Price and Dingwall meet in print

Christopher Josiffe, a librarian on the staff of Senate House Library, has just published “Dr Dingwall’s Casebook: A Sceptical Enquirer” — part one of a two-part article about the anthropologist, librarian and psychical researcher Eric John Dingwall (1891?-1986) — in the Fortean Times (April 2013, pp. 45-9). As David Sutton writes in his editorial (p. 2): “Christopher Josiffe has enjoyed access to the Dingwall papers at Senate House Library and shines a long overdue light onto the life and career of a man who, in his own way, was as intriguing and interesting an investigator as Harry Price himself”.

The psychical researcher and publicist Harry Price (1871-1948) and Eric Dingwall were well acquainted with each other and were both friends and rivals. They disputed over the nature (genuine or fake?) of two Austrian mediums, Willi and Rudi Schneider. Other topics for disagreement included Harry Price’s library, over which Dingwall presided at the Society for Psychical Research: Dingwall queried its level of interest to the Society, and Price the quality of Dingwall’s custodianship of it.

Senate House Library is privileged to hold both the library and archive of Harry Price and the Dingwall archive, and one of the fascinating elements of Josiffe’s research has been to bring together two sides of a sometimes wistful, sometimes waspish, correspondence to shed light on both men.

Dingwll box

Dingwall box


Teaching with Italian Incunabula

Low survival rates render incunabula among any library’s treasures, and indeed Senate House Library included five incunabula in its recent treasures volume. But use is typically low. Using Senate House incunabula to teach students on UCL’s Italian Studies M.A., Dott. Laura Nuvoloni, Incunabula Cataloguer at Cambridge University Library, noted:

These books have been instrumental to illustrate topics relating to the history and the production of printed books in fifteenth-century Italy.  By comparing incunables with manuscripts of similar texts, I was able to pinpoint  the obvious differences, and also highlight the numerous similarities between fifteenth-century manuscripts and printed

Incunabula 99

Incunabula 99

books, such as the different choice of script adopted for Vergerius’s treatise De ingenuis moribus ac liberalibus studiis by the scribe of the humanistic manuscript (MS288) and by the printer of the Milanese edition (Incunabula 11), or the contiguity between the tables and the illustrations in two books that at first sight could not look more different: the edition of Luca Pacioli, Somma di arithmetica, geometria, proporzioni e proporzionalità, elegantly produced in Venice by Paganinus de Paganinis and dated 10-20 November 14[9]4 (Incunabula 99), and MS594, a humble manuscript mathematical notebook in mercantesca cursive hand datable to around 1509. 

I also discussed the costs involved in the printing process and the contemporary

Incunabula 66

Incunabula 66

commercial value of books.  On this respect, the library copy of the 1484 Flavius Blondus offered the tangible evidence of a folio volume made up of 186 paper sheets with a commercial value of about 4 Venetian lire, as we know for a fact that an exemplar of this edition was sold by the Venetian bookseller Francesco de Madiis for 4 lire and 10 soldi on 1 June 1484 (information supplied by Cristina Dondi).  Contemporary penwork initials probably did not add much to the cost of the Senate House Library copy (Incunabula 81).  By contrast, bindings provided by booksellers by the request of buyers added considerably to the cost of individual copies.  The late-fifteenth-century binding of brown morocco with blind-tooled decoration of the Senate House Library copy of Nicolaus de Ausmo, Supplementum Summae Pisanellae, printed  in Venice in 1474 by Franciscus Renner and Nicolaus de Frankfordia (Incunabula 66), could well be an example of a Venetian trade binding.

Senate House Library treasures volume: featuring general knowledge

Margarita Philosophica

Margarita Philosophica

At its opening in 1877 the University of London Library owned two copies of this 1504 edition of Gregor Reisch’s Margarita Philosophica, or ‘Philosophic Pearl’, one from each of the University Library’s founding collections. Unfortunately Augustus De Morgan’s copy had been lost by 1908. (The 1508 and 1515 editions remain in the De Morgan collection.) The copy shown here belonged to George Grote, who served on the University of London’s Senate and subsequently as its Vice-Chancellor (1861-1871). It is the oldest book but one from his library.

            The work is an encyclopaedic handbook in the form of a dialogue between a pupil (discipulus) and a teacher (magister) which essentially covers the curriculum of the arts faculty. The first edition appeared in 1503. The second addition adds woodcuts – among them the one shown – and also more poems praising the work and its author. These latter demonstrate Reisch’s close contacts with well-known humanists and also include one of the earliest recorded uses of the word ‘cyclopaedia’ or ‘encyclopaedia’.

            This copy is a significant text bears extra interest through hand-coloured illustrations, a few annotations in a sixteenth-century hand, and a roughly contemporary binding, the decoration of which is attributable to the ‘Blütenrolle’ workshop which was active in Würzburg until approximately 1527.

Writers and their Libraries at Senate House

Conference logo

Conference logo

Collections at Senate House Library were well represented at the recent Institute of English Studies conference “Writers and their Libraries”. Anne Welsh, who is currently writing a doctoral dissertation about Walter de la Mare (1873-1956), began by discussing the books which constitute De la Mare’s working library. Looking especially at the poetry, she noted the proportion of his books which were poetry, and pointed out that about half of these were annotated, mostly with lists of page numbers at the back. The paper fitted in excellently with a theme of the conference, demonstrating how a writer’s demonstrable reading fed into his writing.

Walter de la Mare is one of two contemporary literary writers with a working library held at Senate House, and it was ideal to have both represented at the conference. The working library of the writer and designer Thomas Sturge Moore (1870-1944)  was the subject of conference co-organiser Wim Van Merlo’s paper, “Revision in the Margins: T. Sturge Moore and the Social Theory of Reading”. This showed how many books in Sturge Moore’s library contain his reworking of published poems, such that ultimately, the working library and Sturge Moore’s marginal practices can be understood as a network encapsulating past tradition and present creativity.

The mathematician and mathematical historian Augustus De Morgan (1806-1871), a writer of a very different ilk whose books constitute the founding collection of Senate House Library, was well known for annotating his books. His library, much larger than the collections of De la Mare and Sturge Moore at Senate House, was the subject of Karen Attar’s conference paper. This had a very different emphasis from the other two: after describing briefly the nature of the library and of De Morgan’s annotations, the paper moved on to the library within its institutional context, looking at how it has been described and curated, and what modern catalogue records tell us about De Morgan’s treatment of his books.

The cluster of papers about named special collections at Senate House Library must be a first. As many of the publications about special collections at Senate House Library are descriptions of collections told from the perspective of library history, it was exciting to hear papers from a new angle about how the collections are used for current literary research, exploring the relationship between writers’ books and their creativity. Because the conference was on home territory, we were able to complement the talks with books exhibited from all three collections.


From the Reading Room

Richard Allestree, The Ladies Calling (Oxford, 1675)

l calling

Clarissa Sutherland has been in the reading room this week reading the above volume amongst others.  I asked her about her research and this book in particular.

‘I’m writing about the first English stage actresses of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries for my Undergraduate History dissertation. Through my research, I’m attempting to discover whether these women had any impact on society’s views on femininity, and the lives of ordinary women. Richard Allestree’s tract The Ladies Calling is essentially a conduct book for young ladies, taking them through the fundamentals of femininity – modesty, chastity, piety – and detailing how they should behave throughout life – as virgins, wives and widows. The source was essential to my research as it has helped outline the ‘ideal femininity’ of the late seventeenth century which, in conjunction with texts from the later eighteenth century, will allow me to ascertain what kind of an impact the first actresses had, if any. It has also suggested that femininity in the period was very much a construction, which has been useful in my discussion of the actresses’ ‘private’ (yet fairly public) lives potentially being just as much of a construction as the roles they played professionally. Although not strictly related to my question, I was interested to discover a certain empathy with women in Allestree’s writing, which is often absent from moralising discourse. For instance, his assertion that women could be just as great as men if only given an education is a view which would not have been shared by all of his contemporaries.’

As well as the many published works in its collections, Senate House Library holds a good deal of material relating to the theatre both in specialist book collections and in the archives.  The Ternan Family Papers and the Longley Collection of books concern the life and times of actress Ellen Lawless Ternan, who is also known for her affair with Charles Dickens.  Malcolm Morley was an actor/manager/stage director and the Malcolm Morley Collection and archive cover a wide time period and are rich in material on a range of theatrical subjects.  The Florence Farr Papers concern this leading 19th-century West End actress who was also a women’s rights activist, novelist and journalist. She advocated universal suffrage, equal protection for women under the law and workplace equality.  A bohemian’s bohemian she collaborated with artists such as Aubrey Beardsley, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde and theatrical producer Annie Horniman.

Readers may like to attend a talk and discussion hosted by Jonathan Harrison (Head of Special Collections) and Professor Michael Slater (leading Dickens Scholar): ‘The Malcolm Morley Collection of Dramatic Literature’ will be held in the Seng Tee Lee Centre, Senate House Library, on Wednesday 13th March at 6.00pm.  Those wishing to attend should contact the library office on .

Teaching with Italian Manuscripts

Recently for the third time Dott. Laura Nuvoloni, Incunabula Cataloguer at Cambridge University Library, taught students on UCL’s Italian Studies M.A. two classes at Senate House Library, using library materials. She wrote:

The star of the small but intriguing collection of manuscript books and fragments from Medieval and Renaissance Italy is MS288, a humanistic miscellany of educational 25vtreatises, including Paulus Vergerius, De ingenuis moribus ac liberalibus studiis, from the library of Sir Edwin Durning-Lawrence (1837-1914). The manuscript was identified as in the hand of the celebrated Paduan scribe Bartolomeo Sanvito (1433-1511) and dated to around 1455-1456 by A. C. (‘Tilly’) de la Mare. This book is a testimony of the intellectual interests of Italian humanists and their wealthy patrons; by contrast, a Breviary, written and illuminated in traditional Gothic style, is a reminder of the relevance of daily religious practice to both members of the clergy and lay individuals in medieval and Renaissance Italy (MS904). 

These and other manuscripts and fragments proved to be useful aids when describing the different quire organisations and the various ruling techniques that scribes used when preparing parchment or paper manuscripts for copy; they also provided material examples of the development of formal and cursive scripts for texts in Latin and Italian vernacular alike.  Bound volumes also provided different binding examples. Two unassuming paper manuscripts, containing tables and documents relating to communal tolls and taxation in Florence, Pisa and Argenta between 1423 and 1579, were of particular interest to me as they not only provided examples of different hands, both formal and cursive, and of bindings on leather over pasteboards with blind-tooled decoration and on parchment over paperboards, but also first-hand information on contemporary prices for paper, parchment and pigments (MS3; MS15).

Senate House Library treasures volume: featuring railways

Rastrick diary

Rastrick diary

According to an assessment in Transactions of the Newcomen Society, 4 (1923-4), between 1829 and 1849 “there was hardly a [railway] line projected or carried through on behalf of which he [i.e. John Urpeth Rastrick] did not appear professionally either as witness, surveyor or engineer”. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography states more modestly that from 1825 onwards Rastrick “was employed to support, in parliament, a large portion of the principal railway lines in the United Kingdom”, and our own treasures volume says cautiously: “Until 1849, he was to be involved as witness, surveyor or engineer for many railway projects in the United Kingdom”. The fact remains – he was a prominent and significant railway engineer. The University of London Library acknowledged the value of his work when in 1908 it appealed successfully to the Worshipful Goldsmiths’ Company for money to buy his early notebooks, plans and estimates, as well as a large number of early pamphlets on English, American and Italian railways; three further purchases of notebooks, diaries, letters and papers were to follow between the 1920s and 1965. Introducing the handlist of the Rastrick archival material in Senate House Library, T.D. Rogers wrote that whereas published accounts of Rastrick tended to enumerate his work and achievements, “A study of the diaries and letters in this collection may help to reveal a person as well as an engineer, to correct some dates, and also to provide new ones for an account of his life”. What emerges most clearly from his diary of 1840, when he was working among other things on a route between London and Brighton, is his extreme energy.

            However significant textually, diaries and notebooks tend not to be visually

Views on the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway

Views on the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway

attractive, so we needed an additional image for the entry in the treasures volume. This sent us to the early books on railways in the Goldsmiths’ Library of Economic Literature – Rastrick’s and Herbert Somerton Foxwell’s – to find an image to accompany the entry in the treasures volume on Rastrick’s diary. We felt that we came up trumps with John Blackmore’s Views on the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway (1836-1838) with 23 plates by J.W. Carmichael intended to show “the delightfully varied scenery and interesting country” around the railway.