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!