Tag Archives: book history

South, West and Wales AHRC Doctoral Training Partnerships open day

Special Collections and Archives recently attended a recruitment event for students intending to apply for a South, West and Wales AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) studentship. These grants fund PhD theses which are  supervised by two Higher Education institutions within the partnership. This consortium approach allows students to draw on the academic expertise and unique and distinctive research collections of two Universities, widening possibilities for interdisciplinary and inter-institutional collaboration and discovery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAcademics and research support staff from all partner institutions (Aberystwyth, Bath, Bath Spa, Bristol, Cardiff, Exeter, Reading and Southampton) gathered at the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff to meet with prospective students and discuss their requirements.

Our Special Collections and Archives stand was very busy, as applicants sought information on research collections covering a broad range of subjects. We received enquiries on Anglo-Welsh writers; folklore; the history of sport; Jane Austen; Restoration drama, archaeology; literary archives; Indian history; the history of genetics; male witches; interwar women’s history; medical history; Catholicism and martyrdom; philosophy; King Arthur; superstition and the occult; Gothic serialised literature; William Caxton; and 20th century charities.

Best of luck to all applicants – we look forward to working with you!

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Beautiful British Books: a South Wales Decorative and Fine Arts Society study day

Special Collections and Archives recently hosted a study day for the South Wales Decorative and Fine Arts Society, with Master Bookbinder Dominic Riley. It was a rare opportunity to learn about contemporary design bindings with one of the leading practitioners of the craft.

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The day began with Dominic’s talk ‘Design Matters’, in which he showed examples of his unique fine bindings, explaining how each design grew from a response to the text and illustrations of the printed book. After the talk, Dominic gave a demonstration of the rarely shown technique of gold tooling onto leather.

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Finally, the group was give a tour of the library, and had the opportunity to examine a range of examples of fine bindings and Private Press books from the Cardiff Rare Books collection.

 

The Cardiff Rare Books Project: historical highlights and favourite finds

IMG_9828The Cardiff Rare Books Collection, acquired by Cardiff University in 2010, includes 14,000 rare and early printed books and pamphlets dating from the 15th to the 20th century. Before arriving here, the collection had been in storage for decades and had never been comprehensively catalogued. The Esmee Fairbairn Foundation kindly agreed to fund a specialist rare books cataloguer to work on the collection over a three year period and I happily took up the role in June 2011. The Cardiff Rare Books Project began with the aim of cataloguing as much of the collection as possible, uncovering hidden treasures and making them accessible to scholars and the general public alike.

Cardiff’s incunabula (books printed before 1501)

During the course of the project, almost five and a half thousand records have been added to the library catalogue and numerous exciting discoveries have ???????????????????????????????been made. The library’s cataloguing team and I have been able to provide access to one of the finest collections of private press books in the UK, as well as a remarkable collection of annotated Restoration dramas which are already attracting considerable interest from researchers. Our 178 incunabula, some of them printed as early as 1470, have been fully described and accurately recorded for the first time.

With so many wonderful discoveries made during the project (many of which I have been able to blog about here), it is hard to pick favourites but a few very special items do come to mind.

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Pietro Duodo’s copy of “Amadis de Gaula” (1582), bound in the olive-brown leather for literary works

I love the story behind the beautiful Duodo bindings I found very early on in the project. These two little volumes were intended to be part of a gentleman’s travelling library for Pietro Duodo (1554-1611), Venetian ambassador to Paris in the late 16th century. The books were sent to a Parisian bindery to be luxuriously bound in gilt-tooled morocco leather, colour-coded by subject and incorporating Duodo’s arms and motto (“She whom I await with longing will not elude me”), but the ambassador never returned to collect his library; suddenly and unexpectedly recalled to Venice, Duodo was forced to leave his beloved books behind.

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You never know what you might find when you pull a book of the shelf in the rare books stack and on a few occasions I was delighted to discover paintings on the fore-edges of books I retrieved for cataloguing. We are lucky to have two examples of the fore-edge paintings produced by John T. Beer, a successful businessman and  book collector who turned to fore-edge painting after his retirement. Beer selected books from his own collection to be decorated and, as with our examples, he often took inspiration from texts themselves.

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Our “Newton book” certainly deserves its place on any list of favourite finds. On opening a copy of John Browne’s Myographia Nova (1698) I discovered two unidentified bookplates together with other evidence of former owners. With a little detective work, I was able to trace all the previous owners and follow the book back into the library of the renowned scientist, Sir Isaac Newton, whose books were dispersed and lost after his death. The discovery of this volume led to an unprecedented level of media interest for Cardiff Special Collections and our rare books. Articles and photographs appeared in national newspapers and I was rushed off to be interviewed live on BBC Radio Wales, an unusual experience indeed for a rare books cataloguer!

A woodcut of me, hard at work on the collection – a cataloguer’s work is never done!

IMG_9467Last but not least, I have had enormous fun rummaging through the collection trying to track down as many manicules as humanly possible. I find these little pointing fingers, created by or for readers to mark noteworthy passages, endlessly fascinating and I have always been delighted to discover new and surprising variations in our early books. I am sure there are many, many more out there.

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I will shortly be moving on to work with an even larger and hopefully equally Smileyinteresting collection at Lambeth Palace Library, as the new cataloguer of the Sion College Collection. The SCOLAR blog will keep going strong as library staff continue to work with the Cardiff Rare Books Collection and share their exciting discoveries. We can be certain there is much more to be revealed about these fascinating books.

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A well-travelled travel book: tracing former owners of a copy of Sandys’ Travels (1658)

???????????????????????????????George Sandys’ Relation of a journey begun an. Dom. 1610, more commonly known as Sandys’ Travels, relates the author’s wanderings through Europe and the Middle East. Setting off in May 1610, Sandys spent several years touring extensively through France, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Cyprus and Palestine. His narrative of the journey was published in 1615 and was an influential work on geography and ethnology. Sandys was eventually appointed colonial treasurer of the Virginia Company and sailed for the New World in April 1621.

Like Sandys himself, our copy of the 1658 edition of his book has travelled far in its lifetime with several of the book’s previous owners leaving their mark in some way. An inscription on the front free endpaper reads, “Tho Sergeant. 1708. The gift of Joseph Moyle Esqr.” Some research revealed that Joseph Moyle was brother to the English politician, Walter Moyle, who was born in Cornwall in 1672, studied at Oxford and was admitted to Middle Temple in 1691. While a Member of Parliament for Saltash in Cornwall, he also wrote several essays on the forms and laws of government. After Walter’s death in 1721, his brother Joseph arranged for his works to be published and he selected Thomas Sergeant to be the editor. As our copy of the Travels was a gift from Joseph Moyle to Sergeant in 1708, they had apparently known each other for a long time.

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Further evidence of previous ownership can be found pasted onto the rear of the title page: an engraved bookplate of an unusual coat of arms with the caption, “Mr. Smart Lethieullier of Alldersbrook in Com Essex”. Smart Lethieullier (1701-1760) was the son of Sir John Lethieullier, Sheriff of London, and himself rose to the office of High Sheriff of Essex from 1758. He was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Oxford, and developed a lifelong passion for antiquities and fossils. Lethieullier wrote numerous papers on antiquarian topics, including the first English account of the Bayeux Tapestry, and, like Sandys, travelled widely throughout Europe.

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Yet another interesting inscription can be found on the book’s front pastedown which reads, “C. E. Norton. Bought at auction for my father, perhaps in 1847-8”. Some research of the web led me very quickly to an identical autograph of one Charles Eliot Norton (1827-1908), professor of the history of art at Harvard University and a leading American writer and social reformer. So our book, like its author, had also found its way to the New World. Between 1864 and 1868 Norton was editor of the first literary magazine in the United States, the North American Review, alongside his friend, the Romantic poet James Russell Lowell. In 1861 Norton and Lowell had assisted Henry Wadsworth Longfellow with his translation of Dante and together they had founded the Dante Club.

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Norton’s father, Andrews Norton (1786-1853), was professor of sacred literature at Harvard. A renowned preacher and theologian, he was instrumental in bringing liberal Unitarianism to New England. In addition to his duties as a lecturer, Andrews Norton also acted as librarian of Harvard College from 1813-1821.

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There is no evidence in the book to reveal how it made its way back across the Atlantic from the United States to Wales. Cardiff Public Libraries were certainly purchasing many books at auction in the early 1900s in the hope of becoming the Welsh national library, and it is possible that the book was bought at a sale after C. E. Norton’s death in 1908. However it returned to these shores, our copy of the Travels clearly lives up to its name.

 

More manicule mania!

IMG_9467As cataloguing of our early printed books continues, I have been discovering more and more manicules in the margins. These wonderful little pointy hands, so useful for early readers to draw attention to important text, have been turning up in books from the 1470s right up to the 1700s, in ever-more varied forms.

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IMG_9443Our copy of Gilbert Burnet’s An exposition of the Thirty-nine articles of the Church of England, published in 1700, possibly holds the record for the most manicules added to a single book, with hundreds of pointy fingers dotted around the margins by an eager reader!

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Hopefully there are many more manicules still waiting to be discovered in the rest of the Cardiff Rare Books Collection. I will be keeping my (pointy) fingers crossed!

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Cardiff incunabula cataloguing update

???????????????????????????????I am pleased to report that the first 100 incunabula (books printed before 1501) from the Cardiff Rare Books Collection have now been now been added to Cardiff University’s online library catalogue as part of the ongoing rare books project. We are lucky to hold nearly 200 of these books dating from the first 50 years of printing and each one is being fully catalogued, recording all the copy-specific details which turn each of these earliest books into a unique historical artefact.

Detail from our copy of “Facsiculus temporum” by Werner Rolevinck (1474), with hand-colouring and illuminated initials

Cataloguing the incunabula is a long and meticulous task, but one which is already revealing new information about these fascinating items. Out of the books catalogued so far, we have found that eight are the only recorded copies in the UK and another 30 are only held by one or two more libraries. Through studying the bookplates, stamps and inscriptions, we are also able to uncover who donated the books to the library and occasionally even identify the original owner.

Ars moriendi (1478), with an ornamental border of acorns and leaves by Erhard Ratdolt

Ars moriendi (1478), with an ornamental border of acorns and leaves by Erhard Ratdolt

Unusually for books as old as these, many of the incunabula in the Cardiff collection are still in their contemporary vellum, calf or pigskin bindings and, even in poor condition, the structure and style of these bindings can tell us much about the early history of each book.

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The missing spine on this 1475 edition of Albertus Magnus provides a rare view of the intricate sewing structure holding the book together

Highlights recently added to the library catalogue include:

  • Boccaccio, Giovanni. Filocolo [Venice: Philipo di Petri, 1481].
  • Macer, Floridus. De viribus herbarum [Geneva: Jean Belot, between 1495-1500]. (A rare herbal with hand-coloured woodcuts)
  • Petrarca, Francesco. Trionfi [Venice: Peregrinus de Pasqualibus Bononiensis, 1486].
  • Rolevinck, Werner. Fasciculus temporum [Cologne: Arnold ter Hoernen, 1474] (A beautifully coloured and annotated copy of this famous history of the world)
  • Watton, Johannes. Speculum christianorum [Paris: Pierre Le Dru and Etienne Jehannot, 1495]

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Rare Book School at the University of Virginia

This summer I had the exciting opportunity to study at the prestigious Rare Book School (RBS) at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Each year RBSRBS runs a wide range of courses on antiquarian books, manuscripts and special collections, offering  librarians, rare book dealers and conservators the chance to be taught by some of the world’s leading experts in the history of the book. Courses are intensive and last for five days with students attending from 8:30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. Library tours, bookstore visits, evening lectures and other bookish events also take place throughout the week.

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The University of Virginia’s Special Collections Library

Founded at Columbia University in 1983, Rare Book School is now based in the University of Virginia’s Alderman Library. RBS classes are kept small, usually just 10-12 students, to ensure that everyone can get their hands on the books, and entry to courses is highly competitive. This year there were more than 700 applications for around 380 places, so I was very pleased to receive my acceptance letter to the course, Provenance: Tracing Owners and Collections, to be taught by David Pearson, Director of Culture, Heritage and Libraries at the City of London Corporation, and an expert on provenance in historic collections.

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Capitol Building, Washington DC

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Hello Mr President!

I arrived in Washington DC on Friday afternoon, just in time to enjoy a Nationals baseball game and get a welcome from President Obama, then set off for Charlottesville on Saturday morning with a 3 hour bus journey that took us through the lush Virginia countryside and some well-preserved Civil War battlefields. After finally arriving in C’Ville, as it is known to locals, I made my way up to the 1003918_10151816334500590_542352754_nUniversity and excitedly checked into my room before heading out to explore the campus. Rare Book School offers students a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stay in a room on the famous Lawn, designed by the University of Virginia’s founder, Thomas Jefferson . The Lawn forms the centre of Jefferson’s “Academical Village”, a large grassy court around which the original university buildings stand. Facing the Lawn in rows of colonnades are 54 student rooms and ten Pavilions, which provide both classrooms and housing for faculty members.

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The Rotunda at the heart of Thomas Jefferson’s “Academical Village”

Being chosen to live in a room on the Lawn is one of the University’s highest honours. Final-year students submit an application and personal statement to be 20130801_234157reviewed by the residency committee and the award of a Lawn room is considered very prestigious, despite the absence of air conditioning and en-suite facilities! Stories abound of “Lawnies” in fluffy dressing gowns and snow boots braving the elements to reach the bathrooms. Each Lawn room comes complete with a rocking chair and it is a tradition for residents to pull their chairs out to the porch on warm evenings and watch the world go by.

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Rocking chairs on East Lawn

At the head of the Lawn sits the magnificent Rotunda, a half-scale replica of the Pantheon in Rome and the original home of the University’s library; the collections have now moved to the impressive Alderman Library, where Rare Book School is based.

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Alderman Library

The RBS week began on the Sunday evening with a wine reception for all the students and staff, and a warm welcome from the School’s director, Michael Suarez. I introduced myself to some fellow provenance students and we went out Cornerfor dinner on The Corner, a popular area near the University crowded with restaurants and bars. The social aspect of RBS was great fun, providing lots of opportunities for networking and getting to know other students between classes, over lunch or at evening events. Charlottesville is famed for its abundance of antiquarian and second-hand bookshops and on Booksellers’ Night many of them stayed open late, offering wine, cheese and other nibbles to visitors from Rare Book School. Evening lectures are also a big part of the Rare Book School experience and we had the chance to attend a fascinating talk about the 15th century printer, Aldus Manutius, and his influence on the history of the book.

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Pavilion X on East Lawn, home to a member of the UVA faculty

In my provenance class were students from California, Boston, Philadelphia, Maine, Texas and London, including rare book dealers, postgraduate students, special collections librarians, curators and cataloguers. Each day, our excellent tutor, David 20130731_165922Pearson, guided us through a different aspect of provenance in historic collections and we looked at examples from the Rare Book School collections. We studied palaeography, working hard to decode 16th and 17th century handwriting. We discovered the fascinating history of bookplates and how to date them from the design of the plate. We had a wonderful day learning all about heraldry and how to “blazon” (describe) coats of arms in the arcane language of medieval heraldic terms. Our final day was spent in the University’s Special Collections Library, putting our new skills into practice to decipher and record signs of provenance in a selection of rare books drawn from the library’s extensive collections.

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Old Cabell Hall at the foot of the Lawn

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A well-deserved night out in C’Ville for the provenance class of 2013

Many thanks are due to CILIP Cymru’s Kathleen Cooks Fund, the Cardiff University Staff Development Fund and the Sir Herbert Duthie Prize for Staff Development for making it possible for me to attend Rare Book School. I had a wonderful week in Virginia and made some great new friends on my course. The skills I have gained are already being put into practice in my work with the Cardiff Rare Books Collection, and I would thoroughly recommend a course at RBS to anyone who works with or has an interest in rare books and manuscripts. The Rare Book School experience is unparalleled as a professional development opportunity, and it is also a lot of fun!

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A view of the Rotunda; the statue of Jefferson stands on a replica of the Liberty Bell and the symbol below is the sign of the Seven Society, a philanthropic group and one of three ‘secret’ societies at UVA.

Pointing the finger, or, A handy guide to manicules

IMG_0789A manicule, from the Latin maniculum or ‘little hand’, is a punctuation mark created by or for readers to assist in marking noteworthy passages or finding a section of text. Medieval and Renaissance scholars commonly used the symbol, consisting of a hand with an extended index finger, to direct attention to important text alongside other punctuation marks such as the trefoil (a three-leaved plant) and the asterisk.

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IMG_0806The manicule, also known by numerous other names such as pointing hand, index and bishop’s fist, was in common usage between the 12th and 18th centuries, until its complex design appears to have made it too slow for handwriting and readers stopped taking the time to draw their little pointing hands.

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Many of the earliest books in the Cardiff Rare Books Collection, including the incunabula currently being catalogued, have margins full of wonderful examples 20130515_140743of hand-drawn and printed manicules which vary widely in size, shape and quality, ranging from a simple sketched outline to a detailed pointing hand complete with ornate sleeve and ruffled cuffs. William Sherman, who has traced the history of the manicule all the way back to Spanish medieval manuscripts, describes the hands used in fourteenth- and fifteen-century Italy, for example, as “shockingly fanciful and delightfully stylized”. Early printers, concerned with replicating the medieval traditions and aesthetics of book production as closely as possible, were careful to incorporate the pointing hand into their new typefaces.

???????????????????????????????Although now rarely used by readers, the manicule survives as a visual symbol in signage and printed advertisements and has made it into the digital world as a cursor on your computer screen. Even in this new digital environment, the little pointing hand is still performing the original purpose of the manicule, acting as an interface between the reader and the text.

A large engraved woodblock manicule for printing signage and posters

IMG_0802For more about the manicule, see: Sherman, William H. “Toward a History of the Manicule,” Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania University Press, 2008)

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Incunabula: cataloguing the earliest printed texts in the Cardiff Rare Books Collection

Work has now started on the cataloguing of our important collection of nearly 200 incunabula, the earliest printed books held in Cardiff University Library’s Special Collections and Archives. Incunabula, from the Latin for ‘cradle’ or ‘swaddling clothes’, are defined as books printed before 1501, in the infancy of Western printing. Our collection includes books from the first major centres of printing in Germany, Italy, France and Switzerland and our earliest volumes date from around 1472, just 20 years after Johann Gutenberg printed his famous Bible, the first book printed in Europe with movable type.

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Salvator Mundi from Rolevinck’s “Fasciculus temporum” (1474), with manuscript annotations.

IMG_0535The cataloguing project will create an individual record for each incunabulum in the library’s online catalogue with special emphasis on copy-specific information such as rubrication, hand-coloured decoration and illumination, binding, annotation and other provenance. Many of our incunabula show extensive evidence of former ownership in the form of bookplates, signatures, stamps and marginalia and these will be recorded in each record as an aid to research.

Our copy of Johannes de Bromyard’s “Opus trivium” (Lyon, 1500) is bound in a leaf of early music on vellum

The first printed books were typeset copies of manuscripts, often lacking title pages and even basic bibliographic information such as the author’s name or the date of publication. Sometimes details about the creation of an early work may be found in a colophon at the very end of the text, but as many as one-third of the surviving editions contain no information as to when, where or by whom they were printed. All of this makes the cataloguing of incunabula a highly complex and time-consuming process, but one which could potentially reveal new and fascinating information about the items we hold.

“Facsiculus temporum” by Werner Rolevinck, printed in Germany in 1474 with hand-colouring and illuminated initial letters.

I have already identified several books in our collection that are unique to the UK and some of these may even be the only extant copies in the world. For example, our copy of a 1500 Venetian edition of Guarino’s Regulae Grammaticales is the only complete copy listed in the British Library’s database of 15th century printing, the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC). As the oldest and often most valuable books held in libraries around the world, most major collections of incunabula have already been fully catalogued and documented. To be the first cataloguer to properly examine and describe some of these earliest printed books is a very rare and welcome opportunity and it will be very exciting to see what the project uncovers as it progresses.

Fore-edge paintings by John T. Beer in the Cardiff Rare Books Collection

IMG_0314 edit2I was delighted to discover this week that the Cardiff Rare Books Collection includes two books with fore-edge paintings by the artist John T. Beer. Fore-edge paintings are watercolour illustrations applied to the outside edges of a book’s pages; the technique dates back to before the invention of printing, possibly as early as the 10th century.

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A painting of George Fox, founder of the Society of Friends, arriving in Wales to a hostile reception appears on Cardiff’s copy of the third edition of Fox’s journals, published in 1765 (Weber-Beer 105).

John T. Beer was a successful Merseyside clothier and an avid book collector, who turned to fore-edge painting after his retirement and produced hundreds of works between 1884 and 1900. As he was not a professional painter working on commission, Beer was able to select books from his own collection, including several incunabula, and decorate them to his own taste. As our examples show, he often took inspiration from the contents of the book.

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“John preaching in the Wilderness”: Beer’s illustration on an early 16th century Latin Bible, printed at Lyon by Jacob Mareschal in 1514 (Weber-Beer 15).

IMG_0299 editIn the 1600s, some bookbinders even discovered they could paint just inside the fore-edges of a book then cover the outer edges with gilt to create a hidden illustration that was undetectable when the book was closed and visible only when the pages were fanned. Beer did not gild the fore-edges, but he did fan the pages before adding his illustration. Thus, the closed book shows a slightly squashed version of the scene, with the correct proportions only appearing with the pages are fanned open.

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The “open” scene on Fox’s journal. The artist would have fanned the pages and gripped them in a vice before applying the watercolour.

Beer did not sell any of his works in his lifetime and left more than 200 fore-edge paintings and painted bindings when he died. His entire collection was sold by Sotheby’s auction house in November, 1903, when these two volumes were apparently purchased for Cardiff Library.

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Fanning the pages of the Biblia Sacra to show the more “open” illustration.

Sources:
Weber, Jeff, The fore-edge painting of John T. Beer. Los Angeles, 2005.