Report on first Annual CRECS Conference, 17 May 2016

This gallery contains 18 photos.

Originally posted on CRECS//:
On Tuesday 17 May 2016, Cardiff University’s Special Collections and Archives (SCOLAR) opened its doors to welcome the attendees of the first annual CRECS student conference. After partaking in a welcome hot beverage—at a safe distance from the special…

William Dampier: Pirate, Navigator, Naturalist, and Explorer

NPG 538; William Dampier by Thomas Murray

Portrait of William Dampier by Thomas Murray, oil on canvas, circa 1697-1698, courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

At age 18, William Dampier (1652–1715) was apprenticed to a seaman at Weymouth. He served briefly in the Third Anglo-Dutch War, worked on a Jamaican sugar plantation and aboard merchant ships, before deserting his post to join a buccaneer fleet. After an unsuccessful attack on Panama City, he joined a group of French and English pirates with whom he raided Costa Rica and frequented the buccaneer base at Tortuga before being driven away by Spanish warships. In 1686, Dampier sailed more than 6000 miles across the Pacific from Cape Corrientes, Mexico, to Guam, later carrying on through the South China Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. From there, his ship turned southward and in 1688 became the first English ship to visit New Holland (Australia). His journey continued through India, Sumatra, Vietnam, and the Malay peninsula, until he finally returned to England in 1691, making him the first Englishman to circle the globe since Thomas Cavendish a century before.

A second trading voyage to the West Indies resulted in a mutiny and a change of occupation from trading to piracy. Dampier remained with the ship until the end of his term of employment, but upon returning to London and asked for his back wages, he was instead accused of aiding the mutineers and received no money.


Dampier published accounts of his voyages in 1697, 1699, and 1703.

From early in his career, he had kept a regular journal where he recorded observations of the winds and tides, geography, plants and animals, and native peoples. In 1697, left with few assets besides these journals, he published his observations under the title, A New Voyage Round the World. Dampier’s account of strange foreign lands was straightforward and practical rather than sensational, and proved extremely popular among merchants, statesmen, and scientists, as well as the general public. Within his lifetime, A New Voyage Round the World went through seven printings in English and translations into Dutch, French, and German.


“Plants found in New Holland,” from A Voyage to New Holland… (London, 1703).

In 1699, Dampier’s fortunes were on the rise. He published a second volume under the title Voyages and Descriptions and returned to the Pacific, this time as captain of the HMS Roebuck, the first voyage intended specifically for scientific exploration. He sailed around Australia and New Guinea, discovering the island which he named New Britain before the ship’s poor condition forced him to return home, carrying with him specimens of around forty Australian plants (now in the Sherardian Herbarium at Oxford).

Once again, however, Dampier’s return home was not a happy one. He arrived in England to face a court martial for assaulting an officer on board the HMS Roebuck, and was judged to be unfit for command. He returned to the Pacific yet again as commodore of a privateering expedition during which, after a hurried refit on the island of Juan Fernandez, the ship’s master Alexander Selkirk preferred to be marooned there rather than set sail on a vessel he did not believe to be seaworthy. Selkirk would remain on the island for five years before being rescued by another privateer vessel commanded by Captain Woodes Rogers and piloted by none other than William Dampier.


Views of the Brazilian coastline in A Voyage to New Holland… (London, 1703).

Although Dampier and Selkirk had grated on each other’s nerves during the earlier voyage, it was on Dampier’s recommendation that Rogers appointed Selkirk as mate on board his ship. Selkirk’s abandonment and subsequent rescue, described in Rogers’ journal and in The Englishman magazine, are widely believed to be the inspiration for Daniel Defoe’s novel, Robinson Crusoe.

Dampier’s third book, A Voyage to New Holland, in the Year 1699, was published in 1703, and contained the first description of Aboriginal Australians. Although his account unfortunately depicted them as ‘the miserablest People in the world’, his writing nevertheless sparked intense interest in the south Pacific.

Over the course of his career, Dampier would circumnavigate the globe three times, making him the first person to do so.  His books, with their detailed records of weather patterns, safe harbours, disposition of native peoples, sources of food, and advice on maintaining health while at sea, were for a long time considered essential reading for mariners and recommended by the likes of Cook, Howe, and Nelson. Dampier’s writings also inspired literature such as Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner“. 


Voyages and Descriptions includes “A Discourse of Trade-Winds,” which was used in compiling Admiralty Sailing Directions as late as the 1930s.

His was the first English language description of breadfruit, plantain, and bananas, and it was Dampier who first introduced the words “barbecue” and “chopsticks” into the English language. His legacy lives on in the names of Dampier Strait in Papua New Guinea, Dampier Land in Western Australia, and the Dampier Archipelago off the west coast of Australia.


At the time of Dampier’s expedition, much of Australia remained uncharted.

Cardiff University holds the fifth edition of A new voyage round the world (1703), third edition of Voyages and descriptions (1705), and the first edition of A Voyage to New Holland, in the Year 1699 (1703). Although they belong to different editions, they are bound uniformly as a set and bear the property stamp of “T. Falconer,” possibly the English jurist and explorer Thomas Falconer (1805-1882) who served as judge of Glamorganshire, Brecknockshire and Rhayader from 1851 to 1881.


Discovering the Edward Thomas archive: a student perspective

This guest post comes from Sarah Murray, a final year English Literature undergraduate. Sarah recently worked on a project in Special Collections as part of the Poetry in the Making module led by Dr Carrie Smith. The students were tasked with exploring the Edward Thomas archive, to find items to inspire short films. These would present arguments about Thomas’ life and work, with reference to primary sources. An extract from one of the films is featured below.

During our first visit to Special Collections, we worked closely with archivist, Alison Harvey, who collected a huge range of material from manuscripts of poems to Thomas’ personal diaries, to flower cuttings, to personal items, such as his clay pipes.

We were able to spend time looking through this material, and quickly realised that the diversity of materials the archive has to offer meant that there was a huge scope for creativity in the upcoming project.

Manuscripts, transcripts, diaries and flower cuttings - a typical scene at our table.

Manuscripts, transcripts, diaries and flower cuttings – a typical scene at our table.

My group was struck by the regular communication between Edward Thomas and fellow poet Robert Frost, and decided to concentrate on the profound impact Frost had on Thomas’ birth as a poet. Armed with more material than it was possible to process, we visited the archive regularly, pouring over the correspondence between Thomas and Frost.

The calming atmosphere of Special Collections made a welcome change from the rest of the Arts and Social Studies Library, and if it was not for the fact that I would be eternally thirsty, I would do all of my writing in the archive! (It’s funny how the moment you know you can’t have something, that’s immediately all you want in the world.)

After much research, constructing our arguments and a lot of video editing, the four groups in our class each created and submitted a ten minute film as part of the module assessment and it was surprising how different each one was. Almost as if we had sat down and allocated different approaches to take.

Uniquely, the work we produced was showcased to the English Literature department. Although slightly embarrassing to watch and listen to ourselves on the big screen (there was a lot of face covering and even a quick exit), the opportunity to share our videos with members of the department who were interested and surprised by the originality of our arguments, made the project seem incredibly worthwhile.

Students at the screening

Students at the screening.

For me, the experience was eye opening as it provided us with the thought processes and concerns that preceded the published versions of Thomas’ eloquent poetry. I hadn’t really considered the apprehension that a poet may experience when writing, perhaps having been consumed by the Romantic idea that inspiration for a complete product is found while sitting peacefully at the top of a hill. The ability to immerse ourselves in the material that led to the publication of Thomas’ poetry enabled us to understand the man and consequently, the poet and his poetry in a deeper sense.

Samantha Palen, third year English Literature and Journalism student, adds: “As an amateur poet myself, I had long ago rejected the Wordsworthian / Romantic idea of writing poetry, if purely for the fact that British weather means that writing anything whilst strolling through the countryside proves nearly impossible. However, I was surprised to learn the range of materials in the archive that fed into the final published poems; classically you imagine that a poem is written, edited through various manuscripts and then published, bish, bash, bosh. What I didn’t take into account was all of the materials that fall outside of this process, the photographs, the diaries, the correspondence with friends and family, which arguably have a greater impact on the creation of a piece of poetry. All of this took some time to get my head around and the sheer amount of information available seemed incredibly daunting, but all of the archive staff were incredibly helpful in making this an incredibly enjoyable experience!”

All in all, this project was definitely more challenging than anything else I have been required to do as part of my degree and was a welcome change to the thousands of words of essay I have written across nearly three years of reading English Literature. I greatly enjoyed the time we spent in Special Collections. Cardiff University is very lucky to have such a rich collection of historical and literary archives and the opportunity to make use of this material enriched my knowledge of a subject I am passionate about. Finally, I am very grateful to Carrie for providing us with this new and exciting academic opportunity and to Alison for her time and commitment to supporting us throughout the project.

Exhibition: David Jones (1895-1974)

Curated by Prof. Judi Loach, School of History, Archaeology and Religion. Images are reproduced with kind permission of the Trustees of the David Jones Estate.

David Jones would become one of the leading figures in Britain’s inter-war revival of wood engraving, despite only working in this medium for little more than 5 years.

1895: Born in South London; Welsh father, working for printers

1909: Camberwell School of Art

1914-18: Private in Royal Welch Fusiliers; served on Western front

1919-21: Westminster School of Art

1921: Received into the Roman Catholic Church

1922: Joined Eric Gill’s Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic at Ditchling (Sussex), initially as apprentice carpenter; taught wood engraving by Desmond Chute (1895-1962)

1924: Gill (1882-1940) moved to Capel-y-ffin; engaged to Gill’s daughter Petra.  Jones now lived partly at home with parents in London, partly at Capel-y-ffin and partly with the Benedictine monks on Caldey Island.

1927: Petra Gill broke off their engagement; Jones moved back to London, where he lived with his parents and was accepted into the Society of Wood Engravers.

Eyestrain forced Jones to abandon wood engraving soon afterwards.  He focused instead on watercolour, bringing to it a certain complexity and ambiguity that he had developed through his wood engraving.  He simultaneously began to write poetry, but while his painting was immediately acclaimed he would not publish any poems until 1937, when Faber & Faber brought out his book-length poem, In Parenthesis.

Witty works

Eric Gill’s community of Catholic craftspeople at the village of Ditchling, in Sussex, was marked by a desire to return to a pre-industrial way of life, inspired at once by William Morris’s Arts and Crafts movement and by the Catholic revival.  Many of the community’s pastimes embodied a rather childlike sense of innocent fun, reflected in turn in their publications.

The community’s St Dominic’s Press renewed hand printing but produced relatively cheap book(lets) so as to maximise circulation.  They therefore used wood, rather than copper, engraving, thus enabling illustrations to be printed simultaneously with text (copper engraving required printing on a separate press).

Jones joined soon after his own conversion to Catholicism, and began working in wood, simultaneously trying his hand at carpentry, sculpture and wood engraving.  His exploitation of this material’s grain distinguishes his work from that of his colleagues there, who tended to exploit the medium as a means of either creating scarcely detailed black silhouettes (e.g. some of Desmond Chute’s in Pertinent and Impertinent) or reducing to lines alone (e.g. Desmond Chute’s ‘Nazareth’, in Songs to our Lady of Silence, 1921).

D. C. Pepler, Pertinent and Impertinent (St Dominic’s Press, 1926). Illustrations by David Jones and Desmond Chute.

Jones, as yet unsure of his own style, betrays the influence that various contemporaries made on him. In ‘March’, one sees Paul Nash, equally touched by experience of war-scarred landscapes, while in ‘The Milkmaid’, the German Expressionists. Both contrast with the approach of his wood engraving teacher Desmond Chute (e.g. ‘Nazareth’).

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D. C. Pepler, Libellus lapidum (St Dominic’s Press, 1924). Handwritten annotation by Pepler on flyleaf: ‘The author is ashamed of some of these verses but not of their printing’.

The cover shows Jones (with his schoolboy haircut), clinging on behind Pepler while also hanging onto his engraving tools, metaphorically his knightly weapons. Jones experimented with Vorticism (Sadler) and primitivism (Shaw).

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Francis Coventry, The history of Pompey the Little: or, The life and adventures of a lap-dog (Golden Cockerel, 1926).

In the same period Jones was producing work for the secular, and more fashionable, Golden Cockerel Press, where he displays a tendency to be influenced by its milieu, e.g. aping early modern imprints.

David Jones, frontispiece. Coventry, History of Pompey the Little.

David Jones, frontispiece. Coventry, History of Pompey the Little.

Devotional works

A Child’s Rosary book (St Dominic’s Press, 1924).

Here, in one of Jones’s earliest wood engraved works, he deliberately uses the grain of the wood to obscure an immediate reading, thereby forcing the child to spend time with the image, which is intended as a stimulant to meditation, time and again, not merely as a single-use didactic illustration.

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Eric Gill’s devotional works for St Dominic’s Press, compared with David Jones’s:

The Way of the Cross (1917): derived from his stations of the Cross for Westminster Cathedral.

Horae Beatae Virginis (1923): This is inspired by mediaeval breviaries, with most of the woodcuts taking the place of illuminated initials, but without bearing initials!

Common Carol Book (1926): Whereas the artist Jones’s Primitivism was influenced by that of Modern art, notably German Expressionism, the craftsman Gill’s is rather inspired by early modern woodcuts, or else often uses drawings by children in the Ditchling community, some seemingly worked in a kind of scraperboard.

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The book of Jonah (Golden Cockerel, 1926).

Despite the change from St Dominic’s (cheap – trying to get the material into as many hands as possible) to Golden Cockerel, Jones retains his commitment to making the ‘woodiness’ of his printing block apparent in the print on paper, and to a degree of complexity (at the expense of immediate clarity) so as to force the viewer to engage with the image.

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Chester play of the Deluge (Golden Cockerel, 1927).

Although this was probably his finest set of wood engravings, they were printed rather faintly, which upset Jones. The scenes depicting the building of the ark may be intended to evoke Jones’s grandfather’s labours in the London dockyards and/or his own less successful attempts at carpentry when in Ditchling.  His loving portrayals of various animals, each with their own characters, draws on his sketches at London Zoo.

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Llyfr y pregeth-wr. [Ecclesiastes] (Gregynog, 1927).

For this more abstract scriptural text, a volume commissioned by the Welsh Davies sisters and published in the same year as the Golden Cockerel’s Deluge, Jones provides a single engraving, as frontispiece. Printed and bound by their Gregynog Press, this is a particularly rare book, as only 25 copies were printed.

David Jones, frontispiece. Llyfr y pregeth-wr. [Ecclesiastes].

David Jones, frontispiece. Llyfr y pregeth-wr. [Ecclesiastes].

Allegorical works: Gulliver’s Travels

Jones was attracted to texts open to multiple and/or inner meanings, such as Jonathan Swift’s satire on human nature, clothed in the form of a fictional traveller’s tale.

Here we can compare David Jones’s treatment (Golden Cockerel, 1925) with that by the fashionable artist Rex Whistler (Cresset Press, 1930).  Apart from the full-page maps, Jones uses small wood blocks inserted into the running text.  As before, he exploits the ‘woody’ character of his base material to obscure immediate understanding of the image’s meaning.  He was upset when his publisher commissioned art students to hand-colour many of his images, probably in part because this rendered their meaning immediately apparent.

Whistler, by contrast, mainly provides full-page illustrations, more literal yet also more comic; each of these is presented within a frame appropriate to its subject (framing a monarch in a Classical architectural arch or a peasant in a pergola of agricultural implements), in a way reminiscent of Whistler’s work as a designer of stage sets.

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Metaphysical works: Rime of the Ancient Mariner

David Jones was attracted above all to texts with potential for metaphysical interpretation.  In Douglas Cleverdon’s 1929 edition, the wedding guest to whom the Ancient Mariner recounts his tale becomes a figure of one who accepts Christ’s invitation to his celestial marriage feast, leading the subsequent tale to become an allegory of the appreciation and acceptance of divine grace.

Jones is using copper engraving instead of wood engraving, and so is focusing on the line, rather than on any mass.  But he carries over from his wood engravings an intrinsic sense of ambiguity, or polyvalence, accentuated by not washing the plate before printing, so as to imbue the background with a certain ghostliness.

Jones’s metaphysical understanding of the narrative is emphasised in a central image that personifies the figures of ‘Death’ and ‘Life in Death’, but also in the allusion drawn, through his addition of a final tailpiece: the pelican voluntarily giving its own blood to feed its young, traditionally a figure of Christ sacrificing Himself for his Church, sinners like those who killed Him, is implicitly placed in parallel with the albatross, whose death was involuntary and ineffectual.

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S. T. Coleridge, Rime of the ancient mariner, illustrated by William Strang (Essex House Press, 1903)

For the edition produced by his Arts and Crafts Essex House Press, CR Ashbee selected a single incident from the narrative for illustration by Strang: the crucial moment when the albatross is hung around the Ancient Mariner’s neck.

Coleridge, Rime of the ancient mariner, illustrated by William Strang.

Coleridge, Rime of the ancient mariner, illustrated by William Strang.

 S. T. Coleridge, Rime of the ancient mariner, illustrated by Gustave Doré (C.S. Ameling, 1876)

Doré illustrates each episode in the narrative, and does so naturalistically, almost like a series of photographs. As embodiments of Victorian romanticism, the plates tend to depict these scenes darkly, indeed almost invariably at nighttime.

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Cataloguing Early Printed Greek

As a cataloguer, I create detailed descriptions of books. More than just transcribing titles and authors, I try to anticipate all of the ways in someone might search for a particular book and add notes, subjects, and name headings accordingly. At the risk of stating the obvious, this means that I need to be able to read the thing that I’m cataloguing.

Because I work with rare books, I encounter materials published in many different countries, over several centuries, in many different languages. This can present some interesting challenges, such as reading Fraktur or other Blackletter typefaces, deciphering centuries-old handwriting, or simply reading a language I’ve never studied.

At Cardiff University, most of our rare books are in English, Latin, or Welsh, but it’s not at all unusual to find books in French, Spanish, German, Italian, or Greek. With the aid of a good dictionary and Google Translate, it’s not too difficult to muddle through most languages, but Greek has the added challenge of being written in an entirely different alphabet. Luckily, there are tools to help cataloguers convert non-Roman scripts into their nearest Roman alphabet equivalents, but Early Modern Greek isn’t nearly as simple as the Library of Congress’ Romanization table would have you believe.

When printing with movable type was invented around 1450, early printers consciously imitated the style of manuscripts, including common ligatures and symbols of abbreviation which had been in common use for centuries.


Left: Manuscript Book of Hours (Italy, ca. 1460-1480). Right: Bible (Basel: Johann Amerbach for Anton Koberger, 1498). Both use abbreviations, as in, “orbem terra[rum]” on line 3 on the left and “In principio creavit de[us] celum et terra[m]” on the right.

The earliest Greek typefaces were no exception, and were based largely on the uncial and minuscule hands used in manuscript books.


Between 1490 and 1503, however, the Venetian printer Aldus Manutius (1449-1515) began to design a series of Greek typefaces based on the everyday Greek cursive of the day. 


This page from Aesop’s fables (Basel: Froben, 1524) shows the similarity in appearance between the handwritten annotations and the printed text.

When copying entire books by hand, standardised abbreviations are a valuable time saver, and were used even in formal book hands. In cursive though, the letters are shaped more for speed than elegance, and ligatures and abbreviations abound. Even so, to a contemporary reader, the cursive style would have been more familiar and faster to read than its formal counterparts. Manutius’ Greek books proved such a commercial success that other printers soon began to imitate the new typeface.


Two impressions of the first lines of Homer’s Iliad, the left one printed in 1664 using a variety of ligatures, the right one printed in 1931 using the modern 24-letter alphabet.

By the middle of the 16th century, most symbols of abbreviation gradually fell out of use in Latin and other vernacular printed texts. Not so with Greek; 16th century type designers continued to develop a profusion of new symbols for the most frequent combinations of letters.

In 1541, King Francis I of France commissioned the creation of a new Greek typeface. Designed by Claude Garamond, it became known as Grecs du Roi and remained in use well into the 18th century. Modelled after the handwriting of Angelo Vergecio, the King’s librarian at Fontainbleu, Grecs du Roi retained many of the complex ligatures that had characterised the Aldine Greek type. Robert Estienne, Royal Printer for Greek under King Francis I, recorded that his largest case of Greek type consisted of more than four hundred and thirty different characters, most of them ligatures.

The prospect of deciphering such a staggering array of symbols is enough to cause despair in even the most dedicated cataloguer. Fortunately, there is help in the form of William H. Ingram’s 1966 article, “The Ligatures of Early Printed Greek,” which spells out approximately 400 different ligatures. With Ingram’s list in hand, there’s no excuse for this cataloguer to say “It Greek to me!”

John Dee’s Monas Hieroglyphica (1564)

John Dee (1527-1608) is one amongthe most intriguing figures of the English Renaissance. Born in London to a Welsh family, he would become one of the most learned men of his day. His studies extended to nearly every area of learning, but especially mathematics, astronomy, navigation, alchemy, astrology, and Hermetic philosophy. He worked with Gerardus Mercator, the famous cartographer, and used his mathematical expertise to advise navigators on trade routes to the New World. Some scholars believe that his journeys to the continent to study with prominent mathematicians and scientists actually had a dual purpose, allowing him to operate as a spy for Queen Elizabeth.


Dee’s research often combined mathematics, alchemy, astrology, and Hermetic philosophy. (Monas Hieroglyphica. London, 1564)

In addition to his academic work, Dee had an interest in mechanical automata and created special effects for stage performances which gave rise to the rumour that he was a conjuror of spirits. A devout Christian, he vehemently denied these accusations, although today he is remembered more for his supernatural studies than his scientific ones.

While Dee’s interests were more esoteric than most, the distinction between science and magic was not as clear-cut in the 16th and 17th centuries as it is today. The disciplines of mathematics and numerology, astronomy and astrology, chemistry and alchemy, were closely intertwined. Dee’s preface to the 1570 English translation of Euclid’s Elements of Geometrie claims that the study of “Things Mathematicall,” particularly geometry, can be used to deepen our understanding of both the natural and spiritual world.


Dee’s preface to Euclid’s Elements of Geometrie (London, 1570) states that the study of “Things Mathematicall” leads to a better understanding of “things Intellectual, Spirituall, aeternall, and such as concerne our Blisse everlasting.”

In 1564, while studying at Antwerp, Dee published Monas Hieroglyphica, a series of twenty-four theorems interpreting the Hieroglyphic Monad, a symbol of Dee’s own devising which carried associations with both creation and unity. The glyph first appeared in Dee’s earlier text on astronomy, Propaedeumata Aphoristica (1558), but in the Monas Hieroglyphica it became the central focus of the work. One of his most incomprehensible texts, it draws parallels between and ascribes cabbalistic meaning to the physical properties of certain minerals, their governing planets according to alchemical theories of the day, and the geometry of their alchemical and astrological symbols. The result is a complex web of meaning that is not fully understood even today.


Title page of Monas Hieroglyphica (Antwerp, 1564).

Some believe that the Monas Hieroglyphica was intended as a textbook to accompany lessons delivered orally by Dee but now lost; others believe that it is a hidden treatise on cryptography to be used in espionage. Whatever its original purpose, Dee’s hieroglyph became a cornerstone of hermetic philosophy and a significant influence on the Rosicrucians, a secret society which venerated the images of the rose (symbolising resurrection) and the cross (symbolising redemption). Dee himself is frequently associated with the Rosicrucians, although there is no evidence that he ever belonged to the society, or that it even existed prior to his death in 1608.


Dee’s symbol combines the astrological and alchemical symbols for the moon, sun, four elements, and Aries or fire.

Dee was a rescuer and collector of books, gradually amassing one of the largest private libraries of 16th century England. After the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII, Dee lamented the loss of monastic libraries as centers of learning and advocated for the recovery and preservation of manuscripts and printed books that had been dispersed. The largest surviving portion of Dee’s library can be found at the Royal College of Physicians in London, where it is currently on exhibition until 29 July. In addition to the 1564 Monas Hieroglyphica, Cardiff University owns a copy of Thomas Aquinas’ Summa contra gentiles (London, 1570) from Dee’s own library and bearing his signature. Other works in Cardiff University’s collection with contributions by Dee include 17th century editions of Euclid’s Elements of Geometrie and Robert Recorde’s The Ground of Arts (a treatise on arithmetic).


John Dee’s signature on the title page of Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Contra Ge[n]tiles… (London, 1570)

Edward Thomas’ In Pursuit of Spring: the lost photographs

The story started here: while undertaking the cataloguing of the Edward Thomas archive – the slow and careful process of examining, describing and categorising one man’s belongings – I came across a small, slightly battered envelope marked ’53 prints, Edward Thomas’.envelope

The photos were of locations Thomas had visited over 100 years ago, taken during a cycle ride from London to Somerset, via the cathedral towns of Winchester, Salisbury and Wells over Easter weekend, 1913. The journey was to provide inspiration for his prose work, In Pursuit of Spring – a celebration of nature, Spring and the English landscape in the months prior to the devastation of the First World War.

It is not yet spring. Spring is being dreamed and the dream is more wonderful and more blessed than ever was spring. What the hour of waking will bring forth is not known, catch at the dreams as they hover.

Mapped: locations photographed along the route

Mapped: locations photographed along the route

Landscape photographer Rob Hudson visited Special Collections and Archives this time last year, with a general interest in finding out more about the contents of Edward Thomas archive. I showed him notebooks, poems drafts, and letters from the poet, which are the usual objects of interest, and as an afterthought, considering his interest in photography, brought out the little packet of photos. Some had locations pencilled on the reverse, and as we peered and puzzled over the names, I could tell Rob had been struck by inspiration. He placed an order for the photos to be digitised, and produced this fantastic blog post. The post was shared widely across his network on Twitter, and the photos were introduced to the world.

Turner's Tower, Hemington, Radstock, Avon.

Turner’s Tower, Hemington, Radstock, Avon.

Later that year, Little Toller, described by The Independent as ‘a small but discerning press’, were trying to make a decision. Edward Thomas’ centenary was approaching: should they publish The Icknield Way or In Pursuit of Spring? Stumbling across Rob’s blog post while researching online, an idea grew. What if In Pursuit of Spring could be reprinted, fully illustrated with the snapshots which had inspired its author? Images of a lost, almost car-less England, full of empty roads and paths, speaking of travel, motion and hope.

Castle Street, Bridgwater

Castle Street, Bridgwater

Following discussions with the Edward Thomas Estate, permission was granted to publish the photos in print for the first time, in a brand new edition of the work. Little Toller’s handsome edition of In Pursuit of Spring went on sale on 3 March, Edward Thomas’ birthday, and sold out in just four weeks. Another print run has just taken place, and it is just as well, given that the work has caught the attention of the national media. The Guardian has run an excellent feature which compares the historic images with photos taken in the same locations in the modern day – readers can use the blue sliders on each image to compare then and now.

In Pursuit of Spring was to be one of Thomas’ last prose works. He is now better remembered for his poetry, such as In Memoriam, written only two years later, at yet another Easter, in 1915:

The flowers left thick at nightfall in the wood
This Eastertide call into mind the men,
Now far from home, who, with their sweethearts, should
Have gathered them and will do never again.

In his post, Rob Hudson writes:

That is the final connection with Easter for this story; the Easter 1913 when he set out, in pursuit of Spring; the Easter Monday 1915 of In Memoriam; and Easter Monday 1917, at Arras where he died. Easter, of course, is when we traditionally celebrate the Resurrection, and it is perhaps fitting that Edward Thomas’ words and now his photographs outlive him.

Special Collections and Archives would like to thank Rob Hudson and Little Toller for their role in enabling these images, and Thomas’ work, to reach and be enjoyed by a new generation of readers.

Exhibition: Illustrating Shakespeare

Guest-curated by final year PhD student Michael John Goodman, Illustrating Shakespeare focuses on the visual representation of six of Shakespeare’s most engaging heroes and villains. Read more about the background to the exhibition, and Michael’s wider research on Shakespeare illustration, in our interview. The exhibition will be on display in Special Collections and Archives until 6 May 2016.

Richard III

Richard the Duke of Gloucester: hunchbacked, ‘deformed, unfinished,’ beguiles and appals the audience with his desire to ‘prove a villain’. One of the most psychologically complex characters to be realised on the stage, Richard is a performer, an actor, confiding in the audience his darkest intentions: manipulating them into sympathising with him, as he manipulates the characters on the stage into carrying out his instructions, including murder.

The illustrations presented here of Richard range from the familiar depiction of him as hunchbacked King (the Dalziel frontispiece, illustrated by John Gilbert), an attempt at historical accuracy (the aquatint portrait) through to three images that illustrate events taken from Richard’s nightmare before the Battle of Bosworth’s field. In one powerful depiction, a terrified Richard is confronted by the Ghost of Lady Anne. By way of contrast, the illustration of Richard by Johann Joseph Zoffany, whilst technically more accomplished, loses much of the visceral horror that is apparent in the image with Lady Anne: Richard here is securely lying in bed and this is very clearly a dream, with the threat of physical or psychological violence neutered.

The final image of this sequence is taken from the famous Hogarth painting, which sees Richard awakening from the nightmare, holding his hand aloft as if to defend himself from the viewer/audience who he has worked so hard to charm for the duration of the play. But, like the ghosts, the audience has begun to turn on him. Zoffany presents Richard in the last moments upon the battlefield before he is slain, crying, notoriously, ‘A horse! A horse! My Kingdom for a horse!’

Richard Knight 1

Frontispiece, Richard III. Engraved by the Dalziel Brothers after John Gilbert.

Richard III. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: histories, vol. IV, pt. 2. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, frontispiece.

Richard Knight 2

Aquatint portrait of Richard III. Artist unknown.

Richard III. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: histories, vol. IV, pt. 2. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 238.

Richard III’s nightmare. Artist unknown.

Ghost of Lady Anne: Richard, thy wife, that wretched Anne thy wife,
That never slept a quiet hour with thee,
Now fills thy sleep with perturbations
To-morrow in the battle think on me,
And fall thy edgeless sword: despair, and die!

Richard III. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: histories, vol. IV, pt. 2. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 251.

Richard Knight 4

‘Garrick in the character of Richard III’. Engraved by E. J. Portbury, after William Hogarth.

Richard III. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: histories, vol. IV, pt. 2. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 309.

Richard Dowden 1

‘König Richard III ~ King Richard III’. Engraved by Johann Tobias Bauer after August Friedrich Pecht.

Richard III. In Edward Dowden, Shakespeare scenes and characters: a series of illustrations. London: Macmillan and Co., 1876, facing p. 49.

Richard Knight 5

‘Garrick as Richard the Third’. Engraved by Henry Edward Dawe after Johann Joseph Zoffany.

King Richard: I think, there be six Richmonds in the field;
Five have I slain today, instead of him: —
A Horse! a horse! my Kingdom for a horse!

Richard III. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: histories, vol. IV, pt. 2. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 311

Lady Macbeth

Here, we can examine variations on the same scene presented by different artists. The images of Lady Macbeth by John Gilbert, George Henry Harlowe and Alfred Edward Chalon are all taken from the first time Lady Macbeth appears on stage in Act I Scene V, after she has read Macbeth’s letter that informs her of the witches’ prophecy that Macbeth will become King. In all three images she is presented as being rather masculine, a direct visual correspondence to her line ‘Come, you spirits / That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here’. In the image by Harlowe, of the actress Sarah Siddons playing the role, the pattern on her dress even looks like a sword. This is Lady Macbeth as a warrior.

The final two images are taken from Act V Scene I or, as it has become popularly know: the sleepwalking scene. Consumed by guilt, a somnambulant Lady Macbeth confesses to the crimes she has committed throughout the play and attempts to wash the imaginary blood from her hands: ‘Here’s the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, oh, oh!’ Harlowe’s image, here, contrasts remarkably with his first. Lady Macbeth is no longer warrior-like, she is dressed in white and is greatly reduced in stature, looking vulnerable and, even, holy. It is the last we shall see of Lady Macbeth in the play, she will die off-stage by ‘self and violent hands’. Or, rather, suicide.

Lady Gilbert 1

Lady Macbeth holding Macbeth’s letter. Engraved by the Brothers Dalziel after John Gilbert.

Lady Macbeth: Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be
What thou art promis’d: — yet do I fear thy nature;
It is too full of the milk of human kindness

Macbeth. In Howard Staunton (ed.), Works of Shakespeare, vol. 3. London: George Routledge & Sons, 1866, p. 478.

‘Mrs. Siddons in the character of Lady Macbeth, Act I, Scene V’. Engraved by Charles Rolls after George Henry Harlowe (1830)

Macbeth. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: tragedies, vol. VI, pt. 1. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. viii.

Lady Macbeth in Act 1, Scene 5. Engraved by Henry Cook after Alfred Edward Chalon.

Macbeth. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: tragedies, vol. VI, pt. 1. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 26.

Lady Knight 3

‘Mrs. Siddons’ [as Lady Macbeth]. Engraved by Robert Cooper after George Henry Harlowe (1822).

Macbeth. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: tragedies, vol. VI, pt. 1. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 52.

‘Lady Macbeth, walking in her sleep’ [Act 5, Scene 1]. Engraved by Charles Taylor after Robert Smirke.

Lady Macbeth:  Out! Damned spot; out, I say!

Macbeth. Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: tragedies, vol. VI, pt. 1. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 52.


Sir John Falstaff is one of Shakespeare’s most popular and enduring comic characters. Described by Samuel Taylor Coleridge as a man of ‘complete moral depravity,’ but also possessing a ‘first-rate wit’ and ‘talent’, Falstaff appears in both parts of Henry IV and also, in what could be described as the Renaissance Stage equivalent of a sitcom spinoff, The Merry Wives of Windsor, where Falstaff decides to woo two married women in a fool-hardy attempt to make money.

It is the two parts of Henry IV and the powerful narrative arc that Falstaff participates in with the future King Henry V, Prince Hal, that mark Falstaff out as a character who possesses a depth more associated with Shakespeare’s tragic heroes rather than his other comic characters. When Hal succeeds to the throne at the end of Henry IV Part II, he rejects his old friend Falstaff, telling him in an electrifying piece of theatre that, ‘I know thee not old man: fall to thy prayers’.

Falstaff is not just a simple comic foil, then, and in his ‘What is honour?’ speech that he delivers at the end of Henry V Part I, he poses a question that in the context of the History Plays is analogous to Hamlet’s ‘To be or not to be?’ In the epilogue of Henry IV Part II, Shakespeare reassures us that he will ‘continue the story, with Sir John in it’. But it was not to be. For whatever reason, Sir John did not appear in Henry V:  his death occurs off-stage and is only reported to us by Mistress Quickly. Had Shakespeare killed off his fat Knight because his popular comic character was becoming bigger than the story he was trying to tell?

Falstaff Irving 1

‘Falstaff and his friends’. Painted by Charles Leslie.

Merry wives of Windsor. In Henry Irving and Frank A. Marshall (eds.), Works of William Shakespeare, vol. VI. London: Gresham Publishing Company, 1888, frontispiece.

Falstaff. Engraved by George Noble after Robert Smirke.

King Henry IV, Part 1. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: histories, vol. III, pt. 2. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 188.

Falstaff in Act 2 Scene 4. Engraved by Charles Heath after Robert Smirke (1825).

King Henry IV, Part 1. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: histories, vol. III, pt. 2. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 190.

Portrait of Falstaff. Artist and engraver unknown.

King Henry IV, Part 1. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: histories, vol. III, pt. 2. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 206.

Falstaff in Act 4, Scene 2. Engraved by Richard Rhodes after John Thurston (1813).

Falstaff: No eye hath seen such scarecrows. I’ll not march through Coventry with them, that’s flat.

King Henry IV, Part 1. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: histories, vol. III, pt. 2. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 214.

Falstaff. Illustrated by Kenny Meadows.

Falstaff: Methinks you prescribe to yourself very preposterously.

Merry wives of Windsor. In Barry Cornwall (ed.), Complete works of Shakespeare, vol. I. London: London Printing and Publishing Company Limited, c. 1858, p. 89.


‘From the east to western Inde, / No jewel is like Rosalind’. Whilst Orlando’s verse praising his love is comically turgid, it is, nevertheless a neat summation of Rosalind’s position in English Literature. There is, simply, no other character like her. Or him. For Rosalind spends most of the play dressed as a shepherd named Ganymede, and has consequently given gender theorists much material to work with.

Why, for example, when Rosalind safely escapes her uncle’s court for the Forest of Arden, does she remain as Ganymede? And what about the problem of the epilogue? Is the actor playing Rosalind meant to remain ‘in character’ or is that mask meant to drop? Confusing matters even further is when we remember that only boys and men were allowed to perform on the Elizabethan stage. In this context, then, the boy actor playing Rosalind is effectively a boy acting as a girl who is acting as a boy in order to make a young man fall in love with her (or him)?

The fluidity of gender is one of the major characteristics of Shakespeare’s comedy and it reaches its most satisfying realisation in As You Like It through the character of Rosalind, whom Harold Bloom has described as being the first modern lover.

Rosalind Dowden 1

‘Wie es euch gefällt ~ As you like it’. Engraved by Johann Bankel after Friedrich Schwoerer.

As you like it. In Edward Dowden, Shakespeare scenes and characters: a series of illustrations. London: Macmillan and Co., 1876, facing p. 138.

Rosalind Knight 1

Frontispiece, As you like it. Engraved by the Dalziel Brothers after John Gilbert.

As you like it. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: comedies, vol. II, pt. 1. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 192.

Rosalind Knight 2

Rosalind gives Orlando her necklace, Act 1 Scene 2. Engraved by William Leney after John Downman.

As you like it. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: comedies, vol. II, pt. 1. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 216.

Rosalind Meadows 1

Rosalind in Act 4, Scene 3. Illustrated by Kenny Meadows.

Celia: Why, how now, Ganymede! Sweet Ganymede! [Rosalind faints.
Oliver: Many will swoon when they do look on blood.
Celia: There is more in it. — Cousin! Ganymede!

As you like it. In Barry Cornwall (ed.), Complete works of Shakespeare, vol. II. London: London Printing and Publishing Company Limited, c. 1858, p. 469.

Rosalind Knight 3

‘The bloody napkin shewn to Rosalind’ [Act 4, Scene 3]. Engraved by Charles Taylor after Thomas Stothard.

As you like it. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: comedies, vol. II, pt. 1. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 249.



The scene by Kenny Meadows demonstrates traditional, wood engraved illustration. The technique allowed both word and image to be printed on a single page easily and relatively cheaply. It revolutionised printing in the Victorian period and turned illustrated media into a mass commercialised medium. The Dalziel Brothers, engravers of the Hamlet frontispiece, were one of the largest and most successful firms of Victorian engravers.

Moving on from the Victorian period, we have two compelling images taken from the early part of the twentieth-century. The first two of these are from a wonderful edition, illustrated, or, rather, ‘decorated’ (as the frontispiece says) by John Austen from 1922. The images are fascinating in their own right as visual interpretations of the play, but they also show how the art of Shakespeare illustration was influenced by technology. New photomechanical means of reproduction led to the obsolescence of manual wood engraving, and  aided the smooth, curvilinear designs of art nouveau.

Hamlet in Act 1, Scene 4. Illustrated by Kenny Meadows.

Enter Ghost.
Horatio: Look, my lord, it comes!
Hamlet: Angels and ministers of grace defend us

Hamlet. In Barry Cornwall (ed.), Complete works of Shakespeare, vol. III. London: London Printing and Publishing Company Limited, c. 1858, p. 149.

Hamlet Knight 1

Frontispiece, Hamlet. Engraved by the Dalziel Brothers, after John Gilbert.

Hamlet. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: tragedies, vol. V, pt. 1. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 84.

Hamlet Knight 2

‘Hamlet apostrophising the skull’ [Act 5, Scene 1]. Engraved by John Rogers after Sir Thomas Lawrence.

Hamlet. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: tragedies, vol. V, pt. 1. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 157.



Frontispiece, Hamlet. Illustrated by John Austen.

William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. London: Selwyn & Blount, 1922, facing p. 9

Hamlet in Act 1, Scene 5. Illustrated by John Austen.

Hamlet: […] Let us go in together;
And still your fingers on your lips, I pray.
The time is out of joint: O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!

William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. London: Selwyn & Blount, 1922, facing p. 42


Like Benedick, during the course of the Much Ado About Nothing, we also fall in love with Beatrice. She is the most witty and vivacious of all of Shakespeare’s heroines, telling Benedick that ‘I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me.’  It is this repartee that she has with Benedick that led the critic Marjorie Garber to describe the play as a forerunner to the screwball Hollywood comedies of the 1930s and 1940s such as The Philadelphia Story and His Girl Friday. Beatrice and Benedick are, in many ways, the Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant of the 1590s.

Beatrice Dowden

‘Viel lärmen un nichts ~ Much ado about nothing’. Engraved by Johann Tobias Bauer after M. Adamo.

Much ado about nothing. In Edward Dowden, Shakespeare scenes and characters: a series of illustrations. London: Macmillan and Co., 1876, facing p. 131.

Beatrice Knight 1

Beatrice eavesdropping on Hero and Ursula. Engraved by John Rogers after Rev. Matthew William Peters.

Much ado about nothing. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: comedies, vol. II, pt. 1. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 94.

Beatrice in Act 5, Scene 4. Illustrated by Kenny Meadows.

Benedick: Soft and fair, friar. — Which is Beatrice?
Beatrice: I answer to that name [Unmasking.
What is your will?

Much ado about nothing. In Barry Cornwall (ed.) Complete works of Shakespeare, vol. I. London: London Printing and Publishing Company Limited, c. 1858, p. 239.

Beatrice Knight 2

Beatrice in Act 3, Scene 1, engraved by Charles Taylor after Robert Smirke.

Beatrice: What fire is in mine ears? Can this be true?
Stand I condemn’d for pride and scorn so much?
Contempt, farewell! And maiden pride, adieu!
No glory lives behind the back of such.
And, Benedick, love on, I will requite thee;
Taming my wild heart to thy loving hand.

Much ado about nothing. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: comedies, vol. II, pt. 1. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 96.


Illustrating Shakespeare: Interview with the curator

posterOur latest exhibition, Illustrating Shakespeare, has been guest-curated by final year PhD student Michael John Goodman. The exhibition focuses on the visual representation of six of Shakespeare’s most engaging heroes and villains. Our archivist Alison Harvey interviewed Michael to find out more about the exhibition, and his wider research on illustrated Shakespeare.

A: So what was the thinking behind the exhibition?

M: Well, my PhD research is focused on Victorian Shakespeare illustration and it just seemed like the right time to do the exhibition. I’m coming to the end of my doctoral work now and this year is also the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death so I’m delighted that we can mark the anniversary in this way.

A: Ok, let’s take a step back, then. Why did you want to look at Shakespeare illustration for your PhD?

M: Shakespeare illustration is, basically, an untapped resource of vast research potential. It’s a treasure trove. When I was exploring my potential PhD ideas I couldn’t believe that hardly any work had been done in this field at all. This is amazing for two reasons: the first being that almost everything to do with Shakespeare has been covered many many times previously and, secondly, because the illustrations are hugely important culturally.

A: Why is that, do you think?

M: The images are important culturally, certainly by the time we get to the Victorian period, because these illustrated editions would have been the first encounter with Shakespeare that many readers would have had. They were sold relatively cheaply and were affordable to members of the working classes – a group of people who may not have been able to experience Shakespeare in the London theatre. Their experience of Shakespeare was based on these illustrated pages as opposed to the stage. As such these editions are significant as they played a very significant part in how the Victorians, for example, thought about and constructed Shakespeare.

A: If they are so important, then what can account for the lack of scholarly research in this area?

M: In academia there is a real fear of images. People don’t know how to read them, let alone what to do with them. So when you get a form like illustration that combines both word and image in often highly complex ways, it is easier just not to bother trying to analyse it or think about it. Historically, illustration has been considered as mere decoration, subservient to the words that it is simply embellishing. Illustration does not have the capacity to create meaning in and of itself, we seem to be told through the brevity of work that has been done. Obviously, I am coming at this from an English Literature perspective, but even in disciplines like Art History, the focus is on painting and ‘high art’; illustration isn’t considered ‘serious’ enough. These problems are magnified further when we start working with Shakespeare, because for many people, Shakespeare’s words are considered almost sacred. So we have two situations combining to create a situation where these illustrations have been ignored: the academy’s fetishisation of the word as the sole source of knowledge, and the Shakespeare scholar’s obsession with the written word itself.

A: But surely without the written word, there would be no Shakespeare to study?

M: That’s not quite what I’m saying. What I mean is that Shakespeare’s plays create meanings that aren’t confined to verbal discourse alone. They are plays: by their nature, they rely on an interplay between visual and verbal modes of communication. A vast industry has grown up around Shakespeare scholarship that looks at the most tiniest details of the text to explain what Shakespeare meant. As if having textual validation about Shakespeare’s intentions is a desirable thing to have. It is not. I really do not care what Shakespeare meant, but what I do care about is how, to quote the late Terence Hawkes, we mean by Shakespeare. In short, if a comma in a speech creates meaning, and is worth so much time agonising over, then surely so does placing an illustration next to that speech? And if that is indeed the case (as I suggest it is) then we need to begin to rethink how we consider the Victorians’ relationship with Shakespeare.

A: This would be a good time, then, to talk about your big project that you have coming out in the next few months, the Victorian Illustrated Shakespeare Archive?

M: The Victorian Illustrated Shakespeare Archive is an open access database that contains over 3,000 Victorian illustrations of Shakespeare’s plays. As it has a Creative Commons license by attribution, any user will be able to take any of the images and do whatever they like with them. The archive is the practical part of my PhD. The other part is the more traditional thesis aspect that explores how I have gone about setting up this resource in the first place. The archive came about when I was discussing this work with my supervisor, Professor Julia Thomas, and, as I have said, because the illustrations that I found were so rich, compelling and interesting, we decided I should build an archive and share them with the world!

A: And when will you be launching?

image1M: Early summer. Stay tuned.

Michael John Goodman is in his final year of his PhD at Cardiff University’s School of English, Communication and Philosophy. His research focuses on Victorian illustrated editions of Shakespeare and how digital technology is changing our relationship to research and Shakespeare himself. He is the RA on Cardiff University’s brand new Digital Cultures Network and can be contacted at

Coryats Crudities: 17th century wanderlust


The engraved title page of Coryats Crudities (1611). The word “crudities,” like the French “crudités,” suggests something under-cooked or unrefined.

In May 1608, Thomas Coryat of Odcombe set out from London with little money and only one pair of shoes on a voyage that took him through France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and the Netherlands. Travelling approximately 1,975 miles (3,175 km) alone and unarmed, sometimes walking as far as 36 miles in a single day, he acquired the well-deserved nickname, “the Odcombian Legstretcher.” Returning to England in October, he hung his well-worn shoes in the church at Odcombe (with the rector’s permission) and began compiling his observations into what would become more than 650 pages of descriptive prose, published in 1611 as Coryats Crudities.


“A delineation of the Amphitheater of Verona expressed in that forme wherein it flourished in the tyme of the Roman Monarchie, only the greatest part of the outward wall which inclosed it round about is omitted.”

At a time when travel was dangerous and undertaken primarily for reasons of business, religion, or politics, Coryat’s aim was to encourage persons with sufficient means to enrich their minds through continental travel. In his narrative, he described natural, scientific, and archaeological wonders, food and drink, prices and exchange rates, as well as local customs, some of which he helped popularise in England.


“A true figure of the famous Clock of Strasbourg.”

He described the use of table forks at dinner, which were at that time common in Italy but virtually unknown in England. He subsequently acquired his own fork and frequently imitated the Italian fashion of eating after his return from the continent.

He is credited in the Oxford English Dictionary with the first recorded use of the word “umbrella” in his description of the Italian practice of shading oneself from the sun.

While in Switzerland he heard and recorded the story of William Tell; his account is believed to be the first time the tale was recorded in English.

In addition to documenting these novelties, Coryats Crudities contributed to the popularity of the Grand Tour, a custom which would become an educational rite of passage from the 1660s until the 1840s.


John Donne, Ben Jonson, and Inigo Jones are among those who contributed commendatory verses.

At the time of the book’s publication, it was customary to solicit commendatory verses in praise of the author. To that end, Coryat circulated copies of the title page, illustrated with a portrait of himself and depictions of his many adventures. Although he kept company with the likes of Ben Jonson, John Donne, and Inigo Jones, Coryat was viewed at court as something of a self-important buffoon who was perhaps a little too fond of the sound of his own voice. He soon found himself the subject of dozens of verses, many of which mocked his high opinion of himself and his florid, euphuistic prose.


The so-called panegyrics published with Coryats Crudities included these four lines in Welsh, which call Tom Coryat a goose (gwydh), meaning a stupid or foolish person, in contrast to another world traveller, Sir Francis Drake, punningly called the Sea-duck (Hwuad-môr).

Coryat intended to dedicate his volume to King James I’s eldest son, Prince Henry, whose patronage he hoped to secure. The teenage prince accepted the dedication, but insisted that the work be published with 55 of the satirical poems intact. In the first edition, they occupy no less than 64 pages. These verses became so popular in their own own right that they were published separately that same year in a pirated edition entitled, The Odcombian Banquet.

Coryat’s wanderlust continued throughout his life. In 1612 he set out once more, travelling through Constantinople, Israel, Palestine, Mesopotamia, and India, and learning Turkish, Italian, Persian, Arabic, and Hindustani along the way. In 1616 he published Thomas Coriate Traveller for the English Wits, and in 1625, Samuel Purchas published Purchas his Pilgrimes, which incorporated Coryat’s notes from the early part of his Eastern voyage, though in drastically abbreviated form.


Cardiff University’s copy of Coryats Crudities once belonged to Sir Walter Wyndham Burrell, whose crest is stamped on the cover.

Cardiff University holds a copy of the 1611 first edition of Coryats Crudities, bearing the armorial crest of Sir William Burrell. Sir William Burrell served as M.P. for Haslemere in 1768, and again in 1774 after a brief stint as a commissioner of excise. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society and of the Society of Antiquaries, as well as a director of the South Sea Company.

Burrell had a lifelong interest in antiquities and made an intense study of the history of Sussex. He personally visited nearly every parish in the county to inspect and copy its records, tracing family lines and collecting drawings of churches, houses, and sepulchral monuments along the way. His work was never published, but he bequeathed his entire collection of sketches and other documents to the British Museum.