Jane Austen Open Day at King’s College Library

The 18 July 2017 marks the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen, and King’s College Library joins the commemorations with an exhibition showcasing rare first editions of all of her novels, the autograph manuscript of her unfinished novel Sanditon, a manuscript letter to her publisher, a book from her library, early translations of her novels, and other rare treasures.

If you would like to find out more about one of Britain’s most loved novelists, why not pop in when you are in town. This free exhibition is open to all and can be viewed only on Tuesday 18 July 2017 between 10am and 4pm, in King’s College’s beautiful early nineteenth-century library.

The interior of King’s College Library

Upon arrival at the front gate of King’s College, tell the member of staff on duty (or the porters) that you are visiting the Jane Austen exhibition. They will direct you to the College Library (see map below).

When you reach the Library, simply press the buzzer on the main door and one of the Library team will let you in and welcome you to the Library.

How to find King’s College Library

Exhibition DATE: 18 July 2017

Opening times: 10am-4pm

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Cheyne Links with King’s

Charles Robert Ashbee (1863-1942) came up to King’s College in 1883 and read History. The friends he made in Cambridge and the books he read contributed to his development into what biographer Alan Crawford described as an ‘Architect, Designer & Romantic Socialist’. Ashbee’s memoirs came to King’s a few years after he died, with his ‘journals’ (correspondence and scrapbooks bound together) and some genealogical papers given by his widow ten years later. With the death of their daughter Felicity in 2008, the last large tranche of Ashbee papers came to King’s, including his Jerusalem papers (for more on which see this online exhibition).

But in May we were given two more drawings by C. R. Ashbee and they’re rapidly becoming some of my favourite things. The first drawing is a design for a crucifix medallion. It’s stamped ‘This design is the property of The Guild of Handicraft Ltd … Chipping Campden, Glos. and is to be returned to them’ with the design number and date added by hand. It’s labelled ‘Silver Cross, enamelled & chased’. At 7 mm diameter, it’s probably drawn life-size.

CRA/100. Guild of Handicraft design for a crucifix medallion

CRA/100 (detail). Silver Cross, enamelled & chased

The other drawing, which is too big for us to reproduce for the blog, is floorplans for a house that Ashbee designed for 37 Cheyne Walk in Chelsea, called ‘Magpie & Stump’ after an ancient pub once run on the site (see the ‘Places’ section of the ‘Summary’ tab here). The Victoria and Albert Museum holds in its collection the elevation of that building.

Ashbee’s parents separated in 1893, his mother bought the freehold of 37 Cheyne Walk and he designed the house for her and her unmarried daughters. Ashbee lived there as well, doing a fair business as an architect (he built 6 more houses on Cheyne Walk over the next 20 years, but only 2 survive) while also managing the Guild he had begun in 1888.

CRA/23, f4. 37-39 Cheyne Walk (The Ancient Magpie and Stump is the nearest) as published in Neubauten in London (Berlin, 1900)

If you’re in Cambridge you can see the drawings themselves during the Long Vacation 2017, displayed in the exhibition cases in the Archives Centre Reading Room. See Getting to the Archive Centre. There is no need to book an appointment just to look at the exhibition. More permanently, and to learn more about C. R. Ashbee and see more of his papers, visit our on-line exhibitions page about him. And when the Chapel is open to visitors you can see the frame Ashbee designed for a painting he gave to the College in the 1930s, Madonna in the Rosary which can also be seen in the Chapel virtual tour (Click ‘Navigate the Chapel’ and then click on the link to ‘Visit St Edward’s Chapel’ in the top right/northeast corner).

To satisfy patient readers who have come this far, there is another Cheyne link with King’s which was brought to my attention by a colleague. T. S. Eliot lived with John Davy Hayward (1905-65, King’s College 1923) in 19 Carlyle Mansions at 122 Cheyne Walk, for ten years after WW2. Because of this friendship and co-habitation, Hayward collected many Eliot drafts, some letters, ephemeral publications, first editions and proof copies of Eliot’s works, which form the Hayward Bequest of T. S. Eliot material.

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Library History: An Online Exhibition

A couple of months ago we curated an exhibition featuring items highlighting various aspects of the history of King’s College Library over the centuries. Below you will find some of the exhibits.

From the late sixteenth century until the current library opened in 1828, King’s Library occupied five of the side chapels on the south side of the famous Chapel. For most of this period it was a chained library. This book is one of a few to have survived with the original chains intact.

Pierre Bersuire, Dictionarii seu repertorii moralis
Venice: Gaspare Bindoni, 1589 (D.13.3)

Theatre was one of John Maynard Keynes’ particular areas of interest and his book collection includes many plays. He founded the Cambridge Arts Theatre in 1936. This is a reprint of the second quarto of Romeo and Juliet that was published in 1599. All modern editions are based on this version, which is considered to be the most complete and reliable text of the play.

William Shakespeare, The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedie, of Romeo and Juliet
London: Printed [by William Stansby] for John Smethwicke, [1622] (Keynes.C.6.4)

In 1638 Thomas Goad, a Kingsman and the son of Provost Roger Goad, who had been responsible for restoring the Library in the side chapels in King’s after a period of neglect, made provision in his will for the annual profit from some land he owned at Milton (near Cambridge) to be used in perpetuity to purchase divinity books for the Library. This was listed each year thereafter in the bursar’s account books as ‘Library Money’, and was spent on books and the upkeep of the bookcases and building.

Bursar’s book for 1697–98 (KCAR/4/1/4/106)

This is one of the books listed on the inventory of books bought in 1697–98: paid ‘to Mr. Bugg for his book’. In this case the book appears to have been bought directly from the author.

Francis Bugg, The Pilgrim’s Progress, from Quakerism, to Christianity
London: W. Kettleby, 1698 (D.13.3)

The volume below records donors of books to King’s College Library from about 1600 to about 1710, with details of the volumes they donated. On this page we see details of donations from three Provosts of King’s: Roger Goad, William Smith and Fogge Newton. The volume seems to have left King’s at some point in the 18th century, but was returned in 1784 as a note on the front flyleaf explains:

‘This book was given by the Revd Dr Farmer in 1784. He had found it at a Booksellers, & purchased it that it might be returned to the College. Wm Cooke’

Nomina eorum qu[i bibliothecam] Regalem sua munifice[ntia] locupletarunt [Donors’ Book]
(KCAC/6/2/29)

Finally, three historic bindings from the Thackeray Collection:

TOP LEFT: Calf armorial binding with the arms of Percy Clinton Sydney Smythe, 6th Viscount Strangford (1780-1855) (Thackeray.141)
TOP RIGHT: 16th-century manuscript waste binding consisting of a contemporary vellum sheet (stab-sewn) featuring part of the Psalms in textura quadrata with initials illuminated in red and blue (Thackeray.182)
BOTTOM: 19th-century blue goat skin stamped in gold (Thackeray.136)

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A Regal Book of Hours

As we’re approaching Easter, we thought we would share some topical images from a beautiful book of hours recently discovered in the Thackeray collection. Books of hours were medieval devotional books often lavishly illustrated with illuminations and decorations. They usually contained an almanac, selections from the Gospels and Psalms, and various prayers and devotions. With the advent of printing in the fifteenth century, books of hours became more affordable, and manuscript versions were only produced for wealthy individuals.

Title page of Hore diue [vir]ginis Marie, s[e]c[un]d[u]m veru[m] vsum Romanu[m] with printer’s device at head of title (Paris: Thielmann Kerver, 1505; Thackeray.210)

This volume was published in Paris in 1505, and is remarkable in that it is printed entirely on vellum:

The beginning of the almanac for the years 1497-1520

The text is printed in red and black with initials illuminated in red, blue and gold; each page is surrounded by an ornamental woodcut border:

Leaf C3 recto showing illuminations in red, blue and gold

The book also contains many full-page as well as smaller woodcuts. Below is a depiction of the Annunciation:

The Annunciation: the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will become the mother of Jesus

Books of hours often contained the Little Office of Our Lady, also known as Hours of the Virgin, a liturgical prayer to the Virgin Mary:

“Domine labia mea aperies”: the beginning of the Office of our Blessed Lady

Below is a woodcut of the Tree of Jesse, an artistic representation of Jesus’s ancestors:

“Egredietur virga de radice iesse: & flos de radice eius ascendet”  [“there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots”]  (Isaiah 11:1)

Books of hours also contain a selection from each of the four Gospels:

“Initiu[m] s[an]cti euangelii s[e]c[un]d[u]m ioha[n]ne[m]”: the beginning of the Gospel of St. John. The engraving depicts the Evangelist being boiled in oil in Rome in front of the Porta Latina.

This book also has a fascinating history behind it. On the recto of the third fly-leaf is an ownership inscription in German: “Daß püechlein ist fon ihr Gräffin fon Ermelstein”. Underneath it is a hand-drawn coat of arms with the following Latin inscription: “Commitisse de Ermelstein libellus iste spectat, ex dono Caesareae M[aiestat]is Imperatricis Eleonorae dictae Comitisse elargito anno .14. electionis suae in camerariam eiusdem maiestatis suae. E”:

Ownership inscription by the Countess of Ermelstein

The inscription appears to be by the Countess of Ermelstein, who received the book as a gift from Empress Eleonore Magdalene of Neuburg (1655-1720) fourteen years after her coronation. As Eleonore was crowned Holy Roman Empress in 1690, the book must have been presented to the Countess of Ermelstein in 1704.

Happy Easter from everyone at King’s College Library and Archives.

The Crucifixion

The Man of Sorrows: Christ surrounded by the instruments of the Passion

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Thomas More’s Utopia: An Online Exhibition

To mark the 500th anniversary of the publication of Sir Thomas More’s Utopia (1516), King’s College Library mounted an exhibition showcasing rare early editions and translations of More’s seminal text. For those who did not have the opportunity to visit the exhibition, we provide here some selected highlights.

The exhibition ran from November 2016 to January 2017

The exhibition ran in King’s College Library from November 2016 to January 2017

Below is a rare copy of the second of five Latin editions of Utopia that appeared during Thomas More’s lifetime. First published in Louvain in 1516, the book describes a fictional island society and its religious and social practices. More envisaged an independent community that shared a common culture and values.

The title translates as: “Of a republic’s best state and of the new island Utopia”. The story is set in the New World, and references to Amerigo Vespucci and his voyages are made on leaf iii.

Thomas More, De optimo reipublicae statu, de[que] noua insula Vtopia [Paris]: Gilles de Gourmont, [1517] (Keynes.Ec.7.3.15)

Thomas More, De optimo reipublicae statu, de[que] noua insula Vtopia
[Paris]: Gilles de Gourmont, [1517] (Keynes.Ec.7.3.15)

The third edition of More’s Utopia was printed in Switzerland in March 1518. The woodcut title-page border was made by Hans Holbein the Younger (ca. 1497-1543), who went to England in 1526 looking for work with a recommendation from Erasmus. He was received into the humanist circle of Thomas More, and painted his portrait in 1527.

Thomas More, De optimo reip[ublicae] statu, deque noua insula Vtopia Basel: Johann Froben, March 1518 (Thackeray.J.46.7)

Thomas More, De optimo reip[ublicae] statu, deque noua insula Vtopia
Basel: Johann Froben, March 1518 (Thackeray.J.46.7)

The fourth edition of More’s Utopia was printed in Switzerland in November 1518. The woodcut on p. [12] is by Ambrosius Holbein, who collaborated with his brother Hans Holbein the Younger on the illustrations to this book. In the lower left corner, Raphael Hythlodaeus, the main character in the book, describes the island Utopia.

On the opposite page is the Utopian 22-letter alphabet, featuring letters in the shape of a circle, square, and triangle. These correspond almost precisely to the 23-letter Latin alphabet.

Thomas More, De optimo reip[ublicae] statu, deque noua insula Vtopia Basel: Johann Froben, November 1518 (Keynes.Ec7.03.17)

Thomas More, De optimo reip[ublicae] statu, deque noua insula Vtopia
Basel: Johann Froben, November 1518 (Keynes.Ec7.03.17)

The first French edition of More’s Utopia, translated by Jean Le Blond (1502-53), was illustrated with 12 woodcuts. Le Blond adapted the second Latin edition (1517), itself printed in Paris and the first edition to contain a letter by the French humanist Guillaume Budé, whom Erasmus defined as the “marvel of France”.

Thomas More, La Description de l’isle d’Vtopie ou est comprins le miroer des republicques du monde, & l’exemplaire de vie heureuse Paris: Charles L’Angelier, 1550 (Keynes.Cc.02.04/1)

Thomas More, La Description de l’isle d’Vtopie ou est comprins le miroer des republicques du monde, & l’exemplaire de vie heureuse
Paris: Charles L’Angelier, 1550 (Keynes.Cc.02.04/1)

Utopia was first published in England as an English translation by Ralph Robinson in 1551, sixteen years after More’s execution. This is a rare copy of the second revised translation printed in 1556.

Thomas More, A frutefull pleasaunt, & wittie worke, of the beste state of a publique weale, and of the newe yle, called Utopia London: [Richard Tottel for] Abraham Vele, [1556] (Keynes.Ec.7.3.18)

Thomas More, A frutefull pleasaunt, & wittie worke, of the beste state of a publique weale, and of the newe yle, called Utopia
London: [Richard Tottel for] Abraham Vele, [1556] (Keynes.Ec.7.3.18)

The second major English translation of Utopia was undertaken by the Scottish philosopher and historian Gilbert Burnet (1643-1715), Bishop of Salisbury, in 1684. This is probably the most commonly quoted translation. 

Utopia: Written in Latin by Sir Thomas More, Chancellor of England London: Richard Chiswell, 1684 (Keynes.Cc.02.08)

Utopia: Written in Latin by Sir Thomas More, Chancellor of England
London: Richard Chiswell, 1684 (Keynes.Cc.02.08)

Utopia was first printed in 1516 under the editorship of Erasmus, a good friend of Thomas More. One of Erasmus’s best-known works, The Praise of Folly (1511), published under the double title Moriae encomium (Greek, Latinised) and Laus stultitiae (Latin), was dedicated to More, on whose name the title puns.

Desiderius Erasmus, Mōrias enkōmion = Stultitiae laus Basel: Johann Rudolph Genath, 1676 (Thackeray.J.46.6)

Desiderius Erasmus, Mōrias enkōmion = Stultitiae laus
Basel: Johann Rudolph Genath, 1676 (Thackeray.J.46.6)

This edition contains 83 etchings by Caspar Merian after drawings by Hans Holbein the Younger in the margins of a 1515 edition of the book preserved in the Basel University Library. Page 99 features a witty drawing of Folly.

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Dusty Tomes

If it appears it has been a little quiet on this blog recently, that is because since Christmas we have been busy cleaning our rare books with the help of a team of colleagues from our Housekeeping Department and with specialist training from a senior conservator. Those of us who work in memory institutions such as libraries, archives or museums are all custodians of our heritage looking after our special collections for the next generation. Rare books, like anything else, need to be looked after in the right conditions, and cleaned in order to keep them in good order and reduce the risk of problems arising.

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King’s Senior Assistant Librarian and Domestic Assistant cleaning rare books

At King’s we follow industry standards to ensure that our rare books are stored in the correct environments. We use air conditioners and dehumidifiers (where necessary) in our stores to ensure that conditions remain constant. Paper needs to be stored in the temperature range of 16 to 19 degrees celsius and at a relative humidity of between 45 and 60 percent. If the conditions become too warm and humid we run the risk of mould growth on the books, and if they become too dry and cold there is the risk that the paper becomes brittle and breaks. To ensure that we retain these levels, our stores are all monitored 24/7 and checked by a librarian every day.

dehumidifier-and-tinytag

A typical wall-mounted dehumidifer (background) and a device that constantly records the temperature and relative humidity (foreground).

Various pests can also cause considerable damage to rare books, including bookworms, silverfish and moths which are attracted to and will chew through the paper, leather or glues used in the making of books. Whilst all libraries have examples of books that have suffered such damage in the past, we do all we can to ensure such outbreaks do not recur.

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Worm holes (old) bored through the leather binding and upper board (front cover) of this sixteenth-century book.

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A typical library/museum adhesive insect trap

One measure used at King’s is to monitor regularly each rare book store using blunder traps, a small trap with a sticky surface which is placed at ground level and will trap any insect that walks into it. Monitoring these traps regularly allows us to discover quickly if there is an outbreak of a particular insect type in a rare book store and take appropriate action.

Preventing the build-up of dust and dirt helps in the fight against some of the problems outlined above. Cleaning rare books is a delicate process, however, as many will inevitably be in a more fragile state than a modern book, or might have beautiful hand-decorated bindings that have to be cleaned with the utmost care. Everyone doing the cleaning had to be trained in how to handle rare books.

Colleagues cleaning rare books. Here you can see a soft brush being used to brush the dust on the top fore-edge of the book away from the spine onto the tray beneath.

Colleagues cleaning rare books. Here you can see a soft brush being used to brush the dust on the top fore-edge of the book away from the spine onto the tray beneath.

The process involves removing all the books from one shelf (working from the top shelf down), cleaning the shelf, cleaning all the books individually, and then replacing them on the shelf. No chemicals can be used on or near rare books, and special fine brushes are used to dust the books, always brushing away from the spine to ensure the dirt and dust doesn’t build up in the spine. Those books that have more robust leather bindings can be ‘dry cleaned’ gently using a so-called ‘smoke sponge’ (made of vulcanized natural rubber) to remove surface dirt. We have also been making use of special conservation vacuum cleaners to hoover up dust and dirt. These have much lower suction levels than conventional vacuum cleaners and also come with a variety of fine, small brushes.

Some of the brushes and smoke sponge used for cleaning rare books.

Some of the brushes and smoke sponge used for cleaning rare books.

The result of all this work speaks for itself:

before-and-after_edited

A shelf of dusty and dirty books from the Thackeray Collection before and after cleaning.

This important work is part of our HLF-funded Thackeray Collection Project.

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Thomas More’s Utopia at King’s College Library

Ambrosius Holbein's engraving of the island of Utopia in Thomas More's De optimo reip[ublicae] statu, deque noua insula Vtopia (Basel: Johann Froben, March 1518) Thackeray.J.46.7

Ambrosius Holbein’s engraving of the island of Utopia in the third edition of Thomas More’s Utopia
(Basel: Johann Froben, 1518)
Thackeray.J.46.7

This year marks the 500th anniversary of the publication of Sir Thomas More’s seminal text Utopia (1516), and King’s College Library joins the celebrations with an exhibition showcasing rare early editions and translations of More’s Utopia, which describes life on a fictional island in the New World.

If you would like to escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and spend some time daydreaming about a utopian future, why not pop in when you are in town. This free exhibition is open to all and can be viewed until Friday 20th January 2017 between 2pm and 5pm, Monday to Friday, in King’s College’s beautiful early nineteenth-century library.

The interior of King’s College Library

The interior of King’s College Library

Upon arrival at the front gate of King’s College, tell the member of staff on duty (or the porters) that you are visiting King’s College Library’s Utopia exhibition. They will direct you to the College Library.

When you reach the Library, simply press the buzzer on the main door and one of the Library team will let you in and welcome you to the Library.

We look forward to seeing you!

How to find King’s College Library

How to find King’s College Library

Exhibition runs until: 20th January 2017

Opening times: 2-5pm, Monday-Friday

Closed: 23rd December 2016 to 2nd January 2017 (inclusive)

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