Tag Archives: Letters

Bradshaw’s Bullet

Richard Beadle gave the Sandars Lectures at Cambridge University Library this year on ‘Henry Bradshaw and the Foundations of Codicology’. Bradshaw was a Fellow of King’s from 1853 onwards, and University Librarian from 1867 until his death in 1886. Richard Beadle began his lectures with a gunshot fired from the Queens’ Lane direction into Bradshaw’s rooms at King’s in 1872, and Bradshaw’s enquiries to try to find who had fired it. Over the course of the lectures he showed Bradshaw acting as a detective in examining manuscripts, working from significant details of physical evidence, very much like Sherlock Holmes—but Bradshaw got there first. Bradshaw inspired awe and devotion amongst his colleagues in King’s, in Cambridge and the wider book world. His friend the historian George Prothero, Tutor at King’s, produced A Memoir of Henry Bradshaw in 1888, based largely on the correspondence of Bradshaw, his friends and collaborators. The Memoir has a facsimile of a letter from Bradshaw to Mr G.L.F. Tupper of 6 May 1870 tipped in opposite page 360 where other letters to Tupper are mentioned. In the 1870 letter Bradshaw explains how his codicological method could also be applied to woodcuts found in early printed books. His addressee Tupper was a lithographic printer, but also a keen student of early printing, who produced excellent facsimiles of early editions for Bradshaw.

photo of portrait2

Portrait of Bradshaw by Hubert von Herkomer, 1881

Two copies of this Memoir in the Library at King’s were ‘grangerised’, that is original letters by Henry Bradshaw were inserted within the printed text, rather on the model of the Tupper letter. ‘Grangerising’ was a common practice amongst Victorian book owners, a way of personalising as well as supplementing biographies, or extra-illustrating histories and antiquarian works. Both these copies of the Memoir were purchased by King’s in 1955. One copy is quarter-bound in leather and cloth by the firm of Zaehnsdorf for its owner William Tuckwell, whose bookplate is inside the front board. Tuckwell (1829-1919) was educated at New College, Oxford, and became a friend of Bradshaw when they both taught at St Columba’s College near Dublin in 1853-4. Tuckwell is best known today for his Reminiscences of Oxford (1900). Inside the Memoir Tuckwell inserted a letter from Arthur Hugh Clough (son of the poet of the same name), of 16 February 1886 describing the last hours of Bradshaw’s life, as well as another portion of a letter from Clough listing obituaries of Bradshaw. There is a letter from Prothero asking Tuckwell for information about Bradshaw, manuscript ‘Reminiscences sent to Mr Prothero’ by Tuckwell, and Prothero’s letter of thanks. Then follows a printed review of the Memoir by Tuckwell, from The Spectator on 6 July 1889, with Prothero’s letter of thanks for sending it to him. Five letters from Bradshaw to Tuckwell dating from 1854 to 1865 are inserted. Apart from school matters at St Columba’s College the letters deal with Bradshaw’s responses to reading Wordsworth and college reform at King’s. These letters were selectively quoted by Prothero in the Memoir. The final insertion is of a copy of the auction catalogue of Bradshaw’s library by John Swan & Son of Cambridge in November 1886.


Click on image to see full letter

The other ‘grangerised’ copy of the Memoir must have been in the possession of the historian and banker Frederic Seebohm (1833-1912). No less than 31 letters from Bradshaw to Seebohm are inserted, some attached, some now loose. Seebohm’s work on The Oxford Reformers (1867) seems to have first put him in touch with Bradshaw, who helped him by superintending a transcript of the lectures on St Paul’s Epistles to the Romans by John Colet (1467-1519), CUL MS Gg.IV.26, and by trying to procure a decent photograph of an illuminated portrait of Colet in MS Dd.7.3. A second batch of letters deals with Seebohm’s innovative research on early field systems, which resulted in The English Village Community (1883), his most influential book. Seebohm had worked out the size of the average ‘virgate’ or villein’s holding of land, which Bradshaw was able to illustrate from a 14th century manuscript terrier of the West Fields of Cambridge which he had bought himself in 1878, and was bequeathed to the University Library (Additional MS 2601). Seebohm’s letter to Bradshaw of 13 September 1878 (Additional MS 2592, no.504) reads: You are a splendid fellow! Your letter has interested me much for, as the enclosed paper will show you, you are describing the field system in the very terms in which it is described incidentally in the Saxon descriptions of the boundaries added to the Latin charters of the 10th century aBradshaw’s own transcription of part of the manuscript dealing with ‘Grythowefeld’ survives as Additional MS 4228, and is mentioned in his letter to Seebohm of 25 September 1878. Bradshaw also performed the service of introducing Seebohm to the great Russian historian Paul Vinogradoff, as we see from his letter of 8 October 1883. IMG_5733_crop0The most poignant letter inserted in Seebohm’s copy of the Memoir is Henry Bradshaw’s letter of condolence on the sudden death of Seebohm’s daughter Winnie, a student at Newnham College, on 20 December 1885. Winnie’s life and her letters is the subject of Victoria Glendinning, A Suppressed Cry: Life and Death of a Quaker Daughter (1969). Other sources: C.W. Crawley, “Sir George Prothero and his Circle: The Prothero Lecture”, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 20 (1970), 101-127 ‘Introduction’ to John Colet’s Commentary on First Corinthians, ed. Bernard O’Kelly and Catherine A.L. Jarrott (Binghampton, NY: Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1985) Robin Myers, “George Isaac Frederick Tupper, Facsimilist, ‘Whose ability in this description of work is beyond praise’ (1820?-1911)”, Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society, 7 (1978): 113-34 Paul Needham, The Bradshaw Method: Henry Bradshaw’s Contribution to Bibliography (Chapel Hill: Hanes Foundation, 1988) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Bradshaw, Prothero, Seebohm, Tuckwell)