Tara Lyons (Illinois State University) Sassoon Visiting Fellowship, Bodleian Libraries
Through an examination of the Bodleian’s archive of its own history, the Library Records collection, Tara Lyons has been investigating the earliest arrival of playbooks on the Bodleian’s shelves after the opening of the library in 1602.
The records of books claimed by the library from the Stationers’ Company under the agreement of 1610 , and the binding of books now in the library, combined with clues from printed library catalogues and the lists of locations of books (the order in which they were found on the shelves), helped Dr Lyons to build a picture of the sequence in which some individual plays were received early in the Bodleian’s history, and how they were treated once they were part of the Library’s collections.
In addition to scanning lists of books in the Library Records, Dr Lyons adopted the methods used by librarians in 1905 to identify the Bodleian’s original copy of the first folio edition of William Shakespeare’s plays. In that case the bibliographical detectives took clues from the printed waste that was used in the binding of the book, including fragments of a 15th-century edition of Cicero.
Dr Lyons’ research promises to amend an impression that playbooks in English found no home in the Bodleian in the decades after its founding in 1602, at a period when English literature was not recognized as a subject of academic study.
There were many women printing in the 16th century. But for a variety of reasons, it can be hard to find their work in library catalogues.
Yolande Bonhomme is a good example of this.
She came from a printing family: her father Pasquier Bonhomme was a celebrated Parisian printer, and her husband Thielmann Kerver also ran a printing business in Paris. Bonhomme took over Kerver’s business when he died in 1522, as was permitted by the Guild system in 16th-century Paris. Reports of her output vary, from 200 editions (Beatrice Beech, based on Renouard) to 136 (Axel Erdmann), before her own death in 1557.
While Kerver printed widely, with various editions of classical authors, Bonhomme focused on liturgical and devotional books.
She continued to use her husband’s device on the title-pages and at the colophons of her books, referring to herself most often simply as “vidua” – the widow – of Thielmann Kerver.
Because she does not usually name herself, it is her husband’s name that is sometimes picked out in library catalogues, and Bonhomme is found only with a bit more work. The Bodleian’s online catalogue SOLO gives this entry for the book below:
Hore deipare virginis marie secūdū vsum Romanū.
1523 | Par. T. Keruer | (8⁰)
Additional reading: Beatrice Beech, ‘Yolande Bonhomme: a Renaissance printer’, Medieval prosopography 6.2, 1985; Axel Erdmann, My gracious silence: women in the mirror of 16th century printing in Western Europe, 1999.
A guest post from Stefan Matter (Freiburg/Schweiz)
Abstract: Early printed books of hours are distinguished by their extensive border schemes, executed in text and images, which have hitherto scarcely been studied. They are, however, integral components of these prayerbooks, and offer insights to their readers into complex interconnections of salvation history. In the following reflections it is argued that the prints can only be understood when all of their component parts are considered together in their interplay. If this is undertaken systematically, they can provide insights into the practice of prayer in their age.
When the Parisian printers of the 1470s started to take Books of Hours to press, these had already been standardised in terms of their prayers and corresponding illustrations. To upgrade the most popular book of lay devotion, printers added cycles of lavish border illustrations – to a degree that previously had only been seen in the most exclusive of manuscripts for princes. The thematic range of these marginal compositions is considerable: from catalogues (e.g. virtues, Sibyls, sacraments) via narrative sequences (e.g. passion, Job, prodigal son) to the adaptation of independent text-image-groups which brought with them their own traditions (e.g. Danse Macabre, 15 signs of the Last Judgement, Biblia Pauperum).
Even though the illustrations have always been regarded as essential for understanding Books of Hours, this specific phenomenon has rarely been described and barely understood, despite the fact that such decorated Books of Hours can provide significant insight into contemporary reading habits and devotional practices. This makes it necessary to take into account all parts of the books equally.
The Book of Hours combines prayer texts which allowed the owners, who in late fifteenth-century were mainly laypeople, to keep regular Hours following the monastic model. The main text is the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary which usually is supplemented by the two Hours of the Cross and the Holy Spirit. These three offices were often noted down exactly as they were said, weaving the offices together by having the single hours follow each other directly. The prayer sections formed thus – i.e. the start of each Hour of the officium parvum as well as one at the start of each of the two small offices – are usually marked by large-scale images which provide a more abstract link to the topic of the texts; thus the images for the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary show usually either a Life of the Virgin or the Passion.
The printed Books of Hours add to these already complex text-image-relations the border decoration with their own text-image-combination. These usually connect in some way to the main body of the text – the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary preferably is framed by the Biblia pauperum; the Office of the Dead by scenes from Job or a Danse Macabre –, but rarely do the border cycle match exactly the units of the central text unit. If the primary text ends earlier, the cycle in the border is either repeated or different marginal illustrations are used. In addition, the border cycles are used by printers over the years in different editions which results in a constant shift in the alignment of border cycles and the central text on the page. The intentional or serendipitous juxtapositions on the opened double-spreads encourage contemplation and meditation on the combined elements.
I would like to demonstrate the reading experience by looking at a Book of Hours printed by Philippe Pigouchet in the early 1490s and now held by the Bodleian Library. Its content in a simplified form can be summarised as follows:
Main Body of the Text
Border Decoration (Main Topic)
Printer’s device, Almanac, Anatomical man, Calendarium
Works of the Month and Zodiac
St John’s Passion
Officium parvum BMV (incl. Offices for the Holy Cross and Holy Ghost)
Christ adored with antiphons and responses
Seven Penitential Psalms
Animals in foliage (also at other places between cycles)
Christ adored with antiphons and responses
Vigil for the Dead
Prayers (o2v–p4r, partly French)
I would like to discuss briefly under these aspects three consecutive double-spreads and will open the Bodleian Book of Hours at the end of the first and longest Hour, the Matins for the Hours of BMV (e3v/e4r, figure 1). Here, the Office of BMV is framed by a Biblia pauperum-cycle, which in its main scenes taken from the New Testament. These have a clear Mariological focus, from the birth of Mary to her assumption – the last Hour of the Officium parvum is in the main text also illustrated by the coronation of Mary. The Matins ends on a verso-page whose lower third is empty except for the caption announcing the following Office of the Cross. On the facing page, the depiction of the crucifixion takes up the whole page; the beginning of the invitatorium of the Office of the Cross is placed in a small cartouche within the image. Christ on the cross is thus doubly present on the open spread since the Biblia pauperum-cycle on the margins just reached the point of the nailing to the cross. Main text and borders converge in such a way that the two events of the passion follow each other in correct chronological order and can be viewed simultaneously in one opening. The nailing to the cross is further contextualised within the history of salvation by two typologically related scenes from the Old Testament.
Turning over one page (figure 2), this narrative thread continues since now the border of the verso page (e4v) shows the crucifixion in slightly modified form from the previous large scale depiction since the mourning women under the cross are replaced by Longinus with the lance. This is supported by the creation of Eve (Immisit dominus soporem in adam) and by Moses beating water out of the rock. The main text for this page consists of the full Matins for the Office of the Cross, i.e. the first verse of the hymn for the Hour Patris sapientia veritas divina which talks about arresting Christ. This in turn had been a topic in the margin, including its typological antecedents, a few pages previously: e1v. The Collect for the Officium which is repeated at every hour starts with the words: Iesu christe fili dei vivi pone passionem crucem et mortem tuam inter iudicium tuum et animam meam. It seems remarkable that the complete text of the first Hour of the Office of the Cross coincides precisely with the crucifixion in the Biblia pauperum-inspired marginal decorations. As mentioned above, the shifting process of aligning margins and body of the book would make this quite hard to plan, and due to the scarcity of research on this, I am not yet able to determine whether this coincidence is a common one. In any case, the Bodleian copy achieves a rare harmony of the two text-image-cycles in the body and the margin of the Book of Hours. The following recto-page (e5r) shows a full-page rendering of Pentecost as opening illustration for the Office of the Holy Spirit which then takes up all of the following verso-page (e5v).
Finally, the last of the three double-spreads (figure 3) surrounds the text of the Officium on the one hand by the Descent from the Cross and its typological figures (e5v), on the other hand with the Nativity for the Prime of the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary (e6r). The Matins of the Office of the Holy Spirit can be vaguely related via the text of the hymn with the Nativity, but another link is much more obvious: Mary and Joseph are clearly looking not towards the Christ child lying on the floor or towards the angel flying between them but more or less out of the picture across the page to the Descent from the Cross. Metal cuts allow a careful positioning of sight lines, and even if this detail should have been taken over from the exemplar, these cross-glances constitute a striking connection between the two image cycles. The Christ child with his halo featuring a cross is framed by Mary and Joseph in the same way as the crucified is flanked by Mary and John. Again, the vertical axis of typological references on the page of the book complements the horizontal line created in the act of reading across the double-spread and its text-image-ensemble.
In this way, nearly every opening of the prayer book offers a complex interplay of texts and images, inside and outside the main body of the pages. This comes on top of the composite nature of the Offices which incorporate psalms, antiphons, and lessons and are anchored through further short texts within the liturgy. A new framework is created which is not simple ‘decoration’ but has to be regarded as crucial part of the print products. To show this in more detail must be the focus of a more in-depth study.
Stefan Matter did his doctorate on the Nazarenes, and was granted his Venia legendi for a study on texts and images about the medieval concept of love (Reden von der Minne, Tübingen 2013). After research fellowships held in Oxford, Tübingen, Bremen, Bern and Wien, he is currently based at the Universität Freiburg/Switzerland and is pursuing a research project on German prayer books.
 The two typological scenes (Thubalkain prepares iron tools; Isaias is sawn apart) are only extant in the 50-folio xylographic edition which provided the source for the marginal illustration. On the exemplar cf. Berthold Kress, ‘The Block-book Biblia pauperum as a Source for Printed Borders in France, Germany and England’, in Tributes to Jean Michel Massing: Towards a Global Art History, ed. by Mark Stocker and Philip Lindley (Turnhout, London: Brepols, 2016), 119–31.
 Roger S. Wieck, Prayer for the People. The Book of Hours, in A History of Prayer: The First to the Fifteenth Century, hg. von Roy Hammerling, Brill’s Companions to the Christian Tradition, 13 (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2008), pp. 389–440, provides a survey of content and form.
 GW 13073; the Oxford copy (Bod-Inc. H-165) however is not fully identical with the copy of ULB Bonn (Inc. 568, g) listed under the same number; this applies to the page breaks (e.g. f2v ff.) but especially to a number of the border illustrations (e.g. h3v). Cf. also Horae B.M.V., I, No. 8.
 Mary Beth Winn has been the main scholar to discuss the border illustrations in various essays, but without discussing how the different elements of printed Books of Hours relate to each other; for a summary cf. her article: ‘Printing and Reading the Book of Hours: Lessons from the Borders’, Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, 81 (1999), 177–204. – and now also the excellent survey by Caroline Zöhl, ‘Die zentrale Rolle der Marginalien und der Reichtum des Bordürendekors im Stundenbuchdruck’, in Horae B.M.V. 365 gedruckte Stundenbücher der Sammlung Bibermühle 1487–1586, ed. by Heribert Tenschert and Ina Nettekoven, 9 vols., Katalog Antiquariat Heribert Tenschert, 50; 75 (Ramsen: H. Tenschert, 2003–2015), IX, 4145–218, and the magisterial discussion of Books of Hours in Cristina Dondi, Printed Books of Hours from Fifteenth-Century Italy. The Texts, the Books, and the Survival of a Long-Lasting Genre, Biblioteca di Bibliografia Italiana, 204 (Florence: Olschki, 2016).
Das besondere Kennzeichen früher gedruckter Stundenbücher sind
umfangreiche Bordürenprogramme in Text und Bild, die bislang noch kaum
untersucht wurden. Sie sind allerdings integraler Bestandteil der Gebetbücher
und bieten den Lesern Einblicke in komplexe heilsgeschichtliche
Zusammenhänge. Die nachfolgenden Überlegungen argumentieren, dass ein
Verständnis der Drucke nur möglich ist, wenn man alle in ihnen enthaltenen
Bestandteile in ihrem Zusammenwirken betrachtet. Tut man dies konsequent,
so vermögen sie Einblicke in die Gebetspraxis ihrer Zeit zu geben.
Als die Pariser Drucker ab den späten 1470er-Jahren daran gingen, mit dem
Stundenbuch das populärste Buch in Laienhand des Mittelalters in gedruckter
Form herauszugeben, reicherten sie die zu dieser Zeit schon stark
konventionalisierte Sammlung von Gebeten und sie begleitenden Bildern mit
Randleisten-Zyklen von einem Umfang an, wie sie in Manuskripten bis dahin
nur die wertvollsten Fürstengebetbücher enthalten hatten. Deren thematisches
Spektrum ist beträchtlich. Es reicht von Katalogen (z.B. Tugenden, Sibyllen,
Sakramente) über erzählende Folgen (z.B. Passion, Hiob, Geschichte vom
verlorenen Sohn) bis hin zur Adaption von eigenständigen, bereits über eine
längere Tradition verfügenden Text-Bild-Ensembles (z.B. Totentanz, 15
Vorzeichen des Jüngsten Gerichts, Biblia pauperum).
Obwohl in der Stundenbuchforschung gerade der Bildschmuck immer schon
im Vordergrund gestanden hat, ist dieses Phänomen bislang noch kaum
beschrieben und erst ansatzweise verstanden.1 Dabei vermögen die solcherart
ausgestatteten Stundenbücher aufschlussreiche Einblicke in die Lese- und
Gebetspraxis ihrer Zeit zu geben, nimmt man sie in all ihren Bestandteilen
genau in den Blick.
Das Stundenbuch vereinigt Gebetstexte, die den Besitzern – im späten 15.
Jahrhundert sind das überwiegend Laien – ein regelmässiges Stundengebet
nach dem Vorbild der Geistlichen erlauben.2 Haupttext ist dabei das kleine
Marienoffizium, welches in aller Regel ergänzt wird von den beiden Tagzeiten
vom Heiligen Kreuz und vom Heiligen Geist. Diese drei Offizien werden häufig
so aufgezeichnet, wie sie auch gebetet wurden, nämlich so, dass die einzelnen
Gebetsstunden direkt aufeinander folgen, die Offizien also ineinander
verwoben werden. Diese dabei entstehenden Texteinschnitte – also der
Beginn einer jeder Hore des Marienoffiziums wie auch je einmalig der Beginn
der beiden kleinen Offizien – werden üblicherweise mit grossformatigen
Bildern markiert, die mit den Themen der Texte in einer eher abstrakten
Beziehung stehen (so zeigen die Bilder zum Marienoffizium üblicherweise
entweder ein Marienleben oder die Passion).
Zu dieser an sich schon komplexen Text-Bild-Relation treten in den gedruckten
Stundenbüchern nun auch noch die Randleisten mit ihren Texten und Bildern.
Diese weisen zwar meist einen Bezug zum Haupttext auf – das Marienoffizium
wird beispielsweise gerne von der Biblia pauperum gerahmt; das Totenamt
von Hiob-Szenen oder einem Totentanz –, kaum einmal allerdings passt der
Umfang eines Randleisten-Zyklus exakt zu dem der dazu passenden Haupttext-
Einheit. Endet der Haupttext früher, wird entweder der Zyklus in den
Randleisten wiederholt oder es werden andere Bordüren verwendet. Die
Randleisten-Zyklen werden überdies von den Druckern über Jahre in
verschiedenen Auflagen verwendet, was dazu führt, dass die Korrelation der
einzelnen Bordüren mit bestimmten Passagen (oder Bildern) des immer wieder
neu umgebrochenen Haupttextes nicht konstant bleibt, ja im Grunde von
Ausgabe zu Ausgabe variiert. Trotzdem ergeben sich immer wieder – gewollt
oder zufällig – Kombinationen von Texten und Bildern auf den
aufgeschlagenen Doppelseiten, die zur Betrachtung Anlass geben, zum
Ich möchte diese Leseerfahrung anhand eines heute in der Bodleian Library
aufbewahrten Stundenbuches andeuten, welches von Philippe Pigouchet in
den frühen 1490er-Jahren gedruckt worden ist.3 In stark vereinfachter Form
kann dessen Inhalt so zusammengefasst werden.
Ich möchte unter diesem Gesichtspunkt in aller Kürze drei aufeinanderfolgende
Doppelseiten vorstellen und schlage dazu das Oxforder Stundenbuch am Ende
der ersten und längsten Gebetshore auf, der Matutin der Marienzeiten
(e3v/e4r). Das Marienoffizium wird hier von einem Biblia pauperum-Zyklus
gerahmt, der in seinen neutestamentlichen Hauptszenen von der Mariengeburt
bis zur Marienkrönung ebenfalls einen mariologischen Akzent besitzt – auch die
letzte Gebetsstunde des Officium parvum wird mit einer Marienkrönung
bebildert. Die Matutin endet auf einer verso-Seite, deren unteres Drittel bis auf
die Ankündigung des Kreuzoffiziums leer bleibt. Auf der gegenüberliegenden
recto-Seite ist eine ganzseitige Kreuzigungs-Darstellung zu sehen, in einer
kleinen Kartusche im Bildfeld ist der Beginn des Invitatoriums des
Kreuzoffiziums eingetragen. Christus am Kreuz ist auf der aufgeschlagenen
Doppelseite jedoch gleich doppelt dargestellt, denn der Biblia pauperum-
Zyklus in den Randleisten ist hier nämlich auf der verso-Seite gerade bei der
Kreuzannagelung angelangt. Haupttext und Bordüren treffen sich damit
dergestalt, dass diese beiden Passionsereignisse in chronologisch richtiger
Reihenfolge aufeinander folgen und zusammen auf einer Doppelseite zu sehen
sind. Die Kreuzannagelung wird überdies durch zwei alttestamentliche Typen
Schlägt man eine Seite um, so werden diese Fäden weitergesponnen, denn
jetzt ist in der Bordüre der verso-Seite (e4v) die Kreuzigung zu sehen (in einer
leicht von der grossformatigen Darstellung abweichenden Form, indem die
Stelle der trauernden Frauen unter dem Kreuz durch Longinus’ Stich mit der
Lanze eingenommen wird), sekundiert von der Erschaffung Evas (Immisit
dominus soporem in adam) und Mose, der Wasser aus dem Felsen schlägt. Im
Haupttext dieser Seite ist die vollständige Matutin des Kreuzoffiziums zu lesen,
also die erste Strophe des Stundenliedes Patris sapientia veritas divina, in
welcher von der Gefangennahme die Rede ist (in den Randleisten dargestellt
und typologisch kontextualisiert einige Seiten weiter vorne: e1v), dazu die in
jeder Gebetsstunde dieses Offiziums wiederholte Kollekte mit den
Anfangsworten: Iesu christe fili dei vivi pone passionem crucem et mortem
tuam inter iudicium tuum et animam meam. Dass der vollständige Text der
ersten Hore des Kreuzoffiziums ausgerechnet mit der Kreuzigungsdarstellung
der Biblia pauperum-Randleisten zusammenfällt, ist unter den angedeuteten
Umständen der Buchherstellung nicht selbstverständlich und durch die
schlechte Erschliessung des Materials vermag ich vorderhand nicht zu sagen,
ob dies häufiger vorkommt – in der vorliegenden Ausgabe jedenfalls greifen an
dieser Stelle die beiden Text-Bild-Zyklen perfekt ineinander. Die recto-Seite
(e5r) zeigt mit der ganzseitigen Darstellung der Pfingstszene das
Eröffnungsbild des Heilig-Geist-Offiziums, welches seinerseits auf der
darauffolgenden verso-Seite (e5v) ebenfalls vollständig Platz findet.
Diese letzte der drei Doppelseiten (Abb. 1) umgibt diesen Offiziums-Text
einerseits mit der Kreuzabnahme und den entsprechenden typologischen
Verweisen (e5v), andererseits mit dem Weihnachtsbild zur Prim des
Marienoffiziums (e6r). Die Matutin des Hl.-Geist-Offiziums lässt sich zwar über
den Hymnentext vage mit der Geburtsszene in Verbindung bringen, viel
deutlicher aber ist eine andere Verbindung: Maria und Joseph schauen in
auffälliger Weise nicht etwa zum vor ihnen auf dem Boden liegenden Kind
oder zum zwischen ihnen schwebenden Engel, sondern gewissermassen nach
links aus dem Bild heraus und damit zur Kreuzabnahme am
gegenüberliegenden Ende der aufgeschlagenen Doppelseite. Die
Blickrichtungen sind in den Metallschnitten dieses Druckes stets sehr sorgfältig
behandelt, und selbst wenn dieses Detail aus einer Vorlage übernommen sein
sollten, stellen die Blicke auf dieser Doppelseite eine sinnfällige Verbindung
zwischen den beiden Bildzyklen her. Das Christuskind mit dem auf den Tod am
Kreuz verweisenden Kreuznimbus wird von Maria und Joseph überdies in
derselben Weise betend gerahmt, wie der Gekreuzigte von Maria und
Johannes. Auch hier wieder ergänzt dazu die (auf der Buchseite) vertikale
Achse der typologischen Bezüge die in lesender Weise horizontal und über die
Schrift vermittelte Verbindung von Text und Bild der Doppelseite.
Es ergibt sich auf diese Weise auf beinahe jeder Doppelseite ein komplexes
Zusammenwirken von Texten und von Bildern sowohl innerhalb wie ausserhalb
des Schriftspiegels. Die in sich schon kompositen Offizien – im Kern bestehend
aus Psalmen und Lektionen, welche mit Antiphonen, Responsorien und
weiteren Kurztexten liturgisch kontextualisiert werden – erhalten auf diese
Weise eine zusätzliche Rahmung, die nicht als ‘Buchschmuck’ marginalisiert,
sondern als zentraler Bestandteil der Drucke angesehen werden sollten. Dies
im Detail darzustellen muss einer ausführlicheren Untersuchung vorbehalten
Stefan Matter wurde mit einer Arbeit über die Nazarener promoviert und hat sich mit einer Untersuchung über Minnereden und Minnebilder des Mittelalters habilitiert (Reden von der Minne, Tübingen 2013). Er ist nach Forschungsaufenthalten in Oxford, Tübingen, Bremen, Bern und Wien derzeit Assistent am Lehrstuhl für Germanistische Mediävistik der Universität Freiburg/Schweiz und forscht zur deutschsprachigen Gebetbuchliteratur.
1 Bislang hat sich vor allem Mary Beth Winn in verschiedenen Aufsätzen mit
den Randleisten beschäftigt, ohne sich allerdings die Frage zu stellen, wie
diese verschiedenen Inhalte der gedruckten Stundenbücher auf einander
Bezug nehmen; vgl. den zusammenfassenden Artikel: ‘Printing and
Reading the Book of Hours: Lessons from the Borders’, Bulletin of the John
Rylands University Library of Manchester, 81 (1999), 177–204. – Vgl. jetzt
den vorzüglichen Überblick von Caroline Zöhl, ‘Die zentrale Rolle der
Marginalien und der Reichtum des Bordürendekors im Stundenbuchdruck’,
in Horae B.M.V. 365 gedruckte Stundenbücher der Sammlung Bibermühle
1487–1586, hg. von Heribert Tenschert und Ina Nettekoven, 9 Bde.,
Katalog Antiquariat Heribert Tenschert, 50; 75 (Ramsen: H. Tenschert,
2003–2015), IX, 4145–218.
2 Einen Überblick über Inhalt und Form vermittelt etwa Roger S. Wieck,
Prayer for the People. The Book of Hours, in A History of Prayer: The First
to the Fifteenth Century, hg. von Roy Hammerling, Brill’s Companions to
the Christian Tradition, 13 (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2008), S. 389–440.
3 GW 13073; allerdings ist das Oxforder Exemplar (Bod-Inc H-165) nicht
gänzlich identisch mit dem unter der selben Nummer geführten in der ULB
Bonn (Inc. 568, g), und zwar sowohl was den Umbruch betrifft (z.B. auf f2v
ff.) als auch insbesondere, was die Randleisten betrifft (an zahlreichen
Stellen, z.B. h3v). Vgl. auch Horae B.M.V., I, Nr. 8.
4 Die beiden Typen (Thubalkain fertigt Eisenzeug an; Jesaias wird lebendig
zersägt) sind der 50-bll. xylographischen Ausgabe eigen, nach der also die
Randleisten gearbeitet sind. Zur Vorlagenwahl vgl. Berthold Kress, ‘The
Block-book Biblia pauperum as a Source für Printed Borders in France,
Germany and England’, in Tributes to Jean Michel Massing: Towards a
Global Art History, ed. by Mark Stocker and Philip Lindley (Turnhout,
London: Brepols, 2016), 119–31.
“The best memorial of lives given in the defence of England and English ideals is something which will better the lives of those who are left and tend to make more secure the civilization for which our comrades have shed their blood.”
Found within a copy of J.C. Blomfield’s History of Lower and Upper Heyford belonging to the George Dew Collection in the Bodleian Library is a snap shot showing the response of two small Oxfordshire villages to the losses suffered during the Great War.
The work was published in 1892 and is a comprehensive history of the Heyfords from the earliest times. The bookplate confirms it was originally acquired to stock the shelves of the Lower Heyford and Caulcott War Memorial Library. However, twelve typed and handwritten pages inserted at the beginning of the volume show the efforts made by the parish of Lower Heyford (which includes Caulcott) to raise money for a memorial library to commemorate the sacrifice made by the families from the area.
The first annotated page lists the war dead, by location, regiment or corps, date and age. Of eleven killed in action, seven fell in 1917, three in 1916 and one in 1918. The second, third and fourth pages are the typed open letter distributed on behalf of the men serving towards the end of 1917 (one of the undersigned, George Larner, was killed later on 4th November 1917) to the population of the parish appealing for donations to create the memorial library. The quotation above is drawn from this letter, and shows the feeling of the men in their purpose to create lasting memorial to their comrades.
The sixth and seventh pages list the contributors to the fund, ranging from Captain Cottrell Dormer who gave five pounds, down to a Miss Humphries who donated three pence. Many of the surnames of this list are the same as those on list of the dead. Pages eight to ten offer an interesting insight for an Oxfordshire military historian of the Great War. Sixty-two names are listed showing the other men who served from the area who were not killed during the war. Their regiments and corps are listed also, previous and current, thereby showing the transference of manpower from some arms to others. Pages eleven and twelve show other charitable efforts made by the area during the conflict. This included just over £178 raised for the Red Cross Society, while ‘The Egg League’ gathered 60,686 eggs which were sent to the ‘Base Hospital in Oxford.’
Overall, the twelve pages provide an in-depth view of the considerable contribution to the 1914-1918 war effort by a small rural area, and its great cost.
Shelfmark: Vet. A7 d.799
— from Sarah Wheale, Head of Rare Books, Bodleian Libraries
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 plans, biographies, 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.
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).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and I will update this post!
More to come!
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.
With the end of the annual RHS Chelsea Flower show on Saturday, and the masses returning to their own English gardens inspired, it’s worth looking back to the 18th century, to the golden age of botanical exploration and to an artist who was arguably the finest botanical painter in history, Ferdinand Bauer. Now the Bodleian’s Conservation Research department are helping to unravel his meticulous and unusual painting technique.
Outside of the natural sciences, Bauer (1760-1826), is little known. However, along with his equally talented brother Franz, he is certainly known to botanists. He has been called ‘the Leonardo of botanical illustration’, and is known in particular for the beauty and accuracy of his illustrations of flowers. Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the paintings he made for the exquisite Flora Graeca, one of the most rare and expensive publications of the 18th century, and certainly one of the greatest botanical works ever produced.
Unprecedented in the quality of its illustrations, its printing and its attention to naturalistic detail, the Flora Graeca described the flowers of Greece and the Levant, and was published in ten lavishly-printed volumes between 1806 and 1840, purchased by an elite list of only 25 subscribers. It was the legacy of the third Professor of Botany at Oxford University, John Sibthorp (1758-1796) who funded much of the endeavour out of his own funds. Sibthorp met Bauer in Vienna in 1786, and immediately engaged him to join his expedition to collect and record specimens, and ultimately to paint the almost 1500 watercolours of plants and animals he sketched on his return to Oxford in 1787.
What is of interest to us however is that Bauer used a particularly unusual technique to record his specimens in the field.
Bauer is exceptional among travelling botanical artists for the unusual techniques he employed for recording colour. He certainly observed and sketched live specimens, but he did not annotate these sketches with colour in the field as other artists did. Rather, subject to the limitations of working in the field – moving from place to place quickly in often difficult territory, and unable to carry large amounts of painting materials with him, he made only very basic outline sketches in pencil on thin paper.
He recorded the vital colour information, lost almost immediately after a specimen had been picked by annotating these with a series of numerical colour codes which likely referred directly to a painted colour chart, now lost. That Bauer’s paintings were created using only this colour reference system during his 6 years in Oxford, painting them sometimes up to five years after seeing the original plants, and that they are highly regarded even today for their botanical accuracy, speaks to his expertise as an artist and his astonishing memory for colour.
More pertinently, Ferdinand Bauer (and to a lesser extent his brother Franz) appear to be the only significant natural history artists to have used this kind of colour code in a practical way. Numerical codes of up to 140 different colour tones are found on early drawings by both Bauers from the 1770s. However, where Ferdinand seems to have continued to develop this initial system of some 140 colours into one of at least 273 colours for the Flora Graeca (and from then into a considerably more complex system of 1000 colours for a later expedition to Australia in 1801-5 – though how he could have used this practically is anybody’s guess), Franz Bauer, who was by then official botanical painter to Joseph Banks at the Botanical gardens at Kew, did not did not appear to use the system after he came to London in the late 1780s. Ferdinand of course, spent a significant amount of his time working in the field, and therefore much more in need of a system of shorthand than his brother. However, it’s interesting to note that no other travelling botanical artist used such a system to the extent that Bauer did.
An early colour chart (below) that appears likely to have been used by the brothers was found in 1999 at the Madrid Botanical Gardens, but Ferdinand Bauer’s 273 colour chart from the Sibthorp expedition and the 999 colour chart he may have used for the Matthew Flinders expedition to Australia, if they ever existed, have never been discovered.
This fact, however, presents a unique opportunity for us to carry out technical research into Bauer’s materials. The Conservation Research department at the Bodleian Libraries together with the Plant Sciences Department at the University are working on a three year Research project on Bauer’s techniques, funded by a Leverhulme Trust Research Project Grant. Collaborating with the V&A, Durham University and the University of Northumbria the project aims to understand what the Flora Graeca colour chart may have looked like, and how Bauer might have used it. A large part of the project involves identifying the pigments used by Bauer in his magnificent Flora Graeca watercolours, cross reference these results with the numerical codes in his field sketches, and ultimately create a historically-accurate reconstruction of the lost colour chart.
How will we do this? Often it is permitted to remove a minute sample of paint from a work of art in order to identify the material components. However this is rarely possible with works of art on paper, and is most certainly not possible for one of the treasures of the Bodleian’s collection! The work therefore is carried out in situ, bringing portable instruments to the object itself, rather than the other way around. For this we currently use three analytical techniques at Oxford: Raman spectroscopy, X-ray Fluoresce spectroscopy (XRF) and Hyperspectral imaging (Imaging spectroscopy).
Durham and Northumbria Universities have particular expertise in Raman Spectroscopy of cultural heritage objects, and Durham has built a portable instrument that is capable of positively identifying many of the pigments that Bauer used. The V&A Conservation Science section has a long history of collaborating with universities on technical research, and also has a great deal of expertise in Raman spectroscopy and its use in identifying pigments on artists’ watercolours.
In addition to the excitement of recreating Bauer’s lost colour chart, the project showcases the value of technical art history, a relatively new field that encompasses both scientific analysis and historical research into the materials and methods of the artist. It will go some way toward an understanding of Bauer’s extraordinary feel for colour and pigment, how he utilised his colour code, and ultimately how he was able to achieve such an impressive degree of colour fidelity in his work.
As we progress with the project, and as we learn more about Bauer’s materials and techniques, I’ll post again with more results. But should you find yourself in Oxford before September, a copy of both the Flora Graeca, and Bauer’s original illustrations for it are on display in the Marks of Genius exhibition at Bodleian’s Weston Library.
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: