From research to craft: printing Luther’s theses and teaching letterpress

Type set in 2016 for printing Martin Luther's 95 theses; Thesis 88
Type set in 2016 for printing Martin Luther’s 95 theses; Theses 88 and 89 (roman numerals) Photo: Charlotte Hartmann

The letterpress workshop housed at the Bodleian Library has long been used for experimentation and practical teaching to academic learners at all levels. It’s now equally a site for engaging the public and schools in activities that increase their understanding of, and appreciation for, the Bodleian Libraries’ unique collections. Participatory workshops are the key method that the Bodleian Bibliographical Press uses for helping visitors to feel a connection with ‘old books’, and, through that connection, to engage with research at the University. The workshop offers public courses for adults throughout the year, and offers workshops through the library’s Education team, to schools and adult SEND learners. Planning and teaching these workshops and courses requires an understanding of how the techniques of hand-press printing can be demonstrated and also a facility for tailoring tasks to the abilities of the participants of all ages and abilities.

While teaching to academic students and teaching to the public might be regarded by some as two separate functions of the workshop, it is useful to see how academic research projects can enrich the practice of the workshop for all learners. In our experience of working with one academic project, this yielded two unexpected aspects which influenced the course that the workshop has taken over recent years. Luther’s 95 Theses, earth-shaking in terms of religious history in 1517, proved to be influential again 500 years later in our own small corner of Thomas Bodley’s ‘public library’ at Oxford. We made a re-evaluation of the type of learning that takes place, for all users of the workshop, and expanded the audiences for the workshop by connecting with special interest groups in the community around a topic of current interest.

Undertaking an exercise for Professor Henrike Laehnemann and postgraduate students from the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, in printing Luther’s 95 theses as a broadside, (described in this blogpost by Charlotte Hartmann), we were challenged to extend the ambitions of the press technically. The length of Luther’s text nearly exhausted the Bodleian’s relatively generous supply of type, and in the end the single side of the broadside was printed in two parts, which needed to be printed to very exacting standards to appear in four parallel columns.

A challenge was posed by the 16th-century printer’s expedients to make Luther’s words fit into the original pamphlet length; having carefully divided the text from the pamphlet version into two halves, it became clear that the second half of the pamphlet contained more abbreviations. The 16th-century printer of the pamphlet had been trying to save space as he approached the end of the setting, to make it fit within 8 pages on a single sheet of paper. The print run of the Bodleian’s broadside version was much longer than usually attempted for any publications at the workshop – 200 – making 400 passes of the sheets through the press, as two halves of the text were set and printed in sequence.

Richard Lawrence is an Oxford printer with his own workshop, who teaches printing at the Bodleian to students and the public. He oversaw the type-setting and printing of the Luther Theses broadside, and comments,

The Luther Theses broadside is the largest text printed on the Bodleian’s hand-operated presses, and having copies of this broadside in the workshop has set an important standard for the kind of work that can be undertaken, and a model for collective contribution to a larger project.

We learned from this that a technical challenge is a key factor in encouraging learning. This project required a large amount of type-setting by untrained type-setters. Contrary to an idea that the role of a class might be to deliver the theory of type-setting in a lecture, and participants might learn from just a small amount of practice, the Luther Theses project showed that only added practice enabled participants to use their new skills more fully, to recognize and correct errors, and to become competent and creative. For learners with the stamina and ability to undertake a lot of type-setting, this is a key factor in their development, and is now something we look out for and encourage in the public classes.

The 2017 Luther anniversary, focussed around Luther’s use of the printing press to get his message across, also encouraged us to get the presses moving out of the workshop on several occasions; for a re-enactment of Luther’s famous fixing of the theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg; a ‘Print your own Theses’ open event at the workshop in May 2017; for the book launch of a Reformation pamphlet reprint by the Taylorian Library (Oxford’s library for Modern Languages); and by lending presses to St Edmund’s Hall, one of Oxford’s colleges, for a Research Day open to the public. This approach, seeing the presses as mobile, has encouraged further use of the presses in the public areas of the Bodleian’s Weston Library, and a small press has been refitted with a mobile stand to enable its use at different venues. The Reformation projects as a whole drew new audiences to the printing press – English and German community members celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Bonn-Oxford town twinning, and postal requests for copies of the 95 theses after images had been posted on social media.

The Rawlinson copper plates

Rawlinson Copperplates g. 182
Rawlinson Copperplates g. 182

Engraved and etched copper plates owned by the London-based antiquarian collector Richard Rawlinson (1690-1755) came to the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, with his bequest of a large collection of material, in 1755. The majority of these plates were gathered by Rawlinson second-hand from printers or other collectors, and thus date from the seventeenth, and first half of the eighteenth, century. These illustrate scenes and objects of antiquarian and topographical interest and many portraits. The plates include work by seventeenth-century engravers Wenceslaus Hollar [see the catalogue of Hollar’s work by Richard Pennington, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Etched Work of Wenceslaus Hollar 1607-1677] and David Loggan. Another group of plates within this collection was made for Rawlinson himself, to depict unique objects in his own vast antiquarian collections. These collections included a large number of medieval and early modern manuscripts donated or bequeathed to several institutions including the Bodleian, as well as printed images, antique and exotic cultural objects, inscriptions, and seal matrices.
The copper plates thus sit within a much more extensive collection assembled by an eighteenth-century antiquarian, touching on areas of curatorial interest to libraries, museums, and archives. Surviving papers and notebooks of Richard Rawlinson are held at the British Library, the Bodleian Library, and at St John’s College, Oxford.

The collection is the focus of a Collaborative Doctoral Partnership, beginning in October 2020, between the Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Studies, University of London, and the Bodleian Libraries. Learn more….

Number of items

The number of plates is approximately 750. Lists made at different times indicate that a few items were moved to another collection after arriving in the Bodleian Library.

Where can I find information about this collection?

The essential guide to information about Richard Rawlinson’s life and his multiple collections is the unpublished DPhil thesis by B.J. Enright, Richard Rawlinson : collector, antiquary, and topographer (University of Oxford, 1957). This is available from the Rare Books office in the Bodleian’s Weston Library for Special Collections, by application to staff in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Reading Room.

The most comprehensive information currently available about Rawlinson’s copper plates is contained in handwritten lists from the early twentieth century, and one printed resource, all kept in the Bodleian’s Weston Library for Special Collections. [See link for information about access.] Prospective researchers must be able to navigate both printed and handwritten resources.

Edith Guest's Index to the Rawlinson Copper plates
Edith Guest’s Index to the Rawlinson Copper plates

(1) Reference index, bound as ‘Index to the Rawlinson Copperplates.’ This was compiled in 1900 by Edith Guest. It is kept in the Bodleian’s Weston Library for Special Collections, in the Reference section at R. 6.236.
Slips of paper are pasted into a large scrapbook. These contain brief descriptions, arranged alphabetically by principal subject, e.g. a geographical or family name, or genre term, e.g. ‘Business card’. The list includes notes of where the prints from these plates were located in the library, either in Rawlinson’s own collection of prints (shelfmarks ‘Rawl. Prints’ etc.) or in published books.

Paper slip in the reference index, with the entry made by Edith Guest for Rawlinson copperplates g.182
Paper slip in the reference index, with the entry made by Edith Guest for Rawlinson copperplates g.182

(2) Library handlist of Rawlinson Copperplates (Handlist 327)

Library handlist of Rawlinson Copperplates
Library handlist of Rawlinson Copperplates

A transcription of the Edith Guest’s index, presented as a handwritten list arranged by order of shelfmark (call number), to provide a guide for librarians to the order in which the plates are kept on library shelves.

The shelfmarks are in the format:
Rawlinson copperplates / size indicator letter (a = largest, g=smallest) / running number within each size range

The handlist begins with:

Rawlinson copperplates a.1, Map of Anglo-Saxon Britain according to Bede. Printed in Bede’s Historiae Ecclesiasticae libri quinque, opposite p. 653 (edition of 1722), [giving the shelfmark of a Bodleian copy of this item, when available]
[shelfmark] A 15.3 Th.

and ends with

Rawlinson copperplates g.313, The letter A. Printed on p. iii of a circular announcing the preparation of a complete history of the Mallardians, 1752: Gough Oxon. 60(10)

Handwritten entry for Rawlinson copperplates g.182, split across two pages in the library handlist
Handwritten entry for Rawlinson copperplates g.182, split across two pages in the library handlist

(3) The Rawlinson Copperplates: an indexed guide (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Department of the Library, Williamsburg, Virginia, 1988)

(3)The Rawlinson Copperplates: an indexed guide (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Department of the Library, Williamsburg, Virginia, 1988)
(3) The Rawlinson Copperplates: an indexed guide (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation,
Department of the Library, Williamsburg, Virginia, 1988)

Also uses the information in Edith Guest’s index. The entries are arranged in several sequences by subject category, title (i.e. ascribed title of the plate), ‘location’ (i.e. geographical subject), date, author (of the book in which a plate was used), engraver, illustrator (i.e. artist of the image engraved on the plate).
The volume is a printout of information in a searchable database. The Bodleian does not have access to the electronic database. The features of this printed index are that it organizes the listing of plates in several different ways, corresponding to the search functions of the database, and that it introduces new subject categories, grouping the plates under 18 headings.
These are: antiquities, Biblical scenes, biology, coats of arms, coins, commerce, decorative, documents, ecclesiastical subjects, maps, medals, objects, portraits, seals, statuary, text, University materials and Views.
Each plate is listed with an indication of whether the publication information (i.e. the published book in which prints from the plate appear) is available in the Guest handlist, and an indication if unpublished prints from the plate are kept in another collection in the Bodleian.

(4) A very few [currently two dozen] Rawlinson copper plates are entered in SOLO, the Library’s online catalogue. The records of these can be found by an Advanced Search of the Shelfmark field containing ‘Rawl. Copperplate’. [See link for example record: http://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/permalink/f/89vilt/oxfaleph020714490 ]

Colin Franklin Prize for Book-Collecting 2019-20

Sylee Gore, ‘Self-portrait of a city in print: Berlin 2001-2010’

Through the generosity of Mr Anthony Davis, the Bodleian Libraries are pleased to award a prize each year to a student of the University of Oxford for an essay about a treasured book collection. The prize is named after Colin Franklin, bibliographer, book collector, and a friend to bibliophiles in Oxford. The competition is announced each October with a deadline in January.

The books in these student collections need not be rare or costly; the award is judged on the coherence and inspiration showing through the collection, and on how well, in the essay submitted, the student expresses the importance of the collection to themselves and shares the motives impelling them along their collecting journey and the successes (and sometimes failures) along the way.

The prize this year is awarded to Sylee Gore (Kellogg College) for her essay ‘Self-portrait of a city in print: Berlin 2001-2010’. Her diverse collection, principally of photographic books, attempts to recapture 10 years in the life of a city. The judges praised this in-depth examination of a particular place and time, recaptured and preserved in the books collected.

Julie Hamilton’s essay, ‘Ancient and modern voices from Egypt,’ was highly commended by the judges. They noted both her expertise in the subject matter – including a hieroglyph edition of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit — and her joy in the material form of her books. The judges were especially pleased to read that Ms Hamilton took a few of her books to be given custom bindings, by a fourth-generation bookbinder in Cairo.

 

Tracing global connections in a 1730 festival book (from the History of the Book blog, Oxford Medieval and Modern Languages)

A cross-posting from the History of the Book blog, from the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, University of Oxford

Augspurgisches Iubel-Gedächtnüs from 1730 compiled by Johann Michael Roth, Ashmolean
Detail of Augspurgisches Iubel-Gedächtnüs from 1730 compiled by Johann Michael Roth — Ashmolean Museum Library

By Isabelle Riepe

This term‘s focus is the research and writing of a project related to our course Palaeography, History of the Book and Digital Humanities. Having previously studied nineteenth-century carnival illustrations, I wanted to continue with the theme of festivals to trace identity formation through visual dialogue. Through SOLO’s, the Search Oxford Libraries Online Catalogue, tag listing eighteenth-century festival books in Germany, I came across a map of India and script in the Augspurgisches Iubel-Gedächtnüs from 1730 compiled by Johann Michael Roth, a city-musician of Augsburg (Shelfmark: Hope Collection XXVIII.H.6a) – a digitised version can be found at SLUB Dresden.     …

My main interest in this festival book … was a comment in the catalogue on an engraving ‘concerning the propagation of the faith in India‘. I am working on tracing global connections in pretty much everything I find, so this was a phenomenal find, which did not disappoint. As can be seen in the video, a written extract states Danish missionaries in India had commissioned an illustration in Augsburg, which was turned into the biggest illustration of the book. Among the many religious insignia, landscape and groups aimed to represent indigenous people, a map of India and Devanagari script feature at the centre of the illustration titled ‘Vorstellung der Evangelisch-Ost-Indischen Kirche’ (Presentation of the protestant-East-Indian Church). The latter two are exciting finds as they link the German imperial city of Augsburg with global developments and imperial practice of Protestant missionaries in the early eighteenth century. …

David Armes (Red Plate Press) Bodleian Printer in Residence 2019

David Armes, Red Plate Press
David Armes, Red Plate Press

The Bodleian Bibliographical Press is delighted to welcome David Armes (Red Plate Press) as printer in residence during four weeks in November-December 2019.

During the residency, Armes will work at the Bodleian’s Bibliographical Press on an addition to his series, ‘Text Landscapes,’ site-specific works made with letterpress printing on paper.

Armes is a visual artist working with print, language and geography. His work is frequently site-specific and considers how sense and experience of place can be represented, with source material including automatic writing, anonymous conversations and oral history. He works primarily with letterpress printing on paper and the final forms can vary in shape and size from large scroll installations to broadside prints to artists’ books and chapbooks. Through using what was once an industrial print process, he is interested in where the multiple meets the unique, where the ephemeral meets the archival.

Based in West Yorkshire, Armes has held artistic residencies at Zygote Press fine art print studio (Cleveland, USA; 2018), Wells Book Arts Center (New York, USA; 2017), BBC Radio Lancashire (Blackburn, UK; 2017) and Huddersfield Art Gallery (West Yorkshire, UK; 2016)

While he is in residence, David Armes will lead a public workshop and give a public lecture.

25 November & 28 November Public workshop: ‘Wood type: pattern, colour and language’
5:30 – 8:30pm
Bodleian Bibliographical Press, Schola Musicae, Old Bodleian Library
Registration fee: £30 (+ £1 booking fee)
This is a hands-on workshop using the wood type collection and iron hand presses. Participants learn the basics of letterpressprinting, use wood type in an expressive and creative manner, and learn to see type as image. Participants will complete a small edition of prints.
To register: https://visit.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/events-exhibitions

5 December Lecture: ‘Accumulating Narrative – meaning and mutation in letterpress printing’
co-presented by the Bodleian Libraries Centre for the Study of the Book and the Oxford Bibliographical Society.

This lecture will be delivered from an artist research perspective, drawing on David Armes’s own practice and that of the artists whose work he will explore. It looks at the links between the 1960s concrete poetry work of Hansjörg Mayer and the graphic typographical works of Wolfgang Weingart, drawing a line through the later 20th century work of Ken Campbell to reach the 21st century work of contemporary artists Vida Sačić, Aaron Cohick, Marianne Dages and Dimitri Runkkari.

The lecture will pose questions on subjects such as how meaning can mutate through the process of production, what impact the physicality of materials has and how we can read narratives created through improvisational production techniques.

Lecture Theatre, Weston Library, Broad Street, Oxford, 5:15 pm
Free admission. No booking required.
For information on attending the lecture, please see the event listing at https://visit.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/event/accumulating-narrative

 

 

How Religious Fanaticism Affected the Dating of a Book

Maria Czepiel

Humanae Salutis Monumenta (‘HSM’) is a book of poems on Biblical subjects by the Spanish humanist Benito Arias Montano, richly illustrated with engravings. A copy of this work is in the Bodleian Library, at the shelfmark 4o Rawl.209. It bears on its frontispiece the date 1571 and, until recently, was dated as such by the Bodleian catalogue. Without knowing more about the book’s fortune, you wouldn’t think to doubt the date printed in the book. However, as we shall see, all is not what it seems.

HSM is a revolutionary work which fused the popular genres of books of hours, illustrated Bibles and emblem books. Its popularity can be seen in the number of editions it went through. Two early editions were an octavo with lavish borders in 1571, a smaller borderless octavo in 1581. The plates of these early editions are more Northern European in character; some bear strong resemblances to engravings by Dürer, and others contain windmills and typical Northern European houses in their backgrounds.

A quarto edition with new engravings was published in 1583. By contrast with the 1571 and 1581 editions, the larger engravings of the 1583 edition are much more Italianate and monumental. A good example of this phenomenon occurs in the engraving of the Visitation (Tabula XXXVI) where the size of the figures increases and the background changes from one containing houses reminiscent of Dutch landscapes to one of Italianate buildings with columns:

Tab. XXXVI, 1581 (Bodleian Library, Gibson 263)
Tab. XXXVI, 1581 (Bodleian Library, Gibson 263)
Tab. XXXVI, 1583 (digitised by Emory University, https://archive.org/details/567821935163.emory.edu/page/n85.)
Tab. XXXVI, 1583 (digitised by Emory University, https://archive.org/details/567821935163.emory.edu/page/n85.)

The 1583 edition also seems to be more geared towards a Roman Catholic audience through the religious content of the images. In particular, whereas the plates of the editions from 1571 and 1581 show a preoccupation with fidelity to the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, those from the 1583 edition are more faithful to the Vulgate, declared the authoritative translation of the Bible in the Fourth Session of the Council of Trent. This more orthodox Catholic view is particularly clear in the treatment of Moses: for example, the 1571 Tabula II shows him with two rays coming out of his head, whereas the 1583 version shows him with two wisps of hair in the shape of horns, a nod to the Vulgate translation of Exodus 34.29, ‘Moses ignorabat quod facies sua cornuta esset’. (The confusion resulted from the similarity of the Hebrew words qeren, ‘horn’ and qaran, ‘ray’.) The 1583 engraving is also less sympathetic to the Israelites, since in the background it portrays the idolatrous worship of golden calf instead of the neutral tents of earlier editions. What’s more, the Ten Commandments on the tablets held by Moses are written in Latin in the 1583 edition, rather than in Hebrew as in earlier editions.

Tab. II, 1581 (digitised by the University of Illinois , https://archive.org/details/humanaesalutismo00aria/page/n7)
Tab. II, 1581 (digitised by the University of Illinois , https://archive.org/details/humanaesalutismo00aria/page/n7)
Tab. II, 1583 (Emory University)
Tab. II, 1583 (Emory University)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But hang on. Bodleian 4o Rawl. 209 is, as its shelf-mark suggests, a quarto (4o). And if we turn to the Moses plate, we can see horns on his head. This must be the 1583 edition! But what about the date 1571 which appears on the frontispiece? Well, bibliographers point out that the same frontispiece was used for both the 1571 and 1583 editions. The reason for this may also be religious: Antwerp, where the book was printed, was under Calvinist rule when the 1583 edition was published. This made it risky to print a book written by a prominent Catholic theologian like Montano, and it was safer to give the impression that this was actually an earlier publication rather than a new edition. So, by causing the printer to hide the real date of publication, religious fervour was the culprit of the confusion in the dating of 4o Rawl.209, if the date alone were taken as evidence; but in inspiring the engravers to make some major iconographical changes, it helped us solve the problem.

Tab. II, Bodleian 4o Rawl.209
Tab. II, Bodleian 4o Rawl.209

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maria Czepiel is a DPhil candidate in the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages working on Spanish literature, and wrote this blog post as coursework for the MSt Method Option ‘Palaeography, History of the Book and Digital Humanities’ with Henrike Lähnemann. The catalogue record for 4o Rawl. 209 has been updated thanks to her research.

Workshop invitation: Textual editing workshops for undergraduates and postgraduates

A collaboration between the Bodleian’s Department of Special Collections and Centre for Digital Scholarship, and Cultures of Knowledge, a project based at the Faculty of History

We are looking for enthusiastic undergraduates and postgraduates from any discipline to take part in workshops in textual editing culminating in the publication of a citable transcription.

Sign up for a workshop: see below for details.

Trinity Term 2019

  • 10:00-16:30 Wednesday 8th Week, 19th June

Textual editing is the process by which a manuscript reaches its audience in print or digital form. The texts we read in printed books are dependent on the choices of editors across the years, some obscured more than others. The past few years have seen an insurgence in interest in curated media, and the advent of new means of distribution has inspired increasingly charged debates about what is chosen to be edited, by whom and for whom.

These workshops give students the opportunity to examine these questions of research practice in a space designed around the sources at the heart of them. The Bodleian Libraries’ vast collections give students direct access to important ideas free from years of mediation, and to authorial processes in their entirety, while new digital tools allow greater space to showcase the lives of ordinary people who may not feature in traditional narrative history.

Our focus is on letters of the early modern period: a unique, obsolescent medium, by which the ideas which shaped our civilisation were communicated and developed. Participants will study previously unpublished manuscripts from Bodleian collections, working with Bodleian curators and staff of Cultures of Knowledge (http://www.culturesofknowledge.org), to produce a digital transcription, which will be published on the flagship resource site of Cultures of Knowledge, Early Modern Letters Online (http://emlo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk), as ‘Bodleian Student Editions’.

The sessions are standalone, but participants in previous workshops have gone on to further transcription work with Bodleian collections and with research projects around the country, as well as producing the first scholarship on some of the manuscripts by incorporating material in their own research (from undergraduate to doctorate level). The first-hand experience with primary sources, and citable transcription, extremely useful for those wishing to apply for postgraduate study in areas where this is valued: one participant successfully proceeded from a BA in Biological Sciences to an MA in Early Modern Literature on the basis of having attended.

The sessions provide a hands-on introduction to the following:

  1. Special Collections handling
  2. Palaeography and transcription
  3. Metadata curation, analysis, and input into Early Modern Letters Online
  4. Research and publication ethics
  5. Digital tools for scholarship and further training available

You can read about research conducted in previous workshops here. To hear about future textual editing workshops and other events as they are advertised, please join the digital scholarship mailing list.

Participation is open to students registered for any course at the University of Oxford. If you would like to participate, please contact Francesca Barr, Special Collections Administrator, francesca.barr@bodleian.ox.ac.uk, and include:

  1. your ox.ac.uk email address
  2. your department
  3. your level and year of study
  4. particular access requirements
  5. particular dietary requirements

Please note that owing to the workshops being oversubscribed both years running, we can only confirm places on this term’s workshops. You may register your interest in subsequent workshops, and will be notified of the dates for each term before they are advertised more widely.

Seminar in Palaeography and Manuscript Studies, 2019

The Seminar in Palaeography and Manuscript Studies runs annually in the Weston Library in Hilary term (Jan-March). The 2019 Seminar aimed to showcase the research of some of the early career scholars in Oxford using the Library’s collections. Here the three speakers working on medieval manuscripts offer brief summaries of their sessions.

Daniel Sawyer, ‘Against dullness: some ways to learn from (and enjoy) “average” manuscripts’

I aimed to demonstrate the value of examining ‘dull’ or ‘mediocre’ later medieval English literary manuscripts, and to bring out what might be interesting about seemingly dull manuscripts from any place and time.

It is (I suggested) by looking at seemingly dull, normal manuscripts that we might learn the most: normal manuscripts are the crucial context for the exceptional books which excite us, and normal manuscripts also let us study normality, a neglected topic in and of itself. Broad, part-quantitative surveys of such books have much to teach us.

Bodleian MS. Laud Misc. 486
Bodleian MS. Laud Misc. 486

A broad survey is of course difficult to conduct in a short seminar, so I took as my example book Bodleian Library, MS Laud Miscellaneous 486.

MS Laud Misc. 486 contains a copy of the Prick of Conscience, the most widely-witnessed medieval English poem, and a text generally neglected: the sheer number of surviving copies impedes research, and the poem’s content is tiresome and rebarbative to most modern readers. The poem is followed by a copy of Gregory the Great’s Cura Pastoralis by the same scribe.

The catalogue description of this manuscript would not excite us. But it contains many points of interest, which I sought to bring out in my discussion.

The manuscript has a surviving gothic English binding, which is fascinating in itself and assures us of the book’s probable integrity since the fifteenth century. It is the most dense of all the medieval manuscripts in medieval bindings which I’ve been able to weigh—that is, it has the most weight per cubic centimetre.

A study of the book’s quiring reveals that it is not composed from codicologically distinct ‘booklets’, and yet there are subtler signs in the quiring which do reveal a production hesitation between its two texts.

Although both texts in the book were copied by the same scribe, I pointed out that there are quiet differences in the handwriting he deployed for each text. These broach the topic of palaeographical differences driven by linguistic difference, a topic which is less well-studied in the later medieval period than in the early Middle Ages because, paradoxically, more evidence—too much—survives.

Finally, ending at the manuscript’s beginning, I noted that a unique summary of the Prick of Conscience preserved here reveals the probable mnemonic reading of the poem in this book by one medieval reader, and hints at a moment of transition in the manuscript’s history when it might have moved between two reading communities and two reading contexts.

Karl Kinsella, ‘Plan and elevation: the architectural drawings of Richard of St. Victor’

My talk was titled ‘Plan and Elevation: Richard of St. Victor’s Architectural Drawings’ because we chose to focus on two manuscripts (MS. Bodl. 494, MS e Mus. 62) that contain the twelfth-century author Richard of Saint Victor’s commentary on the Book of Ezekiel, known as In visionem Ezechielis. Richard included some of the most detailed architectural drawings to exist at that time, making them important for how we understand the development of technical drawings, but also the language of architecture during the twelfth century.

We worked through the sequence of all fourteen drawings, showing that Richard structures the text in a way that helps his pedagogical aims. He begins with a very general drawing of the entire temple complex, showing all three atriums. He then provides much more detail on particular buildings. One elevation is in fact a section, as if Richard has removed part of the façade so that the viewer can see the interior. This is the first sectional elevation in existence and demonstrates Richard’s innovation in the genre of technical drawing.

Bodleian MS. Bodl. 494, fol. 156r

We closely examined a geometrical drawing that is, despite being the most plain in the whole work, is one of the most important. Richard uses two types of measurements to simplify his recreation of the temple. This drawing shows the reader how to translate from one type of measurement to the other. It shows that the commentary and the drawings within it are rooted in contemporary practices in geometry. This relationship between architecture and geometry continues to this day, and Richard was a forerunner of that.

Finally, we examined the language that Richard used. Richard called one of the measurements ‘planum’, when he wants to describe the topography of the temple site as if it was flat. This is the first use of the word ‘plan’ to refer to an architectural drawing, one that would not be used again for several centuries. While Richard’s work was influential within the intellectual circles of twelfth- and thirteenth-century scholarship, it did not go on to influence practices in medieval building sites.

The questions addressed topics such as the codicological status of the manuscripts, and the broader significance of the work and its intended audiences.

Bodleian printer in residence 2019-20: David Armes

David Armes
David Armes

We are pleased to announce that David Armes will be Printer in Residence at the Bodleian Bibliographical Press for one month during the coming academic year 2019-20.

David Armes is a visual artist working with print, language and geography. His work is frequently site-specific and considers how sense and experience of place can be represented, with source material including automatic writing, anonymous conversations and oral history. He works primarily with letterpress printing on paper and the final forms can vary in shape and size from large scroll installations to broadside prints to artists’ books and chapbooks. Through using what was once an industrial print process, he is interested in where the multiple meets the unique, where the ephemeral meets the archival. Recent residencies have been at Zygote Press fine art print studio (Cleveland, USA; 2018), Wells Book Arts Center (New York, USA; 2017), BBC Radio Lancashire (Blackburn, UK; 2017) and Huddersfield Art Gallery (West Yorkshire, UK; 2016)

See the Red Plate Press webpage.

David Armes, 'rights of way' (book)
David Armes, ‘rights of way’

The Printer in Residence programme draws together community and University members with an interest in printing and the book arts, to use the Bibliographical Press workshop at the Bodleian Library. During the residency in October-November 2019, David Armes will work on a new iteration of his ‘text landscape’ series, present a lecture and lead a public workshop, to be advertised on the Bodleian Libraries website.

The residency programme is supported by a private donation to the Bibliographical Press.

The ‘Slave Bible’ of 1807

from Charlotte McKillop-Mash, Bodleian Special Collections

The Museum of the Bible  in Washington DC is currently exhibiting the ‘Slave Bible’, a shockingly bowdlerised version of the New- and Old Testaments that was printed in England in 1807, the same year that the Slave Trade Act prohibited the slave trade in the British Empire.
What’s so shocking? This Bible, intended ‘For the Use of the Negro Slaves, In the British West-India Islands’ has been carefully edited to remove any mention of people freeing themselves from bondage. In just one instance, it skips directly from Genesis 45:28 to Exodus 19, so it includes the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) but “disappears” the first eighteen books of Exodus, in which the Israelites escape slavery in Egypt.


I came across this text thanks to an enlightening Religion News Service (RNS) article on the exhibit, which is a collaboration between the Museum of the Bible, Fisk (a historically black university in Tennessee) and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The ‘Slave Bible’ was published by the Society for the Conversion and Religious Education of Negro Slaves, an organisation founded by Bishop Beilby Porteus who was, difficult as it is to believe, a passionate abolitionist. Porteus (1731-1809), an interesting and contradictory figure, was the son of a Virginia tobacco planter (presumably a slave owner?) but was born and raised in England. He was ordained at the age of 26 and rose up the Anglican ranks, becoming chaplain to the king in 1769, bishop of Chester in 1776 and bishop of London in 1787. Porteus criticised the Church’s position on slavery, preached and campaigned against the slave trade, and voted numerous times to ban it. He also, perhaps most ironically, made strong stands for doctrinal purity and theological rigour. Even as he campaigned, however, his Conversion Society was printing and distributing this deeply impure Bible, a publication which can be considered as, at best, politically expedient. [DNB (subscription required) ]  [Wikipedia ]
I was particularly intrigued when I read that “the rare artifact is just one of three known across the world. The other two are housed at universities in Great Britain.” What are the chances, I thought, that Oxford is one of those universities? I asked Jo Maddocks, from the Bodleian’s Rare Books Department, and was thrilled to discover that not only is there a copy here in Oxford, but it has been digitised so it is freely available for teaching.
This eye-opening and disturbing book deserves to be more widely known and I am grateful that the Museum of the Bible has highlighted it.