Trinity Lends to Major Anglo-Saxon Exhibition

On Friday 19th October 2018 a spectacular exhibition –  Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War – opens at the British Library in London. It will feature material ranging from the 5th to the 11th centuries and will examine the development of written English and the creation of the kingdom of England. Trinity College has lent five manuscripts to this exhibition, but more than thirty Anglo-Saxon manuscripts can also be consulted in the Wren Digital Library. We will be publishing a series of blog posts about the manuscripts loaned to the exhibition over the next few weeks.

 

 

 

Nobel Prizes at Trinity College

On 3 October 2018 it was announced that Sir Gregory Winter, Master of Trinity College, has been jointly awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, with Professors Frances Arnold and George Smith, for his pioneering work in using phage display for the directed evolution of antibodies, with the aim of producing new pharmaceuticals. The Nobel Assembly said:

‘The 2018 Nobel Laureates in Chemistry have taken control of evolution and used it for purposes that bring the greatest benefit to humankind. Enzymes produced through directed evolution are used to manufacture everything from biofuels to pharmaceuticals. Antibodies evolved using a method called phage display can combat autoimmune diseases and in some cases cure metastatic cancer.’

Sir Gregory becomes the 33rd Nobel Laureate to be a Member of Trinity College since Lord Rayleigh was awarded the prize in Physics in 1904, and is the 107th affiliated with Cambridge. A list of members of Trinity College who are or were Nobel Laureates can be viewed here. Trinity members have received the award in every Nobel category.

E. D. Adrian’s Nobel Diploma

Edgar Douglas Adrian, 1st Baron Adrian, was awarded the 1932 Nobel Prize for Physiology, jointly with Sir Charles Sherrington, for their work on the function of neurons. He was a Fellow of Trinity College from 1913, and served as Master from 1951 to 1965. Each Nobel diploma is an original work of art. The diploma, awarded to Lord Adrian, displayed above depicts the Great Gate of Trinity.

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The only father and son to be jointly awarded a Nobel prize were Sir William Henry Bragg and his son Sir Lawrence Bragg, awarded the 1915 prize in Physics for their services in the analysis of crystal structure by means of X-rays.  Sir Lawrence was only 25 years old at the time of the award.

Joseph John Thomson, 1856-1940

Sir J. J. Thomson was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1906, for his work on the conduction of electricity in gases, leading to his discovery of the electron. His son Sir George Paget Thomson was awarded the same prize in 1937 for his work in discovering the wave-like properties of the electron.

Sir James Mirlees receiving his award from the King of Sweden

The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences was established in 1968 through a donation from the Swedish Royal Bank, and is administered by the Nobel Foundation alongside the prizes established by Alfred Nobel. In 1996 the prize was awarded to Sir James Mirrlees, who died on 29 August 2018. He shared the prize with Professor William Vickrey of Columbia University, for their research on the economic theory of incentives when information is incomplete or asymmetric.

Piero Sraffa receiving his award

Before the existence of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, an equivalent status was afforded to the Söderström medal, awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. This medal was awarded in 1961 to Piero Sraffa, the leading Italian economist who was a Fellow of Trinity College from 1939 until his death in 1983.

The Fields Medal

The Fields Medal is often regarded as equivalent to a Nobel Prize in the mathematical sciences. It is awarded every four years to up to four mathematicians under 40 years of age at the International Congress of the International Mathematical Union. Four medal-holders have so far been associated with Trinity College, including two present Fellows of Trinity, Sir Michael Atiyah and Sir Timothy Gowers. The Fields Medal was awarded in 1970 to the late Professor Alan Baker for his work on transcendental numbers.

A small exhibition about Nobel Laureates from Trinity is currently on display in the Wren Library during public opening hours.

‘A man of no ordinary attainments’: The Life and Work of Robert Leslie Ellis

Robert Leslie Ellis, likeness from a portrait by Samuel Lawrence

Almost forgotten today, the English polymath Robert Leslie Ellis (1817-1859) was lauded by his contemporaries as a ‘prodigy of universal genius’ and an ‘ideal of a University man’. Having been privately educated at Bath, reading Xenophon and Virgil and solving equations from the age of 10, Ellis went up to Trinity College, Cambridge in 1836, where he became a pupil of George Peacock and William Hopkins. A great academic career beckoned; he helped D. F. Gregory to found the Cambridge Mathematical Journal in 1837, graduated Senior Wrangler in 1840 and was elected Fellow of Trinity shortly afterwards. During the 1840s, Ellis published major papers on functional and differential equations and probability theory and took on the co-editing, with James Spedding and Douglas Denon Heath, of Francis Bacon’s Works. From 1847, Ellis’s health deteriorated and in 1849, aged 32, he returned home from a grand tour as an invalid, having been struck by rheumatic fever at San Remo. The rest of his short life was spent at Anstey Hall, Trumpington, where he saw much of his friends John Grote and William Walton, to whom he dictated his thoughts on topics ranging from etymology and bees’ cells to Roman law and a projected Chinese dictionary.

 

 

Trinity Lends to the Royal Society

Isaac Newton’s Astronomical Ring Dial

A new exhibition – Science Made Visible: Drawings, Prints, Objects – is open, free of charge at the Royal Society 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AG until December 2018. The exhibition looks at how visual representations were used in the conduct of early modern science. It includes sketches, drawings and prints of subjects as diverse as botany, astronomy and mechanical engines. Trinity College has loaned a number of items to the exhibition including Isaac Newton’s astronomical ring dial, a parallel rule and drawing instruments, as well as woodblocks used for the printing of the Principia Mathematica.

For more information see here and for an online exhibition see here.

Uncompromising women: the fight for the vote

2018 marks the centenary of the Representation of the People Act; a law which gave the vote to certain women in Britain, as long as they were over 30 and met a property qualification. Ten years later, women achieved the same voting rights as men. We are also celebrating the 40 year anniversary of female undergraduates being admitted to Trinity College. To honour this landmark year of anniversaries, we have compiled a display highlighting a few of our items relating to women’s suffrage drawn from the Pethick-Lawrence Collection.

Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

Vehement socialist, Emmeline Pethick met Trinity alumnus, Frederick Lawrence in 1900.

peth9_128-front

After Emmeline denied him marriage a number of times due to her deeply rooted socialism, Frederick began to move left in his political view. The pair married in 1901, combining their names, and soon became major figures in the fight for women’s suffrage.

The Pethick-Lawrences got involved with the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), an organisation founded by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters in 1903. However, the WSPU tended towards an extreme and violent approach to attaining the vote for women, which led to the incarceration of both Pethick-Lawrences.

This letter from Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence to the WSPU, written from Holloway prison, emphasises her pride in the union, and describes how comforting it is that her prison uniform is green and white, and her library card “faintly purplish”, the same colours that represent the suffrage movement. The choice of these colours for the organisation is attributed to Emmeline.

 

 

Constance Lytton

Lady Constance Bulwer-Lytton (known as Constance Lytton) was an influential British activist and writer in support of suffrage, prison reform and birth control. She is best known for revealing class prejudice in the treatment of imprisoned suffragettes.

Lady Constance was well treated in prison, but when incarcerated under the pseudonym ‘Jane Warton’, a less wealthy suffragette, she had her teeth broken, and was forcibly fed to the point that permanent damage was done to her heart.

 

This note written by Lady Constance highlights her passionate opinion on the necessity of violent protest.

Millicent Garrett Fawcett

Millicent Garrett Fawcett, suffragist and political leader, who was recently immortalised as a statue that faces Westminster Palace in London, was pioneering in the fight for the right to vote. At 20 years old, Millicent was deemed too young to sign the 1866 petition, but went on to dedicate the rest of her life to attaining votes for women. She died in 1929, only a year after women achieved the same voting rights as men.

In this letter to Lady Constance, Millicent suggests that she is trying to enlist the help of influential men in her campaign for suffrage, such as soon-to-be Prime Minister, David Lloyd George.

 

 

Christabel Pankhurst

Daughter of known radical Emmeline Pankhurst, Christabel Pankhurst wrote this letter to Lady Constance, criticising various powerful men for not doing more to help the cause. She comments on the indignation of suffragettes being incarcerated and abused for such things as “inciting speeches”, while the militant movement in Ulster cost thousands of lives, but the men responsible were walking free.

Christabel’s final words of this letter embody her lively and forthright personality, and confidence in the suffrage movement:

“Thank-goodness we can win without [men] anyhow […] Women winning their own freedom. Glorious thought!”

 

A Botanical Watercolourist at Trinity: Clarence Bicknell

Trinity College has seen many notable botanists pass through its doors, perhaps most famously John Ray and Francis Willughby, whose magnificent busts by Roubiliac adorn the entrance to the Wren Library. A small exhibition running until 4 July 2018 celebrates the botanical paintings of Clarence Bicknell, a student at Trinity in the 1860s who spent most of his working life in the Italian Riviera, where he died 100 years ago on 17 July 1918.

After graduating from Trinity, Clarence Bicknell followed a familiar path into the church, serving as a curate first in Newington, Surrey then Stoke-on-Tern in Shropshire, where he joined the Brotherhood of the Holy Spirit. This semi-monastic community was founded by another Trinity man, Rowland Corbet, a leading light of the Oxford Movement whose beliefs were contrary to those of the Unitarianism of Clarence’s father. In 1878, perhaps inspired by Corbet’s own visits to the Italian Riviera, Bicknell accepted a one year appointment as deacon of the Anglican church in Bordighera.

Clarence came from an artistic family: his father Elhanan Bicknell, whale oil magnate and art patron, collected works of art by renowned British artists such as Turner, Gainsborough and Landseer, while his mother, Lucinda Browne, was the aunt of Phiz, the illustrator of Charles Dickens’s books. In 1878 Clarence gave up his role in the church to concentrate on botany. He developed considerable skill as a botanical artist: within five years he had painted over 1,100 botanical watercolours and had published Flowering Plants and Ferns of the Riviera. He donated over 3,300 of his botanical plates to Genoa University and another 1,100 are in other museums and collections. Clarence was a driving force in a network of many of the leading botanists of the day such as Emile Burnat in Switzerland, Augusto Béguinot in Genoa and Harold Stuart Thompson in the UK, with whom he exchanged samples and correspondence.

Bicknell’s Flowering Plants and Ferns of the Riviera (1885) beside his copies of kaleidoscopic versions of the same flowers (c.1910)

Clarence started going up into the Maritime Alps behind Bordighera in the 1890s to extend his botanical research from coastal specimens, and also perhaps to escape from the stifling atmosphere of the summer heat and the vie mondaine of the summer visitors on the coast. From 1897 onwards he became more and more absorbed by the study of the prehistoric rock engravings that he had been told existed in the Mont Bégo area, now in the Parc du Mercantour, a French national Park about an hour’s drive north of Nice. He and his helper Luigi Pollini discovered, logged and made rubbings of 11,000 rock engravings and published in 1902 The Prehistoric Rock Engravings in the Italian Maritime Alps.

Clarence’s artistic talents flourished when he could let his creative and design skills come to the fore, when he was not restricted by doing meticulous botanical and archaeological recording. This manifested itself in the creation of hand-painted vellum-bound albums that he did for friends and relations. His niece Margaret Berry gave him a blank album every year which he then returned to her completed. The albums represent the height of Clarence’s artistic talent with a delightful blend of Victorian whimsy and design skill, clearly influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement. At least fourteen are known to exist, seven of which were donated to the Fitzwilliam Museum in 1980 and two of which are on display in the Wren Library.

A Children’s Picture Book of Wild Plants is carefully designed and colour-coordinated, with four plants illustrated on the right often with a frame, and on the left a description of each plant. Clarence, in this and many of the albums, delighted in taking the colours and details of flowers as motifs for the frame and for decorative capital letters.

A Children’s Picture Book of Wild Plants, Bicknell family collection

The Book of Guests in Esperanto provides potted biographies of several of Clarence’s friends in Esperanto. His notes are on the left page with their initials illuminated and a flower in a matching border on the right. Clarence was a great believer in the universal language Esperanto and felt it could be a formula for world peace. He attended international congresses, taught it to friends and wrote poems and hymns. There are pages ranging from eminent botanists and archaeologists to three dogs in the family. This page is for his nephew Arthur Berry, lecturer in mathematics at Cambridge and sometime Vice-Provost of King’s College.

The Book of Guests in Esperanto , Bicknell family collection
Signatures from the Casa Fontanalba Visitors’ Book, Bicknell family collection

The Casa Fontanalba Visitors’ Book was created for Bicknell’s home in the mountains, the Casa Fontanalba, which he built in 1906, adorning it with frescoes of mountain scenes, wild flowers, friezes, initials of visitors and proverbs in Esperanto. The visitors’ book has a wild flower in an arts-and-crafts border on the right and signatures of about 250 visitors, including famous archaeologists, botanists, writers, Esperantists, soldiers and politicians.

 

 

A new film about Clarence Bicknell is available here

See more of  Clarence Bicknell’s paintings in the exhibition ‘Floral Fantasies’ at the Fitzwilliam Museum until 9 September 2018

Marvels: The Life of Clarence Bicknell by Valerie Lester, a new biography, is published in June 2018. For more information see www.clarencebicknell.com.

 

 

Wifredo Lam : Livres d’artiste [2]

Giorgio Upiglio, Wifredo Lam and Ghérasim Luca working on Apostroph’Apocalypse, Milan, 1965

In an earlier post we looked at Wifredo Lam’s collaboration with Antonin Artaud and Aimé Césaire. Here we consider his work in producing books with the writers Ghérasim Luca, René Char and Jean-Dominique Rey.

Apostroph’Apocalypse

Apostroph’Apocalypse, title-page, designed and printed at Giorgio Upiglio’s studio, Milan, 1967 (Milan: Grafica Uno, 1967) Kessler.bb.33 (copy no. 73 of 135)

Wifredo Lam’s grandest and most complex book is the remarkable Apostroph’Apocalypse, a collaboration with the poet Ghérasim Luca (1913–94). In 1952 Luca had fled his native Romania via Israel to Paris, where his work was already known in Surrealist circles through his pre-War publications and his correspondence with André Breton. His poems often involve sophisticated word-play, and Apostroph’Apocalypse is based around the conceit of an apostrophe which breaks words into atomic particles and thereby causes apocalyptic destruction.

Apostroph’Apocalypse, the first page of text with forebodings of nuclear desctruction

The Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 provides one of many backdrops to this publication, which was eventually completed in 1967.

Apostroph’Apocalypse was recently described in Le Monde as ‘one of the finest books of the twentieth century’.

Wifredo Lam and Ghérasim Luca travelled to Milan to work on their ambitious publication, in order to take full advantage of the skills available there. The paper was specially manufactured for this edition by Filicarta of Brugherio, with a watermark consisting of the title of the book. Luca’s text presented considerable complexity for its typesetter, Luigi Maestri, in the placement and format not only of each word, but even of individual letters within a word.

The greatest sophistication, however, was reserved for the 14 plates which Lam contributed to the book. In this work he was greatly aided by Giorgio Upiglio, the greatest Italian art printer of the second half of the century. Upiglio devised a method to allow Lam to draw freely on bitumen powder spread on copperplates, which were then heated to fix the drawings before they were bathed in acid. This novel technique enabled a heightened granular texture to the impression of the plates, which gives a more visceral appearance in direct light.

René Char

René Char (1907–88), the great poet whose name is associated as much with the Surrealists as with the Résistance, first discovered Lam’s work at the Galerie Pierre in 1945. The initial shock of the violent forms of Lam’s paintings and the life represented in them was mitigated by the warmth and refinement of the artist’s personality when they met the following year. Their first formal collaboration came in 1953 with Le Rempart de brindilles (The Battlements of Twigs), a brief meditation on the nature of poetry to which Lam contributed 5 etchings.

Char and Lam worked together on a grander scale many years later in Contre une maison sèche (Against a Dry House), a book presenting 17 aphoristic verses by Char alongside 9 large etchings by Lam. The images are in dialogue with the poems, intended not as illustrations so much as ‘illuminations’. Char’s concise texts aim for the re-establishment of ‘a sovereignty within language’. Each page confronts stark images of a freedom present within the material world with enigmatic reflections on history and the corruption of human consciousness. Lam’s plates meanwhile convey explosive movements, fulgurances or metamorphic bolts of lightning.

René Char, Contre une maison sèche, eaux-fortes de Wifredo Lam (Paris: Jean Hugues, 1975 [1976]). Kessler.bb.24 (copy no. 46 of 175)
As with Apostroph’ Apocalypse, Lam worked on the plates at Giorgio Upiglio’s workshop in Milan. The book was published in Paris by Jean Hugues in a luxurious edition on vélin de rives paper in a raw silk-covered folder and slipcase. The typeset portions were printed at the Imprimerie Union in Paris before the sheets were taken to Milan for the printing from plates. The plates are etchings with aquatint in colours, and unusually are cropped to fit the already large pages (380 x 550 mm): the copperplates used for the publication extended a little beyond the edge of the page.

A mock-up of Contre une maison sèche was first displayed in 1971, but it was not until 1976 that the publication was eventually completed. In 1972 Char wrote to Lam to encourage him to finish his work, looking forward to the publication of the book and writing that otherwise the ‘dry house’ of the title would not only dry out but also (financially) ‘dry him out’:

Il serait bien pour moi que tu achèves notre livre. Cette “maison sèche” va, sinon, completement sècher et me sècher!

In a pamphlet issued for the exhibition of the publication of Contre une maison sèche in 1976, Char explains some of the inspiration that lay behind Lam’s vivid plates. He describes his first sight of Lam’s paintings, in the Galerie Pierre Loeb in Paris, in 1947 or 48:

Deux toiles noueuses, agressivement surgies de terre, dégageaient leur violent et lancinant arôme de forêts réconciliées avec personnages imminents (pieds et mains y tentaient une apparition) [. . . ] Les couleurs des cubistes étaient les seules qui convenaient à leurs ouvrages ; les seules couleurs aussi que les œuvres superbes de Lam exigeaint ce jour-là.

 Two knotty canvases, aggressively erected from the ground, released their violent and haunting aroma of forests reconciled with imminent characters (feet and hands were trying to make an appearance) [. . .] The colours of the Cubists were the only ones that suited their works; the only colours as well that the superb works of Lam required on that day.

L’Herbe sous les pavés

At the end of Wifredo Lam’s life he formed a new collaboration with the poet, art critic and writer Jean-Dominique Rey (1926–2016). Their joint publication L’Herbe sous les paves was Rey’s first collection of short stories, a genre in which he was to become well known, and was Lam’s last work, published only weeks before his death.

Jean-Dominique Rey, L’Herbe sous les pavés, eaux-fortes de Wifredo Lam
(Paris: Imprimerie Mérat; Milan: Giorgio Upiglio, 1982). Kessler.a.68 (copy no. 35 of 122)

The title of the collection, L’Herbe sous les pavés, refers to a saying from the revolutionary events of May ’68, ‘there is grass growing under the cobbles’. This was later adapted more famously as ‘sous les pavés la plage’, a reference to the piles of cobblestones forming barricades placed on sandy ground. In both forms there is a direct resonance with the underground movement.

Each of the five short stories in the book is accompanied by an etching. The final plate, a very simple etching in three colours with three dogs, accompanies a story beguilingly entitled L’Aube et puis… (Dawn, and then…). Lam drew on the copperplates in his apartment in Paris. The plates were heated in his kitchen oven by Giorgio Upiglio and then etched at the studio of George Goetz. The text was printed in Paris and the plates in Milan. Lam signed all the copies in July 1982, and a notice of his death (on 11 September) was added in a second colophon.

The exhibition Wifredo Lam: livres d’artistes closes to the general public on 12 June 2018 and to members of college on 14 June, but the collection of books illustrated by Lam remains available for consultation by readers in the Wren Library.

Further Reading:

https://europeancollections.wordpress.com/2018/06/04/wifredo-lam-and-aime-cesaire/#more-12444

http://pluton-magazine.com/2018/06/12/wifredo-lam-a-cambridge-university/

 

Wifredo Lam : Livres d’artiste [1]

 

Wifredo Lam with Pablo Picasso, Vallauris, 1954

The Cuban-born artist Wifredo Lam (1902–82) was a pioneer in incorporating non-Western ideas into his creations. A special exhibition is on display in the Wren Library until 14 June 2018, which celebrates Lam’s collaborations with several of the leading French-language poets of the twentieth century to produce livres d’artiste.

Of mixed African, Spanish and Chinese ancestry, Wifredo Lam quickly developed a distinctive style influenced by Cubism and the Surrealist movement, often involving elaborate hybrid figures. His work with the poets Aimé Césaire, Ghérasim Luca and René Char led to a series of editions printed to the highest standards in very limited numbers, and in most cases the copy in the Wren Library is the only known example in the UK. These special editions were recently presented to Trinity College by Nicholas Kessler (1937–2018).

In this, the first of two blog-posts on Lam’s collaborations with writers and poets, we examine some of his works with Antonin Artaud and Aimé Césaire.

Behind the Mirror

Derrière le miroir, N° 52: Lam (Paris: Maeght, February 1953) Pam.a.95.12

Derrière le miroir was a monthly publication which served as the catalogue for each exhibition at the Galerie Maeght: 253 numbers were published between 1946 and 1982. This issue was published in February 1953 and consists of a single folded sheet reproducing three new lithographs by Lam, together with a list of his exhibited paintings and a collection of endorsements of his work by notable artists and writers including Pablo Picasso, Herbert Read, Aimé Césaire, René Char, Georges Braque and André Breton.

Lam’s drawings had been used as illustrations in books in earlier years. His first experiment in printmaking was an etching produced in 1945 to illustrate a book by Pierre Loeb, Voyages à travers la peinture, published in 1946. The prints of Derrière le miroir are among his earliest works to employ the lithographic technique, and use bold blocks of colour in a manner which he was soon to abandon.

Artaud in Mexico

Antonin Artaud (1896–1948) was a major figure in the theatre of the avant-garde. After staging various notorious but financially compromising productions in Paris in the 1920s and early 30s, in 1936 he travelled to Mexico, where he investigated local forms of spirituality, recording details of his travels and of his experiments with hallucinogenic drugs. While in Mexico he wrote Le théâtre et les dieux, an attack on the present state of theatre, asserting that the day of surrealism had passed and developing a new urgency for his formulation of théâtre de la cruauté, the Theatre of Cruelty.

Antonin Artaud, Le Théâtre et les dieux, eaux-fortes de Wifredo Lam ([Paris]: Aubry-Rueff, 1966). Kessler.c.58 (copy no. 61 of 110)
The colophon to this edition is signed by Lam and by the publishers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lam immediately saw the implications which Artaud’s text on Mexico held for his own exploration of the complex cultural history of his native island, an encounter which was by this time creating in his paintings a great metamorphic theatre of sensuous animal-gods. Artaud’s text also contains a message to which Lam must have been sensitive, when he writes of Balthus, ‘He paints like someone who would know the secret of lightning’.

The essay was reprinted in May 1966 in an edition by Aubry-Rueff for which Lam produced 5 etchings, each with aquatint in colours. The aquatints were printed by Georges Leblanc in a studio first established in Paris in 1793.

Brunidor

The collector and financier Robert Altmann (1915–2017) fled Nazi Germany and established himself in Havana in 1941, where he met Wifredo Lam. Soon after this encounter he set up Brunidor Editions, which published lithographic prints to a high standard in New York and later in Paris, where Altmann became closely involved with the Lettristes. Lam contributed to Altmann’s first portfolio in 1947, alongside Max Ernst, Joan Miró and others. His third portfolio was published in Paris in 1961, and includes one of Lam’s brightest and most explosive lithographic prints alongside the work of four other artists. Among these is an arresting piece by Isidor Isou, the founder of Lettrism, and a rare lithograph by Ghérasim Luca, the poet of Romanian origin with whom Lam would later collaborate on his largest book project, Apostroph’Apocalypse. A rare set of these lithographs has been lent for display in the exhibition by Archiv AcquAvivA, Berlin.

Aimé Césaire

Wifredo Lam and Aimé Césaire in Havana, 1967

Aimé Césaire, one of the great poets of the 20th century, published his masterpiece, the Cahier d’un retour au pays natal (Notebook of a Return to the Native Land) in 1939 in Paris, before returning to his native Martinique. Wifredo Lam, who was sailing with André Breton towards the Americas, met Césaire in Martinique in April 1941. Lam was deeply moved by the poetry of Césaire and they became friends. In 1942 Lam drew the frontispiece for the first edition of Césaire’s poem in book form, published in Cuba in a translation by Lydia Cabrera, with a preface by Benjamin Péret. In 1945 Pierre Mabille published a long study of Lam’s massive painting La Jungle in Tropiques, the journal published by Aimé and Susanne Césaire in Fort-de-France.

Césaire’s Cahier was first published in 1939 in the magazine Volontés. The exhibition includes the original offprint of the magazine printing, in one of very few surviving copies, inscribed ‘To Wifredo Lam, in token of friendship and admiration, this poem of our revolts, our hopes, our fervour—Fort-de-France, May 1941, A. Césaire’. Lam was so struck by the power of Césaire’s text that he determined to have a Spanish-language edition published in Havana. The illustrations Lam provided for the 1943 Havana edition, translated by the anthropologist Lydia Cabrera, included an anthropomorphic horse figure. These illustrations act as the first published commentary on Césaire’s long poem.

Also on display are the autograph manuscript and signed typescript of Césaire’s poem ‘Simouns’, dedicated to Lam. This poem on the desert wind, Simoom, conceives the fires of liberation in an imagined Africa. The manuscript of an essay by Césaire, ‘Wifredo Lam et les Antilles’, records that ‘painting is one of the rare weapons left to us against the sordidness of history’.

‘passages’, from Annonciation (1969, 1982)

Lam and Césaire spent many years in planning a collaborative publication. In 1969 Lam had created a series of nine etchings richly coloured in aquatint, and in 1979 he showed them to Césaire. This inspired Césaire to write a set of ten poems, which were eventually published in a portfolio together with seven of Lam’s etchings in 1982, shortly before Lam’s death.

A second blog-post will discuss Lam’s collaborations with Ghérasim Luca and René Char.

Further Reading:

https://europeancollections.wordpress.com/2018/06/04/wifredo-lam-and-aime-cesaire/#more-12444

http://pluton-magazine.com/2018/06/12/wifredo-lam-a-cambridge-university/

 

 

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.