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.”


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.

Rebinding Hannah’s Diary

The following guest post is by conservator, Gwendoline Lemée:

Unusual and unique objects have the power to intrigue and fascinate us, and one such object is Hannah’s Diary which arrived on my bench in the summer of 2017. How delightful it is to work on a unique object and extend its life beyond what could have been hoped.

Front page before and after treatment

Hannah’s Diary is a fairly small manuscript made of 79 bifolia of ivory letter paper wrapped in a poor-quality greyish card and roughly assembled with two treasury tags pierced through the spine margins. It is written in black ink all the way through, without gaps, paragraphs or images, but the text gives us a rare and intriguing glimpse into the daily life of its author.  The manuscript records every activity of every day that Hannah Cullwick, who was a servant and married to Trinity College’s alumnus Arthur Munby, undertook in the year 1863. It is part of the Munby Archive.

The manuscript was examined in the Wren Library and the treasury tags were removed to allow this work to be done.  The holes the tags left behind were worn and most of them had torn out to the edges of the leaves.  In addition, the manuscript had been repaired in the past with gummed paper saved from the edges of sheets of postage stamps. It was clear that conservation was needed to prevent the damage from becoming worse and to prevent loss or further damage to the edges of the loose leaves. The original binding – if we can call it such – was causing damage to the manuscript, and preserving the leaves in it was therefore not a suitable solution. This is why, after consideration of the use and condition of the manuscript, it was decided to rebind it in a limp vellum binding.  This structure provides protection to the leaves, is durable, and has good opening characteristics, allowing readers to use the book safely in future.

Manuscript before and after treatment

The bifolia were cleaned of loose surface dirt with a soft conservation rubber called smoke sponge. Tears and holes were then repaired and infilled using various types and thicknesses of Japanese papers adhered with purified wheat-starch paste. Bifolia were then guarded in pairs (leaving a 10mm gap between bifolia to allow for a good opening) to form gatherings of six bifolia which allowed for the textblock to be sewn through the folds of the new guards. Narrow strips of western paper were inserted on the inside and outside of each gathering at the spine fold to compensate for the thickness of the guards and build up a strong spine. The original grey card cover was also guarded and sewn with the rest of the textblock.

Six bifolia guarded into pairs, with added loose guards of western paper on the inside and outside of the spine fold
Pre-piercing the gatherings with an awl

In order to hold the loose guards in place during sewing, the gatherings were held together temporarily with loops of thin polyester thread. Three sewing supports were made of alum-tawed skin lined with linen braid.  The two materials combined created a tear-resistant but fairly soft sewing support. They were then split in the middle to allow for a herringbone stitch sewing which makes for a very strong and flexible structure. Once the manuscript was sewn, the spine was pasted and lined with Japanese paper. The manuscript was now safe to read.

Herringbone sewing with a curved needle.
Opening after sewing

The covering was made of three pieces of calfskin parchment, cut, shaped and folded following a combination of various techniques found in the literature and adapted slightly to suit this particular manuscript. The parchment cover is entirely removable as it is held to the manuscript only by the laced-in sewing supports and tucked endleaves, not by adhesives. It is a sound binding, bringing enough support and protection to the manuscript as well as being well-suited to the nature of the paper leaves.

Finally, a bespoke cloth clam-shell box was made to protect the manuscript and keep it together with the remains of the original binding: the treasury tags and old stamp-paper repairs.



Bindings in the Spotlight [1]

Image of a James Brockman binding for Goethe's Faust

This year a regular monthly blog post will highlight some of the most interesting book and manuscript bindings in our collection. To begin, we are featuring a beautiful contemporary binding by James Brockman (b. 1946) of the French translation of Johann Goethe’s ‘Faust’ (  Covered in full maroon Harmatan goatskin, the design has been tooled in gold leaf with toned vellum and goatskin onlays.  The design is inspired by the famous illustration opposite page 15 (see below).  The gold linear tooling suggests wings over the black and red towers.  The other three towers are toned vellum.

Image of a winged man from p. 15 of 'Faust'
Image of a winged man from p. 15 of ‘Faust’