Tag Archives: King’s College

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]

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)


The Potticarie’s Bill

Following a previous post about the College site in the accounts books, this post highlights another series of accounts books: the Commons Books which record food bought for consumption in Hall and the names of those consuming it. Sometimes these are the only record of the names of our choristers. (An article has been written from the Commons Books for earlier years and two of the books are partially transcribed, see the catalogue descriptions of the commons books, and the article and transcriptions, for more information.) The pages for the week beginning October 18, 1578 are reproduced here (click on the image if you want to zoom in):

KCAR/4/1/6/20 1578-10-18 1

Oct 18, 1578: diners and first part of the week’s expenses


At the top of the page is listed the week (in this case, the third) of the financial year, then the name of the Fellow assigned to be Steward that week (in this case, Mag[iste]ro [John] Cowell). Then are listed the members of the ‘College society’ (the Provost is not included, his commons was usually accounted elsewhere): i.e. the Vice-Provost followed by the rest of the Fellows in their order of seniority, each of whom was allowed 20 pence weekly commons allowance in what amounted to an internal recharging system. An annotation next to someone’s name indicates if he was away from Co[llege] for the whole or just half the week. The Fellows are followed by the ‘Scholaribus’ = Scholars of the College, also in seniority order and allotted 20 pence per week, then ‘alii’ (others, also allotted 20 pence per week commons) which turns out to be the Bursar’s Clerk, the lay clerks and the chaplains. Then the Choristers are listed (10 pence each for their commons), then the ‘Servientes’ (servants, 12 pence per week each) that had been specified by Henry VI as being supported on the Foundation. Following the total commons allowance are, for each day of the week, the value of the food consumed at dinner and supper.

KCAR/4/1/6/20 1578-10-18 2

Oct 18, 1578: expenses for the second part of the week

You can see that an awful lot of beef (carne bovine) and mutton (carne ovine) was being consumed, plus milk, butter, eggs (ovis – we had no College chickens or cows), various types of fish (ling, plaice, roach, pickerel), pepper, sugar, currants, dates, cinnamon, cloves, mace, suet, rabbit (‘cuniculis’), tripe, neat’s foot (the heel of a cow or ox), ‘salsamente’ which is some unspecified sauce, oatmeal, mustard and possibly other herbs (‘sinapis’), and black or white salt (‘sale nigra’ or ‘albo’). ‘Cena’ means supper, apparently the last meal of the day.

Sedge, wood and candles were part of commons expenses, I suspect the sedge was in the form of rushes strewn on the floor. Not much flour is accounted for but there was wheat (‘frumenti’) charged during this week – we had our own millstone. There are no expenses for honey that week. I have never seen expenses for beekeeping supplies in other years’ accounts books, so possibly honey was not used regularly in Hall.

Following all of the expenditures is an account of what was still in the storerooms (in stauro), and internal accounting of various College members’ cizations, i.e. personal domus accounts.

Audit Feasts

Dining expenses in the two weeks or so preceding the annual Audit at the end of October, were accounted separately. The year after the above, in the 18 days before October 30th, 1579, in addition to the usual mutton, beef etc., the College members were indulged with ‘a pigge’ one day (other pork cuts were served on other days), pigeons, capons, oysters, cream, marrowbone, veal (loin, breast, leg, shoulder and rack), ‘boylde chikins’, larks, a goose, mallard, teal and snipe. An entry for ‘sake’ doesn’t constitute previously unknown evidence of intimate links with Japan, it’s from the French ‘sec’ for dry wine. There was wine, white as well as claret, at almost every meal during the audit time. Sometimes the wine was used ‘for broth’. The College brewed its own beer at this time but beer is not mentioned in the Commons Books, suggesting that these accounts only list the actual expenditure on food. Fruit is often mentioned in general, with apples sometimes specified for the table, sometimes for tarts, and peaches are mentioned specifically once.

KCAR/4/1/6/19 audit 1579 02

The ‘potticaries bill’ (halfway down in the image above) for the first week includes expenses for currants (5 pence per pound, that’s half a Chorister’s weekly commons allowance), prunes, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, mace, dates, pepper, capers, vinegar, verjuice, oatmeal, ‘unnions’, rose water and saffron. That’s a reminder of the days when medicines were plant-based and exotic plants were most readily available from the druggist.


Riveting Accounts

After someone asked me about a young King’s fellow in about 1579 (whom the enquirer thought might be the minister who married Will Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway – we were not surprised when I couldn’t find any supporting evidence at King’s), I searched through that entire year’s accounts. Some surprising, or at least interesting, things came up.

The two great maps of the College site pre-Gibbs’ building are Hamond’s map of 1592 and Loggan’s map of 1688. Hamond’s map is faint, and is reproduced here as a re-drawing from Willis and Clark’s Architectural History of the University of Cambridge and of the Colleges of Cambridge and Eton. The Loggan excerpt reproduced here is taken from a 1921 reprint by Clark and Gray.

W&C-553 fig 57 b

Hamond’s map

1688 Loggan_crop

Loggan’s map

Queens’ Road (west) is at the top – the fields beyond, now the Fellows’ Garden, were common land at the time.

What’s that moated site in the middle of Scholars’ Piece? On the Hamond map it’s occupied by a dovecote. And what about all those buildings around the wall surrounding the College site, particularly visible in Hamond’s map? What are they? The draft accounts (a page of which is shown below) offer some partial explanations.

1578-9 rep cantab 4

KCAR-4-1-4-11 Bursar’s particulars book, reparationes cantab. for Annunt and Bapt term (Easter and long vacation/summer) 1579

These particular pages from the accounts record repairs on the College site. (Other pages record repairs at our Grantchester and Barton estates, for example.) The first three items on this page record payments of

Junii 23 le pavier for paving 32 yerdes in the lane by the stables 2 d ob the yerde…vi s iiii d

for a load of ragge to the same…iiii s vi d

Cochei July 8° pro 10 bigatis argille…vi s viii d

The abbreviation ob is for oblus, technically a halfpenny but the term often appears in the accounts to stand generally for ‘a portion’ – in this case the paving cost works out at 2 3/8 shillings per yard. This suggests it is internal to the College site, for the 1543 Cambridge paving bill (in force until 1788) decreed that all the public streets be maintained by the frontage-holders and that ‘no persone or persones exercysyng the handecrafte or ocupacion of pavyng wythin the sayd towne, shall take above a jd. q. for every yarde square pavyng’ (Cooper’s Annals of Cambridge, vol. 1, p. 411).

Thus we paid someone to pave a lane, at two and a bit pence per yard, and he supplied the (rag-)stones at 4 shillings sixpence. We also paid Cochei for 10 cartloads of clay. It’s not clear whether this is a man called Cochei, or just ‘a coach driver’ – the designation appears in the accounts books frequently during these years, when labourers’ names are usually specified. From the marginal ‘g.w.’ next to this entry and others I surmise the clay (‘argille’), as well as the next items (sand and straw, also delivered by Cochei), were used to build the garden wall in that year. 10,800 tiles were purchased at one point to cope the garden wall ‘about the Fellows garden’ which had a locked gate.

In various places the late 1570s College accounts mention a thatched swan house and a dove house which probably housed the ‘salt stone for the pigeons’ who were fattened, like the swans, with malt – the swans were later ‘upped’ (gathered and marked) and one presumes the pigeons were consumed in Hall. Other buildings mentioned in these years are:

• the stables and stable yard
• wheat house
• wood house and wood yard
• storehouse which might be the same as the larder mentioned
• salt house
• lead house (it housed the leads used in windows and the Chapel roof I suppose)
• ‘house over the water in the Scholars’ garden’
• coal house
• mill house with mill stone and mill horse
• brew house
• bake house
• sedge house with a wall around it which might be the same as the new straw house – a boat was required to remove the scaffolding after the sedge yard wall had been repaired, so if they are the same it must be one of the riverside buildings.

Gates mentioned:

• field gate
• bridge gate
• water gate
• College gate
• alms gate
• friars’ gate

The friars’ gate was approximately where Webb’s Court gate now is. There was a tennis court outside the friars’ gate and an orchard in what is now the Provost’s garden. There were lofts somewhere for malt and fish. Willis and Clark examined the accounts and offered some explanations, but it’s likely that in many cases we will never know which buildings were used for which purposes. So there are more questions than answers at this point, and plenty more research to do in those ‘boring, dry old accounts’.


Mania and Imagination

Building on the success of our 2013 conference to celebrate the centenary of ‘Tim’ Munby’s birth, ‘Floreat Bibliomania—Great Collectors and their Grand Designs’, we will be holding a second conference on 18-19 June 2016. This will be called ‘Mania and Imagination: Perils and pleasures of the private collector, present and future’, and will again be held in the Keynes Hall at King’s.

A.N.L. Munby

Please visit this page for further details, including a programme and registration form. We hope it will be as enjoyable as the first conference, and that readers of the King’s Treasures blog will be well represented!

We are also happy to announce the publications of the proceedings of the first conference in a special issue of the Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society. See here for full details.

Great Collectors