31 October 1517: The Birth of Luther’s Reformation

Portrait of Martin Luther by an unknown artist. © The Master and Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge

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.

Decem praecepta Vuittenbergensi predicata populo per. P. Martinum Luther Augustinianum (Leipzig: Valentin Schumann, 1518). Hare 38.1831

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.

Das ander teyl des alten testaments (Wittemberg : [M. Lotther], [1524]). A.10.12.
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.

Biblia, dat ys, de gantze hillige Schrifft Sassesch corrigeret, na der lesten vordüdeschinge [von] Mart. Luth. (Magdeburg: Michael Lotter, 1536). A.14.16.
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.

Assertio septem sacramentorum aduersus Martin. Lutherū, ædita ab inuictissimo Angliæ et Franciæ rege, et do. Hyberniæ Henrico eius nominis octauo (London: In ædibus Pynsonianis, 1522). C.7.9.

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.

Antwortt deutsch Mart. Luthers auff Koenig Henrichs von Engelland Buch (Wittenberg: Nickell Schyrlentz, 1522). Hare 38.1858.

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.

Fünff schoner Christlicher Sermon geprediget durch Doctor Martini Luther zu wittemberg. M.D.xxiii. Jare ([Augsburg]: [Ulhart], [1523]). Hare 38.18611.
This edition of five sermons on the Gospels of Matthew and John includes one of several versions of a familiar portrait of Luther.

Martin Luther, oder Die Weihe der Kraft: eine Tragödie, vom Verfasser der Söhne des Thales [i.e. Zacharias Martin Luther, oder Die Weihe der Kraft: eine Tragödie, vom Verfasser der Söhne des Thales [i.e. Zacharias Werner] (Berlin: Johann Daniel Sander, 1807). Hare 33.181.
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.

Assertio septem sacramentorum: or, An assertion of the seven sacraments, against Martin Luther by Henry the Eighth; Faithfully translated into English by T.W. Gent. (London: Nath. Thompson, 1688). K.15.691.

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.

 

 

Italian Illuminated Incunabula

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.

 

Macrobius, Expositio in Somnium Scipionis, Saturnalia (Venice: Nicolaus Jenson, 1472)
VI.18.52, fol. [a2]r
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.

 

Biblia latina (Venice: Franciscus Renner de Heilbronn and Nicolaus de Frankfordia, 1476)
Grylls 2.145, fol. [a2]r
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.

 

St Jerome, Epistolae, in Italian (Ferrara: Laurentius de Rubeis de Valentia, 12 October 1497)
Grylls 3.444, fols K3v–K4r

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.

 

Orosius, Historiae adversus paganos ([Vicenza]: Hermannus Liechtenstein, [c. 1475])
Grylls 3.459, fol. [a2]r
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.

 

Pliny the Elder, Historia naturalis, Italian trans. by Cristoforo Landino
(Venice: Nicolaus Jenson, 1476) Grylls 2.185, fol. [c2]r
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.

 

Dante, La Commedia, with commentary by Jacopo della Lana ([Venice]:
Vindelinus de Spira, 1477) VI.16.20, fol. a3r
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.

 

Bartolommeo dalli Sonetti (Zamberto), Isolario
(Venice: Guilelmus Anima Mia, Tridinensis?, c.1485) Grylls 3.355

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.

 

700 Manuscripts Online

B.4.19, f.184r

The 700th manuscript added to the online James Catalogue is B.4.19. We are pleased to have reached this milestone in the same year that Trinity College is celebrating 700 years since the establishment of the King’s Scholars in Cambridge. In 1317 King Edward II sent 12 boys from the royal household, with a master, to study at Cambridge at his expense. They lived in rented accommodation. Twenty years later, Edward III transformed this community into a college by giving it a permanent house and endowment. He named this college the King’s Hall.  Appropriately this volume has the name of a contemporary archbishop of Canterbury, Simon Mepeham, inscribed on the second flyleaf (he was archbishop from 1328-1333). B.4.19 is a Biblical Commentary by St Thomas Aquinas on the gospels of Luke and John. Its companion volume is  B.4.18 on the gospels of Matthew and Mark.

The opening pages of both volumes are illuminated with initals showing a kneeling St Thomas, wearing his black Dominican habit, presenting his book to Pope Urban IV. This image is also repeated on f.184r of B.4.19 (shown above). The delightful borders of these illuminated pages are populated with dogs chasing rabbits, a deer and a goat (see here) and a lion with a bird above in a tree (see here).

Each gospel begins with an historiated initial. These are initials containing an identifiable scene or figure and in these instances depict the evangelist with their symbol.

B.4.18, f.3r (Matthew; symbol: a winged man or angel)

 

B.4.18, f.224v (Mark; symbol: a lion)

 

B.4.19, f. 1r (Luke; symbol: an ox)

 

B.4.19, f.184v (John; symbol: an eagle)

Both volumes date from the late-13th century and were originally in the library of Christ Church, Canterbury. They were given to Trinity College Library, along with over one hundred other manuscripts, by a former master of the College, Thomas Nevile (d. 1615).

 

Richborough Remains

This ring is one of a number of finds from the Roman site of Richborough (Rutupiae) in Thanet, east Kent from the collection of John Battely (1646-1708), fellow of Trinity and archdeacon of Canterbury.

From title page of Antiquitates Rutupinae (1745)

English Heritage describe Richborough as a key site in the history of Roman Britain, occupied from the time of the first invasion in AD43 until 410, first as a fortification and later as a town and port before returning to military use with the building of a Saxon shore fort.

John Battely by J Buckthorn, oil on canvas

During the eighteenth century, Roman antiquities were commonly found in the neighbourhood of Battely’s then parish of Adisham, Kent. He encouraged local people to bring their finds to him promising that he would pay a higher price for items which had not been cleaned. He amassed a large collection.

Battely’s antiquarian research was not published until after his death. Antiquitates Rutupinae (1711) was an account of Roman Thanet particularly Richborough and was composed, in Latin, in the form of a dialogue between Battely and two fellow clergymen. A second edition was published in 1745 together with Battely’s work on his birthplace of Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

The ring is illustrated in the second edition on a fold out page between pages 114 and 115.

Antiquitates Rutupinae

The Library has the manuscript of Battely’s work on Bury St Edmunds. The manuscript (R.2.5) corresponds to the printed edition but does not include the appendices or the illustrated plates.

Battely’s Manuscript of the History of Bury St Edmunds (R.2.5)
Battely, J., Antiquitates S. Edmundi Burgi (1745)

These items are currently on display in the Wren Library during public opening hours.

Additional

Below is a slideshow of different views of the ring (not available in all browsers)

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Recent Additions to the Wren Digital Library (VI)

 

 

 

R.7.31, Commonplace Book of Edward VI

This book is in the hand of King Edward VI, son of King Henry VIII and his third wife, Jane Seymour. Edward succeeded his father in 1547 and this book was written soon after. It is a collection of scriptural passages against idolatry which were copied into French for his uncle, the Duke of Somerset (the Lord Protector). Edward was drawing on a model for royal behaviour from the Biblical story of Josiah, a young boy who, like Edward, became King at an early age. Josiah was celebrated later in life for eradicating idolatrous cults. This identification with Josiah was in tune with the determination during Edward’s reign to continue the establishment of Protestantism as the official faith in England.

R.17.22, Missal

This 15th-century missal contains many full page illuminations (for example, on f.8r, f.98v and f.181v) . A missal is a liturgical book containing all instructions and texts needed for the celebration of the Mass. It was donated to the Library along with R.17.23 in 1909. These texts were not, therefore, catalogued by M.R. James.

R.3.17, French Translation of Raymond of Poitiers

This is a unique copy of The Romans of Partenay, or of Lusignen : otherwise known as the Tale of Melusine which was originally written in the late 14th century, probably in Latin but translated into French soon after. It relates the story of Melusine – part woman, part serpent – whose legends are particularly associated with northern France. The manuscripts also contains indications of ownership on the front and back flyleaves including that of Beaupré Bell who gave the manuscript to the library. A 16th-century hand at the end of the volume has written: “When ye haue rede your fyll delyuer me agane with good wyll.”

O.2.40, Miscellanea from Kirkby Bellars

This volume is from the Augustinian Priory of Kirky Bellars in Leicestershire and is one of the small number of medieval texts in the Library that contain dateable material [1482-97]. It is the commonplace book of William Wymondham, canon who signed and dated items within the text: for example across the top of ff154v-155r (illustrated), on page 51v (1492) and 144ar (1482). Some of the diagrams showing the position of the signs of the zodiac (ff.61-102) are also dated, the latest being for the year 1484 (though there are some later additions). There are also several tracts between 9v and 58 copied in 1492 (f.51v).

Pairings

The Pairings Project undertaken with award-winning artist Dr Wendy McMurdo is one of the events to mark the 40th anniversary of the admission of women to Trinity. It includes contributions from those who live, work or study at the college and seeks to share, through photography and word, individual experiences of life at Trinity. The Pairings exhibition of photographs will be on display in Nevile’s Court Cloisters, beneath the Wren Library, between 4th and 25th August 2017. There will be another opportunity to view the exhibition in ante-chapel in the second half of October 2017. The contributions by four members of the Library staff are featured below.

_______________________________

 

This is a photograph of the Library’s conservator at work. It is fascinating to see all of the different tools and methods used in this job. The conservator seems to work miracles in restoring books, bindings, manuscripts and scrolls to their full glory. The before and after views are often hard to believe. His work is hugely important in keeping the collections in usable condition and with the tens of thousands of books, manuscripts, and papers held in the Library he is never short of work.

_______________________________

 

Keys are part of our everyday life. Most of us carry them around with us all the time. They can be symbolic of so many things: love, maturity, mystery, and understanding.

I have always liked keys, especially chunky ones with intricate decoration and a patina. Although they are familiar, prosaic objects they also have a sense of secrecy and potential. Where will they fit? What will they unlock? Who else has used them?

Of course, they are also about access and security. These four keys (themselves kept under lock and key) unlock the bays in the Wren Library which hold some of our most valued treasures. They are lovely to hold and give a satisfying clunk when you correctly engage them in the lock. Though these keys open areas and give access to manuscripts unseen by many, you always sense that someone has been there before you…

Will we still use keys in the future? I hope so.

_______________________________

 

This is Zazel, the human cannonball. She found fame by being launched twice a day from a spring-loaded cannon.

She was one of several female acrobats of the nineteenth century whose commercial portraits were purchased by Trinity alumnus Arthur Munby. He was interested in what he described as ‘unbecoming’ women – miners, domestic servants, milkmaids – and acrobats.

I think what inspires me about these acrobats is not only the verve of the women but also the confidence they exude. In these portrait photographs they look directly at the camera and they are confident in their status as popular celebrities of the time, known in music halls throughout the country. They made a living in their own right and performed remarkable – and dangerous – feats.

Indeed, Zazel’s career did not last as in her final act as a human canon ball she landed badly and broke her back. This life of danger, admittedly one with celebrity and popular fame, brings her much closer to the women miners and is, for me, a constant reminder of how precarious were the lives of these extraordinary women.

_______________________________

 

I find myself in this waiting room for books.

This vast building is needed to keep all the silence in.

Thousands of volumes stand in readiness on the shelves.

With infinite patience they wait to be taken down and opened.

Words to be seen, and not spoken. There are so many questions, answers and thought processes kept here being preserved and shared.

The quietest sounds are the loudest.

A ringing telephone is startling.

All my notes can be rubbed out. Ink is not permitted, my pencil is precious.

Navigate by letters and numbers. I sit in a bay where there are no boats, only books. I can’t see out, but the sun streams in lighting up the gold leaf, the brass fittings and the delicately carved fruit.

Watched over by the white marble men, I shiver in winter and simmer in the summer, but I can’t believe my luck to be spending my days in the great glass room of black and white squares and whispers.

 

 

A Purse

Curio B5

This purse once belonged to Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), the Scottish historical novelist, playwright and poet whose compositions include Ivanhoe, the Lady of the Lake and Rob Roy. As well as the purse, here in the Library we have many of his works including a copy of the first edition of Halidon Hill (an historical poem about the battle of 1333) in its original wrappers and a rare early version of the first canto of The Lay of the Last Minstrel (a narrative verse romance).

The purse is engraved on the upper rim of the clasp with the words ‘The gift of the Author of Marmion, &c to A. Cunningham, the Purse which he wore on the 17th of August, 1810.’ The poem Marmion to which the engraving refers was written in 1808 and describes the Battle of Flodden fought between the English and the Scots in 1513. The poem enjoyed immediate popularity and contains the well-known lines: “Oh! what a tangled web we weave/When first we practise to deceive!”

Allan Cunningham by William Brockedon black and red chalk, 1832
© NPG 2515(39)

The person to whom the purse was given was the Scottish poet and author, Allan Cunningham (1784-1842). Cunningham was born in rural Scotland and early in his career he collected and submitted a number of works for R. H. Cromek’s collection of ballads, Remains of Nithsdale and Galloway Song, published in 1810. It later transpired that at least half of these poems were Cunningham’s own compositions. Encouraged by Cromek, Cunningham moved to London and, though trained as a stonemason, he worked in a variety of jobs including as a journalist and newspaper poet. In 1814, however, he was taken into the employment of the sculptor Sir Francis Chantrey, a job which provided him with the opportunity to make many literary contacts.  He continued to write prolifically in his spare time and amongst many titles he produced a play Sir Marmaduke Maxwell in 1820, a four volume collection entitled The Songs of Scotland, Ancient and Modern in 1825 and between 1829 and 1833 he produced his six volume work, Lives of the Most Eminent British Painters, Sculptors and Architects.

Sir Walter Scott, 1st Bt by Sir Francis Leggatt Chantrey marble bust, 1841, based on a work of 1820
© NPG 993

Cunningham’s connection with Scott began around the time of the publication of Marmion in 1808 when Cunningham walked the considerable distance from Nithsdale to Edinburgh simply to be able to catch a glimpse of the author. The two did not meet face-to-face until 1820 when Cunningham, acting on behalf of his employer Chantrey, visited Scott (who was in London to receive his baronetcy) to ask him to sit for a bust. Their association endured as Scott continued to advise Cunningham on his literary efforts and publicly praised Cunningham in the introductory epistle to his (Scott’s) 1822 work, Fortunes of Nigel. He also helped Cunningham to secure cadetships for two of his sons. Cunningham himself wrote a biography of Scott which was published after the older man’s death in 1832.

The purse was given to the Library by Revd William Cunningham (1849-1919), an economic historian, Trinity Fellow, rector of Great St Mary’s Cambridge and Archdeacon of Ely.

 

 

The King’s Scholars

Today is the 700th anniversary of the establishment of the King’s Scholars in Cambridge, an event which marks the very beginning of Trinity’s story. On 7 July 1317 an official letter, or writ, was sent on behalf of King Edward II to the sheriff of Cambridgeshire, telling him that the king had sent twelve children from his household in the care of a man named John de Baggeshote (their master) to study at Cambridge. The children were all boys (girls were not admitted to universities till the nineteenth century). These Scholars, who were probably aged about fourteen, lived in rented accommodation. The sheriff was ordered to pay their expenses out of the money he collected on the king’s behalf, and to obtain a receipt for the money he gave them. This writ is believed to mark the very first establishment of the King’s Scholars. It was followed by others, ordering payments and gradually increasing the size of the community.

It seems unlikely that the king would have sent the boys to study at Cambridge without making arrangements with the sheriff for their maintenance, and this was evidently the first time that they were mentioned to him. Later writs are less detailed and they all refer back to arrangements already made, while the earliest surviving receipt for money paid to the Scholars covers a period beginning two days after this document. This has been assumed, quite reasonably, to be the day on which John de Baggeshote and the boys arrived in Cambridge. When the sheriff went to the Exchequer in Westminster to make his account he handed in this letter, together with the receipt for the money he had paid to King’s Scholars, and the clerks credited his account accordingly.

(TNA, E 101/552/8/2; © the National Archives)

Letter from the king to the sheriff of Cambridge, 7 July 1317

Translation: Edward by the grace of God king of England, lord of Ireland, and duke of Aquitaine, to the sheriff of Cambridge, greeting. Whereas we have sent our beloved clerks John de Baggeshote and twelve others, children of our chapel, to the university of Cambridge to live there in study at our expense, in order to profit […], we order that from the issues of your bailiwick you cause to be paid to the said John every week for his commons [… twenty-]one pence, and for each of the said twelve children per week for their commons [fourteen pence, and] for the cost of their hostel and their other necessities between now and next Michaelmas […] forty shillings; making an indenture between yourself and the said John for what you have thus paid him, by the testimony of whom and of which we will cause a tally for the amount to be raised at our Exchequer, by which you will have due allowance on your account. Given under our privy seal at Bockeby [Long Buckby, in Northamptonshire] on the seventh day of July at the end of the tenth year of our reign.

In the middle ages the king constantly travelled about the country with his household. His main secretarial staff stayed in Westminster, using the Great Seal to authenticate important official documents. But a smaller group of officials accompanied him with the Privy Seal, which could be used to issue letters, or ‘writs’, under his direct instruction, like this one. These ‘writs of privy seal’ were written in French, still at this time the usual spoken language of the court. The seal would have been attached to a small strip of parchment at the bottom, but this has been torn away. The document has also been damaged by damp, leaving a hole in the middle.

What do we know about the Scholars?

Accommodation

In the fourteenth century most Cambridge students lived in rented hostels under the care of a master, and this was the arrangement adopted for the King’s Scholars. The earliest writ provides for the payment of forty shillings to cover the cost of their hostel and other necessities for about twelve weeks. We do not know, however, exactly where they lived.

The Scholars were expected to sleep at least two to a bed, as was usual in the middle ages. When two new boys, John de Kingston and John de Kelsey, were sent to Cambridge in September 1317 it was specifically ordered that a bed should be bought for them, and the sheriff’s next receipt duly recorded the purchase of ‘a coverlet, a blanket, two linen sheets, and a piece of canvas’, together costing twenty shillings. Note that there is no mention of a bedstead: the boys would have slept on the floor on a straw mattress, probably made from the canvas. The bedding could then be rolled out of the way in the daytime.

Food and Drink

B.11.22, f. 25v

The Master and Scholars received weekly allowances of 21d. and 14d. respectively for their ‘commons’, that is, the food and drink they ate and drank together. We have no specific information about the arrangements made for meals. The community probably employed servants to help buy and prepare food and drink. It is unlikely that much can have been produced in the household itself: some durable items may have been stored, but it would have been necessary for someone to go to the market every day to buy fresh provisions.

Clothing

Grants were made to the Master and Scholars from time to time to cover the cost of rent and other necessities, including clothing. But sometimes specific grants were made for the purchase of gowns and hoods, usually at Christmas or Easter. In 1319, for instance, the Master and Scholars were instructed to join the king’s household at York to celebrate Christmas. In preparation for this visit red cloth for gowns and fur for hoods was purchased from merchants at Bury St Edmunds. These were expensive items: the cloth cost over £21, the skins nearly £4.

Accounts for the purchase of gowns are one of the main sources for the names of the Scholars and their dates of admission and departure.

Teaching

Fragment of 14th-century canon law (R.11.2, 39r)

Some of the Scholars may have been at Cambridge for only a short time, but many stayed for several years. Of the sixteen in residence in 1325 twelve had been there since at least 1319, and one of them went on to be a member of the King’s Hall.

In most cases the students’ studies would have been confined to the Arts course, which was based on grammar, logic, and rhetoric — in other words language (Latin), reasoning, and persuasive speaking. Some instruction may also have been given in arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. After completing the arts course, the most advanced students proceeded to the higher faculties of Law, Medicine, and Theology.

The King’s Scholars would mainly have attended the general lectures given in the university by recent graduates, but they probably also received some teaching in their own household.

Masters

The first master, or warden, John de Baggeshote, was replaced some time between 1321 and  1325 by Simon de Bury, who died in office on 3 October 1331. His successor John de Langtoft took over a rather disorderly community, and a royal commission was sent to Cambridge to help him examine the Scholars’ progress and behaviour, improve discipline, and remove those who were no longer benefiting from their studies.

Langtoft, who had apparently only been appointed master while he waited for a position in the church to become available, stayed for less than two years. Thomas Powys, on the other hand, who took his place, had a very long connection with the community. At the time of his appointment he had already been a Scholar for at least eight years, and in 1337 he became the first warden of the King’s Hall, a position he kept till his death in 1360.

Careers

The later careers of only a few Scholars are known, though it is likely that many, like the later members of the King’s Hall, went into the royal service.

Robert de Imworth, for instance, a Scholar from 1318 to 1329, was appointed a purveyor, or purchaser, to the household of Queen Philippa (Edward III’s consort) in 1330 and was sent on royal business to Ireland in 1346. He married a woman named Sara, and the Robert de Imworth who was a member of the King’s Hall in the 1340s may have been their son. Their social status is indicated by the fact that their mansion at Egham was permitted to have its own chapel.

Hugh de Sutton left the community in 1321 to become a Franciscan friar, and several of those who went on to become members of the King’s Hall eventually obtained preferments in the church.

Richard de Wymondewold, a Scholar from 1329 to 1337, obtained a doctorate in Civil Law, married a woman named Syfrida, and became an advocate in the papal court at Rome.

Twenty years later Edward’s son, Edward III, transformed this community into a college of thirty-two scholars, who were to live together in a house he had recently purchased next to St John’s Hospital (later converted into St John’s College). The house was to be known as the Hall of the King’s Scholars of Cambridge (aula scolarium regis Cantebrigie), and Thomas Powys was nominated the college’s first warden. King’s Hall remained in existence till 1546, when it was dissolved as part of the arrangements for founding Trinity. All its buildings and property, and some of its personnel, were transferred to the new college. Parts of the older college still exist, including the Great Gate and the Clock Tower.

Foundation charter of the King’s Hall, 7 October 1337 (King’s Hall 8)

An exhibition focusing on the period from 1317 to 1337, before the King’s Scholars had a permanent home in Cambridge is currently on display in the Wren Library during public opening hours.

 

 

 

 

A Pair of Book Stamps

Curio B15: A Pair of Book Stamps with the Arms of John Hacket

John Hacket (1592-1670) was a member and fellow of Trinity College. As Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry he oversaw the rebuilding of the cathedral, contributing £3,500 and raising far more. He was also generous towards his former college making a bequest of £1200 in his will towards the rebuilding of the ‘ruined’ Garret Hostel. The work was completed in 1671 and the building was known thereafter as Bishop’s Hostel. Hacket’s will also stated that rental income from the new building should go to the college Library for the purchase of books. At the time the Library was housed in Great Court, but Hacket’s bequest appears to have been an impetus towards the building of the new Wren Library. Work began in 1676 and was completed just under 20 years later in 1695. These two book stamps were purchased in 1677, almost certainly so that the Library could mark those books which came to it under the terms of the bequest.

Volume R.2.79 bears the impression of the larger of the two stamps on the front and back covers. Inside it contains a copy of a letter written by Hacket announcing his intention to leave a gift to the college. It also includes a copy of accounts from Bishop’s Hostel from the late 17th century. This includes an item from 1677 detailing the purchase of the book stamps for £1 15s.

A portrait of Hacket (probably given by his son, Andrew Hacket) hangs at the far end of the Wren Library. The Junior Bursar’s accounts for 1679-80 record a payment of 6s 6d ‘for the carriage of Bishop Hackett’s picture from London’. Hacket is depicted in Bishop’s clothes, holding an unrolled scroll with a red seal. The writing on the scroll records the detail of Hacket’s bequest to the college. In the background there are paintings of Lichfield Cathedral and Bishop’s Hostel.

John Hacket, ascribed to Valentine Ritz, oil on canvas

The Bishop’s Hostel accounts record that in 1681, £10 was spent on books from Dr Isaac Barrow’s Library. These included, as examples, a work on physics by Marino Ghetaldi (T.10.6) and Hypomnemata Mathematica by Simon Stevin (Q.16.91.t1). The bindings of these books do not, however, bear the mark of either of the book stamps.

The Library also owns Hacket’s small 13th-century Bible in two parts  (B.10.24 and B.10.25) as well as a number of other books which were written by him including a volume of his sermons, his play Loyola published in 1648 which had been performed in Cambridge before James I in 1623, and a number of copies of his longest work – Scrinia reserata– on the life of his patron Archbishop John Williams. The volume of sermons, published posthumously in 1674, contains a frontispiece portrait of the author. The Library also owns the copper plate used for printing this portrait. By the time it was reused in a volume dated 1702 the wording on the bottom had been scratched out. Hacket’s portrait was presumably included in the later volume (which was not written by him) because it had been bought for the Library under the terms of his bequest.

 

 

 

Jonas Hanway and his bookbindings

Crewe 80.20 photo of front coverCrewe 80.20 is a beautiful example of a ‘Hanway binding’, the name given to bindings specially commissioned by Jonas Hanway, an 18th century philanthropist.  Often bound in red morocco (goatskin) and decorated with distinctive tooling, these books were designed to catch the eye and to help circulate ideas and principles that were close to Hanway’s heart.  What is unique about this book is the inclusion of lines of verse written by hand on the front flyleaves  which directly relate to the ornaments on the spine and cover.  Hanway is known to have suggested or designed a number of emblematic tools which were used by his second binder, identity unknown.  The photograph below of the spine shows some of these emblematic tools:

Crewe 80.20 photo of spine

First page of MS. verse about the emblems

 

 

Click here for a full transcription of the verse

 

 

 

Portrait of Jonas Hanway
Arthur Devis [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Hanway made his money as a merchant working for the Russia Company, and the tale of his trials and adventures as a trader in Russia and Persia formed the subject of his well-received first publication, ‘An historical account of the British trade over the Caspian Sea’ (1753).  Thereafter he began to write voluminously and published 85 known books and pamphlets.  His driving force was his philanthropic interests, which ranged far and wide.  Philanthropy for Hanway was a means to help people, in a practical and efficient manner, to support themselves; he saw no use in the wasting of money on lavish social events as a form of philanthropic giving.  In 1756 he set up the Marine Society (which still exists today) to help recruit men, and later boys, to the Royal Navy; in 1758 he was elected governor of the Foundling Hospital, a children’s home which cared for and educated the destitute; through charities and societies, and his own writings, he supported numerous causes, including among others the lot of chimney sweeps and prostitutes, penal reform, and the raising of funds for people affected by a particular war or disaster; his lobbying and pamphleteering on behalf of disadvantaged children led to the passing of meaningful legislation.

A brief look at a contemporary of Hanway might shed light on why it was deemed important to distribute texts in special bindings.  Thomas Hollis, a political propagandist, used his wealth to spread the ideas of republicanism as a means of protecting and advancing English liberty.  He accomplished this by distributing suitable texts to libraries, initially in Britain and on the Continent, and later to America.  The fine bindings were designed to enable such books to stand out and the emblems that were stamped upon them to further the libertarian sentiments.  As Hollis himself wrote on the bindings of books, ‘… by long experience I have found it necessary to attend to them for other libraries, having thereby drawn notice, with preservation, on many excellent books, or curious, which, it is probable, would else have passed unheeded or neglected.’  A large number of Hollis bindings have survived, and several, among them some of Hollis’s own copies, can be found in the Wren Library’s Rothschild collection.  An example at RW.6.14 is presented below:

While Hollis left no key to the meaning of his emblems, do we have here, in the form of verse, a clue to the meaning of some of Hanway’s?

Hanway had a certain reputation for eccentricity. He was (it is said) the first man to carry an umbrella around the streets of London at a time when it was usual only for women to do so.  He wrote against tea, a drink that was still a relative novelty in England at this time, in his ‘An Essay On Tea, Considered As Pernicious To Health, Obstructing Industry, And Impoverishing The Nation: With An Account Of Its Growth And Great Consumption In These Kingdoms’, which was refuted at length by none other than Samuel Johnson, an ardent tea drinker, in his review of Hanway’s 1757 work ‘A Journal of Eight Days Journey from Portsmouth to Kingston upon Thames, With Miscellaneous Thoughts, Moral and Religious, in a Series of Letters’, in which ‘An essay on tea’ appears.  Overall, his contemporaries seem to have had a mixed opinion of Jonas Hanway: on the one hand respectful of his philanthropic work and on the other slightly disdainful of his prodigious, if turgid, writing output; he has been described as ‘one of the most indefatigable and splendid bores of English history’.

 

Sources:

Oxford DNB

Bond, W. H.  Thomas Hollis of Lincoln’s Inn (1990)