Wednesday, 24 February 2016

To turn the hearts of fathers ...

      ODS 00237 - Dionysii Lambini Monstroliensis regii professoris, In Q. Horatium Flaccum ex fide atque auctoritate complurium librorum manuscriptorum / à se emendatum - Francofurti ad Moenum: Ex officina typographica Andreae Wecheli, 1577


Just a quick post for you today, really just to demonstrate the potential there is within the study of bookbindings to give a glimpse into the past.  Although it was printed in Frankfurt, this book was imported into England and was bound in an English Calf armorial binding soon after it's arrival here. In the structure of the binding pieces of recycled manuscript are used to strengthen the joints.  The scraps of manuscript material are very badly creased and cut up and consequently quite tricky to read, but they do include some identifiable bits of plainsong music.  

      There is enough here to indicate that the scraps of music are recycled from a book called an Antiphonal, a book containing Antiphons, responsories sung by a choir in church during the divine office.  They appear to be early fifteenth century.   Among the scraps here is the plainsong setting of the the words ‘ut convertat corda patrum...’ (to turn the hearts of fathers).  This formed part of the Antiphon Ipse Praebit ante illum’, a setting of the words of Luke chapter 1, verse 17, in which Gabriel foretells to Zechariah the birth of his son St John the Baptist.  It was the Antiphon sung at Matins on the feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist.[1]    

St John the Baptist from the late 15th century Preces in the Roderic Bowen Collection 


[1] The plainsong melody in this manuscript scrap agrees with the setting of ‘Ipse Praebit’ in the Cantus plainsong Database.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Paste Paper, Melancholy and a book belonging to Democritus Junior.

Bur. 02627 – Ludivico Pontico Virunio - Pontici Virunni viri doctissimi Britannicae historiae libri sex, magna et fide et diligentia conscripti : ad Britannici codicis fidem correcti - Londini : Apud Edmundum Bollifantum, impensis Henrici Denhami, & Radulphi Nuberij, 1585

This tiny book is among the books of Bishop Thomas Burgess.  For all you Welsh medievalists out there it’s a Latin abridgement of a collection of histories of Britain, including those of Geoffrey of Monmouth and Gerald of Wales.  Virunio produced this abridgement in the early sixteenth century for the Italian market, but this edition was printed in 1585 in London.  

Looking beyond the text, the book’s binding dates from the early eighteenth century and is particularly attractive.  It’s bound in quarter Calf, with a gilt patch label and boards covered in a lovely red paste paper, decorated with swirly patterns.  This form of decorative paper was used widely in the seventeenth and eighteenth century on library bindings and was made by mixing pigment with wheat paste.  The resulting coloured paste was applied to the surface of the paper and then a tool or the maker’s fingers, were moved through the wet paste to make the patterns.  When dried the resulting decorative paper was hard wearing as well as rather beautiful.    

As well as being an interesting work of history in an attractive binding, the book has a fascinating provenance too.  On the pastedown is the bookplate of the library of Christ Church, Oxford. The engraved bookplate appears to be eighteenth century and may well date from the time the book was rebound.  At some point the book was withdrawn from the Christ Church library stock, as the word ‘Duplicate’ is written on the bookplate in a late eighteenth century hand.  

On the title page of the book, to the right of the title, is written in ink the name ‘Robertus Burton’, the date 1600 and a little cipher that appears to be formed from a triangle of three lower case ‘r’s.  The date 1600 and the monogram are repeated once again beneath the title.    On the reverse of the final page of the book the inscription ‘Robertus Burton’ is repeated again, along with the three ‘r’ cipher but also the date he acquired the book:  ‘martii primo 1600’ – March the first 1600.

The owner identified by the inscription and cipher was the scholar Robert Burton (1577-1640) a prominent Oxford Polymath in the early years of the seventeenth century.  About 1700 books from his library remain and he used this signature and cipher in many of them.[1] Burton bought this book in 1600 when he was twenty three and was still at the beginning of his academic career, a career that would see him explore Philosophy, Theology, History, Mathematics and Psychology.  An undergraduate at Brasenose, at the age of twenty two he had became a student (fellow) at Christ Church and remained there for the rest of his life.  From 1624 to 1640 he served as librarian of Christ Church.[2]  

His tour de force was a book entitled The Anatomy of Melancholy, which he published under the pseudonym Democritus Junior.   Published in 1621, it was an extraordinary and ground-breaking work of Psychology; a discussion of the symptoms, causes and cure of the condition of Melancholy.  It was a hugely influential book in its time.  We have a copy of the 1638 edition here in Lampeter in the Phillips collection (Phi 01502) and the frontispiece is illustrated here, including the potrait of Burton labelled as 'Democritus Junior'.  On his death in 1640 Burton was buried in Christ Church Cathedral in his college, where his monument can still be seen, with a portrait bust once again labelled 'Democritus Junior'.  Burton's personal library of around 1700 titles was split between the Bodleian and Christ Church, the Bodleian getting first pick.[3]  This is how his copy of Virunio came to be in the library of Christ Church, although this book is not recorded among his collection in the monograph on his library published in 1988 by Nicolas Kiessling.[4]    

We don't know quite how this book got from Christ Church library to Thomas Burgess’ collection, but we can speculate.  As stated earlier, the Christ Church bookplate has the word ‘Duplicate’ written on it. We know that the librarian at Christ Church was weeding the collection and disposing of duplicate books (including some of Burton’s) between 1789-91.  Some were sold to a London bookseller called Thomas King who sold them on in 1793[5]   Perhaps Thomas Burgess picked up the book in that sale?   Personally I think Burgess probably picked the book up earlier when he was resident in Oxford.  He was an undergraduate at Corpus Christi college from 1775 and was subsequently a fellow of the college, only leaving Oxford permanently in 1791 when he moved to Durham.[6]  Corpus Christi College is just outside the back gate of Christ Church, close to Peckwater Quad and to Christ Church library,   It would be nice to think of Burgess wandering through Christ Church sometime between 1789-91 and having a rumage through a library book sale and returning triumphant to his rooms with this wonderful prize.  

[1] N. Kiessling, The Library of Robert Burton, (Oxford, 1988), p. xviii.
[2] J. B. Bamborough, ‘Burton, Robert (1577–1640)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2009 [, accessed 18 Feb 2016]
[3] N. Kiessling, The Library of Robert Burton, (Oxford, 1988), p. vii.
[4] N. Kiessling, The Library of Robert Burton, (Oxford, 1988), passim.  
[5] N. Kiessling, The Library of Robert Burton, (Oxford, 1988), p. xv.
[6] D. T. W. Price, ‘Burgess, Thomas (1756–1837)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2009 [, accessed 18 Feb 2016]

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Crowns, Sceptres and the King's Printer

Bur. 03295 -  Thomas, a Kempis - Select pieces of the reverend and pious Thomas à Kempis : Vol. 1. In which are contain'd four books of the Imitation of Jesus Christ. [Worthington's version.] / Corrected according to the original Latin.  Edinburgh: printed by James Watson ‘one of the printers to the King’s most excellent majesty’, 1717

This is a teeny weeny little book dating from 1717, measuring no more than 10cm tall and bound in an exquisite gilt-tooled Morocco binding.  Despite its diminutive scale, the printing and binding of this tiny book gives an insight into the hard-nosed world of eighteenth century commercial printing and the cut-throat politics of the management of royal monopolies in Stuart and Georgian Britian.  

The book itself is a popular Catholic devotional work, the Imitation of Christ by Thomas a’ Kempis, translated into English by Dr John Worthington (died 1671).  This is the first volume of a two volume edition of this work.  The first volume was printed in 1717 and the second appeared in 1721.  Sadly we only have the first volume here in Lampeter.

The printer of the book was James Watson junior (1664-1722) of Edinburgh.  His father James Watson senior was a Catholic Merchant from Aberdeen who in 1686, with the backing of the Catholic King James VII (II), was given premises in the Palace of Holyrood in Edinburgh.  In that year he had also been promised by the King, that he or his son would in due course be given the title of ‘King’s printer’ with the monopoly to print prayer books, Bibles and official publications, once that position had been vacated by the current holder.  In 1688 that position was held by Agnes Anderson, the widow of Andrew Anderson, who had been granted the monopoly in 1671 for forty years.   When his father died in 1687, James Watson junior inherited the business and he also inherited the King’s promise.  James Junior publically renounced the Catholic faith of his forbears, becoming an Episcopalian, but he continued to print books of Catholic devotion of which our copy of the Imitation of Christ is a typical example.  

At the time that this book was being printed in 1717, Watson had built upon the business he had inherited and was operating one of the most successful printing and bookselling firms in early eighteenth century Edinburgh.  He had moved to larger premises on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, had invested in the latest printing technology and had diversified as a newspaper publisher.  Between 1711 and 1718 he was embroiled in a long running legal battle that was centred on the promise that had been made to his father in 1686 by James VII, that the Watson’s would be the next holders of the royal printing monopoly and the title ‘King’s Printer.’  The Anderson monopoly was due to come an end in May 1712.  In 1711 Mrs Anderson, still in business was trying hard to secure the continuation of the monopoly for her daughters and their husbands.   With the late King’s promise to his father still in mind, Watson approached another Edinburgh printer called Robert Freebairn and also John Baskett the King’s Printer in England and together they applied jointly for the role.  They were issued with a patent by Queen Anne in August 1711 to undertake it.

You would expect that to be the end of the story, but sadly it wasn’t.   Sadly his new partners Baskett and Frebairn did the dirty on Watson.  In 1714 they obtained a royal warrant from George I naming them the King’s Printers in Scotland and excluding Watson.   Not to be deterred, Watson was able to in June 1715 to convince the whole Scottish legal bench to declare that he still had a third share in the role and therefore had the right to call himself ‘one of the King’s Printers’, despite the 1714 warrant.  While all this was going on Mrs Anderson was carrying on printing Bible and Prayer Books and was calling herself ‘the King’s printer’, though in June 1716 Watson managed to get an order restraining her.  Matters got more complicated in 1716 when Freebairn, Watson’s original partner in the 1711 letter patent got caught up in the Jacobite Rebellion and was appointed as the official printer to the Old Pretender.  Freebairn’s legal rights were lost through his rebellion and consequently the 1711 patent granted to him, Baskett and Watson was declared null and void.  Back to square one.  This put Freebairn out of the picture, but not Baskett and in July 1716 Baskett and Mrs Anderson (using her maiden name Campbell) decided to join forces against Watson and after some lobbying they were granted the role of King’s Printer in Scotland by George I.  For Watson all now seemed lost.  Unfortunately for Baskett Mrs Anderson died three weeks after the grant was confirmed!   

Watson was back on the case and on December 14th 1716 the patent granted to Mrs Anderson and Baskett was overturned by the Court of Session after Watson petitioned the court.   In February 1718 the Lords of Appeal confirmed the Court of Session’s decision, finally confirming Watson as the ‘King’s Printer’ in Scotland, though giving Baskett certain privileges in Scotland too. [1]      
This tiny and rather beautiful book in the Lampeter collection was printed in 1717 on Watson’s Edinburgh press, while he was embroiled in the final part of his legal battle.   On the title page of the book he is described as ‘one of the printers to the King’s most excellent majesty’ a title confirmed in 1715.  By the time the second volume appearsin 1721 he is describing himself as the ‘King’s printer’, the title confirmed to him in 1718.          

Although James Watson Junior had his own bookselling premises on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh and as was usual at the time the business had its own bindery, he may well have printed this edition of the Imitation of Christ for two other booksellers. The title page of the second volume published in 1721, states that the book was ‘sold by’ George Stewart and James Robertson.[2]   Both of these men were primarily bookbinders who also traded as booksellers. George Stewart first appears as a bookbinder in 1711 in Edinburgh and had a bindery and premises ‘a little over the cross’ in the centre of Edinburgh.  He had a string of apprentices in the trade through the 1710s and 1720s and died in 1745.[3]  Robertson is known to have been a bookbinder as well as a bookseller and was registered as a ‘bookbinder’ when admitted as a Burgess in Edinburgh in 1720.[4] 

With all the legal backstory surrounding Watson’s acquisition of the title of ‘King’s Printer’ in mind, let’s look at the binding again.  The binding is certainly contemporary with the book it protects and it is probably a trade binding, in other words the book was sold ready bound in the printer-booksellers premises.  It was probably bound either on Watson’s premises or those of Stewart or Robertson.   The binding is a heavy-grained red Morocco with gold tooling and a black onlay patch label to the spine.  The central decorative element of the tooling has been created from a combination of some rather unusual hand tools, including two striking imperial crowns and two pairs of crossed sceptres terminating in fleur-de-lys.  The book was printed in 1717, and possibly bound in early 1718 just as the point when Watson gains his long sought after role as ‘King’s Printer’.   Is it too much to speculate that the binding’s unusual royal motifs were deliberately included in the decoration in recognition of Watson’s newly confirmed role?   Any retailer could be forgiven for making reference to such a prestigious and hard-won role in the products offered for sale on their premises.  


[1] The account of James Watson's legal battles is based on: W. J. Couper, James Watson King’s Printer (Glasgow, 1910)

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Printer's Waste

Phi. 00848In Euangelistam Matthaeum commentarii tribus tomis digesti.  Basileae : ex officina Heraugiana, per Eusebium Episcopium, 1567.

The last blog post was about pages from a medieval manuscript Missal being utilised as pastedowns in a copy of Vital de Four’s Speculum Moralae printed by Jean de Moylin in Lyon in 1513 (ODS 00446).  In this book from the Phillips collection, a commentary on the Gospel of St Matthew printed in Basil in 1567, the pastedowns are formed from printer’s waste, with pieces of medieval manuscript reused to strengthen the book’s joints.   Coincidentally the sheets of printer’s waste used for this purpose, are taken from another copy of Vital du Four's Speculum Moralae, printed by Jean de Moylin in Lyon in 1513.  The same printing as ODS. 00446!

Missal fragments

ODS. 00446  – Speculum moral[a]e totius sacr[a]e Scriptur[a]e / Reuerendissimo Johann. Vitali per digno cardinali seraphici Ordinis Minorum Obseruantissimo alphabetico ordine perutile editum, et bucusq[ue] non impressum ; cumq[ue] triplici tibula iure quoda[m] materias singulares [et] quotatio[n]es artificio ad folioru[m] [et] versiculorum numerum remittente – Lyon, John Moylin, 1513.


This is a French printing of Vital de Four’s Speculum moralae, printed in Lyon in 1513.   It is a deeply frustrating book on one level, as it has been rebound at some point in the middle of the twentieth century in a plain, panelled Calf binding.  Of course until relatively recently this sort of treatment was undertaken as a matter of course on antiquarian books in poor repair, the condition of the text of the book taking precedent over the evidential and aesthetic qualities of the binding.   All evidence or record of the former binding has been lost, except for the vellum pastedowns, which have been retained and have been bound into the rear of the book. 

Thank goodness the modern binder had the foresight to keep the pastedowns as they are rather special.   They consist of a substantial and sequential gathering from a quarto sized medieval manuscript Missal, or Mass book.  The element of the Missal preserved as binders waste isn’t just any element either.  What we have here is the Latin text of the most solemn part of the ritual of the Mass, the text of the Canon, from the Sursum Corda to the consecration of the elements of bread and wine.  When the Missal was intact, the book was open at these pages as the priest consecrated the bread and wine on the altar and elevated it above his head.   

Date wise these pages are probably fourteenth century and may be English.   These manuscript pages are not of high quality and do not represent the pinnacle of manuscript production in this period, the text is rather workaday and inelegant and the decoration is rather rough and ready.  There is a sense that the scribe is copying the text with little sense of how the finished work will appear on the page. At one point (during the Sanctus) the scribe clearly runs out of space and shrinks the size of his text, rather than run it over the page onto the next side.    

Running out of space for the Sanctus, the size of the lettering changes.  

The little crosses that mark the points in the mass where the priest makes the sign of the cross with his hand over the bread an wine, are clearly put in after the text.  They are sequeezed in above and in some places over the text.  

The manuscript fragment ends with the words of institution, the most solemn part of the medieval Eucharistic liturgy, used at the consecration of the chalice 'Simili mod posteaquam cenatum est...' - 'Likewsie after supper...'

This sort of workaday and rather rough manuscript is probably the sort of Missal that was commonplace in the late Middle Ages, the sort of manuscript Missal an average parish church in a country region might have been able to afford.  You may even argue that the text was copied down by the local parish priest, rather than someone who had a more formal training as a scribe. There would have been thousands upon thousands of such practical, workaday liturgical manuscripts in England by the beginning of the sixteenth century.  

Of course with the Reformation and the shift from Latin to the Vernacular in liturgy, they lose their purpose entirely and having little aesthetic and therefore commercial value, such books ended up either burnt, discarded or on the open market.  On the open market they were recycled by other tradesmen, including binders.  Such manuscript waste continued to be used with frequency in bindings into the seventeenth century. 

The shadow of the original leather turn-ins of the earlier binding.  

The action of pasting down these manuscript leaves onto the boards of the Speculum's earlier binding has left a shadowy imprint of the leather turn-ins of that binding, a tantalising hint of what has been lost.  The use of this manuscript material in suggests that this binding was perhaps late sixteenth century and English, though we will never quite know.      

Saturday, 6 February 2016

A paper covered text book

Bur. 03080 - Bythner, Victorinus - Clavis linguae sanctae : universas voces Pentatevchi sententiis Biblicis comprehendens, earumq; analysin criticè exhibens. Usui eorum qui abditos sacris archivis thesauros recluderent, excusa / Operâ - Cantabrigiae : Ex. officina Rogeri Daniel, almae academiae typographi, 1648

Bur. 03080 is in Octavo pamphlet in Thomas Burgess’ library, a key to understanding Biblical Hebrew printed in the middle of the seventeenth century by Roger Daniel the printer to the University of Cambridge.  This rather dusty text book was probably given its attractive red and green block printed paper cover, fifty or sixty years after it was printed, in the early years of the eighteenth century.  Papers of this sort where produced throughout Europe in the eighteenth century, with Italy and France being particularly centres for the art.[1]  

The pamphlet may have been bound around 1716 when Charles Conner acquired it, he has left his name and date inked on the title page.  The decorated paper has been pasted to the flyleaves to make a fairly robust cover, this finish and the decorative quality of the paper suggests that the binding was intended to last.   At some point the spine has also been covered with other material, perhaps vellum (?), but this has now gone leaving a layer of glue and exposing the overcast sewing structure of the pamphlet.   

A temporary, rather revolutionary binding

Bur. 03268 - Pascal, Blaise, 1623-1662: Les provinciales : ou, Lettres de Louis de Montalte  - Paris : Renouard, 1815

The collection of Bishop Thomas Burgess the founder of St David’s College is the working library of a scholar, it is not that of a book collector or a connoisseur.  Burgess was clearly buying books throughout his life, both contemporary and antiquarian, to support his academic interests.  Bur. 03268 is just the sort of book you would expect to find in his library, a copy of the letters of Blaise Pascal the controversial seventeenth century philosopher and theologian, who wrote under the nom de plume Louis de Montalte.  It is in French and was printed in Paris in 1815 in the year that Napoleon Bonaparte returned to the city from his exile in Elba.  The printer was Antoine-Augustin Renouard, a prominent Jacobin revolutionary and son of a silk merchant, who established a printing and bookselling business in the 1790s.   

Measuring just 13cm in height, the size of a modern paperback, it is still in the temporary binding it was issued in by the Renouard.  The quires of the book are not sewn on to cords, but are joined together with kettle stitches in two places halfway up the spine, a temporary method of binding that wasn't intended to last, but to hold the book together until it was properly bound.  The book has been given a cheap cover made out of a piece of Renouard's printer’s waste, a page from another book. This has been given a coat of stippled brown paste with a hog hair brush, which would give the paper cover a little more durability, but not much.  Not surprisingly the cover is now perishing.  

The cover isn't as robust and the book isn’t as well bound as a modern glued paperback and most of the books sold like this would have been rebound once purchased into a more permanent binding of the owner’s choice.  The binding doesn’t give the book block much protection and the cover and pages have become badly crumpled over the years.           

Incidentally this book is an odd volume, the second volume of a two volume set, what happened to the other volume is anyone’s guess.   

Intentional Manuscript Recycling?

Phi.03108 - Leonharti Rauwolfen der Artzney Doctorn vnd bestelten Medici zu Augspurg Aigentliche beschreibung der Raiss so er vor diser zeit gegen Auffgang inn die Morgenländer ... alles in Vier vnderschidliche Thail mit sonderem fleiss abgethailet
[Lauingen]: In costen vnd verlag Georgen Willers, 1583

This volume in the Phillips collection is a Herbal, an account of the plant collecting activities of Leonhard Rauwolf (1535-1596) in the Middle East.  Rauwolf was a physician and botanist from Augsburg in Bavaria. [1]  

The book was printed in Lauingen in Bavaria in 1583 and is bound in parchment that is taken from a liturgical manuscript, from a large folio altar missal of the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century.  The particular page used in this binding contains the Propers (Collect, Gradual, Tract, Secret and Postcommunion) for the feast of St Walpurga (or Walburga), Virgin.   The binder has used the material carefully and intentionally to preserve intact the whole of the text of the Propers for her feast day, which begin on the front board and continue on the back.   

The context of this book and its printing is interesting and it may suggest a motivation for this careful and intentional preservation of the manuscript page.  St Walburga, was an eighth century English saint from Wimborne in Dorset who was a focus of popular devotion in medieval and early Modern Bavaria. She travelled to the continent to assist her Uncle St Boniface in missionary work in Bavaria and she became a member and later Abbess of a religious community at Heidenheim.   Lauingen where Phi 03108 was printed, is some twenty miles from Heidenheim where Walburga spent her life and is fifty miles from the Benedictine Abbey of Eichstätt, where her remains are still enshrined. [2]   

[1] W. Condry, ‘From Herbals to Floras: The Illustrated Botanical Works in the Founders’s Library’, in W. Marx (ed.), The Founders’s Library University of Wales, Lampeter Bibliographical and Contextual Studies, p. 32.
[2] Casanova, G. (1912). St. Walburga. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved August 4, 2015 from New Advent:


Welcome to the Looking Beyond the Text blog.  This blog is an exploration of the extraordinary collection of books that are kept in the Roderic Bowen Centre for Research in Lampeter.  It is an exploration that is primarily made through their bindings, book covers and through evidence of their use and provenance.   This is not the blog of a bibliographer or the student of typography, but of an Art Historian who is interested in objects.  This blog is the work of someone who is fascinated by the inherent aesthetic qualities of bookbindings and the technicalities of the craft and is interested in what that might tell us about the book trade, the craft of bookbinding, the way books were used and consumed in the hand bookbinding era.   The blog entries here are very much a work in progress, they are a way of ordering my rather unpolished thoughts and highlighting the importance of this little known but valuable collection.  If you read the blog thinking that this is 'process' rather than 'product' you won't be disappointed.

Books in Bishop Thomas Burgess' working library. 

I should say a little about the collection I am examining,  The collection is the foundation library of St David's College, Lampeter, a college which is now a constituant part of the University of Wales Trinity St David.  The College founded in 1822 and opened in 1827 in a small market town in the Welsh countryside and is the third oldest institution of higher education in England and Wales, outside Oxford and Cambridge.   From the outset the founder Bishop Thomas Burgess of St David's hoped that the college would contain an important library and he started collecting books from his friends and supporters well before the college opened and and these formed the nucleus of the library. Among the donations he received was a collection of 10,000 sevententh and eighteenth century tracts collected by the Bowdler family.  This initial collection was further enriched through a bequest of between 7000-8000 books from an East India Company Surgeon Thomas Phillips, mostly collected by him for the purpose on the London and International book markets.  These were brought to Lampeter in the 1830s and 40s.  At his death in 1837 the working library of the founder Thomas Burgess, a Classical scholar and Philologist, also came to Lampeter.  Books from these three sources consitute the bulk of the present collection, though further books have been added to the collection since.   This 'founders' library was initially housed in a purpose built room over the cloisters of the original college building, but in 2007 the collection was moved to a new purpose built space. Coming from such a broad range of sources, the library is an extraordinarily rich and diverse resource for the binding historian.

In the production of this blog I am particularly grateful for the cooperation of my colleagues Peter Hopkins and Sarah Roberts, who manage this wonderful collection.  Please note that all photos in this blog are copyright Allan Barton and the University of Wales Trinity St David.