Hilary Term, Mondays, 2:15 pm Registration required:https://forms.office.com/r/F6NjbWuhpT
YOU MUST BE REGISTERED 24 HOURS BEFORE THE SEMINAR TO RECEIVE A LINK TO ATTEND ONLINE
In-person seminars, if offered, will meet in the Lecture Theatre, Weston Library.
31 Jan. (week 3) SEMINAR CANCELLED
14 Feb. (week 5) Laura Saetveit Miles (Bergen), ‘St. Birgitta of Sweden in late-medieval England’
28 Feb. (week 7) Colleen Curran, ‘The History of Script and the Scripting of History in 10th/11th-Century Canterbury’
Seminar in the History of the Book
Hilary Term, Fridays, 2:15 pm Registration required:https://forms.office.com/r/FSXrV1W98u
YOU MUST BE REGISTERED 24 HOURS BEFORE THE SEMINAR TO RECEIVE A LINK TO ATTEND ONLINE
In-person seminars, if offered, will meet in the Lecture Theatre, Weston Library.
21 Jan. (Week 1) [ONLINE ONLY] Mercedes García-Arenal (Madrid, CCHS-CSIC), ‘The European Quran: the role of the Muslim Holy Book in writing European cultural history’
28 Jan. (Week 2) [ONLINE ONLY] Renae Satterley (London, Middle Temple), ‘On Robert Ashley (1565-1641)’s use of collections in Oxford in the 17th century’
4 Feb. (Week 3) [ONLINE ONLY] Laura Cleaver (London, UCL), ‘Henry White (1822-1900): Collector of Second-Rate Manuscripts?’
11 Feb. (Week 4) [ONLINE ONLY] Riccardo Olocco (Bolzano), ‘The trade in type in Venice in the early decades of printing’
18 Feb. (Week 5) Brian Cummings (York), ‘Bibliophobia’
25 Feb. (Week 6) Katarzyna Kapitan, ‘The Virtual Library of Thormodus Torfæus, reconstructed from Danish and Icelandic collections’
4 Mar. (Week 7) [IN PERSON ONLY] Lisa Barber, ‘The Goldsmiths’ Register and other record books of various London Livery Companies’
11 Mar. (Week 8) Alexandra Franklin and Andrew Honey, ‘Bodleian Materials for the teaching of Book History’
The prize will be of two parts: a payment of £600 to the winner, and an allowance of £300 for a book to be purchased for the Bodleian Library’s collections, selected by the winner in co-operation with the Bodleian’s Curator of Rare Books.
The Bodleian Libraries are home to a letterpress workshop for teaching and experiments, and a place for drop-in printing throughout the year at the printing press in the public foyer of the Weston Library. These activities are integrated with teaching at the University of Oxford, outreach to higher education, schools, and the public, and with the library’s continuing interest in creativity in the book arts.
The Bodleian Libraries hold several collections of copper plates dating from the 17th to 19th centuries, amounting to approximately 2000 individual pieces of copper. A brief overview and the available handlists can be found in the LibGuide to printing surfaces.
The majority of these plates were made for book illustrations connected with published scholarship in the sciences, or antiquarian studies. These include the plates to:
Robert Morison, Plantarum historiae universalis Oxoniensis (1680-1699) Martin Lister, Historiae Conchyliorum (1685-1692) Edward Lhyd, Lithophylacii Britannici (1699) Richard Gough, Sepulchral Monuments (1786)
Plates made for a number of other 17th and 18th-century publications survive in the collection of Richard Rawlinson (d. 1755).
Another category of plates are those that were commissioned by Richard Rawlinson (1690-1755) to portray his own collections of other objects, including medieval manuscripts. The Rawlinson collection of copper plates, amounting to some 750 in all and including these commissioned plates, the collected book illustrations and other picture plates, is currently the subject of a doctoral study by Chiara Betti.
Finally, copper plates made for packaging and ephemeral print are held in the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera, under the headings “Copper Plates for Paper Bags” and “Copper Plates for Bookplates”.
The Morison copper plates
Morison was Professor of Botany at the University of Oxford. The publishing history of his great work has been studied by Scott Mandelbrote. [‘The publication and illustration of Robert Morison’s Plantarum historiae universalis Oxoniensis’, Huntington Library Quarterly, 78 (2015), 349-379.] Over 290 folio-sized plates were preserved for a projected reprint but were then set aside for some centuries before finding use, allegedly, as the counterweight to a lift in the science library.
A project and seminar in 2019 examined the Morison plates by placing these alongside related material surviving in several Oxford institutions, including plant specimens from the Herbarium, proofs of the plates in the Sherardian Library, and prints at the Ashmolean Museum and at the Oxford University Press made by the same engravers, including Michael Burghers, who worked on the plates for the lavishly illustrated, and ruinously expensive, Morison book.
A John Fell grant to the Bodleian Libraries supported Optical 3D profilometry of some sections of the plates, taken by the Laboratory for In-situ Microscopy and Analysis (LIMA), in the Department of Engineering Science. Four days were allocated for the profilometry scanning in January 2019. Examinations were carried out on small portions [c. 4 cm sq, up to 10 cm. sq] of each of the plates. Profilometry enabled close examination of the depth of the engraving marks. Measurements enabled comparison of marks at different parts of the plates. The measurements showed the consistent depth of the lines, the profile of engraved lines (shown in the image) and also demonstrated the raised surface, as expected, of plates from which corrosion had not been cleaned.
The Lister copper plates
The Lister copper plates of shells and molluscs, from drawings by Martin Lister’s daughters, are the subject of a publication by Anna Marie Roos. [Martin Lister and his remarkable daughters: the art of science in the seventeenth century (Oxford, Bodleian Library, 2018)] https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsnr.2011.0053
Many of the illustrations for Lister’s work depict just one specimen. Many plates in the book therefore bear the assembled imprints of several small pieces of copper.
The Rawlinson copper plates
During his life, Richard Rawlinson built a collection of 752 printing plates. He commissioned at least one-fourth of them to illustrate his vast collections, while the rest of the plates came from auction sales. The copper plates show a wide range of subjects: portraits, facsimiles of documents, topographical views, coins, medals, and seals.
From the early 1720s, Richard Rawlinson used his engravings as a means to facilitate and spread the knowledge of his collections. Besides commissioning original engravings, the voracious collector attended many auctions of books, art, and copper plates. Thanks to Rawlinson’s meticulously annotated sales catalogues, it has been possible to study the provenance of about 80 of his second-hand copper plates.
The Rawlinson printing plates are now the focus of Chiara Betti’s doctoral project. Her research takes a multidisciplinary approach that brings together book history, printmaking, engineering, and history of collecting. Chiara’s research will shed light on the history and provenance of the Rawlinson plates and their manufacture and use in publications both before and after the antiquary’s death.
The Gough copper plates
Among the plates of Richard Gough’s Sepulchral Monuments (1786, 1796) are several images engraved from drawings by the young William Blake. The plates themselves are signed by James Basire but, as argued by Mark Crosby, [‘William Blake in Westminster Abbey, 1774-1777,’ Bodleian Library Record 22:2, October 2009] ‘it was common practice for a master to sign the work of his apprentices,’ and Blake was apprenticed to Basire from 1772.
The John Johnson Collection
As a collection dedicated to printed ephemera and the history of printing, the John Johnson Collection in the Bodleian Library holds a few dozen copper plates which were used to print packaging and for personal printed items such as bookplates and calling-cards. These are probably the most recent in date of the copper plates preserved in Bodleian collections.
Guest blog by George Haggett (Music, Magdalen College).
University of Oxford students are invited to enter essays about their own book collections for the Colin Franklin Prize. Entries are accepted in Week 6 of Hilary Term. See the prizes webpage for details.
Galangal and Garbage: Medieval Cookbooks Through Time
In 1780, antiquarian Samuel Pegge returned a ‘very curious’ scroll to the curator of the British Museum, containing some 229 recipes (see Figure 1). They were compiled circa 1390 by Richard II’s cooks, and Pegge would go on to publish them as The Forme of Cury: the oldest known cookbook in the English language.
Tired of my thesis and needing something to do with my hands, I saw in Cury an opportunity to combine my dual obsessions with cooking and Middle English. Medieval readers ‘ruminated’ on and ‘regurgitated’ scripture. Our epicurean way of describing texts is more than metaphor: it draws meaning from food’s ephemeral qualities. An art form that you swallow, food is either digested or decomposes, and communicating flavour is possible only by analogy, contingent on visceral likes and dislikes and deep cultural impulses. I will never taste the Middle Ages. But through these books I see the dazzlingly generative potential of recipes, both to provoke centuries-long discourses, and to bring hands to utensils and conjure up tangible, nourishing food.
I bought a cheap paperback reprint of The Forme of Cury from open-access project ForgottenBooks.org. This is my ‘dirty’ copy of Cury. In Arial typeface throughout and stained by stock and spices, its marginalia are my scribbled translations, timings, temperatures, and substitutions for obscure herbs.
I will focus here on editions of sources from Northern France and England in the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries; cultures in which upper-class milieus moved liberally, sharing texts and fashions. New-world foods like potatoes, tomatoes, and corn are absent, but other ingredients and influences that travelled with merchants, crusaders, and pilgrims (attested to by many Mediterranean, Asian, and North African sources beyond the scope of this collection) are palpable. Food’s religious significance manifests in the observance of feasting and fasting, and in broader ethics of the body. Medical ideas of the humours influence the preparation of meats, roasted or boiled according to how ‘wet’ or ‘dry’ the animal was. When something so supremely carnal as food is at issue, questions of health, spirituality, and sensuality are never far from the table.
One of my earliest sources is The Viandier of Taillevent, a thirteenth-century cookbook in side-by-side Old French and Modern English translated by Terence Scully, with appended modernised recipes by D. Eleanor Scully. It is associated with Guillaume Tirel, cook to Charles V and Charles VI of France, although some of its manuscript copies predate his lifetime. But while those manuscripts don’t tell us about authorship, they make up for in what they reveal about their readers: ‘dusted with powders, splattered with sauces, burnt or smudged’, they seem to have been used by literate cooks. They would have been highly skilled, too. Among the Viandier’s suggested centrepieces are involve inflated swan skins, a tower of mutton bones, and ‘Hedgehogs and Spanish Farts’ (stuffed sheep stomachs). This edition’s striking cover art is fittingly anachronistic dress and cutlery, but fails to acknowledge D. Eleanor Scully’s co-editorial labour.
Lots of medieval sources themselves had hybrid functions. Take John Crophill’s Commonplace Book (Harley MS 1735, pre-1485), which offers alongside its 69 recipes texts on alchemy, divination, and a medical treatise called ‘The Doom of Urine’. Another example is the late-fourteenth-century housekeeping treatise Le Ménagier de Paris. Written by an elderly husband for the instruction of his teenage wife. Its recipes are accompanied by moral tales (including ‘the woman who laid an egg’) and guides to gardening and falconry, and feminist economic historian Eileen Power translated most of it into modern English in 1928. Ménagier’s recipes share much with Taillevent, including a method of retaining the water after boiling peas, a delicacy known in Wigan chip shops today as ‘Pey Wet’.
Thrillingly, the previous owner of my copy of Thomas Austin’s 1888 edition Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books left three loose leaves inside the cover: an 1803 screed cryptically signed ‘Coquinarius’ and two photographs of medieval manuscripts. Based on its historiated ‘T’s, I have tentatively identified the first as two recipes from Harley MS 4016: ‘Blanch Porrey’ (a leek-based sauce for eel) and the evocatively titled ‘Garbage’ (chicken giblets, heads, and feet steeped in spiced broth). (see: Austin 1964, 90; 72.)
Photograph One and British Library, MS Harley 4016.
I identified the second based on each recipe beginning, ‘ffor to make’, which Cury does in its second section. The recipes include extravagant dishes, like swan in an aromatic sauce thickened with rice-flour. In his foreword to Cury, Pegge makes clear that this ‘horrid and barbarous’ medieval food is not to his taste.
My third version of Cury was also never intended for culinary use. Measuring three-by-three centimetres, it contains dozens of Cury’s recipes in Middle English, reproduced in 1:12-scale by Dateman books, who furnish the shelves of period-specific dollhouses. It serves as an important reminder that medieval life, so alien to Pegge in 1780, is still a curio in late-capitalist hobby culture, part of a wider constellation of conservative tweeness (Dateman also do Gilbert and Sullivan scores and a new mini-newspaper for each royal baby).
We are served historical sources and consume them. Whether in the handwriting of some scribe or via many editorial hands, texts have always been ‘cooked up’ in some way. Chopped and changed, blended, and taken with a pinch of salt, all writing is a concoction, and we receive it according to our appetites.
The Bodleian’s Conservation and Collection Care team, in collaboration with the Centre for the Study of the Book, is embarking on a year of discovery in the field of Textiles in Libraries. The scope of this project is wide, from embroidered bindings to endbands, including textiles found between the pages, covering or wrapped around the binding, as well as the more unexpected places they can be found in library collections from tapestries to t-shirts.
As part of this project, the Library will be hosting a series of free online talks running from November 2021 to February 2022, bringing together conservators, curators and book artists to explore this topic further. Our speakers will highlight the many ways textiles are found in books and library collections, share case studies of collaborative conservation projects, examine what textile bindings can tell us about historic craft practices, and share examples of textiles used in contemporary book arts.
These talks will coincide with an exhibition held in Blackwell Hall of the Weston Library from November 2021, ‘The Needles Art’, which will show-case a selection of embroidered bindings from the Bodleian’s collections.
View the full programme and book tickets to the live talks here.
All talks will be recorded and publicly available to watch after the event.
This is a chance to compare script, print, and electronic text encoding side-by-side, in real time. The text will be written in manuscript, printed in movable type, and encoded by three teams, starting at 1pm.
In this blogpost we’ll report on the progress and the thoughts of the scribes, printers and encoders as they work through the same text, a portion of Psalm 107 (‘… They that go down to the sea in ships …’), to create a published version, in one or many copies.
Onlookers are welcome in Blackwell Hall, the main public foyer of the Weston Library on Broad Street, Oxford.
The Bodleian publications now available to read on HathiTrust are especially helpful for researching the manuscripts, archives, and rare books that now form the library’s special collections. While most of our catalogues are now accessed primarily in digital forms, many readers overlook introductory printed guides. You can now read The Bodleian Library: A Subject Guide to the Collections (2004) for an overview of the system, or R.W. Hunt’s introduction to the library’s intricate system of shelfmarks in the first volume of the Summary Catalogue (1953). For recreation, you might simply browse photos of the Bodleian in the early 1950s.
We are grateful to everyone who made this project possible: Andrew Dunning, Samuel Fanous, Sarah Barkla, Ruth Mallalieu, Beth Gibbs, and Martin Kauffmann. We also thank our colleagues at Oxford University Press, who printed our books before the formation of Bodleian Library Publishing and supported this project.
Examining several copies of the same book, especially one printed before 1500, is an enlightening experience. The copy-census is a valuable method for the study of early printing and one which requires personal inspection of copies which may be widely distributed around the world. To do this in person is a long and expensive process. A glimpse of the knowledge gained, though, could be had in a virtual visit to eight libraries, coordinated on 4 May 2021 to look at copies of one particular publication, the 1481 edition of Dante’s Comedia with a commentary by 15th-century Florentine scholar Christoforo Landino.
Although the invention of printing seemed to promise a stream of identical copies from the press, scholars of early printing are well aware that this was not always the result. Stop-press changes and accidents in the press account for minor or sometimes major differences between copies of the same edition. The marks of ownership over several hundred years have added further copy-specific elements to the objects held in libraries today.
Springing happily from a suggestion by Tabitha Tuckett, Rare-Books Librarian at University College London, this international tour co-hosted by UCL and the Bodleian Libraries Centre for the Study of the Book, with support from the Italian Cultural Institute in London and the Bibliographical Society of America, expanded on a growing practice of librarians showing books online using a visualiser. In pre-pandemic times the visualiser or document camera could be used for teaching in a lecture theatre or at a distance; in times of limited international travel it is a way to communicate across institutions, and librarians have grasped the possibility of ‘face-to-face’ comparisons on camera, as at the January, 2021 seminar on Myles Coverdale’s Goostley Psalmes between the Queen’s College Oxford, Beinecke, and Bodleian Libraries.
The event included short talks on Dante (Professor John Took, UCL and Dr. Alessandro Scafi, Warburg Institute), Botticelli’s illustrations (Professor Gervase Rosser, University of Oxford), on surviving copies (Professor Cristina Dondi, University of Oxford and Secretary of CERL) and on the context of the book’s production (Dr. Tabitha Tuckett, UCL).
Library curators from several institutions gave their time and expertise to this exciting tour which revealed the complexity of the original printing project and the rich history of collecting this edition over the succeeding centuries. A recording of the online event is hoped for. Libraries taking part in the 4 May virtual tour:
· Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, UK (co-organiser)
· Library Services, University College London, UK (co-organiser)
· Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze, Italy
· Biblioteca Vallicelliana di Roma, Italy
· The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, USA
· The British Library, UK
· John Rylands Library, University of Manchester, UK