Tag Archives: Romeo and Juliet

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]
(KCAC/6/2/29)

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)

GB/JC

Bowdlerizing the Bard

According to the OED, the etymology of the verb “to bowdlerize”, meaning “to expurgate (a book or writing), by omitting or modifying words or passages considered indelicate or offensive”, comes from Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825), “who in 1818 published an edition of Shakespeare, ‘in which those words and expressions are omitted which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family’”.

In the collection of books bequeathed to King’s College by its sometime Provost George Thackeray (1777-1850), a cousin of the novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, is a copy of the fifth edition of Thomas Bowdler’s eight-volume The Family Shakspeare (1827):

Thomas Bowdler, The family Shakspeare (London: Printed for Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, Paternoster-Row, 1827) (Thackeray.J.63.1)

Title of page of vol. 1 of Thomas Bowdler’s The Family Shakspeare (London: Printed for Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, Paternoster-Row, 1827) Thackeray.J.63.1

Some of the alterations to Shakespeare’s plays made by Bowdler include, for example, Lady Macbeth’s line, “Out, damned spot!” changed to “Out, crimson spot!” (Macbeth, V.1); in Henry IV, Part 2 the prostitute Doll Tearsheet is omitted from the story altogether; and in all plays the exclamation “God!” is replaced with “Heavens!”

Below is the scan of a line spoken by Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet (II.iv) as it appeared in the Fourth Folio of Shakespeare’s plays (1685) along with the expurgated version printed by Bowdler (vol. 8, p. 168):

Spot the difference: Mercutio’s “the bawdy hand of the dial is now upon the prick of noon” has been changed to “the hand of the dial is now upon the point of noon”.

Spot the difference: Mercutio’s “the bawdy hand of the dial is now upon the prick of noon” has been changed to “the hand of the dial is now upon the point of noon”.

Thackeray’s obituarist writes that “In his discipline generally there was something of almost Roman firmness … Yet under the rigid manner lay the kindest sympathy”. While his library included the First, Second and Fourth Folios of Shakespeare’s plays – as well as later editions – it is interesting that this is the edition he decided to present to his daughter, who recorded the gift on the fly-leaf of all eight volumes: “Mary Ann Eliz.th Thackeray the gift of her father”. But this is perhaps more a reflection on the times than on Thackeray himself.

All these books, along with many other treasures, will be on display at King’s Library’s free Shakespeare exhibition as part of Open Cambridge on Friday 9th and Saturday 10th September, 10.30am – 4pm:

http://www.opencambridge.cam.ac.uk/news/kings-college-library-and-archives-open-their-doors

We hope to see many of you there!

english_landscape_pantone

IJ