Reconstructing Nicholas Crouch Research Day

We’re pleased to announce a free event to explore directions for future research on Nicholas Crouch’s seventeenth-century library:

Friday 7 September 2018

Faculty of English Language and Literature, St Cross Building, Manor Road, Oxford, OX1 3UL

Delegates are invited to hear speakers from across academic disciplines discussing research directions for a newly accessible early printed and manuscript collection in Oxford. The Library of Nicholas Crouch (ca. 1618 – ca.1690) at Balliol College was catalogued and conserved thanks to a generous grant from The Wellcome Trust. Read more about the project on the Balliol’s Historic Collections blog.

Free event. Sign-up on Eventbrite

Lunch and refreshments included

10.00-10.30

Registration

10.30-11.40

Session 1: Networks and Connections

(Chaired by Professor Seamus Perry)

  • Professor Adam Smyth: Crouch’s diary and almanacs
  • Dr Will Poole: Crouch and pamphlet collection
  • Dr Jason Scott-Warren: Pricing and splicing with Crouch
  • Dr John-Paul Ghobrial: Beyond Balliol: Crouch’s links to the wider world
  • Nikki Tomkins: The binders behind the books

Questions and discussion

11.40-12.00

Refreshments

12.00-13.10

Session 2: From Natural Philosophy to Poetry

(Chaired by Dr Peter Elmer)

  • Dr Olivia Smith: Science and experimentation in Nicholas Crouch’s collection
  • Professor Elizabeth Hageman: Nicholas Crouch, Francis Finch, John Freeman, and Katherine Philips at Balliol College: 1653-1664.
  • Dr Benjamin Wardhaugh: ‘Six hundred thousand different Latine Verses’: Nicholas Crouch’s mathematics
  • Dr Kathleen Walker-Meikle: Nicholas Crouch: Pharmacological receipts and medical book collecting

Questions and discussion

13.10-14.00

Lunch

14.00-15.00

Reconstructing Nicholas Crouch exhibition opening

A chance to see items from Crouch’s Library at Balliol Historic Collections Centre, St Cross Church

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For more information email library@balliol.ox.ac.uk or phone 01865 277709

The Elephant in the Room

This is the first of two blogposts on the current exhibition in Balliol’s Historic Collection Centre. The Elephant in the Room is open to the public on Sunday 15th July and Wednesday 15th August 11.00-4.00pm, all other times by appointment to library@balliol.ox.ac.uk

 

The subject of the exhibition is everyone’s favourite pachyderm, the elephant. This majestic animal is featured in its zoological, geographical, literary, epic, comic and sporting forms in printed material from the 16th to the 21st century. Also on display is the work of Balliol alumna Dr Lucy King whose work on the effect of honeybees on elephants has helped to improve human-elephant relations in Africa and Sri Lanka.

Zoological elephants

The first six cases of the exhibition show depictions of elephants in early modern texts that contributed to 16th and 17th century Europeans’ knowledge and beliefs about the animals. There is as much fiction as fact to be found in these books, but they tell us a lot about the dissemination of ideas in early modern Europe and how wonder and myth began to give way to rigorous scientific analysis.

Allegorical Elephants: Edward Topsell’s History of Four-Footed Beasts. London, 1658 (470 d 19)

470 d 19 - Topsell's elephantWith ears like bats’ wings and a trunk like a hose, this depiction of the elephant had been roaming through the printed menageries of Europe for a century by the time it appeared here. The woodcut was first produced for the pioneering zoologist Conrad Gessner for use in his encyclopedia of animal life, the Historia Animalium, 1551-8. Gessner’s work was the first attempt at a comprehensive scientific study of the animal kingdom. In its creation he called on a network of learned  colleagues across Europe to send him zoological information as well as pictures of creatures, which he used, alongside copies of popular animal prints, as models for its plentiful woodcut illustrations. In 2012 two albums of the pictures that were sent to Gessner, and his successor Felix Platter, by artists such as Hans Holbein, were rediscovered in the Amsterdam University Library. In 1607 the English clergyman, Edward Topsell, produced this. Although acknowledging a large debt to Gessner on its title page and lifting both the illustrations and large chunks of translated text straight from his work, Topsell’s book was of a very different sort, following an older tradition, with its roots in the medieval bestiary, of using animal lore as spiritual allegory. So Topsell’s account includes references to the elephant’s antipathy to the dragon who attempts to eat its calf, a story that had an established allegory in the machinations of the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Topsell also makes reference to the elephant’s monogamy and chastity, mating only infrequently to produce children, as an obvious model for Christian marriage.

Topsell case
This case includes four little known “facts” about elephants as reported by Topsell: they bury their tusks; African elephants are afraid of Indian elephants; there’s a worm that pulls off elephants’ trunks; and they have their own religion

Continue reading “The Elephant in the Room”

Something in which we find ourself: A.C. Bradley on Inspiration

The Library has recently purchased A.C. Bradley’s manuscript of his lecture on ‘Inspiration’ – what is meant by it and what value it has to society.

 

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A.C Bradley studied at Balliol from 1868 having won an exhibition (a type of scholarship). He was elected a Fellow in 1874 and was a popular teacher in English and Philosophy. Balliol’s manuscript collections show Bradley’s involvement in the intellectual life and politics of the College during his time here; forming friendships with T.H. Green and R.L. Nettleship and earning the opposition of the Master, Benjamin Jowett. The latter is hinted at in Bradley’s entry in The Masque of B-ll—l, forty satirical poems about Balliol members printed as a broadsheet in 1881:masque-balliol-bradley

‘Inspiration’ was first given as an address in a Church in Glasgow, where Bradley was Regius Professor of English Language and Literature at the University from 1889. He held the post until 1901 when he returned to Oxford as Professor of Poetry. Bradley’s address formed the basis of the essay of the same name in his book, A Miscellany (MacMillan, 1929) [Balliol Library: 47 g 26 Ground Floor].

Throughout the manuscript, Bradley crosses out and rewrites as he tackles the question of what is meant by ‘inspiration’ in the secular context of poets and other thinkers. Bradley identifies three conditions of inspired thought. Firstly, that it is new; secondly, that it strikes the thinker as superior to their habitual thoughts; and thirdly that it should come upon them suddenly. He goes on to identify a paradox about the perceived origin of inspired thought which he feels is a point of comparison to religious inspiration:

“[inspiration] is something which we cannot attribute to ourself, it is given to us, and in it we lose ourself; that is the one aspect. It is something in which we find ourself, and are at last our true self; that is the other aspect.”

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The manuscript has been bound in boards covered with grey paper and contains the bookplate of Glaswegian publisher and bookseller James J. Maclehose, designed by Sir David Young Cameron. It joins other manuscripts by A.C. Bradley at Balliol including the rare survival of an undergraduate essay, with the title ‘Does Literature tend necessarily to decay?’ and academic papers on Shakespeare’s work, the area of criticism for which Bradley is most famous today.

Paper

Materials: Part 2

All of the pamphlets and tracts that Crouch collected were printed on paper. The boards of the bindings are constructed out of paper that is layered together, and twisted rolls of paper are used as the cores of the endbands. Paper plays an important role in the repair of the volumes too: from fixing tears, to reinforcing board attachments.

Paper is constructed from plant fibres that are beaten to a pulp and suspended in water before being pressed and dried. The source of fibres and technique of production are major factors in the quality and character of the final material. There was no paper making machine in the 17th century, so all of the paper in the Crouch volumes would have been made by hand, using a mould and deckle. The quality of paper between the items varies, depending on its age and source.

2. Paper made using a mould and deckle (image: Wikimedia commons)
2. Paper made using a mould and deckle (image: Wikimedia commons)

Paper is also used extensively in conservation treatments. In particular, Japanese papers and tissues are prized for their long fibres, strength, and durability. Japan has a long history of traditional paper making, a process called ‘Washi’ that is protected by UNESCO intangible world heritage status.

3. Traditional Japanese paper making (image: Wikimedia commons)
3. Traditional Japanese paper making (image: Wikimedia commons)

The Japanese papers used in the conservation of the Crouch collection are machine made using kozo fibres. These come from the inner bark for the Paper Mulberry tree, native to Asia.

4. Leaves of the Paper Mulberry tree broussonetia papyrifera and strips of the inner Kozo bark (image: Wikimedia commons)
4. Leaves of the Paper Mulberry tree broussonetia papyrifera and strips of the inner Kozo bark (image: Wikimedia commons)

The Kozo fibres are long, thin and contain a very high molecular weight of cellulose: the primary component of paper. This makes the material strong, durable, and flexible.

6. A selection of different Kozo fibre paper weights
5. A selection of different Kozo fibre paper weights

The RK15 tissue used is 10gsm (grams per square  metre) in weight, and is used primarily to repair tears in the textblock given its light weight and semi translucency.

The RK17 tissue is heavier at 19gsm, and is usually used in the Crouch collection for strengthening splits in the textblock or as a preliminary spine lining.

RK 32 and 36 are around 34 gsm in weight, and opaque in appearance. They take tone well, and are usually used as a thicker, stronger paper for joint repair.

By Nikki Tomkins
Project Conservator

Adhesives

Materials: Part 1

Most historical books will use some kind of glue somewhere in the binding to hold it all together, whether that is to adhere the covering materials down or attach the supports to the boards. Often books will break because the adhesive has failed – becoming brittle, cracking, or losing tack. Other times it is the binding materials that deteriorate, and removing them intact requires removing the old adhesive.

Traditionally, animal glue is the most common adhesive used in bookbinding. This is usually derived from the skin of animals, such as rabbits. It turns liquid upon heating, and makes a strong, flexible glue. Over time this adhesive can deteriorate: exposed to heat and fluctuating environmental conditions the molecules can crosslink and turn the glue hard and brittle.

2. Cooking wheat starch paste (Photo: Nikki Tomkins)
2. Cooking wheat starch paste (Photo: Nikki Tomkins)

When new material is used to help reattach the boards during conservation, that too needs to be adhered into place. Introducing new adhesive into a binding is a considered choice: it’s important to choose a substance that is in keeping historically, can be removed if needed, and suits the materials present both old and new. Japanese Jin-Shofu Wheat Starch Paste is used almost exclusively in the conservation of Crouch’s collection. This is a refined version of flour paste, where the starch is separated from the rest of the wheat. Here in the studio, it is made to a 25% w/v in deionized water concentration, and cooked for 40 minutes until sufficiently tacky.  For binding conservation, the paste is kept dry and viscous. This makes it stronger and reduces the risk of introducing too much moisture into old materials. Moisture can darken old deteriorated leather, or weaken parts of the structure.

In the case of the Crouch volumes, this adhesive has been used liberally on the spine and boards to adhere the covering leather. When the board attachment breaks down, it is necessary to separate the original leather from the spine or the boards. This can usually be done mechanically: using a sharp blade or very thin spatula. Sometimes the spine will need to be cleaned of old glue before applying new linings. Animal glue will soften with moisture, and so a poultice is applied that gradually works on the glue without making the paper spine folds underneath too wet. The glue can then be carefully scraped away.

Sometimes flour pastes are also used in traditional bookbinding. This is derived from wheat flour, where heating the flour in water causes the grains to swell and secrete proteins that create the tackiness. You might find it used to adhere a pastedown, or a tipped in paper page. It is generally less thick and strong as animal glue, and can be more useful for the more fragile paper components in a binding – however, both can be found interchangeably on historic bindings.

When new material is used to help reattach the boards during conservation, that too needs to be adhered into place. Introducing new adhesive into a binding is a considered choice: it’s important to choose a substance that is in keeping historically, can be removed if needed, and suits the materials present both old and new. Japanese Jin-Shofu Wheat Starch Paste is used almost exclusively in the conservation of Crouch’s collection. This is a refined version of flour paste, where the starch is separated from the rest of the wheat. Here in the studio, it is made to a 25% w/v in deionized water concentration, and cooked for 40 minutes until sufficiently tacky.  For binding conservation, the paste is kept dry and viscous. This makes it stronger and reduces the risk of introducing too much moisture into old materials. Moisture can darken old deteriorated leather, or weaken parts of the structure.

3. Wheat starch paste, sieved and ready for application (Photo: Nikki Tomkins)
3. Wheat starch paste, sieved and ready for application (Photo: Nikki Tomkins)

By Nikki Tomkins
Project Conservator

Medical snippets #31: New experiments upon vipers

‘Divers Authors assure, that the Head of a Viper, hung about the neck, hath a very particular quality to cure the Squinancy and all the distempers of the Throat; and that the Brain of a Viper, wrapt up in a little skin, and likewise hung about the neck, is very good to make the Teeth of children come forth; which effect others believe to be due to the great teeth of Vipers. If we had experimented it, we could then speak with more certainty. The remedies are easily practicable, and withal harmless; wherefore those who need them may make trial of them. […]

The Skin of a Viper is not altogether destitute of virtue; for besides than it is also, as they say, very good for the delivery of women, making a garter of it about the right leg, it hath a very singular virtue for all the distempers of humane skin: And although all the other parts, eaten, may work the same thing; yet, that we might have benefit from all, we have experimented, that the Viper-skin does perfectly heal the inveterate mangie of Dogs, making them eat it boyled or raw.’

Moyse Charas, New experiments upon vipers. Containing also an exact description of all the parts of a viper, the seat of its poyson, and the several effects thereof, together with the exquisite remedies, that by the skilful may be drawn from vipers, as well for the cure of their bitings, as for that of other maladies (1670)

Balliol College Library shelfmark: 915 f 11 (1)

Medical snippets #30: Sleeping at noones

‘Here some may desire to know whether it bee altogether vnwholesome to sleepe after dinner. Whereunto I answer, that sleeping at noones is condemned as most hurtfull to the body, because it overmoistneth the braine, and filleth the head full with vaporous superfluities. And the reason why it filleth the head with superfluous moisture, is, because the night hath sufficiently moistned it, as that it needeth not to be moistned againe by sleepe in the day, but ought rather to be dryed by watchings and motions of the body. And from hence it is that sleeping at noones causeth heavinesse of the head, dulnesse of wit, distillations, defluxions of humours, lethargies, and other cold diseases of the braine, and palsies, by relaxing the sinewes. Moreover it hurteth the eyes, spoileth the colour, puffeth up the Spleene with winde, maketh the body unlusty, and prepareth it for Fevers and Impostumes.

Yet notwithstanding all these hurts which are incident to them that wil needs sleepe in the day time, sleeping at noones is not alwayes, nor to all bodies to be prohibited, so as it be admitted with the cautions hereafter assigned. For if the night shall be unquiet, or without sleepe, or the body wearied with extraordinary labour, or the spirits exhausted, and the strengths dejected by immoderate and excessive heat, as it oftentimes chanceth in the hot seasons of the yeare, it is not amisse to sleepe at noones: for by it the spirits are collected into the inner parts, the mind freed of cogitation, and the whole body consequently very much refreshed.’

Tobias Venner, Viæ rectæ ad vitam longam, pars secunda. VVherein the true vse of sleepe, exercise, excretions, and perturbations is, with their effects, discussed and applied to euery age, constitution of body, and time of yeare (1623)

Balliol College Library shelfmark: 910 c 9 (6)