Humanae Salutis Monumenta (‘HSM’) is a book of poems on Biblical subjects by the Spanish humanist Benito Arias Montano, richly illustrated with engravings. A copy of this work is in the Bodleian Library, at the shelfmark 4o Rawl.209. It bears on its frontispiece the date 1571 and, until recently, was dated as such by the Bodleian catalogue. Without knowing more about the book’s fortune, you wouldn’t think to doubt the date printed in the book. However, as we shall see, all is not what it seems.
HSM is a revolutionary work which fused the popular genres of books of hours, illustrated Bibles and emblem books. Its popularity can be seen in the number of editions it went through. Two early editions were an octavo with lavish borders in 1571, a smaller borderless octavo in 1581. The plates of these early editions are more Northern European in character; some bear strong resemblances to engravings by Dürer, and others contain windmills and typical Northern European houses in their backgrounds.
A quarto edition with new engravings was published in 1583. By contrast with the 1571 and 1581 editions, the larger engravings of the 1583 edition are much more Italianate and monumental. A good example of this phenomenon occurs in the engraving of the Visitation (Tabula XXXVI) where the size of the figures increases and the background changes from one containing houses reminiscent of Dutch landscapes to one of Italianate buildings with columns:
The 1583 edition also seems to be more geared towards a Roman Catholic audience through the religious content of the images. In particular, whereas the plates of the editions from 1571 and 1581 show a preoccupation with fidelity to the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, those from the 1583 edition are more faithful to the Vulgate, declared the authoritative translation of the Bible in the Fourth Session of the Council of Trent. This more orthodox Catholic view is particularly clear in the treatment of Moses: for example, the 1571 Tabula II shows him with two rays coming out of his head, whereas the 1583 version shows him with two wisps of hair in the shape of horns, a nod to the Vulgate translation of Exodus 34.29, ‘Moses ignorabat quod facies sua cornuta esset’. (The confusion resulted from the similarity of the Hebrew words qeren, ‘horn’ and qaran, ‘ray’.) The 1583 engraving is also less sympathetic to the Israelites, since in the background it portrays the idolatrous worship of golden calf instead of the neutral tents of earlier editions. What’s more, the Ten Commandments on the tablets held by Moses are written in Latin in the 1583 edition, rather than in Hebrew as in earlier editions.
But hang on. Bodleian 4o Rawl. 209 is, as its shelf-mark suggests, a quarto (4o). And if we turn to the Moses plate, we can see horns on his head. This must be the 1583 edition! But what about the date 1571 which appears on the frontispiece? Well, bibliographers point out that the same frontispiece was used for both the 1571 and 1583 editions. The reason for this may also be religious: Antwerp, where the book was printed, was under Calvinist rule when the 1583 edition was published. This made it risky to print a book written by a prominent Catholic theologian like Montano, and it was safer to give the impression that this was actually an earlier publication rather than a new edition. So, by causing the printer to hide the real date of publication, religious fervour was the culprit of the confusion in the dating of 4o Rawl.209, if the date alone were taken as evidence; but in inspiring the engravers to make some major iconographical changes, it helped us solve the problem.
Maria Czepiel is a DPhil candidate in the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages working on Spanish literature, and wrote this blog post as coursework for the MSt Method Option ‘Palaeography, History of the Book and Digital Humanities’ with Henrike Lähnemann. The catalogue record for 4o Rawl. 209 has been updated thanks to her research.
from Charlotte McKillop-Mash, Bodleian Special Collections
The Museum of the Bible in Washington DC is currently exhibiting the ‘Slave Bible’, a shockingly bowdlerised version of the New- and Old Testaments that was printed in England in 1807, the same year that the Slave Trade Act prohibited the slave trade in the British Empire.
What’s so shocking? This Bible, intended ‘For the Use of the Negro Slaves, In the British West-India Islands’ has been carefully edited to remove any mention of people freeing themselves from bondage. In just one instance, it skips directly from Genesis 45:28 to Exodus 19, so it includes the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) but “disappears” the first eighteen books of Exodus, in which the Israelites escape slavery in Egypt.
I came across this text thanks to an enlightening Religion News Service (RNS) article on the exhibit, which is a collaboration between the Museum of the Bible, Fisk (a historically black university in Tennessee) and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The ‘Slave Bible’ was published by the Society for the Conversion and Religious Education of Negro Slaves, an organisation founded by Bishop Beilby Porteus who was, difficult as it is to believe, a passionate abolitionist. Porteus (1731-1809), an interesting and contradictory figure, was the son of a Virginia tobacco planter (presumably a slave owner?) but was born and raised in England. He was ordained at the age of 26 and rose up the Anglican ranks, becoming chaplain to the king in 1769, bishop of Chester in 1776 and bishop of London in 1787. Porteus criticised the Church’s position on slavery, preached and campaigned against the slave trade, and voted numerous times to ban it. He also, perhaps most ironically, made strong stands for doctrinal purity and theological rigour. Even as he campaigned, however, his Conversion Society was printing and distributing this deeply impure Bible, a publication which can be considered as, at best, politically expedient. [DNB (subscription required) ] [Wikipedia ]
I was particularly intrigued when I read that “the rare artifact is just one of three known across the world. The other two are housed at universities in Great Britain.” What are the chances, I thought, that Oxford is one of those universities? I asked Jo Maddocks, from the Bodleian’s Rare Books Department, and was thrilled to discover that not only is there a copy here in Oxford, but it has been digitised so it is freely available for teaching.
This eye-opening and disturbing book deserves to be more widely known and I am grateful that the Museum of the Bible has highlighted it.
‘This is the only image of Cole’. That’s the caveat I append to the caricature image of Christian Frederick Cole, the University of Oxford’s first Black African Scholar in 1873, when I use the image (above, centre) to illustrate a lecture or write an article about him.
Last year the picture was widely used in media promotion of the unveiling of a memorial plaque to Cole, at University College, to honour him and his achievements. Every time I saw a press piece about the plaque with the image of Cole as a ‘minstrel’ adjacent to it, I cringed. Then I started to wonder, why is this caricature, along with other caricature images, the only portrayal of Cole? Who produced it, and for what purpose?
Progressing from these questions and thinking more broadly, I considered Cole’s presence in Oxford, fifty years after the introduction of photography in 1839. Is there a photograph or portrait of him? I considered why Cole’s achievements were portrayed publicly in the form of parody when his contemporaries were commemorated through portraits or statues.
My initial thoughts, reflections and questions about Cole’s imagery developed into a detailed study delving through archives and photographic catalogues of cartoons, caricatures and 19th-century portraits. One collection I looked at was the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera, held at the Bodleian Libraries. This is one of the largest and most important collections of printed ephemera in the world, and reflects types of ephemera produced from all periods, especially from the 19th century to the Second World War. I looked at the section on ‘Minstrels’ as the caricature of Cole has a strong resemblance to ‘negro minstrels’ popular at the time. The collection provided a fascinating source of contextual and background information.
This research forms the foundation for the Re-Imagining Cole symposium which takes place on Saturday 20th October at the Weston Library, from 10.00am – 4.00pm. The symposium will examine the background, context and depictions of previously unseen caricatures of Cole, exploring why Cole and his historic achievements were only portrayed in the form of parodies. The symposium will also examine the broader issues of race and representation in caricatures and portrait art. Finally, the symposium will pose the question, ‘Should Cole’s image be re-imagined?’ A display of items connected with Cole will be shown on the day.
The event will include art historians, artists and academic featuring Dr Temi Odumosu (Malmö University), Dr Robin Darwall-Smith (University College, University of Oxford), Robert Taylor (photographer of ‘Portraits of Achievement’), Colin Harris (cataloguer of the Shrimpton Caricatures collection, from which the caricatures of Cole are taken) and Pamela Roberts (Founder and Director Black Oxford Untold Stories).
The event has also been supported by the Art Fund and the Social History Society. Tickets for the event are £5.00 (£3.00 students, unwaged) and can be booked at: https://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/whatson/whats-on/upcoming-events/2018/october/reimagining-cole
Tara Lyons (Illinois State University) Sassoon Visiting Fellowship, Bodleian Libraries
Through an examination of the Bodleian’s archive of its own history, the Library Records collection, Tara Lyons has been investigating the earliest arrival of playbooks on the Bodleian’s shelves after the opening of the library in 1602.
The records of books claimed by the library from the Stationers’ Company under the agreement of 1610 , and the binding of books now in the library, combined with clues from printed library catalogues and the lists of locations of books (the order in which they were found on the shelves), helped Dr Lyons to build a picture of the sequence in which some individual plays were received early in the Bodleian’s history, and how they were treated once they were part of the Library’s collections.
In addition to scanning lists of books in the Library Records, Dr Lyons adopted the methods used by librarians in 1905 to identify the Bodleian’s original copy of the first folio edition of William Shakespeare’s plays. In that case the bibliographical detectives took clues from the printed waste that was used in the binding of the book, including fragments of a 15th-century edition of Cicero.
Dr Lyons’ research promises to amend an impression that playbooks in English found no home in the Bodleian in the decades after its founding in 1602, at a period when English literature was not recognized as a subject of academic study.
What images do we have of Black students at Oxford? The picture above is one of the images made of Christian Frederick Cole, the first Black African scholar at Oxford, in 1879. Last year Pamela Roberts, founder and director of Black Oxford Untold Stories, unveiled the first Black Oxford plaque at University College to honour Christian Frederick Cole. Pamela questioned why the achievements of Cole’s contemporaries were commemorated through portraits or statues, while the only images of Cole are in a series of caricatures. The symposium “Re-Imagining Cole”, at the Bodleian’s Weston Library on 20 October 2018, will explore these rediscovered images of Cole, held at the Library, and will examine the background and context of the images. The symposium will pose the question, should Cole’s image be reimagined?
Colin Harris writes about the series of ‘Shrimpton caricatures’, in the Bodleian collection, in which the depictions of Christian Frederick Cole appear:
The Oxford firm Thomas Shrimpton & Son published and sold photographic reproductions of commissioned or submitted original caricatures from their premises at 23-4 Broad St., from 1868-1901, their shop window display seemingly being their only advertising strategy, there being no evidence of them ever having produced a catalogue or list.
The subject matter includes many aspects of University life, notably University and religious personalities, and the trials and tribulations of undergraduate life, as well as sports and pastimes. Other subjects frequently covered are religion, politics, ‘town and gown’ confrontations, and women (the campaign for women to become full members of the University was going on at this time, and women first became full members in 1920).
The caricatures were essentially produced for undergraduates and mainly by undergraduates; many display learned quotations from classical authors and contemporary poets. In all there are 1214 images. The Bodleian holds what appear to be the only two known complete sets.
There were many women printing in the 16th century. But for a variety of reasons, it can be hard to find their work in library catalogues.
Yolande Bonhomme is a good example of this.
She came from a printing family: her father Pasquier Bonhomme was a celebrated Parisian printer, and her husband Thielmann Kerver also ran a printing business in Paris. Bonhomme took over Kerver’s business when he died in 1522, as was permitted by the Guild system in 16th-century Paris. Reports of her output vary, from 200 editions (Beatrice Beech, based on Renouard) to 136 (Axel Erdmann), before her own death in 1557.
While Kerver printed widely, with various editions of classical authors, Bonhomme focused on liturgical and devotional books.
She continued to use her husband’s device on the title-pages and at the colophons of her books, referring to herself most often simply as “vidua” – the widow – of Thielmann Kerver.
Because she does not usually name herself, it is her husband’s name that is sometimes picked out in library catalogues, and Bonhomme is found only with a bit more work. The Bodleian’s online catalogue SOLO gives this entry for the book below:
Hore deipare virginis marie secūdū vsum Romanū.
1523 | Par. T. Keruer | (8⁰)
Additional reading: Beatrice Beech, ‘Yolande Bonhomme: a Renaissance printer’, Medieval prosopography 6.2, 1985; Axel Erdmann, My gracious silence: women in the mirror of 16th century printing in Western Europe, 1999.
In the first of a series of blogposts about women in the book trades, we are looking at images showing women employed in the printing and paper industries in 18th-century France, as depicted in engravings from the Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, published between 1751 and 1772. The engravings show workers in the industrial spaces, as well as the tools of these trades.
Our first picture is a modern take on these images, as seen in a small risograph booklet which uses details from a modern facsimile edition of the Encyclopédie plates, (Recueil de planches sur les sciences, les arts libéraux et les arts mécaniques, avec leur explication, published in Paris by Inter-Livres in 2001). The booklet was produced by graphic designer Dario Utreras at the Bodleian Bibliographical Press in 2017.
Utreras isolated individual figures from the plates. In the upper corner of one page we notice a female figure, copied from the plates showing ‘Papeterie’, the paper-making industry, (in the online version of the Encyclopédie produced by the ARTFL project)*. Utreras comments on the reason for extracting these figures, ‘One has to go and find the women (and their work) across most strands of history. Women in Typography. Avant-garde composers. Radical poets. Indigenous musicians. This booklet is a small exercise in observation.’
Geraldine Sheridan has examined the historical accuracy of the Encyclopédie engravings. [“An Other Text: Rationalist Iconography and the Representation of Women’s Work in the Encyclopédie,” Diderot Studies (2003): 101-135] ‘We see the « delisseuses » cutting up rags for maceration… [and] women work in the drying room, separating and hanging up sheets of paper…’. [Sheridan, p. 128] Sheridan finds that in the case of papermaking, the portrayal of women workers in the industry reflected historical reality in the 18th-century French paper industry.
In other Encyclopedie plates, women are depicted in the type-foundry, (‘Fonderie des caracteres d’imprimerie’). This also fits the historical record. [Sheridan, p. 125] Sheridan explains the type of work that is depicted in the Encyclopédie: “one woman breaks off the jets of metal from the newly-cast type letters, while the woman beside her at the bench then rubs the shanks of each letter smooth on a grindstone. … The second image … shows a woman composing the newly cast letters into sets, and suggests that she had a level of literacy.”
*Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, etc., eds. Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert. University of Chicago: ARTFL Encyclopédie Project (Autumn 2017 Edition), Robert Morrissey and Glenn Roe (eds), http://encyclopedie.uchicago.edu/.
A Commonplace Reformation: Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Add. A. 92 – Martin Luther’s Autograph Collection of Proverbs
This manuscript is one of two in the Bodleian’s possession which are written in Martin Luther’s own hand, and, running to 40 pages, is by far the more substantial – though, about the size of a postcard, it remains small. It is a collection of proverbs (Sprichwörter), mostly in German, and dating from some point in the later 1530s or early 1540s. It was acquired by the Bodleian for £45 in 1865 –the ‘carelessness and poverty’ of German libraries and museums for allowing this to happen was later lamented. (‘Sprichwörtersammlung’, ed. K. Drescher, in Luthers Werke: Schriften, 69 vols. (Weimar: 1883-), li, p. 634). This manuscript is the only version of this collection, which was never published or prepared for publication in Luther’s lifetime; indeed, its contents were not published until its preparation in 1900 by Ernst Thiele, which was then included in the Weimar edition of Luther’s collected works. It is not known why, other than an interest in proverbs, Luther began to write this work, nor why he stopped (the last six pages of the manuscript are blank) and did not publish it.
The format of the manuscript reflects Luther’s practice to cut up sheets of paper into smaller pieces to serve as notepaper, which would be small enough to carry around, or just to have ready on his desk to make notes on. The paper for the whole manuscript has the same watermark, an eagle (see image, from p. 22), and so was presumably all prepared at approximately the same time.
Thiele notes that this watermark is also found on the manuscript (also in this note-paper format) of Luther’s tract Wider Hans Worst, which was written and published in 1541, which gives some idea of when the manuscript might have been written. Being a notebook, many of the phrases win it are just brief notes – reminders from Luther to jog his memory. This means that many of the phrases are heavily abbreviated and make little sense to a modern reader, especially when many of the proverbs describe situations unfamiliar in the present day. The manuscript shows signs of composition and revision, too – Luther seems, perhaps with existing proverbs in mind, to be writing new proverbs, or at least variations of old ones. This manuscript can give a number of interesting insights, both into Luther, and his thought processes, and into the state of German literary culture of the period.
The sixteenth century was a time of considerable change for the German language. Once, Luther himself was regarded as the driving force of this change, but, while his importance in the development of the German language and German print culture should not be underestimated, he was part of a wider moment in which German changed. This included writers like Luther, but also merchants and printers, who all participated in changes in German literary culture. Proverb collections have been a focus for historians of popular culture trying to find a way in to oral culture which cannot be easily found through books. While this is attractive, there are significant problems with the use of proverb collections as examples of popular oral culture, since many collections of proverbs were used to give moral instruction. This is clear in the proverb collections of Luther’s contemporary, and sometime friend, Agricola, in which most of the proverbs are accompanied by brief moral instructions explaining how the proverbs can be used for personal improvement. Published proverb collections like Agricola’s provide an example more of what their authors think, or want, popular behaviour to be, than a reflection its reality. Moreover, the first, and most famous, of the sixteenth-century proverb collections, Erasmus’ Adages was emphatically not a collection of examples from popular speech: they were phrases to be learned and used for instruction, rather than as representative of folk wisdom and oral culture. These books of proverbs, then, reflect not popular opinions and beliefs, but the opinions and beliefs of the educated and of literary wits. To be included in such a collection was an indication, perhaps, not of the peasant-authenticity of a phrase, but on its aptness or elegance.
Luther’s collection, however, is somewhat different. It is not a neat and learned collection like that of Agricola or Erasmus. It contains no moral essays, nor citations of classical or contemporary authors. Few of Luther’s proverbs seem to be taken from noted literary sources at all. It was, of course, never published, and never arranged into a didactic text. It may, as Thiele argues, have originally been conceived as his own proverb collection in competition – or in dialogue – with other proverb collections of the time, but at some point Luther seems to have decided against this, and converted the aim into a work for purely personal use. Understanding these proverbs can be difficult, given that many of them are no longer part of contemporary culture, or refer to contemporary experiences or beliefs, or even to words which have since fallen out of use. For instance, a year regulated by religious festivals can be seen with the expression ‘zu pfingsten auff dem eys’ – something will happen ‘on the ice at Whitsun’, i.e. never (see image, from p. 10, at bottom).
Another proverb is just the short note ‘Blewel schleiffen’, where ‘Blewel’, in modern German ‘Bleuel’, is a piece of wood used to beat washing in running water to help clean it. Further, many proverbs rely on their context to be understood, and being in a list removes this almost entirely. This is made yet more difficult by the abbreviated form in which many of them are recorded. As Luther’s notes, they did not need to be complete, and may only stand for a prompt, intelligible to him, but not to anyone else. For example, ‘Hasen panier’ (flying ‘a hare’s banner’) probably is ironic for running away instead of advancing under a proper banner, as are the two words ‘ohren melcker’ (‘ear-milker’), which might be interpreted as way of saying ‘flatterer’. Many, though, are perfectly intelligible to the modern reader, and have close analogues with proverbs in English, as well as in modern German. For instance, ‘Er geht auff eyern’ (‘He goes on eggs’) can be read as ‘walking on eggshells’, while ‘Horet das gras wachsen’ (‘Listen to the grass grow’) and ‘Viel hende machen leicht erbeit’ (‘Many hands make light work’) are clear.
There are a number of features of this manuscript, many of which are typified on this detail from p. 23. The manuscript is written in an unusual red-brown ink; two versions of this ink can be seen, clearly demonstrating how the manuscript was written over time, and with no interest in internal consistency. The changes of ink suggest that the manuscript was composed over a period of time, with different inks showing as many as eleven periods of composition. The picture of a hand (a manicule) is used to indicate something of special interest. Here, it marks the phrase ‘Gott ist der narren furmunde’, meaning ‘God is the fool’s guardian’. ‘Fool’ here is not a term of abuse, but refers instead the Pauline idea of a ‘fool for God’ who is under special divine protection. This is, perhaps, a crucial theological proverb for Luther, expressing the ubiquity of faith, for even ‘fools’ can have it.
These pages also contain a number of proverbs which are abusive or scatological in nature, something quite typical of Luther’s polemical writings. For instance, amongst a series of proverbs on p. 9 relating to fish is ‘Bleib daheymen mit deinen faulen fisschen’ (‘Stay at home with your rotten fish’), while on another page there is the bald remark that ‘An armen hoffart wisscht der teufel den ars’ (‘the Devil wipes his arse on the pride of the poor’). This manuscript shows that such uses in Luther’s public writings were neither an aberration, nor actually spontaneous, since a number appear in this manuscript simply listed without anything to prompt them. Luther, it seems, worked out his insults in advance, ready to insert them into his other writings. Not all are abusive, though, and some quite homely, such as ‘Kuche uber den zaün, kuche herwidder’ (‘[offering] a cake over the fence receives a cake in return’).
Though this manuscript should not necessarily be considered as a direct record of popular culture of Luther’s time, for Luther, like his contemporary proverb collection, likely compiled his proverbs with some moral or didactic intent, it is useful in the understanding of Luther himself. This manuscript by no means revolutionises interpretations of Luther, his personality, or his preoccupations, which are already well-documented in the many sources which surround Luther’s life, but it does, perhaps, offer an unusually unmediated access to Luther, unaffected by the admiration or denigration of his followers and his opponents. It also lacks the public aspect of his polemics and letters, especially in the annotations which Luther apparently makes for himself alone. The private nature of this work, whatever its original purpose, gives insight into Luther’s working methods and what he wrote when he did not have an audience or a particular aim.
The manuscript will be displayed in the Weston Library from the 30th October to the 3rd of November.
Photographs taken by Alexander Peplow, and Professor Henrike Lähnemann, whose photos of the entire manuscript can be found here. Photos used with the permission of the Bodleian Libraries.
A description of its palaeographic features can be found on the Teaching the Codex website.
Alexander Peplow is a DPhil student in History at Merton College. The description of the Luther autograph was part of his course work for the Method Option ‘Palaeography and History of the Book’ with Henrike Lähnemann in the MSt. in Medieval Studies 2016/2017.
from Isobel Goodman, intern (2017) Rare Books, Bodleian Libraries Special Collections
The Cheney archive documents the history of Cheney & Sons, an independent family printing firm based in Banbury. The firm was in operation from 1767 to 2001, working primarily as jobbing printers but also printing some books. The archive, acquired by the Bodleian Library in 2010, includes 17 volumes of printed ephemera, books, and manuscript material, and demonstrates both the longevity of the company and their adaptability through over two centuries of politics, wars and changing technology.
The company was begun in 1767 by John Cheney, the innkeeper of the Unicorn Inn in Banbury. From there it passed through various generations of Cheney until it finally closed down some 234 years later. A particularly interesting aspect of the firm’s history is during the period 1821 to 1854, when Esther Cheney, the wife of the founder’s son, Thomas, was the head of the company. A letter sent out by her to clients informing them of this change of leadership is within the archive, as well as another one from when Esther handed control to her son in 1854.
Several items within the archive thus bear the imprint E. Cheney, and according to the Cheney’s own history, Esther was a formidable woman of renown in Banbury. Apparently the people of Banbury used to frighten naughty children by threatening to call in Mrs. Cheney! Her position is interesting as she was clearly acting as head of the company in her own right, an action that was not necessarily the norm at the time. For more detail on the history of the firm, Cheney and Sons printed their own history, which is also part of the archive.
The archive sheds light on the print trade across over two centuries. The Cheneys produced several specimen books containing numerous examples of their work, showcasing the variety of commissions that the Cheney family could undertake, as well as demonstrating the types, colours, materials, and finishes that they could offer. Specimen books like these were, and remain today, a very practical way of showing potential clients the services offered by a company.
But Cheney & Sons took every opportunity to demonstrate their printing skill, for instance the archive contains several promotional calendars which were given as gifts to clients at the end of the year. These calendars not only showcase the artistic skill of the printing firm, but also allow us to see changing tastes in artwork through the years. They also show that maintaining client loyalty and goodwill was an important part of running the business, and the further examples within the archive of these kinds of tokens of thanks (SDC11230) printed by Cheney & Sons for other businesses, suggest that business-client relationships were much more personal in the 19th and 20th centuries.
It is interesting to discover, through the archive material, the different ways in which print was utilised through the late 18th to 21st centuries, and the insight these materials can give us into social history of the time.
The Cheney archive affords a wealth of examples of printed documents relating to entertainment. There are numerous notices for concerts and plays , as well as a dance card to the Banbury ball of December 1897 , listing the dances and with room for a lady to write in a partner for each. Also, there is a poster printed by Potts and a newspaper article by Cheney detailing the celebrations planned for the day of Queen Victoria’s coronation, showing how, in a time before television allowed live viewing of the actual event in London, the people of Banbury (and presumably other towns too) enjoyed coronation day: with dancing, sports, and an ‘immense fire balloon’!
Another lovely example of Cheney & Co’s involvement in local entertainment is a book printed in 1907 to commemorate the Oxford Pageant. The pageant was organised to raise funds for the Radcliffe Infirmary and the Oxford Eye Hospital, and involved the people of Oxford dressing up in historical dress and re-enacting the history of Oxford. My personal highlights are the Vikings landing, Queen Elizabeth and her court being photographed school-photograph style, and a recreation of the St. Scholastica’s Day ‘Town and Gown’ riots!
Several volumes of the archive are full of printed ephemera related to politics, further demonstrating the Cheney’s connection with the general public. Some are open letters from MPs at election time. Others record contemporary reaction to political changes, for example some notices refer to the change to a secret ballot in 1872, instructing voters how to cast their vote properly. However, some are perhaps even more relevant to the present day: vicious tirades against fellow MPs , and satires describing the election as a horse-race, with a notice of betting on the contestants, and a summary after the ‘race’. . These satires were published by various different printers in Banbury and the surrounding area, and so the archive demonstrates a wide range of political affiliations, showing elections from several different perspectives. It is interesting to see how, in a world without social media, politics could be equally as cut-throat, and printed ephemera clearly played a very important role in this.
Fashion is another particular strength of the Cheney archive. Several catalogues and pamphlets for different shops can be found, including one for Elliston and Cavell Ltd., the shop that used to be situated at 7-12 Magdalen Street, Oxford, where Debenhams is now. The catalogues offer insight not only into trends for men, women and children, but also into how the fashion trade operated in the 20th century.
Outside of examples of work printed by Cheney and Sons, one manuscript letter
written to ‘Mr Cheney Guild-der’ describes quite a curious commission received by the Cheney firm. Richard Barton asks Cheney to ‘put’ images of angels, Jesus and a small child on two clarinets. The letter is not very professionally written, as the writer starts over three times and runs out of space at the bottom of the page. He also states that he doesn’t want to ask the usual man, because he’s always drunk! This seems quite a strange request to make of a printer – but serves to show another side of the Cheney firm, which was gilding.
The archive does not just include work by the Cheney firm, though. It also includes the work of other local printers, including J.G. Rusher, who printed a large number of chapbooks in the early nineteenth century. These are small, paper-covered booklets relating children’s stories, folk tales, ballads, poems and riddles, often accompanied by illustrations. Chapbooks were a medium of popular literature in the late 18th and 19th centuries, and the large number of them printed in Banbury by Rusher, Cheney, and other local printers sheds light on the history of production and distribution of such popular literature. Many of the chapbooks relate well-known stories such as Jack the giant killer , Dick Whittington , Cinderella, and Jack and Jill , to name but a few.
The range within the Cheney archive material is very broad, as such a lengthy timeframe is likely to afford. Some of the archive material relates to World War II, including notices relating to the blackout and air raids. One notice includes a watermark for ‘Cheney and Sons, Banbury’ . It is clear that the longevity of the Cheney firm stems not only from printing commercially viable popular material, but also from their ability to adapt and change their work to suit current events and extraordinary circumstances.
The archive thus demonstrates the breadth of the uses of print through the late 18th to 21st centuries, and the real integration of a printing firm into every aspect of a community’s life. As we move increasingly further away from a world of print and into a digital age, it is fascinating to see how crucial print has been right up to recent history, and to track some of these changes through one family and printing firm.
Coline Blaizeau, M.St. in Medieval and Modern Languages, University of Oxford
MS. Lincoln College Lat. 16 is a fourteenth-century English manuscript which has been held at the Bodleian Library since 1892, when it was deposited from Lincoln College, Oxford. It is composed of a commented Apocalypse of St John in Latin (ff. 1-138), and a commented Apocalypse of St John in French which also features numerous illustrations (ff. 139-181).
This Apocalypse in French, generally known as the French Prose Apocalypse so as to distinguish it from the French Verse Apocalypse, survives in around forty manuscripts. Despite its popularity and dissemination in the Middle Ages, this text has been largely overlooked by modern criticism, and fundamental questions remain unanswered concerning its date, author, origin and transmission.
This has caught the attention of Dr Daron Burrows, associate professor in medieval French at the University of Oxford, who argues that a critical edition of the French Prose Apocalypse – other than Paul Meyer’s, based mainly on the manuscript BnF 403[i] – is essential to our understanding of this text.[ii]
Through the ‘Apocalypse in Oxford’ project in particular, Burrows proposes to take a close look at MS. Lincoln College Lat. 16 as well as four other manuscripts containing the French Prose Apocalypse: MS. Bodley 401, MS. Douce 180, MS. Selden supra 38, and MS. University College 100.
More information can be found on the website http://apocalypse.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/.
My own work is a contribution to this project. In proposing the diplomatic transcription, edition, and palaeographical commentary of an excerpt from MS. Lincoln College Lat. 16, I hope to advance at my humble level our comprehension of the French Prose Apocalypse.
The chosen excerpt consists of ff. 170r-171r and offers a translation from Latin to French of the passage of the Whore of Babylon as well as its accompanying exegesis.
The writing is clear, as can be seen on the pictures above, yet greater care seems to have been given to the illustrations – a rather typical feature of French Prose Apocalypse manuscripts, which meant that I had to pay particular attention to scribal errors and imperfect correction. Segments of the text are often missing, and the other manuscripts of our corpus had to be used to fill in the gaps.
[i] Paul Meyer, L’Apocalypse en français au XIIIe siècle (Bibl. nat. fr. 403): introduction et texte (Paris: Firmin Didot, 1901).
[ii] Daron Burrows, ‘Vers une nouvelle édition de l’Apocalypse en Prose’, in Anglo-français: philologie et linguistique, ed. by Oreste Floquet and Gabriele Giannini (Paris: Classiques Garnier, 2015), p. 31.