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?

Seminar on the history of the book: Howard Hotson, “Encyclopaedic overstretch? The crisis of German Reformed printing on the eve of the Thirty Years War”, 4 March 2011

from Martha Repp

The seventh in the 2011 series of the Oxford Seminar on the History of the Book was given on 4 March, 2011, by Professor Howard Hotson of the University of Oxford, on the subject of “Encyclopaedic overstretch? The crisis of German Reformed printing on the eve of the Thirty Years War”.

The session brought together statistical evidence from a variety of sources to demonstrate the crisis in Reformed (Calvinist) intellectual life in Germany in the early 17th century. These sources included evidence on university matriculations from Eulenburg’s Die Frequenz der deutschen Universitäten and evidence on titles offered for sale at the Frankfurt book fair from Schwetchke’s Codex Nundinarius, as well as evidence taken from bibliographies of specific towns or printers. Professor Hotson focused primarily on the Reformed intellectual centres in the Palatinate, Hesse and Herborn, both comparing them with each other, and setting them in the context of what was happening in the rest of Germany.

The first factor considered was the outbreak of the Thirty Years War in 1618/1619, and the Imperial occupation of the Palatinate in 1622. This certainly led to a dramatic fall in matriculations at Reformed Universities in Heidelberg, Marburg and Herborn, were much more immediately and gravely affected by the outbreak of war than Lutheran and Catholic universities. This drop in university matriculations coincided with a similarly sharp decline in German printing in general, with fewer imprints – foreign and domestic, Latin and vernacular – offered for sale at the Frankfurt book fair from 1620 onward. It would be natural to suppose that it was the outbreak of war which also precipitated the demise of the Reformed printers in western Germany, especially in the light of anecdotal evidence of Imperial troops in the Palatinate burning heretical books in stoves to keep warm, and using them as wadding for muskets, and in stables and latrines. Certainly, after the sack of Heidelberg, printing in the Palatinate ceased for a generation.

Closer examination reveals, however, that the decline in Reformed printing is not entirely to be ascribed to the outbreak of war. In fact, the statistical evidence shows that the output of the Reformed presses was already declining sharply from 1612/1613 onward, a slump which predates both the outbreak of war, the collapse of matriculations at Reformed universities, and the contraction of the Frankfurt book fair generally by at least half a decade. Juxtaposing the data from Schwetchke’s Codex Nundinarius with the best available data for most of the individual Reformed printers in this region demonstrated the dramatic nature of the pre-war crisis in book production, while also serving to establish the general reliability of Schwetchke’s much maligned data.
Having demonstrated the existence of this crisis, the third section of Professor Hotson’s paper set out to explain it. His explanation operated on two separate levels. At the most general level, an explanation was suggested by the intersection of the graphs of matriculations and book production. While matriculations had been growing steadily since the mid-sixteenth century, these were overtaken between 1600 to 1605 by a massive surge in the production of textbooks, which doubled the number of academic books being produced per university student. When, after 1610, university matriculations leveled off for the first time since the 1530s, the market appears to have been saturated, with the supply of textbooks suddenly outstripping demand. The effect of this saturation was evidently delayed for a few years by the practice of ‘Tauschhandel’, in which printers exchanged their wares for those of other printers, in the hope of selling them to their home market at a profit. This apparently staved off the inevitable correction in the market for a year or two, but by 1613 the breaking point had been reached. Not only did the production of those firms specialising in academic textbooks fall off rapidly after that date, but many of the leading authors of these works – such as Clemens Timpler in Steinfurt and Johann Heinrich Alsted in Herborn – suddenly stopped publishing philosophical textbooks altogether.

In the final section of his paper, Professor Hotson attempted to identify the turning point of this crisis still more precisely by considered more closely the printer at the centre of post-Ramist textbook production in this period: the firm of Wilhelm and Peter Antonius in Hanau. By far the largest work published by the Antonius firm in the crucial year of 1613 was a huge collection the complete philosophical works of the leading post-Ramist philosopher, Bartholomäus Keckermann’s Systema systematum. From 1599 onward, Antonius had published all of Keckermann’s numerous textbooks under an imperial privilege; and immediately after the philosopher’s untimely death in 1609, he recruited the young Alsted to edit his scripta philosophica into an integrated encyclopaedia. As a philosophical and pedagogical system, the resulting work was elegant and sophisticated; but as a commercial product, the two fat and unwieldy quarto volumes – printed without Antonius’s oversight after his death in 1611 – were far less attractive than the unauthorised edition of Keckermann’s complete Opera Omnia published on less expensive paper in two more user-friendly folio volumes the following year in Geneva, which was not subject to the imperial privilege. Any discriminating buyer offered a choice would have rejected the Hanau quarto scripta philosophica of 1613 in favour of the Geneva folio opera omnia of 1614, and today the latter is preserved in a much larger number of more widely dispersed copies that the former. Ironically, Keckermann, Alsted and Antonius – precisely the figures most responsible for inflating the bubble of post-Ramist textbook printing in previous years – were also jointly responsible, it appears, for bursting it in 1613. When war broke out in 1618, it struck at the heart of a Calvinst academic publishing industry in Germany already weakened financially by a serious crisis of overproduction five years earlier.

The ensuing discussion considered issues such as the shelf-life of university textbooks at this time, and whether there was a second-hand market, and if so, how significant it may have been.

Seminar on the History of the Book: Martin McLaughlin, “From Cosimo Bartoli to James Leoni: translating and illustrating Alberti”, 18 February 2011

Engraving of a design for a triumphal arch, from James Leoni's 1726 English translation of Alberti's De re aedificatoria. The inscription on the arch alludes to the 1725 Treaty of Hanover signed by George I. (The Warden and Fellows, All Souls College, Oxford)

The fifth in the 2011 series of the Oxford Seminar on the History of the Book marked the birthday of Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472), on 18 February, with a presentation by Professor Martin McLaughlin on the subject of “From Cosimo Bartoli to James Leoni: translating and illustrating Alberti”.

The humanist and polymath Leon Battista Alberti was a prolific author on a wide variety of subjects, ranging from architecture to cryptography, as well as of literary works in both Latin and Italian. Significantly for those interested in the history of the book, he is also responsible for perhaps the first known reference to the emerging technology of printing, in his De cyfris of ca. 1466. The session focused specifically on his treatise on architecture, De re aedificatoria, and particularly on subsequent translations of it into other languages, notably those by Cosimo Bartoli and James Leoni.

De re aedificatoria was written in Latin sometime around 1452, in imitation of Vitruvius, and published for the first time in Florence in 1486, with subsequent Latin editions published in Paris in 1512 and in Strasbourg in 1541. It was probably expected to be read by learned patrons and antiquaries rather than used by practising architects. Although manuscript translations of the work into Italian were probably available from a fairly early stage, the first printed Italian translation, by Pietro Lauro of Siena, did not appear until 1546. Lauro’s translation was, however, almost immediately eclipsed by a clearer and more accurate version by Cosimo Bartoli, printed in Florence in 1550. Bartoli’s translation remained the only Italian version of De re aedificatoria for over 400 years, and was almost certainly an influence on Palladio, who was a friend of Bartoli’s. Bartoli’s edition was the first to divide the work into clearly titled chapters, and also the first to include illustrations. Bartoli was at great pains to use the best available text for his translation, and indeed claims, in his dedicatory letter to Cosimo I de’ Medici, to have been almost driven to give up the enterprise altogether because of the difficulty of finding a reliable Latin text to work on, and because of the numerous errors in all the available versions. He used the 1541 Strasbourg edition, which was probably the best available text at the time.

The first English edition of De re aedificatoria was printed in London in 1726, and consists of Bartoli’s Italian translation printed in parallel with a translation of it into English by Giacomo, or James, Leoni. This is a significantly more lavish affair than the 1550 edition, and includes illustrations, some of them pull-outs, engraved by Bernard Picart, after Leoni’s own drawings. These are clearly inspired by the woodcut illustrations to Bartoli’s Italian translation, with each of the original woodcuts having a corresponding engraving. Although the translation is generally attributed to Leoni, it is in fact unlikely that he had sufficient English to have made the translation on his own, and it is more likely the work of an uncredited team of translators. That Leoni and his team were working from Bartoli’s Italian version rather than from the Latin original is evidenced by a number of places where errors or misreadings found in Bartoli are unquestioningly followed by Leoni, and specific examples of these were considered, as well as some instances of mistranslations that appear to be entirely Leoni’s own work.

Some further examples were considered where Leoni appears to have adapted his translation to the English audience for whom he was writing; for example, a passage concerning tarantulas includes, in Leoni’s translation, the explanatory phrase “a small earth spider, commonly called a tarantula”, which does not appear either in the Latin original or in Bartoli’s Italian translation, both of which were written for an audience who could be expected to know what a tarantula was. A visual equivalent of this ‘domesticating’ strategy is seen in Leoni’s illustration of a triumphal arch: where Bartoli had shown an arch dedicated to his patron archduke Cosimo, Leoni’s arch (pictured) is dedicated to ‘Great Britain, Who Holds the Fate of Europe in Equal Balance’, an allusion to the 1725 Treaty of Hanover signed by George I.

Although much of the session did focus on these errors and mistranslations, these are in fact comparatively rare examples, and both Bartoli and Leoni’s translations show a high degree of accuracy. The popularity of both is demonstrated by the frequency with which they were reprinted after their original publication, with Bartoli’s translation reprinted twice in 1565, and Leoni’s reprinted in 1739 and 1755. Bartoli and Leoni in their different ways were responsible for keeping Alberti’s name alive in the centuries before the great revival of the humanist’s fame which began with Burckhardt’s well-known verbal portrait of Alberti in his Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (1860).

A final discussion considering issues such as the translation of Alberti into other languages was followed by an opportunity to look at examples – from the Codrington Library at All Souls College – of some of the editions considered.

from Martha Repp

Seminar on the History of the Book: Rebecca Bullard, “Gathering and gathered texts, 1650-1700”, 11 February 2011

The amours of Messalina, late queen of Albion, 1689, apparently showing 3 leaves to the gathering.

— from Martha Repp

The fourth in the 2011 series of the Oxford Seminar on the History of the Book was given on 11 February 2011 by Dr. Rebecca Bullard, of the University of Reading, on the subject of “Gathering and gathered texts, 1650-1700”.
The gathering, or set of consecutive pages, usually printed on a single sheet of paper, and folded together, is the basic building block of all books produced during the hand-press period. Each gathering is assigned a signature mark (usually an alphabetical A-Z sequence), the gatherings are then arranged in the proper order and sewn together to make a book. Perhaps because of their commonplace nature, gatherings have received comparatively little scholarly attention in their own right, but, as Dr. Bullard’s paper demonstrated, they can provide much information both on printing house practice during the hand-press period and on the working methods and thought processes of individual authors.
While the new bibliographers have done much work on printing house practices, and in identifying individual sets of type and the work of specific compositors, this has inevitably tended to focus on compositors and pressmen. Dr Bullard reminded the seminar that when considering gatherings, two other workers come to the fore: the warehouse keeper and the binder. The warehouse keeper (the most senior employee in the printing shop, and also the person responsible for managing the accounts) would collate the unfolded sheets into the right order, and fold them in half. The sheets would then either be sold in this unbound state, or sent to a binder, who would be responsible for folding the sheets to produce the correct sequence of pages, inserting any plates and making any necessary cancellations, before sewing them together, and, finally, binding them.
In most cases, the gatherings run in a completely regular A-Z sequence, but the remainder of the session was devoted to looking at examples where this is not the case, and considering possible reasons for it. It was suggested that, while readers would not necessarily have noticed signatures that run regularly, they would have noticed an out of place signature mark or an unusual pattern of signing, and would probably have experienced this as disorientating, and as a disruption to the expected orderly sequence.
The first example considered was the prophetess Anna Trapnel’s “Report and Plea” of 1654, in which an additional bifolium signed “d” is inserted between gatherings D and E, disrupting both the pagination and the register. The possibility that this may have been due to the particularly inflammatory nature of the material contained in gathering “d”, and have been done to enable the printer to remove those particular pages in case of trouble, was initially seen as tempting, particularly as the gathering is absent in many of the existing copies, but this possibility had to be discarded as the text is continuous, and gathering D even ends mid-sentence. As gatherings A-D and gatherings E-G are clearly in different type, a more likely explanation is that there were two printers working on this particular text, and that the printer of gatherings A-D received the manuscript of the text of quire “d” after the rest of the text — that it was in fact a last-minute addition. The insertion of this gathering also serves to reinforce the depiction in the text itself of Trapnel as a disruptive influence on the expected order.
This same kind of last-minute addition can also be seen in Margaret Cavendish’s “Natures pictures drawn by fancies pencil” of 1656, in which gathering 3E does not appear as expected at the end of the work, but has instead been cut up and distributed throughout it. Since all the leaves of gathering 3E begin with directions to the binder as to where each leaf should be placed, it seems fairly certain, particularly given Cavendish’s habit of making last minute additions to her work, that last minute additions is exactly what they are; although why the printer chose to sign the leaves in that particular way remains a mystery. It also fits with Cavendish’s belief in the importance of afterthoughts. Gatherings therefore have the capacity to represent the author’s mind as it changes over time, and to flag up material as a late addition or afterthought. Since gatherings have a natural sequence and represent movement through time, they create a kind of textualized temporality.
The final example considered was “The amours of Messalina, late queen of Albion” of 1689, an anonymous (post Glorious Revolution) account of the supposed scandalous behavior of Mary of Modena, second wife of James II. The work is divided into 4 parts, of which the first two are gathered in 3s. Since it is a physical impossibility for gatherings to consist of an odd number of leaves, something unusual is clearly happening here. The most likely explanation is that the book is in fact a 12° printed on half-sheets, with each resulting gathering of 6 pages containing 2 signatures. Even in parts 3 and 4, which are in fact gathered in 2s, the printer continues to sign the leaves A1 and A3 rather than A1 and A2. This leads to an unexpected proliferation of odd numbers, and the odd and unsettling nature of the gatherings mirrors the underhand nature of the behavior described in the text, as well as its murky origins. Furthermore, the work had originally been planned in 3 parts, with the original part 3 being divided at a late stage to produce the parts 3 and 4 as eventually printed.
Gatherings do not conform to G. Thomas Tanselle’s division of printing evidence into unintentional manufacturing clues and intentional design features, and can indeed in some cases function as both. It is likely, for example, that authors such as Cavendish who intervened late in the editorial process would have anticipated a certain degree of disruption to the finished text, even if they could not have foreseen the precise form that disruption would take.
A wide-ranging final discussion considered questions such as whether these disruptive elements in the gathering pattern were smoothed over or retained in subsequent editions of the same work; ways of telling whether a work was printed at the expense of the author or the printer; and differences between English and continental practices in this respect.

Seminar on the History of the Book, 2011: James Carley on Lambeth Palace Library

from Martha Repp

The second in the 2011 series of the Oxford Seminar on the History of the Book, convened at All Souls College by Professor Ian Maclean, was given on 28 January 2011 by Professor James Carley of York University, Toronto, on the topic of “The catalogue of Richard Bancroft’s library and the foundation of Lambeth Palace Library”.

The session was informed by the research Professor Carley has been undertaking into the early catalogues of Lambeth Palace Library, attempting to match them not only to each other but also to the books in the collection themselves.

The origins of Lambeth Palace Library can perhaps be traced back to 1610, when Archbishop Richard Bancroft died, leaving the entirety of his personal collection of books to his successor, and to subsequent Archbishops of Canterbury in perpetuity. Bancroft was extremely concerned to maintain the integrity of the collection, and the original idea was that each new Archbishop of Canterbury should enter into a bond to pass the collection on to his successor intact. If he failed to do so, the whole collection was to go in the first instance to Chelsea College, an institution dedicated to Anglican controversial theology which was in the process of being planned at the time but was never actually established, or if not to the public library of Cambridge University. This initial idea of a bond was, however, quickly felt to be unworkable, and so it was decided to create a complete catalogue of the collection, and to hold each Archbishop responsible for handing on the collection to his successor, and for replacing any books that were found to be missing. This first catalogue was essentially a shelf-list of the books kept in Bancroft’s study. The books were arranged according to subject but not shelf-marked; instead, vellum tabs with the subject headings inscribed were attached to the fore-edges of the books. This catalogue does not include place and date of publication, except for very frequently printed works such as the Bible, and is therefore perhaps of limited bibliographical use. Bancroft’s collection includes probably the largest existing collection of recusant literature, as well as a number of books from the royal library at Westminster, a number of them from Henry VIII’s personal collection, a few with his annotations.

Bancroft was not, of course, the first Archbishop of Canterbury to take an interest in books. For example, Bancroft’s predecessor, John Whitgift, also had a substantial collection of books and manuscripts, of which a catalogue also survives. On his death in 1604, Whitgift left his collection of manuscripts to Trinity College, Cambridge, but made no specific provision for his collection of printed books, many of which found their way into Bancroft’s collection (as well as a few of the manuscripts which were never transferred to Cambridge). These include a number of books from the library of the martyrologist John Fox.

The next surviving catalogue dates from 1647, when, on the abolition of the Archiepiscopacy, the University of Cambridge petitioned Parliament that an honourable home should be found for the book collection. The hint was taken, and the collection granted to Cambridge. Before the books were moved to Cambridge, however, the University sent two scholars to Lambeth to make a complete catalogue of the collection, which, by this time, had also been augmented by the books of Bancroft’s successor, George Abbott. This 1647 catalogue does include place and date of publication, and is therefore of greater use to bibliographers in determining what editions Bancroft actually owned. The books were then moved to Cambridge, where they were given shelfmarks for the first time.

Finally, after the Restoration, the books were returned to Lambeth after protracted negotiations, and catalogued again.

All of these catalogues survive–and others too–but matching them against each other and linking the entries to actual surviving books is a time-consuming process. The remainder of the session explored some of the reasons for this complexity. The first of these is that the original catalogues of Bancroft and Whitgift’s libraries do not appear to tell the whole story; there are books in the collection which can be demonstrated to have come from Bancroft or Whitgift, but are not mentioned in the original catalogue. It is probable that both men kept significant collections of books in other palaces or residences, which were not mentioned in the original catalogues. There are also books mentioned in Bancroft’s catalogue that are not in the present Lambeth Palace Library. One reason for this is that Archbishop William Sancroft (d. 1693) is known to have disposed of a large number of duplicates, many of which were transferred to the library of the chapter of Canterbury Cathedral. Sancroft also had a number of the medieval manuscripts disbound and rebound to give the collection a more uniform appearance, and these manuscripts may well be significantly more transformed from their original medieval state than at first appears. Equally, the same book sometimes appears in different categories in Bancroft’s catalogue, and it is not always clear whether these are cross-references or an indication of the existence of more than one copy.

The final discussion considered issues such as the precise nature and purpose of both Bancroft and Whitgift’s collections, and also broader questions such as the levels of society at which the practice of armorial bindings existed at this time.

Paul Nash: “How printing types were made in the hand press period”, 21 January, 2011

Book of Hours (Paris: Franciscus Regnault, 1534). Bodleian Library, Gough Missals 177, fol. C2, recto (detail)

from Martha Repp

The first in the 16th series of the Oxford Seminar on the History of the Book, convened at All Souls College by Professor Ian Maclean, was given on 21 January 2011 by Dr. Paul Nash, of the Bodleian Library, on the topic of “How printing types were made in the hand press period”.

The main topic of Dr. Nash’s talk was the method by which individual pieces of moveable type were produced for most of the hand press period. This was illustrated throughout by extremely informative video clips from You Tube of the self-taught American type founder Stan Nelson at work; links to these can be found in the Resources section of the Codrington Library’s ‘Resources’ web-page, There was also an opportunity to see and handle some of the materials used, and examples of type at each of the stages of its production.

The process of making type was traced from beginning to end, and broken down into three main stages. The first of these was the creation of the initial punch, where a rod of steel is taken and the mirror-image of the required character drawn on it in ink, graphite or soot, a gauge being used to make sure the image is of the correct size and depth. After this, the character is cut, using tools similar to those used by jewelers or watch-makers for engraving, and the punch hardened and tempered to give it strength. Punch-cutting was the most laborious and time-consuming stage of the whole process; the creation of a full set of type could involve making anywhere between 80 and 300 individual punches, depending on the language and the number of characters with accents, contractions and ligatures to be used, and it is unlikely that even a skilled punchcutter could produce more than one punch a day.

The punch is then taken and placed face down on a block of softer metal, usually copper, and struck while being held as upright as possible in order to leave an impression of the character in the copper. The resulting impressed copper block is referred to as a matrix.

Finally, the matrix is placed in a mould and held in place with a spring. Molten metal is then poured into the mould through a funnel shaped opening at the top, and allowed to set. The preferred metal is an alloy of lead, tin and antimony, as it has the necessary properties of melting at a low temperature, flowing easily and freezing quickly while maintaining a consistent volume. The mould would be shaken as the metal sets in order to ensure the even distribution of the metal; the precise nature of the shake required would depend on the character being cast.
This process was certainly in place by 1500, and changed little until around 1800. Our evidence for it comes largely from the survival of original materials, and from the account provided by Joseph Moxon in his Mechanick exercises on the whole art of printing of 1683-4. Initially, printers would have undertaken the whole process themselves, in order to safeguard what was still a relatively new technology. As the demand for type grew, separate workshops for making punches and matrices developed, and finally separate type foundries.

Other questions considered in the talk included what came before and after this method of producing type. The question of what preceded it is necessarily shrouded in some ambiguity, and here the scholarly debate surrounding the precise nature and method of production of Gutenberg’s early types was touched on, and various different theories considered. Later industrial methods of producing type such as the pantograph and the pivotal typecasting machine were also explained and illustrated.

A stimulating final discussion broadened the topic to include issues such as the design and production of typefaces for Greek characters, the production and proof reading of the very small types required for, for example, the 32mo volumes produced by the Elsevier Press, and the link between typefounding and cryptography, in that both depend on an analysis of the likely frequency of particular characters in any given language.

See pictures of a printing class taking place in the Bodleian Library’s Bibliography Room.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skeletons and sheets in the cupboard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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