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.
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.
Vehement socialist, Emmeline Pethick met Trinity alumnus, Frederick Lawrence in 1900.
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 (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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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, 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’.
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.
31 October 2017 marks exactly 500 years since Martin Luther sent a list of 95 Theses against the sale of indulgences to the Archbishop of Mainz. Tradition records that the Theses were also nailed to the West Door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg. The publication initiated a heated discussion which rapidly spread throughout Europe and can be seen as the starting-point of the Reformation.
The Wren Library has particularly rich holdings of Luther’s writings, including more than 200 of the pamphlets he published in his lifetime, some of which are now exceptionally rare. Cambridge was a hotbed of Reformation dissent, but in fact none of the Lutheran publications in the Library can be associated with the University at that time — even less with Trinity, which was founded in the year of Luther’s death by one of his strongest opponents, Henry VIII. Several of the publications featured here arrived in the Wren in the mid-19th century, as part of the outstanding library of German books collected by the Venerable Julius Hare, Archdeacon of Lewes and formerly a Fellow of Trinity.
Although Luther is most famous for promoting the doctrine of salvation by faith alone, it is notable that the Law of the Old Testament formed an important part of his theological thinking. This tract on the Ten Commandments is based on sermons which Luther delivered in Wittenberg in the year leading up to his proclamation of the 95 Theses. The depiction of Moses with horns is not a sign of demonic intent, but in fact arises from a mistranslation from the Hebrew which Luther was later to correct in his own translation of the Bible. According to Exodus 34 : 29, when Moses descended from Mount Sinai after his encounter with God, his face was ‘radiant’. The Latin Vulgate renders this Hebrew word as cornuta (‘horned’), possibly to express the idea that rays of light were shining from Moses’ face like horns.
Luther was excommunicated from the Catholic Church by Pope Leo X after his refusal to recant his writings at the Diet of Worms in 1521. From May 1521 to March 1522, partly for his own safety, Luther resided at the Wartburg Castle outside Eisenach under the assumed name of Junker Jörg. During this time he began work on his translation of the complete Bible into German. The New Testament, translated from the Greek, was completed in 1522, and his work on the translation of the Old Testament from the Hebrew, in which he worked with several collaborators, continued over several years. This second volume of the Old Testament, printed in 1524, comprises the books from Joshua to Nehemiah. It includes several woodcut illustrations attributed to Lucas Cranach and others.
This single-volume edition of the complete German Bible of Luther includes 117 woodcut illustrations by Georg Lemberger. Luther continued to make refinements to his translation until the edition of 1546, the year of his death.
Probably the most prominent of Luther’s opponents was King Henry VIII, who produced this lengthy polemical essay in response to the 95 Theses and Luther’s tract of 1520 On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church. Henry’s learned treatise won considerable acclaim from Pope Leo X, who granted the king the title Fidei Defensor (Defender of the Faith). This decorated copy, put together from a mixture of sheets from the first and second editions of 1521 and 1522, was owned by the notable Elizabethan book collector Humfrey Dyson.
Luther quickly responded to Henry VIII’s treatise with a pamphlet Contra Henricum Regem Angliae, of which this is the German edition. He argued among other things that the King’s reasoning was not fashioned so much from learned theology as from a desire to secure recognition from the Pope.
This edition of five sermons on the Gospels of Matthew and John includes one of several versions of a familiar portrait of Luther.
Luther has been depicted in many different ways in subsequent centuries. This play, first staged in Berlin in 1806 under the title ‘Die Weihe der Kraft’ (‘The Consecration of Power’), achieved some degree of popularity in following years. Its author, Zacharias Werner, was a friend of Goethe and one of the first playwrights to develop the genre of the ‘tragedy of fate’. The five-act drama covers all of the major historical events in Luther’s life, and positions him as a figure in the national historical consciousness, at the time of the Napoleonic occupation. The facts are interwoven with fantasy, especially in the story of Luther’s courtship of Katharina von Bora, who is shown in the frontispiece hand in hand with her much older husband. A few years after writing this play, Werner converted to Catholicism and became a priest in Vienna.
Henry VIII’s publication against Luther had a continued resonance in the later development of the Church of England, where its defence of Catholic doctrine found occasional supporters. This later translation by Thomas Webster was published in 1688, the year of the overthrow of James II, the last Catholic monarch, by William and Mary.
These books will be on display in the Wren Library during public opening hours until the end of November 2017.
The Wren Library has always been famous for its outstanding collection of illuminated manuscripts. Less well known are the illuminations added by hand to many of its earliest printed books. A new catalogue of illuminations in Italian printed books of the fifteenth century in the Cambridge College libraries and the Fitzwilliam Museum has brought to light many previously unstudied creations of the Italian Renaissance. In this blog-post we take a look at some of the finer illuminations added to Italian books in Trinity’s collections.
In the earliest years of printing it was perhaps inevitable that the more luxurious publications would be decorated in a very similar manner to the manuscripts which continued to be created alongside them, and in some cases the work of the same artist can be identified in both manuscripts and printed books. Several of the most elaborately decorated volumes in Trinity come from the collection of William Grylls (1786–1863), a Scholar of Trinity and West Country clergyman who bequeathed his outstanding library of more than 14,000 books to the College.
This very fine edition was printed on parchment and illuminated in Venice in 1473, a few months after its publication. The shield at the centre of the bottom margin bears the arms of the great philosopher Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, whose Oration on the Dignity of Man has been called the ‘Manifesto of the Renaissance’. It is most likely that this book was presented to Pico della Mirandola on the occasion of his appointment as Apostolic Protonotary in 1473, at the age of ten. The book was rebound while in the collection of Thomas, 8th Earl of Pembroke, and was later owned by the famous collector Henry Yates Thompson, whose widow presented it to Trinity in 1928.
The printers of this Latin Vulgate Bible reserved a large space at the beginning of the Prologue for a portrait of St Jerome. This copy has been decorated by the same artist as the Macrobius shown above, active in Venice in the 1470s and known today as the Master of the Pico Pliny. The spraywork borders are of particularly fine execution.
The design of the woodcuts in this edition of the letters of St Jerome has been attributed to the Master of the Pico Pliny, the artist of the Macrobius and Vulgate Bible above, but was executed in Ferrara some 20 years later. This page displays St Jerome presenting his monastic Rule to a kneeling monk with halo, and ‘S Martim’ giving the Rule to a group of nuns. All of the almost 200 woodcut illustrations in this copy have been tinted in green, red and blue, with initial letters painted in gold with vine-scroll decoration. This book was owned by the Augustinian church and monastery of Sant’Andrea in Ferrara, and later entered the hands of the notorious librarian and book thief Guglielmo Libri.
The magnificent architectural border of mottled marble on this opening page was executed by Giovanni Vendramin (fl. 1466–1508), who worked for the bishop of Padua and for other clients in Venice. The lion rampant on the shields borne by the two female figures seem to be of the Sterpino family, perhaps also signalled by the initials ‘C S’ in the base. The final page of this book includes a note summarising the decoration supplied, in order to calculate payment to the artist: 14x lettere / 7 doro / io principio, that is to say, 140 red or blue epigraphic capitals, 7 gold initials, and one frontispiece.
This translation of Pliny’s major work was printed in Venice and illuminated in Rome, probably for a member of the Boccaccio family in Florence whose arms are partly erased on the page displayed. The gold initial ‘E’ is surrounded by vine-scroll decoration, and a green parrot sits proudly in the outer margin. A later owner has attempted to wash away the marginal commentary added throughout this volume by an early reader, while preserving the ornamental additions.
The pink initial ‘N’ with acanthus motifs at the opening of Dante’s Inferno is strongly influenced by Ferrarese illumination, which came to be dominant in Padua in the 1470s. The coat of arms in the lower margin of this page has been overpainted, and may belong to Battista de’ Negri of Venice, who inscribed the book perhaps around 1500. This copy, which is preserved in its 15th-century binding, was presented to Trinity in 1895 by the widow of the judge Sir William Frederick Pollock, who published a verse translation of Dante.
The woodcut prints in this volume of maps of the islands of the Aegean Sea were coloured in rather crude style shortly after the book was printed. This map of Crete is printed in the opposite direction to most modern maps, with South at the top. This copy bears the armorial binding of the poet and statesman Marco Foscarini, who served as the 117th Doge of Venice in the 18th century.
These books will be on display in the Wren Library during public opening hours until the end of November 2017.
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Visitors to the Wren Library during the next few weeks will be able to see a special display case containing items from the Pethick-Lawrence collection. For those unable to visit, we have devised an online exhibition (click on the top left box labelled Prologue to begin):
For those who would prefer to examine the exhibits in more detail see below (click on the images to open the document viewer).
Emmeline Pethick and Frederick Lawrence, both from middle-class backgrounds, met in 1900 through their involvement in social work in the East End of London.
Emmeline first came to London to manage a club for young working women, and she and her friend Mary Neal had gone on to establish their own club, with a related dressmaking business.
Fred, a Trinity man, had been inspired by the university settlement movement, the aim of which was to encourage university-educated people to live and work in deprived urban areas, and he was working at a settlement house in the East End when he met and fell in love with Emmeline.
Fred had been intending to pursue a career as a Liberal Unionist MP, but Emmeline, a fervent socialist, challenged him to reconsider his political views, and after a period of serious reflection, which included a trip to South Africa to observe the effects of the Boer War, he came to adopt a more radical position.
The couple married in 1901 and took the unusual step of linking their surnames.
“ … my first consciousness was the clearest, strongest & most inveterate sense of the dignity & worth of the human body & soul above everything else ~ and this has forced me into life long campaign ~ against every sort of bondage, against all sorts of established authorities: and it is [this which] has kept me (not by choice but by inward necessity) always against the stream … This is the great contest of the coming century: the life and death struggle of human life against material mastery. ”
VOTES FOR WOMEN
From 1906 the Pethick-Lawrences were at the heart of the militant wing of the women’s suffrage movement, which they helped to organise and finance. Emmeline became treasurer of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) and devised its distinctive colour scheme of purple, white, and green: “Purple as everyone knows is the royal colour, it stands for the royal blood that flows in the veins of every suffragette, the instinct of freedom and dignity … white stands for purity in private and public life … green is the colour of hope and the emblem of spring.”
Fred founded the newspaper Votes for Women, which he co-edited with his wife.
Emmeline was imprisoned six times for her actions in support of the suffragette movement, and Fred also went to prison for the cause. Both endured forcible feeding while on hunger strike. These are some of the letters they were allowed to write to each other from prison:
Some in the suffrage movement, including Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel, felt that violent measures such as the smashing of shop-windows and arson were justified ways of drawing attention to the cause.
After a spate of window-breaking in March 1912 the Pethick-Lawrences were arrested and tried for conspiracy, even though they opposed this form of protest. This is the text of Emmeline’s speech to the jury.
The Pethick-Lawrences spent large amounts of money on legal costs and fines, both for themselves and others, and eventually had to auction the contents of their home, though they just escaped bankruptcy.
As a result of their objections to violent protest the Pethick-Lawrences were induced to leave the WSPU, though they continued to edit Votes for Women. These are two of the letters exchanged between the two Emmelines at this time:
In 1918 the suffrage movement in the United Kingdom finally began to see success, with the grant of the vote to certain categories of women over the age of 30.
After the First World War Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence became a well-known international campaigner for women’s rights and peace.
Her husband became a Labour MP. In 1942 he was briefly Leader of the Opposition, and as Secretary of State for India between 1945 and 1947 he was instrumental in the negotiations which led to that country’s independence. He was raised to the peerage in 1945.