ODE. Mr. Cowley's Book presenting it self to the University Library of Oxford.

Hail Learnings Pantheon! Hail the sacred Ark
Where all the World of Science does embarque!
Which ever shall withstand, and hast so long withstood,
    Insatiate times devouring Flood.

Hail Tree of Knowledge, thy leaves Fruit! which well
Dost in the midst of Paradise arise,
    Oxford and the Muses Paradise,
From which may never Sword the blest expell.
Hail Bank of all past Ages! where they lie
T’inrich with interest Posterity!
    Hail Wits illustrious Galaxy!
Where thousand Lights into one brightness spread;
Hail living Univers’ty of the dead!


Unconfus’d Babel of all Tongues, which e’r
The mighty Linguist Fame, or Time, the mighty Traveller,
    That could speak, or this could hear.
Majestick Monument and Pyramide,
Where still the shapes of parted Souls abide
Embalm’d in verse, exalted Souls which now
Enjoy those Arts they woo’d so well below,
    Which now all wonders plainly see,
    That have been, are, or are to be
    In the mysterious Librarie,
The Beatifick Bodley of the Deitie.



Will you into your Sacred throng admit
    The meanest British wit?
You Gen’ral-Council of the Priests of Fame,
    Will you not murmur and disdain,
    That I place among you claim,
    The humblest Deacon of her Train?
Will you allow me th’ honourable chain?
    The chain of Ornament which here
    Your noble Pris’ners proudly wear;
A Chain which will more pleasant seem to me
Than all my own Pindarick Libertie:
Will ye to bind me with those mighty names submit,
    Like an Apocrypha with holy Writ?
Whatever happy Book is chained here,
No other place or People need to fear;
His Chain’s a Passport to go ev’ry where.



    As when a seat in Heaven,
Is to an unmalicious sinner given,
    Who casting round his wond’ring eye
Does not but Patriarchs and Apostles there espy;
    Martyrs who did their lives bestow,
    And Saints, who Martyrs liv’d below,
With trembling and amazement he begins,
To recollect his frailties past, and sins,
He doubts almost his Station there,
His soul says to it self, How came I here?
It fares no otherwise with me
When I my self with conscious wonder see,
Amidst this purify’d elected Companie.
    With harship they, and pain,
Did to this happiness attain;
No labour I nor merits can pretend,
I think Predestination only was my friend.



Ah that my Author had been ty’d like me
To such a place and such a Companie!
Instead of sev’ral Countreys, sev’ral Men,
    And business which the Muses hate,
He might have then improv’d that small Estate
Which nature sparingly did to him give,
And settled upon my his Child, somewhat to live,
’T had happier been for him as well as me,
    For when all, (alas) is done,
We Books I mean, You Books will prove to be
The best and noblest conversation.
    For though some errors will get in,
    Like tinctures of Original sin:
    Yet sure we from our Fathers wit
    Draw all the stength and sp’rit of it:
Leaving the grosser parts for conversation,
As the best blood of Man’s imploy’d in generation.

–Abraham Cowley, The Works of Mr Abraham Cowley. Consisting of Those which were formerly Printed: And Those which he Design’d for the Press, Now Published out of the Author’s Original Copies. To this Edition are added several Commendatory Copies of Verses on the Author, by Persons of Honour. As also a Table to the whole Works, never before printed. London: Printed by J.M. [John Macock] for H. Herringman, 1688. Eee3v-Eee4v.

Folio in 4s (11 1/2” x 7 5/16”, 293mm x 186mm). Binder’s blank, A2(–A2) a-c4 B-C4 C∗4 D-Ccc4 Ddd2 Eee-Yyy4 Zzz2 [$2], binder’s blank. 285 leaves, pp. [26], [3], blank, [12], [8], 41, [1], 1-2 3-80, [4], 1-58 61-70, 1-2 3-154, 1-23, blank, 1-148 [=l, 520]. Engraved portrait frontispiece, signed “W. Faithorne Sculp. 1687.”

Descent and Dissent

We have quite a healthy selection of natural history items on the shelf, but without doubt the king of them all is Darwin. An 1805 treatise on the genus Fucus has beautiful engravings, and the 1828 Entretenimientos de un Prisionero en las provincias del Rio de la Plata by the Baron de Juras Reales is more gripping, but Darwin stands alone. We have a couple of editions of the Origin of Species, but today I have my eye on

The Descent of Man, and selection in relation to sex. Two volumes. London: John Murray, 1871. First edition, first issue.

The Descent is not nearly Darwin’s most important book. Most of what he writes in it had already been published in the Origin and elsewhere, but it inserted itself rather more into the social implications of his observations on sex, race and psychology. Why, then, do I write about this book?

Our copy was owned by the Reverend Henry Parry Liddon (his ownership stamp appears on the front blank of each volume) –

Tractarian apologist, Ireland Professor of biblical exegesis at Oxford and canon of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Although Darwin was surprised at the lack of public censoriousness in the reception of the Descent, the religious grappled with the implications and ramifications of his theories. Reverend Liddon represents the very earliest wave of apologists: those who seek to characterize the theory of evolution – a word that appears for the first time in Darwin’s writing on the second page of the first volume – as compatible with theories of the origins of man derived from scripture.

Liddon marked — we can be all but sure — some passages:

No one supposes that one of the lower animals reflects whence he comes or whither he goes,– what is death or what is life, and so forth.    (vol. I, p. 62)

There is no evidence that man was aboriginally endowed with the ennobling belief in the existence of an Omnipotent God. On the contrary there is ample evidence, derived not from hasty travellers, but from men who have long resided with savages, that numerous races have existed and still exist, who have no idea of one or more gods, and who have no words in their languages to express such an idea. The question is of course wholly distinct from that higher one, whether there exists a Creator and Ruler of the universe; and this has been answered in the affirmative by the highest intellects that have ever lived.    (vol. I, p. 65)


Liddon has underlined “ennobling” in the second quoted passage, and written a reference to p. 106: “The ennobling belief in God is not universal with man.” Passages such as these are the footholds of claiming a place for divinity in Darwin’s thought.

Darwin died on 19 April 1882, and three days later Liddon delivered a sermon at St. Paul’s, which his friends called “the famous sermon:”

It may be admitted that when the well-known books on the Origin of Species and on the Descent of Man first appeared, they were largely regarded by religious men as containing a theory necessarily hostile to the fundamental truths of religion. A closer study has generally modified any such impression.
(The Recovery of St. Thomas… with a Prefatory Note on the Late Mr. Darwin, London: Rivintgons, 1882. Second edn., p. 29.)


The present item may therefore be regarded as a significant document in one of the most consequential debates of the modern era: that of the relationship of science and religion. Liddon’s reclamation of Darwin in his Famous Sermon was a project that had perhaps begun a decade prior while reading this very copy of the Descent.



Vol. I: Blank, A4 B-2D8 2E4 2B8 [$2]. 224 leaves; pp.  i-v vi-viii, 1 2-250 251-253 254-423, blank, 21 22-16 (advertisements).
Vol. II: A4 (+A5) B-2G8 2H4 2I2 2B8 [$2]. 251 leaves; pp. i-v vi-viii, [1], blank, 1 2-475, blank, 21 22-16 (advertisements).

What's your oldest book?

It is a question we get asked by about thirty per-cent of people who come into the shop. It’s certainly a question I thought to ask even though I ended up buying A Chart of Oxford Printing 1468-1900 the first time I came in (it’s a gem). Still, I like the question; it shows a healthy curiosity in beginnings, in origins. The answer, man; stop babbling and answer. It’s a 1505 edition-with-commentary of Seneca's tragedies. It’s nearly identical to a 1498 edition of the same, so in my book it’s a “quasincunable”, very nearly made in the infancy of printing in Europe. It’s really lovely: bound in vellum with a stab-binding (the thread punched through the spine-edge of the text block top-and-bottom is still visible), hand-written title – everything a Very Old Book should look like, really.

The text is presented in the manner of manuscript commentaries: the plays's text is closest to the spine, and the commentaries (there are two) surround the text. The two (Daniele’s and Bernardino’s) were initially brought together in a Venice edition of 1493 (printed by Matteo Capcasa of Parma). The direct antecedent of the current item was a 1498 edition by Giovanni Tacuino (Ioannes Tridinus de Cirreto alias Tacuinus, working in Venice at the same time as Aldus Manutius), and the 1505 edition aims to be identical (the 1498 edition has identical mis-numberings of the leaves [except that leaf CXXXV was in the 1498 edition headed CXXV but has in the 1505 edition been corrected]; the woodcuts are different or missing in the 1505 edition, and some spellings change [e.g., lachrimis becomes lachrymis]). Some fifteen years after Andreas Gallicus’ editio princeps, these twin commentaries were part of a florescence of interest and scholarship on the Stoic, whose plays, despite being exceptionally dense and challenging, were incorporated into curricula across Europe. 

(Gellio) Bernard(in)o Marmitta (Padua, 1440-1497) was a professor of Humanities, probably in Parma; his commentary was initially published in 1491. Daniele Gaetani (Cremona, 1461-1528) was a professor of literature (in Cremona?); his commentary was initially published in 1493. Bernardino’s is decidedly the fuller commentary, but Daniele has the better Greek (or at least prints it), and so provides more context of Seneca’s models and antecedents; the two work together very nicely. An early owner of the current item was also a scholar; a great many of his emendations and conjectures (mostly on Hercules Furens, Medea and Agamemnon) are those accepted by modern editors (who have, as the owner or editor did not, the benefit of understanding Senecan scansion).

Having spent a little time learning from two very fine Senecan textual critics (Dr. Heyworth and Professor Reinhardt), I have some small appreciation of the challenges of the transmission. This early attempt – more than an attempt; a rich success! – is a delight to hold.


Folio in 6s (11 5/8” x 7 7/8”, 299mm x 202mm). Binder’s blank, A4 (±A1) a-z6 &8, binder’s blank [$3; –A1, A3; +&4; A2 signed A ii]; 150 leaves (leaves numbered I-LIIII, LIIII LV, LVII-LXXVIII, LXXVIII LXXIX LXXX LXXXI LXXXII LXXXIII, LXXXV-CXLV, CXVI); pp. [8], [291], blank; A1r pasted title (2 3/4” x 1 1/4”; woven paper?); A1v blank; A2r-v dedication to Leonardo Mocenigo (1445-1534, ambassador and minor humanist; son of Giovanni Mocenigo, Doge 1478-1485); A3r poem in defense of “Polydori Comitis Cabaliati” (i.e., Polidoro Sforza, son of Francesco, Duke of Milan); A3v dedication to Guillaume de Rochefort (Lord Chancellor of France, 1483-1492); A4r-v interpretive analysis of the tragedies of Seneca, addressed to same; a1r -&5v text and commentary; &6r registration; &6v blank.

The binding; note the hand-written title and the visible binding thread.

An example of the format (i1v).

An aside — the title-page would at first glance appear to have been mutilated — a rectangle cut from an original sheet and mounted on a new one. But, in collating our copy with other institutional copies, it now appear that this is in fact how the book was issued by the publisher; anything was possible this early in the history of printing!

Seneca title-page.jpg

French health food

As faithful readers doubtless already know (fun fact: this blog has been going strong for four days!), I am a gastronome. We have several food-related books (including a very sweet pocket-size Physiologie du Gout), and I avoid them, frankly, because I’d just end up reading them. Sometimes I must sacrifice myself on the altar of progress, though, and so I spent much of today working on the Dictionnaire portatif de Cuisine, d’Office et de Distillation… Paris: Chez Lottin le Jeune, 1770. Second edition(?). Sometimes it is attributed to François-Alexandre Aubert de La Chesnay des Bois (who, had he not died in 1784, would surely have been beheaded on day one of the Revolution simply for his name) and a couple of his confrères.

This is no cook-book, although it has some recipes. Indeed, some of the recipes (like stewing almonds in caramel for two hours) are most alluring. In the great French encyclopedic tradition, this is nothing short of a(n attempt at a) codification of all aspects of the kitchen, pantry, distillery and dispensary. It places gastronomy in its rightful place as an aspect of medicine. The term “restaurant” comes from Latin restauro, “I restore”; a restorant in Middle French (1405) makes the meaning clearer: any thing (food, drink, medicine) that restores health. The next step after a restaurant was a ragout (Ital. ragù), something to restore the appetite. The story persists that in 1765 a Parisian restaurateur (“restorer”) called Boulanger hung a sign over his shop selling broths that riffed on Matthew 11:28 “venite ad me, omnes qui stomacho laboratis, et ego restaurabo vos”, “come to me, all you whose stomachs suffer, and I shall restore you”. I don’t know if there’s any truth to it but there you are.

Two years later the first edition of the Dictionnaire portatif de Cuisine was published in that same city, with most entries ending with an Observation médecinale, a reflection on the nutritive and therapeutic value of the food. Our edition, that of 1700, is what appears to be the second edition of the work. Despite its rarity (only one copy for auction on record, no copies in institutional libraries), the authenticity of the publication is in no doubt: Lottin le jeune (Antoine-Prosper Lottin, 1733-1812) has signed the verso of the title-page to attest to the authenticity of the book in a city where piracy was as common as bouillabaisse.

Signature of the publisher, [Antoine-Prosper] Lottin [le] jeune, A2v.


Octavo (6 7/16” x 4”, 165mm x 102mm). a8 A-V8 V8 X-Aa8 2A-Aa8 [$4; roman minuscule numerals used for signing; from 2A, $1 marked Partie II.; –A3; 2O3 missigned 2Oij; V duplicated]. 400 leaves, pp. i-v vj-viij ix x-xvj, 1 2-320 305-384, 21 22-382, [2].

Productive Armed Occupancy

Among the weighty books, three-volume folios with extra gilt, flit gaily lighter things: wills and petitions (oh, the chancery hand…), newspapers, pamphlets and the like. One such thing (not quite gaily) appeared today: Productive Armed Occupancy of the Subdued and Deserted Territory lying on the Mississippi River. Washington, D.C.: McGill & Witherow, 1864. Only one copy exists in institutional libraries (and none for sale or auction): the Huntington (352491), which lists its subject as “1864.” I don’t know that anyone’s read this document in a long while. It asks the Secretary of the Treasury (Salmon Chase or William Fessenden) ““what is to be done with the freed negro”” (p. 3) with special regard to the production of cotton and tobacco. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1 January 1863 and the accompanying policy of the government radically altered the means of producing commodity crops, and there was concern for the security of the sources of much American wealth (viz. “the abandoned cultivated lands in the rebellious States”, p. 4).

The plan suggests settling 1,000 “freed negro[es]” and 100 “white loyal citizens” in the land, and the government furnishing them with guaranties, doctors, teachers and so forth. One stated goal (p. 5) is to keep “the freed negro from vagabondizing at the North”, another to provide “for the education of the growing generation of blacks”. The author is concerned with allaying the fears of other nations that the flow of cotton from America will diminish, and his solution is to employ freed slaves, since with the proclamation they became “ward[s] of the Government; with the usual claims of a ward, conferring upon the Government the right of disposition” (p. 7).

The very title, Productive Armed Occupancy, indicates that freed slaves are once again pressed into service, albeit paid; they are in essence drafted for labor. This document suggests a forerunner to Black Codes (see T.B. Wilson's Black Codes of the South (University of Alabama Press, 1965)), the legal mechanisms used by southern states post-1865 to continue to dictate black labor. The placement of 100 whites among each 1,000 blacks is an echo of the three-fifths formula, marking unease in allowing blacks to fully constitute a community. In all, it is a document that speaks of the difficulty of eradicating slave-era attitudes toward black labor and congregation.



Quarto (9 11/16” x 7 1/8”, 246mm x 193mm): 1-2^4 3^2. 10 leaves, pp. 1, blank, 3 4-19, blank.

Prior's prior Byronism

Matthew Prior (1664-1721) was a diplomat first and a poet second; at least that’s what his mother used to say to her friends. Somehow he found the time to write copious occasional poetry.  He excelled at French and so accompanied the English ambassador to France. His political acumen was imperfect, it would seem, as Robert Walpole had him impeached from his ambassadorial post, resulting in his house arrest from 1715-1717. His fortune thus diminished, the printer Jacob Tonson arranged for his popular Poems on Several Occasions, which had been originally published in 1707, to be printed in folio, and his fortune was restored; the list of subscribers to the 1718 edition contained over 1,000 names.

What struck me in reading through this edition was how remarkably Byronic his poetry sounded, albeit a century early. A brief quotation will serve to illustrate:

Richard, who now was half a-sleep,
Rous’d; nor would longer Silence keep:
And Sense like this, in vocal Breath
Broke from his twofold Hedge of Teeth.
Now if this Phrase too harsh be thought;
Pope, tell the World, ’tis not my Fault.
Old Homer taught us thus to speak:
If ’tis not Sense; at least ’tis Greek.     (p. 359; Alma, canto III)

Prior here mocks the Homeric formula “the fence of his teeth” (ἕρκος ὀδόντων), a reference sure to make his more erudite readers chuckle, their egos having been tickled. Byron was, I think, a little fonder of Pope than was Prior. The mode of humor, though, abstracting and digressing from the story to make a punning literary reference, is as Byronic as it gets. Did Byron read Prior? I don’t have Cochran’s catalogue of Byron’s library to hand. Even more intriguing is the prologue to Solomon, another of the long poems in the Poems on Several Occasions, in which Prior discussed the refraction of heroism through the epics from Homer to Vergil to Milton (and including Gerusalemme Liberata); doubtless Byron’s Don Juan sits in that same line. I suppose we’ll just have to wait for Dr. Camilleri’s forthcoming book on the subject…



Folio (13 7/16” x 8 1/2”, 343mm x 214mm). π2 A2 a-c2 d2(–d2) e-i2 B-6O2 [$1; –3R1; +3R2]. 277 leaves, pp. blank, frontispiece, title, blank, [38], 1 2-51 52-53 54-132 133 134-154 155 156-182 183 184-199 200 201-214 215 216-244 245, blank, 247-249, blank, 251 252-308 309 310-315, blank, 317, blank, 319 320-381, blank, 383, blank, 385-395, blank, 397 398-425, blank, 427-429, blank, 431 432-468 469-471, blank, 473 474-506, [6]. With an engraved frontispiece and several engraved initials and head- and tail-pieces.


Maiden Voyage

Keeping a Web-log or "blog" is not something I ever thought I'd do as a bibliophile, but here I am. Ephemeral, meet durable.

In going through our holdings, I usually just pick up what I find most interesting. Thus there are stacks of books about British sea-weeds and countless books of commonplaces or common prayer that I ignore. When I deem it time to take my medicine, I pick one of these pieces of sea-weed up, and usually manage my find to be engrossed, or at least amused by something.

There's a pretty bible in English (KJV) that sits on a bottom shelf of a book-case obscured by the pretty carved table in the center of the shop. It is unpaginated, which at least makes collation a little easier. I thought the fore-edge was stained, but as I did the collation saw that the marks were polychrome and not at all random. A quick fan of the pages revealed a concealed fore-edge painting: Malmesbury Abbey in vol. I, Byland Abbey in vol. II.

Malmesbury Abbey. Vol. I, fore-edge.

And who is the "LP" whose gilt initials are on the covers?

Detail of the cover of vol. I. Gilt "LP"

The armorial bookplate in vol. I reads "[[ ]] Priestley", i.e., the forename has been erased. Some sleuthing in Burke's reveals that it is Lydia Priestely (née Lea), wife of Joseph Priestley (Esq. of White Windows in Yorkshire; not the famous dissenter, though the family is ultimately the same). Vol. II has the bookplate of Henry Priestley, Lydia and Joseph's second son. Now a plain bible (which turns out to be most rare; only four copies in institutional libraries, and one for sale at Blackwell – though bound with a Book of Common Prayer) is both attractive by reason of the fore-edge paintings (maybe Edwards of Halifax?) and sentimental: a mother's gift, or perhaps an inheritance, to a son who would not inherit White Windows.


Vol. I: binder’s blank, A-Mm8 Nn5(Nn6-8 bound into vol. II), binder’s blank [$4, –A1]. 285 leaves, pp. [1], blank, [2], [566].

Vol. II: binder’s blank, Nn3(i.e., Nn6-8) Oo-Bbb8 Ccc2 Ddd-Rrr8 Sss6 ∗A-∗L8 ∗M4 [$4]. 311 leaves, pp. [201], [2], blank, [234], [184]. Vol. II begins with Isaiah. New Testament with its own title page (Ddd1). Apocrypha begin on ∗A1.