Anthony Wood’s annotations in Bodleian Wood 401

The antiquary, author and bibliophile Anthony Wood (1632-1695) left, among other collections, several volumes of broadside ballads to the University of Oxford. These were bequeathed to the Ashmolean Museum and transferred in 1858 to the Bodleian Library.

Some of the broadside ballads in this collection bear manuscript annotations of various kinds, from childish pen trials to reference notes. The annotations are described and mostly transcribed in Nicolas Kiessling’s catalogue, The Library of Anthony Wood (Oxford: Oxford Bibliographical Society, 2002), in which Ballads are items 367-843.

What follows is a list of annotations found on the reverse of ballads in one volume, shelfmarked Wood 401. References are given to the entries in Kiessling’s catalogue in which the annotations are transcribed. An image gallery at the end of this post gives access to the full-resolution images.

Most of the ballads in the volume have been attached in the middle of the sheet, and thus occupy two numbered leaves of the volume, with the printed ballad visible on the verso of the first leaf and the recto of the following leaf.  Annotations relating to each ballad are usually on the recto of the first leaf, i.e. on the blank page (in this volume) before the printed ballad.

Wood 401(1)
The shepherd and the king, and of Gillian the shepherds wife
MS note on reverse: vide Malmsburiens. de Reg. Angl. lib. 2 – fol. 23. see ye 2d part of R. Parsons his conversions cap. 6. p. 418-419. [i.e. William of Malmesbury, Chronicle of the kings of England, and Persons, Robert, A treatise of three conversions of England … (1603)].
Kiessling, 752

Wood 401(9)
Robin Hood and the tanner; or, Robin Hood met with his match
With a page attached in Wood’s handwriting, citing historical and poetical references to Robin Hood by John Major and Michael Drayton
Kiessling, 547

Wood 401 fol. 9 recto_detail
Wood 401 fol. 9 recto_detail

Wood 401(45)
The wofull lamentation of Mistris Jane Shore, a Goldsmiths wife in London, sometimes King Edward the seconds Concubine, who for her wantan life came to a miserable end. Set forth for the example of all lewd women.
Woodcut pasted to recto of fol. 45
Kiessling, 756

Wood 401(47)
A memoriable [sic] song on the unhappy hunting in Chevy Chase between Earle Piercy of England and Earle Dowglas of Scoland [sic]
Annotations on a slip attached between fols. 46 and 47, and on recto of fol. 47
Kiessling, 406

Wood 401 fol. 46 slip attached, recto
Wood 401 fol. 46 slip attached, recto
Wood 401 fol. 46 slip attached, verso
Wood 401 fol. 46 slip attached, verso
Wood 401 fol. 47 recto_detail
Wood 401 fol. 47 recto_detail

Wood 401(55)
A true relation of the life and death of sir Andrew Barton, a pyrate and rover on the seas
Annotations on recto of fol. 55
Kiessling, 536

Wood 401 fol. 55 recto_detail
Wood 401 fol. 55 recto_detail

Wood 401(57)
The most rare and excellent history of the duchesse of Suffolks calamity
Annotations on recto of fol. 57
Kiessling, 442

Wood 401 fol. 57 recto_detail
Wood 401 fol. 57 recto_detail

Wood 401(60)
The dolefull dance and song of death; intituled, Dance after my pipe
Annotations on recto of fol. 60
Kiessling, 536

Wood 401 fol. 60 verso_detail
Wood 401 fol. 60 verso_detail

Wood 401(67)
Lord Willoughby; or, A true relation of a famous and bloody battel fought in Flanders
Annotations on recto of fol. 67
“The story of the Ld Willoughby following, is to be und[er]stood as done by Peregrine Bertie Lord Willoughby of Eresby, about 29. Reg. Elizab.\”
Kiessling, 380

Wood 401(71)
The life and death of famous Thomas Stukelie an English gallant in the time of Queen Elizabeth
Kiessling, 769

Wood 401 fol. 71 recto_detail
Wood 401 fol. 71 recto_detail

Wood 401(91)
The lamentable ditty of the little Mousgrove, and the Lady Barnet
Kiessling, 636

Wood 401 fol. 91 recto_detail
Wood 401 fol. 91 recto_detail

Wood 401(93)
Iohn Arm-strongs last good night
Kiessling, 716

Wood 401 fol. 93 recto_detail

Wood 401(129)
Murder upon murder, committed by Thomas Sherwood, alias, countrey Tom: and Elizabeth Evans, alias, Canbrye Besse
The initials A W in MS below the woodcut on the right side of the sheet; on the reverse of the backing paper is a MS note by Anthony Wood, showing descent of Holt family.
Kiessling, 754

Wood 401 fol. 129 recto_detail
Wood 401 fol. 129 recto_detail

Wood 401(131)
Britaines honour. In the two valiant Welchmen, who fought against fifteene thousand Scots, at their now comming to England
Pen-trials by Wood on the front of the ballad. On the reverse (fols 131 recto and 132 verso) are verses, drawings, and pen trials. A Bodleian note states that these were uncovered in 1881.
Kiessling, 675

Wood 401 fol. 131 recto_detail
Wood 401 fol. 131 recto_detail
Wood 401 fol. 132 verso_detailA
Wood 401 fol. 132 verso_detailA
Wood 401 fol. 132 verso_detailB
Wood 401 fol. 132 verso_detailB

Wood 401(137)
A new Spanish tragedy. Or, More strange newes from the narrow seas
Date “1640- or 41” on the front of the ballad. On the reverse (fols 137 recto and 138 verso) are verses, drawings, and pen trials, and one signature of Anthony Wood.
Kiessling, 703

Wood 401 fol. 137 recto_detail
Wood 401 fol. 137 recto_detail
Wood 401 fol. 138 verso_detailA
Wood 401 fol. 138 verso_detailA
Wood 401 fol. 138 verso_detailB
Wood 401 fol. 138 verso_detailB

Images of the printed sides of these broadside ballads can be viewed via the Bodleian ballads database. A link directly to a list of ballad items in the Wood collection is here.

Images of most of the pages described, which are either the direct versos of the printed ballads, or the reverse of the blank papers onto which the ballads were pasted, are in the gallery included here.

Printed books belonging to Anthony Wood are found by the shelfmark ‘Wood’ in the online catalogue.

Wood’s manuscripts kept in the Bodleian are described here:

http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/dept/scwmss/wmss/online/1500-1900/woodCLD/woodCLD.html

More ballad metamorphoses

Researcher Jacqui Reid-Walsh has posted her findings of related images from ‘The Beginning, Progress, and End of Man’, Bodleian MS. Wood E 25(10), on her blog about metamorphoses. Read more. …

http://sites.psu.edu/learningasplaying/2017/01/29/investigating-anthony-woods-ballad-collection-in-the-bodleian-library-the-miser-image/

Bodleian MS Wodo E 25(10), detail
Bodleian MS Wodo E 25(10), detail

Shakespeare’s Sonnets 78 to 98

This series is called, ‘Figures of delight,’ after the title given to Sonnet 98 by Ken Burnley, Silver Birch Press. NOTE – missing sonnets will be supplied in the correct place as soon as photos are made!

Stuarts Online and animated

A web resource for schools, Stuarts Online, featuring materials from the Bodleian and Ashmolean has launched a video narrated by David Mitchell.

The Stuarts in Seven Minutes has been produced as part of the Stuarts Online initiative. Produced by academics at the universities of Cambridge, Exeter, Nottingham and Oxford, Stuarts Online includes twenty short films – each centred on a key text or artefact – which explore the stories, conflicts and personalities central to the history of Stuart Britain. It also provides lesson plansbiographies, timelines, and other learning resources. The films are enriched by privileged access to the holdings of the Ashmolean Museum and the Bodleian Library, of the University of Oxford. Their development was supported by further partnerships with the Historical Association and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

David Mitchell recording 'Stuarts in Seven Minutes' for the Historyworks production
David Mitchell recording ‘Stuarts in Seven Minutes’ for the Historyworks production
An animated navy from 'Stuarts in Seven Minutes'
An animated navy from ‘Stuarts in Seven Minutes’

Napoleonic ephemera in the Curzon Collection

This blog post comes to you from Adrian Kerrison, Senior Collections Support Assistant, who has been supervising the Weston Library re-ingest move since September 2014.

When I am not working on the Weston move I have been listing the contents of the Lord Curzon collection of Napoleonic ephemera, a fascinating project assigned to me by the Rare Books department. Among the hundreds of engravings, portraits and satirical prints is a treasure trove of numerous letters from figures of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era. Notable figures include Letizia Ramolino (Napoleon’s mother), Pope Pius IV, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Maximilien Robespierre, Rouget de Lisle (author of the ‘La Marseillaise’, also known as the French national anthem), Henri Sanson (executioner of Marie Antoinette among many others) and Giuseppe Garibaldi (one of the founders of modern-day Italy).

Curzon b. 15(229)
Curzon b. 15(229)

And of course, there are a few letters from Mr. Bonaparte himself. Pictured is a military despatch written by a 25 year old Napoleon serving as Commander in Chief of Artillery for the Army of Italy, dated 14 October 1794 (the date in pencil is probably wrong). What is interesting about this document is not only that it was written by a young Napoleon early in his military career, but also that he does not omit the ‘u’ from his surname. Born Napoleone di Buonaparte to Corsican-Italian parents, he began to omit the ‘u’ from his surname sometime in the mid-1790’s to make it sound more French in an effort to propel himself in a country suspicious of foreigners.
If anyone would like to have a go at translating and transcribing his handwriting, please send me an email at adrian.kerrison@bodleian.ox.ac.uk and I will update this post!
More to come!

And so to Bod… Antiquarian Booksellers visit the Bodleian’s Weston Library

Guest post from Laurence Worms of Ash Rare Books, who visited with a group from the Antiquarian Booksellers Association (ABA)

As part of our ongoing series of exchange visits between booksellers and rare book librarians (our friends and colleagues in the Rare Books and Special Collections Group of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals), a party of ABA members assembled in Oxford in mid November. Old haunts for me – parts of downtown Oxford almost unrecognisable after all these years, but beyond the city centre, up towards St Giles, things virtually unchanged in almost half a century. Far more young women students nowadays and far more bicycles (nothing less cool than a cyclist back in the ’sixties), but still recognisable Oxford types on every corner.
There were a dozen of us: ABA President Michael ‘Oscar’ Graves-Johnston; Brian Lake and Carol Murphy from Jarndyce; honorary member David Chambers; Sam Jonkers from Henley; Anke Timmerman and Mark James from Quaritch; Richard Wells from Teignmouth; Ann Gate (Waterfield’s); Tom and Sue Biro (Collectable Books), and myself. Slight chaos and confusion as we assembled in the Blackwell Hall at the Weston Library – two disparate tours scheduled to start at the same time. We were the quiet and well-behaved ones – no, really, we were – we couldn’t be much else in a hall named in honour of that great bookselling family, whose splendid shop still stands next door. Benjamin Henry Blackwell was ABA President in 1912, his son Sir Basil Blackwell in 1926.
The Weston Library is the new name of the New Bodleian Library on Broad Street, after its recent major makeover, rebuilding and refurbishment – renamed in honour of a £25 million donation given by the Garfield Weston Foundation toward its transformation (the Blackwell family chipped in £5 million too). The original 1930s book-stack has been moved down to the lowest basement level. The central stack has been rebuilt along with the installation of three floors of secure storage below ground level. The stone façade has been cleaned. New internal spaces have been created. There are now extra reading rooms and a fine public entrance hall. Above all, the Library is now equipped to store material in conditions laid down by the National Archives’ Standard for Record Repositories. This is critical in allowing the Library to continue to hold major archival collections accepted in lieu of tax and to receive vital funding.
Formally opened earlier in the year, we were to be given a guided tour behind the scenes. Rare Books Assistant Curator Lucy Evans led us first up to the Conservation and Collection Care Department . We were about to be impressed. At the first work-station, Sabina Pugh, the Senior Book Conservator, was working on a mediaeval manuscript of biblical exegesis rebound for Henry VIII – a manuscript presumably acquired and bound for the King at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries (1536-1541). Rebound in a regal mustard-coloured velvet, but now in need of work to allow safe handling and study. “I like to think Henry once handled and studied this book himself”, says Sabina.
Elsewhere, someone was working on an original Shelley notebook – and not just any notebook, but the one with the original draft of that ode which starts “O Wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being”. In another corner, work was being carried out on an extravagantly and exquisitely decorated Koran now starting to disintegrate – the vibrant and enticing green of the verdigris pigment the culprit, as so often. Lots of experimentation going on here with relatively new, virtually weightless and virtually transparent-in-use backing papers, and various types of adhesive. A mountain of thought before the intricate and time-consuming work can actually commence.
Fascinating for us booksellers and the source of some animated conversation later in the day. The whole thrust of library conservation is now towards as little intervention as possible – to render the material safe in handling but no more. No thought of restoration, refurbishment or replication of original glory – the Henrician binding to remain lacking some of its velvet, to remain lacking its original metal bosses – the repairs all visible and reversible. It’s a line of thought easy to understand: none of us would wish to intervene too far or to get things wrong. We have all seen disastrous examples of ill-conceived work – on the one hand, the clunky and charmless utilitarian rebinding which makes it fairly sure the book will not fall apart again, but leaves it almost impossible to open and deprives us of all sense of what it originally was, or, at the other extreme, the ruthless shearing off of catchwords and marginalia to present the book in the most finished and fashionable binding of the moment. Booksellers are often in a quandary here. We want to do the right thing, but we also want (and need) to sell the book. Our customers have their own expectations. We don’t exclude restoration or purely cosmetic repair. We don’t – at least most of us – exclude a complete rebinding in ‘period’ style or in a fine binding worthy of the text. Commercial binders can be exceedingly good at this – and there is, I believe, a duty on us all to ensure that the traditional skills of the bookbinder are kept alive. Perhaps time for a conference for all parties to exchange ideas and to attempt to achieve some kind of consensus about best (or at least allowable) practice?
Our tour continued with a special display of ‘treasures’ – chosen by the curators on hand to talk to us about them – some of their personal favourites, some prize recent acquisitions, etc. I was soon lost in contemplation of a wonderful recent bequest to the Bodleian – the exquisite ‘travelling library’ given to the young Prince Charles, later to become Charles I, in the early seventeenth-century. Sixty or so pocket books, worthy titles, the best of learning suitable for a prince’s education, uniformly bound and evidently intended to be a portable companion. So many questions unanswered: is the set complete, who assembled it and when, who bound the books – are these English bindings? French? – and, not least, where have the books been for most of the last four centuries, until they were put into their present red leather cases, made in the 1970s by Sangorski & Sutcliffe? What a research project in prospect.Dragging myself away from these adorable little books, I was soon equally lost in wonderment at the Bodleian copy of Shackleton’s extraordinary “Aurora Australis”, famous as the first book printed in the Antarctic, designed as a project to while away the long polar winter – but also, what I had never realised – a superb piece of printing in its own right.
Our afternoon ended with a complete tour of the building – up on the roof to catch the dreaming spires in an unexpected burst of late afternoon sunshine, a glimpse into the reading rooms and study areas, some encounters with the restored glories of the original 1930s fittings, furniture and ceilings designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (he of the Telephone Box and Battersea Power Station). A pleasant end to a very pleasant afternoon – thank you so much to Lucy Evans and her colleagues for organising things and taking so much effort to entertain us. Our turn next.

Gazing on the moon

from Chris Fletcher, Keeper of Special Collections

‘We have watched this babe of four or five months, gazing on the moon with all the fixedness of attention belonging to an astronomer.’
Bodleian Libraries, Hopkins Mss
This note is written on the manuscript of a poem recently acquired by the Bodleian. Its author is Manley Hopkins and its subject his infant son, Gerard, who sadly saw little in print during his own short life but is now celebrated as one of our greatest poets. The poem was first published in 2010 in a special issue of the Hopkins Quarterly when the manuscript was still in private hands. It is now available for study along with another poem mourning the death in 1854 of Manley’s fourth son Felix and a letter of 1840 from Kate Smith (later his wife) to a member of their family. The manuscripts join the Bodleian’s extensive collection of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poetical manuscripts.

Manley was at this time a prosperous twenty six year old, well established in insurance and fervidly developing his lack of formal education through reading, writing and music. His poetry is not technically distinguished but I find this hymn to his son moving in its mixture of fear, joy and humility. As it closes, the child becomes, rather recalling Wordsworth, a father to the man, thrilling his father’s soul with the purity of his devotion to light. The idea carries poignancy from where we stand, knowing that the son would die long before his parents, having blazed far beyond them in religious intensity and scintillating expression. The scene also curiously brings to mind Coleridge’s account of his son Hartley, hurt from a fall: ‘I caught him up crying & screaming—& ran out of doors with him.—The Moon caught his eye—he ceased crying immediately—& his eyes & the tears in them, how they glittered in the Moonlight!”

Manley’s verses of course bring to mind one of Gerard’s most ecstatic poems, sent as a present to his mother on her birthday in spring of 1877 when he was at his happiest, studying to become a priest at Beuno in Wales. That poem is ‘Starlight Night’. Was the son thinking of his father’s tender tribute, so carefully preserved in the manuscript?

IMG_0552

To my child, Gerard Manley.
Christmas Eve 1844

Hail! Little worshipper of Light!
Most sunny is thy sunny face at noon:-
Why dost thou fix so earnestly thy gaze
Upon the wandering Moon, –
And thy young eyes upraise
Adoringly to her that melts the night? – *
Why do thine impotent hands
Seek, – seek for ever
To clasp the lamp-flame bright
And everything that flings thee lucent rays?
Why if it chance in darkness thou awaken
Utter thy earnest, plaintive cry
As tho’ the fateful bands
Of thy imprisoning gloom to sever, –
While fancy gives thee words – ‘Mother, I die
By light, and thee forsaken!’

Does thy quick-beating heart
Back with an instinct start,
And own the tyrant fear –
Lest life, whose tenure is so frail and new, –
With nothingness so near –
Has snapped beneath thy tiny weight,
And thou relapsed into thy former state,
Like a young flower
Snatched in its opening hour
From where, upon its stem, so joyously it grew? –

Or, is it, child, that beauty and that light
Are infancy’s true nourishment? – its eyes
As steel unto the lode-rock bend their sight
In sympathy , to all of pure and bright; –
That clouds are afterthoughts; – darkness a blot
That in creation is, – yet should be not.
And childhood, like the Huma, has no feet
To settle mid the shadows of the earth,
But hovering o’er it, still drinks in the dew
Of heaven, its land of birth;
While its wings catch the all-surrounding hue
Of liquid sapphire, where they ever beat?

If so, then worship on. No Gebir’s best wrong creed
Stains thee with error. Drink of light thy fill:
And tho’ thy feet in after-life may bleed
As whose do not? – upon Time’s stoney way,
The first warm impulse of thy heart obey,
And love it still!
Yes! Love it as it rises o’er the East,
Love it in all the glowing hues of Even
Love it reflected over Earth’s wide breast,
And trembling in the starry lamps of Heaven.
Seek it in gemmy caves, and snowy mountain tips,
In Friendship’s eyes, on sweet Affection’s lips.
Thou’lt often find it where thou dreamest not, deep hid
‘Neath surging waves, in mines, – in human hearts.
And many a ray
Will meet thee on thy way
Cherished in bosoms that the world has chid, –
And which that chiding world has mainly turned astray.

Oh worship on! See yonder orient gates
Whose half-oped leaves the streaky dawn disclose;
Where soft, diffusive light impatient waits,
And on the verge, with tender lustre glows.
Behold! The Light of Light – the Righteous Sun upsprings
With balmy healing dripping from his wings!
Before His beams, all other radiance pales.
Fountain and Source of light, and heat and love
The dim horizon lift thyself above,
And haste to our dark world, that thy bright Coming hails!

Gaze on, my child, thy fill.
Yet stay! – an instant turn on me thy innocent sight,
Pour thro’ thine eyes my heart full of delight,
And all my being thrill –
Thou Worshipper of Light!

*We have watched this babe of four or five months, gazing on the moon with all the fixedness of attention belonging to an astronomer.

The Starlight Night

Look at the stars! look, look up at the skies!
O look at all the fire-folk sitting in the air!
The bright boroughs, the circle-citadels there!
Down in dim woods the diamond delves! the elves’-eyes!
The grey lawns cold where gold, where quickgold lies!
Wind-beat whitebeam! airy abeles set on a flare!
Flake-doves sent floating forth at a farmyard scare!
Ah well! it is all a purchase, all is a prize.
Buy then! bid then! – What? – Prayer, patience, alms, vows.
Look, look: a May-mess, like on orchard boughs!
Look! March-bloom, like on mealed-with-yellow sallows!
These are indeed the barn; withindoors house
The shocks. This piece-bright paling shuts the spouse
Christ home, Christ and his mother and all his hallows.

Who were ‘The Troops’? An illustrated childhood Idyll

Bodleian Rec. e.465from Chris Fletcher, Keeper of Special Collections

“A little townlet on the coast under the lee of the Sussex Downs – this was Littlehampton. With its old-fashioned Harbour, its irregular network of streets, its quiet, conservative atmosphere, it represented to us at the time a miniature Paradise. Long stretches of sandy beach, sandhills and the surrounding Downs, all added to the charm of the place in which we lived and about which I have attempted to write.”

So begins ‘The Troops’, the Bodleian’s latest acquisition, hooked from the book trade. The book is a private production of June 1935. No other copy has yet been identified, though I suspect it was distributed to the seventeen or so childhood friends whose blissful existence it celebrates between 1923 and 1929. Crudely but lovingly produced, with no pagination or publisher’s imprint (unless one counts the embossed address, Warwick House, Littlehampton), it includes pasted in photographs of ‘the troops’ and provides a charming and moving narrative of their journey through childhood, from the ages of about ten to the late teens.

Bodleian Rec. e.465

The author, looking back in his early twenties, traces out the activities of the expanding ‘gang’ during Prep school holidays. They start as kids playing with mud pies, eating ‘sticky sweets’ and puzzling out Meccano before establishing a cycling club, organising races on the beaches and through the town: ‘bicycles and nothing but bicycles, with a concentration of which only children are capable.’ Then it’s hockey, followed by theatrical performances and even a cine film before grownups, interspersed with tennis, swimming, picnics and meetings in a club house, all enabled through the kindness and financial support of one parent in particular, ‘Mrs Mitchell (Treasurer and general big-noise).’ The personality of various members emerges sweetly. ‘Evan Hayes and Podge Porter were the mad men’, Austin Harmer is the sensible time-keeper, Jeffrey Quill turns out to be a natural actor and ‘Jane always insisted on being barmaid – this sounds awfully naughty but it was only Orange crush and cider.’ The poignancy of such innocent fun is sharpened when we realise that real troops  – those of the marines – would later use the beach at Littlehampton to train for D Day landings.
Bodleian Rec. e.465

An elegiac note develops towards the end: ‘we were growing up without realising it – awful business that growing up – the big cry was £s. d., and at that age the demand was greater than the supply.’ The author, I think one Tom Murphy, ‘started clerking it in London’ at the end of 1929 after a final dinner together. ‘I suppose’, he reflects with melancholy wisdom, ‘thousands of others have spent, and will spend, their youth in a similar way – similar but not quite the same – nobody could be happier than I was during that time.’ The group had agreed, earlier that year, to meet again on the 1 January 1939 with the proviso that ‘anybody bringing along a husband or wife should pay a fine towards the champagne.’ Our author notes, ‘at the time of writing that dinner is still four years away, and it looks as though there is going to be plenty of champagne.’

Bodleian Rec. e.465

That reunion seems to have happened. A sheet of paper enclosed with the book features a poem dedicated to Jane and signed by various members. The book is also inscribed to her and must have been her copy:

The Troops are gathered once again
To celebrate – but where is Jane?
While nursing someone else’s mumps
Herself has caught the horrid lumps,
Which proves, alas, that those who serve
Don’t always get what they deserve.
We’ll think of you and drink your health
Wishing you happiness and wealth,
And all hope you’re not feeling rotten
Assuring you you’re not forgotten.

Who were these troops who shared such lucky times together? One or two I think I have identified. Podge Porter, may have become head of French at Magdalen College School Oxford (and a friend to the author John Fowles and Marxist to boot). Jeffrey Quiller turned out one of our most celebrated test pilots of Spitfires – all that speed on the beach! But of the others, what trace? I list the names I have identified below. We’d love to know more.

Mrs Mitchell, Hon. Treasurer
Phillip Mitchell
Jane Mitchell
Stella Mitchell
Phyllis Mitchell
Bradshaw
Stephen Clarkson
Jeffrey Quill
Austin Harmer
Stephen Harmer
Podge Porter
Clyde Barber
Biddy Barber
Sheila Murphy
Tom Murphy
Sheila Butt
Tony Bee
David Lea

Waterloo in the Curzon Collection

The Bodleian’s Curzon Collection includes a large number of political prints, both British and Continental, from the period of the Napoleonic wars and on the subject of the history and destiny of Napoleon I. Among these are both British and French cartoons depicting Napoleon’s final defeat at Waterloo.

Many of these items are available to view online at digital.bodleian.ox.ac.uk as part of the collection, Political Prints from the Curzon Collection.

Le Cesar de 1815. Bodleian Curzon b.32(23). Napoleon leaves behind the dead of Waterloo. La Haye Sainte is visible at the right-hand side.
Le César de 1815. Bodleian Curzon b.32(23). Napoleon leaves behind the dead of Waterloo. La Haye Sainte is visible at the right-hand side.

George Nathaniel Curzon (1859-1925), chancellor of the University of Oxford from 1907 to 1925, bequeathed his collection of Napoleoneana to the Bodleian Library. The books and printed cartoons form one part of this collection.

Most of the prints were bought by Curzon in bound volumes from the estate of the lawyer and journalist Alexander Meyrick Broadley (1847-1916), author of Napoleon in caricature (1911) who compiled extra-illustrated copies of his own work as well as J. Holland Rose’s Life of Napoleon I (1902), the Earl of Rosebery’s Napoleon: the last phase (1900), and Guillaume Craan’s Notice historique sur la bataille de Waterloo (the English translation, 1817).

Tricolour cockade. Bodleian Library, Curzon b.33(144)
Tricolour cockade. Bodleian Library, Curzon b.33(144). Image credit, Bodleian Libraries

The historical works are extra-illustrated with autograph letters and tokens including a tricolour cockade, which is described in the blog, The Last Stand: Napoleon’s 100 days in 100 objects.

An Angelological Scroll in the Bodleian Library

from Alexandra Marraccini. Alex is a PhD student in the History of Art at the University of Chicago. Her work focuses on alchemical/Hermetic images and their role in constructing Early Modern intellectual history. She is currently doing doctoral research and is a visiting member of Corpus Christi College.

Bodleian MS. German f. 5 (R)
Bodleian MS. German f. 5 (R)

For scholars in the Weston’s Rare Books & Manuscripts Reading Room, catalogue entries are our northernmost stars, the fixed constellations by which we arrange our research. My work typically considers alchemical and hermetic images in the Library’s Ashmole fond, and I can remember to the day and hour when I found the entry for each of my manuscripts in the fond catalogue. There they were, set in a rounded Victorian type and sometimes annotated by a neat scholar’s hand, each the promise of beauty or mystery or truth, each known but still inscrutable, until each manuscript came into my hands and unfurled onto my desk. If this language sounds swoony and romantic it is, because the experience of working with manuscripts truly is transformative; it is history at its must tangible, piercing immediacy, cradled in your own hands.

Of course, there are more prosaic days too. On just one such day, I was bent over MS. Ashmole 1423, dancing silently at my desk to Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” and staring at a clumped-up bit of 16th-century English handwriting. Fun pop songs are some of my favourite paleographic instruments, and I can often be found swaying along in my grey and pink noise-cancelling headphones at the long readers’ tables. There was a weird ligature, and then, a rather fateful email. Following an earlier discussion about my work on the Ripley Scrolls, Dr. Bruce Barker-Benfield, curator of medieval manuscripts here at the Bodleian, now told me about an Hermetic scroll that needed a description. It had been given to the Bodleian with the papers of E. M. Bickersteth and his family in 1976, but its mysterious contents had since then defied cataloguing. I was invited to take a look.

Bodleian MS. German f. 5 (R)

Shortly thereafter, one of the Bodleian’s grey storage boxes emerged from the circulation desk with my name on it. I was ecstatic but also nervous. A manuscript like this, a known unknown, is a rara avis indeed in this day and age. I unfurled it, all twelve feet of it, and gasped. Many manuscripts are beautiful. Many manuscripts are strange. This one is both. One side has stunning roundels of the genealogy of the Prophets starting with Old Testament creation and ending with Christ. There is dense ink, covering almost the whole of the writing surface, in black-brown, green, and red inks, in both German and Latin. The roundels are surrounded with angelic sigils, like those in the Clavicula Salomonis, and the back of the scroll is decorated as well, this time with dense fields of sigils, some of which bear signs of repeated touch and use. The Ripley Scrolls I work with at the Library have no illumination on their backs. The other comparanda in magical books (MS. Rawl. D. 252, MS. e Mus. 173, MS. Rawl. D. 253, and MS. Douce 116) aren’t even scrolls at all. This object is, to my knowledge, a total unicum.

For the uninitiated (in this case, perhaps literally), sigils are geometric symbols designed to call the angelic (or demonic) spirits from the heavens. Sigil comes from the Latin sigillum, which explains why many are round like the wax seals on letters. The sigils on the Bickersteth scroll usually appear in bound magical books called grimoires, some of which were on display in the Magical Books exhibition in the Bodleian in 2013. Some of the sigils on the back of the scroll appear to be worn down and perhaps damaged by oil, used to float and rotate a divining crystal along the surface. The sigils are also often round and with multiple tiers of directional writing because angelic magic is calibrated by both geography and the calendar, with certain months, times, and places being more suited to some angels than others. Sometimes a brass bowl filled with water is used to catch the incoming spirit.

Bodleian MS. German f. 5 (R)

The important thing to remember about magical scrolls like this one, though, is not the fact that they are magic. The strange looking symbols are exciting to look at, but what’s exciting about them intellectually is that they’re experiments with the warp and weft of language, of how it evokes, sometimes literally, aspects of the micro- and macro-cosm. While the images and the bulk of the text on the scroll are typically later 17th-century or after, and decidedly German in content and style, some of the sigils are not. They come from a diverse range of print sources including the works of John Dee, showing that Hermetic theologians in the period were transmitting crucial ideas across Continental/English boundaries. When Dr. Barker-Benfield and I met to discuss the manuscript, he held the scroll up to the window facing Parks Road. The light showed us what a table-bound viewing could not: the sigils on the back lined up in significant ways with the images on the front.

Bodleian MS. German f. 5 (R)
A curator holding the manuscript to the light to make the structure visible.

This is one of the most delightful aspects of book and manuscript studies. Somewhere like the Bodleian’s Weston Library, which is a temple to the historical, and by nature, old, is also a crucible for the new. My experience with the Bickersteth angelological scroll is by no means unique. Scholars make new discoveries here every day. While my scholarly article with a description of the manuscript is still forthcoming, soon a summary entry will go up online on the Weston/Bodleian catalogue website with the shelfmark MS. German f. 5 (R). A new star will blink into being, and a hundred years from now, another graduate student, just like me, can use it to guide her work, to enter the realm of the old that is always somehow new.

As for me? Well, I’ll be in the Reading Room, glowing from the experience of having been able to contribute in my small way to the catalogue, and listening to “Blank Space” on repeat. After all, I got to live the lyrics, at least with respect to this manuscript. Taylor Swift perkily croons: “I can show you incredible things/ Magic. Madness. Heaven. Sin.” I now have the pleasure of being able to say the same thing.