Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Peter Porcupine, publisher ...

or, What makes a rare book rare?

This volume by John Robison evidently endured some inconsistent and confused treatment at the hands of librarians before finding a "forever home" in Rare Books. There are a number of reasons for this book to enjoy the special security and handling which characterize a rare book department. It's an 18th-century American imprint, still in original American sheep binding.

As such it is not particularly attractive, but American bindings of this period, to say nothing of texts, are worthy of preservation and remain the subject of scholarship. It would not be unusual for such a book to have its binding, in addition to its text, made the subject of a catalog record, with notes on its lettering piece (spine label), its minimalist gilt decoration, board edge treatment, etc.

What of the book's content? Curatrix had certainly never heard of John Robison. But while this Scottish author might not be a household word, he was sufficiently famous in his day to warrant more than two pages in the Dictionary of Scientific Biography. At the time he wrote Proofs of a Conspiracy, Robison was a member of  Edinburgh's vibrant philosophical and scientific community of the late eighteenth century.  He had previously worked on several important practical scientific initiatives, including the chronometer and steam engine, and was professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh.

John Robison (1739-1805)

This work however is unrelated to his scientific interests and instead targets a "conspiracy" of continental Freemasons and Illuminati determined to subvert the governments and religions of Europe. What the DSB terms "a fiercely anti-Jacobin tract" is today Robison's best known work. It reflects the widespread negative and fearful reaction by conservative thinkers in Great Britain to the bloody excess of the French Revolution. Robison's political views are in a league with those of Burke, but the scientist's conclusions are now seen as an overly imaginative account of the Revolution's origins.

The short-lived Order of the Illuminati, founded by German canon lawyer and philosopher Adam Weishaupt on May 1, 1776, would be a footnote to history were it not for Robison and for modern-day conspiracy theorists who have kept alive the New World Order, May Day celebrations, and other radical elements which continue to infuse new books (and motion pictures) whose improbable plots are too tortuous to follow here.

30 years ago a CUA librarian found this book hard to categorize, and in perplexity added "Know-Nothings" to the title page. However, that 19th-century anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic movement arose in the U.S. some forty years after Robison's publication and has no bearing on his work. 

Why then was the book published? Why was it so popular in the United States (with a fourth American edition published the same year)? Far better known than either the Illuminati or the fulminating physicist-author is the book's co-publisher: W. Cobbet, i.e. William Cobbett (1763-1835) the English political writer and satirist, who in 1798 was living in the United States, at no. 25 North Second Street in Philadelphia where he operated a bookshop selling pro-British and, more revealingly, anti-French titles. Still relatively conservative at this period, Cobbett had begun his political newspaper, Peter Porcupine's Gazette the year before. The Gazette and other of his writings tended to back the Federalists  (northern, urban, pro-British, led by Washington and Hamilton) against the Republicans (southern agrarians epitomized by the Francophile Jefferson). Cobbett was a vocal supporter of the Federalist position, was staunchly pro-British, and doubtless approved Robison's critique of the free-thinking French mobocracy.  

William Cobbett (a.k.a. Peter Porcupine)

In his own writings, witty, lively, but sometimes abusive, Cobbett exceeded legal norms and several times found himself facing libel actions or imprisoned. With age he only became more radical in his political views, and after returning to England espoused the cause of Catholic emancipation, reform of the rotten boroughs, and relief for the laboring poor, especially those in the farms and small villages of England, whose plight he recorded in the delightful Rural Rides, a book still in print almost 200 years later. As member of Parliament for Oldham, a seat held two centuries later by Winston Churchill, Cobbett continued to publish his Two-Penny Trash, or, Politics for Working People and is also famous for his Political Register and for  launching Parliamentary Debates, the precursor of the official modern record of Parliament known simply as "Hansard."

Clearly all the foregoing complexities were not fully understood by library staff some 30 years ago. In their defense, no Web existed to provide quick answers, nor enough staff to do painstaking research. This book would be misunderstood and ultimately slated for withdrawal. Only a sharp-eyed curator salvaged the volume before it left the library, but too late to prevent the defacement of the title page, which has now become part of the book's provenance.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Backward turnings to be avoided: England's first road atlas

For some years the spine label for this work actually discouraged its curator from examining the volume which it was meant to advertise.  It was not the quaint crudeness of the label which was off-putting, but with no volume 2 next to it on the shelf, Britannia
appeared to the careless viewer to be incomplete, like so many other orphaned volumes that are all too common in most special collections.

                                                                                                                                                             Only after some ten year's nodding acquaintance with the book was it taken off the shelf and examined. Yes it was on the wrong shelf, but it was not incomplete, simply an example of the "ALL PUBLISHED" designation which would have been applied to its description by any competent user of Carter's ABC for Book Collectors.

 As the title page of this 1675 road atlas attests, the publisher, John Ogilby (1600-1676),  probably expected to issue subsequent volumes, this first volume covering the roads of England and Wales.  His death in 1676 ended these plans and the varied career of a man who had been at one time or another, a dancing master, translator, printer, theater owner, and royal cosmographer. In this latter capacity he produced this work, which covered some 2519 miles in 100 "whole-sheet copper sculps" or double-page strip maps.                                             

Below is a typical engraved strip map, the continuation of the route from London to Aberystwyth (Wales). Somewhat confusing to a viewer expecting a modern map projection, the perspective is that of the traveler. Note that the compass rose shows North at various angles, depending upon the traveler's direction of movement relative to the Pole. On the westward journey from London to Wales, North is off the traveler's right. 

The map is notable for the inclusion of geographical features such as mountains and brooks, as well as man-made landmarks such as bridges, orchards, churches etc.

In the CUA Rare Books copy of this work the maps were tipped at their center folds to guards, a method that might have allowed a 17th-century owner to remove the maps for actual service as an aid to travel.  Such use would seem to be suggested by the frontispiece detail on the right which shows a strip of map held in the rider's hand.  We are indebted to Dr. Bruce White for noticing that these maps functioned in precisely the same way as the American Automobile Association's old spiral-bound paper Trip-Tiks, now replaced by an online route planner.

The frontispiece, engraved by Wencelaus
Hollar after Francis Barlow, also depicts technical details of the making of the maps, including the measuring of the roads by means of a surveyor's wheel, or "waywiser," an ancestor of the tool used by modern road engineers.

Ogilby's measurements compensated for hilly terrain in order to accurately render three dimensions on a two-dimensional map. His work helped to standardize the British mile and he devised the now familiar map scale of one mile to the inch.

Ogilby's contribution to cartography endured for centuries, as subsequent maps were based on his work which was republished many times. For students of English history, the work is invaluable and it is cited by such authorities as Fredson Bowers in his edition of Tom Jones, a Foundling. No doubt a patient reader of Fielding's novel (with good eyesight) might follow Jones' travels though Ogilby's maps, as the hero traverses southern England in search of his fair Sophia, eventually finding her in London. That capital city is shown (somewhat enlarged) on the right, as it appears in Ogilby's detailed engraving on the first map of the volume.

In 2008 a real Jones used Ogilby's maps in a BBC documentary, Terry Jones' Great Map Mystery, which purported to prove that Ogilby's atlas was designed to support a Catholic takeover of Protestant England. Ogilby was a royalist, and supporter of Charles II, to whom many of his books were dedicated, but Charles did not become a Catholic until shortly before his death in 1685, a decade after Britannia was published. If, as theorized, the maps were designed for French troops landing in Wales, one might wonder if maps in French might not have been more useful.

Several pages of text precede each map. These pages contain helpful warnings to the unwary traveler.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

New Albani manuscripts on Vatican Library website

Recently launched by the Archivio Albani is a collaborative project Disiecta membra: tracing the history of the Albani Libraries. This endeavor is supported by the Biblioteca e Musei Oliveriani and, by the ongoing support of Count Clement Castelbarco Albani to the operations of the Archivio Albani. CUA's Rare Books and Special Collections department hopes to contribute in a small way to this exciting initiative. As the locus of the largest surviving collection of Albani books, chiefly from the Urbino library,  the department has been involved with the study of Albani provenance questions for at least 6 decades and holds in the collection several manuscript catalogs describing the contents of the Urbino library.

Crucial to any study of the Albani libraries, scattered by wars, looting and auctions, are three important manuscript catalogs owned by the Vatican Library, recently digitized, and now publicly available on their website. By entering the shelf mark number in the search box, researchers may retrieve Vat. lat. 10476, 10477 or 10485.  These manuscripts, (mentioned by Bernard Peebles in his 1961 article The "Bibliotheca Albana Urbinas" as represented in the Library of the Catholic University of America) have long been considered invaluable to scholars doing research on the Albani books located at Catholic University.  The splendid digital images of the Vatican volumes already reveal binding characteristics very similar to books held at CUA, and access to the contents of these catalogs will undoubtedly shed light on some of the material here in Washington and its complicated provenance.

We are grateful to Dr. Paolo Vian, Director of the Manuscript Department of the Vatican Library for expediting the digitization of these volumes, as well as to Dr. Brunella Paolini (Biblioteca Oliveriana) and Dr. Antonio Becchi (Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte) for their hard work in this and other aspects of the Disiecta membra project.

I cugini americani

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Dog and the Tortoise

In honor of the 215th birthday of John Henry Newman we offer this newspaper clipping recently found preserved in a biography of the Cardinal. We will let our readers surmise the occasion which prompted an (as yet) unidentified American newspaper to publish this article around February 22, 1896. It might have been meant to coincide with Newman's birthday as well as with the publication of a work (possibly the Life of Manning) by Arthur Wollaston Hutton (1848-1912), the sometime librarian, sometime Anglican, sometime Catholic and sometime agnostic whose recollections of the relationship between Manning and Newman are discussed here. Ecclesiastical zoologists might wish to consider which of these English cardinals was the dog and which the tortoise.

For readers uninterested in the internal politics of the 19th- century English Catholic Church, the verso of this clipping
may prove more stimulating. It contains the listing of steamer arrivals and departures for East Coast ports, circa 22 February.  Anyone who can identify the newspaper from which this clipping was taken will be rewarded with our fulsome thanks and public acclaim in this blog.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Malta Milestone for CUA's Rare Books

Rare Books this week finalized an agreement with the Malta Study Center of the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library (HMML) which will allow wider access to Catholic University's manuscripts and rare books relating to the island nation of Malta and the history of the Sovereign Order of Malta. Through a collaborative effort, the manuscript holdings at CUA will be photographed by staff of the HMML and, after cataloging, will be accessible to scholars everywhere via the HMML portal. Eventually some of CUA's Malta-related rare books will also be digitally available. This marks the first formal partnership between the two institutions, although HMML's recent exhibition, Knights, Memory, and the Siege of 1565, included four items from Catholic University.  The Hill Museum and Manuscript Library has a proud tradition of microfilming and digitizing at-risk manuscripts in foreign countries and the agreement with Rare Books is their first domestic collaboration.

 Andrew Abela, Provost of CUA and Daniel Gullo, Curator of the Malta Study Center share a lighter moment after signing the digitization agreement. Behind them are Charles Farrugia, Archivist of Malta, Joseph Micallef, KMOb, and Christopher Grech, Associate Professor of Architecture at CUA.

Digitization is expected to commence in the spring of 2016. Two of the CUA manuscripts will require substantial conservation work before they can be safely photographed.  Saliba MS 38 and MS 53 both suffer from the effects of the iron-gall ink with which they were written.  The stabilization of these two manuscripts will cost approximately $25,000 -- work that is essential to prevent more loss of paper and information. 

Most manuscripts from the Middle Ages until the 19th century were produced with home-made inks of varying chemical compositions, some more corrosive than others. An example from MS 38 is seen below. The ink has eaten through the paper in a process which brings together inherent vice and data-rot to produce irreversible loss of both text and paper. Further physical disintegration can only be prevented by expert conservators whose painstaking application of Japanese tissue to damaged areas allows the paper to be handled and read without risking further damage. Treatment of the underlying chemical problem is far more complicated. 

Spanish manuscript of 1778 showing paper dropout from ink corrosion

The Carol Saliba collection, containing material on the 18th- and early 19th-century history of the Knights of Malta, includes several manuscripts which have already been stabilized to prevent further loss of the paper substrate. Below are before-and-after images of a badly damaged example, from the 1807 letter of bailli La Tour du Pin, concerning finances and negotiations between members of the recently displaced Order and the King of Sweden for a new home base on Gotland.
MS 26 before treatment showing losses

After treatment,stabilized with Berlin tissue

Future posts will highlight other items from the Saliba collection and from the earlier gift of Foster Stearns, the New Hampshire congressman whose gift of books and manuscripts was the seed of the present Malta Collection. In closing, we express warm thanks to Daniel Gullo for his imagination in conceiving this partnership and for having the industry and patience to bring it about.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The End of the Beginning: CUA Rare Books completes cataloging of the Miscellanea Relativa alla Bolla Unigenitus

After nearly three years, Rare Books has added records to WorldCat for close to 1,000 pamphlets once owned by members of the Albani family of Rome and Urbino. This represents some 10% of the Clementine Library held at the Catholic University of America. Devoted almost entirely to Jansenism and to the reception of Pope Clement's bull Unigenitus, the recently cataloged Miscellanea series, assembled by the Pope's family, reflects complex politico-ecclesiastical struggles, wider social issues, and French printing practices at various levels of compositorial competency.

As a final offering from the last volume of this collection we post here the poorly printed, severely cropped, and otherwise unrecorded form letter which the Bishop of Nevers sent to his clergy in the spring of 1714. The recto of this single sheet would have had the addressee's name entered by hand in the blank (Monsieur le ______). Our copy remains blank and was never sent. On the verso is the required affirmation accepting Unigenitus, to be signed and dated by the priest, and containing a declaration stating that he has promulgated the bull from the pulpit of his parish church.

The Bishop of Nevers, Edouard Bargedé, requests  his priests' signature on this Act of Acceptance.

Verso of letter with spaces for the priest to sign and date. 

The Albani Miscellanea and its provenance evidence are the subject of a recent article by Lenore Rouse, Les Miscellanea relativa alla bolla Unigenitus et les documents en rapport de la Bibliothèque Albani, in Chroniques de Port-Royal, 2014. Completion of the Miscellanea cataloging project by no means exhausts the extensive Clementine Jansenist and anti-Jansenist material in that collection; perhaps an equal number of pamphlets and monographs on this topic remain to be identified and explored as our cataloging progresses though adjacent volumes.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Jansenists, Printing, and Censorship: Unigenitus 1713-2013

Decretum. Feria iv. die 17. Februarii 1717 : Sacra Congregatio eminentissimorum, & reverendissimorum DD. S.R.E. cardinalium in totâ republicâ Christianâ generalium inquisitorum habita in conventu Sanctae Mariae super Minervam : attento, quod nuper non sine magno christifidelium scandalo in lucem prodierint quidam libelli, epistolae, aliaque folia gallico idiomate conscripta. Lisbon: Manescal, 1717.

Portuguese broadside reprinting the Roman edition of the Inquisition’s decree condemning eight French publications from late 1716 related to the bull Unigenitus. The expedited notice of prohibited books in broadside format generally preceded their listing in the Index Librorum Prohibitorum.
Clementine MRBU 1:20

Arrest de la cour du Parlement, qui supprime un imprimé, intitulé : Canonisatio B. Vincentii à Paulo. Parisiis, e typis Petri Simon, MDCCXXXVII. Du 4. janvier 1738. Paris: Pierre Simon, 1738.
This arrêt published by the royal printer suppresses the printed copy of Pope Clement XII’s bull canonizing Saint Vincent de Paul. Vincent’s saintliness was not in dispute, but Parlement objected to the Pope’s failure to request its approval of the canonization in accordance with ancient Gallican customs.

The printer, Pierre Simon, might have printed this arrêt with mixed emotions, having but recently printed the Canonisatio which it suppresses. While no copy of the Canonisatio has been located, suggesting effective government censorship, this arrêt obviously survived (ironically, in the collection of the Albani) despite the Pope’s threatened excommunication for anyone who read or distributed it.
Clementine MRBU 33:18

 The Nouvelles Ecclesiastiques

Ide de l'Ordre Observ pour la Distribution des Nouvelles Eclesiastique. [France?   between 1730 and 1744?]

The Nouvelles Ecclésiastiques is arguably the most successful underground periodical in history. Published in an edition of 4,000 to 6,000 weekly copies from 1728 until 1803, it evaded governmental attempts to locate and arrest the pro-Jansenist editors and authors, even after a copy was left brazenly in the carriage of the Parisian chief of police. This organizational chart explains the editors' ability to elude the authorities. Individuals are connected in a chain which protects their identity from all but one or two other members, making denunciation to the police impossible. As the caption explains, "each one of the 24 persons ... knows only the person to whom he must report and those who report directly to him." Clementine MRBU 4

Arrest de la Cour de Parlement, qui condamne plusieurs feüilles, intitulées: Nouvelles Ecclesiastiques, ou Memoires, pour servir à l'Histoire de la Constitution, &c. à être lacerées & brûlées par l'executeur de la haute justice. Du 9. Fevrier 1731. Paris : Pierre Simon, 1731

The 1731 writ of Parlement ordering that copies of the Nouvelles Ecclesiastiques be shredded and burned by the public executioner. The pamphlet concludes with a notarized statement that the sentence had been carried out, but this proved to be one of many fruitless attempts to crack down on the most important propaganda weapon in the Jansenist arsenal.
Clementine MRBU 10:40

Nouvelles Eclesiastiques [sic] ou Memoires Pour Servir a l’Histoire de la Constitution Unigenitus . [France?] 1739.

As this engraved title page indicates, the Nouvelles was conceived specifically as a Jansenist/appellant response to the bull Unigenitus. It is not hard to see what the authorities found objectionable in this militantly Jansenist journal which was aimed at influencing nascent public opinion. 

Engraved title pages like this, together with text, hammered home the message that the Constitution perverted the Gospel and infringed traditional liberties of the Gallican church by repressing the Jansenists. The engraver here conveys wordlessly the contrast between the Jansenist (on left) and orthodox Catholic position (on right). From the shading of the books on the Catholic side, the bat-winged putti and allusion to the refusal of sacraments, the Constitutionnaires are depicted in a bad light, while on the left all is sweetness and vrit, as the clergy of Sens (seated in orderly rows) appeal against Archbishop Languet’s catechism, the appellants' angels beaming with divine inspiration validated by tongues of fire above their heads. 
Clementine 273.7.N734