19 December 2013

Революция! Russian Satirical Journals from the 1905 Revolution

In 1977 the University of Melbourne Library acquired a large collection of Russian material from a private collector.[1] Included among the boxes of books, pamphlets and serials was a collection of satirical journals consisting of 53 titles in 149 issues dating to the first Russian Revolution (1905–1907).

Voron (The Raven), no. 1, [1905?]

The revolution was sparked on 22 January [9 January Old Style] 1905, when members of the Russian military and paramilitary opened fire on crowds of people gathering throughout St Petersburg and converging on the Winter Palace to petition Tsar Nicholas II for better working conditions and civil rights. Hundreds of men, women and children were killed or wounded. The brutal action led to national strikes, peasant uprisings, and attacks on figures of authority by revolutionaries and anarchists.

In an attempt to stem the upheaval, the tsar enacted a series of political and social reforms in the October Manifesto (1905), which led to the creation of the Duma and included a loosening of restrictions on the press and freedom of expression. By late November/ early December many revolutionary satirical journals began to appear on the streets of Moscow, St. Petersburg, and eventually in other major cities across the empire.[2]

Vampir (The Vampire), no. 2, 1906
 These journals, with such evocative titles as Adskaia pochta (Hellish Post), Bich (The Scourge), Krasnyi smekh (Red Laughter), Pulemet (The Machine Gun), Sekira (The Pole-Axe), and Zabiaka (The Trouble-maker), are filled with prose, verse, and illustrations and cartoons, either lampooning the tsar and his ministers, or offering a sometimes visceral commentary on the repressive and brutal tactics of the imperial government. Many journals were collaborative efforts that brought together some of Russia’s best writers and artists of the time, such as Leonid Andreev, Leon Bakst, Alexander Benois, Ivan Bilibin, Ivan Bunin, Korney Chukovsky, Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, Maksim Gorky, Boris Kustodiev, Yevgeny Lansere, and Leonid Pasternak.

Pulemet (The Machine Gun), no. 1, [13 December] 1905

Most of these periodicals had very short runs. Some of them appeared in only one issue before the authorities intervened to prevent further publication. Various editors attempted to circumvent the censors by changing a publication’s title. Burelom (Storm-Wood), for example, was shutdown in 1905 after four issues, but resurfaced as Burya (The Storm) early the following year. Burya reached a fourth issue, too, before being closed. It was later resurrected as the aptly titled Bureval (Storm Debris).[3]

Burelom (Storm-Wood), Christmas issue, 25 December 1905

In addition to journals, propagandist postcards were also produced. Some of the 39 examples in the collection were printed by chromolithography. Others were hand drawn and then reproduced either by hand or mimeographed in outline and then hand-coloured.

Russian Satirical Postcards, 1905 Revolution, nos. 29-34

According to Tobie Mathew, who has been collecting and researching these cards for a number of years:

'Leftist postcards were published by both revolutionary activists and legally registered publishers, many of whom were motivated as much by commerce as they were ideology. Some were used and displayed with subversive aims in mind, but most were bought for private consumption; these were objects that in reflecting political beliefs also served to amuse and divert.'

Regarding their rarity, Mathew commented that such cards:

'Don't come onto the market very often … The postcards were avidly collected at the time but being more ephemeral objects they are far less likely to have survived the various upheavals’.

Collections of Russian satirical journals are found in institutions across the northern hemisphere. My suspicion, however, is that the journals (and especially the postcards) held by Special Collections is the only one of its kind in Australia, making it a unique resource ripe for research by local and regional scholars and students.

Readers can view the often striking (and sometimes lurid) journal cover illustrations and postcards on the University of Melbourne Special Collections Flickr page:


[My sincere thanks to Simon Beattie and Tobie Mathew for offering their expertise so freely]

[1] See Leena Siegelbaum’s ‘The O’Flaherty Collection’ published in Australian Academic and Research Libraries (Sept. 1980): 189–194.

[2] The first journal was Zritel (Spectator), which appeared in June 1905. The University of Southern California's 'Russian Satirical Journals' website notes journals were published in Armenian, Estonian, Georgian, Polish, Ukrainian and Yiddish.

[3] David King and Cathy Porter. Blood & Laughter: Caricatures from the 1905 Revolution (London: Jonathan Cape, 1983), 42.

13 December 2013

Covered in Silk & Satin: Embroidered Bookbindings

Among the decorative and fine bindings held by Melbourne UL Special Collections are two examples of fabric/ textile bindings with embroidered decorations.

Embroidered book covers were popular during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, though earlier examples, such as the fourteenth-century embroidered binding on the British Library’s Felbrigge Psalter (Sloane MS 2400), do survive.

Textile bindings were produced primarily by professional embroiderers, but were also made by individual female owners. They were very much in vogue in England during the first half of the seventeenth century, particularly as covers for small devotional books, such as this copy of The Book of Common Prayer (London, 1629) that measures just eleven centimetres in height. The cover is made of white satin over blue silk, with birds and flowers embroidered with different coloured silk set within frames of gold thread, with gold thread borders on the spine and both sides.

Along with silk and satin, velvet was another popular textile for book covers. The Special Collections copy of L’Office de la Vierge Marie pour tous les temps de l’anee (Paris, [1636?]), bound with Pierre Coton’s Dévotes oraisons pour tous chrestiens et catholiques (Paris, 1637), is in a contemporary green velvet binding, heavily embroidered with floral motifs in silver thread and sequins, bordered on three sides by silver wire.

Much has been written on embroidered bindings. The British Library’s English Embroidered Bookbindings webpage provides a brief history of the subject and includes a select bibliography for further reading. One of the texts listed, Cyril Davenport’s English Embroidered Bookbindings (London, 1899), can be read on-line.

In addition to the resources noted by the BL, one can add the relevant sections in Bernard Middleton’s A History of English Craft Bookbinding Techniques (London, 1978; pp. 121–124), David Pearson’s English Bookbinding Styles, 1450–1800 (New Castle [DE], 2004; pp. 20–22), and Marianne Tidcombe’s Women Bookbinders, 1880–1920 (New Castle [DE], 1996; pp. 77–90).

Embroidered bindings can also be found throughout social media. They have been blogged about elsewhere (e.g. The Collation, Echoes from the Vault); there are pages in Pinterest (page 1 and page 2) and on Flickr (University of Glasgow Library); and one binding has even made its way onto YouTube compliments of the Bridwell Library, Southern Methodist University.

Further examples can be seen on the Princeton University Hand Bookbinding website, and over 120 specimens can be found in the British Library’s Database of Bookbindings.

The Booke of Common Prayer (London: Imprinted by Bonham Norton and John Bill, 1629), bound with The Whole Booke of Psalmes (London: Imprinted [by Felix Kingston] for the Company of Stationers, 1630)

L’Office de la Vierge Marie pour tous les temps de l’anee (Paris: Robert Denain, [1636?]), bound with Pierre Coton’s Dévotes oraisons pour tous chrestiens et catholiques (Paris: Marin Vaugon, 1637)

04 December 2013

Pacific Voyages: A Book That Sailed with Cook

[First, a bit of shameless promotion. This post was published earlier today on the revived Library Collections blog of the Baillieu Library, University of Melbourne. This is where all my work related blog posts will first go up, along with posts by other library collection departments. Although I will also post them here in an effort to reach as wide an audience as possible, I would ask anyone so inclined to please subscribe to Library Collections and share the link with friends. For readers on Twitter, University of Melbourne Special Collections has established an account @UniMelbSpC where you can stay up to date on events, blog posts, and other news. We will also be launching a Facebook page and a Flickr account, which I'll announce on Antipodean Footnotes. Stay tuned!] 

Among the volumes held by University of Melbourne Special Collections concerning British exploration of the Pacific, the book with the greatest link to the subject has nothing at all to do with it at least in terms of its topic. It is a medical text called An Introduction to Physiology (London, 1759), a compilation of lectures for students by the Scottish physiologist and instructor Malcolm Flemyng (ca. 1700–1764).

The book’s importance as an object relative to Pacific exploration is evident in a contemporary note written on the front pastedown:

'This Book went round the World in the Endeavour in 1768 /69 /70 &71 ~'

The note is in the hand of William Perry, who carried the book with him when he signed on as surgeon’s mate aboard HMB Endeavour for the first of Capt. James Cook’s three Pacific voyages. Perry was later appointed to the position of surgeon upon the death of William Brougham Monkhouse on 5 November 1770, and is recorded in Cook’s journal for 7 November as being ‘equally well if not better skilled in his profession’.[1]

Title-page with Perry's ownership inscription

Flemyng’s Physiology would have served Perry well in dealing with the array of illnesses and injuries that befell the crew. Needing to access information quickly, Perry’s marginal notes amount to a running index of the first 179-pages, with the occasional commentary thereafter elucidating certain concepts and citing works that by the late 1760s had superseded aspects of Flemyng’s text. One such annotation includes an anatomical rendering of the human eye:

Annotations by Perry with drawing of human eye

Books would not have been an uncommon sight on the Endeavour. Cook had his atlases and travel narratives; Joseph Banks’s library is well attested; and some officers or literate crewmen surely had personal bibles or prayer books.[2]

While much is known about some of the titles consulted by Cook and the accompanying gentlemen scientists who sailed with the Endeavour, actual physical copies that have survived are extremely scarce. According to Matthew Fishburn of Hordern House, this scarcity is likely due to ‘hard usage, and the fact that with the probable exception of some of the grander atlases/ maps and natural history books, many of the books on board would have been quite utilitarian. It is little more than chance survival’.

‘Exceptionally scarce’ and ‘chance survival’ are apt phrases. Fishburn continued by noting that Perry’s copy of Flemyng’s Physiology is the only book from the Endeavour voyage ever sold by Hordern House in its twenty-eight year history. In fact, with the exception of John Hawkesworth’s account of the first voyage carried by Cook from Cape Town to St. Helena during the second voyage (1772–1775), the firm knows of no other books surviving from any of Cook’s voyages that have come onto the market.[3]

Such scarcity, when coupled with the book’s direct association with one of the most famed voyages of the eighteenth century, makes this copy of Flemyng’s Physiology one of the most important and treasured items held by Special Collections.

What became of Perry?

According to W. E. Snell’s article ‘Captain Cook’s Surgeons’, Perry served as surgeon aboard four other ships before retiring in 1782 to his native Chiswick, where it is presumed he continued to practice medicine.[4] He enjoyed a long life, dying in Hillingdon, Middlesex, at the age of 80 on 25 April 1827.

Perry’s copy of Flemyng’s Physiology was purchased by Special Collections from Hordern House in 2005 with funds from the Library Endowment Trust. It was previously in the collection of the American collector David Parsons.[5]

[1] J. C. Beaglehole (ed.). The Journals of Captain James Cook on His Voyage of Discovery, 4 vols. in 5 (Cambridge: Published for the Hakluyt Society at the University Press, 1955–1974), 1:437.

[2] For more about some of the titles consulted by Cook, Banks and the artist Sydney Parkinson, see D. J. Carr’s ‘The Books That Sailed with the Endeavour’, Endeavour, new series, 7:4 (1983): 194–201. Perry’s copy of Flemyng’s Physiology was unknown to Carr and therefore went unaccounted. Banks’s books that travelled with him were incorporated into his personal library upon his return to England, and are held by the British Library.

[3] The Parsons Collection: Rare Pacific Voyage Books from the Collection of David Parsons; Part I: Dampier to Cook. (Sydney: Hordern House, 2005), no. 86.

[4] W. E. Snell. ‘Captain Cook’s Surgeons’. Medical History 7:1 (January 1963): 46–47.

[5] For more on the formation of Parsons’ collection, see his article ‘The Pleasures of Collecting Books on Cook and Pacific Exploration’, published in Cook’s Log 30:2 (2007): 7–9.

14 November 2013

Update: Australian & New Zealand Rare Book Summer School

The application form/ flyer for the 2014 Australian & New Zealand Rare Book Summer School is now available. There is also an online application form.

Classes will run from 10 to 14 February. Please see my earlier post for course descriptions.

The sessions on architectural books and natural history illustration will be held in the State Library of Victoria. Caren Florance's class on hand-press printing will be taught at the Ancora Press studio, Monash University (Caulfield campus). 

Applications will close on Friday 16 December 2013. Courses will proceed if sufficient applications have been received by Friday 6 December 2013. 

For further information, please email: rbss[@]slv.vic.gov.au.

28 October 2013

University of Melbourne Acquires Germaine Greer's Archive

News broke a few hours ago that the University of Melbourne has acquired the archive of one of its leading alumni, the notable academic and feminist, Germaine Greer.

According to the write-up in The Guardian:

'The archive, including manuscripts of Greer's books, her diaries and correspondence with some of the most significant intellectuals and politicians of the past century, fills more than 150 filing cabinets and spans the years from her student life in Melbourne, Sydney and Cambridge to the present day. It includes early notes for and a synopsis of her groundbreaking bestseller The Female Eunuch, as well as diaries and letters to her lovers, family and friends ... The correspondence files include letters from the novelist Margaret Atwood, activist Abbie Hoffman, film director and actor Warren Beatty (who was at one time Greer's lover), art critic John Berger, former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto, film director Federico Fellini, former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi, writer and television personality Clive James, feminist writer Dale Spender and many more'.

The University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis said the university will ship, catalogue and digitise the archive, which will be exhibited at the university.

The archive is expected to arrive in Melbourne in July 2014. Proceeds from the $3m purchase will go to the Friends of Gondwana Rainforest.

Announcement and 'About the Archive' on the University of Melbourne, University Library, website.

22 October 2013

Preserving Blaeu's 'Archipelagus Orientalis'

[A look at the conservation work being done on the National Library of Australia's copy of Joan Blaeu's map, the Archipelagus Orientalis, sive Asiaticus (1663), acquired by the NLA earlier this year. The map, as noted in the post below, is just one of four surviving copies known.]
[Reposted from the NLA's Behind the Scenes blog]
Opening on 7 November, our summer blockbuster Mapping Our World: Terra Incognita to Australia features one of the Library’s recent major map acquisitions – Archipelagus Orientalis, sive Asiaticus (Eastern and Asian archipelago), 1663 by Dutch master cartographer Joan Blaeu (1596-1673).
This remarkable wall chart – one of only four surviving copies in the world, is in an exceedingly fragile state, but conservators from the Library’s Preservation Branch have embarked on a meticulous and time-consuming preservation treatment to stabilise it for display. Fortunately, the areas of greatest interest, illuminating the story of the Dutch discovery of Australia – the mention of the first sighting of Tasmania and the text naming the continent – are intact and clearly visible.
We produced this video to highlight the significant preservation work that is underway:

If you would like to make a financial contribution to the preservation of the Blaeu map, you can make a tax-deductible  donation online or download and return the donation form. You can learn more about the preservation effort on our webpage dedicated to the map.
We are pleased to release this video under a Creative Commons licence that makes it available for everyone to share and re-use. Because of that, we have been able to upload the video to Wikimedia Commons which allows it to be used directly within Wikipedia articles – notably on the biography of Blaeu himself. We would like to especially acknowledge the Wikipedian in Residence at the National Library of the Netherlands for translating the captions to this video into Dutch.

10 October 2013

Eyewitness Letter to the Capture of Ned Kelly Surfaces After 133 Years

The Victorian bushranger Edward 'Ned' Kelly is one of nineteenth-century Australia's most well known and controversial figures. His exploits in Victoria and southern New South Wales, which culminated in the siege at Glenrowan (late June 1880) where Kelly and members of his gang donned make-shift body armour to deflect police bullets, have seen Kelly labelled an outlaw and murderer by some and folk hero by others.

Now, after 133 years, a letter containing an eyewitness account of Kelly's dramatic capture during the siege has been donated to the State Library of Victoria by the descendants of its author – Scotsman, Donald Gray Sutherland.

What makes this letter particularly interesting is that it offers a new perspective. According to the historian Alex McDermott, unlike previous accounts, which were written either by government officials or Kelly sympathisers, Sutherland was 'an everyday bank teller from Oxley, a little town near Glenrowan, and [was] not on the side of the Kellys and ... not on the side of the police'.

[From the State Library of Victoria website]

The letter addressed to Sutherland’s family on 8 July 1880 proclaims ‘… the Kelly’s are annihilated. The gang is completely destroyed…’. It continues describing Kelly’s famous armour and the gunshot wounds that finally brought him down.

‘He was wounded in 5 or 6 places, only in the arms and legs – His body and head being encased in armour made from the moule (sic) boards of a lot of ploughs. Now the farmers about here, have been getting their moule boards taken off their ploughs at night for a long time but who ever dreamed it was the Kellys and that they would be used for such a purpose. Ned’s armour alone weighed 97 pounds. The police thought he was a fiend seeing their rifle bullets mere sliding off him like hail. They were firing into him at about 10 yards in the grim light of the morning without the slightest effect. The force of the rifle bullets made him stagger when hit but it was only when they got him in the legs and arms that he reluctantly fell exclaiming as he did so I am done I am done.’

Sutherland enclosed a lock of hair from Kelly’s horse with the letter, noting in the postscript, ‘The hair enclosed is from the tail of Ned Kelly the famous murderer and bushranger’s mare. His favourite mare who followed him all around the trees during the firing. He said he wouldn’t care for himself if he thought his mare safe.’

Sue Roberts, CEO and State Librarian described the donation of the letter as extremely generous and a significant addition to the Kelly story.

‘This letter is a very personal account of events that have become part of Australia’s folklore. We are delighted that Mr Sutherland’s family chose the State Library of Victoria as caretaker for this remarkable document. It will join Ned's armour, Jerilderie Letter and other important items in our Kelly collection – one of the largest and most significant in the world.’

The letter will be on display in the State Library’s Changing Face of Victoria exhibition from Monday (14 October). It is also available online with a full transcript via the State Library website.

07 October 2013

Panel Discussion on 'Beautiful Books'

The Wheeler Centre has uploaded video of the 2013 Melbourne Rare Book Week opening night panel discussion 'Beautiful Books':


'Passionate bibliophiles – including a collector, a designer and a twenty-first-century book-maker – will explore changing perspectives on what makes a book beautiful … and what makes us treasure it long after its shelf life.

With Des Cowley, Rare Printed Collections Manager at the State Library of Victoria, designer W. H. Chong, and booki.sh founder Virginia Murdoch. Hosted by Steve Grimwade.

In the midst of the e-revolution, where we’re as likely to download as to leaf through a book, the idea of the book as an object of beauty is being lost. Or is it?'

Melbourne Rare Book Week ran from 18 to 28 July.

28 September 2013

2014 AU/ NZ Rare Books Summer School Schedule Announced

[The following was posted on the ANZ Rare Books and Special Collections Librarians listserv by Des Cowley, Rare Printed Collections Manager, State Library of Victoria]

The State Library of Victoria is pleased to announce that the 9TH AUSTRALIAN AND NEW ZEALAND RARE BOOKS SUMMER SCHOOL is to be held at the STATE LIBRARY OF VICTORIA, 10-14 FEBRUARY 2014

The Domed Reading Room, State Library
of Victoria (Image: Random Photons blog)

From Book to Building: Architecture and Design from the Renaissance to the Twentieth Century
(Instructor: Harriet Edquist)

Palladio’s treatise I Quattro Libri dell'Architettura (The Four Books of Architecture, 1570) was one of the most influential pattern books in European architectural history, setting out rules for architectural design that were transported across the globe and had currency for three centuries. In the nineteenth century Owen Jones’s treatise The Grammar of Ornament (1856) similarly set the fashion for books on design reform.

Drawing on the State Library’s rich collection of architecture and design publications from the sixteenth to the early twentieth century, this course will introduce participants not only to the histories of these books and their authors but also how they influenced some of Melbourne’s most iconic buildings and their interiors.

Harriet Edquist is professor of Architectural History and Director of the RMIT Design Archives at RMIT University. She was curator of the exhibition 'Free, Secular and Democratic: Building the Public Library 1853-1913', at the Murdoch Gallery, State Library of Victoria, 2013-2014.

The Paper Museum: Opening Up Natural History Illustration

(Instructor: John Kean)

The desire to better understand the world through the examination of animals at close range has driven scientific discovery since the Renaissance. The images created over the centuries and preserved in precious volumes comprise a vast ‘paper museum’. From Robert Hooke’s humble flea, as seen through a compound microscope in 1665, to the ‘double elephant’ folios of John James Audubon, rare books provide intimate access to the great minds of science and art.

The State Library's collection encompasses scientific treatises, taxonomic monographs and lavish folios. The volumes reveal the story of exploration, colonisation and scientific advance, as well as shining light on the world's biological diversity. This course will take participants through the history of scientific illustration, while focusing on particular classes of animal, geographic regions and printing techniques. Participants will also have the opportunity to learn directly from contemporary illustrators who maintain time-honoured techniques, with a contemporary twist.

John Kean is currently undertaking a PhD in art history at the University of Melbourne. He is the curator of the touring exhibition 'The Art of Science: remarkable natural history illustrations from Museum Victoria'.

The Poetics of Printing on the Iron Hand-Press
(Instructor: Caren Florence)

Participants in this course will combine the mind, hand and eye with a classic printing process to explore the physical qualities of text. They will experience hand-rolling both wood and metal type and printing on fine papers with an iron hand-press. They will learn to use the type creatively, operate the press safely and control the ink when rolling both small typefaces and large surfaces. The emphasis will be on text as image, with poetry as the main focus.

Caren Florance is a Canberra-based printer. She teaches book arts and letterpress at the Australian National University School of Art and operates the private press Ampersand Duck. Her printing output spans both traditional and less structured textual works.

This course will be held at the Ancora Press studio at Monash University’s Caulfield campus.

Applications will close on Friday 6 December 2013. Due to the rare and valuable nature of the materials that students will have access to, numbers are strictly limited, and early application is encouraged. Courses will proceed if sufficient applications have been received by Friday 22 November 2013 (to give interstate and overseas participants time to make travel arrangements).

All applications will be acknowledged upon receipt (preferably by email), and all applicants will be notified of their selection or otherwise in December.

The fee for each course is A$750. Successful applicants will receive a tax invoice and must pay the full fee by Monday 16 December 2013, by credit card (Visa or MasterCard) or cheque. Confirmation of your place will be made upon receipt of payment.

Further information, along with application form, will shortly appear on the State Library of Victoria website.

For more information, email rbss[@]slv.vic.gov.au.

19 September 2013

'Wants E8', or Does It?: The Melbourne Copy of the Gesta Romanorum

While working through the University of Melbourne incunabula, I happened upon a rather interesting printing error in one of the library's two fifteenth-century copies (in different editions) of the Gesta Romanorum, a collection of entertaining short stories meant for moral edification.

This particular copy is from an edition by one of the many early printers whom we know not by name, but by a particular work from their press: the Printer of the 1483 'Vitas Patrum' from Strasbourg.[1]

The Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC) attributes twenty-eight works to his press, and records him as an alternate printer for a further six titles. ISTC gives an approximate date of 'about 1484' for the Gesta, though the Gesamtkatalog der Weigendrucke (GW) takes a slightly more cautious approach, offering a date range of between 1483 and 1486.[2]

E8 or No?
A number of penciled notes are present on the front free endpaper. One comment records that the copy 'wants E8' and that this leaf was replaced with a leaf from another book. Upon a cursory examination, this appears to be the case. Turning to where leaf e8 should be, one finds the following:

This leaf, signed k2, is indeed not from the Gesta, but from an edition of Guido de Columna's Historia destructionis Troiae.

After comparing the text with digitised fifteenth-century editions, I found that the Columna leaf matches that of the Historia printed by none other than the Printer of the 1483 'Vitas Patrum', the date given as 'about 1483 ... Also recorded as [about 1485]' in ISTC (the later date provided in GW).[3]

How did leaf k2 of the Historia wind up in the Gesta?

The answer, which changes, not solves, the question, was found on the verso of the leaf:

This text does not correspond to k2v in Columna's Historia, but rather to the text of e8v in the Gesta. Leaf e8, therefore, is not missing at all. Instead, an incorrect text was printed on the other side of the sheet of paper. To confirm my suspicions, I checked the conjugate leaf (e1):



The text on e1r corresponds to the Gesta, while the text on the verso matches k7v in the Historia.

With the conjugate leaves confirmed, the question became not how did a single leaf of the Historia find its way into the Gesta, but how did a sheet of paper come to have text from two different books printed on two different sides, and be published as part of a complete copy?

Unlike ... 'perfected' copies, this sort of confusion is not one that would result from someone making up a copy later from parts of defective copies. It seems certain, therefore, that the error happened in the printing house, and is likely to have been present ever since the book left the warehouse over 500 years ago.

One possible explanation is that the two titles were in print simultaneously and there was a mix-up in the half-printed paper stacks. Perhaps a printer removed the sheet in order to check it and then mistakenly returned it to the wrong stack of paper, or maybe a few sheets were mixed up before the printer realised there was a problem. As the error does not appear in the three digitised copies I used for comparison, the problem was obviously caught and corrected, but not before the Melbourne copy somehow slipped past the corrector.

Instead of a mix-up in the paper stacks, could the sheet in question be in an earlier state?

Shef Rogers, who teaches in the Department of English and Linguistics at the University of Otago suggested:

'You would ... need to check the text of the e sides [in multiple copies] of the later-printed title (if you think the dating of that title as later is correct; if not, you cannot presume an order) to see whether a printer might have simply grabbed a spare sheet of paper (blank on one side, but used on the other and therefore no good for book work, but fine for a proof) and printed the e2/e7 side to proof. Ideally, you'd locate textual variants that might indicate a sense of directionality that would let you determine whether your sheet is the earlier or later state. As a proof sheet, one would expect it to be the earlier state. Of course, there may be no variants, and then the whole hypothesis becomes untestable'.

To resolve the issue would take a census of the surviving copies of the Gesta and Historia in the Printer of the 1483 'Vitas Patrum' editions, to see if the oddly imposed sheet is present elsewhere. It is, however, unlikely that I will be able to take up such a task, so I leave such work (as tempting and appealing as it is) to someone with easier access to other copies and with more knowledge of fifteenth-century printing practices.


[1] A. W. Pollard, in his introduction to the first volume of the BMC, noted the possibility that the texts attributed to the Printer of the 1483 'Vitas Patrum' could have come from the press of another Strasbourg printer, Johann Grüninger. He admitted, however, that 'the evidence for positively assigning them to him is insufficient' (1:xix).

[2] Gesta Romanorum [Strasbourg: Printer of the 1483 'Vitas Patrum', about 1484]; ISTC ig00287000, GW 10892.

[3] Guido de Columna. Historia destructionis Troiae [Strasbourg: Printer of the 1483 'Vitas Patrum', about 1483]; ISTC ic00772000, GW 7229.

06 September 2013

Update: Shakespeare Folios and Senate House Library

[Posted on SHARP-L by Simon Eliot, Professor of the History of the Book at the School of Advanced Study, University of London]

Decision on Shakespeare Folios
The University of London this evening announced that it will not be continuing with its consultation over the potential sale of four Shakespeare Folios. However, the development of its Senate House Library Special Collections remains a priority.

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Adrian Smith, said: “The University has decided to focus its attention on examining alternative ways of investing in the collection. The money raised from any sale would have been used to invest in the future of the Library by acquiring major works and archives of English literature.”

Sir Adrian explained that the decision not to continue with the consultation on the proposed sale had been reached in view of the feedback already received from the academic community.


James Pestell
Director of Marketing and External Relations
University of London
Senate House

04 September 2013

Petition Against Proposed Sale by Senate House Library of Its Four Shakespeare Folios

[Reposted from The Fine Books Blog]

Word circulated on several electronic discussion lists yesterday that London's Senate House Library--the central library of the University of London--plans to sell four Shakespeare Folios at a Bonhams auction this November. The immediate effect of the sale would be to create an endowment in order to attract more readers and push for restoration of government funding lost in 2006.

Professor H.R. Woudhuysen at Lincoln College, Oxford, sent a long letter last week to Christopher Pressler, director of Senate House Libraries, responding to Pressler's request for 'support' in his decision to sell the folios. Woudhuysen, also vice-president of the Bibliographical Society and co-general editor of The Oxford Companion to the Book wrote, "I have come to the conclusion that I am not able to offer the support that you seek and that I am entirely against any such move." He goes on to say, "On the basis of the documents that I have seen, it seems to me that the sale and its implications have not been thought through properly and that the Trustees have already taken a decision to sell the books through Bonhams, making any public consultation merely decorative. The decision will, I hope, attract a great deal of opposition from supporters of Senate House and if executed, it will, I fear, make many who are supporters of the library and possible donors to it turn their charitable interests elsewhere."

Book historians and special collections librarians on the ExLibris and SHARP-L lists (and Twitter) noted that this type of "asset stripping" in collections is hardly new and should be carefully scrutinized. Library-donor relations are a major theme of this conversation, as many wonder how to trust a library that renegotiates the status of a gift fifty and one hundred years on. The folios in question were donated to the university by Sir Louis Sterling in 1956; as a group, the four have been together since the 1830s. The SHL's website calls the Sterling collection, "an unusually integrated resource for research on the transmission of English literary texts from the 14th century to the present day."

While Professor Woudhuysen did receive a "bland reply" from Pressler in response to his letter, the SHL has not issued an official statement on the auction. A request for comment sent to Mr. Pressler yesterday has not yet received a reply. 

Today, The Bibliographical Society joined the debate by starting a petition that urges the SHL to "reconsider the proposed sale of its first four Shakespeare Folios." After signing his support on that page, antiquarian bookseller Laurence Worms commented, "I teach at the London Rare Books School at Senate House. This proposal damages the very basis of all we try to do."

30 August 2013

Library Discovery Sheds Light on Indigenous Australian Languages

[By Nate Pedersen, posted on Fine Books Blog]

'Map of New South Wales as Occupied by Native Tribes'

Serendipity has always played an important role in the lives of book collectors and scholars. One day Dr. Michael Walsh, a linguistics professor at the University of Sydney, was browsing through the stacks at Mitchell Library, Sydney, (part of the State Library of New South Wales) when he randomly pulled down an object that looked like a codex, but was actually a box containing two notebooks. After flipping through several pages of "doodles," Walsh stopped at page seven, intriguingly entitled "A short vocabulary of the natives of Raffles Bay." Walsh soon realized he had stumbled across a guide to a lost language from the aboriginal people settled near the coast in Australia's Northern Territory.

The notebook, written by the Victorian colonist Charles Tyres, was entirely unknown to modern scholars.

Using that find as a launching pad, Walsh instigated a two year research project trolling through 14km worth of colonial manuscripts in search of mention of the lost or endangered indigenous languages of Australia.

The Australian government estimates that 145 aboriginal languages are still spoken around the country today, with a further 110 hovering at the edge of extinction. Walsh's research project has contributed to the knowledge of 100 of these native languages. One of his favorite finds was a 130 page, tri-language dictionary in German, Diyari, and Wangkangurru, the later two being aboriginal languages from the north-east part of the South Australia state. 

The next step of Walsh's research project is to disseminate the findings to the aboriginal people around Australia who still speak these languages, or are culturally descended from the native speakers. The Mitchell Library also hopes to digitize the findings, if granted the appropriate cultural approvals, making them accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.

01 August 2013

'In Her Hand: Letters of Romantic-Era British Women Writers in New Zealand Collections'

[This was a project I was fortunate enough to be involved in before leaving New Zealand. Well done to Tom McLean and Shef Rogers (Department of English, University of Otago) for putting together such a great course based on primary material, and many congratulations to the students, who really took ownership of the assignment.]

Cover design by Elicia Milne and Jon Thom 
In Her Hand: Letters of Romantic-Era British Women Writers in New Zealand Collections
By the Otago Students of Letters
Published by the Department of English, University of Otago, 2013 

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, many female authors challenged societal expectations. Everyone knows about Jane Austen and Mary Shelley, but Austen and Shelley’s contemporaries included leading women novelists, poets, playwrights, essayists, historians and philanthropists. In Her Hand presents more than fifty previously unpublished letters written by eleven of these women: Anna Barbauld, Hannah More, Joanna Baillie, Jane Porter, Lady Morgan, Lucy Aikin, Amelia Opie, Lady Byron, Felicia Hemans, Anna Jameson and Maria Jane Jewsbury. Little known today, most of these women were household names to British readers two hundred years ago. 

But what also makes In Her Hand distinctive is the fact that these letters have been hidden away in public library collections in New Zealand—in Auckland, Wellington, Invercargill, and especially Dunedin. Had they been in US or UK collections, many of these letters would have been published long ago.

Furthermore, the authors of this book are not professional academics but rather eleven University of Otago English honours students who enrolled in the class ENGL404: Writing For Publication. The course was coordinated by Dr Tom McLean, who has published on many of the writers featured in the collection and thus could check the accuracy of students’ work; and Dr Shef Rogers, who edits the journal Script & Print and the New Zealand Colonial Texts series and oversaw the technical and editorial sides of the book’s production.

Over the course of a single semester, students examined the lives and works of their writers, transcribed the letters (often a challenge in itself), and identified important information relating to the letters. When their own research hit a dead end, McLean put the students in contact with expert scholars in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, who generously shared their knowledge of these women writers. Students also shared in the production work: choosing fonts, creating a cover, checking proofs, organizing permissions for images, assembling introductory material and creating an index. As a result, the “Otago Students of Letters” (as they call themselves) have had an amazing opportunity to work with rare, unpublished manuscripts, and to be involved in all aspects of book production.

In Her Hand is the perfect introduction to a group of remarkable and rediscovered British women writers. Each chapter offers a short biography, transcriptions of the new letters and a discussion of their significance. The letters range in theme from publishing and literary endeavours to spiritual and family concerns. Anyone interested in British literature in the era of Austen, Shelley, William Wordsworth and Lord Byron will find these letters fascinating.

In Her Hand is available from the Department of English (order form). Follow this link for a sample of the text.

25 July 2013

600 Years of Italian Books Exhibition, University of Melbourne

The latest exhibition in the Baillieu Library, University of Melbourne, is ‘Libri: Six Centuries of Italian Books from the Baillieu Library’s Special Collections’. The display, on view in the Leigh Scott Gallery, is in connection with Melbourne Rare Book Week, and highlights the university’s recent acquisition of the first edition of Aldus Manutius’s typographical masterpiece, the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (Venice, 1499), which takes centre stage.

Polia and Poliphilo (centre) enter the Garden of Venus (Chap. 24)

Among the fifty-two items on display are: an illuminated fourteenth-century Gradual leaf attributed to a follower of the Perugian artist Matteo di Ser Cambio, early editions of works by Machiavelli, Palladio, Vasari and Leonardo da Vinci, and later texts by such authors as Alessandro Manzoni, Italo Svevo and Primo Levi, and the futurists F. T. Marinetti and Bruno Munari. Case themes cover politics, literature and the arts, travel, humanism and futurism, and Italians living in Australia, such as the Melbourne-based visual artists Bruno Leti and Angela Cavalieri, whose respective works Imago Mundi (2002; with text by Alan Loney) and Inri (2005) are on display.

An Italian-themed exhibition would not be complete without a cookbook, in this case a seventeenth-century edition of the great Renaissance chef Bartolomeo Scappi's Opera dell'arte del cucinare (Venice, 1610)

It would be remiss (negligente is more appropriate) of me to write a post about an exhibition of Italian books and not note that 2013 marks the 500th anniversary of Machiavelli's The Prince and the 700th anniversary of the birth of Giovanni Boccaccio, perhaps best known for his allegorical work The Decameron

Books relating to both authors are on display, such as Frederick the Great's Examen du Prince de Machiavel (The Hague, 1741), an Italian edition of The Prince (Milan, 1928) with a preface by Benito Mussolini, a sixteenth-century edition of Boccaccio's mythography La geneologia de gli dei de gentili (Venice, 1569), in which he attempts to untangle the genealogy of the Greek and Roman pantheons, and J. M. Rigg's translation of The Decameron, published in Sydney by Angus and Robertson in 1941.

The exhibition runs until 15 September, after which the gallery will be closed for redevelopment. Follow this link to view a selection of the exhibits.

01 July 2013

Upcoming Rare Book/ Bibliographical Events in Australia

I'm back with a few announcements. Still settling in and finding my way in Melbourne, but I hope to return to a normal blogging schedule in a few weeks' time. Until then...

The Melbourne Rare Book Week kicks off on 18 July and culminates with the three-day Rare Book Fair (2628 July). Over twenty events and exhibitions are scheduled across the city, from book culture in nineteenth-century Melbourne and private press printing, to six centuries of Italian books and collectors/ collecting. Among the many highlights is a public lecture by Travis McDade, curator of Law Rare Books at the University of Illinois, called 'The Book Theft Century: A Lament', hosted by the Melbourne Law School (McDade's latest book Thieves of Book Row was published last month. Review in the Los Angeles Times).

The 2012 Melbourne Rare Book Fair, Wilson Hall, University of Melbourne
Photo from the ANZAAB Rare Book Fair Facebook page

And if that was not exciting enough, on Sunday, 21 July, renowned scholar Professor Ian Donaldson will conduct a two-hour masterclass on the creation and history of the Shakespeare Folioshosted by the University of Melbourne Faculty of Arts and Baillieu Library. On display will be a copy of the Second Folio (1632), courtesy of the University of Melbourne special collections. The registration fee is $80.00 AUD. Spaces are limited and will surely fill up quickly.

Coming up in November...

The annual conference of the Bibliographical Society of Australia and New Zealand (2022 November). Hosted by the State Library of New South Wales, Sydney, the theme of this year's conference is 'Bibliography in the Digital Age'. Abstracts of 250 words for 20-minute presentations are now being accepted.

State Library of New South Wales
Photo from Wikipedia