Cataloguing Crouch: Dates, Errata, and ‘charta nuda’

Further explorations of collecting, correcting and marginalia from the ‘Reconstructing Nicholas Crouch’ project

Most of the items which constitute Nicholas Crouch’s library were published in his own lifetime. His collection is weighted towards works published in the latter years of his life, in the 1670s and 1680s. Crouch died in 1690, and we find him collecting right up to the end: the latest item catalogued so far is Walter Harris’s De morbis acutis infantum, printed in London in 1689. The contents list for this volume shows Crouch’s handwriting, and his maths, to be as sharp as ever.

MS contents list from the end of Crouch’s life (Balliol College Library shelfmark 905 f 3) (Photograph by Lucy Kelsall)
MS contents list from the end of Crouch’s life (Balliol College Library shelfmark 905 f 3)

Crouch also collected earlier material, from the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th century. There tend to be fewer of his annotations in these older texts. Sometimes other hands are visible; this too is less common in the texts printed during Crouch’s lifetime, many of which he likely obtained upon publication. The volumes containing earlier items still include handwritten contents lists, but often lack a record of prices paid.

So far, around 40% of the collection consists of works printed on the European continent, with particularly strong showings from the Netherlands (14%) and Germany (13%). The majority of this continental material is Latin medical texts, whereas Crouch’s British collecting ranged more widely.

Crouch would often have additional blank leaves bound into his volumes; this is particularly true of works that included lists and records, such as William Dugdale’s The antient usage in bearing of such ensigns of honour as are commonly call’d arms. With a catalogue of the present nobility of England (1682). He would use these leaves to inscribe his own careful additions to the text, or to create handwritten indexes of content that interested him.

At times, his ambition appears to have exceeded his energy, and we find unused blank pages or contents lists that trail off before completion. In one notable example, Crouch paid 3d. to have a significant amount of blank paper bound in at the end of one of his books. This has been methodically added to the contents list (‘charta nuda’), but was never used. The two printed works in this volume are bibliographical in nature, so it’s possible Crouch had plans for annotation that were never realised. The blank leaves are clearly visible below in the unstained right-hand portion of the fore-edge.

Above left: Crouch is charged 3d. for ‘charta nuda’ (Balliol College Library shelfmark 905 a 2)

Above right: The blank paper is visible at the right-hand side of the fore-edge (Balliol College Library shelfmark 905 a 2)

Crouch’s character continues to be revealed via his marginalia. Below are two of my favourite Crouch-isms discovered so far.

Here, Crouch disavows all responsibility for a misbound leaf (note the characteristic ruled lines for this expostulation):

Crouch makes his feelings known (Balliol College Library shelfmark 910 i 4 (9))
Crouch makes his feelings known (Balliol College Library shelfmark 910 i 4 (9))

And here, even in the list of errata, Crouch spots a mistake:

Crouch makes a correction to the errata (Balliol College Library shelfmark 910 i 2 (6)) (Photograph by Lucy Kelsall)
Crouch makes a correction to the errata (Balliol College Library shelfmark 910 i 2 (6))

I am especially fascinated by this latter example, as there is really no need for Crouch to correct the errata: he could have simply amended the text at the correct point. Is he venting his frustration in a more subtle manner than at the ‘ignorance of the Binder’, above? Or could he just not stand to leave a mistake uncorrected?

Despite the terse and factual nature of Crouch’s marginalia, hints of his personality can still be glimpsed behind the black ink.

By Lucy Kelsall
Early Printed Books Cataloguer

Cataloguing Crouch: an introduction

The cataloguing side of the project has now been underway for two months, and over 100 volumes, containing more than 750 items, have been catalogued.

One of the initial surprises with this material is how varied it is in terms of subject matter. Most of the volumes have gold-tooled leather spine labels; these are not contemporary with the bindings but were added at a later point after their arrival in the college library. However, a glance across the spines provides a useful ‘rough guide’ to the collection.

Many of Crouch’s books in the second half of the collection are labelled ‘Medical’, as one might expect from the collection of a physician. In contrast, most of the early volumes are labelled ‘Miscellaneous’. Crouch collected on subjects including (but not limited to!) religion, science, politics, language, travel, poetry, philosophy and mathematics.

 

Tractatus miscellanei: the early part of the collection is varied in subject matter (Photograph by Lucy Kelsall)
Tractatus miscellanei: the early part of the collection is varied in subject matter
Tractatus medici: many of the later books in the collection are related to medicine (Photograph by Lucy Kelsall)
Tractatus medici: many of the later books in the collection are related to medicine

One of the most striking features of Crouch’s library is his meticulous hand-written contents lists. Crouch would frequently inscribe on the endpapers of a volume a list of the titles inside, often including individual prices, the price of binding and the name of the binder. This makes the collection a fascinating source for the history of the book trade.

Occasionally these contents lists will span four or five pages; Crouch would often include details of the title, author and price of each item, and sometimes imprint dates. In none of the works catalogued so far has he noted the date of purchase or binding.

Above left: contents list for an item bound by Doe (Balliol College Library shelfmark 910 e 4)

Above right: contents list for an item bound by Ingram (Balliol College Library shelfmark 910 e 3)

Crouch would often annotate his texts, usually with factual information: bibliographical references, corrections, hand-written indexes. So far the tone of his marginalia appears to be brisk and pedantic. The MS contents lists are carefully laid out, using a grid of ruled lines to assist. Crouch even drew lines to ensure his marginal notes were level. Sometimes these ruled lines appear without corresponding marginal notes. This seems a curious oversight for one so thorough: did he intend to return and annotate at a later point?

Above left: an example of Crouch’s factual marginalia (Balliol College Library shelfmark 905 i 1 (7))

Above right: ruled lines without marginalia (Balliol College Library shelfmark 910 e 4 (3))

Crouch’s keen mathematical eye is evident in his careful calculations and corrections. He will often step in to improve or clarify a computation.

In the example below, a 1678 text with the title Artificial versifying enthusiastically promises that ‘any one of ordinary capacity, that only knows the A.B.C. and can count 9 (though he understands not one word of Latin, or what a verse means) may be plainly taught (and in as little time, as this is reading over) how to make thousands of hexameter and pentameter verses which shall be true Latine, true verse, and good sense’.

A further claim that such a person may make ‘Six hundred thousand different Latine Verses’ is swiftly disproved by Crouch, in a note that will not fit in the margin: ‘That is, there may be made 531,441 verses, which is the Cube=cube of 9, and noe more, I suppose.’

Above: Crouch is affronted by a vague estimate (Balliol College Library shelfmark 910 d 2 (3b))

These initial glimpses of Crouch’s character will, we hope, be supplemented by further finds as the cataloguing continues. It will be particularly interesting to see how Crouch’s annotations in these early ‘miscellaneous’ texts compare with his notes in the later medical works. With between two and three thousand individual items yet to be catalogued, much remains to be discovered!

By Lucy Kelsall
Early Printed Books Cataloguer

George Coningesby’s books

Among the early printed books in Balliol Library, one distinctive 18th-century hand appears again and again

Similar notes, in English and Latin, can be found in hundreds of books, on paste-downs, endpapers, on title pages, in the margins, in slips of paper.

The notes belong to one of the most important benefactors to the Library, the clergyman and antiquary George Coningesby (1692-3?-1766).

Coningesby proceeded Doctor of Divinity at Balliol in 1739. He was vicar of Bodenham, Herefordshire and then rector of Pencombe, in the same county.

The Oxford antiquary Thomas Hearne knew Coningesby, and described him as ‘a learned man, & studious, [who] bears the character of being honest’.

Coningesby made himself notorious in Oxford. In a 1727 sermon, he praised Charles I as ‘a Prince that was not alien by birth, & that preferred to dignities in the Church men of true worth and learning’ – in implied contrast to the current king, George I. By the time he was called before University officials to explain the offending sermon, Coningesby had contrived to ‘misplace’ his notes, according to Hearne. He was banned from preaching for two years and had to leave St Mary’s Hall.

The earliest book in the collection is a 1495 edition of Aristotle, but Coningesby collected books published throughout the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Coningesby collected books with great energy, especially in the areas of classics, English history, church history, and religious polemics.

Coningesby acquired books owned and inscribed by other important scholars and antiquaries.

Thomas Hearne’s ownership inscription in a book later acquired by Coningesby.

These include Thomas Hearne; Arthur Charlett, master of Univ; Anglo-Saxonist George Hickes; the bibliophile Thomas Rawlinson; and Cambridge antiquary Thomas Baker.

Coningesby wrote on paste-downs, endpapers and in the margins, as well as on loose scraps of paper. He emended the text, transcribed errata lists and recorded bibliographical information. His notes also offer cross-references, citations and quotations from other scholarly works.

This little-known collection offers students of 18th-century history and literature opportunities for original research on reading and collecting practices.

Research by Paris O’Donnell

Sources

T. Hearne. Remarks and collections of Thomas Hearne. Vol. XI. Oxford: Clarendon, 1921

W.R. Ward. Georgian Oxford: university politics in the eighteenth century. Oxford: Clarendon, 1958

How Bede’s Works came to Balliol: a sidelight on the Reformation

Tracing the trajectory of an early edition of Bede’s Works from Hailes Abbey, dissolved under Henry VIII, to Balliol Library

Manuscript additions on the title page of this book provide a little snapshot of English Reformation history. It is an edition of Bede’s Latin Works ([Paris]: Josse Badius, 1521). Abbot Stephen Whalley (or Sagar) of Hailes Abbey had acquired this volume of Bede’s works in 1538 and written his name at the head of the title page, as this detail shows:

‘Ex exempc[i]o[n]e dompini Stephani Whalley abb[at]is de heyles pro domo cap[itu]lari 1538.’
[Purchased by master Stephen Whalley, abbot of Heyles, for the chapterhouse 1538.]

The abbot's ownership inscription replaced by Grisset's donation note
The abbot’s ownership inscription replaced by Griffith’s donation note  (Photo: Paris O’Donnell)

By the year of acquisition, 1538, the dissolution of English monasteries by Henry VIII was under way.

Hailes Abbey was home to a popular relic, a phial of blood thought to have been collected from the dying Christ. This attracted huge numbers of pilgrims, to the consternation of the reforming Bishop of Worcester, Hugh Latimer. The relic was investigated and declared a fake in 1538. By the following year, Stephen, the last abbot of Hailes, had surrendered the abbey to Henry’s men.

Stephen’s title-page inscription was then supplanted by the donation note of John Griffith, probably an alumnus of Balliol, who donated the book to the College.

The note reads: ‘Liber collegii ballioli ex dono d[o]m[ini] Joh[ann]is Gryffyt’. Griffith’s inscription (‘Ioh[ann]es Gryffytt’) is repeated at the foot of the title page.

John Grissett’s ownership inscription
John Grissett’s ownership inscription (Photo: Paris O’Donnell)

Griffith’s donation is noted in Balliol’s benefactions book (below), and seems to have taken place between 1540 and 1543.

Detail from benefactions book  (Photo: Paris O'Donnell)

Balliol College Library shelfmark 30 f 115