Medieval manuscripts 2010: from Medingen to Oxford

Bodleian MS. Lat. liturg. f. 4, fol. 141v
Bodleian MS. Lat. liturg. f. 4, fol. 141v, woodcut of a maiden, pasted into the margin of the manuscript.

On November 15, 2010, Professor Henrike Lähnemann (University of Newcastle) spoke about manuscripts originating in the Cistercian convent of  Medingen, in Lower Saxony, during the last part of the 15th century and first decades of the 16th century.  The class saw two prayer books, one from the Bodleian Library and one from Keble College, Oxford,  and another Bodleian manuscript, MS. Lat. liturg. e. 18, a Liber Ordinarius.  These three manuscripts originated in the convent’s use of manuscript creation as a devotional exercise, during a period after the internal reform of the convent in 1478 and before the Lutheran reformation of neighboring Lüneburg in 1526.

All three display the distinctive content and style on which Prof. Lähnemann remarked. They contain both Latin and Low German text, and decorations and marginal illustrations.

The character of the marginal illustrations can be seen in this image from Bodleian MS.  Lat. liturg. f. 4.  Most are hand-painted figures, but this figure, unusually, is a woodcut image pasted into the margin of the manuscript.  She has been given yellow hair and a pink gown, and a hand-painted lawn with flowers to surround her, by the manuscript creator.

See this item in the Bodleian Library’s Luna image database.

The manuscript productions of the convent of Medingen are described more fully in the website, Medingen Manuscripts, here: http://research.ncl.ac.uk/medingen/public_extern/

from Alexandra Franklin, Centre for the Study of the Book

Literary manuscripts 2010: ‘Poem, Amorous’: Two Bodleian Marvell Manuscripts

Bodleian Library MS. Eng. poet. d. 49, a hybrid consisting of a printed copy of Miscellaneous poems (London, 1681) with manuscript additions.

The third Literary Manuscript Masterclass of the year was given on 8 November by Diane Purkiss of Keble College and Johanna Harris of Lincoln College.  The subject: two Bodleian manuscripts containing poems by Andrew Marvell.

Dr. Purkiss introduced the first, Bodleian MS. Eng. poet. d. 49, a hybrid volume of 296 pages consisting of an exemplum of Marvell’s Miscellaneous Poems (London, 1681) with numerous manuscript emendations and notes in several hands.  It is a vital source for the recovery of Marvell’s political works, containing a unique variant of his “Horatian Ode”, one of only three copies of “The first Anniversary of the Government Under his Highness the Lord Protector”, and the sole complete text of “A Poem upon the Death of his late Highness the Lord Protector”.  Marvell was already deceased in 1681, so the emendations and manuscript poems contained in this text cannot be in his own handwriting,  but Dr. Purkiss noted that MS. Eng. poet. d. 49 was the source text for Edward Thompson’s 1776 edition of the poems, and had clearly been owned by Thompson. A note signed and dated (1775) by Thompson appears in the manuscript. Furthermore Thompson had advertised the acquisition of “a volume of Mr. Marvell’s poems” from the Popple family, descendants of Marvell’s nephew, William Popple, suggesting that both the emendations and the new or variant poems may have been added by William Popple himself. No surviving manuscript copies are known of poems in Marvell’s own hand.  This hybrid book is all the more important for containing in the manuscript section a number of satires,  political poems variously attributed to Marvell and his contemporaries.

Diane Purkiss writes:
Attributions of the political satires or “Painter poems” to Marvell have developed him as a satirist who reworked the work of others.  Annabel Patterson and Nigel Smith both suggest that the Second and the Third are in part by Marvell, a reworking of part of his earlier satiric and lyric canon, though Smith comments that ‘it is hard to believe that the inept ll. 175-6 or the unmetrical l.286 of the Second Advice could be Marvell’s’. Earlier manuscripts attribute these poems to Sir John Denham, an attribution noted, and dismissed, in Edward Thompson’s annotation in Eng. poet. d. 49.  At the masterclass, John Mc Tague from the Digital Miscellanies project noted that printed 18th-century poetical miscellanies continued the Denham attribution.

It may be that a further search of the elaborate layers of Painter-poem manuscripts might unearth some helpful clues.  Consider Samuel Pepys’ account of how he encountered them first as singles and then together.  Might it be helpful too to think about whether they were mostly transcribed in a group?  And whether either a scribal or printing error had been reproduced uncomprehendingly across the whole series of manuscripts, as Nigel Smith suggests may have happened with ‘To His Coy Mistress’?

It has been suggested that the smaller emendations of the printed text in MS.  Eng. poet. d. 49 are “common-sense” changes, but some present a more complex picture, for instance a change of “desarts” to “deserts” — implying a reference to the verb “desert” as well as the noun for a dry place.  The 1681 Poems reads a well-known crux in “To His Coy Mistress” as “Now therefore, while the youthful hue | Sits on thy skin like morning glew”, which the emendator of MS. Eng. poet. d. 49 has corrected to “. . . glew | . . . dew”.  Dr. Purkiss suggested that this may indicate a common origin with the other manuscript under discussion, Bodleian MS. Don b. 8.

Dr. Harris discussed MS. Don b. 8, a folio manuscript miscellany of 738 pages that includes thirteen poems in the Marvell canon.  It was compiled by Sir William Haward, a friend and fellow M.P. with Marvell.  Most notable amongst its contents is a unique variant of “To His Coy Mistress”, untitled, though Haward in his index to the miscellany has described it as a “Poeme, Amorous”.  It is 36 lines long rather than the canonical 46 and couched in the first person singular.

Significant variants also include “glew” | “dew” as in Eng. poet. d. 49 — though the two versions of the poem are otherwise radically different — and the more thought-provoking “‘Two hundred to adore your eyes | but thirty thousand for your thighs”.  The variants in this poem have been suggested as evidence of memorial reconstruction, but Dr. Harris also noted the insistence of some modern editors that a change of reference from  “breast” to “thighs” was indicative of an emergent homosexual culture in Restoration London — a suggestion not wholly adopted by the speakers.

Neither it nor the version given in Eng. poet. d. 49 have a clear relationship with the printed 1681 Poems and Dr. Harris questioned whether a lyrical poem can be singularly dated in this instance or whether the attributable canon must be elasticised to allow for a larger manuscript corpus of verse.  These questions were only some raised by the two manuscripts, which have yet to be fully understood.  As such, the class reinforced the point never too often made that even the texts of authors central to the canon are not always as stable and clear-cut as they may seem.

The instability of Eng. poet. d. 49 – Dr. Purkiss asked whether we should consider it an authorial text that became a miscellany — its deletions from the printed 1681 edition; its emendations and notes and manuscript additions, up to and including Edward Thompsons 1770s notes while preparing his edition — make it a fascinating crossroads for considering how the Marvell canon was developing in the century after his death.

Kelsey Jackson Williams, Balliol College


Medieval manuscripts 2010: Bindings masterclass

The second Medieval Manuscripts Masterclass for 2010 was given on 1st November by Christopher Clarkson. Clarkson’s contributions to the field have been in his practical expertise; which has been in demand across the world from Florence in the 1960s to Slovenia and Egypt today, his inventions (of the foam book-rest system, phase-boxing and many other tools and props used in workshops, libraries and reading rooms every day), and of his work in education, constantly striving to develop and widen the knowledge and skills of all who work with books, at every stage of their careers.

Chris Clarkson showing a binding to participants in the masterclass.

The masterclass was in two parts: a talk on the development of bindings from the earliest forms of the codex to the beginning of paper text-blocks, followed by a display and explanation of some of the features he had described in the talk using manuscripts from the Bodleian’s collections.

The format of the seminar was particularly well-suited to the subject; complex aspects of binding technique can be very difficult to visualise even with diagrams and photographs, but explained with reference to an original example, such as the helical or ‘inside-out’ sewing of the 12th century MS. Laud Misc. 606, these concepts become much clearer.

Few examples of the earliest forms of the codex survive, and of those that do much of the crucial evidence has been destroyed. Nevertheless, by observation of details in representations of the book in illuminated manuscripts and other artistic forms, Clarkson was able to demonstrate a movement from the linked chain-stitch of the fourth-century codices, which open flat with a characteristic triangular shape at the spine when open, to the cord or band-supported sewing of manuscripts from the eighth-century onwards, which creates a curved leaf on opening. A frustrating gap in this theory is the example of the three great early codices Vaticanus (Vatican Library), Sinaiticus (split between several libraries, see the history here) and Alexandrinus (British Library), where the date of production would suggest a chain-stitch structure but the size and format of the leaves make this hard for a binder to imagine. Without clear binding evidence the original sewing structures of these manuscripts remains a mystery.

Clarkson then traced the development of different lacing patterns for the attachment of boards, and his examples included the remarkable MS. Bodl. 97 (Aldheld, De virginitate).

Bodleian Library, MS. Bodl. 97. Earlier Anglo-Saxon stitching shows on the fore-edge of the boards, after boards were turned and reused in a later rebinding.

This 11th century manuscript made in England was bound first with a typically Anglo-Saxon lacing pattern, and later re-bound using the same pair of boards turned 180 degrees, in a more typically Romanesque lacing path. Several other examples of lacing patterns were visible either where boards were partially exposed, or by using X-ray photographs, however neither of these methods can quite explain to modern conservators how the early craftsmen were able to drill such clean, accurate lacing tunnels in hard English oak!

Further illustrations of the development of style and function focussed on the covering of books, particularly the treatment of the excess covering material left at the spine when the other edges have been turned in.

We saw examples of sewn, brocaded and folded tabs protruding from the top and tail of the spine, and a lovely example of style over function in MS. Marshall 19, where a tab has been cut for visual effect even though the edges of the covering skin are cut flush with the manuscript and there was no excess material to warrant this. The use of extended over-covers, or chemises, as well as various fastening techniques and furniture were discussed, including the particularly skillful needlework of sewn corners and fitted ‘envelope pockets’ of the chemise covers.

The seminar ended with a brief discussion of the move from monastic to lay binding, with examples of very finely bound books being produced for monasteries such as the elaborately blind-stamped MS. Broxbourne 83.1 (Glossed gospel of St John, Paris) bound in the mid 12th century, and of the later longstitch bindings with parchment covers, produced for students and the lay market, such as the 15th century printed book Broxbourne 13.10. (Gerard van Zutphen, Devotus tracatulus de spiritualibus ascensionibus, c. 1486)

— Nicole Gilroy, Bodleian Conservation Section

Literary manuscripts 2010: Donne’s sermons and politics

At the second Literary Manuscripts Masterclass of 2010 on 25 October, Emma Rhatigan (University of Sheffield), Sebastiaan Verweij (Hardie Postdoctoral Fellow, Lincoln College), and Peter McCullough (University of Oxford, General Editor of the Oxford Edition of the Sermons of John Donne ) presented manuscripts of John Donne’s sermons from Bodleian collections. Dr. McCullough, in his capacity as general editor of the sermons, introduced the class with an overview of the issues surrounding these manuscripts, discussing ways in which sermons were transmitted and identifying the principal manuscript sources for Donne’s, three of which, the Merton, Dowden, and Ashmole manuscripts, are held in the Bodleian. The editing and collation of sermons is still in its infancy, he observed, and much remains to be done. He pointed to the work of Jeanne Shami, who had discovered three new manuscripts in the British Library (Royal MS 17 B.xx, Harley 6946, and Harley 6356) containing a total of seven Donne sermons. He also speculated on the survival in manuscript of sermons dating from 1620 to 1622 but no later and suggested that Donne’s promotion to St. Paul’s and the promulgation of James I’s ‘directions for preachers’, both in 1622, may have played a role in reducing manuscript circulation.

Following Dr. McCullough’s introduction, Drs. Verweij and Rhatigan talked the audience through the items at hand. Those examined were the ‘Dowden’ manuscript (Bodleian Library MS. Eng. Th. e. 102, Summary Catalogue 46602), which includes 8 sermons by Donne, as well as other material, the ‘Merton’ manuscript (Bodleian Library MS. Eng. Th. c. 71, Summary Catalogue 46601), including 16 sermons by Donne, as well as other material, and MS. Ashmole 781, a commonplace book of over 100 items, with one Donne sermon. This last is in an advanced state of decay, due to acidic ink, and is now disbound for preservation purposes. The first item in the Ashmole manuscript, discussed by Dr. Verweij, is Donne’s sermon on the text, ‘Remember now thy Creator in the dayes of thy youth’ (Ecclesiastes 12.1; pp. 1-19). None of the three manuscripts are in Donne’s own hand but are copies made for other interested parties.

In the first lecture in this series Professor Henry Woudhuysen cited the field-defining work of Peter Beal, author of the Catalogue of English Literary Manuscripts. Dr. Beal’s contribution to Early Modern manuscript studies was confirmed in Dr. Rhatigan’s discussion of the ‘Merton’ manuscript. The distinctive gold-tooled lozenge on its front board, incorporating the initials ‘H.F.’, has been identified by Beal as the mark of one Henry Field, a still mysterious individual, perhaps a relative of Theophilus Field, Bishop of Hereford. Dr. Rhatigan’s own work emphasized the importance of such identifications in studying the creation and use of the ‘Merton’ manuscript and discussed the interrelationships of its contents within the context of Jacobean theological politics.

Donne’s work circulated extensively in manuscripts copied by friends and readers, even after print publication. These manuscripts of sermons represent only a portion of the Bodleian’s Donne collections. Also of note is Bodleian Library MS. Eng. poet. d. 197 (Summary Catalogue 46444), ‘A letter to the Lady Carey and Mrs. Essex Riche’. This verse epistle (the creases in the paper suggest that it was indeed folded and delivered as a private letter) is the only known manuscript of an English poem by Donne written in his own hand.

– Kelsey Jackson Williams
Balliol College


Contents of the ‘Merton’ Manuscript, Bodleian Library MS. Eng. th. c. 71

Medieval manuscripts 2010: The Oldest Illuminated Manuscript from Moldavia

Author portrait of St Matthew, from Bodleian Library MS. Canon. Gr. 122.

The first Medieval manuscripts masterclass of 2010, on Monday 18 October, was given by Dr Georgi Parpulov, Departmental Lecturer in Byzantine Art and Archaeology, University of Oxford. Dr Parpulov spoke about Bodleian Library MS. Canonici Gr. 122, a manuscript written and illuminated in 1429 AD.

The talk was aimed at presenting a brief introduction to the manuscript and suggesting directions for future research. The following new translation of its scribal colophon (fol. 312r) was offered: “Through the benevolence of the Father, instruction of the Son and action of the Holy Spirit this Gospel Book was made in the days of the pious and Christ-loving Lord Voivod John Alexander, ruler of the entire Moldowallachian land, and of his pious Lady Marina. Burning with eager love [and] solicitous for Christ’s words, she readily gave [i.e. paid], and it [was] copied in the year 6937 and completed on the 13th day of the month of March by the hand of the monk Gabriel, Uric’s son, who copied [it] in the Monastery of Neamţ.” The eighteenth-century scribe who added Greek text in the volume’s side margins remains to be identified. The precise date of the book’s modern binding is also unclear.

The text in MS. Canon. Gr. 122 belongs to the so-called “second (B) Athonite recension” of the Slavonic Gospel translation, abundantly attested in other manuscripts of the 14th to 16th centuries (including the “Gennadius Bible” of 1499 AD). The text alone appears to be of no great philological or textual-historical interest. The manuscript’s four miniatures, on the other hand, are of significant importance for the history of Byzantine art during the last decades before the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople (1453). They need to be made better known through the publication of good-quality colour photographs.

During the discussion following the talk Dr Elena D-Vasilescu announced her discovery that the Venetian lawyer Giovanni Perissinotti (Pericinotti), to whom the present MS. Canonici Gr. 122 is known to have belonged in 1810, was a nephew of the renowned manuscripts collector Matteo Luigi Canonici S.J. (1727-1805).

[The colophon transcription and a select bibliography of the manuscript can be found in this document provided to the class by Dr Parpulov, attached as a PDF]

[Images of some of the illuminations and decorations in this manuscript, taken from 35 mm filmstrips, can be seen in the Bodleian’s online image library, under the heading, ‘Gospels of Gavril’]

Literary manuscripts 2010: finding Arcadia in the gutter

Manuscripts of Sir Philip Sidney’s works provided the opportunity for Professor Henry Woudhuysen (University College London) to deliver a master class in techniques for the study of early modern manuscripts. These include the recognition (if not identification) of different hands in a manuscript; consideration of the binding date and style; archaeology of the manuscript taking note of the gatherings or quires; and identification of the paper stock from watermark evidence.

For MS. Bod. e. mus. [museao] 37, Professor Woudhuysen asked students to look into the gutter, where pages meet at the spine of the book, to find stitching in the centre of gatherings. He demonstrated the importance of understanding the quire structure (as shown in the attached document detailing the structure of signature ‘O’) for detecting missing pages.

This manuscript of Sidney’s Arcadia, with ‘Certain loose sonnets & songs’, was written in at least three different hands, but a tantalizing clue is left by the scribe who signed the last written page with a flourish and his initials.

Half of a watermark (the royal coat of arms) seen in MS. Jesus College 150, with the aid of a fibre-optic light sheet.

Seeking the origin of MS. Jesus College 150, also a manuscript of Arcadia, Professor Woudhuysen looked for evidence at the watermark of the paper. This displayed a royal coat of arms, suggesting that this paper was made by the firm of John Spilman of Dartford in Kent. Spilman gained a patent from Elizabeth I in 1589, enabling him to monopolize the manufacture of high-quality white paper in the 1590s and first decade of the 17th century, and make this for the first time a profitable industry in England. On the study and use of watermark evidence, Woudhuysen cited the authority of Allan H. Stevenson, whose article ‘Watermarks are twins’ is linked here.

While these methodologies of manuscript studies are necessary tools for the scholar, Woudhuysen argued that they should not replace, but supplement, textual analysis. Following a period of intense academic interest in the material forms of both manuscript and printed texts, in pursuit of a history of scribal and print culture (defining the field of History of the Book), Professor Woudhuysen predicted that we will see a return to textual criticism, with the aim of establishing the best text. Techniques helping to date the manuscript witnesses, or place them within a stemma of the text, will continue to be valuable in this scholarly work.

Thomas Churchyard, A sparke of frendship and warme goodwill, that shewest the effect of true affection and vnfoldes the finenesse of this world VVhereunto is ioined, the commoditie of sundrie sciences, the benefit that paper bringeth, with many rare matters rehearsed in the same ... (London, 1588)

Script and print
Many of the techniques demonstrated in the examination of these manuscripts could be applied to printed books of the same period. Just as scribes had their personal styles (and foibles), so did type compositors; watermark evidence can be found by the same means; the format, gatherings, and binding repay examination in determining the intentions behind the manufacture of any book, whether in manuscript or print.

A future for handwriting analysis?
The regularity of the taught ‘secretary’ handwriting was its virtue for the 16th-century reader, but operates against modern scholars who try to find distinctive personal handwriting styles. Digital photography has the potential to enable scholars to build up a visual databank of handwriting samples.

Reading list for this session: page 1page 2

The Literary Manuscripts masterclasses take place on Monday afternoons in Michaelmas term. See the Centre for the Study of the Book calendar for details.

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:
McLeod_Collator_Guide
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.