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On Display. The Fagel Family’s Copy of Maria Sibylla Merian’s ‘Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium’ (1719)

Page of text facing an illustration of a bird-eating spider

By Emily Mattern

Emily Mattern completed an MPhil in the History of Art at Trinity College Dublin in 2022. The following text is based on the research for her dissertation entitled Materiality, Meaning, and Metamorphosis: The Work of Maria Sibylla Merian in the Fagel Collection at Trinity College Dublin (2022).

First Encounter with the Fagel Metamorphosis

Although the works of natural history found within the Fagel Collection are limited in number, they are some of the collection’s most visually striking objects. As a multi-generational library amassed by high-ranking Dutch citizens, the Fagel Collection demonstrates an interest in various subjects. Even so, the men who amassed and maintained it routinely favored items which would prove beneficial in upholding their official duties as greffier of the States General. Because the Fagels prioritized practical texts, it is no surprise that natural history volumes comprise only about 2.6% of the collection (Fox 89). More remarkable is the exquisite ornamentation of these books, as exemplified by one second-edition copy of Maria Sibylla Merian’s Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium (Fag.GG.2.10 no.1).

Continue reading “On Display. The Fagel Family’s Copy of Maria Sibylla Merian’s ‘Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium’ (1719)”

Bucolic Offaly: the illustrated diary of Rev John Plunket Joly

We are pleased to present a post by architect Rachel McKenna who, in research for her several publications on the architectural history of County Offaly, made a particular study of the diaries of Rev John Joly, the subject of an earlier post:

Reverend John Plunket Joly was a clergyman based at Hollywood House, Bracknagh, Clonbullogue and the Rector of Clonsast. He was born in 1826, married Julia (née Countess de Lusi), on 4 June 1853, daughter of a Prussian Count, and they had three sons. He died aged 32, 3 March 1858 before his youngest son John (scientist and polymath, graduate of Trinity College Dublin, who went on to become Professor of Geology and Mineralogy) was born, four months before the death of his father.

During his time as a young rector in Bracknagh, Reverend John Plunket Joly, kept up frequent diary entries. The diaries were written during a significant period in Irish history, including the Famine years, and they now form part of the Research Collections in the Library (MS 2299/1 (1843-1848) and MS 2299/2 (1852-1858)).

Entries are short and succinct covering Joly’s main interests in gardening, music and the local community. It is the beautiful sketches, throughout the diary, that bring to life the man, his gardens and the people around him. Some of these drawings and entries were used to bring a contemporary account to my recent publication on Traditional Architecture in Offaly, History Materials and Furniture, 1800 to Present Day

‘restored the evergreen bower and completed one row of espaliers’
Summerhouse built out of ‘branches of trees’ with a pyramidal roof of ‘moor sods’ and surrounded with a low rustic fence.

The gardening entries are fascinating, providing wonderful insight into the variety of food that was grown in the garden of a country house in Offaly. Fruit growing was a competitive undertaking in the great estates across Ireland, with brick-lined orchards and heated glasshouses providing new, elusive varieties year round. The range of fruit grown by Rev. Joly varied from rhubarb, a gooseberry ‘tree’, apple and pear trees, apricot trees, strawberries, raspberries and cherries and even melons in a hotbed. Additional garden structures were planned to allow for rarer fruit such as grapes in the greenhouse: ‘…sent Pat Bedding to make for me eight sashes and a door for a small glass house to be erected over the peach and nectarine trees’ and ‘set up rafters for a small peach house, or vinery’. ‘The grapes are now very fine; there are four good bunches on each of the three white kinds and eight on the black Hamburg…’. He spent time preparing the highly cherished espaliers for training fruit trees against a warm, usually brick garden wall; ‘restored the evergreen bower and completed one row of espaliers’.

The array of fruit is almost equaled by vegetables such as cauliflower, cucumber, celery, ‘broccoly’, spinach, asparagus and cabbage. One of Joly’s great interests was in managing bees which were esteemed at the time: ‘Henry and his men carried off two hives of his bees…’ and ‘constructed a little shed, to shelter bees in the garden’.

His beautiful drawing of a bee skep of handmade, coiled rope or súgán, indicates the personal time he devoted to beekeeping. ‘The bees have not swarmed, so I enlarged the hive, to prevent their do so at this late season’.

Skep, or beehive, made of straw.

Straw was used in a variety of ways and Joly provided a particularly poignant example as he wrote in his diary in 1852 (when he was just 26, a year before his own marriage): ‘Married Hannah … to William Payne made a ring of straw for them they having forgot the ring’.

Straw wedding ring.

Other areas described relate to thatching a number of farm buildings within the grounds. ‘We reheaded the old hay rick in the haggard’, thatched a turfhouse and later ‘completed a shed for four bullocks’.

Across Ireland at the time, as the tenants struggled to maintain their unsatisfactory dwellings, a fashion developed among the upper classes to adorn their grounds with romanticised versions of ‘thatched cabins’. These follies became popular places to take tea and provided interest on designed walks through the grounds. Offaly examples are beautifully illustrated by Rev. Joly, in 1856, where he sketches his ‘large rustic summerhouse’ made of roughly-hewn timber with a pitched thatched roof, a central, pitched and trellised entrance porch flanked by two windows. He built a second, square summerhouse out of ‘branches of trees’ on the front lawn. It is finished with a pyramidal roof of ‘moor sods’ and surrounded with a low rustic fence’.

The detail provided in these sketches show the great interest the young man took in his home and gardens. He was also very musical as he describes making a case for a harp, transcribing violin music and making part of a bass fiddle. Both a talented carpenter and inventor he designed and ‘made a barrow for bringing water into the garden’ and ‘finished armchair with a reclining back’.

‘a barrow for bringing water into the garden’

Rachel McKenna, MRIAI, Senior Executive Architect, Offaly County Council .

Author of: Flights of Fancy – Follies, Families and Demesnes in Offaly and Traditional Architecture in Offaly – history, materials and furniture 1800 to present day

Used Books? Tracing the History of Ownership in the Fagel Collection

By Emily Monty

Dr Emily Monty was the Fagel Collection Visiting Research Fellow in autumn 2022 hosted by the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts & Humanities Research Institute. She will present her work at the symposium on Unlocking the Fagel Collection: The Library and its Context (June 21-23, 2023).

At the turn of the nineteenth century, Trinity College Dublin had the remarkable opportunity to purchase the entire library of Hendrik Fagel the Younger (1765-1838), Greffier, or Chief Minister, of the Dutch Republic. Drawing on funds provided by the Erasmus Smith Foundation, TCD acquired the Fagel Library in 1802. This purchase included over 20,000 volumes and increased the number of books in the Trinity College Library by about 40 per cent.

While these books came from the collection of Hendrik the Younger, many of the volumes have a longer provenance, or history of ownership, not only because they were passed down through generations of Fagel patriarchs, but also because they were purchased second-hand. In fact, the Dutch Republic was a centre of public book auctions in the early modern period, making it a place where one could readily find and acquire antiquarian and used books.

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‘The Manner and Form of a Coronation’

In advance of the imminent coronation of King Charles III of the United Kingdom, Dr Niamh Pattwell shares with us some of her discoveries about medieval ceremonies around coronation:

The recent ceremonies in England surrounding the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II and the proclamation of King Charles III had me intrigued. I was struck by the importance of spectacle: the colour, ritual, solemn declarations and processions through the city of London. However, given my recent discovery of a fifteenth-century copy of ‘The Manner and the Form of the Coronation of the Kings and Queens in England’, in a manuscript in Trinity College Dublin, I will be paying particular attention to the upcoming coronation of Charles III and Camilla, the Queen Consort, on May 6th.

The text provides instruction for the coronation ceremony, beginning with the day before when the prince should dress in the ‘most noble and fairest clothing’ in order to ride from ‘the tower of London to his palace at Westminster’. At least two days before the ceremony, the Abbot of Westminster ‘shall inform them of diverse observances’ including the need to confess and be of ‘clean conscience’. Physical cleanness is also important. The instructions state that ‘first he shall be bathed and after the bath there shall be ordained to him a new shirt and a coat of silk opened to the breast’. The open coat facilitated the anointing with the holy oil on five parts of his body: hands, the breast, between the shoulders, ‘in the great of the arm’ and on the head ‘in the manner of a cross’. I note that the anointing on May 6th, in the upcoming coronation, will be done behind a gold cloth ‘to conceal the King from view’ (see the BBC website here for details).

In the medieval text, there are instructions to burn the linen cloth used to wipe the oil from the king, presumably to prevent any would-be usurpers from using the sacred oil. The anointed head should be concealed by a special ‘pelioun’ or a cap for seven days when an appointed cleric will then remove it. There are details about the prostrations, the presentation of the King to the people (the Recognition), as well as the blessing and presentation of the sword, the crown and the sceptre (the Investiture). In the Medieval instructions, the oaths are to be recited in both English and French. The text ends with a list of the officers and peers who should accompany and support the King on the day, including the mention of a cloth spread under the King’s feet as he ‘goes in procession from Westminster Hall unto the Church’. If any cloth spreads outside the door of the church it is to be divided up among the poor. The coronation of the Queen is also mentioned in the text, but the details are scant. We are simply told that ‘there will also be a procession’ and that she is to be anointed ‘only in the top of the head’.

I am curious to see how these traditions, themselves adaptations of ancient rituals, will be included and modified in the ceremonies on May 6th.

‘TCD MS 484’.

This text and the later sixteenth-century copy in the same manuscript are unrecorded copies of the ‘The Manner and Form of the Coronation’. I discovered them hidden amongst sixteenth-century material in MS 484, during my search for later copies of Medieval texts for the Trinity College Dublin volume of the Index of Middle English Prose. There are eight other extant copies of ‘The Manner and Form of the Coronation’, which was translated into English from the anonymous Latin Forma et Modus Coronacionis. It is uncertain when this particular copy was included in MS 484. It forms part of a series of texts that would have been useful for a herald, including a second later copy (also not recorded heretofore) of the ‘The Manner and Form of Coronation’; Instructions for the Christening of Prince Arthur; Instructions for the Christening of Princess Mary; as well as hand-written extracts copied from printed chronicles. The items are written in disparate hands on varying sizes of paper, so it is unlikely that these texts originated in the one manuscript. They might have been gathered and bound together either by a librarian keen to ‘match’ texts of a similar subject or at the request of one of the Ulster King of Arms during the sixteenth or early-seventeenth century.

The discovery of the fifteenth-century copy of the ‘The Manner and Form of the Coronation’ is an unexpected and exciting find and there are some further clues that might help us to date when it was written. This is a work in progress. In the meantime, we have a coronation to watch.

Dr. Niamh Pattwell 

Associate Professor in Medieval English Literature, School of English, Drama and Film, UCD

Cuala Press Research. Anatomy of a photograph

Billy Shortall.

The Cuala Press operated from different premises during its existence. Initially, under the Dun Emer Press imprint, it was part of Dun Emer enterprises in Dundrum from 1902 until 1908. Elizabeth and Lily Yeats split from Dun Emer and Evelyn Gleeson, in 1908 and moved their printing and embroidery operations to ‘a four roomed cottage’ on Lower Churchtown Road in July of that year. It was housed in William and Georges Yeats home on 82 Merrion Square from August 1923 until February 1925. Cuala then moved to Baggot Street and sub-rented upstairs rooms from the building’s main tenants, Norman Allen Ltd. They remained at Baggot Street until January 1942, by which time W. B. Yeats (the Press’s editor) and Elizabeth were both dead. After 1942 the Press, now managed by George (W.B.’s widow), moved to her house on Palmerstown Road. The thirty-two years in Churchtown and Baggot Street were the most productive. Photographs with decorative and historical detail exist from all locations and are rich sources about Cuala Press life, industry, output, location, and much more.

This blog looks at one photograph taken in the Cuala Press Baggot Street premises in 1932, and the avenues of research that image invites and the questions it asks.

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