We are currently six months into our trainee year (where has the time gone?!). Every one of us is enjoying the experience so far and are even *gasp* starting to consider our careers after this year. When discussing how our work is going at our individual libraries, we have begun to realise that each library is different in its environment and history. Therefore, no two trainee experiences are going to be alike. To illustrate this best, we decided to collaborate together on a (longer than usual) post to showcase the most interesting finds or objects in our libraries. These range from interesting books to some quite unusual artefacts on display. So quickly grab your chosen beverage and get cosy as you go on the unseen tour of Oxford’s libraries!
Augustine’s Confessions: Madeleine Ahern (Taylor Institution Library)
Upon first glance, Arch.8°.F.1495 looks much like the rest of the rare books alongside which it sits at the Taylorian. Its green Moroccan binding is so dark it appears nearly black, lending its exterior a non-descript quality that reveals very little about its fascinating contents. Surprisingly, this unassuming volume contains two important incunables, Guielmi Castelli’s Due Elegie and Augustine of Hippo’s Confessiones.
I began exploring this volume’s history by researching its maker. A binder’s mark pasted over the vibrant orange endpaper in the upper right corner of the book’s inside front cover states it was bound by “J. Faulkner of 8 Queen Street, Little Tower Hill.” In a London street directory from August of 1817, I discovered a listing for a J. Faulkner at 8 Queen Street, while Johnstone’s London Commercial Guide from May of 1818 lists a “John Faulkner, bookbinder” at that same address. Thanks to an entry in the Glasgow Incunabla Project, I confirmed that Faulker’s bookbinding shop was in business from 1809 to 1833. It seems clear, then, that Arch.8°.F.1495 was bound during this period.
It is possible, though not certain, that the volume’s disparate works were brought together for the first time then in this 19th century context. The Confessions is the much better known of the two works it contains, not solely because of the controversy it caused in the 4th century when Augustine rejected paganism in favour of the rapidly spreading Christianity, but also because of his role in shaping Christian tenets of faith for centuries thereafter. During the Renaissance, amid a revival of interest in the classical “greats,” figures like Augustine were venerated and texts like the Confessions were spread throughout Europe with the aid of the newly invented printing press. The Elegies and its author are, by contrast, much less famous. Castelli, also known as Guillaume Castel, was a French poet and clergyman who lived and worked in Tours from 1458 to 1520, and his Latin text does not appear to be well known. I can only speculate about how two such different texts came to be bound together by Faulkner in London over 300 years later. It’s possible that they were joined when they were printed in the early Renaissance since they share a consistent gothic type, but a shift in the rubrication and the paper quality suggests that they were not previously bound as one. Perhaps Faulkner believed there was money to be made from a volume that combined Augustine and Castelli’s works, but more likely he had a patron who saw an educational value in combining them.
The first clue to the identity of this patron can be found, ironically, at the back of the book, in the form of a donation plate for the Fry Collection. In 1955, the daughters of Joseph Forrest Fry and Susanna Fry donated their family’s collection to numerous libraries across Oxford University. Arch.8°.F.1495 was among those that arrived at the Taylorian. Two family crests on the inside of the front cover of the volume offer further clues about the book’s provenance. The bookplate pasted in the centre of the inner cover identifies the book as having belonged to the personal library of William Horatio Crawford, a collection he would have inherited along with his family estate in the mid 19th century. After researching the Crawford family history, I ascertained that the book must have joined the collection prior to William’s death in 1888. An 1891 newspaper clipping which reads like an advertisement for those interested in purchasing incunables is attached a few pages into the book and is almost certainly a record of sorts for the sale of the Crawford collection. The second crest, that of the Inglis family, may have been attached at this point, indicating that they purchased the book in 1891. Alternatively, it may have been attached much earlier, in which case someone in the Inglis family may have been the patron at whose behest Faulkner bound the Elegies and Confessions together sometime between 1809 and 1833. Given that in 1788 a Dr. Charles Inglis founded my high school, King’s-Edgehill in Windsor, Nova Scotia, I was surprised to stumble across this possible (albeit tenuous) Canadian connection, and I plan to delve further into the relationship between Arch.8°.F.1495 and the Inglis family.
Battershall, Fletcher. Bookbinding for Bibliophiles: Being Notes on Some Technical Features of the Well Bound Book for the Connoisseurs. Greenwich: The Literary Collector Press, 1905.
Johnstone’s London Commercial Guide. London, 1818.
Hughes, Jill. “The Taylor Institution Library.” In David Paisey (ed.): German studies: British resources. Papers presented at a colloquium at the British Library 25-27 September 1985. London 1986, pp. 196-204.
Marks, P.J.M. The British Library Guide to Bookbinding: History and Techniques. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998.
Pearson, David. English Bookbinding Styles 1450-1800. New Castle: Oak Knoll Press, 2005.
Saint Augustine. Confessions. Translated by Henry Chadwick. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.
Sotheby’s: Six Centuries of Book Binding. London: Sotheby’s, 2002.
Street directory of London. London, 1817.
Washbourne, Henry. The Book of Family Crests. Berkeley: University of California, Berkeley, 1840.
Zaehnsdorf, Joseph William. The Art of Bookbinding: a practical treatise, with plates and diagrams. London: George Bell & Sons, 1890.
Jaron Lanier, Who Owns The Future?: Tom Vickers (Sainsbury Business School Library)
Honestly – I picked this off the shelf for its cover. For such a provocative title (evoking the mega-corps of cyberpunk dystopias that lurk in every popular sci-fi rendering of what’s to come) it’s a calming, quite beautiful image. It even ends up being resonant to Lanier’s argument too – a graceful representation of a collective of individuals, and of iteration, algorithmic or otherwise. There’s two pieces of media calling themselves ‘All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace’. One is the original 1967 poem by counterculture grandee Richard Brautigan and the other is a 2011 documentary by another Richard, this time Curtis that bleakly shreds the utopian visions of the 60s. This book reminds me of both, and I suspect its author knows and thinks well of both as well. It also has the crucial quality of a book about the future of having been right so far – about fake news, the erosion of democracy, and a whole host of contemporary horrors. Somehow, while reading it, I’m not as depressed about that as I perhaps should be. Lanier has a wry sense of humour about reality which you get the feeling is as much a product of his perceptiveness as the book insights, insights which Lanier makes disarmingly often in a much wider variety of topics than the stated subject fields of technology and economics. He’s honest, personal, and explains things well, and so the book is and does these things too. I have a close friend I’ve known since university who has unnervingly high scores in an Economics & Economic History degree and a subsequent career advising governments on long-term investments, and talking points in here helped me start really picking up what he’s been putting down for years in half a dozen areas of conversation. I may well buy him a copy for his 30th.
Amelia B. Edwards: Erin McNulty (Sackler Library)
While researching for a book display that I was putting together to celebrate LGBT+ History Month at the Sackler Library, I came upon the work of Amelia B. Edwards. Edwards, born in 1831, was an English novelist, journal, and traveller, who contributed greatly to the field of Egyptology, co-founding the Egypt Exploration Fund in 1882. She was also the founder of the Edwards Chair of Egyptology at University College London. Edwards died in 1892 from influenza, and was buried alongside her partner, Ellen Drew Braysher. In 1877, she published a best-selling travelogue that she had written about her journeys in Egypt, titled A Thousand Miles up the Nile.
I discovered that an 1877 edition of this work was stored in the Sackler’s Rare Book Room, where we house some of our special collections. The book contains illustrations by Edwards of various sites that she visited during her time in Egypt, and its cover is beautifully decorated. The work even has a dedicatory message and signature from the author written inside! Some pictures of the book are included below:
Unfortunately, I was not able to display this older edition, but a newer edition was also available. However, anyone with a valid University or Bodleian card can view our Special Collections materials, such as the above work by Edwards, on request; just ask at the Issue Desk. Also, feel free to come along and have a look at our LGBT+ History Month display, or visit the Sackler blog for more details: http://blogs.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/sackler/ .
The Elizabethan Zoo: Emma Jambor (English Faculty Library)
One of my favourite books from the English Faculty Library is The Elizabethan Zoo (edited by M. St. Clare Byrne, published in 1926) from our Rare Book Room. The book describes a variety of normal and fantastical beasts, from the authentic rhino to the extraordinary Hydra and Mantichora. The sources for the text and illustrations come from Pliny the Elder’s Natural History, Topsell’s The History of Four-footed Beasts (1607) and The History of Serpents (1608). I particularly love the fantastical and frightening illustrations.
Tiny Books!: Evie Brown (Bodleian Library)
My interesting find in the Bodleian collections was a very ordinary transit box…full of tiny children’s books! I love to collect early additions of children’s books – there is something about the illustrations which never fails to bring a smile to my face – so this was an exciting discovery for me. Many of the books in the collection are by Ernest Aris, an early 20th century author and illustrator with an impressive CV of 170 titles to his name.
Aris’ books are beautifully illustrated, with bright and personable characters and it definitely makes a change to the traditional dusty classics and theology books held in the Bodleian!
As well as Aris’ collection of books, the box also contains some re-written classics – The Arabian Nights, Robinson Crusoe and Alice in Wonderland to name but a few – by Kathleen Fitzgerald. These are interesting as they are bound in suede with gold lettering – beautiful but makes for some grubby fingers!
The final piece I wanted to share was a beautiful book, with a cardboard cover and no binding – the pages are simply held together with string. I love the illustrations, and the tiny matchbox sized box that the book came in. I have included a picture of the book next to my Bodleian reader card to give some perspective – it really is tiny! This book is definitely my favourite as it reminds me a little of the type of things I used to love to make when I was a child, and you can’t help but smile when you see it!
I hope you enjoyed my little interesting find; it’s definitely something a bit different!
Wonders of the Stereoscope – John Jones (London: Roxby Press Productions, 1976): Rhiannon Hartwell (Bodleian Library)
Can you ever be sure you’re seeing the same thing as someone else? How do you teach another person to see what you see?
In addition to providing ample entertainment to Reading Room staff at the Old Bod, Wonders of the Stereoscope has raised a lot of interesting questions about perception and vision!So, what is a stereoscope, exactly? Stereoscopy was developed in the mid-19th century; two images, called ‘stereographs’ are developed side-by-side, showing the left- and right-eye views of a single image. When viewed through a specially-designed stereoscope lens, at the right distance and with relaxed, unfocused vision, the near-identical images should overlap until one, three-dimensional image appears.
According to Brian May (yes, that Brian May, of the band Queen), who formed the London Stereoscopic Company in the early 2000s as a result of his lifelong experimentation with stereoscopy, such images can also be ‘free-viewed’ without the use of lenses – though success with this method has been limited at the Old Bod!
Wonders of the Stereoscope is my favourite item I’ve seen come through the Old Bodleian reading rooms because of the sheer joy it provokes in the reading room team, as everyone shares in the camaraderie of learning a bizarre and intriguing new skill. The images provided by Wonders of the Stereoscope certainly don’t hurt, either – from Charles Blondin perilously balanced on a tightrope across the Niagara Falls, to a walrus in trousers kissing a man on the lips, the often hilarious variety of images provided endless amusement even before they were seen in 3-D!
Thomas Hearne, Remarks and Collections: Harriet David (History Faculty Library)
Tucked down in the local history section in the Lower Gladstone Link (the lowest level of the Bodleian, so close to the water table that it has a pump lurking discreetly in one corner) are the eleven volumes of Thomas Hearne’s Remarks and Collections, published between 1885 and 1921 by the Oxford Historical Society.
Thomas Hearne (bap. 1678, d. 1735) was an antiquary, librarian, and indefatigable gatherer-up of old books, remarkable tales, and Oxford gossip – Hearne matriculated from St Edmund Hall in 1695, and rose rapidly through the academic ranks. His Remarks and Collections are one of the great eighteenth-century diaries, a daily record of Hearne’s life, scholarly discoveries, and political vituperations spanning the years from 1705 to 1735. During this time, Hearn rose to become Second Librarian of the Bodleian, in 1712, and by 1715 had been appointed to the splendidly-named University posts of Architypographer of the Press (responsible for maintaining the standards of the University Press, then lodged in the basement of the Sheldonian Theatre) and Superior Beadle of Civil Law. A glowing future within the Bodleian seemed assured.
Later that same year, however, Hearne was to be ousted from all these posts. So ‘inraged’ was John Hudson, then Bodley’s Librarian, that Hearne records ‘he had the Lock & Key of the Library Door altered on purpose to exclude me from going in and out when I pleased, my own Key being now perfectly useless’ (Remarks and Collections, vol. V, pp. 137-8). Hearne didn’t just get himself fired from the Bodleian – his boss literally changed the locks to keep him out.
This dramatic fall from grace was the result of awkward political and social affiliations. Hearne was a committed and vocal nonjuror (he refused – except on his initial entry to the University – to swear the required oath of loyalty to William and Mary) and Jacobite. Even in the distinctly conservative atmosphere of early eighteenth-century Oxford, his outspoken loyalty to the Stuarts was an embarrassment for the University, which took measures – however inelegant – to protect itself. Hearne’s account of his dismissal, which involves him taking care to read out John Hudson’s ‘false spellings’ (‘Upder Library Keeper’) verbatim, throwing the Vice-Chancellor into a ‘Passion’ (Remarks, vol. V, p. 181), does not show Enlightenment Oxford at its most dignified.
Hearne endured, however. Denied access to Bodleian manuscripts, and refusing – especially towards the end of his life – to spend so much as a single night away from Oxford, he nevertheless refashioned himself as an independent publisher, printing scholarly editions of pre-Reformation texts for a list of dedicated subscribers. And, all this time, he was making a daily entry in his Remarks. They record much valuable bibliographical information, several vigorous (if often one-sided) feuds, and many local curiosities: Hearne was evidently a collector of old people as well as old texts, and the volumes are peppered with his accounts of the remarkably aged, and with their accounts, as told to Hearne, of lost buildings, noted ancestors, and Oxford history. They also give a vivid sense of a stubborn, punctilious, and learned man, as ready to note down ‘Strange lights in the air […] in and ab[ou]t Oxford’ (Remarks, vol. V, p. 181), or a student riot occasioned by a bull-baiting at Headington (the students wished to tie a cat ‘to the Bulls Tayl’; locals objected. The fate of the cat is not recorded (Remarks, Vol. IX, p. 295)), as to chase down early editions of Leland or record the falling prices of Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy (once ‘a common-place for filchers’ of Burton’s learning, now ‘disregarded’; even Isaac Newton’s works, Hearne reflects, may ‘also in time be turned to wast paper’ (Remarks, Vol. XI, p. 298)).
Hearne died in his lodgings in St Edmund Hall in 1735. He kept his old set of keys to the Bodleian until his death.
Goethe’s Hair?!: Chloe Bolsover (Taylor Institution Library)
If you may not know already, the Taylor Institution houses a vast array of collections on Modern Languages and Literatures. We also house some amazing special collections. Including a lock of Goethe’s hair! The hair is kept in a frame alongside a pressed violet and a portrait of Goethe, with the German paper slip and a little, ‘English’ envelope.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) was considered to be the greatest German literary figure of the modern era. He died unexpectedly of heart failure, and left behind a vast legacy. Goethe had a profound impact on later literary movements, including Romanticism and expressionism. His lifetime spanned some of the most monumental disruptions in modern history, and is often referred to as the Goethezeit or Age of Goethe.
It is unclear how many people were able to obtain a lock of Goethe’s hair, but one person who did was German publisher and poet Johannes Falk. At the time, Goethe was recovering from a near fatal heart illness. It is possible that the lock of hair was cut, unbeknownst to Goethe, whilst he was enjoying a restorative sleep. According to the testimony of John Falk, the living descendant of Johannes Falk, he passed on the hair to a daughter, who then proceeded to pass it onto John’s great grandfather.
In 1953, John’s grandfather, Oswald, agreed to have the hair displayed at the Taylor. The librarian at the time, Donald Sutherland, promised Oswald that the hair would be kept in a show-case in one of the Reading Rooms. For nearly 70 years, the hair has been either on display or kept in the rare book room at the Library.
Personally, I find the hair absolutely fascinating. As creepy as it may seem to us in the 21st century, a lock of hair may have been comforting and also act as a sign of prestige. By the end of his life, Goethe was highly celebrated, and to be seen to possess a lock of hair from the head of the man himself, certainly conveyed privilege. Nick Hearn, French and Russian Subject Consultant at the Taylor, adds that in the lock of Goethe’s hair the comical and frivolous seem to combine with the eternal and the hagiographical. I quite agree, as the hair has never or rarely been separated from its accompanying items. I have written a longer piece, providing more details on the hair and its associated paraphernalia. I will post this soon!