European studies blog

57 posts categorized "Rare books"

13 June 2019

‘The Father of German Calligraphy’: Johann Neudörffer

In an earlier post I wrote about the use and long survival of ‘gothic’ typefaces and handwriting in the German-Speaking countries. It was surely no coincidence that, at the time when the printing press and the influence of humanist thought and teaching were beginning to popularise ‘Roman’ printing and writing styles, the first printed writing manuals for German scripts also began to appear.

One of the first and most influential creators of such manuals was the Nuremberg writing and mathematics teacher Johann Neudörffer (1497-1563), who published his first collection of alphabets, designed for his own students and usually referred to as the Fundament, in 1519 (1267.g.24.(3)). His major work, Ein gute Ordnung und kurtze Unterricht der furnemsten Grunde aus denen die Jungen zierlichs schreybens begirlich, mit besonderer Kunst und Behendigkeyt unterricht und geubt mögen werden, appeared 19 years later.

Title-page  of Johann Neudörffer, Ein gute Ordnung und kurtze Unterricht 
Title-page  of Johann Neudörffer, Ein gute Ordnung und kurtze Unterricht (Nuremberg, 1538).  C.69.aa.18.

The Gute Ordnung contains not just alphabets and examples of how to form and join letters, but also models for the kinds of  documents his students would need to prepare in their later careers as court or civic scribes.

Practical guidance on points and lines from Ein gute Ordnung
Practical guidance on points and lines from Ein gute Ordnung

An alphabet in capitals from Ein gute Ordnung
An alphabet in capitals from Ein gute Ordnung

There are also models of scripts using prayers, Biblical quotations and educational maxims. Most are in German hands, although there are some samples of Roman and italic lettering. There are large and elaborate capitals, and texts in script almost too tiny to read, practical scripts for everyday work and decorative ones for special occasions.

An inscription in outline script
An outline script from Ein gute Ordnung

Decorative flourishes
Decorative flourishes from Ein gute Ordnung

Perhaps the most complex model is a prayer presented as a labyrinth pattern.

A prayer written out in a labyrinth pattern

Because of the method of reproduction used, many of the plates also appear in reverse, which were often bound in with the others. This, together with the fact that Neudörffer produced more plates in later years which were bound into some copies, makes the work a bit of a bibliographical challenge.

A page with a handwriting sample
A page (above) and its reverse (below) from Ein gute Ordnung

A page with a handwriting sample reproduced in mirror image

The British Library holds two copies, one (C.69.aa.18.) with 103 leaves of which 46 are accompanied by the reverse, and one (1256.kk.31.) with 101 leaves of which 45 are accompanied by the reverse and one appears in reverse only. Both copies show evidence of being owned by contemporary scribes. The first copy has an ownership inscription by a Hanns Lebzelter dated 1549, and the second has 18 manuscript leaves bound in, one of them signed by Veit Stoss (1533-1576) a grandson and namesake of the sculptor.

Ownership inscription 'Hannes Lebzelters Kunstbuch Anno 1549
Ownership evidence: Hanns Lebzelter (above, C.69.aa.18) and Veit Stoss (below, 1256.kk.31.)

Handwritten text and ownership inscription by Veit Stoss, 1550

The 1519 Fundament and Ein gute Ordnung are copy-books with little or no explanatory text, but in 1549 Neudörffer published what was more of a descriptive textbook. Ein Gesprechbüchlein zweyer schüler, wie einer den andern im zierlichen schreyben untherweyst takes the familiar pedagogical form of a dialogue between instructor and learner, although rather than the more familiar model of a teacher or parent in the role of instructor, Neudörffer’s dialogue is between fellow students of a similar age. Stephan is keen to improve his calligraphy skills with the help of the more experienced Johann (based on Neudörffer’s own son). “I’m ashamed to let you see my handwriting,” Stephan explains at the start of the first lesson, but Johann reassures him, “It isn’t so very bad, at least one can read it,” and goes on to explain how to cut and hold a quill, how to make basic lines, points and letter-shapes, how to form and join up letters and so on.

A diagram of a perfectly-cut quill pen
Above: A perfectly cut quill pen, from Ein Gesprechbüchlein zweyer schüler (Nuremberg, 1549) 1267.g.24.(1).  Below: Guidance on how to hold a pen, from a 1601 reissue of the work under the title Schreibkunst (Nuremberg, 1601) 1477.dd.52.(1)

Diagrams and an explanation of how to hold a quill pen

Under the title Schreibkunst, Neudörffer’s grandson Anton reissued the Gesprechbüchlein in 1601 with an additional collection of letters and alphabets, some of them so elaborate that it becomes almost impossible to decipher the basic letter-forms beneath the flourishes.

Decorative letters A-L
Decorative letters A-L (above) and R-S (below) from  Schreibkunst

Heavily decorated letters R and S

Neudörffer helped to shape the style of both German handwriting and German printing types in the 16th century, and thus to influence German writing and printing styles for four centuries. Today he is recognised as the father of German calligraphy, and has inspired modern designers of gothic typefaces who have given his name to their fonts.

Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Collections

References/further reading:

Oliver Linke, Christine Sauer, Zierlich schreiben: der Schreibmeister Johann Neudörffer d. Ä. und seine Nachfolger in Nürnberg (Nuremberg, 2007) YF.2011.a.17762

Werner Doede, Bibliographie deutscher Schreibmeisterbücher von Neudoörffer bis 1800 (Hamburg, 1958) 2739.c.6.

08 May 2019

A Spanish pioneer of deaf education and his early English readers

For Deaf Awareness Week we recall the groundbreaking work of Juan Pablo Bonet (dates unknown) and his Reducción de las letras y arte para enseñar a ablar los mudos [‘Simplification of letters and art of teaching the dumb to speak’].

Title-page of Bonet’s Reducción de las letras
Title-page of Bonet’s Reducción de las letras … (Madrid, 1620) 71.a.18.

The engraved title page by Diego de Astor shows the mottoes: ‘Sic natura vincula solvit artis’ and ‘Ita ars naturae vincula solvit’ (‘As Nature loosens the chains of Art [we might say, ‘invention’] so Art loosens the chains of Nature] and an emblem of a hand of art picking the lock which nature has placed on the tongue of a dumb man. In another emblem a mother bird (nature) has undone the grille which ‘art’ had put over the entrance to her nest.

Bonet’s method was first to teach the written letters; then teach the hand signs for the letters; then teach the pronunciation of the letters. Bonet comments that the pupil learns to lip-read by himself and the teacher must not take credit for this.

Bonet was of the first teachers to devise and record in print a sign alphabet, and his system has had some influence on modern sign languages. However, he was also typical of his age in believing that signing was only a step towards an ideal of oralism rather than a valid form of communication in itself.

Sign for the letter A in Bonet's alphabet Signs for the letters B,C and D in Bonet's alphabet
The first four letters of Bonet’s sign alphabet, from Reducción de las letras…

There was only one edition of the Reducción in its time and bibliographically speaking it’s striking to me that various English-speakers are known to have owned copies of this first and only edition.

In the British Library we have three copies:

One (71.a.18) is from the King’s Library and therefore can’t be traced back before George III (1738-1820).

Another (556.b.20.(1.) probably belonged to Sir Hans Sloane (see the Sloane Database), and a third (1043.l.5.) to Sir Paul Methuen (c. 1672-1757).

Samuel Pepys had a copy (now in Cambridge, 1396(2)) (Gaselee 16; Knighton p. 136).

And not far away from the BL, in Gordon Square, Dr Williams’s Library has had a copy since 1727 (1038.H.11; Catalogus 1727, p. 46). I maintain that this copy belonged to Dr William Bates (1625-99), owner of 97 Spanish books. He was a contemporary of Pepys but they don’t seem to have known each other.

Bates didn’t write his name in this copy, but he did sign a similar work in English, John Bulwer’s Philocophus: or, The Deafe and Dumbe Mans Friend, Exhibiting the Philosophicall verity of that subtile art, which may inable one with an observant eie, to heare what any man speaks by the moving of the lips ...(London, 1648) [Dr William’s Library 1064.R.13]

Title-page of John Bulwer’s 'Philocophus'
Engraved title-page from the BL copy of Bulwer’s Philocophus  1041.c.23

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance collections

References/Further reading

Stephen Gaselee, The Spanish Books in the Library of Samuel Pepys (Supplement to the Bibliographical Society’s Transactions ; no. 2 ) ([London], 1921). Ac.9670.bba.

Catalogue of the Pepys Library, Supplementary series, I, Census of Printed Books, ed. C. S. Knighton (Cambridge, 2004) YC.2005.b.109

Simplification of the Letters of the Alphabet and Method of teaching Deaf-Mutes to speak ... Translated from the original Spanish by H. N. Dixon ... with a historical introduction by A. Farrar. ([Harrogate], 1890).

Bibliothecae quam vir doctus, & admodum Reverendus, Daniel Williams, S.T.P. Bono publico legavit, catalogus (London, 1727). 125.d.8.

Barry Taylor, ‘Los libros españoles del Dr. William Bates (1625-1699) en la Dr. Williams’s Library de Londres’, in El libro español en Londres: la visión de España en Inglaterra (siglos XVI al XIX), ed. Nicolás Bas and Barry Taylor (Valencia, 2016), pp. 13-60. YF.2017.a.19281

23 April 2019

English Recusants in Portugal, 1638

A recent acquisition recalls the dark times of the religious conflicts of the 17th century.

Title page of Thomás Aranha, 'Sermão que pregou o Muito Reverendo...'

 Thomás Aranha, Sermão que pregou o Muito Reverendo Padre Presentado Frey Thomas Aranha da Ordem dos Prégadores, Lente de Theologia no Real Collegio de S. Thomas de Coimbra, na festa, que celebrou ao glorioso martyr S. Iorge seu padroeiro a nobilissima naçaõ inglesa em S. Domingos de Lisboa no anno de 638 (Lisbon, [1638]). RB.23.a.38272

This sermon was preached at Lisbon on St George’s Day in 1638 to the community of English Catholic recusant exiles, “these gentlemen who have lived among us for so many years, and every year celebrate their patron saint” (fol. 12v). As a gesture of Anglo-Portuguese solidarity, he points out that in battle the Portuguese, like the English, used to invoke St George, unlike the Spaniards who called on St James (fol. 11v).

St George was of obvious appeal to the English. Of obvious relevance too was his status as a martyr at a time when Catholics were being martyred in England. Aranha says explicitly that England had once been as industrious and courageous in its faith, as those who still profess their Catholicism today (fols 11-12). Indeed, the English recusants in Portugal have made such sacrifices in being cut off from friends and family that they too may be called martyrs (fol. 13r). (This may not be as exaggerated as it sounds: a martyr is one who bears witness to his or her faith, not necessarily unto death.)

Eight of Fr Thomás’s sermons are recorded in the Tipografia portuguesa do século XVII: Letras A e B, pp. 130-32

Like many a preacher, he was also a poet. We have his poems on the occasion of the coronation of John IV.

Title page of 'Poesias Compostas...'

Poesias compostas na Universidade de Coimbra na occasiaõ da felicissima, & milagrosa acclamaçaõ, & coroaçåo d'el Rei nosso Senhor Dom Ioaõ o quarto de Portugal, que se não ofereceraõ no Certamen Poetico, que na dita Vniveridade ouve nem andão no livro dos seus aplausos. (Lisbon, 1645). 1560/808.(1.) 

King John won back Portuguese independence from the ‘Philippine Domination’ by Philips II-IV of Spain from 1580 to 1640. Aranha is not named in the book, but Innocêncio Francisco da Silva in his dictionary of Portuguese biography gives him authorship.

His book of 1645 is a belated supplement to the poetic celebrations dedicated by the University of Coimbra to the new king:

Page from 'Invictissimo Regi Lusitaniæ Joanni. IV...' Invictissimo Regi Lusitaniæ Joanni. IV. Academia Conimbricensis libellum dicat in felicissima sua aclamatione .. (Coimbra, 1641). Cup.408.ww.8

Thus like many a Baroque author Fr Thomás wrote for the moment.

An indication of this little book’s rarity is that A. F. Allison and D. M. Rogers didn’t include it in their classic bibliography, The contemporary printed literature of the English Counter-Reformation between 1558 and 1640 : an annotated catalogue, Vol. 1, Works in languages other than English; with the collaboration of W. Lottes (Aldershot, 1989). RAR 230.242

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance Collections


Tipografia portuguesa do século XVII: Letras A e B (Lisbon, 1999), RAR 094.209469 LI.

Innocêncio Francisco da Silva, Diccionario bibliographico portuguez, VII (Lisbon, 1872). HLR 011.269


23 November 2018

Hold the entire Bible in your head!

There have been schemes stretching back to Antiquity for making it easier to retain information in our heads. Many memory practitioners recommended word-image association: conjure up an architectural edifice in your mind and place a nugget of knowledge in each niche.

This memory book, however, is entirely verbal.

Martin del Río, Ars biblica, sive herma memorialis sacra, in qua metricè S. Paginæ libri, capita, eorumque medulla memoriae facillimè commendantur ... (Ecija, 1778) RB.23.a 38345


This pocket-sized book, recently acquired, enables the reader (presumably a preacher like the author) to memorise the chapters of the Latin Vulgate Bible using one word (or its abbreviation) to summarise each chapter.

For example, the Epistle to the Ephesians (p. 110).

Ch 1 is summarised by “Christum ad dexteram in coelestibus constituens”, which is part of verse 20 “quam operatus est in Christo, suscitans illum a mortuis, et constituens ad dexteram suam in cælestibus” [Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places].
This is boiled down to “Constituens”.

Ch 2 is summarised by “Estis sanctorum cives”, which is part of verse 19” Ergo jam non estis hospites, et advenæ: sed estis cives sanctorum, et domestici Dei” [Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God].
This is boiled down to “Cives”.

Ch 3 is summarised by “genua mea patrem flecto” which is part of verse 14 “Hujus rei gratia flecto genua mea ad Patrem Domini nostri Jesu Christi” [For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ]
This is boiled down to “Flecto”.

Ch 4 is summarised by “dona hominibus Dedit” which is part of verse 8 “Propter quod dicit: Ascendens in altum, captivam duxit captivitatem: dedit dona hominibus” [Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men]
This is boiled down to “Dedit”.

Ch 5 is summarised by “ecclesiae Christus est caput” which is part of verse 23 “quoniam vir caput est mulieris, sicut Christus caput est Ecclesiæ” [For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body]
This is boiled down to “Est caput”.

Ch 6 is summarised by “tenebrarum rectores harum” which is part of verse 12 “quoniam non est nobis colluctatio adversus carnem et sanguinem, sed adversus principes, et potestates, adversus mundi rectores tenebrarum harum, contra spiritualia nequitiæ, in cælestibus” [For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places]
This is boiled down to “Harum”.

Put them together and they make an “easily” (he says “most easily”, facillime) memorised hexameter line: “constituens cives flecto dedit est caput harum”.

At least that’s the theory.

Ars Biblica pp110-111 Fr Martín’s summary of the Epistle to the Ephesians, Ars Biblica [pp. 110-111]

Fr Martín gives a chronological survey of earlier publications: Bonaventura in 1270, Petrus Rosenbeimensis [von Rosenheim] in 1450, Matthias Martinius, and “In our century” Leander a S Martino in 1628, et al.

“Alas! No-one cites the first inventor, Alexander de Villadei (of our Order OFM)”, author ca 1240 of some leonine verses, beginning “Sex, prohibet, peccant, Abel, Enoch, et arca fit, intrant.” According to Fr Martín, he was copied word for word by Leander a S Martino, who suppressed Alexander’s name and passed the work off as his own. Our old General Catalogue of Printed Books identifies this rotter: “LEANDER, de Sancto Martino [i.e. John Jones]”.

“Alas how many today wish to becloud the names of their predecessors! I freely admit my debt to others: Render under Caesar, etc.”

He has cleaned up the text of Alexander, bringing it into line with the Tridentine Vulgate of Pope Clement VIII (1592).

This is the second edition, the first having been printed in Mexico in 1675.
This sort of memory verse survives almost into our own day: the more elderly among you might remember the Kings and Queens of England in doggerel:

Willy, Willy, Harry, Ste,
Harry, Dick, John, Harry three,
One, two, three Neds, Richard two,
Henries four, five, six – then who?
Edwards four, five, Dick the bad,
Harries twain and Ned the lad,
Mary, Bessie, James the vain,
Charlie, Charlie, James again …

Fr Martín’s book takes us back to a time when the Bible was a vital concern, and when education was synonymous with a knowledge of Latin.

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance Collections

Further reading

Frances A. Yates, The art of memory (London, 1966) X.529/6232.

Mary J. Carruthers, The book of memory (Cambridge, 1990) YC.1990.b.7100

Juan Velázquez de Acevedo, Fénix de Minerva, o arte de memoria, ed. Fernando Rodríguez de la Flor (Valencia, 2002) YF.2016.a.22418

20 November 2018

The case of the two Simon Kaufmanns

Kaufmanns BindingUpper cover and spine of Arthur Machen The Heptameron ([privately printed] 1886). C.188.a.398.

Bookbinders, like artists, sometimes signed their work. This usually (but not always) makes life easier for the researcher. The newly acquired and stunning binding pictured above is signed ‘S[imon] Kaufmann’, a name recorded in the standard reference work, Packer’s Bookbinders of Victorian London.

If this represents a typical piece of work from Kaufmann, he was an extremely skilled craftsman. Maybe Kaufmann was of the same opinion because, unusually, he twice added his signature to the binding, once on the upper turn-in and once on the verso of the upper flyleaf!.

Kaufmanns signatures

The two signatures, one in gold and one in black on Kaufmann’s Heptameron binding

The accepted narrative is that Kaufmann, a Soho bookbinder, found later success as a dealer in fancy goods. What, therefore, is the problem?

The Victorian censuses reveal that there were two Simon Kaufmanns living in London during the last half of the 19th century, both working with leather. Both came from Germany. One was probably from Koblenz and the other from Ortenberg. Even their wives had similar names; Eva and Eveline. At the risk of sounding like a Sherlock Holmes mystery, who was the bookbinding Kaufmann?

The spelling of names was not yet standardised in official documents at the time. The same person could be referred to as ‘Kaufman’ ‘Kauffman’ and ‘Kaufmann’ so this does not help us distinguish between our two craftsmen. (The blog will use the form ‘Kaufmann’.) Whatever the spelling, the name is more common in Germany than England, and means ‘merchant’ or ‘trader’. Some Kaufmanns were Jewish and it has been noted that Victorian London attracted German-Jewish antique dealers, toy manufacturers, and fancy goods merchants.

Packer recorded that ‘his’ Kaufmann worked with French bookbinder Lucien Broca in a workshop at 60 Frith St (1876-77). The British Library has a binding signed Broca and Kaufmann. Kaufmann then worked on his own behalf nearby at 42 Dean Street (1878-1882). From 1883 to 1889, Kaufmann’s premises was at 50 Frith Street. In 1890 bookbinder Harry Wood took over the shop. An article on Wood in  The British Book Maker revealed that he bought the business when the owner went abroad but I have not traced any travel documents that support this. Maybe this sale set Kaufmann up in financial terms.

Kaufmanns Broca and K

Binding by Kaufmann and Broca, from Pierre Dufour, pseud. [i.e. Paul Lacroix.] Histoire de la prostitution chez tous les peuples du monde depuis l’antiquité ... jusqu’à nos jours. (Brussels, [1861]) C.115.m.25 .

The 1891 census for Islington revealed a Simon Kaufmann (born in 1856, though sometimes listed as 1857) whose profession was ‘Plush Leather Fancy Goods Maker.’ This has led to the belief that Kaufmann turned from bookbinding to devote himself to the manufacture of decorated boxes, photograph frames, cigar and cigarette cases, watch and jewel cases and writing sets. Thanks to the flourishing of trade in Victorian London, the thriving middle classes had more disposable income and could afford to treat themselves to small luxury products. The firm ‘Simon Kaufmann’ prospered to such an extent that it exhibited at trade fairs in 1922 and 1929 and was still in business in 1942 in the Tottenham Court Road area.

Kaufmanns AdvertAdvertisement for Simon Kaufmann’s firm from Graces’ Guide to British Industrial History 

Tracing this Kaufmann back in time, the 1881 Clerkenwell census found him at the age of 24 staying with his German cousin Solomon and family at 19, St John Square. Solomon’s occupation was recorded as ‘F[ancy] Box Maker Employing 1 Man 2 Women 1 Boy’-. Simon was listed as ‘box maker’s cutter’, probably working for Solomon. In 1891, Simon, aged 35 and unmarried, was boarding at another house in Islington, but his occupation was the aforementioned ‘Plush Leather Fancy Goods Maker.’ He married someone in the same field, Eva Jane Allen, described in the census as ‘Fancy Dealer’s Shopwoman’. They set up house in Hornsey where they had two children. Kaufmann died in April 1897 leaving his wife well provided for with the sum of £4375 3s 7d. Advertisements in the Islington Gazette (2 Nov 1897 and 18 Sept 1905) requesting ‘experienced girls for covering photo frames etc’ shows that the firm was still in business and hiring staff after Simon’s death. The 1911 census describes Mrs Kaufmann as ‘Owner of Fancy Goods Manufactory’.

The binding acquired by the Library must date from between 1886 (the date of publication of the text) and 1889 when the workshop was sold. This was at a time when Kaufmann was supposedly engaged making boxes. Did Simon have two jobs? It seems unlikely. Bookbinding was a recognised trade that required many years training. Hours were long. Making boxes and establishing a fancy goods business would also have been a full time job.

The 1871 census for the City of London lists a Simon Kaufmann, lodger, born in Ortenberg, Germany in 1845 (though listed elsewhere as 1843 and 1846) who was a bookbinder. In 1881, he was described as a ‘Bookbinder Finisher’ (the craftsman who applied gold tooling and other decoration to a binding). In 1884 Simon married Eveline Selim (b. 1860) and in 1891 he was living with her in ‘Glemosa’ a house in Herne Hill Road, Lambeth, with four children, a nurse, a housemaid and a cook (the latter from Germany).

What was his profession in 1891? The entry reads not ‘binder’ nor ‘finisher’ but ‘Commissioning Agent’ (i.e. a salesman who derives his income from commission). This does not sound like a well-paid job but the fact that the household kept three servants would imply that there was certainly money. Kaufmann died in Camberwell in 1893. Details of a will and probate have proved elusive but his family were well provided for. According to the 1901 and 1911 censuses his widow Eveline was ‘living on her own means’ in Hampstead with servants and a lodger, stockbroker Henri Davids (from Belgium). Two of Kaufmann’s sons were employed as stock-jobbers (perhaps sponsored by Mr Davids).

It is pleasing to note that both Simon Kaufmanns did well. Despite their early deaths (the Kaufmann from Ortenberg at 50  and the other at 43 they secured the future of their families.

 It seems likely that Kaufmann (b. 1856) learnt about the manufacture of small decorative objects through working for his cousin Solomon, and subsequently founded his own fancy goods business. The Kaufmann from Ortenberg was a trained bookbinder, sold his workshop in 1890 and became an ‘agent’ until his death in 1893. He was surely the maker of the bookbinding illustrated above but the nature of his subsequent occupation remains a mystery.

P.J.M. Marks, Printed Heritage Collections

Book dealer Sophie Schneideman located the binding. Sophie Schneideman Rare Books, 331 Portobello Road. W10 5SA London. sophie@ssrbook

References/Further reading:

Maurice Packer, Bookbinders of Victorian London (London, 1991) 667.u.117

Todd M Endelman “Settlement in Victorian England” in Second Chance: Two Centuries of German-Speaking Jews in the United Kingdom, Schriftenreihe wissenschaftlicher Abhandlungen des Leo Baeck Instituts ; 48 (Tübingen,1991) p. 42. Ac.2276/3 [Bd.48]

The British Book Maker (London, 1891-94, ) P.P.6479.ab

UK Census search online via Find My Past 

Blog post by Laurence Worm on Broca and Kaufmann. 

12 October 2018

A long-lived Spanish book and a short-lived English king

Mexia tp C.20.e.15Title-page of Pedro Mexia, Silva de varia lection ... (Valladolid, 1551) C.20.e.15.

John Gough Nichols in his Literary Remains of King Edward VI (London, 1857; C.101.c.2.) gives a small ‘catalogue of such of the books in the Royal Library now preserved in the British Museum’ (pp. cccxxv-cccxxxviii), including:

SILUA DE VARIA LECTION, cōpuesta por el magnifico cauallero Pedro Mexia nueuamēte agora en el año de mil y quienientos [sic] et cinquenta y vno. Valladolid, 1551,
On the last leaf are these lines, written in a very neat Italian hand:
Il pouero s’affatica molto in cercar quel che gli manca. Et il ricco in conseruare quello che egli ha. Et il virtuoso in domander [sic] quel che gli bisogna.
[Google now identifies these line as coming from Doni’s Zucca (1551)]

Mexia inscription The manuscript inscription from the last leaf of Silva de varia lection ...

Nicols continues:

These lines resemble so much King Edward’s best hand that they may have been regarded as his. On the sides of the book are impressed these arms, in colours – Gules, on a chevron between three fleurs-de-lis or as many hurts, which render it a doubtful whether this was really one of the King’s books.

In the British Museum Library’s main catalogue of printed books (known as ‘GK’) this hardened to: “On the verso of the last leaf is written an Italian proverb, most probably in the handwriting of Edward VI., to whom the volume belonged.”

If Nichols was sceptical, T.A. Birrell was even more so: as he points out, the ‘E VI’ on the spine need mean no more than that the book was printed in his reign (p. 13).

And what could be less revealing of identity than a fine Italic hand?

The Tudors were all good linguists. Edward’s Greek and Latin were excellent, possibly better than his French: “conversing with him in Latin, Edward asked [Hieronymus] Cardano about his recent book which had been dedicated to him. There then ensued a debate upon the nature of comets, during which Cardano considered Edward ‘spoke Latin as politely and fluently as I did’” (Skidmore, p. 240).

I’ve no evidence of his knowledge of Spanish. There are no manuscript annotations in (t)his copy of Mexia, before you ask.

Whether this copy was Edward’s or not, it was a much-read book in its time throughout Europe. It’s a compendium of miscellaneous, curious knowledge, some of it useful and some of it useless (if knowledge is ever useless). Subjects include: did early men live longer than the moderns? The history of the Turks (a hot topic in 1540); the history of the Amazons; why a small head and broad chest is a bad sign; do mermen exist? Who was the first person to tame a lion? And many many more.

It attracted the attention of the Inquisition, who demanded the chapter on Pope Joan (I, ix) to be expurgated.

Mexia IndexThe entry for Silva de varia lection from the Novus index librorum prohibitorum et expurgatorum, issued by Cardinal Antonio Zapata (Seville, 1632) 617.l.27., p. 829 

Inquisition notwithstanding, Mexia was a best seller in Spanish (27 editions from 1540 to 1673), Italian (23 from 1544 to 1682), French (36 from 1552 to 1675), English (six from 1571 to 1651) and Dutch (four from 1588 to 1617).

What to me is interesting is not only the number of editions but that Mexia fell from favour in the 1670s and had disappeared by the 1680s.

Birrell charmingly calls it a “bedside book”, and although I don’t actually keep it by my pillow, I can attest from personal experience that it’s certainly good to dip into.

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance Studies


T. A. Birrell, English Monarchs and Their Books from Henry VII to Charles II, The Panizzi Lectures 1986 (London, 1987) 2719.e.1586

Chris Skidmore, Edward VI, the Lost King of England (London, 2007) YC.2007.a.8001

22 August 2018

The two Belgians who were the first Europeans to reach Cape Horn

Newsletters can be wonderful things. In March of this year ‘Focus On Belgium’  had an item about father and son Isaac and Jacob Le Maire. Jacob was one of the first Europeans to reach Cape Horn and to find an alternative shipping route to Asia, circumventing the monopoly held by the Dutch East Company, or VOC in Dutch. 

This ties well in with our exhibition on James Cook: the Voyages, now in its last week (must end 28 August). As you enter the exhibition you’ll see a very large map hanging off the wall. This forms part of the Klencke Atlas  and It shows part of the coastline of Australia and surrounding archipelagoes, such as Papua New Guinea, named ‘Terra dos Papos a Iacobo Le Maire , dicta Nova Guinea.’ Who was this Iacob Le Maire and how had he ended up so close to Australia?

LeMaireAc6095-49PortraitPortrait of Jacob Le Maire form De Ontdekkingsreis van Jacob le Maire en Willem Cornelisz. Schouten in de jaren 1615-1617. Werken uitgegeven door de Linschoten-Vereeniging. dl. 48, 49. (The Hague, 1945).  Ac.6095.

Jacob Le Maire had been sent on an expedition by his father Isaac, who was convinced there had to be a different route around South America into the South Pacific and on to South East Asia. He set up a trading company entitled ‘The Australian Compagnie’, and secured funding from wealthy merchants in Hoorn. From the same place he contracted Willem Corneliszoon Schouten to be captain on the expedition.

Jacob Le Maire and Willem Schouten did find the passage, which Jacob named ‘Cape Horn’ after the city of Hoorn. Mission accomplished? In a way yes, but Jacob then went off script and followed his own plan to find the almost mythical Southern continent Terra Incognita Australis. He passed in between Australia and Papua New Guinea, which is why the strait still carries his name.

LeMaire1486gg27Itinerarymap Jacob LeMaire’s route from Cape Horn to the north coast of Australia, with inserted maps of Cape Horn and New Guinea, from Joris van Spilbergen, Speculum Orientalis Occidentalisque Indiae Navigationum (Leiden, 1619)

LeMaireG6737MapDetailed map of Cape Horn, from Relacion diaria del viage de iacobo demayre, y Gvillelmo Cornelio Schouten. (Madrid, 1619) G.6737

From then on things went downhill for Jacob.

Having arrived in Batavia, they were promptly arrested by the governor, the notorious Jan Pieterszoon Coen for breaking the VOC’s monopoly. They were sent back to the Netherlands. Tragically, Jacob died eight days into the voyage. He received a seaman’s burial.

The VOC had confiscated Lemaire’s ship and all documents on board, including Jacob’s journals. They came back to Hoorn with Schouten but were not given to Isaac Lemaire. This gave Willem Schouten the chance to publish his own account of the voyage, using his own journals. These had also been confiscated, but with the help of Willem Jansz Blaeu, who had connections within the VOC he published the first account of the voyage. Isaac Le Maire tried to stop publication by suing Blaeu. He won the case, but Blaeu appealed on the basis that if he did not publish the journal someone else would. He finally got permission to publish Jacob’s Journal, which appeared in 1618. Willem Schouten takes the credit for the discovery; Jacob Le Maire barely gets a mention.


Title page of Iovrnal ofte beschryvinghe van de wonderlicke reyse ghedaen door Willem Cornelisz Schouten van Hoorn, inde Jaren 1615, 1616 en 1617. (Amsterdam, 1618), reproduced in: De Ontdekkingsreis van Jacob le Maire en Willem Cornelisz. Schouten.

How right Blaeu had been in his protest against the publication ban is shown in the record of the flurry of publications that appeared between 1618 and 1622.

In particular the Leiden printer Nicolaes Van Geelkercken was very active. He issued several translations in 1618, in French, German, and Latin of Oost ende West-Indische Spiegel, which included the journal of Joris (George) Spilbergen’s voyage around the world in 1614-17 and Jacob Le Maire and Willem Schouten’s explorations as described above. There is a connection here, because LeMaire and Schouten had travelled back to Hoorn on Spilberghen’s ship.

LMaire682b14SpeculumTtlpTitle page of Specvlvm Orientalis Occidentalisqve Indiae Navigationvm

It wasn’t until 1622 that Jacob’s papers were released and a more accurate and balanced account could be published. This has since been reprinted many times, including in 2000 by the Australian National Maritime Museum in a facsimile edition ‘to celebrate the harmonious relationship that exists between the Netherlands and Australia.’

LeMaireYA2001b48Ttlp2Title page of Jacob Le Maire Mirror of Australian Navigation (Sydney, 2000). YA.2001.b.48

In 1906 the Hakluyt Society  published an edition of the various journals of Le Maire and Schouten, as well as Spilbergen, including a bibliography of the various editions over time, running to 17 pages. Interestingly it also includes a list of ‘Works Quoted in this Volume or Bearing on its Subject, with the British Museum Press-marks’. Now that should make life a lot easier for anyone wanting to research the Le Maires further, at least up to 1906. What it won’t include is the lovely find I made in the course of my research for this post, Octave J.A.G. Le Maire’s L’Origine anversoise des célèbres navigateurs Isaac et Jacques le Maire (Antwerp, 1950; 0761.g.41).  

In this slender publication, Octave Le Maire, apparently a descendant of the Le Maires, makes a passionate case for Antwerp and not Amsterdam as the origin of the Le Maire family. It has a dedication in it, which roughly translates as: ‘In honour of the Library of the British Museum, where a precious discovery about the I and J Le Maire was made, during the war 1914-1918.’

LeMaire10761g41dedicationDedication in L'Origine anversoise des célèbres navigateurs Isaac et Jacques le Maire (Antwerp, 1950) 10761.g.41.

The discoveries one can make in The British Library without having to go out to sea!

Marja Kingma, Curator Germanic Collections.

Further reading:

Dirk Jan Barreveld ‘Tegen de Heeren van de VOC : Isaac le Maire en de ontdekking van Kaap Hoorn, (The Hague, 2002) YA.2003.a.31803.

Henk Schoorl, Isaäc Le Maire. Koopman en bedijker. (Haarlem, 1969) X.800/4479.


16 July 2018

Antoine Vérard’s early printed books in the British Library

The library of the English King Henry VII contained about 40 copies of editions produced by the Parisian publisher and bookseller Antoine Vérard, most of them on vellum and illuminated, although only a minority of those contain marks of provenance such as textual modifications, the heraldic arms of England, the HR monogram, or numbers from the later inventories of the Royal Library made at Richmond Castle or Westminster Palace in 1535 and 1542. At the time, these copies on vellum were bound in red, blue or black velvet, and though most of the original bindings have disappeared, the later British Museum bindings have replicated this feature.

Fig 1 C.22.d.1
Prologue to Vincent de Beauvais, Miroir Historial, tr. Jean de Vignay (Paris: A. Vérard, 1495-96) C.22.d.1.

In 1492, Henry VII appointed Quentin Poulet, a scribe and illuminator from Lille, as official librarian, keeper of the newly founded Royal Library. Poulet’s ornate signature features at the end of the paper copy of the 1499 edition of the prose version by Jean Gallopes of Guillaume de Diguleville’s Pelerinage de l’ame (IB.41186).

Fig 2 IB.41186
Last leaf of Pelerinage de l’ame with Poulet’s signature

Illuminated copies of Vérard’s editions printed on vellum were produced for individuals such as Charles VIII of France, his most important patron, as well as other members of the French royal family and aristocracy: Charles d’Angoulème, Louise de Savoie, etc. In a few cases, the name ‘Charles VIII’, ‘roy de France’, which features in many prologues of Vérard’s editions, has been manually replaced by ‘Henry VII’, ‘roy d'Engleterre’ in the copy made for him, as in the opening of the 1494 vellum copy of the French version of Boethius’ De Consolatione philosophiae.

Fig 3 C.22.f.8
Prologue in the British Library vellum copy of De Consolatione philosophiae (Paris, 1494) C.22.f.8

Vérard also produced a few editions for the British market, such as an English translation of a book first published in French in 1492, The book intitulyd the art of good lyvyng and good deyng (1503; C.70.g.14.) and a Book of Hours for the use of Salisbury (Horae ad usum Sarum, c. 1505), whose profuse illustration in quarto format needed an impressive amount and assemblage of woodcuts. The British Library copy (C.35.e.4) bears traces of the Reformation (several images of saints have been crossed out) but has ironically been rebound with paper waste made of several leaves of the Protestant Book of Common Prayer. Although Vérard almost only used woodcuts to illustrate his editions, he occasionally combined them with metalcuts, as demonstrated by the different types of damage to the blocks visible in these images. While woodcuts tend to crack, metalcuts bend and are distorted (probably through human manipulation rather than the pressure of the press).

Fig 4 damage
Examples of woodcut (blue) / metalcut (red) damage from Horae ad usum Sarum, C.35.e.4, f. e1

Vérard’s printed books are well known for the importance of their illustrations but also for the widespread reuse of woodcuts, which was facilitated by the use of generic scenes. It can create meaningful associations, or lead to discrepancies between texts and images. Vérard did not always produce illuminated editions on vellum with a particular patron in mind (he probably had some ready to be purchased in his Paris bookshop), but when he travelled to England himself in 1502, he probably offered some to the English king in person: there is a record for a payment made to ‘Anthony Verard’ for a paper copy of the Jardin de santé. In this encyclopaedic text (a French translation of the Hortus Sanitatis) published between 1499 and 1502, while the familiar strawberries are accurately depicted, the woodcut used for the peach tree is more generic and reused for all kinds of exotic trees bearing fruits (C.22.f.9).

Fig 5 C.22.f.9
‘De fragaria/freizier’ , the strawberry plant (part 1, r1v) and ‘De Cozula’, the peach tree (part 1, n2) from Jardin de santé (C.22.f.9)

Vérard worked with many artists and engravers. Among them, the styles of Jean d’Ypres and Guérard Louf are very representative of the Parisian aesthetics of that time. Apart from designs for woodcuts and metalcuts, the workshop of Jean d’Ypres produced illuminated manuscripts and tapestry and stained glass designs. Guérard Louf and his collaborators, who also produced illuminated manuscripts, were inspired by northern French and Flemish painters. This group of artists was responsible for more than half of the 2000 woodcuts and metalcuts used in Vérard’s editions. Woodcuts could be modified in order to fit better the text they accompanied. Vérard’s edition of the Bataille judaïque by Flavius Josephus, printed after December 1492, contains a woodcut showing Bishop Ananus leading his troops. The bishop’s mitre was erased and replaced with a crown, to represent King Gontran meeting his nephew, in the 1493 edition of the Chroniques de France. This crown was then transformed back into a hat around 1502, so that the main character could be recognized as the Duke of Burgundy organising a meeting in Vérard’s first edition of Enguerrand de Monstrelet’s Chroniques.

Fig 6 modifications
Alterations to woodcuts (BnF, Rés. H 10, f. a8v; BnF, Rés. FOL L35 7 (1), f. h4v; BnF, Rés. Fol. LA14-1 (1), f. x3v)

For his copies on vellum, Vérard employed artists such as the Master of Jacques de Besançon (recently identified as François, the son of Maître François / François le Barbier), the Master of Robert de Gaguin or the Master of Philippe de Gueldre, who best known for their manuscript illuminations while their contribution to the illustration of books printed on vellum has often been neglected. Many of the illuminations in Vérard’s vellum copies still lack artistic attributions. The practice of collaborative work, the homogeneity of style, and the commonplace use of illustration templates within Vérard’s workshop all accentuate the difficulty in identifying the artists involved.

Fig 7 C.22.d.6 8 and IC.41248
Copies of Enguerrand de Monstrelet, Chroniques on paper (IC.41248; left) and vellum (C.22.d.6,8; right)

The use of illumination brought different degrees of modification to the illustrations produced for the paper copies: in some cases, the woodcut is printed and hand-coloured, in others, the design is modified by the illuminator, or a completely new scene is produced, whether the underlying woodcut is printed or not (as in the frontispiece of the vellum copy of Vérard’s 1498 Merlin). In longer narrative works like romances or chronicles, vellum copies include extra illuminations located in the spaces used for chapter headings in the paper copies. This is not systematic but greatly increases the number of illustrations and can lead to a new (though often stereotyped) iconography. The nature and location of the illustrations varies from one vellum copy to the other, as in the two illuminated British Library copies of the  Monstrelet’s Chroniques published between 1501 and 1503. While the execution of Jehan Coustain, Philip of Burgundy’s Master of the Wardrobe, accused in 1462 of plotting to poison the Count of Charolais, is dramatically depicted at the bottom of folio 222 in IC.41248 (the image uses the space of the lower margin, and the chapter heading has been copied by hand on the right), it has not been illustrated in the royal copy, C.22.d.8.

Louis-Gabriel Bonicoli (NY State University, Albany)
Irène Fabry-Tehranchi (Romance collections, British Library)

This blog was written in relation with a workshop on Antoine Vérard’s French early printed books held on 28 June 2018 at the British Library, in collaboration with the Early Modern Book Project. It was organised by Louis-Gabriel Bonicoli (NY State University at Albany), Irène Fabry-Tehranchi (BL) and Karen Limper-Herz (BL), and received the support of the Friends of the British Library.

References/Further Reading:

Guy Bechtel, Catalogue des gothiques français. 1476-1560 (Paris, 2008). RAR 094.20944

T. A. Birrell, English Monarchs and Their Books: From Henry VII to Charles II (London, 1987) 2719.e.1586

Louis-Gabriel Bonicoli, La production du libraire-éditeur parisien Antoine Vérard (1485-1512): nature, fonctions et circulation des images dans les premiers livres imprimés illustrés (unpublished), 3 vol., 2015.

James P. Carley, The Books of King Henry VIII and His Wives (London, 2004) YC.2005.a.7799

P. R. Harris, A History of the British Museum Library, 1753-1973 (London, 1998) 2719.k.2164

Libraries within the Library: The Origins of the British Library’s Printed Collections. Edited by Giles Mandelbrote and Barry Taylor (London, 2009) YC.2010.a.1356

The Library of the British Museum: Retrospective Essays on the Department of Printed Books, Edited by P. R. Harris (London, 1991) YC.1992.b.1600

John Macfarlane, Antoine Vérard (London, 1900) Ac.9670/2.

Ina Nettekoven, Der Meister der Apokalypsenrose der Sainte Chapelle und die Pariser Buchkunst um 1500 (Turnhout, 2004) YF.2005.b.1304

Myra Orth, Renaissance Manuscripts: the Sixteenth Century (London, 2015) LC.31.b.15376 & LC.31.b.15377

Short-title catalogue of books printed in France and of French books printed in other countries from 1470 to 1600 in the British Library (London, 1983). Supplement, 1986.

Mary Beth Winn, Anthoine Vérard: Parisian Publisher 1485-1512 (Geneva, 1997) WP.A.31/313

Caroline Zöhl, Jean Pichore: Buchmaler, Graphiker und Verleger in Paris um 1500 (Turnhout, 2004) YF.2006.b.341

BnF, Base des éditions parisiennes du 16ème siècle, BP16

Incunabula Short Title Catalogue, ISTC 

02 July 2018

A Spanish cricket aficionado in late 19th-century Surrey

Cricket, arguably more than any other sport, encourages the collection of statistics, as any listener to the BBC’s ‘Test Match Special’ knows. Wisden, or The Cricketer’s Almanack, was first published as early as 1864 and has been documenting matches and calculating players’ averages ever since. The nature of the sport lends itself to the accumulation and analysis of data: not just batting or bowling averages, but also all manner of records – from most runs off an over to the fastest hundred by an Australian in his (or her) debut test in England. The BBC’s first TMS scorers or, better, statisticians, Arthur Wrigley and Bill Frindall, acquired legendary status for their meticulous record keeping and anticipation of records about to be broken.

It is, however, surprising to come across not only a Spanish cricket enthusiast in the late 19th century but one who compiled a book of cricket statistics devoted to an English county. The British Library holds a copy of Anthony Benítez de Lugo’s Surrey at the Wicket, which was printed in Madrid at his own expense in 1888. The full title is: Surrey at the wicket. A complete record of all the matches played by the county eleven since the formation of the club. Yearly and general batting and bowling averages with other informations [sic] interesting to Surrey cricketers.

Benitez de Lugo Surrey at the Wicket cover Original cover of Anthony Benítez de Lugo, Surrey at the Wicket… (Madrid, 1888)  X.449/2923

As the title indicates, the work documents the results of all matches played by Surrey, together with batting and bowling averages, year-by-year from 1844 until 1887. Surrey County Cricket Club was officially founded in 1845, but an 1844 match against the M.C.C. is included. Score cards are not included, which is initially confusing as the results tables always show Surrey as if batting first. Benítez de Lugo does not mention his sources of information. However, for the period after 1864 he would have had access to Wisden, and before that to press reports and to Frederick Lillywhite’s publications. The latter may have provided him with details of players’ height and weight. Most probably he had access to Surrey’s own records and, almost certainly, he kept records himself.

Benitez de Lugo Surrey at the Wicket tpTitle page of Surrey at the Wicket.

But who was our Spanish cricket enthusiast? He was born Antonio Benítez de Lugo y de la Cantera in Havana in 1857 and in 1893 he acquired the title of Marqués de Santa Susana, bestowed on him by María Cristina, Regent for Alfonso XIII, in recognition of his aunt Susana Benítez de Lugo’s charitable work in Cuba. However, it is not clear how he came to be interested in cricket nor when he began the compilation of statistics.

Benítez de Lugo went on to publish two further books of statistics, although sadly neither is in the British Library. The first, The Surrey Champion (1895), documented the career of the Surrey cricketer, Walter Read (1855-1907), who was most noted for a match-saving innings of 117 for England against Australia in 1884 when batting down at number 10. He also provided statistics for Read’s own Annals of Cricket (London, 1896; 07095.k.1), as Read acknowledged in his introduction: ‘thanks are due to the Marquis de Santa Susana for the exhaustive records of my own doings’ (p. 3).

Benitez de Lugo Walter ReadWalter Read By ‘A.R.’ from Richard Daft, Kings of Cricket (Bristol, 1893)

His final work, published in 1900, brought Surrey at the Wicket up to date down to 1899. His statistics were also deployed in the extensive Surrey Cricket. Its History and Associations of 1902, as is indicated by the acknowledgement ‘the whole of the statistics … are the work of the Marquis de Santa Susana’ (pp. v.-vi.). He is also described there as ‘one of the most enthusiastic followers of Surrey cricket’ (p. vi).

There are obvious gaps in this account. Keen followers of Surrey cricket and statisticians are invited to fill them in and to correct any errors.

Geoff West, Former Head of Hispanic Collections

References/Further reading

Anthony Benítez de Lugo, The Surrey Champion. A complete record of Mr Walter William Read’s performance for Surrey and in representational matches, 1873-1897 (Madrid, 1895). Private circulation. 100 copies.

Anthony Benítez de Lugo, A Summary of Surrey Cricket 1844-99. (Madrid, 1900). Private circulation.

The cricketer’s almanack for... 1864 [-1869], then John Wisden’s cricketers’ almanack for… 1870 [-1937]. (London, 1864-1937). RH.9.x.1533.

Fred Lillywhite, Frederick Lillywhite’s cricket scores and biographies of celebrated cricketers, from 1746. Vols. 3-4. (London, 1863-64)

E. W. Padwick, A bibliography of cricket. 2nd ed., rev. and enl. (London, 1984). British Library HLR 796.358.

Richard Everard Webster, Surrey Cricket. Its history and associations. Ed. Lord Alverstone... and C. W. Alcock. (London, 1902). 07905.i.47.

08 May 2018

“A rogue and a madman”: August Strindberg's Antibarbarus

In his anti-literary 1890s, August Strindberg took to the laboratory to experiment in alchemy, and some of his thoughts led to a peculiar book published in Germany in 1894 called Antibarbarus I: oder Die Welt für sich und die Welt für mich (YA.1990.a.22668). His discovery of the process of transmuting lead into gold was conjecture and anti-scientific, if anti-anything, but 13 years later, this simple pamphlet, first published in Germany, transmuted into one of the finest luxury editions printed in Sweden.

Leather binding of 'Antibarbarus' tooled with interlaced knotwork patternsCover of August Strindberg,  Antibarbarus: Det är en vidlyftig undersökning om grundämnenas natur och ett nytt betraktelsesätt af de kemiska operationernas förlopp enligt den rådande monist-teorien om naturens allhet & enhet, sådan den af Darwin och Hæckel tillämpats på de andra naturvetenskaperna (Stockholm, 1906) Cup.408.l.20.

Strindberg composed Antibarbarus as a series of letters written in the second person, addressing an unidentified correspondent on diverse scientific principles. His first letter was entitled, ‘The ontogeny of sulphur’, the second, ‘On the transmutation of matter, transformist chemistry, or everything in everything’, the third, ‘Thoughts on the composition of air and water’, and a fourth, simply ‘Paralipomena’. He himself thought he ‘simply drew all the logical conclusions inherent in Transformism and Monism,’ (letter to Torsten Hedlund, 23 July 1894) that is, the belief that all matter has a single shared substance and elements differ only in their properties and not as entities, to paraphrase his first letter.

What he did not account for was the mixture of bemusement and vehement criticism that the publication received. In a letter to Georg Brandes, soliciting the great critic’s help in reviewing it favourably in Denmark, Strindberg writes that his work ‘has caused the Swedes to depict me as a rogue and a madman […] There is in fact not a single paper in Sweden honourable enough to print a word in my defence’, ultimately surprised ‘to see a whole country’s chemists so blinded by jealousy that they cannot acknowledge their own views when they see them put forward by someone they find offensive!’ (31 May 1894). Even his friend and the translator of his Swedish manuscript into German, Bengt Lidforss, reviewed it harshly in Dagens Nyheter—albeit under a pseudonym, which was scant consolation.

Title-page of 'Antibarbarus' with knotwork borders and a picture of a man in a studyTitle page of  Antibarbarus

Five years later, the magazine Nordisk Boktryckarekonst (Stockholm, 1900-1925; PP.1622.h.) was established by Hugo and Carl Lagerström, who subsequently set up a publishing house, with aim of inaugurating an authentic Nordic style of book design. They sought a work with which to begin a series of bibliophile editions and Arthur Sjögren was enlisted both to produce the book and to convince Strindberg to volunteer the first idea for the series. Sjögren, who had worked with Strindberg, arrived at Strindberg’s studio to find a chemist’s laboratory in disarray and the author-cum-goldmaker deep into experiments. With Strindberg only thinking about scientific works, they eventually landed on Antibarbarus. The Antibarbarus manuscript had been under perpetual revision and expansion since 1894 and, with Strindberg’s encouragement, the Lagerströms decided to take it on.

Opening of fascicle 1 of 'Antibarbarus' with knotwork patterns and a decorative initialFascicle 1, Antibarbarus

Taking nearly a year to produce, Antibarbarus had a limited print run of 299, each copy priced at 30 Krona. To put it in context, very few books cost over 10 Krona and Strindberg’s luxury edition of Ordalek och småkonst, which came out a year earlier in 1905, cost 8.50. No expense was spared from the light-brown leather binding incorporating the same decorative coils and knots that frame the text throughout, to the thick hand-made paper from Grycksbo  with a specially designed watermark by Sjögren, depicting a four-leaf clover over a three-leaf clover. The coiled dragon-tail ornamentation that envelops the title-page is derived from Viking picture stone iconography, which speaks to the National Romantic ethos of the new publishers, but by no means renders William Morris’s decorative influence any less obvious. The portrait of a Faustian Strindberg facing the title-page takes us back to Sjöberg’s encounter with the author in his laboratory, while drawing comparisons with Goethe, as a similar polymathic genius.

Like his illustrated works before this, Strindberg’s manuscript influenced the artistic design and the drop capitals and annotations set within the body of the text appear to be original to the author. Notes are literally indicated by a red hand pointing and paragraphs are marked by red pilcrows, rather than spaced out. Connoisseurs did not particularly warm to these latter innovations in the layout but the book has been acknowledged to be one of the most exquisite Swedish books ever produced. Georg Svensson considers it Sjögren’s best.

Stylised knotwork illustration of a man slaying a dragonSlaying the dragon, Antibarbarus

Ultimately, we might say the design is in harmony with the content. One critic, G. Bargum, reads the work as the creative scientist’s labyrinthine search for a greater truth where each path is a dead end. He suggests that what is stabbed in the final ornamental image is a many-headed Hydra, who constricts the courageous opponent, so that he will never escape. A review in Dagens Nyheter (cited in Samlade Verk) prefers to see the dragon finally slain by a Sigurd figure and the obstacles triumphantly overcome. While Strindberg never made gold and never did conquer the world of science as his anti-barbarian persona might have wished, his creative genius – with all its delusions and idiosyncrasies – is still wonderfully celebrated in this book, paradoxically ensuring a legacy for his failure.

Pardaad Chamsaz, Curator Germanic Collections

References/Further Reading

August Strindberg, Naturvetenskapliga skrifter I [August Strindberg’s Samlade Verk, vol. 35] (Stockholm, 2009), YF.2011.a.4183

August Strindberg, Strindberg’s Letters [selected, edited and compiled by Michael Robinson] (London, 1992), 92/19967-8

G. Bargum, ‘Der neue Antibarbarus’, in Zeitschrift für Bücherfreunde (10:6), 1906, p. 253, P.P.6548.c.

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