Senate House Library treasures volume: featuring an unfortunate earl

Apologie of the Earl of Essex


MS 287 is a copy of a tract by Robert Devereux, second earl of Essex (1565-1601), addressed anonymously to Anthony Bacon (a device that enabled Essex to deny authorship), entitled:

‘To Maister Anthonie Bacon. An Apologie of the Earle of Essex, against those which falsely and maliciously taxe him to be the only hinderer of the Peace, and quiet of his Countrey.’

The text differs slightly from that of the first printed edition of 1600 (STC 6787.7) which also included a letter from Essex’s sister, Lady Rich, ‘to her maiestie, in the behalf of the earle of Essex’.

About the tract’s publication, Rowland Whyte wrote on 10 May 1600 to Sir Robert Sydney that ‘Lord Essex continues where he did: he plays now and then at tennis. An Apology written by him about the peace, is, as I hear, printed; on which he is much troubled, and has sent to the Stationers [Company] to suppress them,  for it is done without his knowledge’. On 13 May Whyte reported that ‘The Queen is offended that this Apology of peace is printed, for of 200 copies only 8 is heard of. It is said that my Lady Riches letter to her Majesty is also printed, which is an exceeding wrong done to the Earle of Essex’.

Royal displeasure was something that Essex could ill afford. In 1598 his high standing as Queen Elizabeth’s favourite had been strained by a series of disastrous enterprises. He recovered sufficiently to be appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1599, charged with destroying the rebellion led by the Earl of Tyrone. Having instead concluded a peace treaty with Tyrone, Essex was imprisoned and charged with treason on 20 March 1600. He survived that crisis, but led an abortive rebellion to unseat the queen, and he was executed on 25 February 1601.

The manuscript has a distinguished provenance. It first belonged to Sir Julius Caesar (1558-1636), a distinguished lawyer and judge who became chancellor of the Exchequer in 1606, and was master of the Rolls from 1614 to 1636. The antiquarian Horace Walpole (1719-1797) and the antiquarian and book collector Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872) were subsequent owners.


Senate House Library treasures volume: Featuring magic

The psychical researcher and writer Harry Price (1881-1948) was quick to describe rare and unusual books in his library. As far as I know, he did not write about Will Goldston’s More Exclusive Magical Secrets (1921). For Price it would have lacked the glamour of the pre-twentieth-century books in his library: it was less scarce for one thing (the limited de luxe edition comprised 750 numbered copies, of which 250 were destined for British readership), besides which the writer was Harry Price’s friend. But his copy is worth celebrating. It is the first in the numbered series, and it contains a handwritten dedication on its title page: ‘Congratulations to friend Harry Price. You possess the 1st copy many hours before other subscribers receive their copies. Best wishes. Sincerely yours Will Goldston November 1921.’

More Exclusive Magical Secrets is the second in a series of three which began with Exclusive Magical Secrets (1912) and ended with Further Exclusive Magical Secrets (1927); all three were issued with a substantial brass lock to emphasise secrecy. The volume contains sections on ‘pocket tricks’ (disappearing coins and cigarettes, ‘the cut string restored’, etc.) ‘small apparatus tricks’ ‘platform and stage tricks’, ‘Chinese tricks’, and ‘automata and ventriloquial’ devices. Perhaps the most interesting section in relation to Harry Price’s interests is that dealing with ‘anti-spiritualistic tricks’. The tricks explained include ‘The Talking Skull’, ‘A New Spirit Slate’ ‘A Spirit Rapping Table’, as well as ‘The Crystal Evulgograph’ (‘writing-revealer’), invented by Harry Price himself (pp. 108-12) and contributing, perhaps, to Goldston’s inscription.

Goldston, More Exclusive Magical Secrets

Goldston, More Exclusive Magical Secrets

Senate House Library treasures volume: featuring exotic travel

In 1549 in Vienna the renowned Austrian diplomat and scholar Freiherr Sigmund von Herberstein (1486-1566) published his Rerum moscoviticarum commentarii, the detailed account of two embassies he had undertaken to the Muscovy of Grand-Duke Vasilii III, in 1517-18 and in 1526-7 for Archduke Ferdinand I.

Priding himself on his knowledge of languages that included Russian and on a method of gathering information based on personal observation, probing conversations, and careful scrutiny of documentary sources, Herberstein offered sixteenth-century Europe a wide-ranging survey and commentary on what in later books would be called ‘the present and past state’ of Muscovy or Russia. He provided information on the geography, the governance, the people, their customs and their religion with a degree of persuasive accuracy that brought his book best-seller status and made it widely influential in shaping subsequent views of the country. Herberstein’s work was not only one of the earliest examples of travel writing on Muscovy but became the virtually uncontested source of information, acknowledged and unacknowledged, for almost all subsequent writers into the seventeenth century.


This is one of three copies of the text from the collection of the historian Matthew Smith Anderson (1923-2006), who both wrote and collected about western perceptions of Russia to the period of the Russian Revolution. The other two are a second copy of this early translation into Italian, without the map at the end, and a Latin folio of 1551. This copy has a particular significance within the collection to which it belongs as the final item Anderson purchased for it.

Conserving the Dingwall collection

In 2012-13 the Library received funding from the Wellcome Trust to catalogue and conserve the papers of Eric Dingwall, which include albums and scrapbooks. Rachael Smither was employed on a six-month contract to undertake urgent conservation work and writes as follows:

A survey of the collection found that:

  • There were 77 scrapbooks containing press cuttings, reports, photographs, leaflets, letters and other ephemeral material.
  • Most are 20th-century printed books with their pages trimmed back to leave stubs and guards, allowing room for research material to be adhered in.
  • The date of the content ranges from the late 19th century through to the 1980s.
  • All of the scrapbooks needed some sort of repackaging and almost a third were in need of structural repair.
  • Over half contain photographic material and nearly all contain newsprint.
An example of one of the scrapbooks which contains both photographs and newsprint.

An example of one of the scrapbooks which contains both photographs and newsprint.

The aim of the conservation treatment was to get as many as possible of the damaged scrapbooks into a functioning condition, which would allow them to be safely handled by the readers. Below is an example of scrapbook where extensive treatment was required.



  • The original binding is an early edition of G.E.O. Newnes’ Citizen’s Atlas of the World.
  • Approximately a third of all the text block pages have been trimmed back to allow Dingwall to insert his research material.
  • However too much material has been added, which has caused the text block to swell and eventually the joints have broken. The boards subsequently became detached and are missing.
  • Due to the missing boards it is not known what the original binding style was, but later editions from the same period appear to be mainly half bound with leather and cloth.


  • Extra section stubs were sewn onto the text block to increase the width of the spine.
  • Endbands were also sewn on to help improve the strength of the overall structure. Although not an original feature of the binding, it was felt that they would help support the structure and shape of the spine.
  • New boards were made and attached. Tanned goat skin was used to cover the spine and corners, with toned Aerolinen adhered to the outsides of the boards.
  • The old, original spine leather was pasted back in place. 
Before treatment.

Before treatment.

After treatment.

After treatment.

Spine before treatment.

Spine before treatment.

Spine after treatment.

Spine after treatment.

Head before treatment.

Head before treatment.

Head after treatment.

Head after treatment.

Re-housing of the scrapbooks:

All 77 scrapbooks were re-housed in custom made clamshell boxes. 

Scrapbook in clamshell box.

Scrapbook in clamshell box.



From the Reading Room.

Kirstin Smith, a PhD candidate in the Drama Department at Queen Mary (University of London), has been in this week looking at a number of volumes from the Goldsmith’s Library of Economic Literature.

[GL] E896 ft cov-5779

Silver vs. gold.  Free silver and the people…  (front cover ) By C.M. Stevans.

The books Kirstin chose to consult concern the debate in the USA in the late nineteenth century as to whether that country should return to the system of ‘bimetallism’, where a nation’s holdings of gold and silver act as a guarantee of the value of a currency.   As the ratio for the value of silver to gold was to be set at 32 to 1, rather than the actual value of 16 to 1, economists agreed that ‘free silver’ would cause inflation.  The key point for politicians was whether this inflation would be beneficial – Democrats thought it would and Republicans did not.  1893 had marked a severe depression in the USA and many believed inflation was necessary to get the economy moving again (a debate still raging today).  It would have been especially beneficial for the farmers of the Midwest and the South, as increased prices for their crops would enable them to repay debts quicker.  The financial establishment of the Northeast, the railroads, industry, diversified farmers and business all favoured the Gold Standard; many of these were creditors and inflation would devalue the loans they had provided.  Free silver was a populist movement that portrayed its campaign as a fight between ordinary Americans against bankers, railroad barons and other proponents of laissez-faire capitalism. 

[GL] E895 p71-5778

Real Bi-Metallism or true versus false coin – a lesson for “Coin’s financial school’. (p. 71) By E. Wheeler

Free silver was also portrayed as anti-British – still a potent vote catcher at that time.  As a policy objective bimetallism failed and the USA moved to the Gold Standard at the end of the nineteenth century, before the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 completely overhauled the US monetary system.

It was with the above in mind that I asked Kirstin why she was particularly interested in the volumes we had fetched for her and how they related to her wider research.  Her answer was a surprise.

‘I’m researching the emergence of stunts as a form of performance, word and concept, so why am I reading about the bimetallism debate in the USA at the end of the 19th century?  One of the earliest references to stunts I’ve found so far is in a New York newspaper in 1897.  It’s about William Jennings Bryan, a Democrat politician who led the campaign for ‘free silver’.  Through Bryan and the Free Silver campaign I am thinking about how stunts relate to value.  I’ve been reading a campaign handbook, Silver vs. Gold.  Free Silver and the people ([G.L.] E.896) by C.M Stevans which as well as being of direct relevance to my research also raises many interesting points concerning modern conceptions of value, currency, guarantee and the power of banks today.’

[GL] E894 p129-5777

Coin’s financial school (p.123) By W. Harvey

[GL] E894 p21-5775

Coin’s financial school (p.21) By W. Harvey


Senate House Library treasures volume: Featuring old clothes and Shakespearean contemporaries

Charles Lamb’s Specimens of English Dramatic Poets, who Lived about the Time of Shakespeare (1808) is a compilation of extracts of plays, each preceded by a brief contextualisation of the extract. Represented dramatists include Beaumont and Fletcher, Philip Massinger (alone and in collaboration), James Shirley, Thomas Kyd, George Peele, Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Decker, John Marston, George Chapman, Thomas Heywood, Thomas Middleton, William Rowley, John Webster and some who have dropped into obscurity: Robert Tailor, Joseph Cooke, Cyril Tourneur, Robert Narrington and Edward Ravenscroft among others. The book was well received and ran into several further editions and reprints in the nineteenth century, from 1813, and the twentieth, when evidence of its canonical status was demonstrated by its choice as an Everyman classic. Versions appeared with further editorial intervention, by the essayist and biographer E. V. Lucas and by William Macdonald.

For Senate House Library, the first edition of a book edited by a significant literary personage dealing with Shakespeare’s contemporaries is inevitably significant, the Library having developed strong Shakespearean holdings ever since acquiring Sir Edwin Durning-Lawrence’s library in 1929. In itself, the first edition of Lamb’s book is not rare, with at least thirteen copies recorded in institutional libraries in the United Kingdom. But the Senate House Library copy is a presentation one, inscribed by Lamb’s friend and fellow poet Robert Southey: ‘R. Southey from the Editor, Keswick. Aug. 6. 1808.’ It originally formed part of what Southey called his ‘Cottonian library’. The name paid joking homage to the seventeenth-century bibliophile Sir Robert Cotton, while referring to a collection of books bound by members of his family, using whatever materials they had to hand (such as old dresses previously worn by the Southey ladies) – in this instance, flowered beige calico cloth. The book is the most striking of eleven titles by Lamb to have been given to Senate House Library in early editions by Sir Louis Sterling.


From the Reading Room.

Lily Ford, a PhD candidate at Birkbeck has visited the reading room a number of times over the past six months or so.  On each occasion she has been reading Airopaidia (Porteus Library 05 SR) by Thomas Baldwin. Luckily I caught her on her last visit and asked why she had been reading this text and how it was relevant to her wider research.

Thomas Baldwin’s Airopaidia contains the first British representations of a ‘real’ aerial view. The aerial view had long been imagined – there are ascension fantasies in Cicero, Lucian, and Dante among others, and ‘bird’s-eye views’ had been sketched from hills or steeples for centuries – but it was only with the invention of the hot air balloon that it could be experienced. Baldwin hired the entrepreneur Vincent Lunardi’s balloon and ascended over Chester in September 1785.  He found the change in the earth’s appearance when seen from above the clouds fascinating. He had two drawings engraved and reproduced in colour in the book, and he included quite specific instructions about how to look at them, in order to recreate the sensations of wonder and delight that the views had provoked in him.

Porteous Lib 05 SR p58-5773

Baldwin’s instructions for viewing are as follows:

‘A Circular View from the Balloon at its greatest Elevation.  The Spectator is supposed to be in the Car of the Balloon, suspended above the Center of the View: looking down on the Amphitheatre or white Floor of Clouds and seeing the City of Chester, as it appeared throu’ the Opening: which discovers the Landscape below, limited, by surrounding Vapour, to something less than two Miles in Diameter.  The Breadth of the blue Margin defines the apparent Height of the Spectator in the Balloon (viz. 4 Miles) above the Floor of Clouds, as he hangs in the Center, and looks horizontally round into the azure sky.’ (p. IIII)

Baldwin’s sense of wonder is captured well by his purple prose:

‘…what Scenes of Grandeur and Beauty!  A Tear of pure Delight flashed in his Eye! of pure and exquisite Delight and Rapture: to look down on the unexpected Change already wrought in the Works of Art and Nature, contracted to a span by the NEW PERSPECTIVE, diminished almost beyond the bounds of credibility.’ (p.37)

Reading Baldwin’s exhilarated account of his flight, and looking at these images, got me thinking about how the aerial view changes our understanding of the world. My PhD thesis considers the cultural impact of flight and representations of the aerial view. It is focused on the 1920s when aeroplanes and aerial photography, invigorated after the rapid technological development of the First World War, became integrated into a more general ‘airmindedness’. But it all begins with Airopaidia.

Porteous Lib 05 SR p154-5771

Baldwin writes:

‘A Balloon-Prospect from above the Clouds, or Chromatic View of the Country between Chester, Warrington and Rixton-Moss in Lancashire: shewing the whole Extent of the aerial Voyage; with the meandering Track of the Balloon throu’ the Air.’ (p. IIII)

As I understand it, Baldwin paid for the book’s publication and distribution himself, and it does not seem to have made any impact on critics at the time. Senate House’s copy, while not unique (there are 20 copies in UK academic libraries) is inscribed ‘From the author’. It gives me the sense of a more direct link to this fascinating narrative, and I feel very glad to be consulting it 227 years on.