Seminar in Palaeography and Manuscript Studies, 2021

Seminar in Palaeography and Manuscript Studies
Convenors: Daniel Wakelin, Martin Kauffmann

Meetings will take place online via Zoom on Mondays at 2.15pm (GMT) in weeks 1, 3, 5, and 7. Original manuscripts will be shown. Registration is required. E-mail: bookcentre@bodleian.ox.ac.uk . Your message must be received by noon on the Friday before the seminar (or register for the whole series by noon, Friday 15 January).

Week 1 (18 January)
Julian Luxford (University of St. Andrews)
The Tewkesbury benefactors’ book

Week 3 (1 February)
Bodleian and John Rylands curators
Newly acquired medieval book coffers at the Bodleian and the John Rylands Libraries

Week 5 (15 February)
Adam Whittaker (Birmingham City University)
Medieval music theory in Bodleian manuscripts

Week 7 (1 March)
Marc Smith (École des chartes)
Late medieval writing models: contextualizing MS. Ashmole 789

Seminar in the History of the Book, 2021

Seminar in the History of the Book, Hilary Term 2021
Fridays at 2:15pm (GMT)
On-line: Register by email to: bookcentre@bodleian.ox.ac.uk , giving the dates of any seminars you wish to attend.

Conveners: Cristina Dondi (Lincoln College, Oxford) and Alexandra Franklin (Bodleian Centre for the Study of the Book)
Due to limited space (even online), registrations for the live events will be honoured in the order received.
Presentations will be recorded if the speaker has granted permission, and in that case will be available a few weeks after the date of the seminar.

Friday, January 22
Matthew Payne (Keeper of the Muniments, Westminster Abbey)
‘Follow the Money: Wynkyn de Worde, Jacques Ferrebouc and the Bardi’

Friday, January 29: Special session at 5:00pm GMT
Goostly Psalmes in Oxford and New Haven
Henrike Lähnemann (Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, University of Oxford)
‘Translating, Singing, Printing the Reformation. The Queen’s College Sammelband with Myles Coverdale’s Goostly Psalmes’
With a showing of The Queen’s College copy and the Bodleian and Beinecke fragments
Kathryn James (Beinecke Library, Yale University); Matthew Shaw (The Queen’s College, Oxford); Sarah Wheale (Bodleian Libraries, Oxford)

Friday, February 5
Francesco Guidi-Bruscoli (University of Florence)
‘The Borromei’s trade unveiled: digging for information in fifteenth-century account-books’

February 12 – No seminar

Friday, February 19
Alessandro Bianchi (Bodleian Libraries, Oxford)
‘Hidden in plain sight. Printed books from the Japanese Mission Press in the Bodleian Collections’

Friday, February 26
Kanupriya Dhingra (SOAS, University of London)
‘Streets and Serendipity: “Locating” Daryaganj Sunday Patri Kitab Bazar’

Friday, March 5
Benjamin Wardhaugh (University of Oxford)
‘Hunting for readers in sixteenth-century editions of the works of Euclid’

Friday, March 12
William Stoneman  (Cambridge, MA)
‘Buying Incunabula at Gimbel Brothers Department Store: A Curious Chapter in the History of American Book Collecting’

‘Extracts. Supplied by a sub-sub-librarian.’ The Melville bicentenary commemoration printing

Libraries and literary institutions around the world in 2019 marked 200 years since Herman Melville’s birth with readings and conferences appreciating his work. At Bodleian Special Collections we took the opportunity to call again on letterpress printers around the world, who provided Shakespeare’s Sonnets in 2016, to celebrate Melville in similar fashion.

Philip Hoare, author of Leviathan, in front of the Weston Library display, ‘Very Like a Whale,’ 15 Nov 2019.  The author hosted a screening of the Arena documentary, The Hunt for Moby-Dick, at the Weston Library. Photo: Cyrus Mower

The text was a section of Moby-Dick often overlooked by readers, part of the preliminaries in which Melville introduces the multifarious themes of the work. Eighty extracts are arranged approximately chronologically.  Melville writes of his fictional sub-sub-librarian: ‘this mere painstaking burrower and grubworm … appears to have gone through the long Vaticans and street-stalls of the earth, picking up whatever random allusions to whales he could anyways find in any book.’ And yet, stealthily, these extracts of everything from the Bible to ‘Nantucket songs’ build a dramatic foreshadowing of the destiny of Ishmael and his shipmates.

They bear testimony to the value of collections encompassing a wide variety of texts — devotional works, learned legal treatises, great literature and sea shanties. To join its copy of the first (London) edition published under the title The Whale, the Bodleian now holds a new, collective, version of this section of Melville’s famous novel.

The bulk of the prints received are reproduced here. It is impossible to convey in digital images the quality of the craft and the satisfying variety of the physical items received.  One detail must stand for the excellence of these pieces; it is from Richard Kegler’s Extract 13.

Richard Kegler, P22 Press, Rochester, NY; detail from Extract 13: Tanned fish skin printed in silver ink. “Bubbles” printed with wood type dots and Os from 48pt Zeppelin Type.

In addition to printing using various methods (see No. 49) and materials (see No. 13), the printers have incorporated into their works (sometimes literally, see No. 63) the publishing history of Moby-Dick, the ecological crisis of the oceans, awareness of historical racism and the dangerous pace of human exploitation of natural resources on land and in the oceans. Melville’s choice of sources did not go beyond the publication year of the novel in 1851, but many of the themes remain current. To update the ‘Extracts,’ the Bodleian gladly accepted an offer from the volunteers of The National Museum of Computing, to print additional ‘Extracts’ about whales, using their collection of 20th-century printers.

The first extract, from the St James Park Press, begins the series with the title, ‘Moby Dick Extracts’.

Extract 1 James Freemantle, St. James Park Press, London
1. ‘‘And God created great whales.’ – Genesis. // James Freemantle, St James Park Press, London. Wood-engraving by Garrick Palmer.
2. ‘Leviathan maketh a path to shine after him; One would think the deep to be hoary.’ – Job.  //Samantha King, Red Eel Press, Leeds. ‘Letterpress printed on a Farley No.11 proofing press; Kitakata Natural made in Japan, 33gsm; Centaur, 12pt. Stock: Canson Mi-Tientese, slate grey, 160gsm; Ornamental border: Monotype 319/320, 24pt. This border is not only the pressmark of the Red Eel Press but if you look closely … it is full of Leviathan/whales’
5. ‘In that day, the Lord with his sore, and great, and strong sword, shall punish Leviathan the piercing serpent, even Leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.’ – Isaiah.  //  Peter Cartwright and Ann Pillar, The Lock-up Press, Walsall. Letterpress on 100gsm orange cartridge using a variety of wood and metal type. On a Farley proofing press (c. 1955)
6. ‘The Indian Sea breedeth the most and the biggest fishes that are: among which the Whales and Whirlpooles called Balæne, take up as much in length as four acres or arpens of land.’ – Holland’s Pliny. // Rosie Fairfax-Cholmeley, The Wytham Studio, Oxford
9. ‘He visited this country also with a view of catching horse-whales, which had bones of very great value for their teeth, of which he brought some to the king.  *  *  *  The best whales were catched in his own country, of which some were forty-eight, some fifty yards long. He said that he was one of six who had killed sixty in two days.’ – Other or Octher’s verbal narrative taken down from his mouth by King Alfred, A.D. 890.  //  Iain Potter, Oxford Printmakers Cooperative. Linocut; Pfeffer Mediaeval; 1828 Albion Relief Press. Extract in Anglo-Saxon, image incorporating the Alfred Jewel.
10. ‘And whereas all the other things, whether beast or vessel, that enter into the dreadful gulf of this monster’s (whale’s) mouth, are immediately lost and swallowed up, the sea-gudgeon retires into it in great security, and there sleeps.’ – Montaigne’s Apology for Raimond Sebond.  // Emily Martin, Iowa. Letterpress and pastepaint; Type: Baskerville; Paper: Johannot paper
11. ‘Let us fly, let us fly! Old Nick take me if is not Leviathan described by the noble prophet Moses in the life of patient Job.’ – Rabelais. // photo from Michael Simons, Devil’s Pi Press
12. ‘This whale’s liver was two cart-loads.’ – Stowe’s Annals. // Brian Wood, Dogs and Stars Press
13. ‘The great Leviathan that maketh the seas to seethe like boiling pan.’ – Lord Bacon’s Version of the Psalms. // Richard Kegler, P22 Press, Rochester, NY. Letterpress printed on Curious Cosmic Pulsar Red stock with a Vandercook Universal III. Tanned fish skin printed in silver ink. “Bubbles” printed with wood type dots and Os from 48pt Zeppelin Type. Quote hand-set in 14pt American Uncial. Colophon printed in 8pt Oldstyle Extended.
14. ‘Touching that monstrous bulk of the whale or ork we have received nothing certain. They grow exceeding fat, insomuch that an incredible quantity of oil will be extracted out of one whale.’ – Lord Bacon, History of Life and Death. // Robert Rowe, Gold Quoin Press, Peoria, Illinois. Linoleum Cut, Hand-set lead type, photopolymer plate, and drypoint engraving; Typeface: Goudy Oldstyle, Printed on a Vandercook #4. Drypoint was included in this piece as a reference to scrimshaw, a traditional art form among the whalers.
15. ‘The sovereignest thing on earth is parmacetti for an inward bruise.’ – King Henry. // Jessica Spring, Springtide Press, Tacoma
16. ‘Very like a whale.’ – Hamlet.  // Adam Smyth, The 39 Step Press, Elsfield. Read about the process here. https://www.39steppress.co.uk/very-like-a-whale
18. ‘Immense as whales, the motion of whose vast bodies can in a peaceful calm trouble the ocean till it boil.’ – Sir William Davenant’s Preface to Gondibert.  //  Alexandra Chappell and Jeff Groves, The First-floor Press, Claremont Colleges Library, California. Printed on a cast-iron hand press from hand-set metal type. Columbian hand-press, manufactured by R Ritchie & Son, Edinburgh, c. 1850. 1/2 of the edition printed on Somerset Satin White and 1/2 printed on Stonehenge Grey. Extract and colophon types: 48, 24, 14 10 point Baskerville. Whalestrom types: 72pt Baskerville lower case; 48pt Baskerville lower case; 48pt Alt Gothic caps; 36pt Cloister Text caps; 36pt Cheltenham Condensed caps; 30pt Lydian caps; 24pt Thompson Quill Script caps; 24pt Caslon 540 caps; 24pt Bodoni Book italic lower case; 18pt unlabeled gothic; 18pt Shaded Scroll; 18pt Goudy modern lower case; 18pt Banker Gothic; 14pt Cloister Text caps; 14pt Bodoni italic caps; 14pt Baskerville caps; 12tp Lydian caps; 12pt Large Comstock; 12pt Gothic Outlline; 10pt Typewriter caps; 8pt Baskerville small cap.
Printing of Extract 18: detail of the ‘whalestrom’ on the press.
19. ‘What spermacetti is, men might justly doubt, since the learned Hosmannus in his work of thirty years, saith plainly, Nescio quid sit.’ – Sir T. Browne’s Of Sperma Ceti and the Sperma Ceti Whale. Vide his V. E.  // Michael and Tia Hurley, Titivilus Press, Memphis, Tennessee. Designed in InDesign CS6 and typeset in Igino Marini’s Fell Great Primer, Fell English and Fell Flowers 1. The illustration is adapted from Andre Thevet’s “Cosmographie Universelle” of 1574. The page was laid out according to Tschichold’s “Golden Canons of Page Construction”. Letterpress printed by hand on a 1915 Golding Jobber No. 7 from photopolymer plates on Neenah Environment Quest Ivory 80# Cover in Opaque White, PMS 485 Red and Black inks. The plates were manufactured by Concord Engraving, Concord, New Hampshire.
20. ‘Like Spencer’s Talus with his modern flail /He threatens ruin with his ponderous tail. … Their fixed jav’lins in his side he wears, / And on his back a grove of pikes appears.’ – Waller’s Battle of the Summer Islands.  //  Robin Wilson, The Wytham Studio, Oxford
21. ‘By art is created that great Leviathan, called a Common-wealth or State—(in Latin, Civitas) which is but an artificial man.’ – Opening sentence of Hobbes’s Leviathan.    //   Matt Kelsey, Camino Press. Letterpress printed using Caslon wood type, and Cooper Black and Bold Antique metal type, engraving reprinted via polymer on Ingres Bluestone paper, using a Challenge proof press
22. ‘Silly Mansoul swallowed it without chewing, as if it had been a sprat in the mouth of a whale.’ – Pilgrim’s Progress. // Erik Spiekermann, p98a, Berlin. Letterpress on a KORREX proof press. Large type laser-cut plywood. Metal type cast on a Ludlow caster in Tempo Bold. Metapaper Warm White 150g
23. ‘That sea beast /Leviathan, which God of all his works / Created hugest that swim the ocean stream.’ – Paradise Lost. // Elizabeth Adams, Juxon Press, Oxfordshire
24. ‘There Leviathan, /Hugest of living creatures, in the deep / Stretched like a promontory sleeps or swims, /And seems a moving land; and at his gills /Draws in, and at his breath spouts out a sea.’ – Paradise Lost. // The MIT Beaver Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts
25. ‘The mighty whales which swim in a sea of water, and have a sea of oil swimming in them.’ – Fuller’s Profane and Holy State. //  Brittany Starr and Mallory Haselberger, BookLab at University of Maryland. Mixed media (collage and letterpress). Printed on a Line-O-Scribe, Model 1411 on Strathmore printmaking paper using rubber and oil-based ink; includes Jenson, News Gothic and Bookman typefaces with Hamilton wood type
26. ‘So close behind some promontory lie /  The huge Leviathan to attend their prey,/ And give no chance, but swallow in the fry, /  Which through their gaping jaws mistake the way.’ – Dryden’s Annus Mirabilis. // Michael Daniell, Atlantis Press, Oxford. Letterpress. Caslon and Monotype Glint. Printed on a Furnival Express treadle platen press
27. ‘While the whale is floating at the stern of the ship, they cut off his head, and tow it with a boat as near the shore as it will come; but it will be aground in twelve or thirteen feet water.’ – Thomas Edge’s Ten Voyages to Spitzbergen, in Purchas. // Daisy Davis, Ashvale Press, Isles of Scilly; printed at the Bodleian Bibliographical Press. Letterpress and linocut.
28. ‘In their way they saw many whales sporting in the ocean, and in wantonness fuzzing up the water through their pipes and vents, which nature has placed on their shoulders.’ – Sir T. Herbert’s Voyages into Asia and Africa. Harris Coll. // Frazil Press. Letterpress and linocut; Gill Sans 8pt, 12pt, Gill Sans Italic 12pt; Neenah paper: Classic Linen Bare White 80lb Text Adana 8 x 5.
29. ‘Here they saw such huge troops of whales, that they were forced to proceed with a great deal of caution for fear they should run their ship upon them.’ – Schouten’s Sixth Circumnavigation.  // Richard Cappuccio, Center for the Book, University of Virginia. Wood type, metal type (32pt Lydian), printed on a Vandercook proof press.

Students from the University of Arkansas answered the ‘Extracts’ call as a class project at the Underground Ink Press, the letterpress and book arts workshop at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith.

32. ‘Myself have agreed to try whether I can master and kill this Sperma-ceti whale, for I could never hear of any of that sort that was killed by any man, such is his fierceness and swiftness.’ – Richard Strafford’s Letter from the Bermudas. Phil. Trans. A.D. 1668. // Emily Carrington-Freeman, Oxford. Lino cut & oil-based ink (1/4 with gold leaf)
33. ‘Whales in the sea / God’s voice obey.’ – N.E. Primer. // Jonathan Senchyne, Easy Hill Press, University of Wisconsin. Letterpress, Optima Italic metal type, 8 line wood type. Engraving and copy of the original by Reynolds Stone. Printed on a Vandercook 325G
34. ‘We saw also abundance of large whales, there being more in those southern seas, as I may say, by a hundred to one; than we have to the northward of us.’ – Captain Cowley’s Voyage round the Globe, A.D. 1729. //  Larry Hale, Glasgow Press. Letterpress print; Paper: Wild 450gsm; Vandercook Proof Press
35.  ‘… and the breath of the whale is frequently attended with such an insupportable smell, as to bring on a disorder of the brain.’ – Ulloa’s South America.  // Elizabeth Fraser, Frauhaus Press, Cambridge. Handset letterpress. Blind deboss using wood and metal type. Whale created from face and back of woodtype with ornaments for eye and spout. Text 12pt & 6pt Baskerville italic. Whale breath 12pt glint (Monotype B1309 & B1310). Printed on Somerset Velvet 300gsm soft white paper with a tabletop flatbed proofing press
36. ‘To fifty chosen sylphs of special note, / We trust the important charge, the petticoat. / Oft have we known that seven-fold fence to fail, / Tho’ stuffed with hoops and armed with ribs of whale.’ – Rape of the Lock. // Roy Watkins, Embers Handpress. Small letterpress (Adana flatbed 9×7); linocuts with Garamond; Japanese Gampi vellum
38. ‘If you should write a fable for little fishes, you would make them speak like great whales.’ – Goldsmith to Johnson. // Angie Butler, ABPress. Letterpress and pochoir printed on 280gsm (size: 21″ x 15″; 53.5 x 38 cms); Somerset Newsprint Grey. Caslon 72pt wood-letter. Printed on a Vandercook No. 4
39. ‘In the afternoon we saw what was supposed to be a rock, but it was found to be a dead whale, which some Asiatics had killed, and were then towing ashore. They seemed to endeavour to conceal themselves behind the whale, in order to avoid being seen by us.’ – Cook’s Voyages. // Andrea Hewes, Oxford Printmakers Co-operative
41a. ‘The Spermacetti Whale found by the Nantuckois, is an active, fierce animal, and requires vast address and boldness in the fishermen.’ – Thomas Jefferson’s Whale Memorial to the French Minister in 1778. // Emeline Marcelin, Bodleian Bibliographical Press, Oxford
41b. ‘The Spermacetti Whale found by the Nantuckois, is an active, fierce animal, and requires vast address and boldness in the fishermen.’ – Thomas Jefferson’s Whale Memorial to the French Minister in 1778. // John Benson, Ormpress. Letterpress and linocut printed on a 5″ x 8″ Excelsior Kelsey Press. Type: Bodoni Bold 18pt; Bodoni Bold Italic 18pt. Paper: Fabriano Tiziano 160gsm
42. ‘And pray, sir, what in the world is equal to it?’ – Edmund Burke’s Reference in Parliament to the Nantucket Whale Fishery.  // Stephanie Newman, Faux Pas Press, Bozeman, Montana. Letterpress: photopolymer plates, Vandercook No. 3 proof press; Crane Lettra paper, Kozo chine colle, rubber base ink
43. ‘Spain—a great whale stranded on the shores of Europe.’ – Edmund Burke. (Somewhere.)  //  Miles Wigfield, Reading Room Press, Gloucestershire. Letterpress: Albion; Type: Goudy Cloister Initials and Imprint Shadow on Zerkall Ingres paper. Commemorates the centenary of the Society of Wood Engravers.
44. ‘A tenth branch of the king’s ordinary revenue, said to be grounded on the consideration of his guarding and protecting the seas from pirates and robbers, is the right to royal fish, which are whale and sturgeon. And these, when either thrown ashore or caught near the coast, are the property of the king.’ – Blackstone.   // Olivia Lefley, Northamptonshire. Letterpress, linocut. Printed on a Westen proofing press. Modern 20 typeface. Paper provided by G F Smith
46. ‘Bright shone the roofs, the domes, the spires, /  And rockets blew self driven, / To hang their momentary fire /  Around the vault of heaven. // ‘So fire with water to compare, /  The ocean serves on high, / Up-spouted by a whale in air, /   To express unwieldy joy.’ – Cowper, On the Queen’s Visit to London.  // John G Henry, Cedar Creek Press. Letterpress (2 colours) & embossing; Reeves Heavyweigh Gray Paper; printed on a Vandercook Universal III press
47. ‘Ten or fifteen gallons of blood are thrown out of the heart at a stroke, with immense velocity.’ – John Hunter’s Account of the Dissection of a Whale. (A small-sized one.) // Elpitha Tsoutsounakis, Salt Lake City, Utah. Letterpress on Savoy/Vandercook III; watercolour with ochre from the San Rafael Swell
49. ‘The whale is a mammiferous animal without hind feet.’ – Baron Cuvier. // Arcangela Regis, Lauren Press, Barcelona, Spain. Monoprint (footprints in acrylic); Letterpress printing with woodtype on an Albion Press; Invercote Creato 290gr 64x92cm
50. ‘In the free element beneath me swam, /Floundered and dived, in play, in chace, in battle, / Fishes of every colour, form, and kind; / Which language cannot paint, and mariner / Had never seen; from dread Leviathan / To insect millions peopling every wave: / Gather’d in shoals immense, like floating islands, / Led by mysterious instincts through that waste /And trackless region, though on every side / Assaulted by voracious enemies, / Whales, sharks, and monsters, arm’d in front or jaw, /With swords, saws, spiral horns, or hooked fangs.’ – Montgomery’s World Before the Flood. // Randolph Chilton, In Which Press, Nevada City, California. Letterpress: Chandler and Price Old Style 10×15; typefaces mainly 14pt Caslon Old Style 337, 36pt Huxley Vertical, six-line 19th century English and-carved wood block (colophon mainly 12pt Caslon); paper #110 Rives BFK
52. ‘Io! Pæan! Io! sing, / To the finny people’s king. / Not a mightier whale than this / In the vast Atlantic is; / Not a fatter fish than he, / Flounders round the Polar Sea.’ – Charles Lamb’s Triumph of the Whale. // Lauren Williams, Book Arts Lab, McGill University Library, Montreal. Letterpress; printed on a Farley Proofing Press, in 18pt Bembo, on Canson paper
53. ‘In the year 1690 some persons were on a high hill observing the whales spouting and sporting with each other, when one observed; there—pointing to the sea—is a green pasture where our children’s grand-children will go for bread.’ – Obed Macy’s History of Nantucket.  // Bob Oldham, Ad Lib Press, Turrialba, Costa Rica. Handset type on poured pulp paper, printed on home-made Medhurst press
54. ‘I built a cottage for Susan and myself and made a gateway in the form of a Gothic Arch, by setting up a whale’s jaw bones.’ – Hawthorne’s Twice-Told Tales.  //  Sarah Teppen, Bone Earring Press, East Lansing, Michigan. Letterpress, linocut (original); Stonehenge warm white paper, C&P 8×12, Type: Berhardt Gothic Medium
55. ‘She came to bespeak a monument for her first love, who had been killed by a whale in the Pacific ocean, no less than forty years ago.’ – Hawthorne’s Twice-Told Tales. // Chloe Foster, Chloe Arielle Studio, Clarkson, Michigan. Printed on a Kelsey 3×5 press.
56. ‘“No, Sir, ’tis a Right Whale,” answered Tom; “I saw his spout; he threw up a pair of as pretty rainbows as a Christian would wish to look at. He ’s a raal oil-butt, that fellow!” – Cooper’s Pilot.  // Charlie Davies, Oxford Printmakers Cooperative, Oxford. Etching on Fabriano Paper

57. ‘The papers were brought in, and we saw in the Berlin Gazette that whales had been introduced on the stage there.’ – Eckermann’s Conversations with Goethe. // Patrick Goossens, Letter-kunde , Antwerp.

58. ‘“My God! Mr. Chace, what is the matter?” I answered, “We have been stove by a whale.”’- Narrative of the Shipwreck of the Whale Ship Essex of Nantucket, which was attacked and finally destroyed by a large Sperm Whale in the Pacific Ocean. By Owen Chace of Nantucket, first mate of said vessel. New York, 1821. // Andrew Rippeon, The Davidson College Letterpress Lab, North Carolina. Printed using wood and metal type in a variety of sizes and faces (extract: Gothic wood type in various sizes, large metal type from 72pt to 60pt; attribution: from 30pt to 10pt Craw Clarendon; colophon: 10pt Venus Light: magnesium printing die, (review material from The Literacy World); and laser-cut plexiglass plate (whale and pressure-printed ‘waves’). Printed on dampened Stonehenge (Polar White), using a Vandercook #4 (ser. #13096), rescued from a barn in central New York and restored by Andrew Rippeon
59. ‘A mariner sat in the shrouds one night, / The wind was piping free;/ Now bright, now dimmed, was the moonlight pale,/And the phospher gleamed in the wake of the whale,/ As it floundered in the sea.’ – Elizabeth Oakes Smith. // Ryan Cordell, Huskiana Letterpress Studio, Boston. Letterpress with 2 woodcuts, Caslon type (mostly), Golding Pearl #14
60. ‘The quantity of line withdrawn from the boats engaged in the capture of this one whale, amounted altogether to 10,440 yards or nearly six English miles.   …
‘Sometimes the whale shakes its tremendous tail in the air, which, cracking like a whip, resounds to the distance of three or four miles.’ – Scoresby. // Two moveables, a spool and a whip-crack, by Jonathan Bath, Oxford
61. ‘Mad with the agonies he endures from these fresh attacks, the infuriated Sperm Whale rolls over and over; he rears his enormous head, and with wide expanded jaws snaps at everything around him; he rushes at the boats with his head; they are propelled before him with vast swiftness, and sometimes utterly destroyed. …  It is a matter of great astonishment that the consideration of the habits of so interesting, and, in a commercial point of view, so important an animal (as the Sperm Whale) should have been so entirely neglected, or should have excited so little curiosity among the numerous, and many of them competent observers, that of late years, must have possessed the most abundant and the most convenient opportunities of witnessing their habitudes.’ – Thomas Beale’s History of the Sperm Whale. 1839.  //  Martyn Ould, The Old School Press, Seaton. Letterpress text in Hunt Roman on Somerset. Linocuts by John Watson. Printed on a 30-inch Western Proof Press
63. ‘October 13. “There she blows,” was sung out from the mast-head.
  “Where away?” demanded the captain.
  “Three points off the lee bow, sir.”
  “Raise up your wheel. Steady!”
  “Steady, sir.”
  “Mast-head ahoy! Do you see that whale now?”
  “Ay ay, sir! A shoal of Sperm Whales! There she blows! There she breaches!”
  “Sing out! sing out every time!”
  “Ay, ay, sir! There she blows! there—there—thar she blows—bowes—bo-o-o-s!”
  “How far off?”
  “Two miles and a half.”
  “Thunder and lightning! so near! Call all hands.”’ – J. Ross Browne’s Etchings of a Whaling Cruise. 1846. // Paul Hatcher, Allamanda Press, Woodley. Hand-set letterpress and original linocuts. Typeface is Verona. The substrate is hand-cast board made at the press from pulped copies of the 1950s bowdlerised and abridged edition of Moby Dick, published by Collins. Printed using an Adana QH horizontal platen (the poor man’s Albion). There are eight copies in total on this board.
64. ‘The Whale-ship Globe, on board of which vessel occurred the horrid transactions we are about to relate, belonged to the island of Nantucket.’ – Narrative of the Globe Mutiny, by Lay and Hussey, Survivors. A.D. 1828. // Isobel Lewis, The Kelpie Press,  in collaboration with Richard Reitz Smith, Maine, USA; with Marbled paper, Letterpress, collage. Set in Caslon, printed on a Vandercook Universal III.
65. ‘Being once pursued by a whale which he had wounded, he parried the assault for some time with a lance; but the furious monster at length rushed on the boat; himself and comrades only being preserved by leaping into the water when they saw the onset was inevitable.’ – Missionary Journal of Tyerman and Bennett.  // William Rowsell, Oxford Printmakers Cooperative, Oxford. Linocut.
66. ‘Nantucket itself,’ said Mr. Webster, ‘is a very striking and peculiar portion of the National interest. There is a population of eight or nine thousand persons living here in the sea, adding largely every year to the National wealth by the boldest and most persevering industry.’ – Report of Daniel Webster’s Speech in the U.S. Senate, on the Application for the Erection of a Breakwater at Nantucket. 1828.  // Martha Chiplis, Berwyn, Illinois. Letterpress printed from wood type, linoleum, and photopolymer plate. Handmade paper, LTC Cloister (digital type), Vandercook Universal I. Drawing of map based on 1869 historical map of Nantucket.
67. ‘The whale fell directly over him, and probably killed him in a moment.’ – The Whale and his Captors, or the Whaleman’s Adventures and the Whale’s Biography, gathered on the Homeward Cruise of the Commodore Preble. By Rev. Henry T. Cheever. // Elizabeth Moriarty. Linocut.
68. ‘“If you make the least damn bit of noise,” replied Samuel, “I will send you to hell.”’ – Life of Samuel Comstock (the Mutineer), by his Brother, William Comstock. Another Version of the Whale-ship Globe Narrative.  // Christopher Barker, The Smallprint Company, Derby.
69. ‘The voyages of the Dutch and English to the Northern Ocean, in order, if possible, to discover a passage through it to India, though they failed of their main object, laid open the haunts of the whale.’- McCulloch’s Commercial Dictionary.  // Linda Stinchfield, Turtlesilk Press, Los Gatos, California. Letterpress, handset and photopolymer; paper: Flurry Cotton, Boxcar; Typeface: Centaur & Arrighi (italic); Press: Vandercook SP15
70. ‘These things are reciprocal; the ball rebounds, only to bound forward again; for now in laying open the haunts of the whale, the whalemen seem to have indirectly hit upon new clews to that same mystic North-West Passage.’ – From ‘Something’ unpublished.  // James Bradley, Book Arts Collaborative, Indiana. Linocut and letterpress. Printed in Franklin Gothic and Playbill typeface on a Vandercook SP15 press. Reverse side printed in Universe 12pt type on a a Chandler & Price 12×18 press. Mohawk Superfine Ultra-white 65lb cardstock
71. ‘It is impossible to meet a whale-ship on the ocean without being struck by her near appearance. The vessel under short sail, with look-outs at the mast-heads, eagerly scanning the wide expanse around them, has a totally different air from those engaged in regular voyage.’ – Currents and Whaling. U.S. Ex. Ex.  //  Jennifer Farrell, Starshaped Press, Chicago. Letterpress: metal type + rule, linocut. Paper: Fabriano Tiziano. Printed on a Vandercook SP15
72. ‘Pedestrians in the vicinity of London and elsewhere may recollect having seen large curved bones set upright in the earth, either to form arches over gateways, or entrances to alcoves, and they may perhaps have been told that these were the ribs of whales.’ – Tales of a Whale Voyager to the Arctic Ocean.  // Hugh Macfarlane, Tudor Black Press, Marnes, France. Printed on a Cropper treadle press.
73. ‘It was not till the boats returned from the pursuit of these whales, that the whites saw their ship in bloody possession of the savages enrolled among the crew.’ – Newspaper Account of the Taking and Retaking of the Whale-ship Hobomack.   // Rosemary Everett, Gifford, Scotland. ‘Wood engraving. Letterpress, Collage; Lemonwood block; Tosa Washi paper. Printed with a burnisher (wood engraving) and a book press (letterpress). The Extract is cut up and collaged onto the print. This is intended to emphasise the “savagery” of whaling theme. Also the words are jumbled, to reflect the theme of confusion and lack of knowledge and understanding.’
75. ‘Suddenly a mighty mass emerged from the water, and shot up perpendicularly into the air. It was the whale.’ – Miriam Coffin or the Whale Fisherman. // Alexandra Chappell, Pasadena, California. Printed on a cast-iron hand press from hand-set metal and wood types. Press: Columbian hand-press, manufatured by R Ritchie & Son, Edinburgh. Type: 24 line gothic condensed wood type; 48, 30 and 14 point Liberty foundry type. Paper: Somerset Book.
76.  ‘The Whale is harpooned to be sure; but bethink you, how you would manage a powerful unbroken colt, with the mere appliance of a rope tied to the root of his tail.’ – A Chapter on Whaling in Ribs and Trucks. // Armina Ghazaryan, Type & Press, Ghent. Letterpress printed from wood/metal type on FAG TP-510, paper Wild 150gm
77.  ‘On one occasion I saw two of these monsters (whales) probably male and female, slowly swimming, one after the other, within less than a stone’s throw of the shore’ (Terra del Fuego), ‘over which the beech tree extended its branches.’ –  Darwin’s Voyage of a Naturalist.   // Li Jiang, Lemoncheese Press, Berkeley, California. Letterpress, polymer plate. Digital type: Geographica; Paper: Stonehenge White 250gsm; Press: Vandercook SP15 10″ x 15″, 3 colours
78. ‘“Stern all!” exclaimed the mate, as upon turning his head, he saw the distended jaws of a large Sperm Whale close to the head of the boat, threatening it with instant destruction;—“Stern all, for your lives!”’ – Wharton the Whale-Killer. // Kimball Hamilton, Two Left Hands Press, Los Gatos, California. Printed letterpress from photopolymer plates and hand set 12pt Weiss type, on Flurry 1-ply cotton cover, using a 1896 Chandler & Price Old Series 10×15 plated press

79. ‘So be cheery, my lads, let your hearts never fail, / While the bold harpooneer is striking the whale!’ – Nantucket Song. // Arie Koelewyn, The Paper Airplane Press, East Lansing, MI. One version of the verse is here: http://ballads.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/view/edition/24312 

80. ‘Oh, the rare old Whale, mid storm and gale,
  In his ocean home will be
A giant in might, where might is right,
  And King of the boundless sea.’
– Whale song. // Joe Swift, Distant Press. Printed Letterpress from wood and metal type on a Columbian hand press

Post-1851 ‘Extracts’  An exciting offer came from the volunteers at the National Museum of Computing, offering prints from a variety of newer machines:  a 1940s German Lorenz teleprinter, a 1980s ICL computer line printer, and a Braille printer. This offer inspired the library to bring the extracts up to date in 2019, with additional quotations from Rachel Carson’s book, The Sea Around Us (1951), and from  M.P. Simmonds, “Evaluating the Welfare Implications of Climate Change for Cetaceans,” in A. Butterworth (ed.), 2017, Marine Mammal Welfare (17th edition).

Additional Extract: ‘The sperm whale is often marked with long stripes, which consist of a great number of circular scars made by the suckers of the squid. From this evidence we can imagine the battles that go on, in the darkness of the deep water, between these two huge creatures – the sperm whale with its 70-ton bulk, the squid with a body as long as 30 feet, and writhing, grasping arms extending the total length of the animal to perhaps 50 feet.’ – Rachel Carson, The Sea Around Us (1951) // Vickie Heaney, Isles of Scilly. Linocut.

Film of Vtek MBoss-1 Braille Printer/Embosser, from The National Museum of Computing.

A Braille whale – or Whaille.

Braille whale; image courtesy of The National Museum of Computing
‘When it comes to cetaceans, despite their somewhat fishy forms and great variety, it should be easier for us to conceptualise suffering in these intelligent and typically highly social marine mammals. This should enable us to evaluate with more empathy how their welfare is being impacted by human actions and to strive to respond appropriately and compassionately. Climate change gives us an enormous challenge in this (and for human kind more generally), but we are big-brained too, and, hopefully, wisdom and compassion will prevail.’ – M.P. Simmonds // Steve Kay and the Volunteer Supporters’ Association of the National Museum of Computing; on a 1940s German Lorenz teleprinter
M.P. Simmonds // Steve Kay and the Volunteer Supporters’ Association of the National Museum of Computing; on a 1980s ICL line printer

Film of the 1980s ICL Line Printer, from The National Museum of Computing

A display at the Bodleian’s Weston Library for Special Collections in November 2019 marked the arrival of this new collection to the Bodleian.

Six medieval manuscripts, two laptops, a curator and a document camera

 

Teaching with library material has been continuing at the Bodleian’s Weston Library for Special Collections even as provisions to protect the health of staff and readers have placed restrictions on the numbers and movement of people within the Libraries. Several of the Libraries, including the Weston Library, have re-opened to readers since August 2020.

The autumn term usually brings a  large number of University of Oxford classes to the Weston Library seminar rooms to share the collections most closely connected with their studies. This year, some of those visits have continued with students arriving in smaller groups while others have gone online. The key to sharing manuscripts and rare printed material with students and wider audiences has been the provision of films and of live online interaction, through the use of document cameras and smartphones.

A document camera, or visualiser, has been part of the Bodleian master classes set-up for many years, as a means of giving participants in the room–attending in person, remember those times?–a clearer view of details to which speakers wanted to draw attention: decoration, letter forms, binding structures, even (in a good light) the hair and flesh sides of parchment.

Now the same technology enables sharing online, and we, like others in the special collections world, took up the call to action by Aaron Pratt (Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Curator of Early Books and Manuscripts at the Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin) in his online seminar in June 2020, Sharing Special Collections with an overhead camera.

The images shared onscreen have been good enough for a Classics seminar to read Latin and Greek text and compare letter forms, and for an Art History class to examine the pages of medieval manuscripts. In the picture attached, curator Martin Kauffmann can be seen addressing a class over Microsoft Teams. In this session, the particular configuration of MSTeams  (the mirroring of the self-view) made it convenient to add a second laptop, so that Dr Kauffmann could see the manuscript onscreen in the same orientation as the students saw it and also see and hear the students onscreen, to ask and answer questions.

How does this compare to in-person teaching? Interaction is less spontaneous than when students visit the seminar rooms. We are all familiar by now with the problem of talking over each other in online meetings, where the ‘raised hand’ emoji replaces our instinctive reliance on the silent cues of posture and eye contact. On the other hand, compared to the experience of crowding around books placed on a seminar table, the online platform brings an image of the manuscript equally to each student’s computer screen.

And yet, as we have learned from work for the Sensational Books project at the Bodleian headed by Emma Smith (Oxford) and Kate Rudy (St Andrews), vision is not the only way to experience books and manuscripts. Seminars in 2019 with blind and partially-sighted visitors highlighted how touch and smell are also information carried in books, and how much variety our rare book and manuscript collections have to offer.

A rare books internship at the Bodleian Libraries contributing to the Provenance Digital Archive

from Victoria Higgins, Rare Books Summer Intern

Bodleian Libraries Lawn f.567, armorial binding stamp
Bodleian Libraries Lawn f.567, armorial binding stamp

When I was offered an internship in the Rare Books department of the Bodleian Library, I imagined my working days would not look entirely different to those of my English postgraduate degree – calling up material to the reading rooms of the Weston Library and searching through the pages of early printed books. Once lockdown was announced, I was grateful to learn that the internship would go ahead, except now later in the year, and entirely through remote working. Of everything shaken up by the crisis, my internship was probably low on the list of injuries. Nevertheless, I was uncertain about how I would proceed without access to the material. Thanks to my supervisor, however, I have never been at a loss for things to do. More than anything I think this time spent working for the Bodleian Library from home has made me consider afresh the value of “digital humanities” projects, and what is bound up in collections beyond the physical objects.

One of the main projects I have been working on is uploading to the CERL Provenance Digital Archive. CERL, or The Consortium of European Research Libraries, exists to “share resources and expertise between research libraries with a view to improving access to, as well as exploitation and preservation of, the European printed heritage.” The provenance project I was working on contributes to this mission, as individuals are able to upload to its visual database with ease. The effect when you enter the website is a jigsaw of carefully photographed bookplates, inscriptions, and bindings. Some are tagged with names and institutions, while many bear the elusive “Unidentified Owner”. Some are beautiful, such as an art deco style ex-libris belonging to “M.S.K.”, but many are visually unremarkable, plain ownership inscriptions and minor manuscript annotations. I was uploading marks of provenance found in the Mortara collection, bought by the Bodleian from Alessandro de Mortara in 1852. It dates from the 16th-19th centuries, and is particularly rich in 16th century Italian authors. What stood out to me working on this project was the number of hands these books passed through before they reached Mortara, and ultimately the Bodleian.

CERL prescribes a very particular process; upload one entry per mark of provenance. In practice this meant often uploading multiple entries from the same book, which had been marked by more than one individual. The idea is that a person would be able to search the archive for a particular mark – say a bookplate – and find images which match the one found in their book. In this way, the aspiration of the digital archive is to allow researchers to reassemble scattered libraries, as owners’ books were sold, auctioned and gifted to libraries and individuals across Europe. The project is still in its early stages and will be the sum of its parts, reliant on individuals choosing to take the time to upload their discoveries to the database. Nevertheless, working through these images from home I felt this was a digital space where near instant connection and collaboration was possible. It was exciting to think someone might recognise my unidentified armorial stamp or hastily scribbled name on a title-page.

http://arkyves.org/r/view/cerlpda_8ea9c/him_CERLPDA

Another project involved going behind the collections themselves to consider the personalities which formed them, as I was tasked with writing Wikipedia articles for some of the Bodleian’s named donors. It was fascinating to learn about the personal histories which drove these remarkable collections. An example is Brian Lawn (1905-2001), who was professionally a physician, educated at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. His profession seems to have driven his collecting, which is rich in medieval and early modern medicine.

Having purchased his first antiquarian book as a medical student, Cornelius Agrippa’s Vanity of Sciences (1684), Lawn’s lifelong collecting was motivated by an academic interest in the history of medicine. Perhaps against our presumptions about collectors, Lawn stated that his “books were bought for use and not for artistic or aesthetic reasons, many of them are what the booksellers used to call “working copies”.” He published two monographs on medieval problem literature, as well as an edition of the Salernitan Questions, considering their use in the history of teaching medicine and natural philosophy. What struck me is that there are similar stories of collections developing out of personal or professional interests for most of the donors’ biographies I explored. While I have often used rare books for my own research, I have rarely stopped to consider the individuals named on the shelfmarks. Spending time working remotely for the Bodleian has allowed me to think about the biographical histories which shaped the library as we encounter it today.

While it is a shame that I have not been able to go into the Bodleian Library and look at its materials in person, I have greatly enjoyed my internship. Working on rare books away from the objects themselves has made me think about collections in new ways, both in line with and separate from my academic interests as a student. It is safe to say that resources like the CERL Provenance Digital Archive are becoming more relevant than ever, and perhaps the time librarians will have spent on such projects during this time will help make their collections accessible to readers in new ways.

 

Victoria Higgins

Rare Books Summer Intern

The Lyell Lectures 2020: Professor Marc Smith, ‘Writing models from manuscript to print: France, England and Europe, c. 1400–1800’

From the later Middle Ages to the early nineteenth century, western handwriting was subjected to an unprecedented diversity of scripts and styles, characteristic of nations, languages, institutions, functional uses and the professional or social status of men and women.

The calligraphic models for teaching such scripts were developed by professional scribes such as copyists, chancery clerks, secretaries and writing masters. A minority among them had their manuscripts translated into print and widely circulated, thus contributing to a European market of letter forms, shaped and reshaped by the changing balance of power and taste.

After the prevalence of Italian models in the Renaissance, French writing books were an essential component of that market, until the English round hand (later known as ‘copperplate’) gradually became the common medium of business in the West.

At the crossroads of bibliography and palaeography, the lectures address a number of technical, commercial and cultural issues raised by the cataloguing and scrutiny of French writing books, hitherto the least charted territory in early modern calligraphy.

In these lectures, Professor Smith refers to Bodleian MS. Ashmole 789, of which some images may be seen in digital.bodleian here.

The Lyell Lectures 2020 series

Lecture 1: Writing Models and the Formation of National Scripts

  29 September 2020, 5.00pm

Lecture 2: Bibliography and the Life Cycles of Writing Books

  1 October 2020, 5.00pm

Lecture 3: Renaissance Calligraphy from Pen to Press and Back

  6 October 2020, 5.00pm

Lecture 4: The Golden Age of French Writing Masters?

  8 October 2020, 5.00pm

Lecture 5: ‘L’Ecriture Anglaise dans sa Perfection’

 To be delivered in March 2021. Full details and registration information will follow closer to the time.

To join the series, https://visit.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/event/lyell-lectures-2020

These lectures are now available as video podcasts at podcasts.ox.ac.uk/series/lyell-lectures

Printing a leaf at the Bodleian Libraries Bibliographical Press

Printing a leaf at the Bodleian Libraries Bibliographical Press

The Victorians used a technique called ‘nature printing’ to reproduce the details of leaves, plants, and other flat things like lace. This relies on pressing the specimen into soft metal (lead) to make an impression like a footprint of the item, and then making an electrotype of that impression in a harder metal, such as copper. The prints are produced with the intaglio method, in which the ink sits in the impressed areas and is forced into contact with the paper by the high pressure of the rolling press. This contrasts with relief printing, in which ink sits on top of raised lines. Here we have printed directly from the soft lead plate into which the leaf was impressed; the fine details on this lead plate will only last for a couple of impressions, though, before becoming smoothed down by the pressure as it goes through the press.

Learn more about nature printing.

Some examples of nature printing in Bodleian Libraries collections:

Henry Smith, supt. of the government press, Madras, Specimens of nature printing from unprepared plants (1857)

Thomas Moore, The ferns of Great Britain and Ireland (1855) [i.e. 1856]

Exemplary difference: examples in historic music theory

Adam Whittaker, Lecturer in Music, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

‘Writing about music is like dancing about architecture’, or so the famous phrase goes. And yet, we have been writing about music for centuries. We are fortunate to have such a range of medieval and Renaissance writings on music that survive, from luxurious presentation volumes to scrappy single sheets pasted into miscellaneous collection. Although we often see quite stable transmission of texts across multiple sources (sometimes across centuries), we see much greater variation in the examples and diagrams. These, it seems, were fair game for change, revision, and emendation for specific readerships and local contexts, or simply at the whim of the scribe. My research explores why these differences matter.

In the autumn of 2019 I was in Oxford as the Albi Rosenthal Visiting Fellow in Music at the Bodleian Libraries. During my fellowship, I consulted a number of music theory manuscripts, including MS. Bodley 515 and MS. Digby 90. These manuscripts contain the famous Quatuor principalia musice [Four Fundamentals of Music], most likely authored and/or compiled by the English friar John of Tewkesbury in the late fourteenth century.

First, let’s look at one similarity. Early in the text, the theorist uses a monochord (a theoretical instrument of a single string) to explain the interval of a tone; a musical step in layman’s terms, as though moving from G to A on a piano. Both sources have a functionally similar diagram, even if there are some subtle visual differences.

Bodleian MS. Bodl. 515, fol. 10r (detail)
Bodleian MS. Digby 90, fol. 11v (detail)

We can see that both manuscripts show a monochord (horizontal line representing a string); both indicate the interval of a tone between G (low G) and A with an arc labelled ‘tonus’; and both have the indication ‘monochordu[m]’ at the left-hand edge of the diagram. Bodl. 515 shows a more artistic approach to this diagram, with its coloured labels and decorative circles, whilst MS. Digby 90 favours equal tonal spacing with notches. Despite these differences, which might be attributed to scribal taste more than anything else, the reading experience across the two sources is near identical.

However, such similarity isn’t always present. If we look at the depiction of the Guidonian hand – a kind of conceptual map for musical space that is commonplace in music theory texts – we see both similarities and differences. The Guidonian Hand mapped the six-note intervallic pattern (ut-re-mi-fa-sol-la) onto physical locations on the body which a singer could use as a memory aid while they sang. To think about how the Hand works in practice, The Sound of Music’s ‘Do-Re-Mi’ is especially helpful. Let’s consider the diagrams presented in the two sources.

Bodleian MS. Digby 90, fol. 21r (detail)
Bodleian MS. Bodl. 515, fol. 23r (detail)

There are some important differences here. You’ll notice that MS. Bodl. 515 is missing labels on joints, whilst these are clearly visible in MS. Digby 90. These are crucial! Without the syllabic markings on the joints of the thumb and fingers, this diagram serves little demonstrative function, beautiful as it is. Such a scenario poses some interesting questions and might have left fifteenth-century readers scratching their heads. Is this just a scribal error? Was this aspect of the diagram to be entered in a different layer? Did the scribe not understand the diagram they copied? Was there an error in the exemplar copy that a scribe couldn’t resolve? What use is the diagram when it is missing such key information?

This last question is of particular importance for the final comparison I want to make here. The relationship between musical durational values is a fundamental building block of music notation. Early musical notations were more context-dependent, with the same note shape being worth two or three counts depending upon the context. Theorists found many intriguing ways to discuss this phenomenon, but the most interesting for the present discussion is the idea of a note value tree.

Some contemporaneous musical treatises refer to the ‘arbor’ of Johannes de Burgundia, a figure about whom we know nothing except for a passing reference to his ‘arbor’ in a musical treatise by Petrus de Picardia (fl. 1250). Both our sources include a diagram of this type, though we see some divergence in approach. In MS. Digby 90, we see the relationships made clear in a quasi-tabular format (largest values at the bottom), with lines connecting the related mensural levels. Working from the bottom up we see that the largest note value divides into three parts, which itself is divided into three smaller parts etc.:

Bodleian MS. Digby 90, fol. 45r (detail)

By comparison, we see something which takes the tree much more to heart in MS. Bodl. 515:

Bodleian MS. Bodl. 515, fol. 49v

The visual appeal of this is important. MS. Bodl. 515 offers hatched details on the trunk of the diagram, with additional coloured detailing which has faded over time. In this way, the longest note becomes the ‘root’ of the tree, and its subdivisions into smaller notes become represented as branches, themselves with sub-branches. Although both sources adequately demonstrate the theoretical point, the subtly different diagrams change the nature of the text–image relationship. The tree-like construction of MS. Bodl. 515 creates a sharp mental picture for a reader to recall. MS. Digby 90, though equally clear, establishes a different mensural picture. These diagrams demand different reading practices and present theoretical material in divergent ways.

My point here is not to assign greater value to either source, but to demonstrate that what might be dismissed as ‘minor scribal variants’ really matter when we consider how a reader might engage with a text in a specific manuscript source. If a diagram containing such foundational information that was common knowledge to expert readers, then why did a scribe go such significant effort to present this in a visually appealing manner? The reader’s experience of the same text in these two sources would have been quite different. Through this lens we begin to see the way that the materiality of music theory texts is at least as important as the contents of the texts themselves, and that the diagrams and examples give us an unparalleled insight into this. These theoretical ideas are alive in the manuscripts that preserve them.

Adam Whittaker:
https://www.bcu.ac.uk/conservatoire/research/research-staff/adam-whittaker

 

 

 

 

 

Reaching out (digitally) with medieval manuscripts

A screenshot from the webinar, Blogging with Manuscripts, July 2020What do you get when you put together an excited group of medieval manuscript specialists and ask them to discuss blogging and teaching with digitized manuscripts? The answer: trumpets, drapes, marginal animal appearances, fake back-drops, cries of agony, laughter and lots of good advice.

A worldwide audience (from California to New Zealand!) gathered in three online sessions that were organized as additional evening events for the International Medieval Congress (IMC) at Leeds, 6–9 July 2020. The organisers were very pleased to see that each session had well over 100 participants. Our speakers shared their experiences on using digitized medieval manuscripts for teaching, and for reaching out to various audiences via social media, mainly through blogging and tweeting.

Read more ….

https://torch.ox.ac.uk/article/reaching-out-with-medieval-manuscripts

15th Century Booktrade and Learning in the time of Lockdown

How have our reading practices changed during Lockdown?

As somebody working with 20th century samizdat material for my doctoral thesis, I was surprised to find some of the most revealing answers to this question at an event centred round the  15cBOOKTRADE Project which took place in the Italian Embassy, London. In this blogpost I will reflect on the links between the printing and reading practices associated with 15th century booktrade and those of the later years of the GDR.

Over the last three months, we have seen the spirit of resilience and comradery fostered in communities across the world, supporting people through the adversity of the coronavirus pandemic. It would seem that the life advice Boccaccio imparted to us in the wake of the Black Death in his Decameron (1354), is still as apt as it ever was: “in our communities we can find solace”.

Written between 1348 and 1353, Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron contains stories told by a gathering of ten young people who had escaped to a villa outside Florence in order to flee the Black Death. Boccaccio’s frame story comprises a miscellany of tales: romantic, tragic and comedic, and ultimately offers a literary retreat from the pain and hardship of life in a time of plague. However, what emerges specifically from Boccaccio’s work is not just the importance of community, but also the curative power of literature.

For the characters in the Decameron, storytelling offered a moment of welcome reprieve from the difficulty of their life circumstances:

It behoveth us live merrily, nor hath any other occasion caused us flee from yonder miseries […] we shall pass away this sultry part of the day, not in gaming,–wherein the mind of one of the players must of necessity be troubled, without any great pleasure of the other or of those who look on, but in telling stories, which, one telling, may afford diversion to all the company who hearken.

Just as the characters in the Decameron came to each other and began storytelling in order to keep up morale, many members of the public today have turned to the creative arts once more to seek solace in this time of crisis. In the academic community, open-access online events have widened the scholastic community and created inclusive, virtual learning groups open to the public. Speaking at a recent webinar, Professor Cristina Dondi (Oakeshott Senior Research Fellow in the Humanities, Lincoln College, Oxford) noted that this movement towards wider educative inclusivity harkens back to key moments in the 15th century with the democratisation of learning through the era’s burgeoning international book. However, Dondi also reminded webinar attendees of how much further we must go in order to facilitate wider access to scholarly materials in archives.

As the Principal Investigator for the 15cBOOKTRADE Project at Oxford, Dondi was in the unique position of being able to offer insight into importance of the digitisation of historical texts. The aim of the project was to use the material evidence from thousands of surviving books from the 15th century to address five fundamental questions relating to the introduction of printing in the West. These questions included investigation of reading practices, the evaluation of the books’ contemporary market, the dissemination and visualisation of these texts, and finally, the use of illustrations.

For Dondi, and indeed many other academics, the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the absolute necessity of digitisation of historical texts in order to create open-access learning communities befitting the social and academic developments of the 21st century.

‘The Dawn of Printing to Digital Access’
Circumnavigating current lockdown restrictions, the Italian embassy in London recently facilitated a webinar on ‘The Dawn of Printing to Digital Access: the benefits of making books available to everybody’. The event, hosted by Ambassador Trombetta and moderated by Jon Snow of Channel 4 News, brought together international experts engaged in promoting wider accessibility to books of historical and cultural significance (to read more about this project, follow the hashtag #ItalyRestArt).

#ItalyRestArt webinar programme
The webinar was focused on highlighting the progress of the digitisation of Italian incunables, while also looking to the future of digital access to historical books more generally. Organised into four main parts, the webinar opened with words of welcome from Jon Snow and His Excellency Ambassador Trombetta. This was followed by the introduction of previously recorded video statements from major players in the recent cultural preservation movement in Italy, featuring recorded messages from Anna Laura Orrico, Italian Minister of State for Culture and Tourism, and Andrea De Pasquale of the National Central Library of Rome. The third part of the webinar consisted of brief individual lectures from the panel in regard to their engagement with and promotion of digital access in their own fields. Among these panellists were Don Fabrizio Cicchetti, Antonio Padoa Schioppa and Prof. Cristina Dondi, who each offered insight into various aspects of digital preservation and access.

Representing the private foundation supporting this vital digitization of these texts, Marc Polonsky, of The Polonsky Foundation, shed light on the Foundation’s commitment to cultural preservation and wide dissemination. Polonsky credited the collaborative nature of the digitization project for fostering unique partnerships between project stakeholders from both the public and private sectors. According to Polonsky, this collaboration facilitated the establishment of high standards of best practice (both academically and technologically) which could be adopted as a developmental framework for future projects.

While each of these leaders related fascinating thoughts, it was Dondi’s lecture, however, that resonated with me the most. This was due to her inspiring engagement with the study of Material Culture, bringing the riches of cultural treasures not just to those in academia but also to the wider public.

Dondi began her talk by referencing the importance of developing resources that facilitate online access to research materials for precisely the moments in time when researchers cannot travel to archives and research libraries. Indeed, the current climate of the global pandemic is evidence for the necessity of accessible, transnational online learning resources.

In the last two years, the digitisation project of the Incunables of the Benedictine monastery of Santa Scolastica at Subiaco, the first printing place in Italy, a collaboration between the National Central Library in Rome and the Consortium of European Research Libraries (CERL) of which Dondi is the Secretary, however, made these Italian cultural treasures available online anywhere in the world at the push of a button. In doing as much, Dondi noted in her talk that for scholars of the incunables, the restrictions placed on archival research due to Lockdown have in this way been surmounted. For many undoubtedly grateful scholars, the online access to these materials will allow them to continue their research projects unhampered by the social and political upheaval around them. If this outcome were not applaudable enough, then the popularity of Dondi’s recent exhibition ‘Printing R-evolution and Society, 1450-1500. Fifty Years that changed Europe’ at the Museo Correr, Venice (September 2018-April 2019) has demonstrated just how vital digitisation work is for the wider public as for academia. This exhibition documented the impact of the printing revolution on the economic and social development of early modern Europe using hundreds of freely available digitizations from many European and American libraries.

Printing R-evolution
A journey of discovery which used digital tools and innovative methods of communication, the exhibition presented data gathered by the 15cBOOKTRADE Project (University of Oxford) about the History of the Book. The exhibition highlighted how, already by the year 1500, millions of books circulated in Europe, not only for the elite, as often claimed, but for everyone, including a large production of schoolbooks. In those, first, decades, printing coincided with experimentation and enterprise. Printed books were the product of a new collaboration between various sectors of society: knowledge, technology, and commerce, with ideas spreading widely and quickly as never before.

Dondi’s close engagement with the study of material culture was of particular interest to me, as my doctoral project investigates the ‘unofficial’ literary scene of the GDR in the 1980s, specifically through in-depth case studies of magazines printed in a samizdat capacity.

By researching each of the magazines’ diverse literary content, the different ways in which these magazines were produced, and the readership practices that surrounded them, my thesis will offer insights into the creative self-expression of the East Berlin literary scene and examine whether this phenomenon can be understood as part of the wider samizdat movement seen in many Eastern bloc countries. My thesis explores what these magazines tell us about the function, possibilities and limitations associated with publication beyond print in a totalitarian regime.

Although my topic of research differs greatly from Dondi’s work in terms of historical era and social circumstances, in essence both areas of research are fundamentally preoccupied with the same investigative question: what can the physical form of the book reveal about the people behind its printing?

In the scholarly community, as in many other sectors in society, academics have had to adjust their ordinary methods of research in order to continue with their projects.

Working From Home and using online learning tools have helped educators create an academic space (albeit, a virtual one) in this time of crisis. Attending webinars such as Dondi’s ‘The Dawn of Printing to Digital Access’, where international experts shared their knowledge and supported each other and the wider scholastic community allowed myself, and doubtless many other academics, to use our time in isolation fruitfully and thoughtfully. It would seem, therefore, that despite all changes and disruptions, many of us, like in the time of Boccaccio, have taken refuge in our communities, the stories and studies that we hold dear, as we continue to go on learning in the time of Lockdown.

Author: Aoife Ní Chroidheáin BA (Hons) MSt (Oxon) is a Leverhulme Scholar and DPhil Candidate in Medieval and Modern Languages at the University of Oxford. Aoife’s doctoral research entitled ‘Dangerous Creations: Power and Autonomy in East Berlin’s Samizdat’ examines the unofficial literary scene in East Berlin from 1980-1990.