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. 

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