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