The Cadbury Bequest

Thanks to a generous bequest from Sir Adrian Cadbury (1929-2015), King’s College Library has been able to continue the process of cataloguing its collection of rare books. Sir Adrian was great-grandson of John Cadbury, a tea and coffee merchant in Birmingham who later manufactured cocoa powder. John’s sons developed a chocolate recipe in 1866 and went on to build the famous Bournville model village near Birmingham, introducing the Dairy Milk brand in 1905. Sir Adrian came up to King’s in 1949 to read economics. He joined the family business straight from university and became a director of Cadbury Bros in 1958. He retired from his position at Cadbury in 1989, and in his distinguished career was also a director of the Bank of England (1970-94) and of IBM (1975-94).

The Cadbury bequest has so far enabled us to catalogue over 200 incunabula, i.e. books printed before 1501. Some of these, such as a few statutes passed during the reign of King Henry VII and printed between 1496 and 1501, are not preserved in any other library. Other rare highlights include two copies of the 1470 editio princeps of Petrarch’s Canzoniere, one of the most important works in Italian literature of which only about 30 copies survive in public libraries worldwide:

“Voi ch’ascoltate in rime sparse il suono”: the opening of Petrarch’s Canzoniere, first printed in Venice by Vindelino da Spira in 1470 (Bryant.XV.2.11)

There are only three known copies of this 1495 edition of John Mirk’s Liber festivalis (Book of Festivals), a collection of homilies for the liturgical festivals as they were celebrated in Mirk’s native Shropshire at the time. The woodcut title page depicts the Annunciation and the Tree of Jesse:

Title page of John Mirk’s Liber festivalis (Rouen: James Ravynell, 1495) (Bryant.XV.3.24)

The book belonged to the noted Anglo-Saxon scholar Elizabeth Elstob (1683-1756), whose signature is visible on the right. On the title page verso is another woodcut featuring the Crucifixion and, at the foot of the page, Christ carrying the cross:

Title page verso of John Mirk’s Liber festivalis (Bryant.XV.3.24)

Happy Easter from all of us at King’s College Library and Archives; we hope you enjoy some Cadbury chocolate this Easter!

IJ

LGBT History Month in King’s Library

King’s Library and Archives were pleased to join the rest of the College in marking the start of LGBT history month by putting on an exhibition in the Library featuring items written by and relating to prominent LGBT King’s figures, including the novelist E.M. Forster and codebreaker Alan Turing, along with a display of borrowable LGBT-themed books. We are delighted to be able to share the exhibition here.

One of the earliest books about sexual practices to cover the subject of homosexuality, albeit in a negative way, was Psychopathia sexualis (1886), written by the Austro-German psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing (1840–1902). Here we see an English translation, by Kingsman Arthur Vivian Burbury (1896–1959).

Richard von Krafft-Ebing, Aberrations of sexual life (London, 1951) (Shelfmark: Store K Burb)

It was nearly thirty years later, in 1913, that novelist and Kingsman E.M. Forster (1879–1970) began his novel Maurice, which was ‘dedicated to a happier year’. He shared drafts with close friends and revised it throughout his life, taking their suggestions into account. It was published in 1971, shortly after he died. The 1987 Merchant Ivory adaptation of Maurice was partially filmed on location at King’s, and a number of Porters and Fellows appeared as extras in an early dining scene.

E.M. Forster, Carbon typescript of the 1932 version of Maurice. Penultimate page. (Reference: EMF/1/5/4)

E.M. Forster, Carbon typescript of the 1932 version of Maurice. Final page (Reference: EMF/1/5/4)

E.M. Forster, Carbon typescript of the 1932 version of Maurice. Opening (Reference: EMF/1/5/4)

Among E.M. Forster’s collection of books held in King’s College Library there is a copy of the first edition of Virginia Woolf’s fictional biography Orlando, given to him by the author herself. At the midpoint of the book the male Orlando goes to bed for several days and on awaking finds himself changed into a woman, remaining so for the rest of the book. Woolf dedicated Orlando to her great friend and lover Vita Sackville-West (1892–1962), who was the inspiration for the central character.

Virginia Woolf, Orlando: a biography (London, 1928) (Shelfmark: Forster.WOO.Orl.1928)

Some two decades later the now famous ‘Kinsey scale’ was created in order to demonstrate that sexuality does not fit into two discrete categories of homosexual and heterosexual. Instead, Alfred Kinsey (1894–1956) believed that sexuality was fluid and subject to change over time. The scale first appeared in his very influential work Sexual behaviour in the human male in 1948.

Alfred C. Kinsey [et al.], Sexual behaviour in the human male (Philadelphia, 1949) and Sexual behaviour in the human female (Philadelphia, 1953) (Shelfmarks: IKS Kin/1 and IKS Kin/2)

Famous WW2 codebreaker and Kingsman Alan Turing (1912–1954) sent this poignant letter to his friend Norman Routledge (1928-2013), also a Kingsman, shortly before his trial for gross indecency in 1952. To avoid prison Turing had to agree to hormonal treatment that amounted to chemical castration.

Letter from Alan Turing to Norman Routledge, February 1952 (Reference: AMT/D/14a)

                        Turing believes machines think
                        Turing lies with men
                        Therefore machines do not think
                                    Yours in distress

                                                                     Alan

This is E.M. Forster’s copy of a 1954 report by the Church of England issued for private circulation which advocated the legalisation of homosexual acts in private and the creation of a government commission on the subject. This appeared just two years after Turing’s tragically early death.

The problem of homosexuality: an interim report (London, 1954) (Shelfmark: Forster.CHU.Pro.1954)

In the same year Peter Wildeblood (1923–1999) was sent to prison for homosexuality along with Lord Montagu of Beaulieu and Michael Pitt-Rivers. He wrote an account of the infamous and high-profile trial and his time in prison which was published in 1955. He later gave evidence to the Wolfenden Committee. This is E.M. Forster’s copy of the book, showing Wildeblood’s description of what happened to him immediately after sentencing at the Winchester Assize Court.

Peter Wildeblood, Against the law (London, 1955) (Shelfmark: Forster.WILD.Aga.1955)

The ‘Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution’, chaired by John Wolfenden (1906–1985), first met in September 1954. Its report, published in 1957, recommended that homosexuality should be legalised, but it was not until 1967 that this became law. This is E.M. Forster’s copy.

Parliamentary debates (Hansard), House of Commons, official report, 596/22 (26 November 1958) (Shelfmark: Forster.PAR.1958)

In addition to our exhibition of rare materials we also displayed a sample of modern books from the holdings of King’s Library which can be borrowed by members of College.

On the day of the exhibition launch, King’s College, along with many other Cambridge Colleges, the University Library and the Guildhall, flew the rainbow flag which has been the symbol of LGBT pride for some four decades.

The rainbow flag being flown from the Gibbs building in King’s College.

JC

A Persian-Indian crowning jewel at King’s

In 1788 a letter of benefaction was received by the Provost and Fellows of King’s from Patna in India. A Kingsman by the name of Edward Ephraim Pote (1750-1832) was announcing that he had ‘acquired a collection of Persian Manuscripts amounting to more than five hundred and fifty volumes’ and was arranging to have them shipped to England to be divided between the colleges of King’s and Eton. This, he said, was ‘to shew my gratitude to those Foundations to whose institutions I am indebted for my education’ (King’s College Archives: KCAC/6/2/23 or LIB/10.2).

Our recent research confirms what has long been suspected, that the Pote manuscripts had formed the bulk of the collection of Colonel Antoine-Louis Polier (1741–1795). As Henry Bradshaw noted, Polier’s seal appears on a large number of the manuscripts and his autograph is on several of them. Polier was an officer and agent of the East India Company, assimilated into the Mughal Courts, and, later in his career, an orientalist, collector and patron of the arts in Lucknow. The collection is dominated by Persian manuscripts, but it also contains codices in Hindustani and Arabic.

At the invitation of Professor Jean Michel Massing and with the support of the Apelles Art History Fund we have recently catalogued the half of the Pote Collection belonging to King’s and made the records globally accessible via the union catalogue of manuscripts in British collections from the Islamicate world known as Fihrist (www.Fihrist.org.uk). The Apelles Art History Fund was established by King’s in 2016 to support original research in the history of art at the College, patrimonial acquisitions and the restoration of art works owned by the College. It commemorates Professor Massing’s contribution to the field and encourages continued exploration and discovery in the arts. In the first years, one of the priorities of the Fund is research on the College’s works of art, including the Pote Collection of Islamic manuscripts and the Keynes Art Collection.

To help raise awareness of the little-studied Pote Collection, this post introduces one of its highlights: King’s Pote MS 186. This manuscript, comprising a collection of poems, is a feast for the eyes: the lyrical verses are arranged in a calligraphic layout, penned by the famous ‘Royal Scribe’ (Kātib al-Sulṭānī) Mīr ‘Alī Haravī (flourished 915–951/1509–1544), framed by exquisitely decorated margins, and enclosed in a beautiful lacquer binding and doublures (inside bindings).

Left half of the double-page frontispiece, Dīvān of Hilālī, penned by Mīr ‘Alī Haravī, dated 938/1531-32 (King’s Pote MS 186).

Each page consists of a central text block with a narrow illuminated border, mounted within a frame (passe-partout) decorated either with drawings of flora and/or fauna in gold or with multi-coloured paintings with charming depictions of animals. Based on the artistic style and type of paper, the remounting was very probably executed in Mughal India.

Illuminated margins, floral decorations in gold (King’s Pote MS 186).

Mīr ‘Alī was an acknowledged master of calligraphy, especially prominent in a script known as nastaʿlīq. He worked in Herat and was moved to Bukhara around 935/1528–29.[1] His calligraphy was much prized in later centuries, especially at the court of Shah Jahan in India, and it is probable that the manuscript was remounted and decorated (and rebound) at the latter’s command. Although further research is required, there are signs the manuscript was once in Shah Jahan’s Royal Library: it bears an inspection note and the seal impression of ‘Abd al-Ḥaqq Amānat Khān, who might well be the calligrapher of that name (d. 1054–55/1644–45)[2] who designed the calligraphy on the Taj Mahal, and whose seal impression appears in other manuscripts from the Mughal Royal Library.

Lacquer binding showing fantastic landscape with dragon and simurgh (King’s Pote MS 186).

The manuscript has a lacquer-decorated binding depicting a hunt scene of fantastic and naturalistic animals, including a simurgh (a benevolent, mythical bird in Iranian mythology), a dragon, foxes, hares and birds of prey, all painted in glittering and bright colours on a blackground. The doublures, with a gold and ochre background, carry a diamond-shaped medallion (turanj) in black and gold, pendants in black and reddish brown, and corner pieces, all decorated with floral motifs. The ground depicts animals including a lion, a leopard, a fox, an antelope and a deer in a setting of sparse shrubs and flowers. The front and back covers and doublures are identical. The binding seems to be contemporary with the marginal illuminations and illustrations, and a product of the same Mughal royal atelier.

Lacquer doublure (inside front binding, King’s Pote MS 186).

Similar animals, in different poses, are illustrated among trees and flowers in some of the margins on both dark and light grounds. The palette used in these illustrations includes gold and a variety of vivid colours.

Illustrated margins showing flora and fauna in rich palettes on tinted paper (King’s Pote MS 186)

Illustrated margins showing flora and fauna in rich palettes on tinted paper (King’s Pote MS 186)

Illustrated margins showing flora and fauna in rich palettes on tinted paper (King’s Pote MS 186)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The textual content is a selection of lyrical poems (ghazals) by a prominent poet, Badr al-dīn Hilālī of Astarabad (d. 936/1529–30 or 939/1532–33). Hilālī had been in the literary circle of the Timurid Sultan Ḥusayn Bāyqarā (842–911/1438–1506) as a protégé of his bibliophile vizier, ‘Alīshīr Navā’ī (1441–1501), in Herat. Our manuscript, completed in 938/1531–32, is the earliest copy of Hilālī’s poetry and the closest to his time. To my knowledge, the second oldest manuscript from the same poet is dated 957/1550 (now in the Tehran Majles Library), almost two decades later than the King’s manuscript. Our manuscript was penned by the most prominent calligrapher of the time, Mīr ‘Alī Haravī, the Royal Scribe. The borders were illuminated and illustrated under the Mughals.

Although the poet’s date of death is a matter of debate, it is possible that this was copied before the poet was put to death for his religious beliefs, in which case he could have been involved in selecting his poems for this collection. Unfortunately, the first folio (right half of the double-page frontispiece), with the heading and title inscription, which could have contained some clues about the poet, has been lost and was replaced in the Mughal era (the first extant ghazal, i.e. a form of lyrical poem, begins partway through). We do not find any indication in the colophon that the poet had recently passed away. We know that the poet and the scribe were once companions at the court of the last Timurid Sultan in Herat in the late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-centuries, before both were moved to Bukhara to serve an Uzbek khan. Whether the poet was alive or not when the manuscript was penned is a question that requires further investigation. However, there is no doubt the textual content remains a significant early source for future editions of the ghazals of Hilālī’s dīvān.

Signed by the scribe, Mīr ‘Alī al-Kātib al-Sulṭānī, the Royal Scribe (King’s Pote MS 186, colophon).

There is a closely-related manuscript, which was also penned and compiled by Mīr ‘Alī Haravī, in 935/1529 in Bukhara (two to three years prior to our manuscript), and which contains a selection of poetry by eleven poets from the same courtly circle. That is MS C-860 which is housed in the Russian Academy of Sciences in St Petersburg, and comprises 56 folios with seven verses per page, arranged in a similar format to King’s Pote MS 186.[3] In that anthology, the dimensions of the text panels are smaller and the margins are not illuminated or illustrated but simply gold speckled. However, it contains two subsequently added illustrations. ‘Judging by the poem in the colophon, written by the author of the compilation [Mīr ‘Alī Haravī], the copy was intended for the Uzbek sovereign of Bukhara, the Shaibānid ‘Ubaid-Allāh Khān (died in 1533 [actually 1539]), an avid bibliophile.’[4] Based on the fact that the scribe Mīr ‘Alī Haravī was moved to Bukhara by ‘Ubayd-Allāh Khān (c. 935/1528–29) and the completion date of the King’s manuscript (938/1531–32), it is very likely that the patron of Hilālī’s dīvān was the same Shaybānid ruler ‘Ubayd-Allāh Khān. There is little doubt that the unnamed place where our manuscript was copied is again Bukhara.[5]

Poetry anthology, penned by Mīr ‘Alī Haravī, dated 935/1529 (MS C-860 in the Russian Academy of sciences, St Petersburg).

Poetry anthology, penned by Mīr ‘Alī Haravī, dated 935/1529 (MS C-860 in the Russian Academy of sciences, St Petersburg).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

King’s Pote MS 186 is the crowning jewel of the Pote collection at King’s. There is beauty in the masterful sixteenth-century penmanship from Bukhara, and in the exquisite decorated margins and binding that were probably added in a Mughal royal atelier around a century later. There is also great textual value in this early collection of verse by a noted contemporary poet. Of course, not all of Colonel Polier’s Lucknow manuscript collection was of this quality and value. But there are lesser treasures too, now in Cambridge, thanks to the efforts and generosity of Edward Pote.

Shiva Mihan

All manuscripts of the Pote Collection are on permanent loan at Cambridge University Library.

Endnotes
[1] O.F. Akimushkin listed a number of manuscripts in the hand of Mīr ‘Alī on p. 333 of his article on the Shaibānid library at Bukhara: ‘Biblioteka Shibanidov v Bukhare XVI veka’ in Bamberger Zentralasienstudien: Konferenzakten ESCAS IV, Bamberg 8-12. Oktober 1991, ed. I. Baldauf and M. Friederich (Berlin, 1994), pp. 325-41. See http://menadoc.bibliothek.uni-halle.de/iud/content/pageview/347600 .
[2] http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/amanat-khan-sirazi-abd-al-haqq
[3] For more details and reproductions of the manuscript, see Y. A. Petrosan et al. Pages of Perfection: Islamic paintings and calligraphy from the Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg (Lugano, 1995), pp. 226–29.
[4] Ibid., p. 226.
[5]For information on the Shaybānids (or Abū al-Khayrids) see http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/abul-khayrids-dynasty. For Bukhara see http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/bukhara-viii.

 

 

Theology Books from George Thackeray’s Library: An Online Exhibition

The last exhibition as part of our HLF-funded project was mounted in the beautiful setting of King’s College Chapel in May and June 2018, and it featured books from the theology section of George Thackeray’s library. When he died in 1850, he left his black-letter divinity books, mostly printed between 1530 and 1580, to King’s in his will (some 165 volumes). His daughter Mary Ann Elizabeth bequeathed the rest of her father’s library to the College in 1879. Over 22,000 people visited the Chapel in May and June, but for those who did not have the opportunity to see the exhibition, we provide here some selected highlights.

Two exhibition cases were set up in the Ante-chapel

If you look closely at the next two images, you’ll be able to see the reflection of the chapel wall and the stained glass windows on the cases. This is volume I of the first edition of Martin Luther’s collected works. The title within a historiated woodcut border shows Martin Luther and Frederick III of Saxony kneeling in front of Christ on the Cross:

Martin Luther, Tomus primus omnium operum reuerendi domini Martini Lutheri
Wittenberg: Hans Lufft, 1545
(Thackeray.A.37.5)

This devotional work, first printed in 1574, was likely not authored by St Augustine. Each page has elaborate woodcut borders depicting Biblical figures:

Certaine select prayers: gathered out of S. Augustines meditations
London: Printed by John Wolfe, for the assignes of Richard Day, 1586
(Thackeray.207)

One of the most prolific and influential of Germany’s early printers, Anton Koberger (ca. 1440-1513) printed fifteen editions of the Latin Bible at Nuremberg between 1475 and 1513. Dated 10 November 1478, Koberger’s fourth Latin edition contained several pointers for readers, for example the first table of contents indicating the folio number on which each book of the Bible begins:

Biblia latina
Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, 10 November 1478
(Thackeray.XV.1.10)

The grammarian Robert Whittington was best known for his elementary Latin school books. This 1517 edition of Declinationes nominum [The Declension of Nouns] was produced by the celebrated printer Wynkyn de Worde (died ca. 1534), who collaborated with William Caxton and took over his print shop in 1495. The title page has one of Caxton’s distinctive printer’s devices incorporating the words “wynkyn .de. worde”:

Robert Whittington, Editio roberti whittintoni … Declinationes no[m]i[nu]m ta[m] latinoru[m] [quam] grecoru[m]
London: Wynkyn de Worde, 1517
(Thackeray.41)

This second edition of Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue concerning Heresies, in which he asserts the Catholic Church as the one true church, contains a contemporary 16th-century inscription on the title page (uncertain reading): “lone to amende and fayne for to plese lothe to a[?]f”:

Sir Thomas More, A dyaloge of syr Thomas More knyghte
[London: William Rastell], 1531
(Thackeray.70)

The exhibition also included a selection of books remarkable because of their bindings. This copy of Philipp Melanchthon’s Orationum (1572) features a characteristic 16th-century German blind-stamped alum-tawed pigskin binding over wooden boards. On the front board is a portrait of Melanchthon, with the lines: “Forma Philippe tua est sed mens tua nescia pingi nota est ante bonis et tua [scripta docent]” [Philipp, this is your likeness, but your mind remains unknown to good men without the teaching of your writings]:

Philipp Melanchthon, Orationum
Wittenberg: Clemens Schleich and Anton Schöne, 1572
(Thackeray.J.49.5)

This small volume is bound in a parchment wrapper with manuscript writing on both sides and initials illuminated in red and blue. Recycling of manuscripts in book binding was a common practice. Thanks to the HLF grant, the binding has been repaired as shown in these images, before (left) and after (right) conservation:

William Fulke, A confutation of a popishe, and sclaunderous libelle
London: Printed by John Kingston, for William Jones, 1571
(Thackeray.182)

We would like to take this opportunity to thank the HLF for their generous support over the past two years, which enabled us to catalogue almost 2,000 books from the Thackeray Bequest, repair the volumes that required conservation, create a digital library, organise school visits, and mount numerous exhibitions which attracted thousands of visitors.

IJ

Tales from the Script: Late Night Gothic Horror in the Library

Last weekend we put out an exhibition in King’s Library on the theme of gothic horror, marking two hundred years since the publication of the iconic novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1797–1851) in 1818. We are delighted to share some of the treasures of that exhibition with you here.

Bony Tony, King’s Library’s skeleton, let loose on the world at large . . .

It all started with Kingsman Horace Walpole  whose 1767 novel The Castle of Otranto is considered to be the first gothic novel. It initiated a genre which became extremely popular in the later 18th and early 19th century, inspiring authors such as Ann Radcliffe, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe and Robert Louis Stevenson. The aesthetics of the book continue to influence modern-day gothic books, films, art, music and the goth subculture.

Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story (Parma, 1791), sixth edition (Shelfmark: Keynes.E.3.23), title page and frontispiece

“The lower part of the castle was hollowed into several intricate cloysters; and it was not easy for one under so much anxiety to find the door that opened into the cavern. An awful silence reigned throughout those subterraneous regions,  except now and then some blasts of wind that shook the doors she had passed, and which grating on the rusty hinges, were reechoed through that long labyrinth of darkness.”

Horace Walpole, A Description of the Villa of Horace Walpole …at Strawberry-Hill, near Twickenham (Strawberry-Hill, 1786) (Shelfmark: Keynes.E.1.15), title page

Walpole was so interested in medieval history he began building a gothic-style castle in Twickenham in 1749 which he called Strawberry Hill. The world-famous house and gardens are open to the public today. In 1786 Walpole published a description of the villa which included an engraving of what it looked like at the time, as well as an inventory of the furniture, pictures and curiosities it contained.

It is well known that Jane Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey (published just after Austen’s death in 1817) is a satire of gothic novels which were very popular in the late 1790s. The character Catherine Morland has a passion for reading gothic novels, but gets into difficulties when applying their concepts to everyday life. Here is the famous scene in which Catherine’s friend, Isabella Thorpe, reads to her the titles of the ‘horrid novels’:

Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (London, 1817) (Shelfmark: Thackeray.J.57.12-15)

Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey, title page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Regina Maria Roche, Clermont (Dublin, 1799) (Shelfmark: Warren.D.1.Roc.Cl/1-2), title page

One of those novels, Clermont, was written by Regina Maria Roche (1764–1845), who is considered today to be a minor writer of gothic novels, but she was a best-selling novelist during her life. Originally published by the sensationalist Minerva Press, Clermont first appeared in 1798. It tells the story of the beautiful Madeline, who lives in seclusion with her father (the Clermont of the title) until they are visited by a mysterious Countess from his past.

 

Just after Jane Austen’s death in 1817 arguably the most famous gothic horror story of all time was published: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Shelley began writing her novel about the young scientist who creates a grotesque but sapient human creature when she was only 18. It was published anonymously on 1 January 1818 when she was 20. Her name first appeared on the second edition, published in France in 1823.

The three volumes of Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; or, The modern Prometheus (London, 1818) (Shelfmark: Keynes.E.5.46-48), first edition.

“I beheld the wretch—the miserable monster whom I had created”

Famously, the story of the monster had its origins in a horror-story competition held in the Villa Diodati near Geneva, where Mary, her lover and later husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron and others whiled away the evenings in 1816. Mary Shelley’s story has inspired countless comics, pop-up books, plays and films and continues to do so to this day.

Frankenstein, first edition, title page

Victor Frankenstein is repulsed by the monster he has created.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1832, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) also included in Faust Part II the creation of an artificial man, a ‘homunculus’, created in the lab by Faust’s assistant Wagner. Goethe was tapping into an older science, that of alchemy, for his story. The ability to make this small human or homunculus was often discussed in alchemical writings of the seventeenth century. The homunculus can also be symbolic of the creation of a spiritual being or of the philosopher’s stone itself. Below we see Heinrich Khunrath, a Christian kabbalist and alchemist. On the left hand side he kneels in prayer in his Oratorium, on the right hand side is his Laboratorium. Khunrath described the making of the homunculus with the aid of malign spirits as ‘Desperatio.’ This copy was owned by John Ruskin.

Plate from Heinrich Khunrath, Amphitheatrum sapientiae divinae solius verae (Hanau, 1609) (Shelfmark: Keynes.Ec.3.1.1.)

Below we see an engraving by Matthaeus Merian (1593–1650) which represents symbolically the text of the Latin Emerald Tables, a foundational work of transmutational alchemy attributed to the legendary Hermes Trismegistus. The layers of meaning in the Emerald Tables have been associated with the creation of the philosopher’s stone.

Musaeum Hermeticum reformatum et amplificatum (Frankfurt, 1678) (Shelfmark: Keynes.Ec.3.2.13), engraved plate

Probably the most famous alchemist was Isaac Newton (1642–1727), who had a laboratory in Trinity College, Cambridge. John Maynard Keynes (1883–1946) wrote a celebrated paper on Newton, ‘Newton the Man’, published only after Keynes’s death in 1946. In it he described Newton’s alchemical writings, of which he had formed the outstanding collection (now at King’s), and explained how historians had contrived to ‘hush up’ this side of Newton’s activities. Newton, said Keynes, was ‘the last of the magicians’.

Newton’s translation into English of the Emerald Tables, (c.1678) (Shelfmark: Keynes Newton MS 28)

Back at King’s we have our own twentieth-century tradition of horror stories, starting with former King’s Provost M. R. James (1862-1936), who is most famous to the wider public for his published ghost stories which he would read to students at Christmastime (a tradition reinstated by our current Provost). Tim Munby (who was Librarian at King’s from 1947 to 1974) continued along this path with his collection of ghost stories The Alabaster Hand.

A.N.L. Munby, The Alabaster Hand (London, 1949) (Shelfmark: KL MUN 1), first edition and photograph of Munby

An overview of part of the exhibition

JC/PJ/AC

Video: Conserving Rare Books at King’s College, Cambridge

As part of our HLF-supported Thackeray Project, we have produced a video that looks at rare book conservation generally, before moving on to a case study of the repairs performed on a single book from the Thackeray Collection (Le rime di Francesco Petrarca, Thackeray.L.3.40).

Enjoy!

 

GB/JC/IJ

Rupert Brooke papers online

ScreenshotNot only does today mark the anniversary of Rupert Brooke’s death, it also marks the launch of a new online resource which offers unprecedented access to his archives.

Exactly three years ago, on the centenary of Brooke’s death, King’s College acquired the Schroder Collection. This had been the largest private collection of Rupert Brooke papers, so by adding them to our already extensive collection of his papers, we provided scholars who were able to visit our reading room with access to papers which might only have been seen by Brooke’s biographers before.

The Schroder Collection had cost £500,000 and the purchase was only possible because of generous grants from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Friends of the National Libraries, along with other private donations.

In 2017 King’s College received a further grant from the Friends of the National Libraries, enabling us to digitise approximately half of the Schroder papers. Archivists selected the letters between Rupert Brooke, Edward (‘Eddie’) Marsh and William Denis Browne as a large body of papers that offered in-depth insight into the friendships, from all three sides because they each wrote to each other about the third party. It is rare in archives to have both sides of a correspondence, let alone all three sides of a triangle of correspondents.

If you are reading this blog, it is likely that you will have heard of Rupert Brooke, one of the College’s most famous and possibly even controversial alumni. He is best known as the poet who wrote ‘The Old Vicarage, Grantchester’ and ‘The Soldier’ (these can be read on the Rupert Brooke Society’s website), but perceptions of him are constantly evolving. At the time of his death, there was a ‘myth’ surrounding him, with an obituary by Winston Churchill in The Times, a controversial  Memoir by Edward Marsh and  Brooke being called a ‘young Apollo’ (Frances Cornford) and ‘the most handsome man in England’ (W.B. Yeats). Later biographies have focussed on Brooke’s complicated relationships. The jury is still out, so to speak, and these papers may help fuel that debate, allowing people to form their own opinions.

While Brooke is relatively well known, Marsh and Denis Browne have not received the same attention. It is hoped that this new online resource will change that.

Denis Browne had attended Rugby School, in the year below Brooke, then followed him to Cambridge, although Denis Browne matriculated at Clare College. Both were involved in dramatic productions at Cambridge and during World War 1 both joined the Hood Battalion. Denis Browne was among those who buried Brooke on the Greek island of Skyros. He gave an account of Brooke’s death and burial in a letter to Marsh.  In another letter, Denis Browne pre-empted his own tragic death. On 4 June 1915, Denis Browne died at Gallipoli and his body was never found.

On 11th March 1913, Brooke introduced Denis Browne to Marsh at a dinner after Pétrouchka at Covent Garden. Marsh and Denis Browne quickly became close friends.

Marsh was Private Secretary for Churchill, as well as publisher of the Georgian Poetry anthologies (with Brooke) and a patron of the arts. After Brooke’s death, Marsh acted as his literary executor until 1934.

The new online resource can be seen on the Cambridge University Digital Library.

The Archivists would like to thank the volunteers Mandy Marvin, Harriet Alder, Maddie McDonagh, and Thelma May for their assistance in the creation of metadata for this project. They were the first to respond to our original project announcement and call for volunteers on this blog – we were sorry that we couldn’t accommodate everybody who offered their time for this project. We are also very grateful to the Friends of the National Libraries for enabling the creation of this resource.

 

PGM

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