Finding one of the oldest examples of printing in Britain: the story of the Caxton leaf

Written by Erika Delbecque, UMASCS Librarian, as part of the 2017 Being Human festival: Lost and Found.

The leaf on my desk was stained, torn in places, and fairly unremarkable. Unlike other loose leaves from the fifteenth century that I had been working on, which mostly contained standard texts that circulated widely at the time, the text proved difficult to identify. My secondary school Latin enabled me to, slowly, make some sense of the heavily abbreviated lines.

I read sentences such as

Feria iij. de sancto Augustino. et memoria sub silencio. de martiribus et de trinitate

On the third weekday, [hold a service] about Saint Augustine. And a remembrance in silence of the saints and the Trinity.

The Caxton leaf that was discovered at the University of Reading (detail)

It became clear that this was a page from a practical book aimed at clergy: an ordinal. Research into the publication history of this type of book led me to a version of the ordinal written by Clement Maydeston, a medieval priest from Middlesex. His text became the standard ordinal in the late fifteenth century.

However, the font and the layout of the text on the leaf did not match any known editions of Maydeston’s work. By chance, I read that an earlier version of the ordinal had been printed by William Caxton in 1477, which survived only in two fragments of eight damaged pages each. These had been discovered in the binding of a book in the library of the Grammar School at St Albans in 1858. Describing the pages, William Blades, the scholar who made the discovery, noted:

The lines are not spaced out to one length. A full page has 22 lines (cited in Wordsworth 1894)

The Caxton leaf that was discovered at the University of Reading

Sure enough, the leaf in my hands had 22 lines, which were not spaced out to one length. Could it be…? The surviving fragments that Blades had discovered, which are now kept at the British Library, are available digitally through Early English Books Online.

The font matched. The layout matched. The page measurements matched.

The unassuming leaf that had been in our collections for almost twenty years turned out to be a unique survivor from a long lost William Caxton book.

Late hym come to Westmonester

Having learned how to print in the Low Countries, Caxton arrived in London to set up the first British printing press about a year before this ordinal was printed. He was a shrewd businessman, seeking out texts to print that would appeal to a large audience. An ordinal would have been a safe bet in Catholic Britain: there was a steady demand for liturgical handbooks from the clergy.

To advertise his ordinal, Caxton printed notices that were pasted on walls and doors in London, in which he urged customers to head to his shop in Westminster to buy the book because it is “wel and truly correct” and “good chepe”. Incidentally, it is oldest surviving printed advertisement in the English language.

Advertisement for Sarum Pie [‘Ordinale ad usum Sarum’] ([Westminster: William Caxton, c.1476-7]) ©Bodleian Libraries

A perilous journey

What happened between the time when the freshly printed leaf left Caxton’s presses and the moment it was discovered in our collections over 500 years later? The leaf contains clues that offer tantalising glimpses into the journey it made before it ended up on our shelves.

Detail of the Caxton leaf showing the red paraph marks

The first of these are the red marks on the page, so-called “paraph marks” which indicate the start of new sections. Unlike the letters on the page these were not printed, but added by hand. Books from the fifteenth century were modelled on medieval manuscripts, and customers would take their printed book to a scribe who added initials, page numbers and paraph marks in coloured ink. Thus, the paraph marks on the Caxton leaf tell us that someone bought and valued the book it was once part of.

Detail of the Caxton leaf showing the offsets from a leather binding

At some point in the following centuries, its fortunes changed. The Reformation, which raged across Britain and the rest of Europe in the sixteenth century, eliminated the need for Catholic ordinals. Dark offsets from leather towards the edges of the leaf hint at what happened next: the leaf was folded and used to reinforce the cover of a later book. Rather than wasting new paper, which was a relatively expensive commodity at the time, bookbinders often recycled leaves from earlier documents for this purpose. So, we largely owe the survival of the Caxton leaf to the thriftiness of these craftsmen!

Portrait of William Caxton from a proof illustration to John Johnson’s ‘Typographia or the Printers Instructor’. 1824 ©British Museum

What happened next is shrouded in mystery. At one point, someone must have taken the leaf out of the binding, although it is unlikely that they realised its significance. The leaf may have changed hands several times, until the late typographer John Lewis purchased it as part of a collection of loose early printed leaves in the 1950s. Lewis suggests that these leaves may have slumbered in bindings of rare books at Cambridge University Library, until they were removed by a diligent sticky-fingered librarian:

A dozen years or so ago, I bought from a bookseller in Ipswich, Suffolk, an album compiled about the year 1820 by a Dr Lodge, sometime librarian to the University Library at Cambridge. […] As librarian to a great library, Dr Lodge’s opportunities for collecting pages from damaged books and packings from broken bindings were extensive (1990, pp. 9-10).

In this way, unbeknown to Lewis himself, a unique Caxton leaf made its way into his collection of historical examples of printing and graphic design. In 1997, this collection was purchased by the University of Reading, where it would sit on the shelves awaiting detailed cataloguing for the next twenty years.

Libraries within libraries

We will probably never know what detours and stops our Caxton leaf made on its five-century long journey from London to Reading via Cambridge and Ipswich. When I identified the leaf as an early example of Caxton’s printing, I realised that what I held in my hands was a unique witness of the introduction of what is perhaps the most significant invention of the modern age. This small, humble leaf has now assumed its rightful place amongst the treasures of our collection. Who knows what other treasures are lurking hidden in bindings on library shelves, libraries within libraries waiting to be discovered?

References

Lewis, John 1990, Printed Ephemera. 2nd ed, Woodbridge: Antique collectors’ club.

Wordsworth, Christopher (ed.) 1894, The Tracts of Clement Maydeston: With the Remains of Caxton’s Ordinale, London: Harrison and Sons, 1894.

Recent acquisition: a 1908 fine printed edition of ‘The Romaunt of the Rose’

 

‘The God of Love’, illustration by Norman Wilkinson of Four Oaks from ‘The Romaunt of the Rose’ (1908)

 

Written by Fiona Melhuish (UMASCS Librarian)

One of the most significant additions to our rare book collections in recent years has been a copy of a 1908 edition of The Romaunt of the Rose, which was purchased with assistance from Arts Council England/Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund and the Friends of the National Libraries.

This publication was the first book to be printed by the Florence Press, which was founded by the publisher Chatto & Windus to produce books of similar beauty to classic private presses, but in larger editions and at more accessible prices. Other fine quality editions produced under the Florence Press imprint included editions of Keats, Blake, Boccaccio and St Francis of Assisi.

This important acquisition complements the numerous examples of private press books and other fine printing in our rare book collections, and the Chatto & Windus archive, in which the book is mentioned specifically in correspondence and other records.

 

‘Love Pursuing’, illustration by Keith Henderson from ‘The Romaunt of the Rose’ (1908)

 

Due to differences between catalogue records, it is difficult to tell how many copies of the book exist in this country, but there appear to be only a small number. This copy is no. 7 of a limited edition of 12 printed on vellum. The Florence Press also produced an edition of 500 copies of the Romaunt printed on hand-made Aldwych paper, and we were pleased to acquire copy no. 129 of this paper edition as part of the purchase.

 

‘Mynstrales’,  illustration by Norman Wilkinson of Four Oaks from ‘The Romaunt of the Rose’ (1908)

 

The Romaunt was one of the most important and influential poems of the Middle Ages, and is a partial translation into Middle English of a French allegorical poem, Le Roman de la Rose. It was first thought to have been the work of the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer, and while it is now questioned how much of the work is attributable to Chaucer, it is generally agreed that the first part was translated by him and that the poem influenced the poet’s later work.

Le Roman de la Rose was begun by the French scholar and poet Guillaume de Lorris in about 1230 in Old French and was continued forty years later by the author Jean de Meun. The poem begins with a description of an allegorical dream of courtly love, set in a walled garden, in which a courtier (the narrator) seeks to gain the affection of his beloved, a woman represented as the allegorical ‘Rose’, with its dual meaning as both a woman’s name and a flower. The courtier encounters other allegorical figures such as ‘Lady Reason’, ‘Daunger’ and ‘the God of Love’ who offer him advice on courtly love.

 

‘The Daunce’, illustration by Keith Henderson from ‘The Romaunt of the Rose’ (1908)

 

In the second fragment written by Meun, the poem takes on a more philosophical, satirical and sexual tone, as, in the story of the two lovers, ‘Rose’ is represented as less of an abstract ideal and becomes a real woman with sexual and physical reality. There are satirical attacks on women and marriage, courtly love and religious hypocrisy, represented by the allegorical figure of Fals-Semblant (False-seeming).

The publication features twenty exquisite colour plate illustrations, with ten by the Scottish painter, illustrator and war artist Keith Henderson (1883–1982) and ten by the artist, illustrator and theatre designer Norman Wilkinson of Four Oaks (1882 – 1934). Wilkinson adopted the suffix “of Four Oaks” to distinguish himself from a contemporary marine artist of the same name.

The illustrations are reminiscent in style of the early Pre-Raphaelites with their intense detail, colour and realism. Features and figures such as the striking image of the God of Love [see image above], wreathed and clothed in a swarm of tiny flowers, animals and birds, and the unusual compositions and poses of the figures in ‘The Daunce’ [see image above] give the images an intriguing, ethereal quality that perfectly illustrates, and brings to life, the dream world of the poem.

 

‘The End’, illustration by Keith Henderson from ‘The Romaunt of the Rose’ (1908)

 

The two copies of The Romaunt of the Rose (PRINTING COLLECTION FOLIO–841.18-GUI) are available to view on request in the Special Collections Service reading room.

Images reproduced with permission from The Random House Group Ltd.

 

References and further reading

The Roman de la Rose Digital Library: http://romandelarose.org/ [accessed 10.02.2017]

The Romaunt of the Rose manuscript and digitisation project at the University of Glasgow Library: http://www.memss.arts.gla.ac.uk/html/pilot.htm [accessed 10.02.2017]

An A-Z of the University’s Museums and Collections

@52Museums Instaphabet

@52Museums Instaphabet

Earlier this month the University of Reading’s Museums and Collections collaborated on an exciting project for @52Museums on Instagram.  The 52 Museums programme, which began in January 2016, sees a new museum taking over the running of the 52 Museums Instagram and Twitter page each week in order to share their collections, exhibitions, achievements and more with the world.

To best showcase our fantastic range of collections we produced an A-Z guide or ‘instaphabet’ featuring lettering from our Typography collection and Special Collections Library alongside art, artefacts and anecdotes from the Museum of English Rural Life, Cole Museum of Zoology, URE Museum of Greek Archaeology, our Herbarium, Art collection and Volunteers.

Some of the highlights from the Special Collections Library and Archive include:

Di - De la RueD is for De la Rue
The De la Rue printing firm was founded in Bunhill Row, London in 1837. It manufactured Christmas and other social stationery, playing cards, stamps and railway tickets, and undertook security printing.
Our collection consists of correspondence, financial papers, designs and specimens from the period 1837-1965; including designs for Reading’s famous Huntley and Palmers Biscuit Company.

 

Ri - Ruralia commoda - Ptrus de CrescentiusR is for Ruralia Commoda
The Ruralia commoda is the oldest printed book in our rare book collections. Written by Petrus de Crescentius in 1471, it is an early agricultural manual, and is said by some to have been the most important original medieval work on agriculture, husbandry and horticulture.

 

 

Yi - Yellow Brick RoadY is for Yellow Brick Road
This beautiful illustration of the Yellow Brick Road by W.W. Denslow is from our 1st edition copy of ‘The wonderful wizard of Oz’ by L. Frank Baum (1900). Our Special Collections Library is home to a fantastic Wizard of Oz collection, comprising around 800 volumes, including many editions and translations of The Wizard of Oz, and other associated items.

 

See our full #instaphabet in all its glory on Instagram!

Memoir on the Dodo

Written by Louise Cowan, Trainee Liaison Librarian

One of the interesting finds from our cataloguing and reclassification of the Cole Library Collection is ‘Memoir on the Dodo’ by Sir Richard Owen, an eminent English biologist and palaeontologist.

The initial discovery of Dodo remains in the mid nineteenth century led to some controversy in the scientific community.  Owen, who was somewhat notorious for his ruthless behaviour, is said to have intercepted material intended for another researcher, Alfred Newton.  Owen then argued that, “possession of the best material was a prerequisite for publication priority, which provided him with a complete monopoly,” (Hume, Cheke & McOran-Campbell, 2009).  With the success of his application as a Professor in danger of being side-tracked by Owen, Newton was unable to complain and was forced not only to, “relinquish access to the best Dodo bones promised to him, but he also had to withdraw the Dodo manuscript that had already been submitted,” (Hume, Cheke & McOran-Campbell, 2009).

Despite the circumstances surrounding its author, Owen’s work remains a significant contribution to the Zoological sciences.

Author dedication to the Bishop of Mauritius

Author dedication to the Bishop of Mauritius

The book consists of a historical introduction by naturalist William John Broderip; an explanation from Owen on how he came to be in possession of the collection of bones discovered on Mauritius by George Clark in 1865, and finally a description of these bones alongside several illustrative lithographic plates.  According to Hume, Cheke & McOran-Campbell (2009), the book had a limited run of only 100 copies with 20 intended for presentation to Owen’s supporters.  Our volume is dedicated by the author to the Bishop of Mauritius; the friendship between the two having played a key role in Owen’s receipt of the Dodo remains.

Broderip’s introductory history focuses on both written and pictorial evidence for the existence of the Dodo.  He examines first-hand accounts from travellers to Mauritius from as early as 1598, quoting their descriptions of the bird.  The following is from  Jacob van Neck and Wybrand van Warwijk’s

Drawing of a Dodo by Jacob van Neck and Wybrand van Warwijk

voyage in 1598:

As large as our swans, with large heads, and a kind of hood thereon; no wings, but, in place of them, three or four black little pens (penekens), and their tails consisting of four of five curled plumelets (Pluymkens) of a greyish colour.

 

Broderip also makes mention of the Dodo remains held in Oxford and the remains of a leg that had been held by the British Museum.  Following Broderip’s death, Owen took up the narrative, describing other museum artefacts as well as art works featuring the Dodo.  All three Dodos depicted in this beautifully coloured plate (below), taken from the front of the book, are from paintings by Roelandt Savery, a Flemish-born Dutch Painter.  Owen combined the figures to create an ‘Ideal scene in the island of Mauritius before its discovery in 1598.’

Composite picture of Roelandt Savery's Dodos

Composite picture of Roelandt Savery’s Dodos

However, Owen’s belief that Savery’s paintings were drawn from a living bird, caused him to make a serious mistake in his reconstruction of the creature.  Owen recreated the bird’s image by fitting the skeleton into an outline traced around Savery’s Dodo image but, “this produced an unnatural, squat and overly obese Dodo,” (Hume, Cheke & McOran-Campbell, 2009).  While Owen rectified his error in a later publication, the original image stuck and remains a common misconception.

 

Outline of a Dodo skeleton using a tracing from Roelandt Savery's Dodo paintings

Outline of a Dodo skeleton using a tracing from Roelandt Savery’s Dodo paintings

 

Sources:

 Owen, R. (1866) Memoir of the Dodo. London: Taylor and Francis [COLE 196F/103 – available on request]

  • A scan of ‘Memoir of the Dodo’ is available here.
  • P. Hume, A.S. Cheke & A. McOran-Campbell (2009) How Owen ‘stole’ the Dodo: academic rivalry and disputed rights to a newly-discovered subfossil deposit in nineteenth century Mauritius, Historical Biology, 21:1-2, 33-49

College Song No. 1, “The Song of the Shield”

Written by Guy Baxter, Archivist

The Song of the Shield

The Song of the Shield

Since the University celebrated the 90th anniversary of the granting of its Royal Charter last Thursday, many people have been asking for the words of College Song No. 1, “The Song of the Shield”, which was performed with gusto by the University Chamber Choir that evening under the direction of Samuel Evans. It was discovered in the University Archive just a few months ago.

The music was written by J.C.B. Tirbutt (1857-1908), who lectured at Reading and who was the organist at All Saints church. The words are by the then

Sheet music for 'The Song of the Shield'

Sheet music for ‘The Song of the Shield’

Principal (and later Vice-Chancellor) W.M. Childs (1869-1939). More about the

inspiration for the song, the Coat of Arms, may be found here, and it is fitting that the original Grant of Arms from 1896 was on display last Thursday as well.  As for the style: well, it’s unlikely to be covered by will.i.am any time soon, but it’s very jolly and evokes a strong sense of the College in its early days when everyone would have known each other. Rumours of compulsory singing of the song before every lecture next term are thought to be unfounded.

Lyrics for 'The Song of the Shield'

Lyrics for ‘The Song of the Shield’

Congratulations to all involved in bringing this hidden piece of our past to light. The other music performed at the meeting of the University Court on 17 March included Prelude and fugue in C minor BWV 549 by J.S. Bach, which was also performed at the inaugural organ recital in the Great hall in 1911; I Vow to Thee, My Country by Gustav Holst (words by Cecil Spring-Rice) – Holst taught at the College from 1920-1923; and My Spirit Sang All Day, No.3 from Seven Part Songs op.17 by Gerald Finzi, whose literary collection is held here

Special Collections will continue to support the 90th Anniversary events with a series of displays during the Summer and Autumn.

A relic of an 18th century poet to mark World Poetry Day

Written by Fiona Melhuish, UMASCS Librarian

Tucked away in one of our archive boxes is an envelope which contains a small, folded piece of paper which, when opened carefully, reveals a tiny fragment of netting, woven from fine string (University of Reading Special Collections MS 12) [see image below]. It is attached to the paper by four pieces of red sealing wax. The paper has been folded and addressed To Mrs Jenning(?) With most affectionate and grateful regard.

Cowper netting1

 

Beneath the netting, a slip of paper has been attached upon which is written the line  – ‘Thus, all their plan adjusted, diff’rent ways/They took,’. Beneath this, in another, perhaps later, maybe nineteenth-century, hand, is written the following:

This netting was made by the Poet Cowper, his ‘The Task’ – “Weaving nets for bird-alluring fruit &” – The hand writing is also The Poet’s, being a part of his Homer.

Attested by Maria D. Johnson – widow of The Poet’s beloved kinsman – Dr Johnson. The seal, of which these hares are the impression, was the gift of the Princess Elizabeth to the late Lady Hesketh, and bequeathed by her in her will to the late Dr Johnson’.

Cowper netting2

 

William Cowper (pronounced “Cooper”) (1731–1800) [see portrait below]  was one of the most popular poets of his time. He was influential in the development of eighteenth-century nature poetry, drawing on scenes from everyday life and the English countryside, and was admired by other poets including Coleridge, Wordsworth and Blake.

Cowper portrait

 

His most substantial poetic work was The Task, a poem in blank verse which begins by focusing on the origins of the sofa, but develops into a meditation on a wide variety of subjects, including nature, the retired life and religious faith, and includes attacks on slavery, the clergy and blood sports. However, he regarded his translations of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey into blank verse as his greatest achievement. The handwritten line on the slip of paper beneath the netting is from Cowper’s translation of Homer’s Odyssey, and, according to the inscription, was written in Cowper’s hand. I have not yet investigated what link the line from Homer might have with the piece of netting.

Cowper suffered from bouts of severe depression throughout his life, and was institutionalised for insanity in the period 1763–65. However, he had close friendships with his cousins, the writer John Johnson and Lady Harriett Hesketh (both mentioned in the inscription). According to Thomas Wright, one of Cowper’s biographers, Lady Hesketh stayed with the poet during one of his periods of mental illness in 1794/95. During this time she wrote in a letter that during the winter of 1794/95 he seemed to improve, and that she was “able to get him to employ himself with “little avocations, such as netting, putting maps together, playing with the solitary board, &c.” Perhaps this little piece of netting was produced by Cowper as a therapeutic pastime to distract him during this period? As an appendix to his biography of Cowper, Wright includes a list of ‘Some relics of Cowper and their present owners (1892)’ which includes some ‘netting done by Cowper’, owned by the Rev. W. Cowper Johnson, junior, which, along with other relics of Cowper including his cap (worn by the poet when writing), was ‘exhibited in the Guelph Exhibition, 1891.’ It is not known if this piece of netting is the same as ours.

On closer examination, three of the four seals appear to feature a tiny image of a hare as mentioned in the inscription. The seal fob which is likely to have made these seal impressions is held by the Cowper and Newton Museum in Olney in Buckinghamshire. As Nicola Durbridge notes in an article about the seal fob on the Museum’s website, “the seals are carved with representations of Cowper’s three tame hares. Cowper nurtured these hares whilst he lived at Orchard Side, Olney and they were a great source of entertainment and companionship. Their names are incised on the seals: Puss, Bess and Tiney. Cowper published a long letter about his hare-keeping which gives us such a vivid picture of their characters and habits …”.

 

Cowper seal hare

One of the seals featuring an image of a hare

 

Durbridge also mentions that the seal fob “originally belonged to Lady Hesketh who had been given it by Princess Elizabeth, the daughter of George III and Queen Charlotte. Harriot moved in courtly circles and apparently met Princess Elizabeth whilst at Weymouth. For such a gift to have been made, Harriot must have become quite well acquainted with the Princess and regaled her at some point with stories of Cowper’s domesticated hares”. This confirms the information given in the inscription under the piece of netting. I cannot see any names above the images of the hares, but the creatures themselves can quite clearly be seen in three of the examples.

This piece of netting was one of our earliest archive acquisitions, but its provenance is unknown. I will be contacting the Cowper and Newton Museum to let them know about our curious little piece of Cowper memorabilia, and also to see if they can shed any light on the identity of the writer of the explanatory inscription, who Mrs Jenning(?) was and what link, if any, they had with William Cowper …

With thanks to Verity Andrews and Nancy Fulford, former members of the Special Collections archives team, for making this ‘discovery’ in the archive collections!

References 

Durbridge, Nicola. Lady Hesketh’s seal fob : a material world. (Olney : The Cowper and Newton Museum, 2012. (Accessed 16.03.2016).

King, James. William Cowper : a biography. (Durham, N.C. : Duke University Press, 1986). University Library STACK–821.65-KIN

Wright, Thomas. The life of William Cowper. (London : T. Fisher Unwin, 1892). University Library STORE–57796

 

Johannes Kepler – Astronomiae Pars Optica

Written by Louise Cowan, Trainee Liaison Librarian

The theme of this year’s Science Week taking place from 11-20 March is ‘Science in Spaces’ so to celebrate here is our first edition of ‘Ad Vitellionem Paralipomena, Quibus Astronomiae Pars Optica Traditur’ (Supplement to Witelo, in Which Is Expounded the Optical Part of Astronomy) by German astronomer Johannes Kepler.

Astronomiae Pars Optica

Astronomiae Pars Optica

Born in 1571, Kepler was a leading figure during the scientific revolution of the 17th Century.  While usually best known for his discovery of three major laws of planetary motion, which “turned Nicolaustables Copernicus’s Sun-centred system into a dynamic universe, with the Sun actively pushing the planets around in noncircular orbits,” (Britannica Academic, 2016) his work on optics was equally ground-breaking and earned him the title ‘father of modern optical study,’ (Skydel and Whelan).

diagram

Written in 1604, ‘Astronomiae Pars Optica’ explores the properties of light, applying the ideas of reflection and refraction to explain astronomical phenomena, such as the size of astronomical bodies and the nature of eclipses.  It also investigates the workings of light with regard to pinhole cameras and the human eye.  In his explanation of vision, Kepler was the first to recognise the importance of the retina and the inversion of images within the eye, and the first to explain how eyeglasses, in use for over three centuries, actually worked, (Britannica Academic, 2016).  Kepler’s understanding diagram2of light and vision later allowed him to invent the Keplerian telescope in 1611; by replacing the concave eyepiece used by Galileo with a convex lens, Kepler was able to make considerable improvement to the design; although this inverted the image produced, it enabled a much wider field of view, (Di Liscia, 2015).

Our edition of ‘Astomomiae Pars Optica’ includes notes on the front endpapers handwritten by Francesco Tognetti, an Italian man of letters c.1810-1820.  His notes discuss Kepler’s life and work and are signed ‘from Tognetti’ suggesting that the book was given by him as a gift.

fromtognettii

I used to measure the heavens,
now I shall measure the shadows of the earth.
Although my soul was from heaven,
the shadow of my body lies here.

Kepler’s self-composed epitaph

 

Sources:

From the cradle of printing to binder’s waste: incunable leaves in the John Lewis collection

Written by Erika Delbecque, UMASCS Librarian

Earlier this year, we shared some exciting early printing finds from the John Lewis Printing Collection on this blog. In the past few months, I have been researching these leaves, so that they can be catalogued and the collection can be made more accessible. In the first instance, I have been focusing on leaves from incunables.

The cradle of printing

Incunables, from the Latin incunabulum (“cradle”) are books that were printed in Europe before 1501, in the infancy of the art of printing with movable type, which was introduced by Johannes Gutenberg in ca. 1450. These books from the cradle of printing can give us a glimpse into the early stages of one of the most significant human inventions.

Often a hybrid between manuscript and print, with hand-painted initials and decorations sitting alongside the black ink of the printed text, incunables embody the gradual transition from a world where the manuscript was the prime medium for the transmission of knowledge to one where the printed word took on this crucial role.

Hand-painted initial (Alighieri, Dante. La Commedia. Venice: Wendelin of Speier, 1477)

Hand-painted initial (Alighieri, Dante. La Commedia. Venice: Wendelin of Speier, 1477)

Hand-painted initial and decoration (Beauvais, Vincent of. Speculum historiale .  Strassburg: Johann Mentelin, 1473)

Hand-painted initial and decoration (Beauvais, Vincent of. Speculum historiale. Strassburg: Johann Mentelin, 1473)

Some of these craftsmen reach an astonishing degree of esthetical perfection in those early stages. Consider, for example, the woodcut from a leaf from the famous Nuremberg Chronicle (1493) below, or the leaf from Plutarch’s Vitae illustrium virorum, printed by the Venetian printer Nicolas Jenson in 1478. The typeface that Jenson designed for his printing business would later be praised by William Morris for its elegance and beauty, and it continues to influence type design to this day.

Detail from a leaf from the Nuremberg Chronicle (Schedel, Hartmann. Liber chronicarum. Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, 1493)

Detail from a leaf from the Nuremberg Chronicle (Schedel, Hartmann. Liber chronicarum. Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, 1493)

Jenson's celebrated roman type (Plutarch. Vitae illustrium virorum. Venice: Nicolaus Jenson, 1478)

Jenson’s celebrated roman type (Plutarch. Vitae illustrium virorum. Venice: Nicolaus Jenson, 1478)

We owe the survival of these leaves to the thriftiness of early modern craftsmen. Rather than wasting new paper, which was a relatively expensive commodity, bookbinders recycled leaves from earlier documents to reinforce the spine and covers of a book. Some of the leaves in our collection provide clues as to why they ended up in the bookbinder’s stack of wastepaper: the pages of this double leaf from Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, a romance that was printed by Aldus Manutius in 1499, are in the wrong order.

Pages printed in the wrong order (Colonna, Francesco. Poliphili Hypnerotomachia. Venice: Aldus Manutius, 1499)

Pages printed in the wrong order (Colonna, Francesco. Poliphili Hypnerotomachia. Venice: Aldus Manutius, 1499)

Incunable leaves in the John Lewis Collection

Although it is uncertain how these leaves ended up in the collection of John Lewis (1912-1996), a typographer and graphic designer whose collection of ephemera we purchased in 1997, the foreword in his book Printed ephemera provides a clue:

A dozen years or so ago, I bought from a bookseller in Ipswich, Suffolk, an album compiled about the year 1820 by a Dr Lodge, sometime librarian to the University Library at Cambridge. Dr Lodge’s album contained a wide variety of printed matter including […] an Indulgence printed by Thierry Martens.
As librarian to a great library, Dr Lodge’s opportunities for collecting pages from damaged books and packings from broken bindings were extensive. It would seem that this particular Indulgence may well have lurked for three hundred years or more inside some vellum or calf-bound volume, doing duty for the paste-boards which in those days did not exist.

Thus, it is possible that these leaves spent centuries sitting undisturbed in the bindings of their younger relatives on the shelves of Cambridge University Library, before ending up here at the University of Reading through the rather dubious collecting efforts of this Dr Lodge…

On the trail of early printers

Identifying what work these leaves are part of often requires quite a bit of detective work, as the features by which an early printed book would normally be identified, such as the title page, the incipit or the colophon, are lacking.

The first step is the identification of the text. Search engines like Google are immensely useful for this purpose in many cases, but for more obscure texts skim-reading the pages or translating a part to form an idea of the content is more fruitful. This can be particularly challenging when dealing with a text in heavily abbreviated Latin, which many of these leaves contain! Then, a search on incunabula catalogues, such as the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue and the Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke, will reveal which editions of this text were printed in the fifteenth century. Finally, a comparison with digitised copies, if available, will let you determine what edition the leaf was once part of.

Fifteen leaves have been identified in this way. They are currently being catalogued onto Enterprise, our library catalogue, and our holdings on the ISTC have been updated. However, four leaves remain unidentified. If this blog post has inspired you to try your hand at researching an incunable leaf, have a look at the photographs of the leaves below. Let us know in the comments section if you discover anything about them!

References

Lewis, J (1976) Collecting Printed Ephemera. London: Cassell and Collier Macmillan.

The Bee Collection

Written by Louise Cowan, Trainee Liaison Librarian

Bee from 'Adventures in Hiveland'

Bee from ‘Adventures in Hiveland’

Our collection of printed materials on bees and apiculture brings together the Cotton Collection and the

books from the H. Malcolm Fraser Collection, supplemented by books and periodicals from the University Library’s general collections. The collection examines bees and bee-keeping from a variety of angles, providing a fascinating wealth of knowledge.  Below is gathered a small selection showing the fantastic diversity of material:

 

 

The London Apiarian Guide for Bee Keepers

The London Apiarian Guide for Bee Keepers

Bee keeping

The London Apiarian Guide for Bee-Keepers (1823) – by John Milton [Bee Collection Fraser 148]

This short guide for bee keepers provides helpful tips on everything a budding bee-keep needs to know; from how to use the newest glass hive, how to purchase bees (the best time of year is February if you’re interested!), the type of flowers bees like best (Rosemary and Lemon Thyme) and of course, how to obtain your honey!

 

 

 

 

 

Bee Anatomy

The Honey Bee: Its Natural History, Anatomy, and physiology. (1890) by T. W. Cowan– [Bee Collection ADDS 05D]

Written by the then chairman of the British Bee Keeper’s Association, ‘The Honey Bee’ is a detailed guide

The Honey Bee

The Honey Bee

to the science of the bee.  The work features several small but detailed diagrams alongside interesting facts and anatomical descriptions.

Interestingly, I learned that bees have different types of sting; the queen generally uses hers only against a rival and is able to extract her sting much more easily than a worker bee by using a spiral motion much like drawing a corkscrew out of a cork.  Worker bees are more likely to lose the lower part of their abdomen when withdrawing their sting while drones are not provided with a sting at all.

Cowan also describes how one apiarist, Stahala, had ascribed meanings to the various sounds bees make; a loud ‘Huummm’ for when the bees have a queen and their food stores are good but a ‘Dzi-Dzi’ when food stores are low or a loud ‘Dziiii’ when they’re too cold!

 

Bee History

The Lore of the Honey Bee

The Lore of the Honey Bee

Bee Lore (1916) by Tickner Edwardes– [Bee Collection ADDS 006]

Dedicated to the very same T.W. Cowan (above) Edwardes’ book of lore is a full history of bees and bee keeping.  It explores bees from the Greek myth of the nymph ‘Melissa’ (meaning ‘honey bee’) who fed the baby Zeus with milk and honey; praises the fourth book of Virgil’s ‘Georgics’ where the author’s ‘love for his bees shines through,’ and comments on a small book published in 1656 ‘The Country Housewife’s Garden’ which focuses on rule of thumb methods of beekeeping for fellow cottagers.

Alongside this history, Edwardes goes on to describe the features of the hive and weaves the story of the life of a bee in a romanticised light, for example, comparing the architectural supremacy of the honeycomb to the dome of St Paul’s and the great pyramids.

 

 Bees and Honey

Honey Cookbook (1955) – [Bee Collection Fraser 045]

Our copy of the ‘Honey Cookbook’ by Juliette Elkon was sent to Mr Fraser by the American Bee Journal

The Honey Cookbook

The Honey Cookbook

in 1957.  In it Elkon provides a lovely introduction to honey, which features some key bee basics.  For example, did you know that flower nectar has individual flavours and, “drones and workers who can’t produce their quota of honey are thrown out to die of exposure.” It’s not easy being a Bee!

Bees have also been busy making honey for a very long time.  According to Elkon, the oldest jar of honey was found “in the tomb of Queen Tyi’s parents in Egypt, where it had been placed over 3000 years ago.”

Elkon’s cookbook is full of delicious sounding recipes ranging from honey bran bread, to honey glazed hams and sugarless chocolate honey cakes.  As Elkon points out, honey is much healthier than sugar too…so you won’t feel too guilty for indulging in some of those treats!

 

 

Bees in Fiction

Slaughter of the Drones - from 'Adventures in Hiveland'

The Slaughter of the Drones – from ‘Adventures in Hiveland’

Adventures in Hiveland (1903) by Frank Stevens [Bee Collection Fraser 048]

‘Adventures in Hiveland’ by Frank Stevens is an interesting little story following the adventures of Jackie and Vi, two young children who meet the enigmatic elf-man ‘Nameless’ who shrinks them in size until they are small enough to explore inside a Beehive and learn about the lives of the bees who live there.

Although the story has quite a sad ending and sees more untimely deaths than a ‘Game of Thrones’ it gives a fascinating insight to the life of a bee, from Queen to Drone and is full of lovely sketches of the insects!

 

 

These volumes from our Bee Collection are available upon request.

Emma: a heroine whom no one but myself will much like

Written by Louise Cowan, Trainee Liaison Librarian

This month celebrates the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s ‘Emma.’emmacover

One of Austen’s more comedic novels, ‘Emma’ follows the eponymous heroine as she meddles unsuccessfully in the romantic lives of her friends and neighbours. Although Austen is known for describing Emma as, ‘a heroine whom no one but myself will much like,’(Goodheart) the book’s popularity has endured in the two centuries since its publication.  It has been adapted countless times for television, stage and film; including the cult-hit adaption ‘Clueless’ which takes Emma from the rural Highbury and transports her to the mansions of Beverly Hills.

According to Goodheart, it is Emma’s role as an ‘imaginist’ and her constant flights of fancy, which Austen admired and which make her such an appealing heroine within the setting of a slow and quiet rural town.

The Special Collections Library holds a beautifully illustrated edition of ‘Emma’ in our H.M.Brock Collection.  Henry Matthew Brock was a prolific book and magazine illustrator who found particular success illustrating children’s books.  This illustrated edition of ‘Emma’, was published in 1898 in two volumes:

 

Emma, illustrated by C.E. & H.M. Brock

Emma, illustrated by C.E. & H.M. Brock

 

 Sources:

Barchas, Janine (2007) Very Austen: Accounting for the Language of Emma Nineteenth-Century Literature, University of California Press Vol. 62, No. 3 (December 2007), pp. 303-338 http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/ncl.2007.62.3.303 Accessed: 01/12/2015

Emma 2015. Britannica Academic. Retrieved 01 December, 2015, from http://academic.eb.com.idpproxy.reading.ac.uk/EBchecked/topic/185921/Emma

Eugene Goodheart. “Emma: Jane Austen’s Errant Heroine.” Sewanee Review 116.4 (2008): 589-604. Project MUSE. Web. 1 Dec. 2015. https://muse-jhu-edu.idpproxy.reading.ac.uk