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).


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.


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



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!


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



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 Accessed: 01/12/2015

Emma 2015. Britannica Academic. Retrieved 01 December, 2015, from

Eugene Goodheart. “Emma: Jane Austen’s Errant Heroine.” Sewanee Review 116.4 (2008): 589-604. Project MUSE. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.

Siegfried Sassoon: The hell where youth and laughter go

Written by Louise Cowan, Trainee Liaison Librarian

Each year on the second Sunday in November, the Sunday closest to 11th November or Armistice Day, we remember and honour the achievements and sacrifices of those who fought in the two World Wars and later conflicts.

I was rewarded by an intense memory of men whose courage had shown me the power of the human spirit – that spirit which could withstand the utmost assault

Memoirs of An Infantry Officer, p247

Book cover for Memoirs of an Infantry Officer

Memoirs of an Infantry Officer – Printing Collection 821.912

Siegfried Sassoon, a solider during the First World War, is remembered as one of the great War Poets, known for his ferociously realistic yet compassionate writing. The title for this post is taken from his poem ‘Suicide in Trenches’ which bluntly describes the suicide of a young soldier and scolds the ‘smug-faced’ crowds who watch the troops march by, warning them to be glad they will not have to endure the same horrors.

Although Sassoon served with the Royal Welch Fusiliers and was given the nickname ‘Mad Jack’ for his brave but dangerous actions in battle, he also protested against what he viewed to be an unnecessary prolonging of the conflict by those in power.


Although the war has been described as the greatest event in history, it could be tedious and repetitional for an Ordinary Infantry Officer like myself.

‘Memoirs of An Infantry Officer’ p177

 Contemporary reaction to his poetry was divided, with some readers finding his vivid descriptions too extreme and unpatriotic:

Photograph of book spine

The War Poems – Finzi Book Room–Shelf 22D/33

…his rampant grief/Moaned, shouted, sobbed, and choked, while he was kneeling/ Half naked on the floor. In my belief/ Such men have lost all patriotic feeling.

‘Lamentations’ – The War Poems

However, Sassoon’s work endured; it captured at its heart, the truth of trench warfare and the sacrifices made by the soldiers of the Great War.   In 1951, Sassoon was appointed CBE and he received an honorary degree of DLitt at Oxford in 1965.




If you would like to know more about the WW1 materials held at UMASCS you’ll find a list of our archive records and library collections here.



Sassoon, S. (1919) The War Poems of Siegfried Sassoon. London: Heinemann

Sassoon, S ( 1931) Memoirs of An Infantry Officer. London: Faber and Faber

Rupert Hart-Davis, “Sassoon, Siegfried Loraine (1886–1967),” Jon Stallworthy in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison (Oxford: OUP, 2004); online ed., ed. Lawrence Goldman, October 2009, (accessed November 5, 2015).

The Poetry Foundation – Siegfried Sassoon

BBC Historic Figures – Siegfried Sassoon

Delightful and Useful Verities: Rider’s British Merlin

Written by Louise Cowan, Trainee Liaison Librarian

The Rider’s British Merlin is a charming almanac featuring a variety of ‘delightful and useful’ information.  Important calendar dates; notes on the weather, phases of the moon and advice on farming and health are noted by month, while historical timelines and lists of members of the house of peers and house of commons feature as additional reference material.

UMASCS have a collection of Rider’s almanacs dating back to the early eighteenth century:

Shelf of copies of Rider's British Merlin

Rider’s British Merlin

The 1790 edition is depicted below; it has a beautiful red binding with metal clasps:

Rider's British Merlin, 1790. A red book with metal clasps.

Rider’s British Merlin, 1790

In early November 225 years ago, people were anticipating ‘Cold and frosty mornings and evenings’ and a bit of apple pruning on the farms…

Calendar page for November 1790

Calendar page for November 1790

…meanwhile the monthly health advice suggests partaking in ‘Good exercise, warm clothes and a wholesome diet,’ alternatively, you could just get some rest until March.

Calendar page for November 1790

Calendar page for November 1790

Interestingly, the blank pages between monthly dates and advice were meant for use as diary pages.  Although this copy is note free, the University of Glasgow’s Special Collections copy has been annotated by its owner, George Langton (1647-1727), a Lincolnshire landowner and businessman.

If you would like to know more about almanacs take a look at the exhibition UMASCS held earlier this year.

UMASCS also have a catalogue and handlist of almanacs held at the University of Reading that was produced as part of the UROP project.  It is held in our open access reference collections at call number 528.2-LIN.  There are several books on the topic, also available in the open access book reference collections:

  • Perkins, M. (1996) Visions of the future : almanacs, time, and cultural change, 1775-1870.  Oxford : Clarendon Press. [Call Number: 032.02-PER]
  • Capp, B.S. (1979) English almanacs, 1500-1800 : astrology and the popular press. London : Faber & Faber.  [Call Number: MARK LONGMAN LIBRARY–133.50941-CAP ]

Magic and the Occult – Agrippa: De Occulta Philosophia

Written by Louise Cowan, Trainee Liaison Librarian

Happy Halloween!  To celebrate the spookiest day of the year here is a special find from our collections:


De Occulta Philosophia, Reserve -189.5-AGR

The ‘De Occulta Philosophia Libri III’ or ‘The Three Books of Occult Philosophy’ was written by Henrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim (Agrippa), a German writer, famous for his works on magic and the occult.   According to Copenhaver (2008), “Agrippa recognised that magic was an art, a practical technique, but he also insisted on a theoretical content in magic, an analytic basis in the study of nature.”

‘De Occulta Philosophia’ explores a range of magical concepts including magic, astrology, demonology, divination, witchcraft and numerology.

Astrological Charts

Astrological Charts

Symbols showing the characteristics of evil spirits.

The characteristics of evil spirits.

Although Agrippa eventually wrote a retraction to his work, it remains an important resource for those studying magic and Renaissance philosophy today.  Agrippa even features in J.K.Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter’ Series as a collectable chocolate frog card!



Copenhaver, B.P. (2008) ‘Natural Philosophy: Astrology and Magic’,in Schmitt, C.B., Skinner, Q., Kessler, E. and Kraye, J. (eds) The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy. [online]Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,pp 264-266.

Nauert, C.G. (2015) ‘Agrippa von Nettesheim’. Oxford Bibliographies. [Online]Oxford: Oxford University Press

In the spotlight: Robert Hooke’s Micrographia (1665)

This year marks the 350th anniversary of the publication of Micrographia : or, Some physiological descriptions of minute bodies made by magnifying glasses. With observations and inquiries thereupon (London : Printed by J. Martyn and J. Allestry, 1665).  This ground breaking book of microscopy was written by Robert Hooke (1635-1703).  Today is the 380th anniversary of Hooke’s birth, below we explore Hooke’s work in more detail.

Hooke’s famous fold out plate of a flea

Robert Hooke (1635-1703) was appointed as the first Curator of Experiments in 1662 at the newly formed Royal Society of London, a position he was to hold for over forty years. The Society was a group of distinguished gentlemen scientists, with a keen interest in inventing scientific instruments. The membership included a number of gifted individuals of the age, including Robert Boyle, Sir Christopher Wren and Sir Isaac Newton.

The Micrographia, which is the Latin word for ‘little pictures’, was published in 1665 and begins with a preface on the state and aims of contemporary science, in which Hooke encourages the gentlemen of our Nation ‘to take up experimental science by emphasising the high rapture and delight of the mind’ enjoyed by scientists.

Close up of a plate from Hooke’s Micrographia

The book is divided into sixty Observations, or scientific explanations, largely based on the magnified structure of a range of objects and natural phenomena, including the sting of a bee, the point of a needle, and extraordinary images of a fly’s head, a flea and a louse.  Hooke describes the flea as: ‘adorn’d with [its] curiously polish’d suit of sable Armour’.

Best known for the microscopic images described above, Hooke’s work also contained descriptions of planets and the wave theory of light.  Isaac Newton pursued the wave theory of light proposed in Hooke’s work, which influenced his final statement of his theory. Hooke compared the spreading of light vibrations to that of waves in water, and later, in 1672, suggested that the vibrations in light might be perpendicular to the direction of propagation.

The Observations are lavishly illustrated with one hundred fine engraved plates, which display the full diversity of Hooke’s discoveries and research. The engravings are based on Hooke’s original drawings, though there is some suggestion that Sir Christopher Wren may be responsible for the most notable fold-out plates, of the flea and the louse.

Hooke, Micrographia, 1665, Ant plate

Hooke, Micrographia, 1665, Ant plate

For more information on Hooke’s Micrographia, please see this article prepared by our Librarian, Fiona Melhuish on which this post in based.

We hold a first and second edition of Hooke’s Micrographia in our Cole library, contact us on for more information.

Yeats at 150

This Saturday 13th June is the 150th Anniversary of the birth of William Butler Yeats, with events taking place across the UK, Ireland and beyond. Here at Special Collections we thought we’d get out a few of our Yeats’ treasures and David, our Graduate Trainee Library Assistant, has written a piece introducing the man himself.

WB Yeats was one of the most significant poets of the twentieth century. His work has influenced many other authors and some of his most famous lines have been used as titles themselves, from Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart to Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men. Born in 1865 in Dublin to a prominent Anglo-Irish family, his father, John Butler Yeats was a portrait painter, and his younger brother Jack is also best known as a painter today. As a young man he studied at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art and it was during this time that he began to write poetry. After finishing his studies he committed to literature as a profession rather than art. A friendship with George William Russell led Yeats to become interested in mysticism and the occult and he joined the recently established Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in 1890. In the same year Yeats himself co-founded the Rhymers’ Club with Ernest Rhys which was primarily a dining club in London but also produced two books of poetry. Another formative experience was Yeats’ collaboration with Edwin Ellis on the first complete edition of the works of William Blake published in 1893. Special Collections holds the Ellis Collection which includes manuscripts of the work.

In the first half of his life, Yeats’ poetry was dominated by traditional Irish themes and inspired by his obsession with Maud Gonne, a fierce campaigner for Irish independence. Yeats proposed to her in 1891, 1899, 1900 and 1901 but she eventually married the republican Major John MacBride. His other major concern in this period was the development of the Irish Literary Society in London and the National Literary Society in Dublin, both founded in 1892. The following year, The Celtic Twilight was published, a collection of folk tales and stories that he had heard in Sligo and Galway which gave the movement another name, the Celtic Revival. This culminated in 1899 with the opening of the Irish Literary Theatre in Dublin, where the first production was Yeats’ The Countess Cathleen dedicated to Gonne. However the use of English actors was unpopular and the project was superseded by the Irish National Theatre Society and the creation of the Abbey Theatre in 1904. This time the even more nationalistic Cathleen Ní Houlihan about the 1798 Rebellion was performed. Yeats’ sisters, Elizabeth and Lily, were also involved in the revival by founding the Dun Emer Press in 1902 which eventually became the Cuala Press; many titles of the Press’s books can be found in Special Collections.

The year 1916 can be seen as a turning point in Yeats’ personal life and literature. His friendship with Ezra Pound had introduced him to Japanese Noh plays and At the Hawk’s Well was Yeats’ first play in this style. Gonne’s husband MacBride was executed for his role in the Easter Rising of 1916 and Yeats proposed to Maud one last time while his poem Easter, 1916 reflected his ambiguous feelings towards the violence and heroism of the republicans. Yeats finally married in 1917, not to Maud (or even her daughter Iseult, who he proposed to as well) but to Georgie Hyde-Lees, 27 years his junior. The marriage was a success and Georgie’s interest in psychic automatic writing led to Yeats’ major work on the occult, A Vision in 1925. Yeats’ later poetry, while still influenced by mysticism and symbolism, became increasingly modernist and reflective in some of his most famous works such as The Second Coming and Sailing to Byzantium. By the 1920s Yeats’ had been internationally recognised with the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1923 and had become politically active. He was an Irish senator from 1922 to 1928 where he argued passionately against making divorce illegal and was Chairman of the Commission on Coinage. Yeats’ last major editorial work was The Oxford Book of Modern Verse, 1892-1935 and he died in 1939.

Some early printing finds from the John Lewis Printing Collection

Written by Fiona Melhuish, UMASCS Librarian

Whilst retrieving an item for a reader, I came across a wonderful selection of illuminated manuscript leaves and original leaves from books by early printers (that I didn’t know we had!) in the John Lewis Printing Collection, which we hold here in Special Collections.
This collection has not been catalogued, although it has been organised thematically, and there is a handlist of the collection categories. Some of the gems in the ‘early printing’ category include a leaf printed in 1482 by William Caxton, which I had heard was in the collection, but some of the surprise items included original leaves from Aldus Manutius’s Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (1499) (see below).


Aldus Hypnero Pol leaf1



The collection also contains several examples of printing by the Venetian printer Nicolas Jenson, and a single leaf from La Commedia by Dante printed in Venice by the German printer Wendelin de Spira in 1477 (see below). Wendelin, with his brother Johann, was among the first of the early printers to come to Italy from Mainz in Germany to introduce the technique of printing.


Spira leaf1


Some other items of interest include a leaf from the ‘Cologne Chronicle’ (1499) and a leaf from Boccaccio’s De claris mulieribus (On Famous Women), printed in 1473 in Ulm in Germany by Johann Zainer, the first printer in Ulm (see below). This book, the first illustrated book printed at Ulm, was the first collection of biographies devoted entirely to women, and was a source for authors including Chaucer and Edmund Spenser.


Zainer leaf1


The material is held in Box 1:1 of the John Lewis Printing Collection (MS 5317), and is available to view on request in the Special Collections reading room.