Tag Archives: JC

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)

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)



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…


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.


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

Happy Halloween, everyone!



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.


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!


How to find King’s College Library



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.





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])

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])

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)

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)

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)

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])

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])

Mira Le/JC/IJ

John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester: an online exhibition

Exhibition case

Last Friday King’s College Library and Archives hosted an exhibition for the Open Cambridge weekend, focusing partly on Kingsman John Davy Hayward (1905-1965) and his collection of early editions of the works of John Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester (1647-1680). These are some selected highlights of the exhibition.


Poems on Several Occasions by the Right Honourable the E. of R- – – (Printed at Antwerp, 1680). Hayward Bequest, H.14.1

Poems on Several Occasions was the first anthology of Rochester’s poems published after his death in July 1680. The false imprint (it was printed in London) and lack of a publisher’s name permitted unrestrained lewdness of content. By November of that year Samuel Pepys had a copy which he kept in the right-hand drawer of his writing desk as he considered it ‘unfit to mix with my other books’, adding ‘pray let it remain there, for as he is past writing any more so bad in one sense, so I despair of any man surviving him to write so good in another’.


A Satyr against Marriage ([London], undated). Hayward Bequest, H.10.5

Only a handful of Rochester’s works were printed during his lifetime, mainly satires published as broadsides. The most famous was his ‘A Satyr against Mankind’ (1679) which is a scathing denunciation of rationalism and optimism that contrasts human wickedness with animal wisdom. His ‘A Satyr against Marriage’ is written in a similar vein.

H.14.17 and H.14.16

Frontispiece portraits from two editions of The Miscellaneous Works of the Right Honourable the late Earls of Rochester and Roscommon . . . by Mons. St. Evremont (London, 1707). Hayward Bequest, H.14.16 & H.14.17

Spot the difference: numerous editions of Rochester’s works appeared during the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and their salacious content was gradually rewritten to reflect ‘respectable’ tastes. One of these portraits has been doctored, perhaps to suggest the venereal disease that would eventually lead to Rochester’s demise.


A Genuine Letter from the Earl of Rochester to Nell Gwyn. Copied from an Original Manuscript in the French King’s Library. Hayward Bequest, H.12.7

The actress Nell Gwyn, a long-time mistress of Charles II, is also believed to have been Rochester’s mistress, perhaps demonstrating his prominent position at court as well as his interest in the theatre. In 1673 Rochester had begun training Elizabeth Barry as an actress. She went on to become the most famous actress of her age and her relationship with Rochester produced a daughter. Whilst bearing all the hallmarks of Rochester’s style, some doubt the authenticity of this explicit (and anonymously published) letter from Rochester to Nell.


Engraving of Rochester crowning his monkey. Hayward Bequest, no shelfmark

Monkey business: this engraving is one of the best known images of Rochester, and provided the title for Graham Greene’s biography of the author, Lord Rochester’s Monkey. In ‘A Satyr against Mankind’ Rochester writes:

Were I, who to my Cost already am
One of those strange, prodigious Creatures Man,
A Spirit free, to choose for my own Share,
What sort of Flesh and Blood I pleas’d to wear,
I’d be a Dog, a Monkey, or a Bear,
Or any thing, but that vain Animal,
Who is so proud of being Rational.


Broadside circular ([London], ca. 1676), Hayward Bequest, H.12.15

In 1676 Rochester fell into disfavour with the King and fled this time to Tower Hill where he impersonated a physician, one ‘Dr Alexander Bendo’. Under this persona he claimed skill in treating many conditions including ‘barrenness’, apparently gaining him access to many young ladies.

WARNING: This blog post was not suitable for children.


Michael Mills: ‘Keeper of the Publick Library’

King’s College Library, which has been in continuous existence since the College’s foundation in 1441, is housed in a purpose-built building designed by William Wilkins (1778–1839), and completed in 1828. Prior to this the Library was housed in various other buildings in College, and from 1570 until 1828 the Library occupied a number of side chapels in the College’s magnificent Chapel. This is where the library was housed when, in ca. 1685, one Michael Mills (KC 1683) was appointed ‘Keeper of the Publick Library’, and a copy of what might be considered his job description survives today in the College Archives (KCAC/6/1/1). The full title of that document is: ‘Articles, Conditions and Covenants upon which the Provost and other officers of King’s Coll: in Cambridge have admitted Michael Mills Schollar of the said College to be the Keeper of the Publick Library of the said College’. The second half of the same document sets out a copy of the rules for those who used the library, thought to date from ca. 1709–10.

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‘Articles, Conditions and Covenants’ (ca. 1685) and ‘Orders for Regulating the Publick Library’ (ca. 1709-10) (KCAC/6/1/1). (Photograph: Adrian Boutel and Elizabeth Upper)

Born in Windrush (Gloucestershire), Mills took up his role around 1685 whilst still a scholar (he became a fellow in 1687), and this document offers an interesting insight into the College’s Library in the late seventeenth century. Reporting directly to the Provost and Dean of Divinity, Mills had ‘dayly to be personally present in the Library, once in the forenoon, and once in the afternoon, besides when at the usual times He opens the Library door’. In addition to keeping the books in good order, he also had to ‘take care and oversee every thing that belongs to the said Library, that neither Globes, Maps, Tables, Pictures, or any other thing of that nature suffer by rude and ill usage.’

Lib I Cover_25

Index Bibliothecae Regalis Colegii (Donors’ Book). Original calf binding, with chain (KCAC/6/2/1/1)

Mills was allowed to ‘permit and suffer Strangers to see the Library, if they please, but not as Students to make Use of any Book or Books without the Leave of the Provost.’ Any member of College reading books in the library was ‘requir’d to sett ‘em up again decently without entangling the Chains: by which is signified to all concern’d, that no person whatsoever upon any pretence is permitted to carry any Book out of the Library to their Chambers’.


Hobart Bookcase_25

Bookcase (made in 1659) with money bequeathed by Nicholas Hobart (NH). It no longer has its chains or the chaining mechanisms attached (Photograph: Adrian Boutel and Elizabeth Upper)

As this shows, King’s Library at that time (like many libraries) was a chained library, that is, a chain was attached to the front board of each book which was attached in turn to the bookcase which housed it to prevent it from being removed. It was not until 1777 that the College finally paid someone for nine days’ work to remove the remaining chains from all the books. One book in King’s Library which still has its chain attached is a splendid calf-bound donors’ book in which donations of books were recorded along with the name of each donor from 1612 onwards (KCAC/6/2/1/1), and three of the magnificent bookcases which housed such books and which were constructed during the second half of the seventeenth century—and would therefore have been kept in order by Michael Mills—remain in the Chapel to this day.

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Extract from: Anthony Allen, Skeleton … or A Catalogue of all the Provosts, Fellows and Scholars, of the King’s College

Michael Mills died at a young age on 28th July 1696 and according to one eighteenth-century biographer of Kingsmen (Anthony Allen, 1685–1754), his passing was ‘much lamented by his Fellow Collegiates being a very Worthy and Learned Man and an excellent tutor to College youth’. Mills had succumbed to smallpox and was buried behind the altar in the Chapel: two fates unlikely to befall present-day College librarians.


Munby Cataloguing Project (Rare Books)

Title page

The title page of Keynes.D.1.9

In June 2013 King’s College held a conference to mark the centenary of the birth of A.N.L. (Tim) Munby, Librarian at King’s from 1947 to 1974. The conference was a great success, with a distinguished panel of speakers from the world of bibliography and the history of books, and over 120 registered participants. As a follow-up to the conference, and as a permanent tribute to Tim Munby, King’s College inaugurated a fund in his name—The Munby Centenary Fund.  Donations to the fund support projects initiated by Munby, or related closely to his interests and achievements.

Spine detail

The gold tooling on the book’s spine.

The initial objective is to complete the online cataloguing of all of the books in the collection of John Maynard Keynes and generous donations have already made it possible to hire Dr Iman Javadi as ‘Munby Project Cataloguer (Rare Books)’ to begin this work. Iman joined the library team in November 2014, and has so far catalogued over 200 books.

Tim Munby began his career at King’s as the first cataloguer of Keynes’s collection, although cataloguing in those days was very different. Catalogue cards often included little more than author, title and imprint details.

Index card2

Tim Munby’s original catalogue card.

Front pastedown1

Inside front pastedown showing Keynes’s bookplate.

These days catalogue records for rare books typically include a wealth of copy-specific information such as binding descriptions, provenance information and information relating to former owners and detailed physical descriptions of the book as an object. This change not only reflects changes in research interests in bibliography, but also assists librarians in collection management, and the availability of these descriptions online improves access to the collections.

The newly created online record for this  item can be viewed here: MARC record (opens a .docx file)

Further updates about the project will be posted on this blog.