Tag Archives: Rare Books

Conjuring tricks for Elizabethans

The Library holds a first edition of Reginald Scott’s Discoverie of Witchcraft (1584), an important early work on the subject, which attacked contemporary received opinion. Scott (d.1599) believed there were no such thing as witches, arguing that those accused were very often beggar women who, having “cursed” those who refused them assistance, were then blamed for anything that subsequently went wrong in the lives of the uncharitable. He claimed that anyone who confessed to being a witch likely did so as a result of delusion or coercion.

Title-page of The discovery of Witchcraft

Title-page of The discoverie of witchcraft, 1584, Shelfmark M.18.65

Scott also sought to debunk other forms of magic and superstition, devoting part of his book to an explanation of how easy it was to deceive people with sleight of hand and other trickery. This section stands as the first major exposé of the fakery behind conjuring tricks, influencing subsequent works on this topic for centuries to come. This mini blog post highlights a few of those tricks, some weird and wonderful, some bearing very close resemblance to simple card tricks still performed today. An example of the latter is shown below:

“How to tell one what card he seeth in the bottom, when the same card is shuffled into the stocke” (page 334)

Other tricks simply relied upon having a paid accomplice in the audience:

Tricks with paid accomplices

“To make one dance naked” and “To transforme or alter the colour of ones cap or hat” (page 339)

Scott then explains how to perform more gruesome tricks, involving feigned bodily mutilation:

Tricks involving apparent mutilation of the body

“To thrust a piece of lead into one eie, and to drive it about (with a sticke) betweene the skin and flesh of the forehead, until it be brought to the other eie and there thrust out”, “To cut half your nose asunder, and to heal it againe presently without anie salve”, and “To put a ring through your cheeke” (page 348)

These even include stabbing yourself in the guts and simulated decapitation!

A trick involving decapitation

“To cut off ones head, and to laie it on a platter, &c: which the jugglers call the decollation of John Baptist” (page  349)

“To thrust a dagger or bodkin into your guts verie stranglie, and to recover immediatelie” (page 350)

It is amusing to imagine avid Elizabethan readers of this tome rushing off to try out some of these tricks on their unsuspecting friends and family. Hopefully none of these would-be conjurors were subsequently burnt as witches or warlocks!

AC

References:

David Wootton “Scott [Scot], Reginald” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 Sep. 2004; Accessed 3rd March. 2020.

Taking the Bull by the Horns

When cataloguing the incunabula in the collection of rare books bequeathed to King’s College by Jacob Bryant (1715-1804), I came across a curious and unusual device in a copy of Werner Rolevinck’s Fasciculus temporum, an overview of world history up until the time of the book’s publication (ca. 1490). The title page features two hand-drawn devices: the one at the centre depicts a black bull with horns and nose rings coloured in gold:

Title page of Werner Rolevinck’s Fasciculus temporum (Strasbourg: Johann Prüss, ca. 1490; Bryant.XV.2.6). Underneath the device is an earlier inscription: “Martinus polonus Carsulanensis Ep[iscop]us, hoc Chronicon composuit”, evidently mistaking this work for the chronicle Chronicon pontificum et imperatorum by Martin of Opava (d. 1278). Another owner corrected this misattribution next to the title: “Wernerus fuit collector ha[rum] historia[rum]”.

This emblem appears to have puzzled the staff in King’s Library for over a century. Stuck to the flyleaf opposite the title page is a letter of 3 June 1912 addressed to Arthur Richard Benten, then under-librarian at King’s, by Beckwith A. Spencer of the Royal College of Art. In it, he states that he was unable to identify these two devices despite enlisting the help of Albert van der Put of the National Art Library:

The same device also appears in two other incunabula bequeathed by Jacob Bryant: as an illumination inside the initial of the first page in Guido delle Colonne’s Historia destructionis Troiae (1486):

Detail of leaf a2 recto in Guido delle Colonne’s Historia destructionis Troiae (Strasbourg: Georg Husner, 1486; Bryant.XV.2.7).

and as a tail-piece painted at the bottom of a4 verso in our copy of Robert Gaguin’s Compendium De origine et gestis Francorum (1497):

Leaf a4 verso of Robert Gaguin’s Compendium De origine et gestis Francorum (Lyon: Johannes Trechsel, 1497; Bryant.XV.6.6). The bull device also rears its head as an illuminated initial on leaves b5 verso and g3 verso.

If anyone has any information that may help us identify this device and solve a century-old mystery, please do get in touch!

IJ

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

AC

Theatrical connections: Gertrude Kingston and George Bernard Shaw

In 1941, Kingsman Judge Edwin Max Konstam C.B.E. donated to the College a collection of books and papers from the library of his late sister, the acclaimed actress Gertrude Kingston (1862–1937).

Portrait of Gertrude Kingston

Gertrude Kingston (1862–1937) Portrait by Sidney Starr, 1888

Kingston (born Gertrude Angela Kohnstamm) had many strings to her bow. Passionate about art from an early age, she studied painting in Paris and Berlin, going on to publish three illustrated books. She developed an interest in lacquer  work and exhibited her creations in this medium in New York in 1927. She was a popular public speaker, using this talent initially on behalf of the women’s suffrage movement, and later in life also for the Conservative Party.  She taught public speaking to others, and wrote many journalistic articles.

However, it was as an actress that Kingston was best known. Her acting career moved from amateur involvement as a child to professional work after her marriage in 1889, necessitated by deficiencies in her husband’s income.  Adopting Kingston as her stage name, she made a reputation for herself on the London stage, acting in Shakespearean and classical as well as contemporary roles. One of the most notable of these roles was as Helen of Troy in Euripides’ The Trojan Women. Kingston undertook this role at the suggestion of playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950).

Kingston appeared in a number of productions of Shaw’s plays, and seems to have been highly regarded by him. The pair were in regular correspondence, as the large number of letters from Shaw to Kingston amongst the papers given to the College by her brother testify. Kingston also owned several copies of early published editions of Shaw’s plays, some of which are likely to have been her working copies, since they contain performance annotations.

One of the earliest of Shaw’s plays in Kingston’s collection is a first edition of Press Cuttings dating from 1909. This play is a satire of the anti-suffragist lobby, so is likely to have appealed to her feminist sensibilities. The cover has a label proclaiming “Votes for women”:

Cover of the play "Press cuttings" by George Bernard Shaw

Cover of the first edition of George Bernard Shaw’s play Press cuttings London, 1909. Shelfmark N.28.5

The title character of Shaw’s play Great Catherine was written specifically for Kingston,  and in November 1913 she duly starred in its first production at the Vaudeville Theatre in London.

Great Catherine cast note

Note detailing the cast of the first performance of Great Catherine in 1913, with Gertrude Kingston in the starring role. From the flyleaf of Great Catherine, London, 1914. Shelfmark N.28.4

Shaw’s inscription on the half-title page of Kingston’s copy of Heartbreak House, Great Catherine, and playlets of the war identifies her closely with the lead role and underlines the high regard he had for her:

Inscription by George Bernard Shaw

Half-title page of Heartbreak House, Great Catherine and playlets of the war, London, 1919. Shelfmark N.28.2. Shaw’s inscription reads: “To Gertrude Kingston, Catherine the second, but also Catherine the first (and the rest nowhere) from Bernard Shaw. 10th Oct 1919”

Kingston’s personal copy of Great Catherine is an early unpublished rough proof:

Rough proof copy of "Great Catherine" by Bernard Shaw

Great Catherine, London, 1914. Unpublished proof copy. Shelfmark N.28.4

This is one of the volumes containing pencil annotations within the text, likely to have been made by Kingston in order to help guide her performance:

Textual annotations

Annotations to page 5 of Great Catherine, London, 1914. Shelfmark N.28.4

In 1921 Gertrude Kingston joined the British Rhine Army Dramatic Company in Germany. She reprised the role of Lady Waynflete in Shaw’s 1901 play Captain Brassbound’s Conversion, having first played this character in 1912. The front cover of Kingston’s copy of this play gives instructions in several languages on where it should be returned if she should happen to misplace it:

Front cover of Captain Brassbound's conversion

Front cover of Captain Brassbound’s Conversion, London, 1920. Shelfmark N.28.6

Tucked inside the play is a leaflet advertising this production and other forthcoming “Army amusements” at other theatres:

Theatrical leaflet

Front cover of Army Amusements leaflet, 1921

Theatrical leaflet

Centre-page spread of Army Amusements leaflet, 1921

Collections such as these provide a fascinating glimpse into a long-vanished theatrical world.

AC

References

Kate Steedman, “Kingston, Gertrude [real name Gertrude Angela Kohnstamm] (1862–1937), actress.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 Sep. 2004; Accessed 16 Apr. 2020.

Friendship across the ocean: Mark Twain and Sir John MacAlister

A recent foray into one of our rare book storerooms for the purposes of cataloguing has brought to our immediate awareness a wonderful collection of books by Mark Twain, many of which feature inscriptions and quotes in the author’s own hand. These volumes were originally owned by Sir John Young Walker MacAlister (1856-1925), a close friend of Twain, and were given to the college by MacAlister’s son, Kingsman Donald MacAlister (1875-1968).

Photo of Sir John Young Walker MacAlister

Sir John Young Walker MacAlister  (1856-1925) Portrait photo courtesy of Wellcome Trust

Portrait of Mark Twain

Portrait of Mark Twain (1835-1910) from the frontispiece to Innocents abroad, London, 1899. Classmark: N.28.55

John MacAlister belonged to a profession dear to our hearts: librarianship. He was instrumental in building up the fledgling Library Association from a small London-based group into a large professional nationwide organisation, worthy of obtaining a Royal Charter in 1877. Editor of The Library Journal for many years, he wrote extensively about the principles of librarianship, developing many of the ideas which still underpin the profession today.

MacAlister had a wide circle of friends in intellectual spheres, including Mark Twain, with whom he corresponded regularly. They also socialised during periods when Twain was living in England, often getting together to chat and smoke. In June 1899, MacAlister took Twain to his gentleman’s club: The Savage. With very little prompting, the club committee duly elected Twain an honorary lifetime member. Noted caricaturist, Phil May (1864-1903) was also present and produced a cartoon to commemorate the occasion, which shows both Twain and MacAlister. The date of 1900 on the cartoon is thought to be May’s idea of a “prophecy” for the following year. It is unclear who the gentleman with the saw is supposed to be.

Cartoon of Twain and MacAlister at the Savage club

Cartoon by Phil May commemorating the Savage Club dinner on June 9th 1899. Illustration from: “The Savage Club: a medley of history, anecdote, and reminiscence”  by Aaron Watson: London, 1907

Twain was liberal in inscribing and adding pithy quotations to those volumes of his works which he presented to MacAlister. Featured below are just a  small selection of these:

Inscription by Mark Twain

“To MacAlister. “Truth is mighty and will prevail – the eternal years of God are hers” Bryant. There is nothing the matter with this, except that it Ain’t so. Truly yours Mark Twain. London, Feb. 19, 1900″ Inscription on the flyleaf of Innocents abroad, London, 1899. Classmark: N.28.55

Mark Twain quote

Inscription by Twain: “The man who is a pessimist before 48 knows too much; if he is an optimist after it he knows too little” On a sheet interleaved in a bound volume of chapters from Twain’s serialised autobiography. Classmark: N.28.57 

Mark Twain quote

“We often feel sad in the presence of music without words: & often more than that in the presence of music without music”. From another interleaved sheet in the volume of autobiography. Classmark: N.28.57

Several of the volumes are first or limited editions, including this copy of the first edition of the novel The man that corrupted Hadleyburg, with its colourful front cover:

Cover of "The man that corrupted Hadleyburg"

Cover of The man that corrupted Hadleyburg, by Mark Twain. London, 1900. Classmark: N.28.56

The signed edition statement of Innocents abroad identifies it as one of only 620 copies published:

Signed edition statement

Edition statement from MacAlister’s copy of “Innocents abroad” London, 1899. Classmark: N.28.55

Mark Twain was diligent in recording the story of his life whilst he lived it, but was determined that no memoirs be published in book form during his lifetime. In 1906 however, he did agree to allow some chapters of his autobiography to appear in serialised form in the North American Review. John MacAlister took it upon himself to collect these chapters and have them bound together into one volume. When informed of this, Twain, far from being cross, caused a special title-page to be printed for this unique volume, which he sent to MacAlister. The imprint states: “The only copy – MacAlister’s”.

Unique title page

Unique title page created by Mark Twain for John MacAlister. London, 1906-7. Classmark: N.28.57

Tucked inside this volume is the envelope in which the title page was sent. It is addressed in Twain’s own hand:

Envelope addressed by Mark Twain

Envelope addressed by Mark Twain, tucked inside N.28.57

The volumes of Twain’s works from MacAlister’s library clearly reflect the warm and longstanding friendship between the two men, which spanned many years and an ocean.

AC

References:

Death of a Librarian  by Lynn Macalister, accessed 24/04/2020

Mark Twain Day by Day by David Fears, accessed 24/04/2020

The Savage Club: a medley of history, anecdote, and reminiscence  by Aaron Watson, London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1907.

 

Demonology!

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!

AC

The Cadbury Bequest

Thanks to a generous bequest from Sir Adrian Cadbury (1929-2015), King’s College Library has been able to continue the process of cataloguing its collection of rare books. Sir Adrian was great-grandson of John Cadbury, a tea and coffee merchant in Birmingham who later manufactured cocoa powder. John’s sons developed a chocolate recipe in 1866 and went on to build the famous Bournville model village near Birmingham, introducing the Dairy Milk brand in 1905. Sir Adrian came up to King’s in 1949 to read economics. He joined the family business straight from university and became a director of Cadbury Bros in 1958. He retired from his position at Cadbury in 1989, and in his distinguished career was also a director of the Bank of England (1970-94) and of IBM (1975-94).

The Cadbury bequest has so far enabled us to catalogue over 200 incunabula, i.e. books printed before 1501. Some of these, such as a few statutes passed during the reign of King Henry VII and printed between 1496 and 1501, are not preserved in any other library. Other rare highlights include two copies of the 1470 editio princeps of Petrarch’s Canzoniere, one of the most important works in Italian literature of which only about 30 copies survive in public libraries worldwide:

“Voi ch’ascoltate in rime sparse il suono”: the opening of Petrarch’s Canzoniere, first printed in Venice by Vindelino da Spira in 1470 (Bryant.XV.2.11)

There are only three known copies of this 1495 edition of John Mirk’s Liber festivalis (Book of Festivals), a collection of homilies for the liturgical festivals as they were celebrated in Mirk’s native Shropshire at the time. The woodcut title page depicts the Annunciation and the Tree of Jesse:

Title page of John Mirk’s Liber festivalis (Rouen: James Ravynell, 1495) (Bryant.XV.3.24)

The book belonged to the noted Anglo-Saxon scholar Elizabeth Elstob (1683-1756), whose signature is visible on the right. On the title page verso is another woodcut featuring the Crucifixion and, at the foot of the page, Christ carrying the cross:

Title page verso of John Mirk’s Liber festivalis (Bryant.XV.3.24)

Happy Easter from all of us at King’s College Library and Archives; we hope you enjoy some Cadbury chocolate this Easter!

IJ

Theology Books from George Thackeray’s Library: An Online Exhibition

The last exhibition as part of our HLF-funded project was mounted in the beautiful setting of King’s College Chapel in May and June 2018, and it featured books from the theology section of George Thackeray’s library. When he died in 1850, he left his black-letter divinity books, mostly printed between 1530 and 1580, to King’s in his will (some 165 volumes). His daughter Mary Ann Elizabeth bequeathed the rest of her father’s library to the College in 1879. Over 22,000 people visited the Chapel in May and June, but for those who did not have the opportunity to see the exhibition, we provide here some selected highlights.

Two exhibition cases were set up in the Ante-chapel

If you look closely at the next two images, you’ll be able to see the reflection of the chapel wall and the stained glass windows on the cases. This is volume I of the first edition of Martin Luther’s collected works. The title within a historiated woodcut border shows Martin Luther and Frederick III of Saxony kneeling in front of Christ on the Cross:

Martin Luther, Tomus primus omnium operum reuerendi domini Martini Lutheri
Wittenberg: Hans Lufft, 1545
(Thackeray.A.37.5)

This devotional work, first printed in 1574, was likely not authored by St Augustine. Each page has elaborate woodcut borders depicting Biblical figures:

Certaine select prayers: gathered out of S. Augustines meditations
London: Printed by John Wolfe, for the assignes of Richard Day, 1586
(Thackeray.207)

One of the most prolific and influential of Germany’s early printers, Anton Koberger (ca. 1440-1513) printed fifteen editions of the Latin Bible at Nuremberg between 1475 and 1513. Dated 10 November 1478, Koberger’s fourth Latin edition contained several pointers for readers, for example the first table of contents indicating the folio number on which each book of the Bible begins:

Biblia latina
Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, 10 November 1478
(Thackeray.XV.1.10)

The grammarian Robert Whittington was best known for his elementary Latin school books. This 1517 edition of Declinationes nominum [The Declension of Nouns] was produced by the celebrated printer Wynkyn de Worde (died ca. 1534), who collaborated with William Caxton and took over his print shop in 1495. The title page has one of Caxton’s distinctive printer’s devices incorporating the words “wynkyn .de. worde”:

Robert Whittington, Editio roberti whittintoni … Declinationes no[m]i[nu]m ta[m] latinoru[m] [quam] grecoru[m]
London: Wynkyn de Worde, 1517
(Thackeray.41)

This second edition of Sir Thomas More’s Dialogue concerning Heresies, in which he asserts the Catholic Church as the one true church, contains a contemporary 16th-century inscription on the title page (uncertain reading): “lone to amende and fayne for to plese lothe to a[?]f”:

Sir Thomas More, A dyaloge of syr Thomas More knyghte
[London: William Rastell], 1531
(Thackeray.70)

The exhibition also included a selection of books remarkable because of their bindings. This copy of Philipp Melanchthon’s Orationum (1572) features a characteristic 16th-century German blind-stamped alum-tawed pigskin binding over wooden boards. On the front board is a portrait of Melanchthon, with the lines: “Forma Philippe tua est sed mens tua nescia pingi nota est ante bonis et tua [scripta docent]” [Philipp, this is your likeness, but your mind remains unknown to good men without the teaching of your writings]:

Philipp Melanchthon, Orationum
Wittenberg: Clemens Schleich and Anton Schöne, 1572
(Thackeray.J.49.5)

This small volume is bound in a parchment wrapper with manuscript writing on both sides and initials illuminated in red and blue. Recycling of manuscripts in book binding was a common practice. Thanks to the HLF grant, the binding has been repaired as shown in these images, before (left) and after (right) conservation:

William Fulke, A confutation of a popishe, and sclaunderous libelle
London: Printed by John Kingston, for William Jones, 1571
(Thackeray.182)

We would like to take this opportunity to thank the HLF for their generous support over the past two years, which enabled us to catalogue almost 2,000 books from the Thackeray Bequest, repair the volumes that required conservation, create a digital library, organise school visits, and mount numerous exhibitions which attracted thousands of visitors.

IJ

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

Volunteering at King’s

I joined the Thackeray Project at King’s College Library as a volunteer in June 2017 having found out about the project through an online newspaper article. I decided to take part in the project because I have a great passion for history and for books. I also believed that I would gain valuable experience at King’s which would be important for my long-term interests in museums, libraries and archives. As a member of the project I had a number of duties which included: phase boxing of rare books, preparing and invigilating the Jane Austen open days and editing on the King’s College website/blog.

Me standing next to a stack of phase boxes.

The boxing of the Thackeray collection books was central to the project. There were many books that were in need of archival-standard ‘phase boxes’ in order to protect them from further wear and tear. Although it took me a little time to learn and understand how the books were numbered and shelved (having only had experience with the Dewey Decimal system previously), I loved boxing the books because I liked handling them and studying their bindings and pages. I also enjoyed the fact that I was helping to preserve history for the future, something which I’m very passionate about.

Me with College Librarian, James Clements, awaiting visitors to the Jane Austen Open Day.

When the boxing stage of the Thackeray Project was coming to a close, I became involved in the preparation and the invigilation of the Jane Austen open days which we had over the summer of 2017. I really enjoyed both aspects of the open days. As with phase boxing, I loved being close to the volumes and learning about Jane Austen and her works; I’ve come away with more knowledge about Austen than I had before. A particularly memorable moment was seeing the Sanditon manuscript which took centre stage at the open days. After many weeks of preparation, i.e. selecting the books, writing the captions, preparing the posters and so on, we had our first Jane Austen open day on 18 July 2017, the bicentenary of her death. I took part in invigilating the event, monitoring the displays and assisting the general public with their enquiries. Although it was extremely exhausting, I had a wonderful time. It was especially pleasing when I found out that we had 1,061 visitors in total for that day which was an indication of the success of the event.

Visitors viewing the Jane Austen exhibition.

As part of the Jane Austen bicentenary events being run at King’s, we also created an online exhibition of the Austen books shown at the open days on our website and our blog. I took part in the planning of the posts and galleries and did the editing of the photos and text. It didn’t take me long to learn how a website and blog work. I enjoyed helping to edit them because I like knowing that when I look back at these posts, I will remember that I helped to put them there: this makes me feel that I have a personal connection with the Austen events. It also gave me useful IT skills which I feel will be helpful for the future.

King’s College webpage showing the Jane Austen section of the digital library.

I really enjoyed being part of the Thackeray Project. I fell in love with all of the books and with King’s College itself. I have enjoyed working with rare books so much that I have decided that I would like to specialise in this area in the future. I continue to volunteer in the library. In addition to my work in the library, I have recently started to volunteer in the Archives as well (as of November 2017).

Harriet Alder