‘An excrescency upon the head of a deer’

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.

Add.Ms.a.106, f.26r

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.

This curio and the register of donations are currently on display in the Wren Library during public opening hours.

 

 

Advent Calendar: 24 images from the Wren Digital Library

 

 

Details

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

A Piece of the Shakamaxon Elm

Curio B4

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.

This curio is currently on display in the Wren Library during public opening hours along with some related books from the collection as follows:

Map from Thomas, G, An historical and geographical account of the province and country of Pensilvania etc, W.26.23

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”.

Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, Etliche zu dieser Zeit nicht unnütze Fragen über einige Schrift-stellen, printed by Benjamin Franklin, Crewe Collection

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.

Emmanuel Domenech, Manuscrit pictographique américain (1860), Crewe Collection

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.

Further Reading:

http://www.penntreatymuseum.org

 

 

 

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)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

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.