Monday, 14 November 2011

The Cwm Collection continues to expand!

Initially, only 107 volumes were thought to have survived from the 1679 raid of the Cwm, and these are described and listed by Dr Geraint Bowen in his two-part article ‘The Jesuit Library in Hereford Cathedral’, (Bulletin of the Association of British Theological and Philosophical Libraries, Vol 20 pp13-34 and Vol 21 pp17-27, 1965). A later addition to the list of books, published by Dr Bowen in The National Library of Wales Journal (Vol XXIII, 1983-4), noted that a further 41 volumes had been discovered at the Cathedral that were known to have formed part of the Cwm library due to their provenance and other marks. This made a total of 148 books now known to have survived from the Cwm.

Over the intervening years, several other books had been identified as also likely to have come from the Cwm, due to the provenance of the books (where identifiable), the subject matter and other factors. At the start of this project, September 2011, the list of books known or likely to have come from the Cwm stood at nearly 200.

As the Cathedral Library and Archives are also in the middle of digitising the catalogue for the Chained Library; and several of the latterly-identified Cwm books had come from the Chained Library, it was thought that the best approach would be to go through the books that have yet to be digitised and make a note of any that could also have come from the Cwm. Tessa and myself have spent the last few weeks working through the remaining books (see image) and have so far discovered another potential 50 books that may have come to the Cathedral from the raid on the Cwm in 1679. 

The examination of the chained books caused great interest amongst volunteers and visitors alike, with lots of interest in how the books were handled, how the chains worked, what was actually inside the books and how easy they were to read. Everyone was also very pleased to see that this wonderful old library was still very much a working library with lots to offer a researcher!

The 50 or so books identified by us so far have been broken down into the following categories:

  1. Books with names or inscriptions that are on existing Cwm books
  2. Books printed by, for or about the Society of Jesus; or those inscribed with ‘College St Francis Xavier’ or ‘SJ’ [Societatis Jesu]
  3. Books written or printed by authors or printers that are associated with existing Cwm books
  4. Books which need further investigation – these are not obviously related to the Cwm but cannot be ruled out yet due to subject matter, place of publication or inscriptions of the names of known recusants
 We still have several more shelves to go through, so yet more may be found – watch this space!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Welcome to the project!

Welcome to the first post in this exciting new project blog! The project began in September 2011, when the first in-depth analysis of the Cwm Jesuit Library was started at Hereford Cathedral Library and Archives. 

The aim of the project is to analyse and contextualise the Cwm Jesuit Library collection, which was taken to Hereford Cathedral in early 1679 following its seizure at the Cwm, Llanrothal, Herefordshire, the headquarters of the territorial College of St Francis Xavier. This 'College' (an administrative term rather than an educational establishment) was an extensive missionary sub-division of the English Province of the Society of Jesus, covering the southern half of Wales, including Monmouthshire, as well as the English counties of Gloucester, Hereford and Somerset. The Cwm collection, which has never previously been analysed thoroughly, is one of only two surviving from all 14 missionary sub-divisions or provinces of the English Province of the Society of Jesus, and as such is an important seventeenth-century survival, which promises to throw important new light on early Jesuit missionary enterprise in South Wales and the Marches. 

This is a three-year joint project between Swansea University and Hereford Cathedral, funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), and under the supervision of Professor Maurice Whitehead at Swansea University. The project will form the basis of a PhD thesis, which is expected to be submitted in September 2014. 

The Cwm Jesuit Library arrived at Hereford in late 1678/9 under the direction of Bishop Herbert Croft, when the Jesuit College of St Francis Xavier at the Cwm in Llanrothal near Hereford was raided as a reaction to the so-called but non-existent 'Popish Plot'. Initially, only around 100 books were thought to have survived, but recent research has discovered another 100 or so books believed to have come from the Cwm that had been stored elsewhere in Hereford Cathedral Library. This extended Cwm Library Collection of approximately 190 volumes has now been fully catalogued, and is available to search online via the library website:  

Bishop Herbert Croft described the books brought from the Cwm as "Divinity books and others in Folio and Quarto and many other lesser books, several horse loads ... many whereof are written by the principal learned Jesuits ... fifteen or sixteen several printed books containing the Decrees of the several Congregations of that Society [of Jesus] at Rome ... several books lately written and printed against the Protestant religion and many small Popish Catechisms printed and tyed up in a bundle; ... some Welsh Popish books lately written and some Popish manuscripts fairly and lately written ...  

[Herbert Croft, A short narrative of the discovery of a college of Jesuits at a place called the Come in the county of Hereford... (London: Printed by TN for Charles Harper at the Flower de luce against St Dunstan’s Church in Fleetstreet, 1679), Hereford Cathedral Library and Archives, reference H.P.271.5]

As the project progresses, it is hoped that much more will be discovered about the provenance of these books, their printers and booksellers, and of course the role of the Jesuits and the Cwm as part of the maintenance and survival of the recusant community in south Wales and the Marches in this crucial period of history.  

All feedback, comments and questions are always welcomed, and we hope you enjoy following the development of this fascinating research project. Thanks for your time!