1-penny survey of English history


Bodleian Library Wood 401(121)
Bodleian Library Wood 401(121)

At the Seminar on the history of the book, Giles Bergel told us about the Wandering Jew’s Chronicle, a broadside ballad first published in 1634 and updated in at least 14 subsequent editions up to the 19th century. As these were turbulent times for England and the monarchy, the use of an unbroken portrait gallery of monarchs to illustrate most of the versions suggests a royalist theme, and the “Whiggish”, triumphalist view of English history.

Visual representations of history are a fascinating subject in themselves, and Bergel also showed the first use in print of a stemma, much used by historians of texts, in an 1827 publication, Carl Johan Schlyter’s Corpus iuris Sueo-Gotorum antiqui.

Benjamin Tabart Harlequinades


The Library has recently acquired an album of 89 coloured prints dating from the early 1820s. It may have been issued by William Darton Jr. (1781-1854) and his firm at Holborn Hill during the mid-1820s as a sample album to show potential customers examples of his work. It contains a small number of sheets originally issued in 1800 by William Darton Sr. (1755-1819);  11 harlequinades in unfolded sheets with the imprint of B. Tabart & Co., and some sheets bearing Darton Jr’s imprint with dates ranging from 1821 to 1824. This mix of imprints suggests that Darton Jr. inherited some of his father’s old stock upon his death, including some of Benjamin Tabart’s publications which William Sr. possibly acquired in 1811 when financial difficulties may have forced Tabart to sell off some of his stock.

The harlequinades are especially interesting as very few examples survive generally, and four of the eleven Tabart examples in this album are currently untraced elsewhere. There are certainly difficulties locating harlequinades in library and museum catalogues around the world as they can be treated equally as toys, books, ephemera or prints, but as some titles were not located by Marjory Moon in her bibliography of Tabart’s Juvenile Library it seems likely that some of the Bodleian copies may be unique survivals. It is also possible that these eleven titles represent Tabart’s entire output of harlequinades, but that is pure speculation.

Blue Beard. Sold by B. Tabart & Co., June 1st. 1809.
Robinson Crusoe. Sold by B. Tabart & Co. June 1. 1809.
Veroni or the novice of St. Marks. Published by B. Tabart & Co, June 1. 1809.
Mother Goose. Published by B. Tabart & Co., July 1st 1809.
Hop o’ my thumb. Published by B. Tabart & Co., Jany. 1st. 1810..
Black Beard the pirate. Published, by B. Tabart & Co., July 1st. 1809.
Parnell’s hermit. Published, by Tabart & Co., Jany. 31st. 1810.
Exile, as performed at the royal theatres. Published by B. Tabart & Co., June 1st. 1809.
Robin Hood. Published by B. Tabart & Co., June 1st. 1809.
Polish tyrant. Published, by B. Tabart & Co., Aug. 1st. 1809.
A tale of mystery. Published by B. Tabart & Co., Jany. 25th, 1810.
Shelfmark: Vet. A6 c.118

The entire album will be available online in Summer 2009 as part of the John Johnson Collection’s Electronic Ephemera Project. Full records for the harlequinades are available now via OLIS.

Peep-show of engineering marvel

Peep show from John Johnson Collection, Bodleian Library
Peep show from John Johnson Collection, Bodleian Library

Designed by Marc Isambard Brunel and completed in 1843, the tunnel under the Thames between Rotherhithe and Wapping was constructed using Brunel’s invention, the cast-iron “Tunnel Shield”, enabling thirty-six workmen to excavate in separate cells, the whole device being slowly moved forward as the tunnel grew.

Originally a foot tunnel, it was converted to railway use in 1869, and eventually became part of the London Underground.

This folding paper peep show enables the viewer to see foot passengers promenading in the tunnel. The arches help to indicate perspective. It was probably sold as a souvenir. Even before completion of the tunnel, the canny businessman Brunel allowed visitors to tour the works, at the cost of one shilling.
Wikipedia : Thames Tunnel

Shelley’s ‘Symposium’

Mary Shelley's handwritten restorations of Percy Shelley's original words, in her printed copy of his prose works.
Mary Shelley's handwritten restorations of Percy Shelley's original words, in her printed copy of his prose works.
At the second Literary Manuscripts Masterclass, on 10 November, Michael O’Neill made the point that after Percy Shelley’s death, Mary Shelley wished to protect his reputation, promote his popularity, and preserve his words. But in the cultural and moral atmosphere of the time these were not always easily reconcilable goals.

In 1823 she transcribed Shelley’s prose works for publication, and Michael O’Neill showed the press copy (shelfmark: MS. Shelley adds. d.8, ) prepared by Mary, and marked in pencil by Leigh Hunt with suggested amendments. Both Hunt and Mary were concerned about passages in Shelley’s translation of Plato’s Symposium, and in Shelley’s own Essay on Love, describing love between men.

The photograph here shows the printed edition that did appear in 1840, but this is a copy (shelfmark: Shelley adds. e.19) interleaved with blank pages, on which, facing each printed page, Mary Shelley has restored the original words written by Shelley (such as “lover” for “friend”), preserving Shelley’s words despite the demands of publication and the prejudices of the time.

Jane Austen, ‘Volume the First’

At the first of the Literary Manuscript Masterclasses this term, on October 27, we were shown a small, mass-produced notebook, probably bought from a stationer in the mid-1780s, in which the young Jane Austen had set down a series of stories and plays. Kathryn Sutherland, professor of English literature, described the importance of this manuscript, one of three volumes of juvenilia.

Of Austen’s famous six published novels, only two chapters of Persuasion survive in manuscript form.  The three juvenile notebooks (which include’ The History of England’, on display from the BL website) and other short pieces, working drafts of two novels and a fair copy of a novella, are all we have left from the author’s own hand

Andrew Honey of the Bodleian’s Conservation Department took the class on a tour of the physical aspects of the volume, including a session of paper folding and paper tearing (using copier paper!), to demonstrate that this was a machine-made notebook, a relatively cheap mass-produced item of stationery – the equivalent, though thank goodness in 18th-century dress, of a Hello Kitty notepad. austenlecture-006_small1

Radcliffe Camera model by Nicholas Hawksmoor

During the 1730s a number of architects were considered by the Radcliffe Trustees for the job of designing  and managing the building of the new library, and two were asked to submit drawings for consideration: Nicholas Hawksmoor and James Gibbs. In 1734 or 5, Hawksmoor’s design for a round library was made into a model (below), presumably because this design was favoured by the Trustees. His plans show the Radcliffe Library was to be built abutting the Bodleian Library, rather than as a freestanding building, with the ground floor open to the elements and the entrance to the library reached from beneath. Unfortunately, Hawksmoor became seriously ill and died of “gout of the stomach” in March 1736, opening the way for Gibbs to be awarded the contract. Gibbs’s own library design had originally been a more conventional rectangular building, but by 1737 the current freestanding, circular design was submitted by Gibbs, clearly influenced by Hawksmoor’s model.

The model is made from wood (the lighter pieces are modern restoration), and it can be dismantled to show the interior rooms and spaces. The scale may be 1 inch =

4 feet, which would make the ground floor diameter just 100 feet. The model was made by John Smallwell, junior, of London, who was Master of the Joiners Company in 1731 and worked for Sir John Vanbrugh. He was paid £87.11s for his efforts.

The model found its way eventually to Ditchley Park, the home of the 3rd Earl of Lichfield, who was a Radcliffe Trustee from 1755 to 1772, where it seems to have spent much of its life being used as a dolls house, until it was given to the Bodleian Library in 1913 by Viscount Dillon.

Russian caricatures of “Boney”

The thirty Russian cartoons in the Curzon Collection are indicative of the prints favoured by collectors. From the collection of the Grand-Dukes Nikolai and Mikhail Mikhailovich, grandsons of Nicholas I, they passed into the hands of A.M. Broadley, whose collection was built initially from the sale of W. Fraser in 1901 and augmented by the finds of the Parisian art dealer Godefroy Mayer. Broadley’s collection was finally sold in 1916 to George, Marquis Curzon of Kedleston (1859-1925) who bequeathed it to the Bodleian Library.

In the Curzon prints, the palm of victory always belongs to the Russian peasant, distinguished by his moral values, guarantors of an empire ruled by divine right. A close second to him is the Cossack, symbol of Russian invincibility. These two are the standard bearers of patriotic glory, national unity, and Russian supremacy.

Importantly, the dating of images, made possible by publication announcements in the press and by permissions of the censor, allows us to detect a continuation of the caricature campaign throughout the period: the threat of a new invasion in 1813 and the uncertainties of the German campaign were exorcised by constant references to the victory of 1812. The body of the Curzon collection, which is in an optimal state of conservation, is partially composed of later impressions, from 1815 to 1818 judging by the watermarks.

— Dr. Marina Peltzer
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A modern binding with style

Broxbourne 52.53Even though one might think that ancient bindings are by definition more precious and refined than the more recent ones, this can definitely be a misleading preconception. Indeed ancient bindings are precious and refined, but modern ones can well be as precious and refined as the ancient ones.

As an example, here is a beautiful French binding of the 1930’s. Particularly interesting are the quality of the leather joined to the refinement of the decorative pattern and the choice of the colour in relation to the brightness of the gold tooling. All these particulars make this binding both incredibly refined but also extremely simple at the same time.



Map of China from the early 17th century

This is a late Ming watercolour map of East Asia, including China, Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Southeast Asia and part of India, probably executed in the 1620s. The map has no title, and is very large, approximately 1×1.5m. The text is Chinese, but there are some Latin annotations by a later hand. The map shows shipping routes and compass bearings from the port of Quanzhou across the entire region. A panel of text on the left of the map near Calicut, its western extremity, gives directions of the routes to Aden and the Strait of Hormuz.


The shelfmark is MS Selden supra 105.


It came to the library from the estate of the London lawyer John Selden (d.1654) in 1659, along with a large collection of Oriental manuscripts, Greek marbles, a Chinese compass and the famous Aztec history known as the Codex Mendoza. It was most likely obtained in Southeast Asia through the East India Company’s base at Banten, but was almost certainly produced in the port of Quanzhou in Fujian province. It probably arrived in London towards the mid-17th century.

The map has always been known as an interesting curiousity from the time it arrived in the Library, but its importance was first recognised by the visiting American scholar Robert Bachelor in January 2008. He was the first to notice the shipping routes, which make the map unique among both Chinese and indeed European maps of the period, and has described it as “an object of globally recognizable significance”.


The Library has recently accepted a deposited collection of early children’s books from the Lewis Family Trust, which includes five harlequinades. A harlequinade (known also as a metamorphosis, flap-book or turn-up book) is composed of two single engraved sheets. The first sheet is folded perpendicularly into four sections. A second sheet is cut in half and hinged at the top and bottom edges of the first so that each flap could be lifted separately. The sheets are folded into four, like an accordion, and then roughly stitched with a paper cover. A verse on each section of the flap tells a simple story usually concluding with instructions to turn a flap to continue. When the flap is turned either up or down the viewer sees that half of the new picture fits onto the half of the un-raised flap, so the act of lifting one flap after another creates a surprise unfolding of the story. Click to see a harlequinade in action harlequinade-movie.

They were devised by the publisher Robert Sayer and were popular from about 1765 until the beginning of the 19th Century, although manuscript copies telling biblical stories survive from the late 17th Century. The printed copies often have Harlequin as the central character, hence harlequinade, and were sometimes published to accompany a current performance on the London stage.