Friday, 27 September 2013

Between the covers: Evidence of owners

In this post I am going to focus on one set of inscriptions that appears with some frequency within the Cwm collection - the signature of Edward Poyntz (c.1570-1615). Those of you who have heard me present papers at various conferences over the last few months will have been made aware of the significance of these inscriptions.

Poyntz's signature appears on 25 of the books, all printed between 1564 and 1605. The inscriptions usually feature an abbreviated form of his name, a price, a date that is often 1605 and his motto 'Potiora Spero' (I hope for better), as in the illustration below (click here for more information):

C.3.1 - In Canticum Canticorum (Paris: 1603) 

Edward Poyntz was a member of the well known Catholic family of Iron Acton in Gloucestershire, as well as Tockington and Caerleon in Monmouthshire. He was the son of Sir Nicholas Poyntz (1537-1585) and his second wife, Lady Margaret Stanley (d. 1586), and as such has all but been ignored from official family records. 

Poyntz seems to have been an active member of the Catholic community, described in a 1605 report by the High Sheriff of Herefordshire as being "altogether Jesuited". The same report connects William Morgan of Llantarnam with "Jones the Jesuit, the firebrand of all", illustrating the strong links between members of the clandestine catholic community that analysis of the Cwm library begins to unlock. 

The Poyntz family were notoriously Catholic - it was said by superstitious locals that when Edward's father Sir Nicholas Poyntz died in 1585, thousands of ravens rested on his house and the nearby church where he was buried for a whole month afterwards.

Eventually my research led me to Edward Poyntz's will, made in October 1613 and proved shortly after he died in September 1615, which contained a rather significant bequest that "he bequeath all his bookes to Nicholas and John Poyntz his sonnes to be equallie parted between them." (TNA PROB 11/126)

A bit more research revealed that his youngest son John Poyntz (1602-1671) entered the Society of Jesus a few years later, professing his four vows in 1640 having been ordained in 1633. John is more commonly known by his alias John Stephens and by his other two aliases of Campion or Scripsam, which is why the connection had not been made before with the more famous Poyntz family of Iron Acton. Jesuit records state that John Stephens (vere Poyntz) served at the College of St Francis Xavier between 1640 and 1646, which is presumably how Edward Poyntz's books ended up as part of the Cwm library. 

This case casts an interesting light onto how the Cwm library may have been formed, highlighting the  possibility that it is in fact composed of several personal collections, somewhat haphazardly added in to the core Jesuit collection. 

Monday, 26 August 2013

Where is the Cwm?

The Cwm has often been casually referred to in this project blog, and I realised (to my horror) that I had never geographically located the premises, nor indeed the other two farms of the Upper Cwm and Llangunville that made up the headquarters of the Jesuit College of St Francis Xavier, or the Welsh District of the English Province. 

Upon the creation of the English Province of the Society of Jesus in 1622, it was decided that the best way to manage this newly created province would be to divide England and Wales into districts, each described as you can see here as residences or colleges:

From Maurice Whitehead 'To provide for the edifice of learning': researching 450 years of Jesuit education and cultural history with particular reference to the British Jesuits, History of Education, 36 (2007), p.123. 

The terms 'college' or 'residence' denote financial position and ability to secure funds - a 'college' indicates a secure annual income, whereas a 'residence' relied on donations and was therefore less secure. Each district roughly equates to a geographical county, as you can see on the map, and it was felt this would enable efficient administration whilst still allowing operations to remain relatively undetected. 

The Cwm farms were headquarters of the largest district - the Welsh mission, which initially encompassed area 4 and area 11 - all of Wales, Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Somerset. By 1670, the area had been reduced to a more manageable size (area 4), the Residence of St Winefride had been created in North Wales (area 11), and the College of St Francis Xavier was now the South Wales, Hereford, Gloucester and Somerset district. 

The Cwm itself is indicated by the little black dot just above the River Severn: a tripartite settlement of the Cwm, the Upper Cwm and Llangunville farms in the Monnow Valley on the borders of Wales and England, as well as near the three county borders of Herefordshire, Monmouthshire and Gloucestershire. The area had developed rapidly as a Catholic stronghold in the post-reformation period. 

A closer look at the area shows the proximity of the farms to the better known locations of Monmouth and Hereford, as well as to Raglan:

Map courtesy of Professor Maurice Whitehead, Swansea University

A zoomed in map gives a better idea of the locations of the three farms in relation to each other, as well as the surrounding terrain, and it is worth noting that you cannot see either of the other properties from any one farm:

Grid Reference: SO 4890 1763
Although none of the original farmhouses survive today, it is still possible to get an idea of the way it would have looked when occupied by the Jesuits. Many of the barns and other farm buildings on all three sites are the original 17th century buildings, and the cellars of both The Cwm and the Upper Cwm are also from the same period. The area is still difficult to access, even with modern vehicles, and it is very easy to understand the Jesuits choice of location in this beautiful and secluded valley. 

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

'World is Our House' - some photos!

I am very grateful to Gordon Taylor LRPS who has provided me with these images of the day - all images are the property of Gordon, and should not be used or copied in any way

College Hall, Hereford Cathedral - packed with delegates!

Speakers in Panel 1 (L-R):
Professor Peter Davidson, University of Aberdeen
Dr Adam Mosley, Swansea University
Dr Peter Leech, Swansea University
Speakers and organisers in the beautiful Cloister Gardens (L-R): Canon Chris Pullin, Dr Rosemary Firman,
Professor Maurice Whitehead, Dr Adam Mosley, Hannah Thomas, Professor Peter Davidson, Janet Graffius,
Dr Peter Leech, Revd Dr Thomas McCoog, SJ

Hannah Thomas speaking to delegates from the Irish Jesuit Archives Damien Burke and Vera Orschel

Speakers in Panel 2 (L-R):
Janet Graffius, Curator of Special Collections,
Stonyhurst College

Hannah Thomas, Swansea University

Revd Dr Thomas McCoog, SJ, Fordham University, New York and Archivist of the British Province of the Society of Jesus, London

Monday, 24 June 2013

The World is Our House - a successful symposium!

This Friday, 21 June 2013, the 'World is Our House' symposium took place in the beautiful College Hall, Hereford Cathedral, followed by an evening concert in the nearby St Francis Xavier's RC Church, Broad Street, Hereford.

The title of the conference. 'the World is Our House' was chosen to embrace the core concept of the Society of Jesus that God is everywhere and can be served in every way, without the restrictions of a more traditional monastic way of life. One aim of the conference was to demonstrate how cohesive and connected every element of the Jesuit way of being is, even something as seemingly localised as the Cwm library is part of a bigger international tapestry. The phrase was used by Jerome Nadal SJ (1507-1580), an extremely important and influential early member of the Society of Jesus, who played a huge role in the success and growth of the Society.

Jerome Nadal, SJ (1507-1580)

The 'World is Our House' conference was a huge success - a sell out crowd of some 85 delegates from a huge variety of organisations and institutions attended to hear the six papers, as well as view the three exhibitions of Peter Leech's rare books and other items of Jesuitica, a display of some of the key inscriptions and texts from the Cwm Jesuit Library at Hereford Cathedral (pictured) and the beautiful embroidered 17th century chalice veils made by Helena Wintour and Mary Bodenham, which are on loan to Hereford Cathedral until the end of August. 

Cwm books on display in Hereford Cathedral Library & Archives Reading Room
The conference was opened by Canon Chris Pullin and Professor Maurice Whitehead, both of whom spoke of their individual experiences and connections with the Cwm Jesuit Library Project. The opening comments also set the aim of the day, which was to set the seventeenth century Cwm Jesuit Library in an international context, and to draw links between the Cwm library and the wider international Jesuit ideas, ideals and culture. 

The morning papers were focused on setting the scene, and introducing the Jesuits as an active and varied organisation in many areas of 17th century culture. Papers included the Jesuits and Art, 1540-1700 (Professor Peter Davidson, University of Aberdeen), the Jesuits and Science, 1540-1700 (Dr Adam Mosley, Swansea University) and the Jesuits and Music, 1540-1750 (Dr Peter Leech, Swansea University). All three papers were very well received, prompting a stimulating discussion and many interesting questions.

Over lunch time, delegates had the chance to view the three exhibitions, as well as the Hereford Mappa Mundi and Chained Library exhibition. 

After lunch, the focus of the afternoon papers shifted to a regional perspective, with papers specifically discussing the Jesuits in England and Wales, 1580-1700 (Reverend Dr Thomas McCoog, SJ, Fordham University, New York and Archivist of the British Province of the Society of Jesus, London) and Helena Wintour and Jesuit vestment-making in 17th century Worcestershire (Janet Graffius, Curator of Special Collections, Stonyhurst College). 

The final paper of the day was an overview of the Cwm Jesuit Library Project at Hereford Cathedral (Hannah Thomas, Swansea University), presenting delegates with the story of the project so far: discoveries made, key inscriptions identified and analysed, big research questions currently still unanswered and next steps that the project is going to take. Hannah's paper will be published in part in the next few blog posts, so keep an eye out for that! I would also be delighted if other delegates would like to contribute their own feedback and reviews of the day to the project blog at 

After lots of interesting questions and discussion, and ways to further enhance the project, the symposium part of the day was drawn to a close. Both Canon Chris Pullin and Maurice Whitehead gave thanks for the hard work of the Hereford Cathedral staff and volunteers who had made the day possible, as well as the generous sponsorship of the Jesuit Institute in London, the British Province of the Society of Jesus and an anonymous donor, who made the whole day possible. 

Delegates were given the opportunity to attend the exhibitions once more, which remained open until 5.15, and also to attend Choral Evensong in Hereford Cathedral, which featured specially chose unaccompanied 17th century music.

Finally, the day was rounded up with a fantastic concert of music associated with Jesuit Colleges in the early modern era, 1600-1750. Performed by Cappella Fede under the direction of Dr Peter Leech, the evening featured a range of musical pieces by William Byrd, Matthew Locke, Marc-Antoine Charpentier and others, and included the first modern performances of some recent archival discoveries that have not been heard since the 17th century. The concert took place at the nearby St Francis Xavier's RC Church, Hereford: the institutional successor of the Cwm as the headquarters of the College of St Francis Xavier, or the Welsh District, and therefore a fitting end to a fabulous day. 

Friday, 15 March 2013

Unlocking the Private Library at Winchester College

The last post made it 13 blog posts so far, so I thought I had better churn another one out ASAP to move away from the 'unlucky number'

As mentioned in my last post, I was recently invited to speak at 'Unlocking the Private Library', a one day symposium organised by PhD student Carly Watson and her supervisor Dr Geoffrey Day (librarian of Winchester College) to celebrate the diverse range of collaborative doctoral research being undertaken around the UK at the moment. All of the research discussed was supported by the AHRC, and everyone who presented a paper is analysing and contextualising a little-known library or book collection, such as the Thistlethwayte gift to the Fellows Library at Winchester, the Hurd Library at Hartlebury Castle, and of course, the Cwm Jesuit Library at Hereford Cathedral!

The range of papers was incredible, and it was brilliant to see that so much amazing work is being done in this country to record and preserve our literary heritage, as well as telling the story of library and book history more generally, and the important connections and contexts that can be gathered by using the books as a starting point.

It was also very nice to be speaking as part of a panel on catholic books and libraries - other papers in this section included Abbot Geoffrey Scott talking about the Benedictine collection at Douai Abbey, and Dr Simon Johnson talking about the vast array of material at Downside Abbey. Lots more potential research visits for me here!

Keynote speaker was Mark Purcell, Libraries Curator to the National Trust. His keynote address was a breathless, whistle-stop tour of some 70 libraries of the 140 libraries that the National Trust has in its care and the many many treasures hidden within each. They have nearly all been catalogued, and are actually available on Copac to search, with lots of useful information. The day was accompanied by a visit to the exhibition of the Thistlethwayte collection in the stunning Eccles Room (pictured).

The whole experience was brilliant - delivering my paper to such a knowledgeable and expert audience was a little bit terrifying, but good experience, and it seemed to be quite well received. Lots of new friendships were formed, and future areas of collaborative work hopefully identified - strong foundations to build on!

Agenda for the day:

Unlocking the Private Library Saturday 9 February 2013 Winchester College

A one-day conference in collaboration with the University of Birmingham

10.30 am Registration and tea / coffee

10.50 am Welcome

11.00 am Session 1 – Private Libraries, Heritage and Learning

Chair: Geoffrey Day (Fellows’ Librarian, Winchester College)

Carly Watson (Doctoral researcher, University of Birmingham / Winchester College): ‘The Thistlethwayte gift to the Fellows’ Library’

Helen Williams (Senior Research Assistant, Northumbria University): ‘Circulating Private Libraries: Literary Artefacts and Off-Site Heritage Education’

12.00 pm Session 2 – Libraries for Religious Communities

Chair: Paul Quarrie (author of Winchester College and the King James Bible)

Hannah Thomas (Doctoral researcher, Swansea University / Hereford Cathedral): ‘The Society of Jesus in Wales, c.1600-1679: Reconstructing and analysing the Cwm Jesuit library at Hereford Cathedral’

Abbot Geoffrey Scott (Douai Abbey): ‘The Douai Collection’

Dr Simon Johnson (Librarian and Archivist, Downside Abbey): ‘Downside Abbey: A Beacon of Learning’

13.15 pm Lunch and exhibition viewing

14.30 pm Session 3 – Libraries in the Home

Chair: Geoffrey Day

Christine Penney (Hurd Librarian, Hartlebury Castle): ‘Books do furnish a room’

Maria Kirk (Doctoral researcher, University of Sussex / Petworth House): ‘The Petworth House plays: Book collecting in the early modern country house’

15.45 pm Break

16.00 pm Keynote address

Chair: Paul Quarrie

Mark Purcell (Libraries Curator to the National Trust)

17.00 pm Drinks, followed by a further opportunity to view the exhibition.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

'The World is Our House': a symposium of Jesuit culture at Hereford Cathedral

An exciting symposium celebrating the rich diversity of Jesuit culture has been launched to take place at Hereford Cathedral on 21 June 2013

The symposium, which will also celebrate the ongoing Cwm Jesuit Library project, will take place in College Hall, and will also feature an exhibition which will be open throughout the day

For more information, please visit the conference web page at - news and updates about the conference will be posted here as soon as they are released, so please enter your email address in the 'follow' box for automatic updates

Booking details will be released on the conference web page in the next few weeks, more news to follow soon!

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Summer symposium at Swansea University

Postgraduate History & Classics Forum, Summer Symposium 2013:

'Truth, Power and Belief'

Swansea University, 7 and 8 June 2013

Swansea University Postgraduate History & Classics Forum invites postgraduate students and early career researchers to participate in our interdisciplinary symposium on ‘Truth, Power and Belief’. Previous symposia have been a great success, the friendly atmosphere provides a great opportunity for first-time speakers, especially Masters and PhD students, to test out their new ideas.

The symposium aims to provide a supportive environment in which to explore the themes of truth, power and belief across genres, countries and historical periods. We also welcome proposals from disciplines other than History and Classics and contributions may come from, but are not limited to, the following areas:

All periods and themes within History & Classics
Disability Studies
Gender and Queer Studies
Health Sciences
Visual and cultural representations of ideas/ideology
Literature and literary criticism
Warfare and conflict

A keynote lecture is currently being negotiated. Delegates are invited to submit 20-minute papers related to the broad themes of the conference, from any historical period. Please email a 150-200 word abstract, with your discipline noted in the subject line, to, and brief summary of research interest, institution and career stage to by 19th April 2013. A list of local hotels can be supplied to those travelling from outside Swansea.

Teaching workshop
The symposium will include a teaching workshop for postgraduates to discuss their experiences teaching the themes of truth, power and beliefs. In particular the theme of teaching students how to interpret primary sources in a postmodern world and the idea of bias will be discussed. You are invited to submit a proposal on this topic. This workshop will provide a space for postgraduates and early career researchers to examine their own experiences and learn from each other best practice in serving our students.

To take part in the workshop, please email your name, institution and a small 50-word abstract for your presentation with the subject ‘TEACHING WORKSHOP’ by 19th April 2013.



Thursday, 7 February 2013

Adventures and explorations

Hello everyone - apologies for the long silence, it has been a busy few weeks, for a change... Just to prove that it is not all nose-to-the-grindstone stuff, here are some exciting things I have done recently that, luckily for me, count as work:

1. A trip to the beautiful St Davids cathedral, in the world's smallest city, St Davids, in West Wales. This was to check if any Jesuit books had made their way westwards to this cathedral library, via the Vaughan family of Gelli Aur who are closely related to the Vaughan family of Courtfield. Although I didn't discover anything new (connected to the Cwm library), it was a gorgeous day in beautiful surroundings, and the combination of old books and sea views (in separate places, don't worry!) was pure heaven for me! The cathedral itself is lovely, particularly with the newly restored shrine of St David, and well worth a visit if you are ever in West Wales!

2. Provenance masterclass with David Pearson, in Cambridge University Library. This was an AMAZING opportunity to speak to a world-renowned expert on provenance history and queries, and to learn lots of useful things, such as dating anonymous bookplates and identifying different types of marginalia. David Pearson is the author of the brilliant 'Books as History' (pictured), a book designed as an introduction to the field of book history, and to the many many avenues of exploration there are to consider when analysing a book, or a library, or a collection of printed works. He was very willing to answer questions (and to sign my copy of 'Books as History'!), and didn't run screaming from the room when faced with a barrage of my questions about the Cwm collection and Jesuit provenance! I also enjoyed the creative approach to bollards adopted by the library (pictured)

3. The British Library, to check out a book with beautiful binding and some 17th century manuscripts from Hereford that had ended up there over time. A lovely building with room upon room of books, manuscripts, music and random sculptures dotted about the place (including a printing press!), plus an amazing shop - need I say more? No photographs allowed sadly, but you get the general idea :-)

4. 'Unlocking the Private Library' conference in Winchester College. A separate post to come on this soon, as there is lots to be said!

5. The National Archives in Kew, London. The aim of this trip was to scour the Privy Council minutes during the Popish Plot for any references to the Cwm, Hereford and the Cwm library. A very fruitful visit (more in due course on this) plus my visit coincided with the Italy-Wales rugby match, so the combination of rugby and 17th century records was another form of heaven for me (pictured)

Lots more trips and updates to come, plus my thoughts on writing the thesis so far, which has proved an entirely different kettle of fish to researching it! Watch this space...

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Provenance research queries part 2

Second on the list of mysteries that the first year or so of the Cwm Library project is what appears to be a shelf mark, or listing reference of some sort

The letters JR (or possibly FR) appear on six books, printed between 1564 and 1606, again in a variety of places in mainland Europe such as Leiden, Lyon, Paris, Antwerp and Cologne.

Interestingly, only a few examples of this inscription survive, all written in the same hand, and examples found so far are:

JR10, JR16, JR36, JR55, JR58, JR68

The sequential nature of these inscriptions suggests that initially, there may have been more books with this same inscription, hopefully some that still survive in other collections or libraries! The initials could represent an individual, or an institution, or a motto or phrase: who knows!

Any information that can be provided on these inscriptions could help with developing our understanding of the Cwm library and how it was formed in the first place

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Conference on the meaning of early modern Catholicism - call for papers

An exciting new conference is planned for 28 June - 1 July 2013, at Ushaw College, Durham.

The title of the conference is 'What is Early Modern English Catholicism?', and the plenary speakers are Eamon Duffy (Cambridge), Brad Gregory (Notre Dame), Thomas McCoog SJ (Fordham) and Alexandra Walsham (Cambridge)

Celebrating the contribution of Eamon Duffy's work to changing notions of how Early Modern English Catholicism is understood, the aim of the conference is to attract an interdisciplinary range of speakers to discuss different 'sorts' of Catholicism in evidence, and to explore whether the term covers a broad spectrum of interest groups or is more narrowly defined. As such, it will change perceptions of the subject, the conference including those who approach the material for very different angles, questioning perceived notions of what is actually meant when Early Modern Catholicism is mentioned in the English context.

The period under consideration will be in the long term, from the 16th century break with Rome , the years of uncertainty and the Marian restoration, through the periods of recusancy, persecution and the Glorious Revolution, to the Jacobite movement and the Catholic survivalism of the 18th century.

A volume of essays drawn from the conference is planned.

Proposals of about 200 words are invited for 20 minute communications on any theme falling within this broad field, and should be emailed by 15 January 2013 at the latest to

For more information, please email James Kelly, or visit the Facebook group 'What is Early Modern Catholicism?' conference

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Provenance Research Queries

Hi everyone, and a happy new year to you as well!

2013 has arrived, bristling with resolutions and good intentions, and for me, I am determined to begin the new year by trying to answer some of the mysteries of the Cwm Library that the project has turned up in the first year and a half.

First on the list is identifying this particular example of blind tooling:

This 'SI' tooling has been found on some 14 volumes in the Cwm collection at Hereford Cathedral, tooled in the centre of both the front and the back covers. All the volumes with this provenance were printed between 1603 and 1622, in Lyon, Antwerp, Cologne and Munich, and all were bound in brown calf leather in the seventeenth century. More information about each volume can be found by searching the Hereford Cathedral Library Catalogue.

It is likely that it stands for 'Societa[ti]s Iesu' (the Latin form of the Society of Jesus), but it could also represent a motto or phrase that has fallen into disuse, or is not immediately obvious. I am spending the next few weeks looking into as many other rare books collections as possible to try and establish what this could mean for the Cwm library collection - is this a standard mark for Jesuit library books? Is this unique to the Cwm collection? What does it stand for? What can be learnt about binding practices? Where might these volumes have been bound?

Any suggestions or possibilities gratefully received - watch this space!