Cambridge Bibliographical Society talk, 4 May 2011

By , 27 April 2011 6:20 pm

Kathryn Rudy will give a talk on ‘Delft manuscripts in the British Isles’ on Wednesday, 4 May, 5:00 pm in the Morison Room, Cambridge University Library. Non-members are welcome and there is no admission charge. Tea is served from 4:30 pm.

Comic Shakespeare

By , 23 April 2011 1:05 pm

Some Victorian humour, to celebrate the Bard’s birthday today, April 23.

Quotations from Shakespeare’s plays are vividly brought to life by J.V. Barret’s illustratations for Shakspere fresh chiselled on stone (London: Dean and Son, [1859])—but with a comic twist.

Plate 1

(Brabantio) Are they married think you? (Roderigo) Truly I think they are. Othello, Act I. Sc. I

Plate 2

"But now, my lord, what say you to my suit?" Romeo & Juliet, Act I. Sc. 2.


The “fresh chiselled on stone” of the title is presumably a tongue-in-cheek reference to lithography, the printing process used for this book in which ink or paint is applied to a flat stone from which an impression is made. The book is part of the Waddleton Collection of books with colour-printed illustrations, which includes many examples of such work.

Chromolithography, or lithography printed in colour, was popular during the 19th century, and in the Waddleton copy the illustrations are indeed colour-printed. However, the Library has a second copy of the book in the Tower Collection with black and white printing only—evidence that a less deluxe, cheaper version of the book was also produced for the Victorian market.

The Waddleton copy has the inscription of “Charlotte Colby Tingly[?], Nov 5th 1865″ and the printed label of “Hart, Bookseller, Walden”. Harts of Saffron Walden was established in 1836 as a high class printer, and is still in business today as printers, stationers and booksellers.

Plate 4

"A dog of the House of Montague moves me." Romeo & Juliet, Act I. Sc. I.

Plate 9

"My sweet mistress weeps when she sees me work." Tempest, Act 3. Sc. 2.

Mapping the origins of a masterpiece

By , 21 April 2011 5:42 pm

Detail from John Speed's atlas

Published 400 years ago, the first comprehensive atlas of Great Britain has been digitised by Cambridge University Library, home to one of only five surviving proof sets.

Read the full story on

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

By , 19 April 2011 12:43 pm

The Rare Books Department has recently added two significant early sixteenth-century books to the University’s collections, both rare collected writings of the Cistercian Bernard of Clairvaux. The Opuscula and Flores were both printed in 1503 in Venice by Lucantonio Giunta, a member of the Florentine Giunta family, dynastic publishers, printers and booksellers. Lucantonio established himself as a bookseller in Florence, then from 1477 set up shop in Venice. In 1489 he founded a printing press there, from which he continued to issue books until 1538. The Opuscula and Flores both contain a spectacular woodcut of the Annunciation, described by Lilian Armstrong as ‘an early example of Venetian High Renaissance art’, and first used by Giunta in 1501. Bound together into one volume at the time of publication, the books have a familiar provenance – they are inscribed ‘Cartusiae Buxheim’, identifying them as originating in the library of the German Charterhouse at Buxheim, a Carthusian monastery near Memmingen in Bavaria. They were later owned by the celebrated bookseller and publisher Leo Samuel Olschki (1861-1940).

Both works supplement the University Library’s holdings across a variety of fields. There are some 60 different issues from the Venetian press in Cambridge University Library and the surrounding colleges, including seventeen incunabula. The acquisition supplements already strong holdings in collections like the Norton Collection of post-incunabula, and the Keynes Collection.

Bernard of Clairvaux Opuscula fol. 16v.

Woodcut of the Annunciation from Bernard of Clairvaux Opuscula (Venice: 1503) fol. 16v.


By , 8 April 2011 10:59 am

Welcome to the blog for Cambridge University Library’s Special Collections. This blog will be updated frequently with news and reports.