Category: Inscriptions

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]

Paul Needham’s Index Possessorum Incunabulorum (IPI)

By , 25 January 2011 12:45 pm

The publication of Paul Needham’s Index Possessorum Incunabulorum (IPI) in the online Provenance Research pages provided by the Consortium of European Research Libraries (CERL) is a most welcome addition to the useful provenance tools offered by CERL to bibliographers, librarians and cataloguers of early printed books.

Three days after the announcement of its publication in December 2010, the Index allowed me to identify the hitherto anonymous owner of the Cambridge University Library copy of a collection of Pseudo-Augustinian sermons published in Cologne by Ulrich Zel around 1468-69 (ISTC ia01303000), Inc.5.A.4.1[254].

The front page of the book bears a stamp described as “two C’s addorsed and interlaced belneath a coronet” in the incunable catalogues of the Cambridge University Library (CUL), published by Oates in 1954, and of the Bodleian Library at Oxford, published in 2005. A similar description in IPI, “addorsed C’s below coronet of 7 points”, allowed me to identify the stamp in the CUL book with the one used for his collection by George Friedrich Creuzer (1771-1858), philologist and professor at Marburg and Heidelberg.

Consequently, we can now associate to the  Creuzer’s collection four other CUL incunabula displaying the same stamp.  They are as follows: 1. Jacobus [Palladinus] de Theramo. Consolatio peccatorum, seu Processus Belial. [Strassburg : Heinrich Knoblochtzer], 1484 (ISTC ij00070000), Inc.3.A.2.8[3819]; 2. Pius II, Pont. Max. (formerly Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini). Dialogus contra Bohemos atque Thaboritas de sacra communione corporis Christi. [Cologne: Ulrich Zel, not after 1472](ISTC ip00668000), Inc.5.A.4.1[281]; 3. Jacobus Van Den Driesche [Dreische, or Driessen]. De indulgentiis et miraculis psalterium Virginis Mariae concernentibus, with Alexander Forliviensis. Copia bullae indulgentiarum de Rosario Mariae, and Sixtus IV. Copia probationis fraternitatis Mariae “Pastoris aeterni”. Cologne : Arnold Ther Hoernen, 12 November 1478 (ISTC id00366350), Inc.5.A.4.2[355]; 4. Dialogus inter clericum et militem super dignitate papali et regia. [Deventer : Richardus Pafraet], 31 January 1491 (ISTC id00153000), Inc.5.E.4.3[2962].

As a gesture of gratitude to both Paul Needham and CERL, I would like to share some new information regarding the former owner of another book in CUL, Inc.4.A.32.1[4169].  The volume is a sammelband and includes: a) Mensa philosophica. Heidelberg : [Heinrich Knoblochtzer] for Jakob Köbel, [after 28 March] 1489 (ISTC im00495000) – b) [Pseudo-] Seneca [i.e. Martinus de Braga]. De quattuor virtutibus cardinalibus, sive De formula honestae vitae. [Speyer : Conrad Hist, ca. 1500] (ISTC is00423000) – c) [Pseudo-] Seneca. Proverbia. [Cologne : Cornelis de Zierikzee, ca. 1500] (ISTC is00404000).

The title page of the Mensa philosophica, the first book in the volume, displays an ownership inscription, datable to the late 16th or early 17th century, that reads “Ioannes Rodolphus ab Erlach” followed by the words “Nasci Laborare Mori”.

Through a quick Google search, I located an identical inscription in volumes 2 and 3 of a copy of Antonio de Guevara and Aegidius Albertinus, Der guldenen Sendtschreiben. Durch der. Hoffraths Secretarium Aegidium Albertinum, auss der Hispanischen in die Teutsche Sprach auffs fleissigst verwendt. München : Adam Berg, 1599 (vol. III), 1600 (vol. II) and 1607 (vol. I), property of the Basel antiquarian booksellers Erasmushaus.  Timur Yueksel of the firm kindly informed me that the inscription in their book was indeed written by the same hand and that the motto “Nasci Laborare Mori” corresponds to the family motto of the von Erlachs, a prominent family of politicians, administrators and military commanders of Bern in Switzerland.

In the booksellers’s online description of Der guldenen Sendtschreiben, “Ioannes Rodolphus ab Erlach” is identified with Johann Rudolf von Erlach of Hindelbank (1585-1643), seigneur of Riggisberg, Rümlingen, Champvent and La Molte, bailiff of Verdon in 1624, member of the Parliament of Burgundy in 1633, and colonel of the Bernese regiment in the French army in 1635. According to the Dictionnaire historique et biographique de la Suisse, however, the owner of CUL and Erasmushaus books could be identified also with the representative of another branch of the family, i.e. Johann Rudolf von Erlach (1577-1628), bailiff of Moudon in 1604 (see Dictionnaire historique et biographique de la Suisse, vol. 3, Neuchatel, 1926, pp. 6, 7).

CUL sammelband is bound in brown calfskin over pasteboards, with blind-tolled decoration.  The binding is datable to the early 16th century and appears to be the first. The rather amateurish tooling creates a pattern of flourished arches interspersed with fleurs-de-lis in rhomboid frames, with a square strapwork stamp along the edges.  The decoration is identical on both the upper and the lower cover.  The comparison with other Bernese bindings published in Johann Lindt, Berner Einbände Buchbinder und Buchdrucker Beiträge zur Buchkunde 15. bis 19. Jahrhundert. Bern : [1969], suggests that the binding of the Cambridge sammelband could also be Suisse (possibly from Bern ?).

There is another feature of the binding that could help us in the identification of its origin: the upper pastedown is a a parchment fragment from an 11th-century Breviary in Caroline script of northern origin (pasted up-side-down). Its text corresponds to readings for the 3rd Sunday of Lent, as Giacomo Baroffio kindly informs me.

We would be grateful for information regarding other books with corresponding ownership inscriptions, bindings decorated with comparable tools, and fragments from a similar manuscript in Caroline script used as binder waste in early 16th-century bindings of Swiss origin.

I wish to thank Dr Timur Yueksel of Erasmushaus, Dr Sabine Schlüter of  Universitätsbibliothek Bern, Dr Anthony Hobson and Prof. Giacomo Baroffio for their kind assistance and suggestions.

A Greek anthology printed in Florence, a Yiddish subscription and a German binder

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By , 6 November 2010 1:35 pm
The Cambridge University Library copy of the Anthologia Graeca Planudea pubblished by Janus Lascaris and printed by Laurentius (Francisci) de Alopa Venetus in Florence on 11 August 1494 (ISTC ia00765000) comes from the Sandars Collection, which is particularly rich in original and de-luxe bindings (SSS.60.10) .  This book retains its original binding too.

upper cover

lower cover

The cover is made a of quarter blind-tooled pigskin over bevelled wooden boards, with two stubs of fastening pigskin straps at fore-edge of lower board and channeling and nail holes for two lost catches at fore-edge of the upper board.  It is clearly German and datable to the end of the 15th or the beginning of the 16th century.

Upper guard

The parchment guards of the first and last gatherings A and KK are fragments from a 15th-century liturgical German manuscript in Gothic hand with rubrics and initials in red.

B1 recto

The margins bear some marginal manuscript notabilia both in Latin and Greek in cursive hand by a German reader of the early 16th century.

More intriguingly, the book is also inscribed with notes by different hands in Greek and Hebrew on the blank recto of its title page, i.e. leaf [A1] recto: a classical citation [?], an imploration to God, and a partly cropped note written by a less educated hand in the upper margin of the leaf.

A1 recto

This short note turned out to be the most interesting one.  Written in Yiddish in an Hebrew hand datable to the end of the 15th century, it reads “12 grozim Ingolstadt”, providing us with a price and the name of the German town in which the book was at the end of the 15th or the beginning of the 16th century (I am most grateful to my colleagues from the Geniza Project, and Dr Esther-Miriam Wagner in particular, who kindly helped me in reading and dating the Hebrew inscriptions).

Yiddish inscription

The cropping indicates that the note was written before the book was bound.  A quick provenance search for incunables from Ingolstadt in the BSB-Ink website (BSB-Ink, H-372) led to the discovery of another incunable bound in similar style and decorated with seemingly identical tools.  The book is a copy of Horatius’s Opera printed in Venice [by Philippus Pincius partly with Bevilaqua’s types] and dated 13 July 1498 (ISTC ih00459000), now in the Bayerische StaatsBibliothek in Munich, 2 3652 m,  which was bound in Ingolstadt in the workshop of Johannes Ewring (for similar bindins in Ingolstadt, see E. Kyriss, Verzierte gotische Einbände im alten deutschen Sprachgebiet, 4 vols, Stuttgart, 1951-1958, no. 170).

The BSB-Ink record provides a link to a German Bindings Database, called Einbanddatenbank, with images and measures of all the tools used in Johannes Ewring’s workshop (EBDB w000030), six of which can also be found on the binding of the Greek anthology in Cambridge (Ewring’s tools).

K2 recto

According to the Einbanddatenbank, Johannes Ewring was active in Ingolstadt between 1475 and 1514.  One of the notabilia added by the German reader in Latin and Greek on the book margins of our anthology is dated “1513 die 2°” (leaf K2 recto), thus providing us with a certain “terminus ante quem” for the binding.

The book was therefore bound in Ingolstadt in the workshop of Johannes Ewring sometime between 1494, its printing date, and 1513, the date of the annotation.

Miriam also came up with an interesting idea: could the Yiddish inscription be a pawnshop remark?  Books were often used as pawn items within the Jewish community, and the Jewish lenders should therefore have been used to take books as pawn items from Christian customers.  If this was the case, the book must have been used as “collateral” in a lending transaction before the bookblock was cropped in preparation for its binding when part of the note in Yiddish was cut away.

It only befits the international nature of this book that international experts in Hebrew and Yiddish languages from the Geniza Project at Cambridge University Library, and international digital catalogues with images available on-line have made possible for me, and Italian incunabula cataloguer, to solve a little but intriguing busillis.

Domizio Calderini from Seripandi’s library

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By , 9 June 2010 1:09 pm

The CUL copy of Domizio Calderini, Commentarii in Juvenalem [Venice : Printer of Domitius Calderinus, 1476-77] (Inc.3.B.3.152[4279]; ISTC ic00035000) is now fully catalogued on line.

The book is inscribed “Antonij Seripandi et amicoru[m]” on leaf  k6 recto, a clear indication of its provenance from the library of Antonio Seripandi (for whom see “A book from Parrhasius’s library” posted on 11 May 2010).

Seripandi's ownership note

It also bears some notabilia in Seripandi’s hand on leaves d5 verso and d6 recto.

Seripandi's notabilia

Unlike in the 1477 Plutarch’s Problemata, Seripandi does not states that the book was previously in the library of Aulo Giano Parrasio.  An isolated marginal note on leaf a2 recto in a different cursive hand, apparently earlier than Seripandi’s notabilia, may or may not be by Parrasio.

Parrasio's note ?

The book could possibly be identified with number “617.  Calderinus Veronensis” in the 1521 post-mortem inventory of Parrhasius’s library (see Caterina Tristano, “La biblioteca di un umanista calabrese, Aulo Giano Parrasio”, Manziana (Rome), [1988 ?], p. 303).  The question whether the book belonged to Parrasio remains open.