Tag Archives: Rare Books

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

John Sturt (1658-1730): Engraver, Illustrator, Calligrapher

One of the most extensive sections of the Thackeray Bequest is a collection of theology books, ranging from the Koberger Latin Bible printed in Nuremberg in 1478 to around 160 books in Gothic script published between 1530 and 1580 by such notable figures as John Calvin, Hugh Latimer, Philip Melanchthon, Sir Thomas More, William Tyndale, Luther and Erasmus. In this eclectic collection are two visually impressive books engraved by John Sturt (1658-1730), best known as the illustrator of Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress (1728).

Title page of The Book of Common Prayer (London: John Baskett; sold by John Sturt, 1717) with engraved royal device (Thackeray.C.67.12)

One of Sturt’s most notable works is The Book of Common Prayer (1717), executed on 188 silver plates which include more than 100 illustrations depicting scenes from the New Testament:

Engraved vignette depicting one of the Stations of the Cross

as well as portraits of Queen Elizabeth I, James I, Charles I, Charles II, and George I, among others:

Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I. Each page is set within an ornamental border

A remarkable feature of this book is the frontispiece portrait of King George I, on which Sturt inscribed in minuscule letters the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, a prayer for the King and the Royal Family, and Psalm 21:

Frontispiece portrait of King George I. Sturt’s skills as a calligrapher were such that he managed to engrave the Lord’s Prayer on a silver halfpenny

The book took three years to complete and was financed by subscribers, whose names appear in the volume. Sturt’s next project, providing the illustrations for Laurence Howell’s The Orthodox Communicant (1721), was published four years later and also features a list of subscribers at the end.

Title page of Laurence Howell’s The Orthodox Communicant (London: Sold by John Sturt, 1721); Thackeray.C.75.28

This volume further illustrates Sturt’s skills in miniature work. Each page has an engraved border enclosing engraved text with a vignette at the top of the page. The text and the borders were separately imposed, which means that copies may not always have the same border surrounding a particular page of text:

The Sermon on the Mount

The Flagellation

The Resurrection

Sturt was a very prolific engraver, and his work as a book illustrator includes Francis Bragge’s Passion of our Saviour (1694), Samuel Wesley’s History of the Old and New Testament in Verse (1704), Charles Perrault’s Treatise on the Five Orders of Architecture (1708) and Hamond’s Historical Narrative of the Whole Bible (1727). Though he died in poverty in 1730, John Sturt remains one of the most skilled and accomplished engravers and calligraphers of his generation.

Happy Easter from everyone at King’s College Library and Archives!

IJ

 

Pirate treasure (and other ill-gotten gains)

Interest in tales of outlaws, brigands and pirates is perennial, and recent cataloguing work has uncovered several volumes in the Thackeray bequest which provide early accounts of some of these fascinating and colourful characters, both real and fictional, including such luminaries as Blackbeard, Captain Avery and Robin Hood.

Perhaps most significant amongst these works is a large tome published in 1734, the title-page of which is pictured below.

Thackeray.Q.29.9 titlepage

Title-page of “A general history of the lives and adventures of the most famous highwaymen, murderers, street-robbers, &c : to which is added A genuine account of the voyages and plunders of the most notorious pyrates…” (London, 1734) Thackeray.Q.29.9

This book contains selections from one of the most famous early works about pirates: Captain Charles Johnson’s 1724 work: A general history of the robberies and murders of the most notorious pyrates. Interspersed with these piratical histories are selections from Captain Alexander Smith’s The history of the lives of the most noted highwaymen, which was originally published in 1714. The book, which delights in embroidering and exaggerating its accounts of criminality, is also full of wonderfully evocative engravings depicting pirates, highwaymen and other assorted villains going about their dastardly business.  Possibly the most striking illustration is this image of the notorious pirate Blackbeard.

Thackeray.Q.29.9 facing page 203 Blackbeard

Edward Teach (c. 1680–1718) alias Blackbeard. Illustration facing page 203 in Thackeray.Q.29.9

An accompanying description in the text elaborates upon his fearsome appearance.

Thackeray.Q.29.9 page 207 Blackbeard's beard

Description of Blackbeard. Extract from page 207 of Thackeray.Q.29.9

Captain Avery, a sailor who turned to piracy after taking part in a mutiny, is shown against a backdrop depicting one of his most famous exploits: the taking, in 1695, of the Ganj-i-Sawai, a treasure ship belonging to the Mughal emperor of India. Having secured a vast haul of silver and gold, Avery and his crew went their separate ways, and Avery’s eventual fate is unknown, although Johnson’s account suggests he died a penniless beggar, having frittered away his loot.

Thackeray.Q.29.9 facing page 197 Avery

Captain Avery (c.1659-1696?) Illustration facing page 197 from Thackeray.Q.29.9

One of the highwaymen featured in this book is James Hind (c.1616-52), a royalist sympathiser who once tried (and failed) to rob Oliver Cromwell. Hind had the reputation of being a gallant and generous thief, who went out of his way to avoid bloodshed wherever possible and “was distinguished by his pleasantry in all his adventures”. However, his penchant for targeting rich republicans during the Protectorate meant that when he was finally caught he was hanged, drawn and quartered for treason.

Thackeray.Q.29.9 facing page 89 Hind

Captain Hind engaged in robbing Colonel Harrison. Illustration facing page 89 from Thackeray.Q.29.9

Criminal women are not absent from these pages. Pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read both get biographies, and there is a fascinating account of the exploits of Ann (or Nan) Holland, who robbed several families she worked for as a servant. After a spell as the wife of a highwayman, she teamed up with a hoodlum called Tristram Savage to rob an astrologer. The illustration below depicts this robbery. For reasons which are not explained in the text, Savage is dressed as a woman. Note the devil peeping out from beneath the tablecloth!

Thackeray.Q.29.9 facing page 372 Holland

Illustration facing page 372 from Thackeray.Q.29.9

Captain Johnson is a pseudonym. For many years, the true author was believed to be Daniel Defoe (1660-1731), the author of Robinson Crusoe, but more recently this theory has been disputed. However, Defoe did write several works about pirates, and the Thackeray bequest also contains a copy of the first edition (1720) of his novel:  The life, adventures, and pyracies, of the famous Captain Singleton. This contains numerous descriptions of the protagonist’s piratical activities. The title-page provides a neat summary of the novel’s plot.

Thackeray.VIII.11.11 titlepage

Title-page of “The life, adventures and pyracies, of the famous Captain Singleton …” (London, 1720) Thackeray.VIII.11.11

Singleton is kidnapped as a boy and eventually carried off to sea. After many adventures in the East Indies and Africa, he heads to the West Indies and takes up a life of piracy. This is done with great enthusiasm, as is related in the extract below.

Thackeray.VIII.11.11 page 182 extract

Extract from page 182 of Thackeray.VIII.11.11

Singleton and his piratical associates range far and wide, from the Indies to the coast of Africa and even into the Pacific ocean, taking ships belonging to a variety of nations and gleefully availing themselves of their valuables.

Thackeray.VIII.11.11 page 213 extract

Extract from page 213. Thackeray.VIII.11.11

So successful are they that in time their lust for treasure is sated, and Singleton and his crew trade piracy for the merchant life, using their ill-gotten gains as capital. Singleton eventually returns home to live a quiet life in England.

Thackeray.VIII.11.11 page 241 extract

Extract from page 241 of Thackeray.VIII.11.11

Finally, we have a two volume compilation of ballads, poems and songs about Robin Hood, dating from 1795. This includes attractive illustrations depicting scenes from the outlaw’s many adventures, like that pictured below, in which Robin tricks a bishop, and liberates him of his gold.

Thackeray.J.65.4 page 19

Page 19 of volume 2 of “Robin Hood: a collection of all the ancient poems, songs, and ballads, now extant, relative to that celebrated English outlaw …” (London, 1795) Thackeray.J.65.4

Perhaps George Thackeray’s habit of keeping two pistols at home to protect his household from thieves (see our earlier blog post “Who was George Thackeray?”) was fostered in part by reading sensational stories of crime and villainy like these!

AC

Who was George Thackeray?

During the last eighteen months of our HLF-supported project based around the rare book collection of former King’s Provost George Thackeray we have enjoyed sharing gems from the collection with the public through this blog, a variety of exhibitions in King’s Library, some public talks, and more recently through our Thackeray project digital library. As we enter the final six months of the project it seems appropriate to pause for a moment and think about who Thackeray was, why he collected books, and perhaps give some thought to Thackeray the man as opposed to Thackeray the book collector.

Thackeray, apparently sitting in the Provost’s Lodge at King’s with the Chapel in the background. (Lithograph by Richard James Lane, 1851)

Born in 1777 in Windsor, to parents Frederick and Elizabeth, Thackeray was admitted to Eton as a King’s Scholar in 1792 before proceeding to King’s College in 1797. He became a fellow of King’s in 1800, and received the BA in 1802, the MA in 1805 and the BD in 1813. He had returned to Eton in 1801 as Assistant Master and had married a Miss Carbonell in 1803. Tragically she died young (possibly in 1810), and it seems to be peculiarly difficult to find any more about her. In 1814 Thackeray was elected Provost at King’s and in the same year the degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred on him, by royal mandate. He remained Provost until 1850, overseeing major building works in the College including the building of the current College Library which was completed in 1828.

This hand-coloured engraving by Le Keux shows King’s Library and the adjoining Provost’s Lodge, where Thackeray resided, as it would have looked in 1841.

Things seemed to be looking up for the newly elected Provost of King’s. He married again in 1816, his bride being Mary Ann Cottin. However, tragedy was looming only two short years away. On 13th February 1818 when in labour with their first child, the accoucher (someone who looks after ladies in their confinement) in attendance, Sir Richard Croft, showed great agitation and exhaustion in their house in Wimpole Street. Thackeray found Croft dead at 2am in a bedroom in the house, the latter having shot himself in the head with two pistols which belonged to Thackeray. Apparently Thackeray had kept the pistols in the house for protection against a spate of house robberies that had been taking place in the area. Former King’s Librarian Tim Munby conjectured that Mary Ann’s labour might have shown similarities to the labour of Princess Charlotte who had died in childbirth in the previous year. She was also attended by Sir Richard Croft. Mary Ann gave birth to a daughter, Mary Ann Elizabeth, on 13th February, exactly two hundred years ago today. It appears from a note in Thackeray’s hand in his Bible (now in King’s Library) that she was not expected to survive, so was hurriedly baptised five days later on the 18th, on which day her mother died:

Thackeray’s inscription on the rear pastedown in his Bible (Thackeray.I.1.3/1-2)

Mary Ann Elizabeth Thackeray’s baptism record, St Marylebone Church, Westminster, 21 April 1819.

Mary Ann Thackeray, burial record, St Matthew Friday Street Church, London, 23 February 1818

Today we are on the eve of the start of Lent, a period often associated with self sacrifice and suffering, so it seems appropriate to pause to think of Thackeray’s early personal tragedy. Thackeray’s obituarist wrote that ‘this sad event threw an air of gloom and desolation about his house from which it never altogether recovered’. He goes on to say that whilst this early tragedy appears not to have prevented him from assiduously undertaking his college and university duties, or being a valued member of such society as he mingled in, ‘it threw him, for his general companionship, upon Erasmus and Propertius, black-letter Bibles, and odd books generally—for there was not a vendor of literary curiosities in London who had not some reason for knowing the Provost of King’s’.

Opening of Chapter IV of Matthew (from Thackeray’s Bible) describing the fasting and temptation of Jesus in the desert. This passage is strongly associated with Lent.

Book collecting and ornithology were two of Thackeray’s passions, and his collection includes a large number of natural history books in fine bindings, alongside the English literature, black-letter divinity books and Bibles. Whether the book collecting really was an anodyne for Thackeray (as Munby suggests) or whether he would have been an equally devout bibliophile had his early tragedies not happened we will never know. When he died in 1850 he left his black-letter books to King’s in his will (some 165 volumes). His daughter, Mary Ann Elizabeth, did live into adulthood and left the remainder of her father’s library, amounting to some 3,200 volumes in total, to the College in her will when she died in 1879.

The engraved title page of Thackeray’s Bible, with its heart-shaped title border, has become associated with tragedy rather than love owing to Thackeray’s inscription on the final pastedown

After his death in 1850, in his house in Wimpole Street in London, Thackeray was buried in King’s Chapel. His funeral, by all accounts, was a grand affair. A copy of the ‘Programme of the procession of the funeral of the late George Thackeray’ survives in the College archives and gives an indication of the scale of the occasion.

Programme of procession of the funeral of George Thackeray, D.D. (King’s College Archives: KCAR/1/2/20/2)

In May of this year we will be exhibiting a number of the black-letter divinity books in King’s College Chapel. More information will be announced on this blog in due course.

JC