Die Armenbibel im Stundenbuch/ The Biblia Pauperum in the Book of Hours – On the multi-layered content of early printed Books of Hours

A guest post from Stefan Matter (Freiburg/Schweiz) 

Abstract: Early printed books of hours are distinguished by their extensive border
schemes, executed in text and images, which have hitherto scarcely been
studied. They are, however, integral components of these prayerbooks, and
offer insights to their readers into complex interconnections of salvation
history. In the following reflections it is argued that the prints can only be
understood when all of their component parts are considered together in their
interplay. If this is undertaken systematically, they can provide insights into the
practice of prayer in their age.

Oxford, Bodleian Library, 8° Rawl. 1092, fol. e5v/e6r

Oxford, Bodleian Library, 8° Rawl. 1092, fol. e5v/e6r

When the Parisian printers of the 1470s started to take Books of Hours to press, these had already been standardised in terms of their prayers and corresponding illustrations. To upgrade the most popular book of lay devotion, printers added cycles of lavish border illustrations – to a degree that previously had only been seen in the most exclusive of manuscripts for princes. The thematic range of these marginal compositions is considerable: from catalogues (e.g. virtues, Sibyls, sacraments) via narrative sequences (e.g. passion, Job, prodigal son) to the adaptation of independent text-image-groups which brought with them their own traditions (e.g. Danse Macabre, 15 signs of the Last Judgement, Biblia Pauperum).

Even though the illustrations have always been regarded as essential for understanding Books of Hours, this specific phenomenon has rarely been described and barely understood, despite the fact that such decorated Books of Hours can provide significant insight into contemporary reading habits and devotional practices. This makes it necessary to take into account all parts of the books equally.[1]

The Book of Hours combines prayer texts which allowed the owners, who in late fifteenth-century were mainly laypeople, to keep regular Hours following the monastic model.[1] The main text is the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary which usually is supplemented by the two Hours of the Cross and the Holy Spirit. These three offices were often noted down exactly as they were said, weaving the offices together by having the single hours follow each other directly. The prayer sections formed thus – i.e. the start of each Hour of the officium parvum as well as one at the start of each of the two small offices – are usually marked by large-scale images which provide a more abstract link to the topic of the texts; thus the images for the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary show usually either a Life of the Virgin or the Passion.

The printed Books of Hours add to these already complex text-image-relations the border decoration with their own text-image-combination. These usually connect in some way to the main body of the text – the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary preferably is framed by the Biblia pauperum; the Office of the Dead by scenes from Job or a Danse Macabre –, but rarely do the border cycle match exactly the units of the central text unit. If the primary text ends earlier, the cycle in the border is either repeated or different marginal illustrations are used. In addition, the border cycles are used by printers over the years in different editions which results in a constant shift in the alignment of border cycles and the central text on the page. The intentional or serendipitous juxtapositions on the opened double-spreads encourage contemplation and meditation on the combined elements.

I would like to demonstrate the reading experience by looking at a Book of Hours printed by Philippe Pigouchet in the early 1490s and now held by the Bodleian Library.[2]  Its content in a simplified form can be summarised as follows:

Main Body of the Text Border Decoration (Main Topic)
a1–a8 Printer’s device, Almanac, Anatomical man, Calendarium Works of the Month and Zodiac
b1–c2 Evangelia

St John’s Passion



c3–h3v Officium parvum BMV (incl. Offices for the Holy Cross and Holy Ghost) Biblia pauperum

Christ adored with antiphons and responses

h3v–i2r Seven Penitential Psalms David
i2r–i7r Letania Animals in foliage (also at other places between cycles)

Christ adored with antiphons and responses

i7v–m1v Vigil for the Dead Job


mi1v–p4r Suffragia (m1v–o2r)

Prayers (o2v–p4r, partly French)

Biblia pauperum
p4v Colophon

I would like to discuss briefly under these aspects three consecutive double-spreads and will open the Bodleian Book of Hours at the end of the first and longest Hour, the Matins for the Hours of BMV (e3v/e4r, figure 1). Here, the Office of BMV is framed by a Biblia pauperum-cycle, which in its main scenes taken from the New Testament. These have a clear Mariological focus, from the birth of Mary to her assumption – the last Hour of the Officium parvum is in the main text also illustrated by the coronation of Mary. The Matins ends on a verso-page whose lower third is empty except for the caption announcing the following Office of the Cross. On the facing page, the depiction of the crucifixion takes up the whole page; the beginning of the invitatorium of the Office of the Cross is placed in a small cartouche within the image. Christ on the cross is thus doubly present on the open spread since the Biblia pauperum-cycle on the margins just reached the point of the nailing to the cross. Main text and borders converge in such a way that the two events of the passion follow each other in correct chronological order and can be viewed simultaneously in one opening. The nailing to the cross is further contextualised within the history of salvation by two typologically related scenes from the Old Testament.[1]

Turning over one page (figure 2), this narrative thread continues since now the border of the verso page (e4v) shows the crucifixion in slightly modified form from the previous large scale depiction since the mourning women under the cross are replaced by Longinus with the lance. This is supported by the creation of Eve (Immisit dominus soporem in adam) and by Moses beating water out of the rock. The main text for this page consists of the full Matins for the Office of the Cross, i.e. the first verse of the hymn for the Hour Patris sapientia veritas divina which talks about arresting Christ. This in turn had been a topic in the margin, including its typological antecedents, a few pages previously: e1v. The Collect for the Officium which is repeated at every hour starts with the words: Iesu christe fili dei vivi pone passionem crucem et mortem tuam inter iudicium tuum et animam meam. It seems remarkable that the complete text of the first Hour of the Office of the Cross coincides precisely with the crucifixion in the Biblia pauperum-inspired marginal decorations. As mentioned above, the shifting process of aligning margins and body of the book would make this quite hard to plan, and due to the scarcity of research on this, I am not yet able to determine whether this coincidence is a common one. In any case, the Bodleian copy achieves a rare harmony of the two text-image-cycles in the body and the margin of the Book of Hours. The following recto-page (e5r) shows a full-page rendering of Pentecost as opening illustration for the Office of the Holy Spirit which then takes up all of the following verso-page (e5v).

Finally, the last of the three double-spreads (figure 3) surrounds the text of the Officium on the one hand by the Descent from the Cross and its typological figures (e5v), on the other hand with the Nativity for the Prime of the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary (e6r). The Matins of the Office of the Holy Spirit can be vaguely related via the text of the hymn with the Nativity, but another link is much more obvious: Mary and Joseph are clearly looking not towards the Christ child lying on the floor or towards the angel flying between them but more or less out of the picture across the page to the Descent from the Cross. Metal cuts allow a careful positioning of sight lines, and even if this detail should have been taken over from the exemplar, these cross-glances constitute a striking connection between the two image cycles. The Christ child with his halo featuring a cross is framed by Mary and Joseph in the same way as the crucified is flanked by Mary and John. Again, the vertical axis of typological references on the page of the book complements the horizontal line created in the act of reading across the double-spread and its text-image-ensemble.

In this way, nearly every opening of the prayer book offers a complex interplay of texts and images, inside and outside the main body of the pages. This comes on top of the composite nature of the Offices which incorporate psalms, antiphons, and lessons and are anchored through further short texts within the liturgy. A new framework is created which is not simple ‘decoration’ but has to be regarded as crucial part of the print products. To show this in more detail must be the focus of a more in-depth study.

Stefan Matter did his doctorate on the Nazarenes, and was granted his Venia legendi for a study on texts and images about the medieval concept of love (Reden von der Minne, Tübingen 2013). After research fellowships held in Oxford, Tübingen, Bremen, Bern and Wien, he is currently based at the Universität Freiburg/Switzerland and is pursuing a research project on German prayer books.

Figure 1–3: Oxford, Bodleian Library, 8° Rawl. 1092, fol. e5v/e6r, e6v/e7r, e7v/e8r

[1]        The two typological scenes (Thubalkain prepares iron tools; Isaias is sawn apart) are only extant in the 50-folio xylographic edition which provided the source for the marginal illustration. On the exemplar cf. Berthold Kress, ‘The Block-book Biblia pauperum as a Source for Printed Borders in France, Germany and England’, in Tributes to Jean Michel Massing: Towards a Global Art History, ed. by Mark Stocker and Philip Lindley (Turnhout, London: Brepols, 2016), 119–31.

[1]        Roger S. Wieck, Prayer for the People. The Book of Hours, in A History of Prayer: The First to the Fifteenth Century, hg. von Roy Hammerling, Brill’s Companions to the Christian Tradition, 13 (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2008), pp. 389–440, provides a survey of content and form.

[2]        GW 13073; the Oxford copy (Bod-Inc. H-165) however is not fully identical with the copy of ULB Bonn (Inc. 568, g) listed under the same number; this applies to the page breaks (e.g. f2v ff.) but especially to a number of the border illustrations (e.g. h3v). Cf. also Horae B.M.V., I, No. 8.

[1]        Mary Beth Winn has been the main scholar to discuss the border illustrations in various essays, but without discussing how the different elements of printed Books of Hours relate to each other; for a summary cf. her article: ‘Printing and Reading the Book of Hours: Lessons from the Borders’, Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, 81 (1999), 177–204. – and now also the excellent survey by Caroline Zöhl, ‘Die zentrale Rolle der Marginalien und der Reichtum des Bordürendekors im Stundenbuchdruck’, in Horae B.M.V. 365 gedruckte Stundenbücher der Sammlung Bibermühle 1487–1586, ed. by Heribert Tenschert and Ina Nettekoven, 9 vols., Katalog Antiquariat Heribert Tenschert, 50; 75 (Ramsen: H. Tenschert, 2003–2015), IX, 4145–218, and the magisterial discussion of Books of Hours in Cristina Dondi, Printed Books of Hours from Fifteenth-Century Italy. The Texts, the Books, and the Survival of a Long-Lasting Genre, Biblioteca di Bibliografia Italiana, 204 (Florence: Olschki, 2016).

Das besondere Kennzeichen früher gedruckter Stundenbücher sind
umfangreiche Bordürenprogramme in Text und Bild, die bislang noch kaum
untersucht wurden. Sie sind allerdings integraler Bestandteil der Gebetbücher
und bieten den Lesern Einblicke in komplexe heilsgeschichtliche
Zusammenhänge. Die nachfolgenden Überlegungen argumentieren, dass ein
Verständnis der Drucke nur möglich ist, wenn man alle in ihnen enthaltenen
Bestandteile in ihrem Zusammenwirken betrachtet. Tut man dies konsequent,
so vermögen sie Einblicke in die Gebetspraxis ihrer Zeit zu geben.

Oxford, Bodleian Library, 8° Rawl. 1092, fol. e5v/e6r

Oxford, Bodleian Library, 8° Rawl. 1092, fol. e5v/e6r

Als die Pariser Drucker ab den späten 1470er-Jahren daran gingen, mit dem
Stundenbuch das populärste Buch in Laienhand des Mittelalters in gedruckter
Form herauszugeben, reicherten sie die zu dieser Zeit schon stark
konventionalisierte Sammlung von Gebeten und sie begleitenden Bildern mit
Randleisten-Zyklen von einem Umfang an, wie sie in Manuskripten bis dahin
nur die wertvollsten Fürstengebetbücher enthalten hatten. Deren thematisches
Spektrum ist beträchtlich. Es reicht von Katalogen (z.B. Tugenden, Sibyllen,
Sakramente) über erzählende Folgen (z.B. Passion, Hiob, Geschichte vom
verlorenen Sohn) bis hin zur Adaption von eigenständigen, bereits über eine
längere Tradition verfügenden Text-Bild-Ensembles (z.B. Totentanz, 15
Vorzeichen des Jüngsten Gerichts, Biblia pauperum).

Obwohl in der Stundenbuchforschung gerade der Bildschmuck immer schon
im Vordergrund gestanden hat, ist dieses Phänomen bislang noch kaum
beschrieben und erst ansatzweise verstanden.1 Dabei vermögen die solcherart
ausgestatteten Stundenbücher aufschlussreiche Einblicke in die Lese- und
Gebetspraxis ihrer Zeit zu geben, nimmt man sie in all ihren Bestandteilen
genau in den Blick.

Das Stundenbuch vereinigt Gebetstexte, die den Besitzern – im späten 15.
Jahrhundert sind das überwiegend Laien – ein regelmässiges Stundengebet
nach dem Vorbild der Geistlichen erlauben.2 Haupttext ist dabei das kleine
Marienoffizium, welches in aller Regel ergänzt wird von den beiden Tagzeiten
vom Heiligen Kreuz und vom Heiligen Geist. Diese drei Offizien werden häufig
so aufgezeichnet, wie sie auch gebetet wurden, nämlich so, dass die einzelnen
Gebetsstunden direkt aufeinander folgen, die Offizien also ineinander
verwoben werden. Diese dabei entstehenden Texteinschnitte – also der
Beginn einer jeder Hore des Marienoffiziums wie auch je einmalig der Beginn
der beiden kleinen Offizien – werden üblicherweise mit grossformatigen
Bildern markiert, die mit den Themen der Texte in einer eher abstrakten
Beziehung stehen (so zeigen die Bilder zum Marienoffizium üblicherweise
entweder ein Marienleben oder die Passion).

Zu dieser an sich schon komplexen Text-Bild-Relation treten in den gedruckten
Stundenbüchern nun auch noch die Randleisten mit ihren Texten und Bildern.
Diese weisen zwar meist einen Bezug zum Haupttext auf – das Marienoffizium
wird beispielsweise gerne von der Biblia pauperum gerahmt; das Totenamt
von Hiob-Szenen oder einem Totentanz –, kaum einmal allerdings passt der
Umfang eines Randleisten-Zyklus exakt zu dem der dazu passenden Haupttext-
Einheit. Endet der Haupttext früher, wird entweder der Zyklus in den
Randleisten wiederholt oder es werden andere Bordüren verwendet. Die
Randleisten-Zyklen werden überdies von den Druckern über Jahre in
verschiedenen Auflagen verwendet, was dazu führt, dass die Korrelation der
einzelnen Bordüren mit bestimmten Passagen (oder Bildern) des immer wieder
neu umgebrochenen Haupttextes nicht konstant bleibt, ja im Grunde von
Ausgabe zu Ausgabe variiert. Trotzdem ergeben sich immer wieder – gewollt
oder zufällig – Kombinationen von Texten und Bildern auf den
aufgeschlagenen Doppelseiten, die zur Betrachtung Anlass geben, zum
Meditieren einladen.

Ich möchte diese Leseerfahrung anhand eines heute in der Bodleian Library
aufbewahrten Stundenbuches andeuten, welches von Philippe Pigouchet in
den frühen 1490er-Jahren gedruckt worden ist.3 In stark vereinfachter Form
kann dessen Inhalt so zusammengefasst werden.

Ich möchte unter diesem Gesichtspunkt in aller Kürze drei aufeinanderfolgende
Doppelseiten vorstellen und schlage dazu das Oxforder Stundenbuch am Ende
der ersten und längsten Gebetshore auf, der Matutin der Marienzeiten
(e3v/e4r). Das Marienoffizium wird hier von einem Biblia pauperum-Zyklus
gerahmt, der in seinen neutestamentlichen Hauptszenen von der Mariengeburt
bis zur Marienkrönung ebenfalls einen mariologischen Akzent besitzt – auch die
letzte Gebetsstunde des Officium parvum wird mit einer Marienkrönung
bebildert. Die Matutin endet auf einer verso-Seite, deren unteres Drittel bis auf
die Ankündigung des Kreuzoffiziums leer bleibt. Auf der gegenüberliegenden
recto-Seite ist eine ganzseitige Kreuzigungs-Darstellung zu sehen, in einer
kleinen Kartusche im Bildfeld ist der Beginn des Invitatoriums des
Kreuzoffiziums eingetragen. Christus am Kreuz ist auf der aufgeschlagenen
Doppelseite jedoch gleich doppelt dargestellt, denn der Biblia pauperum-
Zyklus in den Randleisten ist hier nämlich auf der verso-Seite gerade bei der
Kreuzannagelung angelangt. Haupttext und Bordüren treffen sich damit
dergestalt, dass diese beiden Passionsereignisse in chronologisch richtiger
Reihenfolge aufeinander folgen und zusammen auf einer Doppelseite zu sehen
sind. Die Kreuzannagelung wird überdies durch zwei alttestamentliche Typen
heilsgeschichtlich kontextualisiert.4

Schlägt man eine Seite um, so werden diese Fäden weitergesponnen, denn
jetzt ist in der Bordüre der verso-Seite (e4v) die Kreuzigung zu sehen (in einer
leicht von der grossformatigen Darstellung abweichenden Form, indem die
Stelle der trauernden Frauen unter dem Kreuz durch Longinus’ Stich mit der
Lanze eingenommen wird), sekundiert von der Erschaffung Evas (Immisit
dominus soporem in adam) und Mose, der Wasser aus dem Felsen schlägt. Im
Haupttext dieser Seite ist die vollständige Matutin des Kreuzoffiziums zu lesen,
also die erste Strophe des Stundenliedes Patris sapientia veritas divina, in
welcher von der Gefangennahme die Rede ist (in den Randleisten dargestellt
und typologisch kontextualisiert einige Seiten weiter vorne: e1v), dazu die in
jeder Gebetsstunde dieses Offiziums wiederholte Kollekte mit den
Anfangsworten: Iesu christe fili dei vivi pone passionem crucem et mortem
tuam inter iudicium tuum et animam meam. Dass der vollständige Text der
ersten Hore des Kreuzoffiziums ausgerechnet mit der Kreuzigungsdarstellung
der Biblia pauperum-Randleisten zusammenfällt, ist unter den angedeuteten
Umständen der Buchherstellung nicht selbstverständlich und durch die
schlechte Erschliessung des Materials vermag ich vorderhand nicht zu sagen,
ob dies häufiger vorkommt – in der vorliegenden Ausgabe jedenfalls greifen an
dieser Stelle die beiden Text-Bild-Zyklen perfekt ineinander. Die recto-Seite
(e5r) zeigt mit der ganzseitigen Darstellung der Pfingstszene das
Eröffnungsbild des Heilig-Geist-Offiziums, welches seinerseits auf der
darauffolgenden verso-Seite (e5v) ebenfalls vollständig Platz findet.

Diese letzte der drei Doppelseiten (Abb. 1) umgibt diesen Offiziums-Text
einerseits mit der Kreuzabnahme und den entsprechenden typologischen
Verweisen (e5v), andererseits mit dem Weihnachtsbild zur Prim des
Marienoffiziums (e6r). Die Matutin des Hl.-Geist-Offiziums lässt sich zwar über
den Hymnentext vage mit der Geburtsszene in Verbindung bringen, viel
deutlicher aber ist eine andere Verbindung: Maria und Joseph schauen in
auffälliger Weise nicht etwa zum vor ihnen auf dem Boden liegenden Kind
oder zum zwischen ihnen schwebenden Engel, sondern gewissermassen nach
links aus dem Bild heraus und damit zur Kreuzabnahme am
gegenüberliegenden Ende der aufgeschlagenen Doppelseite. Die
Blickrichtungen sind in den Metallschnitten dieses Druckes stets sehr sorgfältig
behandelt, und selbst wenn dieses Detail aus einer Vorlage übernommen sein
sollten, stellen die Blicke auf dieser Doppelseite eine sinnfällige Verbindung
zwischen den beiden Bildzyklen her. Das Christuskind mit dem auf den Tod am
Kreuz verweisenden Kreuznimbus wird von Maria und Joseph überdies in
derselben Weise betend gerahmt, wie der Gekreuzigte von Maria und
Johannes. Auch hier wieder ergänzt dazu die (auf der Buchseite) vertikale
Achse der typologischen Bezüge die in lesender Weise horizontal und über die
Schrift vermittelte Verbindung von Text und Bild der Doppelseite.

Es ergibt sich auf diese Weise auf beinahe jeder Doppelseite ein komplexes
Zusammenwirken von Texten und von Bildern sowohl innerhalb wie ausserhalb
des Schriftspiegels. Die in sich schon kompositen Offizien – im Kern bestehend
aus Psalmen und Lektionen, welche mit Antiphonen, Responsorien und
weiteren Kurztexten liturgisch kontextualisiert werden – erhalten auf diese
Weise eine zusätzliche Rahmung, die nicht als ‘Buchschmuck’ marginalisiert,
sondern als zentraler Bestandteil der Drucke angesehen werden sollten. Dies
im Detail darzustellen muss einer ausführlicheren Untersuchung vorbehalten

Stefan Matter wurde mit einer Arbeit über die Nazarener promoviert und hat
sich mit einer Untersuchung über Minnereden und Minnebilder des Mittelalters
habilitiert (Reden von der Minne, Tübingen 2013). Er ist nach
Forschungsaufenthalten in Oxford, Tübingen, Bremen, Bern und Wien derzeit
Assistent am Lehrstuhl für Germanistische Mediävistik der Universität
Freiburg/Schweiz und forscht zur deutschsprachigen Gebetbuchliteratur.


1 Bislang hat sich vor allem Mary Beth Winn in verschiedenen Aufsätzen mit
den Randleisten beschäftigt, ohne sich allerdings die Frage zu stellen, wie
diese verschiedenen Inhalte der gedruckten Stundenbücher auf einander
Bezug nehmen; vgl. den zusammenfassenden Artikel: ‘Printing and
Reading the Book of Hours: Lessons from the Borders’, Bulletin of the John
Rylands University Library of Manchester, 81 (1999), 177–204. – Vgl. jetzt
den vorzüglichen Überblick von Caroline Zöhl, ‘Die zentrale Rolle der
Marginalien und der Reichtum des Bordürendekors im Stundenbuchdruck’,
in Horae B.M.V. 365 gedruckte Stundenbücher der Sammlung Bibermühle
1487–1586, hg. von Heribert Tenschert und Ina Nettekoven, 9 Bde.,
Katalog Antiquariat Heribert Tenschert, 50; 75 (Ramsen: H. Tenschert,
2003–2015), IX, 4145–218.

2 Einen Überblick über Inhalt und Form vermittelt etwa Roger S. Wieck,
Prayer for the People. The Book of Hours, in A History of Prayer: The First
to the Fifteenth Century, hg. von Roy Hammerling, Brill’s Companions to
the Christian Tradition, 13 (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2008), S. 389–440.

3 GW 13073; allerdings ist das Oxforder Exemplar (Bod-Inc H-165) nicht
gänzlich identisch mit dem unter der selben Nummer geführten in der ULB
Bonn (Inc. 568, g), und zwar sowohl was den Umbruch betrifft (z.B. auf f2v
ff.) als auch insbesondere, was die Randleisten betrifft (an zahlreichen
Stellen, z.B. h3v). Vgl. auch Horae B.M.V., I, Nr. 8.

4 Die beiden Typen (Thubalkain fertigt Eisenzeug an; Jesaias wird lebendig
zersägt) sind der 50-bll. xylographischen Ausgabe eigen, nach der also die
Randleisten gearbeitet sind. Zur Vorlagenwahl vgl. Berthold Kress, ‘The
Block-book Biblia pauperum as a Source für Printed Borders in France,
Germany and England’, in Tributes to Jean Michel Massing: Towards a
Global Art History, ed. by Mark Stocker and Philip Lindley (Turnhout,
London: Brepols, 2016), 119–31.

A family culture of creativity: Dr Lorna Clark, Royal Bank of Canada Foundation Fellow, lecture, 6 June 2017


Charles Burney – composer, music historian, and musician.

Aside from any argument about nature vs. nurture, it’s no accident that 18th Century polymath Charles Burney was the father of two well-known novelists, an accomplished classicist, and a Royal Navy admiral who became an explorer travelling with Captain James Cook. There was a culture of intellectual venture and ambition in the Burney family, deliberately stoked by their zealous father.

Amongst the Bodleian’s collection are 31 letters from the Burney family archives, as well as the Memoranda of the Burney Family. This remarkable document records the family’s history across 250 years, charting their successes in literature, music, art and beyond, and gives a penetrating vision of the Burney lifestyle that supported these endeavours.

Dr Lorna J Clark, Royal Bank of Canada Foundation Fellow at the Bodleian Libraries, is editing The Letters of Dr Charles Burney.  She is the editor of a volume in the series of The Memoirs of the Court of George III (Pickering, 2015), two volumes of The Court Journals of Frances Burney (Oxford, 2014), and a novel, The Romance of Private Life (1839) in the Chawton House Library Series.


Fanny Burney – daughter of Charles, diarist, satirist, and playwright.

On Tuesday 6 June, Dr Clark will present the Royal Bank of Canada Foundation lecture, ‘A Family Culture of Creativity: Memoranda of the Burney Family.’

There are countless stories to be told about the Burneys, and much interest in the kindred essence that lead to such a richly yielding family tree. Dr Clark will bring her insight and deep knowledge of the Burney family to bear in illustrating the story of this remarkable dynasty.

The event is free but places are limited so please complete our booking form to reserve tickets in advance.

A Missing Link Revealed: The Paper Layer of the Broxbourne Frisket Sheet

Elizabeth Savage

A frisket used for printing with colour. Bodleian Libraries, Oxford. Broxb. 97.40.

A frisket used for printing with colour. Bodleian Libraries, Oxford. Broxb. 97.40.

Columbia University, Book Arts collection, Frisket 2 [reversed image]

In 1978, the Bodleian Library was given a curious piece of parchment (Broxb. 97.40). It is dotted with rectangular cut-outs, and eight thick, red rectangles and an astonishing amount of dirt and fibres cover one side. As Andrew Honey noted in his blog post about its conservation in 2011, its holes and ‘muck’ obscure the words, but they reveal that this object is actually three texts in one:

First, the parchment sheet was taken from a manuscript of Gregory IX’s Decretals written in Bologna around 1300, which was separated by c.1530.

Then, the skin was used by a printer, probably in France (François Regnault (d.1540–41) or Jean Mallard (fl. 1534–53)?). The red rectangles indicate that it was used as a frisket sheet, a mask inserted into the printing press to keep the paper in place and protect unprinted areas, for printing text and initials in red. There are eight rectangles, so the printed book was in octavo. The arrangement of the cut-outs (i.e., the red texts and initials) suggests that the book was liturgical. The thick layer of red printing ink shows how the frisket sheet blocked the rest of the type from printing on the paper in the many copies of the edition. (The red elements were removed, and the rest was printed separately in black.) The thickness of the ink film, from the ‘black’ text, hints at the number of copies printed. The text is illegible, but the indents of some letters can be seen.

Once cut up for a certain arrangement of red initials and passages, a frisket sheet could be used for only one project. Finally, this one was used by a bookbinder, who put in the pasteboard of a binding around a book. The ‘muck’ is from the binding paste.

It’s an extremely rare and important artefact of the history of the book. But it isn’t complete. Frisket sheets were often made of parchment pasted to paper, the better to resist the wetness of a print run (paper is dampened before printing). In an article in Printing History tracing the movements of the Bodleian skin layer and five others from the same manuscript/print job/binding, I tried to trace this paper layer. But I lost sight of it for the last 500 years, after c.1540.

That paper layer and an undescribed parchment layer from the same group has been discovered at Columbia University in the library of the American Type Founders Company, which Columbia purchased in 1942. Very few frisket sheet fragments are known, and each has much to reveal.

If the paper layer remained paired the Bodleian layer, it would have been in a group of sheets from this manuscript/print job/binding that was owned by the bibliographer E. Gordon Duff (1862–1924) and acquired after his death by the master printer George W. Jones (1860–1942). One of his skin layers was sold by Sotheby’s to Albert Ehrman (1890–1969) and donated to the Bodleian in 1978 as the Broxbourne Collection.

The paper layers described in Jones’ collection and sale catalogues can all be accounted for, so the Columbia paper layer was presumably separated sometime in the 500 years between c.1540 and Duff’s acquisition of his group before 1924. But Jones’ tallies of his frisket sheets’ skin and paper layers varied. Could the layers at Columbia and the Bodleian have remained together for centuries, before the paper layer was sold privately by Jones before his death in 1942? And could the newly discovered skin layer at Columbia have accompanied it? Research continues.

This blog post may be the first time the two halves of this frisket sheet have been reunited in over 500 years. Together, they illustrate the history of the book, from medieval manuscript to renaissance printshop to modern collecting. Much remains unknown, but digital research tools of the future may reveal where and how they were used over the centuries.

With thanks to Jane Rodgers Siegel (Rare Book Librarian, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University).

For more information

Andrew Honey, ‘Many uses of a piece of parchment’, The Conveyor, 25 Feb 2011, http://blogs.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/theconveyor/2011/02/25/many-uses-of-a-piece-of-parchment.

Elizabeth Savage, ‘The Mystery of the “scrappy fragments”: Untangling Robert Steele’s Discovery of Frisket Sheets (1903), Printing History (2016), 16–32.

Elizabeth Savage, ‘Early Modern Frisket Sheets: A Periodically Updated Census’, Bibsite, Bibliographical Society of America, 1 May 2017, http://www.ies.sas.ac.uk/research-projects-archives/early-modern-frisket-sheets

Hogarth Press Centenary: Print-a-thon at the Bodleian

from Dennis Duncan:

Early in 1917, Virginia and Leonard Woolf walked into the Excelsior Printing Supply Co on Farringdon Road and bought themselves a printing press. The press, a small handpress which they installed on a table in their dining room in Richmond, came with instructions and some cases of type. The whole lot came to £19.5s.5d. That May they began work on their first publication, Two Stories (one by Leonard, one by Virginia), with Virginia setting the type and Leonard operating the press. Twenty-one years later, when Virginia finally withdrew from the company, the Hogarth Press had published 440 titles, including work by T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster, Katherine Mansfield, Vita Sackville-West, Freud, and H. G. Wells, not to mention much of Virginia’s own most significant writing.

“Books are not turned out of moulds like bricks. Books are made of tiny little words, which a writer shapes, often with great difficulty, into sentences of different lengths, placing one on top of another, never taking his eye off them, sometimes building them quite quickly, at other times knocking them down in despair, and beginning all over again.”
-Virginia Woolf, “How Should One Read a Book?” (1925)

To celebrate the centenary of the Hogarth Press, then, it seemed like a good idea to think about the role that printing played in shaping Woolf’s writing. And since the Bodleian Bibliographical Press is equipped not only with the kind of handpress the Woolfs used for their first publications, but also with the same typeface, we had an ideal opportunity to put ourselves into Virginia’s shoes for a day.

One of the earliest Hogarth publications was Hope Mirrlees’s Paris: A Poem, dated 1919 (or rather 1916: Virginia placed the final ‘9’ upside-down and didn’t catch the error until after printing, correcting it in pen in all copies). It is a wonderful and unjustly overlooked piece of modernism, and with its wild typography – different alignments, passages in caps and italics, a block of music inserted into the text – posed a considerable challenge to Virginia’s recently-acquired skills as a typesetter. Just the thing then for a public print-a-thon.Working in half-hour shifts, our team of printers – from absolute beginners to advanced setters – set out to print as much of Mirrlees’s poem as we could in a single day. Breaking for lectures by Dr Nicola Wilson (Reading) and Dame Hermione Lee (Oxford) about the Woolfs and the Hogarth Press, we ended up with a respectable eight pages, about a third of the poem.

“I’m the only woman in England free to write what I like. The others must be thinking of series’ & editors”
(Diary of Virginia Woolf, Vol. 3, September 1925)

“So,” I asked one of our volunteers, “now that you’ve set a page of type, how do you think the experience of being a printer might have influenced Virginia as a writer?”
“Write fewer words!”
A useful and hard-won insight.

Print-a-thon, May 13

On Saturday May 13 the Bodleian Libraries Bibliographical Press will hold a Print-a-thon celebrating 100 years of the Hogarth Press. The effort is to print all of ‘Paris’, by Hope Mirlees, published by Leonard and Virginia Woolf in 1919. As Duncan Heyes  (British Library) notes,  this is ‘a radically experimental poem that challenged and developed the Woolfs’ abilities as printers.’

All enthusiasts of any ability, therefore, are welcome to join the effort, taking place in the printing workshop in the Old Schools Quadrangle, Old Bodleian Library, starting at 10:30 am. During the day we will break to hear two lectures in the Lecture Theatre, Weston Library, from Dr Nicola Wilson (Reading) at 12:00, on ‘The Other Hogarth Press,’ and from Dame Hermione Lee (Oxford) at 3:30, on ‘Virginia the Printer’.

The Print-a-Thon is organized by Dennis Duncan (Bodleian) and  Nicola Wilson (Reading), in connection with the University of Reading’s call for works on paper, and conference June 29-July 2,  https://woolf2017.com/call-for-printed-works-on-paper-hogarth-press100-exhibition/ 

Lower Heyford and Caulcott War Memorial Library

“The best memorial of lives given in the defence of England and English ideals is something which will better the lives of those who are left and tend to make more secure the civilization for which our comrades have shed their blood.”

Bodleian Vet. A7 d.799: subscription to raise money for a war memorial library, within a copy of J.C. Blomfield’s History of Lower and Upper Heyford

Bodleian Vet. A7 d.799: subscription to raise money for a war memorial library, within a copy of J.C. Blomfield’s History of Lower and Upper Heyford

Found within a copy of J.C. Blomfield’s History of Lower and Upper Heyford belonging to the George Dew Collection in the Bodleian Library is a snap shot showing the response of two small Oxfordshire villages to the losses suffered during the Great War.
The work was published in 1892 and is a comprehensive history of the Heyfords from the earliest times. The bookplate confirms it was originally acquired to stock the shelves of the Lower Heyford and Caulcott War Memorial Library. However, twelve typed and handwritten pages inserted at the beginning of the volume show the efforts made by the parish of Lower Heyford (which includes Caulcott) to raise money for a memorial library to commemorate the sacrifice made by the families from the area.
The first annotated page lists the war dead, by location, regiment or corps, date and age. Of eleven killed in action, seven fell in 1917, three in 1916 and one in 1918. The second, third and fourth pages are the typed open letter distributed on behalf of the men serving towards the end of 1917 (one of the undersigned, George Larner, was killed later on 4th November 1917) to the population of the parish appealing for donations to create the memorial library. The quotation above is drawn from this letter, and shows the feeling of the men in their purpose to create lasting memorial to their comrades.
The sixth and seventh pages list the contributors to the fund, ranging from Captain Cottrell Dormer who gave five pounds, down to a Miss Humphries who donated three pence. Many of the surnames of this list are the same as those on list of the dead. Pages eight to ten offer an interesting insight for an Oxfordshire military historian of the Great War. Sixty-two names are listed showing the other men who served from the area who were not killed during the war. Their regiments and corps are listed also, previous and current, thereby showing the transference of manpower from some arms to others. Pages eleven and twelve show other charitable efforts made by the area during the conflict. This included just over £178 raised for the Red Cross Society, while ‘The Egg League’ gathered 60,686 eggs which were sent to the ‘Base Hospital in Oxford.’
Overall, the twelve pages provide an in-depth view of the considerable contribution to the 1914-1918 war effort by a small rural area, and its great cost.

Shelfmark: Vet. A7 d.799

— from Sarah Wheale, Head of Rare Books, Bodleian Libraries

Shakespeare’s Sonnets 127 to 154, printed in 2016; The Dark Lady sonnets

Shakespeare’s Sonnets 121 to 126, printed in 2016

Vile or vile esteemed? Look hard for the ‘missing’ lines in Sonnet 126. More to come on these sonnets, with notes of their making, in a later blogpost.

Shakespeare’s Sonnets 100 to 120, printed in 2016

In 2016, the 400 year after William Shakespeare’s death, the Bodleian Library asked printers around the world to print his sonnets afresh. These are the results.

See more Shakespeare sonnets printed in 2016

Sonnet 117, The Press of Robert Lo Mascolo, Union Springs, New York

Sonnet 117, The Press of Robert Lo Mascolo, Union Springs, New York [detail]

‘His Majesty, Mrs Brown’: letters from the second catalogue of Bodleian Student Editions

Mike Webb (Curator of Early Modern Archives and Manuscripts) writes:

The second Bodleian Students Editions catalogue is now available online through Early Modern Letters Online (EMLO). These letters were transcribed in the second of the Bodleian Libraries Manuscript and Textual Editing Workshops, held in the Centre for Digital Scholarship in the Weston Library on 1 December 2016. (Details of the workshop programme, along with an account of the first workshop, can be found here.)

The letters used in this workshop were in a volume of the Carte manuscripts, which mainly comprises the papers of James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond (1610-1688), Lord Lieutenant of Ireland three times between 1643 and 1685. Six letters written by women to Ormond in April and May 1660 were selected, all in MS. Carte 214. Women used italic script in the 17th century as most were not taught the ‘secretary hand’ used in legal and administrative documents of the period, and often in private letters also. Italic hands are easier to read for those not formally trained in palaeography, and so more suitable for these workshops, which offer a wide-ranging introduction to undergraduates and postgraduates of all disciplines, many of whom had never previously worked with original manuscripts.

 Read more….