Tag Archives: Keynes Bequest

Parisian fashion plates

They may not be the very latest in fashion, but the dresses depicted in this slim volume from the Keynes Collection are far too pretty to remain under wraps. The book: Douze nouveaux travestissements (Paris, 1856) features twelve hand-coloured engravings produced from illustrations by the artist Paul Gavarni (1804-1866). Gavarni was a popular caricaturist and book illustrator, who illustrated the first collected edition of the works of Balzac in 1850. He also produced many illustrated volumes of his own, sketching and parodying the eccentricities of the various classes of French society.

This particular volume was published by the monthly fashion magazine Les Modes Parisiennes, which was published between 1843 and 1875. In magazines, fashion plates such as these were usually accompanied by detailed instructions on how the outfits could be reproduced, providing avid followers of French fashion – including many British women – with the information needed in order to dress to impress.

Plate No. 1 from Douze nouveaux travestissements,1856, Shelfmark Keynes.P.12


Plate No. 2 from Douze nouveaux travestissements,1856, Shelfmark Keynes.P.12

Plate No. 3 from Douze nouveaux travestissements,1856, Shelfmark Keynes.P.12

Plate No. 4 from Douze nouveaux travestissements,1856, Shelfmark Keynes.P.12

Plate No. 5 from Douze nouveaux travestissements,1856, Shelfmark Keynes.P.12

Plate No. 6 from Douze nouveaux travestissements,1856, Shelfmark Keynes.P.12

Plate No. 7 from Douze nouveaux travestissements,1856, Shelfmark Keynes.P.12

Plate No. 8 from Douze nouveaux travestissements,1856, Shelfmark Keynes.P.12

Plate No. 9 from Douze nouveaux travestissements,1856, Shelfmark Keynes.P.12

Plate No. 10 from Douze nouveaux travestissements,1856, Shelfmark Keynes.P.12

Plate No. 11 from Douze nouveaux travestissements,1856, Shelfmark Keynes.P.12

Plate No. 12 from Douze nouveaux travestissements,1856, Shelfmark Keynes.P.12

Finally, tucked loose inside this volume is another wonderful nineteenth-century engraving. An inscription on the back reveals that it was sent as a Christmas card to Lydia Lopokova, the wife of John Maynard Keynes, in 1929.

Loose plate tucked inside Keynes.P.12

Verso of the loose plate. The inscriptions read: “A picture for your country house!” and “A Christmas card, dearest Lydia, with [Molly’s?] love, Christmas 1929”

If this has left you keen to seek out more images of nineteenth-century fashion, then the National Portrait Galley has a fashion plate gallery covering the period 1770-1870, with a wealth of gorgeous images to explore. Have fun!


A colourful treat for the eyes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keynes.P.6.17, Plate 16: Diana

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

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

Keynes.P.6.17, Plate 19: Flora

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



On this, the spookiest day of the year, we thought we’d share some images and text from books which tackle the subject of demons, devils, spirits and witches; all creatures regarded as a serious threat to body and soul in times past.

Our first tome is The hierarchie of the blessed angels, a long didactic poem by  the playwright Thomas Heywood (ca. 1570-1641) which also features Lucifer and his fallen angels, and includes many folkloric anecdotes and tales of demonic creatures engaged in spreading dread and devilment. Note the tumbling angels falling towards a demonic mouth on the right hand side of the title page below.

Keynes.C.10.01 title page

The hierarchie of the blessed angels. Their names,orders and offices. The fall of Lucifer with his angels by Thomas Heywood: London, 1635. Keynes.C.10.01

One illustration within the volume depicts the Archangel Michael standing victorious over the defeated Satan and his minions:

The Archangel Michael
Page 494 of Keynes.C.10.01

A detail from another appears to show a court of horned demons in hell:

Demons in hell. A detail from Keynes.C.10.01 page 406

Elsewhere, men of God try to ward off the forces of evil:

Detail from page 462 of Keynes.C.10.01

The poem has many evocative descriptions of various creatures up to the kind of  mischief and mayhem you might associate with Halloween:

Pugs and hob-goblins disturbing people’s sleep with their revels. Extract from page 574 of Keynes.C.10.01

Spooky inhabitants of church yards. Extract from page 505 of Keynes.C.10.01

Another passage vividly describes the marks by which evil creatures may be identified, including hooked noses and flaming eyes:

Extract from page 581 of Keynes.C.10.01

One of the anecdotes later in the text tells of a German illusionist who performed an aerial display with a woman and child in tow, only to end his life being burned at the stake as a witch:

Extract from page 613 of Keynes.C.10.01

Other works on demonology held in the Library include a late 16th-century Latin tome by a German theologian, Peter Thyraeus (1546-1601) and an 18th-century pamphlet by theologian William Whiston (1667-1752):

Title page of Daemoniaci, hoc est: De obsessis a spiritibvs daemoniorvm hominibvs by Peter Thyraeus, Cologne, 1598. D.8.5/1

Title page of An account of the daemoniacks, and of the power of casting out demons … by William Whiston: London, 1737. Keynes.F.10.14/8

The latter work describes the manner in which demons were cast out in the early years of Christianity:

Extract from page 56 of Keynes.F.10.14/8

Whatever you are doing this Halloween, stay safe out there, and watch out for things that go bump in the night!


Thomas More’s Utopia: An Online Exhibition

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

The exhibition ran from November 2016 to January 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Another Portrait of Mr. W. H.

As we’re marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, this book from the Keynes Bequest could not be more topical. England’s Helicon, an anthology of Elizabethan poems first printed in 1600, includes contributions by Christopher Marlowe, Sir Walter Raleigh, William Shakespeare, Sir Philip Sidney and Edmund Spenser.

Title page of England’s Helicon: A Collection of Pastoral and Lyric Poems, First Published at the Close of the Reign of Q. Elizabeth, edited by S. E. Brydges and Joseph Haslewood (London: Thomas Bensley, 1812; Keynes.E.3.8)

Title page of England’s Helicon: A Collection of Pastoral and Lyric Poems, edited by S. E. Brydges and Joseph Haslewood (London: Thomas Bensley, 1812; Keynes.E.3.8)

In an 1812 reprint of the third edition (1614) is the carbon copy of a letter from John Maynard Keynes to Dadie Rylands dated 6 February 1944 and initialled in ink by Keynes. Rylands was a Fellow at King’s and a noted Shakespeare scholar who also directed several plays for the Marlowe Society and acted as chairman of the Cambridge Arts Theatre between 1946 and 1982.

Dadie Rylands (1902-1999) punting on the Cam, mid-1930s

Dadie Rylands (1902-1999) punting along the Cam, mid-1930s

Keynes writes: “Is this a new theory of the Sonnets? In England’s Helicon, published in 1600, there are two poems signed W. H., otherwise unknown, and no editor has attached any plausible conjecture to the initials. […] It would be pleasant to suppose that this Mr. W. H. is the same as the other”.

Carbon copy of Keynes’s letter to Dadie Rylands, 6 February 1944

Carbon copy of Keynes’s letter to Dadie Rylands, 6 February 1944

The first 126 of Shakespeare’s Sonnets (1609) are addressed to a “fair youth”, and the whole work is dedicated to a certain “Mr. W. H.”. The identity of the dedicatee remains a mystery, and possible contenders include Shakespeare’s patrons, Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton (1573-1624), and William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke (1580-1630).

W. H., “Wodenfride’s Song in Praise of Amargana”, England’s Helicon, pp. 68-69

W. H., “Wodenfride’s Song in Praise of Amargana”, England’s Helicon, pp. 68-69

Keynes seems to have failed to check the “Index of the Names of Authors” at the beginning of the book, where W. H. is tentatively identified as “Wm. Hunnis?” The editors, S. E. Brydges and Joseph Haslewood, state in the biographical notice of W. H.: “I recollect no writer to whom these initials may apply, unless William Hunnis, who seems to have lived too early to have been a contributor to this volume. […] Qu.? William Herbert?” The poet William Hunnis, who died in 1597 and could have therefore known Shakespeare, was in the service of William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke (1501-1570) and grandfather of Shakespeare’s patron, the 3rd Earl of Pembroke. So there is a connection with Shakespeare there, albeit a tenuous one.

The second poem by W. H. in England’s Helicon, pp. 70-72

The second poem by W. H. in England’s Helicon, pp. 70-72

As shown in a previous post on James Howell’s Epistolae Ho-Elianae (1645), Keynes’s book collecting was not merely a matter of accumulating items, as he actively engaged with the issues raised in these works and shared his ideas, thoughts and opinions with friends. But going back to his original question. Could the W. H. in England’s Helicon really be the mysterious dedicatee of Shakespeare’s Sonnets? Over to Shakespeare scholars.


Monday mourning

The untimely death of Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales was met with universal sorrow across the land in 1612. The national outpouring of grief is probably comparable to that witnessed in the aftermath of Princess Diana’s death in 1997. Prince Henry (1594-1612), the eldest son of James I and brother of the future King Charles I, was praised in life by authors including George Chapman, Sir John Davies, Michael Drayton, and Francis Bacon. There was a proliferation of mourning pamphlets and funeral sermons following the popular Prince’s death at the age of 18 from typhoid fever, and he was mourned by such luminaries as Thomas Campion, George Herbert, and Sir Walter Raleigh. Prince Henry was the patron of the poet Josuah Sylvester (1563-1618), who expressed his sorrow in Lachrimae lachrimarum (1612), one of the earliest examples of a book containing black mourning pages:


The tears of tears: title page of the first edition of Lachrimae lachrimarum; or, The distillation of teares shede for the untymely death of the incomparable Prince Panaretus (London: Humfrey Lownes, 1612; Keynes.C.12.8).

The sense of grief is compounded by a black page with a woodcut of the royal arms on every verso, and mourning borders with skeleton frames on each recto:

Keynes.C.12.8 (2)

Lachrimae lachrimarum, leaf A2 recto and facing mourning page (Keynes.C.12.8).

The first edition includes elegies in English, French, Latin and Italian by the royal tutor, Walter Quin (1575?-1640):

Keynes.C.12.8 (3)

Lachrimae lachrimarum, leaf D3 recto with an Italian sonnet by Walter Quin (Keynes.C.12.8).

While tears are only mentioned in Sylvester’s book, these are shown explicitly in Christopher Brooke’s Two Elegies (1613), which features a pattern of tears with a quotation from Ovid’s Epistulae ex Ponto, 3.1.158: “Interdum lachrimae pondera vocis habent” (sometimes tears have the same weight as words):

Brooke, Two elegies (ESTC S106715) 2

Christopher Brooke, Two elegies, consecrated to the neuer-dying memorie of the most worthily admyred; most hartily loued; and generally bewayled prince; Henry Prince of Wales (London: Thomas Snodham, 1613; image from EEBO).

Variations on the black mourning page were used widely well into the 18th century. The premature death of John Churchill, Marquess of Blandford (1686-1703), who died here at King’s College on 20 February 1703, was lamented in William Congreve’s The Tears of Amaryllis for Amyntas (1703). The title page is framed within a mourning border of black blocks:


Title page of William Congreve’s The Tears of Amaryllis for Amyntas (London: Jacob Tonson, 1703; Keynes.C.5.6).

The black mourning page may be a technique that originated in the 17th century, but one of the most well-known examples of this practice is to be found in the 18th century, namely in Laurence Sterne’s novel Tristram Shandy (1759-67), which is revolutionary in its use of unconventional typographical devices such as blank and marbled pages. Yorick’s death in vol. 1 is followed by a black mourning page:


Alas, poor Yorick: black mourning page in the first edition of Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (York: J. Hinxman, 1759; Keynes.Ec.7.1.15).

In order to protect his work from piracy, Sterne signed the opening chapter of the first and second editions of volume 5, as well as the first editions of volumes 7 and 9. He must have therefore autographed over 12,000 volumes:

Keynes.Ec.7.1.21 and 23

Opening chapters of volumes 7 and 9 of Tristram Shandy, with Sterne’s autograph (Keynes.Ec.7.1.21 and Keynes.Ec.7.1.23).

Today is Blue Monday, allegedly the gloomiest day of the year, so we thought this would cheer everyone up. And let’s look on the bright side: if Prince Henry had lived to become King, he would have probably been beheaded during the English Civil War, as happened to his younger brother Charles I, so it looks like he had a lucky escape after all…



All that glitters is not gold

As we are all surrounded by illuminations at this time of the year (whether we like it or not), let’s have a look at another type of illumination, that of the vibrant colours and intricate decorations of initials and margins often found in medieval manuscript books. Such illuminations were also a feature of early printed books and can be regarded as a vestige of the manuscript tradition that persisted in the transition to the printing era. As Scrase and Croft point out in their book Maynard Keynes, “It is characteristic of the earliest period of printing that the book was conceived as a collaboration between the practitioners of the new art and the professional scribes and illuminators whose traditional involvement in book production went back for centuries” (Cambridge: Provost and Scholars of King’s College, Cambridge, 1983, p. 74). The illuminations were applied by hand following completion of the printing process, and the printer would leave blank spaces with or without guide letters for the illuminator:


Diogenes Laertius, Vitae et sententiae eorum qui in philosophia probati fuerunt (Venice: Nicolas Jenson, 1475; Keynes.Ec.7.2.9).

This 1476 copy of Boethius’s De consolatione philosophiae has the first initial of text illuminated in gold and blue, with a pink, green and blue decorative leaf border carried around the inner and lower margins:


Boethius, De consolatione philosophiae (Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, 1476; Keynes.Ec.7.1.4) with close-up of initial illuminated in gold and blue.

Sometimes, the initial letters were simply supplied in red, blue or gold, as in this copy of Lucian’s Opera (1503): 

Keynes.Ec.7.2.19 2

Lucian of Samosata, Luciani opera (Venice: Aldo Manuzio, 1503; Keynes.Ec.7.2.19).

One of the most impressive illuminations in the incunabula in the Keynes Bequest is undoubtedly to be found in a copy of Saint Augustine’s De civitate Dei (1468), printed in Rome by two Germans, Konrad Sweynheim and Arnold Pannartz, who are credited with introducing the art of printing into Italy. The first page of text after the preliminaries features the initials “I” and “G” supplied in gold; both initials are embellished with a decorative white vine stem border defined in blue, pink and green with a pattern of white dots, which extends into the upper, inner and lower margins. In the lower margin is a painted coat of arms of Cardinal Medici within a green laurel wreath and a putto on either side:


Saint Augustine, De civitate Dei (Rome: Konrad Sweynheim and Arnold Pannartz, 1468; Keynes.Ec.7.1.2). The Medici arms are not authentic and were added by the forger Hagué.

Below is a close-up of the 15-line initial “I” and the 8-line initial “G”:

Keynes.Ec.7.1.2 (2)

Saint Augustine, De civitate Dei (Rome: Konrad Sweynheim and Arnold Pannartz, 1468; Keynes.Ec.7.1.2); detail.

If you thought the illumination in this incunabulum was impressive, wait until you see the cover. This is a 19th-century binding entirely covered in gold produced by the Belgian bookbinder and binding forger Théodore (aka Louis) Hagué (1822 or 1823-1891) in imitation of a 16th-century Italian binding purported to have been made for Cardinal Medici:

Keynes.Ec.7.1.2 (3)

The book with the golden cover: calf over wooden boards; covers and spine entirely covered in gold with an elaborate interlacing ribbon/strapwork design; four metal bosses on each cover; arms of Cardinal Medici painted in an oval medallion at the centre of each cover. Detail shows gilt and gauffered edges with the Medici coat of arms in the middle, and the pattern of the decorations filled in with red.

Hagué was a master of forgery and produced fake bindings that were passed off as having belonged to popes, cardinals, kings  and queens. And people fell for it hook line and sinker. The sale catalogue description pasted on the fly-leaf reads: “Italian binding of the 16th century. This book is probably unique in its style of binding. It is of calf; tooled and completely covered with gilding. On each cover the arms of Cardinal Medici are painted…” For more information on Hagué, see Mirjam M. Foot, “Binder, Faker and Artist”, The Library 13.2 (2012), pp. 133-146, available here.

This is our last blog post before Christmas, so happy festive season from all of us at King’s College Library and Archives! We’ll be back in the New Year with more posts about the treasures in our special collections, so watch this space…


Flying Sheets

The Keynes Bequest is not merely a collection of books. Interspersed among first editions of Galileo, Descartes, Pascal, Hobbes, Kant and Locke are a number of pamphlets of historical, literary and scientific significance, ranging in size from one sheet to several pages. In the extensive collection of first and early editions of Isaac Newton’s works is an anonymous pamphlet with the caption “29. Julii 1713”. This is the so-called Charta volans (flying sheet), an important document written by Gottfried Leibniz during the bitter controversy between him and Newton over which of them invented the mathematical study of change, calculus. Given the rarity of this pamphlet (the only other copies are in Yale, Chicago and in the Burndy Library), and in the interest of scholarship, we provide a scan of all four pages:

Charta Volans 1-2

Gottfried Leibniz’s Charta volans (1713), in which he argues that Newton had not published anything on calculus before him, adding that Newton’s fluxional method was in imitation of his calculus (Keynes.Ec.7.2.27)

Charta Volans 3-4

Charta volans, pp. 3-4

Its acquisition history is also rather fascinating. Keynes had originally bought two copies of the pamphlet, and observed in a letter to K. G. Maggs when the latter offered to purchase the duplicate copy in May 1942 that he had done so “not because I wanted them, but because they were fastened together, never having been separated by a paper knife when issued. So far I have not had the heart to split the Siamese twins.” The correspondence between Keynes and Maggs throws an interesting light on his relationship with booksellers and how he went about augmenting his collection of rare books and pamphlets:

Keynes-Maggs 1

J. M. Keynes’s correspondence with K. G. Maggs, 15 May-18 May 1942

Keynes-Maggs 2

J. M. Keynes’s correspondence with K. G. Maggs, 28 May-29 May 1942

The “American library which specialises in Newton material” that bought the second copy of the Charta volans is almost certainly the Burndy Library, founded the previous year by the industrialist and historian Bern Dibner. Their copy is now at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California.

As the above correspondence reveals, the loss of one of the “Siamese twins” to the Burndy Library led to Keynes’s acquisition of another exciting “flying sheet”, namely a leaf from the Gutenberg Bible, the first book printed using movable type which marked the beginning of the Printing Revolution. The iconic 42-line Bible was printed in Mainz, ca. 1454-55, by Johannes Gutenberg. Of the about 180 copies printed, 49 are known to have survived, only 21 of which are complete. This leaf includes all of Jeremiah XX and part of Jeremiah XXI:

Gutenberg Bible Leaf 2

The first printed book: recto and verso of leaf 80 from the Gutenberg Bible (1454-55). Printed in two columns, one column on each side being defective; 2 initials supplied in red, chapter numbers in red and blue (Keynes.Ec.7.2.13)

The addition of a leaf from the Gutenberg Bible to Keynes’s collection means that the items in the Keynes Bequest cover five centuries of printing, from its very inception in the middle of the fifteenth century, right up to the middle of the twentieth.


Judging a Book by its Cover

While most of the books in the Keynes Bequest have been acquired for their intellectual content, charting the history of European thought, there is one section in which the items have been collected primarily because of their physical characteristics, namely the binding. Every book bound before the early 19th century is a unique handcrafted object, so no two bindings can be genuinely identical. Recording the binding information when cataloguing a rare book is important as it gives us an indication of its provenance as well as how the book was used, regarded and circulated. Below is a selection of some of the most interesting items in the ‘binding’ section of the Keynes Library.

This copy of Les Pseaumes de David (1668) features an ornamental binding in goat-skin from the atelier de Charenton, characterised by corner-pieces and fleurons incorporating several pointillé motifs; on the board edges is a decorative roll in the style of the binder Antoine Ruette (1609-1669). Four stud holes are visible at the centre:


Keynes.Ec.7.4.11: Les Pseaumes de David mis en rime franc̜oise par Clement Marot, et Theodore de Beze (Charenton: Estienne Lucas, 1668).

Keynes.Ec.7.4.13 is an example of a book judged solely by its cover, being a copy of an obscure Italian play on St. John the Baptist which seems to have been consigned to oblivion by literary history, but whose binding features an aesthetically pleasing symmetrical double-panel design with drawer-handle and leaf ornaments tooled in gold:


Keynes.Ec.7.4.13: Niccolò Lippi, La verità conosciuta, e non seguita: overo la decollazione del glorioso S. Gio. Battista (Naples: Eredi di Laino, 1721).

There are also a number of armorial bindings in this section with interesting historical associations. We have a copy of Notizie per l’anno 1759, a volume of a statistical and administrative annual printed in Rome from 1716 to 1849, the precursor of the Annuario pontificio. Again, the content of the book is probably less interesting than the binding, which features the arms of the book’s dedicatee Cardinal Carlo Rezzonico (1724-1799), nephew of Pope Clement XIII, gold-stamped at the centre, and corner-pieces with elaborate floral decorations:


Keynes.Ec.7.4.12: Notizie per l’anno 1759 (Rome: Chracas, 1759).

Going back to France, this copy of René Budel’s De monetis, et re numaria (1591) has the coat of arms of the noted French historian and bibliophile Jacques-Auguste de Thou (1553-1617) and of his second wife Gasparde de la Chastre blocked in gold at the centre of each cover. The fact that de Thou and his wife were already dead when this volume was added to their library is indicated by the addition of an urn above the two coats of arms. Underneath them, and on each spine panel, is the couple’s monogram IAGG. De Thou’s son François continued to add books to his late father’s library using this version of his coat of arms:


Keynes.Ec.7.4.6: René Budel, De monetis, et re numaria, libri duo (Cologne: Johann Gymnich, 1591). Detail from the cover and spine.

And finally something closer to home: a 16th-century English blind-stamped volume bound by Garret Godfrey of Cambridge (d. 1539), with a panel design formed by a roll containing a lion, a wyvern, and a gryphon; the floral ornaments feature the binder’s initials G. G. The metal clasps, catch plates and leather straps are intact:


Keynes.Ec.7.4.7: Petrus Comestor, Historia scholastica (Paris: Jean Frellon, 1513).

Some useful online resources on bookbinding:






Something Fishy

Among the more curious items in the Keynes Bequest is a book entitled Vox Piscis; or, The Book-Fish; Contayning Three Treatises Which Were Found in the Belly of a Cod-Fish in Cambridge Market, on Midsummer Eve Last, Anno Domini 1626 (1627). The title says it all. The circumstances surrounding this catch are detailed in the preface of the book, where we are told that “a codfish being brought to the fish-market of Cambridge and there cut up, … in the depth of the mawe of the fish was found wrapped in a peice of canvase, a booke in decimo sexto, containing in it three treatises bound up in one” (p. 8). The preface was written by the clergyman Thomas Goad (1576-1638), who became a Fellow of King’s College in 1596. In his will, he bequeathed his land in Milton to the College, “to the intent that the whole yearlie profitt thereof bee faithfullie emploied yearlie for ever in divinitie bookes for the librarie”. Many of these books bear the inscription “Legavit Thomas Goad”.

Vox Piscis 1b

The voice of the fish: title page and frontispiece of Vox Piscis; or, The Book-Fish (Keynes.D.4.15). It is unclear how the book ended up in the fish’s stomach.

Joseph Mede (1586-1639), theologian and Fellow of Christ’s College, helped clean the bundle and decipher the content of the treatises. They were attributed to John Frith (1503-33), the Protestant reformer who was imprisoned in Oxford in a “darke cave, where salt-fish was then kept” (p. 19) and burned at the stake in London on 4 July 1533. Frith received his B.A. degree from King’s, so the book bears a close connection with the College. Incidentally, his tutor at Cambridge, Stephen Gardiner, later played a role in condemning him to death. That’s Cambridge supervisions for you. The Keynes Bequest has two other copies of Frith’s works: A Pistle to the Christen Reader (Antwerp, 1529) and A Boke Made by Iohn Fryth, Prysoner in the Tower of London (Antwerp, 1548), a reply to Sir Thomas More.

Vox Piscis 2b

The second plate of Vox Piscis, wanting in King’s College copy; this is from the copy in the Cambridge University Library.

If you think this already sounds like something out of Pinocchio, there is more to come. Inside the book is preserved a newspaper cutting with the date “Feb 10 1912” pencilled in by a former owner. The short article recounts how a pocket knife was found inside a silver hake by Thomas Hughes, a salesman at the Wholesale Fish Market in Manchester. It then describes the knife, “one of a superior quality” bearing the makers’ name on each blade, “Newman and Field”, before inviting the owner to come forward and have it returned to them.

Vox Piscis 3

“Knife found in a fish”: newspaper cutting preserved inside the book.

Carrying such items is now probably illegal following the introduction of the Offensive Weapons Act in 1996, but if a knife that matches this description has been missing from your kitchen for the last century, now may be a good time to claim it back.