Tag Archives: Research

Material Evidence in Incunabula – a CERL project

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Underneath the heading for ‘De lollio’ (lollium temulentum, i.e. darnel), an early reader has written: ‘onkruijt dat in die tarw wast’ (weed that grows among wheat). Image taken from a copy of the Ruralia ([Speyer: Petrus Drach, ca. 1490]) in the Edward Worth Library, Dublin.

 A short post this time… (because I’m on holiday and haven’t had a chance to sort through my images from Hatfield House yet!)

Looking at the incunabula at Hatfield recently (and of course finding that ‘Crescentius’ manuscript) reminded me of a German printing of the Ruralia ([Speyer: Petrus Drach, ca. 1490]) I was asked to have a look at a few years ago. The volume in question is in the Edward Worth Library in Dublin (worth – forgive the pun – exploring as a library), and I was particularly interested in how it could have ended up in Edward Worth’s collection as well as in how it had been used before he purchased it (perhaps during his time on the Continent).

It was therefore terribly exciting to come across a blog-post from the University of St Andrews Special Collections team about their contributions to a new CERL project which aims to record material evidence in incunabula (MEI).

Led by Dr Cristina Dondi, the project aims to map all evidence of interactions with the contents of books printed before 1500, which will give us a valuable insight into how incunabula were read and used as resources, or collected; patterns of ownership; distribution and geographical networks; ways in which provenance was marked and even how some books were stored. The data is linked to ISTC and the CERL biographical and place name thesauri. Records can be searched and downloaded in MARC format into local OPACs. According to the introductory page, they are hunting for contributions from libraries, so spread the word!

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August 17, 2014 · 11:01 pm

Calke Abbey Highlights (2)

Previously, I mentioned some of the highlights of the stores collection at Calke. It is clear even at this relatively early stage (about 800 books have now been added to the Trust’s collections database and will be added in due course to COPAC), that the stores not only contain books from the final generations of Harpur Crewes, but also a substantial library from the family of Col. Godfrey Mosley (1863-1945), who married the last baronet’s eldest daughter, Hilda Harpur Crewe (1877-1949). Continue reading

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Filed under Calke Abbey, Eighteenth century, ESTC items, Historic Libraries, National Trust, Nineteenth century, Provenance Research, Seventeenth century

Counting books

I’m taking the easy route over Easter and will be blogging about removing mould from books in the next instalment. However, here’s an interesting short post on “counting books” in a library collection as part of the nation-wide effort to update the Directory of Rare Books and Special Collections, edited by Karen Attar, Rare Books Librarian at Senate House Library in London. Although in this case the quantification of the collection was limited to what has already been catalogued, it is also a very useful tool to pull together, relatively quickly, a statistical breakdown of items in a collection that still await cataloguing (so-called “hidden collections“).
Two years ago, I did a report for the Angus Library in Regent’s Park College, Oxford, which concentrated on their hidden collection of several thousand books. They were not entirely sure how many uncatalogued items they had, from what period the books dated and where they had been printed. In addition, I recorded languages, provenances, interesting bindings and checked pre-1800 books against national STCs. The advantage of looking at each book was that I could also make some general observations about the physical state of this part of the collection.
Without cataloguing the individual items to antiquarian standards (which is what is currently happening), I was able to present a relatively detailed overview of the Angus’s hidden holdings.

Directory of Rare Book and Special Collections in the UK and Republic of Ireland

Reporting collections for the Directory encouraged librarians to delve more deeply into their collections. Jesus College in Oxford was founded in 1571, and its library had been built by 1628. Owen McKnight, the current Librarian of Jesus College, reports:

Books in the Fellows’ Library (Nick Cistone; © Jesus College, Oxford) Books in the Fellows’ Library (Nick Cistone; © Jesus College, Oxford)

The guidelines for the new edition of the Directory of Rare Book and Special Collections ask libraries to indicate where possible how many printed books they hold from each century. I didn’t know how the Fellows’ Library measured up but I was keen to find out, so I asked the Oxford University cataloguing team to extract the dates of our books from the SOLO catalogue and set my graduate trainee to explore.

Even allowing for the fifth of the collection which is still to be catalogued, the figures demonstrate that the seventeenth-century Fellows’ Library houses an overwhelmingly seventeenth-century collection. This ties…

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April 19, 2014 · 12:14 pm

Chronological collections (1)

IMG_2365This little volume can be found on the shelves in the Library at Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire, owned by the National Trust. The Hall was built by Nathaniel Curzon, 1st Lord Scarsdale,between 1759 and circa 1790, and it contains some of the most complete, unaltered, and stunning, Robert Adam interiors in the world. The book was actually catalogued by my colleague James Fishwick a few years ago, and because it does not have a title page or anything else obvious to identify it, he added the title from the spine to the catalogue record.

I came across it a couple of years ago, when I was preparing for a Library Open Day at Kedleston and doing some research into the 1st Lord Scarsdale’s family. Looking through the catalogue for provenance information, I found this book, Chronological collections. It had the following inscription on the back of the front flyleaf: “Carolina Curzon, June the 28th, 1756”.

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Carolina, or Caroline, married Nathaniel Curzon in 1750 when she was sixteen years old. She was the daughter of Charles Colyear, the earl of Portmore, one of Nathaniel’s horse racing friends.

Since my initial interest was in Caroline’s education (Robert Adam designed a wonderful bookcase for her private apartment at Kedleston, which was unfortunately sold by the Curzon family in 2002), I decided to investigate this book a bit further. Almost by chance (which is why I love historical research!), I happened to find another copy of the same work in the Special Collections held at the University of Leicester’s David Wilson Library. The Leicester copy similarly lacked a title page, but had the same binding as the item in Kedleston’s library. It also had an inscription, which helped me to identify the contents of the book, as well as the possible author:

The gift of Lady Curzon, widow of Sir Nathaniel Curzon, who abridged Mr. Jackson’s chronology for the use of her sons. Twenty copies only were printed.

Therefore, Chronological collections would appear to be an abridgement of John Jackson’s Chronological antiquities, which was published in 1752 in three volumes (ESTC T136688). The name Curzon does not show in the subscribers’ list, but a copy was in the family’s possession soon after it was published, if the provenance information in the Kedleston copy is correct. It was certainly in the library at Kedleston by 1765.

According to his dedication, Jackson aimed to bring together the histories of all major civilisations in antiquity and to reconcile recorded events with the story of the Old Testament – a very ambitious project, which came in for some criticism the year after it was published.

The author of the abridgement, named as “Lady Curzon, widow of Sir Nathaniel Curzon” in the Leicester copy, could only have been Mary Assheton, Lady Curzon (1695-1776). The item itself looks to be a piece of vanity publishing with a very limited print-run, for distribution among members of the family and perhaps close friends.

Future posts will talk in more detail about Chronological collections and about Mary Assheton.

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Filed under Bindings, Eighteenth century, ESTC items, Female authors, Historic Libraries, Kedleston Hall, National Trust, Provenance Research