It was not only manuscripts that were cut up and used in bindings for new books in the sixteenth and seventeenth century: printed texts could suffer the same fate. There are about fifty examples of this in the collection of Samuel Harsnett, Archbishop of York (d. 1631), now held in the library of the University of Essex. They include several interesting specimens, for instance:
- an English text printed by Wynkyn de Worde which, as Francesca Galligan has shown, may represent an unnoticed printing of Rycharde cuer de lyon
- two partial copies of a royal proclamation to butchers of 1535, in a binding localisable to London and datable to before 1537
- a mid-seventeenth century advertisement for a school being set up by one Andrew Minet on Lime Street, London
- a folio from Erasmus’s De copia (Basel, 1534) re-used in Cambridge in the late 1570s or early 1580s as a flyleaf in a binding for a copy of the Italian émigré Protestant reformer, Peter Martyr Vermigli – an interesting hint at changing priorities within a half century
For various reasons, these printed pieces are not the focus of the present project to catalogue and put on-line the fragments in the Harsnett collection – but it would be a shame not to make them publicly available in some form. So, the Centre has set up an album on Flickr with some images already uploaded there. This news comes with a request: taking our lead from places like the Harry Ransom Center and initiatives like the Sion College Library Provenance Project, run by Lambeth Palace Library, we want you to invite you to engage with these images and add to our knowledge of them. So, friends in the republic of letters, do let us know if you have information about them we don’t have – and we will make sure you are acknowledged.
And the results are in… Thank you to everyone who voted and made suggestions in our recent poll. The idea was to garner feedback about the naming of our small project which will provide an on-line database of manuscript fragments in the collection of books once owned by Samuel Harsnett and now in the Sloman Library of the University of Essex. We already had some thoughts on which we wanted your opinion and invited you to suggest your own. That created the result that the winner is… ‘Other’.
We received several ideas for names. One was ‘Fragments in Bindings’ which certainly describes well this pilot but as the intention is to build out from this and as many fragments, even when they were once in bindings, are now in guardbooks or loose, that does not reflect the future ambition. Other suggestions helpfully revealed how some might want to use the information: ‘Rediscovered Texts’ and ‘Texts & Paratexts’ imply a hope that new works will be found. That, of course, would be exciting but we are also finding notably early examples of known works. What is more, we are finding that some binders consciously chose to use fragments with as little text as possible – while we are not going to record every blank scrap, we still need to acknowledge this reality. ‘Buried Treasures’ was another evocative suggestion which might conjure up the ghost of a bibliographical Long John Silver. Another proposal was ‘Bits and Pieces’ – nobody, though, came up with ‘Odds and Sods’.
Thanks go to those, especially, how took a moment of their time to send us these suggestions. As you can see, they were varied and there was no overlap between them. So if, in the end, we cannot launch the database to the world as ‘Other’ (tempting though it may be), we need to turn to those other titles which received several votes. Of those, ‘Books Reborn’ was the also-ran and ‘Fragments Reunited’ was just pipped to the post by ‘Lost Manuscripts’. We are intending, however, not to lose completely some sense of ‘reuniting fragments’ in our subtitle.
In the very near future, you will be hearing more from us: the printed fragments in the Harsnett books are not the main focus to this project but, as anyone who follows @DrDavidRundle on Twitter will know, there are some … buried treasures. We have plans for them.