The Lyell Lectures 2015 are given by Professor Michael F. Suarez, S.J., under the general title The Reach of Bibliography: Looking Beyond Letterpress in Eighteenth-Century Texts.
28 April: ‘Engraved Throughout: Pine’s Horace (1733) as a Bibliographical Object’. Video podcast, link here.
30 April: ‘True Colours: A Natural History of Louis Renard’s Poissons (1719)’. (Link to podcast)
5 May: ‘Proliferating Images: Diagrams of the Slave Ship Brookes (1789)’. (Link to podcast)
7 May: ‘Singular Multiples: Comprehending the General Evening Post (1754–86)’. (Link to podcast)
12 May: ‘Naming Names: Underwriting Patronage in Tonson’s Cæsar (1712)’. (Link to podcast)
14 May: ‘Abridging Histories: Capt. James Cook and the Voyages of Reading (1784–)’. (Link to podcast)
The natural history of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands: containing the figures of birds, beasts, fishes, serpents, insects and plants: particularly the forest-trees, shrubs, and other plants, not hitherto described, or very incorrectly figured by authors. Together with their descriptions in English and French.
MDCCLIV. | London: : Printed for C. Marsh, in Round Court in the Strand; T. Wilcox, over-against the New Church, in the Strand; and B. Stichall in Clare-Court.
Vol. II, p. 15, ‘The great Hog-Fish/Le grand Pourceau’. Bodleian Arch. Nat. Hist. M. 5
The Gazetteer and London Daily Advertiser. Number 9883. Thursday, December 18, 1760. Bodleian Johnson a.122
An engraved picture plate from Caesar’s Commentaries (1712) published by Jacob Tonson the elder shows the arms of Simon Harcourt (1661-1727), Lord Chancellor in 1713. For the Harcourt family papers, see Bodleian Western Manuscripts collection
Silius Italicus, The second Punick war (1661), translated by Thomas Ross, was dedicated to Charles II. The captions to the numerous plates honoured prominent loyalists. (Bodleian Mason I 228)
Bodleian Vet. A4 e.2816 and Vet. A4 e.350, two different pirated editions of Daniel Defoe’s satirical poem, Jure Divino. The edition on the left was actually published before the official folio edition. The frontispiece is the portrait of Defoe originally engraved for Defoe’s Works in 1703, and here copied (in woodcut for the abridged version on the right). The frontispiece of the legitimate folio edition of Jure Divino was a different portrait.
Print of a seal; Bodleian Rawl. Prints a.5, no. 131
Drawing of a seal; Bodleian Rawl. Prints a.5, no. 132
Professor H.R. Woudhuysen began the 2013-14 Lyell Lectures on Tuesday, 29 April with a survey of his topic, ‘Almost Identical’: Copying Books in England, 1600-1900
This introductory lecture touched on aspects of copying which encompass a range of behaviours relating to books, documents, and ultimately our relation with the past – whether to venerate, consume, publicise, preserve, or obscure it.
Professor Woudhuysen pointed out that, even before the advent of photography, print technology was pressed into service for copying not only books and manuscripts but tapestries. Not only the text but the seals and signatures of manuscript documents would frequently be pictured in an engraved copy. Examination of these facsimiles reminds us that encounters with traces of the past could happen at one remove not only for us in the digital age but for historians and antiquarians in the early modern period.
Stating his inspiration for these lectures, he acknowledged the contradiction in his title; ‘Almost Identical’ is not identical at all. The spectre raised in Jorge Luis Borges’s 1941 short story ‘The Library of Babel’ – ‘there are always several hundred thousand imperfect facsimiles: works which differ only in a letter or a comma’ – will be familiar to students of the hand-press period.
Regarding ‘preservation copying’, a poignant question about the Cottonian Library fire in 1731 was: why didn’t this incident inspire a rush to make facsimiles to preserve the texts in Cotton’s collection, and in others?
The lecture ended with a look at facsimiles of autograph letters, whether produced as souvenirs of the dead or as cheerful commercial endorsements. These are a reminder of how reproduction strives to capture the magic of authenticity.
In later lectures Woudhuysen has promised to examine ‘sophistication’ (the making up of perfect copies of early books) and the different styles and purposes of facsimiles issued by learned societies and other publishers before 1900.
The Lyell Lectures continue on Tuesdays and Thursdays until 13 May, in the T.S. Eliot Lecture Theatre, Merton College. All welcome.