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Bedlam in Belgium

‘Documents et particularités historiques …’ Shelfmark: Gall.6.i.39

Bibliophile Renier Hubert Ghislain Chalon was born in Mons, Belgium in 1802. A keen numismatist, his interests clearly extended beyond books and coins as he was also the instigator of the Fortsas Bibliohoax, one of the greatest pranks in the world of book-dealing. His hoax was a thing of beauty. Continue reading “Bedlam in Belgium”

A gift we Kant refuse

At the beginning of term, a student, Catherine Costello, presented us with a copy of Immanuel Kant’s Critique of pure reason, translated by J. M. D. Meiklejohn and published in London in 1887. Although we are always happy to consider donations when they are offered, we are not always in a position to take them. However, the connection with Trinity meant that there was no hesitation over accepting this one. Continue reading “A gift we Kant refuse”

I remember that summer in Dublin

frontisAnne Plumptre was a writer of fiction and non-fiction, both with considerable political content, and a translator of drama, correspondence, travel writing and more. She was born in Norwich in 1760 and died there in 1818 but spent much time in London and three years in Napoleonic France. Her A Narrative of a three years’ residence in France … 1802–5 (1810) is a political enquiry into the views of Napoleon held by the French people, particularly those outside Paris. Plumptre came to the conclusion that he was not a monster but generally popular within France and was being misrepresented in Britain. She refuted with detailed descriptions many of the claims made by contemporary writers and advocated making peace with Napoleon, a view which was not popular at home. Continue reading “I remember that summer in Dublin”

The Kelmscott Chaucer

It is difficult to choose a favourite item in Trinity College Library’s collections but one of mine is the Kelmscott Chaucer, shelfmark Press B KEL 1896 2. It is not particularly colourful – red and black are the only inks used, and the former only sparingly – but despite the unpromising binding of Trinity’s copy it is a beautiful book. How can you not admire the sheer amount of work involved in designing and creating it?

first opening

Continue reading “The Kelmscott Chaucer”

Unsung collaborators: four early music printers

Items in the current Long Room exhibition ‘In Tune’ demonstrate the skills and innovative techniques of several pioneering music printers.

The earliest printed item is the Erfurt Enchiridion (1524), the first published collection of Lutheran hymns. The printer Matthes Maler is thought to have produced his edition using proofs stolen from a rival Erfurt printer, Johannes Loersfeld. Maler’s publication is less handsome than Loersfeld’s, but he earns full marks for (literally) seizing a promising business opportunity!

Shelf mark: C.pp.37 no. 6
Shelf mark: C.pp.37 no. 6
 Shelf mark: Press B.2.22
Shelf mark: Press B.2.22

Like  Maler’s Enchiridion, John Merbecke’s Booke of Common Praier noted (1550) is block-printed, but in two stages. Richard Grafton, appointed royal printer by Edward VI,first printed the staves and rubrics in red, and then passed the sheets through the press a second time to add the text and musical notes in black.

Shelf mark OLS 192.n.40 nos. 1-6
Shelf mark OLS 192.n.40 nos. 1-6

Thomas Vautrollier, a Huguenot refugee engaged by William Byrd and Thomas Tallis to print their motet anthology Cantiones quae ab argumento sacrae vocantur (1575), worked with movable type, a method of music printing developed by continental pioneers such as Petrucci and Attaignant but little used in England up to this point. Dedicated to Elizabeth I (who had recently granted the two composers a monopoly in part-music printing in England), the publication was prepared with great care but was a commercial failure as it sold too few copies to offset costs.

John Dowland’s First Booke of Songes or Ayres was first published in 1597 by Peter Short. Short’s use of movable type is considerably less skilful than Vautrollier’s,

Shelf mark: Press B.7.21
Shelf mark: Press B.7.21

but the publication is notable for its innovative typographical layout. Each song can be performed by a solo voice with lute accompaniment (printed on the left-hand page), but is also set for four voices, with the three lower voice parts printed on the right-hand page in an arrangement designed to allow the singers to read from a single copy while seated around a table (hence the term ‘table-book’ to describe this format).- Roy Stanley, Music Librarian

In Tune, sponsored by KBC Bank, runs until April 2014.The exhibition is also available online.  Full details of the accompanying lecture and concert series are available here.