Psalters from Bodleian Library collections

Throughout the Middle Ages psalters were produced in relatively large numbers for different patrons and uses. The psalter is the most frequently preserved liturgical book from the early Middle Ages, and the most extensively illustrated medieval liturgical book. This display of manuscripts from different countries aims to give an idea of the variety of its content and form.

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(1) MS. Rawl. G. 163: Psalter with commentary attributed to Bruno of Würzburg (d. 1045), Germany, Tegernsee, 11th century, second half.
Each page is divided into two equal columns, with the text of the psalms in a larger script occupying the inner column and the text of the collects (middle-size script) and commentary (small script) occupying the outer column. Titles in red; running header ‘BRVNO EPS’; liturgical additions in late-medieval hands.

(2) MS. Bodl. 554: Wycliffite Psalter, England, late 14th century.
The psalms are accompanied by titles in English and Latin incipits which appear before the start of the English text. Liturgical divisions are marked with larger initials. The margins contain extensive glosses, mostly from Nicholas of Lyra, but also from Augustine and the ‘comun glos’. This MS preserves the Wycliffite glosses on the psalter better than any other known copy.

(3) MS. Liturg. 198: Secular Psalter, England, North East(?), 14th century, third quarter.
Liturgical divisions according to secular use (Matins and Vespers during the week), and the division into ‘three fifties’ are marked with larger initials. The initial of psalm 101 contains a portrait of a lay woman kneeling before an altar. The portraits of patrons are particularly likely to appear at the start of this penitential psalm, beginning ‘My Lord, hear my prayer’.

(4) MS. Liturg. 396: Psalter, Flanders, Bruges, 13th century, middle.
Psalms are preceded by a calendar with miniatures depicting Occupations of the Months, including a woman with a candle (for the feast of Candlemas) for February, and a man pruning a tree with an axe for March. These pages also contain added 15th-century notes in Netherlandish about bissext and the calculation of the date of Easter.

(5) MS. Douce 48: Portable Psalter made for a Franciscan patron, France, Paris(?),13th century, second quarter.
Psalms are preceded by fourteen full-page miniatures, illustrating the life of Joseph. This is a rare example of a psalter with a prefatory cycle based entirely on Old Testament subjects. As is common in Parisian manuscripts from this period, the miniatures are set in medallions with scenes on gold background.

— from Elizabeth Solopova

The Gathered Text, 3 September 2010, CSB

‘The Gathered Text’ cut a cross-section through current book-historical studies, taking a highly original view of the subject from a new angle. (Gathering, quire, signature … look inside with this display.) As defined by Rebecca Bullard, who convened this symposium, the gathering suggested not only the sheet of paper or parchment constituting a standard unit of book production (whether in manuscript or print) but importantly the transformative actions — of folding, stacking, and sewing — that made these sheets into books.

Randall McLeod (University of Toronto), ‘Omnium gatherum’.

Randall McLeod’s keynote speech brought to mind the journalistic genre of dance criticism in eloquently reconstructing in words the trajectory and effect of physical actions that have left no record, but in this case only their product. He described the progress of a bookworm through the leaves of a Hebrew book stored in a warehouse, not yet folded into the quarto gatherings it later became. Then he described the effects of a hastier gathering of sheets: offsettings in the 1732 Bentley edition of Paradise Lost, as he demonstrated, were created by the human movements of stacking sheets still too fresh from the press.

Following McLeod’s lead, all the speakers on 3 September contributed to this dynamic view of the gathering as product of movement. In some cases the graceful partnership of a dance was suggested, while at other times the inclusion or excision of gatherings seemed to be the object of contention and struggle.

Nicholas Pickwoad (University of the Arts, London), ‘Bookbinders’ gatherings’.
Andrew Honey (Bodleian Library Conservation Unit), ‘Stitched pamphlets and blank memorandum books – two atypical approaches to making gatherings’.
Henry Woudhuysen (University College London), ‘Gatherings in private press books’.

The first panel of papers explored different types of relationship between printers (of sheets) and binders (of gatherings).

Nicholas Pickwoad outlined conflicts that could occur between the delivery of printed sheets and the efforts of binders to create a durable volume that would open to display the pages as intended. He showed how binders used a variety of hinges and sewing styles to compensate for the variety of printed material they might receive, whether large, expensively-produced engraved plates opening the full width of a volume, or books cheaply printed in single bifolia.

Andrew Honey looked at 17th-century pamphlets for which printers had provided pseudo-wrappers of single bifolium comprising a title page and blank endleaf. The suggestion that these pamphlets were recognized, even at the time of their printing, as likely to endure a different physical fate to other books intrigued the symposium; many now surviving in libraries have surely been rebound into volumes, with a possible loss of this kind of evidence.

In Henry Woudhuysen’s account of the Kelmscott and Doves Presses, we heard of the situation opposite to that outlined by Pickwoad; these private presses, seeking to present a total design, took responsibility for both printing and binding. Following the maxim of William Morris, who urged that the well-balanced opening was the most important aspect of a book, they encountered their own challenges in ensuring harmony between separate gatherings.

David McKitterick (Trinity College, Cambridge), ‘Producing and selling monsters’.
Rebecca Bullard (University of Reading), ‘Margaret Cavendish’s gathered texts’.
John Barnard (University of Leeds), ‘Dryden’s Virgil (1697): Gatherings and politics’.
Ian Gadd (Bath Spa University) ‘Fooling Lord Wharton: The second edition of Swift’s The Publick Spirit of the Whigs (1714)’.

Papers in the afternoon by David McKitterick, Rebecca Bullard, John Barnard and Ian Gadd addressed the ways in which gatherings allowed early modern authors and publishers an incremental approach to constructing – or deconstructing – a book.

McKitterick considered how booksellers influenced the way books were presented, through the bibliography of Henry Smith’s sermons. The bulk of these were published posthumously in the 1590s, in volumes of what were evidently separately printed sermons. (STC 22716-22783.7) The complications of the separate printings and variant issues of these collections drove STC bibliographers to allow the heading ‘Henry Smith, Monster’ (instead of Minister) to be ‘mis’printed in this entry.

Authorial interventions also disturbed the order of gatherings. Rebecca Bullard traced the efforts of the 17th-century royalist Margaret Cavendish to publish, from exile, her poetry and natural philosophy through the printers Martin and Allestrye in London. Cavendish’s multiple interjections, sent to the printers while her books were in press, appeared to reflect her concern to express the evolution of her ideas over time. However monumental these folio volumes might become in the press, the disrupted pagination and interjected ‘Addresses to the Reader’ allowed Cavendish afterthoughts and restatements, undermining any tomblike fixity of the text. Was this also, asked Bullard, a means of drawing attention to her exiled state?

Deep political divisions between author and printer were at work, argued John Barnard, in the publication of John Dryden’s Virgil, printed by the Whig-supporting Tonson in 1697. While Tonson commissioned illustrations depicting Aeneas with the visage of William III, the dedications by Dryden to Catholic, Jacobite, and Tory peers were evidently delivered after the body of the work had been printed, and formed separate signatures.

In 1714 a threatened prosecution led, as Ian Gadd showed, to a mysteriously disappearing gathering, the surreptitious replacement of pages in an anonymous pamphlet by Jonathan Swift, ‘The Publick Spirit of the Whigs’. The result was that Lord Wharton, preparing to read the incriminating passage aloud in Parliament, found that his ‘copy’ of the pamphlet was missing the relevant pages. In fact he had the unacknowledged second edition lacking the offending text. Remarkable in this story was that the disrupted pagination of the expurgated (new) edition appeared not to arouse suspicions — a comment either on the attentiveness of readers or on the expected standards of pamphlet printing.

Peter Stallybrass (University of Pennsylvania), ‘Strings, thread, pins, wire, laces and folds’
Kathryn Sutherland (University of Oxford), ‘Jane Austen’s draft gatherings’.

Kathryn Sutherland and Peter Stallybrass concluded the day with a look at manuscript gatherings, considering the different physical forms of blank paper used by writers, from the 16th-century Lope de Vega’s booklets, each neatly holding one act of a play, to the 19th-century notebooks used by Jane Austen. Though blank-paper notebooks had become more common by Austen’s day, the choice of a size of notebook and the use of the pages signified, for both speakers, the self-defined spaces in which these authors drove the pen along in the act of writing.

The symposium was hosted in the library by the Centre for the Study of the Book.

Library machines: the McLeod collator

The Bodleian Library saw a reunion of inventor and invention on September 2 when Professor Randall McLeod from the University of Toronto conducted a masterclass in the use of the visual collator he invented and built. The device is used to compare copies of printed books. Even copies of the same edition of a book printed in the hand-press period might differ from one another, as corrections were made during a press run.

The Bodleian has owned a McLeod collator since the 1980s. It was kept first in the Modern Papers Reading Room (Room 132 in the New Library) and later in Duke Humfrey’s Library. The library’s copy of the guide to its use, (PDF linked below) has been headed in pencil: “Please do not remove from Room 132”.

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The collator itself was returned briefly to Room 132 for a special visit by Professor McLeod, who talked about his invention and demonstrated its use to a class of 25 visitors.

Bibliographers and book historians collate printed texts, comparing copies of the same edition, in order to detect any of the differences that may arise due to stop-press corrections, accidents in the press, or later annotations. A famous example of this process was the work done in the 1950s by Charlton Hinman on the First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays, resulting in Hinman’s study, The Printing and Proof-Reading of the First Folio of Shakespeare (1963), that highlighted the many differences in the finished products that might leave an early-modern printer’s shop under the same title. By the same token, as masterclass participant Ian Gadd of Bath Spa University commented, collation can reveal sections of text that match so exactly — including errors — that the publisher’s claim of an updated edition might conceal the fact that only some of the type had actually been re-set.

Collation may be done by hand, but this is a laborious process of checking every character. As with proofreading a word-processed document, the brain may falsely supply what the eye does not see. Scholars have sought ways to make the process of comparison entirely visual, so that the differences on a page leap out to the eye, and they have looked for ways of superimposing images of two supposedly identical pages.

Hinman’s own answer to the question, for the daunting task of collating the massive First Folio, was the Hinman Collator. This machine adopted the principle of the blink comparator, a device used by astronomers, to make tiny differences in the images jump out as first one, then the other, page image flashed in front of the operator’s eyes.

The Bodleian Library bought a Hinman Collator in 1970. At first this was kept in Room 132 of the New Library, which was then the Bibliography Room (housing the library’s handpresses) until that room became the Modern Papers Reading Room. Then the collator’s blinking lights were seen to disturb readers, and it was retired to the library stack. It is now unfortunately not functional.

Professor Randall McLeod used his own invention to collate copies of John Harington’s translation of Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso. This device works on a different principle from the Hinman, as it uses the operator’s two eyes viewing texts simultaneously.The two images are then superimposed by the human brain, trained for binocular vision. In McLeod’s words, the images ‘suddenly fuse [and] [t]he brain … sees only one page’. Where the two settings of type are identical, the image appears solid, but any differences appear to ‘shimmer,’ and gain depth, like the pictures seen through a stereoscope.

During the class Professor McLeod compared copies of the 1621 edition of Samuel Rowley’s play, When you see me you know me, revealing several variants.

Other McLeod collators are owned by Cambridge and the University of London; the National Library of Wales; Università di Udine; New York Public Library, and the Pierpont Morgan Library.

A guide to the use of the McLeod Collator can be found here:
Also see an article from Lingua Franca, 1997, by Daniel Zalewski.

What is a book? Peter Stallybrass lecture at CSB

Vet. A1 e.123
Stab-stitching shown on an early 17th-century pamphlet containing the “39 Articles” of the Anglican doctrine.

As the field of book history expands to include written and printed matter of all kinds, Peter Stallybrass (University of Pennsylvania) asked us to consider our terms of reference. “There is a huge range of material lost when you broaden the category of books, and I want to make it more narrow.” Taking up the thread of a story where many accounts of early books leave off, Prof. Stallybrass’s lecture to the Centre for the Study of the Book on 1 April 2010 moved away from the press, focusing instead on the “job printing” undertaken by printers in order to ensure their business would survive. Stallybrass joked that this category might be called “What is not a book,” but nonetheless showed the extent to which “books form a small portion of printed matter, yet are the chief survivors of what is printed.” The real money in printing, and more importantly the majority of printed texts, was ephemeral: indulgences, state proclamations, and short pamphlets such as tracts, almanacks, and plays. At the root of this disparity between the books that survive and the overwhelming number of other printed texts that printers subsisted on, is whether the sheets were bound or not.

“Printers print sheets,” Stallybrass reminded us; books are made outside the printing houses, when binders or owners collect the sheets into a binding. Their variety of purpose often results in a variety of appearance. For example, the working papers in any household or business needed to be stored for easy reference. The “files” used were filaments: strings to hold these papers together, as can be seen in the portrait of a merchant by Jan Gossaert, c.1530. The portrait also illustrates another stage of storage: papers in loose, unbound quires used for record-keeping that could be easily enlarged. A finished calfskin binding is less permissive to the demands of ever-expanding quantities of records, so limp vellum was the ideal binding choice for such expanding collections.

How, then, did early modern readers end up with books on their shelves? Stallybrass asks us to revise our idea that early-modern booksellers sold unbound sheets, just as they came off the press. Only the very wealthy could afford, or would want, to pay for sheets of a book to be sent for a bespoke binding. Modern conditions distort our perspective because these fine bindings, sheltered within large and well-funded private collections, are now over-represented in libraries.

The average customer would have bought a book in a workaday cheap binding. Preparing pamphlets for sale was even easier. Stab-stitching of pamphlets could be done by a member of the bookseller’s household. Later, the owner of a number of loose pamphlets – miscellaneous plays by Shakespeare, for instance – might take these to a binder to achieve greater tidiness on his bookshelves. Examination of bound volumes of pamphlets reveals the stab-stitching holes, sometimes carefully repaired. Paradoxically, the efforts that owners and libraries have made to preserve the books for us today have covered such traces of their original forms, and the hierarchies of printed matter they reveal — not every “book” was always a “book”.

This subject will be further explored in “The Gathered text” on 2-3 September 2010, at the Bodleian Library. See link for details.

Gillian Bepler: ‘Dynastic women’s libraries in early modern Germany’

On 12 March 2010, the Seminar on History of the Book heard about “Dynastic women and their libraries in early modern Germany,” from Gillian Bepler, of the Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel.

A cast of strong women, some of them learned and some politically powerful, populated Dr Bepler’s talk. These included Eleonora Catherine von Hesse-Eschweger (1626-1692) who served as regent of her husband’s German lands after his death in 1655. She built up a library of juridical, historical, and geographical works to support her in these duties.

Documents containing the details of women’s libraries were generated by momentous events in women’s lives. Marriage or death would require an inventory of property, of course. But other events might draw attention to a woman’s personal property, and especially to reading matter. Anna of Orange, Princess of Saxony (1544-1577), had an evidently unhappy marriage with William I of Orange. When she bore a child by Jan Rubens, father of the painter, William sent her away from court. Her books were seized and inspected. Were the French romances, such as Amadis de Gaul, discovered in her library, evidence that novels aroused improper emotions in women?

Anna Sophia of Brandenburg (1598-1659), married to the Duke of Brunswick-Lüneberg, fled from her husband’s home under the pretext of a visit to her family when her liaison with an army officer was about to be exposed. Books being too bulky to carry without arousing suspicion, these had to be left behind. The Duke ordered her apartments sealed and a room inventory was made, which had the benefit for historians of noting where Anna Sophia kept her books, recording such details as the devotional works kept in a writing desk. What a library today would call a shelflist is able to evoke the picture of an early-modern woman keeping her own private spiritual diary.

A key point of law obtaining in some German states was the concept of “Gerade”, property belonging only to the wife, and descending only to female heirs. This special status was for property considered the “woman’s realm”, such as household linen, and applied also to personal items such as jewelery. Books owned by and read by a woman came under the rules of Gerade. The difficulty of tracing some of the collections of books belonging to German dynastic women is due to the movement of these collections, through inheritance, to the homes of their female relatives. These were other dynastic women who, as Dr Bepler’s paper made clear, might be married away to homes far from their native lands.

The Seminar is convened at All Souls College each Hilary Term by Prof. Ian Maclean.
— from Alexandra Franklin

Dr James Willoughby: ‘An English library in Renaissance Rome’

On Friday, 19 February, Dr. James Willoughby (Oxford) spoke to the Seminar on the History of the Book on the library of the English hospice in Rome from 1496 until 1527. St. Thomas’ Hospice, and its library, served the needs of English pilgrims, royal envoys, commercial travellers, suitors and litigants at the curial courts, humanist scholars such as Thomas Linacre and William Lilye and English students studying in Italian universities. A remarkable surviving series of book-lists records the library’s ownership of, chiefly, scholastic, medical, legal and devotional works, in both manuscript and print. Dr. Willoughby argued that the book-lists were evidence not just for the intellectual life of the English community in Rome, but for the diffusion of print and the workings of the English book trade in the period: he demonstrated how the provenance of both manuscript and early printed books might be tracked by means of ‘secundo folio’ citations given in booklists.The library was ransacked in 1527, but exists today as part of the English seminary in Rome, retaining its manuscript records alongside a single, printed book dating from its earlier life.
The Seminar is convened at All Souls College by Prof. Ian Maclean.
— from Giles Bergel

Skeletons and sheets in the cupboard

Leviathan; from All Souls College LibraryAt the Seminar on the History of the Book on Friday February 20th, Dr. Noel Malcolm untangled the bibliographical mysteries of the three ‘1651’ editions of Hobbes’s Leviathan.

In working toward a critical edition of Leviathan, Dr. Malcolm wished to identify which of three versions with a London 1651 imprint are actually Hobbesian editions. The three versions are identified by their title page ornaments: ‘Head’ which is the true 1651 edition; ‘Bear’ which some had suspected to be a Dutch pirate edition of the 1670s; and ‘Ornaments’, long supposed to have been printed in London in the 1670s or 80s. But was Hobbes involved in the production of the second and third issues?

By collating dated ownership inscriptions and sale prices, Dr. Malcolm was able to create a picture of the appearance of each version on the market: the ‘Head’ through the 1650s, the ‘Bear’ in the late 1670s and early 1680s, and the ‘Ornaments’ rather later than expected, through the early years of the 18th century.

A fascinating tale of subterfuge emerged around the ‘Bear’ edition, involving the London printer John Redmayne and the Stationers’ Company. In September 1670 Redmayne’s printing house was raided by the Master of the Company and two sample leaves of the Leviathan seized; three days later the Court of the Stationers’ Company was told that Redmayne’s premises were to be raided again in order to seize the remaining sheets of this new edition. A few days later this pre-announced raid took place and Redmayne duly yielded up another 38 sheets. Had this action supressed Redmayne’s intended edition?

Close examination of the type, ornaments, and skeletons (fixed type such as running headers) used in the ‘Bear’ edition showed that there were two distinct sets of sheets, printed with different type and therefore almost certainly in different printing houses. Distinctive spelling and punctuation on one set of these pages strongly points to their Dutch origin. As reconstructed by Dr. Malcolm, the printing of early sheets of the ‘Bear’ had gone smoothly in the London printing house of John Redmayne until the time the intended raid was announced; then there had been a mad scramble to print more sheets, at the expense of careful proofreading. In spite of his apparent cooperation with the authorities, Redmayne evidently made use of the warning he gained from Stationers Company colleagues to cache some sheets off the premises. Finally the remaining quires were printed, also using the first ‘Head’ edition as a model, in the Netherlands. The ‘Bear’ ornament itself, along with a head-piece used in the first quire, were identified as belonging to Christoffel Cunradus, a printer in Amsterdam. The London sheets were combined with sheets printed in the Netherlands to create a new edition for surreptitious sale.

After painstaking work , Dr. Malcolm has been able to identify the type used in the ‘Ornaments’ edition as that of the London printer John Darby. It is a typeface that was not in use before the late 1690s, thus dating the third edition to the late 1690s, and no later than 1702 – long after the death of Hobbes in 1679!

Detailed examination of textual editing and ‘corrections’ made between the three editions support Dr Malcolm’s thesis that Hobbes was involved in the first ‘Head’ edition; made a few significant textual changes via his original publisher, Andrew Crooke, that appeared in the ‘Bear’ edition; but had no involvement in changes seen in the last edition (still dated ‘1651’), the ‘Ornaments’ edition. — Julie Blyth, All Souls College

Bookbinding competition

The Bodleian’s Seminar Room, Room 132 in the New Library, contained a fresher collection of books than usual this week as judging began for the Designer Bookbinders International Competition, 2009. The judges (Tom Phillips, Faith Shannon, Jeff Clements, Ed Bayntun-Coward, and Richard Ovenden) were selecting from over 250 entries, all of a limited-edition text of poems and images on the subject of water, bound in a variety of materials and styles. Over 100 of the entries will be placed on special exhibition in the Bodleian in June and this exhibition will travel to the Boston Public Library in September, and on to the Grolier Club in New York in 2010. The winning entry will be announced on 11 June 2009.