Category: Provenance

Discovering Provenance in Book History: two accounts of David Pearson’s masterclass

By , 6 May 2013 12:56 pm

John Hall

About twenty of us, with a very varied range of expertise, were gathered to hear David Pearson speak about provenance evidence, especially, but not exclusively, that found in incunabula.
David began with an illustrated talk, in which he explained the importance of a knowledge of the provenance of books, and of signs that they have been read: this shows us what books were actually owned and used, and by what sorts of people (as opposed to the mere knowledge of what books were printed), and this knowledge has come to be much more valued by scholars and librarians in recent years. He then described the various sorts of provenance evidence. Continue reading 'Discovering Provenance in Book History: two accounts of David Pearson’s masterclass'»

Pietro Bembo and the University Library copy of the De Aetna of 1496

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By , 9 August 2012 1:25 pm

Variants and corrections inserted in the  Cambridge University Library copy of the Aldine edition of De Aetna (Inc.4.B.3.134[4580]) have been identified as autograph additions by the author of the text, the learnead Venetian humanist Pietro Bembo.

Pietro Bembo (1470-1547) was the most influential among 16th-century scholars for the future development of the Italian language and Italian literature.  He wrote De Aetna, a fictitious dialogue between himself and his father Bernardo relating to Pietro’s trip to Mount Etna in Sicily during an eruption, while he was studying Greek with Konstantinus Lascaris.  The book was published in Venice by Aldus Manutius in February 1495 more Veneto, i.e. 1496 (ISTC ib00304000; GW 3810).  Its publication was important for  three reasons:  it is Bembo’s first Latin work, it is the first of his works to be put into print and it is the first Latin text printed by Aldus Manutius. 

The University Library copy was formerly in the possession of Stanley Morison (1889-1967), the distinguished English typographer described as “Britain’s greatest authority on letter-design” in the Dictionary of National Biography.[1]  In 1928 Morison created the famous Bembo font from the Roman tondo used by Aldus for Bembo’s De Aetna.  This was the fourth of the tondo typefaces designed and cut for Aldus Manutius by the Bolognese punchcutter Francesco Griffo who, for his part, had taken inspiration from the formal humanistic script of Renaissance Italian scribes.[2]  Aldus used it for the first time to print De Aetna, which therefore scores another “record”. 

Morison inscribed the upper pastedown of his copy with the note “Property of the Monotype Corporation to be preserved as being the original of Series 270 cut in & produced in matrix for  in 1930 / Stanley Morison”.  Morison had bought the book for £ 100 from Davis & Orioli in April 1940, therefore little more than 10 years after designing the Bembo font.  Later on, at an unknown date, he donated it to the Monotype Corporation, which gave it to library in 1967, seven years after Morison’s death.  The donation was most welcome to the library, not only because it filled a gap in the incunable collection, but also on account of the association with Stanley Morison and his work at Monotype.[3]

The book is important for another reason.  It bears eight of the manuscript corrections discussed in a famous article entitled “Manuscript Corrections in the Aldine Edition of Bembo’s De Aetna” published in 1951 by Curt F. Bühler,[4] who did not know about the present book, then still the property of Monotype.  The corrections have been washed away, but most of them can still be read by the naked eye as on leaves A8 verso and D2 verso. 

As noted by Bühler and later by Bianca Maria Mariano in an article published in 1991,[5] they were all included in the second revised edition of the text published by the Venetian printer Johannes Antonius da Sabio and brothers in 1530.[6]

Furthermore, our book also shows a few additional marginal and interlinear corrections and additions that have not been noticed in the copies studied by Bühler: the substitution, for instance, of “segetes” for “fru-ges” on leaf B6 verso, lines 8-9,

the substitution of “inspectantibus” for “uidentibus” on leaf D2 recto, line 15,

and the insertion of the word “pater” above line 15 of leaf C7 recto. 

All these changes can also be found in the 1530 edition.

On the latter page a very faint two-line addition to the text has been supplied in the lower margin.  With the help of UV light one can read “neq[ue] enim puto huius ignarum rei tamq[uam] dormientem / spectatorem sic te ex eo spectaculo redijsse” [i.e. “because I didn’t imagine you returned from the spectacle like a dozing spectator, with no knowledge of it !”]. 

The addition matches a variant that can be found on leaf B5 recto of the 1530 edition, leaf Bb5 recto. 

Overall the text of the 1530 edition confirms that all the marginal notes, variants and corrections introduced manually to our book were authorial changes, that is to say they came from Bembo himself.  According to Bühler, these notes and corrections were separately carried out on each book in Aldus’s shop at the time of its sale.  This would explain the differences in the number of corrections appearing in different copies: some books have only a few, others have more as if mistakes were discovered and changes were carried out by the author as time went by.  I briefly checked the copies of the 1495 edition held in the Bodleian Library and in the British Library.  They also bear such manuscript corrections, most of them written by accomplished hands, but none by the same hand that we find in the Cambridge copy, with the possible exception of the annotations in incunable IA.24410, washed away and therefore requiring an UV light investigation. 

I believe that the small and sharp, but educated and elegant humanistic cursive hand found in our copy is the hand of Pietro Bembo himself.  The identification is confirmed, I believe, by the comparison with marginal notes in two manuscripts of Horace copied by Bartolomeo Sanvito for Bembo’s father, Bernardo, and now in the manuscript collections of King’s College Cambridge (MS. 34, fol. 149 verso) and of the University Library (MS. Dd.15.13, fol. 58 recto) .

 The annotator of the two manuscripts has been identified as Pietro by Professor de la Mare and Massimo Danzi.[7]

Bembo is well known for always revising his works, constantly correcting and adding to them.  I don’t think, however, that the Cambridge book is a personal working copy of the text:  it is too clean, almost immaculate, and has no sign of use in a printing house.  Moreover, the few marginal additions and corrections in the book are very far from the more than 150 variants registered in the 1530 edition by Mariano.  I think that our book was given by Bembo to an unidentified individual shortly after publication and after he had carefully added his own corrections, variants and supplements to the text.  Unfortunately the old parchment cover of the book has been heavily restored and the old endleaves disposed of, so that we have no indication of ownership or provenance before Morison.  What remains to do, now, is to check again all the other 39 extant copies of the edition for traces of Bembo’s hand.

A fuller account of Bembo’s variant and corrections in our copy of the De Aetna can be found in L. Nuvoloni, “Bembo ritrovato : varianti e correzioni d’autore nel De Aetna aldino della University Library di Cambridge”, L’Ellisse. Studi storici di letteratura italiana, VI (2011), pp. 205-210, pls V-VIII.

[1] H. G. Carter, “Morison, Stanley Arthur (1889–1967)”, rev. David McKitterick, in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [, accessed 12 July 2012]

[2] P. Tinti, “Griffo (Grifi, Griffi), Francesco (Francesco da Bologna)”, in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, vol. 59, Rome, 2003, pp. 377-380;, for the online edn.

[3] A letter from Davis & Orioli to Stanley Morison, dated 4 December 1942, an advice note from the Monotype Corporation to Davis & Orioli, dated 10 October 1952, and a copy of the letter from the director of the University Library to J. Matson of The Monotype Corporation, dated 23 July 1974, are kept with the book.

[4] C. F. Bühler, “Manuscript Corrections in the Aldine Edition of Bembo’s De Aetna”, The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, XLV (1951), pp. 136-42.

[5] B. M. Mariano, “Il De Aetna di P. Bembo e le varianti dell’edizione 1530”, Aevum, 65 (1991), pp. 441-52.

[6] For the 1530 edition, see Catalogue of books printed on the continent of Europe, 1501-1600, in Cambridge libraries, compiled by H. M. Adams, London, 1967, p. 109, no. 584. Cambridge, University Library, F152.d.2.7, item no. 2.

[7] A.C. de la Mare, “Marginalia and Glosses in the Manuscripts of Bartolomeo Sanvito of Padua”, in Talking to the text: Marginalia from Papyri to Print.  Proceedings of a Conference held at Erice 26 Sept.–3 Oct. 1998…, ed. V. Fera, G. Ferraù and S. Rizzo, Messina, 2002 [Percorsi dei classici, 5], vol. II, pp. 459-555 (466 n.1, 519, 521); M. Danzi, La biblioteca del Cardinale Pietro Bembo, Geneva, 2005, p. 336, pls 2-6 (pls 7-28 for images of Petro’s notes in other manuscripts); A. C. de la Mare and L. Nuvoloni, Bartolomeo Sanvito. The life and work of a Renaissance scribe, eds A. R. A. Hobson and C. de Hamel, Paris and Dorchester, 2009 (The Handwriting of the Italian Humanists, 2), nos 64, 82; M. Danzi, “Pietro Bembo”, in Autografi dei letterati italiani, vol. 3.1, Rome, 2009, pp. 47-59 (54).

Unidentified ownership marks: our queries.

By , 6 August 2012 1:28 pm

One of the principal aims of the Incunabula Project team at Cambridge University Library is the identification, whenever possible, of the previous owners of our incunables.  Sometimes we are able to find unnamed bookplates, stamps or arms in printed publications or identify them through online resources, such as the images posted online by the Penn Provenance Project or Paul Needham’s Index Possessorum Incunabulorum (IPI) in the online Provenance Research pages provided by the Consortium of European Research Libraries (CERL), but other times we are at a loss and unable to find the answer.

We would therefore be most grateful for help from our readers in the identification of the puzzling bookplates, unknown stamps and unidentified coats-of-arms that we will occasionally post in our blog.

Our first query concerns a small bookplate (31 x 31 mm) representing a bull head in a collar pasted onto the front pastedown of a recently acquired copy of Biblia latina : cum postillis Nicolai de Lyra et expositionibus Guillelmi Britonis in omnes prologos S. Hieronymi et additionibus Pauli Burgensis replicisque Matthiae Doering, Venice : Franciscus Renner, de Heilbronn, 1482-83 (ISTC ib00612000; GW, 4287), volume 2 only (Psalms to Maccabees), Inc.2.B.3.6d[4638].  We suspect a 19th-century English provenance, but have not been able to trace it.

The second query relates to a stamp found on the first leaf of a Libro da Compagnia printed in Florence by Antonius Francisci Venetus around 1490 (ISTC ic00788450; GW 13393), Inc.4.B.8.12 [4461], [A1]r.  The library copy is one of the only three extant examplars of the edition.  The stamp shows three crescents addorsed, an eagle regaurdant, wings expanded, below, and the motto «Expecto», all surmounted by a princely crown.  It has been identified with the stamp of a member of the Strozzi family of Florence.  The same stamp also appears in one of the two copies of Angelus Politianus, Miscellaneorum centuria prima, Florence : Antonio di B. Miscomini, 19 September 1489 (ISTC ip00890000), held in the Houghton Library at Harvard, Inc 6149 (B) (26.4) (J. E. Walsh, A catalogue of the fifteenth-century printed books in the Harvard University Library, 5 vols, Binghamton NY, Tempe AZ, 1991-95, no. 2872). In the Hourghton copy a princely crown surmounts the initials “F.S.” in the lower compartment of the late 18th- or early 19th-century binding (information kindly supplied by William Stoneman).  According to the genealogy of the Strozzis, four members of the family by the first name beginning in “F” bore the title of Prince of Forano.  They were as follows:  Filippo (1699-1763), 2nd prince,  Ferdinando Giuseppe (1718-1769), 3rd prince, Ferdinando Maria (1774-1835), 5th prince, and Ferdinando Lorenzo (1821-1878), 6th prince.  We would be grateful for any information that might help in the identification of the actual owner of these books.

We are also seeking help for the identification of a coat-of-arms that belonged to an unknown family, probably Austrian [?] or South Tyrolean, possibly from Brixen (i.e. Bressanone, Italy).  The arms are painted in the upper pastedown in our copy of the Missale Brixinense printed in Augsburg by Erhard Ratdolt in August 1493, at the instance of Florian Waldauf von Waldenstein, a member of the Kannenordens (Orden de la Jarra y el Grifo, i.e. the Order of the Jar and the Griffin), and by permission of Melchior von Meckau, Bishop of Brixen  (ISTC im00653000; GW M24292), Inc.2.A.6.18[837] (Oates, 964).

Finally,  we are still trying to identify the arms found in our copy of Pomponio Mela, Cosmographia, sive De situ orbis, Venice : Bernhard Maler (Pictor), Erhard Ratdolt and Peter Loslein, 1478 (ISTC im00449000), Inc.4.B.3.23a[1454] (Oates, 1744).

With thanks from the Incunabula Project Team.

Michael Wodhull and Mrs Weir – A post by Ed Potten

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By , 24 July 2012 3:30 pm

The Library of Michael Wodhull (1740-1816), Dibdin’s ‘Orlando’, poet and the first translator into English of the extant works of Euripides, is well-known. His books are immediately recognisable, either through his distinctive gilt armorial device, or from his equally distinctive annotations. The history of his collection is succinctly described in de Ricci’s English Collectors of Books & Manuscripts. Wodhull haunted the London sale rooms between 1764 and 1815, amassing a remarkable collection of early-printed books, many of which he subsequently had bound by Roger Payne.

Wodhull's gilt armorial stamp on the binding of SSS.4.16

Wodhull's gilt armorial stamp on the binding of SSS.4.16

After Wodhull’s demise, appropriately enough within the Library he created at Thenford, his books passed first to his sister, Mary Ingram, from her to Samuel Amy Severne and then to J.E. Severne, who auctioned the collection at Sotheby’s in 1886. During his lifetime Wodhull disposed of a number of duplicates, and books from these sales can be clearly identified from his habit of excising the upper corner of the front flyleaf, removing evidence of the date and price of purchase.

Although famed for its classical incunabula, Wodhull’s library was diverse. The Incunabula Cataloguing Project has to date recorded 21 fifteenth-century books from his collection, amongst which is an intriguing volume containing two legal texts; Vocabularius juris utriusque ([Basel : Michael Wenssler, between 1475 and 1478] – ISTC iv00335600 ), the law dictionary compiled by Jodocus Erfordensis (fl. ca. 1452), and Maffeo Vegio’s Vocabula ex iure civili excerpta (Vicenza: Philippus Albinus, 1 Dec. 1477 – ISTC iv00122000).

Wodhull's annotations to the front flyleaf of SSS.4.16

Wodhull's annotations to the front flyleaf of SSS.4.16

Wodhull’s ever-helpful annotations demonstrate that the two items were formerly in the monumental Venetian library of the director of the official Venetian press, Maffeo Pinelli (1736-1785), brought to England by the bookseller James Edwards (1757-1816) and sold by auction on 2 March 1789 and 1 February 1790.  Wodhull acquired the book for the bargain price of 8s, then paid a further 16s to have it bound. The catalogue of the Pinelli sale confirms this; item 6016:

“Vocabularius Juris utriusque, Absque ulla nota, Sæc. XV. fol.- Editio pervetusta est, sine numeris, signaturis, & custodibus, character Germanico, eoque rudi.
Vegii Liber Vocabulorum ex Jure Civili excerptorum, Vincentiæ, MCCCLXXVII, fol.”

At the 1886 Wodhull sale the volume was item 2730, described there as having “MS. notes and initials historiated with drawings”, a “fine copy in russia by Mrs. Weir”. It sold for £1:15s to the bookseller Bennett, who then offered it as item 228 in an as yet unidentified catalogue, listed under ‘Early Printing’ – “A capital specimen of early printing in Black Letter … finely bound in russia gilt, rough edges, by Mrs. Weir.” From Bennett it went to the great collector and benefactor of Cambridge University Library, Samuel Sandars (1837-1894), bequeathed to the Library in 1894.

Samuel Sandars (1837-1894)

Samuel Sandars (1837-1894)

The attribution of the binding to Mrs Weir is intriguing – I can find little written on either Mrs Weir (sometimes Wier) or her husband, David (possibly Richard?), assistants in Payne’s bindery in the 1770s, and would welcome leads on more information. The earliest printed reference I can find to the Weirs is in Dibdin’s Bibliographical Decameron, where he states that the husband and wife worked together in Toulouse, repairing and binding books for Count Justin MacCarthy-Reagh (1744-1811) before working for Payne. Charles Ramsden confirms the Toulouse connection, convincingly showing that the Weirs spent at least three years with MacCarthy-Reagh, although there is some discrepancy around the precise dates – Ramsden 1771-1774, Dibdin 1774-1777 – and his attribution of a group of bindings to MacCarthy-Reagh and then to Weir remains hypothetical.[1] Dibdin further notes that Mrs Weir undertook repair work for Payne, then later “betook herself to Edinburgh”, repairing the books and documents at Edinburgh Record Office.[2] The Jaffray MSS confirm this move to Edinburgh: “She went down to repair, wash and mend the MSS. of the Society of Writers to the Signet in Edinburgh at a salary of £1.1.0 a week, where she died.”[3]

Portrait of Mrs Weir, from Dibdin's 1817 'Bibliographical Decameron', volume 2, p. 518

Portrait of Mrs Weir, from Dibdin's 1817 'Bibliographical Decameron', volume 2, p. 518

Cyril Davenport’s Roger Payne gives a sketchy account of the activities of both Weirs, identifying Mrs Weir as “a very skilful repairer of old books and paper” and concluding “Certainly one or two bindings credited to Payne were not done by him at all but by the Weirs … The great test is the quality of the gilding … Payne’s … is brilliant; Weir’s … is not so clear and smooth.”[4] Bernard Middleton notes Mrs Weir as “renowned as a paper-mender” and cites a single unidentified binding signed ‘Bound by Weir’, supplementing the corpus of three identified by Ramsden and one further Storer Bequest binding identified by Mirjam Foot.[5]

Mirjam’s ODNB entry for Payne is more enlightening, but again restricts Mrs Weir’s activities to paper repairs and red-ruling:

“Both David Wier and his wife appeared to have worked for Payne. Mrs Wier, who apparently was a capable mender and restorer as well as ‘an excellent hand at ruling red … lines on prayer books’ (Jaffray, 4.182), was, according to Dibdin, ‘pretty constantly and most successfully employed’ (Dibdin, 517) by him, probably before 1774, while her husband (according to the same source) worked for Payne from 1777. The partnership was not a happy one—‘Wier happened to be as fond of “barley broth” as his associate … They were always quarrelling’ (ibid., 515)—and they parted company.”[6]

There is no doubt that David (Richard) Weir bound books, despite the paucity of surviving signed examples, and more work is needed to clarify the relationship between the Weirs and MacCarthy-Reagh – a recent communication with Mirjam Foot suggests that the late Giles Barber had long planned to work on some intriguing-sounding archival material in Toulouse. Beyond bookseller’s descriptions, however, there seems to be no evidence at all to suggest that Mrs Weir also worked as a binder. There is nothing on the CUL book to indicate why it was attributed to her in 1886, but it is worth noting that attributions to the Weirs seem to have been in vogue in the 1880s. Quaritch’s catalogue 93, Bookbinding, November 1888, for example contains sections dedicated to ‘Richard and Mrs. Wier’, and to ‘Bindings said to be by Roger Payne; probably done by Richard Wier and Roger Payne in partnership’. I suspect a degree of bookseller’s verbiage – if one could get away with attributing a binding to Payne one could charge a premium, if not then citing the Weirs was the next best thing.

Unidentified armorial initial within SSS.4.16

Unidentified armorial initial within SSS.4.16

Unidentified armorial device in SSS.4.16

Unidentified armorial device in SSS.4.16

The CUL volume raises other interesting questions around its pre-Pinelli history. The Vocabularius juris utriusque is rubricated throughout and has occasional fifteenth and sixteenth-century annotations and manicules in two hands. The Vegio, however, is unrubricated, but displays extensive fifteenth or early sixteenth-century annotations, corrections to the text, cross references, added entries and additional definitions in a very elegant hand, matching neither of those present in the Vocabularius. Clearly, on or soon after publication the books went separate ways. Both, however, share decorated initials in a style which suggests that they were brought together in the sixteenth century. The opening leaf of the Vocabularius bears two armorial devices, neither as yet identified (any help gratefully received). The first is contemporaneous with the decorated initials, the other much later, probably contemporaneous with the red-ruling of the leaf, the only leaf thus ruled.

One final oddity – although bound in this order when Wodhull purchased the volume from the Pinelli sale, at some point in its history the volume appears to have been bound the other way round. There is a clear offset letter ‘S’ on the front flyleaf now facing the opening leaf of the Vocabularius, which matches exactly the decorated initial ‘S’ on the opening leaf of the Vegio, now the second bound item.

Decorative initial 'S' from SSS.4.16

Decorative initial 'S' from SSS.4.16

Offset ink on the front flyleaf from the decorated initial 'S' now bound second

Offset ink on the front flyleaf from the decorated initial 'S' now bound second

[1] Charles Ramsden ‘Richard Weir and Count MacCarthy-Reagh’ in The Book Collector vol. 2, no. 4, winter 1953, pp. 247-257.

[2] Thomas Frognall Dibdin The Bibliographical Decameron (London: 1817) p. 518-9.

[3] Mirjam Foot The Henry Davis Gift … Volume I (London: 1978), p.110, footnote 53.

[4] Cyril Davenport Roger Payne (Chicago: Caxton Club, 1929) pp.22-24.

[5] Bernard Middleton A history of Englisg Cradt Bookbinding Technique (Delaware: 1996) pp. 207, 357; Charles Ramsden ‘Richard Weir and Count MacCarthy-Reagh’ in The Book Collector vol. 2, no. 4, winter 1953, pp. 253-4. Mirjam Foot The Henry Davis Gift … Volume I (London: 1978), p. 101.

[6] Mirjam M. Foot, ‘Payne, Roger (bap. 1738, d. 1797)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 12 July 2012]