Untold lives blog

85 posts categorized "Rare books"

27 October 2022

‘Dear old Squirrel’ - Cyril Davenport of the British Museum

Cyril Davenport, pictured below in his 80s, does not appear to be as careworn as his life and career should demand!  Not only did he devote 45 years to work at the British Museum Library, he also found time to paint, engrave, photograph, write and edit reference works, lecture on diverse subjects, and judge for international exhibitions.  In addition, he was a Justice of the Peace and Major of the 37th Middlesex Rifle Volunteers.  Only someone with a lifespan of around 93 years could have managed it!

Portrait of Cyril Davenport in his 80s by Edward Patry from Hastings Museum and Art Gallery - white hair, beard and moustache, dressed in a black formal coatPortrait of Cyril Davenport by Edward Patry - Image courtesy of Hastings Museum and Art Gallery

Davenport was not an obvious candidate for a job in the Museum, which he joined as an assistant in 1868 and later supervised the bookbindings department.  He was born in Sterling to an army family, educated at Charterhouse and worked as a draftsman for the War Office.  It seems likely that this training gave him technical and practical understanding in the analysis and description of objects, an experience lacking in his more academic Museum and Library colleagues.

Davenport recognised the importance of identifying and recording the outsides of books.  His ledgers containing descriptions, sketches and rubbings of the remarkable bindings held in the Museum Library are still useful to researchers.

Davenport’s ledger of descriptions and sketches of bindingsDavenport’s descriptions and sketches of bindings in the Library’s Case 20 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Davenport’s publications did not always meet with universal approbation.  His book English Heraldic Book-stamps was subject to particular censure; errors in the heraldry were noted in reviews.  Other books addressed subjects as diverse as coronation regalia, cameos, architecture, mezzotints, and miniatures.

Davenport was much in demand as a public speaker, by learned institutions as well as local societies of amateurs.  There is evidence that he could be inspirational, in one case at least.  The well-known bookbinder Cedric Chivers resolved to create his own decorated vellum covers ('vellucent') after hearing Davenport lecture on the subject.

Vellucent binding by Chivers showing a naked woman draped in mauve cloth with a wine jug on her shoulder, against an Art Nouveau backgroundThe Rubaiyat (1903) with a ‘vellucent’ binding by Cedric Chivers - Shelfmark c108bbb3. Image by permission of the copyright holder. Database of Bookbindings

After his retirement in 1913, Davenport moved to Hastings with his wife Constance (d.1932) and arts-loving daughter Dorothy (b.1891).  His son Cyril Henry had died in the previous year.

There was a rich social life in Sussex with many communal activities, a notable example being the Hastings historical pageant in 1914.  Davenport participated and was apparently a great help in the costume and banner department!

Newspaper article reporting Davenports’s third prize in a national art competitionNews of Davenports’s third prize in a national art competition includes a character analysis! Weekly Dispatch (London), 1 June 1925 p.7 British Newspaper Archive

Perhaps the most sympathetic view of Davenport’s character came from his eccentric friend and British Museum colleague, poet Theo Marzials.  In  a condolence letter to Davenport’s daughter, Marzials wrote: 'Cyril is a bit of me – of course, and always was and ever will be.  We just meet and are side by side, arm in arm, heart to heart …. Dear old Squirrel'.

P J M Marks
Curator, Bookbindings, Printed Historical Sources

Further reading;
Theo Marzials and Davenport in The Best of Betjeman 1878 Selected by John Guest 
British Newspaper Archive e.g. The Hastings pageant - Hastings and St Leonards Observer Saturday 27 June 1914 p.9; Lecture by Davenport entitled ‘Beautiful Bookbindings’ - Hastings and St Leonards Observer 24 October 1914 p.7

 

20 October 2022

A lift-the-flap book, 18th century style

If you thought children’s lift-the-flap books were a modern phenomenon, think again!

We recently acquired Mother Shipton: an exceptionally rare and early lift-the-flap book, with hand-coloured illustrations and a publication date of 1771. This type of book is known as a harlequinade or a turn-up book. Invented in the 1760s and inspired by theatrical pantomime, they took their name from the stock pantomime character Harlequin. They were produced specifically to amuse and entertain children, and were an important landmark in children’s publishing.

Inside front cover and title page of Mother Shipton with a colour picture of a man and his daughter  about to go on a journey to LondonInside front cover and title page of Mother Shipton

So how do harlequinades work?

This is the tricky bit:
They’re made up of two engraved sheets.  The first sheet is folded perpendicularly into four sections and the second sheet creates the flaps.  Together, they fold up like an accordion.  A verse and picture on each section of the flap tells the story.  When the flap is turned either up or down the reader sees that half of the new picture fits onto the half of the un-raised flap, so the act of lifting one flap after the other creates a surprise unfolding of the story.

Demonstrating how the flaps work on Mother Shipton.Demonstrating how the flaps work on Mother Shipton.

What is this harlequinade about?

This harlequinade tells the traditional pantomime story of Harlequin and Columbine.  It also features Mother Shipton, a soothsayer and prophetess.  Mother Shipton became a popular folklore character from the 16th century onwards, appearing in cheap street literature such as chapbooks and ballads.

However, this little book isn’t as light-hearted as you might think.

Colour illustration depicting Harlequin as a Black character.

The colour illustrations depict Harlequin as a Black character.  Harlequin was a stock pantomime figure who traditionally wore a black mask but the racial connotations going on here are undeniable, particularly against the backdrop of 18th century Britain and its colonies, built as they were on a racialised system of enslaved labour.  Georgian theatregoers and harlequinade readers would’ve undoubtedly associated the black-masked Harlequin with an African identity.  In fact, some pantomimes at the time explicitly made that connection, such as Furibond, or, Harlequin Negro (1807).  Elsewhere, playwright and East India Company employee James Cobb referred to Harlequin as “the Blackamoor Gallant” in his The Hurly Burly; or, The Fairy of the Well.  The line between wearing a black mask and blackface was undoubtedly blurred, if not indistinguishable.  It is easy to see the relationship between Harlequin and the racist tradition of blackface minstrels that would develop in Britain and North America.

Colour illustration of Harlequin meeting Old Mother ShiptonHarlequin meeting Old Mother Shipton

What about this particular copy?

Harlequinades were popular, cheap (6d, or 1 shilling coloured) and, with so many movable parts, it is no wonder that so few survive today.  Devoted former owners often repaired these little books at least once.  This harlequinade was patched up as early as 1783, according to a partially legible ownership inscription on the inside front cover: 'Bo[ught] in London Apr[il] [?].  Mended June 17th 1783.  Fillongley [Warwickshire?] by Th[omas?] M. Rann'.

There are only two other copies of this 1771 Mother Shipton harlequinade in existence, both in North American libraries, and this is only the third harlequinade to enter the British Library’s collections.  It is also the earliest; the other two are The Witches, or Harlequin’s trip to Naples, 1772, and The Comical Tricks of Jack the Piper, 1772 (BL C.135.f.19(1,2)).

Maddy Smith
Curator, Printed Heritage Collections

Further reading:
Worrall, David. Harlequin Empire: Race, Ethnicity and the Drama of the Popular Enlightenment. Taylor & Francis, 2015.
Speaight, George. 'Harlequinade turn-ups', Theatre Notebook, a Journal of the History and Technique of the British Theatre, 1991, v.44, no.2, p.70-84.

 

13 October 2022

‘True nobility of soul’ - William Blake, the housekeeper of the Ladies Charity School House, Highgate

Woollen draper, writer and philanthropist William Blake was devoted to the welfare and education of orphans.  In the 1650s he opened the Ladies Charity School House in Highgate, hoping that aristocratic and influential women would help fund it.  Blake donated his entire fortune of £5000 to the charity and became the housekeeper of the establishment.

What led Blake to such commitment?  He described his background thus: ‘I was brought up by my parents to learne Hail Mary, paternoster, the Beliefe, and learne to reade; and where I served my apprenticeship little more was to be found’.  His wife Mary died in 1650 leaving him to bring up four children who also died young.  Maybe these circumstances strengthened Blake’s resolve to support destitute orphans.  Blake himself said he drew inspiration from the Puritan devotional text, Lewis Bayly’s Practice of Piety.  This work may also have encouraged Blake’s own writing.

Page 2 of Lewis Bayly’s Practice of PietyPage 2 of Lewis Bayly’s Practice of Piety London : For Edward Brewster, 1689. BL 4401.f.11.  Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The Ladies Charity School on Highgate Hill comprised comprise newly built houses in addition to existing rather grand buildings including Dorchester Hall.  The latter were owned by the Blake family and local landowners, and taken over by Blake via mortgages.  About 40 fatherless boys and girls were to be enrolled into the boarding school: ‘The boys to be taught the art of painting, gardening, casting accounts, and navigation, or put forth to some good handicraft trade, and to wear an uniform of blue lined with yellow.  The girls to be taught to read, write, sew, starch, raise paste, and dress, that they might be fit for any good service’.

Architectural drawing of the Ladies Charity School in the Survey of London Volume 17Architectural drawing of the Ladies Charity School in the Survey of London: Volume 17 plate 40 - From an old print in the collection of Mr. Arthur Boney of Highgate

Money was a constant issue. Blake’s occupation as a woollen draper at the sign of the Golden Boy in Covent Garden yielded little, and the ‘Ladies’ did not prove to be a reliable resource.  He resorted to relentless fundraising including a publication titled The Ladies Charity School-house Roll of Highgate, etc. (Silver Drops, or Serious things.).  The text has been considered impenetrable but it was ornamented with engravings and, sometimes, special bindings dedicated to particular recipients whose names appeared on the upper covers.  On the evidence of the unevenly applied tooled decoration, some artisans demonstrated more energy than skill although no one could accuse them of stinting with the gold!

Presentation binding for Elizabeth  Lady Delamere from British Library Image Database of BookbindingsPresentation binding for Elizabeth, Lady Delamere from British Library Image Database of Bookbindings

 

Engraved plate of Father TimeEngraved plate of Father Time from W.B . The Ladies Charity School-house roll of Highgate [London, 1670?] Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership, 2011

Blake had to rethink the undertaking when his finances failed.  His land-owning brother refused to help him out, thinking the whole project ill conceived.  Apparently, the residents of Highgate Hill felt that the school for destitute children lowered the tone of the neighbourhood.  In 1685, the school buildings passed into other hands and were demolished.  Blake spent about two years in the Fleet debtors’ prison and suffered much ill health but characteristically used his confinement to write texts on charity.  He was not without support.  In Silver Drops, he thanked a Dr Cox who helped him through his illness (and he bound a copy of his book for the doctor, now in Bryn Mawr College, P.A.).  The Parish of St Giles in the Fields paid £10 for him to be freed in 1687.  His burial date is likely to have been 23 March 1696 in the parish of Highgate.

Perhaps the last word should be left with William Howitt who wrote: ‘Blake’s style is frequently unintelligible, almost insane, but there is true nobility of soul struggling through’.

P. J. M. Marks
Curator, Bookbindings. Printed Heritage Collections

Further reading:
William Howitt, The Northern Heights of London: Or Historical Associations of Hampstead ... London, 1869.

M. M. Foot, "A Binding by the Charity School Binder," The Book Collector, Spring 1983, pp. 78-79.

11 October 2022

Can’t fly to Rio for Carnival? Explore the British Library’s Portuguese Language Collections!

This year the British Library joined CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) and Westminster College to offer new opportunities to train as a Library, Information and Archives Services Assistant (LIAS).  The course was launched by CILIP in 2021, the first institution in the world to offer this unique training qualification.  I am among the first four lucky people to be accepted as an apprentice.  The course will last eighteen months, and I will rotate within three departments.

Montage of photographs illustrating the British Library core purposes - custodianship, research, business, culture, learning, internationalThe British Library core purposes - custodianship, research, business, culture, learning, international Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

My first department is Collections and Curation where I am working with Printed Books, and Modern and Contemporary Manuscripts and Archive Collections.  This has allowed me to access some unique collections items that I am very excited to share with you.

Let me first introduce myself - my name is Sheila, but I am not English, Irish or Australian. I am a ‘Brazuca’.  What does that mean, you may ask?

I was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a true carioca!  Cariocas are people born in the City of Rio de Janeiro nicknamed ‘The wonderful City’!  The British Library holds many items written in Portuguese, both printed and manuscript form, and these highlight the beauty of that rich language.

An illustration of nineteenth century Rio de Janeiro city and harbourAn illustration of  19th century Rio de Janeiro city and harbour from Edmondo Luiz, A Côrte de D. João no Rio de Janeiro - British Library X.700/456 Images Online

So, let’s start!  It is time for you ‘Brits’ to practise.  C'mon, I know you can do better than ‘Obrigado/Obrigada'.

The first item is: A Coleccao Dos Documentos, Estatutos e Mais Memorias da Academia Real da Historia Portuguesa, dated 1721

Finding it difficult?  Ok, I will help you.

It translates as 'The Collection of Documents, Statutes, and Memoirs of the Royal Academy of Portuguese History'.

On 8 December 1720, the king of Portugal, John V, decided to establish the academy to register the ecclesiastic history of Portugal and its colonies, as well as the history of all Portuguese conquests.  This date was chosen because it is the day dedicated to ‘N. Sa. Da Conceicao’ the Patron Saint of Portugal.

Cover of Collecçam dos Documentos  estatutos  y memorias da academia ... anno 1721 ... ordenada pelo Conde de Villarmayor    Title page of Collecçam dos Documentos  estatutos  y memorias da academia ... anno 1721 ... ordenada pelo Conde de Villarmayor

Fly page of Collecçam dos Documentos  estatutos  y memorias da academia ... anno 1721 ... ordenada pelo Conde de VillarmayorCover, title and fly page of Collecçam dos Documentos, estatutos, y memorias da academia ... anno 1721 ... ordenada pelo Conde de Villarmayor, British Library 131.g.1 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence


Next is 'The Memoir of D. Pedro I',  the first emperor of Brazil.  Surprised?  Me too when I found it.  This one was easy - it has an English title!

After the Portuguese Court returned to Portugal, Pedro decided to stay in Brazil.  He declared independence and became the first Brazilian Emperor.  Brazil, the largest country in South America and the fifth largest in the world, became independent in 1822.   So in 2022 we celebrate 200 years of independence.

This 'authentic memoir' was written by an English woman who was the governess to the Emperor’s daughter.  Being trusted with such a task makes her appear closer to him than his family were.   Perhaps it is best not to gossip, but bear in mind that during her time in the household she witnessed the day-to-day life of an Emperor, the ‘upstairs, downstairs’ of a Brazilian/Portuguese dynasty.

Cover of An authentic memoir of the life of Don Pedro    Title page of An authentic memoir of the life of Don Pedro

Folio 1 of An authentic memoir of the life of Don PedroCover, title page and f.1v of An authentic memoir of the life of Don Pedro [Pedro I, Emperor of Brazil (b. 1798, d. 1834)]', covering his early years until 1826: an unpublished work by Maria, Lady Callcott formerly Graham, based on her experiences in Brazil in 1824-1825, British Library Add MS 51996 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Would you like to get your hands on these fantastic items?  Come to the British Library, become a reader and explore our vast collections.

Sheila Rabello
LIAS Apprentice, British Library

 

05 May 2022

The Ragged School Shoe-Black Society

The Ragged School Shoe-Black Society was established in 1851.  On 31 March five boys were sent out for the first time to work in the streets of London for a fortnight’s trial.  By July, 30 boys were on the books.

Shoe-blacks at work - from the front cover of 'The Ragged School Shoe-Black Society. An account of its origin, operations, and present condition'Front cover of The Ragged School Shoe-Black Society. An account of its origin, operations, and present condition. By the Committee. (London, 1854) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The idea of reviving the obsolete occupation of shoe-black was prompted by the wish to cater for overseas visitors in London for the Great Exhibition who would want to have access to this service as they did at home.  The police were consulted, and approved stations were set up to ensure that the boys did not obstruct public footpaths.

Boys wanting to join the Shoe-Black Society had to be recommended by the superintendent of a Ragged Union School and submit a printed form stating their circumstances.  After a few days’ practice with the brushes, boys were given a month’s trial.  The shoe-blacks maintained the connection to their school and attended as often as possible on weekday evenings and Sundays.

Uniform and equipment were provided by the Society.  The shoe-blacks wore a red woollen jersey, a cap with a red band, and a black apron.  Two badges were displayed: one read ‘Ragged School Shoe-Black Society’, and the other was the boy’s distinctive letter sewn in glass beads by the girls of the Lisson Street Refuge.  Kneeling mats and boxes for resting customers’ feet were made by boys at the Grotto Passage Refuge.

Each morning the shoe-blacks from all parts of London assembled at 7.30 am at the Society’s office off the Strand to pick up their boxes and uniforms.  After prayers and a Scripture reading, they went off to their stations before returning in the evening: 4 pm in the winter and 6.30 pm in the summer.  The charge for brushing customers’ trousers and cleaning their shoes was one penny.  Officials from the Society visited the boys during the day to oversee their conduct and supply blacking.

A daily account of earnings was kept with each boy.  Sixpence was returned to the boy and the rest divided – one third to the boy immediately; one third retained by the Society; one third paid into a fund for the boy.  Once a boy had ten shillings in the bank, he could draw it out to buy good working clothes,  Further withdrawals were allowed at the discretion of the Society.  When a boy left, the balance was spent for his benefit by the superintendent of his school, on apprenticeship, an outfit for emigration, or clothing for a job.

The boys brought their own lunch to eat at their stations, but for evening meals a refreshment room was provided, run by a matron who received the profit and bore the risk. She sold bread and butter, eggs, herrings, pies, oranges, pudding, coffee and soup.

Punishments were imposed for misconduct.  Fines levied for lateness, absence, and misbehaviour were applied to a sick fund for the boys.  Rewards for earning the most money were given in the form of prizes and medals.  Entertainments and lectures were provided, with an annual treat at Midsummer.

The Society said it took boys who were ‘ragged, hopeless, and sometimes starving’ and gave them a means of livelihood and an incentive to industrious habits.   The occupation of a shoe-black was seen as a stepping stone to better and permanent employment.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
The Ragged School Shoe-Black Society. An account of its origin, operations, and present condition. By the Committee. (London, 1854).

 

28 March 2022

Those who Lust and those who Lack: Tyranny and Passivity in Early Modern English writing on the Ottomans

In A Voyage into the Levant (1636), Henry Blount creates a number of stereotyped images of Turkish people he encountered during his travels through the Ottoman Empire by stating that they were ‘addict[ed] to sodomy’ (Tiryakioglu, 2015, p. 134).  Blount, according to Rosli and Omar (2017), travelled to the Levant and stayed there for 52 days.  He then made a five-day stop in Constantinople before making his way to Egypt.  Blount even goes as far as to circulate false information about the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).  He claims that the Prophet himself thought those who followed his teachings were ‘rude and sensual’ (Blount, 1636, p. 121) and that he wished to trick them into believing in the false paradise for which they were fighting (for example, when the Ottomans invaded the Levant in 1516): ‘Mahomet [...] made not his Paradise to conflict in Visions, and Hallelujahs; but in delicious fare, pleasant Gardens, and Wenches with great eyes [...] he promises that their Souls shall suddenly have given them young lusty bodies, and set in Paradise, eternally to enjoy those pleasures [...]’ (p.122).

Castles Sultaniye and Kilitbahir on the European and Asiatic shores of the DardanellesThe castles Sultaniye and Kilitbahir on the European and Asiatic shores of the Dardanelles from Henry Blount, Zee- en Land-Voyagie Van den Ridder Hendrik Blunt, Na de Levant. Gedaan in het Jaar 1634 (1707) via Wikimedia Commons

Thus, it appears that Blount was attempting to demonise the Ottomans in the minds of his reader due to English anxieties about increased Anglo-Ottoman trade at the start of the 17th century (Ágoston, 2013; Erkoç, 2016).  This attempt to demonise the Ottomans as self-indulgent and barbaric also recurs in The Totall Discourse of the Rare Adventures and Painfull Peregrinations (1632) by William Lithgow.  Lithgow recounts what he witnessed of the Ottoman slave trade whilst visiting a market in Constantinople and, as a result of his experiences, warns his reader that Turkish people are ‘extremely inclined to all sorts of lascivious luxury ... besides all their sensual and incestuous lusts, unto sodomy, which they account as a dainty to digest [with] all their other libidinous pleasures’ (Lithgow, 1632, p.105).

The stereotyped cultural Ottoman figure that features in Blount’s and Lithgow’s writing also affected early modern dramatic portrayals of Ottomans as violent, lustful, and, politically corrupt.  The theatrical Turkish type may have generally encouraged early modern resurgences of crusading rhetoric, whereby the First Crusade in 1095 was seen as a means to relieve the Orient from what European Christians perceived as barbarism.  However, the endorsement of English crusading rhetoric against Ottomans in early modern writing are a point of contention for Roger Boyle in his play, The Tragedy of Mustapha (1665).  Boyle depicts his Sultan Solyman’s killing of Mustapha, not as being driven by violent impulse but instead, as being driven by the Sultan’s fear that his throne—and therefore, the safety of his subjects—is at risk of being disrupted by Mustapha.  Mustapha is also humanised by Boyle because, in submitting to his death sentence without retaliation, Mustapha fulfils his political duty to his father.  Thus, Boyle represents the disastrous consequences that occur (in the form of Mustapha’s death) when a ruler forces their actions to align with, or to conform to, the expectations of the stereotyped violent Ottoman.

Aisha Hussain
Doctoral researcher at the School of English, University of Salford

Further reading:
Ágoston, G. (2013). ‘War-Winning Weapons? On the Decisiveness of Ottoman Firearms from the Siege of Constantinople (1453) to the Battle of Mohács (1526)’. Journal of Turkish Studies, 39 (1), pp.129-143.
Blount, H. (1636). A Voyage into the Levant. London: Andrew Crooke.
Erkoç, S. (2016). ‘Dealing with Tyranny: Fulke Greville's Mustapha in the Context of His Other Writings and of His View on Anglo-Ottoman Relations’. The Journal of Ottoman Studies, 47(1), pp.265-90.
Boyle, R. (1665). The Tragedy of Mustapha, the son of Solyman the Magnificent. In: The Dramatic Works of Roger Boyle, Earl of Orrery: Volume One, ed. by William Smith Clark II. (1937). Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Lithgow, W. (1632). The Totall Discourse of the Rare Adventures and Painefull Peregrinations of Long Nineteene Yeares Travailes from Scotland to the Most Famous Kingdomes in Europe, Asia and Affrica.
Rosli, U.N.B.M., (2017). ‘References of Sexuality in Relation to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in 17th-19th Century Selected French and English Orientalist Travelogues’. Arab World English Journal, 1(4), pp.68-82.
Tiryakioglu, N. O. (2015). The Western image of Turks from the Middle Ages to the 21st century: the myth of 'terrible Turk' and 'lustful Turk’. Published Doctoral Dissertation, Nottingham Trent University.

This blog post is part of a collaborative series with Medieval and Early Modern Orients (MEMOs).  On the last Monday of every month, both Untold Lives and MEMOs' own blog will feature a post written by a member of the MEMOs team, showcasing their research in the British Library collections.  Follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #BLMEMOS.

 

22 March 2022

Revealing prints at the British Library

I joined the British Library as a Curator of Prints and Drawings in January this year to work on a research project led by Felicity Myrone.  This aims to improve records for prints at the British Library, focussing on works held both by the Library and our sister organisation the British Museum.

I match books or albums at the Library with the relevant print records at the Museum, and an ingenious spreadsheet system devised by my colleague Victoria Morris creates draft MARC records for me to edit.  We are able to create quickly a high volume of print-level records for images within the British Library for the first time.

I examine each book, album or set of prints and alter and augment the relevant British Museum data to cover the history, condition and make-up of the Library’s copies.  The records will be uploaded to our online catalogue in due course, and in the meantime I plan to blog regularly, highlighting interesting items.

The first album of prints I catalogued was Venationes ferarum avium, piscium... [shelfmark: 1899.cc.71.], a set of engravings after Stradanus (1523-1605) depicting intriguing hunting techniques.

Crane Hunt Using ConesDetail from ‘Plate 40: Crane Hunt Using Cones’, from Venationes ferarum avium, piscium... Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The stamping and an inscription on the first page of this album confirms that it once belonged to Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753), whose collection became one of the foundations of the British Museum and Library.  Tracing the ownership, or provenance, of the prints in the British Library is crucial as it will help shed light on how these objects were assembled and collected.

I was able to utilise the British Museum’s records [numbers 1957,0413.37 to 1957,0413.123] to identify that our album did not contain the full set of engravings from the Venationes, but a selection of 38 plates taken from different editions.  Our album shows many signs of use, with three different numbering sequences added in pen to the pages, a doodle, and some details which were pricked for transfer.

Doodle of a chicken and an owl

Doodle of a chicken and owl on the verso of plate 8 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Detail of a dog pricked for transferDetail of a dog pricked for transfer on plate 60 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The album also includes a print which does not belong to the original series.  It is a fragment of a woodcut map pasted on the first page.  Thanks to the lettering on the fragment, I was able to identify it as a section of the Mappe-monde nouvelle papistique, a satirical world-map published in Geneva in 1566.  The full map is made up of sixteen woodblocks, and the fragment preserved in this album is roughly half of one of the blocks which make up the map’s lower right section.

Fragment of the Mappe-Monde Nouvelle Papistique Fragment of the Mappe-Monde Nouvelle Papistique found pasted in the Sloane copy of VenationesPublic Domain Creative Commons Licence

Only five examples of this map are known to have survived. One of those is preserved in the British Library [shelfmark C.160.c.7.].  It is missing a couple of woodcuts, but unfortunately not ones that match our fragment.

Who assembled and used the album?  Does this fragment belong to one of the five known examples, or to another now lost copy?  Was it also part of Sloane’s collection, or was it perhaps mistakenly added to the album at a later date by a binder or conservator?  If it was part of Sloane’s collection, did he paste it in this album himself, or was it already there when he acquired it?  Attempting to answer these questions would require further research and technical analysis of the material.

There are undoubtedly many more exciting discoveries to be made during this project and I look forward to sharing them.

Alice-Anne Tod
Curator, Prints and Drawing

 

15 February 2022

Leendert Hasenbosch’s diary: the story of a gay soldier marooned on a desert island

Leendert Hasenbosch, a Dutch East India Company soldier, was marooned on Ascension Island as punishment for sodomy in 1725.  Abandoned on an uninhabited island, he kept a diary of his days as a castaway and his struggle for survival.

Views of Ascension Island circa 1596

Views of Ascension Island circa 1596 Wikimedia Commons

This diary was later recovered and published as Sodomy Punish’d: Being a True and Exact Relation of what befell to one Leondert Hussenlosch (London, 1726), surviving in a single copy in the British Library.  It is a rare first-hand account of the lived-experience and hardships of a gay man at a time when sexual relationships between men were punishable by death.

Title page of  Sodomy Punish'dSodomy Punish’d, London: 1726, British Library RB.23.a.6682

Leendert Hasenbosch spent his first month on the island searching for water and praying for rescue.  Lonely, he wrote in his diary and tried to keep a bird as a pet but it died.

May 5: '…They put on shore with me a cask of water, two buckets an old frying pan &c.  I made a tent on the beech'.
May 8: '…I trust God Almighty will deliver me by some ship that may touch here'.
May 11: 'I sat down very discontented, being almost dead with thirst'.
May 12: 'This afternoon put some onions, pease and calavances into the ground near my tent to try if they would grow'.

In June, Hasenbosch experienced hallucinations and his situation got increasingly desperate.  He linked these visions to his guilty conscience and prayed for 'forgiveness for [his] sins'.  He was haunted by 'devilish spirits', including one with 'the resemblance of a man [he] had been well acquainted with, whose name [he is] afraid to mention; he staid with [him] for some time'.

By August, Hasenbosch’s water supply had dried up and he was beginning to starve.  He’d failed to catch any of the goats on the island and rats had eaten his crops.  His entries became shorter and preoccupied:
August 8 to 10: 'Nothing particular. No rain'.
August 12 to 16: 'Still no rain'.
August 17: 'No rain falling. I am in the most deplorable condition…'

He resorted to desperate measures:
August 22: 'This morning I caught a large turtle, and drank near a quart of her blood, and took some eggs and fat…I drank my own urine'.

Hasenbosch survived for just over another month on eggs, turtle meat, blood and urine:
October 7: 'I was again oblig’d to drink my own urine; I likewise eat raw flesh'.
From October 9 to 14: 'I liv’d as before'.

His published diary ends here.

Entry from the journal of the East India Company ship Compton describing the discovery of Hasenbosch’s campEntry for 20 January 1725/26 from the journal of the East India Company ship Compton – British Library IOR/L/MAR/B/666A

In January 1726, the East India Company ship Compton discovered Hasenbosch’s camp – a tent, bedding, and items including a kettle and tea, pipes, a hatchet and nails, and his diary up to November.  The Compton’s men searched in vain for the man or his body.  They did not believe that he had left the island because ‘his Paper and a great many Necessarys’ had been left in the tent.

Tragically, there are two fresh water sources on Ascension Island but Hasenbosch didn’t find either.  His diary was brought back in the Compton to England where it was published.  Other editions followed, some more homophobic than others.  His identity was only determined centuries later.

As the sailors didn’t find a skeleton in Leendert Hasenbosch’s camp, there is a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, he was rescued by a passing ship and survived.

Maddy Smith
Curator, Printed Heritage Collections

Further reading:
Read Leendert Hasenbosch’s diary in full
Journal of the East India Company ship Compton – British Library IOR/L/MAR/B/666A

 

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