Friday, March 11, 2011

Customizing Camden II

Continuing with the focus of last week's post, today I'll write about a few more of our copies of works written by the antiquary William Camden, all of which contain unique manuscript content added by former owners. Last week I highlighted our two copies of Camden's Remaines, especially how owners added their own manuscript epitaphs, proverbs, and apothegms to the printed book. Today's examples deal more specifically with provenance and ownership inscriptions.

Britannia, sive, Florentissimorum regnorum, Angliae, Scotiae, Hiberniae, et insularum adjacentium ex intima antiquitate chorographica descriptio. Londini: Impensis Georg. Bishop [at the Eliot's Court Press], 1590
[16] 762, [22] p. : Ill. : 19 cm. (8vo). STC  4505

Renaissance Center copy is in contemporary calf (head and foot of spine, and back hinge, torn; several leaves lacking: C1, 3D1, and 3D8); signed on rear flyleaf: "Thos Charles’s book"; a fragment of a printed (incunable?) bifolium is inside back cover, under the turn-ins; a similar fragment appears to be undeneath the (later) front pastedown; stamp on title page and p. 299 of the Theological College, Bala, noting it as from the library of the late principal, T. Charles Edwards.

The purple stamp on the title page places the book in the library of Thomas Charles Edwards (1837-1900), a Welsh minister who held the post of Principal at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth. Dated May, 1900 (two months after Edwards' death), the stamp is associated with the "Theological College, Bala," (Bala, Gwynedd, Wales) a school that Edwards helped found. 

At an earlier point in history (probably the eighteenth century) a "Thomas Charles" owned the book, as can be seen in this manuscript inscription. 

Perhaps shortly after the book was printed, a book craftsman used a fragment of a bifolium (perhaps an incunable) to strengthen the binding. I have been unable to identify the text as of yet.

Britannia, sive, Florentissimorum regnorum, Angliae, Scotiae, Hiberniae, et insularum adjacentium ex intima antiquitate chorographica descriptio. Londini: [at Eliot's Court Press] per Radulphum Newbery, 1587. 
[16], 648, [24] p. : ill ; 17 cm. (8vo). STC 4504

Renaissance Center copy is in contemporary vellum (portion of backstrip detached, revealing ms. waste in binding; detached piece laid in at back); in phase box; several ornamental initials have been hand-colored, probably much later; signatures on title page: "Jos.a Dobson" and "Carolus [Fynn?] Anno 1771"; some random pen-trials.

This title page of this book bears two ownership inscriptions: "Jos.[eph] a. Dobson" and "Carlous [Fynn?] Anno 1771." While one cannot determine this for certain, it is likely one of these two owners hand-colored several of the book's ornamental initials.

It is unlikely this hand-coloring is contemporary, but considering the late eighteenth-century provenance on the title page it is still possible that this decoration was added several hundred years ago. The colored initials display a variety of inks and paints; I detect no fewer than seven different pigments in this capital "A" for instance. 

The "N" shown here is outlined in gold paint and bears an equal variety of pigments and inks. 

From this broader vantage point, one can see how the color really enhances the aesthetic appearance of the book. 

Unfortunately due to time constraints I will have to wait until the next post to talk about our two Camden books with the most interesting early modern provenance (related to Edward Lowe, seventeenth-century Professor of Music at Oxford University; and the London stationer Humphrey Robinson). I'll be away from the blog next week, but expect "Customizing Camden III" on the following Friday.


  1. The bifolium fragment is from

    Albertani Brixiensis Liber consolationis et consilii, chapter 36


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