Category Archives: Special Collections

Writing Norwegian Literary Histories. The Marie Wells Collection in the Bodleian Libraries

By Marie Martine, on behalf of the TORCH critical thinking community for Scandinavian Studies (in collaboration with Leif Bjarne Hammer and Sarah Fengler)

A Transformative Donation

exhibition posterIn 2023, the Taylor Institution received a generous donation from Dr Marie Wells, comprising a substantial selection of Norwegian books (along with some Danish titles), significantly enriching the institution’s collection. As part of our TORCH critical thinking community for Scandinavian Studies, we organised this exhibition ‘Writing Norwegian Literary Histories’ to showcase the best holdings of this recent acquisition.

This donation will undoubtedly support the work of current and future scholars in Scandinavian Studies, including the work of Professor Kirsten Shepherd-Barr, expert in Ibsen’s theatre and Professor Dan Grimley, expert in Scandinavian music and the Head of Oxford’s Humanities Division. Numerous DPhil students currently research Scandinavian cultural history, among them the four co-convenors of the TORCH critical thinking community: Leif Bjarne (History) who analyses in his thesis eighteenth-century university culture in Oxford and Copenhagen; Marie Martine (MML) who researches women’s writing at the end of the nineteenth century, including the Norwegian feminist writer, Amalie Skram;  Sarah Fengler (MML) whose thesis in German and Norwegian literature explores European Old Testament tragedies in the Age of Enlightenment; and Tzen Sam (English) who uncovers in her research Ibsen’s women translators into English. We sincerely hope that this donation and this exhibition will encourage an even more active engagement with Scandinavian Studies at the University of Oxford.

Plural Literary Histories

The exhibition title ‘Writing Norwegian Literary Histories’ not only refers to the various literature histories included in the collection, but also pays homage to the diverse range of voices, styles, and genres that characterises modern Norwegian literature.

The exhibition starts from the 1800s which marks Norway’s entry into the European cultural scene and its trajectory towards modernity. It thus does not include Old Norse texts, considered as part of a wider pan-Scandinavian literary tradition. It also does not delve into the fascinating evolution of Norwegian literature from Christian writing, the baroque, classicism and enlightenment eras. Instead, the exhibition starts from the date 1814, when Norway gained its independence from Denmark and entered a political union with Sweden. From this pivotal cultural and political moment, Norwegian authors and intellectuals concentrated their efforts to carve out a distinctly ‘Norwegian’ identity, through language, literature, and culture. It is also at that time that Norwegian became distinct from Danish, by creating two written languages, Bokmål and Nynorsk. Concurrently, many writers gained critical acclaim abroad, notably through their creative appropriation of European literary movements, ranging from Realism to Modernism.  The authors featured in this exhibition showcase a diverse spectrum of writing styles, spanning from Norway’s quest for independence to the present day.

Norwegian Realism

As Norway achieved political and cultural independence, it emerged onto the European cultural stage, engaging with and contributing to its literary trends. While Norwegian authors at the beginning of the nineteenth century embraced national romanticism to convey Norwegian identity and rediscover folktales, starting in the 1850s, many shifted their focus towards realism.

The transition from a romantic style to a realistic one is evident in the trajectory of Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson’s career (1832-1910). He started his literary journey with Synnøve Solbakken (1857), which aligns with the ideals of national romanticism, but then took on a realistic approach in his prose. His dramas and novels provide a critical examination of Norwegian society in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Bjørnson is also celebrated for his poetry, particularly ‘Ja, vi elsker dette landet’ (Yes, we love this country), which became the Norwegian national anthem, set to music by his cousin, Rikard Nordraak.

The first Norwegian novel adopting a realistic style is Camilla Collett’s (1813-1895) Amtmandens Døtre (The District Governor’s Daughters, 1855-6) which tells the story of Sophie Ramm who is prevented from marrying the man she loves by the social conventions of the time. This novel set a precedent for the realistic representation of life typical of that period. While many women authors featured in this exhibition have only recently been rediscovered by scholars, their success during their lifetime was significant. An author like Collett had a great influence, setting a precedent for the realistic representation of life typical of that period.

Women’s Voices

photo of Amalie Skram

Ovesen, R., Portrett av Amalie Skram, Nasjonalbiblioteket Oslo (1877)

Another major woman author within the Norwegian literary tradition is Amalie Skram (1846-1905). Born in Bergen, she moved to Denmark in 1884 when she married the Danish author, Erik Skram. She was an influential member of the Danish literary circles and at the end of her life she declared that she was a ‘Danish writer’ because she found her country of adoption more accepting of her writing than Norway. Nevertheless, Skram’s works focus on Norwegian society. Her saga Hellemyrsfolket (The People of Hellemyr, 1887-1898) is considered a masterpiece of the naturalist canon. Feminist scholars have recently refocused attention on what they term Skram’s ‘marriage novels’, depicting unhappy marriages, ruined by double standards and women’s lack of freedom.

In Skram’s footsteps, we find Cora Sandel, pseudonym of Sara Fabricius (1880-1974), painter and writer who grew up in Tromsø. Sandel tried to pursue a career as a painter while living in Paris between 1908 and 1911, where she was also active as a journalist, before moving to Sweden and becoming an author. In her most famous work, the Alberte trilogy (composed of Alberta and Jacob, Alberta and Freedom, and Alberta Alone, 1962-1965), she describes the trajectory of Alberte, who grows up in Norway and later comes to Paris, a journey which draws on Sandel’s own life. The trilogy offers a poignant portrayal of a woman grappling with finding her voice in a patriarchal society, emerging as a writer—a powerful symbol of emancipation.

A prominent figure in 20th-century Norway, Torborg Nedreaas (1906-1987) was a communist and feminist and played a pivotal role in shaping Norway’s post-war literary landscape. Her debut novel, Av måneskinn gror det ingenting (Nothing Grows by Moonlight, 1947), fearlessly confronts the topic of abortion and women’s reproductive rights at a time when abortion was still punishable by imprisonment in Norway. Following a similar narrative trajectory as Sandel, Nedreaas’ ‘Herdis trilogy’ (1950-1971) chronicles the journey of its heroine from childhood to womanhood.

Modern Norway’s most famous feminist writer is Gerd Brantenberg (born in 1941) who earned critical acclaim with her novel Egalias døtre (1977) which was translated into English as Egalia’s daughters. In this utopia (which reveals itself to be a dystopia), Brantenberg imagines a society where women hold power over men, a gender hierarchy justified by men’s inability to bear children. It is a difficult novel to translate as Brantenberg highlights how language is gendered by making everything feminine: the hero, Petronius, indeed dreams of becoming a ‘seawoman’, a job forbidden to him as a man. Because it inverses gender norms to better unveil women’s oppression, this novel quickly became a classic of feminist literature.

Norwegian Literature and Politics

painting

Krohg, Christian, Albertine i politilægens venteværelse, oil on canvas, Nasjonalmuseet for Kunst, Arkitektur og Design, Oslo (1887)

Norwegian literature counts numerous other politically engaged authors. An author who made history was the realist painter and novelist, Christian Krohg (1852-1925). His novel Albertine (1886) was forbidden as soon as it came out. It portrays the fall of a young seamstress into prostitution and her abuse at the hands of a patriarchal system supported by doctors and the police. One of Krohg’s best-known paintings depicts a scene from the novel in which Albertine goes to the police station to undergo a medical examination. This novel and Krohg’s painting sparked wider debate on prostitution in Scandinavia, culminating in the abolition of public prostitution in 1887.

Jens Bjørneboe (1920-1976), was a renowned poet, playwright, and novelist. He is also celebrated for his radical political views, notably expressed in his polemical essays. His novel Jonas (1955) presents a harsh critique of the public school system and 1950s Norwegian society and is considered one of the most significant Norwegian literary works of the post-war era. In Under en hårdere himmel (Under a Harsher Sky, 1957), Bjørneboe describes his contemporary society and criticises its practice of imposing death penalties with retroactive effect, leading to intense debates upon its publication.

A Country of Prize-Winners

Norwegian literary history also features a lineage of Nobel Prize laureates in literature.

The first Norwegian laureate was Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson who was awarded the third Nobel prize in literature in 1903 for his poetry, although he is now mostly remembered for his realist prose.

Knut Hamsun won the prize in 1920 for his monumental novel, Growth of the Soil (1917), set in rural Norway. This neorealist novel uses the stream of consciousness technique to convey the characters’ inner lives and criticises modernity, advocating for a return to nature. Hamsun’s most renowned novel today is arguably Sult (Hunger, 1890), chronicling the wanderings of a failed artist through the streets of Kristiania (the former name of Oslo), tormented by hunger. Hamsun’s legacy is however tarnished by his support for the Nazi regime towards the end of his life, sparking debates among scholars regarding the influence of his political beliefs on his literary works.

Sigrid Undset (1882-1949) was awarded the Nobel prize in literature in 1928, principally for her trilogy Kristin Lavransdatter (published between 1920 and 1922) which chronicles the experiences of Kristin in medieval Norway. While Undset’s fictional works may be set in the Nordic Middle Ages or in contemporary Norway, they consistently centre around women.  Beyond her literary writing, Undset actively participated in the public debate on women’s emancipation.

The latest Nobel Prize winner in literature is Jon Fosse (born 1959), honoured with the prestigious award in 2023. In his Nobel Prize lecture, Fosse tells how he was overcome by fear when asked by his teachers to read aloud and how writing became a way to reclaim a voice: ‘In a way it was as if the fear took my language from me, and that I had to take it back, so to speak. And if I were to do that, it couldn’t be on other people’s terms, but on my own. I started to write my own texts, short poems, short stories. And I discovered that doing so, gave me a sense of safety, gave me the opposite of fear. In a way I found a place inside myself that was just mine, and from that place I could write what was just mine’. Language and the struggle to articulate one’s emotions and perspectives through it are central themes in Fosse’s plays and prose.

Nynorsk Voices

Fosse’s writing also exemplifies another significant facet of Norwegian literature through his use of Nynorsk, a written Norwegian variant that emerged in the nineteenth century.

Norwegian indeed counts a high number of dialects which follow either one of the two written variants: Bokmål (literally: ‘the language of the book’) and Nynorsk (‘New Norwegian’). In the nineteenth century, the political and cultural elite used Danish for both oral and written communication, but Norwegian dialects were spoken by around 95% of the population. After declaring its independence from Danish rule in 1814, Norwegian intellectuals sought to build a unique and unified Norwegian culture and language. There were three central positions defended by nationalists: keep speaking and writing in Danish (a solution which was ultimately rejected), developing a new written language based on Norwegian dialects, or ‘norwegianise’ Danish.

Knud Knudsen (1812-1895), a grammarian, had the goal of altering Danish orthography until it reflected the informal speech of the educated classes in Norway. It was established as a norm (Bokmål) with a spelling reform in 1907. Bokmål is used as a written form by 85% to 90% of the Norwegian population, but the spoken dialects can differ greatly.

Ivar Aasen (1813-1896) was a linguist and poet from rural Norway. Drawing from rural dialects in the western and central regions of southern Norway, he pioneered the language standard known as Landsmål, culminating in the publication of a grammar book in 1848. It was renamed Nynorsk in 1929.

A pioneer of adopting Nynorsk as a literary language was Arne Garborg (1851-1924). His literary and journalistic works provided an example for Nynorsk authors after him. His enthusiasm for and defence of rural dialects led to the official recognition of Landsmål (later Nynorsk) in 1885, even though his work was dismissed by some of his contemporaries. Garborg even translated The Odyssey into Nynorsk.

In the same vein, Olav H. Hauge (1908-1994) was a Nynorsk poet and translator. In 2016, his poem ‘Det er den draumen’ (‘It is that dream’, 1966), was chosen as the best Norwegian poem of all time by the national TV channel NRK. Hauge is praised for the expression of deep human concerns in his poetry, as well as his descriptions of nature, often in concrete language and in humorous ways.

A major figure of Norwegian modernism and Nynorsk is Tarjei Vesaas (1897-1970). His 1957 novel Fuglane (The Birds), written in Nynorsk, tells the story of Mattis, who has a cognitive disability and lives with his sister in rural Norway. Vesaas described this novel as a self-portrait, a description of an artist longing to attain the ineffable as symbolised by the language of birds. He is also known for his symbolic novel Is-slottet from 1963 (The Ice Palace), and today he lends his name to a high-profile literary award for debutants.

Despite Bokmål being the majority written language, Nynorsk can pride itself of having a long and exceptional literary history.

Henrik Ibsen

portrait of Ibsen

Peterssen, Eilif, Henrik Ibsen, oil on canvas, Private collection, Oslo (1895)

Among all these extraordinary books (and this article has not even brushed on the collection’s holdings of the works by great authors like Alexander Kielland, Jonas Lie, Liv Køltzow, Aksel Sandemose, Tove Nilsen etc.), the Taylorian now holds many works by Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906). Ibsen is indisputably Norway’s most renowned playwright, appreciated for his nuanced character portrayals, often giving female protagonists the central role within his work. His play Et dukkehjem (A Doll’s House, 1879) scandalised European audiences by foregrounding the perspective of Nora, a young housewife, who leaves her husband and children when she realises that her marriage stilted her self-discovery.

In the exhibition, we made a deliberate choice not to place Ibsen at the centre, despite his renown. Instead, we aimed to present him alongside a diverse array of authors and networks that collectively define Norwegian literature. Ibsen, while undoubtedly significant, is just one captivating facet of the multifaceted and distinctive Norwegian literary heritage.

‘Writing Norwegian Literary Histories’ is an exploration of Norwegian literature, its linguistic richness, diverse voices, and varied thematic explorations. This exhibition represents only a part of the Marie Wells Collection and we do hope it will encourage students and readers to further explore Scandinavian literatures and histories.

With many thanks to Nick Hearn (Subject Librarian for French) and Emma Huber (Subject Librarian for German), the Taylor Institution Library, and TORCH for their support.

More information on the TORCH Critical-Thinking Community for Scandinavian Studies here: https://www.torch.ox.ac.uk/scandinavian-studies-network

Seeing Dante’s Commedia in Print from the Renaissance to Today: The Taylorian Collections

Together with the artist and printmaker Wuon Gean-Ho, two researchers from the sub-faculty of Italian, Rebecca Bowen and Simon Gilson, have been exploring the Taylorian collections of Renaissance print editions of Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’. This blog post highlights key aspects of those collections ahead of an exhibition of new artworks created by Wuon-Gean which will be displayed alongside these historical editions. The exhibition will run in the Voltaire Room from 14th June – 11th July 2024. A catalogue will be available through Taylor Editions.

The Taylor holds an astonishing collection of early print editions of Dante’s Commedia, published before 1600. These books, both beautiful and rare, represent an experimental and exciting era in the development of print as a medium and as a technology. With at least 27 different editions of or about the poem, studying the Taylor’s historical collections of Dante amounts to studying the history of the Commedia in early modern print more broadly. As well as striking illustrations and interesting paratexts, these volumes hold the histories of their former owners and readers, offering a journey that moves from Dante’s Florence, to sixteenth-century Venice, and on to Oxford in the nineteenth-century, as the examples examined in the following paragraphs show.

Title Pages. (Aldus, 1515: MOORE.1.G.1; Giolito, 1555: Moore 1.A.3)

Almost all of the early printed Dante’s in the Taylorian collections were published in Venice. This reflects a very real phenomenon in the early print history of the Commedia as the Venetian city state dominated production. The earliest printed copy of the Commedia in the Taylorian collections was produced by the German craftsman Windelin von Speyer, whose brother, although not himself born a Venetian, was the first printer to be granted a licence to print in the city (ARCH.FOL.IT.1477). This book was produced in 1477 and reflects the fact that print technology was still very experimental at that time. As scholars have noted, the body of the text is interrupted by several blank spaces. Looking back at older manuscripts we can see that, where this printed edition has blank spaces, earlier copies have hand-drawn diagrams. These scientific images did not accompany Dante’s poem but were part of the commentary by Iacomo della Lana, which is printed for the first time in this edition. These blanks remind us of the technological difficulty of reproducing images alongside text in the early era of printing.

Blank space. (Speyer, 1477: ARCH.FOL.IT.1477)

The first fully illustrated edition of the Commedia was also printed in Venice, nearly fifteenth years after the last edition, in 1491. The Taylorian has a copy of this book, published by Bernardo Benali and Matteo Capcasa di Parma (or Codecà), which contains an illustration for every canto of the poem (ARCH.FOL.IT.1491(1)). The Taylorian also has copies of several of the books that were produced after this edition, using the same or similar images and even replicating its setting of the text, including an edition printed by Pietro Quarengi in 1497 also in Venice. Quarengi’s edition uses some of same woodcuts made for Codecà’s earlier book, but also uses another set of blocks made for a rival edition, printed by Pietro di Piasi months after Codecà’s book in 1491 (ARCH.FOL.IT.1497(1)).

 

Inferno 1. (Codecà, 1491: ARCH.FOL.IT.1491(1))

 

Inferno 1. (Quarengi, 1497: ARCH.FOL.IT.1497(1))

Of the 25 editions of the Commedia published before 1600 and held in the Taylorian collections, only 7 were not printed in Venice. Two of these editions were printed in Florence, Dante’s hometown. They both reflect a strand of interest in Dante’s poem that was particularly popular in Florence in the 16th century when publishers and readers of Dante were increasingly excited about exploring the poem as a source of inspiration for scientific and mathematical hypotheses on locating and measuring hell. The earliest of these editions was printed by Filippo Giunta in 1506 and presents Dante’s poem along with a new treatise on the ‘Site, Shape, and Size of Hell’ (101.C.15).

The Taylor’s copy of this edition is interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is missing Dante’s poem and only contains the treatise. Secondly, the final 8 leaves of the treatise are also missing and they have been replaced with very careful handwritten replicas, including a diagram that accurately reproduces the image in the print edition on a deliberately yellowed surface. Although this approach to conversation clashes with contemporary practices—now we would understand pages as an important part of the life of the object and not a deficit to be filled—it is common to find very accurate, hand-drawn inclusions of missing parts of text in manuscripts and early printed books.

Hand drawn replacement of missing pages. (Giunta, 1506: 101.C.15)

The second Florentine edition in the Taylorian collections was released by the Manzani printshop in 1595 and edited by the newly founded Accademia della Crusca, a scholarly society still operating today that opened its doors in 1593 (MOORE.1.B1). As well as a detailed map of the Inferno printed with the expensive technique of engraving, this edition offers specialized linguistic notes for readers interested in the poem’s textual variants. The edition is plagued with typographical errors, partly because many Academicians were invited to contribute to its creation.

As well as books printed in Venice and Florence, the Taylorian holds four editions of the Commedia printed in the French city of Lyon. These are evidence of the prolific trade between Northern Italy and South-Eastern France in the early modern period (101.C.2; VET.ITAL.I.A.158; 51.E.6.B; MOORE.1.A.7). These editions present Dante’s text in Italian and include new paratextual materials to help the reader navigate the text. They also experiment with small format publication, beginning with an octavo edition printed in 1502 that is an exact copy of a book first produced by the very popular Venetian printshop of Aldus Manutius (101.C.2); a smaller edition in 12mo which was printed by Jean de Tournes in 1547 (VET.ITAL.I.A.158); and an even smaller 16mo edition printed four different times by Guglielmo Rouillio (the Taylorian edition is from 1552: 51.E.6.B).

Title page, ‘La Divina Comedia di Dante’. (Giolito, 1555: MOORE.1.A.3)

Despite their small size, these editions offer the reader a detailed visual experience that includes woodcut illustrations and the use of ‘page ornaments’ to signal the start of different sections of text. Rather than staying in France, this aesthetic crossed back into Italy and influenced the page design in publications like Gabriele Giolito’s edition printed in Venice in 1555 (Moore 1.A.3). Instead of using the same paratextual materials as the ones printed in Lyon, Giolito’s book presents new summaries and interpretations alongside a new edition of the text produced by the scholar Ludovico Dolce. Dolce was engaged in deeply politicised discussions about Dante’s poem that raged between Venice, Florence, and Rome in the mid sixteenth-century and went so far as to implicate Dante in debates about the religious orthodoxy of his text. Defending Dante in this context, Dolce’s edition is the first to refer to the Commedia as ‘divina’ (divine), highlighting the word through prominent placing and framing at the top of the title page.

Title page. (Aldus, 1515: MOORE.1.G.1)

These small books were very much inspired by an edition esteemed for its elegance and simplicity, produced by the Venetian printer Aldus Manutius. Although the Taylorian does not hold a copy of the first edition printed by Aldus in 1502, it does hold a copy of the second edition printed by Aldus in 1515 and claimed by the printer with his recognisable dolphin motif.

These collections are available for consultation and for study. As well as being of interest to students of Book History and Italian Studies, they present an opportunity for creative reflection on the history of poetry in print. For further information on the collections related to Dante and, in particular, more modern materials, consult the existing blog posts on images of the poet and audio files as well as the handbook for the 2021 exhibition ‘Illustrating Dante’s Divine Comedy’, curated by Gervase Rosser and Claire Hills-Nova.

Far from forgotten fragments in the long print history of Dante’s Commedia, these rare books are testaments to the duration of interest in this medieval poem as an object of study and as a story that transcends national and regional boundaries, offering a poetic geography that to this day invites readers to imagine ‘otherworldly’ spaces in relation to their own worldly experiences.

Some of these books will be on display from 14th June – 11th July 2024 in the Voltaire Room alongside new artworks by Wuon Gean-Ho. This is the result of a TORCH Knowledge Exchange Innovation Fund. You can read more about the project at this link.

Mário Cesariny (1923 – 2006): an irreverent Portuguese poet-artist

Exhibition poster for the Cesariny exhibition, shows a blue cat on a yellow background. The exhibition opened on 27th November 2023.

An enfant terrible of Portuguese Letters, irreverent iconoclast, and, above all, lover of freedom (in all the different hues that the word entails), Mário Cesariny’s life is inseparable from his work as poet, artist, critic and scholar; his legacy is thus that of an ‘absolute poet’ (as opportunely labelled by Perfecto Cuadrado), who deeply influenced a younger generation of artists and writers, admirers of his avant-garde work and his determination to live according to his own rules (or should we say, lack of them).

Black and white close-up photograph of Mario Cesariny.

Mário Cesariny, London, 1965. Photograph by João Cutileiro. Courtesy of Luís Amorim de Sousa

Born Mário Cesariny de Vasconcelos in 1923, in Lisbon, to a well-off family, Cesariny very early displayed a rebellious spirit and a hunger for exploring different creative avenues. The petty, grey and oppressive existence of life under the Estado Novo (as the Portuguese dictatorial regime came to be known) was too small and stifling for the young Cesariny, who left for Paris in 1947, where he met the father of surrealism André Breton. Upon his return to Portugal, he helped to establish the Grupo Surrrealista de Lisboa, along with others who were part of the informal groups that, in the Lisbon cafés of the 1940s, dreamt of a new country as much as about novel forms of art and creativity. Always averse to labels and rules, Cesariny later abandoned the group, but never stopped believing in and living by the principles of the surrealist movement, which release humankind from rational, aesthetic and moral judgements. During this period, he created a dissident movement called Os Surrealistas and dedicated himself to art and poetry, introducing new techniques into his art works, such as surrealist collages and automatism, as well as publishing his most famous collections of poetry – Corpo Visível (1950), Manual de Prestidigitação (1956), Pena Capital (1957) and Nobilíssima Visão (1959). His nonconformist lifestyle and not-so-secret homosexuality brought him several times face to face with agents of the PIDE (the International and State Defence Police), encounters that he would later recall with derision and caustic humour. It was also in this period that he regularly visited London and even managed to get one of his poems translated and published in the literary journal Agenda (in 1968).

Poem by Mário Cesariny, translated by Luís Amorim de Sousa and Michael Hambuger and published in the literary journal Agenda, vol. 6, n.3-4, 1968. The poem reads: "O my pure devoted wife, you keep on suffering and it breaks my heart to see you suffer like that. But wait. Let's pretend we are the stalk of a rose with its petals plucked. Our days together are sad. Life is all wrong, only torture exists and only the poem is. Youngsters won't leave me alone. They infest my soul. Please don't ask, please don't wish to come with me on the pub round, the club round.

Poem by Mário Cesariny, translated by Luís Amorim de Sousa and Michael Hambuger and published in the literary journal Agenda, vol. 6, n.3-4, 1968.

While in London, Cesariny was an observer of London life and worked on his poetry and art whilst staying with other Portuguese artists and writers who had taken refuge in the British capital from political persecution and oppression at home (Paula Rego, Alberto de Lacerda, Luís Amorim de Sousa and Helder Macedo, to mention just a few). Those days would eventually be recorded in the collection Poemas de Londres, where Cesariny, who prayed constantly at the altar of freedom, ponders on the birds of London and witnesses the journey of a pigeon crossing Piccadilly Circus.

Book cover of Mário Cesariny, 19 Projectos de Prémio Aldonso Ortigão Seguidos de Poemas de Londres. The book cover is bright pink with circular motifs.

Mário Cesariny, 19 Projectos de Prémio Aldonso Ortigão Seguidos de Poemas de Londres. Lisbon: Quadrante, 1967.

Like many other artists of his generation, Cesariny exuberantly celebrated the Carnation Revolution of 1974 that put an end to 48 years of dictatorship, and participated in a plethora of events, one example of which is on display in this exhibition. After this pivotal experience, Cesariny focused mostly on his visual work (“Poetry was a big fire that burnt out. It’s over,” we hear him saying in Autobiografia, the 2004 documentary by Miguel Gonçalves Mendes on Cesariny’s life and work), but continued to refuse coteries and to express his sometimes outrageous opinions or tactless remarks, a stance that earned him enemies throughout his life, as well as a legion of admirers who increasingly saw him as the father of the Portuguese avant-garde. This position was certainly consolidated in the last decade of his life but did not save him from dying alone and in poverty, in what can be seen as a re-enactment of the myth of the damned artist: ‘I am placed on a high plinth, they clap and then they let me go home alone. This is what we call literary glory Portuguese-style,’ he used to scathingly reply to the applause he received in later life.

In this exhibition at the Taylor Library, we wished not only to celebrate the centenary of Cesariny’s birth, but also to shed light on the links that bound his life and oeuvre to England. For that purpose, we explored the books held by the Taylor Institution Library on the poet and artist, as some of them were written in or around the periods in which he was living or visiting London.

Mário Cesariny (ed.), Antologia Surrealista do Cadáver Esquisito. With an illustration by Mário Cesariny. Lisbon: Guimarães Editores, 1961. In the photograph, it is visible the Taylor Institution Library, stamped with the date 31 July 1967.

Mário Cesariny (ed.), Antologia Surrealista do Cadáver Esquisito. With an illustration by Mário Cesariny. Lisbon: Guimarães Editores, 1961. In the photograph, it is visible the Taylor Institution Library, with the date 31 July 1967.

In so doing, we found that the University of Oxford was collecting books by Cesariny from very early on (as early as the 1960s); it therefore seems that academics and librarians of this University were well aware of the truly innovative quality of Cesariny’s work and of its revolutionary potential in the context of the Portuguese literary canon; their decision to obtain these books was also in contrast to the views and actions taken by the Portuguese dictatorship, which relentlessly persecuted the poet.

This exhibition would also not have been possible without the memories and material kindly shared with us by Cesariny’s friend and fellow writer Luís Amorim de Sousa.

Luís Amorim de Sousa discusses the life and work of fellow poet and friend Mário Cesariny at the ‘Mário Cesariny’ exhibition, Taylor Library, 27 November 2023- 12 January 2024.

Luís Amorim de Sousa discusses the life and work of fellow poet and friend Mário Cesariny at the ‘Mário Cesariny’ exhibition, Taylor Library, 27 November 2023- 12 January 2024.

Luís’s recollections of the days spent with Mário in London in the late 1960s – early 1970s are an intrinsic part of this research and ensuing exhibition. See the video below made by Noam Sala Budgen, a student of Portuguese at the Medieval and Modern Languages Faculty, and find out more about Luís’s friendship with Mário Cesariny.


Dr Luísa Coelho, Sub-faculty of Portuguese, University of Oxford

An exhibition of the Taylor Institution’s collection of Georges de Peyrebrune’s Works

Marie Martine, DPhil in Modern Languages (German and French)

Georges de Peyrebrune, Woman. Writer. Feminist is an exhibition currently on display at the Taylor Institution (Voltaire Room) from 12th October until 26th October. It showcases the Taylor’s unique collection of Georges de Peyrebrune’s works.

Georges de Peyrebrune was born Mathilde Marie Georgina Elisabeth de Peyrebrune Judicis on the 18th of April 1841 in the Dordogne as an illegitimate child. She marries at the age of 18 a man ten years older than her, and their marriage is an unhappy one. She starts publishing in regional journals soon after and goes to Paris after the 1870 war, at 30 years old. Despite her literary success, Georges de Peyrebrune will struggle all her life with money and will die in poverty, in 1917. This exhibition is a tribute to her work and feminist engagement.

Because of Peyrebrune having been forgotten and erased from the French literary canon, her works are difficult to access. The Taylor Institution’s collection of her works is therefore unique in the United Kingdom as it holds several first editions of Peyrebrune’s works, as well as a wide range of digitalized ones. In the exhibition, visitors can find first editions of her novels Gatienne (1882), Au Pied du mât (1899), and of the short story ‘Giselle’ (1892). It also shows the new editions of her most successful novel, Victoire la Rouge (1883, republished in 2020), De Fouillis-les-Oies à Paris. Odyssée burlesque (1878) and Jupiter et les bas-bleu (1894). The exhibition also showcases Sarah Bernhardt’s autobiography Ma Double vie (1907) and several texts by the decadent writer Rachilde, both contemporaries of Peyrebrune.

Why rediscover Georges de Peyrebrune today?

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Firstly, Georges de Peyrebrune’s trajectory tells us about what it means to be a woman and a writer in nineteenth-century France. Writers like George Sand and Madame de Staël, among others, have certainly paved the way for the next generation of women wanting to make a career out of writing; but men still reproach women to be too fragile and sentimental. Additionally, writing is seen as a distraction from women’s sole duty: motherhood. It is well-known that women of the time used different strategies to access the literary market: writing under a male pseudonym or using their husbands’ or fathers’ names, under initials, or anonymously. Peyrebrune chose the unisex name of ‘Georges’ that is derived from her birth name, Georgina, but which we can see as a tribute to many other women writers who chose the name George as well. These strategies, however, are limited: the Decadent writer, Barbey d’Aurevilly, claims he can ‘smell’ a woman writer from a book, because the feminine smell always betrays itself, even if the author used a male pseudonym. He uses the qualifier ‘bas-bleu’ to negatively designate women with literary ambitions, a name derived directly from the English ‘blue stockings’. For him and numerous of his contemporaries, women are physically incapable to write books comparable to those by men and are to be labelled as ‘hysterical’. This sexist discourse reveals male anxieties in fin-de-siècle France: not only did men worry about women getting out of their dedicated sphere, the household and motherhood, but they also worried about women writers becoming serious competitors on the literary market.

title page of RomanGeorges de Peyrebrune is aware of those discourses and she proudly reappropriates the term ‘bas-bleu’ to designate herself and her peers. She directly responds to those male anxieties in her play Jupiter et les Bas-bleu published in 1894, which has been republished by Jean-Paul Socard and Lydia de Haro Hernandez (displayed in the exhibition). In this comic play, she stages Emile Zola, one of the main literary figures of the time,  under the traits of Jupiter, posing as a judge putting her contemporaries on trial. Well-known women writers defend themselves in front of an ruthless judge who reject women’s ability to write on principle. The text ends with his definitive judgement: ‘elles n’enteront jamais à l’Académie !’. This is unfortunately true: the French Academy will only admit women as their members in 1980. Ironically, Zola himself will never get admitted either! What is interesting with this recently republished text is that Georges de Peyrebrune smartly mocks the anxieties of men writers fearing the competition from women. She debunks their pseudo-scientific arguments to justify women’s exclusion from public life and shows that the women of her generation have proven their ability to write.

It is also worth noting that Georges de Peyrebrune herself was awarded the prize of the Académie Française twice in her life, once in 1896 for Vers l’amour and another time in 1899 for Au pied du mât (displayed in the exhibition). This institutional recognition shows that she was read and appreciated by her contemporaries. Even if many best-sellers of any period have been forgotten and might not be interesting for us as contemporary readers, it is important to recognize that the erasure of women writers from our canon is complex and cannot be justified by saying that women’s writing was less qualitative and interesting than their male contemporaries’. Rediscovering Georges de Peyrebrune thus means rediscovering an author who was deeply aware of the contemporary discourses on femininity and authorship and who used literature to counter sexist ideas.

Secondly, Peyrebrune’s literary career gives us a glimpse of feminine and feminist literary networks of the Belle Epoque. Peyrebrune’s correspondence show that she stood in solidarity with other women writers and tried to build a literary network made of women. We unfortunately have few archives left from Georges de Peyrebrune, but some letters she received enable us to see how her contemporaries considered her as a generous mentor figure. For instance, in a letter from September 1912, Julia Daudet (the wife of the well-known writer Alphonse Daudet) asks Peyrebrune to support the publication of another woman writer. She writes: ‘Pourquoi favoriser toujours le travail masculin qui a toutes les chances, toutes les facilités ? […] Enfin je m’adresse à vous dont l’œuvre est toute généreuse et remarquable à tant de titres, dans un élan de justice féminine ou féministe, si vous aimez mieux’ (Why always favour men’s work which has all the chances, all the opportunities? […] I address you whose work is so generous and remarkable in so many ways, in a spirit of feminine or feminist justice, if you prefer). Here, Daudet reflects on the numerous opportunities given to men to get their works published and publicized, compared to the few women get. I also find her conscious choice of the word ‘feminist’ very telling: Peyrebrune’s ambition to have the value of women’s writing recognized as a feminist project. Daudet’s letter also demonstrates her confidence in Peyrebrune’s influence, highlighting that we are dealing with a respected and influential player on the literary market. Other letters from Georges de Peyrebrune’s correspondence show her as ready to help young writers by sharing her contacts within the publishing world and by giving them advice. One could think that in a society so hostile to women’s writing, the few who dared to publish would jealously protect their secret, but Georges de Peyrebrune was clearly a woman who valued other talents and strived to help other writers.

This work towards promoting women’s writing led Georges de Peyrebrune to be part of the first jury of the Prix de la Vie Heureuse. In 1904, several feminist and women intellectuals were tired to see that the prestigious Prix Goncourt was again given to a man despite the talent of a potential female candidate Myriam Harry with her novel La Conquête de Jérusalem. They thus decided to build their own literary prize to finally recognize and reward women’s talents, as well as encourage contacts among women writers. Among Georges de Peyrebrune, we find in the jury Anna de Noailles, Julia Daudet, Daniel Lesueur, Marcelle Tinayre, Gabrielle Réval, Séverine and Lucie Delarue-Maldrus all brilliant and influential writers of the time and well-established on the Parisian literary scene. This prize will become the Femina prize in 1917 and is still awarded today.

Her friendship with her contemporary, Rachilde, is also fascinating. Both women had opposite worldviews and ways to respond to literary trends of their time, but their literary ambitions brought them together. Both come from the Périgord and tried their luck as writers in Paris. At first, Georges de Peyrebrune appears as a mentor for the young Rachilde who tries to navigate the capital city and its literary circles. As she marries Alfred Valette, director of the influential journal Mercure de France, Rachilde gains more influence. It was now Georges de Peyrebrune’s turn to ask for Rachilde’s support through her literary critiques to publicize Peyrebrune’s new publications.

title page of "Une Décadente"Rachilde is known for being ‘the queen of the Decadents’ in fin-de-siècle France. She scandalized French audiences with her bold portraits of independent and sadistic heroines in her novels Monsieur Vénus (1889) and La Marquise de Sade (1887). Interestingly, she claimed loud and clear that she was not a feminist and often refused to be associated with other women writers, instead calling herself ‘homme de lettres’ (man of letters). Her pamphlet Pourquoi je ne suis pas féministe (1908 – a signed first edition is displayed in the exhibition) illustrates her anti-feminist stance, but this text could also be interpreted as a marketing move to make herself relevant. Georges de Peyrebrune, on the contrary, clearly revendicated to be a feminist, but her female characters can seem rather tame compared to the ones of Rachilde. Rachilde published several critiques of Georges de Peyrebrune’s novels in the Mercure de France and underlined her moralising tone. Georges de Peyrebrune makes Rachilde appear under fictional traits in the novel Une Décadente (The Decadent Woman – displayed in the exhibition) in which she criticizes the morbid values of the Decadents. A friendship between the two can thus seem quite surprising, but their letters (see Nelly Sanchez’s edition of Georges de Peyrebrune’s correspondence, Correspondance. De La Société des gens de lettres au jury du prix Vie heureuse from 2016) show that they shared worries and advice on how to navigate the Parisian literary circles, making for a true literary friendship.

Finally, Peyrebrune’s concern with sexual violence in her fiction makes her works strikingly relevant for readers today. In a letter from June 1886, addressed to Georges de Peyrebrune, Rachilde mentions the way sexual harassment is a banal occurrence for young women writers: ‘En bonne franchise, quand une femme de lettres n’est pas une catin il faut au moins qu’elle puisse avoir l’air de l’être et au fond vous ne pouvez pas trop me donner tort, vous qui connaissez notre siècle’ (To be perfectly frank, when a woman of letters is not a whore, she at least needs to look like one and you cannot really disagree with me, you know our century all too well). All have to deal with unwanted sexual advances from publishers and journalists and sometimes have to compromise to get published. Georges de Peyrebrune deals with this issue in Le Roman d’un bas-bleu (The novel of a Blue-Stockings, 1892) which tells the destiny of a young writer who falls into despair as she refuses to compromise her self-worth for literary success. This novel poignantly reflects the debates started by the #MeToo movement which unveiled the harassment and abuse faced by women, particularly in their professional lives. Already in the nineteenth century, Georges de Peyrebrune denounced this harassment and how it kept women from accessing the public sphere as equals to men. Her message strongly resonates with contemporary debates.

This is not the only aspect which makes Peyrebrune’s works worth rediscovering today: as you will see in the exhibition, Georges de Peyrebrune wrote across genres, always finding new styles to reflect sometimes with humor, other times with pathos, on issues of class, sexuality, and modernity. We hope this exhibition will encourage more readers to discover this fascinating figure of French literature whose versatile style and political messages deserve to be rediscovered today.

You can listen to the episode from the French History Podcast on Georges de Peyrebrune to learn more information on her trajectory as a woman writer in fin-de-siècle France: https://www.thefrenchhistorypodcast.com/rediscovering-georges-de-peyrebrune-by-marie-martine/

With many thanks to Nick Hearn, French Subject Librarian, Taylor Institution Library.

Amazing inventions : printing from the 15th – 21st Century

Exhibition for Oxford Open Doors 10 September 2022

The Taylor Library opened its doors to the public on 10th September 2022, including an exhibition on the history of printing designed to fit in with the general theme of Oxford Open Doors: ‘Amazing inventions’.

Johannes Gutenberg started printing with moveable type in the early 1450s. The oldest printed books kept in the Taylor Library date back to 1470 and 1472.

Books printed before 1501 were called incunabula, literally meaning prints in swaddling clothes, i.e. in their infancy. They still imitated manuscripts in their layout and in the variety of letter forms used. Also, initials and other forms of rubrication were added later by hand, just like in manuscripts.

The Taylor Institution Library is fortunate enough to have enough early printings to be able to show some features of the manufacturing process from books in its collections.

The two oldest incunabuls in the Taylor collection are two copies of the Liber de vita ac moribus philosophorum poetarumque veterum . These were printed by different printers, close to each other in time, not in location (Nuremberg and Cologne). The printing was done with black ink only, so anything in a different colour needed to be added later manually, e.g. initials and highlighting of letters.

In this Spanish incunable (1491) (below) the printing and colouring process is clearly visible: the black text was printed first, the red heading separately in a second pull of the press; space for a large initial was left blank except for the so-called “guard letter”, a letter indicating which initial to fill in by hand. It would have been left to the person buying the printed book to decide how costly and ornate a decoration they would want. Sadly, he (or she! women owned books and illustrated them) did not bother to have the guard letter expanded to a fully fledged initial and never found the time (or the materials?) to do so.

Page from La primera parte de Plutarcho. Publisher e ambos volumines se imprimierō en seuilla : cō[n] industria de Paulo de Colonia: e Johannes de Nurenberg e de Magno: e de Thomas Alemanes e todos son quadernos. ARCH.FOL.Sp.1491

La primera parte de Plutarcho.
Publisher: e ambos volumines se imprimierō en seuilla : cō[n] industria de Paulo de Colonia: e Johannes de Nurenberg e de Magno: e de Thomas Alemanes e todos son quadernos. ARCH.FOL.Sp.1491

The Taylorian also holds two copies (shown below) of a commentary on Dante’s Commedia.

Both editions of the same text were printed in Venice, though by different printers. Bernardino Benali & Matthio di Parma printed the book in 1491 and Piero de zuanne di quarengii in 1497.  Marginal woodcuts were added around the text in the 1497 edition.

The same woodblock was used for the main image in both copies. Woodblocks were harder wearing than type, so they would often be passed on or sold to other workshops. When printer Piero di Quarengii reused it in 1497, he had God the Father cut out from the semi-circle near the top, possibly to allow for the insertion of hand-painted coat of arms – there is already a blank shield ready for personalisation at the bottom but book owners liked to splash their identity all over the page. The second printer obviously had to typeset the text, so he could add woodcut borders. He had to use a smaller initial N to make the text fit.

Page from DANTE, La Commedia, commento di Cristophoro Landino. Publisher: Venice: Bernardino Benali & Matthio di Parma [B. Benalius & Mathaeus [Capcasa] de Parma], 3 Mar. 1491. Folio. ARCH.FOL.IT.1491.

DANTE, La Commedia, commento di Cristophoro Landino.
Publisher: Venice: Bernardino Benali & Matthio di Parma [B. Benalius & Mathaeus [Capcasa] de Parma], 3 Mar. 1491. Folio. ARCH.FOL.IT.1491.

Page from DANTE, La Commedia, commento di Cristophoro Landino. Publisher: Venice: Piero de zuanne di quarengii da palazago bergamasco. [Petrus de Quarengiis], 11 Oct. 1497. Folio. ARCH.FOL.IT.1497.

DANTE, La Commedia, commento di Cristophoro Landino.
Publisher: Venice: Piero de zuanne di quarengii da palazago bergamasco. [Petrus de Quarengiis], 11 Oct. 1497. Folio. ARCH.FOL.IT.1497.

Early 16th Century

Below are two editions of Le Rommant de la Rose printed in Paris in 1505 and 1538 by different Parisian printers, N. Desprez (1505) and Arnoul et Charles L’Angelier (1538), the first printed in folio format and the second in octavo.

Written between 1225 and 1280, the Roman de la Rose enjoyed an immense success first in manuscript form and then in print, so it is not surprising that two printers have produced an edition.  The 1538 edition in octavo is much smaller than the 1505 in folio edition.

In the 16th century, Luther used printing to spread Reformation ideas, cooperating closely with the Wittenberg workshops. Thin pamphlets and the hefty Bible translations which Luther wrote, could easily be printed in multiple copies and spread over the country and beyond. The pamphlets often only consisted of one or two broadsheets folded into quires. The volume below, which contains 19 Luther pamphlets printed between 1519-1521, was bound together in one 16th century leather binding by a collector and thus survived. Each of the ‘tabs’ indicates another pamphlet.

LUTHER, Martin, 1483-1546 Doctoris Martini Luther Appellation odder beruffung an eyn Christlich frey Cōciliū von dem Bapst Leo vnd seynem vnrechtem freuell vornerveret vnd repetiret.. ARCH.8o.G.1519(11)

LUTHER, Martin, 1483-1546
Doctoris Martini Luther Appellation odder beruffung an eyn Christlich frey Cōciliū von dem Bapst Leo vnd seynem vnrechtem freuell vornerveret vnd repetiret..
ARCH.8o.G.1519(11)

The two anti-papist pamphlets below use woodcut illustrations for greater impact; the Taylorian owns two copies of the 1527 pamphlet, one of them coloured in with stencils.

Page from CRANACH, Lucas, 1472-1553; LUTHER, Martin, 1483-1546; MELANCHTHON, Philipp, 1497-1560; SCHWERTFEGER, Johann, active 1521; CRANACH, Hans, -1537, Passional Christi vnnd Antichristi. Publisher: Erfurt: Matthaeus Maler, 1521. ARCH.8o.G.1521(19)

CRANACH, Lucas, 1472-1553; LUTHER, Martin, 1483-1546; MELANCHTHON, Philipp, 1497-1560; SCHWERTFEGER, Johann, active 1521; CRANACH, Hans, -1537,
Passional Christi vnnd Antichristi.
Publisher: Erfurt: Matthaeus Maler, 1521. ARCH.8o.G.1521(19)

A polemic in the form of thirteen pairs of woodcuts (with captions) depicting scenes from the life of Christ contrasted with scenes from the life of the Pope.

The Passional Christi vnnd Antichristi, a translation of the Antithesis figurata vitae Christi et Antichristi was published in 1521 shortly after the Diet of Worms in Wittenberg. The work features 26 woodcuts designed by Lucas Cranach in which scenes from the life of Christ are contrasted with those of the Antichrist, identified as the Pope. The Taylorian copy was published later that year in Erfurt.

Page from OSIANDER, Andreas, 1498-1552; SACHS, Hans, 1494-1576, Eyn wunderliche Weyssagung, von dem Bapstum, wie es yhm bisz an das endt der welt gehen sol: in Figuren,ode/ gemäl begriffen, gefunden zu Nürmberg ym Cartheuser Closter, vnd ist seher alt. Publisher: Nürmberg: Gedrückt durch Hans Güldenmundt, 1525. ARCH.8o.G.1527(7) f.3v-4r

OSIANDER, Andreas, 1498-1552; SACHS, Hans, 1494-1576,
Eyn wunderliche Weyssagung, von dem Bapstum, wie es yhm bisz an das endt der welt gehen sol: in Figuren,ode/ gemäl begriffen, gefunden zu Nürmberg ym Cartheuser Closter, vnd ist seher alt.
Publisher: Nürmberg: Gedrückt durch Hans Güldenmundt, 1525. ARCH.8o.G.1527(7) f.3v-4r

A Pamphlet with allegorical woodcuts illustrating the history and ultimate defeat of the papacy, each accompanied by an explanation by Andreas Osiander and two rhyming couplets by Hans Sachs. The wood cuts by Erhard Schön have been printed first and then coloured in by hand. Staying within the lines with a brush was difficult, see the Pope’s cross (3v) and the Pope’s banner (4r).

For more information about early printing and incunabula, explore these two blogs: https://historyofthebook.mml.ox.ac.uk/ and https://teachingthecodex.com/blog/

17th Century

The art of printing had developed further again and it was now possible to print in two colours. There are still many differences between the title pages of these two English-Dutch dictionaries whereas the 1721 publication looks much more regular.

Three books printed by father, wife and (heirs of) son Leers in 1658/60, 1675 and 1721 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. It seems that the printer’s workshop was continued by the widow and later the son of Arnold Leers. The author of the dictionaries was Henry Hexham who was bilingual, having spent many years in the Dutch army. Hexham’s dictionary was the first bilingual English-Dutch dictionary. It comprises an English-Dutch and a Dutch-English part, as well as a grammar ‘for the instruction of the learner’.

Printing in different alphabets required whole new sets of type. It is remarkable that Cyrillic matrices were available in Oxford. The University Press had bought them from an Amsterdam printer to publish the first ever printed Russian grammar. In the basement of the Sheldonian Theatre, the first home of Oxford University Press, Ludolf‘s grammar rolled off the press.

Page from LUDOLF, Heinrich Wilhelm, 1655-1712, Grammatica russica. Publisher: Oxford: e Theatro Sheldoniano, 1696. ARCH.MORF.G268.696

LUDOLF, Heinrich Wilhelm, 1655-1712, Grammatica russica.
Publisher: Oxford: e Theatro Sheldoniano, 1696. ARCH.MORF.G268.696

20th Century: printing as art

The art of printing was perfected over time, until there was a return to manual printing in the 20th century for small sections of the printing spectrum: art or samizdat literature or a combination of the two. In South America art was used in cordel literature, cheaply produced folk tales. Manual or small-scale printing allowed for artistic expression and for the use of cheap materials. Small print runs also allowed for distribution away from the public eye, e.g. by post.

East-German samizdat publications have used various creative ways of printing in small print runs. The Taylor Institution Library is fortunate to have some of these items in their collections.

Page from HAVEMEISTER, Heinz; SCHLEYER, Susanne. (hrsg.). Liane. 8 : Berlin, 1989/94 Manufactured by: Berlin : SILKeScreen Tacheles

HAVEMEISTER, Heinz; SCHLEYER, Susanne. (hrsg.). Liane. 8 : Berlin, 1989/94
Manufactured by: Berlin : SILKeScreen Tacheles

The avantgarde publication Liane started in 1989 before the end of communism and continued afterwards. Jacket illustration: “Gewalt” by Moritz Götze, signed, 1989. The Taylorian is proud to own one of the of the 30 copies of this limited edition, a kind donation from the editors Susanne Schleyer and Heinz Havemeister who presented the book with original drawings and graphics in various techniques in person.  It started as samizdat literature, using printing as art.

Uni/vers(;) was an East German illegally published journal, so called ‘samizdat’ literature.

Guillermo Deisler was a visual poet who had been imprisoned under the Pinochet regime in Chile in 1973 and went into exile, settling in Halle, East-Germany in 1986. He produced mail art (sent by mail to subscribers) and visual poetry between 1987 and 1995 in 35 issues.

Printing was used as art and as poetry.

Cordel literature

From Brazil, cordel (string) literature is a popular and affordable means of publishing, in which small pamphlets are sold from strings, often in local markets. These include ballads, folktales, and educational works. Most have brightly coloured covers and include an eye-catching woodcut design. Woodcuts (same technique as in the 15th/16th Century!) were used to illustrate the cordel books, as the materials required were relatively inexpensive. Although the cordel form is usually associated with cheap, throwaway works, we find books on socially important themes made available to a wider audience. Cordel literature is an important tool for literacy and literary culture in the Brazilian northeast, an area with a rich folkloric tradition but high levels of poverty. Originally, the ballads of cordel literature came to Brazil from Portugal in the late 18th century and were passed down in the oral tradition, sung to audiences who could often neither read nor write. Now, cordel literature has spread in popularity across Brazil and a new generation of cordelistas even disseminate their work online.

Several items of rare cordel books, published by the Academia Brasileira de literatura de Cordel. featured in the exhibition.

 

Printing has been an amazing invention, many technical hurdles had to be overcome which took some time. As an early form of mass communication, it has changed society. It has become the precursor of modern electronic forms of communication, whilst the art of printing has become art itself on the one hand and child’s play on the other.

Children’s printing set, 1950s

Children’s printing set, 1950s

Johanneke Sytsema
Taylor Institution Library

 

Visiting our Pre-Covid Past: Artists’ Books on Display at the Taylor Institution Library

Viewing Walter J. Strachan’s Livre d’artiste Collection with Geoffrey Strachan

Remember the Taylor Institution Library in the days before Covid? A busy place, full of academics, students and visitors en route to lectures — and to the library. Indeed, some individuals were attending seminars and other events at which the library’s special collections were on view. In this post we look back twelve months, to (as you will discover if you read on) one of our more memorable special collections events……

Giullaume Apollinaire. Si je mourais là-bas. Illustrated by Georges Braque (Paris: L. Broder, 1962)

 

In May 1945, less than a fortnight after the German surrender marking the end of  World War II in Europe, a British schoolteacher took his French language students on a trip to London. They were going to the National Gallery (whose collection of paintings had been transferred to Wales for the duration of the War) to see an exhibition of livres d’artistes, or artists’ books, a still relatively minor avant-garde art form imported from the Continent — principally Paris; one can assume that for the students the exhibition was little more than an excuse to experience a post-VE Day London still ecstatic with the new, incompre-hensible peace in Europe.

 

Whatever the students thought of it, the exhibition was nothing short of life-changing for their teacher, Walter Strachan, who described first seeing the livres d’artistes as simply “over-whelming”. He took his pupils home and returned not long after, traveling to Paris as soon as the Channel was re-opened to tourists. There he met the artists, authors, printmakers, typesetters and publishers in situ, with a dream of stimulating interest in the livre d’artiste genre back home in the UK. Strachan’s advocacy was greeted with open arms in France and he returned home rich with examples of recently-created works to show to potential collectors, such as V&A curators and librarians who, thanks to his urging, ultimately acquired over 60 such pieces. This trip was followed by another, and then another, until an annual tradition began.

Paul Verlaine. Parallèlement. Illustrated by Pierre Bonnard (Paris: A. Vollard, 1900)

By the time he was 80, Strachan had formed a working collection of over 250 complete and semi-complete livres d’artistes, spanning works incorporating lithographs designed by Pierre Bonnard (1900) to Pierre Tal-Coat etchings (1983). Strachan sought a permanent home for his collection, where it could be used as it had been throughout his life—not untouched in a collector’s drawer, but as a living body of work that would continue to promote the genre as a wildly creative and important art form.

Jean Cocteau. La voix humaine. Illustrated by Bernard Buffet (Paris: Parenthèses, 1957. Pierre Reverdy. Le chant de morts (Paris: Teriade, 1948)

In 1987, after a commemorative exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum, Strachan found that home at the Taylor Institution Library. Thirty-two years later, the collection is still used by both researchers and students from across the University—and occasionally shown to visiting groups, as happened in July 2019.

It was the hottest day on record in Oxford’s history: not the kind of day one would choose to mount a display of our livres d’artistes. With the support  of our premises manager, Piotr Skzonter—without whom the whole display would have fallen apart—we exhibited a selection of pieces chosen for a visit by the Charlbury Art Group, led by Walter Strachan’s son, Geoffrey. The Taylorian’s lecture  hall was mercifully cool, its high windows, blinds and thick walls protecting us from the inferno outside; still, we wondered, given the heat would anyone come?

Slowly, the hall filled up and, despite the  temperature,  soon the whole group was with us. The afternoon was introduced by Clare Hills-Nova, Librarian in Charge, Sackler Library, where the collection is now held (on long-term loan) in a climate-controlled environment. Clare noted that this was the largest livre d’artiste event that the Taylor had yet hosted. As library staff – together with Geoffrey Strachan — brought together selected works to show our visitors, we discovered pieces that we had never seen before; one example—Mario Prassinos’ rendering of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven, with its many iterations of the raven image—reminding us what an unparalleled didactic tool the collection serves for University of Oxford researchers and students. Since Strachan’s pieces were often page proofs, ‘off-cuts’ and/or working drafts, or even rejects from the artists (the finalized works too valuable to give away) our collection reveals the thought processes behind livres d’artiste production and the 30 works we showed that day represented a microcosm of this artistic dynamic.

Edgar Allan Poe. The Raven. Illustrated by Mario Prassinos (Paris: Pierre Worms, 1952

Alongside our selections of semi-complete artists’ books were a few complete works, either owned by the Taylorian or held by other libraries, to show how each of the incomplete works fitted into the finished whole, and what might have changed between Strachan’s visits with the artists and their books’ completion.

Aeschylus. Agamemnon. Illustrated by Abram Krol (Paris: A. Krol, 1965)

Geoffrey Strachan gave a stimulating talk, setting the stage by walking us through his father’s journey from that momentous National Gallery exhibition to his pivotal role promoting the livre d’artiste in Britain. That we have this collection is not only thanks to his father’s passion, Strachan reminded us, but also thanks to the generosity of the artists he met.

With that in mind, the group was invited to explore the display, spread across the shaded lecture hall. Grouped by theme and/or period, the pieces held different attractions for different viewers; some mulled over the more famous pieces such as Pierre Bonnard’s illustrations for Parallèlement, by Paul Verlaine, or Georges Braque’s images for Si je mourais là-bas by Guillaume Apollinaire; while others were drawn to lesser-known works such as the compelling line-images of Agamemnon, illustrated by Polish émigré Abram Krol or the fairy-tale-esque etchings in Hélène Iliadz’s Brigadnii – Un de la Brigade, by another émigrée artist, the Ukranian Anna Staritsky. One of the most popular works was French cultural icon (and Minister of Culture) André Malraux’s La Tentation de L’Occident, illustrated by Zao Wou-Ki (an émigré from 1940s China), combining emotive and explosive abstract images with an elegant typographical design.

While each work had a magic of its own, viewing the display as a whole had a kaleidoscopic effect, showing the variety of technique, colour, authors and artists within a once side-lined genre. This was magnified further by these artists’ books’  donation home: a library where the content of much-read and consequently battered texts normally takes precedence over the visual materiality of the publications themselves; a library temporarily transformed into a gallery for books whose physicality is their raison d’être. It is easy to see how this radical and at times very powerful marriage of word and image, content and form swept Strachan away in a lifelong love affair that we, with much appreciation, are still learning from.

Alex Zaleski, Library Assistant, Taylor Institution Library

Photo credits: Clare Hills-Nova, Justine Provino and Alex Zaleski

Further reading

Le livre d’artiste: a catalogue of the W.J. Strachan gift to the Taylor Institution: exhibited at the Ashmolean Museum, Ox, 1987 (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum and Taylor Institution, 1987).

W.J. Strachan. The artist and the book in France: the 20th century livre d’artiste (London: Owen, 1969)

Hair Today, Still Hair Tomorrow: Goethe’s Hair at the Taylor Institution Library

If you may not know already, the Taylor Institution Library 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 even has its own shelfmark: MS.8º.G.26. The shelfmark denotes the item as an octavo. Professor Henrike Lähnemann of the University’s Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages finds this amusing. This is because octavo refers to the size of the original German paper slip holding the hair. Lähnemann has said that the slip is like a secular counterpart to the authentication papers which comes with a saint’s relics. In the Middle Ages, they were called cedulae, where the name of the saint was noted and then tied to the relic. This placement of slip and hair in a small envelope appears to indicate the treatment of Goethe’s hair as if it were the relic of a saint. Today, Goethe’s hair continues to fascinate visitors of the library. The hair is displayed in a frame alongside a pressed violet and a portrait of Goethe, with the German paper slip and a little, ‘English’ envelope. Why does the Taylor have such a mysterious artefact, and how did the library even obtain it in the first place? All will be revealed…

Goethe’s hair, framed with sketched portrait and violet. The English envelope features on top.

Figure 1: Goethe’s hair, framed with sketched portrait and violet. The English envelope features on top.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) was considered to be the greatest German literary figure of the modern era. He was a statesman, and from 1775 joined the court of the Duke of Weimar. Goethe held several responsible, administrative and advisory posts in the government. Yet, political duties got in the way of his writing. Eventually, Goethe left on a two year trip to Italy (without telling anyone!) in order to come to terms with his art. Upon returning to Germany, Goethe was no longer involved in public affairs. Instead, he cultivated his passions, including his plays, poems, and novels, but also his scientific studies. Goethe’s works include Faust (Part One and Two 1808 and 1832, respectively), Roman Elegies (1795), and The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774). Goethe also found the time to translate works into German, write an autobiography (Poetry and Truth, 1811-33), and also edit and publish several literary reviews!

Goethe died unexpectedly of heart failure, and left behind a vast legacy. He had a profound impact on later literary movements, including Romanticism and expressionism. Goethe’s lifetime spanned some of the most monumental disruptions in modern history, and is often referred to as the Goethezeit or Age of Goethe.

Presumably, as was common place in western cultures when a person was gravely ill or died, locks of hair were shorn from Goethe’s head. The locks were then distributed to close family and friends. As creepy as it may seem to us in the 21st century, a lock of hair may have been comforting to the grieving 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. Those of you who are Goethe fans may have noticed this was in complete contrast to how his friend Eckermann viewed removing locks from Goethe’s head. In the final passage of Conversations with Goethe, Eckermann, upon seeing Goethe in his death bed, remembered how he ‘wished for a lock of his hair; but reverence prevented me from cutting it off’.

Clearly, the sheer, celestial monument of Goethe on his death bed, did not stop everyone from taking a small keepsake. There is no record whether Goethe gave his permission for a lock of his hair to be cut. Susan Halstead is a Social Sciences Subject Librarian at the British Library. According to her, Goethe’s reaction to such a request would have depended on who made it. Ottilie von Goethe, his daughter-in-law may have received a favourable response, as she cared for the elderly Goethe until his death. Whereas, Bettina von Arnim would have received a much dustier response. After all, her friendship with Goethe was ended, due to Bettina’s ‘insolent behaviour’ towards Goethe’s wife.

 It is unclear how many people were able to obtain a lock of Goethe’s hair, but one person who did was Johannes Falk. Whilst there is no mention of Falk in any accounts of Goethe’s illness in 1823 and eventual passing, chronologies of the day were compiled by scholars collating diaries, letters and conversations in the 20th century. So, it was only people who were actually there at the time, who could have known that Goethe was convalescing. 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.

Falk (1768-1826) was a German publisher and poet. Frequenting the literary circles of Schiller and Goethe, he became a close friend of Goethe. Therefore, Falk may have been one of Goethe’s visitors when he was taken ill. One inscription accompanying the hair was possibly penned by Falk himself (see Figure 2). The inscription is simply entitled Goethes Haar (Goethe’s hair) and reads as follows:

Diese Locke(n) wurden ihm 2ten März in den Tagen seiner Genesung von der Krankheit abgeschnitten. 

This lock was cut from him on the 2nd March in the days of his convalescence from illness

There is currently no direct evidence that Falk was the true author of this inscription. To establish true authorship, handwriting analysis would have to be undertaken. Manuscripts which are kept in the Falk Archive in Weimar, would need to be compared with the inscription. Despite this, there is still a high possibility that Falk wrote it.

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. A second inscription also accompanies the artefact and seems to confirm this, with the heading of Goethe’s hair (see Figure 2). The text is in English and is as follows:

Given me by my Aunt, Mrs Gabriele Saeltzer, of Weimar, the only surviving child of my Father’s Uncle, Johannes Daniel Falk, the Satirist and Friend of Goethe.  Given me at Catsclough, Cheshire on Fri Aug. 19. 1881.  H. John Falk.

German slip (left) and English envelope (right

Figure 2: German slip (left) and English envelope (right)

The inscription is on the English little envelope in which the lock of hair was kept for 58 years. It is unclear if Gabriele Saeltzer was visiting Catsclough or if she was a resident. It is very possible that she was one of Falk’s daughters, as out of the ten children he had with his wife Caroline Rosenfield, only two daughters survived. If Gabriela was Falk’s youngest daughter, she would have been in her sixties in 1881. Therefore, she must have treasured the hair for most of her life. It may be natural to assume that she wanted to pass it and other small relics such as the portrait of Goethe and the pressed violet onto the next generation. Gabriele or Falk may have added these items, intending them to be accompanied with the hair wherever it went. Presumably in a similar act of veneration, H. John Falk may have framed the three little items (see Figure 1).

A violet seems to be an odd choice to accompany the hair. But the reason for this, as Lähnemann explained, is due to the popularity of Das Veilchen (The Violet), which is a poem by Goethe. The last stanza of the poem is:

Ach! aber ach! das Mädchen kam
Und nicht in Acht das Veilchen nahm,
Ertrat das arme Veilchen.
Es sank und starb und freut’ sich noch:
Und sterb’ ich denn, so sterb’ ich doch
Durch sie, durch sie,
Zu ihren Füßen doch.
Das arme Veilchen
Es war ein herzigs Veilchen!

But alas, alas, the girl drew near
And took no heed of the violet,
Trampled the poor violet.
It sank and died, yet still rejoiced:
And if I die, at least I die
Through her, through her
And at her feet.
The poor violet!
It was a dear sweet violet!

Goethe’s poem was composed as a song for voice and piano by Mozart in 1785. Mozart’s composition would have made Das Veilchen a staple piece to be enjoyed in the 19th century drawing room. The violet is a tad masochistic, but its addition is a romantic touch, alluding to the popular ‘crush’ on Goethe.

The sketched portrait has been observed to be similar to other portraits of Goethe. In particular, in Goethes aussere Erscheingung:  literarische und kuenstlerische Dokumente seiner Zeitgenossen by Emil Schaeffer, we can see striking similarities between it and the porcelain painting by Ludwig Sebbers (1826) in Figures 3.1 and 3.2.

There also noted similarities in a lithograph by Grevedon, a copy of a lost drawing by Orest Adamovitsch Kiprensky (1823) (Figures 3.1 and 3.2). In both portraits, we can see the same receding hairline. However, the Kiprensky portrait differs from the sketched portrait and Sebbers’ porcelain painting as Goethe’s facial expression is more severe. It is interesting to note that on these portraits, Goethe’s hair is depicted as being quite frizzy, whilst the lock of hair appears to be straight. Despite this, in the chalk drawing by Karl Christian von Vogelstein (1824), Goethe is depicted with much straighter hair (see Figure 4). Vogelstein’s sketch of Goethe is not as flattering as Sebbers’ and Kiprensky’s portraits. Goethe is depicted with large, liquid eyes and a prominent nose. Depending on the artist, Goethe’s appearance will differ. Overall, considering the three portraits, there are features which do bear resemblance to the sketched portrait. Therefore, the unknown artist of the sketched portrait may have been inspired by other, contemporary portraits of Goethe.

Figure 4: Chalk drawing by Karl Christian Vogel von Vogelstein (1824) Schaeffer’s Goethes Aussere Erscheinung 1914: pl 60

Figure 4: Chalk drawing by Karl Christian Vogel von Vogelstein (1824) Schaeffer’s Goethes Aussere Erscheinung 1914: pl 60

At the start of this post, I mentioned Lähnemann’s observations regarding the hair as if it were a relic of a saint. Johannes Falk and his daughter may have intended the lock to be revered as something holy and immortal. This appears to be a sentiment that Taylor librarians have also shared. 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. It has never been taken out of its frame, nor separated from the crushed violet or sketched portrait.

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.

Our obsession with Goethe continues.


Chloe Bolsover
Graduate Trainee, Taylor Institution Library

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank my colleagues at the Taylor: Katie Day, Emma Huber and Nick Hearn – for their assistance. Thank you for lending me notes and forwarding some very interesting email chains.

Thank you Professor Henrike Lähnemann and Susan Halstead for your intriguing interpretations surrounding the lock of hair.

References

Eckermann, Johann Peter. 1839. Conversations with Goethe in the last years of his life. Hilliard, Gray, and company: Boston. Translated from the German by Margaret Fuller.

Schaeffer, Emil. 1914. Goethes Aussere Erscheinung. Insel-Verlag: Leipzig

http://www.online-literature.com/goethe/

https://www.cliffsnotes.com/literature/f/faust-parts-1-and-2/johann-wolfgang-von-goethe-biography

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/johann-wolfgang-von-goethe

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/02/01/design-for-living-books-adam-kirsch

https://www.fembio.org/english/biography.php/woman/biography/charlotte-buff-kestner/

https://www.oxfordlieder.co.uk/song/648

 

Sailing into Uncharted Waters

The Evolution of Books of Hours Printed in France

Note: The Taylorian Blog editors are very pleased to publish this post by David Sargent, student on the Introduction to Digital Humanities course, led by Emma Huber, Subject Librarian for German Language and Literature, Taylor Institution Library, Bodleian Libraries, 2019. (See https://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/taylor/about/courses-and-training)

Books of Hours originally evolved during the thirteenth century from Marian prayers added to Psalters, as Christopher de Hamel has pointed out.[1]  In Roger S. Wieck’s detailed survey of the content and illustrations of late medieval Books of Hours,[2] he remarks that:

The core of any Book of Hours, and the text after which it receives its name, is the series of prayers called the Hours of the Virgin […] This series of prayers is made up of eight Hours: Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline. […] Ideally, these eight Hours were to be recited at seven different times throughout the course of the day.[3]

According to Wieck, as well as the Hours of the Virgin, Books of Hours usually contain a liturgical calendar, readings from the Gospels, other sets of Hours, additional prayers not grouped into Hours, the Seven Penitential Psalms, a Litany, and a service to pray for the souls of the dead.[4]  One especially famous medieval Book of Hours is the Très riches heures du duc de Berry – some of its miniatures are reproduced on Wikimedia Commons.

Early printed Books of Hours, too, have been the subject of some recent studies, particularly by Prof. Cristina Dondi.[5]  Although publications about individual editions exist, there is no systematic survey of the development of the Book of Hours as a genre after 1600.  Dondi notes the Council of Trent as a watershed in the development of the Book of Hours, after which it allegedly became a workaday textbook for religious instruction, though she calls this characterisation into question.[6]

This is where my project comes in.  I looked at four Books of Hours printed in France, which are now located in Oxford libraries: an example from around 1500 at Balliol College, one from the late seventeenth century at Keble College, one dated 1706 at the Taylorian, and one dated 1874 and also located at Keble.  Within each book, I listed exactly which sets of prayers and other texts it contains and looked at the text-image relationship.

I was able to compare what I found in the Balliol Book of Hours with the existing scholarship on the manuscript and incunable traditions.  Its content turned out to be typical.  The Balliol example is lavishly illustrated with woodcuts.

Balliol College, Arch C 12 8 [a8v]-b1r (Reproduced by kind permission of the Master and Fellows of Balliol College)

The borders on b1r (the right-hand page pictured above) are typical of the arrangement throughout the book: the outer borders depict Biblical scenes, which are not always directly relevant to the text.  The central image in the right-hand border depicts the Devil tempting Christ and the image below it shows Adam and Eve beside the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil – complete with serpent – in the Garden of Eden.  Eve is examining the fruit.  Since the adjacent text is the opening of St. John’s Gospel, which is read at Christmas as it forms the basis for the theology of the Incarnation, a depiction of the Nativity might have been more relevant.  The two figures in the border at the foot of the page seem to be discussing something: perhaps the man on the right is pointing to the picture of Adam and Eve.

However, the large illustration on the facing page is relevant, since it depicts an episode from the life of St. John the Evangelist, traditionally thought to be the author of the text.  The episode is mentioned in the Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages article on the saint: he is being boiled alive in oil on the orders of the Emperor Domitian, an ordeal which he was said to have survived.[7]  The saint’s hands are in a gesture of prayer as he stands in the cauldron.  Servants stoke the fire under him while Domitian – seated on the throne and robed as a medieval monarch – looks on, with his courtiers in the background.  An official on the right turns his head away to speak to someone.  According to Wieck, this episode is often depicted at this point in Books of Hours.[8]  The large-format illustrations found the start of each of the Hours of the Virgin also follow one of the schemes listed by Wieck.[9]

Interestingly, the order of the quires in the copy at Balliol[10] is different from the copy used by the compilers of the standard catalogue of incunabula (the Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke – see the entry here).  This may be due to a mistake when the book was bound or rebound.

For the later books, the lack of existing scholarship meant that I had to rely almost entirely on my own observations, with the Balliol example as a point of comparison.  The following table summarises the content of each book (an x indicates that an element is present):

Book Balliol,

Arch C 12 8

Keble, Brooke 88 Taylorian, VET.FR.II.B.472 Keble, Brooke 73
Calendar x x x
Morning Prayers x x
Evening Prayers x x
Hours of the Virgin x x x
Other Hours x
7 Penitential Psalms x x x x
Gospel Lesson(s) x x
Litany/Litanies x x x x
Office of the Dead x x
Sunday Vespers x x
Sunday Compline x x
Order for Mass x x
Prayers during Mass x x x
Hymns x x
Propers x x

See also this data visualisation, below:

This data visualisation was created using skills and software (Gephi) taught on the Introduction to Digital Humanities course offered by the Taylor Institution Library

Each book’s content differs considerably, altering in response to its particular context: litanies (albeit of different kinds) and the Seven Penitential Psalms are the only texts that appear in all four books.  All the books contain a mixture of French and Latin texts.  French summaries and parallel text translations of Latin texts enabled comprehension (whether the Latin prayer was being used in public or in private), whilst French prayers did not pose such a language barrier.  The more modern the book in my sample, the greater the proportion that is devoted to helping the reader to take part in public worship.

Curiously, the 1874 Book of Hours at Keble does not include the Hours of the Virgin.  However, there are still grounds for seeing it as a later stage in the development of the same genre rather than as something altogether new: it self-designates as Heures and it contains many of the same texts as its early modern predecessors.  In fact, its use of images mimics medieval Books of Hours.  Stylistic echoes of books such as the Balliol example are evident at a glance and Wieck notes that images of King David (like the one pictured below) often open the Seven Penitential Psalms in late medieval Books of Hours.[11]  David, who was traditionally thought to have written the Psalms, kneels before God in a medieval-style interior.  His clothes are also late medieval in style and his harp is by his right knee.  The border of the facing page is floral, like the upper border in the Balliol example.

Keble, Brooke 73, pp. 30-31 (Reproduced by kind permission of the Warden, Fellows and Scholars of Keble College, Oxford)

The relationship between text and image varies from book to book.  Illustration with relevant images such as the one pictured above occurs throughout the nineteenth-century book, whilst decoration seems to be the main priority in Keble’s seventeenth-century book, Prieres du matin, (pictured below).  Indeed, the entire book is a thing of beauty; even the text is engraved.[12]  The shallow, rectangular indentations in each page show that copper plates were used throughout.

Keble, Brooke 88, p. 1 (Reproduced by kind permission of the Warden, Fellows and Scholars of Keble College, Oxford)

 

The word du in the middle of the page is highly ornamented and flanked by bunches of flowers.  These fit in well with the bucolic scenes at the top of the page and around the initial ‘V’: the former shows the gateway to a castle, flanked by trees, with a bridge across its moat, whilst the latter depicts the sun shining down on some hills, which are dotted with trees.  Perhaps we are looking east and the sun has just risen, providing an appropriate image for Morning Prayer.  Similar decorations occur throughout the book, but some of them have definite religious content which is relevant to the text, such as a depiction of the Descent of the Holy Spirit at the start of the Pentecost hymn (Veni creator Spiritus) on p. 238.

The eighteenth-century Book of Hours at the Taylor Institution Library has been scanned into a PDF file and can be viewed online here.  It was produced for the convent at St-Cyr and contains a good deal of material that is specific to this setting: there are ceremonies for visitation by a bishop, the appointing of a new Superior, etc.  (Things have moved on from the Middle Ages, when, according to Wieck, Books of Hours were produced exclusively with the laity in mind.)[13]  Almost the entire book is in Latin-French parallel text (starting with the Hail Mary on p.1, i.e. p. 22 of the PDF) which could have helped members of the convent whose Latin was not especially good, but who could read French, to participate in the services.

This book probably has the most interesting text-image relationship out of the four books that I investigated.  There are several ornaments within the text block: many of these are baskets of flowers.  However, at some time, someone has inserted eight separately printed images, each of which (with the possible exception of the one facing p. 307) is relevant to the text that it faces:

Page of PDF Facing page (original numbering) Subject of image Adjacent text
21 1 Blessed Virgin Mary Matins of the Virgin
91 69 Blessed Virgin Mary Prime of the Virgin
233 207 Holy Trinity Litany of the Holy Trinity
240 213 Christ-child Litany of the Christ-child
301 271 Adoration of the Magi Propers for Epiphany
338 307 Apparition of a Pope cursing a king Propers for Pentecost
351 317 Last Supper Propers for Corpus Christi

377

341 St. Augustine Propers for St. Augustine’s Day

Looking closely at the captions of some of these engravings reveals that they came from different print shops.  The pieces of paper to which they are glued are also of different shapes and sizes (though this is not easy to see in the PDF).  In addition, a piece of printed ephemera – a small piece of paper detailing a three-way compact in honour of the Holy Trinity – has been bound in immediately before the engraving of the Holy Trinity.  (They’re pages 230 and 233 of the Taylorian PDF.)  It seems that somebody has personalised the book by adding these fragments, as well as a manuscript litany at the back of the book (pp. 514-517 of the PDF), but when this was done is not clear.

I found this project particularly exciting because, in the case of the three post-1600 books, I was sailing into virtually uncharted waters and I hope that the description of three “locations” in those seas that I have written – with the description of the earlier book and its context as a guide – will go some way to showing that the ocean of post-1600 Books of Hours is worth mapping out in full.

David Sargent
MSt, Modern Languages, University of Oxford
Student on the Introduction to Digital Humanities course, Taylor Institution Library, 2019

[1] De Hamel, Christopher. (2013). ‘The European Medieval Book’. in Suarez, Michael F. and Woudhuysen, H. R. (eds.). (2013). The Book: A Global History. Oxford: OUP, pp. 59-79, p. 70

[2] Wieck, Roger S. (1988). Time Sanctified: The Book of Hours in Medieval Art and Life. New York, NY: George Braziller.

[3] Wieck p. 28

[4] Wieck p. 27f

[5] Dondi, Cristina. (2016). Printed Books of Hours from Fifteenth-Century Italy: The Texts, the Books, and the Survival of a Long-Lasting Genre. Florence: Leo S. Olschki.

[6] Dondi p. 223

[7] Berceville, Gilles, and Frédérique Trouslard. “John the Evangelist.” Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages.  James Clarke & Co, January 01, 2005. Oxford Reference. Date Accessed 3 Jun. 2019 <https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780227679319.001.0001/acref-9780227679319-e-1490>.

[8] Wieck p. 59

[9] Wieck p. 60

[10] See Rhodes, Dennis E. (1982). A Catalogue of Incunabula in All the Libraries of Oxford University Outside the Bodleian. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 937 (p. 179).

[11] Wieck p. 97

[12] The book is catalogued as ‘Engraved throughout’ here: http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/OXVU1:LSCOP_OX:oxfaleph015540634

[13] Wieck p. 27

Further reading

De Hamel, Christopher. (2013). ‘The European Medieval Book’. in Suarez, Michael F. and Woudhuysen, H. R. (eds.). (2013). The Book: A Global History. Oxford: OUP, pp. 59-79.

Dondi, Cristina. (2016). Printed Books of Hours from Fifteenth-Century Italy: The Texts, the Books, and the Survival of a Long-Lasting Genre. Florence: Leo S. Olschki.

Rhodes, Dennis E. (1982). A Catalogue of Incunabula in All the Libraries of Oxford University Outside the Bodleian. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Vauchez, André. (2000). Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages. Cambridge: James Clarke.

Wieck, Roger S. (1988). Time Sanctified: The Book of Hours in Medieval Art and Life. New York, NY: George Braziller.

A born-digital edition of Voltaire’s Dialogue entre un brahmane et un jésuite

This article was originally posted on the blog of the Voltaire Foundation, and is reposted here with permission of the author. See the original post here

…………………….

Just as the print edition of the Œuvres Complètes de Voltaire is fast approaching its completion, we at the Voltaire Foundation are starting work on two new, highly ambitious digital projects thanks to the generosity of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation: a digital edition of Voltaire’s works based on the Œuvres complètes (Digital Voltaire), and a born-digital edition of the works of Paul-Henri Thiry d’Holbach (Digital d’Holbach).

With a view to gaining the necessary skills required to begin my work on Digital d’Holbach, in autumn 2018 I attended an intensive course on digital editions run by the Taylorian Institution Library. Taught by Emma Huber in collaboration with Frank Egerton and Johanneke Sytsema, the course takes students through all the phases of the digital edition workflow, from transcription to publication and dissemination. It is a goal-focused, hands-on course during which students are warmly encouraged to create a born-digital edition of a short text from the Taylorian’s collections.

Although short and apparently light in tone, the piece that I chose to edit – Voltaire’s Dialogue entre un brahmane et un jésuite sur la nécessité et l’enchaînement des choses – is a key text in the evolution of Voltaire’s philosophical views. As the title suggests, the Dialogue hinges on the question of determinism (or fatalisme, in eighteenth-century French parlance) and touches on such crucial notions as moral freedom, causation, and the problem of evil. It was first published anonymously in the Abeille du Parnasse of 5 February 1752, and it then went through several reprints during Voltaire’s lifetime, with very few variants.

My edition of the Dialogue is of course not meant to replace the one already available in OCV. Rather, it was conceived to meet the needs of the broader public – and more specifically those of students. A very short introduction, displayed on the right-hand side, provides essential information on the philosophical issues at stake while situating the Dialogue in relation to other key texts by Voltaire. An original translation into English by Kelsey Rubin-Detlev makes the text more widely accessible, allowing students working in fields other than modern languages (e.g. philosophy) to engage with Voltaire’s ideas. High-quality pictures of the 1756 edition, which provides the base text, aim to give non-specialists a taste of what it feels like to leaf through a (dusty) eighteenth-century book. Finally, a modernised version of the text is available next to the facsimile, and a rich corpus of annotations – displaying in both the French transcription and the English translation and featuring links to several other digital resources (the ARTFL Encyclopédie and Tout Voltaire, but also Wikipedia and BibleGateway!) – aims to render the reading experience as informative and rewarding as possible.

But there is more to this edition than first meets the eye! For example, by clicking on ‘Downloads’ in the menu bar, a fifth column will appear from which the user is invited to download pictures as well as TEI/XML files, which can then be used as models to generate further digital editions. Also, a drop-down menu in the transcription column allows users to choose between two different versions of the text in addition to the modernised version displayed by default: a diplomatic transcription of the 1756 edition and a diplomatic transcription of a 1768 edition, which comes with its own set of images that are also available for download under a Creative Commons Licence. By looking at these texts, users will get a sense of how radically French spelling evolved in the mid-eighteenth century.

Readers of this blog are most cordially invited to browse my edition. Any feedback on content or presentation (e.g. the way footnotes or variants are displayed) would be greatly appreciated as I work towards an edition of a considerably longer text by d’Holbach. But more on that in the coming months!

Ruggero Sciuto

Postdoctoral Researcher at Hertford College and the Voltaire Foundation, University of Oxford

The Faithful Shepherd and me: a personal Odyssey, Part II

The Faithful Shepherd and me: a personal Odyssey

The Taylor Institution Library’s editions of Il Pastor fido, by G.B. Guarini (1538-1612)
 Part II: The Once and Future Guarinian

Robert Finch, ‘antiquary and connoisseur of the arts’,1 died in 1830, leaving his large collection of books, manuscripts, coins, paintings and other artefacts to the University of Oxford, with a life interest to Henry (Enrico) Mayer, the son of friends of his in Italy, who became virtually Finch’s adopted son.  It was on Mayer’s death in 1877, therefore, that the collection became legally the property of the University, though Mayer had in fact made arrangements for its physical transfer to the University nearly 40 years previously.  In his will, Finch had stipulated that the collection was to be kept together but it was found that there was no building suitable to hold it all and eventually an appeal was made to the Court of Chancery which allowed for the collection to be dispersed and duplicates sold.  In 1975, the then Taylor Librarian, Giles Barber, bought back for the Library a volume from Finch’s original collection, William Gell’s The Itinerary of Greece (London, 1810), the bookplates inside the book’s front pastedown showing clearly the book’s journey, with Finch’s original bookplate, the Finch Collection bookplate with its ‘Sold by Authority’ overstamping, and the 1975 bookplate.2

Finch’s library was housed originally in Room 3 of the newly built Taylorian and a catalogue of the books and manuscripts was published in 1874.Of the items retained by the Taylorian when the collection was dispersed in 1921, those that stood out as a group were the 33 different editions of Battista Guarini’s famous pastoral tragicomedy, Il pastor fido.  One edition was held in duplicate as having belonged to Finch’s wife Maria and it was these volumes from the Finch Collection which formed the original nucleus of the present collection of well over 200 editions.

In Part I of this personal survey of my involvement in the growth of the collection during the 33 happy years that I spent in the Taylorian Library, I wrote of some of the joys and disappointments of collecting.  And make no mistake, looking out for ‘new’ editions of the Pastor fido, whether for purchase by the Library or to add to my checklist of published editions of Guarini,4 has been a time-consuming affair and, as any enthusiast will tell you, such an endeavour can become something of a compulsive disorder. Under my watch the Library acquired some 80 editions of the works of Guarini, mainly of the Pastor fido, and since my retirement in 2004 I have persuaded the Library to purchase the occasional volume (15 to date). I have even resorted latterly to buying the odd one myself in order to present it to the Library as a thank-you for affording me the real pleasure of helping to enrich the collection, as a member of staff and as a retiree, over a period of many years.

First, there was the curious case of a 1666 edition of the Abbé de Torche’s French translation of the Pastor fido, which turned out to be a curious hybrid, seemingly bringing together as it does the original sheets of the five individual parts, one for each Act, as issued from 1664 to 1666, but reconfigured in the form in which they appear in the reprinting of the whole translation from 1667 onwards, with the dedication of Act V, A Madame, acting as a general introduction to the whole work but minus the other dedications and the plates.  Odd indeed, but interesting.

G.B. Guarini. Il pastor fido (Cremona, 1828)

G.B. Guarini. Il pastor fido (Cremona, 1828)

Next up was a copy of the 1828 Cremona edition of the text as issued in its original publisher’s casing. (Too often in the past binders destroyed much that is interesting from the bibliographer’s point of view.) Both these items have now been donated to the Library but there are two more which I have acquired and which I shall deposit ere long.

The first is an untrimmed copy (volume 1 only, alas, of 2) of the 1819 Zwickau edition in its original printed paper wrappers.

G.B. Guarini. Il pastor fido (Zwickau, 1819)

G.B. Guarini. Il pastor fido (Zwickau, 1819)

And then, only in March of last year, I discovered an edition of the Pastor fido with the imprint ‘In Venezia, presso Gio. Battista Ciotti, 1664’, the first time in more than 45 years of investigation that I had come across such an edition. The seller was living in Modica in Sicily, a town more famous for its bitter chocolate and its occasional appearance in the Inspector Montalbano films on television than for its antiquarian books, but, if you like, this would be the chocolate on the icing on the cake of my quest for editions of Guarini’s play.  If all is as it seems.

G.B. Guarini. Il pastor fido (Venice: G.B. Ciotti, 1664)

 The binding, which appears to be contemporary, is a little careworn but, then, so would you be after 350 years. The imprint is obviously spurious, as Ciotti, who had been publishing works by Guarini since 1593 and of the Pastor fido since 1600, had died round about 1627 and, although works bearing the family name were published by his sons up to at least 1638,5 the date of 1664 would be a fascinating echo of his continuing prestige in the world of publishing.

There is another 1664 edition of the Pastor fido, that printed in Rome by Francesco Moneta and sold by Bartolomeo Lupardi in the Piazza Navona. It has the same number of pages as the ‘new’ Venice edition and an enquiry of the library of the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz University in Hanover, which holds a copy, confirmed that the setting of the text is identical, so what we are dealing with here is, in theory, a reissue of the Rome edition with a cancel title printed for the Venice market. And yet, and yet… We show here a copy of this so far unique title-page. Is my Shepherd still faithful or has he, after all these years, become infido and false? Someone will perhaps recognize and identify that very prominent ornament.

Of the 470-odd verified editions of the Pastor fido recorded in all his guises, the Taylorian can account currently for nearly 220, with the Bodleian and college libraries chipping in a further 30 or so, a wholly satisfying total, even if, through the ravages of time, a small number of them are imperfect. But, then, ‘there is no real beauty without imperfection’ (James Salter).

And do I have a favourite, I hear you ask? Well, apart from my apparent unicum, I suppose it has to be the 1768 edition of the Pastor fido, published in Leipzig by Johann Georg Loewe and purchased by the Library in 1976. The frontispiece and the 42 vignettes in the text are here printed in blue, ‘stampate con inchiostro turchino’ the bookseller’s catalogue said. The Library also has the more usual issue where the engravings are printed with black ink but, if you want to see the other issue in all its glory, the Taylorian’s copy has been digitized and you can download PDFs of both editions here.

And me? I’m going to sit back and wait for an edition of the Pastor fido in dwarsligger format. Flipbacks, as they are dubbed by the publisher Dutton Books, are, so we are made to believe, the future.6

David Thomas
Assistant Librarian, Taylor Institution Library, 1971-2004

Notes

1 See the entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: OUP, 2004) (Published online 23 September 2004 [accessible within the University network only]). See also Elizabeth Nitchie, The Reverend Colonel Finch (New York: Columbia University Press, 1940) and E.R.P. Vincent, ‘Robert Finch and Enrico Mayer’, Modern Language Review, XXIX (1934), 150-155.

2 Intriguingly, the volume bears the signature of another of the Library’s benefactors, Marshall Montgomery (1880-1930), Reader in German in the University, who acquired the book in 1925.

3 George Parker, A catalogue of the books in the Finch Collection, Oxford. Oxford: E. Pickard Hall and J.H. Stacy, 1874.  The Bodleian copy of the catalogue (2590 e. Oxf. 10.3) is annotated and, although most of the Guarinis are marked as being not in Bodley, they were all destined to be kept in the Taylorian when the collection was dispersed.

4 David H. Thomas, An annotated checklist of editions of the works of Battista Guarini. Oxford: Taylor Institution Library.  A contemplated further revision of the checklist will reveal the most recent metamorphosis of my Faithful Shepherd as the Polish Wierny pasterz, in a translation by Marta Wojtkowska-Maksymik (Warszawa, 2018); this, too, will join the collection shortly.

5 Dennis E. Rhodes, Giovan Battista Ciotti (1562-1627?): publisher extraordinary at Venice. Venezia: Marcianum Press, 2013.

6 See an article by David Sanderson in The Times, 5 November 2018, ‘Mini book format swiped from phones,’ p.19.