Tag Archives: JC

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)

GB/JC

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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JC

Hocus Pocus

A dilemma that cannot be answered by witch-mongersGiven that today many are celebrating Halloween it seems fitting to showcase a rare seventeenth-century book we’ve recently discovered in the Thackeray Collection on the subject of witchcraft. The book is the first edition of A Candle in the Dark, shewing the Divine Cause of the distractions of the whole Nation of England and of the Christian world written by Thomas Ady, of which only a handful of copies are extant. A Cambridge graduate, Ady was a physician, humanist and author of three books about witchcraft. He was a critical exposer of both persecutions for alleged witchcraft and practices such as fortune-telling which often led to witchcraft trials during the seventeenth century. It is estimated that 40,000-60,000 people were condemned to death as witches in Europe during the late-sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Title page

Thomas Ady, A Candle in the Dark (London, 1655), title page. (Shelfmark: Thackeray.I.6.18)

Published in London in 1655, A Candle in the Dark makes clear its intended audience through the following description on its title page: ‘this book is profitable to be read by all judges of assizes, before they passe the sentence of condemnation against poor people, who are accused for witchcraft; it is also profitable for all sorts of people to read who desire knowledge’. Like his opponents, Ady supported his arguments through reference to scripture in order to prove that it was both impossible for witches to exist and that it was indeed unchristian to accuse someone of witchcraft.

A Candle in the Dark, 'The Reason of the Book'.

Thomas Ady, A Candle in the Dark (1655), ‘The Reason of the Book’.

Ady’s volume begins with a section entitled ‘The Reason of the Book’ in which he laments: ‘the grand errour of these latter ages is ascribing power to witches, and by foolish imagination of mens brains, without grounds in the scriptures, wrongfull killing of the innocent under the name of witches; unto which idolatry and bloud-guiltiness (being as bad, or worse than the idolatry of the ancient Heathen) men are led as violently by fond imagination, as were the Ephesians to the worshipping of Diana …’ The volume is then divided into three books, the first ‘shewing what witches are in scripture-sense’, the second ‘shewing how grossly the scriptures have been mis-interpreted by antichrist concerning witches’, and the third ‘touching some erroneous English writers, who have upheld the same errors which antichrist hath broached to the world’. The volume includes discussions of divination, astrology, conjuring, the use of charms, oracles, soothsayers and necromancers.

Thomas Ady, A Candle in the Dark (London, 1655). ADD TO THIS

Thomas Ady, A Candle in the Dark (London, 1655). Ady discusses the various means of examination and torture in order to make people confess to witchcraft.

One particularly interesting facet of this book is that it contains one of the earliest known references to the phrase hocus pocus, a term used by magicians nowadays in much the same way as abracadabra, but when it was first coined conjurors perhaps could have expected such phrases to fool the audience into thinking mysterious forces were at work. Ady’s description is as follows:

The first [feature that juggling (i.e. conjuring) consists of] is profitably seen in our common juglers, that go up and down to play their tricks in fayrs and markets, I will speak of one man more excelling in that craft than others, that went about in King James his time, and long since, who called himself, The Kings Majesties most excellent Hocus Pocus, and so was he called, because that at the playing of every trick, he used to say, Hocus pocus, tontus talontus, vade celeriter jubeo, a dark composure of words, to blinde the eyes of the beholders, to make his Trick pass the more currantly without discovery…

hocus-pocus

Thomas Ady, A Candle in the Dark (1655). Ady discusses the use of the phrase hocus pocus by a seventeenth-century juglar (conjurer).

The arguments presented in this volume travelled far beyond the shores or our small island. One George Burroughs (c.1652-1692), who was originally born in Suffolk before being taken to Massachusetts where he was raised by his mother, was familiar with Ady’s work. An American congregational pastor, Burroughs became minister in Salem Village in 1680, a position he held until 1683 following a dispute with some of his parishioners. Based on the accusation of some personal enemies from his former congregation who had sued him for debt, Burroughs was arrested in April 1692 and accused of witchcraft. At his trial he used A Candle in the Dark in his defence, but, alas, to no avail as he was hanged on 19 August in that year in Salem, and was the only minister to suffer this fate. Shortly before his execution, Burroughs made a speech stating his innocence with such solemnity and to the admiration of so many present that his accusers claimed the devil was standing beside him dictating.

book-1

Thomas Ady, A Candle in the Dark (1655), p. 9.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

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JC

Celebrating Shakespeare at King’s Library

Shakespeare folio image

William Shakespeare as depicted on the title page of the first folio edition

This year is the quatercentenary of the death of William Shakespeare (1654–1616) and events are being held worldwide to celebrate the life and work of the UK’s most famous poet, playwright and actor, described by Ben Jonson as ‘not of an age, but for all time’. In this special year, thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, King’s College Library and Archives will be joining the festivities by hosting various events showcasing many of our rare book and archive treasures.

1. The interior of the Library

The interior of King’s College Library

Our first event is an exhibition celebrating Shakespeare and theatre in Cambridge which will be running until the end of August. This free exhibition is open to all and can be viewed between 2pm and 5pm Monday to Friday in King’s College’s beautiful early nineteenth-century library. If you would like to see some early editions of Shakespeare’s plays as well as some archival treasures, why not pop in and see us when you are in town.

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Upon arrival at the front gate of King’s College speak to the Visitor Guide on duty and tell them that you are visiting the Library’s Shakespeare 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!

college-map-library

How to find King’s College Library

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JC

HLF funding for King’s Library

King’s Library has received £44,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for an exciting project, ‘Shakespeare and Austen at King’s College: Celebrating their Centenaries in 2016 and 2017’. The project will result in the online cataloguing and conservation of the English literature section of the Thackeray collection of rare books, bequeathed to King’s College Library in the mid-nineteenth century by the sometime Provost of the College, George Thackeray (1777-1850), cousin of the novelist William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863). A major part of the project is a comprehensive programme of outreach activities and online educational material.

by Richard James Lane, lithograph, 1851

George Thackeray (1777-1850) by Richard James Lane, lithograph, 1851

The project will enable local people and volunteers to engage with some of the most important books in the history of English literature through a series of exhibitions, talks, open days and workshops for young people, and give a worldwide audience the opportunity to learn about the collection online. Owing to the lack of a proper online catalogue, the collection has remained difficult to explore.

Shakespeare folio image

Title page of Shakespeare’s First Folio (1623)

Highlights in Thackeray’s library include Shakespeare’s First Folio, first and early editions of all of Austen’s novels, a collection of 16th-century books on theology (including works by Sir Thomas More, Martin Luther and Erasmus), and over one thousand volumes of early editions of the most important English authors in sumptuous historic bindings. Other major writers included are John Milton, John Donne, Edmund Spenser and Ben Jonson.

We are delighted to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, which will enable us to gain a much better understanding of the Thackeray collection and help us to improve access to these treasures. We are also looking forward to the many opportunities the project will afford us to allow local people to engage with their heritage (anyone interested in volunteering for the project is most welcome to get in touch), and hopefully revisit the works of Shakespeare and Austen during their anniversary years.

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JC

 

 

Lake District Books (1750-1850): An Online Exhibition

Peter Bicknell (1907-1995), an architect, mountaineer and art historian who taught architecture at Cambridge for more than fifty years, was also a book collector with a particular interest in eighteenth-century topographical books and prints. In 1980 he donated his collection of books on the Lake District to King’s College Library. As Bicknell later recalled in his introduction to The Picturesque Scenery of the Lake District, “My addiction to book-collecting was stimulated by the friendship of that inspired lover of books, A. N. L. (‘Tim’) Munby. When some years ago I decided that it was time I found a permanent home for my Lake District collection, it occurred to me that there could be no better place for it than the library of King’s” (Winchester: St. Paul Bibliographies, 1990, p. x). We have just started cataloguing the collection and mounted an exhibition in the library, some highlights from which are described below.

Peter Holland was a Liverpool artist about whom little is known. He visited Ambleside in 1797. His Select Views of the Lakes is the first book of Lake District views using the printing technique known as aquatint. In this method of printing the artist makes marks on the plate (in the case of aquatint, a copper or zinc plate) that are capable of holding ink. The inked plate is passed through a printing press together with a sheet of paper, resulting in a transfer of the ink to the paper.

Peter Holland, Select Views of the Lakes in Cumberland, Westmoreland & Lancashire (Liverpool: printed by James Smith, for John Peeling, [1792]) Bicknell.61

Peter Holland, Select Views of the Lakes in
Cumberland, Westmoreland & Lancashire
(Liverpool: printed by James Smith, for John Peeling, [1792])
Bicknell.61

This copy of Revd Stebbing Shaw’s A Tour in 1787 from London to the Western Highlands of Scotland bears the ownership inscription “Elizabeth Vernon: Given to her by the Marquis of Lansdown 1792”. It ended up in the library of Holland House in Kensington and has their bookplate on the inside front pastedown. The book shows signs of fire damage from when Holland House was bombed during the Blitz in 1940.

Stebbing Shaw, A tour, in 1787, from London, to the Western Highlands of Scotland (London: printed for L. Davis, Messrs. Robson and Clarke, W. Lowndes, H. Gardner, J. Walker, [1788]) Bicknell.27

Stebbing Shaw, A Tour, in 1787, from London,
to the Western Highlands of Scotland
(London: printed for L. Davis, Messrs. Robson and Clarke,
W. Lowndes, H. Gardner, J. Walker, [1788])
Bicknell.27

Peter Crosthwaite was an expert in self-advertisement, referring to himself in this plate as “Admiral at Keswick Regatta; who keeps the Museum at Keswick, is Guide, Pilot, Geographer, Hydrographer to the Nobility and Gentry, who makes the Tour of the Lakes”.

An accurate map of the matchless Lake of Derwent (situated in the most delightful Vale which perhaps ever Human Eye beheld) Peter Crosthwaite, Maps of the Lake District (London: published & sold by Peter Crosthwaite, 1819) Bicknell.10

“An accurate map of the matchless Lake of Derwent (situated in the most delightful Vale which perhaps ever Human Eye beheld)”
Peter Crosthwaite, Maps of the Lake District
(London: published & sold by Peter Crosthwaite, 1819)
Bicknell.10

The next item in the exhibition, William Hutchinson’s An Excursion to the Lakes in Westmoreland and Cumberland, is one of the earliest books in the Bicknell Collection. The excursion was made with William Hutchinson’s brother Richard who acted as draughtsman. The book includes a generous amount of rich picturesque description and lively accounts of unusual incidents.

William Hutchinson, An Excursion to the Lakes in Westmoreland and Cumberland (London: printed for J. Wilkie & W. Goldsmith, 1774) Bicknell.1

William Hutchinson, An Excursion to the Lakes in Westmoreland and Cumberland
(London: printed for J. Wilkie & W. Goldsmith, 1774)
Bicknell.1

This manuscript journal is illustrated with wash drawings in imitation of William Gilpin’s Observations (London, 1786). The tour was taken in the autumn of 1792 by Mr and Mrs R. Rede and Mr Dreyer. The book is compiled from notes taken on the spot by Mr Rede.

R. Dreyer, A Tour of the Lakes of Cumberland & Westmoreland (Great Yarmouth) Bicknell.82

R. Dreyer, A Tour of the Lakes of Cumberland & Westmoreland
(Great Yarmouth)
Bicknell.82

Thomas Rose’s three-volume work Westmorland, Cumberland, Durham, & Northumberland includes 213 steel engravings from drawings by Allom, Gastineau and Pickering by various engravers. Prints from these fine and durable steel plates were produced in large numbers for many years. They were used in various books and for a variety of purposes such as headings for letter paper and for table maps.

Thomas Rose, Westmorland, Cumberland, Durham, & Northumberland (London: Fisher & Jackson, [1832-1835]) Bicknell.85

Thomas Rose, Westmorland, Cumberland, Durham, & Northumberland
(London: Fisher & Jackson, [1832-1835])
Bicknell.85

Finally, these sixteen views were issued without text or title to be bound with Thomas West’s Guide to the Lakes (1778). The views were advertised in the later editions of West’s Guide, and in that sense belong closely to the aesthetic promoted by West’s editors. The artists often intervene in the topography to improve the view.

John Smith, Sixteen Views of the Lakes in Cumberland and Westmorland (London: printed for W. Clarke [1794-1795]) Bicknell.84

John Smith, Sixteen Views of the Lakes in Cumberland and Westmorland
(London: printed for W. Clarke [1794-1795])
Bicknell.84

Mira Le/JC/IJ