A Balliol find from the library of Christopher Gardyner (c.1596–c.1662)

610 b 04 - title page-detail

Sue Hemmens, Deputy Keeper at Marsh’s Library, writes about her research discovery at Balliol:

In my home institution, Marsh’s Library, Dublin, there is an edition of Euclid in Arabic, printed at the Medici Press in Rome in 1594, which came to the library in the collection of the founder of the library, Narcissus Marsh (1638-1713). On the title-page is a signature, ‘Chr. Gardyner’, and a Greek motto.  The book was to be displayed for the Seeing Euclid networked exhibition in Summer 2018, so I decided to see whether this former owner could be identified. One of the search results was an article by Vera Keller on the alchemy of the Royalist Sir John Heydon (1588–1653) [Vera Keller (2012) The Authority of Practice in the Alchemy of Sir John Heydon (1588–1653), Ambix, 59:3, 197-217, DOI: 10.1179/174582312X13457672281740] where an alchemical letter from Christopher Gardyner to Heydon was transcribed from a manuscript now in the State Papers and digitised in the State Papers online.

Vera Keller had identified the writer of the letter as Sir Christopher Gardyner, Heydon’s brother-in-law, who turned out to have been a colourful character, to say the least. Imagine my delight on finding that the signature on the letter matched the signature on the Euclid, and on three other books in Marsh’s (there is one more, which bears a slightly variant signature).

Even on the evidence of the books in Marsh’s, Gardyner was well-educated, and able to read Latin, Greek, and Arabic. I have now set out to trace his library, which has been widely dispersed. In Prague, there is a 1619 copy of Robert Abbot’s De Suprema Potestate Regia; a 1592 Kāfiya by li-Ĭbn al-Ḥāǧib is held by the UniversitätsBibliothek in Basel; and a Copernicus De Revolutionibus is to be found in Chatsworth. In Oxford, books with Gardyner’s signature are in University College (a 1560 Morel Leitourgiai Tōn Hagion Paterōn), in Christ Church (a 1620 London Euclid, with parallel Greek-Latin text), and in Corpus Christi (a 1549 Greek Etymologikon which once belonged to John Dee: the alchemical associations alone make this book of interest). Many thanks are due to Elizabeth Adams at University College, Julie Blyth at Corpus Christi, and Cristina Neagu and her colleagues at Christ Church for their help with the other Gardyner association copies in Oxford.

While in Oxford on a two-month David Walker Memorial fellowship in the Weston Library, I attended the stimulating Nicholas Crouch research day organised by Balliol’s Librarian Naomi Tiley, where I was delighted to meet again her colleague Amy Boylan, who had volunteered with us at Marsh’s before starting her library career. I told them the story of this rather naughty knight, with his irregular lifestyle and unusual reading, and emailed a note of thanks including a link to a blog post on Marsh’s website which included an image of Gardyner’s signature and motto, on the off-chance that he might turn up among the books at Balliol. I got an email almost by return showing the signature, this time on a beautiful 1525 printing from the Aldine press of a collection of Greek texts attributed to the 15th-century philosopher George Gemistos Plethon (Balliol classmark 610 b 4) . What is even better about this book is that we know its history shortly after it left Gardyner’s hands as Thomas Wendy (1614-1673) included it in his bequest to Balliol. Is it possible that they knew each other in Royalist circles?

I look forward to being able to find more information about Gardyner’s library and reading, and perhaps about his alchemy, of which his correspondence with Heydon gives such a tantalising glimpse.

Thomas Wendy’s bequest in the Library’s donation book
610 b 04 - title page
Christopher Gardyner’s inscription on the title page of a collection of Greek texts attributed to  George Gemistos Plethon (Balliol classmark 610 b 4)
Portrait of Thomas Wendy which hangs in Balliol’s Library

The binders behind the books

We all too often read books without noticing their bindings. Particularly when the books are old, brown volumes like those from Nicholas Crouch’s library. However, the binding as a physical object can tell so many stories: they are the products of seventeenth-century craftsmanship, and through the leather or the sewing structure, the decorated edges and the coloured endbands, we can read so much more beyond the pages.

Book conservators are well trained in how to read a book’s binding for clues as to its history. We trace materials and techniques to particular places and times, reading repairs and damage as indicators of how the object has been used. In conservation work, we document each object that comes into the studio: taking note of how it is sewn, its size, materials used. For the Nicholas Crouch project, the documentation took the form of digital spreadsheets, allowing us to build up a body of data on the collection. By the end of the project, we had documented 132 volumes.  This data is now available to researchers by contacting Balliol Library.

One of Crouch’s legacies to us, are his detailed contents pages that list not only the items and their costs, but also the cost of the binding, and in some cases who the binder was and the date of the binding. By including these notes in the object documentation, we were able to link specific named binders with the decorative tools on the cover, sewing style, and edge decoration. These markers can be read like binders’ signatures, and by building up a body of data, patterns and comparisons could be drawn up throughout the collection. Here are some of the binders that can be traced in Crouch’s books


Alum tawed sewing supports, sometimes cord; edge colouring on all edges.

binder 2


Alum tawed or tanned sewing supports; head and tail edges sprinkled, fore edge coloured (red, plain).

binder 2


Alum tawed sewing supports; edge colouring on all edges (blue, red, yellow)

binder 3


Mostly cord sewing supports; head and tail edges sprinkled, for edge coloured (red, yellow)

binder 4

By Nikki Tomkins
Project Conservator

Seventeenth-century Food and Thought

Thank you to everyone who came to the Nicholas Crouch Research Day on Friday. For anyone who could not be there, Jason Scott-Warren has written a great summary of the event on the Centre for Material Texts at Cambridge blog. Here are some pictures of the thought and the food. Crouch Research Day - Nikki Tomkins- croppedvenison-pasty

Exhibition and catalogue: Reconstructing Nicholas Crouch

catalogue-cover2 We are pleased to announce an exhibition and catalogue celebrating the project to increase access to Nicholas Crouch’s 17th-century library. The exhibition will be open to the public during Oxford Open Doors. The Library’s Exhibition and Outreach page has details of more opening times.

The exhibition catalogue is available as a PDF or in hard copy (£5, contact the Library to order).

The Elephant in the Room Part 2

This is the second of two posts on the current exhibition about elephants in Balliol College’s Historic Collection Centre, St Cross Church. You can see the first post here. The Elephant in the Room is open to the public on Wednesday 15th August 11.00-4.00pm, all other times by appointment to library@balliol.ox.ac.uk.

Sporting Elephants

Duing the colonial era hunting big game, particularly elephants, became a facet of imperialist identity, reinforcing the ideology of dominance and creating a romantic vision of the ‘civilising’ mission of European peoples abroad.

Colonial Sport: Capt Walter Campbell’s The Old Forest Ranger, or, Wild Sports of India on the Neilgherry Hills. London, 1845 (2055 c 017)

The author informs us in the preface that his objective in writing The Old Forest Ranger is ‘to present my Readers with a faithful sketch of some of the more exciting Field-Sports of India’. What follows are the ‘heroic’ pursuits of a party of fearless hunters who All-focusdispatch any creature that crosses their path. Bears, elephants and tigers are all done away with, sometimes to save the life of a comrade or damsel in distress, but mostly for the sheer sport of it. The Old Forest Ranger is an early example of the adventure tales that gripped the imagination of the Victorians. These stories cultivated a romantic view of imperialism back home, and encouraged support for expansion. The big game hunter of these tales embodied the ideal Victorian empire builder who subdued wild beasts as part of the mission to ‘civilise’ colonial outposts in India and Africa. The ideas of sportsmanship were key to the colonists’ self-image: British sportsmen used ideas of fairness in hunting to distinguish themselves from the indigenous hunters. This allowed the colonists to justify their exploitation of local animals, while the local hunters were often fined and imprisoned.

Lyddeker’s The Great & Small Game of India, Burma & Tibet London, 1900 (2055 c 004)

The exquisite illustrations in this book might seem better suited to a natural history book than one devoted to hunting. 2055 c 4 Big game headsThe Victorians, however, do not seem to have shared our modern sensibilities; indeed the author, Richard Lydekker, was a naturalist and geologist of some renown. The text comprises his detailed zoological descriptions, followed by material of hunting interest by ‘well-known sportsmen’. Lydekker exploits his own extensive knowledge of animal anatomy to offer guidance on how to ‘despatch’ the animals efficiently. India and Africa provided plenty of exotic animals for hunting, a popular pastime amongst colonists. Certain animals were considered ‘pests’ and colonial administrators encouraged hunters to clear game to make areas of wilderness available for cultivation. What had once been common land was privatised, and the peoples who had hunted there were often displaced. By the late 19th century the exploitation of fauna in parts of India had taken such a toll that animal conservation laws were introduced, including the Elephant Preservation Act (1879), which outlawed elephant hunting unless the animals posed a risk to human life or property. The publication of this book 21 years later indicates that legislation did little to quash the popularity of hunting. This edition consisted of 250 copies that were numbered and signed by the publisher, of which this is number 77. The illustrations were based on photographs taken by the Duchess of Bedford, Mary Russell, to whom the book is dedicated. Russell, a celebrated ornithologist and aviator, made record-breaking flights to Karachi and Cape Town in her sixties.

Literary elephants

Our literary elephants are an eclectic bunch: we see them in an erotic dreamscape, satirical children’s verse and as the innocent entertainment in the Garden of Eden.

Elephants in the Dreamscape: Hypnerotomachia Poliphilii. Venice, 1545 (30 e 107)

Possibly the oldest depictions of elephants in the Library’s collections appear in an erotic fantasy. 30 e 107 Secundus elephant carriageHypnerotomachia Poliphilii was originally published in 1499 by the celebrated humanist scholar and printer, Aldo Manuzio, who published fine editions of many classical authors for the first time. The copy here is the second edition produced at his press by his children, 29 years after his death. The Hypnerotomachia was a departure for Manuzio, being both a contemporary romance and involving illustration, and was the only book he produced as a commission. The sponsor was Leonardo Crasso, a nobleman, but who the author and illustrator were remains uncertain. The narrative concerns a rejected lover, Poliphilo, who dreams himself into a strange landscape, full of beasts but also striking architecture, where he pursues his beloved, Polia. Triumphal processions to love wander past before eventually they are brought together by Venus, only for Polia to disappear as Poliphilo wakes. It’s pretty weird stuff written in a rather strange version of Italian full of invented words, and appears to have been as impenetrable to contemporary audiences as it is today, as most copies were unsold a decade later. Elephants appear at a couple of points in the dream. Here elephants draw a carriage bearing Leda and Zeus, as a swan, in one of the processions. Another appears amongst the architectural features of Poliphilio’s dreamscape, skewered by an obelisk. In the text it is described as black flecked with gold and silver, there are stairs into its belly, and, inside, symbolic statues of a man and woman. This is all very mysterious but nevertheless provides one example of the book’s influence, as it seems likely that Bernini used this illustration as inspiration for his elephant sculpture in Rome. The book might not have sold immediately but its reprinting in France, the year after this edition, launched it into the popular imagination and its footprint can be seen throughout Renaissance art and architecture.


Elephants in Paradise: John Milton’s Paradise Lost. London, 1669 (525 a 5)

All Beasts of th’ Earth, since wilde, and of all chase
In Wood or Wilderness, Forrest or Den;
Sporting the Lion rampd, and in his paw
Dandl’d the Kid; Bears, Tygers, Ounces, Pards
Gambold before them, th’ unwieldy Elephant

To make them mirth us’d all his might, and wreathd
His Lithe Proboscis;

(Book 4, lines 341-347)

Luther bible Garden of Eden straight on detail
The Garden of Eden from the Lutheran Bible. You can see an elephant in the centre (though you may need to squint)

An elephant provides a memorable comic turn in the Garden of Eden, doing tricks with his trunk, for Adam and Eve’s entertainment, from the greatest English epic poem. The unselfconscious antics of such an exotic and powerful beast provide a suitable image of innocence for this pastoral section of the poem, in which all the animals live in harmony under the stewardship of Adam and Eve. But the viewpoint is that of Satan, who has sneaked into Paradise disguised as a serpent, and although in the succeeding soliloquy he expresses regret at their impending downfall, it is nevertheless going to be inevitable. In many contexts elephants have been totemic of power and also wisdom. But whilst their size and motion might seem to give them an inherent dignity, their exotic appearance (big noses, big ears), playfulness and sociability have often been subject to a softer or comedic rendering, particularly in later 20th and 21st century culture. From Kipling’s Just So Stories, through numerous Disney films (Fantasia, Dumbo, Jungle Book) to Dr Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who, popular culture aimed at children has often used elephants for comic or sentimental effect. In spite of the entertaining elephant, Paradise Lost was not an immediate best-seller. It was completed in 1663 but Milton’s republican sympathies, often betrayed in the poem, meant that it was difficult to publish immediately after the Restoration of the Monarchy, and it was not until 1667 that the first print run of 1300 copies appeared. It took another two years and six different issues with different title pages (of which this is the sixth) to sell out. The second and third editions were also only moderately successful. It was not until Jacob Tonson secured the rights to the poem after Milton’s death that he set about propelling it to the central position in the English canon it has now by producing several editions enhanced with pictures and scholarly notes, some in luxury editions.

Cautionary Elephants: Hilaire Belloc’s The Bad Child’s Book of Beasts, Together with More Beasts for Worse Children and Cautionary Tales. London, 1923 (1 b 168/2)

12.Belloc croppedGreat children’s books capture the imagination and leave a lasting impression on young minds. This one may have even inspired its owner to become a children’s writer. The description of the elephant you see here, with his incongruous huge trunk and tiny tail, is a perfect example of Hilaire Belloc’s wry wit. Other classics found in this compilation include: ‘The Woolly Mammoth’; ‘The Microbe’; and ‘Matilda Who told Lies and was Burned to Death’. Belloc’s tales were ‘designed for the admonition of children between the ages of eight and fourteen years’, but their sardonic criticisms of Victorian society were clearly intended to appeal to the adult reader also. This edition of Belloc’s verse was published in 1923, and is a compilation of The Bad Child’s Book of Beasts (1896), More Beasts for Worse Children (1897), and Cautionary Tales (1907). The comic verse is complemented by the delightful and amusing pen and ink illustrations of Basil Temple Blackwood (B.T.B.). Belloc and B.T.B. met while students at Balliol where, according to Belloc’s biographer A N Wilson, the men went on long walks and canoe trips together. B T B was killed in action in Ypres in July 1917 at the age of 46. This volume was given to Balliol in the bequest of Sir Robert Charles Kirkwood Ensor, a contemporary of Belloc’s at Balliol. It is dedicated to ‘Margaret Olivia Ensor. Christmas 1923. From father and mother’. Margaret Olivia became an author and wrote 27 books under her married name of Oliva Coolidge, including many for young adults.

Imperial Elephants: Punch magazine 1937-1946

Political cartoons are a powerful tool for shaping public opinion. They grab the audience’s attention and sum up a complex situation in a single, memorable image. The examples you see here capture a period of immense change in the history of the British Empire and India.  Published between 1937 and 1946 in the British satirical weekly Punch, they chronicle the Indian struggle for independence, and provide a scathing view of the British establishment’s handling of decolonisation. Punch attracted a number of high-profile writers and illustrators including E H Shephard, who produced these cartoons. Shephard is best known for illustrating A A Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories and his experience of anthropomorphising animals is used to great effect here. In ‘Mowgli’s Brothers’ we see the Head of the House of Commons at the time, Stafford Cripps, trying to negotiate with India, as represented by an elephant. ‘The Cripps Mission’, as it was called, was an effort by the British to negotiate a deal for total co-operation by the main political party in India, the Indian National Congress (INC), for the duration of the Second World War with the guarantee of progressive devolution of power from Britain to the Indian legislature once the war was over. Refusal to cooperate by the Viceroy to India at the time, the Marquess of Linlithgow, and the collapse of the INC after their failed effort to demand an immediate end to British rule in August 1942 (known as the Quit India Movement), doomed Cripps’ mission. In ‘The New Elephant House’ we see the effect of this failure during the transfer of power in 1946-1947. The harsh suppression of the Quit India Movement and an inability to reach the negotiated settlement that Cripps had advocated laid the foundations for serious unrest. As a result, power-sharing negotiations between the leaders of the secular INC and the separatist Muslim League, represented by the feuding elephants in the cartoon, collapsed. This led to independence from Britain and, just as Cripps had feared, terrible bloodshed as India was partitioned in 1947. The hostility and suspicion that led to the outbreak of violence as the borders of India and Pakistan were established still affects the countries’ relationship to this day.

‘The Non-Co-Operator’ portrays the tensions surrounding the Government of India Act of 1935, which conferred ‘dominion’ status on India and was the intended blueprint for the country’s new constitution. The Act was met with disdain by the Indian National Congress, and the All-Muslim Party, and went through many drafts and rewrites before ratification. The cartoon satirises the British establishment view of Ghandi as an obstacle to an act that may have been imperfect but, in the opinion of the imperialists at least was ‘doing its best’.  For Ghandi and the INC, while ostensibly the act transferred power of governance to the people of India, in reality the provisions for British veto meant that very little would change.

Saving Elephants

By the end of the 1980s the future of elephants in the wild looked bleak: ivory trading  coupled with growing human populations were taking a massive toll. Thankfully creative conservation efforts in the past 30 years have helped to create a brighter future for both elephants and the people around them.

Swarm Enemies: Dr Lucy King’s Elephants and Bees Project

Elephants and Bees_Lucy with ffarmers
Dr Lucy King and some of the farmers from the Sagallan community in Kenya posing in front of a Beehive Fence

Most of us have heard tell that elephants are afraid of mice but fewer might be aware that the world’s largest land animal is ‘frightened’ of honeybees. The mere sound of the buzzing creatures leads elephants to send warning signals to other elephants to stay away from the area. The Elephants and Bees Project led by Dr Lucy King (Balliol, 2005) is an innovative study which uses this understanding of elephant behaviour to help reduce the damage they can cause to human settlements using the animals’ instinctive avoidance of African honeybees. In the 1980s African elephant populations were decimated by poaching: the numbers of elephants in the wild fell by more than half from one million elephants at the beginning of the decade to less than 400,000 ten years later. Concerted conservation efforts were introduced to stem poaching and to help increase populations of these species in the wild. Poaching remains a huge existential threat, but, thanks to the work of conservation, populations of these majestic animals have rebounded in the past twenty years. The human population has also grown in that time; it has quadrupled in certain parts of Kenya resulting in increased numbers of farms, houses and schools, many of which have been built on the elephants’ natural migratory paths. This has caused a lot of friction between people and elephants, with many people resorting to attacking elephants to keep them from destroying their crops.

Lucy and her team began a pilot project with communities in Kenya to set up Beehive Fences connected by wires to deter the elephants from passing through people’s farms and destroying their crops and homes.elephants-and-bees-logo-web1 The Beehive Fences are simple and cheap, made with no cement and using only locally sourced materials. Hives, or dummy hives, are hung every ten metres and linked together in a specific formation so that should an elephant touch one of the hives, or interconnecting wire, the beehives all along the fence line will swing and release the bees. The fences not only prevent crop raids, they also provide honey which the locals harvest and sell to generate extra income for their communities. The bees also increase pollination rates in areas that are experiencing human development and expansion. Thanks to the success of the project in Kenya other countries in eastern and southern Africa have implemented their own schemes, and now Dr Shermin de Silva and the Uda Walawe Elephant Research Project are leading an Elephants and Bees project in Sri Lanka, to see if Indian elephants share their African counterparts’ fear of the local honeybees.

The Elephants and Bees is a project of Save The Elephants, aconservation charity founded in 1993 by zoologist Iain Douglas Hamilton to secure a future for elephants by sustaining their populations, preserving their habitats, and developing a tolerant relationship between elephants and humans.

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




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




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




Reconstructing Nicholas Crouch exhibition opening

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


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. You can also check out part two. 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.



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.”


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.

Many minds and hands

Reconstructing Nicholas Crouch project year 2

Our Wellcome Trust funded project to catalogue and conserve Nicholas Crouch’s Library has just entered its second year. Let’s look at what has been achieved so far.


All planned conservation has been completed. Nikki Tomkins, from the Oxford Conservation Consortium, cleaned and, where appropriate, made protective boxes for just over 400 books. A further 159 received more in-depth treatments, from minor binding repair to complete re-backing. All treatments were sensitive to the integrity of the original binding. So although Nikki’s work has stabilized the bindings to the point where we can use them without fear that they will crumble apart in our hands they will never be as good as new. Nikki reflected on how best to make future readers aware of the limitations of the bindings and encourage good handling practice in order to ensure their preservation. She came up with this augmented shelf mark label with clear information about where the binding is weak and how to handle it sensitively:

One of Crouch's Sammelband (Balliol Shelf 915 g 9) with conservation slip

Nikki also gathered together detailed information about the construction and decoration of the bindings she worked on. This, together with Crouch’s notes of the binder and the cost of binding, will be a rich resource for discovering more about how the collection was used and about seventeenth-century binding in Oxford more generally. Nikki presented her work at talks for a Book History Research Network Study Day on 21 April 2017 and Balliol’s Unlocking Archives series on 24 May 2017. Nikki will also be talking at the Copenhagen Care and Conservation of Manuscripts conference next April.


Our project cataloguer, Lucy Kelsall left Balliol in March 2017 to take up the post of Florence Fearrington Rare Materials Cataloger at the Rare Book School based at the University of Virginia. This was not before she had made catalogue records for a staggering 3,076 items bound in the 413 sammelbands in the collection. As she worked, Lucy brought together information about the collection in a variety of formats, taking images of interesting annotations and recording statistics about the volumes in a comprehensive spreadsheet. Some of her discoveries were presented in an Unlocking Archives talk on 9 March 2017 and others in posts for the Library’s Historic Collections blog. Lucy and Nikki discussed their work on a University of Oxford Podcast in conversation with Balliol Fellow, Adam Smyth.

Lucy’s cataloguing revealed that Nicholas Crouch wrote shelf marks in his books. So staff turned detective and identified around 106 more volumes on our shelves that bear Crouch’s probable provenance.  Finding a cataloguer to finish off the project at short notice could have been difficult but Sophie Floate, who is cataloguing collections at Brasenose, Corpus Christi and Harris Manchester, kindly made some time for to help us out. She has currently made around 300 records.  This leaves around 70 bibliographic items left to catalogue before the end of the year.

One of the most interesting finds of the project has been the identification of several lists of books in Crouch’s handwriting.  These include a list of books he lent and who borrowed them, running from 1653-1689.


James Howarth, Assistant Librarian, made a transcription of this list and a comprehensive attempt to identify the individuals and the books that Crouch noted. Nicholas Crouch’s entry in the Donation Register has also been transcribed and many of the titles matched with books in Balliol’s collections.

Thanks to our Archivist, Anna Sander, images of all of the manuscripts in Crouch’s collection are on the Balliol Archives Flickr page and descriptions of many of them are now available through the Archives Hub.

The Future

Though the project funding has allowed us to go a long way towards making this fascinating collection accessible, there is still more to do. In terms of conservation, Nikki has identified a further 92 of the sammelbands that ideally would have some form of treatment to allow us to handle them without causing damage. The conservation of Crouch’s books will continue, feeding into our ongoing program of conservation. This has already begun with a condition survey of the 106 newly identified volumes.

With conservation and cataloguing nearing completion, we can move to the next stage in making Crouch’s Library accessible. We will actively promote it through an exhibition and related talks planned for Autumn 2018. We also hope to hold an academic conference around the project and to find ways to fund future academic research into the collection.

Coming towards the end of the project, it seems as if we have uncovered lots of fragments of a historical artefact – Crouch’s library (or libraries). Now we need to hold them out to be viewed from different angles, pieced together and made sense of. It is also likely that there are still more pieces of the puzzle to discover: books belonging to Nicholas Crouch offered in his bequest but not put into the College Library; documents relating to Crouch and his family in other archives; traces in the landscapes Crouch inhabited such as his family house at Higham Gobion.

As you can see from the number of contributors mentioned in this report, this has been a truly collaborative project. In Nicholas Crouch’s reconstructed library, there is still further work to be done by many more minds and hands.

By Naomi Tiley,
Librarian, Balliol College


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