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.

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.)

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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.*

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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.

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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.

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*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)

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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.

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).

IMG_2760 Continue reading

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