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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Old Books, New Discoveries: The Tale of a Feather

Our blog post today comes from History of the Book student and CRC volunteer Allie Newman.

The University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Research Collections (CRC) is home to over 300 examples of Western medieval manuscripts, ranging from single leaves and fragments to large bound tomes. While it can certainly be said that this collection represents some of the oldest material in the library, it cannot be said that everything in the collection has been exhaustively examined, even given the items’ relatively long existences. Despite the great age of the items, they are still producing new discoveries in terms of textual content and physical structure, both of which inform our understanding of their individual histories and book history as a whole. I recently made a very interesting, if very tiny, discovery that could hopefully shed some more light on the medieval scribal and artistic processes.

MS 33, a 15th century illuminated Dutch gradual (or songbook), is a large and somewhat unwieldy volume, and is known as the source of the illuminated piper that graces the logo of the Friends of Edinburgh University Library. The piper is actually part of a richly decorated floral border that surrounds a page of music, further embellished by a large illuminated initial (folio 10 verso).

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Art for Industry in the 19th Century

Within the Edinburgh College of Art Rare Books collection are a number of manuals or instructional books which were published for the purpose of encouraging good design practice in both artisan and industrial production. This is not surprising when we consider the history of the college. Established as the Trustees Drawing Academy of Edinburgh in 1760, the purpose of the college was to provide train designers working in the manufacturing industry, such as pattern designers or engineering draughtsmen.

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In the 19th Century there was a concern that the mechanised manufacturing processes which contributed to the industrial revolution were having a negative impact on the artistic quality of design for industry. This resulted in the publication of numerous books and journals providing guidance and inspiration for designers. Two books, The Glossary of Ecclesiastical Ornament & Costume and The Art-Workman show the different approaches authors and publishers took. Continue reading

Visualising the Scott Monument

In Semester 2 this year, we had a number of first-year architecture students visiting the CRC to research historic Edinburgh buildings. There have been enquiries about Old College, New College, and the National Museum of Scotland, but the most popular building by far has been the Scott Monument. Designed by local (and self-taught) architect George Meikle Kemp (1795-1844) and constructed between 1840 and 1846, the monument is a defining feature of Edinburgh’s New Town.

The CRC’s Corson collection of books by and about Sir Walter Scott contains plenty of books about the Scott Monument, including Thomas Bonnar’s Biographical Sketch of George Meikle Kemp (1892), as well a few oddities (a Scott-themed thermometer and even a bar of soap!). Further information about the Corson collection is available online. 0030068d Two bars of soap illustrated with the Scott Monument and Edinburgh Castle. One of the most distinctive images of the Scott Monument in our collection is an early calotype, circa 1845, taken by Edinburgh photographers D.O. Hill and R. Adamson. 0012164c The calotype process, developed by Henry Fox Talbot in 1841, used silver iodide to produce paper negatives; these were then printed onto silver chloride, or “salted paper”. The original prints are extremely sensitive to light but we have digitized our entire collection of about 700 Hill and Adamson calotypes. You can view them online here: http://images.is.ed.ac.uk/luna/servlet/UoEcar~4~4

Anne Peale, CRC Evening Assistant

Musical Marginalia in Textus Logices

 We are delighted to be sharing a guest blog post by Elizabeth Cary Ford and Vivien Estelle Williams of Glasgow University who have recently been studying the marginalia of item De.8.83 in the CRC collections.

James Douglas’ copy of Thomas Bricot’s Textus Logices and its musical marginalia

Kenneth Elliott, the late eminent scholar, identified a basse danse written in the margins of a sixteenth-century book. The existence of the score of the basse danse was quite a well-known fact in academia; but the original source for it was not. We are pleased to say that we have been able to track the book in which the marginalia appears to the University of Edinburgh Special Collections, item De.8.83. The field of the basse danse in Scotland is certainly understudied, and we hope this finding will add a piece, however small, to the wider picture.

Basse danses were very popular in Europe in the fifteenth and sixteenth century. This type of dance probably originated in Burgundy. It quickly travelled to other European courts and was certainly known in Scotland after King James V’s second marriage in 1538 to Marie de Guise, if not before. It is reasonable to assume that this basse danse was part of the repertoire of the French musicians who travelled with the queen.

Kenneth Elliott transcribed the tune from the source and shared it with John Purser, who published a portion of it in Scotland’s Music. Elliott described the tune as “[a]n anonymous instrumental composition possibly of Scottish authorship and related to the basse-danse is recorded in an early-sixteenth-century source”. According to Purser’s note, the book was passed from Hector Boece to Theophilus Stewart and to James Douglas. This is confirmed by an inspection of the book, as well as the University of Edinburgh’s records of the book.

All we knew about this dance was that it was marginalia, and that Kenneth Elliott was the first person to call attention to it. Thanks to Dr Theo Van Heijnsbergen and Dr Nicola Royan we discovered that the volume in question was a little publication by Thomas Bricot: Textus Logices, c. 1513.

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The author of the book, Bricot, from the diocese of Amiens, studied in Paris during the late 1470s, where he went on to teach philosophy. His major publications were dedicated to the discipline of logics, as is our Textus Logices. The small volume, re-bound in the nineteenth century, was possibly intended as a teaching aid or a textbook; 136 beautifully-printed leaves on the subjects of logics, as well as Aristotelian and Porphyrian works. The various handwritings of the marginalia, and in the flyleaves and end-papers show that the book has passed through various hands.

Amongst the calligraphies and signatures a few are more clearly discernible: on the title-page there is a “Codex Hector Boethi” and a “Hethor Bethius”. Hector Boece, c.1465–1536, was born into a prominent Dundonian family. He was a historian and the first principal of the University of Aberdeen. He most probably came in contact with Bricot’s publication in Paris as a student at the Collège de Montaigu. The annotations in the volume are extensive, which may well indicate the mark of an informed reader. We doubt whether Boece would have written the score himself, as given his known persona a casual treatment of a book would be unlikely.

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On the fly-leaves are other ownership marks; this may indicate they were added after binding. Theophilus Steuart is mentioned in the Fasti Aberdoniensis as a “gramaticus”, as well as the Analecta Scotica, as “Maister theophelus stuart, master of the gremer skuill of ald Aberdeen”. This Aberdeen connection links Steuart with Boece, as both were based at King’s College.

It could be that James Douglas, potential source of the tune, was the Earl of Morton (c. 1516 – 1581) as he had dealings with the University of Aberdeen. David Stevenson points out that “The general assembly in 1574 requested that the then regent, the 4th Earl of Morton, to take orders that doctors may be placed in the Universities and stipends granted unto them”.

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The book contains two sections of musical notation. The first is a snippet of what could be a basse danse. The dance in full is scribbled in the back of the book, between annotations. The handwriting of the score would appear to date from the sixteenth century. Does this mean the dance was current and popular at the time? Did James Douglas himself compose it? As there is no searchable index of tunes for basse danse, unfortunately we have not been able to verify whether or not the tune was known and popular. What comes as no surprise is that French music was popular in Scotland in the sixteenth century, owing to the cultural ties of the Auld Alliance.

This marginalia is early evidence for the basse danse in a Scottish source, no matter who the author may have been. We will never know why this dance was scribbled in the fly-leaves of a philosophical treatise. It would be nice to think that, perhaps, the tune was popular amongst the students of the University of Aberdeen as a dance or a song – maybe we could picture a young James Douglas jotting it down, as his mind wanders, while at his desk during a lecture on logics!

For our finding and assistance with it we wish to thank: Denise Anderson, Francesca Baseby, Warwick Edwards, Luca Guariento, David McGuinness, Nicola Royan, Evelyn Stell, Theo Van Heijnsbergen, Janet Williams, Allan Wright.

This piece is dedicated to John Purser, our druid in the West.

Elizabeth Cary Ford Research Profile

Vivien Estelle Williams Research Profile

Hand-finished Printed Books

Our blog post today comes from History of the Book student and CRC volunteer Allie Newman.

The University of Edinburgh Centre for Research collections holds a veritable treasure trove of early printed books, also known as incunabula or incunables. Numbering over 200 items, the collection houses everything from the apparently mundane to the richly decorated, both in terms of type ornament and colours. Today I would like to showcase Inc.49.2, a delightfully illustrated Bible printed by Anton Koberger in Berlin in 1483, that is a wonderful illustration of a particular period of book history.

inc1.jpgThe advent of the printing press in the West, begun by Gutenberg’s moveable type press in 1440, heralded a new era in book production. Suddenly, instead of taking weeks, months, or even years to copy out a book by hand, books could be produced relatively quickly and in larger numbers by moveable type presses. This naturally put manuscript production into an immediate spiral of decline, eventually leading to the triumph of print over hand-written books… Or did it?

Contrary to popular belief, the two forms of production actually continued to exist side by side for nearly 200 years, printed works only overtaking manuscripts in terms of popularity in the 1600s; even then, a big reason for that overtake was due to the fact that printing a book was just plain cheaper than hand-copying a book, not because manuscripts were seen as inferior or old-fashioned. Evidence of this can be seen in the Koberger Bible, where the pages were printed in such a way that they left space for an artist to later come in and add decorative initials by hand!

inc3 inc2This is not an uncommon practice – it even happens in the Gutenberg Bible, though its initials are much less embellished. Because manuscripts were still somewhat of a status symbol and occupied a position of prestige in the world of books, this hand-finishing was a way of adding legitimacy to the printed book. And it didn’t just happen to initials! This Bible is full of woodblock prints, such as the one below, that, although printed on a press, were later hand-coloured (most likely at an extra cost!).

inc4Hand-finishing of printed text eventually faded away as a widely practiced stage of book production by the late 17th century, for the same reason that manuscripts became the less common form of book: it was just too expensive and time consuming. However, the intersection of manuscript techniques and printing press technology left its mark (literally) on the way we write today- ever wonder why the first line of a new paragraph is indented? Why, to make room for a hand-finished first initial, of course!

Auden, Dame Edna and Bletchley Park

Welcome to the first Rare Books & Manuscripts blog of the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Research Collections. And what better way to start than a post on W.H. Auden’s Poems (1928) …

 

One of the University of Edinburgh Library’s rarest 20th-century printed items is W.H. Auden’s Poems (1928). This item was part of the Archibald Hunter Campbell collection which was presented to the Library in 1984. Campbell studied at Oxford and was a contemporary and friend of Stephen Spender, Christopher Isherwood and W.H Auden. During the Second World War he served at Bletchley Park as a codebreaker and, on returning to Edinburgh, he held the post of the University’s Regius Chair of Public Law and the Law of Nature and the Nations from 1945 to 1972.

Printed by Auden’s fellow undergraduate at Oxford, Stephen Spender, Poems purports to be number 11 of “about 45 copies” subsequently Spender admitted that the actual number of copies was nearer 30.

Although a large part of the book was printed by Spender in his parents’ house on an Adana label printer, it would seem that either the printer or Spender (or possibly both!) weren’t up to the task and the book was finished and bound in its strong reddish orange wrapper by the Holywell Press. Evidence of the handover from Spender to Holywell is apparent in the immediate improvement in printing quality from page 23 onwards.

Some of the poems were never republished and Auden himself excluded most of the contents from the canon establishing Collected Shorter Poems, 1927-1957 (Faber, 1966).

The University of Edinburgh’s copy has few annotated corrections but has been signed by both Auden and Spender on the title page and is in remarkably good condition.

It truly is one of the University’s finest rare books and a fitting subject for the first Rare Books blog.

The library has a collection of W.H. Auden material, which we have recently completed cataloguing. This was purchased in 1982 from Barry Bloomfield (co-editor with Edward Mendelson of W.H. Auden: A Bibliography, 1924-1969), and has been added to by generous donations from Mendelson and others as well as purchases from book sales. Although Poems is not part of that collection we have taken the opportunity to improve the cataloguing of Auden material elsewhere in the collections.

Oh, and Dame Edna? Stephen Spender’s daughter married Barry Humphries!

Finlay West: Rare Book Cataloguer