Author Archive

A New Fund of Amusement: Annotating 18th-Century Word Games

March 25, 2015

Books of jokes and riddles have a long history. But it’s not too common to find annotated riddle books, with answers added in manuscript by historical readers. The Clark owns one such item, an exceedingly rare copy of a late-eighteenth-century Canterbury riddle book filled with “aenigmas, aenigmatical entertainments,” “one hundred rebuses,” “one hundred and twenty condundrums, twenty sentimental toasts, two acrostics, and six songs.”

title page

title page of The Aenigmatical Repository (1772)

In his preface addressed “To the Public,” pseudonymous author Charles Crinkum claims the “squibs of imagination” featured in his Aenigmatical Repository; or, New Fund of Amusement (Canterbury, 1772) “may perhaps rouse the genius, and awaken the inquiry of the puerile.” The Clark’s copy of this book—one of seven surviving today and the only copy in the U.S.—is also rare because of its contemporary manuscript annotations. These handwritten additions supply answers to the text’s many word games, as in the book’s first engima:

first enigma

First enigma

first enigma solution

First enigma with solution

“For I like man am made to toil …
One patch upon my face descry’d,
Denotes my consequence, and pride …
More might be said—but now I’ll ask
My readers to remove my mask.”

The answer, of course, is “The Ace of Spades.”

Sadly, the manuscript answers in the “Desert and Liquors” section are largely illegible, thanks to an inexpert trimming and binding job:

trimmed marginalia

Obscured marginalia

But answers in the “Geographical Rebuses” section came through fine:

geographical rebuses

Geographical rebuses

Apparently readers in eighteenth-century England would see the following—”A hero’s distinction, and that noted place / Where Hop-merchants harbour—a heavenly race!”—and immediately think: “Ah yes—Scarborough!” Modern readers (especially on this side of the Atlantic) have clearly lost the cultural context for deciphering and appreciating the content of some of these games.

Examples from the “one hundred and twenty condundrums” are more promising when it comes to the interpretive abilities of modern readers, though most of the answers are utterly stupid:



Q: “Why is a purse taken upon the highway like a clandestine marriage?”
A: “Because it is unlawful.” (Reminds me of the bad joke books I read in grade school.)

This one’s a little better:

Q: “Why is a public procession like the late Mr. Addison?”
A: “Because it produces Spectators” (With the obvious reference to Addison’s periodical The Spectator.)

The answers to one section of conundrums consist entirely of play titles:

play title answers

Play title answers

E.g., “A Nocturnal Vision, on the twenty-fourth of June” = “Midsummer’s [sic] night dream.”

Another page asks readers to fill in the appropriate “Dramatic Authors”:

dramatic authors

“Dramatic Authors”

Q: “What we are compelled to do when we are afflicted with an ague, and a warlike instrument among the antients.”
A: “Shakespeare”

It’s possible these answers were copied in part from A key to The ænigmatical repository (1772), published the same year. (There are only two copies of this even rarer Key, both in the UK and neither digitized on ECCO; thus I have not been able to determine whether the supplied answers were copied from A key or solved by the annotating reader.) A Key is advertised near the beginning of The Aenigmatical Repository: “A Key to the Aenigmatical Part of the following Publication, as also of the Rebuses and Conundrums, will speedily be Published.” But since a few pages have conundrums missing answers …

conundrums missing manuscript answers

Conundrums missing manuscript answers

… it’s very likely the book’s manuscript additions came from the mind of a clever reader, and were not copied directly from a book: those answer-less conundra may have proven a bit too “aenigmatical” to solve, as in,

“Why is a printer like the stock list of farces at the Theatres Royal?”

I’ll leave you to sort that one out.



Editorial Note: The Clark’s copy of Aenigmatical Repository (1772) was on display last week (March 20, 2015) for the ASECS Conference Reception, along with a select group of materials from our rare book, manuscript, and fine press collections.

Woodcuts (and Engravings) Captioned by Early Readers

October 15, 2014

by Philip S. Palmer, CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow at the Clark Library

Some of you may be familiar with Twitter’s “Woodcut Wednesday,” when users share xylographic images from early modern European books, typically coupled with humorous captions and commentary. Woodcut-captioning, it turns out, has a long history. Illustrations in three books from the Clark’s early printed book collection feature caption-like manuscript notes, and in each case the notes tell us something different about the interaction between text and image in early modern England.

"a shipe"; Gregor Reisch, Margarita philosophica (Basel, 1508)—Clark Library AE3 .R37*

“a shipe”; Gregor Reisch, Margarita philosophica (Basel, 1508)—Clark Library AE3 .R37*

In many cases the manuscript “caption” functions simply as a label identifying elements of an image, as in the example above from Gregor Reisch’s popular sixteenth-century text book, Margarita philosophica (“pearl of wisdom”). While “a shipe” is not the most interesting caption, it nonetheless tells us something about the annotator’s intentions in adding words to image. The woodcut appears in a section of the book on astronomy and maritime navigation, a section dense with astronomical diagrams labeled in Latin. Here our reader supplements the more technical labels on the diagram (“oculus inferior,” “oculus superior,” and “signum in littore”) with a simple, plain-English identification of its main image: “a shipe.” Following the same pattern, this early English reader added manuscript notes to several other woodcuts in the volume.

"thes is the sone and a Reg [rain] bowe wth xxvi ti [six and twenty] steres"

“thes is the sone and a Reg [rain] bowe wth xxvi ti [six and twenty] steres”

"thes is a woman blowinge of a fyere"

“thes is a woman blowinge of a fyere”

"These be fishes of the seae"

“These be fishes of the seae”

"thes be peakockes and yegeles and a puthawk [?]"

“thes be peakockes and yegeles and a puthawk [?]”

Besides demonstrating the oddity of early modern spelling (“yegeles” = “eagles”), each of these manuscript labels asserts English as the choice language for image description. There is also a certain immediacy and familiarity to the formula “this is/thes be” that contrasts with the technical language of the book’s Latin. Since there are other manuscript annotations in the volume written in the same hand in Latin, we know that choosing English for the woodcut “captions” was a self-conscious decision for this early reader.

Illustrated literary texts in early modern England were also sites for manuscript captioning. Some of the early printed editions of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, for example, are adorned with woodcut images of the pilgrims; in a few cases those images are coupled with manuscript text. The Stowe edition of 1561 contains woodcuts of the pilgrims, several with accompanying banners featuring letterpress text, throughout the General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales. An early reader of one of the Clark’s two copies of this edition has added manuscript mottoes in Latin and English to a few of the pilgrim woodcuts.

"Fortuna non omnibus una"; Geoffrey Chaucer, The workes of Geffrey Chaucer (London, 1561): Clark Library  f PR1850 .A1 1561 *

“Fortuna non omnibus una”; Geoffrey Chaucer, The workes of Geffrey Chaucer (London, 1561): Clark Library f PR1850 .A1 1561 *

“Fortuna non omnibus una,” or “fortune [is] not one and the same for all,” accompanying a woodcut of “The Marchant.”

"Tu supplex ora"

“Tu supplex ora”

“Tu supplex ora,” or “You, kneeling, pray!” This phrase is part of a Latin proverb “Tu supplex ora, tu protege, tuque labore” (“you, kneeling, pray, you protect, and you work”) that addresses each major class of medieval society (those who pray, fight, and work). This motto accompanies the “Parson” woodcut.

manuscript poem with woodcut of the Sergeant at Law

manuscript poem with woodcut of the Sergeant at Law

To the Sergeant-at-Law woodcut the annotator has added a poem in English and Latin:

Lex is laid a downe
Amor is very smalle
Charitas is out of towne
& Veritas is gone to all

(Variations of this verse appear in several Middle English manuscripts; see the entry in the Digital Index of Middle English Verse.) Lastly, our annotator has added the phrase “as true as a Theefe” to the Miller’s woodcut. Why the Miller receives an English motto and the other woodcuts receive Latin (or a mix of the two) is unclear, though considering the general absence of Latinate words in “The Miller’s Tale,” the choice seems appropriate.

"as true as a theefe"

“as true as a Theefe”

Jumping forward nearly a century, the Clark’s copy of John Vicars’s England’s worthies (London, 1647) bears extensive manuscript notes in Latin and English on its engraved portraits of Parliamentarian military and political leaders. Vicars’s sympathetic chronicle of Parliamentarian exploits is repeatedly undermined by the manuscript notes, which are staunchly Royalist in character.

"a bould villain & a bitter enemy to ye king," engraving of Robert Rich, second Earl of Warwick (1587–1658), in John Vicars, England's Worthies (1647): Clark Library DA415 .V62 *

“a bould villain & a bitter enemy to ye king,” engraving of Robert Rich, second Earl of Warwick (1587–1658), in John Vicars, England’s Worthies (1647): Clark Library DA415 .V62 *

"A demure Rogue"

“A demure Rogue”

In the first two cases the manuscript captions are strategically placed before the engraved captions, forcing the reader to engage with the images (and historical figures) polemically before their heroic deeds can be read. In another portrait the annotator not only augments the engraved label with a manuscript caption but also adds a mark of opprobrium to the figure’s forehead—”R” for “Rogue.”

"and ye greatest of the Northern Rogues True"

“and ye greatest of the Northern Rogues True”

Recalling the manuscript mottoes added to Chaucer’s pilgrim woodcuts, some of the engravings in England’s Worthies are marked with Latin phrases and descriptions, as in the image below.

"homo singulari nequitia praeditus"

“homo singulari nequitia praeditus”

“Homo singulari nequitia praeditus omnium nequissimus,” or “the man gifted with unique wickedness is most wicked to everyone,” is reserved for the engraved portrait of Oliver Cromwell, greatest of Royalist foes.

Woodcut (and engraving) captioning—clearly alive and well in 2014—has a long history, and these examples demonstrate only a few of the many ways early readers engaged with images through text.

“To make a Great deale of Ink Quickly and wth a Little Cost”: Manuscript Recipes in a Portable Art Book

August 19, 2014

One of the Clark’s most fascinating annotated books is The excellency of the pen and pencil (1668), a portable drawing manual containing hundreds of manuscript recipes for inks, colors, medicines, and poisons, including the recipe for ink listed in the blog title.

Title page, The excellency of the pen and pencil (1668)

Title page, The excellency of the pen and pencil (1668)

The text was “collected,” as the title page states, “from the writings of the ablest masters both ancient and modern, as Albert Durer, P. Lomantius, and divers others” and is “furnished with divers Cuts in Copper, being Copied from the best Masters.”

Engravings of ears, eyes, mouths, and noses

Engravings of ears, eyes, mouths, and noses

Besides offering instruction in the nuances of human anatomy, rules of shadowing, and methods of intaglio illustration, this particular copy  of the book affords its audience custom content in the form of interleaved manuscript additions. In fact, there is so much manuscript content in the book that its print/manuscript status is best described as “hybrid” (the volume also has two catalog records—one describing it as a printed book, the other as a manuscript).

Printed books throughout the hand-press period could be purchased or bound with interleaved blank sheets of paper to aid in the practice of manuscript annotation. As Heidi Brayman-Hackel notes, “the interleaf radically expands the margin, shifting the proportion between printed text and annotatable space to accommodate the most prolific readers” (Reading Material in Early Modern England: Print, Gender, and Literacy, 142). In the case of the Clark’s copy of The excellency of the pen and pencil, the “radically expand[ed]” margins of the book play host to dozens of contemporary manuscript recipes, many of which relate to the printed text’s emphasis on methods for preparing inks and colors. Here, for example, is the recipe from the title: “To make a Great deale of Ink Quickly and wth a Little Cost”:

"To make a Great deale of Ink Quickly and wth a Little Cost" (page one)

“To make a Great deale of Ink Quickly and wth a Little Cost” (page one)

"To make a Great deale of Ink Quickly and wth a Little Cost" (page two)

“To make a Great deale of Ink Quickly and wth a Little Cost” (page two)

“Take of ye black that Curriers or Tanners doe black their skinns with, for you may haue much for mony: Then Take ye Gaule of a fish Cal’d a Cuttle, which Costeth almost nothing, & Cheifly in places neare ye sea side, & in eating ye said fish at Divers Times you may keep ye Gaules To Gather. Then mingle ye Gaules with ye Tanners Colour and without Any Other thing you shall haue a perfect Ink. To make it yet better Put to it ye Powder Made of ye Coales of Vitriel, of Gaules, & of Gum. & ye saide Ink, Shall be very Good To print in Copper, Puting to it, a Little Vernix & a Little oyle of Li[m]e, so that it may be Liquid & fitting of it of it self [sic], for to pearce ye better into all manner of Ingravings, & that it may well Abide well vpon ye Paper, without Running Abroade;”

While the quality of this ink may be suspect, the text nonetheless illuminates the resourcefulness of early modern recipes: buy a black dyeing substance cheaply from the leather-tanners, collect galls whenever squid’s on the dinner menu, and if planning on intaglio printing, add a few more specialized ingredients to the ink so it can “pearce ye better into all manner of Ingravings.” Anyone researching the early modern economics of ink manufacture would do well to consult this volume, as it contains several additional recipes for ink, including “Printer’s Ink” and “A very good Receipt To Make Red Ink by,” which is appropriately written in the very red ink it describes.

"A Very Good Receipt to Make Red Ink by"

“A Very Good Receipt to Make Red Ink by”

Yet the manuscript recipes do not simply instruct readers how to create ink; they also offer guidelines for its recovery.

"For Recover old Deeds or Manuscripts"

“For Recover old Deeds or Manuscripts”

“Take half a pint of Vinegar, add there to Thirty Gaules Well Bruised and pounded then mix therewith ye Juice of Two Lemmons & foure Onions, & before you make use of them Lett them so stand for Three days you must Use it in this manner. Dipp a feather in ye Bottle & therewith wet that part of ye Writing or Record that is most Illegible & you will soone finde ye Appearance of ye Letters.                  probat[um]: est: Ja: Godfrey.”

As with several of the volume’s manuscript recipes, the instructions to “Recover old Deeds or Manuscripts” ends with a piece of testimony: “probat[um]: est: Ja: Godfrey,” or “it is proven, [by] Ja: Godfrey.” In other words, “this recipe works, I tried it.” (Whether we are dealing with a “Ja[mes]” or “Ja[ne]” Godfrey is unknown.)

Some leaves, of course, simply provide space for doodling.

Illustration of a head

Illustration of a head

This later doodle seems to make a facetious reference to the formulaic “How to …” phrase found in many of the book’s manuscript recipes: “How to draw,” with the sketch of a face.

"How to draw"

“How to draw”

The binding of this volume, finally, offers several clues for understanding the book as a physical object.

Lower cover

Lower cover

Upper cover

Upper cover

Brass belt hook

Brass belt hook

The vellum binding, complete with fore-edge flap, has a brass strip at the lower edge of the upper cover, looped to form a belt hook. The volume, in other words, was not only portable in size but physically built to be carried around, its printed and manuscript recipes easily accessible on the go.

Inscription of Samuel Steele

Inscription of Samuel Steele

It seems likely that the person responsible for both the book’s portable structure and some of its manuscript content is the Samuel Steele who wrote this inscription on the inside of the vellum fore-edge flap: “Samuel Steele his hand and pen deus Omnipotent.” Whether the “Graf Crow” signature on the title page (see image above) refers to another owner who added manuscript content to the volume is unknown, though it is unlikely Steele was the only contributor. Rather, the multiple hands that inscribed the book’s recipes point to a social tradition of manuscript culture built around the volume, a tradition in which recipes were compiled, tested, and transcribed to create a hybrid book of portable knowledge.

—Philip S. Palmer, 2014–16 CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow at the Clark