Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Conferences: good for the soul!

The last few weeks have been quite busy on the Cwm library project, and have involved attending several fascinating conferences and giving papers.

First was the annual Swansea University Arts & Humanities Postgraduate Conference, held in the university's Wallace building on Friday 12 October. The theme of this year's conference was 'Crossing Borders and Pushing Boundaries': a specific, yet surprisingly widely interpreted theme that resulted in a wide variety of fascinating papers that truly demonstrated the breadth of research being undertaken at the several departments that make up the College of Arts & Humanities.

I presented a paper on the Cwm project to date, through the lens of the borders and boundaries theme. This enabled me to reinterpret my research thus far from a wholly new perspective, and to really emphasise the importance of borders in ensuring the survival of the Jesuit community at the Cwm. Proceedings of the conference will hopefully be published in the near future - watch this space!

I was also invited to give an update on the progress of the project to the Herefordshire Catholic History Society at their bi-annual meeting at the beautiful Belmont Abbey on 16 October - a small but very interested group of members were pleased to hear that the project was progressing well, and to hear updated numbers of books discovered, work currently being undertaken on provenance marks as well as the trials and tribulations of trying to piece together the history of this illusive library! Other papers given included an extract from research being undertaken on St Roger Cadwallader, which forms part of a forthcoming, much needed, biography on the saint.

Most recently, I attended a one day conference in London, organised by CELL (the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters) in Queen Mary University, London on 9 November. 'The Permissive Archive' Conference covered a wide variety of interpretations on the ups and downs of archival research, how research on one topic in the archives can often lead to new and unexpected avenues of research, and the various ways in which the archive is 'permissive', either as a result of permissions (or restrictions) from the archivist, different storage methods and of course, struggles with particularly horrible examples of palaeography!

It was a fascinating day, and gave me some new perspectives on the nature of my work in both the library and the archives, and highlighted lots of brilliant new research that is being conducted at the moment up and down the country. Lots more information on the conference website (see link above)

Conferences are always good for the soul - I always come away from a conference feeling refreshed and re-energised towards my research, and (more often than not) with new ideas, a different perspective, and new angles to explore. They are also a great way to engage with other academics, either working in the same field, or working in a totally different one - all researchers sometimes feel isolated and alone, due to the varied nature of the work we do, and it is always good to meet up with other people in the same position as yourself. If nothing else, having to explain your research to somebody with little or no background knowledge of your topic in a concise 'coffee-break' conversation is always challenging, and great practice for getting to grips with the essentials of the project and conveying them!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Bridging the Gaps: A week of research at Raglan Castle

Recently, I have been involved in a fascinating project at Raglan Castle, home of the Somerset family until 1646, and a key location for the early patronage and protection of the recusant community.

The bowling green and moat walk at Raglan Castle
The project, entitled ‘Bowling Balls or Hidden Halls?’, has been funded by the Bridging the Gaps [BTG] initiative at Swansea University, a collaborative programme that supports projects and activities which foster and develop interdisciplinary research (more information can be found at www.swansea.ac.uk/btg)

Our project, led by Professor Maurice Whitehead, was an interdisciplinary collaboration between the History and Classics Department and the Geography Department at Swansea University to combine historical knowledge with geophysical surveying techniques to learn more about the construction of the castle, particularly during the time of Edward Somerset (1550-1628), fourth earl of Worcester, who was responsible for landscaping the extensive Italian-influenced gardens and developing the moat walk and bowling green.

The team consisted of Professor Maurice Whitehead (History) and Dr Bernd Kulessa (Geography), Hannah Thomas (PhD student in History), Donna Carless (PhD student in Geography) and Dr Adam Booth (Imperial College, London):

Donna Carless                             Maurice Whitehead
Hannah Thomas             Adam Booth

The main aim of the week was to try and establish how the bowling green and terraces had evolved during their construction, and if either had been built over any existing structures that had since remained hidden. Both the bowling green and the terraces have remarkably thin retaining walls that have supported the enormous volume of both structures through nearly four centuries of Welsh rain, without showing the least sign of giving way or leakage, and it is this phenomenon that we hope to gain a better understanding of, using geophysical methods.

We used two non-invasive methods to analyse the bowling green and terraces at Raglan Castle. The first was ground penetrating radar: a sort of X-ray for the ground, which works by transmitting radio waves through the ground to be reflected by hidden features. The reflections highlight contrasts in the soil (for example, a large stone buried in a wet soil will create a contrast) and enable an outline of any buried features to be constructed. The radar is pulled along on a type of sled over a carefully measured out grid, in vertical lines, which can be viewed on the monitor attached to the radar as the data is being gathered. All of the lines will then be placed next to each other during processing and analysis to enable a picture of the whole area to be constructed:

ground penetrating radar 
the radar in action!

The second method that we used was resistivity tomography: a method that sends an electrical current through the ground. The readings are then analysed to establish how conductive or resistive any buried features are, which enables us to establish what they might be constructed of (for example, the conductivity of air vs. that of water is quite different, and allows them to be identified beneath the surface). Similarly to the radar, the data is collected in lines within carefully measured grids, and is processed and analysed to allow a picture of the whole area to be established:

Donna with the resistivity equipment

 Detailed analysis of our findings is currently taking place, and a paper will be presented on the research during Swansea University's Interdisciplinary Research Week in February 2013. The week offered a chance to learn about a whole new discipline, and all members of the team thoroughly enjoyed learning about the 'other', despite the terrible weather and torrential rain that were an unfortunately predominant feature of the whole week! Members of the public and visitors to the castle were also very interested in what we were doing and the methods we were using, and many of them left infected with enthusiasm for uncovering the hidden secrets of Raglan Castle 

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Catalogues, Castles and Jesuit Colleges

The last few weeks have been extremely busy in the Cwm Project. The main focus of my work at Hereford Cathedral Library has been trying to establish exactly what arrived at Hereford from the Cwm in 1678/9, when this was first treated as a distinct collection, and what (if any) records survive of catalogues, or lists, or any other notes of the books and papers within the collection. 

Currently, after many hours of sifting through boxes of notes, drafts, works in progress and lists compiled by several previous librarians at the Cathedral, still no list of what came from the Cwm to the Cathedral seems to have been made prior to Geraint Bowen's article 'The Jesuit Library in Hereford Cathedral' published in Bulletin of the Association of British Theological and Philosophical Libraries, Vol 20 (1965) and Vol 21 (1965), pp.13-34 and pp.17-27 respectively.

I have been focusing on the work of three librarians in particular, who all made an enormous difference to the way the library at Hereford was organised, looked after and enabled the survival of many of the precious items within the library that would otherwise have been lost. Francis Tebbs Havergal (1830-1890) who was appointed Deputy Librarian in 1854, F C Morgan (1878-1978) who started voluntarily working at the Cathedral Library after his retirement in 1945 and his daughter Penelope E Morgan (1916-1990) who began helping her father with his work at the Cathedral Library after her retirement in 1953: both were appointed Honorary Librarian in recognition of their work. All three worked tirelessly to catalogue and list the many books (in several locations before the lovely current building was extended and opened in 1996) and to reorganise the whole function of the library as a working research repository. Penelope Morgan in particular has been of the most relevant value to my work, especially her Retrospective Accession Register (compiled c.1985) which details sources and donors of books where known, and lists all the books in the chronological order that they were received into the library.

However, as I still have not been able to locate a list or a catalogue of the Cwm collection in any of these papers, the next stage of this part of my research is to pick a few sample books that we now know are definitely from the Cwm and follow them through the several catalogues of the library to try and piece together the story of the Cwm books during their time at Hereford Cathedral. Existing catalogues are:

  1. Donors Book, compiled from 1611 
  2. c.1718 catalogue
  3. 1745 catalogue
  4. 1749 catalogue
  5. 1780 catalogue
  6. 1857 catalogue
  7. Card catalogue, started c.1880
  8. Slip catalogues, started c.1950
  9. Online catalogue

I  have also been able to go and visit several key locations to the project in the last few weeks. I was invited to join Professor Maurice Whitehead and his third year undergraduate students from Swansea University on their visit to Raglan Castle and the Cwm as part of their work for the module entitled 'From Fear to Freedom: Catholics and the State, 1559-1829' at Swansea University:

The day's adventures began in Raglan Castle, originally held by the Herbert family until the marriage of Elizabeth Herbert and Charles Somerset (1st Earl of Worcester) in 1492, when it passed into the Somerset family, where it remained until the castle's surrender on 19th August 1646, during the Civil War. The Somerset family were staunch supporters of the recusant community after the Reformation, and used their enormous wealth and power to ensure the survival of the recusant community, and indeed, the Catholic faith, in the Monnow Valley and surrounding areas.

Several members of the Somerset family were of particular importance to the recusant cause, and supported and maintained the local recusant community from their base at Raglan. Key members of the family were Sir Edward Somerset (1550-1628), fourth Earl of Worcester; his daughter Lady Frances Somerset (d.c.1632) and her husband William Morgan of Llantarnam (d.c.1633), as well as their son Sir Edward Morgan (d.1653), first Baronet Llantarnam. The vast network of recusant connections and support from both the Somerset and the Morgan family continued to foster the survival of the Catholic community in the Marches for many generations and above all secure financial assistance in the form of an annual income that allowed the College of St Francis Xavier to be officially set up by 1622.

Our field trip was rounded up by a visit to the Cwm itself, now privately owned by a very welcoming couple who were all too eager to show us around. We timed the visit very well in terms of the weather, and were lucky enough to be able to eat our lunch in their lovely garden, looking at the amazing view and admiring the Jesuits choice of location in the Monnow Valley!

Monday, 27 February 2012

Between the Covers: Evidence of Readers

Cat. Ref: N.2.15
As promised in the last post, analysis of inscriptions and marginalia in the Cwm collection is now underway, and it is hoped this will start to put some more flesh on the bones of existing knowledge about the Cwm collection. Who used the books? Who owned the books? How did they get to the Cwm? It is important to remember that the Cwm collection is not just important for its religious significance, but also for its part in the history of the book and the early ideologies of book collecting, with the earliest book in the collection dating from 1503. 

With this in mind, the analysis of any marks or inscriptions in the volumes themselves can help to place the books individually, and the collection as a whole, in its proper place in ‘book culture’, and start to piece together a rounded idea of the Cwm Jesuit Library as a working collection of books.

Many of the books have scribbles and notes in the margins, indicating that previous readers have not only read the book, but have engaged with the information contained within it by analysing it and noting its significant points. This is often indicated by a particular mark in the margin next to key pieces of text, much like an asterisk or similar. Many of these take the form of the pointing hand (F), which William Sherman has termed ‘the manicule’ in his recent fascinating book Used Books: Marking Readers in Renaissance England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008)

These ‘manicules’ are sometimes ready printed on to the page to draw readers attention to a significant passage, or are drawn by the reader next to parts of the text they found particularly interesting or useful:
Cat. Ref: U.3.8
Cat. Ref: U.16.2

 Sherman also points out that these manicules were often personalised so that an individual reader could be identified from his annotations; such as the distinctive manicules of John Dee and Archbishop Matthew Parker (see Sherman, Used Books, pp.29-37)

Cat. Ref: U.4.20

Cat. Ref: U.3.8
There are several varieties of ‘manicule’ featured in the Cwm collection, from the printed (above) to the hand drawn, and they are extremely varied in detail, not to mention anatomical accuracy! Some are very basic outlines, sometimes with notes on the essential passage and key phrases underlined, whilst others are more detailed, and others still are little more than arrows.

Another point worth noting is that the majority of readers seem only able to draw a manicule pointing to text on the right. The example above of the manicule pointing upwards is the only one in the collection; whilst the example below of the manicule on the right of the text it needs to point at only able to be drawn pointing away from the text in the standard position. 

 Interestingly, the marginalia and manicules in the Cwm collection seem to show that the books were used by a variety of readers, who all felt the need to mark the text in their own way: at least 3 of the examples shown here are all from the same book, and are more than likely done by different readers, each engaging with the text in different ways and for different reasons.

Cat. Ref: U.3.8 


More evidence from Between the Covers soon...

PS - All images are Ó Hereford Cathedral Library and Archives and should NOT be copied or used in any way. Thank you for your understanding in this. 

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Project Update

Happy New Year! Time has flown by since the last post and the project is progressing rapidly!

All catalogues, lists and other finding aids available at Hereford Cathedral Library have now been looked at and cross referenced, and one list of about 350 potential books from the Cwm listed. All 350 books have been examined for marks of Cwm provenance or other signs that they may have come to the cathedral from the Cwm. The 350 books break down as follows:

1. 201 books that are definitely from the Cwm
2. 37 books that are probably from the Cwm, based on marks of ownership, subject material or other provenance records
3. 78 books that are written by or about the Society of Jesus, with no other information to tie them to the Cwm
4. 14 of the books have been ruled out as extremely unlikely to have come from the Cwm as existing information suggests they probably came from elsewhere
5. Finally, 20 of the books have only so far been put in the 'query' category, as not enough information exists to rule them out, or definitely include them. More work to be done on these!

These have all been organised into various files and folder, and have also all been entered into my database, which allows them all to be cross referenced and easily searched. Next task is to analyse them in groups according to marks or inscriptions - more on this to follow soon!

Books aside, the other areas of the project have also been developing. The week before last I was lucky enough to be invited to the second ever meeting of the Herefordshire Catholic History Society, a newly formed group of individuals with wide and varied research interests in all aspects of the Catholic history of Herefordshire and the surrounding areas. Those present at the meeting in the beautiful setting of Belmont Abbey were treated to a detailed and fascinating overview of the recently catalogued archives of the Abbey by archivist Brenda Warde who is also Secretary of the Society. Brenda kindly brought several samples of the many fascinating items available at the archive, as well as printed summaries of the catalogues. Research queries should be directed to Brenda via the Abbey website.

Chairman Desmond Keohane also invited me to give an overview of my research and the Cwm project to the Society, which everyone seemed very interested in, and I have duly paid my membership for the year and promised to come back and give a detailed talk on the project in due course! The group meets again in April and is always keen to welcome new members.

The meeting also allowed me to make contact with Mrs Margaret Kelly, who used to live in the Cwm farmhouse that the Jesuits used, and is extremely knowledgeable about the history of her former home! She was able to give me many useful snippets and several new leads to follow up. Mrs Kelly also very kindly took me back to the Cwm with her and put me up for the night, which allowed me to get a real feel for the truly isolated location of the farm, as well as its ideal location near 3 county borders, as well as the Wales-England border.

Borders were of course extremely important for the Jesuits at the Cwm and the recusant community, as pursuing JP's only had jurisdiction within their own county, so to be able to flee into a different county (or country!) reduced the chances of capture. It was a real privilege to get a glimpse of the day to day surroundings of the Jesuit community at the Cwm, and an experience I hope to repeat soon!