Tag Archives: JC

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

Tales from the Script: Late Night Gothic Horror in the Library

Last weekend we put out an exhibition in King’s Library on the theme of gothic horror, marking two hundred years since the publication of the iconic novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1797–1851) in 1818. We are delighted to share some of the treasures of that exhibition with you here.

Bony Tony, King’s Library’s skeleton, let loose on the world at large . . .

It all started with Kingsman Horace Walpole  whose 1767 novel The Castle of Otranto is considered to be the first gothic novel. It initiated a genre which became extremely popular in the later 18th and early 19th century, inspiring authors such as Ann Radcliffe, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe and Robert Louis Stevenson. The aesthetics of the book continue to influence modern-day gothic books, films, art, music and the goth subculture.

Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story (Parma, 1791), sixth edition (Shelfmark: Keynes.E.3.23), title page and frontispiece

“The lower part of the castle was hollowed into several intricate cloysters; and it was not easy for one under so much anxiety to find the door that opened into the cavern. An awful silence reigned throughout those subterraneous regions,  except now and then some blasts of wind that shook the doors she had passed, and which grating on the rusty hinges, were reechoed through that long labyrinth of darkness.”

Horace Walpole, A Description of the Villa of Horace Walpole …at Strawberry-Hill, near Twickenham (Strawberry-Hill, 1786) (Shelfmark: Keynes.E.1.15), title page

Walpole was so interested in medieval history he began building a gothic-style castle in Twickenham in 1749 which he called Strawberry Hill. The world-famous house and gardens are open to the public today. In 1786 Walpole published a description of the villa which included an engraving of what it looked like at the time, as well as an inventory of the furniture, pictures and curiosities it contained.

It is well known that Jane Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey (published just after Austen’s death in 1817) is a satire of gothic novels which were very popular in the late 1790s. The character Catherine Morland has a passion for reading gothic novels, but gets into difficulties when applying their concepts to everyday life. Here is the famous scene in which Catherine’s friend, Isabella Thorpe, reads to her the titles of the ‘horrid novels’:

Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (London, 1817) (Shelfmark: Thackeray.J.57.12-15)

Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey, title page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Regina Maria Roche, Clermont (Dublin, 1799) (Shelfmark: Warren.D.1.Roc.Cl/1-2), title page

One of those novels, Clermont, was written by Regina Maria Roche (1764–1845), who is considered today to be a minor writer of gothic novels, but she was a best-selling novelist during her life. Originally published by the sensationalist Minerva Press, Clermont first appeared in 1798. It tells the story of the beautiful Madeline, who lives in seclusion with her father (the Clermont of the title) until they are visited by a mysterious Countess from his past.

 

Just after Jane Austen’s death in 1817 arguably the most famous gothic horror story of all time was published: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Shelley began writing her novel about the young scientist who creates a grotesque but sapient human creature when she was only 18. It was published anonymously on 1 January 1818 when she was 20. Her name first appeared on the second edition, published in France in 1823.

The three volumes of Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; or, The modern Prometheus (London, 1818) (Shelfmark: Keynes.E.5.46-48), first edition.

“I beheld the wretch—the miserable monster whom I had created”

Famously, the story of the monster had its origins in a horror-story competition held in the Villa Diodati near Geneva, where Mary, her lover and later husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron and others whiled away the evenings in 1816. Mary Shelley’s story has inspired countless comics, pop-up books, plays and films and continues to do so to this day.

Frankenstein, first edition, title page

Victor Frankenstein is repulsed by the monster he has created.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1832, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) also included in Faust Part II the creation of an artificial man, a ‘homunculus’, created in the lab by Faust’s assistant Wagner. Goethe was tapping into an older science, that of alchemy, for his story. The ability to make this small human or homunculus was often discussed in alchemical writings of the seventeenth century. The homunculus can also be symbolic of the creation of a spiritual being or of the philosopher’s stone itself. Below we see Heinrich Khunrath, a Christian kabbalist and alchemist. On the left hand side he kneels in prayer in his Oratorium, on the right hand side is his Laboratorium. Khunrath described the making of the homunculus with the aid of malign spirits as ‘Desperatio.’ This copy was owned by John Ruskin.

Plate from Heinrich Khunrath, Amphitheatrum sapientiae divinae solius verae (Hanau, 1609) (Shelfmark: Keynes.Ec.3.1.1.)

Below we see an engraving by Matthaeus Merian (1593–1650) which represents symbolically the text of the Latin Emerald Tables, a foundational work of transmutational alchemy attributed to the legendary Hermes Trismegistus. The layers of meaning in the Emerald Tables have been associated with the creation of the philosopher’s stone.

Musaeum Hermeticum reformatum et amplificatum (Frankfurt, 1678) (Shelfmark: Keynes.Ec.3.2.13), engraved plate

Probably the most famous alchemist was Isaac Newton (1642–1727), who had a laboratory in Trinity College, Cambridge. John Maynard Keynes (1883–1946) wrote a celebrated paper on Newton, ‘Newton the Man’, published only after Keynes’s death in 1946. In it he described Newton’s alchemical writings, of which he had formed the outstanding collection (now at King’s), and explained how historians had contrived to ‘hush up’ this side of Newton’s activities. Newton, said Keynes, was ‘the last of the magicians’.

Newton’s translation into English of the Emerald Tables, (c.1678) (Shelfmark: Keynes Newton MS 28)

Back at King’s we have our own twentieth-century tradition of horror stories, starting with former King’s Provost M. R. James (1862-1936), who is most famous to the wider public for his published ghost stories which he would read to students at Christmastime (a tradition reinstated by our current Provost). Tim Munby (who was Librarian at King’s from 1947 to 1974) continued along this path with his collection of ghost stories The Alabaster Hand.

A.N.L. Munby, The Alabaster Hand (London, 1949) (Shelfmark: KL MUN 1), first edition and photograph of Munby

An overview of part of the exhibition

JC/PJ/AC

Video: Conserving Rare Books at King’s College, Cambridge

As part of our HLF-supported Thackeray Project, we have produced a video that looks at rare book conservation generally, before moving on to a case study of the repairs performed on a single book from the Thackeray Collection (Le rime di Francesco Petrarca, Thackeray.L.3.40).

Enjoy!

 

GB/JC/IJ

Who was George Thackeray?

During the last eighteen months of our HLF-supported project based around the rare book collection of former King’s Provost George Thackeray we have enjoyed sharing gems from the collection with the public through this blog, a variety of exhibitions in King’s Library, some public talks, and more recently through our Thackeray project digital library. As we enter the final six months of the project it seems appropriate to pause for a moment and think about who Thackeray was, why he collected books, and perhaps give some thought to Thackeray the man as opposed to Thackeray the book collector.

Thackeray, apparently sitting in the Provost’s Lodge at King’s with the Chapel in the background. (Lithograph by Richard James Lane, 1851)

Born in 1777 in Windsor, to parents Frederick and Elizabeth, Thackeray was admitted to Eton as a King’s Scholar in 1792 before proceeding to King’s College in 1797. He became a fellow of King’s in 1800, and received the BA in 1802, the MA in 1805 and the BD in 1813. He had returned to Eton in 1801 as Assistant Master and had married a Miss Carbonell in 1803. Tragically she died young (possibly in 1810), and it seems to be peculiarly difficult to find any more about her. In 1814 Thackeray was elected Provost at King’s and in the same year the degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred on him, by royal mandate. He remained Provost until 1850, overseeing major building works in the College including the building of the current College Library which was completed in 1828.

This hand-coloured engraving by Le Keux shows King’s Library and the adjoining Provost’s Lodge, where Thackeray resided, as it would have looked in 1841.

Things seemed to be looking up for the newly elected Provost of King’s. He married again in 1816, his bride being Mary Ann Cottin. However, tragedy was looming only two short years away. On 13th February 1818 when in labour with their first child, the accoucher (someone who looks after ladies in their confinement) in attendance, Sir Richard Croft, showed great agitation and exhaustion in their house in Wimpole Street. Thackeray found Croft dead at 2am in a bedroom in the house, the latter having shot himself in the head with two pistols which belonged to Thackeray. Apparently Thackeray had kept the pistols in the house for protection against a spate of house robberies that had been taking place in the area. Former King’s Librarian Tim Munby conjectured that Mary Ann’s labour might have shown similarities to the labour of Princess Charlotte who had died in childbirth in the previous year. She was also attended by Sir Richard Croft. Mary Ann gave birth to a daughter, Mary Ann Elizabeth, on 13th February, exactly two hundred years ago today. It appears from a note in Thackeray’s hand in his Bible (now in King’s Library) that she was not expected to survive, so was hurriedly baptised five days later on the 18th, on which day her mother died:

Thackeray’s inscription on the rear pastedown in his Bible (Thackeray.I.1.3/1-2)

Mary Ann Elizabeth Thackeray’s baptism record, St Marylebone Church, Westminster, 21 April 1819.

Mary Ann Thackeray, burial record, St Matthew Friday Street Church, London, 23 February 1818

Today we are on the eve of the start of Lent, a period often associated with self sacrifice and suffering, so it seems appropriate to pause to think of Thackeray’s early personal tragedy. Thackeray’s obituarist wrote that ‘this sad event threw an air of gloom and desolation about his house from which it never altogether recovered’. He goes on to say that whilst this early tragedy appears not to have prevented him from assiduously undertaking his college and university duties, or being a valued member of such society as he mingled in, ‘it threw him, for his general companionship, upon Erasmus and Propertius, black-letter Bibles, and odd books generally—for there was not a vendor of literary curiosities in London who had not some reason for knowing the Provost of King’s’.

Opening of Chapter IV of Matthew (from Thackeray’s Bible) describing the fasting and temptation of Jesus in the desert. This passage is strongly associated with Lent.

Book collecting and ornithology were two of Thackeray’s passions, and his collection includes a large number of natural history books in fine bindings, alongside the English literature, black-letter divinity books and Bibles. Whether the book collecting really was an anodyne for Thackeray (as Munby suggests) or whether he would have been an equally devout bibliophile had his early tragedies not happened we will never know. When he died in 1850 he left his black-letter books to King’s in his will (some 165 volumes). His daughter, Mary Ann Elizabeth, did live into adulthood and left the remainder of her father’s library, amounting to some 3,200 volumes in total, to the College in her will when she died in 1879.

The engraved title page of Thackeray’s Bible, with its heart-shaped title border, has become associated with tragedy rather than love owing to Thackeray’s inscription on the final pastedown

After his death in 1850, in his house in Wimpole Street in London, Thackeray was buried in King’s Chapel. His funeral, by all accounts, was a grand affair. A copy of the ‘Programme of the procession of the funeral of the late George Thackeray’ survives in the College archives and gives an indication of the scale of the occasion.

Programme of procession of the funeral of George Thackeray, D.D. (King’s College Archives: KCAR/1/2/20/2)

In May of this year we will be exhibiting a number of the black-letter divinity books in King’s College Chapel. More information will be announced on this blog in due course.

JC

Thackeray Project Digital Library

It might seem that we have been a little quiet here recently, but that is because we have been working hard behind the scenes on our digital library which we are now able to share with everyone.

Rare book spines (from left): vellum (gatherings exposed), three with raised bands and decorative gold-tooled panels, the last without raised bands, but with coloured leather spine labels tooled in gold.

One of the objectives of our HLF-funded project, which is centred around the rare book collection of former King’s Provost George Thackeray (1777-1850), is the creation of a corpus of digital content that will last well beyond the lifetime of the two-year project. This can now be viewed on the King’s website here.

Title within woodcut architectural border (McKerrow and Ferguson 278). William Gouge, The Saints sacrifice (London: George Miller, 1632; Thackeray.I.7.5)

The digital library, which we will continue to add to during the project, currently includes a gallery of book bindings, title pages, a gallery showing the stages of book conservation and a page devoted to the first and early editions of Jane Austen.

Title page of the first English edition of Emma (Thackeray.J.57.10)

Stay tuned for many more images from the Thackeray collection!

JC

Jane Austen Open Day: An Online Exhibition – Part 2

On 18 July 2017, the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, King’s College Library mounted an exhibition featuring first editions of all of Austen’s 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. The event was a great success and was attended by over 1,000 people. Some of this material was used in our Open Cambridge exhibition which attracted over 1,400 visitors during the weekend of 8-9 September. We present below some highlights from the second part of the exhibition for those who could not visit in person.

Persuasion was first printed in French in 1821. This copy of the second French edition (1828), freely translated by the Swiss novelist and translator Isabelle de Montolieu (1751–1832), belonged to Sir Geoffrey Keynes, the younger brother of John Maynard Keynes.

Jane Austen, La Famille Elliot ou l’Ancienne Inclination
(Paris: Arthus Bertrand, 1828)
Gilson.A.PeF.1828/1

Routledge’s Railway Library, intended for ‘amusement while travelling’, began in 1849 as a shameless imitation of Simms and McIntyre’s Parlour Library. The inclusion of Pride and Prejudice in the series in 1850 is a testament to the popularity of the novel at the time.

Pride and Prejudice. By Miss Austen, ‘The Railway Library’
(London: Routledge, 1850)
Gilson.A.Pr.1850a

Chapman and Hall’s series ‘Select Library of Fiction’ was closely associated with W.H. Smith, who carefully sought out copyrights, or reprint rights, of popular novels in order to publish yellowback editions for sale on his railway bookstalls. The series, which ran from 1854 until it was taken over by Ward, Lock in 1881, included at least thirty novels by Anthony Trollope, who had strong views on the poor quality of much railway literature. This is one of the few known copies of Sense and Sensibility in yellowback.

Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility
(London: Chapman and Hall, 1870)
Warren.A.Se.1870

Lady Catherine is fully aware of her station in life and had no qualms in making others aware of this. This edition of Pride and Prejudice is illustrated by the Cambridge-based artist Charles Edmund Brock.

Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice
with twenty-four coloured illustrations by C. E. Brock
(London: Dent, 1907)
Gilson.A.Pr.1907b

In this scene from A. A. Milne’s stage adaptation, Jane and Mr Bennet discuss Lydia’s elopement with Mr Wickham, fully aware of the social implications and prospects for the family as a result.

A. A. Milne, Miss Elizabeth Bennet: A Play from “Pride and Prejudice”
(London: Chatto & Windus, 1936)
Gilson.A.Pr.Z.Mil

The 1940 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, starring Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier, is notorious for drastically diverging from the novel and being excessively ‘Hollywoodized’ — and for putting the women in clothes based on the styles of the late 1820s and 30s. This publication, which coincides with the release of the film, bears the subtitle: ‘The complete text of the famous romantic love story from which the M-G-M movie starring Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson was made’.

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (New York: Triangle, 1940)
Gilson.A.Pr.1940

This Victorian edition of Mansfield Park was presented to E. M. Forster’s mother by his father, and was later inherited by Forster himself.

Jane Austen, Mansfield Park
(London: Routledge, 18—)
Forster.AUS.Man

One of the highlights in the exhibition was Jane Austen’s copy of Orlando furioso, signed by her on the fly-leaf, sold by the Austen-Leigh family, bought by Virginia Woolf, and inscribed by Woolf to John Maynard Keynes at Christmas 1936.

Ludovico Ariosto, Orlando furioso (trans. by John Hoole)
(London: Charles Bathurst, 1783)
Keynes.E.4.1

King’s College owns the manuscript of Jane Austen’s unfinished novel Sanditon, the last one on which she was working before she died on 18 July 1817. It is a rare surviving autograph manuscript of her fiction. It was given to King’s in 1930 by Jane’s great-great niece (Mary) Isabella Lefroy in memory of her sister Florence and Florence’s husband, the late Provost Augustus Austen Leigh who was a great-nephew of Jane. The booklets were made by Austen herself. The last writing is dated 18 March 1817. She died four months later.

The beginning of Sanditon

Sanditon, chapters 4-5

IJ/Harriet Alder/JC

Celebrating Jane Austen at King’s Library

To mark the bicentenary year of Jane Austen’s death, King’s College Library and Archives are hosting an exhibition showcasing first and early editions of the author’s much-loved novels, alongside the autograph manuscript of her unfinished novel Sanditon and treasures highlighting the Austen family’s connection with the College. This two-day event, which is part of the Open Cambridge weekend, is a rare opportunity to take a look inside the College’s beautiful early nineteenth-century library designed by the architect William Wilkins.

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 on Friday 8 and Saturday 9 September between 10:30am and 4pm in 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 the Jane Austen exhibition. They will direct you to the College Library (see map below).

How to find King’s College Library

Exhibition DATE: Friday 8 and Saturday 9 September 2017

Opening times: 10:30am-4pm each day

JC

Jane Austen Open Day: An Online Exhibition – Part 1

On 18 July 2017, the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, King’s College Library mounted an exhibition featuring first editions of all of Austen’s 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. The event was a great success and was attended by over 1,000 people. We present below some highlights from the first part of the exhibition for those who could not visit in person.

Jane was born in Steventon parsonage in Hampshire, and lived the first 25 years of her life there. She drafted Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey in Steventon. She was so distraught when she was told the news in December 1800 that the family would be moving to Bath that she fainted.

J. E. Austen-Leigh, A Memoir of Jane Austen by her Nephew (London: Bentley, 1870), Gilson.B.96.AusJ.1870b

Sense and Sensibility, Austen’s first novel to be published, was written in epistolary form around 1795 in Steventon under the title Elinor and Marianne. It was begun in its present form in autumn 1797 and revised and prepared for publication in 1809-1811 when Jane was living in Chawton.

Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility (London: Egerton, 1811), First edition
Warren.A.Se.1811/1-3

Pride and Prejudice, originally titled First Impressions, was offered for publication to the London bookseller Thomas Cadell, but the offer was declined by return post. The novel was subsequently published by Thomas Egerton under the revised title Pride and Prejudice. Upon receiving her copy of the first edition from the publisher, Jane wrote: ‘I have got my darling child from London’ (27 Jan 1813).

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (London: Egerton, 1813), First edition
Warren.A.Pr.1813a/1-3

The Austen family lived in Bath between 1801 and 1806. Jane was familiar with the Pump Room, which is used as a setting in her novels Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. This image, from The New Bath Guide (1807), shows the Pump Room, a venue for fashionable people, as it would have looked during Jane Austen’s time there.

Christopher Anstey, The New Bath Guide; or, Memoirs
of the B.N.R.D. Family in a Series of Poetical Epistles (Bath, 1807)
Warren.B.97.New.1807

Austen’s novels Persuasion (written 1815-16) and Northanger Abbey (written 1798-99) both appeared posthumously in a four-volume set in December 1817, although the title page states 1818. They are prefaced by a ‘biographical notice’ written by Jane’s brother Henry Austen in which Jane’s identity is revealed for the first time. She appears to have intended to publish Persuasion in 1818 but did not live long enough to do so.

The beginning of chapter 3 of Persuasion mentions Bath and the Pump Room. Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion (London: Murray, 1818), First edition
Thackeray.J.57.12-15

In 1809 Austen’s brother Edward offered his mother and sisters a more settled life – the use of a large cottage in Chawton, near Alton in Hampshire. Whilst living in Chawton Jane published her first four novels. She also wrote Mansfield Park there between 1811 and 1813. It was first published by Egerton in 1814 and a second edition was published in 1816 by John Murray, still within Austen’s lifetime. It did not receive any critical attention when it first appeared.

Jane Austen, Mansfield Park (London: Egerton, 1814), First edition
Warren.A.Ma.1814/1-3

When Henry Austen was taken ill in London in October 1815, he was attended by his sister Jane and by one of the Prince Regent’s doctors who identified her as the author of Pride and Prejudice. The doctor reported that the Prince (later George IV) was a great admirer of her novels and she was invited to dedicate one of her future works to the Prince. Emma was the lucky work. Jane disapproved of the Prince’s treatment of his wife, but felt she couldn’t refuse, so she settled for a title page reading simply ‘Emma, Dedicated by Permission to HRH The Prince Regent’, though her publisher (John Murray) thought it ought to be more elaborate.

This copy of the first edition of Emma belonged to King’s Provost George Thackeray (1777–1850).

Jane Austen, Emma (London: Murray, 1816), First edition
Thackeray.J.57.9-11

Several months after the dedication of Emma, Jane wrote to John Murray and reported that the Prince had thanked her for the copy of Emma. In the same letter she notes that in a recent review of the novel, the anonymous reviewer (later established as Sir Walter Scott) completely fails to mention Mansfield Park, remarking with regret that ‘so clever a man as the reviewer of Emma, should consider it as unworthy of being noticed’.

Jane Austen’s letter to John Murray, 1 April 1816 (NM/Austen/1)

In his review of Emma, Sir Walter Scott fails to mention Mansfield Park:

The Quarterly Review, Vol. XIV (London: Murray, 1816)
Gilson.C.Gif.1816

Jane Austen was seemingly unaware that one of her novels was published in America during her lifetime. This is one of only four known copies of the first American edition of Emma. The rest of her novels were not published in the US until the early 1830s. As well as the expected differences in spelling and punctuation, the text has also been bowdlerized.

Jane Austen, Emma (Philadelphia: M. Carey, 1816), First US edition
Gilson.A.Em.1816b/1-2

Due to popular demand, an expanded version of this exhibition will be presented as part of the Open Cambridge weekend on 8 and 9 September 2017. So if you couldn’t make it this time, or would like to see the exhibition again, please put these dates in your diary! More details will follow here in due course.

IJ/Harriet Alder/JC

 

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

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