Public and university libraries have faced the pandemic with a multitude of inventive new ways of connecting books and readers, such as ‘Grab and Go’ book deliveries limiting the time of physical visits. What about special collections libraries, whose materials cannot be taken out of the institution? Temporary closures or limited access to reading rooms have meant a pivot towards more provision of digital resources, and archivists and librarians have been active in unearthing treasures to share on social media.
The lockdown period has also been an opportunity to explore what can be done in new ways and even to push beyond the usual patterns of scholarly discourse. Online meeting platforms and visualizers (the modern version of that classroom standby, the overhead projector) lend themselves to the visual exploration and discussion of related items, collections, or genres of material held in institutions that are geographically distant.
Using this technology and adapting seminar formats to online presentation, at the Bodleian Libraries Centre for the Study of the Book we have found new opportunities to participate in cross-institutional events in 2021, sharing collection material with other libraries via online platforms and learning from their expert staff and unique items. In the style of a potluck meal, each institution brings a copy or a witness to the online gathering which fills out the whole intellectual smörgåsbord.
29 Jan 2021Coverdale’s Goostly Psalmes [follow link for recording]
‘Translating, Singing, Printing the Reformation. The Queen’s College Sammelband with Myles Coverdale’s Goostly Psalmes’, with a showing of The Queen’s College copy and the Bodleian and Beinecke Library fragments
(Oxford Seminar in the History of the Book) Henrike Lähnemann, Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, University of Oxford Matthew Shaw, Librarian of The Queen’s College, Oxford Sarah Wheale, Head of Rare Books at the Bodleian Libraries Kathryn James, Curator for Early Modern Books and Manuscripts at Yale’s Beinecke Library See blogpost with downloadable foldable ‘fragments’ and links to facsimiles
1 Feb 2021 Medieval book coffers [follow link for recording] Bodleian and John Rylands curators
‘Newly acquired medieval book coffers at the Bodleian and the John Rylands Libraries’
(Oxford Palaeography and Manuscripts Studies Seminar)
See the 3D image of the Bodleian coffer on Cabinet, here.
4 May Dante 1481: the Comedia, illustrated by Botticelli [follow link to register]
Bodleian Libraries; University College, London; Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze; Morgan Library; British Library; John Rylands Library; Trinity College, Cambridge
(Bibliographical Society of America event and in conjunction with special series Dante 1321-2021: A Man For All Seasons)
22 June Yiddish and Russian Children’s Books [registration opens soon]
YIVO and Bodleian Libraries
Meetings of the two seminar series in Hilary Term 2021 took place in unusual circumstances. The seminars welcomed participants and speakers from around the world at online meetings. Bodleian manuscripts were shared ‘live’ online at all of the Palaeography seminars, and in each series one seminar session joined material from the Bodleian collections with items from other libraries.
It was possible to record some sessions; the presentations can be viewed from the links below, where indicated.
Seminar in Palaeography and Manuscript Studies
Convenors: Daniel Wakelin (English), Martin Kauffmann (Bodleian)
Week 3 (1 February) Bodleian and John Rylands curators: Libraries Together session
‘Newly acquired medieval book coffers at the Bodleian and the John Rylands Libraries’ Presentation recorded
See the 3D image of the Bodleian coffer on Cabinet, here.
Week 5 (15 February) Adam Whittaker (Birmingham City University)
‘Medieval music theory in Bodleian manuscripts’ Presentation recorded
Week 7 (1 March) Marc Smith (École des Chartes)
‘Late medieval writing models: contextualizing MS. Ashmole 789‘
Seminar in the History of the Book
Conveners: Cristina Dondi (Lincoln College, Oxford) and Alexandra Franklin (Bodleian Centre for the Study of the Book)
Week 1 (22 January) Matthew Payne, Keeper of the Muniments, Westminster Abbey
‘Follow the Money: Wynkyn de Worde, Jacques Ferrebouc and the Bardi’ Presentation recorded
Week 2 (29 January) [Special session at 5 pm GMT] Goostly Psalmes in Oxford and New Haven: Libraries Together session Presentation recorded
See blogpost with downloadable foldable ‘fragments’ and links to facsimiles
‘Translating, Singing, Printing the Reformation. The Queen’s College Sammelband with Myles Coverdale’s Goostly Psalmes’
with a showing of The Queen’s College copy and the Bodleian and Beinecke fragments Henrike Lähnemann, Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, University of Oxford Matthew Shaw, Librarian of The Queen’s College, Oxford Sarah Wheale, Head of Rare Books at the Bodleian Libraries Kathryn James, Curator for Early Modern Books and Manuscripts at Yale’s Beinecke Library
Week 3 (5 February) Francesco Guidi-Bruscoli (University of Florence)
‘The Borromei’s trade unveiled: digging for information in fifteenth-century account-books’ Presentation recorded
Week 5 (19 February) Alessandro Bianchi (Bodleian)
‘Hidden in plain sight. Printed books from the Japanese Mission Press in the Bodleian Collections’
Week 6 (26 February) Kanupriya Dhingra (SOAS, University of London)
‘Streets and Serendipity: “Locating” Daryaganj Sunday Patri Kitab Bazaar’ Presentation recorded
Week 7 (5 March) Benjamin Wardhaugh (Oxford)
‘Hunting for readers in sixteenth-century editions of the works of Euclid’
In his talk, Dr Wardhaugh referred to the online resource hosted by The Bibliographical Society, ‘Euclid in Print‘
Week 8 (12 March) William Stoneman (Cambridge, MA)
‘Buying Incunabula at Gimbel Brothers Department Store: A Curious Chapter in the History of American Book Collecting’ Presentation recorded
Seminar in Palaeography and Manuscript Studies
Convenors: Daniel Wakelin, Martin Kauffmann
Meetings will take place online via Zoom on Mondays at 2.15pm (GMT) in weeks 1, 3, 5, and 7. Original manuscripts will be shown. Registration is required. E-mail: email@example.com . Your message must be received by noon on the Friday before the seminar (or register for the whole series by noon, Friday 15 January).
Week 1 (18 January) Julian Luxford (University of St. Andrews) The Tewkesbury benefactors’ book
Week 3 (1 February) Bodleian and John Rylands curators Newly acquired medieval book coffers at the Bodleian and the John Rylands Libraries
Week 5 (15 February) Adam Whittaker (Birmingham City University) Medieval music theory in Bodleian manuscripts
Week 7 (1 March) Marc Smith (École des chartes) Late medieval writing models: contextualizing MS. Ashmole 789
Teaching with library material has been continuing at the Bodleian’s Weston Library for Special Collections even as provisions to protect the health of staff and readers have placed restrictions on the numbers and movement of people within the Libraries. Several of the Libraries, including the Weston Library, have re-opened to readers since August 2020.
The autumn term usually brings a large number of University of Oxford classes to the Weston Library seminar rooms to share the collections most closely connected with their studies. This year, some of those visits have continued with students arriving in smaller groups while others have gone online. The key to sharing manuscripts and rare printed material with students and wider audiences has been the provision of films and of live online interaction, through the use of document cameras and smartphones.
A document camera, or visualiser, has been part of the Bodleian master classes set-up for many years, as a means of giving participants in the room–attending in person, remember those times?–a clearer view of details to which speakers wanted to draw attention: decoration, letter forms, binding structures, even (in a good light) the hair and flesh sides of parchment.
Now the same technology enables sharing online, and we, like others in the special collections world, took up the call to action by Aaron Pratt (Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Curator of Early Books and Manuscripts at the Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin) in his online seminar in June 2020, Sharing Special Collections with an overhead camera.
The images shared onscreen have been good enough for a Classics seminar to read Latin and Greek text and compare letter forms, and for an Art History class to examine the pages of medieval manuscripts. In the picture attached, curator Martin Kauffmann can be seen addressing a class over Microsoft Teams. In this session, the particular configuration of MSTeams (the mirroring of the self-view) made it convenient to add a second laptop, so that Dr Kauffmann could see the manuscript onscreen in the same orientation as the students saw it and also see and hear the students onscreen, to ask and answer questions.
How does this compare to in-person teaching? Interaction is less spontaneous than when students visit the seminar rooms. We are all familiar by now with the problem of talking over each other in online meetings, where the ‘raised hand’ emoji replaces our instinctive reliance on the silent cues of posture and eye contact. On the other hand, compared to the experience of crowding around books placed on a seminar table, the online platform brings an image of the manuscript equally to each student’s computer screen.
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.
from Isobel Goodman, intern (2017) Rare Books, Bodleian Libraries Special Collections
The Cheney archive documents the history of Cheney & Sons, an independent family printing firm based in Banbury. The firm was in operation from 1767 to 2001, working primarily as jobbing printers but also printing some books. The archive, acquired by the Bodleian Library in 2010, includes 17 volumes of printed ephemera, books, and manuscript material, and demonstrates both the longevity of the company and their adaptability through over two centuries of politics, wars and changing technology.
The company was begun in 1767 by John Cheney, the innkeeper of the Unicorn Inn in Banbury. From there it passed through various generations of Cheney until it finally closed down some 234 years later. A particularly interesting aspect of the firm’s history is during the period 1821 to 1854, when Esther Cheney, the wife of the founder’s son, Thomas, was the head of the company. A letter sent out by her to clients informing them of this change of leadership is within the archive, as well as another one from when Esther handed control to her son in 1854.
Several items within the archive thus bear the imprint E. Cheney, and according to the Cheney’s own history, Esther was a formidable woman of renown in Banbury. Apparently the people of Banbury used to frighten naughty children by threatening to call in Mrs. Cheney! Her position is interesting as she was clearly acting as head of the company in her own right, an action that was not necessarily the norm at the time. For more detail on the history of the firm, Cheney and Sons printed their own history, which is also part of the archive.
The archive sheds light on the print trade across over two centuries. The Cheneys produced several specimen books containing numerous examples of their work, showcasing the variety of commissions that the Cheney family could undertake, as well as demonstrating the types, colours, materials, and finishes that they could offer. Specimen books like these were, and remain today, a very practical way of showing potential clients the services offered by a company.
But Cheney & Sons took every opportunity to demonstrate their printing skill, for instance the archive contains several promotional calendars which were given as gifts to clients at the end of the year. These calendars not only showcase the artistic skill of the printing firm, but also allow us to see changing tastes in artwork through the years. They also show that maintaining client loyalty and goodwill was an important part of running the business, and the further examples within the archive of these kinds of tokens of thanks (SDC11230) printed by Cheney & Sons for other businesses, suggest that business-client relationships were much more personal in the 19th and 20th centuries.
It is interesting to discover, through the archive material, the different ways in which print was utilised through the late 18th to 21st centuries, and the insight these materials can give us into social history of the time.
The Cheney archive affords a wealth of examples of printed documents relating to entertainment. There are numerous notices for concerts and plays , as well as a dance card to the Banbury ball of December 1897 , listing the dances and with room for a lady to write in a partner for each. Also, there is a poster printed by Potts and a newspaper article by Cheney detailing the celebrations planned for the day of Queen Victoria’s coronation, showing how, in a time before television allowed live viewing of the actual event in London, the people of Banbury (and presumably other towns too) enjoyed coronation day: with dancing, sports, and an ‘immense fire balloon’!
Another lovely example of Cheney & Co’s involvement in local entertainment is a book printed in 1907 to commemorate the Oxford Pageant. The pageant was organised to raise funds for the Radcliffe Infirmary and the Oxford Eye Hospital, and involved the people of Oxford dressing up in historical dress and re-enacting the history of Oxford. My personal highlights are the Vikings landing, Queen Elizabeth and her court being photographed school-photograph style, and a recreation of the St. Scholastica’s Day ‘Town and Gown’ riots!
Several volumes of the archive are full of printed ephemera related to politics, further demonstrating the Cheney’s connection with the general public. Some are open letters from MPs at election time. Others record contemporary reaction to political changes, for example some notices refer to the change to a secret ballot in 1872, instructing voters how to cast their vote properly. However, some are perhaps even more relevant to the present day: vicious tirades against fellow MPs , and satires describing the election as a horse-race, with a notice of betting on the contestants, and a summary after the ‘race’. . These satires were published by various different printers in Banbury and the surrounding area, and so the archive demonstrates a wide range of political affiliations, showing elections from several different perspectives. It is interesting to see how, in a world without social media, politics could be equally as cut-throat, and printed ephemera clearly played a very important role in this.
Fashion is another particular strength of the Cheney archive. Several catalogues and pamphlets for different shops can be found, including one for Elliston and Cavell Ltd., the shop that used to be situated at 7-12 Magdalen Street, Oxford, where Debenhams is now. The catalogues offer insight not only into trends for men, women and children, but also into how the fashion trade operated in the 20th century.
Outside of examples of work printed by Cheney and Sons, one manuscript letter
written to ‘Mr Cheney Guild-der’ describes quite a curious commission received by the Cheney firm. Richard Barton asks Cheney to ‘put’ images of angels, Jesus and a small child on two clarinets. The letter is not very professionally written, as the writer starts over three times and runs out of space at the bottom of the page. He also states that he doesn’t want to ask the usual man, because he’s always drunk! This seems quite a strange request to make of a printer – but serves to show another side of the Cheney firm, which was gilding.
The archive does not just include work by the Cheney firm, though. It also includes the work of other local printers, including J.G. Rusher, who printed a large number of chapbooks in the early nineteenth century. These are small, paper-covered booklets relating children’s stories, folk tales, ballads, poems and riddles, often accompanied by illustrations. Chapbooks were a medium of popular literature in the late 18th and 19th centuries, and the large number of them printed in Banbury by Rusher, Cheney, and other local printers sheds light on the history of production and distribution of such popular literature. Many of the chapbooks relate well-known stories such as Jack the giant killer , Dick Whittington , Cinderella, and Jack and Jill , to name but a few.
The range within the Cheney archive material is very broad, as such a lengthy timeframe is likely to afford. Some of the archive material relates to World War II, including notices relating to the blackout and air raids. One notice includes a watermark for ‘Cheney and Sons, Banbury’ . It is clear that the longevity of the Cheney firm stems not only from printing commercially viable popular material, but also from their ability to adapt and change their work to suit current events and extraordinary circumstances.
The archive thus demonstrates the breadth of the uses of print through the late 18th to 21st centuries, and the real integration of a printing firm into every aspect of a community’s life. As we move increasingly further away from a world of print and into a digital age, it is fascinating to see how crucial print has been right up to recent history, and to track some of these changes through one family and printing firm.
The master classes programme presents scholars discussing materials from Bodleian special collections. In 2015-16 the programme included discussions of the letter forms, musical notation, provenance, and artistic content of Bodleian manuscripts and printed books, including the ’12 millionth book’, acquired in 2015, Shelley’s Poetical Essay.
21 October 2015: Stephen Greenblatt (Harvard/Humanitas Visiting Professor) The rise and fall of Adam and Eve
18 January 2016: Irene Ceccherini (Bodleian Library/Lincoln College) The palaeography of the Latin classics in 14th-century Italy
25 Jan 2016: Michael Rossington (Newcastle) Shelley’s Poetical Essay on the Existing State of Things: some manuscript contexts
1 February 2016: Elizabeth Solopova (Faculty of English/Brasenose College) The Wycliffite Bible: beloved but banned bestseller
8 February 2016: Jim McCue (independent) T.S. Eliot, Vivien and ‘F. M.’
15 February 2016: Daniela Mairhofer (University of Vienna) Manuscripts from German religious houses in the Bodleian
22 February 2016: Benjamin Wardhaugh (All Souls, Music) Seventeenth-century musical manuscripts
29 February 2016: Eleanor Giraud (Faculty of Music/Lincoln College) Square chant notation: identifying and distinguishing scribes
7 March 2016: Deirdre Serjeantson (University of Essex, English) Poetic miscellanies from the early modern period
I’ve been looking at the neat handwritten annotation at the top of a page in the Bodleian Library’s copy at Tanner 942(2) of A moste sure and strong defence of the baptisme of children, published in 1551, guided by Dunstan Roberts (Cambridge) in the latest of the master classes convened at the library by Will Poole.
The annotation is by William Dowsing (1596-1668) of Suffolk, noting his purchase of this short book in November, 1627. At the end of the pamphlet, he notes the dates that he read this work, over two days in the following February.
A tidy mind is a wonderful thing. Was this useful in Dowsing’s later role as ‘Commissioner for the destruction of monuments of idolatry and superstition’, carrying out the ordinances of Parliament in 1643 and 1644? Dowsing’s collection included several books of the 16th-century Reformation, which he seems to have pored over, refining his sense of Puritan outrage at any idolatry or beliefs unsupported by scripture, annotating with chapter and verse where the earlier authors were sloppy in their references.
Roberts presented Dowsing as a case of the long historical tail of the Henrician reformation. In the process, he pointed to several bibliographical puzzles and possibilities.
One was the tantalizing detail in which Dowsing recorded not only the date of purchase, but the date and duration of his reading of books. How the history of reading would benefit if all readers were so systematic!
A puzzle was the fate of Dowsing’s collection of pamphlets. His systematic re-numbering of the pages in his own collected volumes laid a trail of clues to his collecting and arrangement of books that are now broken up and dispersed.
How can modern scholars find, and share, these small traces that can add up to a picture of larger lost libraries? The series convener of the master classes on printed books with manuscript contents, Will Poole, has reconstructed the library of Francis Lodwick from lists in the Sloane manuscripts at the British Library and from clues in Bodleian and British Library books, such as marginal annotations and shelfmarks (The Library, 7th Series, vii(2006), p.377-418). The Hans Sloane printed books project has followed Sloane’s distinctive marks to identify his own printed books inside and outside the British Library. http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/findhelprestype/prbooks/sloaneprintedbooksproject/sloaneprinted.html
The American Library Association rules for descriptive cataloguing of rare books specify that provenance information for copies held by a library should be included in catalogue records for those copies. We also know that librarians and scholars have been keeping independent records of this sort of information for years, as in this example from a card catalogue compiled by the late D.M. Rogers at the Bodleian, recording coats of arms, autographs, and notes and sometimes reproducing these.
This kind of information might be useful only as threads to knit together collections long since scattered. What methods will help scholars to find information on a book they are looking at, and what will enable their contribution to a collective effort to increase the knowledge held in libraries about the history of the books and manuscripts in their care?
How well do any of these methods enable a researcher a) to learn what is known, about a book or an owner; b) to find out what is still unknown; c) to estimate the costs and benefits – (Is It Worth It?) – of pursuing an anonymous annotator or of reconstructing a lost library?
And in what format can this help be provided? When is the information best conveyed by standard vocabularies and thesauri, integrated with authoritative bio-bibliographical information? Or on the other hand by visual databases of distinctive marks shared among researchers labouring in the same vineyard? Online folders of snapshots already enable libraries to organize evidence into groups (bookplates, inscriptions) for visual identification and matching, as here from the Bodleian Libraries CSB: http://www.flickr.com/photos/oxford_csb/ and the much more extensive Penn Provenance Project image stream: http://www.flickr.com/photos/58558794@N07/.
A controlled vocabulary in a prescribed format, or a gallery of graven images: what would William Dowsing say?
A continuing theme of presentations at symposia and master classes in recent years (see: The Gathered Text) has been that to learn certain things about a book we need to look at the structure. Whether these are printed books from the hand-press period, or manuscript books, researchers are interested in getting to know the structure of the codex as a way of learning where, when, and why the book was made, as opposed to where, when and why the text was written.
Orietta Da Rold presented Bodleian MS. Laud misc. 108 as an example for her discussion of how codicological features could assist with issues of the localization of English medieval manuscripts. Bodleian MS. Laud misc. 108 is a manuscript containing saints’ lives, scriptural narratives, and poems including Havelok the Dane and the romance of King Horn. In the class, as an example of the questions and answers provided by close examination of quiring, Da Rold looked at the sequence of the parchmentleaves and pointed to the features that could provide clues to the materials and procedures used to create the book: not only the sequence of hands writing the texts and numbering the leaves, but imperfections of leaves that might indicate the nature and the size of the skins used, the method of folding the parchment sheet to make quires, the removal of leaves from quires, and the size of the quires, most of which contain twelve leaves. It was the last point which generated most discussion and questions, concerning the timing and reasons for a movement in England from quires with a usual number of 8 leaves, to gatherings of 12 leaves. With a very useful table of the quires of MS. Laud misc. 108, indicating the scribal hands, signature marks, the skin and hair side of each leaf and the gatherings of the leaves in each quire, Da Rold inspired the class to understand more about the tools and working practices of the makers of books in order to better identify practices that might be distinctive to a locality or to a moment of change in the history of the book.
Da Rold ended by referring to Robert Darnton’s ‘communications circuit’, the model illustrated on p. 68 of his 1982 article, What is the history of books? Daedalus 111(3), asking how this would be qualified for the history of manuscript book production, possibly yielding a model in the form of a ‘web’ of manuscript production.
The second in this year’s series of classes, convened by Will Poole, on annotated books in Bodleian Library collections was led by Kasper van Ommen (University of Leiden, and Humfrey Wanley Fellow at the Bodleian Library). He examined annotated books from Joseph Scaliger’s library, showing examples that had come into Bodleian collections by a variety of routes; as gifts from Scaliger himself to Henry Savile [Savile Ee 1(5)] or by descent of owners after Scaliger’s library, by the terms of his will, was divided and the ‘books in foreign tongues’ given to University of Leiden Library, establishing an early collection of Middle Eastern and Asian-language books there; then Scaliger’s friends including Daniel Heinsius, Van der Myle and Baudius had the pick of the learned books in Latin and Greek; and the remainder of his library was sold at auction. By these means, particularly through the later sale of the books of Daniel Heinsius’s son Nicholas, many of Scaliger’s books bearing his annotations were dispersed and some came into the hands of English scholars and collectors. Some 27 books from Scaliger’s library or sent as dedication copies by him are in the Bodleian now.
Introducing the history of Scaliger’s library, Van Ommen pointed out that he was a ‘star professor’ of the late 16th century, and that his gifts of his own works to respected friends reflected both his productivity and his self-regard. This backfired with his presentation of the Cyclometrica to Henry Savile of Merton College, Oxford, who was not impressed with Scaliger’s claim to have squared the circle (a controversy in which John Wallis, a later Savilian Professor of Geometry, was similarly engaged with Thomas Hobbes in the middle of the 17th century).
Carrying the theme of discovering printed books that are unique by virtue of manuscript additions or annotations, the class examined a volume annotated by Scaliger, the 1579 edition of his own publication of Manilius’s Astronomicon, marked by him for the second (authorized) edition, and also marked in red crayon by the printers in Leiden as a copy-text for the 1600 publication. [Bodleian Library Auct. S 6.12] The volume also has added index entries as seen in the second image here.
The class discussed parallels between the Leiden and Oxford; did Thomas Bodley, a diplomat based in The Hague from 1588 to 1597, regard Leiden’s library as a model for the Bodleian, which he later founded as an ‘Ark to save learning from the deluge’ – an echo of the Arca Scaligeri, the cabinet made to hold Scaliger’s Oriental books when they came to the Leiden library? Each provided early catalogues of scholarly books, the Nomenclator of Leiden in 1595 and Thomas James’s 1605 Catalogus librorum bibliothecæ publicæ.