Category Archives: Library

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? ( 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

[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

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!


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 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.


Medieval Mnemonics

In the collection of incunabula bequeathed to King’s College by Jacob Bryant (1715-1804) is a first edition of Giacomo Publicio’s Artes orandi, epistolandi, memoranda, a treatise on the rhetorical arts published in Venice by Erhard Ratdolt on 30 November 1482. Not much is known about Publicio, of whom no other works survive; in the text he describes himself as Florentine, though he may have also been Spanish.

Leaf A2r of Artes orandi, epistolandi, memoranda (Bryant.XV.3.12), with a woodcut white-on-black floriated initial “S”

The third section of the work is devoted to the art of memory and is widely regarded as the first memory treatise to have been printed. Towards the end are seven pages containing 42 roundels forming a pictorial alphabet with two woodcuts for most letters, where each letter has been associated with objects of a similar shape. For example, A is coupled with a folding ladder and a pair of compasses, B with a mandolin, C with a horseshoe, D with a bull’s head, and so forth:

The visual alphabet is followed by a full-page woodcut of a mnemonic structure containing 25 animals, arranged alphabetically by the first letter of their Latin names.

The letter V is particularly “memorable” and may well represent the first instance of a simultaneous mooning and flashing to appear in print… Publicio’s book later influenced other scholars, including the English physician Robert Fludd (1574-1637) who devised his own mnemonic alphabet, as you can read here.


Parisian fashion plates

They may not be the very latest in fashion, but the dresses depicted in this slim volume from the Keynes Collection are far too pretty to remain under wraps. The book: Douze nouveaux travestissements (Paris, 1856) features twelve hand-coloured engravings produced from illustrations by the artist Paul Gavarni (1804-1866). Gavarni was a popular caricaturist and book illustrator, who illustrated the first collected edition of the works of Balzac in 1850. He also produced many illustrated volumes of his own, sketching and parodying the eccentricities of the various classes of French society.

This particular volume was published by the monthly fashion magazine Les Modes Parisiennes, which was published between 1843 and 1875. In magazines, fashion plates such as these were usually accompanied by detailed instructions on how the outfits could be reproduced, providing avid followers of French fashion – including many British women – with the information needed in order to dress to impress.

Plate No. 1 from Douze nouveaux travestissements,1856, Shelfmark Keynes.P.12


Plate No. 2 from Douze nouveaux travestissements,1856, Shelfmark Keynes.P.12

Plate No. 3 from Douze nouveaux travestissements,1856, Shelfmark Keynes.P.12

Plate No. 4 from Douze nouveaux travestissements,1856, Shelfmark Keynes.P.12

Plate No. 5 from Douze nouveaux travestissements,1856, Shelfmark Keynes.P.12

Plate No. 6 from Douze nouveaux travestissements,1856, Shelfmark Keynes.P.12

Plate No. 7 from Douze nouveaux travestissements,1856, Shelfmark Keynes.P.12

Plate No. 8 from Douze nouveaux travestissements,1856, Shelfmark Keynes.P.12

Plate No. 9 from Douze nouveaux travestissements,1856, Shelfmark Keynes.P.12

Plate No. 10 from Douze nouveaux travestissements,1856, Shelfmark Keynes.P.12

Plate No. 11 from Douze nouveaux travestissements,1856, Shelfmark Keynes.P.12

Plate No. 12 from Douze nouveaux travestissements,1856, Shelfmark Keynes.P.12

Finally, tucked loose inside this volume is another wonderful nineteenth-century engraving. An inscription on the back reveals that it was sent as a Christmas card to Lydia Lopokova, the wife of John Maynard Keynes, in 1929.

Loose plate tucked inside Keynes.P.12

Verso of the loose plate. The inscriptions read: “A picture for your country house!” and “A Christmas card, dearest Lydia, with [Molly’s?] love, Christmas 1929”

If this has left you keen to seek out more images of nineteenth-century fashion, then the National Portrait Galley has a fashion plate gallery covering the period 1770-1870, with a wealth of gorgeous images to explore. Have fun!


Tyger, tyger, burning bright

Inspired by Chinese New Year, which this year heralds the year of the tiger, we sought out that ferocious beast within some of the many volumes of natural history which form part of the Library’s Thackeray collection and uncovered some wonderful illustrations, which roared out to be shared through this blog.

woodcut of tiger

Vol. 1, page 1060 of Historia animalium, 1551, Shelfmark F.4.1

We begin with this lovely woodcut illustration from the first volume of Conrad Gessner’s Historia animalium (History of the animals). Gessner (1516-1565) was a Swiss physician and naturalist. He produced several major works of zoology and botany and had a lasting influence upon the scientific world. Historia animalium, published in five volumes between 1551 and 1558, was a hugely popular and influential work. Gessner drew heavily on medieval and classical sources, building upon these with the latest zoological knowledge from his own time. These generously illustrated (for their time) volumes cover mammals, reptiles, fish and birds, detailing their diet, habits and physical attributes. 

A note in Gessner’s hand found in one copy of this work indicates that this tiger was modelled on a real life example from Florence. This may have been a beast housed in the menagerie of the Medici ruler of that city.

Early nineteenth-century works provide the rest of our illustrations, starting with a handsome colour engraving from Histoire naturelle des mammifères by Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire and Frédéric Cuvier. The authors were both associated with the French National Museum of Natural History: the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle. Frédéric Cuvier (1773-1838) was head keeper of the menagerie, and Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (1772-1844)  was a professor there.

Colour engraving of tiger

Plate from Vol. 1 of Histoire naturelle des mammifères, 1824, Shelfmark F.1.20

Frédéric Cuvier’s brother, Georges (1769-1832) was a naturalist of great renown and author of many works on this subject. The most famous of these was Le Règne animal or, The animal kingdom, which was first published in 1817. The Library holds an English translation of this work in which can be found attractive engravings of several different types of tigers, displayed below.
Tiger engraving

Tiger from Cuvier’s animal kingdom: The class mammalia, Vol. 2, plate facing p.440, 1827, Shelfmark F.6.3

white tiger

White tiger from Cuvier’s animal kingdom: The class mammalia, Vol. 2, plate facing p.444, 1827, Shelfmark F.6.3

Clouded tiger

Clouded tiger from Cuvier’s animal kingdom: The class mammalia, Vol. 2 facing p.450, 1827, Shelfmark F.6.3

Fearsome tigers on the attack appear in an engraving (shown below) from John Church’s A Cabinet of Quadrupeds, which was published in 1805.

Tigers attacking men

Attacking tigers from Vol. 2 of A cabinet of quadrupeds: with historical and scientific descriptions, 1805, Shelfmark F.3.35

Our final image, aptly enough, depicts a tiger prowling away towards a deep dark forest. This is taken from a book of prints by English landscape and marine painter, William Daniell (1769-1837). Daniell travelled widely in India in his youth, so it is possible that he saw the beasts with his own eyes.

prowling tiger in woods

Plate from Vol. 1 of Interesting selections from animated nature, with illustrative scenery, [1809?], Shelfmark F.6.45

We hope this “ambush” of tigers has provided a stimulating start to your new year!



Marisol Erdman, Conrad Gesner: Illustrated Inventories with the use of Wonderful Woodcuts  [accessed 27/1/22]

Florike Egmond, 16th century ‘zoological goldmine’ discovered – in pictures [accessed 27/1/22]





Conjuring tricks for Elizabethans

The Library holds a first edition of Reginald Scott’s Discoverie of Witchcraft (1584), an important early work on the subject, which attacked contemporary received opinion. Scott (d.1599) believed there were no such thing as witches, arguing that those accused were very often beggar women who, having “cursed” those who refused them assistance, were then blamed for anything that subsequently went wrong in the lives of the uncharitable. He claimed that anyone who confessed to being a witch likely did so as a result of delusion or coercion.

Title-page of The discovery of Witchcraft

Title-page of The discoverie of witchcraft, 1584, Shelfmark M.18.65

Scott also sought to debunk other forms of magic and superstition, devoting part of his book to an explanation of how easy it was to deceive people with sleight of hand and other trickery. This section stands as the first major exposé of the fakery behind conjuring tricks, influencing subsequent works on this topic for centuries to come. This mini blog post highlights a few of those tricks, some weird and wonderful, some bearing very close resemblance to simple card tricks still performed today. An example of the latter is shown below:

“How to tell one what card he seeth in the bottom, when the same card is shuffled into the stocke” (page 334)

Other tricks simply relied upon having a paid accomplice in the audience:

Tricks with paid accomplices

“To make one dance naked” and “To transforme or alter the colour of ones cap or hat” (page 339)

Scott then explains how to perform more gruesome tricks, involving feigned bodily mutilation:

Tricks involving apparent mutilation of the body

“To thrust a piece of lead into one eie, and to drive it about (with a sticke) betweene the skin and flesh of the forehead, until it be brought to the other eie and there thrust out”, “To cut half your nose asunder, and to heal it againe presently without anie salve”, and “To put a ring through your cheeke” (page 348)

These even include stabbing yourself in the guts and simulated decapitation!

A trick involving decapitation

“To cut off ones head, and to laie it on a platter, &c: which the jugglers call the decollation of John Baptist” (page  349)

“To thrust a dagger or bodkin into your guts verie stranglie, and to recover immediatelie” (page 350)

It is amusing to imagine avid Elizabethan readers of this tome rushing off to try out some of these tricks on their unsuspecting friends and family. Hopefully none of these would-be conjurors were subsequently burnt as witches or warlocks!



David Wootton “Scott [Scot], Reginald” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 Sep. 2004; Accessed 3rd March. 2020.