Tag Archives: Thackeray bequest

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

Thackeray Project Digital Library

It might seem that we have been a little quiet here recently, but that is because we have been working hard behind the scenes on our digital library which we are now able to share with everyone.

Rare book spines (from left): vellum (gatherings exposed), three with raised bands and decorative gold-tooled panels, the last without raised bands, but with coloured leather spine labels tooled in gold.

One of the objectives of our HLF-funded project, which is centred around the rare book collection of former King’s Provost George Thackeray (1777-1850), is the creation of a corpus of digital content that will last well beyond the lifetime of the two-year project. This can now be viewed on the King’s website here.

Title within woodcut architectural border (McKerrow and Ferguson 278). William Gouge, The Saints sacrifice (London: George Miller, 1632; Thackeray.I.7.5)

The digital library, which we will continue to add to during the project, currently includes a gallery of book bindings, title pages, a gallery showing the stages of book conservation and a page devoted to the first and early editions of Jane Austen.

Title page of the first English edition of Emma (Thackeray.J.57.10)

Stay tuned for many more images from the Thackeray collection!

JC

Public Lecture on Jane Austen’s First Editions

Our series of events marking the bicentenary of Jane Austen’s death culminates in a public lecture on the publication of the first and early editions of Austen’s novels by a leading expert, Dr Linda Bree (Cambridge University Press), editor of Jane Austen’s Persuasion (1998) and the Cambridge Edition of Austen’s Later Manuscripts (2008). The lecture will be held in the Audit Room at King’s College, Cambridge on Tuesday 24th October 2017 at 6pm.

Front cover of Austen’s Persuasion (Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press, 1998), edited by Linda Bree

Dr Bree’s lecture, entitled “Jane Austen in Print”, will focus on the appearance in print of all the first editions: how they were first published, what they looked like and how they were received, her relationship with her publishers, and the posthumous editions of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.

The event is free and open to all, but as spaces are limited, you will need to reserve your place by going to the following website and clicking on “Register” before printing your ticket:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/jane-austen-in-print-public-lecture-by-dr-linda-bree-cup-tickets-38630831858

Those attending the lecture are invited to visit King’s College Library to view first editions of all six novels on 24th October between 5pm and 6pm and after the talk. We look forward to seeing you there!

IJ

 

 

Celebrating Jane Austen at King’s Library

To mark the bicentenary year of Jane Austen’s death, King’s College Library and Archives are hosting an exhibition showcasing first and early editions of the author’s much-loved novels, alongside the autograph manuscript of her unfinished novel Sanditon and treasures highlighting the Austen family’s connection with the College. This two-day event, which is part of the Open Cambridge weekend, is a rare opportunity to take a look inside the College’s beautiful early nineteenth-century library designed by the architect William Wilkins.

If you would like to find out more about one of Britain’s most loved novelists, why not pop in when you are in town. This free exhibition is open to all and can be viewed on Friday 8 and Saturday 9 September between 10:30am and 4pm in King’s College Library.

The interior of King’s College Library

Upon arrival at the front gate of King’s College, tell the member of staff on duty (or the porters) that you are visiting the Jane Austen exhibition. They will direct you to the College Library (see map below).

How to find King’s College Library

Exhibition DATE: Friday 8 and Saturday 9 September 2017

Opening times: 10:30am-4pm each day

JC