sloane 3188, 3189, 2599): unidentified

Box 5   Folder 15

Notes on Vatican Latin Ms 3102

Box 5   Folder 16

"Notes on an Inquiry into the Validity of the Baconian Bi-Literal Cypher for the Interpretation of Certain Writings Claimed for Francis Bacon"

Box 5   Folder 17

Comments on "Sixty Drops of Laudanum," by E.A. Poe

Box 5   Folder 18-19

"The Bi-formed Alphabet Classifier" of the Riverbank Laboratories

Box 5   Folder 20

Notes on Shakespeare/Bacon cipher

Series VII: Army Cryptography

Box 6   Folder 1

Tratado de Cryptogragia (in Spanish) 1894

Box 6   Folder 2

Wörter-Verzeichniss (in German)

Box 6   Folder 3

Army War College 1917 materials; word frequently charts

Box 6   Folder 4

Confederate Cipher Code (Beauregard's?)

Box 6   Folder 5

Articles, circulars on codes, etc.

Box 6   Folder 6-7

War College problem sheets

Box 6   Folder 8

Miscellaneous, including Maroon article on "Our Faculty at War" on JMM

Box 6   Folder 9

Miscellaneous notes

Box 6   Folder 10

Sliding letter scales

Series VIII: Miscellaneous Materials and Addenda

Box 6   Folder 11

Photographic copy of Ms of Bayle's King John (Oxford?), pp 1-37, incomplete

Box 6   Folder 12

Photographic copy of Ms of Bayle's King John (Oxford?), pp 39-63, Incomplete

Box 6   Folder 13

Facsimile of Ms of Bayle's King John, leaf 8 only. 6 copies

Box 6   Folder 14

Photographs of stages and scenes, some from printed sources

Box 6   Folder 15

Photographs of first pages of several plays by Shakespeare

Box 6   Folder 16

Photographs of Greene's James IV of Scotland, 2pp, printed

Box 6   Folder 17


  • "East and West Germanic"
  • "Burton on Learning Language"
  • "Die Frauensprache"
Box 6   Folder 18

Printed matter on dry-air blast furnace

Box 6   Folder 19

Bibliographical Society of Chicago

Box 6   Folder 20

Simplified Spelling Board: pamphlets

Box 6   Folder 21

Sarah Murray Manly, obituaries

Box 6   Folder 22

Charles Manly: Sketches of School and College Life, 1845-65"

Box 6   Folder 23

Address book and diary, ca 1901, of JMM

Box 7   Folder 1

JMM's bookplate

Box 7   Folder 2

Chaucer project, 1937 correspondence with J.S.P. Tatlock; introductory note; note on the Hengwrt Ms

Box 7   Folder 3

"The Service of a Small College"

Box 7   Folder 4

1933 English 301 syllabus

Box 7   Folder 5

Miscellaneous notes: inventories and account rolls of Jarrow and Monk, etc.

Box 7   Folder 6

D.C. Heath and Co. contracts

Box 7   Folder 7

Data on private libraries in Chicago collected by the Chicago Bibliographical Society

Box 7   Folder 8

Course outlines, notes, etc., Brown University, etc.?

Box 7   Folder 9

Collancz Ms--copies

Box 7   Folder 10

Notes and texts

  • "Silent 1 in Modern English Meter"
  • "Records of Children of Chapel"
  • Career of Charles Manly D.D.
  • Unidentified notes
Box 7   Folder 11


  • "Anti-Shakespearean Recreations"
  • "Shakespeare is Shakespeare"
Box 7   Folder 12

Schedule of lectures, Gen. Lit. 110

Box 7   Folder 13

Student papers

Box 7   Folder 14

Oscar L. Olson papers, including "A Contribution to the History of Saga Development in England and the Scandinavian Countries"

Box 7   Folder 15

Tracings from Mss rubrications

Box 7   Folder 16

Miscellaneous non-Manly papers

Box 8   Folder 1

Lectures on Pre-Shakespearean Drama by JMM (student course notes?)

Box 8   Folder 2

Ms copy of Guilietta e Romeo by Luigi da Porto. Introduction and biographical information by JMM (?)

Box 8   Folder 3

"A Copy of a Letter Written by Our Blessed Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ" (Ein Himmelsbrief. n. b. see 1922 correspondence for more information.)

Box 8   Folder 4

Incomplete photostat of Ms Junius 1

Box 8   Folder 5

"A True and Approved Art"

Box 8   Folder 6

J.M.H. Walden's 1906 report on Duke of Brunswick's Library at Wolfenbuttel

Box 8   Folder 7

Photostats of Mss; Bodl. Misc Mss Lit 346; Sloane 2357; Huntington Vices and Vertus

Box 8   Folder 8

R.B. Baselden, 1933 correspondence on Piers Plowman

Box 8   Folder 9

Summary of "The Science of Poetry and the Philosophy of Language" by Hudson Maxim

Box 8   Folder 10

"Education that Educates"

Box 8   Folder 11

Photostates of Ms Bodl. 581; Ms BM 23986; Sloane 3192

Box 8   Folder 12

Miscellaneous photographs

Box 8   Folder 13

F.I. Carpenter (?): "Apropos of Aim and of Method in Literary Studies"

Box 8   Folder 14

Baker Brownell: "Problems of Contemporary Thought"

Box 8   Folder 15

Gertrude Schottenfels (student?) papers

Box 8   Folder 16

Student papers

Box 8   Folder 17

Otto Stahlen: "Editorial Technique"

Box 8   Folder 18-20

T. Atkinson Jenkins papers: notes on Paris Ms 902, etc.; Resurrection play

Box 9

JMM Diplomas

Box 9

Photostat of Ballades of Deschamps

Box 9

Chaucer project notecards

Box 10

Chaucer project notecards, scribal errors chapter

Box 11   Folder 1

JMM papers given by D.H. Stevens, 1970, correspondence, 1933-1935; photos; reprint of Lippotopo, 1934, etc.

Box 11   Folder 2

JMM papers given by F.B. Millett, 1970, correspondence, 1928-1936; clippings; reprints

Box 11   Folder 3

"Bopeep: A Song-cycle from the English Poets" parodies of Chaucer, Milton, Gray, Browning, Scott and Longfellow, signed by CSC and MGC (relationship to JMM unknown)

Box 11   Folder 4

Family and financial correspondence, 1931-32

Box 11   Folder 5

Notes on printing; Caxton, Colet, More, Tyndale, Erasmus, Johnson, Vikings (essay in German)

Box 11   Folder 6

List of Master's Dissertations in English to 1921

Box 11   Folder 7

Clippings from The Athaneaum and The Nation

Box 11   Folder 8

Essays by Philippine students (relationship to JMM, if any, unknown)

Box 11   Folder 9

"Roger Bacon and the Voynich Ms" by JMM, reprint

Box 11   Folder 10

English Tripos, 1926-32, Cambridge University English Poetry by JMM (Cinn & Co., 1907). 1 copy