Tag Archives: marginalia

Guest post: The birthday book: tracing an absent presence

This guest post comes from Lauren O’Hagan, PhD candidate in the School of English, Communication and Philosophy, who is researching early 20th century book inscriptions and reading practices in Great Britain.


 

Like most investigatory projects, it started with a serendipitous encounter. I was using the Janet Powney collection in Special Collections and Archives back in January 2016 as part of my PhD project on Edwardian book inscriptions, when I came across a real gem: a beautiful dark brown cloth pocket book published by Thomas Nelson and Sons in 1879 and entitled The Birthday Record – A Daily Remembrancer. As I opened the book, I came across page after page of fascinating inscriptions, through which the owner had documented key moments in his life, leaving a visible trace of an absent presence that echoes through to modern day.

The birthday book was a Victorian invention, which came about in the 1860s as a result of popular interest in graphology and a burgeoning culture of celebrity. It represented a shift in printed discourse towards a rhetoric of personalisation and intimacy. Seen as a status symbol for the increasingly literate population, the birthday book was used typically by middle-class young men and women or working-class ‘new readers’ that aspired to pure and elevated taste. As such, it was available in multiple formats to suit a range of budgets: from octodecimos with embossed cloth and gilt edges (1s 6d) to morocco-bound octavos with ivory rims and clasp (21s). The birthday book was advertised as the perfect gift for a loved one; thus, great attention was paid to its aesthetic appeal. Publishers masked their commercial motive through the use of content that was linked to the moral education and self-improvement promoted in advice manuals of the time. They targeted buyers who were seen as older guardians or mentors, such as parents or elder siblings. By 1899 over 270 types of birthday book had been published. While many were secular in nature and drew upon canonical figures, such as Tennyson, Shakespeare and Longfellow, religious publishers added culturally legitimating moral messages from sacred authorities to the popular autograph format.

 

The Birthday Record in Special Collections falls into the religious category. As its preface states:

“This little volume is intended, as the title shows, to be used as a daily scripture textbook; and also to contain a record, on the blank pages, of birthdays, or days on which friends  desire to be specially remembered and prayed for. The same pages may be employed to note down personal anniversaries, days of joys and sorrow, trials and deliverances. (…) The plan adopted by the editor had been to choose for each day a verse containing some precept or exhortation to duty, direct or implied, with others of corresponding prayer or pious resolution. This arrangement, it is believed, will offer profitable associations with special anniversaries, and also tests for self-examination on their annual return” (iii-iv).

The Birthday Record was given to Richard J. Keen by his sisters on January 14th 1881 for his 19th birthday. Sitting on the cusp between upper-working class and lower-middle class, Richard was the characteristic target of a birthday book at this time. Richard was born in 1862 in Pimlico, London, and lived with his mother and father (a coachman for Baron de Worms, a Conservative politician) and three sisters (Harriet, Alice and Caroline) in a two-bedroom house in Eaton Square. The inscriptions within the book show that Richard engaged with it actively throughout his entire life. Through the collection of signatures, the birthday book acted as a tool for social networking. In religious birthday books, this social function was particularly enhanced, as the combination of holy text and handwritten names reinforced the owner’s desire to pray for their family and friends. By combining secular trends for autograph-collecting with devotional practices, the religious birthday book became an integral part of Victorian faith.

However, in Richard’s book, this does not appear to be the case. All entries are written solely by the owner, suggesting that limited engagement took place between recording information and practising religion. Furthermore, the opposition of printed scriptural texts and contemporary autographs is respected, as pages with religious texts are kept clean and unannotated. This reflects an acceptance of the hierarchical division between the two aspects of the book, which bestows it with new introspective, subjective and solipsistic purposes. From the mere fact of simply containing the holy word, the religious birthday book required more respect and obedience from its users than its secular counterpart. This meant that there were restricted opportunities for self-expression, which can be seen in The Birthday Record, as most entries consist solely of a name and date. The handwriting in all examples is deliberate and self-consciously neat, and throughout the book, no examples of spelling mistakes or crossing-outs are present. On the few occasions when entries have been written in the wrong section, a very small and indiscreet mark is noted next to them rather than risk defacing the book. The book contains just two variations in format: newspaper clippings and a feather. Two newspaper clippings recording the death of Richard’s father in 1886 are glued onto December 3rd, while a white bird’s feather on which To Mrs Whitty is written is enclosed loosely within the leaves of the book.

 

When I first looked through The Birthday Record, I wrongly assumed that Richard was the sole proprietor. However, I was left with a mystery on my hands when census records revealed that Richard died a bachelor in 1904, yet the book continues to be used up until 1953. Piecing together the other entries, it became apparent that the book was passed down to his youngest sister, Caroline, who would continue to update it until her death in 1942. Caroline was born in 1864 and married Thomas James Whitty, a policeman, in 1888. They lived in Thorrington, Essex, and had four children together, of which only three survived – Violet, Henrietta Amy and Doris Evelyn. After Caroline’s death, the book is only updated twice more on November 2nd 1950 and 27th April 1953, marking the births of Colin Hayes and Nigel Hayes respectively. Although the third owner cannot be traced due to the fact that census records are only released after a one-hundred-year closure period, it is possible that the book was passed down to one of Caroline’s children upon her death.

The various entries in the book can be classified into nine distinct categories:

  • Birthday: 127 examples
  • Death: 26 examples
  • Marriage: 17 examples
  • Starting/ending a job: 8 examples
  • Outbreak/end of war: 6 examples
  • Funeral: 3 examples
  • Christening: 1 example
  • Wedding anniversary: 1 example
  • Coronation: 1 example

This indicates that while the book was still being used predominantly for its established function of recording birthdays, both Richard and Caroline appropriated it to record other information. Using the birthday book to memorialise the dead, commemorate marriages and mark important global events shows the owners’ awareness of a web of connection between themselves and the wider reading context, and the movement of the birthday book between public and private domains. By turning the book into a record of individual and familial identity, it offers a variation on the tradition of using Bible endpapers to record such information.

As censuses were only carried out every ten years, the birthday book is an essential resource for investigating the years in between. The Birthday Record, for example, can be used to trace Richard’s professional career. Despite not receiving the birthday book until 1881, on March 17th Richard writes, “Went to Montreal Oaks 1877.” Montreal Oaks was a stately home in Sevenoaks, Kent, owned by the Honourable Hugh Amherst. Richard’s first job at 15 years old was working there as a footman. We know from the birthday book that he left in April 1st 1881 and shortly after, moved to Belsay Castle in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne where he continued to work as a footman from May 27th 1881 to March 11th 1884 for Sir Arthur Edward Middleton, M.P., 7th Baronet. Just over a year later on May 9th 1885, Richard obtained a new job as a butler for Lady Dashwood of West Wycombe Park in Buckinghamshire, where he remained until April 1st 1886. On October 5th of the same year, he entered into the services of Robert Porter Wilson at Cumberland Terrace in St. Pancras. By the 1891 census, Richard is still working as a butler in Cumberland Terrace, but this time for the coal magnate John Lambert. Various entries in the birthday book suggest that Richard kept in touch with many of his previous employers. He marks Amherst’s wedding on January 2nd 1896, as well as the birthday (April 26th) and death (February 13th 1904) of Wilson – the latter being the last scribal act that Richard was to carry out before his own death later the same year. The fact that Richard’s father worked as a coachman for a Baron for twenty-six years may explain how Richard ended up working for so many noblemen and women across England.

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Throughout the book, Richard also marks a series of significant world events that take place during his lifetime. This is something that his sister, Caroline, continues to do once the book is passed down to her. Richard indicates the death of Queen Victoria on January 2nd 1901 and the proclamation of peace in South Africa on June 1st 1902. Caroline marks the date and time of the death of Edward VII (May 6th 11:45pm 1910), the proclamation of King George V (May 9th 1910), England’s declaration of war against Germany (August 4th 1914), the armistice (11:30am, November 11th 1918), the proclamation of peace (July 5th 1919), peace celebrations and victory march through London of allied troops (July 19th 1919), death (11.55pm, June 21st 1936) and burial (June 28th 1936) of King George V, and the declaration of war against Germany (September 3rd 1939). The entries also give a sense of Caroline’s feelings towards the monarchy, as she expresses affection through such entries as “our beloved King George.”

 

The recurrence of certain surnames throughout the book can also reveal information about Richard and Caroline’s social networks. For example, with 32 individual entries, Whitty is the surname that most frequently occurs throughout the book. While this is to be expected given that Caroline married into the Whitty family, census records indicate that their younger sister, Alice, also married a Whitty – George, the brother of Caroline’s husband, Thomas James. The frequency of entries and terms of endearment made relating to Alice and her four children (Gertrude Carrie Alice, Winifred Lottie, Ida Gwendoline and Reginald George Hedworth) suggest a close relationship between Richard and his elder sister. Other surnames to frequently occur throughout the book are Owen (12 entries), Keen (9 entries), Lord (8 entries) and Hall (4 entries). Census records show that Caroline’s daughter, Violet, married Wilfred Owen, whereas Richard’s eldest sister, Harriet, married Thomas Hall, whose cousins were Lords. There are 62 other surnames that occur just once or twice throughout the birthday book, which demonstrates the wide social circle of family, friends and acquaintances that both Richard and Caroline had.

This little birthday book is just one of the thousands of incredible resources in Special Collections. If you haven’t yet viewed the Janet Powney collection, I urge you all to take a look now. It is in the foyer in large glass cabinets, and boasts striking colourful spines characteristic of the prize books of the late 19th and early 20th century. Maybe serendipity will shine upon you too. As Qwerty states in Lemony Snicket’s When Did You See Her Last?, “With a library it is easier to hope for serendipity than to look for a precise answer.”

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Exhibition: Wales in the Romantic Imagination

Our latest exhibition is held in collaboration with Romantic Imprints: the 14th International Conference of the British Association for Romantic Studies, Cardiff University, 16-19 July 2015. The exhibition will run until September.

Thomas Pennant (1726-1798)

“… he’s the best traveller I ever read; he observes more things than anyone else does.” – Samuel Johnson on Thomas Pennant

Thomas Pennant was a natural historian, antiquarian and prolific travel writer, principally known for his accounts of travelling on foot and horseback through Wales and Scotland in the late 18th century, exploring remote parts previously unknown to many. His naturally gregarious disposition encouraged local inhabitants to speak freely of their habits, customs and superstitions, all of which he documented in as much detail as the route and its scenery. A great believer in the ability of a picture to tell a thousand words, his works were heavily illustrated with engravings, initially sketched by his servant Moses Griffith, who travelled with him.

Tour in Wales, MDCCLXXIII
Thomas Pennant 1726-1798.
1778

pennant_castle dynas bran

 

Journey to Snowdon
Thomas Pennant 1726-1798.
1781

Journey from Chester to London
Thomas Pennant 1726-1798.
1782

Tour in Wales. Vol. II
Thomas Pennant 1726-1798.
1784

Tourism and the Wye Valley

The Wye Valley can be considered the birthplace of British tourism, and
British Romanticism, indeed, if one takes a cue from Wordsworth’s seminal poem ‘Tintern Abbey’. William Gilpin’s Observations on the River Wye (1782), the first British illustrated tour guide, is largely responsible for this. Gilpin popularised the concept of taking boat tours down the Wye Valley, to view its romantic sites and picturesque landscape. Viewing the valley from boats gave rise to ‘picturesque tourism’, which focused on an appreciation of scenery rather than just history or architecture.

Gilpin’s book was an instant commercial success, and brought many visitors, including artists, writers and poets to the Wye Valley. Both familiar and unknown, the Wye Valley formed a meeting place of two nations and four counties, an uncanny and unstable border territory shifting with the river’s movements, a place of exile for political radicals, and a subject for many of the period’s most celebrated writers.

Three essays: I. On picturesque: beauty; II. On picturesque; travel; III.
On the art of sketching landscape. Gilpin’s personal copy of the original holograph manuscript, together with nine original drawing in watercolour, tint, pen, ink and pencil by the author. From the archive of Cyril Brett, Professor of English (1921-36) at University College Cardiff.
William Gilpin 1724-1804.
1792

wye_mss

 

Observations on the River Wye : and several parts of South Wales, &c. relative chiefly to picturesque beauty; made in the summer of the year 1770.
William Gilpin 1724-1804.
1792

wye_gilpin

 

Excursion down the Wye from Ross to Monmouth : including historical and descriptive accounts of Wilton and Goodrich castles, also of Court Field, the nursery of King Henry the Fifth; New Wear, and every other object in the voyage.
Charles Heath 1761-1831.
1796

Picturesque views on the river Wye : from its source at Plinlimmon Hill, to its junction with the Severn below Chepstow: with observations on the public buildings, and other works of art, in its vicinity.
Samuel Ireland -1800.
1797

Tour of the River Wye and its vicinity : enriched with two engravings.
George Sael 1760 or 1761-1799
1798

wye_sael

 

Banks of Wye : a poem. In four books
Robert Bloomfield 1766-1823.
1811

Leigh’s guide to Wales & Monmouthshire : containing observations on the mode of travelling, plans of various tours, sketches of the manners and customs, notices of historical events, a description of every remarkable place, and a minute account of the Wye.
Samuel Leigh
1831

Hints to pedestrians : or, how to enjoy a three weeks’ ramble through North and South Wales and along the banks of the Wye / by a Pedestrian.
1837

Topographical Wales

Special Collections and Archives is home to the substantial personal library of the 19th century antiquarian Enoch Salisbury. A native of Flintshire, he was a businessman, politician and privately, a book-collector with a personal mission to collect every book on the subject of Wales, or in Welsh. His eventual bankruptcy led to the collection of some 13,000 volumes being purchased at auction in 1886 by the first incarnation of Cardiff University: the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire.

Salisbury had a particular interest in Welsh topography and antiquities, and tended to buy two copies of illustrated volumes with plates. One would be placed in the library, and the other would have the plates removed, and inserted into dedicated scrapbooks. He also purchased individual prints, sketches and paintings for inclusion. Salisbury kept a dedicated scrapbook for each Welsh county, featuring hundreds of illustrations of its landscape and architecture.

This image is thought to be the earliest known depiction of Hafod, Aberystwyth, painted by a visitor who captured the building process, recording the phasing of this important house. It is complemented by a copy of Cumberland’s guidebook and plan of the estate, together with an engraving of the completed Hafod.

 

Hafod, Aberyswyth, Ceredigion
Signed S. Walker
Circa 1784-5
Watercolour on card
142mm by 95mm
Salisbury Cardiganshire Volume

An attempt to describe Hafod: and the neighbouring scenes about the bridge over the Funack, commonly called the Devil’s Bridge, in the county of Cardigan: an ancient seat belonging to Thomas Johnes, Esq. Member for the County of Radnor
George Cumberland 1754-1848
1796

These watercolours show places in the Vale of Clwyd associated with
Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784).

salis_bachygraig

 

Monument erected by Colonel John Myddleton on the banks of the River Ystrad to commemorate the visit of Dr. Samuel Johnson in 1774 to Gwaenynog Hall, near Denbigh
Unknown artist
Circa 1810
Watercolour on paper
228mm by 140mm
Salisbury Denbighshire Volume

Distant view of a house titled as Bach-y-Graig, Tremeirchion, Denbighshire
Unknown artist
Circa 1830
Watercolour on paper
268mm by 203mm
Salisbury Denbighshire Volume

Called Bach-y-Graig, Tremeirchion, Denbighshire
Unknown artist
Circa 1830
Watercolour on paper
235mm by 143mm
Salisbury Denbighshire Volume

Both pencil sketches are by the artist Julia Mann, who visited South Wales during December 1831. On the left, Oxwich Castle, a Tudor courtyard house, was built by the Mansel family during the sixteenth-century. Their tenancy was short-lived, as the house became a romantic ruin during the 18th century, and a popular destination on the picturesque tourist trail. Manorbier Castle, on the right, was part of this circuit, claiming fame as being the birthplace of Gerald of Wales. The castle survived intact until the Civil War when it was slighted, afterwards becoming derelict.

salis_mann

 

Oxwich Castle, Oxwich Bay, Glamorganshire
Attributed to Julia Mann
Dated December 1831
Pencil on card
245mm by 176mm
Salisbury Glamorganshire Volume

Manorbier Castle, from North Pembrokeshire
Signed Julia Mann
Dated December 1831
Pencil on card
243mm by 176mm
Salisbury Pembrokeshire Volume

Welsh Romantic Medievalism and the Arthur myth

In 1816, the republication of two rival editions of Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, out of print since 1634, reawakened interest in Arthur and the medieval romances. Wales was inextricably linked with the Arthur myth; the earliest references to King Arthur come from Wales and its medieval literature, such as the Annales Cambriae, the Black Book of Carmarthen, the Book of Taliesin, and of course, the Mabinogion, in the Red Book of Hergest. The Arthur myth created a touchstone of Celtic nationalism in Cornwall and Wales which resonates to this day.

The London printer, Williams Stansby (1572-1638) produced this edition of Malory’s work based on the earlier editions by Wynken de Worde and William Caxton. Stansby’s text appeared in 1634, just before the outbreak of the English Civil War. It remained the only available edition for nearly two hundred years until the revival of interest in Arthurian literature in the 19th century.

Most ancient and famous history of the renowned prince Arthur King of Britaine : Wherein is declared his life and death, with all his glorious battailes against the Saxons, Saracens and pagans […] also, all the noble acts, and heroicke deeds of his valiant knights of the Round Table.
Sir Thomas Malory, active 15th century.
1634

arthur_1634

 

This three volume edition of Malory, edited by the antiquary, Joseph Haslewood, is one of two new editions that appeared in 1816, both based on Stansby’s edition of Caxton. The appearance of these editions heralded the revival of interest in the Arthurian story.

Mort d’Arthur : the most ancient and famous history of the renowned Prince Arthur and the knights of the Round Table / by Sir Thos. Malory.
Sir Thomas Malory, active 15th century.
1816

In Thomas Heywood’s 1641 edition of Merlin’s Prophecies, the sage is depicted as a hermit sitting under a tree rather than the powerful sorcerer of modern iconography. However he is still surrounded by images from his mythic history such as the two dragons whose epic fight provided Wales with its flag and with an enduring symbol of national identity.

The life of Merlin, sirnamed Ambrosius: his prophesies, and predictions interpreted, and their truth made good by our English annalls: being a chronographicall history of all the kings, and memorable passages of this kingdome, from Brute to the reigne of our royall soveraigne King Charles.
Thomas Heywood approximately 1574-1641
1641

arthur_merlin

 

This later edition of Merlin’s Prophecies from 1812 was printed at Carmarthen. By then the city was firmly associated with the figure of Merlin, and the place name was interpreted as ‘Caer Myrddin’ or Merlin’s town.

The life of Merlin, surnamed Ambrosius: his prophecies and predictions interpreted, and their truth made good by our English annals: being a chronographical history of all the kings and memorable passages of this kingdom, from Brute to the reign of King Charles.
Thomas Heywood approximately 1574-1641
1812

Arthur’s Stone, Cefn Bryn, the Gower, is the site of a Neolithic burial tomb. According to legend, Arthur threw this large stone and it landed in this spot. The tradition reflects the reputation of Arthur as a giant and a folk hero, rather than a courtly medieval king.

Illustration of Arthur’s Stone (Maen Ceti).
Glamorgan scrapbook, Salisbury archive

This Welsh translation of Merlin’s prophecies derives ultimately from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Latin work, Historia regum Britanniae (The History of the Kings of Britain). Merlin is taken before King Vortigirn (Brenin Gwrtheyrn) to explain the mystery of the falling tower.

Dwy gan o brophwydoliaethau Myrddin : a gymmerwyd allan o “Lyfr y daroganau”. Hefyd, hanes, o’r modd y daeth Myrddin i fod yn adnabyddus i’r brenin Gwrtheyrn, mab-y’nghyfraith Hengyst.
1810

Special editions

Special Collections and Archives holds a number of notable editions related to Romantic Studies. These include:

• A green leather folio edition of Felicia Hemans’ Welsh Melodies:

Selection of Welsh melodies : with symphonies and accompaniments / by John Parry; and characteristic words by Mrs. Hemans.
John Parry Bardd Alaw, 1776-1851; Felicia Hemans 1793-1835
1822

special_hemans

 

• A signed copy of Edmund Burke’s Philosophical Enquiry into the Sublime, inscribed to Arthur Onslow, Speaker of the House of Commons from 1728-1761:

Philosophical enquiry into the origin of our ideas of the sublime and beautiful.
Edmund Burke 1729-1797
1759

• A first edition of Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa:

Clarissa; or, the history of a young lady. Comprehending the most important concerns of private life. And particularly shewing the distresses that may attend the misconduct both of parents and children, in relation to marriage.
Samuel Richardson
1748

special_clarissa

 

• Examples of gothic novels from the Minerva Press:

Ellen, countess ospecial_ellenf Castle Howel : a novel.
Bennett, Mrs. (Anna Maria), -1808
1794

The Stranger : or, Llewellyn family ; a Cambrian tale.
A. Robert Evans
1798

Secret avengers ; or the rock of Glotzden: romance in four volumes / by Anne of
Swansea.
Julia Ann Hatton 1764-1838
1815

Gwelygordd; or, The child of sin. A tale of Welsh origin.
Charles Lucas 1769-1854
1820

Iolo Morganwg (1747-1826)

Edward Williams (1747-1826) remains better known by his bardic name, Iolo Morganwg, whose romantic image of Wales and its past greatly influenced Wales’ national identity. A prolific poet, radical and polymath, his interests ranged from druidism, folklore, antiquities, architecture, agriculture, geology, language and dialect. Following his death it was discovered that many of his collected manuscripts, which featured evidence of druidic practices in Wales, and observations on mystical and metaphysical philosophy, were in fact his own forgeries. The Salisbury Library in Special Collections and Archives holds a number of books formerly owned by Iolo Morganwg, annotated in his own hand.

The Historie of Cambria, now called Wales
David Powell 1552?-1598
1584
Inscribed by Iolo Morganwg to his daughter: “Ann Matthews Williams, Her Book’. The copy is heavily annotated throughout in various contemporary and later hands, including Iolo Morganwg’s.

iolo_signature

 

Awdyl ar dymhorau y vlwyzyn.
Richard Powell 1769-1795
1793

Cywydd y Drindod.
David Richards Dafydd Ionawr, 1751-1827
1793

iolo_poem

 

Halsing, neu gan newydd ar ddydd Natalic.
John Williams 1728-1806
1781

Cyflafan y beirdd : awdl.
Robert Williams Robert ap Gwilym Ddu, 1766-1850
[1793?]

iolo_mss insert

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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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.

IMG_0810

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)

IMG_0801

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.

IMG_0510

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.

A disappointed bibliographer: the revenge of Ifano Jones

As a rule, libraries do not encourage people to write on books. With the passage of time, however, marginalia and other personal annotations become more interesting and can sometimes shed light on past events.

In Cardiff University’s Salisbury Library there are three copies of “The Bible in Wales”, a publication brought out in a limited edition of six hundred copies by the Libraries Committee of Cardiff Corporation in 1906 in connection with its successful, and thoroughly researched, exhibition of Bibles. No author’s name appears on the title page, but in the preface John Ballinger, then the chief librarian at Cardiff and subsequently first librarian of the National Library of Wales, claims responsibility, acknowledging the help of various assistants including James Ifano Jones who, he says, “collated and arranged” the “materials” for the bibliography. That, at least, is what the printed version of the book says! We recently noticed that one of our copies is heavily annotated in ink by its previous owner, Ifano Jones himself:

Ifano2

It is not too difficult to read between the lines here. Sir John Ballinger, as he later became, had worked his way up from becoming a library assistant in the Cardiff Public Library at 15, librarian of Doncaster at 20 and returning to Cardiff in 1884 as chief librarian at the age of 24 (library careers were rather different then!) He was not a Welsh speaker, but he generally gets the credit for building up an impressive Welsh library in Cardiff (as well as the beginning of the rare books collection now at the University). A famous catalogue of the Welsh collection was published in 1898, and subsequent works including this volume in 1906 all must have helped his cause once the decision had been made to found a National Library of Wales. Cardiff, of course, originally expected that the National Library would be there, and John Ballinger would surely have been expected to be appointed. The decision to put the National Library in Aberystwyth instead did not change the situation: Ballinger was duly appointed, and took up his post in 1909.

It has long been thought that Ifano Jones felt that he did not receive due recognition for his work. His own background was in printing, and he had a thorough knowledge of the history of the Welsh printing industry. Unlike Ballinger, he was a Welsh speaker, deeply involved in Welsh cultural life. He was appointed as an assistant in the public library, with special responsibility for the Welsh collections: possibly he felt that Ballinger took the credit for much of what he had done. Ifano Jones was not appointed National Librarian, nor did he become chief librarian at Cardiff when Ballinger left for Aberystwyth, but he did succeed in being known as “The Welsh Librarian, Cardiff”, which is how he appears on the title-page of his “History of printing and printers in Wales …” (1925), still a standard work.

Interestingly, as well as exacting posthumous revenge on Ballinger by leaving us his thoughts in ink, Jones has attached a clipping about himself from The Western Mail, dated 20 January 1909. The newspaper story gives his work at Cardiff the prominence which he clearly felt was his due, and the date is significant, as this was the very month in which John Ballinger took up his appointment as National Librarian. One cannot help wondering whether Ifano Jones himself was the source of the newspaper story.

Ifano

Marginalia and provenance in the Cardiff Rare Books

Cardiff Book History

Last year the Cardiff Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (CUROP), an initiative which provides summer placements for undergraduates in the university research environment, helped fund a research project on Marginalia and Provenance in the Restoration Drama texts of the Cardiff Rare Books Collection. This year, another CUROP award helped fund two more undergraduates to undertake research for Dr Melanie Bigold’s on-going project on Marginalia and Provenance in the Cardiff Rare Books. The focus last year was on the 900 volumes of the Restoration Drama Collection. This year, Victoria Shirley and Thomas Tyrrell began to tackle the larger collection. Supported by the staff in Special Collections and Archives (SCOLAR), Victoria and Thomas were able to inspect over 1100 octavo texts with publication dates between 1660 and 1700. More information about visiting SCOLAR and the Cardiff Rare Books can be found here:

More information about CUROP can be found here: http://learning.cf.ac.uk/projects-funding/curop/.

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A well-used book: marginalia and manuscript notes in an early 16th century herbal

This early herbal forms part of our Continental collection and was published in Paris around  1520. Our copy of Herbarum varias qui vis cognoscere vires (‘Various types of herbs that you want to know the powers of’) has been extremely useful to its previous owners and virtually every page is covered with detailed manuscript notes, observations, lists of ingredients, recipes and other marginalia.

Herbals, from the medieval Latin liber herbalis (‘book of herbs’), contain the names and descriptions of plants with details of their medicinal or culinary properties, often with illustrations to assist with proper identification. These books were among the first literature to be produced in both the East and the West and continued to flourish long after the invention of moveable type in the mid 15th century. We have several other early printed herbals in the Cardiff Rare Books Collection but none have been quite as well used as this one!