Travelling Images: Venetian Illustrated Books 3

This week the exhibition curator, Laura Moretti, of the University of St. Andrews, writes about the finest, and probably most famous book in our selection: Andrea Palladio’s “Four Books of Architecture”. 

Andrea Palladio,  I Quattro Libri dell’Architettura, (Venetia: Dominico de’ Franceschi, 1570)  (University of Edinburgh Library, Special Collections, Smith.1594)

Andrea Palladio (1508-80) first published his I quattro libri dell’architettura in Venice in 1570, in the printing shop of Domenico de’ Franceschi (fl. 1557-75), publisher and book dealer from Brescia, at the sign of “Regina Virtus” in the Frezzeria. The book enjoyed extraordinary fortune, through its numerous editions and translations, becoming the main channel of the widespread knowledge and appreciation of his author’s work.

Title page detail

Palladio already had important experience in the field of book publishing. In 1556, Daniele Barbaro – a refined and sophisticated Venetian patrician, and already the architect’s patron and supporter – put through the press a translation with commentary on the architectural treatise of the Roman author Vitruvio, complemented by Palladio’s lavish illustrations.

In Palladio’s treatise, the subject matter is subdivided in four sections: the first book – dedicated to a friend and patron, the Vicentine Count Giacomo Angarano – discusses the fundamental principles of building and the five architectural orders; in the second book Palladio presents his portfolio of projects for residential palaces and country houses, and reconstructions of ancient Greek and Roman houses; in the third book – dedicated to the Prince Emanuele Filiberto Duke of Savoy (1528-80) – the architect treats roads, bridges, squares, basilicas and other public buildings; while the fourth and final book is dedicated to antique temples in Rome and elsewhere, in the Italian peninsula and beyond. Book One, Book Three, and Book Four also contain introductory letters to the readers.

Book 1. The Composite Order

 

Book 1. Stairs

 

Book 2. House of the Greeks (detail)

 

Book 4, detail of the Temple of Portunus

The edition is finely illustrated: all the books are introduced by a full-page woodcut and illustrated by numerous diagrams and architectural details. The relationship between words and image is heavily weighted towards the latter. The text is often used to explain and elucidate the drawings, and frequent lists referring to corresponding details in the illustrations provide precise terminology and further interpretations. The drawings frequently present measurements, which give a clear sense of the proportions between different architectural elements. Palladio very rarely makes use of perspective: the only exceptions are constituted by the description of brick courses and layers in Book One, and the representation of Caesar’s Rhine bridge in Book Three.

Book One, detail of brick courses.

 

Book 3. Detail of Caesar’s Rhine Bridge

The majority of the drawings are plans, elevations or sections, variously articulated in the page layout. Contextual elements defining the buildings’ surroundings are rare and limited to some schematic representations of water and occasional exemplifications of soil. Shadows are consistently employed to confer profundity to the architectural elements, from the depiction of minute details to the outlines of massive buildings. The potentialities of the medium are fully explored and used at their best.

Book 4. The Pantheon

 

While in the depiction of ancient buildings Palladio shows an obsessive attention to the accuracy and faithful rendering of detail, the representations of his design projects present elements of greater complexity. More than faithful copies of the completed buildings, they seem to be idealizations, perhaps the architect’s successive reflections or maybe the sign of ideas not fully executed.

Book Two, Villa Godi, Lonedo di Lugo di Vicenza

 

The copy now preserved at the University of Edinburgh comes from the library of Adam Smith FRSA (1723-90), the Scottish economist, philosopher and author, and a key figure during the Scottish Enlightenment era. The University of Edinburgh holds about half his original library (850 works in 1,600 volumes), including books on politics, economics, law and history, but also many literary works, particularly French literature, and books on architecture.

 

The full catalogue record for our copy can be found here: https://discovered.ed.ac.uk/primo-explore/fulldisplay?docid=44UOE_ALMA21147069860002466&context=L&vid=44UOE_VU2&search_scope=default_scope&tab=default_tab&lang=en_US

 

Travelling Images: Venetian Illustrated Books 2

This week our Venetian illustrations turn theatrical, with an illustrated copy of the plays of Plautus, and we welcome as guest blogger, the exhibition curator, Laura Moretti, of the University of St. Andrews. 

 

Titus Maccius Plautus (c.254-184 BC), Comedies, edited by Bernard Saraceni, and Giovanni Pietro Valla. (Venice: Lazzaro de’ Soardi, 1511).  Edinburgh University Library JY 1082.

The comedies by the Roman dramatist Titus Maccius Plautus (c.254-184 BC) were the subjects of a period of rebirth during the course of the fifteenth century. This was due – along with the favor that theatrical plays by Roman authors saw as a genre during the Renaissance – to the fact that twelve comedies by Plautus were rediscovered in the first half of the Quattrocento. Together with the eight already known at the time, the group of twenty comedies came to constitute a fundamental corpus for the theatre in the following decades, being represented with great success in Rome, Milan and Ferrara. They were reworked, modified, and translated into vernacular. Besides being copied in several manuscripts, from the beginning of the 1470s also printed editions started to appear. The texts were edited and commented by various authors, including Giorgio Merula, Ermolao Barbaro, Angelo Poliziano, Giovan Battista Pio, Filippo Beroaldo.

The present edition was published in 1511 by Lazzaro de’ Soardi. Active as a printer in Venice between 1490 and 1517, he published about fifty editions, especially Latin classics, religious texts, and works of ascetic, theological and philosophical character. The commentary by Bernardo Saraceni and Giovanni Pietro Valla had already been published in Venice in 1499 by Simone Bevilacqua. The Soardi edition, though, was the first one fully illustrated, presenting a full-page woodcut of a theatre and numerous woodcuts throughout.

 

A theatre seen from the viewpoint of the actors

This illustration already appeared in a previous edition of comedies by the Roman dramatist Terentius (c.195/185- c.159? BC), published in 1497 by the same Soardi. It is a rare image of a theatre seen from the unusual point of view of the actors. The audience sits on semicircular stalls, and is dressed in contemporary fashion. One actor is performing at the centre of the scene, while another oneis entering from a lateral door on the right.

The 1511 edition is completed by 316 woodcuts of scenes from the comedies. The illustrations are not designed individually, but composed assembling smaller blocks. The resulting images generally present the names of the characters in scrolls aligned at the top – also repeated underneath – and normally four, but sometimes up to six elements combining: one to six characters, one to two doors, one or tree trees, and one to four thin rectangular floral borders. It is possible to notice many repetitions of the individual elements, although the resulting illustrations are always different.

Detail of illustrations from the comedy Amphitryo

Opening from the comedy Aulularia

 

The above-mentioned 1497 edition of Terentius also presented woodcuts illustrating the scenes, but they were crafted individually.

 

From 1497 Lazzaro de’ Soardi’s hand-coloured edition of Terentius comedies, digitised by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, München.

 

 

Opening with illustration from 1497 Lazzaro de’ Soardi’s hand-coloured edition of Terentius comedies, digitised by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, München.

These illustrations might look more coherent and better manufactered to our eyes than the ones from the 1511 edition, but in the latter, perhaps less refined and accurate, we can notice some elements of extreme relevance for the history of the printed book. In a period in which the industrialisation of the printing process was still in its infancy, these images represent the sign of a tendency and a way of thinking in terms of reproducibility, reuse, and flexibility.

Something similar, although more elaborated, already appeared in the edition of the comedies by Terentius published in Strasbourg in 1496 by Johannes Grüninger. This particular edition also presented in the titlepage the representation of a “theatre”, and might have inspired Soardi.

 

Johannes Grüninger’s 1496 edition of Terentius comedies, digitised by the Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek, Technische Universität Darmstadt.

 

Titlepage from 1496 Johannes Grüninger’s 1496 edition of Terentius comedies, digitised by the Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek, Technische Universität Darmstadt.

 

In the 1551 edition, while the characters often simulate some sort of stage action, the trees and – especially – the doors confer a sense of spacial recession, giving to the illustrations a three-dimensional effect and a stage-like appeareance, even if still pretty schematic. The page is composed presenting the original text in the central section, together with the illustrations, while the commentary unfolds around them.

Title page with previous ownership inscription

The book formed part of the collection of Dugald Stewart (1753-1828), who studied at the University of Edinburgh and was Chair of Moral Philosophy there from 1785. His library included the books of his father Matthew (1717-85), Professor of Mathematics at the same institution. The collection passed into the hands of Dugald’s son Matthew (c.1784-1851), who bequeathed it – along with many of his own books – to the United Service Club in London. In 1910 the whole collection was transferred to the University of Edinburgh. It contains 3,432 titles in some 4,000 volumes, covering many topics, but is particularly strong in political economy, moral philosophy, and mathematics. There are a large number of presentation copies reflecting Dugald’s wide circle of acquaintances and admirers. The younger Matthew Stewart added some early printed books (there are 33 incunabula in the collection) and works on oriental subjects. A signature of a previous owner is visible on the titlepage; the Rare Books staff think it may be an institution – S[ancti] Ip[politi?] … but at the moment I am not able to identify it.

Dr Laura Moretti (University of St Andrews)

Further reading:

Fully digitised copy of the 1511 Lazzaro de’ Soardi’s edition of Plautus comedies, digitised by the Bavarian State Library is available here.http://reader.digitale-sammlungen.de/resolve/display/bsb10195815.html

The 1496 Johannes Grüninger’s edition of Terentius comedies, digitised by the Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek, Technische Universität Darmstadt, is available here.http://tudigit.ulb.tu-darmstadt.de/show/inc-iv-77/0001?sid=094bbe50d4659af0b4134f5d1d57ff78

The 1497 Lazzaro de’ Soardi’s edition of Terentius comedies, digitised by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, München, is available here.http://daten.digitale-sammlungen.de/~db/0005/bsb00058998/images/index.html?id=00058998&groesser=&fip=eayaxdsydyztsxdsydeayawxdsydsdasqrsxdsydewqxs&no=2&seite=1

The 1499 Simone Bevilacqua’s edition of Plautus comedies, with commentary of Saraceni and Valla, digitised by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, München, is available here.http://daten.digitale-sammlungen.de/~db/0006/bsb00064398/images/

The full catalogue record for the Edinburgh University Library copy is here: https://discovered.ed.ac.uk/primo-explore/fulldisplay?docid=44UOE_ALMA21104958570002466&context=L&vid=44UOE_VU2&search_scope=default_scope&tab=default_tab&lang=en_US

Travelling Images: Venetian Illustrated Books at the University of Edinburgh

We have a micro exhibition, of illustrated books from Renaissance Italy, running in CRC from 13th April to 15th June.  This is in collaboration with Linda Borean of the Università degli Studi di Udine and Laura Moretti of the University of St. Andrews, and their project: Venetian Renaissance prints, drawings and illustrated books in Scottish collections. https://arts.st-andrews.ac.uk/venice-in-scotland/

There are very many wonderful illustrated books from Venice in our collections; far more than we have space to exhibit.  Over the next few weeks we will be posting about the ones we have included, and some that we couldn’t fit in.  On 16th April Laura will be giving a talk in CRC.  We plan to get out everything we have blogged about for that.

Laura will be posting further information on the blog of her current project Thinking 3Dhttps://www.thinking3d.ac.uk/

Our first post is by Elizabeth Quarmby Lawrence, Rare Books Librarian

Girolamo Marafioti (1567-1626) De arte reminiscentiae,  (Venice : Jo Baptistam Bertonum, 1602.)  (Edinburgh University Library: EE.13.36/1)

“The art of memory” survives in the modern world mostly in the form of self-help books and motivational training courses, but it actually has a long and distinguished history, back to classical antiquity.

Classical lawyers and politicians, needing to be able to make lengthy, formally-structured speeches from memory, used the techniques of artifical memory.  In their imagination they would turn each of the points of their speech into a strong visual image, and then arrange the images in order within a structure they could easily remember.  Typically this would be a building, either real and familiar, or created in the imagination for the purpose.

These techniques remained in common use well into the seventeenth century.  In a culture where public affairs were still largely conducted orally, the ability to speak fluently, persuasively and at length, in public, was vital to a professional career.  As well as being useful to lawyers and politicians, artificial memory techniques were useful to students, whose academic exercises and examinations were largely based around oral disputations.  The techniques were popular with the Friars, whose lives were dedicated to preaching and teaching religious knowledge, and who had to be able to explain complex doctrine accurately.

The technique of artificial memory was passed down from Classical antiquity through three texts – Cicero’s De Oratore, an anonymous handbook Ad C. Herennium, and Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria.  In the Middle Ages it was refined, improved and expanded on.   This continued into the Renaissance, where artificial memory was often elaborated to the point that it became an intellectual game, rather than a practical technique.  The Renaissance had a fascination for imagery, symbolism, emblems and hidden meanings, and keen interest in imposing a structure on knowledge.  The symbolism of artificial memory very easily plays to all of these, and elaborate symbolism and word games can easily be incorporated into it.  In some Renaissance examples of artificial memory it is difficult to tell which is the material to be memorised and which is the structure supposed to hold it.

This little handbook was written within this late tradition.  Instead of using locations in a building as the places to lodge the memories, it uses both sides of both hands to create 92 places, each marked with a symbol – which had itself to be memorised before it could be used as a tool to remember anything else.

Many of the illustrated books which have been included in the project Venetian Renaissance prints, drawings and illustrated books in Scottish collections are high-quality, luxury productions.  This little book was produced with quite different ambitions.  It was intended for a relatively popular market – it was reprinted several times, including in an Italian translation – and the illustrations are entirely practical and very necessary to explain the text.

It is not clear how this copy reached Edinburgh, but in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries it passed through the hands of two bibliophiles, or bibliomaniacs.  First came Charles-Louis Van Bavière, (1767-1815), Secretary of the Academy and Faculty of Law, Brussels.   His professional life seems not to have preoccupied him much: he was a dedicated bibliophile with a reputation for having an eye for a bargain, and for finding unlikely treasures in improbable-looking sales.  After his death, his huge library was sold at auction over 22 days, in Brussels in 1817. 

This sort of sale undoubtedly appealed to the book’s next owner, the antiquarian and legendary bibliomaniac Richard Heber (1773 – 1833), whose vast library, collected all over Europe, and housed in half a dozen separate locations, was sold after his death in a series of sixteen sales, in England, France and Belgium, realizing the then enormous sum of more than £60,000.  Books from both these scattered collections are in wide circulation today, readily identifiable from their owner’s bookplates and ink stamp.

Early Library Records

Our intern, Nathalie, is reaching the end of the project, working on the earliest of the library records.  She has achieved a great deal in the weeks she has been with us: we have a set of descriptions of the documents ready to transfer into the Archives cataloguing software, and the draft of a research guide to the early records ready to go onto the CRC web page.  These have already helped us answer enquiries about the early library collections.  We presented a short paper about the project and the records at the recent conference of the CILIP Library and Information History Group conference in Dundee. 

Nathalie reflects on the project and what she has learnt.  We wish her well as she goes back to her studies for the new academic year, and hope we have given her the bug for old library records!

 

The Early Library Records Project began as a project aimed at opening up a series of early records to make them easier to navigate. With just under 55 items to examine in 10 weeks, the project had clear objectives: the flagging up of items needing conservation work, or to prioritise for digitisation, the update of the information available on the online catalogue for early library records and the creation of a research guide to enable researchers, members of the public and CRC staff to understand early library records better. It is hoped that the results of the project will have far-reaching benefits. To enhance the data on the online catalogue, the type of information gathered from the records needed to be consistent, despite their being very varied in kind. The focus has thus been on: their approximate period of use, their purpose, their potential compilers and users and the language they are written in.

The diversity of these records is worth mentioning. The library possesses early press and author catalogues, account books, matriculation registers, borrowing registers, accessions books and subject catalogues. Some periods in the library’s history are richer in certain types of records, but overall, there is some record to be found for every half century up to now. These records not only give us precious general information about the management of the library, but also give us information about the university at large. They also contain numerous precious details which are at times surprising, comical, confusing or enlightening.

The project had its share of surprises. Scientific instruments such as telescopes, microscopes, globes and quadrants appeared from time to time, either in a list of instructions on how to use them, or in an account book when money had been spent to mend or purchase them. Equally, I met with volumes which had unexpected contents. Da.1.5 is such an item, as it is a collation of three different inventories: a manuscript author catalogue, followed by a printed version of the Nairn catalogue, itself followed by a manuscript list of pamphlets and other titles belonging to the library of the College of Surgeons. I was glad to come across a few references in Gaelic, such as the Gaelic translation of Dodsley’s work The Economy of Human Life and a few other entries, all in the 4-volume author catalogue compiled in the 1750s. Some of the earliest volumes exhibited physical conventions of early book production such as catchwords and folio numbers, while item Da.1.15 is a fantastic illustration of stationary binding, only used for certain types of records, especially ledgers. While working on the project, I became acquainted with several librarians through their observations, especially the Hendersons. Together, the father and his son were librarians to the university library for 80 years (1667-1747). Both left numerous notes in the catalogues and account books, and their comments, sometimes stern, allow us to get a glimpse into the day-to-day management of the library.
What is more, the outcome of the project goes further than suggested above. As a range of sources is now better known, new routes for future enquiry have emerged. As we know more about what kind of information can be had in these records, we can be bolder in our research questions. Interesting research could be done on the borrowing registers still surviving, and a study of the donations to the library could also be valuable. Beside these potential routes for future research, the project’s results have also challenged some previously-held beliefs. For example, it has been discovered that what was thought to be a 1636 author catalogue is in fact more likely to be a late 17th century author catalogue.

There have been challenges, for sure. Deciphering 17th century script was not always easy for me, as I did not have any previous experience in palaeography. Formatting the data I was compiling so that it would be easily transferable to Archives Space was also something I had to get my head round. Equally, I had to acquire some elementary knowledge about the university’s early history, its buildings and running, since these elements impacted on the library’s administration and evolution. Yet, these challenges have only had valuable outcomes, most likely because I was working in a particularly supportive environment.
Beside the benefits of the project’s results for CRC staff, researchers and members of the public, a significant outcome of the project is what it has brought to me, as an intern. I have not only learnt a great deal about the library’s management and history in the pre-Enlightenment and Enlightenment periods, but also gained experience in working with archival material. I have absorbed the basics of cataloguing, found out about digitisation projects, shadowed several people’s work and all this has given me an acute sense of what the CRC is about. This internship was a truly unique opportunity which has given me insight into the library and museum professional sector.

“Manuscripts rare for the writing” and The Skeleton in the Library Cupboard: the Early Library Records Project

 

The Library holds a very rich collection of the records of its own activities, stretching right back to the charter of Clement Littil’s bequest in 1580, which started the library.  Many of the books acquired at every period since then are still here, often bearing physical evidence of their history in the collections, in the form of inscriptions, old shelf marks, or bindings distinctive of a particular period.  The records and the books have the potential to be a very rich source of information and useful to researchers in many different subjects, but currently they are poorly understood and documented and are very difficult to use.  

This summer we welcome to CRC Nathalie Bertaud, an Employ.Ed intern, who is working on the records of the first two and half centuries, or thereabouts, of the library’s history, producing a research guide and collecting the data to improve the descriptions of the records on the catalogue of the University Archives.  She has been making many discoveries: 

 

Ever wonder how long a book or other object has been in the library and where it comes from? How much it cost or by whom it was given to the library? Or still, what the money given by students was spent on? With a good number of early press, subject and author catalogues, as well as matriculation and donation books, the history of the University’s library is not so dark a place to delve in. As we embrace these early records and their flimsy pages and characteristic smell, let us dive into the library’s history and follow, record after record, the life of its marvels.

 

The library has, from very early on, been a welcoming home to objects other than books. This can be seen in items Da.1.18 and 19, as both contain several lists of wonders and curiosities. We are indeed told that precious items were kept in a chest – a sort of 17th century equivalent to our fire-safe! Among the items precious enough to go in the chest were the Bohemian Protest, the marriage contract between Mary Queen of Scots and Francis Dauphin of France, and a thistle banner printed on satin 1640 being found carelessly put in one of Mr Nairn’s books. What is more, a list is given us of portraits that were hung in the library, a celebration of illustrious men and women. Featured celebrities included Tiberius Claudius, Martin Luther, and Mary Queen of Scots. We still do hold some of these portraits. Items related to the discipline of anatomy were also gifted to the library, and we are told in several lists that these comprised the ‘skeleton of a French man’, or a ‘gravel stone (…) cut out of the bladder of Colonel Ruthven’, who, we are informed in Da.1.31, ‘lived six weeks thereafter’.

 

Now, where did the books and objects come from? Well, we know a fair amount about key benefactors of the library, as their names are listed over and over again, their generosity being commemorated by several library keepers. Such examples of commemorative lists can be found in Da.1.18 and 19, where the first page lists such generous men as Clement Litil, William Drummond or James Nairn.

 

Item Da.1.31, a book of donations started by the librarian William Henderson in the late 17th century, gives us short descriptions of benefactors, such as: ‘Isobell Mitchell, at the time of her decease which was upon the 19th of October 1667 left to the college as a token of her great love to the flourishing of piety and good learning the sum of a hundred merks Scots’. Yet, less renowned people also made a contribution to the library’s collection, and when we chance upon a brief description of these almost anonymous benefactors, we get a sense of how collections get built. Such an example is: ‘By Mr David Ferguson, student in Kirkcaldy, a youth of great hopes but was snatched away by an early death (…) a manuscript rare for the writing’, or ‘George Bosman book-seller, gave in the Breviary of the B. Virgin, a manuscript very curiously written & adorned with rich colours besides many exquisite pictures’, or still ‘Mr John MacGregory, student, gave in a Hebrew Bible’.

As lists of new accessions are fairly well represented in the records, we are also offered insight into what places were hubs for book purchasing in the 17th and 18th centuries. London and Holland seem to have been such places, as they are mentioned regularly, for instance in Da.1.32 and 34. The cost of the books purchased is sometimes given as well, and we quickly understand, from looking at the records, that books were purchased not only from donations but also from student fees. However, the money paid by the students was not always used for the purchase of books. We get a glimpse into the day-to-day management of the library when we run through items Da.1.32, 34 or 43, where we can read that money was spent on fees for services rendered, such as ‘for drink money for bringing in books gifted to the library’, ‘for washing 12 pictures’ or ‘for cleaning the library’. It was also spent on library necessaries like ‘paper, pens and ink, and postage’, ‘for binding books’ or still ‘for transcribing a copy of the New Catalogue for the library’. All these wonderful details, sometimes scribbled in tiny script, allow us to get a better understanding of the early history of the library and its management.

Alice’s Adventures in the Rare Book Stacks

Happy 150th anniversary of the second edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland!

(This week’s blog post has been contributed by Tess Goodman, a doctoral student in the Centre for the History of the Book, who has been volunteering with us.)

Alice h
The second edition? Wait—what about the first edition? Well, the first edition of Alice, printed in 1865, was suppressed before publication. But don’t get too excited: this isn’t a tale of censorship. It’s a tale of quality control.
The 1860s are now sometimes called the golden age of book illustration. Cheap illustration technology was relatively new, and illustrated books were very, very popular. Even fiction for adults was usually illustrated: the first editions of works by Dickens and Thackeray, for example, were full of pictures. In the 1860s, even well-reputed painters like Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Millais were producing work for books, and the average quality of illustration was higher than ever. Illustration could make or break a title.
Alice was illustrated by John Tenniel, a well-known cartoonist for Punch. The first copies were printed in the summer of 1865, and Charles Dodgson (who went by the pseudonym Lewis Carroll) began sending presentation copies to his friends before the official release.
But then Tenniel saw a copy. He thought that his illustrations had been badly printed. In fact, he found the printing so poor that he complained to Dodgson, who complained to the publisher, who canceled the entire edition. Macmillan reprinted all 2,000 copies. Dodgson sent letters to friends who had already received copies, apologizing for the quality. The rejected sheets were sold to a publisher New York, who published them in America with a new title page.*

Alice a
The second edition, published in 1866, was the first to appear in Britain. The pictures in this post are from Edinburgh’s copy of this edition, which is bound with a first edition of Through the Looking-Glass. Hopefully these pictures demonstrate what the fuss was about: these illustrations are spectacular.
Tenniel did forty-two illustrations for Alice. They were so popular that for Through the Looking-Glass, he did fifty. These pictures brought, and bring, joy to everyone who sees them—except their creator. Tenniel found Dodgson so pernickety and difficult that he almost refused to work on Looking-Glass; it took Dodgson and Macmillan years to convince him. Afterwards, he wrote: ‘with Through the Looking-Glass the faculty of making drawings for book illustration departed from me… I have done nothing in that direction since…’. ** (60). And he never did again.

Alice b
Nevertheless, we’re glad to have these books at Edinburgh. As you can see from these pictures, our copies are in slightly poor condition. But most children’s books are very hard to find in good condition: the children reading them don’t worry about preserving them for future generations. In the case of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, the binding might be rubbed and the joints might be shaky, but the printing is still impeccable.

Alice d

*That makes them the second issue of the first edition, if you are bibliographically-minded enough to care. The presentation copies that still had the British title page were the first issue of the first edition. Only fifteen are extant.
** Quoted in Sydney Herbert Williams and Falconer Madan. The Lewis Carroll Handbook: being a new version of A handbook of the literature of the Rev. C. L. Dodgson. Revised by Roger Lancelyn Green. London: Oxford University Press, 1962. P. 60.

The Greatest Gaelic Book Collector? Professor Donald MacKinnon (1839–1914), the University of Edinburgh, and the MacKinnon Collection

We have recently completed the online cataloguing of the MacKinnon Collection, of books of and about Scottish life and literature, and rich in books in Gaelic.  Our colleague and expert in Gaelic, Donald William Stewart, has contributed this guest blog about Donald MacKinnon and his books:

The Greatest Gaelic Book Collector? Professor Donald MacKinnon (1839–1914)

Donald-Mackinnon-Celtic_Review10-p97(Jun-1915)

Donald MacKinnon was born in 1839 in Kilchattan on the Argyllshire island of Colonsay. He was the first Professor of Celtic Languages, Literature, History, and Antiquities at the University of Edinburgh, and he made substantial contributions to every one of the fields listed in his title. MacKinnon occupied the chair from 1882 until he retired in summer 1914. He died a few months afterwards, on Christmas morning, at his home at Balnahard in his native island.

As a student at Edinburgh, MacKinnon enjoyed a dazzling career crowned in 1869 by the Hamilton Fellowship in Mental Philosophy, a grant of £100 allowing him three years’ further study at the university. Ironically, it was the Education Act (Scotland) of 1872, that ruthless destroyer of Gaelic schools, which was to give him his big break. After the Act was passed, Donald MacKinnon was appointed as the first Clerk and Treasurer of the School Board of Edinburgh.

Admirers of Donald MacKinnon – and, it has to be said, on occasion Donald MacKinnon himself – have made much of his humble beginnings, but we should remember that talent often attracts sponsors. MacKinnon was fortunate to have caught the attention of two of the most influential figures in Scotland, men who just happened to be from Colonsay like himself. Advocate and judge Duncan McNeill, first Baron Colonsay (1793–1874), was the pre-eminent Scots lawyer of his time; while his younger brother Sir John McNeill (1795–1883), chairman of the Board of Supervision in charge of the operation of the Poor Law (Scotland) Act, was the most powerful civil servant in the country. Long before the Edinburgh Chair of Celtic was finally established in 1882, MacKinnon’s patrons were unobtrusively promoting the merits of their candidate.

MacKinnon was certainly an ideal contender for the professorship: an excellent Gaelic prose stylist, an industrious contributor of columns to newspapers and periodicals, a man who participated to the full in the lively Gaelic-speaking community in the capital – and who would soon undertake arduous service on the parliamentary Napier Commission travelling around the Highlands enquiring into crofters’ and cottars’ rights. MacKinnon was also a popular teacher of a generation of Gaelic students, including the first women Celtic scholars in Scotland. In particular, as the pioneer Celtic Professor in Scotland, Donald MacKinnon had to lead the way and lay the foundations for future scholarly study of Scottish Gaelic. This he did with aplomb. His lectures defined and delineated Gaelic literature and history, as well as elucidating Gaelic place-names and personal names. His Gaelic Reading Books laid down a syllabus for elementary and advanced students in the language. Most enduringly, his Descriptive Catalogue of Gaelic Manuscripts in the Advocates’ Library, Edinburgh, and Elsewhere in Scotland(Edinburgh: T. & A. Constable, 1912), the fruits of five years of research generously sponsored by John Crichton-Stuart, fourth Marquess of Bute (1881–1947), remains a crucial work of reference for both classical and vernacular Gaelic manuscripts in Scotland – including four then in MacKinnon’s own possession – more than a century after its publication. But, as the new online library catalogue to Professor Donald MacKinnon’s collection demonstrates, he should also be remembered as a great collector of books, Gaelic and Celtic.

At a complimentary dinner held in MacKinnon’s honour by friends at the Waterloo Hotel on 7 November 1883, marking the beginning of his professorship, the Rev. Dr Norman Macleod ‘presented to Professor Mackinnon a cheque for a sum subscribed by a few friends, who begged him to apply it in the purchase of books bearing on the subject of his Chair. (Applause.)’ [Edinburgh Evening News, 8 November 1883, 2]

The minister’s remark suggests that even before he became a professor, Donald MacKinnon was already well-known as a Gaelic book-collector. This is borne out by the Rev. Donald Maclean’s remarks in the introduction to his magnificent catalogue, financed by the Carnegie Trust, Typographia Scoto-Gaedelica or Books printed in the Gaelic of Scotland (Edinburgh: John Grant, 1915):

The late Professor Donald Mackinnon placed at my disposal very valuable bibliographic material which he had collected for many years before he became the first occupant of the Celtic Chair in Edinburgh. It is not possible for me to acknowledge fully my indebtedness to this collection. (viii)

In making MacKinnon the Typographia’s dedicatee, Maclean pays tribute to the professor’s assistance and encouragement – and to the breadth and scope of his Gaelic library.

MacKinnon’s collection had already been at the heart of a major Gaelic books presentation, one of the attractions, along with quaichs, silverware, tartans, and regimental uniforms and colours, shown in the Highlands and Islands display in the Fine Art Galleries at the great Scottish National Exhibition in Saughton Park between May and September 1908. During this time of the Scottish Celtic Revival, Gaelic culture, sports, and costumes loomed large in the Exhibition programme, alongside the helter-skelter tower, the switchback railway, the water chute, the Irish cottages, the Senegal village, the display of baby incubators, and diverse other attractions intended to educate, entertain, and astonish.

Among the books Professor MacKinnon donated to the exhibition, as listed by The Scotsman on 22 August 1908, were:

• the Irish translation, by Uilliam Ó Domhnuill, of the New Testament, first printed in 1681;
• the first edition of the New Testament in Scottish Gaelic, 1767;
• the first edition of the Old Testament in Scottish Gaelic, printed in four parts, in 1783, 1786, 1787, and 1801;
• a very rare copy of the Apocrypha translated into Scottish Gaelic for Prince Lucien Bonaparte by the Rev. Alexander MacGregor in 1860.

It should be pointed out here that MacKinnon was one of the scholars who revised the Gaelic Bible for the SPCK in 1902. The professor probably also contributed:

• James Macpherson’s Fragments of 1760;
• Ais-eiridh nan Seann Chánoin Albannaich, the Resurrection of the Ancient Scottish Language by Alexander MacDonald, Alasdair mac Mhaighstir Alasdair, the first purely literary publication in Scottish Gaelic, printed in 1751;
• Comh-chruinneachidh orranaigh Gaidhealach, the Eigg Collection, songs edited by Alexander’s son Ronald and printed in 1776;
• An Sùgradh, a small popular song collection from 1777;
• Gillies’ collection Sean Dain, agus Orain Ghaidhealach of 1786;
• the blind poet Allan MacDougall’s song collection Orain Ghaidhealach of 1798.

Now, not all of the major works listed above are found in the MacKinnon Collection today. This raises the possibility that the professor’s books arrived at Edinburgh University Library in two tranches. Whether during his later years as professor, or after his retiral, Donald MacKinnon may have donated to the Celtic Departmental Library at Edinburgh the canonical works of Gaelic literature on which his courses were principally based, works such as those mentioned above. His personal library, on the other hand, was bequeathed to his friend and fellow islander Dr Roger McNeill (1853–1924), Medical Officer for Argyllshire, a man whose remarkable research and tireless campaigning was instrumental in founding the Highlands and Islands Medical Service in 1913, one of the main forerunners of our National Health Service today. After McNeill’s death, MacKinnon’s volumes, probably augmented by those from the doctor’s own collection, were bequeathed to Edinburgh University Library. It would be an interesting and useful exercise to see how far we can relate the books in the MacKinnon Collection, and others in the university collections probably once owned by Donald MacKinnon, with the listings in Maclean’s Typographia.

In Professor Donald MacKinnon we have a scholar signal for the range of his interests and expertise even in an era noted for polymaths, a man celebrated by his colleagues and students, and remembered today for a number of crucial works of scholarship and reference. The MacKinnon Collection is one of the professor’s greatest legacies, allowing us to gain a clearer picture of one of Scottish Gaeldom’s most eminent scholars, and also, through him, a deeper understanding of Gaelic culture itself.

No One Expects the Spanish Inquisition

And nor should they in this case! Although the author of the above volume is a Torquemada he is, in fact, Juan de Torquemada, uncle to Grand Inquisitor Tomas de Torquemada.

What makes this item interesting then? Well it’s not often the complete provenance of a book is known, especially one dating from 1485, however Questiones evangeliorum tam de tempore quam de sanctis from the Clement Litill collection is one such item.

It was first owned by William Scheves, second Archbishop of St Andrews from 1478 until his death in 1497. He gifted it to the friary library of the Domincans of Edinburgh. It was likely there that the horn title label, on the front of the book was added. This label strongly suggests that the book was held in a lectern library where the book would have been stored on a long, sloped reading desk with the cover upper most.

After the looting of the friaries of Edinburgh in 1559 it found its way into the hands of Clement Litill. His reputation as a collector would have seen the looters making a profit from their salvage of the libraries.

From there it went to the Kirk and Town Council of Edinburgh in 1580 along with the 275 other volumes that Litill bequeathed. This collection formed the first library of the University of Edinburgh, where it has been held ever since.

All this means that since the book was gifted to the Dominicans it has not moved more than a mile for almost five centuries!

A Suffragette Belt

The CRC has recently acquired a rare belt previously owned by a Scottish suffragette. The belt has already been attracting lots of interest on Twitter so we’ve been exploring where it sits in the context of Suffragette textiles and symbolism.

DSCN0253The belt is made from a strip of ribbon, embroidered with enamelled motifs in the signature white, green and purple associated with the suffrage movement. It has a pink lining on the reverse and a gilt buckle fastening. The belt is in amazing condition despite some oxidisation of the silver in the ribbon, leading the silver threads to turn dark grey.

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Oh Christmas Tree!

Main Library Christmas Tree

Christmas has well and truly arrived at the Main Library with the installation of a 12 foot Christmas tree. This year we decided to use images from the CRC collections to decorate the tree – a selection of images (taken by the Digital Imaging Unit) was printed and library staff crafted them into beautiful paper decorations. The tree was then decorated by Exhibitions Officer, Emma Smith.

There is a poster on display next to the tree explaining what the images are, but if you’re unable to visit you can take a look at them after the jump… Continue reading