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Archive for the ‘The books themselves’ Category

One of the great treasures of the Old Library is an early fifteenth century manuscript, Historia Monasterii S. Augustini Cantauriensis, 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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

Postcript:

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.

References:

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

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

St Augustine’s Abbey (English Heritage) http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/st-augustines-abbey/

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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!

References

“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” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39471407

Wikipedia on Millicent Garrett Fawcett https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millicent_Fawcett

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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’.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Provenance inscriptions in rare books can elicit very different reactions from librarians and cataloguers. On the one hand, we are grateful to have clues that can provide information about who owned the books, when and potentially where; on the other hand, it can get very frustrating at times to try to decipher century-old scripts that look obscure and illegible to our modern eyes. Every once in a while, a rare event does occur: a book with a calligraphic inscription comes along and surprises us. That is what I found while cataloguing the Historia del descubrimiento y conquista de la India por los Portugueses from the Old Library’s collections at Trinity Hall:

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A quick search for Barnard Hampton’s name revealed the fact that he was a clerk to the Privy Council of three monarchs: King Edward VI, Queen Mary I and Queen Elizabeth I, from 1551 until 1572. Hampton also served as the Spanish Secretary to Queen Mary and was one of the four witnesses who signed her will in 1555. He had a wife named Katherine and a daughter Anne; together they resided in a manor house in Twickenham, in south west London.

Unfortunately, not much else is known about Barnard Hampton; his date of birth is unrecorded and his name is rarely mentioned in any official documents of the time. Considering this lack of information, it would be tempting to assume Hampton’s name could have easily slipped into the hidden recesses of time. However, that didn’t quite happen, because Barnard Hampton did leave something behind: his books.  Some of the Italian and Spanish volumes that once made up his private library still survive today. They all carry the same beautiful, calligraphic inscription on one of the preliminary pages: Sum Barnardi Hamptoni eiusq[ue] amicor[um] (‘I belong to Barnard Hampton and his friends’). Who exactly were Hampton’s friends and how many of them there were, is difficult to determine precisely, but we can assume they included members of the court, official dignitaries and perhaps some scholars as well. The fact that most of his books were printed in Italian or Spanish, suggest that the borrowing friends must have been able to read in either one or both of those languages.

 

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Title page of the Chronica del Peru (Antwerp, 1554)

Up to the year 2014, when Dr. Dennis Rhodes wrote the article Barnard Hampton and His Books, only six volumes from Hampton’s library were known to be extant. Dr. Rhodes traced these copies to the British Library (3), Cambridge University Library (1), John Rylands University Library (1) and Trinity Hall Old Library (one volume containing four tracts bound together). However, in the summer of 2016, during the cataloguing project of the Old Library at Trinity Hall, four more volumes with Barnard’s inscription were discovered on the shelves. Out of the total of nine items presently at the Old Library, five were printed in Venice between 1540 and 1548, on subjects such as the history of the Turkish Empire and of the Kingdom of Naples. The remaining four were published in Antwerp in 1554, and they chronicle the discovery of India and Peru. The somewhat unusual topics of these volumes suggest that Hampton had a taste not only for foreign languages (he is said to have been particularly talented in Spanish and its dialects), but also an interest in the history and geography of faraway lands.

 

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Foundation of the city of Frontera in Peru (Chronica del Peru)

Precisely where and when Barnard Hampton acquired the books is difficult to ascertain, but it is possible he bought them while travelling to Europe, perhaps on diplomatic missions (he is known to have been officially sent abroad once, but the location and time were not recorded). The fact that most of the surviving volumes from his collections were printed either in Venice, Antwerp or Lyon, and bound in what appear to be continental design bindings corroborate this theory. Moreover, works on slightly ‘exotic’ subjects such as India and Peru would have been difficult to purchase in early sixteenth century England. That might be, in fact, one of the reasons Hampton chose to share them with his friends. Book lending among close acquaintances was a fairly common practice in early modern Europe, motivated by the high prices of some of the publications and the difficulty in acquiring certain copies.

It is not known what happened to Hampton’s books after his death in 1572, but the presence of a significant number of copies in Cambridge libraries suggests a possible purchase by a Cambridge student or scholar. The identity of this Cambridge buyer remains a mystery (he did not inscribe his name on any of the volumes at Trinity Hall, though he did write some notes in Latin in one of the Venice tracts). Considering the subjects of the volumes, it is slightly intriguing that their owner chose to donate them to Trinity Hall Library (a collection well-known for its strong legal bent). Nevertheless, the cataloguing project of the Old Library collections is still in progress, so perhaps future discoveries will shed some light on the unanswered questions surrounding Barnard Hampton’s books.

References:

Rhodes, E. Dennis. ‘Barnard Hampton and His Books’. The Library: The Transactions of the Bibliographical Society, vol. 15, no. 3 (2014), 343-346.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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).

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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!

References

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

 

 

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Provenance research in book history is a relatively new, but growing area of study for librarians, historians, book collectors and regular readers alike. Being able to trace the itinerary of a book that travelled through centuries and countries (not to mention various owners’ hands) can be a challenging, but rewarding activity. In most cases, what is required is attention to detail and a willingness to look for clues or traces of material evidence. The clues can be found in the books themselves: on their covers (the style of the binding can indicate a particular period or country) or within (in the form of ownership inscriptions, bookplates, stamps, annotations, etc.). By following these pieces of material evidence, the librarian or book historian is able to piece together the story of a book’s history of ownership and use. Some histories are more puzzling than others, either because the former owners are difficult to trace, or simply because there aren’t enough clues left behind. A good example of a book with an interesting ownership history can be found in the special collections of the Trinity Hall Old Library in Cambridge, England.

photo 2(3)Vitruvius iterum et Frontinus (classmark E*.7.16) is the title of the 1513 combined edition of Vitruvius’ treatise De architectura  and Frontinus’ De aqueductibus. The volume was printed in Florence by Filippo Giunta, a renowned publisher of classical texts and humanist works in Latin and in Italian. It is a beautiful edition, printed in an elegant italic typeface, and adorned with numerous woodcut illustrations throughout. But a closer examination of the volume reveals an interesting detail: although printed in Italy, the book is bound in what appears to be a German blind-stamped pigskin binding (Fig. 1).

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Fig. 1

 

The front and back boards are decorated with three concentric panels, the exterior one depicting a hunting scene: a stag being chased by a hunter with a long spear and by a hound (Fig. 2). Further research into the design of this roll confirmed its German origins; Ernst Kyriss, a leading authority on continental bindings identified this hunting roll as the “Jagd-Rolle I” and assigned it to a bindery in Tübingen, active between 1486 and 1539.

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What this means is that the book travelled to Germany unbound, and there it was presumably sent to the binding shop in Tübingen by its new owner. Unfortunately, the identity of this first owner remains elusive, because the clues that could have provided information about him have been removed: two manuscript inscriptions, written in what appears to be early handwriting, are visibly erased from the inside of the front cover.

There are, however other pieces of material evidence that allow us to trace the book’s later itinerary. A bookplate affixed to the front pastedown and bearing the name of the German doctor Georg Franz Burkhard Kloss (1787-1854), suggests that the volume was bought by him sometime in the early 19th century.

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Georg Kloss was a physician practising in Frankfurt, who developed an avid interest in book collecting, purchasing entire collections of manuscripts and early printed books. His interests however, seemed to have changed with time, because in May 1835 Kloss put his entire library for sale at Sotheby’s in London, and spent the rest of his life writing a history of freemasonry.

 

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The front pastedown: the main source of evidence for this vol.

From London, the book probably travelled to Cambridgeshire, together with its new owner Samuel Horatio Banks (1798-1882), the Vicar of Dullingham, Cambs and Cowlinge. We know Banks bought the book because he left a manuscript inscription on the front pastedown reading: “S.H. Banks, Feb. 1839”. A Cambridge graduate with two law degrees from Trinity Hall (LL.B in 1821 and LL.D in 1841), Reverend Samuel Banks must have been a man of diverse intellectual interests, as suggested by his purchase of Vitruvius’ book on Roman architecture. Banks died unmarried in 1882 and, given his association with Trinity Hall, and the presence of a 19th century college bookplate on the front pastedown, it is fair to assume he either donated or bequeathed the volume to his old Alma Mater in Cambridge.

Today, the 1513 edition of Vitruvius’ De architectura is resting quietly on the shelves of the Old Library at Trinity Hall, waiting to be picked up by readers, so that it can reveal to them the story of its wandering past.

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

Afterword

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

References

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 https://exhibitions.lib.cam.ac.uk/dominicans/

Wilton Diptych can be seen at the National Gallery London

Cambridge University Library

 

 

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