‘I dare say will please you when you see them’ – more ‘new’ wood-blocks of an old grotesque alphabet.

Andrew Honey (Bodleian and English Faculty, Oxford)

An earlier blogpost introduced a newly acquired wood-block, a 19th-century copy made of the letter K from a woodcut alphabet – the original ‘K’ being one of 23 letters from a Netherlandish woodcut grotesque alphabet of 1464 that is now at the British Museum. The facsimile copy was used in 1839 to print Treatise on Wood-engraving. In the last post we saw that the popularity of the original grotesque alphabet resulted in 15th and 16th century printed and manuscript copies, and we also saw that the facsimile was printed in 1839 using brown ink to convey the materiality of its water-based printing ink. This relates the interest in this alphabet to the curiosity about the printing of blockbooks, a lasting subject of fascination for historians of printing.

Bodleian Library, MS. Hearne’s Diaries 50, pp. 18-19
Figure 5: Bodleian Library, MS. Hearne’s Diaries 50, pp. 18-19.

This desire to convey the materiality of early water-based printing inks was shared a century earlier by Thomas Hearne (1678-1735). In his 1714 essay on early printing ink the Oxford antiquarian and sub-librarian at the Bodleian Library discussed the colour and texture of the ink used for some blockbooks and early woodcuts, while discussing their place in the history of printing.

“any one that will give himself the trouble of considering the first Specimens of Printing that we have in the Bodlejan Library, being two thin folio Books containing odd Pictures (from wooden cuts) […] will afford to a curious observer many Speculations. But because those Books cannot be conveyed out of the Library […] to give him a better Idea of the nature of them I shall here subjoyn the Speciment of a Fragment of another Book […] that was communicated to me by Mr. Bagford.”

To illustrate his point he pasted a fragment of a German blockbook Biblia pauperum c.1462-8 (Bod-Inc BB-5) into his diary, a fragment given to him by John Bagford (1650-1716) the antiquary and bookseller.

The Treatise tells us more about the interest shown in the 15th century grotesque alphabet when it was rediscovered. On the 27 May 1819 the antiquary Samuel Lysons (1763-1819) wrote to Sir George Beaumont (1753-1827), the then owner of the grotesque alphabet:

“I return herewith your curious volume of ancient cuts. I showed it yesterday to Mr. Douce, who agrees with me that it is a great curiosity. He thinks the blocks were executed at Harlem, and are some of the earliest productions of that place. He has in his possession most of the letters executed in copper, but very inferior to the original cuts.”

Francis Douce (1757-1834), an antiquarian and collector, had been a Keeper of the Department of Manuscripts at the British Museum between 1807-11. The ‘letters executed in copper’ are probably the early copy of the grotesque alphabet by the Master of the Banderoles. Douce would visit the Bodleian in July 1830 where he studied the three complete blockbooks then in the Bodleian’s collection. In 1834 he bequeathed his enormous collection to the Bodleian which included two blockbooks and three wood-blocks.

Woodcut of letters X and Y
Figure 6: Bodleian Library, Douce woodblocks f.1
Woodcut of letter Z
Figure 7: Bodleian Library, Douce woodblocks f.2

These two blocks shown above are facsimiles of the letters X, Y & Z from the same grotesque alphabet. Their existence in the Douce collection was first mentioned in 1897 by the incunabulist Robert Proctor who demonstrated that they had been made for John Bagford in the early eighteenth century for a projected history of printing. Recent work by Whitney Trettien and Edward Potten has linked our two blocks with a block for the letters K & L at the British Museum. These three alphabet blocks and our third Douce block join two others, one at the John Rylands Library and one at the British Library, to form a group of six surviving blocks for Bagford’s history of printing.

Impressions of woodcuts of letters X, Y, Z formed from grotesque figures
Figure 8: Impressions of wood-blocks for John Bagford’s projected History of Printing given to Thomas Hearne. Bodleian Library, MS. Rawl. D. 384, fol. 38r.

We also have prints of A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, X, Y & Z from the Bagford blocks in Hearne’s collection (now part of MS. Rawl. D. 384). A note on the back of X, Y & Z states “These are figures of odd letters wch I had from Mr Bagford. I have an Account of them from his own mouth in one of my Diary Books”.

In a letter to Hearne from Bagford dated 6 February 1708 we learn that:

“Mr Wanley hath lately hapined on some very ould Alphibets antiqe of yt Sorte of printing, cut on wood which I shall exhebite in my Booke, as sone as I have got them cut I shall send you a specement of them, and I dare say will please you when you se them.”

Later that year on 8 October Hearne gives a fuller account, presumably after he received the prints.

“Mr. Bagford has had a German printed Book of the Alphabet drawn exactly. It contains nothing more yn the Alphabet, only here and there a sentence in German inserted in ye Letters. They are all of a very large size for ye use of ye Illuminators, & are made up of several figures, as heads of Men, &c. The Z is made [backward z], […] He has another Alphabet, the letters of a stranger form. They are made up in Knotts with scroles of parchment.”

Just like our newly-acquired 19th-century facsimile wood-block linked Douce, Lysons and Beaumont, these prints of Bagford’s earlier facsimile blocks link these 18th-century printing historians to a specific copy of the 15th-century grotesque alphabet. This copy  was owned by the antiquarian and librarian Humfrey Wanley (1672-1726), and is the second surviving copy, given to the British Museum in 1947.

Further reading

C.E. Doble, (ed.), ‘Remarks and Collections of Thomas Hearne: Vol. II (20 March 1707–22 March 1710)’, Oxford Historical Society 13 (Oxford, 1889).

Campbell Dodgson, ‘Two woodcut alphabets of the fifteenth century’, Burlington Magazine 17:90 (September 1910), pp. 362-5.

Edward Potten, ‘Dating the Rylands Apocalypse wood-block: John Bagford and the earliest facsimiles of blockbooks’, Journal of the Printing Historical Society TS 3 (2022), pp, 14-46.

Robert Proctor, ‘On two plates in Sotheby’s ‘Principia Typographica’’, Bibliographica 3 (1897) pp. 192-6.

Whitney Trettien, Cut/Copy/Paste: Fragments from the history of bookwork (Minneapolis, 2021).

Early donors to the Bodleian Library: Katherine Sandys and colonialism

by Ben Wilkinson-Turnbull

One rich example of the Bodleian’s acquisition of books produced outside of Europe is provided by the donation of £20 (nearly £3000 today) in 1607 from Katherine Sandys née Bulkeley. Katherine was a shrewd businesswoman and the fourth wife of Edwin Sandys: a prominent MP, religious writer, and coloniser.

-The Bodleian’s copy of Fang Gung’s, Dan shi shin fa (Thoughts on Dan Shi) (1522). The vellum cover is annotated in latin with an inscription recording Sandys’ donation Sinica 32/6. Image taken by Ben Wilkinson-Turnbull in 2023.
The Bodleian’s copy of Fang Gung’s, Dan shi shin fa (Thoughts on Dan Shi) (1522). The parchment cover is annotated in Latin with an inscription recording Sandys’ donation. Sinica 32/6. Image taken by Ben Wilkinson-Turnbull in 2023.

In his letters, Bodley complained about donors being allowed to choose the items purchased with their donations. But in the case of this donation, the choice of books made by Bodley and librarian Thomas James may have reflected the Sandys family’s involvement in early colonial activities such as those of the Virginia Company.

Such works included important travelogues containing finely engraved maps. These depicted parts of the world where at this point in history England was a weaker colonising force, such as the Middle East (Arthus Gotthard and Johann Bry’s The Seventh Part of the East Indies (1606)), and Asia (Cornelius Wytfliet’s Universal History of the Indies (1605)). Much like Matal’s atlas, these texts helped to expand Western readers’ understanding of these newly navigated areas. But like Lodge’s manuscript catechism, their subject matter also shone light on the ongoing efforts of European colonists to convert indigenous people to Christianity; making these books fitting acquisitions for a library founded by Bodley as a seat of Protestant learning.

Sandys’ donation also included works acquired from these areas in non-European languages unreadable to Western scholars. This included eight medical texts in Chinese, such as Gong Ting Chien’s Van Bin Hoiye Chun (Cure for all Illnesses) (1573) and Fang Gung’s, Dan shi shin fa (Thoughts on Dan Shi) (1522). Like the Bodleian’s other early Chinese works acquired from 1604 onwards, Sandys’ books are cheaply printed.

Book with Chinese printed characters, Gong Ting Chien’s Van Bin Hoiye Chun (Cure for all Illnesses) (1573)
The Bodleian’s copy of Gong Ting Chien’s Van Bin Hoiye Chun (Cure for all Illnesses) (1573). Sinica 19/2. Image taken by Ben Wilkinson-Turnbull in 2023.

Some are unique survivals of sixteenth-century editions produced in the Fujin province on the southeastern coast of China during the Ming Dynasty. Too cheap to adorn the library of any serious Chinese scholar, they were probably sold by entrepreneurial local booksellers to Dutch merchants, and then exported to Europe by Dutch merchants engaged in the lucrative transcontinental spice trade in the employ of the newly formed Dutch East India Company. Bought in Amsterdam at auction by Bodley’s literary agent, when they arrived at the Bodleian they were simply recorded in the Benefactors’ Register under the catch-all heading ‘volumes in Chinese’. It was not until 1687, when the Chinese scholar and Catholic convert, Shen Fu-Tsung 沈福宗 (Michael Alphonsus), was paid by the Bodleian’s librarian Thomas Hyde to transliterate their titles that their contents became known in England. This enabled the creation of the first catalogue of Chinese Books for the Bodleian, and ultimately paved the way for future scholars to explore the library’s rich East Asian collections.

The books purchased with Sandys’ donation exemplify the complex relationship of the Bodleian’s early collections to colonialism and its legacy. Bodley’s acquisition of Chinese books is part of an explicitly colonial narrative. Likely acquired directly from the emergent oppressive power of the Dutch East India Company, these books were brought to Europe by a chartered company who would come to dominant East Asian trade routes across the Indian Ocean through the forced migration and killing of indigenous people. These books and their acquisition by a Western seat of learning promoted and glorified colonial projects of conquest, trade, and conversion to readers. Bodley did, albeit unintentionally, enable Fu-Tsung and Hyde’s later intellectual endeavours, paving the way for the first known direct Anglo-Chinese scholarly collaboration. The acquisition of these books also ensured the preservation of unique texts of international import and facilitated further study that continues at the library today. But as we continue to unlock their rich histories, we need to consciously centralise, and make accessible, the often-hidden colonial narratives that led to the arrival of items like these volumes at the Bodleian. However problematic and uncomfortable these may be, they are vital to furthering our understanding of the role colonialism played in developing the library’s collection.

My thanks go to Mamtimyn Sunuodula, Curator of Chinese Collections at the Bodleian, for translating the titles of Sinica 19/2 and 32/6. 

Ben Wilkinson-Turnbull is a research associate on the AHRC-funded project ‘Shaping Scholarship: Early Donations to the Bodleian Library’. He is also a final year DPhil student, Clarendon, and Graduate Development Scholar in English at the University of Oxford. His doctoral research focuses on the materiality of women’s texts between 1580 and 1760, and related work has appeared in The Review of English Studies. You can contact Ben via email at b.wilkinson-turnbull@ucl.ac.uk. He can also be found on X (Twitter) @Ben_WT.

Further reading

Cornelius Wytfliet, Histoire universelle des Indes, orientales et occidentales (Douai, 1605)

Arthus, Gotthard  and Johann Theodor de Bry, Indiae Orientalis Pars Septima : Navigationes duas, Primam, trium Annorum, a Georgio Spilbergio, trium navium praefecto, Ann. 1601. ex Selandia in Indiam Orientalem susceptam (Frankfurt, 1606)

Gong Ting Chien,Van Bin Hoiye Chun (Cure for all Illnesses) (Fujin, 1573)

Fang Gung, Dan shi shin fa (Thoughts on Dan Shi) (Fujin, 1522)

David Helliwell, ‘Our Earliest Chinese Accession’, https://serica.blog/2012/11/29/our-earliest-chinese-accession/

William Poole, ‘The Letters of Shen Fuzong to Thomas Hyde, 1687-88’, British Library Journal (2015), article 9. (https://bl.iro.bl.uk/concern/articles/1227de6b-c20f-48fb-8411-b1f811ffa957).

Kerry Ward, Networks of Empire: Forced Migration in the Dutch East India Company. (Cambridge, 2009).

 

Colonial Connections of the Early Bodleian Library

Book open at a map of the world
Jean Matal’s atlas from 1600: America, sive Novus orbis, tabulis æneis delineatus. I. Matalius. Shelfmark: H 7.2(3) Art.

by Dr Anna-Lujz Gilbert

When Thomas Bodley re-founded Oxford University’s library in 1598, he knew he would need the help of a “great store of honourable friends” for the project to be a success. He asked people he knew to donate to the Library and, as an encouragement, he had the names of donors written into an ornate Register of Benefactors.  Shaping Scholarship is an AHRC-funded project at UCL, in collaboration with the Bodleian, which uses that Benefactors’ Register to examine cultures of library donation in early seventeenth-century England, and their impact on the Bodleian’s book collections. The early Bodleian Library had many colonial connections, and the public database of the early donations to the Library (c. 1600–1620) which we are producing for this project will help further research in this area.

Page of the Benefactor's Book of the Bodleian Library
Bodleian Library Records b. 903, Registrum Donatorum, the Benefactors’ Register

The Bodleian Library was established at a time when England was striving to become an imperial power. Many of the Library’s donors were statesmen, civil servants, soldiers, and courtiers—the kinds of people who were likely to be involved in overseas affairs of different kinds. Some donors were directly involved in colonial activities, such as Sir Walter Raleigh (1554?-1618), who led expeditions to the Americas, and who gifted the library £50 in 1603 (worth over £8,000 today). Others were involved in these activities from afar. Donor Sir Walter Cope (1553?–1614), for example, invested in and energetically raised funds for new merchant companies set up to promote international trade through colonising practices. Companies like the Virginia Company, which established England’s first North American colonies, made substantial losses. To raise money for these colonial ventures, they presented investment as a public-spirited act for the good of the nation. This context can inform how we understand donation to the early Bodleian Library as a similarly public-spirited act.

Overseas conquest, as well as trade and embassy, facilitated the movement of books into the Library. In the 1610s, for example, the Bodleian acquired a manuscript catechism  which had been produced by Jesuits in Brazil to help convert indigenous people. It was written in Tupi, a now extinct indigenous language. [See an online edition of this manuscript at the link here.] It was gifted to the Bodleian by English author Thomas Lodge, who had taken it from a Jesuit library during an English raid on a Portuguese settlement in Brazil. [see footnote 1]  (Lodge’s gift was, however, considered to be too small to be included in the Benefactors’ Register).

Exploration and colonisation helped to expand Western knowledge, and this was reflected in the content of some of the books purchased by the Bodleian. The 1603 gift of Henry Brooke, Baron Cobham, for instance, paid for the acquisition of Jean Matal’s [Johannes Matalius] atlas of the world with its new maps of America.

The Bodleian collected books in non-European languages in the hope that these too would be used to advance Western knowledge, even if, for some of these languages, there was no-one in England who could read them at the time.

By looking at who was donating to the early Bodleian Library and what books were acquired, we can ask how this seventeenth-century project to encompass knowledge was aligned with English and wider European activities to compass the globe itself. Lines of enquiry include examining the colonial activities of donors, the acquisition of books produced outside of Europe, and the kinds of knowledge represented in the books acquired.

footnote 1: See: Vivien Kogut Lessa de Sá and Caroline Egan, ‘Translation and prolepsis: the Jesuit origins of a Tupi Christian doctrine,’ in Cultural Worlds of the Jesuits in Colonial Latin America, edited by Linda A. Newson (London: University of London Press, 2020), 189–206.

Anna-Lujz Gilbert is a postdoctoral research fellow on the ‘Shaping Scholarship’ project at UCL. For this project, she is leading the construction of a database of donations made to the Bodleian Library in its first twenty years, c. 1600–1620, which will be published as a free online resource. Her wider research interests are in the movement to establish semi-public libraries in early modern England.

For more information about the Shaping Scholarship project, see the project website at: http://www.livesandletters.ac.uk/projects/shaping-scholarship 

This blogpost is one of a series exploring the Bodleian’s colonial and imperial connections, as part of the ‘We Are Our History’ project in 2022-24.

The Bodleian Quarterly Record, Vol. II (1917-19); and the Legacy of a Printing Press

Corrected proof of the title page of Three Japanese Plays for Children (detail)
Corrected proof of the title page of Three Japanese Plays for Children (detail)

In 1919, the Bodleian Quarterly Record printed the following notice on the death of Charles Henry Olive Daniel, Provost of Worcester College, Oxford:
‘We regret most deeply the loss of Dr. Daniel, as a good friend of the Library. For many years (though not lately) he occupied his leisure with printing as a fine art, and the beautiful productions of the Daniel Press are well known to all lovers of books. Mrs. Daniel recently offered to present to the Library the hand-press and type used by him, and the offer was very gratefully accepted. Through the kindness of the Controller, the press has now been set up by experts from the Clarendon Press, at the farther end of the Picture Gallery, with the chase, containing the last pages set up, still in place. A small collection of some of the more interesting books printed on it has been arranged on an adjacent table. Though we have plenty of books to show, this is the first time we have been able to exhibit to visitors the means whereby they are produced.’

Portrait of Charles Henry Olive Daniel (1836–1919), Provost of Worcester College (1903–1919), by Charles Wellington Furse (1868–1904). Photo credit: Worcester College, University of Oxford. https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/charles-henry-olive-daniel-18361919-provost-of-worcester-college-19031919-224101#
Portrait of Charles Henry Olive Daniel (1836–1919), Provost of Worcester College (1903–1919), by Charles Wellington Furse (1868–1904). Photo credit: Worcester College, University of Oxford. https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/charles-henry-olive-daniel-18361919-provost-of-worcester-college-19031919-224101#

The author of a recent book on Daniel and his printing, Martyn Ould, offers this assessment of his printing origins and experience:

‘Charles Daniel learned to print in the family home in Frome, Somerset, where his father Henry was perpetual curate of Holy Trinity. All the family were involved in printing a vast number of ephemeral items: bookplates, printed items for the church, tickets for tea parties, tiny books, programmes for plays, . . . – items that his bibliographer Falconer Madan referred to as ‘minima’. [He added, “Unfortunately there seems to be no dignified and yet suitable term for these waifs and strays, here termed minor pieces. They are what remains when the majestic car of the professional cataloguer has passed by and left them strewn on the wayside. The occupant of the car calls them succinctly and comprehensively trash.”]

‘They printed on a ‘Ruthven’, a parlour press ideal for a Victorian family, but a press that could manage only small items (many of which are pasted into three volumes in the Bodleian: MSS Don. d.94 and d.95 and MS Don. e.227). Nevertheless when Charles left Frome to go up to Oxford the press went with him and it was on that press that he printed one of his rarest items, The Garland of Rachel, in just thirty-six copies. Difficulties with the printing of The Garland led him to replace the Ruthven with the Albion; this had a much larger platen which would have made it very much easier to manage the larger books and pamphlets that were to come from the Daniel Press in Oxford.

‘Daniel was not a great technical printer, but his books have great charm. He printed on hand-made papers, setting his texts – mostly poetry – from founts of some of the famous seventeenth-century ‘Fell types’ which he persuaded Press Controller Horace Hart at the University Press to sell him. He first used Fell type in A New Sermon of the Newest Fashion (1876), the second book he printed at Oxford. He also used a black letter, of which the first example entirely in black letter is The Growth of Love (1890) by his friend Robert Bridges.’

This large Albion was the printing press which was given to the Bodleian. As reported by Philip Gaskell in the Journal of the Printing Historical Society no. 1, 1965, it is an ‘Albion (demy), serial number 539, (1835)’. The maker’s names, Jonathan and Jeremiah Barrett, executors of R.W. Cope, are cast into the staple. Cope was the originator of the Albion press in the 1820s. This cast-iron, lever-operated press was praised by commentators of the time as being simple in construction and durable.

Bodley’s Librarian in 1919, Falconer Madan, had visions beyond a static display of the press. ‘[I]t is in contemplation to print on it a Bibliography of the Daniel Press, with a Memoir of its “only begetter”, and some poems by friends. This will be the first book ever printed within the walls of the Bodleian.’ The catalogue record of this work is in the University of Oxford’s online catalogue, SOLO.

Martyn Ould writes:
‘As well as his books – over fifty in total – we’re fortunate in that two collections of proofs survive from his waste bin. Like early versions of a poet’s final polished verse, they tell us something of his printing practice. They are generally on sheets of newsprint – a suitably cheaper alternative to the expensive hand-made paper of the final book.

A corrected proof from the Daniel Press of the title page of Three Japanese Plays for Children

‘In the proof of a title page shown here he has marked several ‘typos’. The Y for an R in ‘Oxford’ is easily explained: the boxes for those two letters are next to each other in the typecase and no doubt the Y was returned to the wrong box when some other text was distributed. The missing i in ‘Children’ is less easily forgiven.

‘In three further proofs Daniel corrected some errors and toyed with the text; all was well in the published book. The proofs tell us that Daniel did not have a firm habit of reading a completed line in the composing stick before moving on to the next: what must be a first of several proofs of a forme for Three Japanese Plays for Children shows a great many errors, some of which made it through to the final book. Nonetheless, his books are today highly collectable.’

In 1949, library staff and members of the English Faculty established the Bibliography Room in the New Bodleian Library. Practical printing became a regular offering for postgraduate students, just at the time when mechanical processes of type-setting were replacing the hand-composition of type. The enthusiasts from library and faculty supported teaching and demonstration of practical printing, joined by J.R.R. Tolkien and others.

The Daniel Press Albion at the Bodleian Bibliographical Press, Old Bodleian Library
The Daniel Press Albion at the Bodleian Bibliographical Press, Old Bodleian Library

The Bodleian workshop now holds several other hand-operated printing presses, Albions and other makes, acquired from private presses and individuals. Some of the latest acquisitions were an Albion press owned by Leonard Baskin, whose archive came to the Bodleian in 2009, a proofing press owned and used by Vivian Ridler, Printer to the University, and a rolling press for printing intaglio.

Publications mentioned:
Printing at the Daniel Press (Hinton Charterhouse: The Old School Press, 2011) and The Daniel Press in Frome (Hinton Charterhouse: The Old School Press, 2011). Contact The Old School Press.

The Bodleian Quarterly Record, Vol. I (1914-16); and Osler’s ‘Illustrations of the book-worm’

"The Old Reading Room ('Duke Humphrey's Library') Opened Nov. 8, 1602" From BQR Vol. I, No. 2, 1914.
“The Old Reading Room (‘Duke Humphrey’s Library’) Opened Nov. 8, 1602” From BQR Vol. I, No. 2, 1914.

The Bodleian Quarterly Record began publication in the first quarter of 1914. The third issue recorded the outbreak of war in August 1914, and each of the following numbers in Volume I, covering 1914 to 1916, included printed lists of staff absent on war duty. Those absent included Miss Frances Underhill, https://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/bodley/news/2016/oct-18, one of the Senior Assistant Librarians, the first woman to occupy that position at the Library.  The BQR also recorded midnight mobilizations of staff for fire duty, when alarms of Zeppelin raids were received, though no attacks materialized.

Into the twelve numbers of the first volume Bodleian staff poured much useful knowledge: of pre-1200 manuscripts in the Library; of the seventeenth-century Bodleian catalogues of printed books and manuscripts, which influenced bibliographical knowledge and standards well beyond the Bodleian’s walls; and of early Bodleian shelfmarks (call-numbers) showing how books were collected and arranged in the early years of the library’s foundation.

The BQR was printed by the University Press. The first number, from January 1914, contained an error in describing a sonnet by Wordsworth as ‘apparently unpublished’. This number was reprinted for collectors in 1915 and the Wordsworth sonnet page included a footnote stating that, when the error was discovered, the correction was made in pencil; copies of the reprint are also corrected in pencil.

A note from Falconer Madan (Bodley’s Librarian 1912-19) commented that the BQR required 500 subscribers to support the publication costs; it transpired that there were far fewer subscribers than this, and Madan singled out for thanks Sir William Osler, Regius Professor of Medicine and one of the board of trustees — called the Curators — of the Library, for financial support enabling the Record to continue.

Osler contributed an article to the last number of Volume I. ‘Illustrations of the book-worm,’ published in issue Number 12, records a face-to-face meeting between Osler and a living individual of species Anobium hirtum (Illiger, 1807) otherwise known as Nicobium castaneum (Olivier, 1790), or the library beetle.

[A digital version of the article is here:
http://www.historyofscience.com/articles/osler-bookworm.php]

‘In October 1915 I received from a Paris bookseller, M. Lucien Gougy, three volumes of the Histoire abregie de la derniere persecution de Port-Royal. Edition Royale, MDCCL.’ In one of the volumes Osler found a living book-worm, of species Anobium hirtum,* ‘not a native of England, but met with occasionally in the centre and south of France.’

In true scientific fashion, Osler arranged for a portrait of the larva to be made by Horace Knight, natural history illustrator of the British Museum. Knight sent the picture in September 1916, apologising that he had ‘been waiting in hopes the larva would pupate, but it has not even commenced to make a case…’.

Knight’s drawing was printed in colour for the BQR.

Drawings of the book-worm, Anobium hirtum, by Horace Knight, 1916
Book-worm. by Horace Knight, 1916. From BQR Vol. I, No. 12.

In the article, Osler lists works which illustrate book-worms of various species–only partially satisfactorily, he thought. Amongst the works cited are:

Osler noticed that the habitat of the insect he had found matched the provenance of the book, in the south of France. Research connecting the history of books and manuscripts with the biological materials and evidence of animal life found in them is an area which in the past decade has gained notable contributions from Matthew Collins on the animal proteins in parchment https://www.palaeome.org/projects/dnrf-proteios, Heather Wolfe on DNA left by human readers, https://www.washingtonian.com/2019/04/25/shakespeare-dna-hiding-folger-library-vault-project-dustbunny/and Blair Hedges on the species of woodworm which damage the woodblocks made for printing images, and the wooden boards used for the bindings of both manuscripts and printed books. https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsbl.2012.0926. The research is referenced in Joshua Calhoun’s new book, The Nature of the Page: Poetry, Papermaking, and the Ecology of Texts in Renaissance England.

Though Osler declared in 1916 that ‘Bodley is singularly free from the ravages of book-worms,’ no library can remain complacent, and Preventive Conservation is an important part of the library’s current work. In 1997 the oldest part of the Bodleian, Duke Humfrey’s Library ,was found to be infested with death-watch beetle, Xestobium rufovillosum. That part of the Bodleian was temporarily closed for eradication of the pest and for a more thorough refurbishment to lessen other environmental threats to the books kept there.

Alexandra Walker, Preventive Conservator, writes;

The Preventive Conservation section are responsible for monitoring the libraries collections to ensure the long term preservation by maintaining a stable environment. One of the ways we monitor is through a programme of Integrated Pest Management or ‘IPM’. A robust IPM programme relies on a combined knowledge of the environment, collections, buildings, cleaning routines and trapping for insects. Conservators use sticky traps, known as blunder traps, to monitor which species of insects are entering our libraries. We are on the look out for population changes in ‘library pests’; insects which like to munch on library and archive collections and furniture. These pests might include wood-borers like furniture beetle (Anobium punctatum) similar to those mentioned by Osler, silverfish (Lepisma saccharina), booklice (Liposcelis) or common clothes moth (Tineola bisselliella). By carrying out regular monitoring, we can identify problem areas and make necessary changes, before collections are affected.

*In the drawing made by Horace Knight, Osler’s new acquaintance is labelled ‘Anobium hirtum, Illigar.’ [sic, for Illiger, 1807] https://www.gbif.org/fr/species/1095270  a synonym for Nicobium castaneum (Olivier 1790)

Further notes:

Professor David Cranston tells the story of William Osler’s life, career and character.  http://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/william-osler-and-his-legacy-medicine

Additional reading on library pests can be found here:
http://www.whatseatingyourcollection.com/

 

Corrections will be gladly received on entomological or other points – Alexandra Franklin, Centre for the Study of the Book

How the Bodleian Library collected playbooks: evidence from Library Records

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.[1] 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.

The result in 1906 was a notable re-purchase of a book which in the 17th century had been allowed to leave the library, but by the 20th century was regarded as a treasure.

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.[2]

[1] The original Bodleian copy of the first folio of Shakespeare (The Turbutt Shakespeare) [by F. Madan, G.M.R. Turbutt, and S. Gibson]. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905

[2] Reliquiæ Bodleianæ: or Some genuine remains of sir Thomas Bodley [ed. by T. Hearne.]p. 278.

Chasing ghosts in the early Bodleian Library

Bodleian benefactors register
27 March 2014: Papers at the Renaissance Society of America 2014 annual conference explored the 17th-century history of the Bodleian Library, opening questions about the ways in which the practices and intellectual aims of individual librarians shaped what scholars at the time could find on the shelves.

Robyn Adams, University College London
Ghosts in the Library: The Hidden Spaces within the Bodleian Library Records
Robyn Adams examined the early history of collecting by Thomas Bodley and his librarian, Thomas James, as this is reflected in the Benefactor’s Register, a printed list of donations in between 1600 and 1604, with manuscript additions of later donations, and in the first printed catalogue, prepared by James and published in 1605. She aims now at the creation of a virtual model of DHL, as it was in 1605, an enterprise which highlights how much of what we know is either made evident, or hidden, by the physical spaces of the library.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/uclnews/sets/72157633093558579

Brooke Sylvia Palmieri, University College London
Unpacking the Baggage Books: Acquisition Policies in the First Fifty Years at Bodley’s
Library

Continuing the theme of Robyn Adams’s presentation, Brooke Palmieri told of her own experience in discovering that what’s in the catalogue may not be on the shelf — and vice versa. A spectacular example of this, indicative of how library procedures differ from users’ aims, is ‘Robert Burton’s astrological notebook’, at the shelfmark 4o R 9 Art., which takes on a different character depending on whether it is considered a collection of three separate printed works – namely Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos, John Dee’s Propaeudeumata Aphoristica, and Cyprian Leowitz (though, be warned, the name is spelled Leovitius in the Bodleian’s online catalogue record for this item) Brevis et Perspicua Ratio Judicandi Genituras – or as a manuscript notebook, with extensive astrological notes by Burton, which happens to be made up of the printed pages of these works.

Giles Bergel, University of Oxford
Ballads and Other Ridicularia: Cheap Print in Thomas Bodley’s Library
Today the Bodleian has a large collection of ballads and ephemera dating as far back as the 16th century. But, Giles Bergel asked, when did the first broadside ballad enter the Bodleian Library’s collections? Given Thomas Bodley’s well-known execration of “riff-raff” and “baggage books”, in which he included play-texts, this cheap vernacular printed form was probably not welcome among the first acquisitions. When Robert Burton’s (d. 1640) bequest of his books arrived at the Bodleian, Bodley’s second librarian John Rous selected many English-language works, including many literary works, for the library shelves. To be sure, Rous classified a group of small-format vernacular texts as “ridicularia” – but they were entered into the catalogue nevertheless. Later in the 17th century, antiquarian ballad-collectors were John Selden (d. 1654), whose ballad collection was acquired by Samuel Pepys, though many of his books and manuscripts went to the Bodleian, and Anthony Wood (d. 1695), whose ballads were first held by the Ashmolean Museum, and are now in the Bodleian.

Each of the papers added a perspective on how our own research is framed by the concepts of genre and value in library collections, and reminded us that this carries a residue of the practices that shaped these in earlier centuries.

(Re)Constructing the Bodleian’s Index of Literary Correspondence; a post from the Cultures of Knowledge blog

The card index of literary correspondence, in Duke Humfrey's Library
The card index of literary correspondence, in Duke Humfrey’s Library

This recent post from Miranda Lewis, in the Cultures of Knowledge blog, delves into the history of the Index of Literary Correspondence. Kept in Duke Humfrey’s Library, this card index of sixteenth-, seventeenth-, and eighteenth-century correspondence in Bodleian collections became a core dataset for Early Modern Letters Online (EMLO), a union catalogue of correspondence from the early modern period.

Ghosts in the Machine: (Re)Constructing the Bodleian’s Index of Literary Correspondence, 1927-1963

Bodleian Portraits Online

Over 300 paintings in the Bodleian Libraries can now be viewed online at the BBC website, Your Paintings. The digital images were made by the Public Catalogue Foundation, a charity dedicated to making the art owned and held in public collections more accessible.

A Little Girl Reading  (unknown artist), from the collections of the Bodleian Library
A Little Girl Reading (unknown artist) [Bodleian Library collections]

The paintings in Bodleian collections are principally portraits. They depict authors of some of the library’s treasured books and manuscripts, as well as the founder Thomas Bodley (1545-1613) himself, donors and librarians and the all-important reader of books.

Others portrayed in Bodleian paintings include:

Explorer and privateer Martin Frobisher (1535?-1594)

in Bodleian collections: Letter of, in papers of the Herrick Family: Summary Catalogue 39669.

Author Mary Shelley (1797-1851)

in Bodleian collections: A draft manuscript of Frankenstein
see the list of Mary Shelley’s Correspondence and papers in the Abinger Collection

Composer Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

in Bodleian collections: Schilflied manuscript with watercolour by the composer

William Cecil (1520–1598), Baron Burghley  by Marcus Gheeraerts the younger (attributed to) [collections of the Bodleian Library]
William Cecil (1520–1598), Baron Burghley
by Marcus Gheeraerts the younger (attributed to) [collections of the Bodleian Library]

Most of the paintings housed in the Bodleian Library are currently accessible to visitors only by appointment. Visitors wishing to see an individual painting should apply to:

Bodleian Libraries Exhibitions Section
Email: portraits@bodleian.ox.ac.uk

Images from the Your Paintings site can be downloaded for personal research use. See the FAQ ‘What can I do with the images on the Your Paintings site?’ for information about using images from the BBC Your Paintings website. http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/about/

High-resolution digital images may be ordered from Bodleian Library Imaging Services, (see order form), giving the Accession Number (available in the Additional Information about each painting).

Your paintings screenshot

Digital versions of Bodleian catalogues of manuscripts

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Now online: digital copies of the Quarto Catalogues of Ashmole, Canonici, Digby, Laud, Rawlinson and Tanner collections, and of Greek Manuscripts.
and
Now online: the digital copy of the Summary Catalogue of the Western Manuscripts holdings of the Bodleian Library received before 1915.

‘The Bodleian Library’s catalogues of manuscripts, and especially the many volumes of the Summary Catalogue of Western Manuscripts and its supplements, are among the most important research resources in the world for scholars: time spent reading them is never wasted. Now that they are freely available and searchable online, their value and usefulness are hugely increased.’ – Professor Henry Woudhuysen

*Link here to images of SC 29493.