Shelf Lives

Four Centuries of Collectors and their Books


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Matthew Parker | Richard Holdsworth | John Moore | George Lewis | Sir Thomas Wade | Samuel Sandars | Francis Jenkinson
Marion Scott | Sir Geoffrey Keynes | Gilbert de Botton


Matthew Parker (1504–1575)


‘Liber Gratiarum Δ’ (Grace Book compiled by the University Registry)
Cambridge, 1543–1641

Having received donations throughout the fifteenth century the University Library possessed about 600 volumes in 1500, but after neglect during the Reformation fewer than 200 remained in 1557. In 1574 Vice-Chancellor Andrew Perne secured several significant donations to re-establish the Library, including 25 manuscripts and 75 printed books from Matthew Parker. A list of 20 of the manuscripts can be seen in the lower part of the left-hand page; number 11, Evangelia Saxon, is the Gospels MS Ii.2.11, displayed nearby.

Cambridge University Archives, Grace Book Delta, ff. 331v–332r


Exeter, between c. 1050 and 1072

Soon after its production, this Gospel Book in Anglo-Saxon script was presented by Leofric, first Bishop of Exeter, to his cathedral. Given the significance placed on such early copies of the Gospels in English during Parker’s archbishopric it is not surprising that he owned several himself. Parker, who was given ‘speciall care and oversyght’ for ancient manuscripts by Elizabeth I, was presented with it by the Dean of Exeter in 1566. It was used in the production of the printed Gospels of 1571, 1.24.9, displayed nearby.

MS Ii.2.11, ff. 2v–3r


The Gospels of the Fower Evangelistes translated in the Olde Saxons Tyme out of Latin into the Vulgare Toung of the Saxons…
London: printed by John Daye, 1571

Parker’s interest in the Church and its books extended further than simply preserving the manuscripts themselves. Between 1566 and 1574 nine books of Anglo-Saxon interest were printed at Parker’s request, often using an Anglo-Saxon type commissioned by him. In addition to the Gospels, these included the homilies of Ælfric and the Historia Maior of Matthew Paris. This copy was later annotated by Abraham Whelock, University Librarian (1629–1653) and the University’s first Professor of Arabic.

1.24.9, pp. 314–315


Hartmann Schedel (1440–1514)
Liber Chronicarum (Nuremberg Chronicle)
Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, for Sebald Schreyer and Sebastian Kammermeister, 12 July 1493

This chronicle of world history, one of the most magnificent printed books of the fifteenth century, contains over 1,800 hand-coloured woodcuts. The printer, Anton Koberger, was godfather of the artist Albrecht Dürer (who may have worked on the woodcuts) and was Germany’s most eminent printer, managing 24 presses and around 100 staff at the height of his success. This beautiful book, still sought after by collectors, points towards Parker’s wider collecting interests. It is opened to show the creation of Eve and the Fall in the Garden of Eden.

This manuscript is available in the Cambridge Digital Library.

Inc.0.A.7.2[888], ff. VIv–VIIr


England, c. 1050

This Anglo-Saxon book of sermons, key evidence for the use of English in church during the eleventh century, was drawn from the work of Ælfric (c. 955–c. 1020). Many ancient books dispersed from monasteries during the Reformation were cut up and their leaves used to strengthen book-bindings, but some passed into private hands. This copy, from Tavistock Abbey in Devon, was given to Parker in 1567 by the Earl of Bedford, who had been granted the land. It is displayed at the homily for Easter.

MS Ii.4.6, ff. 147v–148r


Richard Holdsworth (1590–1649)


Book of Hours (Use of Sarum)
Flanders, last quarter of the fifteenth century (after 1494)

Like many Books of Hours, this example was made in Flanders for export to England, as is suggested by the English saints named in the calendar. There is evidence of English ownership in the form of prayers in English, as well as some English verse added to the manuscript. It had two recorded female owners in the sixteenth century. The illumination is the work of two artists; a miniature depicting the Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple is displayed.

MS Dd.6.1, ff. 73v–74r


England, c. 1230

This bible contains a magnificent historiated initial ‘I’ running the full length of the page, depicting scenes of the seven days of creation in medallions on a punched gold ground. At the foot are roundels with foliage and animals. The illumination has similarities to that of Aberdeen University Library MS 24 and Bodleian Library MS Ashmole 1511. Nothing is known of the manuscript’s provenance or ownership prior to its acquisition by Holdsworth.

MS Dd.8.12, ff. 11v–12r


Gregory the Great (c. 540–604)
Homilies on the Book of Ezekiel
Canterbury(?), late eleventh century

This copy of Pope Gregory I’s homilies on the Old Testament Book of Ezekiel was probably created at Christ Church Cathedral Priory, Canterbury, a major centre of book production. It is listed in catalogues of the Priory’s vast library dating from the early fourteenth and early sixteenth centuries. It is open at one of two large blue initials entwined in foliage, birds and hybrid creatures.

MS Ff.3.9, ff. 55v–56r


John Moore (1646–1714)


The Book of Cerne
Mercia, c. 820–840

The Prayer Book of Bishop Aedeluald is known as the Book of Cerne from the later documents from Cerne Abbey in Dorset bound with it. To judge by an acrostic poem, it was made for Aedeluald, Bishop of Lichfield 818–830, although the earlier Aediluald, Bishop of Lindisfarne, has been suggested. It includes texts of the Passion and Resurrection from each of the Gospels; here, the Lion of St Mark prefaces Mark chapters 14 to 16.

MS Ll.1.10, ff. 12v–13r


Matthew Paris (c. 1200–1259)
La Estoire de Seint Aedward le Rei
London(?), c. 1255

This unique Life of Edward the Confessor, perhaps composed by the St Alban’s monk Matthew Paris, was possibly written for Eleanor of Castile, who married the future King Edward I in 1254. The text, a verse translation of the Latin work of Aelred of Rievaulx, is illustrated on every page. On display are images of Edward sailing for England upon learning of King Harthacnut’s death, andEdward being received in England and crowned.

This manuscript is available in the Cambridge Digital Library.


MS Ee.3.59, ff. 8v–9r


The Venerable Bede (673/4–735)
Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum (‘The Moore Bede’)
York(?), after 734

This is the second oldest surviving copy of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People. It travelled to the court of Charlemagne early in its history and was at the Cathedral of St Julian of Le Mans in the sixteenth or seventeenth century. Afterwards owned by the French scholar J. B. Hautin, it came into Moore’s hands between 1697 and 1702. Book Four, beginning on folio 70 verso, deals with English saints, including Chad, Wilfred, Etheldreda, Hilda and Cuthbert.

MS Kk.5.16, ff. 70v–71r


Juliana Berners (b. 1388?)
Book of Hawking, Hunting and Blasing of Arms (Boke of Saint Albans)
St Albans: ‘The Schoolmaster Printer’, 1486

This treatise on heraldry (‘blasing of arms’) follows works on hawking and hunting ascribed to ‘Dam Julyans Barnes’, often identified, as an annotation in this copy indicates, with Juliana Berners, Prioress of the nunnery of Sopwell, near St Albans. It belonged to the antiquary William Burton (1575–1645) of Leicestershire, Moore’s own county. The work is illustrated with shields in red, black, blue and gold, including ‘Tharms of Scotland’, the arms of the King of Scotland, which are on display.

Inc.3.J.4.1[3636], ff. 78v–79r


Nova Decretalium Compilatio Gregorii. Viiij [Decretals of Gregory IX]
Book 4, De Sponsalibus et Matrimoniis
Venice: Nicolas Jenson, not before 8 March 1475

The Decretals of Pope Gregory IX (promulgated 1234), with the glossa ordinaria surrounding the text. Although printed in Venice, the miniatures and initials with which each book begins are probably German in origin. Book 4 deals with questions of marriage, and the miniature at the beginning accordingly shows a bishop joining the hands of a couple. This is a fine copy of a fundamental treatise on Canon Law, and probably belonged to Adrian Metcalfe, Fellow-Commoner of Trinity College (admitted 1667).

Inc.0.B.3.2[1356], ff. 220v–221r


George Lewis (d. 1729)


Niẓāmī Ganjavī (c. 1140–c. 1202)
Khusraw and Shīrīn
Persia, sixteenth or seventeenth century

Niẓāmī’s poem recounts the love story of the Persian Prince Khusraw and the Armenian Princess Shīrīn. The narrative contains many complex twists, and both main characters endure numerous trials before they are finally united. The painting shows Khusraw astonished by the beauty of Shīrīn, whom he has found bathing in a stream. The manuscript, written in Persian ta‛liq script with twelve miniature paintings, is executed with considerable skill. The collection also includes poetical works by Sādī, Hāfiẓ and Jami.

MS Add. 207, f. 47


Persia, early eighteenth century

The opening of the Gospel of St Matthew, from a Persian translation of all four Gospels. The translation of the Bible into Persian met with many difficulties despite a number of early pioneering efforts. From the seventeenth century there was hostility from the Vatican to vernacular translations of the Vulgate, but the Mughal emperors showed a keen interest in having a Persian language translation available. This translation, reflecting Lewis’s interests both as a Christian and a Persian scholar, has many inaccuracies.

MS Add. 230, f. 1


ʼAwṣāf nāma-I ‛Alamgīrī
North India, seventeenth century

An anonymous eulogy in prose and verse in praise of the sixth Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, also known as Alamgīrī (1618–1707), noted both for his military conquests and Islamic piety. The verses imitate the qasidas of various Persian poets. The text is written in Indian ta’liq script on pink paper, quite commonly used in literary works at the time. The volume contains Aurangzeb’s bookplate, with the date 1670, suggesting it came from his own library: this is surprising considering the many conflicts between Aurangzeb and the East India Company.

MS Add. 215, f. 3


Playing cards

The Lewis collection arrived with various antiquities and curiosities included alongside the manuscripts. There are two sets of Indian playing cards (ganjifa), one set painted on wood and the other on tortoiseshell. Such cards were introduced into India during the early Mughal Period, having originated in Mamluk Syria. Indian playing cards usually contain eight suits each of twelve cards, including two face cards. These face cards show the shah (with a crown) and the wazir (seated on a horse) but there are other characters here too, perhaps indicating influences from India.



These Indian-style slippers in cream and red leather with a red felt lining are decorated with embroidery in silver thread, some of which has now disappeared, and green sequins made from the shells of beetles. They are presumed to have belonged to Lewis, and have always been stored in the cabinet alongside his manuscript collection.


Sir Thomas Wade (1818–1895)


Jiao Hong (1540–1620)
Tob be hôwašabure nirugan suhe gisun-i bithe
China, possibly eighteenth century

This manuscript is a translation into Manchu of the Chinese work Yang zheng tu jie (Illustrated Expositions of the Cultivation of Rectitude), a textbook compiled for the instruction of the Crown Prince. The anecdote shown concerns Zhao Yang (d. 458 BC), Prime Minister of the State of Zhao, who threw his assistant Luan Ji into the river (where he drowned), alleging that the latter had failed to meet his request for good men, while pandering to his baser predilections.



Zhang Yushu (1642–1711) et al.
Yu ding Kang-xi zi dian
Beijing, 1716

This was the standard dictionary of Chinese for more than 250 years. It contains 49,030 characters, arranged under 214 ‘radicals’, an arrangement that was adopted for the ‘Chinese Japanese and Korean (CJK) Unified Ideographs’ included in the Unicode® Standard first published in 1991. The copy is open at the 173rd radical 雨 yu (‘rain’), showing characters with five strokes additional to the radical, including, on the right-hand page, the character 雷 lei (‘thunder’) with nine variant forms. This xylographic print is the ‘palace edition’ on white paper.



Gu Dingchen (1473–1540)
Ming zhuang yuan tu kao
Fuzhou, 1875–1876

This is a collection of short biographies of the seventy-six zhuang yuan (‘Senior Classics’) of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). In the illustration on display the exhausted candidate, dozing at home after the trials of the examination, sees in a dream (represented by a wisp of vapour issuing from his head) a vision of himself being anointed with a writing brush as ‘Senior Classic’ by the dragon-headed Examination God.



Samuel Sandars (1837–1894)


Herodianus (early third century)
Historia, translated into Latin by Angelus Politianus
Rome, late fifteenth century (probably 1487–1492)
Fifteenth-century Roman binding, gold tooled, with knotwork ornament

This is a rare example of a ‘humanistic’ binding—a style of bookbinding first adopted by a circle of antiquaries centred on Padua in the late 1450s. Humanistic bindings are characterised by their adoption of knotwork ornament of Islamic influence and the use of gold tooling. This example, executed in Rome, is a typical Sandars purchase. It surrounds a spectacular illuminated manuscript, probably illuminated by Francesco Marmitta of Parma, and owned by the Gambera family of Casale Monferrato, Counts of Mirabello.

MS Add. 4114


Petrus Pictaviensis (c. 1130–1215)
Compendium Historiae in Genealogia Christi
British Isles, late thirteenth century
Sixteenth-century English panel-stamped binding

This composite volume demonstrates the common practice of drawing together disparate objects to create a more appealing whole—a thirteenth-century manuscript has been inserted into a sixteenth-century binding. The label identifies Richard Reynold (d. 1535) as a former owner, and shows that the binding originally surrounded an entirely different work. Despite the obvious evidence to the contrary, the royal armorial on the binding panel led it to be described as ‘probably done for Henry VII’s Library’. Sandars paid £21 for the manuscript in 1884.

MS Add. 4081


John Udall (1560?–1592)
Certaine Sermons, taken out of Severall Places of Scripture
London: printed by Adam Islip for Thomas Man, 1596
Sixteenth-century English velvet binding, embroidered with arms of Elizabeth I

Embroidered bindings are most frequently found on Bibles, Psalters and Prayer Books and on presentation books, particularly for members of the royal family. This fine example was executed for Elizabeth I, for whom velvet bindings seem to have had a particular appeal. In 1598 Paul Hentzner visited the Royal Library at Whitehall and commented that the books were ‘all … bound in velvet of different colours, though chiefly red.’



Johann Huttich (1480?–1544), compiler
Simon Grynäus (1493–1541), editor
Novus Orbis Regionum ac Insularum Veteribus Incognitarum
Basel: Johann Herwagen, 1537
Sixteenth-century French binding by Claude de Picques, for Jean Grolier

Jean Grolier (1479–1565), Secretary to Louis XII, Treasurer of the French Armies, patron of scholarship, music and literature, antiquary and numismatist, is still best remembered as a book collector. His library was one of the greatest of the Renaissance and established a fashion for fine books, beautifully bound. From the mid-1530s he began to commission bindings lettered with his characteristic motto: ‘Io. Grolierii et Amicorum’—’Belonging to Jean Grolier and Friends’.



Giovanni Guerra
Varie Acconciature di Teste usate da Nobilissime Dame in Diverse Cittadi d’Italia
Rome(?), c. 1589
Sixteenth-century Italian binding, gold tooled, additional tooling, Grolier arms and motto added c. 1870

The passion for fine bindings and the prices realised created a healthy market for fakes and forgeries. Purchased by Sandars as an extremely rare example of a binding executed for Jean Grolier, and bearing both his arms and motto, this binding is a fake. The arms and motto were added to a genuine sixteenth-century binding in the 1870s by two enterprising Italians, Monte and Vittorio Villa, who were also responsible for forging a series of letters from Christopher Columbus.



Johann Friedrich Mayer (1650–1712)
Betendes Kind Gottes in Dreyzehen Andachten über das Heilige Vater Unser
Leipzig: in der Grossischen Handlung, 1740
Mid-eighteenth-century German embossed silver binding

In the medieval period magnificent silver bindings were most frequently produced for high-status manuscripts and liturgical books, often for religious houses. By the eighteenth century centres of production had developed in Holland and Germany, producing embossed rather than engraved bindings for theological or devotional books, catering for a private market. This typical example, depicting bucolic, religious and allegorical scenes, is from northern Germany and was produced in the mid eighteenth century. Carbon cloth is placed beneath the volume to absorb contaminants and inhibit corrosion of the silver.



‘Sandars Book Bills’: receipted bills and correspondence
Various places, 1881–1893

Sandars’s receipt book provides an evocative insight into the book trade of the late nineteenth century and gives some indication of the sums collectors would part with to secure rare material. The receipt from the London bookseller Bernard Quaritch of 19 November 1888 details a list of bindings which reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of collectable names, including bindings attributed to Antoine Michel Padeloup, Jean-Claude Bozerian, Roger Payne, Christian Kalthoeber and Joseph Zähnsdorf. The last item detailed on the receipt is the Grolier binding displayed to the right, for which Sandars paid £63.

MS Add. 9944


Francis Jenkinson (1853–1923)


‘For the Historian of the Future’
Cambridge Magazine 4 (1915), p. 209

This public plea for donations to the Library was made in January 1915. Although the public did submit a wide variety of material to the Library as a result of appeals of this kind, it was Jenkinson’s personal contacts and individual letters of enquiry that supplied the bulk of the collection.



Francis Jenkinson (1853–1923)
Letter to Colonel J. H. Collett
Cambridge, 22 September 1916

Jenkinson wrote to Colonel Collett after reading in a newspaper that he had a connection with The Fifth Glo’ster Gazette. Collett forwarded the letter to the editor of the Gazette, who wrote a short reply on the reverse and returned it to Jenkinson. He feared that early numbers were no longer available, but said that he would ‘endeavour to keep you supplied with subsequent issues’.

MS Add. 6444/C/51


The Fifth Glo’ster Gazette, Number 13
July 1916

‘Trench journals’ (produced by troops for troops) abounded during the War. They generally shared a determined good humour, editorial pleas for contributions, and cartoons about trench life. Humorous titles were common, The Mudlark, The Mudhook, The Splint, and Dead Horse Corner Gazette being just some of those preserved in the War Reserve Collection. Twelve numbers of The Fifth Glo’ster Gazette (known in later issues as The Glo’ster Gazette) were sent to Jenkinson by the journal’s editor.



Battalion Orders, 5th Battalion Cheshire Regiment, 31/15
Cambridge, 4 February 1915

Some of the material received by Jenkinson came from official sources such as the armed forces, the War Office and the Foreign Office. A bundle of approximately 60 order sheets from the 5th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment were donated by E. W. Attwood. The order sheets date from the battalion’s time in Cambridge in early 1915; the document on display shows that on 4 February the drums of the battalion paraded on Chesterton Road in the north of the city.



Georg Barthelme
Aus meinem Amerikanischen Skizzenbuch
Köln: Du Mont Schauberg, 1918

Enemy propaganda was sent to Jenkinson from across the world, some of it produced by governments and other official bodies, but much of it produced by private businesses and citizens. This is a collection of essays first published in a Cologne newspaper from January to April 1918. The title translates as From my American Sketchbook. Barthelme’s pro-German sketches include ‘Whose War is it Anyway?’ and ‘Is There a Secret English-American Pact?’



England: Världens Lyckliggörare
Stockholm: Victor Pettersons Bokindustri…, 1918

This pro-German propaganda booklet sold for one krona. In words and pictures it attacks all facets of past and current English foreign policy. It ends by asking ‘What do the English fear like the plague?’, answering with the rhyming slogan ‘U-Boot—Englands Tot’ (‘U-Boats—England’s death’).



Envelopes bearing the mark of the censor from Jenkinson’s wartime correspondence

The parcels, packages and correspondence arriving at the Library for Jenkinson’s collection often caught the eye of the authorities. Jenkinson recorded in his diary in August 1915 that the War Office had assured him that material addressed to the Library would not be interfered with, but losses at the hands of the police were still subsequently recorded. These envelopes enclosed letters from W. R. Castle, Jr, sent in May and August 1916.

MSS Add. 6444/C/38 and 41


William Richards Castle, Jr (1878–1963)
Letter to Francis Jenkinson
Peach’s Point, Massachusetts, 31 August 1916

Castle, editor of the Harvard Graduates’ Magazine, first wrote to Jenkinson in March 1916, offering to send pro-German propaganda received by the magazine. He was concerned that the parcels have not arrived, and asked Jenkinson to let him know ‘whether any of the packages of pamphlets which I sent you have reached the Library. They left here some months ago and I should not like to think that they had been confiscated by the censor as the natural belief of the officials would be that I am pro-German and I want no one in the world to suspect me of such heresy as that.’

MS Add. 6444/C/41


Novelties in the War Reserve Collection

The War Reserve collection contains many unusual items, including two paper balloons used to drop leaflets (not suitable for display in the exhibition). The greetings card is one of several held in the collection, most of which were produced at Christmas time to be sent home. The Library’s collection of ‘trench money’ includes notes and coins used in France, Belgium, Germany Italy and Russia. The notes shown here were issued by Austria for use in conquered territory in Italy.



Marion Scott (1877–1953)


Joseph Haydn (1732–1809)
Three Sonatas for the Harpsichord or Pianoforte, with an Accompanyment for a Violin & Violoncello, Op. 40
London: printed by William Forster, 1785

Although these trios (Hoboken XV, 3–5) have been widely published under Haydn’s name, the first two sonatas are thought to be by Ignaz Pleyel and were apparently published as such around the same time (1785) by the publishers Longman and Broderip. A complicated law suit was involved and several theories circulate as to why and how they came to be published as works by Haydn. The third sonata is definitely by Haydn.



Joseph Haydn (1732–1809)
Symphonien, Band 1 (Joseph Haydns Werke; Serie 1)
Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, [1907]

Marion Scott made several annotations to the index of this first volume of the Breitkopf collected edition of Haydn symphonies, pointing to additional information on source materials and editions. This is an excellent example of how she approached her collecting and research, which would result in outputs such as her contribution to the Haydn article in Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1954), including for the first time a catalogue of Haydn’s works, predating the Hoboken thematic catalogue.



Marion Scott (1877–1953)
Catalogue of Haydn editions
England, twentieth century

Marion Scott collected many early Haydn editions and kept a detailed record of all the titles in this handwritten catalogue. She included bibliographical information as well as notes on where she acquired the items, and also kept a careful record of contents and condition. This page relates to an English edition of Op. 17 quartets, published in 1779 as Op. 9 by Longman and Broderip with a new plate number, but using plates from the earlier 1775 Welcker edition.



Johann Daniel Laurenz
Engraving of Haydn

As well as collecting texts and scores, Marion Scott was also interested in images of Haydn. This well-known portrait of the composer has been produced in numerous versions. The original design can be traced back to the oil painting and engraving (1791–1792) by the English painter Thomas Hardy. John Bland, a London music publisher, played an important role in the production of the original engraving. This version was redrawn in France (1802) by Alexandre Chaponnier and engraved in Berlin (1803) by Johann Daniel Laurenz. Haydn’s year of birth is mistakenly given as 1733.

Scott Collection, item 534


E. Gatteaux
Medal of Joseph Haydn

This medal is part of the ‘series numismatica/universalis virorum illustrum’ created by Durand between 1818 and 1846 and devoted to politicians and scientists as well as artists. The bust on the medal is based on another medal in the Scott Haydn collection, signed N. Gatteaux, and presented to Haydn after the first, and very successful, performance of the Creation in Paris in 1800. The design of both busts is after a drawing by V. G. Kiniger, 1799. Haydn’s date of birth is given as 1730 instead of 1732.

Scott Collection, item 545


Sir Geoffrey Keynes (1887–1982)


Rupert Brooke (1887–1915)
The Pyramids
Rugby: George E. Over, [1904]
The Bastille
Author’s proof: Rugby: A. J. Lawrence, 1905
The Bastille
First issue: Rugby: A. J. Lawrence, 1905

Brooke’s earliest poems in print survive in very small numbers. In 1904 the poet unsuccessfully entered The Pyramids for the Prize Poem at Rugby School. The following year he won the prize with The Bastille.Both were privately printed as pamphlets to be distributed to friends and family. On display are The Pyramids, Brooke’s first appearance in print, alongside the author’s page proof of The Bastille, bearing his corrections, and Brooke’s own copy of the corrected first issue.



The Phœnix: A Paper Edited by Members of Rugby School
Rugby: J. H. Pepperday, June 1904
The Vulture
Rugby: J. H. Pepperday, July 1904 and June 1905

Towards the end of his time at Rugby School Brooke began making contributions to periodicals, beginning with school magazines such as The Phœnix and The Vulture, before graduating to journals such as the Westminster Gazette, the Cambridge Review and Basileon. At the time Brooke was reticent to claim authorship of his juvenilia—many of the pieces are unsigned or initialled ‘E. R. T.’ It is only through Keynes’s intervention that many of these pieces can be attributed to Brooke.



Rupert Brooke (1887–1915)
‘The Baby’
England(?), no date

The poet Algernon Charles Swinburne devised and championed the highly-stylised roundel as a poetic form. The roundel has nine lines, each line having the same number of syllables, plus a refrain after the third line and after the last line, which must be identical with the beginning of the first line. The roundel’s rigorous form made it ripe for parody, as in this manuscript, where Brooke mocks Swinburne’s saccharine series Étude Réaliste.

From MS Add. 9833


Rupert Brooke (1887–1915)
‘Menelaus and Helen’
England, c. 1909

The 17 manuscript poems and fragments in this volume were all given to Keynes by Brooke or his mother. ‘Menelaus and Helen’ appeared in the only book published by Brooke in his lifetime—Poems (London, 1911). The poem was originally intended to be published in the Nation in 1910, but the stand-in editor, Henry Woodd Nevinson, objected to the concluding description of ‘gummy-eyed impotent’ Helen. Brooke was furious and visited Nevinson in person to remonstrate—the poem did not subsequently appear in the Nation.

MS Add. 8481, f. 5


New Numbers, Volume 1, Number 4
Ryton, Dymock, Gloucestershire: the contributors, 1914

The first publication of Brooke’s ‘War Sonnets’ appeared in the December 1914 issue of the short-lived periodical New Numbers. On 23 February 1915, en route to Gallipoli with the Royal Naval Division, Brooke contracted septicaemia from a mosquito bite and died. The poems captured the naïve patriotism of the early days of the War, and the poet’s death gave them an immediacy and poignancy which secured Brooke’s place and reputation as a ‘War Poet’.



Rupert Brooke (1887–1915)
Lithuania: A Drama in One Act
Chicago: The Chicago Little Theatre, 1915

Brooke’s stark one-act play Lithuania was one of several posthumous publications issued as his popularity increased in the years following his death. The striking cover was designed by the modernist painter Raymond Jonson (1891–1982), then employed as lighting, stage set, costume and graphics designer for the Chicago Little Theatre, America’s first experimental theatre. The design is printed in black and grey, making clever and effective use of the brown paper wrappers.



John Donne (1572–1631)
Two verse manuscripts and a page from an Album Amicorum
England, c. 1620–c. 1632

Keynes’s bibliography of John Donne, published in Cambridge in May 1914 by a society of book-lovers under the presidency of Francis Jenkinson, was the first of his single-author bibliographies. Keynes’s longstanding interest in Donne, first nurtured by Rupert Brooke, was the impetus behind some of his most outstanding purchases as a collector. The beautiful Leconfield Manuscript, probably produced between 1620 and 1632, is an important source for the establishment both of the text and the canon of Donne’s verse. The Luttrell Manuscript of c. 1632 is also valuable to editors of the poetry. Unlike these collections, the lines written on 27 September 1623 for inclusion in the album of Michael Corvinus are in Donne’s own hand.

MS Add. 8467, ff. 75v–76r
MS Add. 8468, ff. 104v–105r
MS Add. 8466


Mary Tighe (1772–1810)
‘Psyche or The Legend of Love’
England(?), 1808

‘The copies of Psyche printed for the author in her lifetime were borrowed with avidity, and read with delight’, according to a prefatory note in the posthumous reprint of 1811. Thomas Moore and John Keats were among those impressed by the poem. This manuscript version was made by M. Heath in 1808 from a copy sent by Tighe to a Dr Vaughan. The frontispiece and sepia-wash illustrations were tentatively attributed by Keynes to James Heath.

MS Add. 8454, p. 72


John Clare (1793–1864)
Letter to James Augustus Hessey
England (Helpstone?), early July 1820

Although the Northamptonshire peasant-poet John Clare was never central to Keynes’s bibliographical interests, he acquired four of Clare’s letters and an inscribed copy of his first book, Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery. In Bibliotheca Bibliographici, the printed catalogue of his library, Keynes described this letter as being ‘to an unnamed correspondent’, ‘n.d.’; Mark Storey’s 1985 edition of Clare’s correspondence identified James Augustus Hessey as the recipient, and early July 1820 as the date.

MS Add. 8525/1


Virginia Woolf (1882–1941)
‘On Being Ill’
London, 24 October 1925

Virginia Woolf told Keynes that she had found writing her article ‘On Being Ill’ hard—‘hence I am all the gladder that you, who are an authority, liked it.’ Keynes’s eminence as a surgeon was also alluded to by Leonard Woolf in August 1942, when, just over a year after his wife’s death, he gave him the autograph first draft of the work, which, he wrote, ‘in some ways it is appropriate you should have’.

MS Add. 8472, ff. 4v–5r


Sir Edmund Gosse (1849–1928)
‘The World of Books: Sir Thomas Browne’
London, May 1928

The final literary production of the prolific man of letters Edmund Gosse, written a few days before his death, was a review for the Sunday Times of Keynes’s edition of Sir Thomas Browne’s Works. The newspaper reproduced part of Gosse’s manuscript in facsimile, noting that he had been ‘unable to sit up’, and so his handwriting ‘lacked its wonted clearness and beauty.’ Gosse’s son Philip presented Keynes with these ‘very last lines my Father wrote’.

MS Add. 8461, f. 2


Edmund Blunden (1896–1974)
‘To Diana After a Performance of Dryden’s “Secular Masque”’
[England, c. 1939?]

Edmund Blunden played Chronos in a performance of John Dryden’s short lyrical drama in 1939. The role of Diana was taken by Joan Appleton, of whom Blunden wrote that ‘For clear beauty like to the clear in highest sphere I never saw the equal’. Keynes and Blunden became friends in the 1930s after renewing their acquaintance at Siegfried Sassoon’s house in Wiltshire; Keynes called Blunden ‘one of the most beautiful personalities I had ever known.’

MS Add. 8523/2


Gilbert de Botton (1935–2000)


Titus Lucretius Carus (first century BC)
Titi Lucretii Cari De Rerum Natura Libri Sex
Parisiis, et Lugduni habentur [Paris and Lyons]: in Gulielmi Rouillii, et Philippi G. Rouillii Nep. ædibus, via Jacobæ sub concordia, 1563 [i.e. 1564?]

De Botton acquired ten books known to have belonged to Montaigne - a remarkable achievement, making this the third largest collection of Montaigne’s books after those of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and the Bibliothèque Municipale, Bordeaux. Of the highest importance is Montaigne’s copy of Lucretius, whose influence on Montaigne is evident from the heavy annotations to text and flyleaves. Montaigne also records the date when he finished reading the book—16 October 1564, at the age of thirty-one.

This manuscript is available in the Cambridge Digital Library.




Pierre-Michel Alix (1762–1817)
Portrait of Michel de Montaigne
Colour aquatint, 1792

The French printmaker Pierre-Michel Alix was well known for his colour aquatint portraits of famous figures of the French Revolution and Napoleonic era. This portrait, after one by Etienne Ficquet of 1772, itself modelled on a seventeenth-century painting in the Musée Condé, Chantilly, sometimes attributed (as here) to a member of the Dumonstier family, was printed by Béchet for the Collection des Grands Hommes.

From the Montaigne Library



Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592)
Essais de Messire Michel Seigneur de Montaigne, Chevalier de l’Ordre du Roy, & Gentil-homme Ordinaire de sa Chambre
A Bourdeaus: par S. Millanges imprimeur ordinaire du Roy, 1580. Vol. 1

Montaigne’s Essais were printed in Bordeaux in 1580 and revised throughout his lifetime. More properly understood as ‘trials’ or ‘attempts’ than essays in the modern sense, they cover an extraordinary range of subjects from friendship, philosophy and the fear of death, to conversation, cannibals and the custom of wearing clothes. De Botton’s collection includes two copies of the first edition—the one on display belonged to the poet and playwright Ben Jonson (1572–1637), whose inscription is at the foot of the title-page.



Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592)
Les essais de Michel Seigneur de Montaigne
Edition nouvelle enrichie d’a[n]notations en marge
A Paris: [chez Michel Nivelle or Jean Petit-pas or Claude Rigaud or la veuve Dominique Salis or Charles Sevestre], 1608

This is Napoleon Bonaparte’s copy of the Essais, from his library on St Helena. The binding is decorated with a crowned initial ‘N’ and bees, one of Napoleon’s symbols. Five different versions of the engraved title-page are known to exist, with different booksellers’ names, but the title-page of this copy is wanting. The 1608 edition was the first to include the ‘Sommaire discours sur la vie de Michel, Seigneur de Montaigne’ and sidenotes summarising the text.



Voltaire (1694–1778)
Letter to the Comte du Tressan
Paris, 21 August 1746

De Botton collected numerous works of criticism about Montaigne, including this autograph letter from Voltaire, in which he expresses his admiration for Montaigne’s originality, but especially his capacity for doubt: ‘Toujours original dans la maniere donc il presente les objets, toujours plein d’imagination toujours peintre, et ce que jaime, toujours sachant douter’ (‘Always original in the presentation of his objects, always full of imagination, always a painter and, what I love, always capable of doubt’).

MS Add. 9961