Carcanet Press has recently published an anthology of poems by members of Trinity College. Poems included date from the sixteenth through to the twenty-first century by well-known writers such as George Herbert, Lord Byron and A. E. Housman.
The volume also contains poems by people who were known in other fields, but who also wrote poetry. These poets include the essayist, Francis Bacon; the novelist, William Makepeace Thackeray; and the physicist, James Clerk Maxwell. The twenty-first century is represented by poets including Emma Jones (b. 1977) and Rebecca Watts (b. 1983).
The Library holds manuscripts of some of the poetry included in the volume and work by Tennyson and Housman can be viewed online.
Trinity Poets: an anthology of poems by members of Trinity College, Cambridge (Manchester, 2017) edited by A. Poole and A Leighton can be purchased from the Wren Library during public opening hours as well as from bookshops.
In the early 1630s Isaac de Caus created at Wilton near Salisbury a formal garden for the sophisticated, learned and hugely wealthy Philip Herbert, fourth earl of Pembroke. De Caus, a French Huguenot exile specialised in the design and construction of grottoes and waterworks and Lord Pembroke had been part of the embassy sent to Paris by Charles I to accompany his prospective bride, Henrietta Maria, to England. While he was in Paris, Pembroke resided in the Palais de Luxembourg with its magnificent formal gardens which were probably the inspiration for Wilton, one of the earliest examples in England of a garden in the French style.
Nine and a half acres of garden were enclosed by a wall and divided by a broad path. The garden with waterworks, statuary and parterres de broderie , flanked by arbours was some 400 feet wide and a thousand feet long. The River Nadder which ran across the site was included in the garden scheme and enclosed in a “wilderness” and the river provided water for the many fountains. The garden was studded with statues and a magnificent grotto at the far end of the garden was entered through a classical façade and contained spouting sea monsters, a table with hidden jets to wet the unwary, and hydraulically simulated birdsong. An elevated walkway from the grotto offered a view of the south façade of Wilton House.
Sir Roy Strong has described the garden at Wilton, as “a unique synthesis of the Renaissance Gardener’s art”, a “symbol of the halcyon days of the King’s peace” and “the greatest of English Renaissance gardens”.
The garden survived in this form until the 1730s by which time fashion had turned from the formal to the informal and a later earl of Pembroke had Lancelot “Capability” Brown sweep away the old garden and create a “natural” landscape in the English style.
The garden was illustrated in a set of engravings published by de Caus in the late 1640s. Entitled Wilton Garden the book is one of the rarest and most important books in gardening history. It is rare, because few copies are known to exist and important because it is one of a very few visual and contemporary records of an early garden scheme.
The copy of Wilton Garden in the library of Trinity College Cambridge is one of only four known copies in the United Kingdom. There are probably fewer than ten copies in the world. This book came to the library in 2016 as part of a substantial bequest of books by the late Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe. The book contains the bookplate of the Duchess’s father, the earl, later the marquess, of Crewe which suggests that the book was owned by Lord Crewe before his elevation to the marquessate in 1911. Other than this there are no indications of provenance. The book has its original binding. The text is in French and it contains an introduction, a table of contents and 27 plates. Uniquely, it contains a plate of the south front of the house before the fire of 1648. This is not known in any other copy.
This month’s curio is a Hornbook. These were used as primers by young children learning to read and write. Typically they were a piece of written or printed material pasted onto a board (often made of wood, ivory or lead) and covered with a sheet of transparent horn. The horn covering protected the text from tears or marking. Sometimes the back board was also decorated. The handle made them easier to hold, leaving the other hand free to write. Horn books usually displayed the alphabet in upper and lower case, sometimes also followed by numbers and the Lord’s Prayer.
All that remains on the Trinity hornbook is a fragment of the Lord’s Prayer. The alphabet would have originally been displayed above this on the upper half of the paddle. The horn covering was usually edged with brass or leather. On this hornbook, you can see the marks where the edging of the horn would originally have been held down with tacks or nails. The hole on the handle would have allowed a cord to be threaded through it, allowing the book to be fastened to the body.
Visual evidence of the use of hornbooks dates back to the 14th century (see, for example, here) and they are referred to in 16th century literature, but the oldest actual survivals are 17th century. Hornbooks were produced quite cheaply and in large numbers but not many have survived. Later hornbooks were also produced in gingerbread.
Horn was also sometimes used to cover book labels. We have a few examples here in the Library. The first (B.4.24) is on a velvet binding with the title recorded under horn nailed down with green silk ribbon.
There are two similar bindings in the Library of Corpus Christi College. These bindings are characteristic of the ‘Old Royal’ Library of Henry VIII. Another example (O.4.42) has a label on the lower right hand corner of the back cover with a handwritten title (probably 13th century) under horn held down by nails. Labeling such as this probably indicates ownership in a well-ordered and organised Library. This manuscript was owned by Abbey Dore in Herefordshire.
B.15.2 has its original label pasted to the inside front cover. You can see the holes where the nails held it in place. This label indicates that it is from the library of Syon Abbey, Middlesex. The Abbey had an extensive library prior to the Dissolution which was divided into two collections: one for the monks and one for the nuns. The label records the book title (divisiones thematum super epistolas et evangelia dominicalia cum aliis), 2nd folio (miam et) and original donor (Bracebridge). Medieval cataloguers would often use the first few words of the second folio to distinguish between different copies of the same text.
Finally, B.16.13 has a horn label (early 16th century) on the back cover which records that it was a gift from Thomas Traver, vicar of Walthamstow in Essex. There are also indications of chain marks at the bottom of the first leaves. The library to which this volume was given has not been identified with any certainty, but labels on outer covers (rather than on the spine) make more sense in a chained library where the books might be displayed on reading desks: see, for example, the chained library at Zutphen in The Netherlands.
The hornbook and volumes B.15.2 and O.4.42 are currently on display in the Wren Library during public opening hours.
Recent additions to the Digital Library include an Italian poem printed in the sixteenth century, a musical score by C. Hubert Parry, an eighteenth-century notebook and an album of photographs from the First World War.
Grylls.6.218, Germini sopra quaranta meretrice della citta di Firenze
A poem in octaves, I Germini, is a burlesque take on the game of Tarot, and describes 40 of the 92 cards that made up the whole set in the Florentine version of the game. In the original game, these cards represented a varied series of characters (the Madman, the Pope, the Emperor…), and sometimes portrayed the city’s noble women. In this version, the situation is inverted, and the women portrayed are actually prostitutes. It is likely that contemporary readers would have recognised some Florentine noblewomen behind the comical descriptions. This text also holds a particular place in the history of card games, as it reports the exact order of the germini which remained unchanged until the beginning of the twentieth century, when the game disappeared from Italy.
Parry’s score was presented to the Library in 1891, three years after the first performance by the Bach Choir at St James’ Hall in London on 17th May 1887 in a concert to celebrate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee. It was conducted by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford who, earlier in his career, had been the organist of Trinity College and who had commissioned the piece. The composition was based on Milton’s ode, ‘To a Solemn Musick’. The Library also owns the autograph copy of Milton’s manuscript (R.3.4) containing this ode (page 4).
This small notebook of miscellany was possibly kept by the printer, William Bowyer (1699-1777). It contains a fascinating collection of material including recipes, ‘stories’, receipts and memoranda. The recipes include a seed cake (12r), blacking for shoes, lip salve, and a remedy for the bite of a mad dog (at the bottom of f.6r). It passed into the possession of John Nichols (1745-1826), Bowyer’s apprentice and business partner who inherited the printing business on Bowyer’s death. Under successive generations of the Nichols family, the printing business became well-established and particularly well known for producing books of antiquarian interest.
G.13.112, Album of Photographs of the 1st Eastern General Hospital
This album of photographs of the 1st Eastern General Hospital was given to the library by Myfanwy Griffiths in 1946. She was a relative (probably a daughter) of Colonel Joseph Griffiths (1863-1945), a surgeon at Addenbrooke’s who was instrumental in the establishment of the Hospital and its Commander. The album contains photos taken during the period in 1914 when the Hospital was housed in Nevile’s Court and the surrounding grounds of the College. It later moved more permanently to a cricket ground shared by King’s and Clare Colleges which is now the site of University Library. For more about the hospital see our earlier blog.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-92) was a student at Trinity between 1827 and 1831. Some of his most important manuscripts, which are kept in the Wren Library, have been made available online via the Cambridge Digital Library. The collection includes the earliest extant full-scale draft of his best known poem, In Memoriam. This manuscript was a gift to the College in 1897 from Lady Simeon who had been given the manuscript by Tennyson himself in 1886.
Later – in 1924 – the College’s collection was increased by a bequest from Tennyson’s son, Hallam which included many of his father’s notebooks. However the terms of this bequest limited access to the material: the manuscripts could not be published or used to provide variant readings and readers were only permitted to make short notes. The Library was, however, free to display the manuscripts. It was not until 1969 that the family agreed to lift the restrictions.
The collection is of interest, not simply because it includes drafts of some of Tennyson’s most lyrical poetry, but because it also contains many sketches and doodles made by the poet. Together the words and images provide new opportunities for understanding his process of composition.
The newly established Archive seeks eventually to bring together all Tennyson material into one centralised digital library. In a collaboration with our colleagues at the University Library, the manuscripts kept in the Wren Library are the first to be included.
This month’s curio is a piece of stranded knitting worked by the Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell (1831-79) for his paternal aunt, Mrs Isabella Wedderburn, when he was about 12 years old. The intricate design in stocking stitch includes a Union Jack and lozenge shapes.
Two explanations have been found for the use to which the ‘Abigail’ was put: i) in a letter sent when the knitting was presented to the Library, it is described as an accessory for holding down sleeves when putting on a jacket and ii) Clerk Maxwell’s school friend and biographer described it as a sling for holding a workbasket. Both explanations presumably relate to the popular association of the name ‘Abigail’ with female servants.
Here in the Library we have a small archive of items (Add.ms.b.52) from Clerk Maxwell’s childhood. His mother died when he was young and thereafter he spent much of his time at the family estate of Glenlair and, after beginning his formal schooling at the Edinburgh Academy, with the Wedderburn family at 31 Heriot Row, Edinburgh. He also spent time with the family of another maternal aunt, Jane Cay.
His family on both his father’s and his mother’s side included talented artists but he was greatly encouraged, in particular, by his older first cousin, Jemima Wedderburn who later in life, as Jemima Blackburn (1823-1909), became a renowned watercolourist. The designs featured below demonstrate young James’ obsession with geometric form and harmonious colour combinations. James had accompanied his father to the Royal Scottish Society of Arts in 1845-6 and saw the work of David Ramsay Hay (1798-1866). Hay’s decorative work used geometrical symmetry and young James was inspired to develop a method of drawing ovals using string around pins.
Later, in his first year at Edinburgh University (1847), Clerk Maxwell developed these ideas about oval curves and wrote an important paper on analytical geometry which was presented to the Royal Society of Edinburgh. During his time at Trinity (1850-56), he developed his interest in colour by experimenting using a colour wheel. The scientist Thomas Young (1773-1829) had suggested that there were three distinct receptors in the eye which responded to different ranges of light. Using the spinning wheel to mix the primary lights of red, blue and yellow, Clerk Maxwell was able to demonstrate that, if colours are mixed with mathematical precision, then it is possible to synthesise any colour. The experiments also revealed that we see colour in lights differently to colour in pigments. For example, a mixture of blue and yellow light produces a pinkish hue, but blue and yellow pigments mixed together make green. Clerk Maxwell’s analysis using the colour wheel led him to devise a colour triangle for calculating the ratios of the three primary lights needed to create any particular colour.
James Clerk Maxwell is now remembered as one of the most influential scientists of all time. His later work included study of the composition of Saturn’s rings (drawing the conclusion that they were composed of a myriad of small, solid particles). This conclusion was confirmed by the work undertaken by the Voyager space probes of the 1980s.
Other important research was on electromagnetism and he devised a set of equations which later formed the basis for Einstein’s theory of relativity. When the Cavendish Laboratory was established here in Cambridge in the 1870s and became the first Cavendish Professor of Experimental Physics. Clerk Maxwell died in Cambridge in 1879.
The explorer Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890) was best known for his travels in Africa, Asia and the Americas. His observations, which he recorded in numerous books and articles, provided a remarkable insight into the lives and habits of the people he encountered. There are five works by Burton in the Crewe collection, of which two are notable for their rarity. The first is a copy of First footsteps in East Africa, or an exploration of Harar (1856), an in depth account of the customs, practices and way of life of the peoples of East Africa. Richard Burton was a personal friend of Richard Monckton Milnes (Lord Houghton) and this copy includes a handwritten letter from Burton, addressed to ‘My dear Milnes’ explaining that he has found the ‘original copy’ of appendix 4. Appendix 4 describes the practice of female circumcision in the East Africa region. To circumvent the censor, it was translated into Latin, but the cautious publisher left it out of all but a few copies of the book. A website devoted to Burton and his work (burtoniana.org ) tells us with regard to appendix 4 that ‘Spink & son (1976) estimated that no more than 6 of these were printed, presumably for Burton’s personal use. Appendix IV contains 4 pages, on two leaves, numbered as pages 593-6. Most known copies with Appendix IV have only 1 leaf, that is two pages’. The Crewe collection copy has two printed pages of the appendix, the rest of it (another two pages) has been completed in manuscript by an unknown hand but is tempting to think it was completed by Burton himself.
The second book is Stone Talk (1865). Burton’s lifestyle and attitude often brought him into conflict with the mores and values of the society of the day and by the 1860s his career in the army was faltering. It was these circumstances which gave rise to this bitter satire on Victorian society. The book was written in verse under the pseudonym Frank Baker.
Referring to the publication of the book, his wife Isabel writes in her ‘Life’ (London: Chapman & Hall, 1893), ‘When I showed it to Lord Houghton, he told me that he was afraid that it would do Richard a great deal of harm with the “powers that were.” And advised me to buy them up, which I did.’
burtoniana.org tells us that ‘Stone Talk has been hard to find ever since it was first published. Burton … only had 200 copies printed. The majority of these (128) were for distribution to his friends and the press, and most of the remainder were soon bought back by his wife Isabel and destroyed, ostensibly because she thought the book might damage his career’.
Books from the Crewe Collection including First Footsteps are currently on display in the Wren Library during public opening hours.
Prince Henry Frederick (1594 –1612) was the son of James VI of Scotland (also later James I of England) and Anne of Denmark. In his short lifetime, he was regarded as a young man of great promise – the ideal Renaissance prince – but he died of typhoid fever at the age of only 18.
The boxed collection of eight copybooks, catalogued together as R.7.23*, date from around 1604-6 and provide a fascinating glimpse into the education of the young Prince. The most evocative book is perhaps volume 1 which contains handwriting practice:
On later pages, Henry also practised letters, Latin phrases, flourishes and his signature (left). The right-hand side begins with a passage of Latin adapted from Cicero. Henry copied it out three more times down the length of the page. At the bottom there are two lines of apparently original composition (probably by his writing master of the time, Peter Bales) which translate as “indeed, in my opinion, Prince Henry has such a childish hand that he is hardly worthy of even mediocre praise as a writer”. However, a letter written to Henry by his father in 1604 praises the improvement of his handwriting [The Lost Prince, nos 12 and 20].
The copybooks indicate that Henry had a fairly conventional early education. As well as practising Italic handwriting, he learned Latin, Greek and French and composed and translated Latin texts. Volume 6 contains a series of Latin exercises by the Prince, preceded by a letter from his tutor exhorting him to emulate the learning of Alexander the Great. Like most schoolboys, Henry’s pages sometimes included smudges and crossings out!
Volume 7 contains a printed volume, originally in French with an English translation and then translated by Henry into Latin alongside the printed text.
The French ambassador writing in 1606 described Henry as spending two hours a day studying, but the rest of his time in physical exercise [Strong, 66]. As he grew older, Henry’s education was broadened to include other subjects such as mathematics, music and history. He also showed great interest in naval and military matters, and enthusiasm for chivalric pursuits. Henry became a generous patron of the arts and his tragically early death was deeply felt and gave rise to much literature – particularly in sermons and verse – mourning the loss. Editions of some of these works can also be consulted in the College Library. After Henry’s death, his brother became heir to the throne and was crowned Charles I in 1626.
The copybooks were kept by Adam Newton (d. 1630) who was Henry’s tutor from 1599 and later his secretary. The volumes were bound, probably in 1610, in white velum and tooled with gold. They were given to the College by Newton’s son, Sir Henry Puckering (c.1619-1701) in 1691.
Catherine MacLeod, The Lost Prince: The Life & Death of Henry Stuart, National Portrait Gallery (London, 2012)
Roy Strong, Henry, Prince of Wales and England’s Lost Renaissance (London, 1986)
The Crewe collection contains a number of early editions of works by Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900). Wilde was known to the 1st marquess of Crewe when he was Lord Houghton and a fellow member of Wilfrid Scawen Blunt’s Crabbet Club. The collection also contains works about, and relating to, Wilde published after his death.
Lord Alfred Douglas (1870 –1945), a cousin of Blunt, was an author and poet but is better known as the friend, lover and instigator of the downfall of Oscar Wilde. Following Wilde’s death Lord Alfred’s behaviour became increasingly erratic and led to his involvement in several libel actions and much public controversy. His relations with Robert Ross (1869 –1918), an art critic, art dealer, friend and literary executor of Wilde became particularly bitter and inflamed. Lord Alfred vindictively pursued Ross and attempted on a number of occasions to have him arrested and tried for homosexuality. Another object of Lord Alfred’s bile was Edmund Gosse, a friend of Lord Crewe and a supporter and protector of Ross.
In 1916 Lord Alfred wrote and circulated The Rossiad, a polemic directed against Ross, a copy of which was sent to Lord Crewe through the Privy Council Office. This was accompanied by a letter from Lord Alfred suggesting improprieties on the part of Gosse.
Lord Alfred’s reputation was such that a civil servant sent a note to the marquess on official paper saying:
“Lord Crewe – I suppose it would be dangerous to send any form of acknowledgement”
To which Lord Crewe replied
“No reply, of course”
Books from the Crewe Collection including The Rossiad and works by Oscar Wilde are currently on display in the Wren Library during public opening hours.
This month’s curio is a comb which is said to have belonged to Henry VIII. It has been owned and described as such by the Library since the 1720s. It seems likely that it is indeed a Tudor comb since it is similar to a number in the V&A Museum. Typically these were made of boxwood with bone or ivory inlays and were often manufactured in France. It is generally believed that Henry had reddish brown hair. One contemporaneous description of him is by the Venetian Ambassador to the Tudor court writing home in 1515:
“His Majesty is the handsomest potentate I ever set eyes on; above the usual height, with an extremely fine calf to his leg, his complexion very fair and bright, with auburn hair combed straight and short, in the French fashion, and a round face so very beautiful, that it would become a pretty woman …” [Brewer, J. S., Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, 2.1, no 395. p.116]. The King is depicted on a 5.5 metre long, vellum roll owned by the Library (O.3.59) which records the procession to Parliament on 4th February 1512.
Trinity Library also has eight manuscripts which were once a part of the King’s Library at Westminster. B.15.19 is the manuscript Epistola ad Cardinales also known as Henricus Octavus.
This was the first official statement of the King’s position in relation to the validity of his marriage to his first wife, Katherine of Aragon (who had previously been married to his brother, Arthur) and dates from 1529. In love with Anne Boleyn, Henry had begun to question the marriage’s validity two year’s earlier in 1527 when the first inconclusive examination of the issue took place. A second trial took place before Cardinals Wolsey and Campeggio between May and July 1529.
Tradition states that this manuscript lay on the table before the Cardinals. It was expensively bound with gold tooled decoration by the binder known as ‘King Henry’s Binder’.
It is probable that the King himself composed part of the manuscript and that it contains the text of the speech that Henry delivered to the court on 21st June. Henry argued that, as a young man and with Papal dispensation, he had entered into his marriage in good faith. Over time, given the failure of the marriage to produce sons to succeed him, Henry had become concerned that it contravened Divine Law. Another Trinity manuscript dating from around this time and relating to these issues is B.14.10. The arguments were long and complex and brought Henry into direct confrontation with the Papacy. The debate continued for a further four years. Henry and Anne were secretly married in January 1533 and Henry’s first marriage was annulled in May of the same year, thereby ratifying his marriage with Anne. The break with Rome with followed.
After the Act of Supremacy (1534) which recognised Henry as supreme head of the Church of England and the dissolution of the monasteries that followed, hundreds of books and manuscripts were removed from monastic libraries taken into Henry’s possession. Volumes now at Trinity are Alcuin, De dialectica and works by Jerome (both formerly at Rochester Cathedral Priory) and Alexander Nequam, De naturis rerum formerly at Barnwell Priory.
A 15th century Greek Psalter from the Royal Library was originally written, possibly in Cambridge by Emmanuel of Constantinople, for George Neville, archbishop of York. It is still in its original binding and is one of the 19 identified volumes bound by the ‘Scales Binder’ who worked, probably in London, in the mid to late 15th century. This binder’s work has the following characteristics: the front and back covers are always different; he scored or cut patterns as well as using figured tools; and the scored inscriptions or rebuses may indicate the original owner of the binding. These features can be seen on the Trinity binding which has the name ‘Bhale’ cut into the back cover. This binder is the only one so far identified in England to have used this cut leather technique.
For other examples of combs from the V&A click here.
Carley, J.P., The Libraries of King Henry VIII (London, 2000)
Murphy, V., ‘The Literature and Propaganda of Henry VIII’s First Divorce’, in MacCulloch, D, The Reign of Henry VIII (Basingstoke, 1995), pp. 159-181
Hobson, G. D, English Binding before 1500 (Cambridge, 1929)