What Do We Think They Did?

In a previous blogpost in March 2021 we wrote about an eighteenth-century engraving depicting ‘A Concert in Cambridge’ that hangs on the wall in the Rowe Music Library in King’s. That blogpost identified all the individuals in the rather cosmopolitan group of musicians captured in the engraving and provided brief biographical information about each of them. We had a wonderful excuse to revisit the engraving in the autumn of 2022 when the College Librarian, Dr James Clements, took part in the filming of an episode of the BBC series Who Do You Think You Are? (https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m001mgp3/who-do-you-think-you-are-series-20-1-andrew-lloyd-webber) which focusses on the ancestry of the composer and musical theatre impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber, one of whose ancestors features in the engraving.

‘A Concert at Cambridge’, probably 1767

The musician in question is the rather stern-looking bespectacled cellist in the centre of the engraving. He is believed to be the Dutch musician Alexis Magito (1711–1773) who came from a family of showmen, acrobats and musicians who had lived in Holland since about 1675.[1] His father, Johannes Alexis, was a violin teacher and impressario, and another close relative, Pieter Magito, is thought to have been the first circus master in Holland. By the second half of the eighteenth century the word Magito had become synonymous with fairground showmen, circus entertainers and musicians. We discovered in the episode that Alexis is Andrew’s six times great-uncle, and his father Johannes his six times great-grandfather.

Born in Rotterdam in 1711, Alexis lived in Gouda for a few years in the 1730s, before going back to Rotterdam during the 1740s, and enrolling at the University of Leiden in 1746. There is plenty of evidence of his activities on the Dutch concert scene up until 1754, but by 1760 it is clear he had moved to England, perhaps to London initially. By the early 1760s there is documentary evidence that he was active on the Cambridge concert scene, alongside other figures in our 1767 concert engraving including the Dutch-born violinist Pieter Hellendaal (1721–1799) (on the far left of the engraving) and Cambridge double bassist John Wynne (1720–1788). The following newspaper concert advertisement from 1764, which features in the episode, demonstrates this:[2]

Advertisement for a ‘Grand Concert for Mr Hellendaal’ featuring Mr Alexis on the violoncello. (Cambridge Chronicle, 17 Mar 1764).

It’s clear that the career of Alexis Magito took a somewhat different musical path from that of some of his family, and he was well enough known on the British concert scene as a cellist to be referred to without his surname as only ‘Mr Alexis’. Like several of the musicians in our engraving, his skills weren’t limited to musical performance, however, as we know he also composed music as well as engraved music for publication. The cellist and musicologist Elske Tinbergen has identified four publications that were engraved by Alexis Magito, one of which is the Concerti Armonici by Unico Wilhelm van Wassenaer (1692–1766) published in the Hague in about 1740, a copy of which is in the Library at King’s.

Title page and final page of music (inscribed ‘Gravé par Alexis Magito Fils’ or ‘Engraved by Alexis Magito the son’) of Wassenaer’s VI Concerti Armonici (deliberately misattributed to Carlo Ricciotti (1681–1756)). (Shelfmark: Radcliffe.LOC.Con.1736/3).

We noted in the earlier blog post that Magito’s six cello sonatas were printed and published by the double bassist in our engraving, John Wynne, in Cambridge in the 1760s. Like Magito, Wynne also composed music as well as having a successful music shop in Cambridge in Regent Walk (nowadays a lawn in front of Senate House). We saw in the advertisement for the ‘Grand Concert’ above that concert tickets could also be purchased at Wynne’s music shop.

Map showing location of Regent Walk (also known as University Street) in Cambridge (from Atkinson and Clark, Cambridge Described and Illustrated (London, 1893), p. 272)

In the Rowe Music Library we have a copy of Ten English songs by John Wynne published for him in London by John Johnson in 1754. Being published in London will have ensured a wider potential audience, but as the title page clearly states it was ‘printed for the author and sold by him at his House in the Regent Walk, Cambridge’.

Title page and song ‘Love and Musick’ from Ten English songs by John Wynne (London: John Johnson, 1754). (Shelfmark: Mn.12.36).

Another multi-talented figure in our group is the oboist John Frederick Ranish (1692/3–1777). Thought to have been of East-European origin, Ranish also played the flute, and published two sets of flute sonatas. The subscription list to his first set (opus 1, published circa 1735) includes the Cambridge Musical Society as well as some thirty names of individuals associated with Cambridge Colleges, indicating that he had considerable standing in the city at that time. In the Rowe Music Library we have his second set of flute sonatas (opus 2, 1744) published by John Walsh, one of the most important music engravers and publishers of the time, in London.

Title page and opening page of John Frederick Ranish, XII Solos for the German flute (London: Walsh, 1744). (Shelfmark: Mn.13.28).

Finally we turn to the figure on the far right of our engraving, listed as ‘Wood’ on the surviving copies, who appears to be singing, and is curiously not mentioned in the literature about the engraving. The research for the episode uncovered a newspaper advertisement for a concert that took place in Ely in 1770 which was ‘For Mr. Wood, Organist’, and he was clearly known to Alexis Magito who is playing the cello in the concert, and also John Wynne who sold tickets for the concert in his shop. It seems very likely the musician Wood in our engraving and in this concert is David Wood, organist at Ely Cathedral between 1768 and 1774, who became a gentleman of the Chapel Royal in 1774 and passed away in 1786. The violinist in the concert, Mr Alexis Jun[ior], is thought to be Alexis Magito’s younger brother and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s five times great-grandfather Henry Alexis Magito who was born in 1732.

Concert advertisement (Cambridge Chronicle, 21 July 1770).

Working with the director Harvey Lilley, producer Laia Niubo and the team at Wall to Wall who produced this episode, and of course with Andrew Lloyd Webber and being able to play this small part in telling his genealogy story was not only great fun, but gave us another opportunity to take a second look at this engraving resulting in a better understanding of the activities of the musicians it depicts and the ways in which the engraving relates to other music holdings in King’s Library.

College Librarian James Clements with Andrew Lloyd Webber on the day of filming.



[1] The biographical information about Alexis Magito and his family comes from Elske Tinbergen, ‘The “cello” in the Low Countries: the instrument and its practical use in the 17th and 18th centuries’ (PhD Diss., University of Leiden, 2018), pp. 255-271. See http://hdl.handle.net/1887/68235

[2] The researcher for the episode who found the newspaper concert advertisements was Xin Fan.



Digitising Shakespeare’s First Folio at King’s College

In my role as photographer at Cambridge University Library’s Digital Content Unit (DCU), I am fortunate to encounter fascinating and unique material. Digitising the library’s vast collections means that I have handled an early biblical palimpsest, illuminated Persian manuscripts, Japanese painted scrolls, and even a 4000 years old Sumerian clay tablet. That is the nature of the work itself: the ever-changing challenge of utilising high-tech photography to create a digital record of wide-ranging pieces of humanity’s endeavours.

Mid-summer 2022, however, I was given an unusual assignment. King’s College’s precious copy of William Shakespeare’s First Folio needed to be digitised. Although King’s is in sight of the University Library, bringing this invaluable volume to the DCU studio for imaging was not an option. It was decided that I would set up a mobile studio in the college library to photograph the First Folio over a two-week period.

Entrance of King’s College Library in Webb’s Court

Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies (also known as ‘the First Folio’) hardly needs any introduction, especially during the year in which we celebrate the quatercentenary of its publication. Gathering 36 of Shakespeare’s plays, it was published in 1623, seven years after the playwright‘s death. Its literary significance cannot be overstated. Notably, as some original manuscripts were lost over the centuries, the Folio constitutes the earliest record for 18 plays, including some of Shakespeare’s most famous works such as Macbeth and The Tempest. Out of the 235 known First Folio copies disseminated around the world, four are held by Cambridge University institutions, including the one in King’s College. The green leather-bound volume with gold embossing is only slightly taller than an A4 sheet of paper. An engraving of the Bard’s likeness adorns the frontispiece, followed by over 900 pages of text. As Dr James Clements, College Librarian, remarked, it was striking to think that I would be the first person to look closely at (and turn) every single page of the book in many decades, or perhaps a few hundred years.

Close-up of the First Folio frontispiece portrait of William Shakespeare engraved by Martin Droeshout.

One September morning, my colleague Gordon McMillan drove me and a van load of photography equipment across the river. With the assistance of another peer, Błażej Mikuła, I took possession of the space which would become my office for the coming weeks. It was a seminar room on the second floor of the library. The octagonal space was entirely lined with glass-fronted cabinets packed full of rare books. To install my mobile digitisation studio, I moved chairs to the sides and I used the large, solid-wood round table as a sturdy base on which to place a traveller’s book cradle. This device provides extensive support for fragile and precious bound items. Nestled between the cradle’s boards, the book is mostly held down by gravity and a weighted string (known as a snake) keeps it open in the right place. A clear acrylic sheet propped up by foam blocks ensured that the targeted page stayed flat, while minimising the pressure on this historic binding. It is important that the item being captured sits parallel to the camera in order to produce a non-distorted image.

Camera setup in the seminar room. The PhaseOne camera is on a tripod looking over the traveller’s book cradle, on which rests the First Folio, with flash lights on both sides.

The high-resolution camera (a 100-megapixel PhaseOne digital back with a 120mm prime lens) was mounted onto a heavy-duty tripod and the spot for the tripod’s legs was marked on the rug with black tape. The two Broncolor flash lights flanking the camera, equipped with soft boxes, received the same treatment. I tied laptop tethering and all power cables together and out of the way so that they would not constitute a trip hazard. It was crucial to prevent setup disturbances throughout the imaging process to guarantee a consistency of imaging. While this is easier to achieve in a traditional photography studio where lights and book cradles are fixed, replicating it from scratch in a room which has not been designed for it requires a whole lot more effort.

The imaging started with exposure and colour calibration. I tested the positioning of my flash lights, as well as potential reflections. This highlighted the need to cover the camera brand name and other elements which were reflecting in the acrylic sheet. The angle of the lights was adjusted to account for the fact that this traveller’s book cradle sits in the opposite direction to what its larger relatives would in a photography studio. These light and colour parameters remained unchanged during the entire digitisation process. A meticulous workflow results in extremely accurate and detailed digital reproduction. Images do not need to be retouched through post-processing software. A frustrating side effect was that I also had to limit stray light by closing the window shutters while photographing, thus depriving me of the delightful views of Webb’s Court!

The first page of ‘The Tragedie of Romeo and Iuliet’ on my laptop screen during the digitisation. The white snake is visible on the left of the image, outside the cropped area which will constitute the final image.

A close-up photo of the title page decorated by an ornate head-piece.










Regularly checking that the image was in focus, I photographed the front cover first, followed by the rectos of each page, interleaving them with a black background. Once all the rectos were imaged, I flipped the book over and repeated the process, capturing the versos including the back cover. Before I knew it I came across the words uttered by Hamlet ‘To be or not to be…’. It was hard not to read every famous passage of these seminal plays. Finally, the spine and gilt top and bottom edges were recorded, therefore creating a complete digital copy of the volume. Importantly, I double (and triple) checked the hundreds of files before dismantling the mobile studio, as indeed, the exact photography conditions would all be near impossible to reproduce once they were taken apart.

The First Folio book spine as seen through the camera viewfinder. ‘Shakespeare – 1623’ is embossed in gold.

The beauty of King’s College and its various locations is something I found myself constantly in awe of during the fortnight I spent there. Whether it was a river Cam view from a library window, the beautiful display of modern paintings on the south wall of the dining hall (talk about a backdrop for fish and chips on Friday), or, of course, the glorious fan vaulting of the college’s chapel ceiling, it remains one of the greatest aspects of my job. Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention another undoubtable highlight of my mission: meeting the staff of King’s College Library. I was very appreciative of all of them for making me feel welcome, inviting me to join their tea breaks and lunches, and for telling me about their work. I was particularly grateful to James Clements for all his help and kindness. His behind-the-scenes tour of the library was fascinating, and I was touched that he took time out of his busy schedule to show me around.

King’s College Chapel, a fifteenth-century wonder basking in late afternoon light.

Friday fish and chips in the college nineteenth-century gothic revival dining hall.

The King’s College First Folio is fully digitised and accessible online on this link.

Amélie Deblauwe

Recreational mathematics

In March (2023), a page of mathematical writing by Alan Turing came up for sale at auction. It was a note about a mathematical problem, written to Rolf Noskwith probably in 1941-2 while they were both working in Hut 8 at Bletchley Park. It is phrased as a question about unit equilateral triangles in Rn (the n-dimensional real number space), the answer to which Turing then goes on to derive.

On the face of it, it is an odd question to ask. It would be fascinating to know if this was just recreational mathematics, or if Turing was modelling a problem his Hut 8 team were working on. It will take a more imaginative mathematician than I to see what that problem might have been, or whether the result is known and/or important (his explanation of the problem, as a corollary, sets out the coordinates of the centre of gravity of the unit equilateral ‘triangle’ in the first 2n-tant of Rn with one vertex at the origin).

King’s was able to buy the document, with part of a very generous 2019 bequest.

Here is what Alan wrote:


To see a transcript of it click here. I have added a few footnotes, where I needed clarification when I tried to understand it. Full disclosure: I didn’t understand the key step, or indeed any of the sentences involving the words ‘centre of gravity’. Those with better intuition in multiple dimensions will no doubt see that it’s obvious.


Celebrating “Folio Day”

Today marks the 407th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death and, by tradition, the 459th of his birth. This day has also been designated as “Folio Day” and begins a season of celebratory events taking place around the world to commemorate the quatercentenary of the publication of the First Folio on 8th November 1623. Various libraries and other institutions will have their First Folios on display during this time, and King’s College Library will also be taking part in the commemorations by exhibiting the First, Second and Fourth Folios as part of Open Cambridge on Friday 8th September 2023 from 10.30am to 4.00pm. Save the date!

As it’s Folio Day, we thought it would be appropriate to provide some details about our volume and its provenance. King’s College’s First Folio is one of only 235 extant copies, most of which have been described in detail in Rasmussen and West’s The Shakespeare First Folios: A Descriptive Catalogue. Our copy has recently been digitised and can be viewed in its entirety on the Cambridge University Digital Library website (a post about the digitisation process will follow in due course).

One of the most distinctive features of the book is the engraved title-page portrait of Shakespeare, which exists in two states: the earlier has lighter shading, while in the later state the shading is heavier, especially around the collar; there are also minor differences in the jawline and moustache. According to Rasmussen and West, the texture of the portrait suggests that the King’s College copy is an engraved facsimile copied from a state 2 original:

Title page of Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies (London: printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed. Blount, 1623; Thackeray.38.D.2).

Spot the difference: the original state 2 portrait in the Bodleian Library’s First Folio (Arch. G c.7) (© Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford).

As well as missing the original portrait, our copy also lacks the seven preliminary leaves containing the dedication, various celebratory verses by the likes of Ben Jonson, the list of actors and the table of contents. As is sometimes the case with rare books, the last two leaves are also wanting, though in this copy these have been supplied in manuscript so skilfully that you’d be forgiven for thinking they were the original:

Leaf 3b6r in the King’s First Folio supplied in facsimile.

Leaf 3b6r in the Bodleian First Folio (© Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford).

As for its provenance, the First Folio is part of the collection of rare books bequeathed to the college by George Thackeray, who was Provost at King’s from 1814 to his death in 1850. In Shakespearean fashion, tragedy is said to have been at the heart of his love of books. Following the death of his first wife, Thackeray married his second wife Mary Ann Cottin in 1816. Two years later, on 13 February 1818, she was in labour with their first child, and the accoucheur in attendance, Sir Richard Croft (1762-1818), started showing signs of anxiety and distress and was therefore persuaded to lie down and rest in another room. At about 2am, Croft shot himself in the head with two pistols Thackeray was keeping for personal protection. A volume of Shakespeare was found lying on the dressing table, open at a page containing the line in Love’s Labour’s Lost, “Where is the Princess?”:

Act V, scene ii from Love’s Labour’s Lost as it appears in the First Folio, with the phrase “Wher’s the Princesse?” highlighted in the second column.

Mary Ann’s labour may have shown similarities to that of Princess Charlotte of Wales (1796-1817), who had died in childbirth the previous year; she was also attended by Sir Richard Croft. As pointed out by Jane Townley Pryme and Alicia Bayne, “It was supposed that he had never quite recovered from the shock occasioned by the Royal death, and that the anxiety of this case, combining with the coincidence of the passage in the play, which he had probably been reading, gave an impulse which he could not resist” (Memorials of the Thackeray Family, London, 1879, pp. 238-39).

Thackeray’s obituarist wrote that “this sad event threw an air of gloom and desolation about his house from which it never altogether recovered”. According to him, this early tragedy “threw him, for his general companionship, upon Erasmus and Propertius, black-letter Bibles, and odd books generally”. When he died in 1850, he bequeathed his black-letter books to King’s. His daughter, Mary Ann Elizabeth, lived into adulthood and left the rest of her father’s collection (including the First Folio), to the College when she died in 1879.

William Makepeace Thackeray, photographed here by Jesse Harrison Whitehurst, was a frequent visitor at the house of his second cousin Mary Ann. Another literary curiosity is that her unhappy love affair with Henry Kemble served as the plot for Henry James’s novel Washington Square (1880).

Our copy of the First Folio has a fascinating literary connection. George Thackeray, a cousin of William Makepeace Thackeray’s father Richmond Thackeray, was the novelist’s first cousin once removed. “After her father’s death Mary Ann Thackeray and her aunt lived in considerable state in London, where [William Makepeace] Thackeray was a frequent visitor to their home at 27 Portman Square” (The Letters and Private Papers of William Makepeace Thackeray, ed. Gordon N. Ray [London: Oxford University Press, 1945], vol. 1, p. 30, n. 11). It is therefore likely that William Makepeace Thackeray will have seen and consulted this copy of the First Folio at Mary Ann’s house.

More Shakespeare-related blog posts will follow in the course of this year, so watch this space!


Frank Ramsey, one of Cambridge’s chief intellectual glories

One hundred and twenty years ago today (22 February 1903) was born one of the smartest people you’ve probably never heard of.

Frank Ramsey aged 8½ months

Frank Ramsey aged 8½ months. From FPR/5

Frank aged about 2

Frank aged about 2. From FPR/5

Back in December the King’s archives were given the originals of some rather exciting material.

Some of the Ramsey papers given in December 2022

Some of the Ramsey papers given in December 2022.

We’d had black and white photocopies of some of it for a while, but now we have the real deal and it’s very exciting.

The baby in those photos above is Frank Plumpton Ramsey, who became one of the most significant contributors of the 20th century to the fields of philosophy, mathematics and economics. Students of Cambridge history may be familiar with his wife Lettice (of Ramsey & Muspratt), a local photographer of some repute. (It is Frank and Lettice’s grandchildren who have kindly given us the originals.) But unless you’re a combinat­orialist, economic theorist or philosopher you have probably not heard of Frank.  He was considered brilliant even in the company of Bertrand Russell, G.E. Moore, J.M. Keynes and Ludwig Wittgenstein – in fact Ramsey was chosen, aged 18, to make the first translation of Wittgenstein’s impenetrable (to most people including philosophers) Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1922) into English from the German.

Frank was the eldest of what eventually became 4 siblings, so it must be him on the right side of this photo.

Frank and his siblings

Frank and his siblings, ‘Howfield, 1910’. From FPR/5

The other boy would then be his brother Michael, later Archbishop of Canter­bury.

In school Frank was distinguished by his brilliant work and impossibly bad writing.

Term report for Summer 1911

‘Miss Sharpley’s School’ report for Summer 1911 says ‘Writing: Needs much care. Exercise books untidy’. From FPR/5

He was a local Cambridge boy and eventually attended King’s College School where – aged not quite 9 in a class of four boys at least some of whom were aged 12 and above – he was second in Division III in Latin and Mathematics. (The report card shown below, where it is torn for Michaelmas 1911 [French], reads ‘For his age, … promising and very intelligent’.) His maths report is also very good – except for his written presentation.

Term report for Michaelmas 1911

King’s College School report for Michaelmas 1911. From FPR/5

The next term he was second in Division II for Latin (a class of 9 boys) and third in Division II for Maths (out of 10 boys). His Summer 1912 report for Latin reads ‘He is far more advanced for his age than any boy that I have taught for 25 years – and attains the result without any undue pressure.’

Term report for Summer 1912

King’s College School report for Summer 1912. From FPR/5

Teachers were still confounded by his messy writing, which, although it became legible, remained pretty unpolished all his life.

He proceeded to Winchester aged 12 (in 1915).

Frank as a Scholar of Winchester.

Frank as a Scholar of Winchester. Undated but he attended there 1915-20. From FPR/5

In 1920 he came up to Trinity College, Cambridge before King’s snaffled him up as a Fellow, aged 21 (by some quick-witted actions on the part of a Bursar, Maynard Keynes).

As well as being brilliant, Frank had a strong ethical streak. One of his contributions to economics was to develop a theory of cost that included the well-being of future generations. He wrote that discounting the interests of future people is ‘ethically indefensible and arises merely from the weakness of the imagination’. (The Man Who Thought Too Fast, Anthony Gottlieb in The New Yorker, May 4, 2020, accessed 21 February 2023.)

His biographer says

He is perhaps most widely known for his trailbazing work on choice under conditions of uncertainty. His paper ‘Truth and Probability’ solved the problem of how to measure degrees of belief, and then provided a logic of partial belief and a model of subjective expected utility. These results underpin contempo­rary economics and Bayesian statistics, as well as much of psychology, artificial intelligence, and other social and physical sciences.

(Cheryl Misak, Frank Ramsey: A Sheer Excess of Powers  [Oxford: OUP, 2020], p. xxv).

A leading 20th-century philosopher Donald Davidson in 1999 defined The Ramsey Effect as being ‘the phenomenon of finding out that your exciting and apparently original philosophical discovery has been already presented, and presented more elegantly, by Frank Ramsey’. (See e.g. https://blog.oup.com/2020/02/the-remarkable-life-of-philosopher-frank-ramsey/, accessed 21 Feb­­ru­ary 2023).

He was an ‘amiable shambling bear of a man’ (over six feet tall) whose open-hearted good nature allowed him to get along with everyone, including the notoriously cantankerous Wittgenstein.

He died at the tender age of 26 (in January 1930) of jaundice, more of a symptom than a cause. It is postulated that the cause was Weil’s disease, caused by leptospirosis, a bacterium carried by the urine and faeces of animals such as might wash from Sheep’s Green or Coe Fen into the Cam, where he was an enthusiastic swimmer. October of 1929 had a few warm days, which is consistent both with the lifecycle of leptospirosis and with Ramsey taking a dip in the river.

Locals might be interested to know that Frank is buried in the Parish of the Ascension Burial Ground, on Huntingdon Road. Wittgenstein is also buried there.

The quote used as the title of this piece comes from J.M. Keynes, Essays in Biography [Bungay: Richard Clay & Co., 1951], p. 245.



Shakespeare in Love: or, A Rose by any other Name.

Roses are red,

Violets are blue.

We all love Shakespeare,

And hope you do too!

Well, it is not for us to tell you what to think, but we can probably all agree that Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language, and what better Shakespeare play to consider on Saint Valentine’s day than Romeo and Juliet! But what is it? A love story? Love certainly appears to be one of the main themes. A comedy? It’s definitely full of humour. A history? Certainly the Romeo and Juliet story in various forms predates Shakespeare. Or (spoiler alert) a tragedy? Best not give away the end, although Shakespeare does right at the start of the play in the prologue, so I’m not sure why we’re worried!

Title page of Shakespeare, The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedie, of Romeo and Iuliet (London: John Smethwicke, [1622]). (Shelfmark: Keynes.C.6.4).

In King’s Library we are lucky enough to have two early sources for this well-known play. The first is a quarto edition published in 1622 by John Smethwicke in London. The play is thought to have been written in the 1590s, and certainly performed by 1597 when the first quarto edition was published. Sometimes known as the ‘bad quarto’, that edition is considered to be an unreliable source, but a more reliable quarto edition (the second quarto) appeared in 1599. It was reprinted in 1609 (the third quarto) and our 1622 fourth quarto is mainly based on that.

Title page of Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies (London: Jaggard and Blount, 1623).

The second source we have for Romeo and Juliet is the First Folio edition of 1623, the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays without which about half of his dramatic output would be unknown to us today because only about half of his plays had previously been published. We have recently digitised our copy of the First Folio and it will be available to consult online very soon because, like many other institutions, King’s Library is marking the 400th anniversary of the printing of the First Folio in 1623 (see https://folio400.com/) throughout this year.

The famous prologue (with all the spoilers!) appears in the 1622 edition, but not in the First Folio:

Prologue from the 1622 quarto edition.

Opening of Romeo and Juliet in the First Folio.










Here we see two of the famous moments in the play, the first when Romeo and Juliet first meet at the Capulets’ House, and the second, that iconic balcony scene:

Romeo and Juliet’s first conversation: “Let lips doe what hands doe”, from the 1622 quarto edition.

The balcony scene: “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” in the First Folio.










As you might expect, there are significant differences in typography, spelling and punctuation between the two editions, and it is interesting to see them here by comparing the final two pages of each:

Final page of the 1622 quarto edtion, with an ink inscription “Remember mee when this you see when I am gon away from thee John Shute 1674”.

Final page of the play in the First Folio.










Whether you’re observing Saint Valentine’s day today or not, you could do worse than spending a little time reading some Shakespeare, and we hope you have an enjoyable day whatever you’re doing!


The digitisation of the King’s copy of the First Folio was made possible thanks to a donation from Fanny Greber in memory of her husband, Lloyd D. Raines (KC 1972).


Hopping into the new year

Last year we marked Chinese New Year with images of ferocious tigers discovered within our collections. 2023 is the year of a less fearsome creature, the rabbit, whose natural habitat appears to be the pages of children’s picture books. As a way of welcoming in the new year, this post will share some of the images unearthed from the warrens of our stores.

We start however, with a rabbit who has hopped his way into the very stonework of the College Chapel! Designed by master mason John Wastell, in the early 16th century, the jamb of the Chapel’s west door boasts an elaborate pattern of roses, crowns, leaves and stems, and at the base of one side can be found a dog playing hide and seek with a rabbit. The dog is now sadly weathered beyond recognition, but the rabbit is still very much visible, gazing up into the foliage above.

Stone rabbit in closeup

Close-up view of the rabbit on the jamb of the West door of King’s College Chapel, Cambridge

The stonework of the door jamb of the West door of King's College Chapel

The rabbit within the larger context of the decorative pattern on the door jamb

Next we have two illustrations from one of the early nineteenth century natural history titles featured in last year’s tiger post: Histoire naturelle des mammifères by Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire and Frédéric Cuvier. These depict a familiar brown rabbit and one of the albino variety. 

Brown rabbit clutching a carrot

Plate from Vol. 2 of Histoire naturelle des mammifères, 1824, Shelfmark F.1.21

Albino rabbit

Plate from Vol. 2 of Histoire naturelle des mammifères, 1824, Shelfmark F.1.21

From here, we move into the realm of children’s books. The library holds an early edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, which features a very famous rabbit, the White Rabbit, whom Alice follows down the rabbit-hole, thus beginning her strange and  eventful sojourn in Wonderland. The White Rabbit, complete with his waistcoat and pocket watch, is charmingly depicted by John Tenniel. 

The White Rabbit, dressed in a waistcoat, looking at this pocket watch

Illustration by John Tenniel from chapter one of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, London 1874. Classmark: Rylands.C.CAR.Ali.1874

Rabbits also appear in books intended to educate children about the natural world and its inhabitants. My Own Annual: An Illustrated Gift-Book for Boys and Girls edited by Mark Merriwell, has a chapter entitled “Rabbits, hares and ferrets”which informs us that rabbits hail originally from Spain, and that Cambridgeshire is amongst the counties of England where they are most common.  

A rabbit bounding into its warren

Page 65 from My Own Annual: An IIlustrated Gift-Book for Boys and Girls edited by Mark Merriwell, London, 1847. Classmark: Ryland’s.C.MER.Ann.1847

Similar information is conveyed in The Pleasure Book of Domestic Animals by Harrison Weir, which has its own section on rabbits, accompanied by some attractive illustrations.

From The Pleasure Book of Domestic Animals by Harrison Weir, London, circa 1855-1870. Classmark: Ryland’s.C.WEI.Ple

From The Pleasure Book of Domestic Animals by Harrison Weir, London, circa 1855-1870. Classmark: Ryland’s.C.WEI.Ple

Finally, a very large and stately looking rabbit appears in full colour in Aunt Louisa’s Birthday Gift, dating from around 1875. 

Plate from Aunt Louisa’s Birthday Gift [by Laura Valentine], London, circa 1875. Classmark Rylands.C.VAL.1875

We hope you have a fruitful new year, and that, like the reproductive capacities of rabbits, your good luck grows and multiplies many times over! 



King’s College Chapel: a History and Commentary by John Saltmarsh; edited by Peter Monteith and Bert Vaux. Peterborough, Jarrold, 2015.

The Waste Land at 100

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, one of the most influential poems of the twentieth century. To celebrate the occasion, we present a selection of images from first and early editions of the poem. King’s College is very fortunate in hosting one of the largest collections of manuscript and printed materials by Eliot thanks to the bequest of his close friend John Hayward (1905-65), who shared a flat with the poet from 1946 to 1957. Hayward read English and modern languages at King’s from 1923 to 1927 and went on to become an accomplished editor and critic. He met Eliot for the first time while still an undergraduate at Cambridge in 1926.

Eliot’s correspondence suggests that The Waste Land was written between late 1920 and early 1922. Though the drafts were lost during his lifetime, they resurfaced in 1968 and were published in a facsimile edition by his widow Valerie in 1971:

Eliot’s pencil draft of the beginning of the fifth section of the poem, “What the Thunder Said” (The Waste Land: A Facsimile and Transcript of the Original Drafts Including the Annotations of Ezra Pound, ed. Valerie Eliot [London: Faber, 1971], p. [70]; YIM ELI, ZWA 3XP 1).

The poem was first printed in the inaugural issue of the literary journal The Criterion, edited by Eliot, which, according to his bibliographer Donald Gallup, appeared around 15 October 1922:

Front cover of the first issue of The Criterion, October 1922 (HC2.1.1 21).

The opening of The Waste Land from The Criterion, pp. 50-51. The poem was published almost simultaneously in America in The Dial, LXXIII.5 (Nov. 1922), pp. [473]-485.

It was then published in book form in New York on 15 December 1922 in a limited edition of 1,000 copies:

Dust jacket of The Waste Land (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1922). The colophon on p. [6] reads: “Of the one thousand copies printed of The Waste Land this volume is number 914” (Hayward.H.9.6).

It was in this volume that the epigraph and the “Notes” to the poem were first included. Eliot later reminisced in “The Frontiers of Criticism” (1956): “I had at first intended only to put down all the references for my quotations, with a view to spiking the guns of critics of my earlier poems who had accused me of plagiarism. Then, when it came to print The Waste Land as a little book – for the poem on its first appearance in The Dial and in The Criterion had no notes whatever – it was discovered that the poem was inconveniently short, so I set to work to expand the notes, in order to provide a few more pages of printed matter, with the result that they became the remarkable exposition of bogus scholarship that is still on view to-day” (The Complete Prose of T. S. Eliot: The Critical Edition, ed. Jewel Spears Brooker and Ronald Schuchard [Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019], vol. 8, p. 127):

First page of the “Notes” to The Waste Land (Hayward.H.9.6).

The first English edition appeared the following year on 12 September 1923: it was hand-printed by Leonard and Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press in Richmond. Virginia typeset the whole poem on her own between 23 June and 8 July 1923, writing to Barbara Bagenal on 8 July: “I have just finished setting up the whole of Mr Eliots poem [The Waste Land] with my own hands: You see how my hand trembles” (The Letters of Virginia Woolf, ed. Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann [New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978], vol. 3, p. 56):

Front cover of the first English edition (Richmond: Printed and published by Leonard and Viriginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press, Hogarth House, Paradise Road, 1923; Hayward.H.9.8A). The printed label at the top is known to exist in three states. This is the first state featuring a border of asterisks.

Title page of the first English edition of The Waste Land. This copy was bequeathed by another Kingsman, Dadie Rylands (1902-99), who worked for six months with Leonard and Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press in 1924.

In the copy of the first edition which Eliot presented to Ezra Pound, the dedication (For Ezra Pound / il miglior fabbro) appears as an autograph inscription. It was first printed in 1925 in the collection Poems, 1909-1925:

Title page of The Waste Land as printed in Poems, 1909-1925 (London: Faber & Gwyer, 1925, p. 63; Hayward.H.9.10).

To mark this momentous centenary, the BBC broadcast the radio drama “He Do The Waste Land in Different Voices,” as well as a programme on the importance of The Criterion, which is still available here. A documentary on the poem broadcast on BBC2 on 13 October can also be viewed here.


Livery: ‘In charitate mutua fortius copulentur’

If the Marie Hartwell blog piqued your interest in the College livery, read on for a snapshot of the livery provision in her time.

The 22nd Founder’s Statute[1] allows for a clothing allowance, or livery.

The beginning of statute 22 from an early copy (c 1500) of the Founder’s statutes [KCS/54 fo 23v]

The beginning of statute 22 from an early copy (c 1500) of the Founder’s statutes [KCS/54 fo 23v]

The statute declares that ‘With a view to the unanimity of the fellows, and a stronger mutual bond of affection when they see that they are outwardly all the same, and to increase their affection for the College from which they receive so much help, as well as to prevent any defect in garments which may render them notorious with the other Scholars of the University, the members are to have similar garments but cut according to their condition and degree.’ The Provost is to have 12 yards for his (and his household), the Fellows’ and scholars’ portions are also specified. ‘All the cloth for fellows, scholars, chaplains, clerks and choristers is to be well made, 24 yards in length and about 2 yards in breadth, and not to exceed the sum of £87 in toto.’ Multi-coloured or unclerical clothes are forbidden, as are those ‘made in the silly modern fashion with slashes and folds and shoulder pads’.

It is unlikely that individuals in the current College community would ‘wear’ the proposal that a College uniform would improve their mutual affection, let alone the desirability of uniformity itself. And notoriety among other ‘Scholars of the University’ can be achieved by more interesting means than defective garments.

The existing annual accounts (the accounts for years ending 1502, 1505, 1506, 1512–1515, 1517–1518, and 1520–1524 do not survive) show that the Hartwells were typical of our College drapers for that time: when dates of payment are given they are mostly around May and November; the prices per yard for the various qualities of fabric are about the same, and we generally bought about 350–450 yards a year, paying about £60 until the late 1510s when we began to pay everyone (not just the Provost and a couple of others who procured their own livery) their liberata allowance in cash rather than fabric.

Livery expenditure for 1506-07 [KCAR/4/1/1/9 fo 19r]

Livery expenditure for 1506-07 [KCAR/4/1/1/9 fo 19r]

The above image showing the livery expenditure page from the 1506–1507 annual accounts book is typical for the period—and very pretty it is too. After the livery allowances dispensed in cash, the list of livery fabric purchases begins (the sixth item on the list) with a payment to Thomas Hartwell for ‘tawney medley’. There follow a number of lots at a cost per yard of between 2 shillings 4 pence and 5 shillings. It is reasonable to suspect that the same supplier, i.e. the Hartwell firm, supplied all of the cloth listed that year, in the same colour scheme (mixed tans).

Thomas being named at the top suggests, but by no means proves, that he was still alive when it was written, which might have been as early as September 29th 1506, narrowing down his time of death to sometime between September 29th and November 30th, 1506 (see the Marie Hartwell blog post)—but that assumes several things including that the clerk copying down the expenses knew of Thomas’s death when it happened. Not every  sixteenth-century widow would bother to reprint her invoice forms immediately upon being widowed.

The due date on the College’s bond to Marie Hartwell, for 27 pounds 11 shillings 4 pence, fell in this financial year. It is not the case that the first few entries, nor the last few, add to that figure, and the list is in decreasing value of cloth. This suggests that the cloth was bought in mixed lots, at least two tranches every year, with the final reckoning set out at the end of the financial year.

Table: Existing information about the supply of College livery, 1499–1525

1499–1500 Mr Hartwell, London draper 59.0.8
1500–1501 Master Bond of Coventry 55.7.5
1502–1503 No name listed 55.19.2 342½, and 12 unknown, and black cotton
1503–1504 Thomas Bonde 51.13.11 318¼
[1504–1505] Thomas Hartwell at least 58.10.15 as paid on two bonds
[1505–1506] Marie Hartwell at least 29.14.0 as paid on a bond
1506–1507 Marie Hartwell 55.1.0 334¼ tawney medley
1507–1508 William Hartwell, citizen and Draper of London 57.13.3 356¼ brown tawny
1508–1509 Marie Hartwell 57.18.8 348½ blue
1509–1510 Marie Hartwell 61.18.3 369 violet
1510–1511 Haddon of Coventry 67.19.6 446¾ tawny
1515–1516 No name listed 76.18.½ 489½
1518–1519 Richard Hal. 74.8.3 444¼ russet
1524–1525 John Smith of Walden 6.9.3 29½ tawny; servants and choristers only

From the financial year 1524–1525 at the latest we bought cloth only for the servants and choristers and gave the Fellows, scholars, chaplains and clerks their livery allowance in cash.

It is interesting to note en passant that the existing College accounts suggest that the livery in the first quarter of the sixteenth century was often tawny but could also be russet, violet or blue.

The Drapers Guild records are online[2] and show that in 1477 one Thomas Hartwell got his Freedom by servitude (under master William Holme). Presuming  that he’s the only Thomas Hartwell, Draper of London (as the online records suggest) and that he’s ‘ours’[3], he had several Apprentices including a Henry Glossop. The two post-1506 entries for Thomas (who we know died in 1506) were for the Freedoms of his son William[4] and his apprentice Henry Glossop.

The only other H(a/e)r(t/d/)(e/)wel(l)s on the Drapers online records are: a Bryan Hartwell who in 1515 got his freedom (by Redemption), a Thomas Hertewell who had some apprentices c 1485 and may in fact be our same Thomas, a Richard Harwell in 1518 having an Apprenticeship, a Robert Hartwell who in 1532 was a new apprentice (to Thomas Pettitt) and so is probably not Thomas’s son, and a ‘(Female) Hartwell’ who got her freedom in 1509. It’s tempting to think that was Marie, but there is no evidence for this in the Drapers online records.

Is it a coincidence that the Draper Thomas’s son is called William, like one of our Kingsmen? It was a common enough name in the early sixteenth century but it is tempting to think that it suggests the Kingsmen Hartwell brothers (William, Thomas and John) are near relations of, but not the same as, the Draper Hartwells (Thomas and William).

To sum up the two blogs on this subject: the College archives show that the early College donor Marie Hartwell was the widow of Thomas Hartwell, Draper, of London. That firm supplied the cloth for the College livery in 1499–1500 (possibly through the agency of a Kingsman related to them) and again from Michaelmas 1505 to Michaelmas 1510; when Thomas died in 1506 his wife, and/or his son William, carried on. Thomas was possibly a near relation to the  Kingsmen William, Thomas and John Hartwell all of London, and probably brothers. The recorded gifts to the Chapel from three Hartwells are from Marie, and possibly others among her near in-laws or sons. The reasons for the donations are not recorded.


[1] Henry VI is said to have written the King’s College statutes, which were in force until 1862. The archives include a translation of parts of them into English (KCS/69), from which this is taken.

[2] https://www.londonroll.org/search (accessed 1 Sep 2022)

[3] https://www.londonroll.org/about (accessed 1 Sep 2022) says that during this time Citizenship of London (our draper Thomas is usually so described) could only be obtained through membership of a Livery Company.

[4] https://www.londonroll.org/about (accessed 1 Sep 2022) also says that the main routes to becoming a member/Freeman of a Livery Company were servitude (apprenticeship), patrimony (the children of Freemen qualified for membership) and redemption (you could buy your Freedom).

Our earliest female donor

Perhaps our earliest female benefactor was an influencer, Margaret Beaufort, who is said to have convinced her son Henry VII to give the College enough money to finish building the Chapel. But in the early inventories of Chapel treasures, the first female donor listed is one Marie Hartwell. Who could this woman have been, at a time when Kingsmen were not allowed to be married?

Kingsmen Hartwells

The name Hartwell appears several times in the archives of the early years of King’s. First came three Hartwell Kingsmen who were almost surely brothers[1]: William (KC 1498), Thomas (KC 1503) and John (KC 1505), all London boys. We don’t know much about William except that he gave up his Fellowship after three years, once married. He went off to be a country vicar in Northamptonshire. John became a Carthusian friar at Sheen (Sheen Priory was located in what is now Richmond in London) within a year of becoming a Fellow. Thomas was awarded his Doctor of Divinity, was ordained a priest, held the offices of University Preacher 1515–1516 and Deputy Vice-Chancellor 1526–1527, became vicar at the College’s advowson of Wootton Wawen, Warwickshire in 1523 (where he presided for twenty-two years), and was a Fellow from 1506 until 1527. He may have had a stammer, which could explain this odd entry in the College’s early list of members:

The entry for Thomas Hartwell (KC 1503) in the early College register [from KCA/684 fo 76r]

The entry for Thomas Hartwell (KC 1503) in the early College register [from KCA/684 fo 76r]

(our 2019 blog ‘An astonishing transformation’ is about the volume that contains this list). Here is a larger extract, with that entry for Thomas at the top and the entry for John at the bottom:

Extract from the early register, showing Thomas (KC 1503) and John (KC 1503) Hartwell

Extract from the early register, showing Thomas (KC 1503) and John (KC 1505) Hartwell [from KCA/684 fo 76r]

Soon after, Roger Hartwell (KC 1512) came up, also a London boy, of unknown relationship to the others. He was a Fellow until 1526.

Thomas Hartwell the Draper and his wife Marie

But it is a different Thomas Hartwell who brings Marie into the picture, not a Kingsman at all. Three bonds oblige the College to pay (at a date 7 to 12 months after the date the bond was written) to ‘Thomas Hartwell, citizen and Draper of London’:

29 pounds 5 shillings and 8 pence payable on 15 August 1505,

29 pounds 5 shillings and 7 pence payable on 30 November 1505, and

29 pounds 14 shillings payable on 30 November 1506 (this bond was dated 26 April 1506).

A fourth bond, written on 15 January 1506/7[2] is for the College to pay 27 pounds 11 shillings 4 pence to a Marie Hartwell, widow of Thomas Hartwell, deceased, lately a citizen and Draper of London, payable on 8 September 1507.

The College bought cloth for its livery (matching members’ clothing) from the Hartwells. Further information about the livery will appear in a subsequent blog post.

Bond dated 1 January, due 30 November 1505 [KCAR/3/3/1/1/1 fo 195v]

Bond dated 1 January, due 30 November 1505 [KCAR/3/3/1/1/1 fo 195v]

The bonds are of nearly identical format, with the amount and date being the only significant differences. The second bond, shown above, translates roughly as:

Know all men by these presents that we, John Argentein, clerk, Provost of the Royal College of the Blessed Mary and Saint Nicholas in Cambridge and the Scholars of that same College are held and firmly bound to Thomas Hartwell, citizen and draper of London, in the sum of 29 pounds 5 shillings and 7 pence of lawful money of England to be paid to that same Thomas, his heirs, his executors or his true Attorney at the feast of St Andrew the Apostle falling next after the present date [i.e. due 30 November 1505] for which payment well and truly to be made we bind ourselves and our successors by these presents. Testifying in this matter, our common seal [of the College] is hung on these presents. Dated at Cambridge in our aforesaid College on the first day of January in the 20th regnal year of King Henry the Seventh [1504/5].

Bond dated 15 January, due 8 September 1507 [KCAR/3/3/1/1/1 fo 205r]

Bond dated 15 January, due 8 September 1507 [KCAR/3/3/1/1/1 fo 205r]

The fourth bond, shown above, states roughly:

Know all men by these presents that we, John Argentein, clerk, Provost of the Royal College of the Blessed Mary and Saint Nicholas in Cambridge and the Scholars of that same College are held and firmly bound to Marie Hartwell, widow of the late Thomas Hartwell now with God, citizen and Draper of London, in the sum of 27 pounds 11 shillings 4 pence of lawful money of England to be paid to that same Marie, her heirs, her executors or her true Attorney at the feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary falling next after the present date [i.e. 8 September 1507] for which payment well and truly to be made we bind ourselves and our successors by these presents. Testifying in this matter, the common seal [of the College] is hung on these presents. Dated in the aforesaid College the 15th of January in the 22nd regnal year of King Henry the Seventh (after the conquest of England) [1506/7].

The first bond must have been paid because

End of the creditors’ roll for 1505 [from KCA/675]

in the rotulus creditorum (list of College creditors) drawn up at Michaelmas 1505[3], he is listed amongst the new creditors, to the value of the second bond (written by Michaelmas 1505 but not due for another couple of months): Thomas Hartwell Draper, 29 pounds 5 shillings 7 pence (the first line in the image above).

1504–1505 seems to have been a tough year for the College, which had to leave unpaid much of the allowance to each of the Fellows and Scholars for a term. To put it in context, the Hartwell debt accounted for over one-third of the new debts of just over 79 pounds (the middle line in the image above); the new debts that year more than doubled the total debt burden for the College—bringing it to a little over 142½ pounds (the final line).

The second bond must have been paid sometime between 1505 and 1507 because no Hartwells appear on the creditors’ roll of Michaelmas 1507. (Sadly, the annual accounts books don’t survive for 1504–1505 or 1505–1506.) The College annual accounts for 1506–1507 do in fact record (in the ‘restitution to creditors’ section) the payment of the third bond: 29 pounds 14 shillings to the Widow of Thomas Hartwell, ‘in full payment for the livery for the preceding year’ (1505–1506). The entry is undated but if the restitution occurred around the end of November 1506 as promised in the bond, then Thomas probably died between April (when the third bond was drawn up with him as beneficiary) and November of 1506. (This of course is how we know he is not the Kingsman Thomas Hartwell, who was still alive 20 years later.)

Hartwell Donors

Marie Hartwell’s donations were given sometime between 1506 and 1529 (they were later additions to the 1506 inventory, and the next inventory was drawn up in 1529). They were:

  • a woman’s purple velvet gown with black damask fringe which was immediately ‘applied to other uses’ not specified, and
  • a corporal[4] with 2 harts and a cloth-of-gold case.

A Matthew Hartwell gave, again sometime between 1506 and 1529, a banner with Christ and Mary Magdalene.

A Roger Hartwell, also between 1506 and 1529, gave a gilt spoon ‘with a knob’ and his name engraved. The simplest explanation on the evidence available is that he is the Roger who came up in 1512.

And finally there is a Hartwell donation not listed in the Chapel inventories. Apparently the Cambridge University Library at one time had a copy of Solinus’s De memoralibus mundi printed in Paris in 1503, known to have come from the King’s College Library, with the inscription ‘ex dono Joannis Hartwell nuper socius [sic] huius collegii’[5].

In the annual accounts which survive for the years just before 1500, the first payments to the Hartwells for cloth were in 1499–1500. Is it a coincidence that the year after the first Hartwell scholar from London came up, we started buying our cloth from a Hartwell who was a Draper of London? How do the Hartwell Kingsmen of this period (William, Thomas, John and Roger) relate to each other and to the drapers (a different Thomas, and Marie), and do any of them relate to our Hartwell donors (the same Marie, Matthew, possibly the same Roger, and John)? Sadly those facts are not ascertainable from the record at King’s.


[1] http://incunables.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/record/L-159 (L-159 copy 1) is the best evidence, their brotherhood is certainly how the inscription recorded there was interpreted in the chapter ‘Language Arts & Disciplines in A Companion to the Early Printed Book in Britain, 1476–1558 (Vincent Gillespie and Susan Powell, ed), 2014.

[2] At that time the calendar year began on 25 March, and thus dates between January and March are often given in both systems to avoid confusion as to which system is being used.

[3] The financial year began at Michaelmas, i.e. ran from September 29 to September 28.

[4] A communion cloth, usually of linen, where the consecrated elements are placed during the Eucharist.

[5] p 48 of WDJ Cargill Thompson: ‘Notes on King’s College Library, 1500–1570, in Particular for the Period of the Reformation’ in Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society, Vol. 2, No. 1 (1954), pp 38-54.