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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’ (Kessler.bb.10). 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.
This curio – an abnormal outgrowth from an antler – was given to the Library in 1682 by William Mainstone (d. 1683). A list of his donations, including the ‘excrescency upon the head of a deer’, can be found in one of the library’s registers. The list includes a number of other remarkable items including a rhinoceros horn, poisoned arrows, antidotes and a sheet of Malay papyrus.
Mainstone had worked for the English East India Company at the English station established at Bantam (Indonesia) and complied one of the first Malay grammars. The manuscript of the grammar (Bodleian Ashmole 1808) was partially transcribed in the 19th century and is now included in the Digital Library of the British Library [Add ms 7043].
By the time of his donation to Trinity, Mainstone was living at Woodberry Hall in Gamlingay, south Cambridgeshire. His gifts came into the library during the period of construction of the Wren library building which was financed, in part, following a public appeal for funds. Mainstone’s donation (amongst others) reveals that this was also a period in which the Library’s collection was enriched not only by books, but also by objects of interest.
Day 1: B.11.4; Day 2: B.11.5; Day 3: B.10.24: Day 4: R.14.23; Day 5: R.14.9; Day 6: B.11.7; Day 7: Crewe_Athena; Day 8: O.7.46: Day 9: B.11.19; Day 10: Crewe_Kaladlit: Day 11 R.15.21; Day 12: B.11.11; Day 13: O.3.58: Day 14: R.17.22: Day 15: Crewe_1.4: Day 16: R.16.2: Day 17: B.11.31: Day 18: O.2.48: Day 19: B.10.2: Day 20: B.11.22: Day 21: R.15.18; Day 22: B.1.46; Day 23: B.11.32: Day 24: Sraffa
The curio we are exhibiting over the next few weeks is reputedly a piece of the elm tree under which the English Quaker, William Penn signed a treaty with the Lenni Lepae (Delaware) Indians in late November 1682. Penn had obtained a charter to colonise a tract of land in the area from King Charles II. The elm tree stood at a meeting place on the Delaware River called Shakamaxon and tradition says that, soon after Penn’s arrival in the country, it was here that promises of friendship were exchanged. The colony of Pennsylvania (named for Penn’s father) was established with the seat of government in the city of Philadelphia. Today ‘Penn Treaty Park’ lies on the border of that city.
In fact, no written treaty exists but the tradition of this agreement has given rise to a powerful mythology. The treaty was referred to by Voltaire in his Dictionnaire philosophique published in 1764 where he stated that Penn had made an agreement with his neighbours, the American Indians and declared:
C’est le seul traite entre ces peoples et les Chretiens qui n’ ait point ete jure et qui n’ait point ete rompu. [Dict. phil., 7, 17-18]
This is the only treaty between those persons and the Christians which has not been sworn to, and which has not been broken.”
The event was also realised by a number of artists; the most famous being a picture by Benjamin West (1738-1820) now in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia (see here). It depicts the group on the banks of the River Delaware gathered underneath the ‘Treaty Elm’.
The original tree blew down during a storm in March 1810. An obelisk marking the spot was subsequently placed there by the Penn Society in 1827 and this is now within Penn Treaty Park established in 1893. Many artefacts were carved from the wood of the tree after it blew down and Trinity’s piece of the tree was brought from America by John Sholl in 1842 and was given to the College by Mr Arnold Lloyd.
The library also owns a number of related books as follows:
An early colonist, Gabriel Thomas, wrote An historical and geographical account of the province and country of Pensilvania etc in 1698. He dedicated the work to his friend William Penn: “Thou wilt find here a true and genuine Description of that (once) obscure tho’ (now) glorious place”.
Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790) was born in Boston Massachusetts to Josiah Franklin who had emigrated from England in 1683 to practice his Puritan faith. Known later in life as a writer, political revolutionary and scientist, in the period 1726-48 he ran a successful printing press in Philadelphia. As owner of the newspaper the ‘Pennsylvannia Gazette’, this was the period in which his political influence began to grow. This book, in German, on the Moravian Church was published in 1742 and printed by Franklin. It is the only known copy in a UK library. For a digital version see here.
Claimed by abbé Emmanuel Domenech, a Catholic priest and missionary, in his ‘Manuscrit pictographique américain’ (1860) to be Native American drawings these illustrations were later surmised to be the doodlings of a German child, one clue being the (badly spelled) German words sometimes included with the drawings. The German orientalist Julius Petzholdt refuted the claim in his ‘Das Buch der Wilden’ (1861) but, obviously not one to give up a cause lightly, Domenech then wrote a rebuttal in ‘La vérite sur le livre des sauvages’ (1861). These three works are here bound together and are an example of the diversity to be found in the Crewe collection.
31 October 2017 marks exactly 500 years since Martin Luther sent a list of 95 Theses against the sale of indulgences to the Archbishop of Mainz. Tradition records that the Theses were also nailed to the West Door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg. The publication initiated a heated discussion which rapidly spread throughout Europe and can be seen as the starting-point of the Reformation.
The Wren Library has particularly rich holdings of Luther’s writings, including more than 200 of the pamphlets he published in his lifetime, some of which are now exceptionally rare. Cambridge was a hotbed of Reformation dissent, but in fact none of the Lutheran publications in the Library can be associated with the University at that time — even less with Trinity, which was founded in the year of Luther’s death by one of his strongest opponents, Henry VIII. Several of the publications featured here arrived in the Wren in the mid-19th century, as part of the outstanding library of German books collected by the Venerable Julius Hare, Archdeacon of Lewes and formerly a Fellow of Trinity.
Although Luther is most famous for promoting the doctrine of salvation by faith alone, it is notable that the Law of the Old Testament formed an important part of his theological thinking. This tract on the Ten Commandments is based on sermons which Luther delivered in Wittenberg in the year leading up to his proclamation of the 95 Theses. The depiction of Moses with horns is not a sign of demonic intent, but in fact arises from a mistranslation from the Hebrew which Luther was later to correct in his own translation of the Bible. According to Exodus 34 : 29, when Moses descended from Mount Sinai after his encounter with God, his face was ‘radiant’. The Latin Vulgate renders this Hebrew word as cornuta (‘horned’), possibly to express the idea that rays of light were shining from Moses’ face like horns.
Luther was excommunicated from the Catholic Church by Pope Leo X after his refusal to recant his writings at the Diet of Worms in 1521. From May 1521 to March 1522, partly for his own safety, Luther resided at the Wartburg Castle outside Eisenach under the assumed name of Junker Jörg. During this time he began work on his translation of the complete Bible into German. The New Testament, translated from the Greek, was completed in 1522, and his work on the translation of the Old Testament from the Hebrew, in which he worked with several collaborators, continued over several years. This second volume of the Old Testament, printed in 1524, comprises the books from Joshua to Nehemiah. It includes several woodcut illustrations attributed to Lucas Cranach and others.
This single-volume edition of the complete German Bible of Luther includes 117 woodcut illustrations by Georg Lemberger. Luther continued to make refinements to his translation until the edition of 1546, the year of his death.
Probably the most prominent of Luther’s opponents was King Henry VIII, who produced this lengthy polemical essay in response to the 95 Theses and Luther’s tract of 1520 On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church. Henry’s learned treatise won considerable acclaim from Pope Leo X, who granted the king the title Fidei Defensor (Defender of the Faith). This decorated copy, put together from a mixture of sheets from the first and second editions of 1521 and 1522, was owned by the notable Elizabethan book collector Humfrey Dyson.
Luther quickly responded to Henry VIII’s treatise with a pamphlet Contra Henricum Regem Angliae, of which this is the German edition. He argued among other things that the King’s reasoning was not fashioned so much from learned theology as from a desire to secure recognition from the Pope.
This edition of five sermons on the Gospels of Matthew and John includes one of several versions of a familiar portrait of Luther.
Luther has been depicted in many different ways in subsequent centuries. This play, first staged in Berlin in 1806 under the title ‘Die Weihe der Kraft’ (‘The Consecration of Power’), achieved some degree of popularity in following years. Its author, Zacharias Werner, was a friend of Goethe and one of the first playwrights to develop the genre of the ‘tragedy of fate’. The five-act drama covers all of the major historical events in Luther’s life, and positions him as a figure in the national historical consciousness, at the time of the Napoleonic occupation. The facts are interwoven with fantasy, especially in the story of Luther’s courtship of Katharina von Bora, who is shown in the frontispiece hand in hand with her much older husband. A few years after writing this play, Werner converted to Catholicism and became a priest in Vienna.
Henry VIII’s publication against Luther had a continued resonance in the later development of the Church of England, where its defence of Catholic doctrine found occasional supporters. This later translation by Thomas Webster was published in 1688, the year of the overthrow of James II, the last Catholic monarch, by William and Mary.
These books will be on display in the Wren Library during public opening hours until the end of November 2017.
The Wren Library has always been famous for its outstanding collection of illuminated manuscripts. Less well known are the illuminations added by hand to many of its earliest printed books. A new catalogue of illuminations in Italian printed books of the fifteenth century in the Cambridge College libraries and the Fitzwilliam Museum has brought to light many previously unstudied creations of the Italian Renaissance. In this blog-post we take a look at some of the finer illuminations added to Italian books in Trinity’s collections.
In the earliest years of printing it was perhaps inevitable that the more luxurious publications would be decorated in a very similar manner to the manuscripts which continued to be created alongside them, and in some cases the work of the same artist can be identified in both manuscripts and printed books. Several of the most elaborately decorated volumes in Trinity come from the collection of William Grylls (1786–1863), a Scholar of Trinity and West Country clergyman who bequeathed his outstanding library of more than 14,000 books to the College.
This very fine edition was printed on parchment and illuminated in Venice in 1473, a few months after its publication. The shield at the centre of the bottom margin bears the arms of the great philosopher Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, whose Oration on the Dignity of Man has been called the ‘Manifesto of the Renaissance’. It is most likely that this book was presented to Pico della Mirandola on the occasion of his appointment as Apostolic Protonotary in 1473, at the age of ten. The book was rebound while in the collection of Thomas, 8th Earl of Pembroke, and was later owned by the famous collector Henry Yates Thompson, whose widow presented it to Trinity in 1928.
The printers of this Latin Vulgate Bible reserved a large space at the beginning of the Prologue for a portrait of St Jerome. This copy has been decorated by the same artist as the Macrobius shown above, active in Venice in the 1470s and known today as the Master of the Pico Pliny. The spraywork borders are of particularly fine execution.
The design of the woodcuts in this edition of the letters of St Jerome has been attributed to the Master of the Pico Pliny, the artist of the Macrobius and Vulgate Bible above, but was executed in Ferrara some 20 years later. This page displays St Jerome presenting his monastic Rule to a kneeling monk with halo, and ‘S Martim’ giving the Rule to a group of nuns. All of the almost 200 woodcut illustrations in this copy have been tinted in green, red and blue, with initial letters painted in gold with vine-scroll decoration. This book was owned by the Augustinian church and monastery of Sant’Andrea in Ferrara, and later entered the hands of the notorious librarian and book thief Guglielmo Libri.
The magnificent architectural border of mottled marble on this opening page was executed by Giovanni Vendramin (fl. 1466–1508), who worked for the bishop of Padua and for other clients in Venice. The lion rampant on the shields borne by the two female figures seem to be of the Sterpino family, perhaps also signalled by the initials ‘C S’ in the base. The final page of this book includes a note summarising the decoration supplied, in order to calculate payment to the artist: 14x lettere / 7 doro / io principio, that is to say, 140 red or blue epigraphic capitals, 7 gold initials, and one frontispiece.
This translation of Pliny’s major work was printed in Venice and illuminated in Rome, probably for a member of the Boccaccio family in Florence whose arms are partly erased on the page displayed. The gold initial ‘E’ is surrounded by vine-scroll decoration, and a green parrot sits proudly in the outer margin. A later owner has attempted to wash away the marginal commentary added throughout this volume by an early reader, while preserving the ornamental additions.
The pink initial ‘N’ with acanthus motifs at the opening of Dante’s Inferno is strongly influenced by Ferrarese illumination, which came to be dominant in Padua in the 1470s. The coat of arms in the lower margin of this page has been overpainted, and may belong to Battista de’ Negri of Venice, who inscribed the book perhaps around 1500. This copy, which is preserved in its 15th-century binding, was presented to Trinity in 1895 by the widow of the judge Sir William Frederick Pollock, who published a verse translation of Dante.
The woodcut prints in this volume of maps of the islands of the Aegean Sea were coloured in rather crude style shortly after the book was printed. This map of Crete is printed in the opposite direction to most modern maps, with South at the top. This copy bears the armorial binding of the poet and statesman Marco Foscarini, who served as the 117th Doge of Venice in the 18th century.
These books will be on display in the Wren Library during public opening hours until the end of November 2017.