Alicia Marksberry
KU Libraries

KU Libraries to host reception celebrating Spencer Research Library's latest exhibition, 'Keeping the Books'

Tue, 10/04/2022

LAWRENCE — KU Libraries will host a reception Nov. 1 to celebrate the Kenneth Spencer Research Library’s current exhibition, “Keeping the Books: The Rubinstein Collection of the Orsetti Family Business Archive.”

"Keeping the Books"The exhibition, on display now at the Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas, features samples of business records from the Orsetti family dating primarily from the 16th through the 18th centuries. The Orsetti family was an influential noble family in the city of Lucca in Tuscany, Italy. Their business manuscripts offer a look into what life was like at the time and how business and personal expenses were kept.

“The books are very beautiful and a part of history, so I hope this exhibition is of interest to the general public,” said Whitney Baker, exhibition curator and head of conservation services at Spencer Research Library.

The items on display highlight the unique binding style and the ways different books were used for different accounting purposes. The manuscripts feature the Venetian double-entry accounting system, which was the accepted form of bookkeeping of the time. Baker said that she hopes to bring in students and researchers from across disciplines, including accounting and Italian studies, to visit the exhibition.

“This is a collection that hasn’t been used as much as I wish it was and hasn’t been displayed before as far as I know,” Baker said. “There’s a lot of different ways people can enjoy it, and I hope people get excited about it.”

These records are part of the Rubinstein Collection, which was acquired in 1974 and named after Joseph Rubinstein, the first curator of the Department of Special Collections at KU Libraries who was instrumental in helping KU acquire the Orsetti family papers. The collection contains 294 bound volumes, 84 maps and five boxes of unbound accounting and family records, making it one of the largest of its kind in the U.S.

“Keeping the Books” will remain on display until Jan. 13, 2023. The reception will take place at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 1 in the Spencer Research Library foyer, with remarks from Baker at 6:15 p.m. Food and beverages will be served at the event. RSVP by Oct. 25 online. For more information about the event, please email

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