Category Archives: Library

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.

IJ

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!

AC

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!

AC

References:

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!

AC

References:

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

Taking the Bull by the Horns

When cataloguing the incunabula in the collection of rare books bequeathed to King’s College by Jacob Bryant (1715-1804), I came across a curious and unusual device in a copy of Werner Rolevinck’s Fasciculus temporum, an overview of world history up until the time of the book’s publication (ca. 1490). The title page features two hand-drawn devices: the one at the centre depicts a black bull with horns and nose rings coloured in gold:

Title page of Werner Rolevinck’s Fasciculus temporum (Strasbourg: Johann Prüss, ca. 1490; Bryant.XV.2.6). Underneath the device is an earlier inscription: “Martinus polonus Carsulanensis Ep[iscop]us, hoc Chronicon composuit”, evidently mistaking this work for the chronicle Chronicon pontificum et imperatorum by Martin of Opava (d. 1278). Another owner corrected this misattribution next to the title: “Wernerus fuit collector ha[rum] historia[rum]”.

This emblem appears to have puzzled the staff in King’s Library for over a century. Stuck to the flyleaf opposite the title page is a letter of 3 June 1912 addressed to Arthur Richard Benten, then under-librarian at King’s, by Beckwith A. Spencer of the Royal College of Art. In it, he states that he was unable to identify these two devices despite enlisting the help of Albert van der Put of the National Art Library:

The same device also appears in two other incunabula bequeathed by Jacob Bryant: as an illumination inside the initial of the first page in Guido delle Colonne’s Historia destructionis Troiae (1486):

Detail of leaf a2 recto in Guido delle Colonne’s Historia destructionis Troiae (Strasbourg: Georg Husner, 1486; Bryant.XV.2.7).

and as a tail-piece painted at the bottom of a4 verso in our copy of Robert Gaguin’s Compendium De origine et gestis Francorum (1497):

Leaf a4 verso of Robert Gaguin’s Compendium De origine et gestis Francorum (Lyon: Johannes Trechsel, 1497; Bryant.XV.6.6). The bull device also rears its head as an illuminated initial on leaves b5 verso and g3 verso.

If anyone has any information that may help us identify this device and solve a century-old mystery, please do get in touch!

IJ

A King’s Banquet

Whether it be College catering, or spicy titbits from our rare books and early printed music, there is a feast of food-related material in the King’s College special collections. We table here an exhibition of serious, as well as fun, documents covering five hundred years of food at King’s. From food fights to food scarcity, the salutary effect of warm beer, or the economics of the price of corn, the special collections are sure to have something to satisfy any appetite!

the price of wheat

During the years between 1799 and 1801 widespread rioting broke out throughout England, mostly about the scarcity of food and soaring prices of bread. The cost of a loaf of bread was at an all-time high of 1 shilling and 9 pence. This was caused in part by a series of poor harvests as a result of unseasonally bad weather in England and equally poor harvests in Europe which limited imports. Sir Gilbert Blane (1749–1834) deals with the causes and remedies in his inquiry in 1800. Trained as a physician, we can perhaps be forgiven a wry (or even rye?) smile when we learn that Blane had previously been the personal physician to Admiral Sir George Rodney (1718–1792) on board HMS Sandwich!

Gilbert Blane, Inquiry into the causes and remedies of the late and present scarcity and high price of provisions (London, 1817) (Shelfmark: Keynes.A.10.16.(10.)). Title page

Blane, Inquiry into the causes and remedies of the late and present scarcity and high price of provisions. Summary

That particular volume came to King’s as part of the antiquarian book collection bequeathed by John Maynard Keynes. He was First Bursar (Financial Officer) at King’s from 1924 to 1944, and converted our land-based endowment to a stock portfolio. His predecessor bursars had to maximise the income from our land holdings, and compiled tables of the prices of wheat and malt during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

‘Prices of Malt clear of the Excise Duty with the Mean Prices’, January 1782-October 1806 (Ref: KCE/1060)

‘Prices of Wheat with the Mean Prices’, January 1782-October 1806 (Ref: KCE/1060)

The price of wheat per quarter (1/4 of a ton) ranged from just under 1 pound per quarter in the early eighteenth century, to well over 5 pounds in January 1796, and was in the 7-8 pounds per quarter range in the winter and spring of 1800-1801. The 1799–1801 scarcity came at the end of a decade of bad harvests and hard winters—the problem was not so much that the rioters were fed up, as that they were not fed up!

Charles Simeon. Etching by an unknown artist (undated) (Ref: KCAC/1/4/Simeon/2)

King’s did what it could towards poor relief. During the 1788 famine Charles Simeon (1759–1836, KC 1779) ‘organized a [University] subscription to enable bread to be sold at half-price in Cambridge and twenty-four neighbouring villages and rode round on horseback each Monday to make sure that the bakers were doing this.'[ODNB] In 1795 King’s College fellows were again occupied with poor relief. It was ‘agreed that ten guineas be given between the parishes of Grantchester Coton and Barton to be distributed at the discretion of Mr Simeon.’

Governing Body minutes, 16 January 1795 (Ref: KCGB/4/1/1/2)

We are not exempt from scarcity even in modern times. During World War II the College accommodated some of the Dunkirk evacuees, followed by an RAF transport unit, a quantity of relocated Queen Mary’s College students and faculty, and a miscellany of American and British military men in various stages of training. The acting bursar GHW ‘Dadie’ Rylands had to deal with the problems of rationing: an allowance of only half a sausage per head per week!

Part of a letter from the Acting Bursar to Sainsbury’s, about rationed meat (carbon copy), 14 November 1941 (Ref: KCAR/3/1/1/11)

Luckily for King’s we had enough space for a kitchen garden. Despite reduced staff, in 1941 the head gardener ‘produced large quantities of tomatoes, lettuces, onions, and savoys for use in Hall. ‘ In 1945 he supplied 550 pounds of tomatoes and 57 dozen lettuces.

Entry from George Salt’s college gardens journal, 1941 (Ref: GS/2/5 p 75)

Entry from George Salt’s college gardens journal, 1945 (Ref: GS/2/5 page 92)

what they ate

Go back a couple of centuries before the wheat shortage, however, and according to Robert Speed’s The Counter Scuffle (1621) there was plenty of food to waste! This publication was one of the most influential mock poems of the time and went through 19 editions by the end of the seventeenth century. It tells the story of a food fight which broke out during a Lent dinner in the Wood Street Counter, a debtors’ prison. At the end of the fight, the prison keeper is found hiding under a table with his clothes and codpiece stuffed with food!

Robert Speed, The Counter Scuffle (London, 1648). (Shelfmark: Thackeray.J.65.48). Title page

Speed, The Counter Scuffle. Part of the description of the food

Speed, The Counter Scuffle. Part of the description of the fight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The foodstuffs being thrown around the prison dining hall are the same as King’s fellows and scholars were eating about 40 years earlier. The College’s dining accounts for 16-19 October 1579 list various types of fish (ling, plaice, tench, and pickerel–but no eels or herring), mutton and loin of veal, and the ‘flesh’ included beef, rabbits, pigeons, and chickens. The College also purchased milk, butter, eggs, pepper, sugar, currants, dates, cinnamon, cloves and mace during those days. Other pages in the accounts record the purchase of mustard. (See The Potticaries Bill blog and an article about early dining practices at King’s for more details).

College dining accounts for 16–19 October 1579 (Ref: KCAR/4/1/6/19 opening 276)

One would never catch Oxbridge dons engaging in such puerile behaviour as displayed in The Counter Scuffle, however. Why play or fight with your food when you can be academic about it? It is hard to imagine that the humble sausage would inspire a volume of poetry, but that is exactly what happened when Thomas Warton (1728–1790), sometime Poet Laureate and friend of Dr Johnson, put together his volume of poetry The Oxford Sausage in 1764 whilst he was Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford. Here we have his new edition ‘adorned with cuts, engraved in a new taste, and designed by the best masters.’ The volume’s engraved frontispiece depicts Mrs Dorothy Spreadbury, the inventress of the Oxford sausage. There is apparently some doubt about the authenticity of this claim, but who would be so bold as to challenge such a formidable-looking lady!

The Oxford sausage: or, Select poetical pieces, written by the most celebrated wits of the University of Oxford (Oxford, 1777) (Shelfmark: Chawner.A.5.105). Title page.

The Oxford sausage. Frontispiece showing Mrs Dorothy Spreadbury.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over 50 years later in 1823 Cambridge decided it needed to acknowledge Oxford’s Sausage: ‘Oxford has its sausage, and why not Cambridge its tart?’ reads the preface to The Cambridge Tart, a volume of ‘epigrammatic and satiric-poetical effusions dainty morsels, served up by Cantabs, on various occasions’ put together by Richard Gooch (1791–1849) in 1823 under the pseudonym ‘Socius’. The engraved frontispiece depicts a baked tart, framed by laurel wreaths, a lyre and a mortarboard!

The Cambridge tart: epigrammatic and satiric-poetical effusions; &c. &c. Dainty morsels, served up by Cantabs, on various occasions. Dedicated to the members of the University of Cambridge / By Socius (London, 1823) (Shelfmark: P.25.13). Title page

The Cambridge tart. Opening

The Cambridge tart. Opening

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

what they drank

Of course with your sausage you need something to drink, perhaps a nice chilled beer on a summer’s day? Even better, a nice warm beer, perhaps, as the writer of this little treatise explains to us the ‘many reasons that beere so qualified is farre more wholsome than that which is drunke cold’. It is a most serious subject indeed, with chapters that explain ‘that actuall hot drink doth quench the thirst as well as cold drink, or better’ and ‘the hurt that ariseth from the use of actuall cold drink’ and ‘the benefit that ariseth from the use of actuall hot drink’.

Warme beere, or, A treatise wherein is declared by many reasons that beere so qualified is farre more wholsome then that which is drunke cold (Cambridge, 1641) (Shelfmark: Thackeray.J.66.45). Title page

King’s had its own brewer, and brewery, for several hundred years. They brewed six barrels of ale at a time, and two of small beer.

College brewing numbers (undated) (Ref: KCAR/3/1/3/4 – memo on brewing)

John Pontifex (self-styled Coppersmith, Back-Maker, Brewer’s Millwright and Brewer’s Architect) sold us a six barrel brewer in 1829. It took three pages to describe it completely and it cost a shilling short of 213 pounds.

Part of an invoice for the brewing equipment purchased by King’s College from John Pontifex, 1829 (Ref: KCA/723)

 

Plan of the brewhouse of King’s College, by Richard Woods (undated) (Ref: KCD/365)

There was a fire in the brewhouse in 1871, and in 1881 the College voted to stop brewing its own beer. Two years later the brewhouse was converted to kitchen offices.

On the subject of brewing—hot drinks this time—we turn now to tea, coffee and chocolate. All were relatively new arrivals in Europe in the seventeenth century when Philippe Sylvestre Dufour (1622–1687) published his treatise De l’usage du caphé, du thé, et du chocolat. Here we have the latin translation of that work which appeared in Paris in 1685. It includes a separate treatise on each of the three drinks, under the title Tractatus novi de potu caphé; de Chinesium thé; et de chocolata. Each treatise includes a splendid engraved frontispiece depicting the origins of each drink. It is thought to be the first work in any language to describe all these new beverages in Europe.

Philippe Sylvestre Dufour, Tractatus novi de potu caphé; de Chinesium thé; et de chocolate (Paris, 1685) (Shelfmark: Thackeray.J.47.33). Title page

Dufour, Tractatus novi de potu caphé; de Chinesium thé; et de chocolate. Frontispiece

 

Dufour, Tractatus novi de potu caphé; de Chinesium thé; et de chocolate. Frontispiece to the chocolate treatise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dufour, Tractatus novi de potu caphé; de Chinesium thé; et de chocolate. Frontispiece to the tea treatise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DRINKING SONGS

Would the King’s Dining Hall have ever resounded with drinking songs? Probably not, because the Founder’s statutes dictated that conversation in the Hall be conducted in Latin ‘unless a reasonable cause requires otherwise’, and always in a ‘modest and courtly’ fashion. Theological tracts were to be read at dinner, in good monastic style.

But such strictures don’t govern the College’s Rowe Music Library which has more than its fair share of music related to food and drink. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, one of the most common forms of popular song was the catch, a type of round. So-called catch and glee clubs sprang up in towns and cities, populated by men who liked to combine singing with feasting. While many catches of this period were bawdy in nature, at least as common was the subject of food and drink, with Henry Purcell, the greatest English composer of his generation, contributing to the repertoire such gems as ‘I gave her cakes and I gave her ale’, ‘He that drinks is immortal’ and ‘Wine in a morning makes us frolic and gay’. This catch in praise of punch is by Thomas Tudway (c. 1650–1726), organist of King’s College from 1670 until his death. The ‘S’ mark on the second stave shows the point at which the second voice should enter.

Thomas Tudway, ‘A Catch upon a Liquor call’d Punch’, in The Second Book of the Catch Club or Merry Companions (London, c. 1731) (Shelfmark: Rw.112.77)

The song sheet was ubiquitous in the early eighteenth century, with prints of love songs and operatic arias both available in abundance. This perhaps understandably anonymous song, ‘The Double Entendre’, appears at first sight to be about a maiden drinking a glass of wine, but each verse leaves open the possibility of a double meaning at the end of its third line, before things are resolved (after a pause and a playful ‘tal-lal-lal-lal’) with propriety. This song contains an optional flute part doubling the melody printed at the bottom, a practice common at the time.

‘The Double Entendre’ (London, c. 1730) (Shelfmark: Rw.110.25/71)

good taste

When it comes to sharing food with others one should properly consider etiquette. John Tresidder Sheppard (1881–1968, KC 1900, Provost 1933–54) was elected to the debating society known as The Cambridge Apostles in 1902. In 1903 he presented a paper styled ‘May we eat cheese with a knife?’ in which he considered, among other things, the question of bad manners. He opined that vulgarity of manners is due to the shock that others experience when witnessing, for example, ‘the knife-tip in the mouth’ rather than that the person committing the offense, or the offense itself, is somehow inherently vulgar.

Paper read by JT Sheppard to the Apostles, 6 June 1903 (Ref: JTS/1/3/2). Page 1

Paper read by JT Sheppard to the Apostles (Ref: JTS/1/3/2). Pages 5-6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Apostles gave their customary impenetrable vote on his question:

Apostles’ vote on Sheppard’s paper, 6 June 1903 (Ref: KCAS/39/1/14)

how they made it

Another Kingsman, Osbert Burdett (1885–1936, KC 1903) also took the subject of cheese rather seriously. He wrote books about Blake and Gladstone (among others) as well as his rather humorous book A Little Book of Cheese which surveys English and foreign cheeses, shares some recipes and also incorporates tantalising titbits about the monstrous nature of smoking whilst enjoying cheese, all the while presenting us with curious facts such as which cheese was Thomas Hardy’s favourite!

Osbert Burdett, A Little Book of Cheese (London: Howe, 1935) (Shelfmark: UXL PSU Bur). Title page

Osbert Burdett, A Little Book of Cheese. Introduction

Osbert Burdett, A Little Book of Cheese. Page 87

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, cheese is all very good, but what if you have a sweet tooth? In this charming little book, the Banbury cake—one of the more erudite cakes that we have—tells its own story! Banbury cakes have been made in Banbury in Oxfordshire since the sixteenth century. During the eighteenth century the recipe had become more similar to Eccles cakes, but had originally enjoyed a filling of currants, mixed peel, brown sugar, rum and nutmeg encased in an oval of pastry. Appropriate for afternoon tea, and often stocked in railway stations as well as being sent as far afield as Australia and America, Banbury cakes were also presented to Queen Victoria on her way to Balmoral each August.

The History of a Banbury Cake: an entertaining book for children (Banbury, 1830s) (Shelfmark: Rylands.C.Banb). Title page

The History of a Banbury Cake. Preface and Opening

Staying with children’s literature, here we have the first edition of Beatrix Potter’s story The Pie and the Patty-Pan, which tells the story of a cat called Ribby who invites a dog named Duchess for afternoon tea, for whom Ribby bakes a mouse pie. The book remained one of Potter’s favourites, and the illustrations are considered to be some of her most beautiful.

Beatrix Potter, The Pie and the Patty-Pan (London, 1905) (Shelfmark: Rylands.C.Pot.Pie.1905.a). Title page

Potter, The Pie and the Patty-Pan. Ribby baking the pie made of mouse.

Potter, The Pie and the Patty-Pan. Description of the pie made of mouse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OK, that’s quite enough frivolity: time to get serious. Only the most ardent researcher of food history would attempt this enormous tome (852 pages) all about the techniques and history of canning food! That being said, it includes fascinating morsels about one of the most important men in the history of preserving food from whose research we have all benefited. Nicolas Appert (1749–1841), known as ‘the father of canning’, devised his new method for conserving foods by experimenting with placing them in air-tight glass jars that were then subject to heat. He published his results in 1810 in Paris as L’Art de conserver, pendant plusieurs années, toutes les substances animales et végétales. We’re sure many a feast has been had throughout the country after the shops have closed by raiding the back of the larder for tins of preserved food!

AW Bitting, Appertizing; or, The art of Canning; Its History and Development by A.W. Bitting (San Fransisco, 1937) (Shelfmark: CXM T Bit). Title page

Nicolas Appert (1749–1841)

Facsimile title page of Nicolas Appert’s treatise L’Art de Conserver (Paris, 1810)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One cannot have a discussion about food without mentioning Apicius. Also known as De re culinaria or De re coquinaria (On the Subject of Cooking), Apicius is a collection of Roman recipes, thought to have been compiled in the first century AD. It has been attributed to various historical figures named Apicius, including the gourmet Marcus Gavius Apicius, although the connection is impossible to prove. The first printed edition appeared in Milan in 1498. Our edition, of which only 100 copies were printed, dates from 1709 and includes a commentary by Martin Lister (1639–1712), the English physician and naturalist, who related the material in the original work to medicine and healing.

Apicii Coelii De opsoniis et condimentis: sive arte coquinaria, libri decem. cum annotationibus Martini Lister (Amsterdam, 1709) (Shelfmark: M.37.52). Title page

Apicii Coelii De opsoniis et condimentis. Engraved frontispiece

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting down to the nitty gritty of making food at King’s, bear in mind that the cooks were preparing food for around 100 fellows, scholars, choristers, lay clerks, chaplains and servants. Judging by the inventories, they seem to have had to do so in a kitchen less well-equipped than most modern British households. The kitchen inventory for 1598 (updated in 1605) notes 8 pots and pans with only 2 lids (for oven cooking), with the various necessary ironwork and tripods for suspending them over the fire (admittedly not part of most modern kitchens), a single set of bellows and tongs (the coal rake went missing sometime between 1598 and 1605), 4 skillets, 2 grills and an iron peele (for putting things into the oven and retrieving them again). There were only 2 ladles and 2 cooking spoons listed, 2 knives and a cleaver, a single colander and a grater. There was a mortar and pestle and also a querne for grinding the mustard. The food had to fit on 3 meat serving plates and 14 pie plates but there were dozens of other dishes and platters. Storage consisted of two large lead cisterns (presumably for water), a box (presumably wooden) for oatmeal and various probably wooden pails and tubs. What did they want with a wheelbarrow?

The King’s College kitchen inventory for 1598 and 1605 (Ref: KCAR/4/1/5/5, opening 19)

The brewhouse inventory in that same volume lists mash vats, wort vats, coolers, tuns, a fire fork and coal rake, pails, copper kettles and funnels, a pair of scales, 2 bushel baskets and a French fan, a hops basket and a horsemill. The bakery was equipped with, among other things, 2 stonking lead weights of 100 pounds each, and 2 smaller weights of 24 pounds each. 

Where they got it

Who supplied our brewer and baker? An early College experiment with self-sufficiency in the form of a home farm in Grantchester had proven non-viable and certainly by 1570 the College got much of its wheat and malt as rent from our properties (endowed at the College’s foundation or acquired later), or bought it in the Cambridge markets and fairs. The cost depended upon whether it was delivered to College or not, and whether the barley was malted or not (we had a malt house) but it was definitely ground in the College’s mill house by the College’s mill horse. For example, one Grantchester tenant had to provide from his holding an annual rent of 40 shillings in addition to ‘halfe a quarter of good and marchandizable wheate sweete cleane and well dressed and three quarters & a halfe of good & marchandizable malt of Barley well dried and cleene, eight to be allowed by the [College] bruer to be delivered yearley’ to the College during Michaelmas term.

Part of a lease between King’s College and Otewell Hill for land in Grantchester, 2 October 1585 (Ref: KCAR/3/3/1/1/2, page 373)

For meat and fruit, by the late sixteenth century the College had an orchard, a swan house and a pigeon house. Beef, like malt and wheat, was sometimes part of the rent due to us. For example the tenant at Prescot in Lancashire had to deliver ’12 fatt oxen, of a lardge bone, soe that the Bulke or Fower quarters of every of the said Twelve Oxen, killed [and with the organs removed], shall weigh ffortie Stone at the least … or else … Twentie pounds of good & Lawfull money of England, in lieu & full recompense’.

Part of a lease between King’s College and Charles Lord Strang (son and heir apparent to the Earl of Derby), 15 May 1649. (Ref: KCAR/3/3/1/1/5 fo 76v)

Large quantities of mutton and beef were also purchased: in the 1579–80 financial year for example, 1,757 stone of beef was bought (equivalent to over 10,000 kg) as well as about 750 sheep. 800 cod, 15 lings and two barrels of preserved herring were bought, and expenses for veal, milk, rabbits, pork, chickens and eggs all appear at feast times in the dining accounts, so apparently the College had no fish ponds, dairy herds, coney warrens, pigsties and/or hen houses. At least in 1533 we had bees, because we repaid the Vice-Provost 2 shillings 8 pence for bee skeps (skepes pro apibus) and clay vessels (vasilibus luteis).

Beekeeping expenses in the annual accounts for late summer 1533 (Ref: KCAR/4/1/1/10, exp. nec.)

Vegetables possibly came from a kitchen garden. Certainly there was a kitchen garden by 1899, and at some point pigs had been introduced: ‘The produce of our 2 kitchen gardens (about 7 acres) and orchard (about 1 acre – very poor) … includes early + late vinery, tomato + cucumber houses, greenhouses + forcing pits … all the plant houses have been rebuilt one by one since I took then over in 1893 and the orchard has been largely replanted. Pigs were formerly a great feature but I have abolished them … I recommend tomatos strongly – not cucumbers … Grape growing cannot be done cheaply on a small scale … The great use of the garden is to supply vegetables quite fresh and in variety. For instance except in full summer quite fresh salads are scarcely to be bought, and even then there is little but cos lettuce.’

Pages from a letter to the Bursar from the Head Gardener (25 May 1899) (Ref: KCD/26 pages 1, 4, 5, 6)

That’s the final course of our offerings at this sitting.

Bon appétit!

an invitation

The special collections are open to visitors by appointment. For further information email library@kings.cam.ac.uk or archivist@kings.cam.ac.uk.

Further Reading

Purchases of food are listed in the Commons Books (described here) and the Mundum Books (described here).

Copies of leases are found in the Ledger Books (described here).

For a discussion of the price of wheat around 1900, see Minchinton, W. E. “Agricultural Returns and the Government during the Napoleonic Wars.” The Agricultural History Review, vol. 1, no. 1, 1953, pp. 29–43.

This exhibition is part of the 2021 Open Cambridge Festival on the 2021 Heritage Open Day theme of ‘Edible England’. Details of all the other events can be found at https://www.opencambridge.cam.ac.uk/events

 

GB/JC/PKM

A concert in Cambridge, 1767

In the Rowe Music Library at King’s College hangs a copy of this engraving, which shows seven local musicians performing at a concert that took place in the hall of Christ’s College on 8 June 1767. Tickets cost two shillings and sixpence.

The etching is attributed to Abraham Hume, after a drawing by Thomas Orde. Hume (1749-1838), later a Baronet, would have been eighteen years old at the time of the concert and a Fellow-Commoner at Trinity College. Orde (1746-1807), later Orde-Powlett, 1st Baron Bolton, was an undergraduate at King’s. Within a few years of graduating both men had been elected Tory MPs.

The personnel depicted are given in pencil at the foot of the engraving as: ‘Hallendale / Newell Senr. / Rennish / West / Wynn / Newell Junr. / Wood’. Exploring the backgrounds of these musicians helps to build up a picture of the Cambridge music scene 250 years ago that is impressively cosmopolitan.

The most arresting-looking individual in the picture is perhaps the severe-faced cellist in the centre, staring the viewer down through his spectacles. Although called ‘West’ in the Rowe copy, a name that has proved a dead end, another copy identifies him more fruitfully as ‘Alexis’, which suggests he is likely to be Alexis Magito, a Dutch-born musician who worked in England from the 1750s onwards. At around the time of this concert, an edition of a set of six sonatas for cello and double bass composed by Magito was published by the Cambridge music seller John Wynne, the bassist standing to the right of Magito in the picture. Wynne kept a music shop near the Senate House, ‘at the sign of the Harp and Hautboy’.

Rw.16.21, Alexis Magito, Six sonatas for the violoncello & basso, opera prima

There is no harp in Hume’s picture, but there is a hautboy, or oboe, being played by John Ranish, who stands to the left of Magito in a more than usually full-bodied wig. Ranish, named ‘Rennish’ in the Rowe copy, was probably of Eastern European stock (Christopher Hogwood suggests his name may have been Anglicised from ‘Wranisch’), and at the time of the concert had been established as an oboist and flautist in Cambridge for some time. His 1777 obituary in the Cambridge Chronicle and Journal claims he ‘always supported the character of a gentleman, and was respected by all that knew him’.

The man seated at a mysterious instrument to the right of Wynne and identified in the Rowe copy as ‘Newell Junr.’ is in fact the Portuguese musician Georg Noëlli, and the mysterious instrument is the pantalon or pantaleon (or indeed ‘Panthaleone’, as the concert’s advertisement in the Cambridge Chronicle and Journal has it). This was a large form of hammered dulcimer invented by the German musician Pantaleon Hebenstreit (1668-1750) and named after him by Louis XIV of France, who had been impressed by the instrument when Hebenstreit paid a visit to the court in 1705. Noëlli had studied with Hebenstreit, and in 1767 seems to have been on a tour of England: a Worcester newspaper boasts of his appearance there playing an instrument ‘eleven feet in length [with] 276 strings of different magnitudes’. Clearly the engraving does not fully communicate the sheer length of Noëlli’s pantalon.

The most distinguished musician in the picture, though, is probably Pieter Hellendaal, the violinist standing on the far left. Born in Rotterdam in 1721, he studied violin with Tartini in his youth, and in the 1750s moved to England, working in London and King’s Lynn. He settled in Cambridge in 1762, where he held musical posts at Pembroke College (then Pembroke Hall) and Peterhouse (then St Peter’s College). He died in 1799 and is buried in the shadow of Peterhouse, in the churchyard at Little St Mary’s.

Although several of the musicians pictured were composers as well as performers, Hellendaal’s music was the most widely published, both in London by a variety of publishers, and, as the title pages of editions in the Rowe Library attest, closer to home, ‘at the author’s house in Trompington Street, opposite St. Peter’s Colledge’. The Fitzwilliam Museum possesses a set of sonatas by Hellendaal in manuscript, six of which have been recorded recently by the performers in the video below, to general acclaim. If you would like to raise a glass to Hellendaal, this is a good time to do it: he was baptised on 1 April 1721, so this week may be taken to be the 300th anniversary of his birth!

Bibliography

Hanks, S.E. (1969) ‘Pantaleon’s pantalon: an 18th-century musical fashion’, The Musical Quarterly, 55(2), pp. 215-227.

Hogwood, C. (1983) ‘A note on the frontispiece: A concert in Cambridge’, in Hogwood, C. & Luckett, R. (eds.), Music in eighteenth-century England: essays in memory of Charles Cudworth. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. xv-xviii.

GB

A colourful treat for the eyes

Within a slim unassuming volume drawn from amongst the books bequeathed to the College by the economist John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) are bound a set of glorious colour drawings of figures by Gabriel Beranger (1729-1817).

Beranger was an artist and landscape draughtsman who was born in Rotterdam but moved to Ireland in 1750 and did most of his work in that country. Initially focusing on Dublin and its environs, he produced many fine drawings of buildings, scenery and antiquities. Later he widened his scope by embarking upon sketching tours around the country. Many of these drawings are preserved in the Royal Irish Academy and act as an important historical record of the times.

The drawings featured in the volume from the Keynes Collection depict beautifully dressed men and women of various different nationalities, alongside a few mythological figures, such as Diana the huntress. We share them here as a much-needed splash of colour in these dark times. Enjoy!

Keynes.P.6.17, Plate 1: An Arcadian shepherdess


Keynes.P.6.17, Plate 2: A Parisian shepherd


Keynes.P.6.17, Plate
3: A Calabrian shepherdess


Keynes.P.6.17, Plate 4: An Asturian hay maker


Keyes.P.6.17, Plate 5: An Arrogonese lady

Keynes.P.6.17, Plate 6: An English tar

Keynes.P.6.17, Plate 7: A Georgian shepherdess

Keynes.P.6.17, Plate 8: A Florentine lady

Keynes.P.6.17, Plate 9: A Segovian gardener

Keynes.P.6.17, Plate 10: A Scandinavian miner

Keynes.P.6.17, Plate 11: An Algarvian milk maid

Keynes.P.6.17, Plate 12: A Milanese flower girl

Keynes.P.6.17, Plate 13: The fairy queen

Keynes.P.6.17, Plate 14: A Spanish lady

Keynes.P.6.17, Plate 15: A Ferrarese dancer

Keynes.P.6.17, Plate 16: Diana

Keynes.P.6.17, Plate 17: An Italian dancer

Keynes.P.6.17, Plate 18: A Piedmontese flower girl

Keynes.P.6.17, Plate 19: Flora


Keynes.P.6.17, Plate 20: A Chinese lady

AC

Theatrical connections: Gertrude Kingston and George Bernard Shaw

In 1941, Kingsman Judge Edwin Max Konstam C.B.E. donated to the College a collection of books and papers from the library of his late sister, the acclaimed actress Gertrude Kingston (1862–1937).

Portrait of Gertrude Kingston

Gertrude Kingston (1862–1937) Portrait by Sidney Starr, 1888

Kingston (born Gertrude Angela Kohnstamm) had many strings to her bow. Passionate about art from an early age, she studied painting in Paris and Berlin, going on to publish three illustrated books. She developed an interest in lacquer  work and exhibited her creations in this medium in New York in 1927. She was a popular public speaker, using this talent initially on behalf of the women’s suffrage movement, and later in life also for the Conservative Party.  She taught public speaking to others, and wrote many journalistic articles.

However, it was as an actress that Kingston was best known. Her acting career moved from amateur involvement as a child to professional work after her marriage in 1889, necessitated by deficiencies in her husband’s income.  Adopting Kingston as her stage name, she made a reputation for herself on the London stage, acting in Shakespearean and classical as well as contemporary roles. One of the most notable of these roles was as Helen of Troy in Euripides’ The Trojan Women. Kingston undertook this role at the suggestion of playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950).

Kingston appeared in a number of productions of Shaw’s plays, and seems to have been highly regarded by him. The pair were in regular correspondence, as the large number of letters from Shaw to Kingston amongst the papers given to the College by her brother testify. Kingston also owned several copies of early published editions of Shaw’s plays, some of which are likely to have been her working copies, since they contain performance annotations.

One of the earliest of Shaw’s plays in Kingston’s collection is a first edition of Press Cuttings dating from 1909. This play is a satire of the anti-suffragist lobby, so is likely to have appealed to her feminist sensibilities. The cover has a label proclaiming “Votes for women”:

Cover of the play "Press cuttings" by George Bernard Shaw

Cover of the first edition of George Bernard Shaw’s play Press cuttings London, 1909. Shelfmark N.28.5

The title character of Shaw’s play Great Catherine was written specifically for Kingston,  and in November 1913 she duly starred in its first production at the Vaudeville Theatre in London.

Great Catherine cast note

Note detailing the cast of the first performance of Great Catherine in 1913, with Gertrude Kingston in the starring role. From the flyleaf of Great Catherine, London, 1914. Shelfmark N.28.4

Shaw’s inscription on the half-title page of Kingston’s copy of Heartbreak House, Great Catherine, and playlets of the war identifies her closely with the lead role and underlines the high regard he had for her:

Inscription by George Bernard Shaw

Half-title page of Heartbreak House, Great Catherine and playlets of the war, London, 1919. Shelfmark N.28.2. Shaw’s inscription reads: “To Gertrude Kingston, Catherine the second, but also Catherine the first (and the rest nowhere) from Bernard Shaw. 10th Oct 1919”

Kingston’s personal copy of Great Catherine is an early unpublished rough proof:

Rough proof copy of "Great Catherine" by Bernard Shaw

Great Catherine, London, 1914. Unpublished proof copy. Shelfmark N.28.4

This is one of the volumes containing pencil annotations within the text, likely to have been made by Kingston in order to help guide her performance:

Textual annotations

Annotations to page 5 of Great Catherine, London, 1914. Shelfmark N.28.4

In 1921 Gertrude Kingston joined the British Rhine Army Dramatic Company in Germany. She reprised the role of Lady Waynflete in Shaw’s 1901 play Captain Brassbound’s Conversion, having first played this character in 1912. The front cover of Kingston’s copy of this play gives instructions in several languages on where it should be returned if she should happen to misplace it:

Front cover of Captain Brassbound's conversion

Front cover of Captain Brassbound’s Conversion, London, 1920. Shelfmark N.28.6

Tucked inside the play is a leaflet advertising this production and other forthcoming “Army amusements” at other theatres:

Theatrical leaflet

Front cover of Army Amusements leaflet, 1921

Theatrical leaflet

Centre-page spread of Army Amusements leaflet, 1921

Collections such as these provide a fascinating glimpse into a long-vanished theatrical world.

AC

References

Kate Steedman, “Kingston, Gertrude [real name Gertrude Angela Kohnstamm] (1862–1937), actress.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 Sep. 2004; Accessed 16 Apr. 2020.

Friendship across the ocean: Mark Twain and Sir John MacAlister

A recent foray into one of our rare book storerooms for the purposes of cataloguing has brought to our immediate awareness a wonderful collection of books by Mark Twain, many of which feature inscriptions and quotes in the author’s own hand. These volumes were originally owned by Sir John Young Walker MacAlister (1856-1925), a close friend of Twain, and were given to the college by MacAlister’s son, Kingsman Donald MacAlister (1875-1968).

Photo of Sir John Young Walker MacAlister

Sir John Young Walker MacAlister  (1856-1925) Portrait photo courtesy of Wellcome Trust

Portrait of Mark Twain

Portrait of Mark Twain (1835-1910) from the frontispiece to Innocents abroad, London, 1899. Classmark: N.28.55

John MacAlister belonged to a profession dear to our hearts: librarianship. He was instrumental in building up the fledgling Library Association from a small London-based group into a large professional nationwide organisation, worthy of obtaining a Royal Charter in 1877. Editor of The Library Journal for many years, he wrote extensively about the principles of librarianship, developing many of the ideas which still underpin the profession today.

MacAlister had a wide circle of friends in intellectual spheres, including Mark Twain, with whom he corresponded regularly. They also socialised during periods when Twain was living in England, often getting together to chat and smoke. In June 1899, MacAlister took Twain to his gentleman’s club: The Savage. With very little prompting, the club committee duly elected Twain an honorary lifetime member. Noted caricaturist, Phil May (1864-1903) was also present and produced a cartoon to commemorate the occasion, which shows both Twain and MacAlister. The date of 1900 on the cartoon is thought to be May’s idea of a “prophecy” for the following year. It is unclear who the gentleman with the saw is supposed to be.

Cartoon of Twain and MacAlister at the Savage club

Cartoon by Phil May commemorating the Savage Club dinner on June 9th 1899. Illustration from: “The Savage Club: a medley of history, anecdote, and reminiscence”  by Aaron Watson: London, 1907

Twain was liberal in inscribing and adding pithy quotations to those volumes of his works which he presented to MacAlister. Featured below are just a  small selection of these:

Inscription by Mark Twain

“To MacAlister. “Truth is mighty and will prevail – the eternal years of God are hers” Bryant. There is nothing the matter with this, except that it Ain’t so. Truly yours Mark Twain. London, Feb. 19, 1900″ Inscription on the flyleaf of Innocents abroad, London, 1899. Classmark: N.28.55

Mark Twain quote

Inscription by Twain: “The man who is a pessimist before 48 knows too much; if he is an optimist after it he knows too little” On a sheet interleaved in a bound volume of chapters from Twain’s serialised autobiography. Classmark: N.28.57 

Mark Twain quote

“We often feel sad in the presence of music without words: & often more than that in the presence of music without music”. From another interleaved sheet in the volume of autobiography. Classmark: N.28.57

Several of the volumes are first or limited editions, including this copy of the first edition of the novel The man that corrupted Hadleyburg, with its colourful front cover:

Cover of "The man that corrupted Hadleyburg"

Cover of The man that corrupted Hadleyburg, by Mark Twain. London, 1900. Classmark: N.28.56

The signed edition statement of Innocents abroad identifies it as one of only 620 copies published:

Signed edition statement

Edition statement from MacAlister’s copy of “Innocents abroad” London, 1899. Classmark: N.28.55

Mark Twain was diligent in recording the story of his life whilst he lived it, but was determined that no memoirs be published in book form during his lifetime. In 1906 however, he did agree to allow some chapters of his autobiography to appear in serialised form in the North American Review. John MacAlister took it upon himself to collect these chapters and have them bound together into one volume. When informed of this, Twain, far from being cross, caused a special title-page to be printed for this unique volume, which he sent to MacAlister. The imprint states: “The only copy – MacAlister’s”.

Unique title page

Unique title page created by Mark Twain for John MacAlister. London, 1906-7. Classmark: N.28.57

Tucked inside this volume is the envelope in which the title page was sent. It is addressed in Twain’s own hand:

Envelope addressed by Mark Twain

Envelope addressed by Mark Twain, tucked inside N.28.57

The volumes of Twain’s works from MacAlister’s library clearly reflect the warm and longstanding friendship between the two men, which spanned many years and an ocean.

AC

References:

Death of a Librarian  by Lynn Macalister, accessed 24/04/2020

Mark Twain Day by Day by David Fears, accessed 24/04/2020

The Savage Club: a medley of history, anecdote, and reminiscence  by Aaron Watson, London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1907.