Charles Burney – composer, music historian, and musician.
Aside from any argument about nature vs. nurture, it’s no accident that 18th Century polymath Charles Burney was the father of two well-known novelists, an accomplished classicist, and a Royal Navy admiral who became an explorer travelling with Captain James Cook. There was a culture of intellectual venture and ambition in the Burney family, deliberately stoked by their zealous father.
Amongst the Bodleian’s collection are 31 letters from the Burney family archives, as well as the Memoranda of the Burney Family. This remarkable document records the family’s history across 250 years, charting their successes in literature, music, art and beyond, and gives a penetrating vision of the Burney lifestyle that supported these endeavours.
Dr Lorna J Clark, Royal Bank of Canada Foundation Fellow at the Bodleian Libraries, is editing The Letters of Dr Charles Burney. She is the editor of a volume in the series of The Memoirs of the Court of George III (Pickering, 2015), two volumes of The Court Journals of Frances Burney (Oxford, 2014), and a novel, The Romance of Private Life (1839) in the Chawton House Library Series.
Fanny Burney – daughter of Charles, diarist, satirist, and playwright.
On Tuesday 6 June, Dr Clark will present the Royal Bank of Canada Foundation lecture, ‘A Family Culture of Creativity: Memoranda of the Burney Family.’
There are countless stories to be told about the Burneys, and much interest in the kindred essence that lead to such a richly yielding family tree. Dr Clark will bring her insight and deep knowledge of the Burney family to bear in illustrating the story of this remarkable dynasty.
In 1978, the Bodleian Library was given a curious piece of parchment (Broxb. 97.40). It is dotted with rectangular cut-outs, and eight thick, red rectangles and an astonishing amount of dirt and fibres cover one side. As Andrew Honey noted in his blog post about its conservation in 2011, its holes and ‘muck’ obscure the words, but they reveal that this object is actually three texts in one:
First, the parchment sheet was taken from a manuscript of Gregory IX’s Decretals written in Bologna around 1300, which was separated by c.1530.
Then, the skin was used by a printer, probably in France (François Regnault (d.1540–41) or Jean Mallard (fl. 1534–53)?). The red rectangles indicate that it was used as a frisket sheet, a mask inserted into the printing press to keep the paper in place and protect unprinted areas, for printing text and initials in red. There are eight rectangles, so the printed book was in octavo. The arrangement of the cut-outs (i.e., the red texts and initials) suggests that the book was liturgical. The thick layer of red printing ink shows how the frisket sheet blocked the rest of the type from printing on the paper in the many copies of the edition. (The red elements were removed, and the rest was printed separately in black.) The thickness of the ink film, from the ‘black’ text, hints at the number of copies printed. The text is illegible, but the indents of some letters can be seen.
Once cut up for a certain arrangement of red initials and passages, a frisket sheet could be used for only one project. Finally, this one was used by a bookbinder, who put in the pasteboard of a binding around a book. The ‘muck’ is from the binding paste.
It’s an extremely rare and important artefact of the history of the book. But it isn’t complete. Frisket sheets were often made of parchment pasted to paper, the better to resist the wetness of a print run (paper is dampened before printing). In an article in Printing History tracing the movements of the Bodleian skin layer and five others from the same manuscript/print job/binding, I tried to trace this paper layer. But I lost sight of it for the last 500 years, after c.1540.
That paper layer and an undescribed parchment layer from the same group has been discovered at Columbia University in the library of the American Type Founders Company, which Columbia purchased in 1942. Very few frisket sheet fragments are known, and each has much to reveal.
If the paper layer remained paired the Bodleian layer, it would have been in a group of sheets from this manuscript/print job/binding that was owned by the bibliographer E. Gordon Duff (1862–1924) and acquired after his death by the master printer George W. Jones (1860–1942). One of his skin layers was sold by Sotheby’s to Albert Ehrman (1890–1969) and donated to the Bodleian in 1978 as the Broxbourne Collection.
The paper layers described in Jones’ collection and sale catalogues can all be accounted for, so the Columbia paper layer was presumably separated sometime in the 500 years between c.1540 and Duff’s acquisition of his group before 1924. But Jones’ tallies of his frisket sheets’ skin and paper layers varied. Could the layers at Columbia and the Bodleian have remained together for centuries, before the paper layer was sold privately by Jones before his death in 1942? And could the newly discovered skin layer at Columbia have accompanied it? Research continues.
This blog post may be the first time the two halves of this frisket sheet have been reunited in over 500 years. Together, they illustrate the history of the book, from medieval manuscript to renaissance printshop to modern collecting. Much remains unknown, but digital research tools of the future may reveal where and how they were used over the centuries.
With thanks to Jane Rodgers Siegel (Rare Book Librarian, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University).
Early in 1917, Virginia and Leonard Woolf walked into the Excelsior Printing Supply Co on Farringdon Road and bought themselves a printing press. The press, a small handpress which they installed on a table in their dining room in Richmond, came with instructions and some cases of type. The whole lot came to £19.5s.5d. That May they began work on their first publication, Two Stories (one by Leonard, one by Virginia), with Virginia setting the type and Leonard operating the press. Twenty-one years later, when Virginia finally withdrew from the company, the Hogarth Press had published 440 titles, including work by T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster, Katherine Mansfield, Vita Sackville-West, Freud, and H. G. Wells, not to mention much of Virginia’s own most significant writing.
“Books are not turned out of moulds like bricks. Books are made of tiny little words, which a writer shapes, often with great difficulty, into sentences of different lengths, placing one on top of another, never taking his eye off them, sometimes building them quite quickly, at other times knocking them down in despair, and beginning all over again.”
-Virginia Woolf, “How Should One Read a Book?” (1925)
To celebrate the centenary of the Hogarth Press, then, it seemed like a good idea to think about the role that printing played in shaping Woolf’s writing. And since the Bodleian Bibliographical Press is equipped not only with the kind of handpress the Woolfs used for their first publications, but also with the same typeface, we had an ideal opportunity to put ourselves into Virginia’s shoes for a day.
One of the earliest Hogarth publications was Hope Mirrlees’s Paris: A Poem, dated 1919 (or rather 1916: Virginia placed the final ‘9’ upside-down and didn’t catch the error until after printing, correcting it in pen in all copies). It is a wonderful and unjustly overlooked piece of modernism, and with its wild typography – different alignments, passages in caps and italics, a block of music inserted into the text – posed a considerable challenge to Virginia’s recently-acquired skills as a typesetter. Just the thing then for a public print-a-thon.Working in half-hour shifts, our team of printers – from absolute beginners to advanced setters – set out to print as much of Mirrlees’s poem as we could in a single day. Breaking for lectures by Dr Nicola Wilson (Reading) and Dame Hermione Lee (Oxford) about the Woolfs and the Hogarth Press, we ended up with a respectable eight pages, about a third of the poem.
“I’m the only woman in England free to write what I like. The others must be thinking of series’ & editors”
(Diary of Virginia Woolf, Vol. 3, September 1925)
“So,” I asked one of our volunteers, “now that you’ve set a page of type, how do you think the experience of being a printer might have influenced Virginia as a writer?”
“Write fewer words!”
A useful and hard-won insight.
“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
Mike Webb (Curator of Early Modern Archives and Manuscripts) writes:
The second Bodleian Students Editions catalogue is now available online through Early Modern Letters Online (EMLO). These letters were transcribed in the second of the Bodleian Libraries Manuscript and Textual Editing Workshops, held in the Centre for Digital Scholarship in the Weston Library on 1 December 2016. (Details of the workshop programme, along with an account of the first workshop, can be found here.)
The letters used in this workshop were in a volume of the Carte manuscripts, which mainly comprises the papers of James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond (1610-1688), Lord Lieutenant of Ireland three times between 1643 and 1685. Six letters written by women to Ormond in April and May 1660 were selected, all in MS. Carte 214. Women used italic script in the 17th century as most were not taught the ‘secretary hand’ used in legal and administrative documents of the period, and often in private letters also. Italic hands are easier to read for those not formally trained in palaeography, and so more suitable for these workshops, which offer a wide-ranging introduction to undergraduates and postgraduates of all disciplines, many of whom had never previously worked with original manuscripts.
The Bodleian volume 4º Rawl. 566 is a bound set of 217 broadside ballads printed in the seventeenth century. The broadsides, half-folio sheets typical of ballad publications at the time, are attached by their left-hand edges and thus form an oblong book with the ballads reading on the recto of each leaf.
A vellum binding, damaged at the spine, encloses the volume, with Rawlinson’s bookplate inside the front cover.
The source of the volume before it came into Richard Rawlinson’s possession has not yet been discovered. The ballads themselves are in a fragile state. Several are torn or damaged, and some are repaired.
Inscriptions on the reverse of some ballads in the volume appear to show that, wherever it was held at the time, it was used on Sept. 23, 1720, by Benjamin Osborne and Elizabeth Townsen [Townsend?] to practice writing.
The image gallery below gives access to the full-resolution images of inscriptions in this volume.