Early Modern Fireworks

John Babington, Pyrotechnia, or, A Discourse of Artificiall Fire-works (London: Printed by Thomas Harper for Ralph Mab, 1635)   Delta.3.29 As a form of entertainment firework displays became popular under the Tudors, reaching an early peak during the Elizabethan era (Kinchin-Smith). Things did not always go to plan, however. In 1572, the Earl of Leicester, RobertContinue reading “Early Modern Fireworks”

Laud’s Terence

Terence, Comedies (France, c.1475)  MS 117 This manuscript of Terence’s Comedies is one of two medieval Terence manuscripts at St John’s College and also one of only a few medieval manuscripts at St John’s not produced in England. During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the plays of the African Roman playwright Publius Terentius AferContinue reading “Laud’s Terence”

Unique Wyclif

John Wyclif, Postilla in Biblia (England, early 15th century)   MS 171 John Wyclif (d. 1384) is today best remembered for his connection with the first complete Bible translation into English. He is, however, also the author of a comprehensive commentary on the Bible, the Postilla in Biblia, which has survived only in parts dispersed overContinue reading “Unique Wyclif”

Lost or Unknown?

Kitāb-I Zabūr [-I Dā’ūd] (The Book of the Psalms [of David]) completed on 8 Dhū al-Ḥijjah 1071 [= 4 August 1661]   MS 105 Two 17th-century Persian translations of the Psalms are known to scholars. The earlier of these was made from the Latin Vulgate by the Spanish Jesuit Jeronimo Xavier (1549-1617), a missionary to theContinue reading “Lost or Unknown?”

Illustrated World History

Hartmann Schedel, Registrum huius operis libri cronicarum cum figuris et ymagibus ab inicio mundi (Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, 1493)   Cpbd.c.3.lower shelf.5 This huge book is more commonly known as the Nuremberg Chronicle (also Schedelsche Chronik or Liber chronicarum). Despite its early publication date, it is certainly not a rare book. The Incunabula Short-Title Catalogue lists 858Continue reading “Illustrated World History”

Private Press Caxton

Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend of Master William Caxton Done Anew (Hammersmith: Kelmscott Press, 1892)   Vet.Trans.4-6 The three-volume edition of The Golden Legend from 1892 is St John’s College’s only holding of The Kelmscott Press. Founded by William Morris (1834-1896) in 1891, The Kelmscott Press is arguably the most renowned English private press. InspiredContinue reading “Private Press Caxton”

The First Modern Atlas

Abraham Ortelius, Theatrum orbis terrarum (Antwerp: Jan Baptista Vrients,1603)   A.1.2 The cartographer Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598) was the first person to create a book with ‘a collection of uniform map sheets and sustaining text’ (Koks). The first edition of his Theatrum orbis terrarum (1570) contained 70 maps, ‘for which copper printing plates were specifically engraved’ (Koks).Continue reading “The First Modern Atlas”

A Rare Medieval Self-portrait

Hours of the Virgin and Middle English Devotional Texts (Newcastle upon Tyne, between 1420 and 1434)   MS 94 Together with Psalms, hymns, lessons, and other liturgical content, Books of Hours contain prayers linked to the canonical hours, i.e. the hours at which pious Christians were meant to pray. They were made for lay people, especiallyContinue reading “A Rare Medieval Self-portrait”

Hobbes on the English Civil War

Thomas Hobbes, Behemoth or The Long Parliament (England, late 1660s?)   MS 13 In Behemoth or the Long Parliament, the political philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) discusses the English Civil War (1642-1651). It is his ‘only composition to address directly the history of the events which formed the context of his writings on sovereignty and the governmentContinue reading “Hobbes on the English Civil War”