The 31st October 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, a text that sparked the Reformation. The movement was entwined with the introduction of Gutenberg’s printing press, allowing the rapid spread of texts such as pamphlets and vernacular Bibles. As such, it is a historical moment of shift in terms of reading, writing and literacy, as well as fascinating texts. Continue reading
25 August 1636: the Opening of the Laudian Library
The Laudian Library, St John’s College, Oxford
To mark the opening of the new Inner Library, now the Laudian Library, Archbishop Laud held a lavish celebration, attended by King Charles I and Queen Henrietta.
A full and digitised description of the Housman papers at St John’s is in the works. Connie Bettison, St John’s library trainee from 2016-17, writes about her experience beginning the digital cataloguing process.
A.E. Housman (1859-1936) is best known today for his poetry but in his own time he was highly regarded as a classical scholar. His entrance into this world was a mixture of leaps and bounds and slow-burning effort. He matriculated as a student of Greats at St John’s in 1877 and achieved a first in Mods. Despite this, he failed his final exams. Returning to college in the years that followed while working as a clerk for the Patent Office in London, he eventually passed his exams and graduated in 1892.
After these twelve years of administration work at the Patent Office and independent study of Greek and Latin, Housman got a job as Professor of Latin at University College London. Housman taught there for nineteen years. Then, in 1911 he moved on to take a Latin professorship at Trinity College Cambridge. This was where he lived and worked until the end of his life in 1936.
This month, we gather together a number of different items which share a northern theme: twentieth-century cartoons, seventeenth-century astronomy, nineteenth-century literature, sixteenth-century history, eighteenth-century exploration, and a seventeenth-century Bible.
Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus [Description of the Northern people], Olaus Magnus (1550) ∑.2.14
Olaus Magnus (1490-1557) was a Swedish writer and Archbishop of Uppsala, and this book was his magnus opus. With over 800 pages of Latin text – and littered with pleasing woodcut prints – Magnus systematically makes an effort to describe the people and the land in full. He writes on religion, law, government, lifestyle, food, wildlife, mythology and more.
The woodcut prints cover a similar range of subjects. The examples shown below include a rendering of a runic alphabet, depictions of a giant, a bear dancing with a woman, a battle between an army of cranes and an army of dwarfs, a King, and Norwegian seamonsters.
Alongside collections of manuscripts and early printed books, St. John’s College’s Special Collections include personal papers of a number of well-known literary figures: Robert Graves, A.E. Housman, Jane Austen, Philip Larkin, Spike Milligan and Professor J.B. Leishman. Included in these papers is a great deal of correspondence, occasionally between other literary figures, or concerning literary topics.
The library’s current exhibition (Trinity Term – Summer Vacation 2017) displays the letters of twenty-two of these correspondents. All members of St. John’s College are welcome to attend the exhibition and to bring their guests. Non-members should contact the Librarian (email@example.com) to arrange a viewing appointment.
1) W.B. Yeats to Charlotte Shaw, 22nd September 1932
While certain literary groupings such as the “war poets” and the Movement of the 1950s were never formally endorsed by its supposed members, the Irish Academy of Letters, discussed in this letter from W.B. Yeats to Charlotte Shaw, was different altogether. The Academy sought to organise Irish writers chiefly in order to counter censorship. By September 1932, when this letter was sent, James Joyce had refused an invitation to join the Academy, while authors such as Padraic Colum and James Stephens, the novelist Edith Somerville, the short story writer Frank O’Connor, and the dramatist Lennox Robinson, had all become members.
One of St John’s treasures from the eighteenth-century is an album of 77 of William Hogarth’s prints, a seemingly unique contemporary collation including a broad range of his works.
William Hogarth (1697-1764)
A painter and printmaker who used his art to make satirical commentary on eighteenth-century social issues, Hogarth was an innovator in the field. His ubiquity gave rise to the term Hogarthian as a particularly high accolade of comparison in relation to satirical illustration and sequential art.
The works of Robert Hooke are well preserved at St John’s College Library with the library holding copies of 17th-century publications of Hooke’s work on microscopy, observations of comets, and the proposition of his eponymous law of elasticity.
Robert Hooke (1635-1703) was renowned in his day for being an early member of the Royal Society – for which he was, at various points of time, curator of experiments, member of the council, and secretary – and for being a leading figure in 17th-century science, working closely with the likes of Christopher Wren, Robert Boyle, and Isaac Newton. Over time his reputation slipped somewhat, and there was a tendency to consider him, in the words of biographer Lisa Jardine, “the man who almost made great discoveries, now tied to the names and enduring fame of others”. More recently his character and the range of his contributions have attracted some interest.