Christopher Columbus and the Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books

A new book by Edward Wilson-Lee, Fellow of our neighbouring Sidney Sussex College and a regular reader in the Wren Library, tells the scarcely believable – and wholly true – story of Christopher Columbus’s bastard son Hernando, who sought to equal and surpass his father’s achievements by creating a universal library. Here we take a sideways look at Christopher Columbus and his son through a selection of books in the Wren Library.

La Casa de Colón

Georg Braun, Civitates orbis terrarvm (Cologne: Apud Petrum à Brachel, 1612). U.15.19

This splendidly illustrated account of the great cities of the world, printed in five large volumes in 1612–18, devotes a single plate to the three cities of Seville, Cadiz and Malaga. The perspective of Seville shows Hernando’s house, ‘La Casa de Colón’, next to the Puerta de Goles. The text was compiled by Georg Braun, and the engraved plates, hand-coloured in this copy, are largely the work of Franz Hogenberg.

As a youth, Hernando Colón spent years travelling in the New World, one of them marooned with his father in a shipwreck off Jamaica. He created a dictionary and a geographical encyclopedia of Spain, oversaw the first modern maps of the world, visited almost every major European capital and associated with many of the great people of his day, from Ferdinand and Isabella to Erasmus, Thomas More and Albrecht Dürer.

“Their words have gone out to the end of the world”

Psalterium, Hebrecum, Grecum, Arabicum, & Chaldaeum, cum tribus latinis interpretatonibus & glossis (Genoa: Impressit Petrus Paulus Porrus, in aedibus Nicolai Iustiniani Pauli, 1516). A.14.6

One of the first ever biographical notices of Christopher Columbus is printed rather unexpectedly in the margins of this scholarly edition of the Book of Psalms, printed in Genoa in 1516. It is apparently the first polyglot work ever published, and presents the Psalter in eight columns with the Hebrew, a literal Latin version of the Hebrew, the Latin Vulgate, the Greek Septuagint, the Arabic, the Chaldean (in Hebrew characters), a literal Latin version of the Chaldean, and scholia in the right-hand column. The editor, Agostino Giustiniani, generally made brief notes in the final column relating to textual questions, but an exception is made for Psalm 19, at the fourth verse:

Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.

A lengthy biographical notice about Christopher Columbus is attached to this verse and spreads over the following five pages (for the full biographical notice see here). Columbus had earlier used this psalm to substantiate his claim that his discoveries were not random events but rather a key part of God’s plan. Through this widely-read edition of the psalter, his discoveries became part of the meaning of the psalm, the fulfilment of its prophecy. Unfortunately the note is riddled with factual errors, and it would not have been pleasing to Hernando that it opens with the damaging allegation that Columbus was vilibus ortus parentibus—born of low stock.

Columbus in the service of Pope Innocent VIII

Chronica delle vite de pontefici et imperatori Romani, composta per M. Francesco Petrarcha (Venice: Per Maestro Iacomo de pinci da Lecco, 1507). Grylls 6.190, f. 88.

The earliest reference to Christopher Columbus in the holdings of the Wren Library appears in this history of the lives of the popes, printed in Venice in 1507. The book is spuriously attributed to Petrarch, who died in 1374. The account of Pope Innocent VIII, who like Columbus was Genoese by birth, reports that it was during his pontificate that Columbus discovered the New World. This echoes the inscription on the tomb of Innocent VIII at St Peter’s in Rome which states ‘Nel tempo del suo Pontificato, la gloria della scoperta di un nuovo mondo’ (‘During his Pontificate, the glory of the discovery of a new world’). But in fact Innocent VIII died on 25 July 1492, a week before Columbus first set sail across the Atlantic.

Columbus in Hexameters

Ivlii Caesaris Stellae Nobilis Romani Colvmbeidos libri priores duo (Rome, 1590). III.9.57

The ‘Columbeidos’ is the earliest attempt by any poet to treat Columbus’s discovery of the New World as heroic fantasy. It was written in Latin in the Vergilian epic style by the grandly named poet Guilio Cesare Stella (1564–1624) and takes up more than 1700 lines of Latin hexameters. The poem is dedicated to Philip II, King of Spain and Prince of the Indies. It was first printed in London in 1585, and this Roman edition dates from 1590.

A Utopian Library Catalogue

Thomas More, De optimo reip. statv deqve noua insula Vtopia libellus uere aureus, nec minus salutaris quàm festiuus (Basel: Apvd Io. Frobenivm, 1518). Grylls 7.12, pp. 12–13.

Hernando Colón bought a copy of this book, the second edition of Thomas More’s Utopia, in Ghent in 1520, and read it in Brussels in 1522. Many aspects of the book were reflected in Hernando’s life: voyages of exploration, maps, printing, language, and the search for forms of perfection hitherto unknown. This edition includes a map of the fictitious country designed by Hans Holbein’s brother Ambrosius, and a short poem printed in the Utopian language and using the Utopian alphabet, written by the founder and first king of the country, Utopus. The printer (Froben of Basel) went to great trouble to have a special set of type cast for this poem, and it seems that it inspired Hernando to devise his own secret alphabet of very similar ‘biblioglyphs’ to describe the books in his beloved library.

Tennyson’s Columbus

Alfred Lord Tennyson, Ballads and Other Poems (London, 1880). G.18.65, pp.138-9

‘Columbus’ is one of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s later poems, written in 1879–80 and first published in Ballads and Other Poems (1880). His son Hallam records that it was composed at the request of ‘certain prominent Americans that he would commemorate the discovery of America in verse’. Tennyson derived his view of Columbus as a religious enthusiast with a visionary mind from Washington Irving’s Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus. The poem presents the aged navigator, now ignored and living in poverty, defeated by the selfishness and lust that had triumphed over Columbus’s ideals in the Spanish court. The poem has been understood as conveying Tennyson’s own fears about the decay of society in his later years.

Further reading:

Edward Wilson-Lee, The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books: Young Columbus and the Quest for a Universal Library (London: William Collins, 2018)

From the Crewe Collection: Goya Etchings

Among the greatest treasures in the Crewe Collection are three volumes of etchings by Francisco Goya (1746-1823), currently on display in the Library for the first time. It is likely that Richard Monckton Milnes acquired these in Paris in the mid-nineteenth century. These volumes were accepted in lieu of inheritance Tax by H M Government from the estate of Mary Evelyn, Duchess of Roxburghe, and allocated to Trinity College in 2016.

Los Caprichos (Crewe 156.8)

Goya issued this first collection of prints in 1799. The set of 80 pictures offers a deeply satirical condemnation of the social norms of his day, and is far darker than the title of ‘Caprices’ would lead one to expect. The plates were produced with a combination of etching and aquatint, and this first edition was overseen by the artist himself. Five further etchings are bound at the end of the volume.

 

Capricho No. 5
Tal para cual (Two of a kind)

Los desastres de la guerra (Crewe 156.9)

Goya’s second collection of prints, ‘The Disasters of War’, was created between 1810 and 1820, as a reaction to the Peninsular War and the resultant famine which affected Madrid in 1811-12. Goya described the series of 82 plates as depicting ‘the fatal consequences of Spain’s bloody war with Bonaparte, and other forceful caprices’. Almost all of the images are deeply disturbing, and they have inspired reactions from many artists in later generations. Although Goya had printed a few proofs of all the plates in his lifetime, they were not issued as a set until many years after his death, in 1863. This set is a fairly early copy of the first edition.

Plate 4: Las mujeres dan valor (The women give courage)

La Tauromaquia (Crewe 156.10)

Goya produced the 33 prints of La Tauromaquia in 1815-16, at the age of 69, while working on the Desastres de la Guerra. The plates depict the various techniques of bull-fighting, with a particular focus on its more violent aspects. In several of the pictures the spectators are shown in shadowy form in the background. The prints were made for Goya in 1816 in an edition of 320 copies, and complete sets are now much rarer than the Caprichos and the Desastres.

No. 4: Capean otro encerrado (They play another with the cape in an enclosure)

For those of you who are able to visit the Library in person, the pages of each volume will be turned each week in order to display different prints. Digital images of the all three volumes can be found in the Wren Digital Library.

Bindings in the Spotlight (4)

S.18.36, front

This presentation copy of Gesner’s Historia animalium (Zurich, 1551) was bound for Edward VI. The initials ‘ER’ are in three panels on the spine. Gold-tooled decorative bindings such as this were popular during the sixteenth century in England. The decoration was achieved by pressing heated tools through gold leaf into the leather. The binding is brown calf with the royal arms bearing the motto of the Order of the Garter: ‘Honi soit qui mal y pense’. The arms on the cover are built up by a series of gouges (created using a single-line finishing tool with a curved edge which forms a segment of a concentric circle) and fillets (a plain line – or sometimes parallel lines – created using a wheel-shaped finishing tool). Below is the motto of the British monarch: ‘Dieu et mon droit’. This inscription is also on the plain, gauffered edges. Gauffering involves using heated finishing tools or rolls to produce indented repeat patterns.

The tooled work on this binding has elements in common with another binding on a volume now in the Pierpont Morgan Library which formerly belonged to Anne Bacon (c. 1528-1610) see here. The correspondences between these two bindings confirm that this binding is English. The volume was donated to the Library by Sir Henry Puckering (alias Newton) some time between 1691 and 1701.

 

 

 

Warden Abbey Manuscripts

Trinity College Library has the largest collection of manuscripts in the country from the Cistercian Abbey of Warden in Bedfordshire. These 14 volumes have recently been digitised and are freely available online via the James Catalogue of Western Manuscripts. They can be viewed by selecting Warden Abbey from the drop-down list of religious houses as a field specific catalogue search. Alternatively you can use the following links:

B.3.22, Augustine

B.4.8, Gregorius, Moralia, XII–XXIII

B.4.11, Origenes, Homiliae

B.4.12, Gregorius; Origenes; Beda

B.4.13, Cassiodorus in Psalmos LI–C

B.4.14, Cassiodorus in Psalmos CI–CL

B.4.15, Augustinus, De verbis domini

B.4.16, Iohannes Chrysostomus, Hom. in Hebr., in Matt

B.4.17, Hieronymus in Ieremiam et Danielem

B.4.31, Ambrosii tractatus

B.4.32, Beda in Genesim, etc

B.5.11, Hieronymus in Isaiam

B.15.26, Hieronymus, De sacramentis I.

O.2.25, Ricardus de S. Victore

At the start of one of the Warden volumes (B.4.15) there is a list of titles headed by the name R. Manley. Of the 32 titles listed, 16 are in the Wren Library contained within the Warden volumes. One other title owned by the Library (B.3.23) appears on Manley’s list but has not, to date, been verified as from Warden. Manley has not been identified with certainty but this list suggests that Warden manuscripts were in his ownership in the 16th century. These titles were later included in a list in the College Memoriale (R.17.8)  – a volume describing benefactors to Trinity – as ‘ad collegium pertinentes’, ie ‘belonging to the college’. The placing of the list in the volume implies that the donation was made between 1633 and 1637, but there is no indication of who gave them. Former Librarian, Philip Gaskell suggested that they may have been received by the college in payment of a debt.

B.4.15, f.1v
R.17.8, f.115r

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All of the Warden manuscripts date from the 12th/early 13th century which suggests that they were at the abbey soon after its foundation in 1135. The Abbey was surrendered to the Crown on 4th December 1537 and there is now nothing left of the original buildings. The photograph below shows only the remaining section of the 5-bedroom farmhouse built after the suppression by Robert Gostwick. The greater part of the farmhouse (often referred to as a mansion) was demolished c.1785 before the site was purchased by Samuel Whitbread.

Gostwick Mansion, south front © Margaret Roberts

Further Information can be found on the Medieval Libraries of Great Britain Database.

With thanks to Margaret Roberts.

 

 

 

The Wren Library by Mark Draper (2017)

Model of the Wren Library by Mark Draper, presented to the college in 2018.

Last week Trinity College received a very special gift. Since retiring from his career as a special needs teacher with curriculum responsibilities for creative arts, Mark Draper has combined his interests in architecture and ceramics by making clay models of favourite buildings. Mark has a studio at his home in Rushton, Northamptonshire, where he produces working drawings and plaster moulds enabling the construction of limited editions. His current project is to create models of buildings in Cambridge designed by Christopher Wren. A Perspex cover for the Wren model was donated by Michael Squire, a Member of College.

The model can currently be seen in the Wren Library during public opening hours.

Bindings in the Spotlight [3]

Image of binding by Paul Bonet for 1937 edition of Alphonse Daudet's Tartarin de Tarascon

Designed by the famous French binder Paul Bonet (1889-1971) in 1949, this is one of 28 different copies or versions of the 1937 edition of Alphonse Daudet’s ‘Aventures prodigieuses de Tartarin de Tarascon’ (Kessler.a.28).  Daudet’s 1872 novel concerns the town of Tarascon and the misadventures of a certain Tartarin:

“The Provençal town of Tarascon is so enthusiastic about hunting that no game lives anywhere near it, and its inhabitants resort to telling hunting stories and throwing their own caps in the air to shoot at them. Tartarin, a plump middle-aged man, is the chief “cap-hunter”, but following his enthusiastic reaction to seeing an Atlas lion in a travelling menagerie, the over-imaginative town understands him to be planning a hunting expedition to Algeria.

So as not to lose face, Tartarin is forced to go, after gathering an absurd mass of equipment and weapons. On the boat from Marseille to Algiers, he hooks up with a conman posing as a Montenegrin prince who takes advantage of him in multiple ways. Tartarin’s gullibility causes him a number of misadventures until he returns home penniless but covered in glory after shooting a tame, blind lion.”

Wikipedia

For more of Bonet’s designs, have a look at these wonderful examples.

From the Crewe Collection: Books belonging to Robert Southey

Robert Southey by Mary Dawson Turner (née Palgrave), after Thomas Phillips etching, (1815), NPG D15738

The Crewe collection contains four items belonging to the British poet, Robert Southey, who was born in in Bristol in 1774 and died in London in 1843.  He lived much of his life in Keswick where he supported, in addition to his own family, the wife of Coleridge and her three children after the poet abandoned them, as well as the widow of poet Robert Lovell and her son.

He published his first collection of poems in 1795 and in 1813 became Poet Laureate, a post he held until his death. Southey was a prolific poet, essayist, historian, travel-writer, biographer, translator and polemicist. Although he is little read today, Southey was an influential and controversial figure in British culture from the mid-1790s through to the mid-1830s.

Letters Written During a Short Residence in Spain and Portugal (1797), made use of letters Southey had written to friends during his time in the Iberian Peninsula, blurring the boundaries between private and public correspondence. In 1807 he returned to the epistolary travel book genre, publishing Letters from England under the pseudonym of Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella, an account of a tour supposedly from a foreigner’s viewpoint. This was one of Southey’s best-selling publications. He also published a History of the Peninsular War, in 3 volumes between 1823 and 1832.

Crewe 31/17

Southey’s interest in Spain is reflected in his ownership of a rare copy of the book, Memoires Curieux Envoyez de Madrid (1690) [Crewe 31.17] which he inscribed on the title page and dated London 1820.

This book covers topics such a bull-fighting, maxims and proverbs of Spain and the custom of infant betrothal in the Spanish Royal family.

He also owned

Antoniana Margarita, opus nempè physicis, medicis, ac theologis, non minus utile, quàm necessarium  by  Gometium Pereyram, medicum Methynæ Duelli, quae Hispanorum lingua  appellatur. (1749) [Crewe Collection]

This copy is interesting as it was annotated by Coleridge in 1812.  Writing in Keswick, he used the front fly leaf to address Southey and disparage his interest in bullfights.  He wrote:

P.22. Notice this, dearest Southey! as a curious specimen of the argumentum ad hominem from the Spanish Metaphysician to his Spanish Readers!  If you do not admit the cogency of these & the following arguments, it is impossible for you without the most flagrant, as well as demonstrable inhumanity, or rather anti-christian atrocity, to continue to enjoy Bullfights!

Front flyleaf verso from Antoniana Margarita
Crewe 31.5

The third book in the Crewe collection owned by Southey is Les imaginaires, ou, Lettres sur l’heresie imaginaire by Sr. de Damvilliers (1667) [Crewe 31.5 & 6]. This bears an ink inscription on the verso of the flyleaf preceding the title page: Robert Southey, Rouen 5 Sept. 1838. This work is a defence of the Jansenist schools of Port Royal against the Jesuits who brought about their closure in 1660.

The final book from Southey’s library is

Antient Christianity revived: being a description of the doctrine, discipline and practice, of the little city of Bethania. Collected out of her great charter, the Holy Scriptures, and confirmed by the same, for the satisfaction and benefit of the house of the poor by William Pardoe. (1688) [Crewe 74.17]

This book, written by a Baptist pastor who spent some weeks in prison for attending a Nonconformist meeting in 1683, contains the autograph of Robert Southey on the title page: Robert Southey. Keswick 16 Nov. 1829.

Southey was interested in religious topics. He wrote The Life of Wesley in 1820 [V.23.35 & V.23.36] and The book of the Church in 1824 [Grylls 25.247 & Grylls 25.248].


Footnote: The etching of Southey at the start of the post is by Mary Dawson Turner. Mary was the wife of the botanist, banker and antiquary Dawson Turner (1775-1858) whose extensive collection of letters is kept in Trinity College Library (catalogued here).

 

‘Free Object’

This photograph of Sir Antony Gormley’s ‘Free Object’, a sculpture which stands on the College Backs, was taken by James Kirwan and recently won second prize in a College-wide competition. James says his photograph seeks to capture ‘the texture and geometry of the statue’. When he is not taking photographs, James manages the Library’s project to digitise the College’s medieval manuscripts. The project has been running for almost 5 years and over 700 manuscripts can be viewed online. The Wren Digital Library includes, not only treasures from the medieval collection, but also some of the more significant modern manuscripts.

An early Valentine?

Trinity manuscript R.2.70 is a parchment fragment which has a Middle English love lyric written onto one side.  While at some point in its history the parchment formed part of a binding, its original function is unclear. It is within the bounds of possibility, though, that this decorated poem was composed and copied out as a missive for delivery. It may thus constitute a very early example of a Valentine’s day message.

The verse is written in a late fifteenth-/early sixteenth-century hand and is addressed to a woman named ‘Susane’, asking for merciful treatment and offering compliments of a mostly conventional kind. Late medieval poems were sometimes addressed to named individuals and it is tempting to believe that ‘Susane’ was a real woman. Ballades such as this were often designed as lovers’ petitions with the envoy (the concluding lines) offering the opportunity for the lover to sign off in some way. The two couplets at the end of this lyric apparently identify the writer in the form of a cryptic puzzle: “By him that in forestes walkethe wyde/Where noone may passe with out his gyd/Nor kene may in dale nor doune/But that he is other blake or broune”. This may be a hidden message to the recipient hinting perhaps at the name Darkwood, Greenwood or Whitewood. This address to a named person and final cryptic signing off are still recognizable today as characteristic features of a Valentine.

Furthermore, the verse is carefully decorated and embellished with calligraphic initials, some containing profile faces.

At the bottom a bleeding heart is pierced crosswise by two arrows, above which is a small four-leafed clover that contains words which are now indecipherable but which may include ‘true’ and ‘ I love’.

In the late medieval period these symbols – the pierced heart and the quatrefoil – would have been familiar in devotional contexts, but also in secular ones. Occasional poems were written for St Valentine during the fifteenth century and although this poem does not explicitly refer to the saint, its allusions to frosty weather (line 9) and to summer as a season expected in the future (line 11) allow for the possibility that it was composed at the end of winter and conceived as a Valentine’s day gesture.

Medieval Valentine poems are now mostly preserved within longer works. However they were presumably also sometimes passed from person to person on single sheets of parchment or paper in a similar way to the exchange of other love tokens such as rings. It is tempting to suppose then that this carefully composed and decorated poem may have been sent to the woman who was its subject, in much the same way that Valentines are exchanged today.

 

 

 

 

 

Bindings in the Spotlight [2]

Poems and Song of Mary Queen of Scots (O.3.63)

This binding is royal blue morocco with an inlaid border featuring Scottish thistles. The Scottish arms in the centre are 18 carat gold, set with pearls, rubies and diamonds. It was designed by Alberto Sangorski around 1925-26 and bound by the firm Wood of London (est. 1875).

Alberto (1862-1932) was the elder brother of Francis Sangorski (d.1912), one of the founding partners of the bookbinders Sangorski and Sutcliffe established in 1901. This company is regarded as one of the most important bookbinding firms of the 20th century, known in particular for sumptuous jewelled bindings using genuine stones. Jewelled bookbindings – or treasure bindings – use gold and silver inlay, rich fabrics, jewels and ivory. Very few medieval treasure bindings in England survived the dissolution of the monasteries (for examples see here and here and here) and the practice waned over the following centuries until the early 20th century revival.

Alberto developed skill and reputation as a calligrapher and illuminator working for Sangorski and Sutcliffe. However, after a quarrel with his brother around 1910 apparently over his refusal to acknowledge Alberto’s work on the books they created, Alberto left to work for a competitor. Later, when the market for luxury bindings declined after the First World War, Alberto worked as freelancer with various binders and booksellers.

Inside, the manuscript was written out and decorated by Alberto and illuminated with a series of miniature watercolours. The signed colophon states ‘This manuscript will not be duplicated’. It can be viewed here. The volume has been in Trinity College Library since 1931 and is currently on display in the Wren Library during public opening hours.