Mrs Wedderburn’s Abigail

Curio C6
Curio C6

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.

007_add-ms-b-52_4_frontHere 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.

 

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Childhood design for a spinning top (Add.ms.b.52.22)

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.

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JCM with his colour wheel, c. 1850

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.

Further Reading:

http://www.clerkmaxwellfoundation.org/

 

From the Crewe Collection: Works by Richard Francis Burton

Sir Richard Francis Burton by Frederic Leighton, Baron Leighton, oil on canvas, circa 1872-1875, NPG 1070, © National Portrait Gallery, London
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Richard Burton (photograph pasted to the front flyleaf of First Footsteps)

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 AfricaRichard 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.

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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.

Further Reading:

burtoniana.org

Recent Additions to the Wren Digital Library IV: Prince Henry’s Copybooks

Henry, Prince of Wales by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger oil on canvas, circa 1603,
NPG 2562, © National Portrait Gallery, London

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:

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R.7.23*, Vol 1, f.1 r

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].

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R.7.23*, Vol 1, ff. 5v-6r

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!

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R.7.23*, Vol 6, ff. 8v-9r

Volume 7 contains a printed volume, originally in French with an English translation and then translated by Henry into Latin alongside the printed text.

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R.7.23*, Vol 7, ff. 8v-9r

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.

Further Reading:

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)

From the Crewe Collection: The Rossiad, by Lord Alfred Douglas

Oscar Wilde; Lord Alfred Bruce Douglas by Gillman & Co, May 1893, NPG P1122
© National Portrait Gallery, London

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.

Robbie Ross by Elliott & Fry, circa 1914
Robbie Ross by Elliott & Fry, circa 1914, NPG x12885
© National Portrait Gallery, London

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.

rossiad-noteIn 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.

 

Henry VIII’s Comb

Curio B6
Curio B6

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.

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Section from O.3.59

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.

B.15.19, f.1
B.15.19, f.1

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.

B.15.19, front cover
B.15.19, front cover

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.

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O.3.14, front cover
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O.3.14, back cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further Reading:

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)

 

 

 

Hockney’s Bigger Book – and a smaller one.

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This morning we took delivery of A Bigger Book, David Hockney’s retrospective collection of more than 450 works from throughout his career. Measuring 70 x 50 cm, it is a spectacular survey of more than 60 years of Hockney’s work, from his teenage days at the Bradford School of Art, Los Angeles swimming pools in the 1970s, and more recent portraits, iPad drawings and Yorkshire landscapes.

A Bigger Book comes with its own bookstand, designed by Marc Newson, and provides a colourful centrepiece to the Wren Library, where it will be on display next week, 9–13 Jan 2017 (the Library is open to the public Monday to Friday, 12–2).

This copy, no. 2101 from the limited edition signed by the artist, was presented to the College by Nicholas Kessler, whose remarkable collection of livres d’artistes is one of the newer highlights of the Wren’s holdings. Another recent addition to the Kessler collection is a group of twenty Hockney posters from the collection of the late Jonathan Silver, the Bradford entrepreneur who established Salt’s Mill and 1853 Gallery in Saltaire, which is home to one of the largest collections of David Hockney’s art.

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As well as Hockney’s Bigger Book, the Kessler collection includes what is probably Hockney’s smallest book, a miniature edition of Six Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm with 39 etchings by Hockney, printed by the Petersburg Press in 1970. This page shows Rapunzel letting down her hair.

Click here for a video interview with David Hockney on the making of A Bigger Book.

 

On the fifth day of Christmas …

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These five gold rings come from the Dolphin Inn Hoard discovered by workmen excavating beneath a Cambridge coal yard on the site of the former Dolphin Inn in 1817. They were found, along with coins and other pieces of jewellery, contained within a leather bag and buried in the former Inn’s cellars. At the time of their discovery, the finds were reported in local newspapers and the descriptions provided enable identification of the hoard of coins as belonging to the Long Cross coinage of the 31st year of the reign of Henry III (1246-7). This coinage was in regular use up until 1279 thereby enabling a dating of the contents of the hoard to the mid to late 13th century. Many of the items were removed by the workmen and other pieces subsequently went astray, but the rings were given to the Library by Alderman Elliot Smith in the late 19th century. By this time, their story had been embellished with the detail that they were discovered on the hands of a skeleton!

It is unusual for coin hoards also to contain jewellery, but in the medieval period such rings were common, low value items and not indicators of great wealth. The rings are gold and set with what are probably polished and uncut semi garnets, although at the time of their discovery they were described as containing a sapphire, two amethysts, a ruby and another unidentified gem.

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Whewell’s Court and the corner of All Saint’s Passage and Sidney Street

The coal yard was situated at the corner of All Saint’s Passage (formerly known as All Hallows in the Jewry and later as Dolphin Lane) and Sidney Street. This is now the site of Trinity’s Whewell’s Court. For a map dated 1798 showing the coal yard click here.

Who buried the hoard? In 1279 this messuage was recorded as belonging to one Richard Crocheman, a member of a prominent family of Cambridge merchants, but he is not known to have occupied the site. A number of jewellers and goldsmiths were also known to be working in this area in the medieval period, but it has also been suggested that the burial of the hoard may be linked to the persecution and expulsion of the local Jewish population (living and working around the Bridge Street area) in the second half of the 13th century.

This post is the first of our new series focusing on Library curios.

 

Further Reading: Cessford, C., Newman, R., Allen, M. and Hinton, D., ‘The Dolphin Inn Hoard: Re-examining the Early Nineteenth-Century Discovery of a Mid-Thirteenth-Century Hoard from Cambridge’, Archaeological Journal, 168:1 (2011), pp. 272-84

 

Wren Curios

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Currently we welcome around 100 people a day to the Wren Library. Tourists come to marvel at the architecture of the building, the stained glass, portraits and marble busts, and to view the special displays of manuscripts and printed books.

Visitors to the Wren Library during the 18th and 19th centuries, however, would have had a very different experience. In this period, it was not unusual for libraries to acquire items in addition to books including scientific instruments, natural history specimens and antiquities. These collections were intended to complement book-learning and had their origins in the ‘cabinets of curiosities’ which had been popularised during the 16th and 17th centuries.

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The English Globe by Joseph Moxton, 1679.
Image © the Whipple Museum (Wh.1466)

The accumulation of objects meant that the Library became, in many ways, also the city’s museum. Visitors may have seen, at various times, items as miscellaneous as a quiver of arrows allegedly used by Richard III at Bosworth, a rhinoceros’ horn, several globes and a speaking trumpet! Two more organised collections which came to the Library were those of coins from Beaupré Bell (1704–1741) and artefacts from the first voyage of Captain Cook between 1768 and 1771 given by Lord Sandwich. Scientific instruments including telescopes, dials and a barometer were transferred to an observatory established over Trinity’s Great Gate in the early 18th century.

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pavillionBecause the Library had been built to house books, items were fitted in wherever there was space. Old guide books refers to Roman inscriptions and sculpture (the Cotton Collection) in the vestibule at the bottom of the stairs; items from Cook’s Pacific voyage on the first landing; and, in the Library itself, collections of medals and coins, and Anglo-Saxon antiquities.  These were all displayed in addition to books and manuscripts.

An unusual feature of the above photograph of the Wren in the 19th century is the drapery which covered the Cipriani window on the south wall of the library. While the Victorians were happy to fill the Wren with antiquities, curiosities and other frivolities they disliked what they saw as the gaudiness of the 18th-century window in an otherwise austere building. Also, allegory was not to the Victorian taste and the window was covered for many years by large curtains which obscured, to their eyes, the slightly distasteful iconography of a partially-clad lady as the muse of the College.  This was one curiosity too many!

In the 20th century, the decision was taken to loan many of the objects to other museums which had by now been established in Cambridge. The coins, for example, went to the Fitzwilliam Museum, scientific instruments to the Whipple Museum and the Pacific artefacts to the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. A few curios, however, remain here at Trinity and we will be highlighting some of them on the blog over the course of the next year. Look out for the first one on 29th December!

Further Reading:

McKitterick, D (ed.), The Making of the Wren Library (Cambridge, 1995), chapter 3.

The Crewe Collection

crewe-bookshelf

Yesterday we officially announced the arrival at Trinity of the Crewe bequest of over 7500 books. It is described by the Librarian, Dr Nicolas Bell, as ‘an extraordinary library – one of the most important private collections in Britain’ and is one of the largest bequests in the Library’s history. The collection includes major works of English and French literature, rare political pamphlets and several unpublished literary manuscripts, as well as first editions inscribed by Byron, Shelly, Wordsworth and Tennyson.

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Richard Monkton-Milnes

The books were bequeathed by Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe who died in 2014 and whose father, Robert Crewe-Milnes, and grandfather, Richard Monckton Milnes, both studied at Trinity before embarking on important political careers. The collection was built up between the 1830s and the early twentieth century. Many of the books were presented by their authors to Monckton Milnes, later Lord Houghton, who was a leading Liberal in Victorian politics as well as a writer and poet. At the time of the bequest the collection was kept at West Horsley Place, the Surrey house bought by Crewe-Milnes in 1931.

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Over the past year the collection has been transported to the Wren Library and the long process of sorting, classifying, cleaning and conserving the books has begun. The first few hundred volumes have been added to the Library’s online catalogue, selected volumes are on display during public opening hours and, by appointment, all of the books are available to researchers for consultation. A small first selection of books has been added to the Wren Digital Library.

You can read more about the collection here and here. For a family tree, click here.

 

 

Photograph of the Month

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Female Collier from Rose Bridge Pits, Wigan, 1869

Our final photograph for this year is taken from the Munby Collection. This major 19th-century collection of photographs and diaries, put together by Arthur J Munby (1828-1910), came to Trinity in the early 20th century and was opened, after an interval under the terms of the bequest, in 1950.

The collection’s significance lies in the interest Munby showed in the lives of working women. He kept diaries, made notes and sketches, and amassed a major collection of photographs including those of pit brow girls, female colliers, fisher girls, milk women, acrobats and domestic servants. The Sub-Librarian, Sandy Paul, discusses his interest in the collection here.

The entire collection will eventually be accessible via Adam Matthew Publications. In the meantime a few images are reproduced below:

Further Reading:

Hiley, M., Victorian Working Women: Portraits from Life (London, 1979)