Category Archives: Discoveries and Rediscoveries

Another princely travelling library: a book bound for Henry, Prince of Wales

Antiq. q N 1593, bound for Henry, Prince of Wales (d. 1612)

Antiq. q N 1593, bound for Henry, Prince of Wales (d. 1612)

Claire Audelan, Rare Books Department Intern, writes:

A gift to the Bodleian has led to the recognition of further provenance history, as another book from the 17th-century Prince Henry’s dispersed travelling library has been discovered in the Bodleian stacks.

Careful study of the travelling library of Prince Charles, later King Charles I, donated to the Bodleian Library before Christmas, has enabled staff in the Rare Books Department at the Bodleian to track down one of the remarkable gold-tooled green morocco bindings bearing the recognizable monogram ‘HP’ with a coronet on top that belonged to his elder brother Henry, Prince of Wales (d.1612).  The binding is one which seems to be from the travelling library made for Prince Henry. Others with the same binding are known to survive in the British Library.

This is an amazing step towards reconstructing the still mysterious history of these two outstanding libraries made for the 15 and 9 year-old princes since it brings the number of volumes known to have belonged to Henry Prince of Wales to 23.

Lucan, De Bello Civili, Antiq. q N 1593

Lucan, De Bello Civili, Antiq. q N 1593, copy bound for Henry, Prince of Wales (d. 1612)

Printing, sculpture and the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili: display and lecture, 6 Feb.

On display in the Proscholium of the Bodleian Library now are examples of Renaissance books from the printing house of Aldus Manutius (c.1450-1515).

See the online exhibition:

One of the most visually appealing products of the Aldine press, the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, will be the subject of a lecture by Dr Oren Margolis (Somerville College, Oxford), who will discuss the artistic and business background to the production of this exquisitely illustrated and mysterious Renaissance book. Dr Margolis will speak on 6 February in the Convocation House of the Bodleian Library, at 5:30 pm.  The lecture is free to attend but please register online:

Reception following hosted by the Centre for the Study of the Book and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Neo-Latin Studies.

Missionaries bringing the word and taking images

Lantern slides, Archive of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. Credit: USPG archive. Copyright Us.

Lantern slides, Archive of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. Credit: USPG archive. Copyright Us.

Stuart Barnard (University of Calgary), RBC-Bodleian Visiting Fellow, writes:

The papers of the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG), an Anglican missionary organization formed in 1701, is a vast collection comprising items from the organization’s origins until the 1960s. The SPG was active around the world, and its network of missionaries and clergymen left a wonderful trove of correspondence and diaries of their work overseas. The records include executive minutes, financial records, books and catalogues, periodicals, and maps, representing a wide variety of historical materials. The collection provides an important lens into the Anglican Church’s global expansion and colonial encounters in the British Empire.

A unique item within the collection is an assortment of lantern slides that date from around the turn of the twentieth century. There are 75 boxes of varying sizes, many of which hold dozens of slides each. The square panes of glass typically measure roughly three inches on each side, and feature both black and white and colour images from around the world highlighting locations in which the Society was at work and the groups to whom they ministered. Several boxes contain slides showing Biblical scenes that may have been useful for teaching in schools established by SPG missionaries.

My particular interest lies in the SPG’s work in Canada in the nineteenth century, and the collection includes fascinating pictures of popular Canadian landmarks. Striking images of Niagara Falls, the Banff Springs Hotel, wildlife, and mountain scenes are all featured on the Canadian slides. Unlike many of the other sets of slides in the SPG’s collection which highlight the day-to-day work of missionaries in schools and churches around the world, most of these Canadian slides were likely used to highlight the famous places and familiar themes in order to pique the interest of British members and donors whose contributions sustained overseas missions. Nonetheless, the images are stunning and represent a wonderful treasure within the SPG’s collection at the Bodleian.

Stuart Barnard will be speaking about his research into the SPG archives on February 19, see event listing for details.

Brain Teasing: Bartisch’s Ophthalmoduleia and Anatomical Flap Books

Nora Wilkinson, Harvard University

Georg Bartisch was a surgeon and an inventor, but he is remembered primarily for his Ophthamoduleia (literally ”eye-service”), a treatise on diseases and disorders of the eye. The 1583 text is notable for several reasons. First, it is widely considered the first Renaissance treatise on eye disorders and surgery. Secondly, though most serious texts were written in Latin at the time, the Ophthalmodouleia was published in the vernacular, German. Finally, the book, which Bartisch published at his own expense, included ninety one full-page woodcuts, several of which were layered to act as flaps. As a result, the reader could examine different layers of the human brain (for example) by flipping through the woodcuts. This experience simulated the process of dissection for students, professionals, and the general public.

Bartisch was not the only one – nor the first – to include interactive flaps in his text. Heinrich Vogtherr the Elder introduced the layered flaps to anatomical prints in 1538 when he used 24 woodblocks to create an anatomical print of the female body. Vesalius’ Fabrica, which marks the beginning of modern anatomy, included flaps; and in 1619, Johann Remmelin included 120 flaps in the anatomical illustrations for the Catoptrum Microscopicum, which has been digitised by the University of Iowa. This technique was still used long after the seventeenth century: E.J. Stanley created layered illustrations for an anatomical textbook in 1901. Read more and watch anatomical flap books in action here.

As useful as they were for simulating dissection, paper flaps were used in more than just anatomical texts. Indeed, the 1570 English edition of Euclid’s Elements uses flaps to illustrate geometric concepts. And as explored in an earlier post by Sarah Wheale, harlequinades used flaps to create ‘a surprise unfolding of the story.’

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Cut Out for Colour: More Manuscripts in Unusual Places

In 2011, conservator Andrew Honey wrote about a frisket in the Bodleian’s Broxbourne collection. We repost Andrew’s piece here with a full image and with a link to further information on colour printing with friskets.

A frisket used for printing with colour. Bodleian Libraries, Oxford. Broxb. 97.40.

A frisket used for printing with colour. Bodleian Libraries, Oxford. Broxb. 97.40.

The Conservation Section is currently devising a new mount for a parchment frisket cover from the Broxbourne collection. A frisket is the part of a printing press that holds the paper in place during printing. Often covered with parchment, a frisket also acted as a mask to keep inky parts of the press bed from marking the printed paper.

The frisket cover (Broxb. 97.40), which is made from a recycled manuscript leaf, was framed behind glass when it came to the library and only one side could be seen. The library’s Rare Books curators asked whether it could be unframed and mounted so that both sides could be seen, and to make it more readily available for study. Once the Broxbourne frisket was released from its frame far more information about its early use and subsequent history could be seen.

A page of a manuscript

Manuscript writing can be seen on this piece of parchment, which has been identified as a page of an Italian fourteenth-century Canon Law text.

A “mask” for printing in colour

Two centuries later, this discarded piece of parchment from a law manuscript was used to make the frisket. The frisket was used to print the red portion of an octavo-format book in the early sixteenth century, and offers early evidence of two-colour printing processes. Here, areas of parchment were cut away to allow the red-inked type to print initials and so on, while the remaining parchment masked off the text which was to be printed in black. The attached photograph shows the upper side of the frisket cover and a detail of one page in raking light, which clearly shows impressions of type.

A lining for a bookbinding

Now that the frisket cover is out of its frame it can be seen that it was subsequently used as a board lining for a large folio bookbinding.

The final question remains – what was it used to print?

– Andrew Honey, Conservation, Bodleian Libraries. 2011.

18th-century printing innovations: conference, Sept. 2014

Harlequinades from the Bodleian Library's Rare Books colleciton

These notes on the Bodleian’s collection of harlequinades, by Sarah Wheale (Bodleian Rare Books), were  first posted in 2008-9, and are presented again in anticipation of the conference taking place in Oxford, Sept. 2014, ‘Forms and formats: experimenting with print, 1695-1815’ See the event posting to register:

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.

The Library has recently (in 2009) 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

See the records of the pictured harlequinades here:

The Sister-Witches, or mirth and magic

Dr Last, or the Devil on two sticks


Copycat Copiers? Frederick Folsch, Ralph Wedgwood, and the ‘’Improved Manifold Writer’’

Nora Wilkinson, Harvard University

When you click ‘’CC:’’ in your email window, you send a virtual ‘’carbon copy.’’ This abbreviation is a relic of a nearly-bygone era, as digital technologies eliminate the need for carbon paper. Indeed, there is only one remaining manufacturer of carbon paper in the United Kingdom. But with carbon paper on its way out, the Bodleian has an early copying technology on its way in.

The closed manifold writer. Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

The closed manifold writer. Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

The Bodleian has just acquired what appears, at first glance, to be a beautiful green wallet of sorts; leather, with a Greek key design around its edges, and a metal lock and key. But upon opening it, we discover a range of tools housed in special slots in the red morocco lining. The label on the book of blank paper identifies the kit as an ‘’improved manifold writer’’ made by ‘’F. Folsch’’ of ‘’327 oxford Street, London.’’ The contents of the wallet, pictured below, include a volume of blank paper, a metal ‘’tablet’’ and ‘’piece of flat wood’’, and a variety of tools: a cylindrical wooden container, a bone folder, several styli, and a dipping pen with a second nib attached. The nib is labelled ‘’William Mitchell No. 2.’’ (William Mitchell began making pen nibs in the 1820s, and the business that be began continues to manufacture them to this day.)

The manifold writer, including several styli and a notebook. Bodleian Libraries, Oxford University.

The manifold writer, including several styli and a notebook. Bodleian Libraries, Oxford University.

The pen included in the manifold writer set. Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford.

The pen included in the manifold writer set. Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford.

Its purpose is explained in the January 1809, issue of The Tradesman, which published a list of recently acquired patents. The magazine listed ‘’a Machine, Instrument, or Pen for facility in writing,’’ patented by Frederick Bartholemew Folsch and William Howard. In the patent itself, having explained the new forms of pen and paper, the inventors laid out the innovative effect of their combination:

The object to be attained by the use of the above inventions (when used together) is, to produce two or more impressions by one effort in writing, which is thus performed: Take a plate made of tin (called a tablet) or other hard thin substance, the full size of, and place it under, the writing paper; then place a sheet of the inked paper or composition between every sheet of paper to be written or impressed on, observing to place that side downwards which has been smeared over; then place a small plane or piece of flat wood upon the whole, for the purpose of resting the hand on, and which will confine the papers in their proper situations, and prevent the under papers from receiving improper marks. A sufficient quantity of common writing ink being put into the cavity or tube of the pen, proceed to write, and the ink flowing from the point of the tube, will give one impression, and the other impression or impressions will be formed on the under sheet or sheets from the inked paper or composition. The impression on the under sheet or sheets are clearest and best made on thin wove writing paper, and by a hard pressure of the instrument or pen.

The label on the copying book in the Bodleian’s new acquisition may mark this as a slightly later version of Folsch and Howard’s technology.

Manifold Writers

Folsch and Howard seemed confident that their tool would ‘’produce two or more impressions by one effort in writing,’’ but writers at The Tradesman were not totally convinced:

This method of taking copies by the means of blackened paper has long been noticed, and we think that more than one impression at a time will be hardly legible.

”Long’’ is a relative term, but the ‘’blackened paper’’ method of taking copies – the earliest version of carbon paper – did indeed precede Folsch and Howard’s 1809 patent. In fact, the invention of carbon paper is typically attributed to Ralph Wedgwood, who patented his ‘’apparatus for producing duplicates of writing’’ in 1806. Also known as a ‘’Noctograph’’, or a ‘’Manifold Stylographic Writer’’, Wedgwood’s device was invented to aid the blind in writing. Wedgwood’s basic technique involved sandwiching ‘’carbonated’’ paper (made by soaking paper in printer’s ink) between writing paper (on the bottom) and thin ‘’duplicate paper’’ (on the top). When a stylus was used to write on the top layer, the text was impressed on the regular paper and on the duplicate paper in reverse. Because the duplicate paper was particularly thin, the text could be read through it. Wedgwood claimed that up to 6 impressions could be made at once, if the technique was properly applied.

Wedgwood’s invention was not an immediate success. Still, the technology made £10,000 in its first seven years – paying back his nephew Josiah Wedgwood II’s investment of £200 – and even made its way across the Atlantic. William Lyman, American consul to Great Britain, introduced both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison to Wedgwood’s manifold writer. In a letter to Madison from 1807, Lyman wrote:

The Advantages of R. Wedgewood’s improved Stylographic manifold Writer, or as it is commonly called Copying Machine have been found so much beyond as entirely to Supersede all the former Improvements of that kind. It is used now in most public Offices but particularly in the Office of State for foreign Affairs where as you must so well know the utmost secrecy is often indispensable.

Jefferson did not share Lyman’s enthusiasm for the copying machine. He wrote to Charles Willson Peale, co-inventor of the polygraph, in October 1807:

the method is so new to me that I am as yet awkward with it. it is not pleasant in it’s use, and I think will not take the place of the Polygraph. where I want but one copy, which is 99 times in an hundred, I shall use the Polygraph, & reserve the Stylograph for cases where more than one copy is wanting, tho’ I have not yet tried it in that way.

In another letter to Peale, Jefferson is even more critical:

further trial of the Stylograph convinces me it can never take the place of the Polygraph but with travellers, as it is so much more portable. the fetid smell of the copying paper would render a room pestiferous, if filled with presses of such papers.

(The smell to which Jefferson refers may be a result of the oil used to make the carbonated paper. Folsch and Howard’s patent detailed the creation of a mixture of ‘’Frankfort black and butter’’ that is smeared over the paper. Wedgwood’s recipe called for any kind of oil that would not spoil easily.)

In contrast, poet Robert Southey received the invention more positively:

You will have perceived that I have been writing in the dark, – & if you look close enough may see that I am not using pen & ink, – but a very excellent contrivance called the double writer, which is liable to no other inconvenience than that of the paper shifting, – as I see this has done in the last page.

Despite its high-profile users, the manifold writer did not achieve wide popularity for many years after its invention. Though it sold well, it was not adopted for business use, largely because the technology could not be used with a metal-nibbed pen or quill, ruling it out for official correspondence that needed to be in ink. Folsch addressed this issue in 1809 with the pen described in his patent:

The machine, instrument, or pen, is made of glass, enamel, or any sort of stone, or metal, through which a hold can be made or formed. The tube or hole at the point of the instrument or pen is very small, but becomes larger a trifling distance therefrom, and is calculated to contain a much greater quantity of ink than common writing pens: the instrument or pen is polished at the point in the usual way.

But despite Folsch’s embrace of ink, and manufacturers’ emphasis on portability and secrecy, manifold copiers – which is to say the carbon paper process – was slow to catch on. The Associated Press was among early adopters, using carbon paper for reporting as early as the 1820s. But the carbon-copy approach didn’t take off until the 1870s, with the invention of typewriters (and a far less messy carbon paper-making process).

The Bodleian’s Manifold Writer

With this history of manifold writers in mind, and given that the book of blank paper is labelled ‘’F. Folsch, Inventor and Patentee of Improved Manifold Writers, 327 Oxford Street, London,” it’s reasonable to conclude that the artefact just acquired by the Bodleian is a Folsch product.

Notably missing from the case, however, is the pen described above. The pen that Folsch patented in 1809 is considered one of the first examples of the fountain pen. There had been previous efforts to create pens with their own ink supplies, even as early as the seventeenth century, as we can see in the diary of Samuel Pepys, in which he mentions a ‘’Silver pen[…] to carry inke in.’’ But fountain pens were not made in any large numbers until the end of the nineteenth century, when a reliable construction was patented by L.E. Waterman. The metal pen with the Mitchell nib may be a later substitution for the Folsch pen.

On the other hand, it may be a sign that the manifold writer has a slightly more complicated history. Indeed, further questions were raised when we discovered another manifold writer c. 1820 that looks remarkably similar to the one now owned by the Bodleian. This second manifold writer has the same green binding, Greek key decoration, red morocco interior, and key lock. The insert with slots for tools is missing, as are the tools themselves; otherwise the two manifold writers seem clearly to be siblings—except for one thing: instead of a notebook with Folsch’s information on it, this manifold writer includes papers attributing it to Ralph Wedgwood of ‘’328 Oxford Street.’’ W.B. Proudfoot’s description of Wedgwood’s manifold writer lines up with these details: two books of special papers (transparent papers and carbon papers) were ‘’housed in a handsome folder containing several styles or styli (some agate tipped), a black lacquered metal writing plate, and some good-quality writing paper’’ (26).

This left us with two very similar manifold writers, and two consecutive addresses on Oxford Street. The Folsch notebook locates him at 327 Oxford Street, while Ralph Wedgwood made and sold his ‘’Improved Manifold Writers & Penna-Polygraphs’’ at 328 Oxford Street.

Were they neighbours? On 16 September 1816, the London Star published the following:

The New Street—On Friday a Special Jury was summoned upon a Warrant of Inquiry before William Toort, Esq. the Deputy High Bailiff for the City and Liberty of Westminster, in the Guildhall, to assess what damages should be awarded to Mr. Frederick Bartholomew Folsch, for the loss of his premises, Nos. 327 and 328,’Oxford-street. Mr, Serjeant Pell, on behalf of the claimant, stated his case at some length, and called several witnesses to prove the value of the premises. Mr. Harrison addressed the Jury in a very long, able, and eloquent speech, against the demand which the claimant made, which was jG 10, 078. The Deputy High Bailiff recapitulated the evidence and the Jury found for the claimant—Damages, £1400.

This suggests that in 1816, Folsch owned both 327 and 328 Oxford Street. Had he gone into business with Wedgwood, or perhaps acquired the property from him?

The similar designs of the manifold writers suggest several possibilities:

1) Wedgwood and Folsch were working together. Both men patented versions of the manifold writer in quick succession, and if they were indeed working in such close proximity they may have collaborated.

2) The Bodleian has acquired a Wedgwood manifold writer with a Folsch notebook inside of it. The notebook is not attached to the manifold writer, and may have been added to it. This would mean that the set is in fact composed of part from two separate manifold writers.

3) Folsch copied Wedgwood’s design. An 1836 issue of The Quarterly Review includes the following note:
Caution: The Nobility, Gentry, and Public, are respectfully cautioned against spurious Imitations, which being made by persons totally unacquainted with the chemical properties of the Ink used in this Invention, and also of the proper mode of preparing the Copying Paper, will be found to dry up and become quite useless in a very short time, and particularly in warm climates. Ask for ‘’Wedgwood’s Improved Manifold Writer.’’

These few options by no means exhaust the possibilities, and we are continuing our research into the origins of this fascinating artefact.

The closed manifold writer, seen from the side. Bodleian Libraries, Oxford University.

The closed manifold writer, seen from the side. Bodleian Libraries, Oxford University.

This investigation is part of a larger thought-project exploring the legacy of ‘’copying’’ at the Bodleian. Related objects in the Bodleian’s Special Collections include William Godwin’s ‘’wet transfer’’ copies, made using James Watts’ letter press technology.

Sources / Further Reading:
Proudfoot, W.B. The Origin of Stencil Duplicating. London: Century Benham, 1972. Print.

Rhodes, Barbara, and William Wells Streeter. Before Photocopying: The Art & History of Mechanical copying, 1780-1938. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press; Northampton, MA: Herald Bindery, 1999. Print.

A little girl reading

A Little Girl Reading (after William Charles Thomas Dobson, RA (1817–98)), from the collections of the Bodleian Library

A Little Girl Reading [after William Charles Thomas Dobson, RA (1817–98)], Bodleian Library collections

from Dana Josephson and Alexandra Franklin (Bodleian Libraries)
Among the treasures of the Bodleian’s Rare Books section is the Opie Collection of Children’s Literature. On a coal-scuttle from about 1860 in the possession of Mrs Iona Opie (but not part of the collection in the Bodleian) is a painted image of a little girl reading, a subject which clearly appealed to the collecting interests of Peter and Iona Opie, who recorded so many children’s rhymes, games and songs.

Little girl reading, from a coal scuttle of about 1860 in the possession of Mrs. Iona Opie

Little girl reading, from a coal scuttle of about 1860 in the possession of Mrs. Iona Opie

Seeing this image in the publicity for the Bodleian’s exhibition of the Opie collection in 1987 prompted Annie Laurie Valentine to donate a painting which evidently derives from the same source. Until the recent refurbishment of the New Library, it hung in Room 132, the Modern Papers reading room. By means of some opportunistic research, and consultation of the very useful ‘Your Paintings’ database, Bodleian staff recently learned the identity of the artist of the painting on which this portrait is based.

The Infant's Magazine, annual number for 1870

The Infant’s Magazine, annual number for 1870

A version of the image was used on the cover of The Infant’s Magazine for 1 February 1870. Clive Hurst, who retired last year as Head of Rare Books, noticed this magazine in the Lower Reading Room of the Old Library, in a pile of books awaiting return to the bookstack. The imprint on the back cover names the printer of this version as Edmund Evans (1826-1905). Evans was well known as an engraver and printer of illustrations for children’s books. Here he appears to have been using a relief printing process known as chromoxylography, in which different woodblocks were made to print each colour in the image, with careful registration of each block in relation to the others to obtain a unified picture.

Detail, cover of The Infant's Magazine, 1870

Detail, cover of The Infant’s Magazine, 1870, engraved by Edmund Evans

The Infant’s Magazine cover is captioned, ‘after a painting by W.C.T. Dobson’; following through in the Your Paintings database revealed this as William Charles Thomas Dobson, RA (1817–98). The prime version of this painting may be that called ‘Fairy Tales’, at Cusworth Hall (Doncaster Museum Service).

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The copies are faithful to the apparent original, including the fringed sleeve of the girl’s dress, except that the later versions omit the doll in Dobson’s painting, who does add another dimension either as an audience for reading aloud, or as the plaything put aside in favour of the more absorbing storybook.

A reminder to read to children from the earliest years, as outlined here: