Transmission in the 15th century: Seminar on the History of the Book – David Rundle

Under the title, ‘Transfer, Transmission and Reception: thoughts from the fifteenth century on how ideas (fail to) spread,’ David Rundle (Lecturer in History at the University of Essex) delivered the last of this term’s Seminars in the History of the Book as a contemplation on the theme of transmission.

Starting from the history of Poggio Bracciolini’s service in the household of Henry Beaufort from 1418 to 1422, Rundle examined several histories of cultural transmission between Italian and English humanists in the 15th century. The handwriting, marginal notes, and provenance histories of manuscripts now in London, Florence, the Vatican, Oxford, and Padua which he has examined as part of his work on humanist scribes inspired him to ask whether models assuming the slow transmission of ideas – the reliance on the necessarily limited activities of individuals – the dispersal of ideas always from a central hub towards the barbarian rim – had ‘misconfigured the cultural geography of Europe’ in the 15th century.

He suggested this set of assumptions should be replaced with a multiplicity of histories that recognized the ‘strength of weak ties’ (in a model borrowed from sociological research into networks and innovation) formed by the long-distance travels of a few individuals, and the potential for the influence of ‘barbarian’ England on the ‘centre’. This was instanced in the copies of Greek manuscripts taken by Antonio Beccaria on his return to Italy after he was in England as secretary to Duke Humfrey of Gloucester, c. 1438 – c. 1446.

Rundle’s presentation suggested that the focus of scholarship about the spread of humanism in this period could usefully shift from emphasis on how a text was read, to how it arrived in front of the reader – a concern shared with historians of texts in the age of print.

Discussion at the seminar touched on the evaluation of English music in humanist circles; the role of universities; and how a rhetoric of cultural distance provided a motive for the uptake of ideas and the desire for books.

bonæ litteræ (blog)
The University of Essex Centre for Bibliographical History
Bodleian MS. Rawl. C 298, (Poggio, De infelicitate principum dialogus)

The scholarly book market before and after the Thirty Years War: Seminar on the History of the Book

Ian Maclean’s presentation to the History of the Book seminar on 8 November 2013 developed the themes of his 2012 book, Scholarship, Commerce, Religion:
The Learned Book in the Age of Confessions, 1560–1630
, with an examination of the changes evident over the next hundred years after 1650 in the marketing and sales of learned books, taking law books as an example.
title page, Thesaurus Juris Romani
This paper addressed the question: what would scholars of learned Latin texts in 1600 and 1750 have perceived as radical differences in the material conditions of publishing (getting published, getting distributed, getting hold of published materials from the recent and more distant past, building their own libraries) and financing all this?

The paper took the case of two very extensive thesauruses of legal humanism, from the 1720s and the 1750s. The first was the Thesaurus Juris Romani, (4 vols, Leiden, Johannes vander Linden, 1725-6, fol.), containing 77 items of republished material mainly from France and Spain. It was edited by Everhard Otto (1685-1756), Professor of Law at Utrecht, mainly from the library of Cornelius van Bynkershoek (1673-1743), President of the Supreme Court of Holland. Later editions appeared in 1733-5 and 1741-4. The second thesaurus was the Novus Thesaurus Juris Civilis et Canonici, (7 volumes, The Hague, Pieter de Hondt, 1751-53, fol.) This consisted in 105 items, also principally from France and Spain, mainly from the Library of the editor, Gerard Meerman (1722-1771), Pensionary of Rotterdam.

title page, Novus Thesaurus Juris Civilis et Canonici
Before 1650, the Frankfurt Book Fair was the best vehicle for achieving a sale throughout Europe. After 1650, the United Provinces took over the role of international publishing, and achieved this by exploiting the organs of the Republic of Letters (scholarly journals such as the Acta Eruditorum and the Journal des Savants), by using the subscription method of achieving sales, and by engaging in an impressively wide network of bookshops throughout Europe. The constituency of readers of the two Thesauruses show that in the middle of the 18th century, publishers depended on purchasers who were not themselves in the field, and whose motives for purchasing were often driven by prestige and vanity. The evidence of the subscription lists of the two Thesauruses suggests however that sales outside the Netherlands and Germany were sparse. We may contrast this state of affairs with that which obtained before the Thirty Years War, when there seems to have been almost unlimited optimism about the commercial viability of legal tomes in other countries of Europe.

Discussion at the seminar centred on the costs of publishing and the luxuriousness of the editions described and considered individuals named in the lists of subscribers, and their potential motives.

David Pearson, ‘Patterns of book ownership in 17th-century England’

At the second History of the Book Seminar this term, David Pearson (Director of Culture, Heritage and Libraries, City of London) considered research questions on private libraries and traffic in book ownership, and reviewed the state of research on ‘The English Private Library in the 17th century’, since his publication in The Library in December 2012. He compared the current state of knowledge of provenance with the situation of bibliography 100 years ago; libraries are gradually becoming better at recording the provenance of early printed books, but a comprehensive coverage is some way off.

The efforts libraries are making to record provenance information is driven by, and further supports, research which has shown the value of such enquiries: Owen Gingerich’s census of Copernicus’s De revolutionibus; Anthony West’s survey of copies of the First Folio edition of Shakespeare’s plays; and research that focuses on annotations as a subject in their own right (the theme of the masterclasses convened by Will Poole this term at the Bodleian Library).

Among online projects on this theme are:

CERL – Material Evidence in Incunabula

The British Armorial Bindings database hosted at the University of Toronto

Legacy Libraries, on LibraryThing

Annotated Books Online, presenting digitized copies of annotated books and transcriptions of some of the annotations shows what might be done to make the annotations more useful to scholars.

Pearson’s own list of English Book Owners in the 17th century http://www.bibsoc.org.uk/content/english-book-owners-seventeenth-century, ‘a preliminary exercise towards creating something more like a proper directory of owners, the task in hand being to work through and convert each brief listing into a full entry that would summarise what we know about these libraries, where there are surviving books, and where to find more information.’

Pearson concluded with some speculation on some significant private libraries of the 17th century whose contents are not yet fully known;

William Chark, graduate and fellow of Peterhouse in the 1560s; has a short entry in DNB as a religious controversialist. We know of ca.140 printed books scattered in libraries around the world and he also owned some significant manuscripts, including a Greek codex of the NT and several manuscripts subsequently in the Cotton Library

Nearly all the books have a distinctive code in the back — perhaps a bookseller’s code, connected with the way the library was dispersed after his death in 1617. There is some extant correspondence of his with Abraham Ortelius in the Netherlands, with references to obtaining and swapping books. His was clearly a significant private library of its time but not one that has ever been documented or investigated

Augustine Lindsell, Bishop of Peterborough in 1633, and of Hereford in 1634, the year he died. His will includes a number of specific book bequests, one or two of which can be traced today, but a letter written just after his death, implying that his books are coming to London to be sold, says that Lindsell himself valued his library at £880 worth of printed books and £500 worth of manuscripts – which is a sizable collection.

Gilbert Wimberley, d.1654 – prebendary of Wells and Westminster; his goods were seized in 1643, when he is said (by Walker) to have lost a library valued at £1000 – lot of books.  Not in DNB; what do we know about him. He came from a gentry family in Lincolnshire, BA TCC 1616, fellow 1618, livings in Suffolk and London, sequestered 1643, imprisoned. His was one of a number of libraries which were destroyed or dispersed during the Civil War.

Finally, Pearson commented on the possible scale of big libraries in grand houses by the end of the 17th century: the library at Lauderdale’s Ham House, built in the 1670s, is one of the rare survivals of an actual library room from that time, but this is a relatively modest space, size-wise – there is only room for a few thousand books. And we have secondary evidence of some big collections in private houses during the decades after the Restoration – how were they housed?

— John Evelyn describes the library of the 1st Earl of Essex in his house at Cashiobury as “very nobly furnished, and all the books richly bound”

— Arthur Annesley, Earl of Anglesey, reputedly had 30,000 books and has been described as “perhaps the first peer who devoted time and money to the formation of a great library”

Warren Boutcher; Gabriel Naudé on manuscript and print (Seminar on the History of the Book)

In the 19th and 20th centuries, consideration of books from the early modern period has tended to set up a fairly strict dichotomy between “manuscript culture” and “print culture”.  This dichotomy can be seen both in treatments of the intellectual history of the period, and also in the way in which materials from the period are housed and retrieved, with manuscripts stored in archives and looked after by archivists, and printed books housed in special collections rooms and looked after by librarians. There is also a tendency to view the early modern period as the story of the triumph of “print culture” over “manuscript culture”.

At the sixth session in the 2011 series of the Oxford Seminar on the History of the Book, Dr. Warren Boutcher of Queen Mary, University of London, spoke on the subject of “Cultural changes in book-collecting in the late Renaissance: Naudé on manuscript and print”. The session aimed to show that, while there were distinct differences between the two cultures, the relationship between them during the early modern period was in fact more complex than this traditionally accepted dichotomy would tend to suggest, and that in order to gain a complete understanding of scholarship in the late Renaissance, it is necessary to consider script, print, and orality together.

Much of the session was devoted to considering the collections belonging to the Dukes of Urbino, with particular reference to the collection of manuscripts established in the 15th century by Federico III da Montefeltro and the collection of chiefly printed books established between 1582 and 1621 by his successor Francesco Maria II della Rovere. This latter collection was begun in 1582, when Francesco Maria II managed to acquire an expurgated copy of Gesner’s banned Bibliotheca universalis. Francesco Maria then began to collect works listed in Gesner, and by 1584 his household accounts are showing a regular expenditure on printed books, constituting about 4% of his total annual expenditure.  It is only fair to note, however, that Francesco Maria was also spending regular and significant sums on manuscript material. It is perhaps not surprising that a collection which took Gesner, who lists printed and manuscript material together, as its starting point, should continue to accrue both printed and manuscript materials. The first attempt completely to segregate a printed from a manuscript collection (both the old library of Federico, and the new library contained both printed and manuscript books) was not made until 1631, on the death of Francesco Maria. Under the terms of Francesco Maria’s will, his collection of manuscripts was left to the town of Urbino, and his collection of printed books to the Order of the Minims, while the archival material in the collection followed Francesco Maria’s daughter to Florence, where it still remains. Within 30 years of Francesco Maria’s death, however, the papacy had managed to appropriate both the collection of manuscripts and the collection of printed books, and both were transferred to Rome. The manuscripts are currently in the Vatican Library, and the printed books in the Biblioteca Alessandrina.

The period during which Francesco Maria was collecting was a time of great activity in terms of book-collecting, and also saw the foundation of the Escorial Library in Madrid and the Bodleian Library in Oxford. It was also a time of great interest in the principles of book-collecting and of managing and providing access to collections of books. An important expression of this interest is Gabriel Naudé’s “Advis pour dresser une bibliothèque” of 1627. Naudé advocates a shift away from collecting books for their material features, such as lavish bindings or illustrations, and promotes the idea of the working scholarly library, with easy access to, and retrieval of, up-to-date information for the scholarly community as its primary objective. He recommends that manuscripts should be housed close to the printed collection, if not necessarily integrated with it, and that they should be freely available to be copied. Any potentially inflammatory material should be stored high up, with no spine labels, so that access to it could be strictly controlled by the librarian.

There is therefore a distinction made between the library of lavish, luxurious commodities, designed to glorify its owner through a display of his wealth, and the working, scholarly library, aimed at the efficient retrieval of relevant information and designed to glorify its owner through a display of his erudition in the judicious selection of relevant materials. With reference to the example of the ducal libraries in Urbino, Federico da Montefeltro’s library was seen as an example of the “prestige” library, and Francesco Maria della Rovere’s collection as an example of the working, scholarly library, which operated very much on the principles advocated by Naudé. This distinction also seems to have been observed in practice; Francesco Maria, as well as developing his own collection, continued to add to the manuscript collection of his predecessor Federico, keeping it up to date with carefully selected and commissioned items. These items, however, were required to have some connection to the ducal family. There are also examples of manuscripts being transferred from Federico’s collection to Francesco Maria’s, so that they could be worked on by scholars.

The final discussion considered issues such as different levels of censorship, and also looked at other examples of similar book collections of the period.

2012 Seminar on the History of the Book: Mario Infelise, “Masters of books: ecclesiastic and state censorship in Venice during the Counter-Reformation”

from Martha Repp

The sixth in the 2012 series of the Oxford Seminars on the History of the Book, convened by Professor I.W.F. Maclean, was held at All Souls College, Oxford, on 24 February, 2012. Professor Mario Infelise of the Università Ca’ Foscari in Venice, spoke on “Masters of books: ecclesiastic and state censorship in Venice during the Counter-Reformation”.

Professor Infelise’s paper focused on state and ecclesiastical censorship of the printed word, and the not infrequent tensions between the two, during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, and particularly on the situation in Venice. The question of censorship, and who should be primarily responsible for it, can be seen as part of a much wider debate during this period about the nature and role of secular princes, and the balance of power between church and state.

Some scholars from within the Church, notably Robert Bellarmine, asserted the theory of the Church’s “potestas indirecta”, the idea that the ecclesiastical authorities had the right to intervene in the affairs of individual states when they judged it opportune to do so. This was justified on the basis that the Church had a wider responsibility to protect society as a whole from error, and therefore had a duty to keep watch over sovereigns, both in spiritual and political matters, in order to safeguard orthodoxy and morality.

During the sixteenth century, however, this position increasingly came into conflict with the emerging concept of the secular prince as absolute and divinely-ordained ruler within his own domain. If, however, the secular prince was to be absolute, it was essential to develop some form of control over the written word, in order to control the opinions of his subjects, and therefore the need for a coherent cultural policy that advanced the secular authorities’ wider political aims came decisively to the fore. Secular rulers were well aware that the Church’s assertion of its “potestas indirecta” was a potential threat to their own authority, but were equally conscious of the Church’s importance as a force for maintaining social order and encouraging obedience to the secular authorities.

It was this general debate that formed the background to the disagreement in 1596 between the Republic of Venice and the Papacy over the publication of Clement VIII’s new version of the Index of Forbidden Books. A Papal decree of May 1596 rendered the new version of the Index definitively enforceable; however, the Venetian authorities refused to accept it as it stood. The Papacy was determined to get the new version of the Index published as quickly as possible, and was well aware that a refusal to publish it on the part of one state could only have the effect of encouraging other potentially recalcitrant states. A summer of intense negotiations ensued, during which the Papal Nuncio attempted to present the new version of the Index as a useful tool for civil as well as religious control. Eventually, a compromise was reached, by which the Venetian authorities agreed to publish the Index, with an additional page setting out the limitations of its applicability to Venice. Although this Concordat resolved the specific issue of the publication of the Index, the whole affair left a legacy of strained relations between Venice and the Papacy, which would eventually culminate in the whole of Venice being place under a Papal interdict in 1606.

If this disagreement can be seen as an attempt on the part of the Venetian authorities to assert the primacy of their own state censorship over any external ecclesiastical censorship, what form did this state censorship take? From the very beginning of printing in Venice, in 1469, Venetian patricians had taken an interest in books, sometimes for political and sometimes for financial reasons, and by 1527 the Council of Ten had established an early form of state censorship. Another significant event was the establishment, in 1517, of the Riformatori dello Studio di Padova, a committee of three prestigious Venetian patricians with responsibility not only for university appointments, but for vetting and approving printed books. By 1603, the mechanisms of censorship were in place. Every manuscript had to be read and approved by two censors, the Inquisitor of the Holy Office (for religious questions) and the Ducal Secretary (for political questions), both of whom had to produce a written opinion. If both opinions were favourable, the book would then be granted the Licence of the Riformatori dello Studio di Padova, and finally it would be registered by the Council of Ten.

It might be assumed that the events of 1596 led to a relaxation of state censorship in Venice, but in fact this was not the case. The Venetian authorities were extremely wary of Venice being seen as a potential safe haven for heretical books. The view taken by some scholars, that Venice during this period was a centre of resistance to censorship, is therefore perhaps a little simplistic. Nor was the day to day practice of censorship always and entirely informed by opposition between secular and ecclesiastical authorities; in fact, compromise and collaboration were much more common.

Professor Infelise concluded by looking at two case studies from the early seventeenth century. The first of these was the publication of the Italian edition of Francis Bacon’s Essays. The Venetian patrician Fulgenzio Micanzio had taken a very early interest in Bacon’s writings, which he had translated into Italian. In 1617, he came up with the idea of publishing an Italian edition of the Essays, but, despite the support of important Venetian figures, the idea of publishing this edition in Venice failed because of the opposition of the ecclesiastical authorities. Micanzio then wanted to get round this by having an Italian edition of the Essays printed in London, and importing it back to Venice. However, before this could be done, the Italian translation of the Essays by the English Catholic Sir Tobie Matthews was published in Florence. This Florentine edition suppressed two of the more inflammatory essays, as well as an approving reference to Machiavelli, and omitted all reference to Bacon on the title page. Despite Micanzio’s avowed intention to restore both the attribution to Bacon and the two suppressed essays when his edition did eventually appear in 1619, it did mention Bacon on the title page, but did not include the two essays suppressed from the Florentine edition. The second case considered was that of Andrea Morosini’s Historia Veneta, a political history of Venice from 1521 to 1615, published in Venice in 1615. Despite Morosini’s impeccable academic credentials and close links to powerful Venetian figures, and the book’s stressing of the need for a complete accord between Venice and the Papacy, the ecclesiastical authorities opposed its publication because of the way it narrated the events of the period of the interdict. The Venetian authorities decided to have it published anyway, without ecclesiastical approval, by special decree of the Senate. The ecclesiastical authorities responded by placing the book on the Index until it had been corrected; the Venetian authorities refused to publish the ban.

The final discussion explored a number of other issues, such as whether the Church’s ready access to a pool of educated men, already trained in this kind of work, made it easier for them to establish mechanisms for censorship than it was for the secular authorities, where censorship would inevitably end up in the hands of a literate and educated elite, who might have their own agenda and be more concerned to promote than to prevent publication. Another issue considered was whether the availability of books printed in other countries meant that secular censorship tended to be more concerned with production rather than circulation.

2012 Seminar on the History of the Book: Professor Raphaële Mouren, “The humanist editor as author”

from Martha Repp

The fifth in the 2012 series of the Oxford Seminars on the History of the Book was held at All Souls College, Oxford, on 17 February, 2012. Professor Raphaële Mouren of the École nationale supérieure des sciences de l’information et des bibliothèques (ENSSIB) in the University of Lyon spoke on “The humanist editor as author”. Her paper provided a fascinating insight not only into concepts of authorship in the sixteenth century, but into how scholarly editions of classical texts were prepared during this period.
For the purposes of Professor Mouren’s paper, the term “humanist” was understood to mean a scholar who reads, studies, revises, corrects, and edits classical texts for the purpose of producing a “reference edition”, that is to say an edition that will be used for preference by scholars working on a particular text. The person responsible for producing such an edition can be referred to as a “reference editor”, although there were also examples of “reference printers”, where the same person would be responsible both for the intellectual work of preparing the text, and for the physical production of the edition itself. The best known examples of such reference printers are perhaps the Manutius family in Venice or the Estienne family active in Paris and Geneva.
So, can these humanist editors of classical texts be considered as authors in the same way as the creators of original texts in the vernacular? And where can we look to find evidence of their activity? The most obvious place to start is by looking at the information provided in the editions themselves, and particularly at title pages, dedicatory letters, colophons, and other paratextual material. It is important to bear in mind in this context that the inclusion or omission of particular information on the title page, and the way in which that information is presented, are the result of conscious or unconscious decisions. These decisions will generally have been made by the printer; the specific format of the title page was in the sixteenth century, and generally still is, one of the few aspects of an edition over which the author or editor has no control. If the printer controlled the title page, the editor had an equivalent control over the dedicatory letter, and many humanists used such letters as a means of asserting their editorship of the text, and of spelling out the editorial strategies adopted and the problems encountered. One might expect the title page to an edition of a classical author to provide the name of the original author, the name of the editor, and the name of the printer or publisher. When looking at sixteenth century editions of such texts, however, it is striking how frequently the information provided on the title page is incomplete, or does not match the reality of how the edition was actually prepared.
As the reasons for these omissions or inaccuracies tend to vary from edition to edition, the remainder of Professor Mouren’s paper was devoted to looking at specific examples. These examples were chiefly taken from the editions produced by Pietro Vettori, a university lecturer and prolific editor of classical texts active in Florence in the mid- to late-sixteenth century.
The first example chosen was the three editions of the pseudo-Demetrius Phalereus’s De elocutione, printed in Florence between 1542 and 1562, all edited by Vettori and printed by the Giunta family. The title page of the 1542 edition merely gives the name of Demetrius Phalereus, the title of the work, and the date of publication. A colophon adds that the work was printed in Florence, but not much more. This lack of information may possibly be explained by the fact that the edition is in fact simply a reproduction of an existing edition of the text, and it was not usual for editors to be credited unless they had done substantial work on the text. An additional explanation may lie in the circumstances in which the edition was produced; it was printed at the beginning of the university year, and it is therefore probable that this was a text that Vettori intended to use in his university teaching, and that the priority was to have the edition available to his students as quickly as possible. This 1542 edition may even have functioned as a starting point from which Vettori and his students would go on to correct and revise the text. The extent of the editorial work Vettori ended up doing on this particular text is perhaps indicated by the difference in wording of the title page to the 1562 edition, which is described as Vettori’s commentary on Demetrius Phalereus, despite the fact that the edition includes both the pseudo-Demetrius’s original text, and a Latin translation of it.
The next example considered was the edition of Cicero’s complete works published by the Giuntas in Venice in 1537. The edition consists of four volumes of Cicero’s works, the first volume edited by Andrea Navagero and the remaining three volumes edited by Vettori. The title page to volume one does indeed credit Navagero as editor, but the title pages to volumes 2-4 make no mention of Vettori. In fact, the only mention of Vettori’s input is as the author of an ancillary volume of “Emendationes”. This is probably explained by the fact that in 1537, Vettori was only at the beginning of his career, whereas Navagero was already an established name, and therefore Navagero’s name, unlike Vettori’s would have been seen by the publishers as adding scholarly weight to their edition.
Vettori’s editions of Clement of Alexandria, Porphyry and Sallust are interesting in that they do not mention Vettori’s name on the title page, but do specify the manuscript he used to prepare his edition, the text selected being described as “E Bibliotheca Medicea”. It was common practice to indicate that a famous or important manuscript had been used in the preparation of an edition, since this was seen by printers as a way of making their edition seem newer and better than any of the other existing editions.
A final example considered was the various editions of Cicero’s Epistolae familiares published by Paulus Manutius during the sixteenth century. When Paulus Manutius published his first edition of the Epistolae familiares in 1540, he did not mention his own involvement either as editor or as publisher on the title page. As a result of this, when Vettori began work on his own edition of Cicero, he had to ask his own publisher, Bernardo di Giunta, to find out who had been responsible for the 1540 edition of the Epistolae familiares. When told that it had been Paulus Manutius, Vettori couldn’t quite believe it, and referred to the edition rather dismissively. This then left Paulus Manutius with the problem of how to record his own involvement as editor and publisher on the title page, and in his subsequent editions of the Epistolae familiares, he experimented with a number of different ways of achieving this, most of which involved his name appearing on the title page in two different places. Eventually, however, he settled on the formula “Corrigente Paulo Manutio”, used as an imprint, but also acknowledging his editorial input.

2012 Seminar on the History of the Book: Jane Everson, “The Italian Academies 1525-1700: a Themed Collection database and its research applications”

from Martha Repp

The fourth in the 2012 series of the Oxford Seminars on the History of the Book was held at All Souls College, Oxford, on 10 February, 2012. Professor Jane Everson, of Royal Holloway College in the University of London, spoke on “The Italian Academies 1525-1700: a Themed Collection database and its research applications”.

The main focus of Professor Everson’s paper was the project she has been much engaged in to create a comprehensive database of Academies active in Italy between 1525 and 1700, and of the people and publications associated with them. The project began in 2006, and currently involves Royal Holloway College, the British Library, and the University of Reading. The resulting database is one of the Themed Collection databases, accessible through the British Library web-site, and can be found on-line at http://www. italianacademies.org .

The term ‘Academies’ is used to refer to the 600 or so societies of like-minded people with similar academic interests that existed in Italy in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Most of these societies did identify themselves by the title “Accademia”, although some used the alternative identification “Convegna” (congregation). These societies could consist of anywhere between one and several hundred members, and were found throughout the Italian peninsula, both in major cities, and in smaller centres of population. The range of intellectual interests of such Academies was enormous, including languages, history, natural science, astronomy, technology, and music. They were international in their membership, and open to women as well as to men. Nor were female members entirely restricted to the passive roles of dedicatee or muse; many were actively involved as authors, contributors and illustrators. The Academies largely disseminated their ideas through the written word, and their links with the book trade were therefore critical. Some writers, such as the nineteenth century critic Francesco de Sanctis, have tended to dismiss the Academies as groups of idle dilettantes, dedicated to the production of sterile, worthless, and frequently vulgar or obscene “vanity publications”. However, the importance of the Academies for the intellectual history both of Italy itself, and of Europe in general, should not be underestimated. They are probably the earliest examples of learned societies, and their publications were widely distributed, translated, and read.

Despite the importance of the Academies, comparatively little scholarly work has been done on their publications. There have been studies of particularly well-known individual Academies, such as the Accademia della Crusca in Florence, or the Accademia dei Lincei in Rome. Equally, there has been research on the Academies in particular towns. Until very recently, however, the only available overview of the Academies as a whole has been Michele Maylender’s “Storia delle Accademie d’Italia”, published in Bologna between 1920 and 1930. A large part of the reason for this lack of scholarly interest has been the difficulty of accessing the primary material. Conventional catalogue records frequently do not record the involvement of an Academy with a particular publication at all, and even when they do, this information is generally not accessible through the search strategies allowed for by the catalogue. In fact, a study of library catalogues revealed that conventional catalogue searching for materials related to Academies only uncovered about 20% of the potentially relevant material actually in the library. Therefore, in order to access the material at all, researchers have had to rely on a combination of determination, inspired guess-work, and serendipity.

It was in order to supply this deficiency that Professor Everson’s project, “Italian Academies, 1525-1700: the first intellectual networks of Europe” was created. The aim of the project is to create a comprehensive database of all material associated with Academies held by the British Library. The first phase of the project ran from 2006 to 2009, and aimed to cover all material associated with Academies in Bologna, Siena, Naples and Padua. These cities were chosen because of the presence in them of a large number of Academies with a wide range of academic interests. The second phase of the project began in 2009, and extends the coverage of the database to include Academies active in Rome, Venice, Mantua, Verona, and the south of Italy, with a particular focus on Sicily.

Professor Everson gave a practical demonstration of the database, and how it can be used to answer particular research questions, enabling searches from as wide a range of starting points as possible. These potential starting points include the name of an Academy, a particular city, an individual member (either by real name or by nickname or pseudonym), a specific publication, the motto of a particular Academy, or even specific pictorial elements in an Academy’s emblem. Full records for particular Academies include all the names by which the Academy was known, the dates when it was active, and lists of members and publications associated with that Academy, together with a digitized image of the Academy’s emblem.

Questions from the seminar touched on the importance of the Academies in linguistic policy and in the dissemination of Italian as a language. Interestingly, the majority of the publications associated with the Academies are in Italian, with surprisingly few of them in Latin.

2012 Seminar on the History of the Book: Mark Purcell, “The private library in Ireland before the Union”

from Martha Repp

The second in the 2012 series of the Oxford Seminars on the History of the Book was held at All Souls’ College, Oxford, on 27 January, 2012. Mr. Mark Purcell, Curator of Book Collections for the National Trust, spoke on “The private library in Ireland before the Union”.

The first preconception that Mr. Purcell’s paper sought to dispel is the idea, enthusiastically promoted by seventeenth century English propaganda such as Nahum Tate’s lyrics to Henry Purcell’s ode for the centenary of Trinity College, Dublin, that, before English intervention, Ireland was an entirely uncultivated country in which books were more or less unknown, and certainly unread. There is, in fact, evidence of significant sixteenth century Irish book collections. Nor were these collections entirely confined to monasteries and religious houses: as early as 1519, the Earl of Kildare is known to have had a collection of books in his castle at Maynooth. The main focus of the paper, however, was on the period from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries.

Anyone interested in researching Irish private libraries labours under a number of distinct disadvantages. The first of these is the lack of a complete national archival record, with the destruction of the Public Record Office of Ireland in 1922. The second is the lack of extant libraries, with many of the private libraries which are known to have existed having been destroyed, sold, or otherwise dispersed. To learn about these collections, one is therefore forced to rely on evidence other than the books themselves, such as bills of sale, correspondence with book dealers or lists of subscribers in printed books, but these only tell part of the story. For example, if you want to know whether a collection was shelved with the spines facing in or out, you need to know whether the books have fore-edge titles or not. Equally, the lavishness or otherwise of the bindings can indicate the extent to which the owners were using the books to put on a show for their friends and neighbours. Historical shelf-marks can reveal how the books were arranged, and ownership inscriptions can reveal information not only about who owned the books, but about how, where, when and for how much they were acquired, and how they were used.

The difficulties raised by this lack of surviving libraries are compounded by the fact that, of the libraries that do survive, few remain in their original setting, making it harder to gain a picture of the collection as a whole. Some have been absorbed into larger collections, such as the Townley Hall collection, now part of the library of Trinity College, Dublin. Others, such as the collection of William King (1650-1729), Archbishop of Dublin and ardent bibliophile, have been split up among several different locations. Equally, many surviving libraries have not been catalogued and are in very poor condition, and few have been studied in any detail.
Mr. Purcell then went on to consider to what kinds of people these libraries typically belonged. Many belonged to important members of the clergy, typically Protestant, English implants. Scholarship and reading were seen as suitable diversions for a clergyman, and the founding of diocesan libraries was seen as a useful way of promoting the Protestant interest in Ireland. This philanthropic impulse towards the creation of libraries does not, however, always seem to have taken into account whether a library was needed or likely to be used. Landowners were also important book collectors; by the eighteenth century, there was a general consensus that reading and owning books was something that a person of quality ought to do. One preconception about book owning by landowners during this period is that the books were intended for show by insecure social climbers, and were never actually read or used. In fact, the books that survive do show evidence of use. It should also be borne in mind that in Ireland, more so than in England, many members of the landowning classes had risen from comparatively obscure origins, and that many of these were scholars, or at the very least had an interest in books. Examples here include Judge Michael Ward of Castle Ward, a lawyer and book collector, whose son was later elevated to the peerage as Viscount Bangor. The professional classes, such as lawyers, doctors or army officers, also owned books, and were perhaps even more significant as book collectors than were the landowners. Evidence from Irish sale catalogues suggests that, of the libraries offered for sale, only 12% belonged to landowners, with 60% belonging to professional men. Book ownership was not restricted to men; there is also evidence of Irish private libraries belonging to women. Books aimed specifically at children do not really exist before the eighteenth century, but there is no shortage of school and college textbooks, or of books awarded as university prizes.

The books in these private libraries may have been purchased in Ireland; Dublin had a thriving book trade, both new and second-hand. They may equally have been purchased from London and either sent to Ireland or brought back in person, or even imported directly from the continent. The nature of the books is likely to be as varied as the owners who acquired them. There was, however, a distinction between books considered “useful” and books considered “curious”, and many collectors do seem to have been aware of the age, value and condition of the books they were acquiring.

The final question considered was how these books would have been stored, and who would have had access to them. Here, the frequently used term country-house library is perhaps misleading, as it suggests that all the books would always have been stored in the country, when in practice they may also have been kept in houses in town or professional offices. In general, during the period, there is a progression from libraries being kept in private spaces or closets (Archbishop King, for example, is known to have stored his books in a complicated series of numbered boxes), to libraries being public, ceremonial and social spaces. It should also not be assumed that, in important families with large numbers of books, there was only one library or collection of books in a single location. Access to the books was not always restricted to the family; in some cases, friends or connections of the family, or even particularly favoured retainers, were given access. If this is indeed the case, it calls into question the distinction between public and private libraries, and makes the history of libraries less a history of institutions than a history of individuals, networks, and connections.

The final discussion considered all of these issues in more detail, as well as raising new questions, such as whether catalogues for any of these collections survive, and whether the situation in Ireland can usefully be compared to the situation in Scotland.

2012 Seminar on the History of the Book ; Will Poole, ‘John Fell’s New Year Books’

from Martha Repp

The first in the seventeenth annual series of Oxford Seminars on the History of the Book, convened by Professor I.W.F. Maclean, was given at All Souls College, Oxford, on 20 January, 2012, by Dr. William Poole of New College, Oxford, on the subject of “John Fell’s New Year Books”.

Dr. John Fell, 1625-1686, was one of the dominant figures in the intellectual life of Oxford in the mid to late 17th century. He was elected Dean of Christ Church in 1660 at the age of 35, served as Vice-Chancellor of the University from 1666 to 1669, and, in 1676, became Bishop of Oxford, while still serving as Dean of Christ Church, continuing to hold both offices, as well as a number of other official and ecclesiastical positions, until his death in 1686. He was also an important figure in the development of printing in Oxford. He was one of the partners leasing the University press, and arranged for the use of the Sheldonian Theatre for printing purposes, as well as setting up a type foundry in Oxford and encouraging the Wolvercote paper mill.

Fell’s scholarly output includes sermons, biographical works, and numerous editions of classical and patristic texts, but Dr Poole’s paper focused on one particular aspect of this; the series of small format editions published in Oxford at Fell’s expense between 1666 and 1686, and known as the New Year Books because they were intended to be given by Fell as New Year gifts to his students.

The tradition of exchanging gifts at New Year was an old one, and it is not surprising that within academic communities these gifts should have come to take the form of texts. There is evidence of works having been printed in England as New Year gifts as early as the 16th century, most of which are attempts on the part of the author to attract the attention of wealthy and influential patrons rather than serious intellectual undertakings. In University settings, this exchange of gifts generally seems to have taken the form of students presenting their latest work to their tutors. Fell acknowledges this tradition in the 1669 edition of Clement of Rome, in which he states that part of his motivation for producing the series of New Year Books is that he frequently received New Year gifts of texts from his students, and that he felt it was, as he puts it, “turpissimum” for him to have nothing to give them in exchange. In addition to this practical motivation, Fell also seems to have had a general interest in producing a series of cheap editions of teaching texts for students long before he actually started the New Years Books. But he had to be careful not to upset the London Stationers, who monopolised the textbook market.

Fell’s New Year Books are generally small format (octavo or duodecimo) editions of texts by classical and patristic authors. They are distinguished by austerity and plainness, both in production and in editorial style, which demonstrates Fell’s preference for text over commentary and collation over exegesis. In most cases, the texts and versions presented were not new, and Fell seems to have done comparatively little work on them. It has been stated that the New Year Books are primarily patristic in nature, and this is certainly true after 1679 (possibly because at this point Fell was also working on his edition of Cyprian). Before 1679, however, there is generally a fairly equal balance between Christian and pagan authors. In general, the choice of authors and texts shows a preference for early Christian authors who warn of the dangers of schism, and who propound an episcopal, but definitely not papal, form of church government. Despite this inherent conservatism, it should not be assumed that the authors and texts chosen were always neutral, or that the texts were always read and received in a friendly manner; the choice of Nemesius as the New Year Book for 1671 appears, from the tone of the annotations in some surviving copies, notably Thomas Barlow’s, to have been particularly controversial.

Fell’s editorial practice appears to have depended heavily on collation; in most cases, the texts provided are collated from around four manuscripts. Although the manuscripts used are sometimes clearly identified, Fell tends to be less clear about which specific readings have been taken from which manuscript, making it hard to trace the collation process in any detail. It has been suggested that Fell used the New Year Books as an annual exercise for his students in preparing and editing a text, but the evidence for this is patchy. Fell does seem to have had some help in preparing these editions, certainly from Thomas Spark, who edited the 1679 edition of Zosimus and the 1678 edition of Herodian which may have been the New Year Book for that year and is certainly affiliated to the series, and probably from Edward Bernard, who Madan associates with the preparation of the 1666 edition of Pachymeres. Bernard also presented a copy of the 1686 edition of Origen to Friedrich Spanheim, and appears to have borrowed manuscripts from New College library on Fell’s behalf. However, Fell rarely if ever appears to have conceded overall editorial control to anyone else.

The final question considered was how these works were circulated, and to whom. Fortunately, as many of the books were acquired by Oxford college libraries, a large number of them have survived, in many cases in series which can be traced to particular academic owners. The majority of copies do appear to have been given as gifts, with several surviving copies having ex dono inscriptions recording the gift. These gifts were widely circulated within Christ Church, and less widely circulated outside, although this is more difficult to trace. Fell appears to have given copies to his academic peers and contemporaries, as well as to his students. Fell certainly had some copies bound for him by the Oxford binder Henry Ingram, but since these constitute relatively few copies, it is probable that he gave away unbound copies as well. Copies were passed on from one academic to another, and were certainly still being used as live academic texts in the eighteenth century. There is little evidence of the works having been circulated outside England. Although the nature of the works as gifts is always insisted on, and they are only rarely referred to in the Term Catalogues, there is also evidence of a commercial element to their production; they were produced in print runs of up to a thousand, more than could have realistically been given away, and there is also evidence of Fell having used copies of the books as capital within Oxford.

A stimulating final discussion considered many of the issues raised in the paper in more detail, such as whether there is evidence of the works having been given to a particular type of student, and whether the production of this kind of “teaching text” allowed for the publication of texts without the level of scholarly editorial work that would be required for a full-scale critical edition.

Seminar on the history of the book: Theodor Dunkelgrün, “The production history of the Antwerp Polyglot Bible (1568-1573): the confluence of manuscript cultures in the Renaissance printing shop”, 11 March 2011

from Martha Repp

A large and appreciative audience heard the eighth and last in the 2011 series of the Oxford Seminar on the History of the Book on 11 March, 2011. Theodor Dunkelgrün spoke on the subject of “The production history of the Antwerp Polyglot Bible (1568-1573): the confluence of manuscript cultures in the Renaissance printing shop”.

The Antwerp Polyglot Bible was printed between 1568 and 1573 by Christopher Plantin in the famous printing house known as the Golden Compasses (the current Plantin-Moretus Museum still occupies the buildings Plantin acquired in 1576) under the editorship of Benito Arias Montano (1527–1598). This Bible brought together Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic and Syriac biblical texts. It has been the subject of much critical study, but this attention has tended to focus on the finished product and the commercial aspects of the project, almost every detail of which has come under consideration, rather than on the process of editing and publication itself. Little is known about how the scholars involved selected and worked on texts. This can be seen as part of a wider pattern in which the principles of editorial practice and textual criticism has been one of the major gaps in the study of the early modern period. Furthermore, such attention as has been paid to this question has tended to focus on the editing of Latin and Greek texts only, whereas as the case of the Antwerp Polyglot shows, this phenomenon extended to to other textual traditions as well. Dunkelgrün emphasised what might be learned from examining the editors’ treatment of the traditions, embodied in the Hebrew, Aramaic and Syriac texts that they consulted.

Even before it was published, the Antwerp Polyglot Bible was seen as one of the greatest achievements of Biblical scholarship, as a monument of typography (fitting as many as 6 versions of the text onto each opening), and, by some strict Catholics, as a threat to Christians everywhere. This last is perhaps ironic, as it had been commissioned by Philip II as a monument to his unquestioning Catholic orthodoxy, and Plantin, who was himself suspected of having Calvinist sympathies, had accepted the commission as a means of proving his own orthodoxy. One major reason for this suspicion of the Antwerp Polyglot was the use it made of sources from Hebrew, especially rabbinical, literature; for example, the treatises in the apparatus include frequent references to the Talmud, which had actually been banned by the Catholic Church. This suspicion of the rabbinical tradition extended to the Hebrew Bible itself, and both the authenticity of the Hebrew text and the usefulness and importance of its study by Christians were frequently called into question. It is significant in this respect that Arias Montano wrote, as part of the apparatus to the Antwerp Polyglot, an essay defending the masoretic tradition, arguing that the Jewish tradition, far from corrupting the Hebrew text, had shown great care in its preservation and accurate transmission.

By a decree of 1546, the Council of Trent had established the Latin Vulgate as the only officially accepted version of the Bible, albeit after a lengthier and more complex debate than the terms of the decree would seem to suggest. There was still, however, debate both as to which specific exemplar or edition of the Vulgate the decree gave official recognition to, and as to whether the decree applied to the Vulgate vs. original Hebrew and Greek texts, or only to more recent Latin translations. A concern with this decree and its implications runs through the correspondence between Plantin, Arias Montano, and the other scholars working on the Antwerp Polyglot. This primacy ascribed to the Vulgate is, however, not reflected in the layout of the Antwerp Polyglot, in which the texts are arranged in four parallel columns. This forms a striking contrast with its primary model, the Complutensian Polyglot Bible, directed by Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros and published in 1520, in which the Greek, Latin and Hebrew texts are arranged in three columns with the Latin in the middle, which prompted Cisnero’s famous remark that the Vulgate was placed in the middle ‘like the Saviour between two thieves’. In the four-column arangement of the Antwerp Polyglot, it was impossible to privilege any one of them over another.

In the case of the Antwerp Polyglot, the scholars involved appear to have gone to great lengths to consult both authoritative editions as well as venerable manuscript versions, collating them with each other and recording variants in exhaustive detail. Indeed, at one point, Plantin actually stopped the printing of the Greek text because of the significant discrepancies between the two editions that had been used, insisting on a further collation with two manuscripts before work could continue.

Dunkelgrün drew special attention to a specific portion of the scholarly apparatus to the Antwerp Polyglot – the eighth and final volume – that contains i.a. lists of variants for all the different texts, arguing that these lists constitute a kind of “hypertext” and serve as an index to an entire library of different readings. This deep concern with variant readings shows, he argues, that the driving force behind the Antwerp Polyglot lay in the textual concerns of professional editors, and that the scholars involved were primarily thinking technically, historically and critically, rather than dogmatically or mystically, about the texts. The insistence on variant readings is also possibly at odds with the drive within the Catholic Church, in the wake of the Council of Trent, to establish a single, authoritative Biblical text.

Discussion in the seminar pointed out that the issue of the permissibility of variant readings became a significant issue between Catholics and Protestants later on in the 17th century. It is tempting but probably inaccurate to see this treatment of the Biblical texts as historical documents as part of a process of secularization. What Dunkelgrün stressed in his comments is that humanist scholars considered each of the different texts separately, as having been imperfectly transmitted through a culture and history of its own, but the process of collation and collection of variant readings in each of the traditions as variants on essentially the same phenomenon.

The final discussion took up interesting questions raised in the paper about the palaeographic and codicological skills of the humanist editors. What weight did the Antwerp editors give to script, for instance, when judging the age and authenticity of a manuscript? Was this a kind of proto-palaeography?