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The London Library’s new catalogue search tool, Catalyst is now live.  This is an exciting development for the Library, allowing members to search our print and online resources simultaneously.

What does Catalyst contain?

Books and Journals – All of the Library’s books and journals acquired since 1950 are now on Catalyst, as well as a substantial and growing number of titles from our earlier catalogues.

eJournals – All the eJournals the Library subscribes to can be found by title in Catalyst and the content of 95% of our subscription eJournals can also be retrieved by Catalyst.

Databases – All of our subscription online databases can be found by title in Catalyst and the content of a number of databases including the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Who’s Who, and the Oxford Dictionary of Art can also be retrieved by Catalyst.  We expect to be able to add the content of more databases in the future. Catalyst has a mobile friendly view which allows you to search on your mobile device. The site is responsive and adapts automatically to the mobile view when the screen size reduces to under 500 pixels.

How to use Catalyst – Members wishing to use Catalyst should select the Sign in option from the top right hand corner on any Catalyst screen and you will be taken to a login screen.  You will need your membership number or the barcode from your London Library membership card and your PIN.  If you have forgotten your PIN please contact the Membership Office and they will be pleased to help.

For members who would like to know more, The London Library will be holding demonstration sessions at the Library for members.

Tuesday 27th January 10.15am – 11am or 11.15am – 12pm
Wednesday 28th January 2.15pm – 3pm or 3.15pm – 4pm
Thursday 29th January 2.15pm – 3pm or 3.15pm – 4pm
Friday 30th January 10.15am – 11am or 11.15am – 12pm 

Numbers at each session will be limited, to reserve a place please contact Amanda Stebbings.

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

Niccolò Fontana Tartaglia was one of the less fortunate and most cantankerous polymaths of the Italian Renaissance. He was born in 1500 in Brescia, the son of a humble courier who was murdered when Niccolò was only six years old. The Fontana family had always been poor but after the father’s death their situation became desperate. Only six years later Niccolò received the second major blow of his life, this time a literal one. In 1512 his home town of Brescia was sacked by French soldiers and in the ensuing massacre a twelve year old Niccolò was left for dead after receiving horrific sabre wounds to his jaw and palate. Although he survived the attack the severe injuries he received left him with permanent speech difficulties, which earned him the nickname of ‘Tartaglia’ (stutterer). Niccolò could not hide the stammer but he could at least hide his facial scars by simply growing a beard, which he did as soon as he was able. As a destitute and disfigured boy with a stammer Niccolò would probably not have had high aspirations in life had it not been for one crucial fact: when it came to mathematics he was a child prodigy. Despite his terrible misfortunes Niccolò had great self-belief, some say arrogance, and managed to find a patron who paid for him to study in Padua.

By 1516 the teenager was already teaching in Verona but still lived in relative poverty. He later moved to Venice, where he spent most of the rest of his life. He is best known for coming up with one method for resolving cubic equations and for his bitter quarrel with Girolamo Cardano as a result. Cardano, who was also a mathematician, had persuaded Tartaglia to tell him about this method after swearing that he would never reveal it. Soon after, Cardano discovered that another mathematician, Scipione Ferro, had been the first to find a s
olution to the cubic equation and saw no reason why he shouldn’t publish Ferro’s method and the work Cardano himself had done based on Tartaglia’s solution. It is not clear whether Tartaglia wanted to be the one to publish his method or perhaps he was saving it for use in the many mathematical debates he participated, which had served to enhance his reputation. One thing is certain, Tartaglia felt Cardano had betrayed him and was absolutely furious. He never forgave him and never missed an opportunity to heap insults on Cardano. His reputation was further dented when, sensing defeat, he walked out of a mathematical debate against Lodovico Ferrari, Cardano’s pupil.

Tartaglia published Italian translations of the works of Archimedes and Euclid and is also remembered for his work in military science. It is not surprising that after almost being killed as a child by an invading soldier he should devote some of his considerable intellect and ingenuity to designing fortifications and devising formulae to calculate the reach and trajectory of cannonballs and other missiles. What is less well known is that Tartaglia was also interested in marine engineering and salvage.

The London Library holds a copy of his work, printed in Venice in 1551, on methods for raising sunken ships, which includes several designs for diving bells: Regola generale da sulevare con ragione e misura nõ solamẽte ogni affondata naue : ma una torre solida di mettallo (General rule for raising not only every sunken ship correctly and with care but also a tower of solid metal).

Despite Tartaglia’s genius and intellectual achievements he never managed to make the social connections that would have secured him lucrative employment and he died in poverty at the age of 51. His life was blighted by tragedy, violence and the highly damaging feud with Cardano.

A self-operated diving bell

A self-operated diving bell

One of the ingenious methods

One of the ingenious methods for raising a sunken ship
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Redemption can take many forms. A little book held at The London Library, containing iconic images of cruelty and suffering, is a eulogy for a fallen comrade, an attack on his torturers and killers and an attempt to silence those who accused the author of cowardice for escaping the martyr’s fate. By Dunia Garcia-OntiverosHead of Bibliographic Services at The London Library. Adapted from an article originally written for History Today.

The book’s title is De persecutione Anglicana libellus quo explicantur afflictiones, calamitates, cruciatus, & acerbissima martyria, quæ Angli Catholici nūc ob fidē patiuntur  (On the English persecution, a book in which are explained the suffering, misfortunes, torture and bitterest martyrdom that the English Catholics suffered for their faith). It was printed in Rome in 1582 and although published anonymously its author has been identified as the English Jesuit Robert Persons, (also known as Parsons).

The recusant dean of Balliol College Oxford was expelled from the university in 1574 and after travelling to Italy he entered the Society of Jesus the following year, becoming a priest in 1578.

In April 1580 Parsons and Edmund Campion, also a former Oxford scholar turned Jesuit, returned to England as Catholic missionaries; Parsons disguised as an army captain and Campion as a jewel merchant.  Their main purpose was to strengthen the faith of English Catholics by disseminating books and religious objects. They were supposed to avoid political discussion and to proceed with extreme caution, particularly because the authorities had intercepted a letter and already knew of their presence in England.

Parsons was pretty good at keeping a low profile but Campion was much more conspicuous. Using clandestine presses he produced two books: Challenge to the Privy Council (also known as Campion’s Brag), where he defended the purely religious purpose of his mission, andDecem Rationes or Ten Reasons against the Anglican Church. Parsons also published while on the run, producing his Confessio fidei but was altogether more careful in his movements. Consequently, Campion was arrested on the charge of treason and the printing presses he used were seized. As soon as he heard the news of Campion’s arrest, Parsons fled back to the continent and to safety, leaving his friend behind.

In December 1581 Campion was tortured on the rack, hanged, drawn and quartered. Parsons obviously knew that had he stayed in England he would have suffered the same fate and it seems surprising that he should have chosen self-preservation over martyrdom when, as the rector of the English College in Rome, he had advocated martyrdom as the most powerful form of Catholic propaganda. It is tempting to think that Parsons lived to regret his moment of weakness and that his writing De persecutione immediately after Edmund’s death was prompted not only by his abhorrence at the atrocities inflicted on Campion but also by an uneasy conscience.

The book’s denunciation of Elizabethan barbarism is a very graphic one as it includes six powerful and moving engravings depicting every stage of the Catholic martyr’s suffering (although equally horrific torments had been inflicted on Protestants during Queen Mary’s reign). The images that at first recorded Campion’s ordeal took on a life of their own and had a lasting influence. The plates were originally designed by the publisher, engraver, journalist and Catholic spy Richard Verstegan to accompany Thomas Alfield’s eye witness account of Campion’s execution at Tyburn. They were used again in William Allen’s A briefe historie of the glorious martyrdom of XII reverend priests, becoming classics of Jesuit iconography that would be often imitated.

Betrayed, apprehended and imprisoned

Betrayed, apprehended and imprisoned

Dragged through the streets, suffering taunts and insults

Dragged through the streets, suffering taunts and insults

Whipped and tortured with red-hot iron

Whipped and tortured with red-hot iron

Stretched on the rack

Stretched on the rack

Tied to a wicker panel he arrives at the gallows

Tied to a wicker panel he arrives at the gallows

Hanged, drawn and quartered

Hanged, drawn and quartered

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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 forHistory 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. TheAtlas 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.

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.

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.

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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.

Allen's manifesto

Allen’s manifesto

A radical departure: the first Biblical translation by English Catholics

A radical departure: the first Biblical translation by English Catholics

Allen's posthumous victory?

Allen’s posthumous victory?

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