Seminar on the history of the book: Theodor Dunkelgrün, “The production history of the Antwerp Polyglot Bible (1568-1573): the confluence of manuscript cultures in the Renaissance printing shop”, 11 March 2011

from Martha Repp

A large and appreciative audience heard the eighth and last in the 2011 series of the Oxford Seminar on the History of the Book on 11 March, 2011. Theodor Dunkelgrün spoke on the subject of “The production history of the Antwerp Polyglot Bible (1568-1573): the confluence of manuscript cultures in the Renaissance printing shop”.

The Antwerp Polyglot Bible was printed between 1568 and 1573 by Christopher Plantin in the famous printing house known as the Golden Compasses (the current Plantin-Moretus Museum still occupies the buildings Plantin acquired in 1576) under the editorship of Benito Arias Montano (1527–1598). This Bible brought together Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic and Syriac biblical texts. It has been the subject of much critical study, but this attention has tended to focus on the finished product and the commercial aspects of the project, almost every detail of which has come under consideration, rather than on the process of editing and publication itself. Little is known about how the scholars involved selected and worked on texts. This can be seen as part of a wider pattern in which the principles of editorial practice and textual criticism has been one of the major gaps in the study of the early modern period. Furthermore, such attention as has been paid to this question has tended to focus on the editing of Latin and Greek texts only, whereas as the case of the Antwerp Polyglot shows, this phenomenon extended to to other textual traditions as well. Dunkelgrün emphasised what might be learned from examining the editors’ treatment of the traditions, embodied in the Hebrew, Aramaic and Syriac texts that they consulted.

Even before it was published, the Antwerp Polyglot Bible was seen as one of the greatest achievements of Biblical scholarship, as a monument of typography (fitting as many as 6 versions of the text onto each opening), and, by some strict Catholics, as a threat to Christians everywhere. This last is perhaps ironic, as it had been commissioned by Philip II as a monument to his unquestioning Catholic orthodoxy, and Plantin, who was himself suspected of having Calvinist sympathies, had accepted the commission as a means of proving his own orthodoxy. One major reason for this suspicion of the Antwerp Polyglot was the use it made of sources from Hebrew, especially rabbinical, literature; for example, the treatises in the apparatus include frequent references to the Talmud, which had actually been banned by the Catholic Church. This suspicion of the rabbinical tradition extended to the Hebrew Bible itself, and both the authenticity of the Hebrew text and the usefulness and importance of its study by Christians were frequently called into question. It is significant in this respect that Arias Montano wrote, as part of the apparatus to the Antwerp Polyglot, an essay defending the masoretic tradition, arguing that the Jewish tradition, far from corrupting the Hebrew text, had shown great care in its preservation and accurate transmission.

By a decree of 1546, the Council of Trent had established the Latin Vulgate as the only officially accepted version of the Bible, albeit after a lengthier and more complex debate than the terms of the decree would seem to suggest. There was still, however, debate both as to which specific exemplar or edition of the Vulgate the decree gave official recognition to, and as to whether the decree applied to the Vulgate vs. original Hebrew and Greek texts, or only to more recent Latin translations. A concern with this decree and its implications runs through the correspondence between Plantin, Arias Montano, and the other scholars working on the Antwerp Polyglot. This primacy ascribed to the Vulgate is, however, not reflected in the layout of the Antwerp Polyglot, in which the texts are arranged in four parallel columns. This forms a striking contrast with its primary model, the Complutensian Polyglot Bible, directed by Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros and published in 1520, in which the Greek, Latin and Hebrew texts are arranged in three columns with the Latin in the middle, which prompted Cisnero’s famous remark that the Vulgate was placed in the middle ‘like the Saviour between two thieves’. In the four-column arangement of the Antwerp Polyglot, it was impossible to privilege any one of them over another.

In the case of the Antwerp Polyglot, the scholars involved appear to have gone to great lengths to consult both authoritative editions as well as venerable manuscript versions, collating them with each other and recording variants in exhaustive detail. Indeed, at one point, Plantin actually stopped the printing of the Greek text because of the significant discrepancies between the two editions that had been used, insisting on a further collation with two manuscripts before work could continue.

Dunkelgrün drew special attention to a specific portion of the scholarly apparatus to the Antwerp Polyglot – the eighth and final volume – that contains i.a. lists of variants for all the different texts, arguing that these lists constitute a kind of “hypertext” and serve as an index to an entire library of different readings. This deep concern with variant readings shows, he argues, that the driving force behind the Antwerp Polyglot lay in the textual concerns of professional editors, and that the scholars involved were primarily thinking technically, historically and critically, rather than dogmatically or mystically, about the texts. The insistence on variant readings is also possibly at odds with the drive within the Catholic Church, in the wake of the Council of Trent, to establish a single, authoritative Biblical text.

Discussion in the seminar pointed out that the issue of the permissibility of variant readings became a significant issue between Catholics and Protestants later on in the 17th century. It is tempting but probably inaccurate to see this treatment of the Biblical texts as historical documents as part of a process of secularization. What Dunkelgrün stressed in his comments is that humanist scholars considered each of the different texts separately, as having been imperfectly transmitted through a culture and history of its own, but the process of collation and collection of variant readings in each of the traditions as variants on essentially the same phenomenon.

The final discussion took up interesting questions raised in the paper about the palaeographic and codicological skills of the humanist editors. What weight did the Antwerp editors give to script, for instance, when judging the age and authenticity of a manuscript? Was this a kind of proto-palaeography?

Seminar on the history of the book: Howard Hotson, “Encyclopaedic overstretch? The crisis of German Reformed printing on the eve of the Thirty Years War”, 4 March 2011

from Martha Repp

The seventh in the 2011 series of the Oxford Seminar on the History of the Book was given on 4 March, 2011, by Professor Howard Hotson of the University of Oxford, on the subject of “Encyclopaedic overstretch? The crisis of German Reformed printing on the eve of the Thirty Years War”.

The session brought together statistical evidence from a variety of sources to demonstrate the crisis in Reformed (Calvinist) intellectual life in Germany in the early 17th century. These sources included evidence on university matriculations from Eulenburg’s Die Frequenz der deutschen Universitäten and evidence on titles offered for sale at the Frankfurt book fair from Schwetchke’s Codex Nundinarius, as well as evidence taken from bibliographies of specific towns or printers. Professor Hotson focused primarily on the Reformed intellectual centres in the Palatinate, Hesse and Herborn, both comparing them with each other, and setting them in the context of what was happening in the rest of Germany.

The first factor considered was the outbreak of the Thirty Years War in 1618/1619, and the Imperial occupation of the Palatinate in 1622. This certainly led to a dramatic fall in matriculations at Reformed Universities in Heidelberg, Marburg and Herborn, were much more immediately and gravely affected by the outbreak of war than Lutheran and Catholic universities. This drop in university matriculations coincided with a similarly sharp decline in German printing in general, with fewer imprints – foreign and domestic, Latin and vernacular – offered for sale at the Frankfurt book fair from 1620 onward. It would be natural to suppose that it was the outbreak of war which also precipitated the demise of the Reformed printers in western Germany, especially in the light of anecdotal evidence of Imperial troops in the Palatinate burning heretical books in stoves to keep warm, and using them as wadding for muskets, and in stables and latrines. Certainly, after the sack of Heidelberg, printing in the Palatinate ceased for a generation.

Closer examination reveals, however, that the decline in Reformed printing is not entirely to be ascribed to the outbreak of war. In fact, the statistical evidence shows that the output of the Reformed presses was already declining sharply from 1612/1613 onward, a slump which predates both the outbreak of war, the collapse of matriculations at Reformed universities, and the contraction of the Frankfurt book fair generally by at least half a decade. Juxtaposing the data from Schwetchke’s Codex Nundinarius with the best available data for most of the individual Reformed printers in this region demonstrated the dramatic nature of the pre-war crisis in book production, while also serving to establish the general reliability of Schwetchke’s much maligned data.
Having demonstrated the existence of this crisis, the third section of Professor Hotson’s paper set out to explain it. His explanation operated on two separate levels. At the most general level, an explanation was suggested by the intersection of the graphs of matriculations and book production. While matriculations had been growing steadily since the mid-sixteenth century, these were overtaken between 1600 to 1605 by a massive surge in the production of textbooks, which doubled the number of academic books being produced per university student. When, after 1610, university matriculations leveled off for the first time since the 1530s, the market appears to have been saturated, with the supply of textbooks suddenly outstripping demand. The effect of this saturation was evidently delayed for a few years by the practice of ‘Tauschhandel’, in which printers exchanged their wares for those of other printers, in the hope of selling them to their home market at a profit. This apparently staved off the inevitable correction in the market for a year or two, but by 1613 the breaking point had been reached. Not only did the production of those firms specialising in academic textbooks fall off rapidly after that date, but many of the leading authors of these works – such as Clemens Timpler in Steinfurt and Johann Heinrich Alsted in Herborn – suddenly stopped publishing philosophical textbooks altogether.

In the final section of his paper, Professor Hotson attempted to identify the turning point of this crisis still more precisely by considered more closely the printer at the centre of post-Ramist textbook production in this period: the firm of Wilhelm and Peter Antonius in Hanau. By far the largest work published by the Antonius firm in the crucial year of 1613 was a huge collection the complete philosophical works of the leading post-Ramist philosopher, Bartholomäus Keckermann’s Systema systematum. From 1599 onward, Antonius had published all of Keckermann’s numerous textbooks under an imperial privilege; and immediately after the philosopher’s untimely death in 1609, he recruited the young Alsted to edit his scripta philosophica into an integrated encyclopaedia. As a philosophical and pedagogical system, the resulting work was elegant and sophisticated; but as a commercial product, the two fat and unwieldy quarto volumes – printed without Antonius’s oversight after his death in 1611 – were far less attractive than the unauthorised edition of Keckermann’s complete Opera Omnia published on less expensive paper in two more user-friendly folio volumes the following year in Geneva, which was not subject to the imperial privilege. Any discriminating buyer offered a choice would have rejected the Hanau quarto scripta philosophica of 1613 in favour of the Geneva folio opera omnia of 1614, and today the latter is preserved in a much larger number of more widely dispersed copies that the former. Ironically, Keckermann, Alsted and Antonius – precisely the figures most responsible for inflating the bubble of post-Ramist textbook printing in previous years – were also jointly responsible, it appears, for bursting it in 1613. When war broke out in 1618, it struck at the heart of a Calvinst academic publishing industry in Germany already weakened financially by a serious crisis of overproduction five years earlier.

The ensuing discussion considered issues such as the shelf-life of university textbooks at this time, and whether there was a second-hand market, and if so, how significant it may have been.

Seminar on the History of the Book: Martin McLaughlin, “From Cosimo Bartoli to James Leoni: translating and illustrating Alberti”, 18 February 2011

Engraving of a design for a triumphal arch, from James Leoni's 1726 English translation of Alberti's De re aedificatoria. The inscription on the arch alludes to the 1725 Treaty of Hanover signed by George I. (The Warden and Fellows, All Souls College, Oxford)

The fifth in the 2011 series of the Oxford Seminar on the History of the Book marked the birthday of Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472), on 18 February, with a presentation by Professor Martin McLaughlin on the subject of “From Cosimo Bartoli to James Leoni: translating and illustrating Alberti”.

The humanist and polymath Leon Battista Alberti was a prolific author on a wide variety of subjects, ranging from architecture to cryptography, as well as of literary works in both Latin and Italian. Significantly for those interested in the history of the book, he is also responsible for perhaps the first known reference to the emerging technology of printing, in his De cyfris of ca. 1466. The session focused specifically on his treatise on architecture, De re aedificatoria, and particularly on subsequent translations of it into other languages, notably those by Cosimo Bartoli and James Leoni.

De re aedificatoria was written in Latin sometime around 1452, in imitation of Vitruvius, and published for the first time in Florence in 1486, with subsequent Latin editions published in Paris in 1512 and in Strasbourg in 1541. It was probably expected to be read by learned patrons and antiquaries rather than used by practising architects. Although manuscript translations of the work into Italian were probably available from a fairly early stage, the first printed Italian translation, by Pietro Lauro of Siena, did not appear until 1546. Lauro’s translation was, however, almost immediately eclipsed by a clearer and more accurate version by Cosimo Bartoli, printed in Florence in 1550. Bartoli’s translation remained the only Italian version of De re aedificatoria for over 400 years, and was almost certainly an influence on Palladio, who was a friend of Bartoli’s. Bartoli’s edition was the first to divide the work into clearly titled chapters, and also the first to include illustrations. Bartoli was at great pains to use the best available text for his translation, and indeed claims, in his dedicatory letter to Cosimo I de’ Medici, to have been almost driven to give up the enterprise altogether because of the difficulty of finding a reliable Latin text to work on, and because of the numerous errors in all the available versions. He used the 1541 Strasbourg edition, which was probably the best available text at the time.

The first English edition of De re aedificatoria was printed in London in 1726, and consists of Bartoli’s Italian translation printed in parallel with a translation of it into English by Giacomo, or James, Leoni. This is a significantly more lavish affair than the 1550 edition, and includes illustrations, some of them pull-outs, engraved by Bernard Picart, after Leoni’s own drawings. These are clearly inspired by the woodcut illustrations to Bartoli’s Italian translation, with each of the original woodcuts having a corresponding engraving. Although the translation is generally attributed to Leoni, it is in fact unlikely that he had sufficient English to have made the translation on his own, and it is more likely the work of an uncredited team of translators. That Leoni and his team were working from Bartoli’s Italian version rather than from the Latin original is evidenced by a number of places where errors or misreadings found in Bartoli are unquestioningly followed by Leoni, and specific examples of these were considered, as well as some instances of mistranslations that appear to be entirely Leoni’s own work.

Some further examples were considered where Leoni appears to have adapted his translation to the English audience for whom he was writing; for example, a passage concerning tarantulas includes, in Leoni’s translation, the explanatory phrase “a small earth spider, commonly called a tarantula”, which does not appear either in the Latin original or in Bartoli’s Italian translation, both of which were written for an audience who could be expected to know what a tarantula was. A visual equivalent of this ‘domesticating’ strategy is seen in Leoni’s illustration of a triumphal arch: where Bartoli had shown an arch dedicated to his patron archduke Cosimo, Leoni’s arch (pictured) is dedicated to ‘Great Britain, Who Holds the Fate of Europe in Equal Balance’, an allusion to the 1725 Treaty of Hanover signed by George I.

Although much of the session did focus on these errors and mistranslations, these are in fact comparatively rare examples, and both Bartoli and Leoni’s translations show a high degree of accuracy. The popularity of both is demonstrated by the frequency with which they were reprinted after their original publication, with Bartoli’s translation reprinted twice in 1565, and Leoni’s reprinted in 1739 and 1755. Bartoli and Leoni in their different ways were responsible for keeping Alberti’s name alive in the centuries before the great revival of the humanist’s fame which began with Burckhardt’s well-known verbal portrait of Alberti in his Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (1860).

A final discussion considering issues such as the translation of Alberti into other languages was followed by an opportunity to look at examples – from the Codrington Library at All Souls College – of some of the editions considered.

from Martha Repp

Seminar on the History of the Book: Rebecca Bullard, “Gathering and gathered texts, 1650-1700”, 11 February 2011

The amours of Messalina, late queen of Albion, 1689, apparently showing 3 leaves to the gathering.

— from Martha Repp

The fourth in the 2011 series of the Oxford Seminar on the History of the Book was given on 11 February 2011 by Dr. Rebecca Bullard, of the University of Reading, on the subject of “Gathering and gathered texts, 1650-1700”.
The gathering, or set of consecutive pages, usually printed on a single sheet of paper, and folded together, is the basic building block of all books produced during the hand-press period. Each gathering is assigned a signature mark (usually an alphabetical A-Z sequence), the gatherings are then arranged in the proper order and sewn together to make a book. Perhaps because of their commonplace nature, gatherings have received comparatively little scholarly attention in their own right, but, as Dr. Bullard’s paper demonstrated, they can provide much information both on printing house practice during the hand-press period and on the working methods and thought processes of individual authors.
While the new bibliographers have done much work on printing house practices, and in identifying individual sets of type and the work of specific compositors, this has inevitably tended to focus on compositors and pressmen. Dr Bullard reminded the seminar that when considering gatherings, two other workers come to the fore: the warehouse keeper and the binder. The warehouse keeper (the most senior employee in the printing shop, and also the person responsible for managing the accounts) would collate the unfolded sheets into the right order, and fold them in half. The sheets would then either be sold in this unbound state, or sent to a binder, who would be responsible for folding the sheets to produce the correct sequence of pages, inserting any plates and making any necessary cancellations, before sewing them together, and, finally, binding them.
In most cases, the gatherings run in a completely regular A-Z sequence, but the remainder of the session was devoted to looking at examples where this is not the case, and considering possible reasons for it. It was suggested that, while readers would not necessarily have noticed signatures that run regularly, they would have noticed an out of place signature mark or an unusual pattern of signing, and would probably have experienced this as disorientating, and as a disruption to the expected orderly sequence.
The first example considered was the prophetess Anna Trapnel’s “Report and Plea” of 1654, in which an additional bifolium signed “d” is inserted between gatherings D and E, disrupting both the pagination and the register. The possibility that this may have been due to the particularly inflammatory nature of the material contained in gathering “d”, and have been done to enable the printer to remove those particular pages in case of trouble, was initially seen as tempting, particularly as the gathering is absent in many of the existing copies, but this possibility had to be discarded as the text is continuous, and gathering D even ends mid-sentence. As gatherings A-D and gatherings E-G are clearly in different type, a more likely explanation is that there were two printers working on this particular text, and that the printer of gatherings A-D received the manuscript of the text of quire “d” after the rest of the text — that it was in fact a last-minute addition. The insertion of this gathering also serves to reinforce the depiction in the text itself of Trapnel as a disruptive influence on the expected order.
This same kind of last-minute addition can also be seen in Margaret Cavendish’s “Natures pictures drawn by fancies pencil” of 1656, in which gathering 3E does not appear as expected at the end of the work, but has instead been cut up and distributed throughout it. Since all the leaves of gathering 3E begin with directions to the binder as to where each leaf should be placed, it seems fairly certain, particularly given Cavendish’s habit of making last minute additions to her work, that last minute additions is exactly what they are; although why the printer chose to sign the leaves in that particular way remains a mystery. It also fits with Cavendish’s belief in the importance of afterthoughts. Gatherings therefore have the capacity to represent the author’s mind as it changes over time, and to flag up material as a late addition or afterthought. Since gatherings have a natural sequence and represent movement through time, they create a kind of textualized temporality.
The final example considered was “The amours of Messalina, late queen of Albion” of 1689, an anonymous (post Glorious Revolution) account of the supposed scandalous behavior of Mary of Modena, second wife of James II. The work is divided into 4 parts, of which the first two are gathered in 3s. Since it is a physical impossibility for gatherings to consist of an odd number of leaves, something unusual is clearly happening here. The most likely explanation is that the book is in fact a 12° printed on half-sheets, with each resulting gathering of 6 pages containing 2 signatures. Even in parts 3 and 4, which are in fact gathered in 2s, the printer continues to sign the leaves A1 and A3 rather than A1 and A2. This leads to an unexpected proliferation of odd numbers, and the odd and unsettling nature of the gatherings mirrors the underhand nature of the behavior described in the text, as well as its murky origins. Furthermore, the work had originally been planned in 3 parts, with the original part 3 being divided at a late stage to produce the parts 3 and 4 as eventually printed.
Gatherings do not conform to G. Thomas Tanselle’s division of printing evidence into unintentional manufacturing clues and intentional design features, and can indeed in some cases function as both. It is likely, for example, that authors such as Cavendish who intervened late in the editorial process would have anticipated a certain degree of disruption to the finished text, even if they could not have foreseen the precise form that disruption would take.
A wide-ranging final discussion considered questions such as whether these disruptive elements in the gathering pattern were smoothed over or retained in subsequent editions of the same work; ways of telling whether a work was printed at the expense of the author or the printer; and differences between English and continental practices in this respect.

Seminar on the History of the Book, 2011: James Carley on Lambeth Palace Library

from Martha Repp

The second in the 2011 series of the Oxford Seminar on the History of the Book, convened at All Souls College by Professor Ian Maclean, was given on 28 January 2011 by Professor James Carley of York University, Toronto, on the topic of “The catalogue of Richard Bancroft’s library and the foundation of Lambeth Palace Library”.

The session was informed by the research Professor Carley has been undertaking into the early catalogues of Lambeth Palace Library, attempting to match them not only to each other but also to the books in the collection themselves.

The origins of Lambeth Palace Library can perhaps be traced back to 1610, when Archbishop Richard Bancroft died, leaving the entirety of his personal collection of books to his successor, and to subsequent Archbishops of Canterbury in perpetuity. Bancroft was extremely concerned to maintain the integrity of the collection, and the original idea was that each new Archbishop of Canterbury should enter into a bond to pass the collection on to his successor intact. If he failed to do so, the whole collection was to go in the first instance to Chelsea College, an institution dedicated to Anglican controversial theology which was in the process of being planned at the time but was never actually established, or if not to the public library of Cambridge University. This initial idea of a bond was, however, quickly felt to be unworkable, and so it was decided to create a complete catalogue of the collection, and to hold each Archbishop responsible for handing on the collection to his successor, and for replacing any books that were found to be missing. This first catalogue was essentially a shelf-list of the books kept in Bancroft’s study. The books were arranged according to subject but not shelf-marked; instead, vellum tabs with the subject headings inscribed were attached to the fore-edges of the books. This catalogue does not include place and date of publication, except for very frequently printed works such as the Bible, and is therefore perhaps of limited bibliographical use. Bancroft’s collection includes probably the largest existing collection of recusant literature, as well as a number of books from the royal library at Westminster, a number of them from Henry VIII’s personal collection, a few with his annotations.

Bancroft was not, of course, the first Archbishop of Canterbury to take an interest in books. For example, Bancroft’s predecessor, John Whitgift, also had a substantial collection of books and manuscripts, of which a catalogue also survives. On his death in 1604, Whitgift left his collection of manuscripts to Trinity College, Cambridge, but made no specific provision for his collection of printed books, many of which found their way into Bancroft’s collection (as well as a few of the manuscripts which were never transferred to Cambridge). These include a number of books from the library of the martyrologist John Fox.

The next surviving catalogue dates from 1647, when, on the abolition of the Archiepiscopacy, the University of Cambridge petitioned Parliament that an honourable home should be found for the book collection. The hint was taken, and the collection granted to Cambridge. Before the books were moved to Cambridge, however, the University sent two scholars to Lambeth to make a complete catalogue of the collection, which, by this time, had also been augmented by the books of Bancroft’s successor, George Abbott. This 1647 catalogue does include place and date of publication, and is therefore of greater use to bibliographers in determining what editions Bancroft actually owned. The books were then moved to Cambridge, where they were given shelfmarks for the first time.

Finally, after the Restoration, the books were returned to Lambeth after protracted negotiations, and catalogued again.

All of these catalogues survive–and others too–but matching them against each other and linking the entries to actual surviving books is a time-consuming process. The remainder of the session explored some of the reasons for this complexity. The first of these is that the original catalogues of Bancroft and Whitgift’s libraries do not appear to tell the whole story; there are books in the collection which can be demonstrated to have come from Bancroft or Whitgift, but are not mentioned in the original catalogue. It is probable that both men kept significant collections of books in other palaces or residences, which were not mentioned in the original catalogues. There are also books mentioned in Bancroft’s catalogue that are not in the present Lambeth Palace Library. One reason for this is that Archbishop William Sancroft (d. 1693) is known to have disposed of a large number of duplicates, many of which were transferred to the library of the chapter of Canterbury Cathedral. Sancroft also had a number of the medieval manuscripts disbound and rebound to give the collection a more uniform appearance, and these manuscripts may well be significantly more transformed from their original medieval state than at first appears. Equally, the same book sometimes appears in different categories in Bancroft’s catalogue, and it is not always clear whether these are cross-references or an indication of the existence of more than one copy.

The final discussion considered issues such as the precise nature and purpose of both Bancroft and Whitgift’s collections, and also broader questions such as the levels of society at which the practice of armorial bindings existed at this time.

Literary manuscripts 2010: early modern women as poets and letter-writers

The fourth and final Literary Manuscripts Masterclass of the 2010 series was given on 22 November by Gillian Wright, Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Birmingham. Dr. Wright, who has been previously associated with the Perdita Project to recover and digitise manuscript material associated with women writers in the Early Modern period, spoke on Bodleian MS. Add. A 119, a letter-book compiled by Mary Arthington, and Bodleian MS. Eng. poet. e. 31, a poetic miscellany compiled by Octavia Walsh.

Mary (Fairfax) Arthington (1616-1678) was a child of Ferdinando, 2nd Lord Fairfax of Cameron, and sister to the Parliamentarian general. Her letter-book consists chiefly of letters from siblings, including two from General Fairfax, two from Eleanor (Fairfax) Selby, fourteen from Dorothy (Fairfax) Hutton, and twenty-five from Frances (Fairfax) Widdrington. Also included are several letters between her parents.

Dr. Wright observed that the bulk of the letters preserved were of spiritual advice given within a domestic context and highlighted Frances Widdrington’s key role in giving her younger sister, Arthington, counsel on religious matters, even advising her and their other sisters on what Bible verses to read, while she was still a young woman. The nature of the letters was such, Dr. Wright suggested, as to make it likely that they were a selection from a larger corpus, preserved because of their perceived value as a source of advice and comfort. The letters from Frances Widdrington alone cover a period of over fifteen years but do not seem to represent a complete series of correspondence. The manuscript itself is written in a single hand and in slightly archaic spelling, though it is unclear whether the latter may not have been carried over from the letters themselves. Some of the individual letters are marked with an ‘S’ surmounted by three points or stars which Professor Kathryn Sutherland suggested might indicate Frances’s position as the third eldest sister in her family.

Turning to the second manuscript on display, Dr. Wright began by discussing Octavia Walsh (1677-1706), an aristocratic Worcestershire poet, and the printed extract from a 1928 bookseller’s catalogue present on the front paste-down of the manuscript. The catalogue comments somewhat censoriously on the presence of “ribald” poems in the manuscript and suggests that they were unlikely to be by Walsh herself. Dr. Wright used this as a springboard to discuss perceptions of women’s poetry in the period and afterwards and to probe deeper into the difficulties of attribution.

It is unclear if all the poems in the manuscript are, indeed, by Walsh and two of those present in the manuscript were published in The Grove, a 1721 poetic compilation, under the name of her brother, William Walsh, the mentor of Alexander Pope. Dr. Wright paid particular attention to the “ribald” poems of the catalogue entry. These included two poems on “Sacharissa”, the premise of both being that their eponymous heroine has left London to the sorrow of the young men, retiring to the country, allegedly to read Epictetus, but in truth to be adored by the rural swains.

Also discussed was “To Urania,” a scatological, Rabelaisian mock-epic.Dr. Wright noted that it was the only poem in the manuscript not included in another, posthumous, manuscript of Walsh’s poems (not in the Bodleian Library) which contains a notation on the flyleaf that the poems included there had been found amongst her papers at her death. The reason for its exclusion is uncertain, but was, perhaps, due to its bawdy content.

– from Kelsey Jackson Williams

Literary manuscripts 2010: ‘Poem, Amorous’: Two Bodleian Marvell Manuscripts

Bodleian Library MS. Eng. poet. d. 49, a hybrid consisting of a printed copy of Miscellaneous poems (London, 1681) with manuscript additions.

The third Literary Manuscript Masterclass of the year was given on 8 November by Diane Purkiss of Keble College and Johanna Harris of Lincoln College.  The subject: two Bodleian manuscripts containing poems by Andrew Marvell.

Dr. Purkiss introduced the first, Bodleian MS. Eng. poet. d. 49, a hybrid volume of 296 pages consisting of an exemplum of Marvell’s Miscellaneous Poems (London, 1681) with numerous manuscript emendations and notes in several hands.  It is a vital source for the recovery of Marvell’s political works, containing a unique variant of his “Horatian Ode”, one of only three copies of “The first Anniversary of the Government Under his Highness the Lord Protector”, and the sole complete text of “A Poem upon the Death of his late Highness the Lord Protector”.  Marvell was already deceased in 1681, so the emendations and manuscript poems contained in this text cannot be in his own handwriting,  but Dr. Purkiss noted that MS. Eng. poet. d. 49 was the source text for Edward Thompson’s 1776 edition of the poems, and had clearly been owned by Thompson. A note signed and dated (1775) by Thompson appears in the manuscript. Furthermore Thompson had advertised the acquisition of “a volume of Mr. Marvell’s poems” from the Popple family, descendants of Marvell’s nephew, William Popple, suggesting that both the emendations and the new or variant poems may have been added by William Popple himself. No surviving manuscript copies are known of poems in Marvell’s own hand.  This hybrid book is all the more important for containing in the manuscript section a number of satires,  political poems variously attributed to Marvell and his contemporaries.

Diane Purkiss writes:
Attributions of the political satires or “Painter poems” to Marvell have developed him as a satirist who reworked the work of others.  Annabel Patterson and Nigel Smith both suggest that the Second and the Third are in part by Marvell, a reworking of part of his earlier satiric and lyric canon, though Smith comments that ‘it is hard to believe that the inept ll. 175-6 or the unmetrical l.286 of the Second Advice could be Marvell’s’. Earlier manuscripts attribute these poems to Sir John Denham, an attribution noted, and dismissed, in Edward Thompson’s annotation in Eng. poet. d. 49.  At the masterclass, John Mc Tague from the Digital Miscellanies project noted that printed 18th-century poetical miscellanies continued the Denham attribution.

It may be that a further search of the elaborate layers of Painter-poem manuscripts might unearth some helpful clues.  Consider Samuel Pepys’ account of how he encountered them first as singles and then together.  Might it be helpful too to think about whether they were mostly transcribed in a group?  And whether either a scribal or printing error had been reproduced uncomprehendingly across the whole series of manuscripts, as Nigel Smith suggests may have happened with ‘To His Coy Mistress’?

It has been suggested that the smaller emendations of the printed text in MS.  Eng. poet. d. 49 are “common-sense” changes, but some present a more complex picture, for instance a change of “desarts” to “deserts” — implying a reference to the verb “desert” as well as the noun for a dry place.  The 1681 Poems reads a well-known crux in “To His Coy Mistress” as “Now therefore, while the youthful hue | Sits on thy skin like morning glew”, which the emendator of MS. Eng. poet. d. 49 has corrected to “. . . glew | . . . dew”.  Dr. Purkiss suggested that this may indicate a common origin with the other manuscript under discussion, Bodleian MS. Don b. 8.

Dr. Harris discussed MS. Don b. 8, a folio manuscript miscellany of 738 pages that includes thirteen poems in the Marvell canon.  It was compiled by Sir William Haward, a friend and fellow M.P. with Marvell.  Most notable amongst its contents is a unique variant of “To His Coy Mistress”, untitled, though Haward in his index to the miscellany has described it as a “Poeme, Amorous”.  It is 36 lines long rather than the canonical 46 and couched in the first person singular.

Significant variants also include “glew” | “dew” as in Eng. poet. d. 49 — though the two versions of the poem are otherwise radically different — and the more thought-provoking “‘Two hundred to adore your eyes | but thirty thousand for your thighs”.  The variants in this poem have been suggested as evidence of memorial reconstruction, but Dr. Harris also noted the insistence of some modern editors that a change of reference from  “breast” to “thighs” was indicative of an emergent homosexual culture in Restoration London — a suggestion not wholly adopted by the speakers.

Neither it nor the version given in Eng. poet. d. 49 have a clear relationship with the printed 1681 Poems and Dr. Harris questioned whether a lyrical poem can be singularly dated in this instance or whether the attributable canon must be elasticised to allow for a larger manuscript corpus of verse.  These questions were only some raised by the two manuscripts, which have yet to be fully understood.  As such, the class reinforced the point never too often made that even the texts of authors central to the canon are not always as stable and clear-cut as they may seem.

The instability of Eng. poet. d. 49 – Dr. Purkiss asked whether we should consider it an authorial text that became a miscellany — its deletions from the printed 1681 edition; its emendations and notes and manuscript additions, up to and including Edward Thompsons 1770s notes while preparing his edition — make it a fascinating crossroads for considering how the Marvell canon was developing in the century after his death.

Kelsey Jackson Williams, Balliol College


Literary manuscripts 2010: Donne’s sermons and politics

At the second Literary Manuscripts Masterclass of 2010 on 25 October, Emma Rhatigan (University of Sheffield), Sebastiaan Verweij (Hardie Postdoctoral Fellow, Lincoln College), and Peter McCullough (University of Oxford, General Editor of the Oxford Edition of the Sermons of John Donne ) presented manuscripts of John Donne’s sermons from Bodleian collections. Dr. McCullough, in his capacity as general editor of the sermons, introduced the class with an overview of the issues surrounding these manuscripts, discussing ways in which sermons were transmitted and identifying the principal manuscript sources for Donne’s, three of which, the Merton, Dowden, and Ashmole manuscripts, are held in the Bodleian. The editing and collation of sermons is still in its infancy, he observed, and much remains to be done. He pointed to the work of Jeanne Shami, who had discovered three new manuscripts in the British Library (Royal MS 17 B.xx, Harley 6946, and Harley 6356) containing a total of seven Donne sermons. He also speculated on the survival in manuscript of sermons dating from 1620 to 1622 but no later and suggested that Donne’s promotion to St. Paul’s and the promulgation of James I’s ‘directions for preachers’, both in 1622, may have played a role in reducing manuscript circulation.

Following Dr. McCullough’s introduction, Drs. Verweij and Rhatigan talked the audience through the items at hand. Those examined were the ‘Dowden’ manuscript (Bodleian Library MS. Eng. Th. e. 102, Summary Catalogue 46602), which includes 8 sermons by Donne, as well as other material, the ‘Merton’ manuscript (Bodleian Library MS. Eng. Th. c. 71, Summary Catalogue 46601), including 16 sermons by Donne, as well as other material, and MS. Ashmole 781, a commonplace book of over 100 items, with one Donne sermon. This last is in an advanced state of decay, due to acidic ink, and is now disbound for preservation purposes. The first item in the Ashmole manuscript, discussed by Dr. Verweij, is Donne’s sermon on the text, ‘Remember now thy Creator in the dayes of thy youth’ (Ecclesiastes 12.1; pp. 1-19). None of the three manuscripts are in Donne’s own hand but are copies made for other interested parties.

In the first lecture in this series Professor Henry Woudhuysen cited the field-defining work of Peter Beal, author of the Catalogue of English Literary Manuscripts. Dr. Beal’s contribution to Early Modern manuscript studies was confirmed in Dr. Rhatigan’s discussion of the ‘Merton’ manuscript. The distinctive gold-tooled lozenge on its front board, incorporating the initials ‘H.F.’, has been identified by Beal as the mark of one Henry Field, a still mysterious individual, perhaps a relative of Theophilus Field, Bishop of Hereford. Dr. Rhatigan’s own work emphasized the importance of such identifications in studying the creation and use of the ‘Merton’ manuscript and discussed the interrelationships of its contents within the context of Jacobean theological politics.

Donne’s work circulated extensively in manuscripts copied by friends and readers, even after print publication. These manuscripts of sermons represent only a portion of the Bodleian’s Donne collections. Also of note is Bodleian Library MS. Eng. poet. d. 197 (Summary Catalogue 46444), ‘A letter to the Lady Carey and Mrs. Essex Riche’. This verse epistle (the creases in the paper suggest that it was indeed folded and delivered as a private letter) is the only known manuscript of an English poem by Donne written in his own hand.

– Kelsey Jackson Williams
Balliol College


Contents of the ‘Merton’ Manuscript, Bodleian Library MS. Eng. th. c. 71

Literary manuscripts 2010: finding Arcadia in the gutter

Manuscripts of Sir Philip Sidney’s works provided the opportunity for Professor Henry Woudhuysen (University College London) to deliver a master class in techniques for the study of early modern manuscripts. These include the recognition (if not identification) of different hands in a manuscript; consideration of the binding date and style; archaeology of the manuscript taking note of the gatherings or quires; and identification of the paper stock from watermark evidence.

For MS. Bod. e. mus. [museao] 37, Professor Woudhuysen asked students to look into the gutter, where pages meet at the spine of the book, to find stitching in the centre of gatherings. He demonstrated the importance of understanding the quire structure (as shown in the attached document detailing the structure of signature ‘O’) for detecting missing pages.

This manuscript of Sidney’s Arcadia, with ‘Certain loose sonnets & songs’, was written in at least three different hands, but a tantalizing clue is left by the scribe who signed the last written page with a flourish and his initials.

Half of a watermark (the royal coat of arms) seen in MS. Jesus College 150, with the aid of a fibre-optic light sheet.

Seeking the origin of MS. Jesus College 150, also a manuscript of Arcadia, Professor Woudhuysen looked for evidence at the watermark of the paper. This displayed a royal coat of arms, suggesting that this paper was made by the firm of John Spilman of Dartford in Kent. Spilman gained a patent from Elizabeth I in 1589, enabling him to monopolize the manufacture of high-quality white paper in the 1590s and first decade of the 17th century, and make this for the first time a profitable industry in England. On the study and use of watermark evidence, Woudhuysen cited the authority of Allan H. Stevenson, whose article ‘Watermarks are twins’ is linked here.

While these methodologies of manuscript studies are necessary tools for the scholar, Woudhuysen argued that they should not replace, but supplement, textual analysis. Following a period of intense academic interest in the material forms of both manuscript and printed texts, in pursuit of a history of scribal and print culture (defining the field of History of the Book), Professor Woudhuysen predicted that we will see a return to textual criticism, with the aim of establishing the best text. Techniques helping to date the manuscript witnesses, or place them within a stemma of the text, will continue to be valuable in this scholarly work.

Thomas Churchyard, A sparke of frendship and warme goodwill, that shewest the effect of true affection and vnfoldes the finenesse of this world VVhereunto is ioined, the commoditie of sundrie sciences, the benefit that paper bringeth, with many rare matters rehearsed in the same ... (London, 1588)

Script and print
Many of the techniques demonstrated in the examination of these manuscripts could be applied to printed books of the same period. Just as scribes had their personal styles (and foibles), so did type compositors; watermark evidence can be found by the same means; the format, gatherings, and binding repay examination in determining the intentions behind the manufacture of any book, whether in manuscript or print.

A future for handwriting analysis?
The regularity of the taught ‘secretary’ handwriting was its virtue for the 16th-century reader, but operates against modern scholars who try to find distinctive personal handwriting styles. Digital photography has the potential to enable scholars to build up a visual databank of handwriting samples.

Reading list for this session: page 1page 2

The Literary Manuscripts masterclasses take place on Monday afternoons in Michaelmas term. See the Centre for the Study of the Book calendar for details.

Gatherings: a display

A ‘gathering’ (or ‘quire’) is made of one or more large sheets of paper, folded one or more times to make a single ‘booklet’ of leaves; these are then bound together in a sequence to make a book. Gatherings have been the basic building blocks of manuscript and printed books for centuries. The items in this display date from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries. They show that gatherings can reveal much about the print culture of this period, from the ways in which books were constructed by printers and binders to broader, cultural questions about the composition, marketing and censorship of early modern texts.

See a report of The Gathered Text, a symposium on the subject of gatherings in book history.

Rebecca Bullard (University of Reading), Ian Gadd (Bath Spa University), Andrew Honey (Bodleian Library) and Randall McLeod (University of Toronto) selected the items for this display.

Click on any image to enter the gallery.