The Queen and the Saint: two royal women of Kent

The Queen and the Saint: two royal women of Kent

One of the great treasures of the Old Library is an early fifteenth century manuscript, Historia Monasterii S. Augustini Cantuariensis, by Thomas of Elmham, a medieval monk and historian. Elmham’s history of St Augustine’s Abbey and its lands contains elaborate chronological tables and facsimiles of many lost Anglo-Saxon charters. Amongst these pages recording the deeds of clerics are two magnificent full page illustrations which reveal the presence of two high status women!

The women who were so important to the history of St Augustine’s Abbey were Domme Eafe and her daughter Mildrith. Domme Eafe had impeccable royal lineage – she was descended from King Æthelberht of Kent and was married to King Merewalh of Magonsaete (a sub-kingdom of Mercia). This remarkable queen founded the abbey of Minster-in-Thanet and all three of her daughters, Mildburh, Mildgytha and Mildrith, were saints.


Saint Mildrith (image from Wikipedia)

The most notable of the three was Saint Mildrith (c. 660-733). She features in the Kentish Royal Legend or “Mildrith legend” and Goscelin wrote a hagiography of her, the “Vita Mildrethae”, in the 11th century. As a royal woman Saint Mildrith received an education at the prestigious Merovingian royal abbey of Chelles, near Paris, which had a reputation for great learning. On her return to England she entered the abbey of Minster-in-Thanet. By 694 Saint Mildrith had risen to become the Abbess at Minster-in-Thanet and when she died in about 734 she was buried in the Abbey church of St Mary.

MS1 Isle of Thanet blog

Isle of Thanet (Trinity Hall Cambridge MS.1)

This illustration (above) from MS.1 is a map of the Isle of Thanet. It features important landmarks, churches and abbeys, including that of Minster-in-Thanet. It also shows the course (marked as a green line) said to have been taken by a white hind belonging to Queen Domme Eafe, when it designated the land granted for the foundation of the abbey of Minster-in-Thanet.


“Cursus cerue”: the path taken by Domme Eafe’s white hind (detail from Trinity Hall Cambridge MS.1)

The other full page illustration in this manuscript shows the East end of the abbey church of St Augustine’s in Canterbury. It depicts the high altar surmounted by precious reliquaries and six holy books. The shrine of St Augustine is situated in pride of place behind the high altar at the East end.


Plan of the East end of St Augustine’s Abbey (Trinity Hall Cambridge MS.1)

But Saint Mildrith has a shrine there too! How did she come to be there? According to Julian Luxford, the nunnery of Minster-in-Thanet had fallen into disuse and in 1030 King Cnut granted his permission for the relics of Saint Mildrith to be moved from the abbey church of St Mary to the church of St Augustine’s Abbey in Canterbury “where she was venerated alongside the early archbishops”. Her importance is revealed by the magnificence of her shrine and its site just next to the chapel with the relics of St Augustine.

St Mildrith's shrine

Saint Mildrith’s shrine in the abbey church of St Augustine’s Canterbury (Trinity Hall Cambridge MS.1)

This tale of two medieval royal women who feature in the illustrations of MS.1 is part of our series of posts looking at “Women in the special collections of Trinity Hall” in celebration of the THWomen40 anninversary.


St Augustine’s Abbey is managed by English Heritage and is open to the public. English Heritage has just published a new guidebook by Julian Luxford which includes a full colour reproduction of the illustraion in our manuscript of the East end of the Abbey church.


Description by Montague Rhodes James of Historia Monasterii S. Augustini Cantuariensis (Trinity Hall Cambridge MS.1)

St Augustine’s Abbey” by Julian Luxford (English Heritage Guidebooks, 2017) ISBN 9781910907160

St Augustine’s Abbey (English Heritage)

When Milly met Harry

It has recently been announced that Millicent Garrett Fawcett (1847-1929), who led the campaign for women’s suffrage, will be the first woman to be honoured with a statue in Parliament Square.  This remarkable woman, also active in the struggle to improve women’s education, is well known as one of the principal founders of Newnham College Cambridge. So why does she feature in our series of blogs celebrating the TH Women40 anniversary? Well, she also had a connection to Trinity Hall!


Milly (image from Wikipedia)

In 1867 “Milly”, as she was known to her family, married Trinity Hall man and Member of Parliament, Henry Fawcett – or “Harry” to his friends. Here we take a look at their story through one of Trinity Hall’s manuscripts: a proof copy of the “Life of Henry Fawcett” by Leslie Stephen, which is written and marked up for publication in the author’s hand.


Extract from Leslie Stephen’s manuscript of “Life of Henry Fawcett”

Millicent Garrett as born in Aldeburgh in 1847 and came from a family of independent and high-achieving women. Her elder sister was Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, the first British female doctor. As a young woman, Milly became interested in women’s rights after attending a lecture on the subject by John Stuart Mill. At the age of just nineteen she became the Secretary of the London Society for Women’s Suffrage. Just one year later she married Henry Fawcett, a leading disciple of Mill! It was to be a happy marriage of like-minded radicals.

Henry Fawcett

Harry as a young man

Leslie Stephen and Henry Fawcett met as mathematics undergraduates when Fawcett migrated from Peterhouse to Trinity Hall in 1855. They became great friends – first as undergraduates and then as Fellows of Trinity Hall. Henry Fawcett was already a Fellow when tragedy struck in 1858. On a visit home he lost his sight in a partridge shooting accident. With great courage and determination he decided that this misfortune should have no effect on his life. He continued his fellowship at Trinity Hall with the help of a young guide and amanuensis, Edward Brown, and went on to achieve great things, with a distinguished career as Professor of Political Economy at Cambridge, as a radical Member of Parliament and subsequently as Post Master General.


Here we have Stephen’s account of Harry’s marriage to Milly in 1867

Although Stephen’s biography of Harry makes only passing reference to Milly (out of Victorian delicacy about private life) when he does mention her it is always with admiration. He tells us that “in political and social questions their alliance implied the agreement of independent minds, not the relation of teacher and disciple” and that  Harry’s “marriage was a main source of the happiness and success of his later career”.

On marriage Harry gave up his Trinity Hall Fellowship, as he was forced to do under the old rules, and was re-elected under the new rules. Milly had a central place in her husband’s life and in the Cambridge circle of academics and their wives. She ran the couple’s houses in Cambridge and London, but she was no stay-at-home housewife! She took over the role of amanuensis and was Harry’s guide, escorting him to the Houses of Parliament. She “was his adviser in most serious matters; and … when she was temporarily absent he would put off a decision of great moment in his career until he had been able to obtain her opinion”.


Stephen’s entry mentioning the Fawcett’s co-authorship of “Essays and lectures on social and political subjects”

She was also prolific author. Her first book “Political economy for beginners” (1870) was a great success, appearing in 10 editions. According to Stephen “she was fully qualified to take an interest in all his intellectual pursuits and shared his main political principles. They published together a volume of lectures and essays”. This volume was “Essays and Lectures on social and political subjects” (1872) which contained six chapters by Harry and eight chapters by Milly. Her biographer, David Rubinstein, states that she “was more talented than her husband”.

She was active in the movement for women’s suffrage and her husband “was always ready to support her efforts in a cause in which she naturally took the leading part”. After the death of her husband on 6 November 1884 she temporarily withdrew from public life. She later became president of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (1897-1919) and was a tireless campaigner on a number of issues. In July 1901 she was appointed to lead the British Government’s commission to South Africa to investigate conditions in the concentration camps that had been created there in the wake of the Second Boer War.

Millicent Garret Fawcett is considered instrumental in gaining the vote for six million British women over 30 years old in 1918. Theresa May, said in a statement that Dame Millicent “continues to inspire the battle against the injustices of today”. All 11 statues in Parliament Square are currently of men. It is wonderful that this remarkable woman with such a strong connection to Trinity Hall will be the first woman to join them!


“Life of Henry Fawcett” by Leslie Stephen (London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1886)

“A different world for women: the life of Millicent Garrett Fawcett” by David Rubinstein (London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991)

“Essays and lectures on social and political subjects” by Henry Fawcett and Millicent Garrett Fawcett (London: Macmillan, 1872)

“Political economy for beginners” by Millicent Garrett Fawcett (London: Macmillan, 1870)

BBC News article “Millicent Fawcett to be first woman statue in Parliament Square”

Wikipedia on Millicent Garrett Fawcett

Celebrating the sixteenth century: Part 1

The project to catalogue the 16th-century books in the Old Library is now complete! To celebrate the occasion I interviewed our two Rare Books Cataloguers, Adriana Celmare and Allen Purvis.

Our cataloguers have become familiar with some wonderful books. But they are much too polite to let on that they have also had to put up with some challenging conditions:  chilly temperatures in the winter, low light levels on overcast days, attempting to decipher scrawled inscriptions and climbing up ladders to reach the highest bookshelves!

If you would like to find out what it is like to work with the special collections in Trinity Hall read on… The informal questions were designed give a personal impression from the people who count – the workers on the front line!

Here is the first interview with Adriana.

Q. What was your first impression of Trinity Hall?

A. I thought it looked very elegant and pretty! I particularly enjoyed the court leading to Latham Lawn with the beautiful terrace overlooking the river Cam and the two library buildings at each end.

Q. Out of all the books you catalogued which was your favourite book and why (it could be more than one book)?

A. It’s hard for me to pick out favourites when I’m cataloguing sixteenth century books because I think they are all so interesting in their own unique way! That being said, I do like nice bindings and I found quite a few of them here at Trinity Hall, ranging from panel-stamped bindings to gold-tooled armorial ones.


Binding  depicting St. George and the Dragon (D*.7.45)


Armorial binding of Cardinal Mazarin (D*.8.3)















I also appreciate books with a rich provenance history and a perfect example of this was a collection of seven legal items bound together in a volume stamped with the arms of William Cecil, Lord Burghley and chief adviser to Queen Elizabeth I. One of the tracts was also inscribed by Thomas Cranmer, famous reformer and Archbishop of Canterbury, and another item had inscriptions by William Leson, Doctor of Law, and William Mowse, Master of Trinity Hall (1552-1553 and 1555-1559). Mowse probably acquired the volume sometime in the sixteenth century and he later donated it to the College alongside two hundred other legal works from his private collection.



Armorial stamp of William Cecil Classmark O*.2.8(1-8)


Inscriptions of William Lesson and William Mowse Classmark O*.2.8(5)


Q. Has anything you have discovered during the project caught your imagination?

A. There were a lot of things that piqued my curiosity during this project, but I was particularly attracted to the story of the Old Library itself, its foundation and growth throughout centuries due to the generosity of the College’s members, former Masters, Fellows and alumni. With every inscription deciphered, binding identified or bookplate assigned, I felt like putting together pieces of a puzzle, in order to create a comprehensive picture of what the Old Library stands for at Trinity Hall.

Q. Is there anything during the project that has really challenged you or annoyed you?

A. Nothing really annoyed me, but as with any new cataloguing project, there were lots of things to be learned about various local practices, history of the owning institution, former owners and donors, etc. But these were all good challenges to have and I’ve enjoyed every minute of trying to overcome them.

Q. What do you like best about the Old Library?

A. I love the Old Library’s period charm, its unique original features and outstanding legal collections.


The Old Library at Trinity Hall

Q. Anything else?

A. Cataloguing sixteenth century books in the midst of the actual environment where they were housed for centuries is indeed a rare opportunity for anyone and it has certainly been a remarkable one for me as well.


Dominique says: It has been wonderful having two such talented cataloguers working on the 16th-century collections and we are lucky that they are now cataloguing the 17th-century books in the Old Library.

For Allen’s view of working in the Old Library, please keep an eye out for his interview in a later blog!

A tale of two women

This post continues our celebration of the THwomen40 anniversary and looks at the importance of two women in the life of Thomas Preston, a former Master of Trinity Hall.

The ante-chapel of Trinity Hall contains two monumental brasses, situated just a few feet apart, of Walter Hewke (Master 1512-1517/18) and Thomas Preston (Master 1585-1598). Preston’s brass is particularly interesting for the Latin inscription which contains the names of two women, Alicia and Elizabeth. Who were they and what role did they play in his life?


Alicia’s inscription on Preston’s brass (from Warren’s Book)


Thomas Preston has the distinction of being the first married Master of Trinity Hall! He was educated at Eton and King’s College Cambridge (1556-81) and it seems likely that he resigned his fellowship at King’s in order to marry Alicia. By this time Heads of Houses, unlike fellows, were allowed to marry but it is not clear whether Preston lived with his wife in College. According to Crawley, “The fact that Preston was buried in the ante-chapel does not prove that he resided in College, but his widow at least ensured that she would not be forgotten, for the inscription on his monument begins with her name ALICIA, alone on the first line.” In her inscription Alicia leaves us in no doubt about her importance in Preston’s life!


Might Alicia have looked like this ?

We know little about Alicia and do not have an image of her. However, we can speculate that as a woman of some standing she might have looked something like the wealthy woman depicted in this brass in a church in Bruges (above).

Elizabeth I

Elizabeth, the other woman mentioned in the inscription, was in fact the Queen of England! Preston first came to the Queen’s attention as young fellow of King’s at the time of her stay in Cambridge in August 1564. This was a gala occasion for both town and gown, with speeches, disputations, religious services, banquets and plays.  Preston impressed Elizabeth I with his “gracefull gesture” and “propernesse of person” in his role in the play of “Dido” which was put on for her entertainment at King’s College. He also excelled in a disputation before the Queen on the subject “monarchy is the best form for a state” (and he had the delicate task of speaking against the motion!) and in his oration at her departure from Cambridge. Elizabeth I was so taken with him that she called him “her scholar” and gave him a pension of £20 a year, a substantial sum in those days.


Elizabeth I, detail from the charter re-confirming Trinity Hall’s foundation (1559)

And she did not forget him! Many years later in 1585, when the Mastership of Trinity Hall fell vacant, Lord Burghley wrote to the fellows of Trinity Hall staying the election of a new Master. A few days later the fellows were instructed by royal mandate to elect Thomas Preston. The brass, which records that Elizabeth I called him “her scholar”, pays tribute to the importance of the Queen’s patronage in Preston’s fortunes.


As Master, Preston set to work to sort out a number of problems including the College’s parlous finances which were burdened with debts “desperate to be remedied”. He was Vice-Chancellor, 1589-90, and was admitted an advocate in the Court of Arches in 1591. Perhaps he is best known today as the author of the play “Cambises King of Persia” which was lampooned by Shakespeare through the words of Falstaff in Henry IV, part I. His name lived on in Trinity Hall’s drama group, the Preston Society.

Over time the memory of Preston’s achievements may fade, but the inscription on his brass ensures that the importance of Alicia and Elizabeth in his life is recorded for posterity!


This post is an extended version of an article published in Front Court, Issue 21, Spring 2015.

For more about the visit of Queen Elizabeth I to Cambridge see the related post Vivat Regina!

Thomas Preston, The lamentable tragedie, mixed full of pleasant mirth containing the life of Cambyses king of Percia, Tudor Facsimile texts (London, 1910)

Charles Crawley, Trinity Hall. The History of a Cambridge College (Cambridge, 1976)

Faces of Eve: Women in the Special Collections of Trinity Hall

The ‘Women in the special collections of Trinity Hall’ is an occasional series to celebrate the ‘TH Women 40’ anniversary. In this first post of the series we look at two very different depictions of Eve, the first woman, published two hundred years apart.

Nuremberg Chronicle

The Nuremberg Chronicle, or ‘Chronica Mundi’, is a history of the world. Written by Hartman Schedel and printed by Anton Koberger in 1493 (a year after Christopher Columbus sailed to the ‘new world’) the Nuremberg Chronicle reflects the medieval world view.


Creation of Eve. Nuremberg Chronicle (detail).

It includes a large number of woodcuts by Michel Wolgemnut and Wilhelm Pleydenwurff of city scenes, historical figures and events. At this time, sources for European history were the Bible and the Classics which is why figures from the Old Testament mingle with those from Greek and Roman history. Some of the illustrations include women and give a fascinating insight into the medieval view of women – including Eve. An opening near the start of the book shows God creating Eve out of Adam’s rib. Eve is born, fully-formed, as a comely young woman who gazes directly at her Creator.


Temptation of Adam and Eve in Paradise. Nuremberg Chronicle (detail)

On the facing page we see the temptation of Eve and the expulsion from Paradise.  Adam and Eve are of an equal height standing either side of the tree of knowledge. Each holds a red apple in their hands, while the serpent has another apple in its mouth. The couple cover their bodies in shame, although only Eve casts down her eyes. She is shown as curvaceous, vigorous and grounded. Moreover, in our hand-coloured copy she is alluring, with long blonde hair, red lips and pink flesh tones.


Medieval face of Eve. Nuremberg Chronicle (detail)

The Nuremberg Chronicle abounds with other arresting images of women, who are often portrayed as lively and confident: from women of Roman antiquity to the women of the Old and New Testaments.

Paradise Lost

‘The poetical works of Mr. John Milton’, published in 1695, was the first collected edition of Milton’s poems. It includes the epic poem ‘Paradise lost’ which tells the tale of the Fall and the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden.

Milton was a republican and a civil servant during the Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth. He composed his epic poem ‘Paradise Lost’ in 1667, after the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660. England had endured a period of religious and political upheaval. The trauma of the Civil War and the collapse of the Commonwealth brought tremendous soul searching: families had been torn apart and individuals were buffeted by changing fortunes. Gone were the medieval certainties.


Frontispiece to Book 9 of Paradise Lost (1695)

A new insecurity is revealed in these illustrations to ‘Paradise Lost’. In the frontispiece to Book IX we see Adam and Eve in a sunny paradise but surrounded by dark forces. Their small figures are dwarfed by the coiled serpent and a prancing Satan in the gloomy foreground. Eve’s face is blank in her innocence and, as if in a dream, she seems powerless to withstand the inexorable sequence of events.  Both the engraving and Milton’s introduction leave us in no doubt about the prime mover: ‘Satan having compast the Earth, with meditated guile returns as a mist by night into Paradise, enters into the Serpent sleeping’.


Milton’s Eve in Paradise

The engraving captures the moment when Satan wakes the serpent from his sleep. We see the serpent spiralling up above Satan’s head (almost like a thought bubble) and mesmerising Eve, who takes a bite of the apple. She then hands an apple to Adam, who takes it and bites into it. The fatal deed is done! Thunder clouds mass overhead and lightning strikes, symbolising the voice and wrath of God at their disobedience. The final vignette depicts their misery at having disobeyed God by tasting the forbidden fruit. They realise that they are naked and cover themselves with leaves. Here Eve, Adam and even the serpent are all depicted as pawns in Satan’s titanic battle with God.


Detail of frontispiece to Book 12 of Paradise Lost (1695)

The frontispiece to Book XII reinforces this feeling of powerlessness. Adam and Eve are driven from the Garden of Eden by the Archangel Michael, who holds a flaming sword. The couple seems traumatised and full of guilt. Adam hides his face but we see the doleful face of Eve, with huge saucer eyes looking up towards heaven, or perhaps towards an uncertain future outside paradise.


Milton’s Eve on her expulsion from Paradise

Milton tells us that she is ‘compos’d to quietness of mind and submission’. This is a very different Eve from the medieval Eve of the Nuremberg Chronicle, who looked confident and knew her place in the world. The seventeenth-century Eve is conflicted, haunted and worried about the future – a modern Eve for troubled times.

La Serenissima: Trinity Hall’s Venetian books

Image by Gerhard Bögner from Pixabay

The Old Library has 12 incunabula and 122 sixteenth- and seventeenth-century books printed in Venice. These have now all been catalogued online by Allen Purvis, one of our rare books project cataloguers. The project has revealed a lot of interesting data and has provided a good overview of Venetian publishing activity at that time.

Why Venice?

Venice was an important centre for early printing. The first printers in “La Serenissima” were German and the earliest to be registered was Johann von Speyer in 1469. However, printers of other nationalities were soon established in the city, including many Italian printers. Publishing in Venice expanded rapidly (by 1500 there were over 200 printing presses) and continued to flourish there during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.


Venetian Publishers

According to Brian Richardson in his book “Printing, writers and readers in Renaissance Italy” the Italian city “which offered the best conditions of all was Venice”. Intellectual life flourished there, its government was relatively stable, it had good trading connections and it had wealthy merchants and investors to sponsor publication costs.

“Venice thus soon came to dominate the Italian printing industry, indeed for a while the European printing industry.” It produced nearly three quarters of the editions printed in Italy between 1526 and 1550. The typical print run for Venetian incunabula was 300-400 copies, but during the 16th century print runs increased to between 1,000 and 3,000.

Venetian booksellers’ shops were on the Mercerie and on the Frezzeria. Books were displayed inside the shops and in open shop fronts on the street. Volumes were usually sold unbound, though some bookshops offered binding services. The presses however, were situated away from the bookshops and the crowded streets.


View of Venice from Hartmann Schedel’s “Liber Chronicarum”, Nuremberg (1493)

Trinity Hall’s Incunabula from Venice

Our 12 Venetian incunabula were all printed between 1493 and 1500. The earliest of these is “Cinus super codice cum annotationibus” by Cino da Pistoia on the subject of Roman law   – very fitting for a College that specialised in law! It was published by Andreas Torresanus de Asula in September 1493. Only two of the incunabula are on the classics (Terence   and Suetonius) and all the others deal with civil or canon law.

Early law books

As we might expect works on law also make up a large proportion of the books printed between 1501 and 1650 (a total of 73 books or 59%). The main law subjects are Roman, civil or canon law and consilia. Other legal subjects include appellate procedure, feudal law, maxims, oaths, suretyship and guaranty, and wills. There are also a handful of books on administrative law, criminal law, commercial law, maritime law and military law. Five of the books cover the law of Naples (civil, criminal or feudal), one book covers the civil law of Genoa and there is a volume of law reports from Piedmont.


The Catholic Church

Apart from our significant holdings on canon law, we have four books that deal specifically with benefices and simony in the Catholic Church. Added to this are only six books that deal with Catholic theology.  Two of these were given to Trinity Hall by the antiquarian and recusant, Robert Hare:  “Martyrologium S. Romanae ecclesiae” (1578) and “Aurea in quinquaginta Dauidicos Psalmos doctorum Graecorum catena” (1569) on the Psalms.  For a law library, and one that successfully weathered the political changes of the English Reformation, it is not surprising that we have so little Venetian publishing on theology.

A varied collection

The collection also features Venetian publishing on agriculture, astronomy, classics, medicine, military art and science, philosophy, political science and some travel books. A handful of books deal with the more unusual topics of medieval etiquette, marriage, old age and even duelling!

Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester

Binding stamp of Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester

Italy is also represented, with a book of the correspondence of Claudio Tolomei “Delle lettre di M. Claudio Tolomei, libri VII” (1572), an Italian dictionary of words used in Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio “Della fabrico del mondo” (1560) which belonged to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and a book on the social life and customs of Venice itself “Relatione della republica Venetiana” by Giovanni  Botero (1605).


This is just a brief overview of the fascinating collection of Venetian books in the Old Library. A look at the provenance of these books would make another fascinating story which we hope to tell one day!


A Pdf list of the publishers of Venetian books in the Old Library Trinity Hall can be accessed using this link Venetian publishers

Printing, writers and readers in Renaissance Italy” by Brian Richardson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999 (ISBN 9780521576932)

The Venetian printing press” by Horatio Brown. London, 1891

Web resource: History of Venetian printing

To read more about our incunabula go to “Gems of early printing


Medieval bling

One of our precious manuscripts has been featured in two recent publications. The first is a book in the Penguin Monarchs series: “Richard II: a brittle glory” by Laura Ashe. The second is an online exhibition “Pipeline from Heaven: 800 years of Dominican books” hosted by Cambridge University Library.

Richard II Camb Illum close up

King Richard II enthroned wiht the symbols of kingship (Trinity Hall Cambridge MS.17)

The manuscript in question is Roger Dymmok’s refutation of the twelve heresies of the Lollards (Trinity Hall Cambridge MS.17). According to Professor Nigel Morgan in his recent talk to the Supporters of the Old Library it is “the most lavish copy in existence of this treatise” and is linked stylistically to other manuscripts most likely produced in London. The manuscript is illuminated in glowing colours and gold leaf, further embellished with incised patterns.

As a presentation copy to King Richard II, the manuscript is resplendent with the symbols of kingship. The first folio bears an image of King Richard II who is enthroned, robed in blue and ermine, wearing his crown and holding the royal sceptre. At the foot of the page are two white hart, Richard’s badge (which also features prominently on the Wilton diptych). In the border on the right of the folio are Richard’s arms of the lion of England crossed with the fleur de lys of France. To reinforce the message, these arms are also painted on the fore edge of the manuscript.

TRH_17_top edgeB

Arms of France and England on the fore edge of Trinity Hall Cambridge MS.17

It is obvious that only the best would do for Richard II! The young king’s formative experience was his dazzling coronation at the age of 10 in 1377. It took place with spectacular pageantry – the fountains flowing with wine and gold coins cast at the king’s feet – and set the tone for his reign. According to Ashe “Richard invested in majesty, in the display of wealth and intricate ceremony”. Indeed the king’s conspicuous expenditure and the financial (and political) problems it brought are elucidated in Laura Ashe’s work.

As king, Richard was guided by two main principles: his unshakable belief in the divinity of kingship and his demand for the complete obedience of every subject to his will. His choice of badge is telling: the white hart is depicted as seated on a bed of rosemary, collared with a gold crown and a long chain. Laura Ashe tells us that the hart is a symbol of Christ in suffering. Richard thus identifies his royal duties with both divinity and suffering, bearing majesty as “a noble burden, the deer’s white coat a sign of purity, the rosemary for remembrance of sorrow”.

White Hart

The white hart badge of King Richard II (Trinity Hall Cambridge MS.17)

The text of the manuscript is by the Dominican, Roger Dymmok, and contests the views of John Wycliffe which had become popular in all echelons of society. Amongst other views, Wycliffe criticised the Church for its wealth and property, saying that it was contrary to Christ’s teaching of poverty. His heretical views were condemned by the Pope. Richard II had no sympathy with the Lollards (as the followers of Wycliffe were called) and in 1395 he demanded that his Lollard knights abjure the heresy on pain of death.


John the Baptist preaching (detail) in the online exhibition “Pipeline from heaven”

Among the images featured in the online exhibition “A pipeline from heaven” is one from MS.17 folio 8r showing John Baptist holding a lamb and preaching to four people. John the Baptist had special significance for Richard II and can also be seen in the Wilton diptych as one of the king’s patrons. The exhibition, curated by Professor Nigel Morgan and Father Richard Finn, is based on books and manuscripts held by Cambridge University Library, the Fitzwilliam Museum, and the Cambridge colleges.


The forthcoming monograph on “Charles II” in the Penguin Monarchs series is by Clare Jackson, Senior Tutor, Trinity Hall.


Richard II: a brittle glory” by Laura Ash. (Penguin Monarchs series. London: Allen Lane, 2016. ISBN 978014197989)

“A pipeline from heaven: 800 years of Dominican books” online exhibition

Wilton Diptych can be seen at the National Gallery London

Cambridge University Library



Trinity Hall and the University Library

We are delighted to welcome Liam Sims of the Rare Books Department at Cambridge University Library as our guest blogger on “Trinity Hall and the University Library”.

Trinity Hall has had books in its possession since Bishop Bateman’s gift in 1350, and many links exist between the ancient libraries within the University – of which Trinity Hall’s is one – not least in terms of the movement of individual volumes between collections. A recent post on this blog about the college’s incunabula (books printed before 1501) made me wonder if any early books now in the University Library (which came into being about sixty years after Trinity Hall and celebrates its 600th anniversary in 2016) have connections to Trinity Hall. This post looks at three volumes once owned by members of the college, whose contents can tell interesting stories about their long histories and connections with our university town.

Pet binding

Blind stamped wooden binding on Peterborough.Sp.61

The volume with the earliest connection to Trinity Hall is a medieval blind stamped wooden binding containing five separate works, all printed in the 1490s, and all evidently in Cambridge at a very early date. Two are from the press of Richard Pynson, an important printer based in London (possibly an early assistant of England’s first printer, William Caxton), and others made their way from Cologne and Paris. The first work in the volume forms the third part (the Facetus) of an eight-part work known as the Auctores octo morales (Eight Moral Authors), a standard collection of Latin textbooks used for teaching in the medieval period, which included Aesop and the Distichs of Cato.


Title page of the “Facetus” (Paris, ca. 1491-3)

This undated edition was printed in Paris by André Bocard, in about 1491-3, and is today exceedingly rare; the third part is recorded in just one other library – the Bodleian. One of the first owners of this copy of the Facetus was William Dakke, who is named in an inscription on the verso of the first leaf: ‘Iste liber p[er]tinet f[ratris] wyll[el]mo dak cu[m] magno gaudio et honore Amen’.

Facetus inscription

Inscription recording Dakke’s ownership on o1v

Dakke is fairly well documented in Emden’s Biographical register of the University of Cambridge to 1500, which records that he had graduated (at an unknown college) as a bachelor of Canon Law by 1454/5 and that he was vicar of Meldreth church before 1475, as well as rector of Sudborne and Orford in Suffolk from 1475 onwards. His connection with Trinity Hall comes, unsurprisingly, with his expertise in the law, for he served the college as ‘Proctor at law’ in 1474, a post he held for the prior of Ely in 1469/70; surviving records tell us that he was ‘rowed from Cambridge to Ely on priory business’. Dakke died late in 1495 (his will is dated 2 September), leaving the sum of 6s 8d to the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Cambridge (the Round Church) and was buried in Orford church. During his lifetime the book passed by purchase to one Geoffrey Jullys, who bought it from Dakke and gave it to one Thomas Ellys, all of which we know thanks to another helpful inscription (on the recto of the second leaf): ‘emptus a fratre Will[el]mo Dalke [sic] per m[agist]r[um] galfridym Iullys et datus per e[un]d[em] m[agist]r[o] fr[atri] thome ellys filio suo spirituali’. Since most of the other works in the volume are dated to 1496 or later (i.e. after Dakke’s death), we know that they can only have been bound together later on, perhaps by Ellys, whose name appears in other items in the volume. In 1713 the volume was given by one John Turner to White Kennett, then Dean of Peterborough (and from 1718, Bishop of Peterborough), whose books formed the core of the Cathedral Library. After more than 250 years in Peterborough the volume returned to Cambridge in 1970, on permanent loan with the rest of the Cathedral Library (about 7000 books). One of the most significant collections of early English books in the UL, the Peterborough library is rich in early bindings and marks of ownership.

William Dakke’s connection to Trinity Hall was a fairly tenuous one, but another volume now in the UL links us with the most important individual in the college: the Master. It is an edition of sermons by the Franciscan theologian Pelbartus Ladislaus de Temesvár (1430-1503), born in Hungary, and was printed in the town of Haguenau in 1498 (then German, but now part of France). The earliest owner of the UL’s copy was one Henry Harvey (d. 1585), Master of Trinity Hall, who – in humanist style echoing the great collector Jean Grolier – inscribed the second leaf ‘Sum He[n]rici Haruey et amicor[um]’ (i.e. it belonged to ‘Henry Harvey and his friends’).


Harvey’s inscription at the head of A2r (Inc.5.A.39.1[3940])

Again, Harvey’s career within the University is well documented: he took his bachelor of laws degree from Trinity Hall in 1538, his doctor of laws degree in 1542 and – after serving variously as Archdeacon of Middlesex (1551-4), Vicar-general of London and Precentor of St Paul’s Cathedral (1554) – he became Master of the college in 1559, succeeding William Mowse, who was mentioned in the previous blog post. His career continued to flourish: he became Vice-Chancellor of the University in 1560 (in the same year, he gave three books to the King Edward VI School at Bury St Edmund’s) and held prebendaries of Salisbury Cathedral (1558-72), Lichfield Cathedral (1559-61) and Ely Cathedral (1567-85). He was important in the legal world, most notably in 1567, when he established the London premises of Doctors’ Commons (a society of civil lawyers). His was a time of great upheaval in the University, as a result of the turbulent years of the reformation, which saw – within a generation – England’s separation from the Roman church under Henry VIII, a period of extreme Protestantism under his son Edward VI, a return to Catholicism with Mary I and finally the restoration of Protestantism with Elizabeth I. To succeed in this troublesome period one had to be very careful, and Harvey’s immediate predecessor as Vice-Chancellor (Andrew Perne) was an extreme example of this: he changed his allegiance so frequently that Cambridge wits, it was said, translated ‘perno’ as ‘I turn, I rat, I change often’. Harvey was himself involved in seeking out banned books in the University during Mary’s reign, as ‘Commissioner for detection of heretical books’ in 1556, but he was presumably well-regarded enough to be offered the Mastership in the year of Elizabeth’s accession. It is unknown where the volume went after Harvey’s death in 1585, but in 1913 it was bought by Stephen (later Sir Stephen) Gaselee – then Pepys Librarian at Magdalene – on Gustave David’s market stall in Cambridge. Gaselee included it as no. 100 in his List of the early printed books in the possession of Stephen Gaselee (Cambridge, 1920) and eventually gave it to the UL in November 1934, just two weeks after the official opening (by King George V) of the present building. He eventually gave a total of 311 incunabula and remains the Library’s second most prolific donor of fifteenth-century printed books, after King George I (whose gift of Bishop Moore’s library in 1715 included 470 incunabula).

Utterson a1r

First leaf of Dares Phrygius

The third and final book I would like to discuss is the earliest of the three, both in terms of its date of printing and the text it contains. It is a slim volume of about twenty leaves, containing a history of Troy by the mysterious ‘Dares Phrygius‘, whom Homer tells us was a Trojan priest. Although the text is traditionally linked to the pre-Homeric period – and therefore to the very origins of European literature – the version of the text printed here is one which was ascribed to the 1st century BC writer Cornelius Nepos (though it is more likely to have been compiled five centuries later) and which circulated widely in the medieval period. The UL’s copy was printed in Cologne by an unknown printer known simply as the ‘Printer of Dares’ at an unknown date not after 1472. By 1659 it was in the Benedictine Abbey of Georgenberg at Kärnten (Austria) and at some point, probably in the first half of the nineteenth century, it was acquired by Edward Vernon Utterson (d. 1856), who had it bound with his arms in gilt on the boards.


Utterson’s gilt arms on the upper cover of Inc.5.A.4.4[410]

Utterson was educated at Eton, matriculated at Trinity Hall in 1797, took his bachelor of laws degree in 1801 and was called to the Bar in 1802, becoming a barrister at Lincoln’s Inn. He was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1807 and was one of six Clerks in Chancery from 1815 until 1842. He had a great love for books – centred around English literature, and Italian, Spanish and French chivalry-romances – and was one of the eighteen founder members of the Roxburghe Club in 1812, the world’s premier bibliophile society. He did not just collect early books, but edited and printed facsimiles himself: at his home (Beldornie Tower) on the Isle of Wight – he set up a printing press, called the Beldornie Press, which operated for a few years early in the 1840s.


Beldornie Tower, from the colophon of Utterson’s edition of ‘Good newes and bad newes’ (Lib.8.84.23)

Many of his productions were printed in extremely limited editions and are consequently exceedingly rare today. The UL holds just one of these, which was printed in sixteen copies: a facsimile of Samuel Rowlands’ Good newes and bad newes, originally printed in 1622. Utterson had a considerable library, from which the ‘principal portion’ was auctioned at Sotheby’s in April 1852 (perhaps a result of the death of his wife in 1851). Among the 1950 lots were a fourteenth-century manuscript of Rolle’s Pricke of conscience, a fifteenth-century manuscript of Lydgate, Caxton’s Recuyell of the histories of Troye (the first book printed in English), the first edition of Shakespeare’s Sonnets (1609; now in the Folger Shakespeare Library and one of just five copies to survive) and the 1623 ‘first folio’ of his plays. After Utterson’s death, aged 80 in the summer of 1856, the remaining books were sold at Sotheby’s on 20 March 1857, where this edition of Dares Phrygius was lot 480 (sold to the bookseller Bohn for £2 14s). At an unknown point after that sale it was bought by Henry Bradshaw, University Librarian at Cambridge from 1867 until his death in 1886 – and a great collector for the Library of early printing – who presented it to the UL in 1885.

With just three volumes we have traversed nearly five centuries of collectors and collecting in Cambridge and seen the ways in which members of Trinity Hall have made their mark in the world of books and – noticeably – the law. These books are all to be found in the University Library’s Rare Books Department, where they may be consulted by anyone with a Library Card.

Liam Sims,

Rare Books Department

Cambridge University Library



Gems of early printing: the incunabula of Trinity Hall

The Old Library has a collection of about 7,000 printed books, the most treasured of which have to be our 31 incunabula! These books, also known as incunables, were published at the dawn of European printing, during the period before the start of the sixteenth century.

We are delighted to announce that our project to create online catalogue records for the incunabula of Trinity Hall was completed by our specialist rare-books cataloguer, Allen Purvis, earlier this year. Online records for the books can be found using Cambridge University Library’s LibrarySearch and most of our holdings can also be found in the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC).

Our incunabula cataloguing project has had the added benefit of shedding a fascinating light on our early collection!

William Mowse

Inscription of William Mowse

The inscriptions in the incunabula reveal that our early library was built up primarily by generous donation. William Mowse (Master 1552-52 and 1555-1559?) gave us fourteen incunabula, while Robert Hare of Gonville and Caius, who was a great benefactor of the University of Cambridge and friend of Henry Harvey (Master 1559-1585), gave us five incunabula. Unfortunately, we have no record of how the remaining twelve incunabula came into our collection.

Robert Hare

Inscription of Robert Hare

The subject of the majority of the incunabula is hardly a surprise for a College renowned for the study of law! Twenty one of the books deal with law, of which eleven concern canon law, nine cover Roman law and one is on feudal law. The other subjects covered include religion, the Catholic Church, history, classical drama and medicine.

Mowse, an eminent ecclesiastical lawyer, was responsible for the majority of the law books. However, his gift also included a book by Suetonius on the History of the Roman emperors (Venice, 1496). One of Mowse’s volumes has the distinction of being the fattest book on the library shelves! It is made up of eight books on canon law (five of which are incunabula) bound into one huge volume, with a spine measuring 15.8cm wide. It never fails to catch the eye of our visitors!


The “fattest” book in the library! A collection of Consilia, works on canon law.

However, the true gems of early printing are the five incunabula from Robert Hare. Hare was an antiquarian with Catholic sympathies and the books he donated concern world history, religion and classical drama.

Woodcut image of Nuremberg

Woodcut image of Nuremberg from the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493)

Through his generosity we have a magnificent hand-coloured copy of Schedel’s Nuremberg Chronicle (1493) and a copy of Werner Rolevinck’s “Fasciculus temporum” (Louvain, 1475), both of which deal with the history of the world.

Hand-decorated initial, with purple pen-flourishes, Biblia Latina

Hand-decorated initial, with purple pen-flourishes, Biblia Latina (1472)

His incunabula on the subject of religion are Schoeffer’s “Biblia Latina” (Mainz, 1472), which is the earliest printed book in the Old Library, and Bernardino de Busti’s “Rosarium sermonum” (Hagenau, 1500). Hare also donated a copy of Terence’s dramas translated into French (Paris, 1500).

Twelve of our incunabula were printed in Venice, revealing the importance of the Venetian Republic as a centre of early printing. These are followed by four books from Pavia, three books from Milan and two books each from Strassburg and Lyons. We also have one incunable from the following cities: Basel, Cologne, Hagenau, Louvain, Mainz, Nuremberg, Paris and Siena.


Illuminated first page of Fasciculus Temporum (1475)

While most of our incunabula look quite plain, a few are hand-coloured or hand-decorated. It is especially pleasing that three of our books from Robert Hare have been selected for inclusion in the Fitzwilliam Museum’s Cambridge Illuminations research project on illuminated and hand-decorated incunabula.

Foliate decoration at the start of the index to the Nuermberg Chronicle

Foliate decoration at the start of the index to the Nuremberg Chronicle

A project like this always brings surprises and during the course of cataloguing we have discovered three legal incunabula that are not listed for Trinity Hall in ISTC!


Early printed books to the year 1500 in the Library of Trinity Hall Cambridge (Cambridge, 1909)

The Incunabula Short Title Catalogue

Wikipedia for biographies of Mowse, Hare and Harvey


The Illuminated Medieval Manuscripts of Trinity Hall: Part 2

In this post we take a look at the Trinity Hall manuscripts which were described in the second part of Professor Nigel Morgan’s talk to the Supporters of the Old Library on 18 April. These two manuscripts are linked, not through place of production or former ownership, but through their subject: Lollardy. In 1395 a group of Lollards petitioned Parliament by posting the “Twelve conclusions of the Lollards” on the door of Westminster Hall.

MS17, Trinity Hall Cambridge

MS 17, Trinity Hall Cambridge. King Richard II can be seen in the historiated inital “O”

MS 17 Roger Dymmok Against the twelve heresies of the Lollards

This manuscript dates from 1394/95 and is by the Dominican friar, Roger Dymmok. It was a presentation copy to King Richard II and is the most lavish copy in existence of this treatise. The Lollards were unorthodox and had heretical views regarding the priesthood and sacraments. They were proto-Protestants and were persecuted primarily for these views, rather than for translating the Bible into English (although their translation was regarded as very suspect because of their theological errors). Many among the higher echelons of English society supported the views of the Lollards, including John of Gaunt, but the king was expected to be the upholder of orthodoxy.

Detail of MS 17 showing the illuminated foliate border

Detail of MS 17 showing the illuminated foliate border

The manuscript has very distinctive foliate decoration in the borders of the pages which links it to other manuscripts, probably all made in London. It is an irony that the illuminator of this manuscript is very close in style to the illuminator of the luxury Wycliffite Bible belonging to Thomas of Woodstock, the uncle of King Richard II.

MS 3 Trinity Hall Cambridge. Thomas netter kneeling at the feet of the Virgin and child

MS 3 Trinity Hall Cambridge. Illumination of Thomas Netter in adoration of the Virgin and child

MS 3 Thomas Netter Doctrinale ecclesie contra blasfemias Wiclef

The Carmelite friar, Thomas Netter, wrote the Doctrinale in the 1420s and presented it to Pope Martin V. The friars were the main opponents of Lollardy and Netter’s Doctrinale contained a major section against the heresies of Wycliffe. The Trinity Hall manuscript was produced in Flanders and records that it was finished in Ghent in the year 1500. It has one illumination of the Virgin holding the infant Jesus, with Netter kneeling at Mary’s feet.

Detail of MS3 showing the Marian

Detail of MS 3 showing the Marian “M” initial

The lovely border is flower strewn, with the Marian “M” at the foot of the page. This is an important manuscript because there are not many copies of this treatise in existence.

Techniques of Manuscript Illumination

During the talk we learnt the difference between illuminated (using luminous colours with gold or silver) and decorated initials (less intense colours with gold or silver absent);

Inhabited initial, detail from MS 4

Inhabited decorated initial, detail from MS 4

between historiated (containing human figures) and inhabited initials (containing human figures and/or animals in foliate coils;

Zoomorphic initial, detail from MS 2

Zoomorphic illuminated initial, detail from MS 2

and between anthropomorphic (the human figure forms part of the stem of the initial), zoomorphic (animals form part of the stem of the initial), and arabesque initials (fine, linear foliate designs in curvilinear patterns).

Arabesque initial, detail from MS 4

Arabesque decorated initial, detail from MS 4

We also heard about the preparation of pigment by suspension in glair (beaten egg white) and gum Arabic; about the division of labour between the scribe, the person doing the under-drawing, the illuminator and gilder; and about the importance of digitisation as an additional aid to the scholar. Professor Morgan added the caveat that, wherever possible, digitised images should be used in conjunction with (rather than instead of) the examination of the physical copy of the book.

The talk was an intellectual and visual treat and was delivered to a very appreciative audience of over 50 people. It was followed by a visit to the Old Library to see an exhibition of our medieval manuscripts, some of which are rarely displayed.

Exhibition of Medieval Manuscripts in the Chetwode Room

Exhibition of Medieval Manuscripts in the Chetwode Room




Wycliffite Bible

Pope Martin V

Thomas Netter