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.
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.
We are delighted to announce that Thomas Gravemaker, of LetterpressAmsterdam, will be Printer in Residence at the Bodleian in 2020-21. Gravemaker worked for many years in publishing in the UK – at the Bodley Head and as a senior designer at Thames & Hudson – and in France, first as a studio manager in a design group, before setting up his own studio.
The Printer in Residence programme at the Bodleian brings a guest printer for one month each year, whose project draws together community and University members with an interest in printing and the book arts, to use the Bibliographical Press workshop in the Old Bodleian Library and the press in Blackwell Hall, at the Weston Library.
It is Gravemaker’s experience with book design, and the connection with John Ryder (1923–2001) at the Bodley Head, which provides the inspiration for the project that he will undertake during the one-month residency at the Bodleian: to set and print a small book in the spirit of Ryder’s Flowers and Flourishes (Bodley Head, 1976). During his residency at the Bibliographical Press early in 2021, Gravemaker will also offer a workshop on using ornament, and will present a public lecture.
As a teacher, Thomas Gravemaker regularly works with students from Northumbria University (UK), Kalamazoo Book Arts Center (USA) and the RMIT University (Australia) and others. He also devotes his expertise to ensuring that there are active workshops available for students, having advised, trained and assisted – among several others – Letterpress House in Finland, the Royal Library in Belgium and the Hochschule in Karlsruhe (Germany) in finding equipment and type in order to set up their own print studios.
Thomas is a board member of the Stichting Drukwerk in de Marge (Small Press Association) in the Netherlands and a member of the AEPM (Association of European Printing Museums), of which the Bodleian Bibliographical Press is also a member.
The Ryder Archive at the Bodleian is ‘a major resource for the history of the book in the twentieth century.’ [Clive Hurst, ‘The Ryder Archive,’ Bodleian Library Record, Vol. XVII No. 5, April 2002, p. 353] It contains both archival material and printed books. John Ryder bequeathed to the Bodleian his private papers, including correspondence with designers and artists, and much private press material, notably from the Officina Bodoni, and original sketches for book designs. The Archive includes John Ryder’s remarkable collection of editions of James Joyce’s Ulysses.
by Dr Karin Scheper, Conservation Specialist, Leiden University Libraries, and Bahari Visiting Fellow, Bodleian Libraries, 2019-20
Thousands of Persian manuscripts are held in the Oriental collections of the Bodleian Libraries, and an increasing number is available online. https://digital.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/ For the study of the texts and illustrations these digital images are invaluable, as they provide access anytime and anywhere. At the same time, the original manuscripts continue to be of enormous value because things can be learned from the material composition that can never be studied using the digital images alone. We increase our understanding of the use of manuscripts and books, and the historic context of their making, through the physical items.
A Bahari Fellowship in the Persian Arts of the Book made possible my research focussing on the Persian manuscripts in the Bodleian collections, especially those bound in lacquer boards.
Bookbinding traditions differ between cultures because local practices, the availability of materials and cultural cohesion influenced developments. Persian bookbinders worked within the tradition of the wider Islamic world, though they used certain techniques and materials more often or in specific ways.
Bookbinders in the Islamic world used a combination of simple techniques and strong materials that resulted in a functional, durable book. An unsupported link-stitch, a spine-lining and the endbands effectively connected the textblock and binding. This method was used consistently over many centuries for all sorts of texts and bindings, from luxuriously illustrated ones to plain textbooks used for private study, and for elaborately decorated bindings to modestly tooled covers. But when a new technique was introduced in the Persianate world, of painted leather covers which further developed into lacquered boards and gained much popularity, the traditional use of the spine-lining became problematic.
Traditionally, the spine-lining was pasted to the textblock spine to provide stability, and the endbands sewn through it for even more coherence. Then the extending sides at the joints were pasted onto the inside of the boards, to strengthen the board attachment. It used to be the bookbinder who finished the insides of the boards with a doublure of leather, silk or a decorated paper that hid these parts of the lining material.
With lacquer boards, however, the artisans who painted the colourful exteriors also developed decorative schemes for the interior. In most cases they painted a daffodil, iris or dahlia on a contrasting background. The presence of this painting, on the lacquered boards, caused the problem: the bookbinder could no longer adhere the extending side of the lining onto the inside of the board. The change in technique resulted in a more vulnerable board attachment, necessitating the repair of many bindings with lacquered boards in the joints. These later interventions have complicated the study of the historic development of this binding type.
The Bodleian collections appear to hold several nearly pristine bindings with lacquered boards, and my study of the original board attachments was able to shed new light on the construction. I found evidence of a different method to finish the interior joint, specifically developed for these binding types. This knowledge fills a gap in the history of Islamic bookbinding, but is also valuable information for conservators who take care of the collections and develop a treatment approach.
A number of the manuscripts with lacquered bindings have painted patterns on the leather spine, though the decoration of the spines is extremely rare in Islamic bookbinding. Some of the geometrical or flowery designs on these spines include the title of the volume, which seems to point at western tastes in the shelving of books; traditionally, the title is found on the tail edge of the textblock as manuscripts were shelved horizontally, the small edge outwards. A spine title suggests a changed placement on the shelf.
Other binding types of full and partial leather that were examined add to our understanding of bookbinding practices in the Indo-Persianate world. Noteworthy is a fairly large number of bindings with leather doublures that extend and cross the inner joint. The part of the leather that is pasted onto the textblock was then finished with a strip of paper that has a zig-zag cut edge, suggesting that the leather was a decoratively cut.
It is fascinating to gain insights into how these manuscripts were carried and handled in the past. A number of cloth bags or satchels have survived as the protective cases of manuscripts collected by the brothers Gore and William Ouseley [https://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/weston/finding-resources/guides/middleeast#nineteenth] Some of these enclosures appear to be made of reused textiles and their shape echoes traditional cloth wraps for manuscripts. These may be purely functional protection for the manuscripts during their travels, yet it would certainly have enhanced the experience of displaying these objects, when a beautiful binding had to be pulled out of a colourful satchel.
Nothing can replace working with the tangible objects. Of course, the principal purpose of a bookbinding is functional, though it could be made to also add beauty and value to a manuscript. Historic bookbindings still serve these two purposes, yet for today’s users they have an important extra value. The materials may help to verify the dating of the manuscript and to localise the origin of its making. But what is more, the things we can learn from the materials, the physical characteristics and traces of use increase our possibilities to connect with past practices and help us understand a world long gone.
Engraved and etched copper plates owned by the London-based antiquarian collector Richard Rawlinson (1690-1755) came to the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, with his bequest of a large collection of material, in 1755. The majority of these plates were gathered by Rawlinson second-hand from printers or other collectors, and thus date from the seventeenth, and first half of the eighteenth, century. These illustrate scenes and objects of antiquarian and topographical interest and many portraits. The plates include work by seventeenth-century engravers Wenceslaus Hollar [see the catalogue of Hollar’s work by Richard Pennington, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Etched Work of Wenceslaus Hollar 1607-1677] and David Loggan. Another group of plates within this collection was made for Rawlinson himself, to depict unique objects in his own vast antiquarian collections. These collections included a large number of medieval and early modern manuscripts donated or bequeathed to several institutions including the Bodleian, as well as printed images, antique and exotic cultural objects, inscriptions, and seal matrices.
The copper plates thus sit within a much more extensive collection assembled by an eighteenth-century antiquarian, touching on areas of curatorial interest to libraries, museums, and archives. Surviving papers and notebooks of Richard Rawlinson are held at the British Library, the Bodleian Library, and at St John’s College, Oxford.
The most comprehensive information currently available about Rawlinson’s copper plates is contained in handwritten lists from the early twentieth century, and one printed resource, all kept in the Bodleian’s Weston Library for Special Collections. [See link for information about access.] Prospective researchers must be able to navigate both printed and handwritten resources.
(1) Reference index, bound as ‘Index to the Rawlinson Copperplates.’ This was compiled in 1900 by Edith Guest. It is kept in the Bodleian’s Weston Library for Special Collections, in the Reference section at R. 6.236.
Slips of paper are pasted into a large scrapbook. These contain brief descriptions, arranged alphabetically by principal subject, e.g. a geographical or family name, or genre term, e.g. ‘Business card’. The list includes notes of where the prints from these plates were located in the library, either in Rawlinson’s own collection of prints (shelfmarks ‘Rawl. Prints’ etc.) or in published books.
(2) Library handlist of Rawlinson Copperplates (Handlist 327)
A transcription of the Edith Guest’s index, presented as a handwritten list arranged by order of shelfmark (call number), to provide a guide for librarians to the order in which the plates are kept on library shelves.
The shelfmarks are in the format:
Rawlinson copperplates / size indicator letter (a = largest, g=smallest) / running number within each size range
The handlist begins with:
Rawlinson copperplates a.1, Map of Anglo-Saxon Britain according to Bede. Printed in Bede’s Historiae Ecclesiasticae libri quinque, opposite p. 653 (edition of 1722), [giving the shelfmark of a Bodleian copy of this item, when available]
[shelfmark] A 15.3 Th.
and ends with
Rawlinson copperplates g.313, The letter A. Printed on p. iii of a circular announcing the preparation of a complete history of the Mallardians, 1752: Gough Oxon. 60(10)
(3) The Rawlinson Copperplates: an indexed guide (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Department of the Library, Williamsburg, Virginia, 1988)
Also uses the information in Edith Guest’s index. The entries are arranged in several sequences by subject category, title (i.e. ascribed title of the plate), ‘location’ (i.e. geographical subject), date, author (of the book in which a plate was used), engraver, illustrator (i.e. artist of the image engraved on the plate).
The volume is a printout of information in a searchable database. The Bodleian does not have access to the electronic database. The features of this printed index are that it organizes the listing of plates in several different ways, corresponding to the search functions of the database, and that it introduces new subject categories, grouping the plates under 18 headings.
These are: antiquities, Biblical scenes, biology, coats of arms, coins, commerce, decorative, documents, ecclesiastical subjects, maps, medals, objects, portraits, seals, statuary, text, University materials and Views.
Each plate is listed with an indication of whether the publication information (i.e. the published book in which prints from the plate appear) is available in the Guest handlist, and an indication if unpublished prints from the plate are kept in another collection in the Bodleian.
Sylee Gore, ‘Self-portrait of a city in print: Berlin 2001-2010’
Through the generosity of Mr Anthony Davis, the Bodleian Libraries are pleased to award a prize each year to a student of the University of Oxford for an essay about a treasured book collection. The prize is named after Colin Franklin, bibliographer, book collector, and a friend to bibliophiles in Oxford. The competition is announced each October with a deadline in January.
The books in these student collections need not be rare or costly; the award is judged on the coherence and inspiration showing through the collection, and on how well, in the essay submitted, the student expresses the importance of the collection to themselves and shares the motives impelling them along their collecting journey and the successes (and sometimes failures) along the way.
The prize this year is awarded to Sylee Gore (Kellogg College) for her essay ‘Self-portrait of a city in print: Berlin 2001-2010’. Her diverse collection, principally of photographic books, attempts to recapture 10 years in the life of a city. The judges praised this in-depth examination of a particular place and time, recaptured and preserved in the books collected.
Julie Hamilton’s essay, ‘Ancient and modern voices from Egypt,’ was highly commended by the judges. They noted both her expertise in the subject matter – including a hieroglyph edition of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit — and her joy in the material form of her books. The judges were especially pleased to read that Ms Hamilton took a few of her books to be given custom bindings, by a fourth-generation bookbinder in Cairo.
The Seminar in Palaeography and Manuscript Studies runs annually in the Weston Library in Hilary term (Jan-March). The 2019 Seminar aimed to showcase the research of some of the early career scholars in Oxford using the Library’s collections. Here the three speakers working on medieval manuscripts offer brief summaries of their sessions.
Daniel Sawyer, ‘Against dullness: some ways to learn from (and enjoy) “average” manuscripts’
I aimed to demonstrate the value of examining ‘dull’ or ‘mediocre’ later medieval English literary manuscripts, and to bring out what might be interesting about seemingly dull manuscripts from any place and time.
It is (I suggested) by looking at seemingly dull, normal manuscripts that we might learn the most: normal manuscripts are the crucial context for the exceptional books which excite us, and normal manuscripts also let us study normality, a neglected topic in and of itself. Broad, part-quantitative surveys of such books have much to teach us.
A broad survey is of course difficult to conduct in a short seminar, so I took as my example book Bodleian Library, MS Laud Miscellaneous 486.
MS Laud Misc. 486 contains a copy of the Prick of Conscience, the most widely-witnessed medieval English poem, and a text generally neglected: the sheer number of surviving copies impedes research, and the poem’s content is tiresome and rebarbative to most modern readers. The poem is followed by a copy of Gregory the Great’s Cura Pastoralis by the same scribe.
The catalogue description of this manuscript would not excite us. But it contains many points of interest, which I sought to bring out in my discussion.
The manuscript has a surviving gothic English binding, which is fascinating in itself and assures us of the book’s probable integrity since the fifteenth century. It is the most dense of all the medieval manuscripts in medieval bindings which I’ve been able to weigh—that is, it has the most weight per cubic centimetre.
A study of the book’s quiring reveals that it is not composed from codicologically distinct ‘booklets’, and yet there are subtler signs in the quiring which do reveal a production hesitation between its two texts.
Although both texts in the book were copied by the same scribe, I pointed out that there are quiet differences in the handwriting he deployed for each text. These broach the topic of palaeographical differences driven by linguistic difference, a topic which is less well-studied in the later medieval period than in the early Middle Ages because, paradoxically, more evidence—too much—survives.
Finally, ending at the manuscript’s beginning, I noted that a unique summary of the Prick of Conscience preserved here reveals the probable mnemonic reading of the poem in this book by one medieval reader, and hints at a moment of transition in the manuscript’s history when it might have moved between two reading communities and two reading contexts.
Karl Kinsella, ‘Plan and elevation: the architectural drawings of Richard of St. Victor’
My talk was titled ‘Plan and Elevation: Richard of St. Victor’s Architectural Drawings’ because we chose to focus on two manuscripts (MS. Bodl. 494, MS e Mus. 62) that contain the twelfth-century author Richard of Saint Victor’s commentary on the Book of Ezekiel, known as In visionem Ezechielis. Richard included some of the most detailed architectural drawings to exist at that time, making them important for how we understand the development of technical drawings, but also the language of architecture during the twelfth century.
We worked through the sequence of all fourteen drawings, showing that Richard structures the text in a way that helps his pedagogical aims. He begins with a very general drawing of the entire temple complex, showing all three atriums. He then provides much more detail on particular buildings. One elevation is in fact a section, as if Richard has removed part of the façade so that the viewer can see the interior. This is the first sectional elevation in existence and demonstrates Richard’s innovation in the genre of technical drawing.
We closely examined a geometrical drawing that is, despite being the most plain in the whole work, is one of the most important. Richard uses two types of measurements to simplify his recreation of the temple. This drawing shows the reader how to translate from one type of measurement to the other. It shows that the commentary and the drawings within it are rooted in contemporary practices in geometry. This relationship between architecture and geometry continues to this day, and Richard was a forerunner of that.
Finally, we examined the language that Richard used. Richard called one of the measurements ‘planum’, when he wants to describe the topography of the temple site as if it was flat. This is the first use of the word ‘plan’ to refer to an architectural drawing, one that would not be used again for several centuries. While Richard’s work was influential within the intellectual circles of twelfth- and thirteenth-century scholarship, it did not go on to influence practices in medieval building sites.
The questions addressed topics such as the codicological status of the manuscripts, and the broader significance of the work and its intended audiences.
We are pleased to announce that David Armes will be Printer in Residence at the Bodleian Bibliographical Press for one month during the coming academic year 2019-20.
David Armes is a visual artist working with print, language and geography. His work is frequently site-specific and considers how sense and experience of place can be represented, with source material including automatic writing, anonymous conversations and oral history. He works primarily with letterpress printing on paper and the final forms can vary in shape and size from large scroll installations to broadside prints to artists’ books and chapbooks. Through using what was once an industrial print process, he is interested in where the multiple meets the unique, where the ephemeral meets the archival. Recent residencies have been at Zygote Press fine art print studio (Cleveland, USA; 2018), Wells Book Arts Center (New York, USA; 2017), BBC Radio Lancashire (Blackburn, UK; 2017) and Huddersfield Art Gallery (West Yorkshire, UK; 2016)
The Printer in Residence programme draws together community and University members with an interest in printing and the book arts, to use the Bibliographical Press workshop at the Bodleian Library. During the residency in October-November 2019, David Armes will work on a new iteration of his ‘text landscape’ series, present a lecture and lead a public workshop, to be advertised on the Bodleian Libraries website.
The residency programme is supported by a private donation to the Bibliographical Press.
The 2017-18 Colin Franklin Prize for book-collecting has been awarded to Ekaterina Shatalova (Keble College), for her collection of works by and about Edward Lear (1812-1888), the poet and illustrator famous for limericks in A Book of Nonsense, and for poems recounting the nautical adventures of The Owl and the Pussycat and the Jumblies (‘who went to sea in a sieve’). Writing about her collection, Shatalova recalls first encountering the nonsense poetry of Lear and other English writers in a Russian translation. Her research at the University of Oxford is on the subject of nonsense poetry, and the special challenges of translating the mixture of verbal and visual forms in this genre. As part of the Prize, Shatalova has consulted with librarians on the purchase of a book for the Bodleian’s Rare Books collection. The next competition for the Colin Franklin Prize will be announced in October, 2018.
About the Colin Franklin Prize: The prize is offered in honour of Colin Franklin, the distinguished author, book collector and bookseller who has over many decades encouraged numerous young book collectors at the University. It is funded by Anthony Davis. The prize follows the tradition of similar prizes awarded at Cambridge and London and at universities in the United States and Canada. It is intended to encourage book collecting by undergraduates and graduate students of the University by recognising a collection formed by a student at the university. The prize is announced each year in October. For information see: www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/csb/prizes
This year’s Lyell Lectures, given by David Pearson, explore the individual ownership of books at a time when libraries like the Bodleian were less established, and access to the written word depended more significantly on private libraries. Ownership of books grew steadily through the seventeenth century, in the country as well as the city, across all sectors of society. How big were people’s libraries then, what did they contain, and why did they own them? In his lectures, David Pearson explores these themes not only for academics and professional people, but also for women as well as men, for farmers as well as doctors.
Here is a selection of books now in Bodleian collections, but formerly owned by individuals in the 17th century, chosen by Pearson to illustrate points in his lectures.
We have a very different set of values today around which texts are interesting, or important, and we have a respect for the preservation of original evidence which was not shared by earlier generations. Nowadays, we would treat a 1477 imprint presented to Archbishop Thomas Rotherham (1423-1500) with considerable respect; when it arrived in the Bodleian in the 17th century as part of Selden’s library, it was bundled up with a group of later pamphlets, put into a workaday binding, and cropped by the binder so that Rotherham’s arms are partly cut away.
BB 19(3) Art. Seld
George Carew’s handsome books
The second lecture explores the theme of Books for use and books for show, asking how far people valued their books as objects for display at least as much as things to read. George Carew, Earl of Totnes (1555-1629) was a soldier and statesman; he had his books strikingly bound in hand-painted and gilded vellum, with his coat of arms, and they are usually clean and crisp internally, with little evidence of having been read. Were they books for use, or for show?
Anne Clifford’s Arcadia
Although book ownership among women was widespread in the 17th century, property owning laws of the time mean that it is much less well-documented than is the case for men. Lady Anne Clifford (1590-1676) is one exception to that rule, as we have paintings, diaries and surviving books which reflect her private library and active reading. This copy of The Countesse of Pembroke’s Arcadia was Lady Anne’s and has her marginalia, and a note in her hand that she read it in 1651.
J-J Sidney 13
The humbler sort
Not all books, in the 17th century, sat on the shelves of scholars, aristocrats, or professional men; contemporary markings show that books of all kinds, but particularly Bibles, devotional books, histories and practical manuals lived in less educated households. This late 15th-century Latin Bible began its life in clergy use but during the 17th century it passed through several Welsh families (Evans, Jones, Williams) who left all kinds of notes, drawings and scribbles in its margins.
Russell Maret, 2017 printer-in-residence at the Bodleian, led a seminar looking at old and new printings of Shakespeare. Participating were some of the printers who had contributed to the Bodleian’s new collection of Shakespeare’s sonnets printed in 2016. The group discussed questions of fidelity to the early printed texts, artistic interpretation, and personal responses to the poems.
The seminar examined new and old: the earliest edition of Shakespeare’s Sonnets (1609) and the First Folio edition of his plays (1623), and a selection of the 2016-printed sonnets, each presenting one 14-line poem in a different format including:
Number 81: with a delicate decoration of gothic arches
Number 74: resembling an obituary broadside, aptly commemorating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death
Number 62: alternating lines of black and red giving original and modernized spelling
Number 50: in a wooden Old West wrapper
Number 25: on coloured paper with a calligraphic Spanish translation curving around the printed English
Number 15: on red paper, text set in Perpetua, with lines 6 and 7 picked out in Mila Script, and a flower-seed illustration
Number 3: fully linocut, with the last two lines depicted as a reflection in water
Number 27: in old style; type-written; and in binary code
Numbers 5&6: using a facsimile of the Doves Press type, referencing the Doves Press 1909 edition of the Sonnets
Number 28: several copies on beer-mats in two colours
This last sparked thoughts of adjourning the seminar, but there was some work to do first. The printers’ expertise was put to work at the Bodleian’s Bibliographical Press to make a keepsake of the occasion; lines from King Lear in three colours, with unlocked type interpreting loosening coherence.