Pride, Prejudice and Continuing Popularity: our Book of the Month for February

Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen
London: T. Egerton, 1813
[S.L.] I [Austen – 1813]

Celebrating its two-hundredth anniversary this year, Pride and Prejudice is arguably the best-known, best-loved novel in the English language. From the middle of the nineteenth century a new British or American edition has appeared on average at least once every two years; it has given rise to numerous prequels, sequels and dramatisations, as well to abridgements ranging from standard books to comic strips; and international popularity can be ascertained by the wide range of languages into which it has been translated, ranging far beyond the major European ones to Persian, Japanese, Thai and Tamil among others. It must be one of few novels to unite popular affection with critical acclaim. Sir Walter Scott wrote in his diary on 14 March 1826: “Also read again and for the third time at least Miss Austen’s very finely written novel of Pride and Prejudice. That young lady had a talent for describing the involvements and feelings and characters of ordinary life which is to me the most wonderful I ever met with.” Other authors who praised Jane Austen for such features as cleverness, accurate observations, and avoidance of sentimental and Gothic clichés, included Richard Brinsley Sheridan, William Gifford, Mary Russell Mitford, Henry Crabb Robinson and, later, Robert Southey. Thus, while the first edition is not rare – David Gilson located fifty-five copies for his 1982 bibliography of Jane Austen – it is certainly iconic.

The Senate House Library copy is part of the Sterling Library of first and fine editions of English literature; Sir Louis Sterling owned first editions of all six of Austen’s major novels, which fit naturally into a collection which celebrates the high spots of English literature. His copy of Pride and Prejudice was bound uniformly with the other titles by Sawyer in red morocco with gilt tooling and marbled endpapers. Less desirable now than the drab boards in which booksellers issued the work, a fine binding is one sign of the esteem in which a previous owner regarded the work. Within Sterling’s collection, the novel gains a context from being alongside first editions of novels by authors Austen read, admired, and sometimes satirised, such as Fanny Burney, Oliver Goldsmith, Ann Radcliffe, and Samuel Richardson.

Marking the anniversary of a great printer: our book of the month for January

Biblia Latina
Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, 30 July 1477

Incunabula 124-125

This year marks the 500th anniversary of the death of the great Nuremberg printer and businessman Anton Koberger (c.1445-1513). Koberger, like Gutenberg, worked as a goldsmith before moving into the printing, publishing and bookselling trade. Printing his first volume in 1472 (a work on Platonic philosophy) he soon established the then-largest printing business in Germany, running, at the height of his powers, twenty-four presses and a staff of over a hundred compositors, proofreaders, pressmen, illuminators and binders, and enjoying fruitful trade partnerships in Italy, France, Poland, Austria and Hungary. His press produced more than 200 titles during his career, mostly in large folio format, covering works of medieval theology and philosophy, sermons, Bibles, liturgical works, treatises on church law, lives of the saints and church fathers, and some classical texts, mostly in Latin but also in German. The most famous products of his press are Hartmann Schedel’s Liber Chronicarum (the Nuremberg Chronicle), issued in 1493 in Latin and German editions with some 1800 woodcut illustrations, and a 1498 Apocalypse illustrated by Koberger’s godson Albrecht Dürer.

Colophon to the 1477 Biblia Latina

Colophon to the 1477 Biblia Latina

This 1477 Biblia Latina was the second of fifteen Latin Bibles issued by Koberger over a twenty-five year period. It is not an especially rare survival: there are seventeen copies in the British Isles and many more in European and American institutional libraries. Senate House Library owns two copies in fact, the one shown here having formerly belonged to the beguine community in Maastricht and then to Charles Spencer, third earl of Sunderland (1675-1722), one of the greatest British book collectors and connoisseurs of his day. Acquired by Sir Edwin Durning-Lawrence, possibly in the early 1880s, it came to Senate House with his library in 1931.

The date of printing can be seen in the first two lines of the Latin colophon (Millesimoquadringentesimoseptuagesimoseptimo being longhand for 1477) while Koberger’s name appears in the final sentence, where he is described as a resident of the city of Nuremberg. The Durning-Lawrence copy opens with a handsome hand-drawn and coloured initial F, at the start of the printed text, depicting St Jerome, who translated the Bible into Latin, dressed as a cardinal and accompanied by a lion, his traditional attribute.

The opening initial of the 1477 Biblia Latina

The opening initial of the 1477 Biblia Latina

Senate House Library owns several other works printed by Koberger: a 1478 edition of Jacobus de Voragine’s Legenda Aurea, two copies of the 1493 Latin edition of Schedel’s Nuremberg Chronicle, and two copies of the 1494 edition of Malleus Maleficarum (‘Hammer of witches’). The latter was outside Koberger’s usual area of publishing, but the work’s popularity guaranteed the astute businessman his profits.

The father of Mediterranean cookery: our book of the month for December

Libro de Cozina
Roberto de Nola
Toledo: R. de Petras for D.P. Davila, 1525
[E.P.] Case E.b.7

The title page.

The title page.

This is the first Spanish edition of a book originally written in Catalan and published in Barcelona in 1520 by a man who became known as the father of Mediterranean cookery. The nationality of the author, Roberto de Nola, is unknown (Catalan? Aragonese? Italian?). What is known, from his description of himself on the title page, is that he was cook to Fernando (Ferdinand I), King of Naples (r. 1458-1494).

Roberto wrote his book to aid the servant who would replace him upon his death. He began by describing such matters as the duties of household officers, dietary health, what drinks should accompany the dishes, how to carve, and how to serve at table. Recipes follow, whereby the Spanish editions add to and adapt the original Catalan recipes. The recipes are generous in their use of olive oil. They include a great number of soups and stews and sauces, and also food for invalids. More than once, the writer claims that chicken broths are so singular and sustaining that they will return or nearly return a dead man to life (fol. 34). Typically for recipes right up until the nineteenth century, the instructions are vague about quantities. An example (fol. 17): 

The upper cover of the binding showing a chef in action.

The upper cover of the binding showing a chef in action.

Take a hen which is more than half cooked and cut it up as if to make portions; and take good bacon which is fatty, and gently fry it with a little bit of onion.  And then gently fry the cut-up hen with it.  And take toasted almonds, and grind them, and mix with them quinces or pears which have been conserved in honey; and take the livers of the hens, and roast them on the coals.  And when they are well-roasted put them in the mortar of the almonds, and grind everything together; and then take a crustless piece of bread toasted and soaked in white vinegar, grind it in the mortar with the other stuff.  And when it is well-ground, blend it with hen’s broth that is well-salted; and strain it all through a sieve; and cast it in a pot; and cast the hen in also; and cast in all fine spices, and a good quantity of sugar.  And this sauce must be a little bit sour.  And when the sauce is cooked, cast in a little finely shredded parsley, and prepare your dishes, and then [cast] upon them sugar and cinnamon.

The book was very popular, undergoing four further editions in Catalan and ten in Spanish.  Diego Granado plagiarised 55 of its recipes for his Libro del Arte de Cozina (1599). Its lasting value is demonstrated by the existence of a restaurant in modern Malaga which cooks its dishes.

This copy of Libro de Cozina came to Senate House Library as part of the Eliot-Phelips Collection in 1950. It is the only copy of the first Spanish edition recorded on COPAC.