European studies blog

125 posts categorized "Printed books"

10 November 2022

The Curious Woodcuts in Hartlieb’s Late-Medieval Adventures of Alexander the Great

There are countless adaptations of the Alexander Romance, a collection of fantastical stories about Alexander the Great originally brought together in Greek, probably in the third century AD. Among the earliest adaptations to appear in print was Hartlieb’s Alexanderbuch. Nine editions of this German translation are known to have appeared from 1473 to 1514 at Augsburg and then Strasbourg. Each is enriched with woodcuts that depict, for example, Alexander’s first encounter with his man-eating horse Bucephalus, his meetings with naked philosophers, and his discussions with talking trees. By comparing the editions, it’s easy to see how the illustrations fall into three distinct categories and to begin to understand something of their development over time.

Johann Hartlieb (c.1410-1468) was a physician who wrote the Alexanderbuch around 1444 for his patron, Duke Albrecht III of Bavaria. His principal source appears to have been the popular Historia de preliis, which in turn was a Latin-language translation of a long lost Greek text made in the 10th century by Leo of Naples. That said, Hartlieb’s text begins with the phrase ‘Hereafter followeth the story of the Great Alexander, which was written by Eusebius’, and Hartlieb’s German adaptation is as a result often indexed under Eusebius of Caesarea in many reference works and catalogues.

Hartlieb’s text circulated in manuscript for three decades until Johann Bämler issued the first printed edition at Augsburg in 1473. His publication is illustrated with nearly 30 woodcuts, many seemingly inspired by the miniatures in a manuscript now at the Pierpont Library in New York (MS M.782). With the exception of the frontispiece portrait (see below), the same woodcuts then appear in three subsequent Augsburg editions (1478, 1480 and 1483) printed by Anton Sorg. Among them is the image of Alexander in a diving bell.

Woodcut showing Alexander in a diving bell

Alexander’s diving bell in the Sorg edition of 1483, IB.5949

The Greek Alexander Romance (Stoneman, Book II, Chapter 38) talks of a descent of 464 feet to the bottom the sea, but here the impression is of a rather cramped-looking Alexander being lowered into a fish pond.

The next group of early editions are all published in Strasbourg. (Unfortunately no copies can be traced of a further Augsburg edition of 1478 reported in the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue). These Strasbourg editions (1488, 1493 and 1503), whether issued by Martin Schott or Bartholomäus Kistler, are curious because they contain broadly the same woodcuts as seen in the Augsburg volumes, but they have been redrawn and printed in reverse.

Woodcut showing Alexander in a diving bell

Alexander’s diving bell in the Schott edition of 1488, IB.1178

The most obvious explanation is that they were created by copying or tracing the illustrations in one of the earlier Augsburg editions.

The last of these early Hartlieb editions also appeared in Strasbourg, but this time from the press of Matthias Hupfuff. Visually, this work is very different, with the text printed in two columns for the first time. The woodcut illustrations are also different, although the subjects are much the same. In the new woodcut of the diving bell, Alexander is still in an impossibly cramped vessel, but there is only one person on the shoreline instead of the usual three.

Woodcut of Alexander’s diving bell in the Hupfuff edition

Alexander’s diving bell in the Hupfuff edition of 1514, C.39.h.14

In common with other illustrations in this 1514 edition, the woodcut appears to have been extended, unsatisfactorily, by the addition of a piece from a different illustration. This opens up the possibility that the woodcuts were not made specifically for this edition, and were in fact being re-used.

Returning to Bämler’s first edition of 1473, several surviving copies contain a curious frontispiece portrait of Alexander with boars’ tusks rising from his lower jaw.

Alexander with boars’ tusks

Alexander with boars’ tusks in the Bämler edition of 1473. © National Library of Scotland

The source for this strange feature may ultimately lie in the Greek Alexander Romance, which tells us that ‘his teeth were as sharp as nails’ (Stoneman, Book I, Chapter 13). In Hartlieb’s German, this has become ‘Sein zen waren garscharpff als eines ebers schwein’ (‘his teeth were as sharp as those of a wild boar’). The portrait has the same features as one seen in a Hartlieb manuscript now at the Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Darmstadt (Hs. 4256), and the two may have had a common model. It is replaced in other editions up to 1503 by a full-length portrait of a seated Alexander without tusks.

The British Library exhibition Alexander the Great: The Making of a Myth covers 2,300 years of storytelling about Alexander, and runs until 19 February 2023. Four editions of Hartlieb’s Alexanderbuch are on display, including a copy generously lent by the National Library of Scotland that shows Alexander with the mysterious boars’ tusks.

Adrian S. Edwards, Head of Printed Heritage Collections

Further Reading

Hellmut Lehmann-Haupt, ‘Book Illustration in Augsburg in the Fifteenth Century’. Metropolitan Museums Studies, 4.1 (1932), 3-17. Ac.4713.b.

Richard Stoneman (editor), Alexander the Great: The Making of a Myth [exhibition catalogue] (London, 2022). Awaiting shelfmark

Richard Stoneman (translator), The Greek Alexander Romance (London, 1991). H.91/1160

14 October 2022

Vicente Salgado: a new acquisition

Brother Vicente Salgado (1732-1802) was a tertiary, that is, a member of the Third Order of St Francis, set up by the saint to allow admission to married people.

Frei Vicente wrote extensively on antiquities and on the history of his order. Innocêncio Francisco da Silva lists six printed works and 18 works in manuscript. With this new acquisition, the BL now boasts four. One of these is his history of his Order, another a history of the Algarve. His knottiest work of erudition was his study (modestly entitled Conjectures) on a medal found at Setúbal.

Medal from, Conjecturas sobre huma medalha de bronze...

Medal from, Conjecturas sobre huma medalha de bronze com caracteres desconhecidos, e com os latinos VETTO, achada no lugar da Trova defronte da villa de Setubal (Lisboa, 1784) 7758.a.22

He dedicates 72 pages to this medal and comes to some minor conclusions. It’s genuine, and VETTO refers to … the ancient tribe of Vettones. (He doesn’t consider the possibility that the ‘unknown characters’ are just squiggles.)

The Franciscans were a preaching order from their earliest days, speaking to the people in their own languages, and this meant they were also devoted to the learning of languages. In England they’re seen as promotors of literature in English (see Fleming). The majority of early publications featuring the indigenous languages of Latin America were the work of Franciscans (see Ortega Sánchez and Kobayashi).

Title page of Vicente Salgado, Origem, e progresso das linguas orientaes na Congregaçao da Terceira Ordem de Portugal

Title page of Vicente Salgado, Origem, e progresso das linguas orientaes na Congregaçao da Terceira Ordem de Portugal (Lisbon, 1790) RB.23.a.39568

This recent acquisition is an account of the Portuguese Franciscans who studied Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Syriac and the languages of Africa and Asia as early as the 15th century. Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Syriac were of course Biblical languages, but Greek and Arabic also had a practical function as linguae francae.

Special topics are the missionaries who worked in the Congo from 1484 to the early seventeenth century (pp. 10-22) and the programme of study inaugurated under King Joseph I in 1759 (pp. 53-73).

Innocêncio rather damns this work with faint praise:

Although the style, method and language of this book, like all the author’s, are far from being models, it is after all of use for the information – hard to find easily elsewhere -- it gives on this interesting branch of our literary history. (Dicionario bibliographico português, VII 441-2)

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance Collections

References/further reading:

Vicente Salgado, Memoria ecclesiasticas do reino do Algarve (Lisbon, 1786) 4625.c.4

Vicente Salgado, Conjecturas sobre huma medalha de bronze com caracteres desconhecidos, e com os Latinos Vetto, achada no lugar da Troya defronte a villa de Setuval (Lisbon, 1784) 7758.a.22

Vicente Salgado, Compendio historico da Congregaçao da Terceira Ordem da Portugal (Lisbon, 1793) 4625.c.3

Delfín Ortega Sánchez, La pedagogía de la evangelización franciscana en el Virreinato de Nueva España (siglo XVI) (Saragossa, 2013) YF.2015.a.9942

José María Kobayashi, La educación como conquista (empresa franciscana en México) (México, 1974)
X.529/20940

Fleming, John V., An introduction to the Franciscan literature of the Middle Ages (Chicago 1977)
X:981/21760

Innocêncio Francisco da Silva, Dicionario bibliographico português (Lisbon, 1858-1972) HLR 011.269

11 August 2022

Graham Nattrass Lecture 2022 - ‘Wittenberg 1522’

Under the auspices of the German Studies Library Group in association with the British Library, the fourth Graham Nattrass lecture, Wittenberg 1522: Print Culture and Soundscape of the German Reformation, will be delivered on Tuesday 20 September 2022 at the British Library by Professor Henrike Lähnemann.

Her lecture will take us back five centuries to September 1522, when the Wittenberg printers had a bestseller on their hands: the German New Testament translated by Martin Luther over the summer. It sold so quickly that in December they produced a second edition.

Title page of Luther's 'Septembertestament'

Title-pages from the editions of Luther’s New Testament translation published in Wittenberg in September (above, C.36.g.7.) and Deccember (below, 1562/285) 1522

Title page of Luther's 'Dezembertestament'

The lecture will contextualise this publication in the print culture and soundscape of its time. A particular focus will be on Reformation pamphlets from 1522 in the British Library and contemporary hymn production to spread the biblical message. The British Library and British Museum Singers will provide practical examples.

Title-page with a woodcut illustration of a monk

Title-page of Martin Luther, Das Huptstuck des ewigen und newen testaments, [(Wittenberg, 1522?]) 3905.c.68., one of the pamphlets that will be discussed in the lecture.

Before the lecture there will be a performance of music in the Library’s main entrance hall by the British Library and British Museum singers, conducted by Peter Hellyer, including pieces by Bach, Brahms, and Mendelssohn.

The timetable for the event is as follows:

17.00: Music in the main entrance hall

17.30: Refreshments served in the Foyle Suite

18.00: Lecture in the Foyle Suite

Graham Nattrass (1940–2012) enjoyed a long and distinguished career at the British Library and its antecedents, starting at the National Central Library at Boston Spa in 1971. He became Head of the British Library’s Germanic Collections in 1996 and retired from the Library in 2005, as Head of West European Collections. He was Chair of the German Studies Library Group from 2003 to 2007, and a founding member of the group, which in 2016 instituted an annual lecture in his memory.

Henrike Lähnemann is Professor of Medieval German Literature and Linguistics at the University of Oxford and Professorial Fellow of St Edmund Hall, Oxford. Her research interests include medieval manuscripts, the relationship of text and images, and how vernacular and Latin literature are connected, currently mainly in late medieval Northern German convents.

Both concert and lecture are free to attend and open to all, but places for the lecture are limited, so if you wish to attend please contact the Chair of the German Studies Library Group, Dorothea Miehe (dorothea.miehe@bl.uk).

05 August 2022

A Bibliographical Mystery Solved

A while ago I was alerted by a colleague to a German item in our collections that appeared to have no catalogue record. It was bound with a list of books censored by the Austrian Empire in the late 18th century, so when I ordered the volume up, I assumed that the uncatalogued item would be something similar, perhaps even a continuation of the previous list.

However, when it arrived, it was obvious that, although only a fragment of a larger work, it was not at all similar, let alone related, to the other work in the volume. It began with a half-title page bearing the title ‘Zusätze, Verbesserungen und Druckfehler’ (‘Additions, improvements and printing errors’), so it was obviously an appendix to a larger work, and from the first two pages of text it was clear that the larger work was a guide to a spa town.

Two pages of text from an unidentified fragment

Opening of the mysterious fragment (818.d.9.(2))

Since the town was not named anywhere in the few pages of text, it might have been impossible to identify the place and therefore the book. However, a long-ago cataloguer had obviously had a better knowledge of spa culture than I did as there was a pencil note reading ‘K Carlsbad’. The letter K was used in the British Museum Library to indicate that an item had been catalogued, and the word after it denoted the heading used for it in the catalogue. So this was presumably a guide to the famous spa at what was then known as Karlsbad (anglicised as Carlsbad), and is today Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic. From the look of the typeface and the style of writing – and based on the date of the other item in the volume – it seemed likely that it dated from the late 18th or early 19th century.

Half-title page with a cataloguer's note

I knew from the pencil note that there had been a catalogue record made for the fragment, so went to the version of the printed catalogue published between 1979 and 1987 (known as BLC) to check it out. Perhaps it had been one of those odd records that had somehow fallen off the radar when the printed records were converted to an online format. But there was no heading in the catalogue for ‘Carlsbad’. There was one for the German spelling ‘Karlsbad’, which was a cross-reference to ‘Karlovy Vary’, but there was nothing there that could conceivably match the item in question.

So I had to go further back in time, to the first general catalogue of the British Museum Library, published in the 1890s and known as GK1. Here there was a heading ‘Carlsbad’ with a number of mainly anonymous works listed, including the item in hand. However, the record didn’t get me much further in identifying the book the fragment came from, describing it simply as ‘a fragment of some work on the mineral waters of Carlsbad’ with a speculative date of 1803.

Catalogue entry for an unidentified fragment

At this point I had two options. I could either create something similar to the GK1 record on our current catalogue, giving approximate details and date, or I could see whether I could find an item that would match our fragment by searching online and create a fuller record. I thought I would try the latter and turned to one of my all-time favourite websites, the Karlsruhe Virtual Catalogue, which can be used to search a wide range of German and other library catalogues. By typing in ‘Carlsbad’ along with other keywords that might conceivably appear in the title of a German travel guide I found various possibilities, and the increasing availability of digitised editions enabled me to check for matches in most cases.

I was on almost my last attempt when I finally found what looked like a match in the collections of the Austrian National Library. Ironically, this copy didn’t have the ‘Zusätze, Verbesserungen und Druckfehler’ to make a direct comparison, but by cross-checking the corrections and additions with the page references from the original given in our fragment I was able to confirm that I had indeed found the right book, and to create a full catalogue record for it with a note explaining that we only hold a small part of the whole.

Engraved title-page of 'Ansicht oder neueste Beschreibung von Carlsbaad wie es jetzt ist'

Engraved title-page of the complete work, from a copy in the Austrian National Library

Although I’m rather proud of myself for having solved this little bibliographical mystery, I doubt anyone will ever know why two such different items ended up bound together. But at least the fragment that we have is now identifiable.

Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Collections

19 July 2022

Reporting Victory

As part of the events programme accompanying our current exhibition, ‘Breaking the News’, curators from the European, Americas and Oceania Collections department took part in an online 'Meet the Curators' event to introduce some stories about news media in the countries they cover. This blog post is based on one of the talks given at that event.

‘Breaking the News’ also means reporting events of historical importance. Battles often are. The Battle of Trafalgar was one of the most famous battles in British naval history, worth reporting internationally. On the 21st of October 1805 the victory of the British fleet, led by Admiral Lord Nelson, contained Napoleon’s ambitions to invade Britain. Lord Nelson was mortally wounded during the battle and the official despatch was written by his second, Admiral Collingwood.

How was this event reported in European news? How long it did it take for the ground-breaking news of the victory to circulate, in an age of slow-travelling information?

Cover of Relazione della battaglia navale seguita ne’ giorni 22 e 23 del passato Ottobre 1805

Cover of Relazione della battaglia navale seguita ne’ giorni 22 e 23 del passato Ottobre 1805 nanti Cadice, tra le squadre combinate Gallo-Ispana e l’Inglese (Genoa and Turin, 1805). Awaiting shelfmark

We have recently acquired a very rare Italian account of the battle, a bifolium published in Italy, by the Frugoni printing-house in Genoa and by Carlo Bocca in Turin, in 1805. It is titled Relazione della battaglia navale seguita ne’ giorni 22 e 23 del passato Ottobre 1805 nanti Cadice, tra le squadre combinate Gallo-Ispana e l’Inglese [...]. Not many other copies of this account are recorded in Italy, and this is the only one in the UK.

Trafalgar 3

Last page of the Relazione with a list of the English ships and the imprint details

The account opens with a description of the composition of the Royal Navy fleet against the combined fleets of the French and Spanish navies, followed by a report of the circumstances in which Lord Nelson lost his life. The description is in accordance with Admiral Collingwood’s despatch from the battle, published in the London Gazette on the 6th of November 1805. This proves that the author of this document read Collingwood’s despatch. Perhaps the news arrived by postal ship from Spain to Genoa and from there it was carried by horse to Turin, where it was translated to Italian and then printed. The only thing we know for sure is that this account was published in the same year 1805, so sometimes between November and December.

The age of the Napoleonic wars was the moment communication started to become global; transmitting information and news from various corners of the empires become essential for the European powers.

Trafalgar 2

I would like to draw your attention on my favourite element of this document, which you can see in the image above. This is an illustration showing, by means of typographic elements, the order of battle of the two sides, and their two successive changes of formation, for a total of three positions. I find this a rather clever use of typography, which visualizes Nelson’s strategy better than prints, or his manuscript memorandum that is held in our collections [https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/admiral-nelsons-trafalgar-memorandum].

Valentina Mirabella, Curator Romance Collections


Further reading
https://blogs.bl.uk/untoldlives/2015/10/trafalgar-and-the-death-of-nelson.html
https://www.qdl.qa/en/london-basra-twenty-two-days

Valentina Mirabella, Curator Romance Collections

23 May 2022

Seminar on Textual Bibliography for Modern Foreign Languages

After a two-year hiatus, we are pleased to announce that the annual Seminar on Textual Bibliography for Modern Foreign Languages will resume on Monday 13 June 2022 in the Bronte Room of the British Library's Knowledge Centre. The programme is as follows: 

11.00 Registration

11.30  CHRISTIAN ALGAR (London)
            The incunabula of J. B. Inglis in the British Library

12.15 Lunch (Own arrangements).

1.30  JOHN DUNKLEY
            Editing Destouches’s Le Philosophe marié (1727)

2.15  JOHN D. MCINALLY (Liverpool)
            Conflicting and Connected Messages in the Margins: (Para)textual Dynamics in Rwandan Testimonies of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

3.00 Tea

3.30  SHANTI GRAHELI (Glasgow)
            Foreign readers of Ariosto’s Orlando furioso between language acquisition and collecting practices, 16th and early 17th century

4.15  LLUÍS AGUSTÍ (Barcelona)
            Spanish Republican Exile Printing in Mexico

The Seminar will end at 5.00 pm.

The Seminar is a free event and all are welcome, but please let the organisers, Barry Taylor and Susan Reed (contact details below), know if you wish to attend. 

Barry Taylor (barry.taylor@bl.uk; tel 020 7412 7576)
Susan Reed (susan.reed@bl.uk; tel 020 7412 7572)

Two men working a printing press

05 May 2022

John Cruso of Norwich: a man of many parts

John Cruso (b. 1592/3) of Norwich, the eldest son of Flemish migrants, was a man of many parts: author, virtuoso networker, successful merchant and hosier, Dutch church elder and militia captain. His literary oeuvre is marked by its polyvocality. He wrote verse in English and Dutch, often sprinkled with Latin and French. He was also a noted military author, publishing five military works, which made a significant contribution to military science before and during the English Civil Wars. These works display Cruso’s knowledge of the canon of classical and Renaissance literature, allowing him to fashion himself as a miles doctus, a learned soldier, and to contribute to military science in Stuart England. Cruso’s great nephew, Timothy, studied with Daniel Defoe at the Dissenters’ Academy in Newington Green, London, and thus inspired the name of Defoe’s great literary creation, Robinson Crusoe.

Cruso’s parents, Jan and Jane, left Flanders in the years after the Iconoclastic Fury and Alva’s Council of Troubles. They arrived in Norwich, which already had a thriving Stranger community and Jan worked as a textile merchant.

The Strangers’ Hall in Norwich

The Strangers’ Hall in Norwich, the merchants’ house of the Flemish Strangers (Image from Wikipedia Commons)

Their eldest son, John, received a classical humanist education at Norwich free grammar school, which he would draw on in his published verse and prose. He became a freeman and took over running the family hosiery and cloth business from his father. In 1622, he published his first verse, a Dutch elegy. This appeared in a collection of Latin and Dutch elegies to the late minister of the London Dutch church, Simeon Ruytinck. It included verses by Constantijn Huygens and Jacob Cats and is arguably the most important Anglo-Dutch literary moment in the seventeenth century. In the late 1620s, Cruso wrote three English elegies, including one sonnet, on the late minister of St. Andrew’s Church, Lawrence Howlett. He was also the subject of an English verse by the Norfolk prelate and poet, Ralph Knevet.

Between 1632 and 1644, Cruso published several military works. In 1632, he published Militarie Instructions for the Cavallrie, which was the first book published in England devoted solely to the cavalry. This was republished in 1644. In 1639 and 1640, Cruso published his English translations of two French military works, one of which was re-published in 1642. In the same year, as the opening shots in the First English Civil War were being fired, he published two military handbooks on the construction of military camps and the order of watches. He also had time, it seems, to publish two Dutch verses, an elegy to Johannes Elison, the late minister of the Dutch church in Norwich and an amplificatio on Psalm 8. His final publication, in 1655, was a collection of 221 Dutch epigrams, printed in quarto by Arnold Bon in Delft.

Title page of John Cruso, Militarie Instructions for the Cavallrie

John Cruso, Militarie Instructions for the Cavallrie (Cambridge, 1632) 717.m.18

Title page of John Cruso, Castrametation

John Cruso, Castrametation, or the Measuring out of the quarters for the encamping of an army (London, 1642) 1398.b.7.

Most of Cruso’s works are in the British Library. A copy of the epigram collection, EPIGRAMMATA Ofte Winter-Avondts Tyt-korting (‘Epigrams or Pastimes for a Winter’s Evening’), shelfmark 11555.e.42.(4.), is the only known copy of this work.

Title page of I. C., Epigrammata, ofte Winter Avondts Tyt-korting

Title page of I. C., Epigrammata, ofte Winter Avondts Tyt-korting (Delft, 1655) 11555.e.442 (4).

On the title page, Cruso uses his initials, I.C. In this copy someone has made C into O with a pen. Beneath the title are two lines from the Roman epigrammatist, Martial, which hint at the scabrous nature of some of the verses: ‘Non intret Cato theatrum meum: aut si intraverit, spectet’ (‘Do not let Cato enter my theatre: or if he does enter, let him look’), and ‘Innocuos permitte sales: cur ludere nobis non liceat?’ (‘Allow harmless jests: why should we not be allowed to joke?’). Many of Cruso’s Dutch epigrams are like Latin epigrams written by Sir Thomas More, and Cruso may have been inspired by some of these. One example is Epigram 94:

In Nasutissimum
Vergeefs ghy voor u Huys een Sonne-wijser stelt;
Want gaapt maar, en men stracx aan uwe Tanden telt
De Uyren van den Dach. De Son dat wijst gewis
End uwen langen Neus den besten Gnomon is.

(On someone with an extremely large nose.
In vain, you place a sundial in front of your house;
For just open your mouth and people will be able to
Count the hours of the day by your teeth. And the sun shows
That for sure your long nose is the best style (gnomon) for the sundial.)

We know little about the reception of this collection, but the fact that the British Library has the only extant copy is one example of the importance of the Library to modern scholarship.

Christopher Joby, Adam Mickiewicz University

Christopher Joby is Professor in Dutch Studies at Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland, and Visiting Scholar at the Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan. His research focusses on the intersection of the Dutch language and culture and other languages and cultures in a historical context. His latest book is John Cruso of Norwich and Anglo-Dutch literary identity in the seventeenth century (Cambridge: D S Brewer, 2022) DRT ELD.DS.659151 (non-print legal deposit)

23 March 2022

The Man who Discovered his Homeland; or, a Polymath without Publications

Title page of Martín Sarmiento, Disertacion sobre las virtudes maravillosas...

Martín Sarmiento, Disertacion sobre las virtudes maravillosas y uso de la planta llamada carqueyxa, conocida en Galicia por este nombre, y en otras provincias de [sic] reyno por una voz análoga á la misma pronunciacion, Escrita por … en el año de 1749, y reimpresa y aumentada por D. Josef Felix Maceda (Segovia: Antonio Espinosa, 1787). RB.23.a.39569

There’s a lot to unpack about this small recent acquisition: ‘Martín Sarmiento’, ‘carqueyxa’, ‘Galicia’.

Carqueyxa is in English common broom (genista tridentata), used in folk medicine and modern homeopathy as a medicine. As Sarmiento explains, taken as a syrup it purifies the blood; in a bath it eases rheumatism. He describes cases of patients in the region of Segovia who had read a previous edition of his work (he calls it a pamphlet, pliego) and used broom with success. (One thinks of the ‘unsolicited testimonials’ which purveyors of medicines boasted in the 20th century.) Don Miguel Dovalin (his name suggests he was a Galician) was forbidden chocolate owing to stomach problems. After drinking broom tea, he was able to eat chocolate freely. (I sense a business opportunity). And many more…

Drawing of English common broom (genista tridentata)

Drawing of common broom (genista tridentata) in Adam Lonicer, Kreuterbůch (Frankfurt am Main, 1564). 447.i.6.

But Sarmiento was no snake-oil merchant: his book is scientific and non-commercial.

Galicia in North-Western Spain was the author’s homeland and it came to loom large in his Weltanschauung. He was actually born in Leon in 1695, as Pedro Joseph García Balboa. Educated in Galicia, in 1710 he moved to Madrid and entered the Benedictine order, where he became a friend of Feijoo: Martin was the patron saint of his monastery and Sarmiento his mother’s family. (I do wonder if the name of ‘vine shoot’ was attractive to him because of his interest in the soil.)

He fulfilled the duties of a man of God which he combined with a life of erudition, discovering manuscripts, botanising and, from 1745 on – already in his fifties --, travelling in his homeland, where he studied its language, archeology and natural history. It was a turning-point: he realised ‘he knew more about China than his own land’.

Portrait of Sarmiento

Portrait of Sarmiento by Francisco Muntaner. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Like other scholars of the time, he published very little in print (his only publication in his lifetime was his defence of Feijoo, the Demostración crítico-apologética del Theatro Crítico Universal) but a lot in manuscript. He counted 10,400 pages of manuscript in 1767. Men of erudition gathered in his cell on Sunday mornings. He wrote reports to government on cultural projects such as a new royal library and the decoration of the royal palace. And the foundation of the Botanical Gardens of Madrid. Like Feijoo he was up to date with the latest European journals. He died in 1772.

Galician now has co-officiality with Castilian in Galicia. The language of the Spanish troubadours (and not just those born in Galicia), in Sarmiento’s time its glory days were well past and it had to wait for the 19th-century Rexurdimento. Sarmiento was an enthusiastic writer on the language and its etymologies (note the -ei- in carqueyxa) but he had no option but to write up his research in Castilian. But in Galician verse he did write one thing, the Coloquio de 24 gallegos rústicos, which he modestly described as an exercise to ‘bring together many Galician words and write them with their true orthography’.

Like the ethnobotanists of today, early botanists learned much of their subject conversing with peasants, and when writing his broom book Sarmiento had the pleasure of combining language and lore.

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance collections 

References 

Ramón Mariño Paz, ‘Unha biobibliografía do padre Martín Sarmiento (1695-1772)’, in A lingua galega, historia e actualidade. Actas do I Congreso Internacional (Santiago de Compostela: Consello da Cultura Galega / Instituto da Lingua Galega, 2004), pp. 385-99.

17 February 2022

In Defence of Armchair Travellers

Stand up for bookworms. Sir Christopher Wren never went to Italy. But he did have a library.

When you see a gleaming white Wren building against a bright blue London sky, it’s easy to think that Sir Chris. was evoking his experience of a sun-drenched Rome. This is why I was surprised to learn from Campbell (p. 124) that he never went to Italy. He did visit Paris and Holland. The nearest he got to Rome was meeting Bernini in Paris.

Portrait of Sir Christopher Wren

Portrait of Sir Christopher Wren, 1713. John Smith after Sir Godfrey Kneller. Source: Wikimedia Commons

D. J. Watkin, introducing the sales catalogue of Wren’s books (1748), commented:

It is one of the wonders of architectural history that Wren could have conceived a classic architecture so huge and assured without ever having seen at first hand any of the monuments of ancient or modern Rome.

His library did however include ‘copies of Arberti, Serlio, Vitruvius, d’Alvier, Bellori, de Rossi, Desgogetz, Boissard and Bosio, as well as three editions of Palladio’.

Some Englishmen did of course go to Italy, and a number of them doubtless were absolute wastrels, but others fed their minds. A case in point is John Evelyn, who was in Italy in the 1640s, studied medicine in Padua and attended sermons and observed buildings and antiquities in Rome.

Wren’s books are in Cambridge, but a good number of Evelyn’s are in the British Library. Among them are:

Giulio Cesare Capaccio, La vera antichità di Pozzuolo (Rome, 1652) Eve.a.21

Johannes Baptista Casalius, De profanis et sacris veteribus ritibus (Rome, 1644-45) Eve.a.134
(which includes illustrations of antiquities)

François Perrier, Icones et segmenta illustrium e marmore tabularum quae Romae adhuc exstant (Paris, 1645 [1650?]) Ece.c.26

Antonio Zantani, Primorum xii Caesarum verissimae imagines ex antuquis numismatibus desumptae (Rome, 1614) Eve.a.108

There’s a lot to be said for experience, but even more for the assiduous conning of a good library.

Page from Giulio Cesare Capaccio, La vera antichità di Pozzuolo (Rome, 1652) Eve.a.21

Page from Giulio Cesare Capaccio, La vera antichità di Pozzuolo (Rome, 1652) Eve.a.21

Page from Giulio Cesare Capaccio, La vera antichità di Pozzuolo (Rome, 1652) Eve.a.21

Page from Giulio Cesare Capaccio, La vera antichità di Pozzuolo (Rome, 1652) Eve.a.21

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance Collections

References and additional reading:

James W. P. Campbell, Building St Paul’s (London, 2007) YK.2009.a.8760

Gordon Craig, ‘John Evelyn and the theatre in England, France and Italy. Dedicated to the memory of Charles Stuart II’, The Mask. An illustrated journal of the art of the theatre, X;3 (July 1924), 97-115; X:4 (Oct. 1924), 143-60

Michael Hunter, ‘The British Library and the Library of John Evelyn, with a Checklist of Evelyn Books in the British Library’s Holdings’, in John Evelyn in the British Library (London, 1995), pp. 82–102. 2719.e.3064

John L. Lievsay, The Englishman’s Italian Books 1550-1700 (Philadelphia, 1969) YA.2002.a.8788

Giles Mandelbrote, ‘John Evelyn and His Books’, in John Evelyn and His Milieu, ed. Frances Harris and Michael Hunter (London, 2003), pp. 71-94. YC.2004.a.315

D. J. Watkin, Sale catalogues of libraries of eminent persons, IV, Architects (London, 1972) W77/0506

04 February 2022

A Dutch Poet on ‘Tortured Majesties’:  Reactions to the Executions of Mary Stuart and Charles Stuart.

Our current exhibition ‘Elizabeth and Mary: Royal Cousins, Rival Queens’, gives a thrilling and moving insight into the relationship between two women who were relatives as well as queens, through letters, books, paintings and objects. Many of the letters on display reveal their feelings towards each other and the political shenanigans around them and, it must be said, by them. There are letters written in code, with the key alongside and in one instance a screen that shows you how to decipher these codes. Fascinating stuff.

The exhibition ends with a moving display of the last letter Mary wrote, in French, in which she laments her fate. She would die on the scaffold the following day: 8 February 1587.

Ten months later, in the city of Cologne, a baby boy was born who would become the greatest Dutch playwright and poet of the Dutch Golden Age: Joost van den Vondel.  (The Vondelpark in Amsterdam is named after him).

Portrait of Joost van Vondel

Portrait of Joost van den Vondel by Philip de Koninck, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. Public Domain

Joost was born into a family of Mennonites, or Anabaptists. At one point the city expelled all those belonging to these religious movements, including the Vondels. They eventually settled in Amsterdam where Vondel lived and worked for the rest of his long life. He converted to Catholicism and became a staunch defender of that faith. He satirised Protestantism, and was especially harsh on his old faith, Anabaptism, as we shall see.

Vondel was a prolific playwright and poet, who didn’t mince his words when it came to commenting on political events in the Dutch Republic and abroad, although he did not always do so openly.

Take for instance an anonymous play, published in Cologne in 1646, entitled: Maria Stuart: of Gemartelde Majesteit (‘Mary Stuart: or Tortured Majesty’). It is suspected that the imprint is false and that the work was actually published in Amsterdam, but we can’t be sure. However, the disguise is pretty transparent. The style and the tone of the text make it pretty clear who the author is. Vondel may well have thought it prudent not to put his name on it, considering events in England at the time. The Dutch government was not exactly against the Parliamentarian cause in the English Civil War, but they did not support it wholeheartedly either. Why would Vondel write a play about Mary Stuart who died after 19 years of imprisonment by the English, if not to make a point about her grandson Charles I who had just been defeated in the First English Civil War? That to me sounds like too much of a coincidence.

JvdV MariaStuart

Title page of Maria Stuart, of Gemartelde Majesteit. (Cologne, 1646), 11755.e.60.(13.)

Other editions were published in 1661, one of which we also hold (1478.aa.13.(7.))

The subtitle  ‘tortured majesty’ gives you a clue whose side the author is on. In summary, Vondel praises Mary to high heaven and excoriates Elizabeth for her treachery and cruelty. He sees the conflict between Elizabeth and Mary as a religious issue, rather than a political one, so as a catholic he is firmly on Mary’s side. To hammer the point home he adds a number of poems to the play. In the first poem he lets Mary herself speak about her plight. (I must say I prefer her real own words, mentioned above). Vondel then introduces ‘an eyewitness’, none other than the historian of Elizabeth’s reign, William Camden, a protestant (!). If Vondel tried to use a protestant historian to present an ‘unbiased’ viewpoint he failed, because Camden, writing in the reign of Mary’s son James I, appears to lament Mary’s fate just as strongly as the catholic Vondel does in his play. Maybe he tried to make it look as if everyone, catholic and protestant were appalled by the execution of Mary.

Vondel concludes with a ‘Complaint about the Rebels in Great Britain’. In this last poem he tears into the Puritans, blaming them alone for causing the Civil War, and for beheading the Earl of Strafford.

The play was more or less boycotted by theatres at the time, because of its catholic stance, but it was revived in a performance by Theatre group Kwast in 2015.  This group specialises in Dutch 17th-Century plays which they rehearse in one day and perform in the evening; text in hand.

In the year 1649 another ‘anonymous’ work appeared about the execution of Charles I, with the same subtitle as ‘Maria Stuart’ and initials instead of an author: I.v.V. ‘Bloedsmet’ (‘Bloodsmear’) for author. Well, who could that possibly be, I wonder?

Title page of Karel Stvarts, of gemartelde Maiesteyt

Title page of Karel Stvarts, of gemartelde Maiesteyt: in Whithal den 10 van Sprokkel, des Jaers 1649 (S.l. , 1649). 11556.dd.27.

The title translates as: ‘Charles Stuart, Tortured Majesty, in Whitehall the 10th of February, in the year 1649’. (‘Sprokkel’ means ‘gathering of firewood’, which was the commonly-used name for February.) It uses the old Gregorian calendar which converts in the Julian calendar to the 30th of January.  The imprint reads: ‘Printed in the Murder-Year of the King of England, 1649’.

In the poem Vondel introduces Henrietta Maria, Charles’ wife. She dreams that straight after the execution Charles’ head springs back onto his shoulders and he rises up again, like a phoenix,  to slay his enemies (the Parliamentary General Thomas Fairfax is mentioned). And then she wakes up to reality.

In the second poem Vondel is all despair. Charles’ ghost cones to him in a dream and asks how it was possible that London dared to ‘prune his thistle’. Was Strafford’s death not enough to quell the bloodlust of the King’s enemies?  But then he composes himself and says that the blow of the axe sounded like thunder and rocked France, Denmark, Spain and Holland, who will all surely come to the rescue. They will stock London Bridge full of heads and thus the land will be cleared from the ‘pestilence’. Then the Son (i.e. Charles II) will return for his bloody revenge.

The work concludes with a scathing attack on the regicides. Vondel lashes out at the Puritans: He asks indignantly: ‘Is this the pure religion? Is this ‘independence’? No!, this is a Rubicon!’ Again he attacks the Anabaptists by comparing the regicide Major General Thomas Harrison  to Jan van Leyden, one of the leaders of the Anabaptists who briefly established an Anabaptist theocracy in the city of Munster in 1536. He calls ‘Master Peters’ (Hugh Peters, a Puritan preacher) the ‘Ape of Knipperdolling’ (i.e. Bernhard Knipperdolling, a partner of Jan van Leyden).

 Last page of Karel Stuarts, of Gemartelde Majesteyt

 Last page of Karel Stuarts, of Gemartelde Majesteyt.

Vondel penned a third ‘anonymous’ pamphlet against the regicide: Testament om Fairfax vtersten Crom Will recht te maecken.  In it he aims his arrows at Cromwell and  Fairfax as leaders in the rebellion, with a pun on Cromwell’s name. ‘Crom Will’ means ‘crooked will’, so then the title becomes:  ‘Fairfax’s Testament to make right a Last Crooked Will.’ It was signed: ‘The Devil Take the Rogues’.

Text of Testament om Fairfax vtersten Crom Will recht te maecken

Testament om Fairfax vtersten Crom Will recht te maecken. ([The Hague?, 1649?]) 8122.ee.3

Vondel was well informed about events in Britain. He must have read the many newspapers and pamphlets on these events, published in the Netherlands, some written in Dutch, some translated from English, many kept in our collections.

But that’s for another time.

Marja Kingma, Curator Dutch Language Collections

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