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Archive for the ‘Cambridge collectors’ Category

Every great hero of English history needs a zealous and over-enthusiastic biographer, and Matthew Parker is no exception. His champion was the English clergyman and historian John Strype (1643-1737), whose biography, The Life and Acts of Matthew Parker, published in 1711, represents the first proper, full length biographical study of Parker. [1] The work is not without its faults: Strype’s prose is, to say the least, colourful, his style is effusive, and his tone reverential, and yet there is something irresistible about the passion and sincerity that fills Strype’s near-hagiographical study of Matthew Parker (the Man, the Myth, the Legend).

Strype 1711_Title Page & Parker Portrait.jpg

Strype also offers invaluable insight into how Parker’s accomplishments and legacy had come to be viewed within the 150 years following his death:

“His Learning, though it were universal, yet it ran chiefly upon Antiquity, In so much that he was one of the greatest Antiquarians of the Age, And the World is for ever beholden to him for two things: Viz., for retrieving many antient Authors, Saxon and British, as well as Norman, and for restoring and enlightening a great deal of the antient History of this noble Island. … Indeed he was the chief Retriever of that our ancient Native Language, the Saxon I mean, and encouraged heartily the study of it.”                                                (Strype 1711: 528, 535).

Thus we find Parker’s many noteworthy accomplishments, as a conserver of History and a preserver of Learning, and as a retriever of ancient Language and an advocate for its study, celebrated as emanating from his merit and abilities as a historian and an antiquarian, the significance of whose legacy is neatly summarised in Strype’s memorably-phrased celebration of Parker as “A mighty Collector of Books, [who] preserved as much as could be, the antient Monuments of the learned, Men of our Nation from perishing.” (Strype 1711: 535).

In his quest for documentary evidence of the unbroken continuity of the English Church from the earliest times, Parker particularly sought out chronicles and histories, especially those concerned with the early Church in England. These were texts greatly valued by the Elizabethan antiquarians, alarmed that recorded knowledge of Britain’s past risked being swept away with the closure of the monasteries and the dispersal of their libraries. Parker gathered together a remarkably rich range of works by a number of the best-known historians and chroniclers of England from the eighth to the fifteenth centuries.

Parker collected together many of the standard primary sources of early English history, including Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica, in Latin (MS 264) and in Old English (MS 41), the earliest copy of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (MS 173), Nennius’ Historia Brittonum (MS 139) and copies of the works of Eadmer (MSS 371, 452 and 457). His library included copies of the historical writings of Matthew Paris (his Chronica Maiora, in MSS 26 & 16, and a 16th-century transcript of his Historia Minor, MS 56), together with works by Henry of Huntingdon (MS 280), William of Malmesbury (MS 43), Geoffrey of Monmouth (MSS 281, 292 and 414), Simeon of Durham (MS 139), John of Tynemouth (MSS 56), Nicholas Trivet (MS 152), and Ranulph Higden’s Polychronicon, both in Latin (MSS 21, 164 and 259), and in Trevisa’s English translation (MS 354). Parker also assembled a remarkably rich range of works by minor premodern chroniclers and local antiquaries of England, including Florence of Worcester (MS 92), William of Newburgh (MS 262), Richard of Devizes (MS 129), Gervase of Tilbury (MS 414), Gervase of Canterbury (MS 438), Radulfus Niger (MS 343) and Roger of Wendover (MS 264).

Furthermore, Parker gathered books which emphasized the role of the English kings in promoting or protecting the Church. For this reason the library contains manuscripts owned by or associated with an impressive variety of English monarchs, including Alfred (MS 12), Aethelstan (MS 183), Edward II (MS 20), Richard I (MS 339), Richard II (MS 61), Henry V (MS 213), Henry VIII (MS 432) and Elizabeth I (MS 114A), not to mention Parker’s manuscript showing the wedding feast in 1114 of Matilda, daughter of Henry I of England, and the German Emperor Henry V featuring one of, if not the earliest, known illustrations of a pretzel in Western art (MS 373).

Alexander Devine

Sub-Librarian

ad523@corpus.cam.ac.uk

 

Scala Mundi (MS 194)

early fourteenth century, England

The Scala Mundi, or Ladder of the World, is a diagrammatical chronicle of universal history from the Creation to the early fourteenth century, when this manuscript was made. It includes the earliest known depiction of Stonehenge, shown here, which is described as having been built by Merlin the magician who brought the huge stones magically from Ireland. This copy is part of an anthology of historical texts which belonged to the Hospital of St. Mary without Bishopsgate in London.

The Venerable Bede, Vita Cuthberti (MS 183)

c.934, England

This is one of the oldest English royal manuscripts, made for King Æthelstan (927-39), grandson of Alfred the Great. It is a copy of the life of Saint Cuthbert, bishop of the island community of Lindisfarne written by Bede. When the monastery was sacked by the Vikings in 875, the monks dug up the saint’s body and carried it with other sacred relics in a journey lasting several centuries to Chester-le-Street, Ripon, and eventually to Durham (1104), when Cuthbert was finally interred. Æthelstan probably presented the monks from Lindisfarne with this magnificent copy of the life of their patron saint in or soon after 934, when he stayed with the exiled community, then at Chester-le-Street between Durham and Newcastle, on his journey northwards to fight the Scots. Here, the dedicatory frontispiece shows Æthelstan standing in the presence of Saint Cuthbert.

The Parker Chronicle (MS 173)

ninth – twelfth centuries, Winchester & Christ Church, Canterbury

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is one of the most famous historical texts from Anglo-Saxon England. This copy, known as the ‘Parker’ Chronicle, is the oldest version of the text and one of the earliest manuscripts in the Old English language. It was probably mostly written at the court of King Alfred in Wessex, perhaps in Winchester, in the late ninth century. It describes historical events by the years in which they took place. The opening here shows the entry for 1066, recording the burning of Christ Church, a comet in the sky (as shown in the Bayeux Tapestry) and the Battle of Hastings: ‘In this year King Edward passed away, and Earl Harold came to the throne and ruled for 40 weeks and a day; in this year came William and conquered England; and in this year Christ Church was burned, and a comet appeared on 18 April’.

MATTHEW PARIS, CHRONICA MAIORA (MS 16.I) [fols. i v-ii r]

mid-thirteenth century (c.1250s, before 1259), England, St. Albans

The Chronica Maiora, or ‘Greater History’ is the two-volume history of the world compiled by Matthew Paris (c.1189-1259), artist monk of St. Albans. This is the author’s own copy, with corrections and beautiful illustrations throughout in his own hand. It is one of the major sources for the history of the Crusades. The opening here shows the earliest depiction of the first elephant in England, which was sent to King Henry III as a diplomatic present from King Louis IX of France in 1255. The illustration is remarkably accurate, and for good reason, for it was drawn from life. Upon learning of its arrival in London, the ever-curious Matthew Paris promptly dashed off to London to see and study this strange new animal at the Tower of London. Paris records detailed descriptions of particularly noteworthy features of its appearance and behaviour. He notes that the elephant was ten feet high, was grey-black in colour and had small eyes in the upper part of its head. He also notes that its hide was not furry but rather very hard and rough, and that it used its trunk to obtain food and drink. Paris also illustrated the elephant’s keeper, named “Henry de Flor’”, who is described as “magister bestie”, or ‘the master of the beast’, and whose figure offers the viewer a useful comparison of scale in illustrating the elephant’s size. Unfortunately this spectacular beast’s life on English shores was short and likely unhappy, since, unsurprisingly, its captors had neither the knowledge nor the skills to properly care for it. They fed it on meat and wine and thus the poor creature died in 1257 and was buried at the Tower.

 

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[1] John Strype, THE LIFE AND ACTS OF MATTHEW PARKER, The First Archbishop of CANTERBURY in the Reign of Queen ELIZABETH. Under whose Primacy and Influence the Reformation of Religion was happily Effected; And the Church of England Restored, and Established upon the PRINCIPLES whereon it stands to this Day (London: John Wyat, 1711).

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The Parker Library is celebrated as one of the finest libraries of its kind in the world. Its holdings of medieval manuscripts and early printed books constitute a resource of unparalleled international importance for the study of Britain’s premodern past, and a repository of historical materials of exceptional importance to our nation’s culture and heritage.

Of special significance for scholars of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic is the library’s treasure-trove of extremely early manuscripts. The Parker Library is home to significant portion of all surviving manuscripts older than the year 800 in British collections, including the world-famous Gospels of St. Augustine (MS 286) and our 8th-century Northumbrian Gospel Book (MS 197b). Furthermore, we also hold about a quarter of all extant manuscripts in Old English; our holding is surpassed only by The British Library and The Bodleian. Our shelves hold many of the most celebrated volumes in the entire canon of all surviving Old English manuscripts, such as the earliest text of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, today known as The Parker Chronicle (MS 173), the Aethelstan copy of Bede’s Life of St. Cuthbert (MS 183), and The Corpus Glossary (MS 144). The collection contains several of the translations from Latin made at the instance of King Alfred, including St. Gregory’s Dialogues (MS 322) and his Pastoral Care (MS 12) and Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People (MS 41), while the biblical translation of Abbot Ælfric is represented by The Bath Old English Gospels (MS 140) and MS 449, which contain his Grammar and Glossary. The Parker is one of the principle sources of the Homilies of both Ælfric and of Wulfstan (MSS 198 and 190). Our collections also include rare examples of pre-Conquest laws (in the second half of MS 173 and in MS 383) and of early English monastic rules (in MSS 178, 191 and 201). We also hold the earliest surviving example of polyphonic music in the eleventh-century Winchester Troper (MS 473).

The Parker Library acquired this magnificent collection through the benefaction of our namesake, Matthew Parker (1504-75), Archbishop of Canterbury under Elizabeth I and the greatest of the 16th-century English antiquarians, who bequeathed some 600 medieval books bequeathed to the College in 1575. This collection forms the heart of the Parker Library today; it represents the oldest intact private library in the world and enduring monument to Parker’s extraordinary achievements as a book collector, and a testament to his extraordinary generosity as an institutional benefactor and a sponsor of learning.

The explanation for the presence of so rich a collection of early English medieval manuscripts, and particularly such an extraordinary number of manuscripts in the Old English language, in Parker’s collection is foundational to Parker’s reasons for assembling his whole library. When Queen Elizabeth appointed Parker her first Archbishop of Canterbury, he was charged with a mandate to establish an English Church which would be utterly secure, legal and completely irrevocable. To this end, Parker’s sought to justify the ‘new’ English Church by referring to historical precedent; looking far back into early English history he argued that the original missionaries to Anglo-Saxon England had always intended to set up an independent English Church, speaking the English language and under the authority of the king, not the pope. That is why the Parker Library was formed; to support Parker’s interpretation of history and to justify the ‘new’ English Church.

Matthew Parker was a man of many talents, as witnessed in the many academic positions and ecclesiastical offices that he held at local and national levels over the course of his lifetime, not only as a theologian and later a prelate, as a scholar and an antiquarian, but also a translator and a publisher. However above all else, he was lifelong bibliophile, a passionate book collector, and he used his prodigious talent for book collecting to gather a magnificent library that would furnish tangible proof of incontrovertible precedent for each the clauses of the recreated Anglican Church. In 1568 Parker obtained a license from the Privy Council to gather into his own possession any “auncient recordes and monuments” from the old scattered monastic libraries which would provide evidence of the history of the original English religion. This of course meant especially those which were from or were concerned with the Anglo-Saxon period, and of particular importance for Parker were manuscripts in the English language, particularly those that showed or suggested that the vernacular was used rather than Latin in the religious life of the Anglo-Saxons. Nearly every one of Parker’s books was gathered for that reason, and it is for this reason that the library includes so large a section of early English medieval manuscripts.

Alexander Devine

Sub-Librarian

ad523@corpus.cam.ac.uk

 

Photo of CASE 4 (2).jpg

 

SAINT WULFSTAN’S PORTIFORIUM (MS 391)

c.1064-69, Western England, probably Worcester

This stout little book comprises a portable one-volume compendium of a Psalter and a Breviary for daily use by an eleventh-century bishop travelling around his diocese. Both historical tradition and internal evidence suggest that the manuscript was made in Worcester for Saint Wulfstan (c.1008-1095), bishop of Worcester 1062-95. Wulfstan was canonised by Innocent III in 1203. He is patron saint of vegetarians. The frontispiece displayed here shows King David as a harpist, playing music on a seven-stringed Anglo-Saxon harp, facing the opening of the Psalter, whose text (Psalm 1) begins: ‘Beatus / vir / qui / non / abiit / in consilio impiorum …’ “Blessed is the man who does not abide in the company of the ungodly…”.

THE CORPUS GLOSSARY (MS 144)

c.800, probably Canterbury

The Corpus Glossary is a list of words with synonyms in Latin, Greek, and Old English, arranged in more-or-less alphabetical order by the words’ first two letters. The manuscript’s importance lies in its inclusion of Old English, of which this volume is an early witness. Although this manuscript itself is quite short, in addition to the famous ‘Glossary’, the volume includes two supplementary texts, both grammatical in subject: a copy of the ‘Interpretations of Hebrew and Greek Names’ and an excerpt from the second book of Priscian’s Institutiones grammaticae, copied at a later date. Entries on the left-hand page of the opening shown here offer definitions for a number of book-related words, among them, in the left hand column, “Bibliotheca” or ‘Library’, here defined as a “librorum reposio” or ‘a repository of books’; while other words, such as “bitricius”, are given with their Old English equivalents, in this case, “stoepfaeder” or ‘step-father’.

 

A TESTIMONIE OF ANTIQUITIE: SHEWING THE AUNCIENT FAYTH IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND TOUCHING THE SACRAMENT OF THE BODY AND BLOUDE OF THE LORD HERE PUBLIKELY PREACHED, AND ALSO RECEAUED IN THE SAXONS TYME, ABOUE 600. YEARES AGOE. (S.P. 281 [1])

1566, London (John Day)

This is the first book printed with Anglo-Saxon types. It is an edition of Ælfrician homilies and related materials printed as part of Parker’s programme to use Anglo-Saxon scholarship to solidify the doctrinal and institutional position of the Church of England. The Testimonie, along with the other Old English imprints that Parker were intended to show that the Church of England shared the beliefs of the ancient Saxon church, and thus had a pedigree that was both long and insular. The first Anglo-Saxon type designed for Parker – that which was used to print the Testimonie – had twenty-six sorts, and was based on Old English manuscript models, probably of the eleventh century. The book is here open to the beginning of the homily “In die Sancto Pascae”, with the Old English appearing on the left and a facing-page modern English translation. The layout is clear enough to allow a reader to compare the two versions and presumably, therefore, to learn something of the language.

 

ÆLFRIC, ANGLO-SAXON HOMILIES (MS 198)

tenth – eleventh centuries, perhaps Worcester

Annotations of a text can narrate histories of their own, as witnessed in this collection of Old English Homilies. While many later readers have left notes in the margins which attest to their understanding of Old English at a time when it was no longer spoken, the opening displayed here shows annotations which indicate the manuscript’s role in the history of the early printing of Old English. On the right hand page we see the opening of the same homily as that printed in A testimonie of antiquitie, also displayed here – whose text begins ‘Men ða leofostan gelome eoƿ is gesæd’. The number ‘19’ can be seen next to the opening line which corresponds to the page with the same homily in the printed edition.

 

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August Image- MS 394, f. 15r

CCCC MS 394, f. 15r

 

 

This late thirteenth-century Apocalypse was owned by Thomas Markaunt (c.1382-1439), senior proctor of the University and Fellow of Corpus Christi College. The pictures here show the elders around the Throne of God. By his will of November 1439, Markaut bequeathed 76 books to the College. The Apocalypse was no. 72, valued at 2 shillings. The bequest was received by Corpus on 1 August 1440. MS 394, folio 15r.

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Although the Parker Library contains hundreds of manuscripts given by Parker to Corpus, he did give manuscripts to other people and institutions. Inspired by Cambridge University Library’s Shelf Lives exhibition, I thought I’d look at some of the ‘ones that got away’.

Perhaps the most significant Parker manuscripts elsewhere are those in the University Library, one of which is on display in the Shelf Lives exhibition. The University Library suffered greatly during the Reformation period due to neglect, theft and destruction. In 1574 Andrew Perne, the Master of Peterhouse and bibliophile, undertook to restore the University Library and called upon his old friend Matthew Parker, by then Archbishop of Canterbury, for support. As well as writing letters to others soliciting donations, Parker gave 25 manuscripts of his own to the University Library along with 75 printed books.

In many cases these manuscripts contain ‘duplicate’ copies of works found in Parker Library manuscripts, though of course, each manuscript copy of a text is unique. Of the six Anglo-Saxon manuscripts which Parker gave to the UL, MS Ii.2.4 contains a copy of Gregory the Great’s Pastoral Care translated into Old English, as does CCCC MS 12; MS Ii.2.11 contains a West Saxon translation of the gospels, as does CCCC MS 140; Ælfric’s Grammar and Glossary are found in both CUL MS Hh.1.10 and CCCC MS 449; both CUL Kk.3.18 and CCCC MS 12 contain Bede’s Ecclesiastical History in Old English. The other two Anglo-Saxon manuscripts Parker gave to the UL (Ii.4.6 and Ii.1.33) principally contain collections of homilies, as do CCCC MSS 162, 178, 188, 198, 302, 303, 419, and 421.

An even closer relationship exists between CCCC MSS 66 and 66A and CUL MS Ff.1.27 – not the same text this time but they were originally the same book(s). Parker obtained two volumes  which mostly contained histories and some travel accounts, one originally from the Cistercian abbey of Sawley in Yorkshire and the other from the Benedictine abbey at Bury St Edmunds. He took both of them to pieces and rearranged their contents into two volumes; broadly speaking each contained the first half of one MS and the second half of the other. He then donated one of these composite volumes to CUL and the other to the Parker Library. Our volume has subsequently been rebound in two parts, MS 66 which contains half of the Sawley MS and MS 66A, half of the Bury MS.

If Corpus felt the loss of ‘the ones that got away’, insult seems to have been added to injury. As J. C. T. Oates records, Corpus agreed to repair and maintain ‘with clapses and byndinge necessarie’ the books that Parker gave to the UL, on pain of a fine of 3s. 4d per week. (See Cambridge University Library: A History. From the Beginnings to the Copyright Act of Queen Anne (Cambridge, 1986), p. 110.) There’s no record of such repairs even being carried out; I can only imagine how much we now owe the UL in arrears! Perhaps we’ll have to give them another manuscript in payment.

More information

For more about Parker and his books, see the invaluable Matthew Parker and his books by former Parker Librarian R I. Page (Kalamazoo, MI: Western Institute Publications, 1983).

More details concerning the books Parker gave to the UL can be found in M. R. James’ catalogue of the Parker Library and in E. Leedham-Green and D. McKitterick, ‘A Catalogue of Cambridge University Library, 1583’, in Books and Collectors 1200-1700: Essays presented to Andrew Watson, ed. by James P. Carley and Colin G. C. Tite (London, British Library, 1997), pp. 153-235.

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With reference to the Parker Library globes mentioned in my blog about Samuel Savage Lewis – it seems that Lewis did

Carey's Terrestrial Globe, 1815

not give these to the Library. Our Archivist, Dr Leedham-Green, has found a reference in the Library account for 1840 which shows that the college paid for them, presumably expressly for the newly-built Parker Library.  The two globes were made by John and William Cary of London.  Cary’s bill for the two globes was £21 1s 6d, plus carriage of 13s.

Carey's Celestial Globe, 1790

Globe covers were also bought, from Cambridge book binder H.R. Wiseman, and there is  a receipted bill dated 15 August 1840,which was  paid on 15 August 1841,  for Two  very large leather cases for globes in the library, with corded seams, and made in best style: £3 12s.

The Library at Ham House has similar covers on its globes.

These may not have been the first globes in the College, as the Chapter Book of 1632 records approval by the then Bursar, Nicholas Ganning, to spend money on globes, although no corresponding entry can be found in the Audit Book

Many thanks to Elisabeth Leedham-Green for this information.

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A new exhibition has just opened at Cambridge University Library entitled Shelf Lives: Four Centuries of Collectors and their Books. The exhibition focuses on ten individuals who collected books in different times and places and eventually donated their treasured volumes to the University Library. The exhibition gives a great flavour of the variety of special collections held in the library from Anglo-Saxon manuscripts to First World War ephemera, from eighteenth-century Indian playing cards to an unpublished Rupert Brooke poem.

The first collector highlighted, and donor of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, is none other than our own Archbishop Matthew Parker (1504-1575). Although the library that he left with us is extremely well-known, it’s perhaps less known that a considerable number of books owned by Parker have ended up in other institutions.

We’re going to use the CUL exhibition as an opportunity to write a series of posts looking at Parker as collector, his books and ‘the ones that got away’, as well as focusing attention on some of the other collectors who have deposited material in the Parker Library.

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Samuel Savage Lewis, son of William Jonas Lewis, surgeon, was born at Spital Square, Bishopsgate, London. His studies at St John’s College, Cambridge,  were interrupted by poor eyesight and he moved to Canada, farming from 1857-60. In 1864, with his sight improved through several operations, he re-entered St John’s, moving in 1865 to Corpus Christi College. He was exhibitioner in 1866, then Mawson Scholar, and  was made Fellow of Corpus in 1869, ordained deacon at Ely in 1872 and priest in 1873, and obtained FSA in 1872. From 1870 until his death, Lewis was College Librarian and from 1872-79, secretary of the Church Patronage Society.

Lewis travelled widely through Europe and the Middle East and was proficient in many languages. He was an antiquary and a collector, mainly of classical coins, gems and seals. He had a reputation as a kindly eccentric and was generally known as ‘Satan Lewis’ on account of his straggly black beard and unconventional dress.

Lewis married Agnes Smith on 12 December 1887, and they lived, along with Agnes’s twin sister, first in Harvey Road, then, from March 1890, at ‘Castlebrae’, Chesterton Lane. Lewis died suddenly, apparently of heart failure, on a train near Oxford, in 1891. He and his wife are buried in Mill Road Cemetery, Cambridge.

Portrait of Samuel Savage Lewis, by C.H. Brock, given to the College by Lewis's widow

Samuel Savage Lewis presented many printed books to the Library at Corpus during his lifetime, and his collection of personal books after his death. His collection of classical items formed a museum in his college rooms, and is now on permanent loan to the Fitzwilliam Museum, where the items are regularly on public exhibition. Two globes which Lewis presented to the College while Librarian now stand just  inside the door of the Wilkins Room.

The Parker Library, Wilkins Room

Below are example of Lewis  inscriptions in some of the books he donated.  Lewis acquired his books from a range of sources, including Joseph Rix of St Neots, Macmillan & Bowes, the Cambridge bookseller, and a donation from an uncle, Peter Bunnell,  Christmas, 1873. All inscriptions shown are in Lewis’s hand.

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