Archive for the ‘The books themselves’ Category

Love is in the air. The shops are full of cards pulsating with red hearts covered in glitter and on my desk is a pretty red morocco almanac, Rider’s British Merlin for the year of our Lord God 1787, which tells of a marriage.

The red morocco almanac

The red morocco almanac

The almanac belonged to Mary Boydell (1747-1820), a renowned beauty and niece of John ‘Alderman’ Boydell (1720-1804), a publisher and print seller who was then at the height of his fame and influence. Mary had been brought up by Boydell and, on the death of his wife Elizabeth Lloyd in 1781, she took over the management of his household. Her almanac reveals that she moved in the highest circles of society and that she was also a business woman involved in her uncle’s publishing enterprise. Thus we read of “Lord Shelborne’s invitation to Breakfast with him and to see his Library and Collection of prints” and “Any Books bound in France to be done by De Rome. Rue St Jacques a Paris. (Mr Edwards recommendation)”.

“Honored Uncle & Parent”

The son of a land steward and the grandson of a parson, John Boydell spent his early teenage years in Flintshire where his father worked for Sir John Glynne. There he saw a large print of Hawarden Castle which influenced his decision to become an engraver. He moved to London as an apprentice to the engraver W. H. Toms  and bought out his final year in order to set up on his own in 1746. Through a combination of hard work and strong business sense Boydell’s fortunes improved rapidly. He established links with publishers in France and Germany and imported sophisticated engravings from the continent. Then, seeing a business opportunity, he sponsored the creation of high quality British engravings. Print mania had taken hold of the aristocratic and middle classes. It was the fashion to paper the walls of a room with engravings and Alderman Boydell was the foremost publisher and supplier of excellent quality prints. As a result he became a wealthy and influential man.

Shakespeare Gallery

At the end of 1786 John Boydell embarked on his most ambitious enterprise: the project to publish an illustrated edition of Shakespeare’s plays, an edition of large engravings from Shakespeare and the creation of the Shakespeare Gallery in Pall Mall. His partners in this enterprise were his nephew Josiah Boydell (Mary’s brother) and George Nicol (1740-1828), the King’s printer. Josiah was to manage the workshop of engravers in Hampstead and Nicol was to oversee the presswork.

Mary’s almanac is for the year 1787 at the height of activity at the start of the Shakespeare project. The almanac is interleaved with blank pages which Mary has used to make notes which give a fascinating insight into her life at the time, ranging from information about books and prints to the state of her finances and of course the entry about her marriage.

“Friendship in Marble and Injury in Dust”

Despite, or perhaps because of, her beauty Mary’s romantic life had not been smooth. She had an unhappy love affair with Ozias Humphry, a miniature painter, who left England for India in 1785 to paint portraits of rajas and Englishmen abroad.

Her next suitor was the Cambridge alumnus and scientist Dr John Elliot, but she went on to reject him in favour of George Nicol, her uncle’s business partner. John Elliot took Mary’s rejection very badly – so badly that on 9 July 1787 he tried to shoot her from close range while she was out walking with Nicol in Soho. This notorious incident was reported in the ‘Gentleman’s Magazine’ and in the ‘British Mercury’ which recounts “Providentially, though they were so close as to set fire to the lady’s cloak, yet by the balls glancing on her stays, she received only a slight contusion under the shoulder”. Unfortunately Dr John Elliot did not escape so lightly. He was taken to Newgate prison to await charges for the attempt on Mary’s life. In prison his refusal of food and water led to his death on 22 July. It must have been a traumatic time for all concerned.

Newgate prison (in 1833)

Newgate prison (in 1833)

“My dear Husband”

Reader she married him! Entered in a regular and confident hand the entry for 8th September 1787 reads, “Married at St Martin’s Ironmonger Lane between 8 and 9 o’clock in the Morning – and set out from thence to Dover and Paris with my dear Husband and honored Uncle & Parent Mr Alderman Boydell.” Mr and Mrs George Nicol travelled to Paris with the Alderman – perhaps not the most romantic of honeymoons! But, ever the business woman, Mary combined business with pleasure. Just a year before, in 1786, she had travelled to Paris with Alderman Boydell on publishing business and now that her new husband was Boydell’s partner it was natural for them all to travel to Paris together.

Entry for her marriage

Entry for her marriage

This was not young, tempestuous love but perhaps it was all the more attractive to Mary after the high drama of John Elliot. Mary was 40 and she was an independent woman. George Nicol was 47 and it was his second marriage.  The month before she married Mary made a careful record of her finances in her almanac. She was well off, with income from investments and from her estate in Kinnerton in Flintshire. Her subsequent annotation shows that she could afford to be generous to her new husband, “Since the above written have made Mr George Nicol a present of the above 300 pound …”

Mary makes no further entries in the almanac after her wedding day. However, it was likely to have been a happy marriage. They had much in common, united by a love of books and by business ties, and it seems that Nicol’s temperament was good. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography describes him as “courteous and tactful in business” and according to the Gentleman’s Magazine he was “not a bookseller but a gentleman dealing in books” (GM, 98/2, 279).


Mary Nicol continued to play an active part in her uncle’s life. When the Alderman rose to be Lord Mayor of London in 1790-91 she was his Lady Mayoress. Unfortunately the French Revolution affected the English economy and cut off an important export market for Boydell’s prints and the vast scale of the Shakespeare project brought his finances to breaking point. By 1804 the Boydells were forced to conduct a lottery to dispose of the Shakespeare Gallery and its contents. Sadly the Alderman died before the lottery could be drawn, however it raised £78,000 for the business (now in the hands of Josiah). As a final act of devotion Mary Nicol paid for a bust of the Alderman and a memorial tablet in St Olave Jewry where he was buried.

This small almanac is a remarkable survival. A bookplate in the front of the volume reveals that it once belonged to the library of the author Hugh Walpole. It came to Trinity Hall as part of the library of alumnus and bibliophile Lawrence Strangman (1908-1980).

John Boydell's resting place

John Boydell’s resting place


PDF transcript of manuscript notes in Mary Boydell’s almanac

Rider’s British Merlin for the year of our Lord God 1787. London: printed by the Company of Stationers, 1787.

John Boydell, 1719-1804 : a study of art patronage and publishing in Georgian London / Sven H.A. Bruntjen.

The Boydell Shakespeare Gallery / edited by Walter Pape and Frederick Burwick, in collaboration with the German Shakespeare Society.

Boydell’s Shakespeare gallery / Winifred H. Friedman.

Wikipedia for biographies of John Boydell, Josiah Boydell, George Nicol and others

Your Pictures for images of John Boydell and the Ceremony of administering the Mayoral oath to Nathaniel Newnham


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I’ve recently been cataloguing a great big pile of law treatises, all published between about the 1730s and 1760s. There’s nothing immediately remarkable about them, except their authorship. They’re all attributed, quite curiously, to a “late learned judge”. When I read this, obviously, I instantly believed that I’d stumbled across a bit of a mystery. The books look innocent enough, I thought, but the concealment of their authorship means that they MUST contain sordid, inflammatory and maybe even conspiratorial eighteenth century legal secrets. Maybe this “late learned judge” was the Belle du Jour of his day. So I decided to do a bit of sleuthing, a la Miss Marple, and–it didn’t take long–the real identity of the “late learned judge” is about as well kept a secret as the identity of the Stig. Some say his name was Sir Jeffrey Gilbert, and that he was a judge, baron, legal writer and international man of mystery. (All right, I’ve made the last bit up).

Gilbert was born in 1674 in Kent to a reasonably well-connected if not renowned family. The Gilberts weren’t exactly the types to get invited to a barbeque at Nell Gwyn’s house, but the young Jeffrey would’ve hobnobbed with some famous names at the time, big w(h)igs like Matthew Hale and Phillips Gybbon. Gilbert was admitted to the Inner Temple in 1692 and called to the Bar in 1698. From all accounts, he wasn’t much of a mover and shaker in the legal world. But his appointment to puisne judge of the Irish king’s bench in 1715, and shortly after to baron of the Irish exchequer, would change all that. An immediate success and a “darling of the Irish nation” (so says Wikipedia, don’t take it literally), Gilbert’s favour was short-lived. And the simple reason for this was that, in 1716, Gilbert took over a case, Annesley vs Sherlock. (NB: don’t get too excited. It isn’t that Sherlock. More’s the pity).

It had been a simple enough case at first, a dispute over land ownership which began in 1709. The first judgment went the way of Maurice Annersley, but after a successful appeal to the Irish exchequer, Mrs Hester Sherlock emerged triumphant. And then it got really interesting. Annesley, presumably a bit miffed, appealed to the British House of Lords who–keep up, now–overturned the overturning. What had been a simple judicial decision turned into a battle between the British and Irish peers over which of them was the final court of appeal in Ireland, and sitting right at the centre of that decision was our late learned judge. What ensued were tensions, hurt feelings, arguments, attempted arrests, actual arrests and, for Gilbert, presumably, one heck of a migraine, and it all culminated in the 1719 Declaratory Act. Passed by British Lords, it declared, ultimately, that the British Parliament had full legislative power over Ireland, and that the Irish House of Lords had no appellate jurisdiction, weakening Irish courts and securing Ireland’s dependency. Gilbert’s role in all this seems to be a bit accidental, and he was used as a scapegoat, but he ultimately sided with the British, and was swiftly relegated from the nation’s sweetheart to Mr Infamous as fast as you could say “he knows which side his bread is buttered on”. It’s little wonder, then, that he hotfooted it back over to England as fast as he could.

You might think that this explains Gilbert’s reticence about publishing his treatises on law–his reputation, and all that accidental controversy presumably followed him around for the rest of his career. But this can’t be the full story. For one thing, his treatises were written and edited from about 1700 and, despite nearing completion, abandoned in 1710, years before he went to Ireland. And for another, they were apparently so good that they might even have improved his reputation.  Had it been completed and published in its original format, Macnair says, it would have rivalled Blackstone‘s Commentaries in “present[ing] English law from a rigorously whig standpoint strongly influenced by John Locke”.  Gilbert “innovat[ed] both in the politics of his account of the common law, and in his use of civil materials” (Macnair, again). Gilbert probably returned to the work, in fits and spurts, to add bits and to change bits, but he never planned for it to be published. In fact, its publication was the last thing he wanted. Literally. In his will, he left all of his unpublished manuscripts and treatises to Charles Clarke, Esq. (no, probably not that one), “under special trust that none should be printed”.

You can’t always get what you want (cf. Mick Jagger)

I’m glad to say that Gilbert’s wishes were heartily and conclusively ignored (well done Mr Clarke), and what’s more, quite speedily after Gilbert’s death in 1726. The treatises–on evidence (1756), devises and revocations (1739), executions (1763), rents (1758), uses and trusts (1734) and distresses and replevins (1755)–are fragments of this planned larger work on English law. Our copies have definitely been used, even if we can’t tell by whom. Whoever decided on the moniker “late learned judge” wasn’t being generous.

There’s still a mystery here, even if it isn’t about the identity of this “late learned judge”. It’s about why he didn’t want them ever ever EVER to be published. And there’s a case for Miss Marple if ever I heard of one. Perhaps he was just a bit shy, or a bit modest. But here’s my twopenneth: I think he thought the treatises were just too serious and sensible to fit in with his reputation as a bit of a rogue and a scoundrel. I’m sure eighteenth century judges cared about their street cred too, y’know.


Flaherty, M. S. (1987). The Empire strikes back: Annesley v. Sherlock and the triumph of Imperial Parliamentary supremacy. Columbia Law Review, 87.3, pp. 593-622.

Macnair, M. (2004). Gilbert, Sir Jeffrey. ODNB, accessed here.

Wikipedia entry, here.

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Be careful what you promise! Way back in June I signed off my post about Hudibras promising one on the illustrations by Hogarth. Now, after a busy summer and a hectic Michaelmas term, here it finally is. However, I don’t expect you to have been waiting with bated breath (or I certainly hope you haven’t because… well, you wouldn’t be alive to read this now).

So what of William Hogarth, the illustrator of Hudibras? He was a Londoner of humble origins. Born in 1697 in Bartholomew Close, near Smithfield, he had the bustling city of London in his blood. His father made a meagre living by writing (an introduction to Latin and English “Thesaurarium trilingue publicum”, 1689) and taking in pupils. Life was very hard. From birth William was exposed to the harsh realities of a hand-to-mouth existence in the capital and to the multifarious characters who struggled to survive there (and who would later populate his satirical prints) and as a young man he was determined to better himself.


By 1714 he was apprenticed to a silver engraver, engraving shields and ciphers on forks, spoons, goblets and plates. However, he was bored and dreamed of better things. “Engraving on copper” was Hogarth said “at twenty years of age my utmost ambition” – and by 1720 he was on his way! He set up on his own as an engraver and paid the subscription to become a member of the new arts academy in St Martin’s Lane (which he attended in the evenings). There he honed his skills as a draughtsman and made valuable contacts. By 1722 he was employed on the team of book illustrators for La Motraye’s Travels. He also began producing topical prints and then started working on a group of small etchings illustrating Butler’s popular satirical poem Hudibras.

Hudibras was first published in 1663-78 and Hogarth may have known this poem from his childhood, It was still tremendously popular in the 1720s: it was a great favourite with the Tories and was constantly quoted in the Spectator. Seeing a money-making opportunity, in 1725 Hogarth worked on a series of twelve individual prints on Hudibras which were published by Philip Overton in February 1726. These prints were such a success that Hogarth used his earlier small engravings as illustrations for a new edition of the poem in May 1726. Our edition of Hudibras, which also contains Hogarth’s illustrations, was published in 1744 at the height of the artist’s fame when he was working on his series of paintings “Marriage a-la-mode”.

Samuel Butler and William Hogarth were a perfect fit. Hogarth’s illustrations are the visual embodiment of the author’s biting language, which satirised man’s hypocrisy and self-delusion. Hogarth’s scenes for Hudibras are lively, full of detail and merciless in their exposure of people’s failings. As Jenny Uglow points out in her biography, “the most vivid of all are the crowd scenes: the encounter with the bear-baiters, the skimmington…”


The skimmington: rough music that mocked cuckolds, hen-pecked husbands and shrewish wives.

This was an art that showed the ordinary English men and women of the time without idealization or sentimentality. The artist’s democratic eye lampooned the great and the good or the man in the street with equal vigour.  His work is skilful, full of detail and never boring and its popular appeal propelled Hogarth up the social scale to great success.

Hogarth’s work and quirky imagery has echoed down the centuries and in the 1960’s it resurfaced in the work of one of Britain’s foremost contemporary artists, David Hockney. Hogarth was an early inspiration for Hockney who produced a series of contemporary etchings on the theme of the Rake’s progress (1960-61). His commission to do the designs for the Glyndebourne production of the opera of Rake’s Progress in 1974 reinvigorated his art and Hogarth’s direct inspiration can be seen in the painting “Kerby” (1975) now in the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Like Hogarth, Hockney rose from relatively humble origins to become a leading figure in the art establishment. His own very English eye has resulted in work which has met with great popularity. Perhaps his most famous work is Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy (1970-71) which is a contemporary take on the work of another great English artist, Thomas Gainsborough. And, like Hogarth, it is Hockney’s skill as a draughtsman that has underpinned his work in the fields of painting, portraiture and printmaking. Hockney has also explored the use of technological innovations such as Polaroid photography, fax machines and the drawing application called Brushes for iPhones and iPads. I wonder if Hogarth would have done the same had he been alive today?

If you would like to see Hockney’s latest work then you may do so at the Royal Academy in the New Year: “David Hockney RA: A Bigger Picture” is on from 21 January to 9 April 2012.


William Hogarth article on Wikipedia

“Hogarth: a life and world” by Jenny Uglow. London: Faber & Faber, 1997

David Hockney article on Wikipedia

David Hockney’s official website

“David Hockney” by Marco Livingstone. London, Thames & Hudson, 1996

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The clocks have gone back, the evenings are drawing in, and the days are becoming darker and colder and drearier; but, despite this, the Old Library cataloguing project is coming along nicely, thank you very much. I’m still working on 18th century monographs, but learning to deal with the dangerous conditions in which rare books cataloguers must work. Yes, it’s not exactly bomb disposal, and no, I’m not exactly traversing the seven seas on a raft, but still, Elizabethan libraries do not lend themselves well to warmth. I’m terribly grateful, therefore, to whoever suggested that I get myself a pair of fingerless gloves, which have allowed me to keep frostbite at bay while looking remarkably stylish. Even if I do say so myself.

A cataloguer’s godsend*

In the middle of several thousand books on law, classics and theology, most of which have been in Greek (which I can only barely read, thanks to a semester at university eight years ago), I came across a slim volume of Marcus ManiliusAstronomica, edited by Richard Bentley, former Master of Trinity College, and printed in 1739 by Henry Woodfall. The book caught my eye initially because of a very exciting fold out celestial chart, complete with pictures of centaurs and plenty of other things I thought J.K. Rowling invented. But I also recognised the title, and thought it might be something we also had in the Jerwood. I like it when the rare books we’ve got are still being published or are still in circulation and being borrowed by current Trinity Hall students. So I did a quick search, and it turns out that I was right: we’ve got G.P. Goold’s translation, published in 1977 by Harvard University Press, and one of the Loeb Classical Library Series.

The old version (1739), and the less old one (1977)

Astronomica is a didactic poem in five books about astronomy (did you guess?) but there’s also a few bits and pieces which conform to what we’d consider astrology today. It’s in Latin, and more to the point, it’s in “a difficult, twisted, and occasionally beautiful Latin” (Volk, 2009, p. 1). The poem as a whole is an attempt to discover the system by which heaven and earth are governed.  Manilius does this by covering topics from cosmology to comets (not the electronic goods store, mind), the zodiac, the signs, horoscopes, planetary influences, that sort of thing. He’s like the first century equivalent of Russell Grant mixed with Patrick Moore. In any case, Manilius has cohered to a Stoic philosophy of a rational, orderly system throughout—he writes:

these questions [about the origins of the universe] will always cause dispute among men of genius, and uncertainty is bound to attend that which is hidden from us and is so far above the ken of man and god. But however obscure its origin, all are agreed about the outward appearance of the universe, and the orderly arrangement of its structure is fixed (Book I: 145-8, translation from Goold, p. 15-7).

So it appears that it doesn’t matter much to Manilius where the universe came from, as long as it’s in order. Sounds a bit like my approach to shelving.

There isn’t much information about Marcus Manilius himself—the poor guy isn’t mentioned by a single contemporary or later Roman writer, and despite many pages of cogitating on the potential effect of the birth sign of the emperor Tiberius (Libra, if you’re interested), he didn’t take the trouble to introduce himself once in the poem. We can figure out the date of composition of the Astronomica by some of the historical events Manilius mentions. In Book 1 he talks about the disaster at Saltus Teutoburgiensis in 9 A.D., and Goold suggests that the emperor Augustus dies somewhere between Manilius writing Books 2 and 4 (and Augustus died in 14 A.D.), so it’s relatively safe to assume the early first century for the date of composition. Another point of contention is where Manilius is from—Scaliger thinks he’s a Roman, Bentley has him down as being from Asia. I imagine it wouldn’t matter much to Manilius where he’s from, as long as it’s in order.

Cetus the whale, a constellation

But one of the more interesting things about this book is the people who’ve edited and translated it—it seems to be one of those ‘make-or-break’ texts to tackle. As I said, our copy is Bentley’s version, and it’s highly regarded, but Bentley wasn’t the first editor to get his hands on it. The first person to make real headway was the philologist J.J. Scaliger, whose edition appeared in Paris in 1579. And however well Scaliger did (and word is, he did pretty well), he is thought to have paled in comparison when the mighty Bentley came long. A.E. Housman makes this very clear comparison of the skills of the two editors: “Scaliger at the side of Bentley is no more than a marvellous boy” (1903).

Bentley’s translation first appeared in 1739 suggesting that Trinity Hall holds one of the earlier printings of the book and though Bentley is criticised for using a bit too much artistic license in his translation, his was the standard for a long time.  That is, until A.E. Housman came along, spending no less than three decades dedicated to a translation of the text, and it’s Housman’s version which is heavily used by Goold in his Loeb edition. Whoever takes the spot as top dog, however, it’s clear that both Bentley and Housman are deserving of plenty of credit; as Goold writes, “if we accord Bentley the honour of being England’s greatest Latinist, it will largely be because Housman declined to claim the title for himself” (Poetry Foundation).

A.E. Housman

I’m not sure I’ll ever know what it is about Manilius’ poem that attracted so many contenders for the competition of Britain’s got Latinists, but it seems that whatever it was it didn’t have the same impact among Trinity Hall scholars of old—our copy of the book is pretty unremarkable and in really good condition.  Perhaps they had better things to do.  Or perhaps they were put off after reading the young Goethe’s review of the poem in his Ephemerides (1770):

I began to read Manilius’ Astronomicon and soon had to put it down: no matter how much this philosophical poet festoons his work with lofty thoughts, he cannot redeem the barrenness of his subject…I consider that one has to debit the poet’s account with the ill consequences of a subject.  After all, he is the one who chose it.


Housman, A.E. (1903). Introduction [to Book 1].

Manilius, M. (1977). Astronomica (G.P. Goold, trans.) Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Poetry Foundation. (n.d.). A.E. Housman. Retrieved 31 October 2011, from here.

Volk, K. (2009). Manilius and his intellectual background. Oxford: OUP.

For extra credit, the Whipple Library, Cambridge, has some information about their folio of Book 1 here.

Photo credits:

Thanks to Katie Birkwood for the photo of the gloves; Postershop for Cetus (it’s by Sir James Thornhill and it’s called “Constellation of Cetus the Whale” from Atlas Coelestis, by Sir John Flamsteed, 1729); and A.E. Housman from The Guardian.

*The Gloves

Aren’t they gorgeous?! They’re called “Classmark Mittens” and they’re Katie’s own design. You can read more about why they came about on her blog, here, and if you fancy making a pair for yourself, you’re in luck–the pattern, including more photographs, is online, here.

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We are VERY grateful to our guest blogger, Dunstan Roberts, who has written this post for the Old Library blog. Dunstan is a graduate student at Trinity Hall. He has recently submitted a doctoral thesis on readers’ annotations in sixteenth-century religious books.

“A Detection of the Deuils Sophistrie”, a little-known work of sixteenth-century religious controversy, was published in 1546. The colourfully-named polemic was written by the then Master of Trinity Hall and Bishop of Winchester, Stephen Gardiner (c.1495-1555), whose scholarly prowess and political nous placed him at the forefront of the conservative faction during much of the English Reformation.

What makes the College’s copy interesting is that one of its early readers has filled its margins with annotations—about three-thousand words of them, to be precise. Early modern readers often annotated books in order to improve comprehension and recollection, sometimes adding concise paraphrases and non-verbal notes.

But the annotations in the college’s copy of A Detection are not like this. They are far more pugnacious: a full-blown assault on Stephen Gardiner’s text, denouncing its theology, challenging its arguments, and refuting its patristic sources with rival interpretations and occasionally with rival sources.

Stephen Gardiner, A Detection of the Deuils Sophistrie (1546). Trinity Hall, TH.G.I.1, sigs E3V-E4R.

In more detail:

Sigs E3V-E4R: “In this prayer ys heresye where he said christe moth[er] brought forth god wiche hath no begy[n]ninge note also his treason for images”.

An analysis of the theological viewpoint of the annotations reveals a reader opposed to Gardiner’s Catholicism, but without any suggestion of religious radicalism: in short, a moderate Protestant.

So who was responsible for these unusual annotations? We are fortunate in this instance that the annotator has made his identity explicit through an ownership inscription at the rear of the book: ‘Tho[mas] morgan[us] Ap[u]d Myntie Diocaes[is]. Sa[rum]’. This gives us both a person and a location. The village of Minety (to give it its modern spelling) lies on the border between Wiltshire and Gloucestershire, about 7 miles north-west of Swindon, and falls within the diocese of Salisbury (known in Latin as Sarum). As for Thomas Morgan, he was vicar of Minety from 1582 to 1627, an impressive innings, especially by early-modern standards. We can find two students of his name at Oxford (none at Cambridge) during the decade prior to his installation at Minety: one at Jesus College and one at New Inn Hall (a medieval institution later subsumed into Balliol College). One of these men is very likely our man.

Sig. T4R (detail): “Tho[mas] morgan[us] Ap[u]d Myntie Diocaes[is] Sa[rum]” (Thomas Morgan of Minety, Salisbury Diocese).

Thomas Morgan received his intellectual training at a time when university-educated clergy were seen as critical to the consolidation of the Elizabethan Religious Settlement and were highly sought after. Several colleges in Oxford and Cambridge (including Jesus College, Oxford, Morgan’s possible alma mater) were founded specifically to satisfy this demand. The theological education which the universities provided was conducted along explicitly disputatious lines; prospective clergy were taught how to debate and persuade, which sources to cite and what arguments to employ. Morgan’s patristic sources continued to be taught, even once their purely theological significance to Protestants had started to wane because they were useful for debating with Catholics. The members of this ‘new model clergy’ were not retained within centres of scholarship, but were dispatched into the provinces, where they could have a real impact.

It is within these historical circumstances which we should view this volume and its unusual contents. Whilst it is difficult to fathom the exact purpose of the annotations, there are several likely explanations. Combative annotations like this were sometimes used in the preparation of published rejoinders to controversial texts, although there is no specific evidence to suggest that Morgan was planning anything along these lines. He might, however, have been planning something slightly lower key, such as a sermon in which the former Bishop of Winchester was to be attacked. Or his motives might have been more private, attacking the text as an intellectual exercise, training himself for the larger fight against Catholicism.

There are many questions which remain unanswered and which will merit investigation in the future. We do not know what happened to the book during the centuries before the college acquired it in the latter half of the twentieth century. Nor, significantly, do we know how and why this volume survived when so many other sixteenth-century books perished. These details would be valuable in drawing together the complicated events to which this volume suggestively alludes. But we are, in the meantime, blessed with a remarkably vivid picture of the disputatious religious reading practices which came to the fore during the protracted years of religious turmoil in sixteenth century England.

Images by Dunstan Roberts.

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How long does it take to catalogue a rare book? Well, it all depends on what lies between the covers (and sometimes on the covers too). More importantly, it also depends on the cataloguer … what kind of day they are having or if they become fascinated by the book in hand.

The latter happened to me, dear Reader, a few days ago when I was cataloguing a three-part work (bound in two volumes) by Samuel Butler. No, not the iconoclastic Samuel Butler (1835-1903), alumnus of St John’s College Cambridge, who wrote ‘The Way of All Flesh’ (coincidentally a really great read) … but the seventeenth-century one. This Samuel Butler (1612-1680) was also a satirist (what is it with these Samuel Butlers?) and the book I had in hand was his bestseller ‘Hudibras’, which lampoons the Puritans and was originally published 1663-1678.

Ours is a later edition, printed in Cambridge in 1744 by J. Bentham, printer to the University and what first caught my eye were the 42 pages of subscribers. The publication was obviously the ‘latest thing’, not just amongst Cambridge academics, but also Oxford men, the aristocracy and the gentry. Soon I was absorbed by this roll of the great and the good of 1744.


The book in hand – or rather, the first volume.

I counted no fewer than twenty-nine members of Trinity Hall, starting with the Master, Dr Edward Sympson (or Simpson), and President, Dr William Warren (who was also Librarian) to a list of other Trinity Hall men: Thomas Ansell, Thomas Beaumont, Richard Bull, Dennis Clarke, Dr. Dale, Ambrose Dickins, Dr. Francis Dickins, George Etherington, John Meres Fagge, John Hagar, John Hill, William Hinxman, Oliver Marton, William Maurice, Edward Milles, Dr. Henry Monson, Humphrey Morice, Buckley Macworth Pried, Matthew Robinson, Dr Salisbury, William Strahan, Thomas Thoroton, John Trenchard, Fines Trotman, Lyonel Vane, Thomas Wallis and Jonathan White. What a marvellous snapshot of Trinity Hall at that time!

List of subscribers

First page of the list of subscribers. The poet Thomas Ansell is here.

Some of these Trinity Hall men are familiar to me through their manuscripts which we hold in the Old Library, for instance, the manuscript volumes of Thomas Ansell’s poems. Perhaps more significantly we have fifteen manuscript volumes of the works of Dr Dickins (see our list of post-medieval manuscripts). Francis Dickins (or Dickens), who died in 1755, was a lawyer, author and Fellow of Trinity Hall from 1705. His donation of manuscripts came with strict instructions: ‘I do desire yt the few manuscript books I shall leave behind me on ye subject of matrimony, guardianship, dominion or property may find a place in some remote corner of the College Library never to be taken out thence on any account whatever.’

Dickins inscription

Take note and obey!

These instructions have been followed faithfully! Preserved for over 250 years, these works are now of great interest to legal historians.

Two other entries in the list of subscribers are of interest to us. The fact that the ‘Library of Trinity Hall’ is listed indicates that by the mid eighteenth-century we had broadened our acquisitions policy to include works of English literature (to add to our core holding in law and the ancients).

Library subscribers

Here we are in print!

The second entry of interest is ‘Merril’, the bookseller at No. 2 Trinity Street, who took 6 copies. Merril recognised that this was a ‘must-have’ book which he could sell, even though a vast number of University people had already subscribed.



Trinity Hall had a strong link with Merril: this was the bookseller with whom we had a subscription for Diderot’s great Encyclopédie. This magnum opus was printed in Paris from 1751 and Merril arranged for the fascicules to be sent as they became available, to be bound into volumes in Cambridge. This complete first edition of the Encyclopédie is now one of the great treasures of the Old Library.

Encyclopedie plate

Preparation of parchment – from the Encyclopédie

But why, you may ask, have I made reference to Hogarth in the title of this piece? The reason is that this edition of ‘Hudibras’ has wonderful engravings of illustrations by Hogarth. But that’s for next time!

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Most of us love rummaging around in antique shops, dreaming of discovering something valuable amongst the assorted items of furniture, worn paperbacks and bric-a-brac.  Well, several years ago Trinity Hall alumnus Bill Cave was actually lucky enough to make an amazing find.

Not the junk shop in question - but a great Cambridge antique shop on Gwydir Street

There, in the bottom of a cardboard box in a dusty corner of a junk shop in the Lake District, was a tatty looking Bible. Still in its original (much worn) binding, the volume could have been easily overlooked but it was something special and Bill Cave recognised its value immediately. It was an early edition of the King James Version of the Bible (KJV), printed by John Barker, the King’s printer, in 1616. This year is the 400th anniversary of the KJV and this copy of the Bible has been recently on exhibition where it was valued at over £2,000 for insurance purposes. We are now extremely fortunate to receive it as a gift to add to the Old Library’s collection.


Hidden treasure - definately not junk!

In 1604 King James I initiated a new translation of the Bible at the Hampton Court Conference. While the translators worked from the Hebrew for the Old Testament, Greek for the New Testament and Greek and Latin for the Apocrypha, they also drew on previous translations (the Tyndale, Coverdale and Geneva Bibles). Also known as the “Breeches Bible”, the Geneva Bible was the primary Bible of the Protestant movement and its language influenced William Shakespeare as well as the translators of the Authorized Version.  First published in 1611, the KJV became tremendously popular and by the first half of the 18th century it was the English translation most widely used by the Anglican church. The language of the King James Bible has become embedded in the psyche of the English, influencing many writers from Milton and Ruskin right up to the present day.

Stern faces from 1616 in the guise of Jacob's sons surrounding his death bed

Our copy of the Bible is bound with John Speed’s The genealogies recorded in sacred scriptures. This work contains 34 pages of lively woodblock prints of genealogical trees of Biblical figures and a magnificent double page map of the Holy Land.


Not Middle Earth but a map of the Holy Land (Canaan)

In addition to the Bible, Bill Cave has also presented us with three books by his distant ancestor and namesake, Rev. William Cave (1637-1713): the Lives of the Fathers volume 1 and volume 2 (1682-1683) and the Lives of the Apostles   (1684). Educated at St John’s College Cambridge, William Cave started his career as vicar of St Mary’s, Islington (where he is buried) and rose to be Chaplain in Ordinary to Charles II and canon of Windsor. He certainly moved in posh circles! His scholarship focussed principally on the early church and is distinguished by the lucidity of its arrangement, making his volumes standard texts for several centuries. These three volumes, treasured family presents to Bill Cave some 20-30 years ago, have now joined another work by Cave already in our collection, Scriptorum ecclesiasticorum historia literaria, which was published in two parts (1688-1698). They have now found a permanent home in the Old Library where they are available to scholars and will be cared for in the future.

Additional information:

There is currently an excellent exhibition on the making of the King James Bible, “Great and manifold blessings” in the University Library which is on until 18 June 2011.

Hurry! This exhibition finishes on 18th June

Ruskin scholar, Clive Wilmer, gave an excellent talk on Ruskin and the King James Bible on 10th May 2011. For more on Ruskin’s Bible reading see Wilmer’s article ‘Ruskin and the Sense of an Ending: Apocalypse and Literary Form’ in Ruskin’s Struggle for Coherence: Self-Representation in Art, Place and Society, eds. Rachel Dickinson and Keith Hanley (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2006).

Information on Rev. William Cave, Chaplain in Ordinary to Charles II, was taken from Wikipedia and there is also an article on him in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (for those who have access to this online database).

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