The CSB conference ‘Error and Print Culture, 1550-1800’ convened by Adam Smyth (Oxford) welcomed delegates to Oxford for a day of contemplation of errors, posing questions both historical and philosophical: why did printed materials deviate from authorial intentions – how can we be sure that any printed line is wrong, or right? – and when does an error happen: in the printing, or in the reading or theatrical or musical performance or the peal of church bells based on a printed guide?
On June 18, the opening day of the Bodleian’s WWI centenary exhibition ‘The Great War: Personal stories from Downing Street to the trenches’, the curator, Mike Webb, joined in conversation with representatives of two other institutions staging similar exhibitions: Frank Druffner, from the Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach; and Julien Collonges, from the Bibliothèque Nationale et Universitaire Strasbourg. They were joined by Chris Fletcher, Keeper of Special Collections at the Bodleian Libraries, and by Christophe Didier, director for development of collections of the BNU Strasbourg, for a panel discussion on the theme of exhibiting the history of WWI. A partnership between these three institutions has included some reciprocal loans of manuscripts for display in this centenary year, with the aim of exploring the connections between national histories and the archival collections that hold memories of the War.
The discussion on 18 June, moderated by Stuart Lee (English Faculty, and director of The First World War Poetry Digital Archive), considered questions including how much historical truth is conveyed through poetry; how to tell the story of individuals during the war, and whether at the same time to acknowledge their later reputations; and the roles of libraries and archives as repositories for national memories of war.
Profound differences in the national attitudes to the memory of WWI and the historical debates that have been generated around the centenary were explored in this discussion. It was evident that the three exhibitions, primarily shaped by the available collections in each place, were also responding to different audiences and contexts. Mike Webb described his approach in the Bodleian exhibition, which traces the history of Oxford connections with the war up until 1916, as seeking immersion in the historical moment, maintaining the immediacy of the impressions of fast-moving events as captured in letters and diaries, such as the diary of Lewis Harcourt, a member of Cabinet during the War, who in July 1914 recorded his deep dislike of the belligerent attitude of Winston Churchill. This curatorial approach contrasted with the challenges described by Julien Collonges, who will use the Strasbourg exhibition opening in Autumn 2014 to explore the work and relationships of three poets: Ernst Stadler, Charles Péguy, and Wilfred Owen. Collonges found in planning the display that he had to tell the story not only of the days of 1914, but of the post-war reputation of the poets, and this was both rewarding and problematic in the case of Péguy, whose patriotic verses have been appropriated by right-wing nationalists, with resonances for the later history of France and Europe.
The shadow of later events also falls on the survival of material; asked what single item the Deutsches Literaturarchiv would have liked to display, Frank Druffner described an album of drawings by the writer Ernst Jünger, who was also a noted entomologist, of insects in the trenches. The album was lost during WWII.
This event was supported by the Institut Français, the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Oxford German Network, the Fonds culturel franco-allemand, the Maison Française Oxford, and the Bodleian Libraries
On 10 June, amidst centuries’ worth of scientific implements at the Museum of the History of Science, Michael Weatherburn gave the fifth Byrne Bussey Marconi Lecture. Titled ‘Time and Emotion Study: Anne Shaw, Metropolitan Vickers, and Work Experiments on the Twentieth Century British Factory Floor,’ the presentation, which drew on research in the Bodleian’s Marconi Archives, began with an image familiar to many in the audience: a poster for the 1959 film ‘I’m Alright Jack.’ The Boulting Brothers comedy, starring Peter Sellers, Ian Carmichael, and Terry Thomas, was the most popular film of 1959. It was not the film’s popularity, however, that made it relevant to Weatherburn’s research, but the issue at the centre of its satirical plot: in the film, a national strike is prompted by a single time and motion study.
These efficiency studies were the subject of Weatherburn’s lecture, which introduced his audience to a new way of understanding twentieth century British labour and business history. Most existing work by labour historians, said Weatherburn, focuses on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Britain. He also noted that historians of business stress that crucial changes made to the analysis and organization of work on the factory floor were completed by World War One.
His research shifts the focus to the twentieth century, particularly during WWII when, he noted, Britain was in fact at its most industrialized, either before or since. While the typical narrative of postwar British industry is one of the ‘British management failure’, Weatherburn challenged that assumption, asking if there was indeed such a failure by interrogating the terms of judgment; in fact a great deal of effort was put into management – but, as Weatherburn asked, was it successful on its own terms while doing little to improve output?
Time and motion studies were at the centre of Weatherburn’s presentation. He explored their use by companies such as Metropolitan Vickers, drawing on the records of the electrical company contained in the Marconi Archives. Weatherburn also highlighted the role played by individuals like Anne Shaw in the development and adoption of time and motion studies. He explained that Shaw was a protégé of Lillian Gilbreth who, along with her husband Frank, was a pioneer of motion studies in the United States. Their work analysis films can be seen here. (The Gilbreths are perhaps most popularly known as the subjects of the 1948 book and 1950 film Cheaper by the Dozen).
In his presentation, Weatherburn spanned the pre-WWI and post-WWII decades, and focused not only on management strategies but on worker responses. He explained the Labour government’s decision to continue efficiency studies after WWII, pointing to the creation of the British Institute of Management and asking whether it is fair to say, as many have, that the post-war Labour government failed to intervene (or intervened unsuccessfully) in attempts to increase British industrial efficiency. Perhaps, Weatherburn suggested, Labour succeeded on some of its own terms; it is towards those terms, and away from normative standards of success, that Weatherburn shifted analysis.
Weatherburn’s research was funded by the Byrne Bussey Marconi fund, and relates to his doctoral research, which aims in part to ‘reframe the history and historiography of management, particularly in relation to British industry.’ Read more about Weatherburn’s research here.
– from Nora Wilkinson (Harvard University)
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
I’ve been looking at the neat handwritten annotation at the top of a page in the Bodleian Library’s copy at Tanner 942(2) of A moste sure and strong defence of the baptisme of children, published in 1551, guided by Dunstan Roberts (Cambridge) in the latest of the master classes convened at the library by Will Poole.
The annotation is by William Dowsing (1596-1668) of Suffolk, noting his purchase of this short book in November, 1627. At the end of the pamphlet, he notes the dates that he read this work, over two days in the following February.
A tidy mind is a wonderful thing. Was this useful in Dowsing’s later role as ‘Commissioner for the destruction of monuments of idolatry and superstition’, carrying out the ordinances of Parliament in 1643 and 1644? Dowsing’s collection included several books of the 16th-century Reformation, which he seems to have pored over, refining his sense of Puritan outrage at any idolatry or beliefs unsupported by scripture, annotating with chapter and verse where the earlier authors were sloppy in their references.
Roberts presented Dowsing as a case of the long historical tail of the Henrician reformation. In the process, he pointed to several bibliographical puzzles and possibilities.
One was the tantalizing detail in which Dowsing recorded not only the date of purchase, but the date and duration of his reading of books. How the history of reading would benefit if all readers were so systematic!
A puzzle was the fate of Dowsing’s collection of pamphlets. His systematic re-numbering of the pages in his own collected volumes laid a trail of clues to his collecting and arrangement of books that are now broken up and dispersed.
How can modern scholars find, and share, these small traces that can add up to a picture of larger lost libraries? The series convener of the master classes on printed books with manuscript contents, Will Poole, has reconstructed the library of Francis Lodwick from lists in the Sloane manuscripts at the British Library and from clues in Bodleian and British Library books, such as marginal annotations and shelfmarks (The Library, 7th Series, vii(2006), p.377-418). The Hans Sloane printed books project has followed Sloane’s distinctive marks to identify his own printed books inside and outside the British Library. http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/findhelprestype/prbooks/sloaneprintedbooksproject/sloaneprinted.html
The American Library Association rules for descriptive cataloguing of rare books specify that provenance information for copies held by a library should be included in catalogue records for those copies. We also know that librarians and scholars have been keeping independent records of this sort of information for years, as in this example from a card catalogue compiled by the late D.M. Rogers at the Bodleian, recording coats of arms, autographs, and notes and sometimes reproducing these.
This kind of information might be useful only as threads to knit together collections long since scattered. What methods will help scholars to find information on a book they are looking at, and what will enable their contribution to a collective effort to increase the knowledge held in libraries about the history of the books and manuscripts in their care?
David Pearson’s list of English book owners in the 17th century is a PDF file available on the Bibliographical Society website simply organized alphabetically by name of owner, with links to images showing autographs and other distinctive marks. http://www.bibsoc.org.uk/content/english-book-owners-seventeenth-century
Can researchers be empowered to contribute information as they find it in libraries around the world? On LibraryThing, Legacy Libraries (http://www.librarything.com/groups/iseedeadpeoplesbooks) enables collective efforts to build a virtual library catalogue by adding records of editions that were owned by an individual.
The CERL web portal offers a question board, for those who are confronted with an unknown bookplate or signature. http://www.cerl.org/resources/provenance/can_you_help.
How well do any of these methods enable a researcher a) to learn what is known, about a book or an owner; b) to find out what is still unknown; c) to estimate the costs and benefits – (Is It Worth It?) – of pursuing an anonymous annotator or of reconstructing a lost library?
And in what format can this help be provided? When is the information best conveyed by standard vocabularies and thesauri, integrated with authoritative bio-bibliographical information? Or on the other hand by visual databases of distinctive marks shared among researchers labouring in the same vineyard? Online folders of snapshots already enable libraries to organize evidence into groups (bookplates, inscriptions) for visual identification and matching, as here from the Bodleian Libraries CSB: http://www.flickr.com/photos/oxford_csb/ and the much more extensive Penn Provenance Project image stream: http://www.flickr.com/photos/58558794@N07/.
A controlled vocabulary in a prescribed format, or a gallery of graven images: what would William Dowsing say?
A continuing theme of presentations at symposia and master classes in recent years (see: The Gathered Text) has been that to learn certain things about a book we need to look at the structure. Whether these are printed books from the hand-press period, or manuscript books, researchers are interested in getting to know the structure of the codex as a way of learning where, when, and why the book was made, as opposed to where, when and why the text was written.
Orietta Da Rold presented Bodleian MS. Laud misc. 108 as an example for her discussion of how codicological features could assist with issues of the localization of English medieval manuscripts. Bodleian MS. Laud misc. 108 is a manuscript containing saints’ lives, scriptural narratives, and poems including Havelok the Dane and the romance of King Horn. In the class, as an example of the questions and answers provided by close examination of quiring, Da Rold looked at the sequence of the parchmentleaves and pointed to the features that could provide clues to the materials and procedures used to create the book: not only the sequence of hands writing the texts and numbering the leaves, but imperfections of leaves that might indicate the nature and the size of the skins used, the method of folding the parchment sheet to make quires, the removal of leaves from quires, and the size of the quires, most of which contain twelve leaves. It was the last point which generated most discussion and questions, concerning the timing and reasons for a movement in England from quires with a usual number of 8 leaves, to gatherings of 12 leaves. With a very useful table of the quires of MS. Laud misc. 108, indicating the scribal hands, signature marks, the skin and hair side of each leaf and the gatherings of the leaves in each quire, Da Rold inspired the class to understand more about the tools and working practices of the makers of books in order to better identify practices that might be distinctive to a locality or to a moment of change in the history of the book.
Da Rold ended by referring to Robert Darnton’s ‘communications circuit’, the model illustrated on p. 68 of his 1982 article, What is the history of books? Daedalus 111(3), asking how this would be qualified for the history of manuscript book production, possibly yielding a model in the form of a ‘web’ of manuscript production.
The second in this year’s series of classes, convened by Will Poole, on annotated books in Bodleian Library collections was led by Kasper van Ommen (University of Leiden, and Humfrey Wanley Fellow at the Bodleian Library). He examined annotated books from Joseph Scaliger’s library, showing examples that had come into Bodleian collections by a variety of routes; as gifts from Scaliger himself to Henry Savile [Savile Ee 1(5)] or by descent of owners after Scaliger’s library, by the terms of his will, was divided and the ‘books in foreign tongues’ given to University of Leiden Library, establishing an early collection of Middle Eastern and Asian-language books there; then Scaliger’s friends including Daniel Heinsius, Van der Myle and Baudius had the pick of the learned books in Latin and Greek; and the remainder of his library was sold at auction. By these means, particularly through the later sale of the books of Daniel Heinsius’s son Nicholas, many of Scaliger’s books bearing his annotations were dispersed and some came into the hands of English scholars and collectors. Some 27 books from Scaliger’s library or sent as dedication copies by him are in the Bodleian now.
Introducing the history of Scaliger’s library, Van Ommen pointed out that he was a ‘star professor’ of the late 16th century, and that his gifts of his own works to respected friends reflected both his productivity and his self-regard. This backfired with his presentation of the Cyclometrica to Henry Savile of Merton College, Oxford, who was not impressed with Scaliger’s claim to have squared the circle (a controversy in which John Wallis, a later Savilian Professor of Geometry, was similarly engaged with Thomas Hobbes in the middle of the 17th century).
Carrying the theme of discovering printed books that are unique by virtue of manuscript additions or annotations, the class examined a volume annotated by Scaliger, the 1579 edition of his own publication of Manilius’s Astronomicon, marked by him for the second (authorized) edition, and also marked in red crayon by the printers in Leiden as a copy-text for the 1600 publication. [Bodleian Library Auct. S 6.12] The volume also has added index entries as seen in the second image here.
The class discussed parallels between the Leiden and Oxford; did Thomas Bodley, a diplomat based in The Hague from 1588 to 1597, regard Leiden’s library as a model for the Bodleian, which he later founded as an ‘Ark to save learning from the deluge’ – an echo of the Arca Scaligeri, the cabinet made to hold Scaliger’s Oriental books when they came to the Leiden library? Each provided early catalogues of scholarly books, the Nomenclator of Leiden in 1595 and Thomas James’s 1605 Catalogus librorum bibliothecæ publicæ.
One indication of Bodley’s connection with (and admiration of) scholarship at Leiden may perhaps be seen in a letter transcribed in the newly launched resource from the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters, The Diplomatic Correspondence of Thomas Bodley, 1585-1597;
http://www.livesandletters.ac.uk/cell/Bodley/transcript.php?fname=xml//1589//DCB_0802.xml. This was prepared under the direction of former Humfrey Wanley Fellow, Robyn Adams.
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:
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”