The Bodleian Quarterly Record began publication in the first quarter of 1914. The third issue recorded the outbreak of war in August 1914, and each of the following numbers in Volume I, covering 1914 to 1916, included printed lists of staff absent on war duty. Those absent included Miss Frances Underhill, https://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/bodley/news/2016/oct-18, one of the Senior Assistant Librarians, the first woman to occupy that position at the Library. The BQR also recorded midnight mobilizations of staff for fire duty, when alarms of Zeppelin raids were received, though no attacks materialized.
Into the twelve numbers of the first volume Bodleian staff poured much useful knowledge: of pre-1200 manuscripts in the Library; of the seventeenth-century Bodleian catalogues of printed books and manuscripts, which influenced bibliographical knowledge and standards well beyond the Bodleian’s walls; and of early Bodleian shelfmarks (call-numbers) showing how books were collected and arranged in the early years of the library’s foundation.
The BQR was printed by the University Press. The first number, from January 1914, contained an error in describing a sonnet by Wordsworth as ‘apparently unpublished’. This number was reprinted for collectors in 1915 and the Wordsworth sonnet page included a footnote stating that, when the error was discovered, the correction was made in pencil; copies of the reprint are also corrected in pencil.
A note from Falconer Madan (Bodley’s Librarian 1912-19) commented that the BQR required 500 subscribers to support the publication costs; it transpired that there were far fewer subscribers than this, and Madan singled out for thanks Sir William Osler, Regius Professor of Medicine and one of the board of trustees — called the Curators — of the Library, for financial support enabling the Record to continue.
Osler contributed an article to the last number of Volume I. ‘Illustrations of the book-worm,’ published in issue Number 12, records a face-to-face meeting between Osler and a living individual of species Anobium hirtum (Illiger, 1807) otherwise known as Nicobium castaneum (Olivier, 1790), or the library beetle.
[A digital version of the article is here:
‘In October 1915 I received from a Paris bookseller, M. Lucien Gougy, three volumes of the Histoire abregie de la derniere persecution de Port-Royal. Edition Royale, MDCCL.’ In one of the volumes Osler found a living book-worm, of species Anobium hirtum,* ‘not a native of England, but met with occasionally in the centre and south of France.’
In true scientific fashion, Osler arranged for a portrait of the larva to be made by Horace Knight, natural history illustrator of the British Museum. Knight sent the picture in September 1916, apologising that he had ‘been waiting in hopes the larva would pupate, but it has not even commenced to make a case…’.
Knight’s drawing was printed in colour for the BQR.
In the article, Osler lists works which illustrate book-worms of various species–only partially satisfactorily, he thought. Amongst the works cited are:
- Robert Hooke, Micrographia, 1665; https://digital.sciencehistory.org/works/hm50ts92w
- The 1880 edition of William Blades, The enemies of books; which prints as an illustration a copy of Hooke’s image. [See digital version of a copy at Bodleian 258985 e.1]
- Johann Leonard Frisch’s work Beschreibung von allerley Insecten in Deutschland, published 1721-79 See digital version of:Bodleian w. 137 (13 v. in 1)
Osler noticed that the habitat of the insect he had found matched the provenance of the book, in the south of France. Research connecting the history of books and manuscripts with the biological materials and evidence of animal life found in them is an area which in the past decade has gained notable contributions from Matthew Collins on the animal proteins in parchment https://www.palaeome.org/projects/dnrf-proteios, Heather Wolfe on DNA left by human readers, https://www.washingtonian.com/2019/04/25/shakespeare-dna-hiding-folger-library-vault-project-dustbunny/and Blair Hedges on the species of woodworm which damage the woodblocks made for printing images, and the wooden boards used for the bindings of both manuscripts and printed books. https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsbl.2012.0926. The research is referenced in Joshua Calhoun’s new book, The Nature of the Page: Poetry, Papermaking, and the Ecology of Texts in Renaissance England.
Though Osler declared in 1916 that ‘Bodley is singularly free from the ravages of book-worms,’ no library can remain complacent, and Preventive Conservation is an important part of the library’s current work. In 1997 the oldest part of the Bodleian, Duke Humfrey’s Library ,was found to be infested with death-watch beetle, Xestobium rufovillosum. That part of the Bodleian was temporarily closed for eradication of the pest and for a more thorough refurbishment to lessen other environmental threats to the books kept there.
Alexandra Walker, Preventive Conservator, writes;
The Preventive Conservation section are responsible for monitoring the libraries collections to ensure the long term preservation by maintaining a stable environment. One of the ways we monitor is through a programme of Integrated Pest Management or ‘IPM’. A robust IPM programme relies on a combined knowledge of the environment, collections, buildings, cleaning routines and trapping for insects. Conservators use sticky traps, known as blunder traps, to monitor which species of insects are entering our libraries. We are on the look out for population changes in ‘library pests’; insects which like to munch on library and archive collections and furniture. These pests might include wood-borers like furniture beetle (Anobium punctatum) similar to those mentioned by Osler, silverfish (Lepisma saccharina), booklice (Liposcelis) or common clothes moth (Tineola bisselliella). By carrying out regular monitoring, we can identify problem areas and make necessary changes, before collections are affected.
*In the drawing made by Horace Knight, Osler’s new acquaintance is labelled ‘Anobium hirtum, Illigar.’ [sic, for Illiger, 1807] https://www.gbif.org/fr/species/1095270 a synonym for Nicobium castaneum (Olivier 1790)
Professor David Cranston tells the story of William Osler’s life, career and character. http://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/william-osler-and-his-legacy-medicine
Additional reading on library pests can be found here:
Corrections will be gladly received on entomological or other points – Alexandra Franklin, Centre for the Study of the Book