Tag Archives: woodcuts

What does the fox say? The most delectable history of Reynard the Fox

The volumFox1ae of ‘Reynard the Fox’ which resides in Special Collections is the edition that contains three parts in one volume, and was published by Edward Brewster in 1701.  The first part, “The Most delectable History of Reynard the Fox”, is sometimes mistakenly attributed to John Shirley (1680–1702), because he also published a version in the late seventeenth century.  Shirley’s version however was in rhyming iambic pentameters, with few illustrations, and as it was never reprinted is believed to have not been that popular.

 

It was Caxton who produced the first English edition in 1481, based on a Flemish text; with Wynkyn de Worde illustrating it in 1495 and this is the version which Brewster used.  The other two parts are also attributed to Brewster who expaFox3nded upon the original set of stories, with the final part based on Reynardine, the son of Reynard who had died in a previous tale.

 

The stories of Reynard the Fox originated in the 12th and 13th centuries across Europe, and versions can be found in Latin, German, Dutch, and French.  Popular animal fables that appealed to children, they were also crafty political allegories that became increasingly moralized throughout the 17th century, as we see in this edition. Varty (1999, 23) describes the tales as:

“…a book meant for adults which became a best-seller in the late fifteenth century and remained popular for more than two hundred years, a book characterized by violence, murder, adultery, rape and corruption in high places.”

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Most people today are largely unaware of the tales of Reynard the Fox, however, as a trickster folk hero, the enduring image of Reynard has continued into the modern age, and even been reflected in the Disney cartoon of Robin Hood – where Robin is the fox.

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The volume is illustrated throughout by charming woodcuts that bear the initials E. B. (for Edward Brewster).  Wynkyn de Worde first illustrated the tales in 1495, and the images proved enduringly popular, with the blocks being used into the 17th century until they became too worn.  Brewster, the last publisher to own de Worde’s blocks, took it upon himself to create new illustrations basing them very closely on de Worde’s originals, although inserting his own initials into the image. [See Varty (1999, 254-255)] He first used these new blocks in his second edition of the text in 1671, and continued to use them in subsequent editions, including the 1701 text held in Special Collections.

 

Our copy contains an armorial bookplate on the front pastedown, complete with an ink inscription: C. Roach Smith – presented by his sister Mrs Holliffe, 1847.

Foxbookplate

Charles Roach Smith (1807-1890) was an antiquarian and archaeologist, and a specialist in Roman coins and Roman London, publishing on both topics.  His works led him to being the recipient of several medals that were struck in his honour.

 

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Varty, Kenneth (1999) Reynard, Renart, Reinaert: and other foxes in Medieval England: the iconographic evidence. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

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Exhibition: David Jones (1895-1974)

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

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

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

1909: Camberwell School of Art

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

1919-21: Westminster School of Art

1921: Received into the Roman Catholic Church

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

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

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

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

Witty works

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

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

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

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

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

David Jones, March. Pepler, Pertinent and Impertinent.

David Jones, March. Pepler, Pertinent and Impertinent. © David Jones Estate

David Jones, The Milkmaid. Pepler, Pertinent and Impertinent.

David Jones, The Milkmaid. Pepler, Pertinent and Impertinent. © David Jones Estate

Untitled by Desmond Chute. Pepler, Pertinent and Impertinent.

Untitled by Desmond Chute. Pepler, Pertinent and Impertinent.

Desmond Chute, Nazareth. Woellwarth, Songs to our Lady of Silence.

Desmond Chute, Nazareth. Woellwarth, Songs to our Lady of Silence.

Desmond Chute, Egypt. Woellwarth, Songs to our Lady of Silence.

Desmond Chute, Egypt. Woellwarth, Songs to our Lady of Silence.

Desmond Chute, Bethlehem. Woellwarth, Songs to our Lady of Silence.

Desmond Chute, Bethlehem. Woellwarth, Songs to our Lady of Silence.

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

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

 David Jones, Sir Michael Sadler. Pepler, Libellus lapidum.

David Jones, Sir Michael Sadler. Pepler, Libellus lapidum. © David Jones Estate

David Jones, cover image. Pepler, Libellus lapidum.

David Jones, cover image. Pepler, Libellus lapidum. © David Jones Estate

David Jones, View of Stairs. Pepler, Libellus lapidum.

David Jones, View of Stairs. Pepler, Libellus lapidum. © David Jones Estate

David Jones, Epstein and John. Pepler, Libellus lapidum.

David Jones, Epstein and John. Pepler, Libellus lapidum. © David Jones Estate

David Jones, George Bernard Shaw. Pepler, Libellus lapidum.

David Jones, George Bernard Shaw. Pepler, Libellus lapidum. © David Jones Estate

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

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

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

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

Devotional works

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

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

David Jones, Crucifixion. A Child’s Rosary book, illustrated by David Jones.

David Jones, Crucifixion. A Child’s Rosary book, illustrated by David Jones. © David Jones Estate

David Jones, Crucifixion. A Child’s Rosary book.

David Jones, Crucifixion. A Child’s Rosary book. © David Jones Estate

David Jones, Ascension. A Child’s Rosary book.

David Jones, Ascension. A Child’s Rosary book. © David Jones Estate

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

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

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

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

Common carol book, illustrated by Eric Gill.

Common carol book, illustrated by Eric Gill.

Common carol book, illustrated by Eric Gill.

Common carol book, illustrated by Eric Gill.

Common carol book, illustrated by Eric Gill.

Common carol book, illustrated by Eric Gill.

Common carol book, illustrated by Eric Gill.

Common carol book, illustrated by Eric Gill.

The book of Jonah (Golden Cockerel, 1926).

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

The book of Jonah, illustrated by David Jones.

The book of Jonah, illustrated by David Jones. © David Jones Estate

The book of Jonah, illustrated by David Jones.

The book of Jonah, illustrated by David Jones. © David Jones Estate

The book of Jonah, illustrated by David Jones.

The book of Jonah, illustrated by David Jones. © David Jones Estate

The book of Jonah, illustrated by David Jones.

The book of Jonah, illustrated by David Jones. © David Jones Estate

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

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

Chester Play of the Deluge, illustrated by David Jones.

Chester Play of the Deluge, illustrated by David Jones. © David Jones Estate

Chester Play of the Deluge, illustrated by David Jones.

Chester Play of the Deluge, illustrated by David Jones. © David Jones Estate

Chester Play of the Deluge, illustrated by David Jones.

Chester Play of the Deluge, illustrated by David Jones. © David Jones Estate

Chester Play of the Deluge, illustrated by David Jones.

Chester Play of the Deluge, illustrated by David Jones. © David Jones Estate

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

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

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

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

Allegorical works: Gulliver’s Travels

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

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

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

Swift, Gulliver's travels, illustrated by David Jones.

Swift, Gulliver’s travels, illustrated by David Jones. © David Jones Estate

Swift, Gulliver's travels, illustrated by David Jones.

Swift, Gulliver’s travels, illustrated by David Jones. © David Jones Estate

Swift, Gulliver's travels, illustrated by David Jones.

Swift, Gulliver’s travels, illustrated by David Jones. © David Jones Estate

Swift, Gulliver's travels, illustrated by David Jones.

Swift, Gulliver’s travels, illustrated by David Jones. © David Jones Estate

Swift, Gulliver's travels, illustrated by David Jones.

Swift, Gulliver’s travels, illustrated by David Jones. © David Jones Estate

Swift, Gulliver's travels, illustrated by David Jones.

Swift, Gulliver’s travels, illustrated by David Jones. © David Jones Estate

Swift, Gulliver's travels, illustrated by David Jones.

Swift, Gulliver’s travels, illustrated by David Jones. © David Jones Estate

Swift, Gulliver's travels, illustrated by David Jones.

Swift, Gulliver’s travels, illustrated by David Jones. © David Jones Estate

Swift, Gulliver's travels, illustrated by David Jones.

Swift, Gulliver’s travels, illustrated by David Jones. © David Jones Estate

Swift, Gulliver's travels, illustrated by David Jones.

Swift, Gulliver’s travels, illustrated by David Jones. © David Jones Estate

Swift, Gulliver's travels, illustrated by David Jones.

Swift, Gulliver’s travels, illustrated by David Jones. © David Jones Estate

Swift, Gulliver's travels, illustrated by David Jones.

Swift, Gulliver’s travels, illustrated by David Jones. © David Jones Estate

Swift, Gulliver's travels, illustrated by David Jones.

Swift, Gulliver’s travels, illustrated by David Jones. © David Jones Estate

Swift, Gulliver's travels, illustrated by Rex Whistler.

Swift, Gulliver’s travels, illustrated by Rex Whistler.

Swift, Gulliver's travels, illustrated by Rex Whistler.

Swift, Gulliver’s travels, illustrated by Rex Whistler.

Metaphysical works: Rime of the Ancient Mariner

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

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

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

Coleridge, Rime of the ancient mariner, illustrated by David Jones.

Coleridge, Rime of the ancient mariner, illustrated by David Jones. © David Jones Estate

Coleridge, Rime of the ancient mariner, illustrated by David Jones.

Coleridge, Rime of the ancient mariner, illustrated by David Jones. © David Jones Estate

Coleridge, Rime of the ancient mariner, illustrated by David Jones.

Coleridge, Rime of the ancient mariner, illustrated by David Jones. © David Jones Estate

Coleridge, Rime of the ancient mariner, illustrated by David Jones.

Coleridge, Rime of the ancient mariner, illustrated by David Jones. © David Jones Estate

Coleridge, Rime of the ancient mariner, illustrated by David Jones.

Coleridge, Rime of the ancient mariner, illustrated by David Jones. © David Jones Estate

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coleridge, Rime of the ancient mariner, illustrated by Gustave Doré.

Coleridge, Rime of the ancient mariner, illustrated by Gustave Doré.

Coleridge, Rime of the ancient mariner, illustrated by Gustave Doré.

Coleridge, Rime of the ancient mariner, illustrated by Gustave Doré.

Coleridge, Rime of the ancient mariner, illustrated by Gustave Doré.

Coleridge, Rime of the ancient mariner, illustrated by Gustave Doré.

 

Beard-haters, face-painters and eyebrow-abusers: the dangerous fashions of “Man transform’d, or, The artificial changeling” (1653)

P1190836Those of us who have been left bemused by the sudden rise of high-street botox booths, tanning shops, nail salons and eyebrow bars can take some comfort from this curious work by John Bulwer which suggests that, even as far back in 1653, people have always been astonished at the lengths to which some would go to transform their bodies in the name of fashion.  

P1190832In Anthropometamorphosis: Man Transform’d, or The Artificial Changeling, Bulwer’s aim, according to the full title, is to expose the “mad and cruel gallantry, foolish bravery, ridiculous beauty, filthy fineness, and loathsome loveliness of most nations, fashioning & altering their bodies from the mould intended by nature”.  Bulwer describes in detail how people around the world artificially modify their appearance, noting that every nation has a “particular whimzey as touching corporall fashions of their own invention.”

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Painter-stainers and auricular bravery

The book is divided into 23 sections covering all types of body modification and decoration, including tattooing, lip-piercing, binding, scarring, cosmetics, ear-piercing, and eyebrow shaping. Sections are accompanied by numerous woodcut illustrations contrasting ancient with modern or Old World with New.

P1190831

“Eye-brows abus’d contrary to nature.”

In an appendix, The pedigree of the English gallant, the author looks more P1190822closely at how fashions in England have been influenced by practices in  remote parts of the world. Although containing a strong element of social commentary, Bulwer’s work can also be considered one of the first studies in comparative cultural anthropology. He is rarely directly critical of primitive peoples; rather, Bulwer uses the universal nature of body modification to demonstate similar behaviours of humans everywhere (Anthropometamorphosis literally meaning “humanity-changing”). Bulwer may view some practices of remote tribes as laughable or barbaric, but no more laughable or barbaric than those of the ‘civilised’ world.

P1190842

Beard-haters of the world

P1190824

The influence of indigenous peoples on Tudor cod-piece fashion?

Man Transform’d was Bulwer’s final book. A physician by trade, he chose to return to his calling as a pioneer of communication with the deaf, having previously published the first treatise on sign language, Chirologia: or The naturall language of the hand.

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“Among those whoe corrupt and deforme the face some account musicians that play upon wind instruments.”

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“Was it not the same conceit that the Macrones of Pontus … once had, among whom they were esteemed the best gentlemen who had the highest head?”

New for 2012/13: SCOLAR Lunchtime Workshops

This year, SCOLAR is offering a pilot series of lunchtime workshops on subjects relevant to a range of disciplines. Workshops on illustrated sources and women’s studies will run this autumn, with sessions on historical travel literature and World War One sources in the spring. The workshops are intended to raise awareness of the breadth of material available to support research in these areas, and as a general introduction to using Special Collections and Archives.

The first workshop on illustrated sources will be led by Assistant Archivist, Alison Harvey. It will introduce a range of illustrated material from the SCOLAR collections, including literary, scientific, medical, and women’s periodicals and miscellanies, newspapers, children’s literature, art and architecture, novel, plays and poetry, travel literature, ballads and almanacs, and prints, posters and propaganda.

Workshops will be held in Special Collections and Archives, on the lower ground floor of the Arts and Social Studies Library, Corbett Road, Cardiff. The illustrated sources workshop is scheduled for 12-1pm on 22 November, and will be repeated at 1-2pm on 23 November. Places are limited, so if you would like to attend either session, please email HarveyAE@cf.ac.uk, stating your preferred time.

Download a copy of the workshop poster

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!

By Oak, Ash & Thorn

In times of austerity one’s imagination can often be the key to making a dream become reality.  In 1928 Geoffrey Higgens, honourary secretary of the Brighton based Apollo Arts Club, shocked at the prices of printing presses decided to construct his own – from a piece of oak, a tombstone and a flat iron!  He published the club’s magazine, The Delphic, and called it  The Oak, Ash & Thorn Press.  It is possible this name originated from Kipling’s story ‘Weland’s sword’ from Puck of Pook’s Hill which was published in 1906, where the line ‘by oak, ash and thorn’ appears.

We only have a couple of items from this small press, one of which is a collection of six hand printed rhyme sheets in a decorated folder.  Only 5o copies were printed.  Each sheet is decorated with one main illustration above the poem, and one smaller vignette at the base of the sheet.  The woodcuts were by Geoffrey Higgens himself, as were two of the poems; the others being by Maurice Elford and Kathleen Moore.  A mixture of styles and themes, it is Tripedence by Mauric Elford that stands out for its glorious use of nonsense words.

Tripedence by Maurice Elford

Peace in the candle shop hugs
The mysterious blan of fendestuous sequins
(Hooting with nargic distribulancy)
Till the toll of the tull tells tales
Of Sharness in sibisticism.


Science and sea monsters

This wonderful fish is from Cardiff’s exceptional copy of De Piscibus libri V, et de cetis lib. vnus by the 16th century Italian naturalist, Ulisse Aldrovandi. It is one of nearly 400 full page woodcuts of fish, sharks, whales, dolphins … and sea monsters!

Aldrovandi (1522-1605) was a student of the universities of Bologna and Padua, completing his degree in medicine  in 1553. By then, however, he had developed a strong interest in botany and zoology, and in 1561 Aldrovandi became Bologna’s first professor of natural sciences. He was a leading figure in the Renaissance movement that sought to place a renewed emphasis on the study of nature through direct observation.

Aldrovandi was one of the first great specimen hunters and regularly organized expeditions in search of exotic new items; in the course of his life he would assemble one of the most acclaimed cabinets of curiosities in Europe. These private collections of fossils, minerals and rare plants were the forerunners of modern natural history museums and Aldrovandi’s cabinet eventually comprised some 18,000 specimens, many of which he described in the thirteen volumes of his greatest work, Storia naturale.

Although he described his own observations with considerable accuracy, Aldrovandi passed along his share of misinformation, often displaying what the naturalist Buffon would later describe as “a tendency towards credulity”. If a previous writer had described an unusual creature, he considered it only polite to mention it, no matter how improbable the beast appeared. Our copy of De Piscibus, the fifth volume of Aldrovandi’s Natural history, features numerous monstrous serpents and fanciful oddities alongside the more familiar marine life.

Despite these occasional flights of fancy, Aldrovandi’s work represented a great advance towards science based on observation. He arguably did more than any other to establish zoology and botany as fields of study and came to be regarded by later scholars such as Linnaeus as the ‘father of natural history studies’. High praise indeed for the man who once observed of stingrays that they “love music, the dance and witty remarks”!

Private press books in the Cardiff Rare Books Collection

Woodcut title of "The tale of Beowulf" with gothic lettering designed by William Morris. Published in 1895 by the Kelmscott Press as a limited edition of 300 copies.

We have just started the enviable task of cataloguing SCOLAR’s extensive set of beautifully printed and finely bound private press books. The Cardiff Rare Books Collection contains several thousand of these works, produced by fine presses such as the Kelmscott Press, Essex House Press, Golden Cockerel, Ashendene and Doves Press. Many smaller British presses are also represented in the collection, as is the work of private presses in Europe and the United States, with examples from the Bremer Presse in Munich and the New York’s Harbor Press.

Walt Whitman's "Song of the Broad-axe" with woodcuts by Wharton Esherick (Centaur Press, 1924)

The private press movement flourished at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, beginning in 1890 with the founding of the Kelmscott Press by William Morris. An offshoot of the Arts and Crafts movement, which advocated fine craftsmanship and high quality materials over mechanized mass production, the private presses produced books using traditional printing and binding methods, with an emphasis on the book as a work of art as well a source of information.
Morris himself was greatly inspired by medieval illuminated manuscripts and the Kelmscott style of fine presswork was to have considerable influence on the work of later presses such as Ashendene and Doves.

Pages from "The tale of Beowulf" (Kelmscott Press, 1895)