Blog

Irresistible Beauty

posted by

Books are often vandalised and mutilated by those who find their content offensive. On the other hand, they are sometimes taken apart by those who find the beauty of their component parts simply irresistible. By The London Library’s Head of Bibliographic Services, Dunia Garcia-Ontiveros. Adapted from an article originally written for History Today.

In 1573 Christopher Saxton, a Yorkshire map maker born around 1542, was employed by the lawyer, MP, philanthropist, patron and administrator Thomas Seckford to produce a set of maps of England and Wales. The enterprise counted with the enthusiastic support of Elizabeth I who issued Saxton with a number of letters and passes to guarantee the full co-operation of the locals wherever his surveys took him. The Queen also granted him a decade of exclusive rights to publish the resulting atlas. The royal protegé produced a book of maps charting the whole of England and Wales, the like of which had never been seen before and was handsomely rewarded for his work. The Atlas of the counties of England and Wales, printed in London in 1579, consists of thirty-four county maps, introduced by a map of England and Wales. It was never printed in a standard edition and the preliminary pages varied from one copy to another, although most have a stunning frontispiece depicting the work’s royal patron wearing a robe of bright red velvet. The maps that follow the frontispiece are just as beautiful but, most important of all, they are also very accurate. Each engraved map was printed on a single sheet, hand-coloured, folded in the middle and then attached to a stub in the book. It is perhaps this fatal combination of beauty, accuracy and ease of removal that proved the downfall of the atlas, at least from a book lover’s point of view. From a cartographic point of view the wealth of precise detail of these maps had a long-lasting influence. It became the canon for later English map makers but also served as an inspiration for the likes of Jan Blaeu, part of the Dutch mapmaking dynasty and official cartographer of the Dutch East India Company. Saxton’s maps have had a very long life being surpassed in accuracy only as late as the 19th century by the work of the Ordnance Survey. His atlases, however, have suffered a harsher fate and very few perfect copies have survived.

The London Library’s copy was first owned by Sir Henry Maynard (1547-1610), administrator and secretary to William Cecil, first Baron Burghley, who was also Seckford’s master and who had a great interest in and knowledge of cartography. The Maynards settled in Burghley’s Essex, building a manor in Easton. The book was handed down the family and finally received the addition of a bookplate bearing the name Charles Lord Maynard (1690-1775).  The next recorded owner is the famous book collector Richard Heber (1774-1833). After Heber’s death the atlas was sold at Sotheby’s where the merchant and antiquary Joseph Brooks Yates (1780-1855) acquired it. When in 1857 his grandson, Henry Yates Thompson (1838-1928) inherited it two pages, including the glorious frontispiece, were missing and as Yates Thompson observed, the town of Easton on the map of Essex (now also missing) ‘was much rubbed by finger marks of the Maynard family’. In 1885 Yates Thompson was fortunate enough to come across another copy, this time a perfect one, which he bought from the antiquarian bookseller and publisher, Bernard Quaritch, and it was with the help of Quaritch that he used his perfect copy to make facsimiles for the incomplete one he inherited. In a manuscript note written on the book’s endpapers and dated 1887 Henry Yates Thompson describes how he paid a Mr. Sadler two guineas to have the facsimiles coloured and he goes on to say that the facsimiles ‘are not readily distinguished from the originals, unless by the colour of the paper.

Victorian reproduction of an Elizabethan masterpiece.

Victorian reproduction of an Elizabethan masterpiece.

Saxton travelled across England and Wales and mapped Cornwall in 1576.

Saxton travelled across England and Wales and mapped Cornwall in 1576.

The previous year he mapped London, Middlesex, Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

The previous year he mapped London, Middlesex, Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

 

The volume, with its missing pages and remarkable, though by today’s standards invasive Victorian repairs, was given to the Library in memory of Mrs. Yates Thompson in 1941.

Training for Martyrdom

posted by
Allen's manifesto

Allen’s manifesto

????????

A radical departure: the first Biblical translation by English Catholics

????????

Allen’s posthumous victory?

By Dunia Garcia-Ontiveros, Head of Bibliographic Services at The London Library. Adapted from an article originally written for History Today.

In 1558 Mary Tudor’s brief Catholic reign came to an end.  Just as English Protestants  who had fled to Lutheran and Calvinist havens on the continent were beginning to return home, in Oxford and Cambridge Catholic scholars who refused to conform to the new Elizabethan order  started packing their bags and planning their escape to France and the Spanish-ruled Low Countries.  Although some were headed for the universities of Douai and Louvain many were scattered across Europe until an Oxford don, William Allen (1532-1594), founded an English college in Douai in 1568 where they could all continue to study together.  With Papal approval and the financial support of Philip II of Spain the college began to attract more and more learned exiles.  It was so successful that a subsidiary branch in Rheims had to be set up in 1576 to accommodate the great numbers of students enrolling.  Allen fervently believed that England should become Catholic again and he used the college to train English priests in readiness for the happy day he was sure must come.  But he did much more than that.  He encouraged his graduates to travel back to England, despite the obvious danger, in order to fight the apathy and fear of the Catholics back home.  A great number of the priests trained at the English college became missionaries and many of those suffered martyrdom after returning to England. These martyrs were the subjects of hero-worship back in Douai.  The possibility of being revered after death or perhaps the allure of gaining a place in heaven through martyrdom may have played an important part in attracting new recruits.  The London Library has a copy of Allen’s An apologie and true declaration of the institution and endevours of the two English Colleges, the one in Rome and the other now resident in Rhemes against certaine sinister informations given up against the same  printed in 1581. In it he explains his reasons for founding the colleges.  Ostensibly, this was meant an answer to his critics but it would also have served to explain himself to Catholics in England who may have disagreed with his methods.

Not content with his martyrs’ proselytizing and the powerful propaganda their deaths offered Allen also worked with the Spanish king and the pope on several plans for an invasion of England.  It was probably this plotting that made him the target of several failed assassination attempts.

His strong connections with Spain were also the reason Allen and his students had to flee to Rheims when in 1578 Douai was taken over by Protestant forces.  It was in Rheims that Allen’s most enduring work was completed.

The English Catholic version of the Scriptures known as the Douai or Rheims-Douay Bible was the work of Gregory Martin, one of the lecturers at the English College, but it was Allen’s brainchild and he was the one who raised the money to finance the work.   Allen’s motivations for undertaking the project are not clear. Some say he did it because he wanted to be able to defend Catholics of the charge of keeping the Scriptures in inaccessible Latin, others say that, realising Protestant English Bibles were everywhere, he wanted to redress the balance by creating a Catholic version for English readers.  Martin completed his translation from the Vulgate in 1580 and lived just long enough to see the New Testament printed in Rheims in 1582, which was as much as the funds could stretch to.

Allen ended his days as a cardinal in Rome where he died in 1594, surrounded by powerful friends but impoverished and disheartened after the defeat of the Spanish Armada. He did not live to see his Old Testament printed in Douai (the college had returned there in 1593) in 1609 and 1610 nor did he live to learn of his New Testament’s influence on the King James Bible of 1611. We will never know whether he would he have seen the absorption of his Catholic rendering of the Bible by a new Protestant version as victory of sorts or as the final insult.

Wellbeing and Welfare

posted by
A work on depression from a distracted mind

A work on depression from a distracted mind

The naval hero turned author and welfare campaigner

The naval hero turned author and welfare campaigner

Idle hands do the Devil's work

Idle hands do the Devil’s work

Storks, bees and ants exemplify compassion, good government and order

Storks, bees and ants exemplify compassion, good government and order

As St. Bartholomew’s Day is coming up this month, our Head of Bibliographic Services, Dunia Garcia-Ontiveros discusses wellbeing and welfare. Adapted from an article originally written for History Today.

In the 16th century two doctors from enemy nations were moved to write about personal wellbeing and social welfare. They were both compassionate, prominent in their field and had powerful connections but their temperaments, careers and the reasons that drove them to write the two books now held at The London Library were very different.

Timothy Bright (1550-1615) began his academic career at the University of Cambridge and later traveled to the continent to train in medicine. While in Paris he witnessed the massacre of Huguenots on St. Bartholomew’s Day in 1572 and only survived through the protection of Sir Francis Walsingham, who was English ambassador in France at the time. The experience strengthened Bright’s Protestant beliefs as well as his patriotism and was probably a factor in his decision to abandon medicine later on in favour of a career in the Anglican Church.

Bright had a brilliant mind but seemed to lack the discipline to train it on one subject at a time and whilst holding the title of Chief Physician at the Royal Hospital of St. Bartholomew he neglected his patients, spending most of his time devising a new system for shorthand or ‘characterie’ and writing on the nature of melancholy. His A Treatise of Melancholie: Containing the Causes thereof, & Reasons of the Strange Effects it Worketh in our Minds and Bodies, with the Phisicke Cure, and Spirituall Consolation for Such as Haue thereto Adioyned an Afflicted Conscience…. was first printed in London 1586. His interest in the subject may have been triggered by a personal tragedy: Bright and his wife had lost one of their seven children some months before the book appeared.  Bright understood that the reasons for depression could be physical as well as psychological and in the book he covers the role of both drugs and diet in the management of this devastating condition.

The work influenced not only other physicians and medical writers interested in mental illness; some Shakespearean scholars believe that the bard relied on it when writing Hamlet. There can be no doubt as to the importance of Bright’s contributions to shorthand, cryptography and psychiatry and perhaps he should have devoted his life to research.  His boyish enthusiasm for all manner of subjects was perhaps the reason why he could not commit himself to the service of others for any length of time. Even before he was sacked from St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, Bright became rector of Methley in Yorkshire and later received also the living of nearby Barwick in Elmet.  Unfortunately, he went on to neglect his parishioners in the same way that he had neglected his patients earlier.

This erudite great-great-grandfather of the dramatist William Congreve profited enormously from the patronage of Sir Francis Walsingham throughout his professional life, both as a physician and as a rector. In return, it is likely that Bright’s knowledge of cryptography would have been employed by the Elizabethan spymaster in his efforts to gather information on England’s enemies. The very next day after the English fleet and the Spanish Armada clashed off the Isle of Wight, Queen Elizabeth granted Bright a fifteen year monopoly on the teaching and publishing of shorthand.

Our second author served on one of those doomed ships Spanish. Cristóbal Pérez de Herrera (1558-1620?) was “Protomédico de Galeras”, the most senior physician of the ‘invincible’ Armada. Comparatively little is known about Pérez de Herrera. During his naval career he played an active and heroic role in many sea battles, capturing several enemy flags and surviving being shot through the shoulder.  When he was not busy carrying out courageous feats the swashbuckling doctor was a daily witness to the horrific conditions suffered by galley slaves. The practice of condemning men to long years of rowing in war ships, often after committing only minor offences was very common at a time when Spain had a pressing need to find the necessary manpower for a growing navy.

This frequent interaction with the galley slaves had a profound effect on Pérez de Herrera. After leaving the Armada he devoted himself to charitable works. He wrote several treatises on improving the lives of the most vulnerable people in 16th century Spanish society.  In 1598 he published Discvrsos del Amparo de los Legítimos Pobres, y Redvcción de los Fingidos : y de la Fundacion y Principio de los Albergues destos Reynos (Discourses on the Protection of the Legitimate Poor and Reduction of those Feigning and on the Foundation and Principle of Shelters in these Realms). In the book he describes the ideal location and layout of a shelter in Madrid where the poor could live in clean and healthy conditions, be taught good examples and given daily structure to engage them in useful occupation: an intriguing illustration in his book has the caption ‘with eyes in their hands and [hands] busy with work they will have better habits’.

He wanted to help the genuinely needy: wounded and disabled war veterans, the sick, the elderly, prisoners, orphaned children, impoverished students, and even ‘vagabond and delinquent women’.  He spent the rest of his life fundraising, even begging when necessary, in order to realize his vision in the Atocha district of Madrid. His shelter later became the site of the first general hospital in the Spanish capital.

What is Love?

posted by

Is love a gentle emotion that inspires sonnets, an all-consuming passion that drives people to desperate actions, an enigma that defies explanation, an absurdity that deserves to be ridiculed or a dangerous affliction that should come with a health warning? By Dunia Garcia-Ontiveros, Head of Bibliographic Services at The London Library, adapted from an article originally written for History Today.

Judging by some of the earliest books in the London Library’s collections writers in the 15th and 16th centuries believed that love was all of these things. The approach to love in these books ranges from sentimentality to cynicism.

Love as therapy. The overworked and celibate Alessandri composed and recited love poems to help him relax.

Love as therapy. The overworked and celibate Alessandri composed and recited love poems to help him relax.

The extreme and silly side of love. Leriano composes endless love letters to Laureola who does not return his feelings but is happy to engage in this correspondence.

The extreme and silly side of love. Leriano composes endless love letters to Laureola who does not return his feelings but is happy to engage in this correspondence.

Love as a marketing tool. Despite the misleading illustrations on the title page Bruni's poems did not include sexual content.

Love as a marketing tool. Despite the misleading illustrations on the title page Bruni’s poems did not include sexual content.

Love makes us heroes. When Laureola's father is told about the letters he locks her up but Leriano rescues her.

Love makes us heroes. When Laureola’s father is told about the letters he locks her up but Leriano rescues her.

Love – or the lack of it – can kill. Laureola's continued indifference drives Leriano to his deathbead where he ingests her torn letters just before dying.

Love – or the lack of it – can kill. Laureola’s continued indifference drives Leriano to his deathbead where he ingests her torn letters just before dying.

Love in perspective. Leon Hebreo takes a detached and balanced approach to love.

Love in perspective. Leon Hebreo takes a detached and balanced approach to love.

Love ridiculed. Martial finds parallels in the absurdities of the legal system and of couples' relationships.

Love ridiculed. Martial finds parallels in the absurdities of the legal system and of couples’ relationships.

The dangers of love and lust. If love requires a health warning Fregoso is happy to provide it.

The dangers of love and lust. If love requires a health warning Fregoso is happy to provide it.

Among these are two volumes of love poems by fairly obscure and unlikely figures who couldn’t be further removed from the ideal of the romantic poet.

Caio Baldassare Olimpo Alessandri (1486-ca. 1540) from Sassoferrato was a member of the Franciscan Minorite order and a ‘most acute bachelor’. Encouraged by his friends he composed love poems to rest his ‘fatigued mind’ after years of studying philosophy. He even recited his poetry accompanying himself with a lute, just as the young man depicted on the title page of this edition of his last work, Aurora (printed in Venice in 1536), though in his friar’s habit Alessandri probably did not look quite so dashing.

Giovanni Bruni (1474-1540) from Rimini suffered a great loss when his first love and muse died in 1500. Still, his broken heart soon mended and in 1501 he married and went on to father ten children.  He was a ‘passionate dilettante and a mediocre poet’ and that may be the reason why the Venetian printer who produced this 1533 edition of his Rime Nuove Amorose felt the need to ‘spice things up’ by decorating the title page with suggestive vignettes. Any buyer who purchased the book looking for titillation would have been sorely disappointed to discover its chaste content. The work was nevertheless quite popular and was reprinted many times both in Venice and Milan.

In  Cárcel de amor (Prison of love) we have a stunning example from the pen of Diego de San Pedro (fl. 1500) of a Spanish sentimental novel in the best tradition of courtly love. Cárcel de amor, first printed in Seville in 1492, proved an instant bestseller and was translated into many languages. The London Library copy, printed in Venice in 1530, is the first Italian translation of this tragic story of unrequited love.

Leriano is in love with Laureola, daughter of the king of Macedonia and professes his love to her in his numerous letters. Laureola does not return his love but she does accept his letters and even writes back.

When a love rival tells the king that his daughter has dishonoured herself the furious father locks her away. Even after Leriano rescues her Laureola remains indifferent .

Rejected and desperate, Leriano commits very slow suicide by refusing food and drink. With his dying breath he proclaims his love for Laureola and his admiration for all women.  Just before dying, Leriano who cannot bear to destroy Laureola’s letters or to leave them behind, tears them up, places the pieces in a cup of water and drinks the mixture.

In marked contrast to this uncontrolled and even comical passion we have the cerebral analysis of León Hebreo, the Jewish physician, poet and philosopher born in Lisbon around 1460. Hebreo was a religious exile forced to leave first Portugal and then Spain to settle in Italy where he spent most of his life. His most influential work, Dialogues of Love, attempts to explore the true nature of love through the conversations of two characters, Philo (Love) and Sophia (Wisdom).  The work opens with a dialogue on the difference between love and desire. Philo begins by telling Sophia that meeting her awakens both love and desire in him and Sophia replies that these are mutually exclusive. She maintains that we only desire that which we do not have and that once we obtain it, love replaces desire. Hebreo is believed to have written his Dialogues in Italian and the first edition, printed in Rome in 1535, was probably a posthumous one. The London Library copy is a Spanish translation printed anonymously in Venice in 1568.

If Hebreo was able to write dispassionately and evenly about love, our next two authors seem to be openly against it.

Martial d’Auvergne (ca. 1430/35-1508) was a French jurist and poet who indulged his wicked side when he wrote Arrêts d’amour (Judgments of love). In it he parodies both love and the judicial system by presenting fifty one cases tried in a fictitious court of love. The cases presented to the court, such as that of the young woman who complains that her lover objects to her choice of clothes for being too revealing, would not be out of place in a modern day reality TV show. The Arrêts, first written in the early 1460s, were enormously popular as our edition printed in Paris in 1544 proves.

Martial uses satire to poke fun at lovers’ behaviour while Battista Fregoso (1453-1504) carries out a frontal attack on love itself in his Anteros (Anti-Cupid). This Genoese Doge, who had written about Christopher Columbus’ attempts to gain support for his transatlantic travels and produced a series of books on remarkable and memorable facts, also wrote this unequivocal caution where he warns of the harmful effects of erotic brooding, which he likens to a disease.  To prevent falling prey to the illness he advocates an avoidance of ‘lascivious sounds’, bawdy songs, and love stories, which may cause dangerous sensual stimulation. The work was first printed in Milan in 1496 and once again our 1581 Parisian edition attests to its lasting appeal.

Five Centuries of Provenance: The Spoils of War at The London Library

posted by

The book’s battered cover is evidence that this volume has literally been through the wars

As we reflect on the commemorations of World War I which began 100 years ago this month, The London Library’s Head of Bibliographic Services Dunia Garcia-Ontiveros explores the fascinating, turbulent five-century history of a rare volume in the Library’s collections that has literally been ‘in the wars’. Adapted from an article originally written for History Today.

An unknown first owner chooses an unusual binding

An unknown first owner chooses an unusual binding

Unusual binding detail

The volume arrives in the monastery between 1552 and 1586: Liber domus fratrii in Doesburch.

The volume arrives in the monastery between 1552 and 1586: Liber domus fratrii in Doesburch.

In 1586 the tome is ‘liberated’ and given to Humphrey Fenn

Fenn presents the Coventry School Library with a gift in 1602

Books often contain stories of dramatic events but we seldom come across a book that has a turbulent history of its own and it is even rarer for that history to be well documented.  A volume from the London Library speaks eloquently of its former owners and of the events that caused it to travel from the Swiss city of Basel to London via war-torn Netherlands, Coventry and Tunbridge Wells.

The story of this large quarto edition of the complete works of Saint Basil, bishop of Caesarea (329-379), begins in 1552, when it was printed in one of the Basel workshops of Hieronymus Froben (1501-1563), a member of the family of Swiss scholarly printers.

Saint Basil wrote on monasticism and so it is hardly surprising to find an inscription both on the title page and the end leaf telling us that the book found its way into the library of a monastery in the town of Doesburg, in the Netherlands. The monastery was probably home to the Brethren of the Common Life, a semi-secular order founded by the Dutch preacher Geer Groote (1340-1384) and later blessed by the Vatican.

What does come as a complete surprise is the decoration of the original leather binding, which depicts nude women dancing, or perhaps just crouching, and men brandishing what look like scimitars. In the 16th century books were often sold in temporary paper or parchment bindings and were bound by the owners rather than the booksellers. It seems unlikely that the Brothers of the Common Life would have chosen this type of decoration and we can only surmise that  that the book must have had another owner before it was acquired by the Brethren.

It is at this point that the book’s peaceful existence comes to a crashing end.  A very faint inscription on the title page, ‘1586 Aug Sep. 1. Ex Dono Robert Arderne’, hints to its fate while a handwritten paragraph on the end leaf gives us a fuller account.

Here we read about a city on the bank of the river IJssel, presumably Doesburg, being surrounded and conquered by the ‘illustrious Earl of Leicester’, governor-general of the Netherlands. The inscription goes on to tell us that the book was taken from the spoils of the city and given by Robert Ardern (this time without an ‘e’ at the end) to Humfredus Fen of Coventry on September 1st.

We do not know who Robert Ardern, or even Arderne, was but Humphrey Fenn (1543/4-1634) was a nonconformist Church of England clergyman. He had already clashed with the establishment by the time he accompanied his patron, Robert Dudley the Earl of Leicester, to the Netherlands in the capacity of chaplain. Fenn must have had a front-row seat from which to witness the English and Dutch forces laying siege to Spanish-controlled Doesburg at the end of August 1586. We know that Doesburg surrendered on 2 September and our book is proof that the victorious English were already helping themselves to the spoils of one of its monasteries on 1st September. After securing and plundering Doesburg, Leicester and his troops attacked the larger garrison at Zutphen where Sir Philip Sidney, Leicester’s nephew and heir, was mortally wounded.

Fenn brought the book with him when he returned to England and was soon at loggerheads with the religious establishment once again. In 1590 he found himself deprived of his living as pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Coventry and was incarcerated for the second time in his life. He was released two years later and what became of him afterwards is less than clear but judging by the next piece of information on our book it would seem that he was not restored to his Coventry vicarage, or if he was he did stay there long.

The bone label nailed to the front cover does confirm that the book was a gift made on 12 April 1602 by Humphrey Fenn, a Cambridge MA and ‘formerly most worthy pastor of Holy Trinity in this city’, which would imply that he gave it to someone also in Coventry but doesn’t say to whom. This question is answered by a note written in pencil and inserted in the book, which reads: ‘Presented to Coventry School Library 1602.’

There is nothing to indicate that the book did not spend the next 300 years in Coventry but we do know that by 1910 one J.F. Tattersall, resident of Longwood, Tunbridge Wells, was making enquiries regarding the Doesburg monastery.

Preserved inside the book is the postcard sent to him from Holland on 6 July 1910 by H. van Alphen, confirming the existence of the Brethren’s monastery and the fact that it was burnt by the English in 1586. H. van Alphen was Treasurer of the Sidney Memorial Committee in Zutphen and writes to Tattersall that he would oblige him very much if he would kindly tell his friends about the memorial dedicated to Leicester’s nephew.

This astonishingly rich trail of evidence ends with a label on the book’s inside cover telling us that J.F. Tattersall presented it to the London Library in March 1912.

It is enormously satisfying to know so much about the book’s history but unanswered questions still tease us: Who commissioned the incongruous binding? Who was Robert Ardern and did he ‘rescue’ the book from the burning monastery himself? Could he in fact be Robert Arden, son of Edward Arden, High Sheriff of Warwickshire and a Catholic, prosecuted by Leicester for an alleged assasination plot against the queen? How did J.F. Tattersall come to own the book?

A Tolstoyan at The London Library

posted by

By Claudia Ricci, Russian Acquisitions and Cataloguing at The London Library.

Tolstoy Yasnaya

Tolstoy at Yasnaya Polyana.

TolstoyChertkov

Tolstoy and Chertkov.

Frontispiece of Tolstoy’s Hadji Murad, edited by Charles Hagberg Wright.

Charles Hagberg Wright

Charles Hagberg Wright, London Library Librarian 1893-1940.

Tolstoy; Father Sergius.

The longest serving Librarian (1893-1940) of The London Library, Sir Charles Hagberg Wright, was a distinguished Victorian polymath, who left a long lasting legacy in the history of the Library, its building and its collections. He was also an active member of the social and intellectual circles of his time, both at home and abroad. Having obtained a degree in Greek and Latin at Trinity College, Dublin in 1885, Wright pursued his studies further, while travelling around Europe to refine his language skills, which already included German, French and Swedish (his maternal grandfather was the Governor of the Swedish Royal Mint). In 1888 he spent almost a year in Saint Petersburg but, sadly, no first-hand account of his staying in the Russian capital exists.

However, judging from the titles he acquired for the Library and for his private collection and from the contacts he cultivated throughout his life, we can paint a picture of a young man, who nourished discreet sympathies for radical and nihilist circles and had a clear interest in the literary and philosophical personalities of his time. Among the distinguished Russians he must have met at the time, there were Maksim Gorky, who would later visit him in London (May 1907) and contact him requesting support for the cause of a revolutionary who had been imprisoned following the events of the 1905 revolution. Others included the Symbolist poet Valery Bryusov and the novelist and religious thinker Dmitry Merezhkovsky, who, having started off as a radical anti-monarchist and sympathiser of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, would later became a staunch conservative and anti-Soviet from his exile in France (both men corresponded with Wright). All three authors are well represented in our collections, both in the Literature and Biography sections, but the Russian personality that must have struck Wright most at the time was certainly Leo Tolstoy, as the richness of our collections clearly proves.

We do not know how the two men came to meet or in what circumstances. In 1888 Tolstoy was already 60 years old, his fame as the greatest novelist in the Russian language was already established having published “War and peace” (1869), “Anna Karenina” (1877) as well as a wide range of plays, novellas and autobiographical works to great acclaim of the public and critics. Incidentally, it was during this period that he started to experience a change in his worldview and a more spiritual streak started to permeate his work – between 1884 and 1887 he published his first religious and philosophical tracts, What I believe, What then must we do? and On Life. These works, which were banned from publication in Russia, symbolically inaugurate a new age in Tolstoy’s life, the start of a spiritual journey, which would eventually lead him to excommunication from the Orthodox Church and a sort of internal exile, but which would also bring him immense popularity and great influence in Russia and abroad.  Tolstoy’s moral tracts and pamphlets spanning all subject matters from pacifism to land reform, from advocating abstinence to the call for communal rural living, including his polemics against the death penalty and the role of the State and the Church as enslaving institutions, are extremely well represented in the Pamphlet collections of The London Library, a sign of the Librarian’s interest in Tolstoy and his ideas.

The English edition of Tolstoy’s letters in 2 vols. (Biog. Tolstoy, Leo) includes a brief letter that was sent by the venerable man to Charles Hagberg Wright in 1904 (April 22nd/7th May according to the Gregorian calendar). Writing in Russian Tolstoy thanks his friend in London for some books that he had been sent including one by Herbert Spencer and an autobiography of John Stuart Mill. He signs himself in English, “Leo Tolstoy”.

Another proof of their friendship is contained in Gusev’s Chronicle of Tolstoy’s life and work (in Russian -Biog. Tolstoy, Leo). The entry for 28th-30th August 1908 states that Charles H. Wright, erroneously identified as the Librarian of the British Library, paid a personal visit to Tolstoy at his country estate in Yasnaya Polyana on the occasion of the author’s 80th birthday. He delivered a congratulatory letter, which had been signed by more than 800 British intellectuals and social personalities of the time, among which featured the names of Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, Edmund Gosse and no doubt many other members of the London Library.

Following that memorable visit Wright wrote a piece for the Times (17th Sep., 1908), where he described how he spent his day at Yasnaya Polyana in the company of “Russia’s grand old man”. He also takes the opportunity to criticise the “sorry state of affairs” in political and social matters (the Russian Duma had prohibited any celebrations of Tolstoy’s birthday due to his status of persona non-grata), as well as the weakness of the Russian Central Government of the time. He tells us that Tolstoy welcomed him as his “English friend” and they reminisced about the long walks that they had once taken together on a similar meeting many years previously. But the octogenarian was frail and feeble, so the meeting was rather short.

In another letter to the Times (dated May 23rd, 1908) Charles H. Wright had announced the creation of a Committee which would preside over the congratulatory letter mentioned above and the launch of a special “Tolstoy Fund” that would support the publication of a new English language popular edition of Tolstoy’s works. Cheques and postal orders were to be sent to the address of the Library or the nearby branch of Barclays bank, and Wright himself was the Hon. Secretary of that Committee.

From this announcement we gather that Charles H. Wright was not just a personal friend and a literary devotee of Leo Tolstoy, but he also worked hard to support and promote the publication of his works in England. In our Fiction and Literature sections we find several copies of Tostoy’s translations that bear Wright’s name on the title page, as in one volume of Tolstoy’s Diaries (Youth, London: J.M. Dent, 1917), where he was responsible for the preface, or in Father Sergius and other stories and Hadji Murat, which are edited by “Dr C. Hagberg Wright” (both published by Thomas Nelson, 1911 and 1912 respectively). In the Forged coupon (London: Thomas Nelson, 1911) his name is given at the end of a long Introduction, which covers Tolstoy’s biography and expounds on his philosophical thoughts. For these publications the editors chose translations of high quality, carried out by expert translators and followers of Tolstoy’s philosophy such as Alexander Sirnis, C.J. Hogarth and Louise and Aylmer Maude, despite the fact that Tolstoy had placed all of his copyrights in the public domain, effectively making it possible for anyone to translate and publish his works on a small budget.

Charles H. Wright’s initials can also be seen at the bottom of the long entry dedicated to Leo Tolstoy in the 11th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, published in 32 volumes between 1910 and 1922. We know that around the time of the compilation of that article our then Librarian had sought out clarifications on Tolstoy’s philosophical thoughts from Vladimir Chertkov, a Tolstoyan and Russian exile based in Christchurch, who acted as Tolstoy’s official representative in England[1]. Incidentally, on August 26th 1920 we find a letter to the Times by our ever so considerate Librarian, who pleads with the British Government that Vladimir Chertkov’s son be allowed to visit his mother in England together with another follower of Tolstoy, Mr Perno, as they certainly should not be classed as revolutionaries or enemies of the nation. In 1931 Hagberg Wright’s name makes another appearance in the Times in connection with the Chertkovs: on December 25th 1931 he is recorded as their lawful attorney following the death of Anna Chertkova, wife of Vladimir and author of various works on religious sectarianism in Russia.

Charles H. Wright continued to be a promoter of Tolstoy’s legacy and his memory after the death of the author in 1910. He wrote brilliant reviews of some of his posthumous works (see Tolstoy’s Letters To His Wife in the Times of 17 Oct. 1913), he did not miss any opportunity to defend the reputation of Tolstoy, his heirs and his followers whenever a malicious rumour spread, as was the case with Tolstoy’s manuscripts, which were alleged to have caused a rift between the Tolstoy family and the above mentioned Vladimir Chertkov (see C.H.W.’s letter to the Times dated June 6th 1911). And, most importantly for us, he continued to add to the amazing collection of works by and about Leo Tolstoy for his beloved Library in St James’s Square.



[1] Muratov, M. L.N. Tolstoy and V.G. Chertkov (Tenafly, 2002)

Posted Under
Russian collections

A Taste for the Exotic at The London Library

posted by

A Turkish noblewoman and her remarkable footwear.

The price of abstention.

A cook modelling his spectacular headwear.

The dashing traveller.

The sun rises over the desert.

A beautiful and precise depiction of Jerusalem.

Léry observed the trial and execution of a prisoner of war who was then eaten by the tribe.

The only thing the Tupí feared was an evil spirit they called Aygnan and Léry depicts it here as a tormenting flying demon.

Léry admired the beauty of the Tupí people.

A moving scene of a Tupí funeral.

With holiday season well and truly underway, our Head of Bibliographic Services Dunia Garcia-Ontiveros heads to exotic climes to explore three important, first-hand tales of travel from the 16th century housed in the Library. Adapted from an article originally written for History Today.

Three books at The London Library are proof that voyage narratives were a very popular genre as early as the 16th century. At a time when there was still so much left to discover and ‘tame’ it is hardly surprising that many Europeans jumped at the chance to travel far and wide in search of territories to survey, shrines to visit and ‘heathens’ to save. Many more literate Europeans could then share in their adventures by reading their accounts and gazing in wonder at depictions of exotic lands and peoples.

The first of these three books is Vier Bucher von der Raisz und Shiffart in die Turckey (Four books on the travel and navigation in Turkey) by Nicolas de Nicolay, printed in Antwerp in 1577. Nicolay was a French mercenary, diplomat, royal cartographer, artist and, according to some, spy who travelled to Turkey as part of the French embassy to the court of Süleyman the Magnificent in 1551. He was tasked with surveying the lands he visited but his book is remarkable for containing over 60 woodcuts of men and women he encountered. These include striking images of a Turkish noblewoman perched on platform footwear perhaps to keep her magnificent gown away from the dirty ground or maybe as a symbol of her elevated social status. Others depict a member of a religious sect wearing a chastity ring (this image is often mutilated in surviving copies of this work), a cook in a wonderful chef’s hat carrying exotic fruits and vegetables and a very sober and respectable-looking Arab merchant. The French original, first published in Lyon in 1568, was translated into five languages and Shakespeare scholars believe the English edition, which was based on this Antwerp version, was a source for the Merchant of Venice.

In Il devotissimo viaggio di Gerusalemme we read about the pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1586 by Errol Flynn lookalike, Jean Zuallart, a traveller from the Low Countries, who was also an historian, voyager, judge, knight of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre and self-taught artist. His book was printed in Rome in 1587 and its romantic landscapes with towers, domes, minarets and palm trees nestling in sun-scorched sand dunes became the template that many other artists imitated. Zuallart’s drawings were not only beautifully evocative. Architectural historians today still refer to them for their detail and accuracy. The work was very well received and during its author’s lifetime it was translated into French and German.

By the 16th century travel was no longer restricted to the Old World. Our final book, Histoire d’un voyage fait en la terre du Bresil, autrement dite Amerique, tells the story of an ill-fated mission to the New World by the French Calvinist pastor Jean de Léry. After a theological dispute soon after reaching their destination a few of the more orthodox missionaries, with Léry among, them leave the mission and spend over a year living with the cannibal Tupí tribe while waiting for a ship in which to return to Europe. The experience becomes a journey of self-discovery for Léry whose religious beliefs and European ideas of civilization are tested. While he never fully understands or condones all of the Tupí customs he does grow to admire and respect their beauty, self-reliance and honesty. Léry returned to France after a gruelling voyage during which all supplies where exhausted and the men on board were reduced to eating the parrots and monkeys they had intended to bring back as living mementoes (the parrots were to serve as recordings of the Tupí language) as well as every scrap of leather on the ship.

Léry describes and portrays the flora and fauna of Brazil as well the physical beauty of the Tupí people. While he continues to refer to his hosts as ‘savages’, which is only to be expected from a 16th century European traveller, he does remark upon the humanity and compassion he witnesses during a Tupí funeral. Needless to say, Léry and his companions failed to convert the Tupí. The manuscript recounting his fascinating story of failure was lost and Léry had to write his adventures again from memory. The narrative was finally printed in La Rochelle in 1578, over 20 years after the journey took place. The London Library copy, printed in Geneva in 1594,  is a 3rd edition, ‘revised, corrected, and enlarged greatly’, complete with a printer’s note praising the work as well as several testimonials, proof of how well it was received.

Knud Leem : An Accidental Ethnologist in Lapland

posted by

Sami skiing in Knud Leem’s Beskrivelse over Finmarkens Lapper, 1767

Reindeer have always been key to the Sami way of life in Knud Leem’s Beskrivelse over Finmarkens Lapper, 1767

A common mode of transport, suitable for snow and water in Knud Leem’s Beskrivelse over Finmarkens Lapper, 1767

Undeterred by heavy snowfall in Knud Leem’s Beskrivelse over Finmarkens Lapper, 1767

June marks the month in which the Sami Act of 1987 granted cultural autonomy and democratic representation for the indigenous Sami people of Norway.  Our latest blog by Head of Bibliographic Services Dunia Garcia-Ontiveros explores the 18t century linguist and ethnologist Knud Leem who devoted his working life to the Sami people and their language.  Adapted from an article originally written for History Today.

The missionary and linguist Knud Leem was born in 1697 in Haram, eastern Norway. He read theology at the University of Copenhagen between 1713 and 1715 and after completing his examinations he began to study the language of the indigenous people of Lapland. The Sami people, formerly known as Finns and Lapps, inhabit a region of northern Scandinavia that includes territories in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Norway has always had the greatest Sami population, concentrated in the northern region of Finnmark (‘Sami country’).

The eighteen year old Leem was very interested in the Sami people and hoped to work as missionary in Finnmark but realising he was too young he began his professional life working as a tutor and as an assistant to senior clergymen in the town of Møre in Western Norway. He first applied to the Missionary Board for a post in Finnmark in 1723 but he had to wait another two years before a position became vacant. Finally, in 1725 Thomas von Westen, the ‘apostle to the Lapps’ who was in charge of the mission to the Sami from 1716 to his death in 1727, sent Leem to Porsanger, in Finnmark.

Leem spent the next ten years among the Sami people of Finnmark, leaving Porsanger to become a pastor in Alta-Talvik in 1728, where he expanded his knowledge of their language, their beliefs and their way of life. When in 1735 he left Finnmark to take up the post of pastor in Avaldsnes, southern Norway, his quest to educate Norwegian missionaries in Sami culture and to improve the spiritual and material life of the Sami had just begun. In 1748 his En Lappisk Grammatica Efter den Dialect, fom Bruges af Field-Lapperne udi Porsanger-Fiorden was published in Copenhagen. It was a grammar of the Karasjok dialect, the language spoken by the mountain Sami in the Porsanger Fjord. The work was completely original, based on Leem’s own observations and not relying on earlier grammars published in Sweden. The book was aimed at fellow missionaries and in writing it Leem fulfilled one of the classic roles of the Christian missionary: to break down language barriers in order to facilitate religious conversion. Although considered by some to be inferior to the earlier Swedish Sami grammars it remains the first surviving scientific work on the Sami language published in Norway: earlier works produced in the Trondheim seminary under the auspices of Thomas von Westen were destroyed in a fire in Copenhagen in 1795.

Having completed his grammar, Leem lived in Copenhagen for a year and began work on his magnum opus, the Lexicon Lapponicum Bipartitum. The first part of this great Sami encyclopaedia was published in Trondheim in 1768 while the second was published posthumously in Copenhagen in 1781.

Flying the flag for the Norwegian Sami people was not an easy task. The Kalmar Union of 1397 had brought Norway, Denmark and Sweden together under a single head of state. In practice this meant that while foreign policy was dictated by the monarch each country retained a great degree of legal and administrative autonomy, which inevitably led to tension and conflict. In 1523 Sweden left the union and in 1536 the Kalmar Union was formally ended when Denmark took over control of Norway. The Danish domination continued until 1814 when after the defeat at the Battle of Copenhagen Denmark was forced to sign the Treaty of Kiel and effectively hand over control of Norway to the victorious Sweden.  As professor Gutorm Gjessing of the Universitetes Etnografiske Museum of Oslo wrote in 1947 “ … the historical development of the country has provided too good a soil for cultural isolationism and national self-communion.” In other words, a nation struggling with the daily reality of being ruled by a foreign power will have little sympathy for or interest in a “primitive” ethnic minority that inhabits a remote corner of the country.

In the 18th century the Danish-Norwegian government was immersed in boundary controversies with the Swedish government and Sweden began to show an interest in the Sami people who lived in disputed lands. The Danish-Norwegian mission to Finnmark was therefore both a religious and political enterprise with the dual goal of making the Sami Christian and Danish. Whichever country could claim the Sami would have a much stronger claim to the land they occupied. However, different bishops had very different views on how best to achieve this aim. Peder Krog, bishop of Nidaros from 1689 to 1731 and his successor, Eiler Hagerup, both believed that the answer to the problem was to teach them Danish so their conversion to Christianity could be carried out in the national language, but others were completed opposed to this approach. Thomas von Westen defied Krog when in 1717 he opened a seminary in Trondheim where missionaries destined for Finnmark were taught the language of the Sami by the schoolmaster and translator Isaac Olsen, who was also Knud Leem’s teacher. Von Westen managed to keep the seminary going in the face of Episcopal disapproval but the school was closed the moment its founder died. Hagerup’s successor, Ludvig Harboe, who became Bishop of Nidaros in 1743, understood the need for priests and missionaries who could speak, read and write in Sami and so did Frederik Nannestad, who succeeded him 1748. In 1750, Nannestad approved a request from the Missionary Board to set up a new seminary, led by Knud Leem, where Sami could be taught. On Leem’s advice the location of the proposed new school changed from Alta to Trondheim and in March 1751 the Seminarium Lapponicum Fredericianum opened its doors. The need for Sami-speaking Norwegian and Danish missionaries became even greater when the border dispute with Sweden was finally settled that same year with the signing of the Strömstrad Treaty. The treaty gave the Sami people the right to roam freely across the agreed new border, making it easier for the Norwegian Sami to go to Sweden in search of Sami-speaking priests.

Leem devoted the rest of his life to running the seminary and its associated Latin grammar school. Much of his time was invested in trying to resolve the tensions caused by the fact that he admitted Sami students to be taught alongside Norwegian and Danish students. Gerhard Schøning, the rector of Trondheim Cathedral believed the Sami to be an inferior race and made a very public protest when he removed his cousin from the school. Nevertheless, with the support of Bishop Nannestad and his successor, the theologian and botanist Johan Ernst Gunnerus, Leem was able to keep the seminary and the school going and even found the time to continue to publish books on the Sami language and culture. In 1756 he published a Danish-Sami dictionary and in 1767 the work he is most remembered for, Beskrivelse over Finmarkens Lapper. This comprehensive ethnological study of the Sami of Finnmark includes some notes on ornithology written by Gunnerus. The large volume, held by the London Library, contains over 600 pages of parallel Danish and Latin text and 101 leaves of beautiful illustrations depicting every aspect of the life of the Sami, their dwellings, costume, reindeer herding and fishing techniques. Because of this book, the man who had set out to bring a remote group of people closer to Christ is now remembered as one of Norway’s first ethnologists of the Finnmark Sami.

History repeated itself when Leem’s seminary closed its doors soon after his death in 1774 and for the next 200 years Norwegian attitudes towards the Sami worsened. Writing in 1953 Professor Gjessing cited a number of factors that contributed to the anti-Sami prejudice from the mid nineteenth century onwards. These included the rise of evolutionism used to support the notion of inferior races, a growing nationalism and “Norwegianization” of school education as a reaction to Swedish domination, the industrial revolution which created the notion that culture was synonymous with industry, and legislation that prevented non-Norwegian speakers from owning land in Finnmark. The situation did not improve when Norway finally obtained its independence in 1905: the Sami faced a more immediate problem when the profitable trade with the Russian Pomors began to decline at the beginning of the 20th century and then disappeared completely after the Russian revolution.

Norwegian attitudes changed after the Sami joined the Resistance during the German occupation of Norway, which began in 1940. In 1959 a change in the law allowed Sami children to be taught in their native tongue and the Sami are now recognised as the indigenous people of Norway. In 1989 the Sami Parliament was opened and in 2005 the Finnmark Act transferred property rights to land and water to the Sami people.

Claude Montefiore: A Cautious Revolutionary

posted by
Three volumes from the collection

Three volumes from the collection

Tsava'ot ha-R : Yehudah ben ha-Rosh ve-ahiv ha-R. Schechter's commentary on the work by Judah ben Asher

Tsava’ot ha-R : Yehudah ben ha-Rosh ve-ahiv ha-R. Schechter’s commentary on the work by Judah ben Asher

The Montefiore collection in its current home

The Montefiore collection in its current home

Claude Joseph Goldsmid Montefiore (1858-1938), great-nephew of Sir Moses Montefiore and grandson of Sir Isaac Lyon Goldsmid, was a member of the Anglo-Jewish elite who broke with Jewish orthodoxy when he founded Liberal Judaism in Britain. By The London Library’s Head of Bibliographic Services Dunia Garcia-Ontiveros, adapted from an article originally written for History Today.

In childhood Claude Montefiore suffered an attack of pneumonia, which left him with a weakened constitution. His delicate health prevented him from attending school and his private tuition was undertaken by both anti-Zionist rabbis and Protestant Christian tutors. This eclectic education planted the seeds of liberal thought that would later move Montefiore to formulate a radically new approach to Judaism. His education continued at Balliol College, Oxford from which he graduated in 1881 with a first in Classics.  As one of the top students he enjoyed a close relationship with the master at Balliol, Benjamin Jowett, a believer in religious liberalism who encouraged his pupil to approach the study of Jewish religious texts with a critical eye.

After graduating from Oxford, Montefiore travelled to Berlin in order to train for the rabbinate under the Romanian scholar Solomon Schechter. Montefiore soon changed his mind about his calling and returned to England bringing Schechter with him: becoming an orthodox rabbi was simply incompatible with Montefiore’s revolutionary views on Judaism. He believed that a modern world needed a modern Judaism that didn’t rely so heavily on Talmudic and rabbinic law or on Jewish customs and traditions. His wealth allowed him to devote his life to Biblical scholarship and he offended many Orthodox Jews and Christians with his writings advocating a new religion that combined elements of both Judaism and Christianity: “My originality is my queer mixture, half Jew and half Christian … “. Despite being attacked by members of both religions he was unshakeable in his beliefs.

The second most defining aspect of Montefiore’s thought was the distinction he made between religion and nationality: “In Italy, Holland, France, and, above all, and most supremely in England, a fatherland is not denied to the Jews. (Let the Jews of the United States speak for themselves). Their fatherland is Italy, Holland, France and England respectively”. He saw Zionism as conducive to alienating and segregating Jews from gentiles even further and believed that it only served to make anti-Semitism worse, and even blamed it for the rise of Nazism. On the possibility of Jews settling in Palestine he wrote that it “might involve them in the bitterest feuds with their neighbours … and would find deplorable echoes throughout the Orient”.

A qualified lay preacher, he disseminated his views from the pulpits of both the West London Reform Synagogue and the Liberal Jewish Synagogue and found other platforms such as the Hibbert Lectures delivered at Oxford in 1892 at the invitation of Benjamin Jowett, and the Jewish Quarterly Review, which he founded with Israel Abrahams and co-edited for many years. Still, the man who felt compelled to begin a religious revolution and who was instrumental in the foundation of the League of British Jews, and the Jewish Religious Union for the Advancement of Liberal Judaism was a gentle, prudent and self-effacing individual. While his religious enemies saw him as a man of very dangerous ideas, his political enemies criticised his overly cautious presidency of the Anglo-Jewish Association and most particularly his reluctance to help persecuted Jews on the continent and accused him of being ineffectual. In accordance with his ideas of Jewish nationality, Montefiore felt that the problems Jews faced in other countries had to be resolved locally and often repeated that anti-Semitism was not a problem in England. His main concern was the welfare and the education of English Jews and the list of the philanthropic works he undertook to improve the lives of his compatriots and coreligionists is very long.  In fact, Montefiore sometimes complained that these activities and the committee work that a man of his social class was obliged to do, together with his ill health, left him little time to dedicate to his studies.

He was nevertheless able to complete a substantial body of work in the form of several books (The Synoptic Gospels, Some Elements of the Religious Teaching of Jesus According to the Synoptic Gospels, Judaism and St. Paul, Aspects of Judaism, Liberal Judaism, Outlines of Liberal Judaism, Liberal Judaism and Hellenism, Rabbinic Literature and Gospel Teachings, A Rabbinic Anthology, The Old Testament and After, The Bible for Home Reading) and countless pamphlets and articles.

After his death in 1938 the London Library received a bequest of all the pamphlets he collected in the course of his life. The ca. 5,000 titles bound into 664 volumes offer us a comprehensive insight into Montefiore’s mind and all the subjects he was interested in, from theology to social welfare, education and even poetry – his biographers mention that he would often surprise people by spontaneously reciting Shakespeare’s sonnets, a little Tennyson, the preface to Middlemarch or even a fragment of Alice in Wonderland. This explains the presence in volume 454 of a booklet of First World War poems by Janet Begbie, entitled Morning Mist and published by Mills and Boon in 1916 (a few years before the firm decided to concentrate on the publication of romance novels).

By scanning the contents of this and other volumes we can see not only what Montefiore read but more importantly what he chose to keep, perhaps for future reference. A total 161 of the pamphlets in the collection were written by Montefiore himself: Liberal Christianity and Liberal Judaism, What a Jew thinks about Jesus, The dangers of Zionism, Assimilation, good and bad, Is there a middle way?, The originality of Jesus, Has Judaism a future?, On keeping young and growing old, Anti-Semitism in England, Optimism and religion, Is Judaism a tribal religion?, The English Jew and his religion, Jewish emancipation and the English Jew, etc.

Others are written by his mentors and friends: The Chassidim and On the study of the Talmud by S. Schlechter, Poetry and religion and Jewish life under emancipation by Israel Abrahams, The German soul and the Great War and Progress in religion by Baron Friedrich von Hügel. Some are even written by his enemies: The racial conception of the world and The Nazi party, the state and religion by Adolf Hitler, Chosen peoples: the Hebraic ideal versus the Teutonic and A land of refuge by Israel Zangwill.

The pamphlets are bound in rough chronological order and this arrangement also allows us to trace the developments in scholarship and world events taking place around Montefiore. These range from Biblical criticism and Reform Judaism to the work of Jewish charities and social responsibility.

The earliest pamphlet Kritische Untersuchungen über den menschlichen Geist, oder, Das höhere Erkenntniss- und Willensvermögen (Critical examinations of the human spirit, or, The higher knowledge and volition) by Salomon Maimon dates from 1797 and the latest Public development and slump control by The Next Five Years Group is from 1938, proof that Montefiore was actively interested in the welfare of others almost to the very end of his life.

This scholar, philanthropist and reformer, described by some as a saint and by others as class-conscious snob who abhorred socialism and was suspicious of democracy, died “disappointed and embittered” at the relative failure of Liberal Judaism, which he blamed on the rise of Zionism.

Discover The National Portrait Gallery’s portrait of Montefiore by Sir William Rothenstein circa 1935 in its Later Victorian Portraits (online) catalogue – Montefiore portrait

Mapping the changes: Topography on the move

posted by

Congested shelf before the move

 

 

Congested shelf with overhanging books

Overhanging books in the former sequence

Folio and extra large Topography volumes in their new sequence

Part of the new extra large folio series

Last week the Library saw a flurry of activity in the Back Stacks as our Collection Care team moved more than 36 metres of Topography volumes to a new location at the far side of the store. It is part of series of measures that we will be implementing this year to improve the housing of our open access collections.  By The London Library’s Head of Collection Care, Judith Finnamore.

In its former location, the Topography folio series had been subject to a dearth of deep shelving. Many books were overhanging the edge of their shelves by quite some length, rendering them unstable and at risk of being knocked, or even falling. Some other volumes had ended up being stored on their fore-edge. Each time one of these books was retrieved, some abrasion would occur along the edge of the binding, eventually wearing away the leather, cloth or paper cover that had been protecting – and decorating – the boards. Over time, the weight of the book’s pages would have caused them to become distorted and, in a worst case scenario, led to the whole textbook to dropping and detaching from the spine. It was time to take action!

Three busy days of measuring and re-pitching shelves, loading and wheeling trollies, amending shelfmarks and reshelving some extremely heavy books has resulted in a new and improved area for our largest topographical volumes. ‘Extra large’ tomes now benefit from being accommodated on an extra deep shelf, where they are properly supported and, as a result, easier and safer to retrieve and shelve. The move has also given us the opportunity to address areas of congestion, creating pockets of space into which the collections can expand.

We’re really pleased with the new series we’ve created, but we won’t be resting on our laurels. Work is ongoing to repair or rebind our most fragile Topography books, and the team will soon be moving back our quarto titles onto the vacant shelves where the folios used to be. Again, the aim will be to have better-housed books and to relieve tightly-packed areas of shelving, resulting in more space for our collections to grow and flourish in future.