Tag Archives: provenance

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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Guest post: The Rees Family and the Cardiff Eisteddfod

This guest post comes from Vicky Shirley, a third-year PhD student in the School of English, Communication, and Philosophy. Her thesis examines the reception and re-writing of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Britanniae in England, Scotland, and Wales. She is currently preparing an article for publication on the reception of Geoffrey of Monmouth by Welsh and English antiquarians in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the Salisbury Library in Special Collections has been integral to her research. The Salisbury Library contains a number of classic works of Welsh medievalism, such as the The Cambrian Register and Myrvyrian Archaiology of Wales. Special Collections also holds several microfilms of manuscripts belonging to the eighteenth-century antiquarian Lewis Morris, who thought that the Brut y Tysilio was the original Welsh source of Geoffrey’s Historia Regum Britanniae, and the reception of his theory is the subject of her article.


My research for my article has recently led me to Rice Rees’ Essay on the Welsh Saints, or the Primitive Christians, which was published in 1836. Rice Rees (1804-39) was a cleric and scholar, and his essay was the winning entry in one of the essay competitions at the Gwent and Dyfed Royal Eisteddfod, which was held in Cardiff in 1834. Rice Rees’ uncle, William Jenkins Rees (1772-1855), was instrumental in re-introducing the Eisteddfod to Wales in the nineteenth century. The Gwyneddigion Society had tried to revive the annual Eisteddfod in the late eighteenth century, but they only ran between 1789 and 1794 in Bala, St. Asaph, Llanrwst, Denbigh, and Dollgellau respectively. In October 1818, several Welsh clerics antiquarians, including W. J. Rees, met in Montgomeryshire, and proposed to establish provincial societies for the study of Welsh literature in in Dyfed, Gwynedd, Gwent, and Powys. These societies were responsible for hosting eisteddfodau in their provinces, and the first one was held at Carmarthen in 1819. W. J. Rees also helped to re-establish The Honourable Society of the Cymmrodorion, and the second society (1820-43) oversaw the activities of the local Cambrian Societies.

William Jenkins Rees (1772-1855)

William Jenkins Rees (1772-1855)

The Gwent and Dyfed Royal Eisteddfod was held on 20th-22nd August 1834 at Cardiff Castle, by the invitation of John Crichton-Stuart, the 2nd Marquess of Bute. The young Princess Victoria and the Duchess of Kent were invited to the Eisteddfod, and several Welsh literati were also present at the event, including Lady Charlotte Guest and Taliesin Williams, the son of Edward Williams (Iolo Morganwg), who won the Bardic Chair that year. In his opening speech, the Marquess remarked that:

[t]he Eisteddfodau shew a character of good-will and harmony and kindness, joining together all persons of Celtic origin, in one bond of social attachment and literary enjoyment. They are meetings in which we are desirous to shew our forefathers; to recall to memory the history of former days; and to shew the regard that we ever cherish to our departed ancestry.[1]

Lady Charlotte Guest includes a short account of the Cardiff Eisteddfod in her journal. She did not the Marquess’ opening speech in very high regard – she preferred the oratory of William Price instead, and he eventually became one of the judges. A transcript of both speeches was included in the report of the Gwent and Royal Eisteddfod, which was printed by The Glamorgan, Monmouth and Brecon Gazette and Merthyr Guardian.

eisteddfod

In his essay, Rees provides an ‘ecclesiastical history of the Britons, from the introduction of Christianity, or more especially from the termination of Roman power in Britain, to the end of the seventh century’.[2] The scope of Rees’ narrative is similar to Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Britanniae, which describes the history of Britain from its foundation by Brutus of Troy to the death of Cadwalladr, the last king of the Britons in 682. The two narratives correspond with each other as they use similar sources, including a variety of ancient Welsh poems, triads, and genealogies. These texts were being steadily recovered in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as scholars and antiquarians began to publish many works of Welsh literature for the first time.

cardiffeisteddfod

Despite the similarities between his essay and the Historia regum Britanniae, Rees was sceptical of Geoffrey. Like many scholars and historians, Rees thought Geoffrey was a translator, who added his own fabulous inventions to his work. In particular, Rees attacks Geoffrey for his inaccuracy, and in a section on Saint David, the patron saint of Wales, he remarks that:

Geoffrey of Monmouth states that Dewi, archbishop of Caerleon, died in the monastery which he had founded at Menevia, where he was honourably buried by order of Maelgwn Gwynedd. This event is recorded by Geoffrey as if it happened soon after the death of Arthur, who died A.D. 542. According to the computations of Archbishop Usher, St. David died A.D. 544, aged eighty two […] But it must be allowed that the dates quotes by Usher are very uncertain, and depend upon the authority of writers who lived many centuries after the events which they record. The older generations, and the names of contemporaries, rend it necessary to place the birth of David about twenty years later than it is fixed by Usher; and his life may be protracted to any period short of A. D. 566. [3]

The death of Arthur and David is one of the few dates that are mentioned in the Historia regum Britanniae, and so this point of contention is one of the few examples where Rees could directly challenge Geoffrey’s authority and undermine his chronology. Rees’ estimation that Saint David died in 566 is a little unreliable, as it is now generally accepted that he died in 589. Nevertheless, his comparison of sources is typical of the method many historians – medieval and modern – used to try and disprove the events recorded in Geoffrey’s Historia.

My interest in the Rees family began in September 2012, when I was an undergraduate research assistant on a Cardiff Undergraduates Research Opportunities Program project, which involved cataloguing provenance and marginalia in the Cardiff Rare Books collection (1660-1700). During this project, I found a number of books which were owned by different members of the Rees family. The Rees family library once had over 7,000 books, many of which were donated to the Cardiff Public Library, before they were acquired by Special Collections in 2010. My current research has given me a better understanding about how important the Rees family were to medieval scholarship and antiquarian activities in Wales during the nineteenth century. 

Bibliography

Primary Sources

Guest, Lady, Lady Charlotte Guest: Extracts from her Journal, 1833-1852, ed. V. B. Ponsby, Earl of Beesborough (London: Murray, 1950)

Rees, Rice, An Essay on the Welsh Saints, or the Primitive Christians, usually considered to have been the founders of the churches in Wales (London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longman, printed by William Rees, Llandovery, 1836)

‘Gwent and Royal Eisteddfod and Musical Festival’, The Glamorgan, Monmouth, and Brecon Gazette and Merthyr Guardian, Saturday 23rd and 30th August 1834

Secondary Sources

Ellis, Mary, ‘W. J. Rees, 1772-1855: A Portrait, Part I’ Radnorshire Society Transactions 39 (1969): 24-35

___________, ‘W. J. Rees, 1772-1855: A Portrait, Part II’ Radnorshire Society Transactions 40 (1970): 21-8

___________, ‘W. J. Rees, 1772-1855: A Portrait, Part III’ Radnorshire Society Transactions 41 (1971): 76-85

___________, ‘W. J. Rees, 1772-1855: A Portrait, Part IV’ Radnorshire Society Transactions 42 (1972): 55-61

Thomas, J. Lloyd, ‘Eisteddfod Talaith a Chadair Powys (The Powis Provincial Chair Eisteddfod)’, The Montgomeryshire Collections, relating to Montgomeryshire and its borders, 59 1-2 (195-6): 60-81

Online Sources

Lloyd, J. E. ‘Rees, Rice (1804–1839)’, rev. Nilanjana Banerji, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/23287, accessed 2 Sept 2016]

___________, ‘Rees, William Jenkins (1772–1855)’, rev. Beti Jones, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2007 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/23291, accessed 2 Sept 2016]

[1] ‘Gwent and Royal Eisteddfod and Musical Festival’, The Glamorgan, Monmouth, and Brecon Gazette and Merthyr Guardian, Saturday 23rd and 30th August 1834, p. 3.

[2] Rice Rees, ‘Preface’, An Essay on the Welsh Saints, or the Primitive Christians, usually considered to have been the founders of the churches in Wales (London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longman, printed by William Rees, Llandovery, 1836), p. vi.

[3] Rees, An Essay on the Welsh Saints, pp. 200-1

Celebrating Professional Librarians

Ducarel portrait

As a young man, Ducarel was blinded one eye, which is why it appears cloudy in this portrait. From A Series of above two hundred Ango-Gallic, or Norman and Aquitain coins… (London, 1757). 

On Wednesday, 14 July, the United States Senate confirmed Dr. Carla Hayden as the new Librarian of Congress. In addition to being the first woman and the first African-American to hold the post, she is also the first professional librarian to head the Library of Congress in more than 60 years. Most of the previous appointees have been scholars or writers who did not necessarily hold professional qualifications as librarians. (In the United States, this means a master’s degree in Library and Information Studies from an ALA-accredited programme). Inspired by this historic appointment, today’s blog post looks at another noteworthy librarian, Andrew Coltee Ducarel, who was the first professional librarian of Lambeth Palace.

Andrew Ducarel was born in Paris on 9 June 1713 to a family of Huguenots from Normandy. Fleeing from persecution in France, his family stayed briefly in Amsterdam before settling in England in 1721. After studying law at Oxford and Cambridge, Ducarel was admitted to the College of Advocates (Doctors’ Commons) in November 1743. It was at Doctors’ Commons that he first tried his hand at library work, serving as its librarian from 1754-1757 in addition to his regular legal work.

Ducarel had a keen interest in history and antiquities, and was admitted to the Society of Antiquaries at the the age of twenty-four. Throughout his life, he published several tracts on English and Norman antiquities, especially coins and medals. He was elected a member of the Society of Antiquaries of Cortona in 1760, a fellow of the Royal Society in 1762, of the Society of Antiquaries of Cassel in 1778, and of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in 1781.

numismatics illustration

Ducarel’s antiquarian interests included numismatics, the study of coins and medals. Illustration from Ducarel’s A Series of above two hundred Ango-Gallic, or Norman and Aquitain coins… (London, 1757).

In March 1754, Archbishop Thomas Herring asked Ducarel to prepare an account of Croydon Palace and its surroundings. Assisted by his friend, Edward Rowe Mores, Ducarel presented the Archbishop with a manuscript copy of “Some account of the town, church, and archiepiscopal palace of Croydon” in 1755. (It was not published until 1783.) While preparing the research for this account, the two men spent several weeks in Lambeth Library, sorting and labelling nearly 2000 old records.

At least partly thanks to his work with the Lambeth records in 1754-1755, Ducarel was formally appointed to the position of librarian at Lambeth Palace in 1757, for which he received a salary of £30 per annum. Ducarel was the first layperson appointed to the position, and would become its longest-serving librarian, working under five archbishops over twenty-eight years, until his death in 1785.

Ducarel bookplate

Cardiff University holds two books with Ducarel’s armorial bookplate.

Although the post had previously been viewed as a stepping-stone on the path to greater preferment, Ducarel made caring for the library his life-long occupation. He continued the work of organizing and cataloguing its records, but also acquired, accessioned, and arranged for the binding of new books, pamphlets, and manuscripts; he dealt with visitors and enquiries, drew up surveys and reports in support of the building’s maintenance and repair, and researched the history of the palace and library. Ducarel frequently turned to his antiquary friends for assistance in writing the tracts which bear his name, preferring to devote his attention to organising and indexing the holdings of the library.

After his death. Many of Ducarel’s personal books and manuscripts were left to his friends Richard Gough and John Nichols, and were later sold at auction in 1786. Today, the bulk of his library is divided between Lambeth Palace, the British Library, and the Bodleian Library at Oxford, but at least two volumes from Ducarel’s library now reside at Cardiff University. One of these volumes is Dugdale’s Origines juridiciales (London, 1671). The other is a collection of seven tracts by Ducarel, including his first published work, A tour through Normandy, described in a letter to a friend (London, 1754), four Four letters concerning chesnut and other trees, and biographical notes on Browne Willis. Of the seven tracts, two have not previously been recorded in the English Short Title Catalogue

Table of Contents

This volume from Ducarel’s personal library contains seven of his own tracts bound together with a handwritten contents list.

Coryats Crudities: 17th century wanderlust

titlepage

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.

verona

“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.

clock

“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.

commendatory2

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.

commendatory3

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.

cover_rotated

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.

 

The Benefits of Cleaning House; or, A Chronicle from the Press of Wynkyn de Worde

I think it’s fairly safe to say that every library has a stash of uncatalogued books that have been relegated to an out of the way corner for being troublesome. Often, these books are missing their title pages, or are fragments that have been cut from some larger volume, or else they’re in a language that none of the staff can read. They sit, waiting for the day when there’s enough time, funding, or expertise to accurately identify and describe them.

Cardiff University is no exception, particularly as we’d been without a full-time rare books cataloguer since the middle of 2014. So when I started as the new rare books cataloguer in November of last year, I was not at all surprised to see a trolley parked at the very back of the rare book stacks bearing an assortment of books (and pieces of books) that had been pulled aside from the main sequence, some bearing little slips of scrap paper with handwritten notes as testament to the efforts of cataloguers past.

Although time-consuming, working on these volumes is something of a treat for me. There’s a tremendous sense of satisfaction in being able to match up a small stack of loose gatherings with their parent volume, or to positively identify a particular edition even though its title page and preliminaries have gone on a walkabout somewhere.

Binding

With its binding of rich purple goatskin and gold tooling, this book’s former owner obviously valued it highly.

On this particular trolley, however, I saw a volume that didn’t look like the usual victim of damage or neglect. It was in outwardly good condition, with a 19th century binding of rich purple goatskin, tooled in gold. Why had this volume been set aside?

Opening the volume, I saw that the text was in English and the subject matter was secular–a chronicle of the history of England and Wales–but the typeface was blackletter, hinting that it might be an early imprint. The title page bore no date or publisher’s name, so I turned to the back of the volume in search of a colophon and found this full-page woodcut printer’s device:

Wynkyn de Worde’s printer’s device. The central glyph is taken from WIlliam Caxton’s device, showing de Worde’s respect for his former master.

Wynkyn de Worde’s printer’s device. The central glyph is taken from the printer’s mark of his former master, WIlliam Caxton.

I immediately recognized the device as that of Wynkyn de Worde, confirmed by the colophon on the previous page, which reads: “…imprynted at London … in flete street, at the sygne of the Sonne, by me Wynkyn de Worde”. No wonder the previous owner wanted to give it such a fancy binding!

The colophon of the 1528 Cronycles of Englonde. Wynkyn de Worde was the first printer to set up shop in Fleet Street, which remains to this day a central hub of printing and book production.

Wynkyn de Worde was the first printer to set up shop in Fleet Street, which remains to this day a central hub of printing and book production.

Born in the Netherlands, Wynkyn de Worde came to England around 1476 to work for William Caxton, the first printer to set up shop in England. Following Caxton’s death in 1492, de Worde took over Caxton’s business, moving his place of business from Westminster to London and publishing more than 400 books in over 800 editions over the course of his career.

De Worde’s books often featured woodcut illustrations to make them more visually attractive. To save money, early printers often re-used the same woodcuts in multiple places

De Worde’s books often featured woodcut illustrations to make them more visually attractive. To save money, early printers often re-used woodcuts within the same volume.

De Worde is sometimes compared unfavorably with Caxton, who translated and published the most fashionable texts from the Burgundian court and sold them to wealthy patrons. De Worde, by contrast, sold religious, popular, and educational books to a broader, more populist audience. The evidence of de Worde’s will, however, suggests that he was respected within the community and a well-connected and successful entrepreneur. His estate, for example, was valued at £201 11s. 1d. His household consisted of eight servants, and he left bequests to nine people associated with the book trade, some of whom owed him debts which were written off.

Cardiff University’s copy of of the 1528 Cronycles of Englonde includes a few marginal annotations in an early modern hand, but the text has been cropped so closely during re-binding that most of the handwritten text has been lost.

Cardiff University’s copy includes a some contemporary marginalia, but when the text was trimmed during re-binding much of the handwritten text was lost.

The volume I had found was the 1528 edition of The Cronycles of Englonde : with the dedes of popes and emperours, and also the descripcyon of Englonde. As the title suggests, the text is made up of two main parts. The first part of the text is known as “Brut’s Chronicle” or the “St. Alban’s Chronicle,” and was one of the most popular accounts of English history in the Middle Ages and in the early modern period. Caxton added citations to authoritative texts and produced the first printed edition of it in 1480, making it the first English historical work to be printed and earning it the additional moniker of “Caxton’s Chronicle.” The second part of the text is a description of Great Britain derived from Ranulf Higden’s Polychronicon as translated by John Trevisa.

I soon discovered the reason why this book had been set aside. It was missing several leaves, including the title page and first several leaves of the Chronicle. Presumably to draw attention away from the missing portions, the Descripcyon of Englonde, which has its own separate title page, was bound at the beginning of the volume instead of at the end. A cataloguer looking at this book for the first time wouldn’t necessarily know to search for a record under the main title, “Cronycles of Englonde” instead of “Descripcyon of Englonde”.

The library at Syston Park held a rich collection of early printed books, including a Gutenberg Bible, many incunables, and numerous editions by the Leiden publishing house Elzevier.

The library at Syston Park held a rich collection of early printed books, including a Gutenberg Bible, many incunables, and numerous editions by the Leiden publishing house Elzevier.

Our copy bears an armorial bookplate with the name “Syston Park”. Syston Park Hall, built in the 1770s, was the family seat of the Thorold baronets. Sir John Thorold, ninth baronet (1734–1815), and his eldest son and tenth baronet, Sir John Hayford Thorold (1773–1831), were both avid book collectors. A second, smaller bookplate bearing the monogram “JHT” suggests that this volume may have been acquired by the tenth baronet. Between 1822 and 1824, Sir John Hayford Thorold commissioned architect Lewis Vulliamy to build a new library at Syston, which visitor T. F. Dibdin described as “perhaps one of the most splendid and taking book repositories in Europe.” In 1884 and 1923, however, the contents of the house were dispersed in sales and the house demolished soon afterwards. This copy of The Cronycles of Englonde was sold as lot 646 in the 1884 auction, after which it passed through the hands of at least two other individuals, Yorkshire historian T. D. Whitaker and J. S. Isaac, both of whom left inscriptions on the endpapers, before it entered the collection of the Cardiff Public Libraries sometime after 1919.

The title page for the 1528 edition of the Descripcyon of Englonde.

The title page for the 1528 Descripcyon of Englonde.

Despite its imperfections, we here in Special Collections are quite pleased to be the custodians of this little volume.  It is the earliest English imprint on the catalogue (so far!), and an important piece of printing history. It will no doubt see a lot of use in the classroom and reading room in years to come, and makes for a very nice start to the new year!

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

Cardiff Rare Books Lecture Series – Professor David McKitterick.

On Thursday evening, February 12th, the SCOLAR Reading Room was full, with an audience keen to hear our guest lecture from Cambridge University  Professor, David McKitterick, whose talk, “What shall we do with all these old books”, explored themes from his new book – ‘Old Books, New Technologies: the Representation, Conservation, and Transformation of Books since 1700’.

Professor David McKitterick

Professor David McKitterick

Ranging from the poor state of royal libraries in the 17th century, to the massive output of books in the 19th century, the lecture explored our present relationship with historical book collections today, especially concerning the ongoing digitisation of many older printed works. In a wide ranging talk, raising many questions from the audience afterwards, a key theme was the large amount of information we can still only obtain from the various historical printed book collections which survive today, and the many threats which these face, in public, academic and related libraries.

Before giving his lecture Professor McKitterick had a chance to browse through SCOLAR’s stacks, especially the Cardiff Rare Books Collection, saved from being dispersed by its purchase by Cardiff University in 2010. Having been one of the University supporters in its successful attempt to save the collection, he was extremely pleased that such a rich historical collection had been preserved for current and future researchers, as he noted:

“Each of those mobile stacks that you opened seemed to open up new possibilities, and all kinds of unknown discoveries”.

 

The John Ashburner collection

Earlier this year we completed the cataloguing of the Drama Collection; material within it ranges from 1598 to 1927, and out of the 900 items there are about 400 which can be considered Restoration drama.  Within this collection 53 are known to have formerly belonged to John Ashburner, a 19th century physician and spiritualist.

The fifty three items from the Ashburner collection range in date from 1713 to 1784, a range of about seventy years, although about half of the books date from either 1735 (15 items) or 1736 (10 items).  The authors represented in this collection are typical of the period, as reprints of earlier Restoration playwrights, with examples from John Banks (1650-1706), Colley Cibber (1671-1757), George Farquhar (1677-1707), Nathaniel Lee (1653-1692), Thomas Otway (1652-1685), Thomas Shadwell (1642-1692) and John Vanbrugh (1664-1726), amongst others.

Ashburner books 008The Ashburner books are identifiable by his bookplate which is a nineteenth century armorial bookplate; the design harkens back to previous centuries rather than the more plain examples common for this period.  At the top of the design is an Ash tree on a wreath of twisted cloth – this is the Ashburner crest; on the plain shield we find the family coat of arms, which includes 3 crescents and 3 mullets on one side, and a lion rampant with three hands on the other.  Above the shield is a knight’s helmet, and the shield has foliage above it.  Also included on a scroll at the bottom is the family motto: Quicquid crescit, in cinere perit which means Whatever grows, perishes in ashes.

Ashburner books 009Of the 53 volumes containing the bookplate there are only seven items which bear any other provenance information, aside from the later Public Library bookplate.  The signatures on these books include the names Mary Wright (Jan 18 1764), Frances Salmon, Catherine Cotton, Ann Harris, and [?]Roger 175[?].

Ashburner books 014c

It is possible to make the assumption, at least with the two cases that bear dates, or partial dates, that these signatures belong to owners prior to John Ashburner.  Two names appear twice, those of Frances Salmon and Catherine Cotton; it has not been possible to discover any information about any of these individuals named.

The signature of Frances Salmon also appears on two other volumes in the Restoration Drama collection which don’t contain the Ashburner bookplate. However, these volumes match the other items in the Ashburner collection in size and in style of binding – half bound in leather with marbled paper covered boards.  They are both on plays by George Farquhar, The beaux stratagem (1733) and The constant couple (1735), and the leather on the binding matches the colour used for other Farquhar volumes which do bear the Ashburner bookplate.  It is reasonable to assume that there are a number of other volumes in the Drama collection which although not bearing the Ashburner bookplate did belong to his collection.

Ashburner books 024a

John Archibald Ashburner was born in Bombay (Mumbai) in 1793, where his father was a member of the Supreme Court, under the Privy Council of India. He was educated in England, and studied medicine at Dublin, Glasgow and Edinburgh, where he graduated as a doctor of medicine in 1816.

At some point he married Elizabeth Grey-Farquhar and they had a child in 1818; this was the same year that he was appointed as physician to the Small-pox hospital in London.  He held this position until 1824 when he left for duties in India.  When he returned to Britain he became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons, and a physician to Queen Charlotte’s Lying In Hospital, London and a lecturer of Midwifery and the Diseases of Women and Children at St. Thomas’ Hospital.[1]

He died in London in 1878 at the age of 85, and his wife died the following year.

Ashburner was a physician and physicist, but also an author and a spiritualist who was acquainted with Madame Helena Blavatsky and Mrs Hayden.[2] He wrote Notes and studies in the philosophy of animal magnetism and spiritualism (1867) and was the translator of K. L. von Reichenbach’s Physico-physiological researches in the dynamics of magnetism, electricity, heat, light, crystallization and chemism in their relation to vital force (1853). He also contributed to a variety of spiritualist publications such as the Yorkshire Spiritual Telegraph, was a member of the Charing Cross Spirit Power Circle, and was on the committee of the Mesmeric Infirmary.[3]

As an intelligent and educated man, it is not surprising he had such a collection of dramatic works, although they appear not to directly correspond to the interests he was known for.

The Ashburner collection comprises approximately 5% of the Drama Collection, and is somewhat larger than the bookplates give evidence for.  It is an interesting snap-shot of drama from the mid 18th century, although it was acquired about a century after it was published by Ashburner.  All the volumes are bound in a distinctive style to bring a cohesive look in the owner’s library.  The majority are single plays, although there are some multi-work items; and in some cases items which had previously been bound together have been separated and rebound individually (either by Ashburner himself, or a previous owner).

Although there is relatively little information available about John Ashburner, he was a prominent enough figure within medicine and spiritualism in the nineteenth century to be traceable as an individual; through both internet sources and printed books on the spiritualist movement.

To date it has not been possible to trace how his collection came to Cardiff, as this is not a location he is known to have resided in or have connections with; it can only be presumed that his collection was sold at auction after his death and was acquired at this point by Cardiff Public Library who were looking to build a drama collection.

Ashburner books 023

[1] See p. 16:  Harvey, A., Keelan, P., Pierce, K., & Price-Saunders, H. (2010) Cardiff Public Library sale collections: provenance report: A report produced for CyMAL by Cardiff University Library, January 2010. Cardiff: Cardiff University [unpublished].

[2] For Ashburner’s involvement in the Spiritualist movement see for example Owen (1989, 21): “In London, a loose grouping of middle-class intellectuals and professionals became the early propagators of a particular brand of spiritualism. These individuals included Dr. Ashburner, a Royal Physician and advocate of mesmerism…

[3] See post by Demarest (2013) http://ehbritten.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/the-nature-of-thought-dr-john-ashburner.html?q=ashburner

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.

Duodo

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.

???????????????????????????????

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.

P1200422

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.

20140616_162557

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.

20130904_143238

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.