Many uses of a piece of parchment

Bodleian Library Broxb. 97.40
Bodleian Library Broxb. 97.40, a frisket made from a recycled manuscript leaf.

The Conservation Section is currently devising a new mount for a parchment frisket cover from the Broxbourne collection. A frisket is the part of a printing press that holds the paper in place during printing. Often covered with parchment, a frisket also acted as a mask to keep inky parts of the press bed from marking the printed paper.

The frisket cover (Broxb. 97.40), which is made from a recycled manuscript leaf, was framed behind glass when it came to the library and only one side could be seen. The library’s Rare Books curators asked whether it could be unframed and mounted so that both sides could be seen, and to make it more readily available for study. Once the Broxbourne frisket was released from its frame far more information about its early use and subsequent history could be seen.

A page of a manuscript

Manuscript writing can be seen on this piece of parchment, which has been identified as a page of an Italian fourteenth-century Canon Law text.

A “mask” for printing in colour

Two centuries later, this discarded piece of parchment from a law manuscript was used to make the frisket. The frisket was used to print the red portion of an octavo-format book in the early sixteenth century, and offers early evidence of two-colour printing processes. Here, areas of parchment were cut away to allow the red-inked type to print initials and so on, while the remaining parchment masked off the text which was to be printed in black. The attached photograph shows the upper side of the frisket cover and a detail of one page in raking light, which clearly shows impressions of type.

A lining for a bookbinding

Now that the frisket cover is out of its frame it can be seen that it was subsequently used as a board lining for a large folio bookbinding.

The final question remains – what was it used to print?

– Andrew Honey, Conservation, Bodleian Libraries

Seminar on the History of the Book: Martin McLaughlin, “From Cosimo Bartoli to James Leoni: translating and illustrating Alberti”, 18 February 2011

Engraving of a design for a triumphal arch, from James Leoni's 1726 English translation of Alberti's De re aedificatoria. The inscription on the arch alludes to the 1725 Treaty of Hanover signed by George I. (The Warden and Fellows, All Souls College, Oxford)

The fifth in the 2011 series of the Oxford Seminar on the History of the Book marked the birthday of Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472), on 18 February, with a presentation by Professor Martin McLaughlin on the subject of “From Cosimo Bartoli to James Leoni: translating and illustrating Alberti”.

The humanist and polymath Leon Battista Alberti was a prolific author on a wide variety of subjects, ranging from architecture to cryptography, as well as of literary works in both Latin and Italian. Significantly for those interested in the history of the book, he is also responsible for perhaps the first known reference to the emerging technology of printing, in his De cyfris of ca. 1466. The session focused specifically on his treatise on architecture, De re aedificatoria, and particularly on subsequent translations of it into other languages, notably those by Cosimo Bartoli and James Leoni.

De re aedificatoria was written in Latin sometime around 1452, in imitation of Vitruvius, and published for the first time in Florence in 1486, with subsequent Latin editions published in Paris in 1512 and in Strasbourg in 1541. It was probably expected to be read by learned patrons and antiquaries rather than used by practising architects. Although manuscript translations of the work into Italian were probably available from a fairly early stage, the first printed Italian translation, by Pietro Lauro of Siena, did not appear until 1546. Lauro’s translation was, however, almost immediately eclipsed by a clearer and more accurate version by Cosimo Bartoli, printed in Florence in 1550. Bartoli’s translation remained the only Italian version of De re aedificatoria for over 400 years, and was almost certainly an influence on Palladio, who was a friend of Bartoli’s. Bartoli’s edition was the first to divide the work into clearly titled chapters, and also the first to include illustrations. Bartoli was at great pains to use the best available text for his translation, and indeed claims, in his dedicatory letter to Cosimo I de’ Medici, to have been almost driven to give up the enterprise altogether because of the difficulty of finding a reliable Latin text to work on, and because of the numerous errors in all the available versions. He used the 1541 Strasbourg edition, which was probably the best available text at the time.

The first English edition of De re aedificatoria was printed in London in 1726, and consists of Bartoli’s Italian translation printed in parallel with a translation of it into English by Giacomo, or James, Leoni. This is a significantly more lavish affair than the 1550 edition, and includes illustrations, some of them pull-outs, engraved by Bernard Picart, after Leoni’s own drawings. These are clearly inspired by the woodcut illustrations to Bartoli’s Italian translation, with each of the original woodcuts having a corresponding engraving. Although the translation is generally attributed to Leoni, it is in fact unlikely that he had sufficient English to have made the translation on his own, and it is more likely the work of an uncredited team of translators. That Leoni and his team were working from Bartoli’s Italian version rather than from the Latin original is evidenced by a number of places where errors or misreadings found in Bartoli are unquestioningly followed by Leoni, and specific examples of these were considered, as well as some instances of mistranslations that appear to be entirely Leoni’s own work.

Some further examples were considered where Leoni appears to have adapted his translation to the English audience for whom he was writing; for example, a passage concerning tarantulas includes, in Leoni’s translation, the explanatory phrase “a small earth spider, commonly called a tarantula”, which does not appear either in the Latin original or in Bartoli’s Italian translation, both of which were written for an audience who could be expected to know what a tarantula was. A visual equivalent of this ‘domesticating’ strategy is seen in Leoni’s illustration of a triumphal arch: where Bartoli had shown an arch dedicated to his patron archduke Cosimo, Leoni’s arch (pictured) is dedicated to ‘Great Britain, Who Holds the Fate of Europe in Equal Balance’, an allusion to the 1725 Treaty of Hanover signed by George I.

Although much of the session did focus on these errors and mistranslations, these are in fact comparatively rare examples, and both Bartoli and Leoni’s translations show a high degree of accuracy. The popularity of both is demonstrated by the frequency with which they were reprinted after their original publication, with Bartoli’s translation reprinted twice in 1565, and Leoni’s reprinted in 1739 and 1755. Bartoli and Leoni in their different ways were responsible for keeping Alberti’s name alive in the centuries before the great revival of the humanist’s fame which began with Burckhardt’s well-known verbal portrait of Alberti in his Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (1860).

A final discussion considering issues such as the translation of Alberti into other languages was followed by an opportunity to look at examples – from the Codrington Library at All Souls College – of some of the editions considered.

from Martha Repp

Seminar on the History of the Book: Rebecca Bullard, “Gathering and gathered texts, 1650-1700”, 11 February 2011

The amours of Messalina, late queen of Albion, 1689, apparently showing 3 leaves to the gathering.

— from Martha Repp

The fourth in the 2011 series of the Oxford Seminar on the History of the Book was given on 11 February 2011 by Dr. Rebecca Bullard, of the University of Reading, on the subject of “Gathering and gathered texts, 1650-1700”.
The gathering, or set of consecutive pages, usually printed on a single sheet of paper, and folded together, is the basic building block of all books produced during the hand-press period. Each gathering is assigned a signature mark (usually an alphabetical A-Z sequence), the gatherings are then arranged in the proper order and sewn together to make a book. Perhaps because of their commonplace nature, gatherings have received comparatively little scholarly attention in their own right, but, as Dr. Bullard’s paper demonstrated, they can provide much information both on printing house practice during the hand-press period and on the working methods and thought processes of individual authors.
While the new bibliographers have done much work on printing house practices, and in identifying individual sets of type and the work of specific compositors, this has inevitably tended to focus on compositors and pressmen. Dr Bullard reminded the seminar that when considering gatherings, two other workers come to the fore: the warehouse keeper and the binder. The warehouse keeper (the most senior employee in the printing shop, and also the person responsible for managing the accounts) would collate the unfolded sheets into the right order, and fold them in half. The sheets would then either be sold in this unbound state, or sent to a binder, who would be responsible for folding the sheets to produce the correct sequence of pages, inserting any plates and making any necessary cancellations, before sewing them together, and, finally, binding them.
In most cases, the gatherings run in a completely regular A-Z sequence, but the remainder of the session was devoted to looking at examples where this is not the case, and considering possible reasons for it. It was suggested that, while readers would not necessarily have noticed signatures that run regularly, they would have noticed an out of place signature mark or an unusual pattern of signing, and would probably have experienced this as disorientating, and as a disruption to the expected orderly sequence.
The first example considered was the prophetess Anna Trapnel’s “Report and Plea” of 1654, in which an additional bifolium signed “d” is inserted between gatherings D and E, disrupting both the pagination and the register. The possibility that this may have been due to the particularly inflammatory nature of the material contained in gathering “d”, and have been done to enable the printer to remove those particular pages in case of trouble, was initially seen as tempting, particularly as the gathering is absent in many of the existing copies, but this possibility had to be discarded as the text is continuous, and gathering D even ends mid-sentence. As gatherings A-D and gatherings E-G are clearly in different type, a more likely explanation is that there were two printers working on this particular text, and that the printer of gatherings A-D received the manuscript of the text of quire “d” after the rest of the text — that it was in fact a last-minute addition. The insertion of this gathering also serves to reinforce the depiction in the text itself of Trapnel as a disruptive influence on the expected order.
This same kind of last-minute addition can also be seen in Margaret Cavendish’s “Natures pictures drawn by fancies pencil” of 1656, in which gathering 3E does not appear as expected at the end of the work, but has instead been cut up and distributed throughout it. Since all the leaves of gathering 3E begin with directions to the binder as to where each leaf should be placed, it seems fairly certain, particularly given Cavendish’s habit of making last minute additions to her work, that last minute additions is exactly what they are; although why the printer chose to sign the leaves in that particular way remains a mystery. It also fits with Cavendish’s belief in the importance of afterthoughts. Gatherings therefore have the capacity to represent the author’s mind as it changes over time, and to flag up material as a late addition or afterthought. Since gatherings have a natural sequence and represent movement through time, they create a kind of textualized temporality.
The final example considered was “The amours of Messalina, late queen of Albion” of 1689, an anonymous (post Glorious Revolution) account of the supposed scandalous behavior of Mary of Modena, second wife of James II. The work is divided into 4 parts, of which the first two are gathered in 3s. Since it is a physical impossibility for gatherings to consist of an odd number of leaves, something unusual is clearly happening here. The most likely explanation is that the book is in fact a 12° printed on half-sheets, with each resulting gathering of 6 pages containing 2 signatures. Even in parts 3 and 4, which are in fact gathered in 2s, the printer continues to sign the leaves A1 and A3 rather than A1 and A2. This leads to an unexpected proliferation of odd numbers, and the odd and unsettling nature of the gatherings mirrors the underhand nature of the behavior described in the text, as well as its murky origins. Furthermore, the work had originally been planned in 3 parts, with the original part 3 being divided at a late stage to produce the parts 3 and 4 as eventually printed.
Gatherings do not conform to G. Thomas Tanselle’s division of printing evidence into unintentional manufacturing clues and intentional design features, and can indeed in some cases function as both. It is likely, for example, that authors such as Cavendish who intervened late in the editorial process would have anticipated a certain degree of disruption to the finished text, even if they could not have foreseen the precise form that disruption would take.
A wide-ranging final discussion considered questions such as whether these disruptive elements in the gathering pattern were smoothed over or retained in subsequent editions of the same work; ways of telling whether a work was printed at the expense of the author or the printer; and differences between English and continental practices in this respect.

Seminar on the History of the Book, 2011: James Carley on Lambeth Palace Library

from Martha Repp

The second in the 2011 series of the Oxford Seminar on the History of the Book, convened at All Souls College by Professor Ian Maclean, was given on 28 January 2011 by Professor James Carley of York University, Toronto, on the topic of “The catalogue of Richard Bancroft’s library and the foundation of Lambeth Palace Library”.

The session was informed by the research Professor Carley has been undertaking into the early catalogues of Lambeth Palace Library, attempting to match them not only to each other but also to the books in the collection themselves.

The origins of Lambeth Palace Library can perhaps be traced back to 1610, when Archbishop Richard Bancroft died, leaving the entirety of his personal collection of books to his successor, and to subsequent Archbishops of Canterbury in perpetuity. Bancroft was extremely concerned to maintain the integrity of the collection, and the original idea was that each new Archbishop of Canterbury should enter into a bond to pass the collection on to his successor intact. If he failed to do so, the whole collection was to go in the first instance to Chelsea College, an institution dedicated to Anglican controversial theology which was in the process of being planned at the time but was never actually established, or if not to the public library of Cambridge University. This initial idea of a bond was, however, quickly felt to be unworkable, and so it was decided to create a complete catalogue of the collection, and to hold each Archbishop responsible for handing on the collection to his successor, and for replacing any books that were found to be missing. This first catalogue was essentially a shelf-list of the books kept in Bancroft’s study. The books were arranged according to subject but not shelf-marked; instead, vellum tabs with the subject headings inscribed were attached to the fore-edges of the books. This catalogue does not include place and date of publication, except for very frequently printed works such as the Bible, and is therefore perhaps of limited bibliographical use. Bancroft’s collection includes probably the largest existing collection of recusant literature, as well as a number of books from the royal library at Westminster, a number of them from Henry VIII’s personal collection, a few with his annotations.

Bancroft was not, of course, the first Archbishop of Canterbury to take an interest in books. For example, Bancroft’s predecessor, John Whitgift, also had a substantial collection of books and manuscripts, of which a catalogue also survives. On his death in 1604, Whitgift left his collection of manuscripts to Trinity College, Cambridge, but made no specific provision for his collection of printed books, many of which found their way into Bancroft’s collection (as well as a few of the manuscripts which were never transferred to Cambridge). These include a number of books from the library of the martyrologist John Fox.

The next surviving catalogue dates from 1647, when, on the abolition of the Archiepiscopacy, the University of Cambridge petitioned Parliament that an honourable home should be found for the book collection. The hint was taken, and the collection granted to Cambridge. Before the books were moved to Cambridge, however, the University sent two scholars to Lambeth to make a complete catalogue of the collection, which, by this time, had also been augmented by the books of Bancroft’s successor, George Abbott. This 1647 catalogue does include place and date of publication, and is therefore of greater use to bibliographers in determining what editions Bancroft actually owned. The books were then moved to Cambridge, where they were given shelfmarks for the first time.

Finally, after the Restoration, the books were returned to Lambeth after protracted negotiations, and catalogued again.

All of these catalogues survive–and others too–but matching them against each other and linking the entries to actual surviving books is a time-consuming process. The remainder of the session explored some of the reasons for this complexity. The first of these is that the original catalogues of Bancroft and Whitgift’s libraries do not appear to tell the whole story; there are books in the collection which can be demonstrated to have come from Bancroft or Whitgift, but are not mentioned in the original catalogue. It is probable that both men kept significant collections of books in other palaces or residences, which were not mentioned in the original catalogues. There are also books mentioned in Bancroft’s catalogue that are not in the present Lambeth Palace Library. One reason for this is that Archbishop William Sancroft (d. 1693) is known to have disposed of a large number of duplicates, many of which were transferred to the library of the chapter of Canterbury Cathedral. Sancroft also had a number of the medieval manuscripts disbound and rebound to give the collection a more uniform appearance, and these manuscripts may well be significantly more transformed from their original medieval state than at first appears. Equally, the same book sometimes appears in different categories in Bancroft’s catalogue, and it is not always clear whether these are cross-references or an indication of the existence of more than one copy.

The final discussion considered issues such as the precise nature and purpose of both Bancroft and Whitgift’s collections, and also broader questions such as the levels of society at which the practice of armorial bindings existed at this time.