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

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 believeWhat 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 (17thSep., 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.


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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.

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.

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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-Fiordenwas 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.

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

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Posted by on in Archives

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

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

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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.

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

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As London’s parks, squares and gardens come back to life after a dreary winter it seems timely to remember and celebrate Thomas Hill, the Londoner responsible for the first popular gardening books printed in the English language. By London Library Head of Bibliographic Services Dunia Garcia-Ontiveros, adapted from an article originally written forHistory Today.

Born around 1528, Hill appears to have been more of a literary entrepreneur than a true scholar. He himself confessed to have been ‘rudely taughte’ but he evidently knew enough Italian and Latin to select and translate the works of many classical authors. These translations formed the basis of Hill’s work and while some have accused him of not contributing new knowledge to the subjects he wrote on he did at least have enough of an understanding of these disciplines to choose his sources carefully, the necessary skill to render them into clear English and sufficient honesty to acknowledge in his book those whose works he compiled. He was also shrewd enough to pick popular subjects that would prove commercial successes: physiognomy, astrology, medicine, mathematics, almanacs, conjuring tricks, practical jokes, natural and supernatural phenomena and, of course, gardening.

His A Briefe Treatyse of Gardening was first printed without date probably around 1558 and was enormously popular, running to nine editions. Later editions were published under a different title, which spoke of the book’s success, The Profitable Arte of Gardening. It had been augmented by three appendices: The Mervailous Government, Propertie, and Benefite of Bees, With the Rare Secretes of the Honnie and Wax,  The Yerely Coniectures Meete for Husbandmen and aTreatise of the Arte of Graffing and Planting of Trees. The London Library edition was printed in the capital in 1593 by Edward Allde, who at the time had his premises ‘in the Fore Street without Cripplegate at the Golden Cup’.

Thomas Hill’s star was rising when his life was cut relatively short in 1574. His second gardening book, The Gardeners Labyrinth:Containing a Discourse of the Gardeners Life, in the Yearly Travels to be Bestowed on his Plot of Earth, for the Use of a Garden … was printed posthumously in 1577.

Hill’s book lists herbs and vegetables giving first the ‘ordering, care and secrets’ and then ‘the physicke helpes’ or medicinal properties of each: ‘… parcely thrown into fish-ponds doth revive and strengthen the sick fish’, melon seeds ‘eaten or drunk doe cause urine, and purge the lungs and kidneis’. He also offers tips for getting rid of pests such as moles, characterised as ‘a disquiet and grief to gardeners’.

This second work includes many woodcuts, unlike his first book, making it much more expensive to produce and therefore increasing its retail price considerably, which must be a sign of how much Hill’s popularity had grown even after his death.  It appears that his status had risen so much that he had even outgrown his name: on the title page Thomas Hill has grown into Dydymus (Greek for Thomas and literally meaning ‘twin’) Mountaine, a rather ridiculous pseudonym that must have nevertheless sounded grand and impressive to a 16thcentury book buyer.  It would be fascinating to know whether this was done in accordance with Hill’s wishes or whether it was the printer’s idea for attracting a wealthier clientele. Either because of or in spite of the ‘mountaine’ effect, or rather because of the quality of the text and charming depictions of Elizabethan gardens, Hill’s second gardening book proved an even greater success than the first one and was reprinted many times. The London Library copy is dated 1586 and is the work of John Wolfe who had his workshop in Distaff Lane, near St. Paul’s.

When Hill died he left many completed manuscripts behind that were never published as well as some unfinished projects. One of the latter was a translation of Swiss naturalist Conrad Gesner’s The Newe Jewell of Health: Wherein is Contayned the Most Excellent Secretes of Phisicke and Philosophie. The translation was completed by his friend, the surgeon George Baker, and The London Library holds a copy of the beautifully illustrated first edition printed by Henrie Denham at the sign of the Star in Paternoster Row in 1576.

‘The Profitable Arte of Gardening’

‘The Gardeners Labyrinth: Containing a Discourse of the Gardeners Life, in the Yearly Travels to be Bestowed on his Plot of Earth, for the Use of a Garden’ (1577)

‘The Gardeners Labyrinth: Containing a Discourse of the Gardeners Life, in the Yearly Travels to be Bestowed on his Plot of Earth, for the Use of a Garden’ (1577)

‘The maner of watering with a Pumpe by troughes in a Garden’ – from The Gardeners Labyrinth.

Translation of Swiss naturalist Conrad Gesner’s ‘The Newe Jewell of Health: Wherein is Contayned the Most Excellent Secretes of Phisicke and Philosophie.’ (1576)

First chapter page from ‘The Gardeners Labyrinth’

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Whether simple or sumptuous in design, book boxes give essential protection to many items in The London Library’s collections, including some of our rarest, quirkiest and most valuable volumes. Our Head of Collection Care Judith Finnamore explains how she and her Conservation team go about their work.

The benefits of boxes

Boxes can provide an effective barrier against some of the enemies of paper. Exposure to light causes chemical reactions in paper, leading it to discolour and turn brittle. If you’ve ever left a newspaper on a sunny windowsill over weeks or months, you’ll have some idea of what this looks like. Dust can also be detrimental, endangering books by attracting insect life and encouraging mould growth. By giving a book a box, we help safeguard it against these kinds of damage.

Some boxes are designed to lend support additional support to books. Vellum bindings are particularly sensitive to fluctuations in temperature and relative humidity, and as a result can contract or become distorted. Traditionally such covers would have been held in place by metal clasps or some kind of tie, but as these in themselves can raise preservation concerns, we turn to boxes as an effective and conservation-friendly alternative. Where distortion has already occurred, a book box can at least hold the covers in place, acting against further shifts and preventing the book from splaying wide open as it is handled.

And then there are those boxes which make a book just that bit easier to find. Some of our miniature books are so tiny that they would risk being overlooked or inadvertently pushed to the back of a shelf. Giving them a larger box, with a foam or card insert to make sure the book can be held snuggly within, makes shelving these tiny tomes so much easier and dramatically reduces the likelihood of loss or damage.

A few boxes in our collection are presentation pieces, and could even be considered works of art in their own right. The Library’s Kelmscott Press edition of The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer is housed within a beautiful red leather clamshell case, lined in suede, with a special hidden compartment to house correspondence from the bindery. The box echoes the theatricality of the volume inside, which was one of only 48 copies to be bound in fine pig skin and silver clasps.

Box-making at the London Library

In The London Library’s Conservation Studio we produce a variety of customised boxes and wrappers which, while they lack the elaborate finish of the Kelmscott case, are just as effective in preserving our book collections. We eschew expensive leathers and metallic trappings in favour of more modest materials, primarily acid-free card, book-binding thread and archival-quality polyester film. The most common type of box we make is the phase box: a folding card structure, free from sharp edges or damaging adhesives.

Making up the boxes is a skilled process, which demands patience and close attention to detail. Each book needs to be measured up very carefully. It’s essential that each completed box offers the best possible fit for the book and holds it securely in position. A box which is too roomy could result in significant wear and tear, as the book would be able to shift around inside. To help us come up with the right figures, we use a wooden book measure, which looks and works a bit like a Clarks foot measuring gauge!

Once we’re confident that we’ve come up with the right dimensions, it’s time to transfer them to the acid-free card. We need to calculate the relative length of each fold and cutting line, using a handy template to help us achieve this. Whoever is responsible for cutting and scoring the card needs a steady hand, and there are several fiddly flaps around which to manoeuvre. Having cut out the shape, we make our folds, tuck in the flaps and – ta-da! – we have a brand new phase book, tailor-made for the book in hand.

Given the benefits of boxes, you may wonder why we don’t provide enclosures for all of our books. First, it is a time-consuming process, taking on average about 15 to 20 minutes per box. There are also aesthetic concerns. The eclectic bindings on show in the stacks are part of The London Library’s charm. Many were designed to attract book buyers, and still exert a powerful pull on members browsing the shelves.

Not to be defeated, our Conservator has recently been developing new ideas to protect our books from wear while keeping their historic spines on view. One recent box design pairs an archival-quality card sleeve with a polyester film wrap, enabling us to defend our books from dust and abrasion while preserving their spines for all to see. We’re hoping to roll out more of these innovative book boxes in future.

There is still some way to go. We would like to see many more of our books benefit from protective boxes, particularly those which we’ve temporarily secured with cotton bands. Work is ongoing, and our indefatigable Conservation team are making good progress towards this goal. Who would have thought that humble cardboard boxes could make such a significant contribution to the care of our collections? Yet, it is thanks to these simple home-made structures that we are able to preserve the Library’s most vulnerable volumes for the benefit of generations to come.

A book with brittle paper

A book with brittle paper

This miniature Bible is far easier to handle thanks to an innovative box

This miniature Bible is far easier to handle thanks to an innovative box

This tiny edition of Dante's Divina Commedia measures only 57 x 34 mm. The box not only protects it from external elements, but also makes it easier to find!

This tiny edition of Dante’s Divina Commedia measures only 57 x 34 mm. The box not only protects it from external elements, but also makes it easier to find!

The red leather presentation box for our Kelmscott Press edition of Chaucer's works

The red leather presentation box for our Kelmscott Press edition of Chaucer’s works

The suede-lined interior of the Kelmscott Chaucer box

The suede-lined interior of the Kelmscott Chaucer box

The first stage of box-making: taking down the book's dimensions

The first stage of box-making: taking down the book’s dimensions

A sharp knife is used to carefully cut out the box

A sharp knife is used to carefully cut out the box

A perfect fit! Folding the box around the book

A perfect fit! Folding the box around the book

A melinex wrap gives this book the protection it needs while keeping the spine on view

A melinex wrap gives this book the protection it needs while keeping the spine on view

This melinex cover is secured with a button and thread closure

This melinex cover is secured with a button and thread closure

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Hundreds of bibles, translated into dozens of languages, populate some of the shelves of The London Library. Among these is a remarkable collection of early English versions with a copy of the King James Bible, published in May of 1611, at its heart. In the latest article adapted from a series recently published in History Today, Dunia Garcia-Ontiveros, Head of Bibliographic Services at The London Library, explores these unique volumes.

The King James Bible, which in 2011 celebrated its 400th anniversary, is part of a long chain of English translations of the Scriptures where every new version owes a debt to its predecessors. The first link in the chain was forged by William Tyndale 80 years before James I commissioned his Authorised Version.

The Oxford-educated religious reformer, who was inspired by Erasmus and Luther, was forced to flee England in 1525. He was a gifted linguist who translated the New Testament from the original Greek into accessible English. By 1534 he had settled in Antwerp where he was betrayed by a friend and arrested before he could complete his translation of the Old Testament from the original Hebrew. He was incarcerated for sixteen months and in October 1536 he was publicly executed in Vilvoorde Castle, near Brussels.

In 1535, just as Tyndale was printing his final revision of the New Testament in Antwerp, Miles Coverdale was in the same city printing his complete English Bible. Coverdale was an Augustinian friar and a Cambridge man. Like Tyndale, his reformist views forced him into exile. He did not know enough Greek and Hebrew to translate the original texts and instead he worked from German and Latin versions, while consulting Tyndale’s translations at the same time. Back in England big changes were taking place. Cranmer and Cromwell’s influence was growing and, consequently, Henry VIII was more inclined to fulfil the promise he had made five years earlier to provide ‘learned men’ with a translation of the New Testament. In this new climate Coverdale dedicated his Bible to the king and was able to return safely to London.

Tyndale’s unpublished translations of the Old Testament were finally printed in ‘Matthew’s’ Bible of 1537. John Rogers, chaplain of the English House in Antwerp, had managed to rescue the manuscripts after Tyndale’s arrest. He printed them together with Tyndale’s Pentateuch and New Testament. For the remaining books of the Old Testament he used Coverdale’s translation. As Tyndale’s translations were still banned the title page bore the fictitious name of Thomas Mathew. The resulting book, published for the merchants Richard Grafton and Edward Whitchurch is the closest thing there is to a complete Tyndale Bible. Ironically, this was the first English Bible to receive a royal license and Cromwell wasted no time in distributing copies to every parish. It was soon apparent that not enough copies had been printed to supply all 8,500 churches and since the king still had some reservations as to some of the marginal notes a new version was needed. Interestingly, the London Library’s copy of ‘Matthew’s’ Bible was printed by a Thomas Raynalde in London in 1549, two years after Henry’s death.

Henry VIII’s Great Bible of 1539 was edited by Coverdale, who revised ‘Matthew’s’ Bible rather than his own version, and it was again published by Grafton and Whitchurch.  No new versions were produced during the short reigns of Edward VI and Mary Tudor. John Roger’s execution, ordered by Mary in 1555, must have served as a powerful deterrent for anyone contemplating Biblical translations on English soil.

A group of English Protestants, which included the dean of Durham, William Whittingham, had fled Mary’s regime to settle in Calvinist Geneva where they prepared a new version, printed in 1560. Coverdale, who had returned to England after Henry’s death and served as Bishop of Exeter until the accession of Mary to the throne, was forced into again into exile in 1555. He spent some time in Denmark and Germany and joined the Geneva translators in October 1558, only a month before Mary’s death. The Geneva Bible became the most popular version of the Scripture and was still in regular use even after the publication of the King James Bible. Given its proliferation, it is not surprising that the London Library holds several early editions, the earliest being Christopher Barker’s folio edition of 1576. In 1575 Barker had obtained a patent to print the Bible in England for the first time and after publishing one edition in 1576 he obtained a press, which he used to print the first folio edition in Roman type. The next year he bought the exclusive rights to print all English Bibles and passed the monopoly onto his descendants. The London Library copy of the smaller 1586 edition is the last produced by the founder of the printing dynasty. In 1587 a very wealthy Christopher retired to his country house and left the business in charge of his deputies who were responsible for the 1589 and 1599 editions also held by the Library.

The Library’s copy of the 1605 edition is the work of Christopher’s son, Robert, who while busy printing the new Authorized Version in 1611 was still satisfying demand for Geneva Bibles with a new folio edition also held at the Library.

After Mary’s death in 1558 the Geneva Bible was openly used in parish churches but Queen Elizabeth’s bishops thought that its extensive marginal notes were too heavily influenced by Calvinist doctrine. Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury, assumed responsibility for a new version. The first folio edition of the Bishops’ Bible of 1568 was produced in London by the queen’s printer, Richard Jugge. In 1569 Jugge printed a second, quarto, edition and the Library holds a copy of its New Testament. Although this was meant to be Elizabeth’s ‘Great Bible’ it did not receive royal sanction until 1574 and the Library’s copy of the 1575 edition finally contains the words ‘set foorth by aucthoritie’ as well ‘God save the Queene’. In any case, the text did not compare to that of the Geneva Bible and although copies were printed for official use in parish churches across the land, the ‘Calvinist version’ was retained for private use in most protestant households.

The Catholic alternative to these protestant Bibles was produced once again by religious exiles, this time settled in Douai and Rheims, where dissenting outposts of Oxford University had been established by the scholar William Allen. These English Catholics accepted the inevitability of an English translation and undertook to offer a vernacular version that would at least conform to Catholic doctrine. The New Testament was translated by George Martin, a reader of Divinity, who worked mostly from the Vulgate but was also influenced by existing English versions. It was first printed in 1582 in Rheims, with the Old Testament being issued in two parts in Douai over 1609 and 1610. The Library holds copies of them all.

While the most direct influences of the Authorized Version of 1611 were the Geneva and the Bishops’ bibles, King James’ translators were not squeamish about consulting every English translation available, including the Rheims-Douai version, and borrowing many phrases from it. The team of around fifty scholars who worked on the Bible between 1604 and 1608 produced a version of such durability that it remains the strongest link in the chain of translations to this day.

1611 King James Bible

Book of Ruth 3:15 from the 1611 King James Bible

Book of Moses – 1611 King James Bible

1605 Geneva Bible

New Testament of the 1569 Bishop’s Bible

1575 Bishop’s Bible

1599 Geneva Bible

1589 Geneva Bible

Book of Genesis – 1549 Matthew Bible

1582 Rheims-Douai Bible

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In the latest article adapted from a series recently published in History TodayDunia Garcia-Ontiveros, Head of Bibliographic Services at The London Library, reveals the remarkable and dramatic provenance behind a small volume contained in the Library’s collections, rescued from its watery resting place inside the wreck of cargo steamer S.S. Halcyon, which was mined and sunk in April 1916.

A small, watermarked volume entitled The planter’s manual : an English, Dutch, Malay and Keh Chinese vocabulary compiled by G. Fraser Melbourn and printed in Deli-Sumatra in 1894 has one of the most dramatic provenances of the one million books housed at the London Library. Its compiler was a tobacco planter who, upon ‘arriving in Deli, badly felt the want of a book from which I could pick up Malay – that is the Malay that is really spoken, in other words, every-day Malay’. To supply this deficiency he spent ‘many happy hours’ over several years preparing the ‘little work’, which he begged the reader not to judge if they should be in a ‘critical mood’. He chose to include also words in the Keh Chinese dialect as he believed it to be ‘by far the prettiest of the various dialects and with a little appreciation the easiest learnt.’

A letter written by one S. Hyde Turner (co-author of the alphabet bookZoological concoction,  London, 1902) to accompany his gift of the book to the London Library in 1919 tells us that that G. Fraser Melbourn ‘came to England in 1897 and died here some 20 years ago’ i.e. around 1899. The use of the word ‘came’ instead of ‘returned’ is intriguing and would seem to indicate that Melbourn was not born in Britain.

Melbourn’s choice of terms for his vocabulary is very revealing and evocative; a selection taken from the list of words beginning with the letter ‘s’ transports us to the hot and humid world of the plantation and its back-braking toil: ‘swamp, swear, sweat, sweep … ‘.

The book that was written in such a damp environment was destined for even wetter surroundings

Turner’s letter, written on stationery from the Junior Athenaeum Club, explains the book’s condition. In it he tells us that ‘the Germans are to blame’ for its water damage as the book was on board the cargo steamer S.S. Halcyon when she was mined and sunk only three and half miles off Folkestone Pier while travelling from Bordeaux to London on 7 April 1916. She was almost brand new, having been built the year before by the Ailsa Shipbuilding Company for the General Steam Navigation Company in London. Turner does not tell us what a Victorian plantation owner’s manual, designed to be used in Sumatra, was doing on a cargo steamer crossing the English channel in during the First World War, although it is possible that the English seamen found some of its Dutch vocabulary useful on the continent, but he does say that ‘the book spent about 6 months in the bed of the Channel …’.

The Halcyon is still rusting away under some 12 metres of water and exactly how the book came to be rescued six months after going down with the ship is unknown. The ghostly marks left on its pages by the Channel waters are consistent with the book having been only partially wet and it is likely that in the moments before sinking the crew placed the ship’s books and documents in waterproof bags in the hope that they could later retrieve them from the relatively shallow waters. Had they not done so the only surviving copy of this book would be the one kept at the British Library.

The planter’s manual : an English, Dutch, Malay and Keh Chinese vocabulary compiled by G. Fraser Melbourn

The planter’s manual : an English, Dutch, Malay and Keh Chinese vocabulary compiled by G. Fraser Melbourn

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The Bard’s Fourth Folio – Shakespeare at 450

Shakespeare, W. Mr William Shakespear’s Comedies, histories & tragedies…Unto which is added, Seven plays, never before printed in folio…1685.

In the week that we celebrate the 450th anniversary of the birth of Shakespeare, we take a glimpse into The London Library’s most precious volumes housed in the Safe and the Library’s Fourth Folio volume of ‘Shakespear’s Plays’ from 1685. This is just one example of our many treasures that remind us of the beauty of the physical book and the symbolic significance of the Folio format in relation to discussions of authorship, cultural prestige and the origins of the literary book trade.

From the earliest days of printing, the folio format (large tall volumes) was reserved for prestigious volumes, works of reference and for the collected writings of important authors. In the 17th century, plays of the English Renaissance theatre were printed as collected editions in folio. However, plays written for the public theatre were generally viewed as trivial works of popular entertainment and not taken seriously as literature, and during Shakespeare’s lifetime stage plays were not considered worthy of being collected into folios, instead printed as quartos. Of the plays now accepted as either wholly or partly by Shakespeare, eighteen have survived only because the First Folio was published. The First Folio of 1623 published 7 years after Shakespeare’s death – Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories & Tragedies – was not only the first collected edition of Shakespeare, it was the first folio book ever published in England that was devoted exclusively to plays. It has been called “incomparably the most important work in the English language.” (Pforzheimer).

The First Folio contains 36 plays, 18 of which were printed for the first time and was compiled by John Heminges and Henry Condell (fellow actors in Shakespeare’s company), and arranged into comedies, histories and tragedies. The Folio is no more a definitive text than the quartos; many of the plays in the folio omit lines that can be found in quarto versions, and include misprints and textual corruption.

The Second Folio appeared in 1632 and The Third Folio was issued in 1663. To the second impression of the Third Folio (1664) seven plays were added, including Pericles, Prince of Tyre and six others not now considered authentically Shakespearean: Locrine, The London Prodigal, The Puritan, Sir John Oldcastle, Thomas Lord Cromwell, and A Yorkshire Tragedy.

The Fourth Folio appeared in 1685. The Library’s copy was bought at a Red Cross sale in 1916 by Philip Arthur Cohen, a Library member, who donated this and many other valuable volumes over the course of many years. Like the Third, it contains 43 plays and served as the base for the series of eighteenth-century editions of Shakespeare’s plays. Nicholas Rowe used the Fourth Folio text as the foundation of his 1709 edition, and subsequent editors—Pope, Theobald, etc.—both adapted and reacted to Rowe’s text in their own editions.

The London Library houses over 700 works by Shakespeare, with volumes on the open shelves for browsing and borrowing dating from 1728.  There are more than 4,000 writings about Shakespeare.

Tolstoy’s 1906 literary criticism on Shakespeare

Shakespeare Fourth Folio, title page

London Library literature stacks

One of thousands of subject areas in the Library’s rich collections of Shakespeare holdings

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This April marks the 75th anniversary of the end of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), and in our latest blog post, Library cataloguer Anna Gonzalez Fort delves into shelfmark H. Spanish Civil War to find some remarkable volumes acquired during the conflict in the 1930s.

The Spanish Civil War was fought from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939 between the Republicans, who were loyal to the established Spanish Republic, and the Nationalists, a rebel group led by General Francisco Franco. The Nationalists prevailed, and Franco ruled Spain for the next 36 years, from 1939 until his death in 1975.

The London Library holds a collection of books about this tragic episode in the recent history of Spain, which can be found under the shelfmarkH. Spanish Civil War. Many of the books were published and acquired by the Library while the conflict was going on, and some of them were published outside Spain, because there were very poor means for publishing them there, and also because they intended to attract international support for the Spanish Republic.

Of special interest are the books that include graphic materials, such as photographs taken during the conflict, showing the War fronts and the effects of the War on the Spanish cities and population. An example of this is the book entitled The Spanish People’s Fight for Liberty, a compilation of images from different photographic and press agencies, including Alliance Photo, Keystone Press Agency, Wide World Photos and Associated Press Photos, published by the Spanish Embassy in London in 1937. The images were taken at the beginning of the War and the selection pays special attention to the Republican side. Another interesting book is Guernica: Crimes Committed by Fascism (1937), a testimony of the aerial attack on the Basque town of Guernica on 26 April 1937, which is considered to be one of the first raids in the history of modern military aviation on a defenceless civilian population. The book includes several photographs of the complete destruction of the town caused by the Condor Legion bombings as well as the testimony of an eye witness.

On the other hand, the collection includes speeches and addresses by important figures of both sides of the conflict. For instance, the bookPalabras de Franco, published in Bilbao in 1937, collects a series of addresses made by the General in key moments of the first year of the War; and we can find an example of the Republican side in the bookFor the Independence of Spain, for Liberty, for the Republic: Union of all Spaniards!, the complete text of the report to the plenary session of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Spain in 1938, by Dolores Ibárruri, “La Pasionaria”, the communist leader best known for her defence of the Second Spanish Republic and the famous slogan ¡No Pasarán! (“They Shall Not Pass”), pronounced in a speech during the Siege of Madrid in 1936.

Finally, we can also find some literary works about the War, such asPoes ías de Guerra (1937), a collection of poems that was published by the “Quinto Regimiento de Milicias Populares”, a famous military body of volunteers of the Second Spanish Republic. The Fifth Regiment of the People’s Militias was created as an initiative of the Spanish Communist Party and the Unified Socialist Youth, and it had a strong antifascist ideology. Some famous communist writers and poets were enlisted by or connected with the Regiment, for instance Rafael Alberti and Miguel Hernández, who wrote some of the poems in this anthology. Other examples of literature and the Civil War are the works by foreign authors that worked as war correspondents or fought as volunteers in the conflict, such as Arthur Koestler, Ernest Hemingway and George Orwell. Of the latter, the library holds the first edition of his acclaimed book Homage to Catalonia, published in April 1938, an account of his personal experiences during the War in Catalonia and Aragon from December 1936 until June 1937.

This collection in H. Spanish Civil War has not been fully transferred to the Library’s online catalogue yet. If you wish to help us accelerate the Retrospective Cataloguing Project, you can support us either by making a general donation or by contributing to the cataloguing of a specific collection of books. You can find more information on the Project on our website: www.londonlibrary.co.uk/retrospective-cataloguing 

The Spanish people’s fight for liberty / compiled by A. Ramos Oliveira (1937)

Guernica: Crimes Committed by Fascism (1937)

Un an de lutte pour l’indépendance et la liberté / par Joan Comorera (1937?)

El Movimiento Nacional / G. Orizana, J. M. Martín Liébana (1937?)

British Battalion, XV International Brigade memorial souvenir (1939?)

18 de julio! : historia del alzamiento glorioso de Sevilla / Guzmán de Alfarache (1937)

Sangre y fuego : Malaga / Angel Gollonet Megías y José Morales López (1937)

People in a shelter in Madrid’s metro, taken from The Spanish people’s fight for liberty (1937)

Women militians, taken from The Spanish people’s fight for liberty (1937)

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In our latest blog post, Dunia García-Ontiveros, Head of Bibliographic Services at The London Library gives insight into the religious and political statements made by 16th Century Catholics and Protestants who disseminated their ideas and influence through printed manifestos. Examples are seen in some of the significant, rare volumes housed in The London Library. This blog is adapted from an article in a series commissioned by History Today on the treasures of the Library in 2011. (click on thumbnails for larger images. If using Internet Explorer images may not appear larger – we recommend you try an alternative browser to view in detail.)

The use of images in religious and political propaganda is not a 16th century invention but during the Reformation Catholics and Protestants alike made use of their printing presses to disseminate their ideas and these printed manifestos were sometimes accompanied by striking illustrations. The images aimed either to ennoble the author through heroic associations or to insult and ridicule the author’s opponents through irreverent caricatures.

The London Library holds several books with examples of both Catholic and Lutheran visual propaganda.

An example of Catholic Tudor propaganda can be found in Assertio septem sacramentorum aduersus Martin. Lutheru[m], a book written (or perhaps only commissioned) by Henry VIII and printed in London in 1521 in reply to Martin Luther’s On the Babylonian captivity of the Church. The title page of Henry’s book, where he defends the Seven Sacraments, depicts the legend tof Gaius Mutius ‘Scaevola’. According to legend, Mutius was a Roman hero from the 3rd century BC, who entered the camp of the besieging Etruscan king, Lars Porsenna, in order to murder him. The right-hand side of the illustration shows Mutius mistakenly killing the wrong man. The left depicts the moment when the captured Mutius is interrogated by Porsenna and shows the incompetent assasin placing his right hand in the fire to prove his courage, while telling the Etruscan king that 300 other men have sworn to die in defence of Rome. The legend says that Porsenna, impressed by this show of bravery, decided to abandon his campaign and to release Gaius Mutius who was thereafter known as ‘Scaevola’ (left handed).

Henry’s message to the Pope through this iconography was very clear. He was identifying with this legend to portray himself as an heroic defender of Rome in the hope of gaining favour with the Pontiff at a time when England was a lesser European power. He commissioned a special presentation copy to be given to Leo X who, after reading it, conferred the title ‘Defender of the Faith’ upon the English king.

Martin Luther’s reaction to this book was quite different to that of the Pope and the very next year he printed a reply in Wittenberg under the title Contra Henricum regem angliae, where he refers to Henry as a comic jester, a frivolous buffoon, a damnable and offensive worm and a Thomist swine. The look and layout of the title page is similar to that of Henry’s book but instead of having a narrative scene at the bottom it is flanked by two figures: an ugly jester or troubadour on the left blowing on a wind instrument and fat cleric with a pig’s head on the right.

Compared to Henry’s use of imagery, Lutheran propaganda printed in Wittenberg is much more direct, even crude. The chief illustrator of the German Reformation was Lucas Cranach the Elder, court artist in Wittenberg and close personal friend of Luther’s (facts which did not stop him from working for Catholic patrons as well as Protestant ones).

The Library holds a more extreme example of the contempt Luther felt for a figure and an institution which he saw as being thoroughly corrupt. His Wider das Bapstum zu Rom vom Teuffel gestifft, (Against the Papacy founded by the Devil) was printed 1545, only a year before the Reformer’s death. The title page depicts the Pope with ass’s ears sitting on a pyre erected in the mouth of Hell, represented by an enormous monster. The Pope, with hands held together in prayer is surrounded by demons who fly around him and hold the papal tiara above his head.

Another two savage depictions of the Pope are to be found inside the book. In the first we see him riding on a sow while holding out a hand filled with steaming excrement. The accompanying text reads: The Pope grants a council in Germany. Sow you have to let yourself be ridden, and [with] spurs on both sides. You want to have a council: for that, have my merdrum (a typo for merdum, as in the Latin merda). Next to this is another illustration of the Pope, this time shown as an ass playing the bagpipes in a luxurious canopied bed. The accompanying text reads: The Pope, a teacher of theology and master of the faith. The Pope alone can interpret scripture: and sweep out error, as the ass alone can pipe and strike the note correctly.

Henry VIII and the Pope were not the only subjects of Lutheran ‘cartoons’. In the second half of the 16th century theological differences created a growing conflict between Lutherans and Calvinists. Zacharias ‘Rivander’ Bachmann, a Lutheran clergyman, wrote Lupus excoriatus (the wolf stripped of its skin), which was printed in 1591. The title of the book alone leaves us in no doubt as to the opinion orthodox Lutherans had of Zwinglians and Calvinists. Inside the book we find an illustration of the ‘Calvinist wolves of discord’ dressed in monks’ habits and devouring a sheep labelled ‘concordia’. The sheep represents the Concordia Wittenbergensis, a failed attempt at bringing Lutherans and Zwinglians together in 1536. The caption below the illustration reads:Matth. 7.: Beware the false prophets coming in sheepskins to you, but inside they are rapacious wolves etc.

Looking at all these images together we see two very different styles, which is only to be expected considering the two very different purposes of the men who commissioned them. On the one hand we have Henry Tudor, the consummate politician, appropriating ancient legends to gain favour with Rome. To this end he used a subtle message that only an educated elite would have been able to decipher. Luther and his followers on the other hand, do not seek any material gain. Luther was only concerned with the correct interpretation of the Scriptures and with making religion more accessible to ordinary people. The only purpose of his visual propaganda was to expose the corruption he saw in his enemies. For this he used simple images of savage clarity that anyone would have been able to understand instantly.

Assertio septem sacramentorum aduersus Martin. Lutheru[m]

Contra Henricum regem angliae

Wider das Bapstum zu Rom vom Teuffel gestifft

Lupus excoriatus

Lupus excoriatus

Wider das Bapstum zu Rom vom Teuffel gestifft

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Posted by on in Archives

The Library is the host venue for this year’s Rossica Translation Prize 2014, an annual award which promotes the best of Russian literary culture in the English-speaking world, rewarding and encouraging the translation of a broad range of authors, genres and periods. The judges have chosen from a shortlist of Russian literary writing, past and present, with a prize of £3000 awarded to the winning translation. The Rossica Young Translators Award winner will also be announced at the Library, a prize set up to encourage the next generation of aspiring translators. Claudia Ricci, London Library Russian Specialist, has written a blog on the fascinating story behind one of the Library’s most valuable Russian volumes from the early 20th century, one of over 13,000 held in the Library’s Hans and Marit Rausing Russian Collections.

Among the many little gems that lie undiscovered in The London Library collections there is one that holds a special secret unlikely to be unravelled. We can only attempt to shed some light on it and in thus doing we hope to bring back to life a forgotten page of Russian history.

I am referring to The London Library’s own copy of the original manuscript of one of Sergei Esenin’s most famous works, the poem “Pugachov”, a short drama in verse, which we own partly in manuscript (Images 1-5) and partly in typescript (Images 6-8), bound in one little unassuming volume. Another version of this manuscript is held by the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art, but our version must be the latest, as it contains few corrections and matches word for word the final version as it was published in 1921-1922. Our manuscript bears the dates “March-August 1921” and several reliable sources, including the diary entries of the author’s dearest friend Anatoly Mariengof, confirm that Esenin had been reading extracts from his draft during those months. According to another friend, the poet Taras Machtet, on Aug. 30th Esenin announced that he had finished working on “Pugachov” and from Aug. 31st he started preparing the manuscript for publication .

Sergei Esenin (surname often spelt “Yesenin”) was a Russian lyrical poet born in the rural village of Konstantinovo (Ryazan province) in 1895 to a peasant family. After receiving a typical Russian Orthodox education, as was still customary in the Russian provinces at the time, and trying his hand at several jobs, including those of proof-reader and butcher’s assistant, he moved to Petrograd in 1915, where he met Alexander Blok, Nikolay Klyuev and Andrey Bely, and with their help he entered the literary circles of the capital. The following year he published his first collection of poems, Radunitsa (All Soul’s Day), which gave him great popularity, and started his collaboration with fellow poet Anatoly Mariengof. Together in 1918 they proceeded to move to civil war-torn Moscow, where they founded Imaginism, the literary movement, which had its own publishing house and whose exponents held poetry readings in the bohemian café-tavern Stoilo Pegasa.

Between December 1921 and January 1922, the drama in verse “Pugachov” was published by two separate independent publishers in Moscow, Imazhinisty, the movement’s own publishing house, and El’zevir (the date on the title page is given as 1922 in both), and by the end of the year he had given away signed copies of his work to family and friends. Esenin also signed a deal with the state publishing house Gosizdat in February 1922, but that edition never saw the light of day. His biographer Alla Marchenko points out that there were also plans to stage it in a Moscow theatre and Esenin had given the script to the theatrical producer and director Vsevolod Meyerkhold, but having read it, Meyerkhold stated that it was totally unsuitable for the stage, as it had “no action, no gestures, no setting to speak of”. It was at this time that Esenin’s second wife, Zinaida Reikh, became romantically involved with the theatre director. In the autumn of 1921, just as Zinaida was about to leave him for Meyerkhold, Esenin met the American dancer Isadora Duncan. She was 18 years his senior, spoke no Russian and at the time was living in Moscow on Prechistenka Street, where she was starting her new school of dance following an invitation from the Soviet authorities, for whom she had great admiration. The couple fell in love and were married on May 2nd1922. As soon as Sergei managed to receive his emigration papers, they left Russia for a long honeymoon, which would take them on a grand tour of Europe with stops in the major cities where Isadora was scheduled to give ballet performances. In Berlin, Esenin negotiated deals with various publishers for the publication of his poetic works. The rights of Pugachov were acquired by Russkoe Universal’noe Izdatel’stvo in mid-May, and their edition appeared in July of that year (The London Library has a copy of this edition bought shortly after its publication). This leads us to believe that our manuscript must have travelled with Sergei and Isadora to the German capital, but probably no further than that. The newly-wed couple moved on to Paris later and eventually arrived in the United States in October 1922. The manuscript was most likely left behind, perhaps forgotten by our poet, who was infatuated with his world-wide famous American wife and with the prospect of reaching the American shores.

The dramatic work Pugachov takes its name from the Russian peasant rebel Emelyan Pugachev, who led a Cossack insurrection in 1773-1774 during the reign of Catherine the Great and was later put to death in Moscow in 1775. Esenin focuses on the last weeks of the rebellion and Pugachev’s arrival in Yaitsk, where his supporters betrayed him to the Russian authorities. The work, which consists of a series of lyrical monologues, was criticised for lacking in scenic action and failing to be faithful to the historical events, but was praised for being “Intensely lyrical and rich in language” .

After the highlight of the European tour Sergei Esenin’s life took a turn for the worse, divorce awaited him and Isadora at their arrival in the States, followed by his return to the Soviet Union in August 1923 and increasingly frequent bouts of drinking. During his last years, Esenin went on to publish more poetry, to break up with Imaginism and Mariengof, to father a son with the poet Nadezhda Volpin (he already had three from previous relationships) and to marry one of Leo Tolstoy’s granddaughters, Sofiya Andreevna Tolstaya. He was found dead in his room at the Angleterre Hotel in Moscow in December 1925, presumably having taken his own life.

Meanwhile his manuscript of Pugachov must have remained in Germany, probably passing through various hands until, in 1934, it found its way into Charles Hagberg Wright’s hands. He was the Librarian of the London Library at the time, a polymath with a keen interest in Russian as well as German books. In the aftermath of the October Revolution and the Russian Civil War the established links with the Russian book trade were no doubt severed and Hagberg Wright would have had difficulties in travelling to Soviet Russia as he had done until 1917, so he resorted to buying most of his Russian titles from the émigré bookshops in Berlin and Paris. In the 1920s-1930s Esenin would have been practically unknown to the general public outside of Russia, but Hagberg Wright was a connoisseur of Russian Literature and the Library already possessed various editions of Esenin’s works at the time, including a four volume set of his Collected poems (1926-1927). Besides, Esenin had published some of his early work in journals associated with the Socialist Revolutionary Party (Es-Ery), an organisation that our then Librarian had been following quite closely judging by our collection of pamphlets acquired before 1917. We have no records of how much he paid for this now precious manuscript, or who he bought it from, but we assume that it must have been a purchase, because the library records all donations and gifts of books and this volume is not mentioned among them. The manuscript and the typescript were bound together in a red cover and the accession stamp on it is dated 22 Aug. 1934.

Since becoming aware of this gem, we have contacted various experts at the Moscow Literary Museum and the Russian Academy of Sciences, who have confirmed the authenticity of the manuscript from photographs posted to them. They have also been able to decypher an inscription on the verso of the last page, which records the name of Esenin’s native village (Konstantinovo), but also an address, which is likely to be in Moscow: Myasnitskaya 53-3. We appeal to anyone who can give us any clues or possible explanations as to who was living at that address at the time (summer 1921) or why Esenin may have needed to write it down in his own hand on the back of his manuscript.

Finally, one last appeal. We are aware that his youngest son, the poet and mathematician Alexander Esenin-Volpin, is alive somewhere in the United States. It would be a great honour if we could at least inform him of the existence of this manuscript, which is preserved for posterity in our library.

[1] Letopis’ zhizni tvorchestva S.A. Esenina . Edited by M.V. Skorokhovod and S.I. Subbotin 5 v. (Moscow: IMLI RA, 2003-2010)

[2] Marchenko, Alla. Put’ i besput’e (Moscow: Astrel’, 2012)

[3] McVay, Gordon. Esenin : a life (London: Hodder and Stoughton,  1976)












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Posted by on in Folklore

The Folklore collection at The London Library forms a substantial section in Science & Miscellaneous, with works from the 18th to the 21st century in English and many other languages. The universal subject of Folklore and its deeply rooted place in the cultural fabric of nationalities is reflected in the Library’s collections. About half of the section has been retrospectively catalogued and contains a wide range of works on different strands of folklore; traditional and popular beliefs, customs, legends, fairy tales and music.

Studies on King Arthur, the medieval and mythological figure can be found here, with works discussing the legend in its many guises; Merlin, the Holy Grail, King Arthur’s Knights and the Round Table.  Some interesting works that recently or soon to be retrospectively catalogued are: Arthur of Britain by E.K. Chambers (1927); La légende arthurienne: études et documents. Première partie, Les plus anciens textes by Edmond Faral (1929) and The Holy Grail, its legends and symbolism: an explanatory survey of their embodiment in romance literature and a critical study of the interpretations placed thereon by Arthur Edward Waite (1933). Interest on the legend is still as popular as ever, as recent acquisitions such as Worlds of Arthur: facts and fictions of the dark ages by Guy Halsall (2013) and The true history of Merlin the Magician by Anne Lawrence-Mathers (2012) suggest.

The major role of folklore collected and transcribed through oral tradition is seen in titles such as Tales of the fairies and of the ghost world’ collected from the oral tradition in South-west Munster by Jeremiah Curtin (1895) and Old Deccan days, or, Hindoo fairy legends current in southern India collected from oral tradition by M. Frere (1868).

Popular beliefs, traditions and tales are also included in works from abroad in the recently catalogued Curiosità popolari tradizionali series of books from different parts of Italy, and volumes in the series Les littératures populaires de toutes les nations include works from France, Greece, Turkey and China. Religious folklore is seen in Folk-lore of the Holy Land: Moslem, Christian and Jewish by J.E. Hanauer (1907).


The handed-down tradition of Folk music by unknown composers is seen in the folk songs of India, Greece, Serbia and Canada housed in the Library’s collections; Greek folk-songs from the Turkish provinces of Greece … Albania, Thessaly, (not yet wholly free,) and Macedonia: literal and metrical translations by Lucy M.J. Garnett (1885) are particularly note-worthy.

Fairy tales are a large part of the folklore section and probably the most well-known are Grimm’s fairy tales – Kinder- und Hausmärchen.  Both early and current editions of the tales, including criticism, can be found here and have now all been retrospectively catalogued.  In addition, some books on fairy tales from other parts of the world have also just been added such as: Welsh fairy-tales and other stories collected and edited by P.H. Emerson (1894); Chinese fairy tales told in English by Herbert A. Giles (1911) and Fairy folk tales of the Maori by James Cowan (1925).

The customs, superstitions and practices of subcultures are also explored. Sir James George Frazer’s famous work, The Golden Bougha comparative study of mythology and religion (1890), includes such topics including a chapter on ‘Christmas and the mistletoe’, as does a more modern take on ‘superstition’, Old wives’ tales by Eric Maple (1981).

Other topics of interest found in the Library’s folklore collection retrospectively catalogued or soon to be, are books on moon mythology:Moon lore by Timothy Harley (1885); plant lore: La mythologie des plantes, ou, Les légendes du règne végétal by Angelo de Gubernatis (1878-1882) and The mystic mandrake by C.J.S. Thompson (1934); animal mythology: Un-natural history, or, Myths of ancient science: being a collection of curious tracts on the basilisk, unicorn, phoenix, behemoth or leviathan, dragon, giant spider, tarantula, chameleons, satyrs, homines caudati, &c. now first translated from the Latin, and edited, with notes and illustrations, by Edmund Goldsmid (1886); and werewolves: The werewolf by Montague Summers (1933).

The enduring popularity of Folklore influence is seen in the rise of contemporary fiction writing in this genre (notable in the Harry Potter series where mandrakes, unicorns, basilisks, dragons, phoenixes, giant spiders and werewolves feature), and is reflected in recent Library acquisitions Mythic thinking in twentieth-century Britain: meaning for modernity by Matthew Sterenberg (2013), The white devil: the werewolf in European culture by Matthew Beresford (2013) and The rise of the vampire by Erik Butler (2013).

Toni Amodei  (Library Cataloguer)


Picture 1: Title-page and frontispiece from Old Deccan days, or, Hindoo fairy legends, current in southern India / collected from oral tradition by M. Frere (1868).

Picture 2: One of the volumes from the series Curiosità popolari tradizionali.

Picture 3: Illustration from German popular stories / with illustrations after the original designs of George Cruikshank ; edited by Edgar Taylor (1868).

Picture 4: Title-page and frontispiece from Fairy folk tales of the Maoriby James Cowan (1925).

Picture 5: Title-page and frontispiece from The mystic mandrake by C.J.S. Thompson (1934).

Picture 6: Title-page from Un-natural history, or, Myths of ancient science now first translated from the Latin, and edited, with notes and illustrations, by Edmund Goldsmid (1886).

Picture 7:  Illustration from The werewolf by Montague Summers (1933).








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Anna Vlasova, London Library Retrospective Cataloguer, this month presents an adaptation of an article recently featured in Solanus, the international journal for the study of the printed and written word in Russia and East-Central Europe, revealing twenty-six fascinating and significant 18th century publications in the Märit and Hans Rausing Russian collections of the London Library. (click on each image for large version).  Explore more on the Märit and Hans Rausing Russian collections on the London Library website http://www.londonlibrary.co.uk/

I would like to review some of the most revealing provenances of these publications. Rodoslovnaia kniga kniazei i dvorian rossiiskikh i vyiezzhikh (1787), V. Tatishchev’s Istoriia rossiiskaia (1768-1848) and A. Bogdanov’s Istoricheskoe, geograficheskoe i topograficheskoe opisanie Sanktpeterburga (1779) were owned by count Sergei Sobolevskii and the Lindsay family before being purchased by the London Library at Hodgson auctions in 1930. Sergei Sobolevskii was a 19th century Russian bibliophile and poet, whom Alexander Pushkin considered a close friend. After Sobolevskii’s death, his 25,000-volume collection was sold to Leipzig bookdealer List&Francke (it was Sobolevskii’s worst nightmare – he dreaded the dispersion of his collection and, in fact, refused several lucrative offers from bookselling firms during his lifetime). There is reason to believe that after Sobolewskii’s auction these three books came into the famousBibliotheca Lindesiana, most of which was eventually dispersed among national and university libraries.

John Frederick Baddeley’s ownership marks can be found on J. Fischer’s Sibirskaia istoriia (1774), G.F. Müller’s Sammlung russischer Geschichte (1732-1764) and P. Pallas’s Tagebuch einer Reise die im Jahr 1781 (1797). John Frederick Baddeley (1854-1940), a British traveller, scholar, correspondent for the Standard and an acquaintance of Hagberg Wright, lived in Russia for a number of years and made donations of Russian books on anthropology, history and topography to the London Library throughout the early 20th century. John Baddeley was a prolific annotator and extensive marginalia can be found in many books that he donated. Before being purchased by Baddeley, Fischer’sSibirskaia istoriia belonged to the Kusheleff-Bezborodko family, which came to an end with the death of Grigorii Aleksandrovich Kushelev-Bezborodko in 1870, when their library came into the possession of a family friend, count Alexei Ivanovich Musin-Pushkin. Eventually, in 1912, the Kushelev-Bezborodko library was bought by a St. Petersburg bookseller Nikolai Solov’ev from whom Sibirskaia istoriia may have been acquired by Baddeley, as we find a pencil inscription ‘St.Petersburg, 1913’ in his hand inside this book’s left board.

The twenty-volume Drevniaia rossiiskaia vivliofika (1788-1791) and its eleven volume continuation Prodolzhenie drevnei rossiiskoĭ vivliofiki(1786-1801) were purchased by the London Library in 1931 following its practice of filling gaps in the collections of older books. Although it is not known who the Library purchased these volumes from, there is some evidence relating to their previous whereabouts. Drevniaia rossiiskaia vivliofika was part of the Library of the Central Pedagogical Museum established in 1864 as the Pedagogical Museum and renamed the Central Pedagogical Museum in 1918. The ink stamp on the flyleaf indicates that these volumes also passed through the Russian State Book Fund. Ex-libris found in Prodolzhenie drevnei rossiiskoĭ vivliofiki indicates that these volumes once belonged to professor of law Fedor Nikolaevich Panov (1834 – 1915) and a pink label of a Russian bookseller Vasilii Klochkov (1861 – 1915) suggests that they was once sold in his shop in St. Petersburg.

Provenance evidence found in some of the remaining books provides fascinating insights into their previous whereabouts, but does not uncover how they came into the London Library. Some noteworthy examples are: F. Soimonov’s Opisanie Kaspiiskago moria (1763), F. Efremov’s Stranstvovanie nadvornago sovietnika Efremova (1794) and P. Rychkov’s Vvedenie k Astrakhanskoi topografii (1774) that seem to have belonged to Robert Michell (1837-1911?), Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society; Tsarstvennoi lietopisets (1772) that was at some time part of the collections of the Royal Asiatic Society and P. Pallas’sSamlungen historischer nachrichten uber die mongolishen volkerschaften (1776-1801) that was once part of what now is State and University Library Bremen.

Full image details:

1. Sobolevski’s notes in Vasilii Tatishchev’s Istoriia rossiiskaia, (Napechatana pri Imperatorskom Moskovskom universitetie: Moskva, 1768) reveal the previous owner of this work – German historian August Schlözer
2. Sobolevskii and Bibliotheca Lindesiana ex-libris inside the left board of Andrei Bogdanov’s Istoricheskoe, geograficheskoe i topograficheskoe opisanie Sanktpeterburga ([Vasiliĭ Ruban]: Sanktpeterburg, 1779)
3. Title page of Johann Eberhard Fischer‘s Sibirskaia istoriia (pri Imperatorskoĭ Akademīi nauk: V Sanktpeterburgie, 1774) with Alexander Kusheleff-Bezborodko library stamp
4. Kusheleff-Bezborodko bookplate and John F. Baddeley inscription in Fischer’s Sibirskaia istoriia
5. John Baddeley’s inscription in Peter Pallas’s Tagebuch einer Reise die im Jahr 1781 von der Granzfestung Mosdok nach dem Caucasus (Johann Zacharias Logan: St.Petersburg, 1797) and Hiersemann note, indicating the volume was acquired from a Leipzig bookseller Karl Hiersemann
6. Library of the Central Pedagogical Museum bookplate inside the left board of the 2nd edition of Nikolai Novikov’s Drevniaia rossiiskaia vivliofika (V tipografīi Kompanīi Tipograficheskoĭ: Moskva, 1788-1791)
7. Russian State Book Fund stamp on the flyleaf of Drevniaia rossiiskaia vivliofika
8. Boobplate of F. N. Panov inside the left board of Nikolai Novikov’s Prodolzhenie drevnei rossiiskoĭ vivliofiki (pri Imperatorskoĭ Akademīi nauk: V Sanktpeterburgie, 1786-1801)
9. Pink label of a St. Petersburg bookseller Vasilii Klochkov inside the right board of Prodolzhenie drevnei rossiiskoĭ vivliofiki
10. Robert Michell’s bookplate inside the left board of Fedor Soimonov’s Opisanīe Kaspiiskago moria i chinennykh na onom rossiiskikh zavoevanii, iako chastʹ istorīi Gosudaria Imperatora Petra Velikago (Pri Imperatorskoĭ Akademii nauk: V Sanktpeterburgie, 1763)
11. Filipp Sergeevich Efremov. Stranstvovanie nadvornago sovietnika Efremova v Bukharii, Khivie, Persii i Indii, i vozvrashchenie ottuda chrez Angliiu v Rossiiu (Pech. na izhd. P.B. i prod. po Nevsk. perspektivie u Anichk. mostu v domie Grafa D.A. Zubova: V Sanktpeterburgie, 1794) with Robert Michell’s inscription above the title
12. Petr Ivanovich Rychkov. Vvedenie k Astrakhanskoi topografii (Napechatana pri Imperatorskom Moskovskom universitetie: Moskva, 1774) with Robert Michell’s inscription above the title
13. Royal Asiatic Society stamp on title page verso of Tsarstvennoĭ lietopisets soderzhashchei Rossiiskuiu istoriiu ot 6622/1114 godu … do 6980/1472 godu (Pri Imperatorskoi Akademii nauk: V Sanktpeterburgie 1772)
14. Bremisches museum stamp and the London Library accession stamp on the title page verso of Peter Pallas’s Samlungen historischer nachrichten uber die mongolishen volkerschaften (Kaiserl. Akademie die Wissenschaften: St.Petersburg, 1776-1801)


1. Vasilii Tatishchev’s Istoriia rossiiskaia

2. Sobolevskii and Bibliotheca Lindesiana ex-libris

3. Kusheleff-Bezborodko bookplate

4.Kusheleff-Bezborodko bookplate

5. Baddeley Inscription

6.Library of the Central Pedagogical Museum

7. Central book fund stamp

Panov bookplate

8. Panov bookplate

9 Klochkov label

9 Klochkov label

 Opisanie Kaspiiskago moria

10.Opisanie Kaspiiskago moria

 Stranstvovanie nadvornago sovietnika Efremova

11.Stranstvovanie nadvornago sovietnika Efremova

Vvedenie k Astrakhanskoi topografii

12. Vvedenie k Astrakhanskoi topografii

13 Royal Asiatic Society stamp

13. Royal Asiatic Society stamp

Bremisches museum

14.Bremisches museum stamp

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There is a small but significant book in the Library’s collections calledTommy’s Tunes: A Comprehensive Collection of Soldier’s Songs, Marching Melodies, Rude Rhymes, and Popular Parodies, Composed, Collected and Arranged on Active Service with the B.E.F., by F.T. Nettleingham, 2nd Lt. R.F.C.  This comprehensive collection of soldiers’ songs was collected and arranged while on active service during the First World War and published in October 1917.  It was acquired by the Library on 1 January 1918 and has been in action on the Library’s shelves ever since.  The songs bristle with camaraderie, irreverence and poignancy.The social history and cultural significance of the book was fully realized in the hands of Charles Chilton in 1961 in his groundbreaking BBC Radio 4 radio documentary The Long, Long Trailwhich told the story of the First World War through soldiers’ songs. This forgotten radio masterpiece packed a powerful cultural punch and inspired the stage musical Oh! What A Lovely War. It is the richly deserved subject of an Archive on 4 BBC Radio 4 programme (also called The Long, Long Trail) which will be broadcast on 4 January at 8pm in which Roy Hudd and Ian Hislop, among others, consider its significance and during which many of the soldiers songs are sung.  Charles Chilton’s game-changing original documentary will also be broadcast on Radio 4 Extra on Sunday, 5 January 2014, at 1.30pm.

Also from the archive on the theme of the First World War the joining forms to the Library of Laurence Olivier, Ford Madox Ford and Siegfried Sassoon.  Olivier joined the Library in 1945 and won a BAFTA award for best supporting actor for his portrayal of British Expeditionary Force Leader General Sir John French in the film Oh! What A Lovely War in 1969.  Both Sassoon and Madox Ford channeled first-hand experience of the First World War in their work. Between 1924 and 1928 Ford published a masterpiece with the War at its core: a tetralogy known as Parade’s End. In the Preface to No More Parades the second novel in the tetralogy Ford wrote: All novels are historical, but all novels do not deal with such events as get on to the pages of history.  This No More Parades does.”

Siegfried Sassoon joined the Library in 1922 nominated by E.M. Forster and gave at that time his occupation or position as “None”. One of the most acclaimed of the First World War poets, known as “Mad Jack” for his feats of bravery in the field Sassoon was awarded the Military Cross for “conspicuous gallantry” saving men under heavy fire. His open criticism of the War printed on the pages of The Times and discussed in the House of Commons was a considered and calculated counter-attack to Establishment ignorance and complacency about the human cost of the War.

“I am making this statement as an act of willful defiance of military authority because I believe the war is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it. I am a soldier convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers.”[1]

It is often said that there is no town or village in Britain that was left untouched by the First World War and this is also true of the Library.  Hagberg Wright, Librarian from 1893 to 1940 was involved in the Books For Troops Scheme and the Library was a dropping off point for books for distribution through the Red Cross War Library. Advertisements instructed those sending books to the Library for this purpose to label them clearly “For Wounded”. On July 30, 1916 a short piece in The Times reported that 15 members of London Library staff were on active service.  The search is currently underway to discover who they were and how they fared. We will announce and acknowledge them on Remembrance Day 2014.

© Helen O’Neill             Archive, Heritage and Development Librarian

For more on Archive on 4 BBC Radio 4 The Long, Long Trail see:



[1] The Times Tuesday July 31, 1917, p. 8.


Siegfried Sassoon, an acclaimed First World War poet, joined the Library in 1922 giving his occupation or position as “None”. He was introduced to the Library by E.M. Forster.


Ford Madox Ford joined the Library in 1907. Between 1924 and 1928 he wrote a masterpiece about the War – a tetralogy called Parade’s End.


Laurence Olivier joined the Library in 1945. He won a BAFTA award for best supporting actor for his portrayal of British Expeditionary Force Leader General Sir John French in the film Oh! What A Lovely War in 1969.

Tommy's Tunes

Tommy’s Tunes: A Comprehensive Collection of Soldier’s Songs, Marching Melodies, Rude Rhymes, and Popular Parodies, Composed, Collected and Arranged on Active Service with the B.E.F., by F.T. Nettleingham, 2nd Lt. R.F.C. London: Erskine Macdonald 1917. In the hands of Charles Chilton Tommy’s Tunes made a game-changing cultural impact.

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Posted by on in Acquisitions

We join Helen O’Neill for the last time before Christmas as she opens the final window on the Library’s archive advent calendar.

I reserved the last window on our archive advent calendar for one of the greatest poets of the English language: T.S. Eliot. A London Library member from 1918 and the Library’s President between 1952 and 1965 T.S. Eliot exerted a towering influence on the literary landscape during his lifetime and left a lasting legacy to Literature and to the Library after his death.

Eliot joined the Library a year after the publication of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and four years before The Waste Land first appeared.  T.S. Eliot’s joining form dates from 1918 when he was still working at Lloyd’s Bank before he made the move to Faber and Faber.  He lists his occupation as “Lecturer and journalist” though the Lloyds Bank address at 17 Cornhill is given on his form.

The Waste Land appeared in The Criterion in October 1922 and in The Dial (in America) the following month. It is regarded as the most influential poem of the 20th century. Virginia Woolf handset the poem and published a limited run of 500 copies at the Hogarth Press in 1923.

In 1948 T.S. Eliot was awarded The Nobel Prize in Literature for Four Quartets. Comprised of four poems: Burnt NortonEast CokerThe Dry Salvages and Little Gidding, Four Quartets is an undisputed poetic masterpiece.

Delivering his inaugural address as the Library’s President four years after the Nobel award T.S. Eliot made what he called “a testament of faith” in the Library:

“I am convinced that if this library disappeared, it would be a disaster to the world of letters, and would leave a vacancy that no other form of Library could fill”.

Over the last two weeks we have opened small windows onto the Library’s literary past and it is against this historical backdrop that T.S. Eliot’s “testament” should be seen.  I hope you will come with me next year as my PhD journey through the archive and the Library’s 172 years of extraordinary institutional history continues.

© Helen O’Neill

Criterion Oct 1922

The Wasteland appeared in The Criterion in October 1922 and in The Dial in America the following month

TS Eliot

T.S. Eliot joined the Library in 1918 four years before the publication of the most influential poem of the 20th century – The Waste Land.

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Archive Advent calendar: 19 December

Today we open another window on the Library’s archival advent calendar to find four poets laureate closely clustered in the membership records.

Alfred Lord Tennyson was the Library’s President between 1885 and 1892 and was poet laureate from 1850 until his death.  He became laureate in the year In Memoriam was published anonymously: it rapidly became one of the most spectacular publishing successes of the Victorian era.

The poet Alfred Austin joined the Library in 1866 and became poet laureate after Tennyson holding the position from 1896 to 1913.

The poet and novelist John Masefield joined the Library in 1909 and became poet laureate in 1930 holding the position until 1967 when he was succeeded by Cecil Day Lewis who held the position until 1972.

© Helen O’Neill        Archive, Heritage and Development Librarian

Cecil Day Lewis

The poet and novelist Cecil Day Lewis joined the Library in 1945. He was nominated by the art critic and reviewer Raymond Mortimer and became poet laureate in 1968

Christmas Eve

Something festive from the Library’s Special Collections: Christmas Eve by Cecil Day Lewis was published in London by Faber in 1954. It is inscribed in ink on the second flyleaf “Betsy and Keith with love from Cecil Christmas /54”.

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We join Helen O’Neill for today’s posting from the Library’s archive and open another small window onto the Library’s literary past with the joining form of the writer Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966).

This is the second of Evelyn Waugh’s joining forms to the Library and dates from 1944. Waugh’s Library membership was suspended in 1941 – a common occurrence in the archival membership records for men on active service during times of war.

The date of the form in which Waugh resumes his membership is richly revealing. In December 1943 Waugh broke his leg in parachute training and was given leave without pay – he resumed membership of the Library on January 18th 1944.  The following  year Brideshead Revisted was published in London by Chapman and Hall.  It was well received at home and an almost immediate best seller in America.  Lauded during his lifetime it was filmed to great acclaim after his death. The ITV eleven part adaptation of the novel in 1981 starred Jeremy Irons, Anthony Andrews, Diana Quick, John Giulgud and Laurence Olivier and was nominated for a raft of awards scooping up both BAFTA and Golden Globe accolades.

Join me tomorrow for another archival peek into the Library’s literary past.

© Helen O’Neill        Archive, Heritage and Development Librarian


Evelyn Waugh resumed his London Library membership in 1944 giving his occupation as Lt R.H.G. (Lieutenant Royal Horse Guards). Within a year Brideshead Revisted was published.

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Archive Advent Calendar 17 December 2013

The iconic fin de siècle illustrator Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898) joined the Library in 1896 when he was 23 years old. Closely linked in the popular consciousness with Oscar Wilde, Beardsley’s iconic and risqué illustrations for Wilde’s illustrated edition of Salome were commissioned when he was just twenty-one and caused a scandal when published.

Beardsley’s art and public persona are indelibly stamped on the short-lived but hugely influential avant-garde magazine The Yellow Bookpublished by John Lane at the Bodley Head between 1894 and 1897. The first volume appeared with a cover illustration by Beardsley and included four additional drawings. Beardsley’s artistic vision was key to the impact and profile of the magazine.

The Yellow Book and Beardsley’s association with it became inextricably, if inaccurately linked with the arrest of Oscar Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel in 1895 as the Press reported that Oscar had a copy under his arm. It resulted ultimately in Beardsley’s dismissal from the Bodley Press as John Lane withdrew Wilde’s plays from further publication.

Note the address Beardsley gives on his form – 10 St James’s Street.  When Beardsley joined the Library he was occupying rooms Wilde had used.at Geneux’s Hotel 10-11 St James’s Place. Beardsley died when he was twenty-five years old but left a lasting mark on fin de siècle art and illustration.

The publisher John Lane (1854-1925) joined t he Library in 1895.  He was an innovative entrepreneur who turned a second-hand bookshop called the Bodley Head at 6B Vigo St in London into a distinctive publishing house with a stellar list of new literary talent. Like Beardsley he was introduced to membership of the Library by the scholar and writer Arthur William Symons (1865-1945) whose major work The Symbolist Movement in Literature was hugely influential on early modernist writers including W.B. Yeats and T.S. Eliot.

The Library’s membership records are impossible to view in isolation: in combination they reveal rich interlinked literary, social and artistic networks which intersect with literary and cultural life in unique and compelling ways. Building on the work completed for my MRes the Library’s membership records, in their historical entirety, are one of the building blocks in my PhD research which will apply big data text mining and network visualization technologies to examine the relationships between the Library’s membership, book collections and the nation’s published oeuvre.

© Helen O’Neill        Archive, Heritage and Development Librarian


The innovative publisher John Lane turned Bodley Head from a small second-hand bookshop into a thriving and innovative publishing business. Like Beardsley he was introduced to the Library by Arthur Symons but dropped both Beardsley and Wilde during the tumult of Oscar’s arrest and trial


Aubrey Beardsley nominated by the writer and scholar Arthur Symons joined the Library in 1896 resident in the rooms at 10 St James’s Place previously used by Oscar Wilde.

Yellow Book

The cover of the first volume of The Yellow Book published in 1894 was illustrated by Beardsley and included a further four of his drawings.

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