Rare Book of the Month: August 2018

Cosmotheoria, libros duos complexa, Jean Fernel

The August 2018 rare book of the month is Jean Fernel’s Cosmotheoria, libros duos complexa, printed in Paris in 1528. This book is interesting for a number of reasons, not least of which is the fact that it is a very early work on celestial mechanics and astronomy. The Middle Temple Library copy of Cosmotheoria is bound with two of Fernel’s other works:  Monalosphaerium (1526) and De proportionibus libri duo (1528).

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Cosmotheoria, libros duos complexa, Jean Fernel, title page

Jean Fernel was born in 1497 in Montdidier and died in Paris in 1558. He obtained a license to practice medicine at the relatively advanced age of 33, and maintained an interest in mathematics throughout his life. He was the first European to make a “noteworthy modern attempt at measuring the earth” (David Smith, History of Mathematics, volume 2, p.347) and is known to have calculated its circumference to within one percent of the true value. The Cosmotheoria is the second work he published and like his first, Monalosphaerium, was printed by Simon de Colines, who was one of the most renowned of the Parisian printers. He married the widow of the equally celebrated French printer, Henri Estienne. As can be seen above, the title page is beautifully printed, with a woodcut border that depicts the portraits and coats of arms of the France and of the Dauphin. The book was originally printed in 1527 with the title page reprinted to modify the date; the colophon is dated 1527.

Fernel was a professor of medicine in Paris. From 1542 onwards, Fernel’s popularity and fame as a physician grew, when he was appointed “physican to the Dauphin” (Charles Sherrington, The Endeavour of Jean Fernel, p.208). In 1556/7 he became physician to Henry II, King of France. Unlike other physicians of the time, Fernel did not believe in astrology as an adjunct to medicine, nor did he support the widespread use of blood-letting.

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Inscription on the title page of the De proportionibus libri duo, which reads: ‘Ex dono reverendissimi domi magistri henrici de sancto claro episcopi rossensis’

Each of the three ‘bound-together’ books by Fernel has an interesting provenance. The De proportionibus libri duo has a contemporary inscription on the title page which reads: ‘Ex dono reverendissimi domi magistri henrici de sancto claro episcopi rossensis’. Henry Sinclair (1507/8-1565) was bishop of Ross and Lord President of the Court of Session in Scotland. He died in Paris in 1565. The Cosmotheoria has a signature or inscription on the bottom right of the title page which has been trimmed off by an inattentive binder.

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Lambe stamp, probably one of the earliest English book stamps ever recorded

Both the Cosmotheoria and the Monalosphaerium have a book stamp on the verso of the title page: ‘Ex libris M. Guillermi Lambe. 1530’. This is probably the earliest English book stamp ever recorded, and could be that of William Lamb (1495-1580), philanthropist and the man responsible for the construction Lamb’s Conduit. This conduit was at the north end of Red Lion Street in Holborn and provided clean drinking water for Londoners, albeit running through “lead pipes” (George Clinch, Marylebone and St. Pancras, p. 144). The title page to the De proportionibus libri duo is damaged, with half of it missing, but most likely also had the book stamp on the verso.

While the Cosmotheoria does contain an early reference to ‘America’ in the dedicatory letter to John III, King of Portugal, it does not contain a clear reference to the Saint Lawrence River (Fleuve Saint-Laurent), as some references state. In the passage on America, Fernel talks of a ‘mighty and rich river’ towards the ‘36th degree of Northern latitude’, with a ‘mouth stretching for 28 miles’ emptying into the sea. This river description is based on observations made by the Portuguese explorer João Alvares Fagundes, who explored Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. Some take this to mean that Fagundes mistook the 36th degree for the 48th, which would roughly match up to the location of the Saint Lawrence River. It is still not clear whether this is an accurate assessment of Fagundes’s account, because it “remains a matter of speculation” (L.A. Vigneras, Dictionary of Canadian Biography) whether he did, in fact, explore the Gulf of the Saint Lawrence.

Renae Satterley



Rare Book of the Month: July 2018

The July 2018 rare book of the month is Pierre Pichot’s De rheumatismo, catharrho variisque a cerebro destillationibus, & horum curatione libellous, printed in Bordeaux in 1577.

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Pichot was originally from Angers, from whence he obtained his title as a doctor. Soon after he moved to Bordeaux, later becoming ‘docteur régent’ at the University of Bordeaux’s faculty of medicine by 1572-73. The book was printed by Simon Millanges, the same publisher as Michel de Montaigne’s Essais (1580). Montaigne “would likely have been familiar with the Bordeaux circles in which moved the scholar-doctors Antoine Valet … and Pierre Pichot” (George Hoffman, The Cambridge Companion to Montaigne, p. 166). Montaigne owned a copy of Pichot’s 1574 work, De animorum natura, morbis, uitiis, noxis, horumque curatione, ac medela, ratione medica ac philosophica, also printed by Millanges and now held at the Bibliotheque nationale de France. Millanges’s press was established in 1572 and came to establish “Bordeaux as a centre of printing” (http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/exhibitions/Montaigne/labels.html).

‘Rheumatismus’ in this sense means to suffer from a flux (or phlegm). The root ‘rheum’ refers to bodily fluids rather than ‘rheumatism’ as we know it today. It was not until later in the 17th century “that Guillaume de Baillou, the father of rheumatology, first used the term ‘rheumatism’ to refer to joint ailments”. As the title page also mentions ‘catarrh’, therefore, this book is about curing the common cold, rather than ailments of the joints. There is nonetheless a relationship to rheumatism- according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Galen knew that respiratory diseases causing the production of phlegm often resulted in patients developing painful maladies, such as the conditions now described as arthritis and neuropathy … Baillou knew that a respiratory disease called catarrh, which is associated with inflammation of the upper respiratory tract, was connected to rheumatism and that rheumatism was systemic in nature, affecting many parts of the body. The rheumatic maladies as described by Galen and Baillou were later associated with Streptococcus infections.”

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As can be seen here, the book has been heavily annotated by an early reader. In addition to writing notes in the margins, this previous owner has crossed out many of the names, such as Galen and Hippocrates, found throughout the work. The reason is not clear. Did he (or she) not agree with those writers? Debates about their theories were taking place throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, and tracts both for and against each author were printed during this time. The book has some secondary marginalia in Robert Ashley’s hand in the way of marginal numbering. This is a common habit amongst Ashley’s books, and he most likely numbered passages that he found important, in order of preference or importance. The library holds a second book on the common cold, Jean Vigier’s 1620 Tractatus absolutissimus et accuratissimus de catarrho, rheumatismo …, printed in Geneva.

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The book is in need of conservation and if you would like to sponsor its repair, the estimated cost would be £300.00. Please contact the library for further details.

For a full account of Pichot’s life, see Alain Legros, ‘La vie et l’oeuvre d’un médecin contemporain de Montaigne, Pierre Pichot’, Revue française d’histoire du livre, nos. 92-93, 1996.

Renae Satterley


Rare Book of the Month: June 2018

A treatise on the law concerning idiots, lunatics and persons non compotes mentis by George Dale Collinson

The rare book of the month for June is a two part volume from 1812: A treatise on the law concerning idiots, lunatics and persons non compotes mentis by George Dale Collinson, a barrister at Lincoln’s Inn. The first volume includes theoretical as well as practical descriptions of lunacy and idiocy, differentiating between the two.

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Title page

The initial chapters on the ‘nature of lunacy’ include many references to philosophy and literature, and Collinson’s citations of medical authorities are outnumbered by these references to philosophers and other writers. Included are practical descriptions of the legal framework surrounding lunatics at that time, including the inquiries into someone’s supposed lunacy and the management of their estate.

The book is organised around the traditional common law categories of person non compos mentis with the two “philosophical” chapters on the “nature of lunacy” and “the justice and expediency” of the laws governing those of unsound mind.

There is a long extract from Samuel Johnson’s (known for his bouts of acute melancholy) The history of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia (1759), a short philosophical fable about happiness. Collinson describes the extract as evidencing, despite its fictitious nature, a “natural representation of the origin and progress, and illustrative of the nature of insanity occasioned by indulging the imagination in chimerical flights, till it rises superior in dominion to reason itself.” (pp.27-28). Collinson then links this with the real world example of Rouseau, while using the work of the influential Scottish philosopher Dugald Stewart to illuminate these ruminations on insanity. Stewart’s Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind had been published in 1792, with further volumes appearing, after Collinson’s work, in 1814.

Extract from Samuel Johnson’s The history of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia

Because of its heavy reliance on history, philosophy and literature, Collinson’s book paints an interesting portrait of contemporary reactions to insanity and other forms of mental illness.

The second volume contains the statutes governing lunacy up until 1812, including the the De Prerogativa Regis 1324, which represents the medieval roots of legal intervention into the affairs of mentally disordered people. This ‘statute’ distinguished between “natural fools” in which there was no prospect of recovery and “lunatics”, those who “before-times had their wits” and were possibly able to enjoy lucid intervals and even recover completely. In modern terminology, this evidences a distinction between learning disability and mental illness, a distinction which has been echoed throughout the history of mental health legislation in England.

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De Prerogativa Regis 1324

The De Prerogativa Regis was the basis of a protective prerogative jurisdiction of the Crown, a parens patriae (Latin for ‘parent of the nation’) jurisdiction now administered by the High Court and the Court of Protection.

Other pieces of legislation reproduced in volume two include the Madhouses Act 1774 and the County Asylum Act 1808.

The Madhouses Act 1774 provided legal authority for private madhouses and instituted a system of safeguards for those detained therein. Madhouses had to be licensed and registered, a means of preventing the so-called ‘smuggling’ away of a patient. Lawful confinement could now only take place in a licensed establishment. A licensing body of commissioners appointed by the Royal College of Physicians was established by the Act, and medical evidence of ‘unsoundness of mind’ was required to justify confinement.

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The Madhouses Act 1774

The County Asylums Act 1808 gave power to magistrates of each county to establish asylums, although many did not, and lunatics were often placed in local prisons. The Act is often known as Mr Wynn’s Act after Charles Watkins Williams-Wynn, the Member of Parliament who promoted the legislation.

Asylums were often of a poor condition, examples being York Asylum where in 1812 it was discovered that thirteen women were confined in a cell twelve feet by seven feet ten inches, and that the deaths of 144 patient had been concealed. In Bethlem Hospital in 1814, an inspection by a magistrate uncovered a sideroom in which ten female patients were chained by one arm or leg, naked save unfastened blanket gowns.

These volumes are on display in the Library as part of the exhibition, Law and Lunacy: the regulation of madness. This exhibition traces the development of the law relating to lunacy, with a focus on the 19th century legal treatises which expounded, commented on and shaped the law. Also on display are books which show images of Bethlem Hospital, the oldest psychiatric hospital in the world.

Rare Book of the Month: May 2018

Euclidis elementorum libri XV

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Title page signed by Robert Ashley

The May 2018 rare book of the month is Euclid’s Elementorum libri XV, printed in Cologne in 1607. As can be seen above and on the right, the book’s title page was signed by Robert Ashley (‘Ro. Asheley’), using a variant spelling of his surname; his initials R.A. are also Euclid 1607 tp sigwritten on the title page. According to The Oxford Dictionary of the Renaissance, “Euclid’s Elements provided the basis for all teaching in learned mathematics”. Ashley was briefly a public professor of geometry in Oxford during 1587/1588 (https://archive.org/stream/aregistermember03oxfogoog#page/n114/mode/2up) and developed a substantial collection of mathematical books during his lifetime. His collection contains three editions of Euclid’s Elements– two from 1607 and one from 1609.

The first printed version of the Elements was produced in Venice in 1482 by Erhardus Ratdolt, and was in Latin. The first Latin edition produced from a Greek translation was printed in 1505 by Joannes Tacuinus- this edition showed that “books 14 and 15, long accepted as part of the Elements, were not in fact by Euclid” (ODR).

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Marginalia in Robert Ashley’s hand on the verso of the title page

The 1607 version of the Elements featured here contains an extra book- number 16, added by François de Foix, comte de Candale. According to Benjamin Wardhaugh, book 16 “was concerned primarily to expand upon the final few constructions of Book 15: in particular the sometimes complex and beautiful figures which resulted when one regular polyhedron was placed inside another” (https://www.thinking3d.ac.uk/Candale1566/). Foix also included a “short treatise on regular and semi-regular polyhedra”.

As can be seen below and on the verso page above, Robert Ashley has marked up the book with a variety of annotations concerning the work itself, mentioning the importance of mathematics to understanding the motion of the stars and planets. Ashley has marked up the 1609 edition in a similar fashion, referencing Philipp Melanchthon. [With thanks to Dr. Jon Blaserak of the University of Bristol for assisting with this marginalia].

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Marginalia in Robert Ashley’s hand

This book was chosen as the May 2018 book of the month as Middle Temple Library will be participating in the ‘Seeing Euclid’ project organised by the History Faculty of the University of Oxford. As part of this project, organisations around the UK are exhibiting their 15th-18th century copies of Euclid’s Elements between 19 May and 15 July. A dedicated website will be launched on 19 May: www.seeingeuclid.org. Middle Temple’s Euclid books will be on display from 18 May to 15 June in an exhibition case on the Gallery, facing the Molyneux Globes.

The book is heavily damaged, with the title page in a particularly delicate state. It was rebound in the 1970s, but without any paper repairs being performed, meaning that the paper has become particularly dirty and damaged. If you would like to sponsor the repair of this work for an estimated cost of £300, please get in touch with the Librarian: library@middletemple.org.uk.

Renae Satterley, Librarian

May 2018

Rare Book of the Month: April 2018

Del bever caldo costumato da gli antichi Romani

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Title page of Antonio Persio’s Del bever caldo costumato da gli antichi Romani

The April 2018 rare book of the month is Antonio Persio’s Del bever caldo costumato da gli antichi Romani, printed in Venice in 1593 by Battista Ciotti. Persio was born in Matera (southern Italy) in 1542 and died in 1612. By 1560 he had moved to Naples, where he came into contact with the natural philosopher and anti-Aristotelian Bernardino Telesio, and became his close friend and disciple- Telesio’s philosophy had a lasting influence on Persio’s work. He was friends with Anton Francesco Doni and a “close friend of Tommaso Campanella” (Utopia through Italian eyes, Eric Nelson, 2006).

By 1570, Persio had moved to Perugia where he was introduced to Paolo Manuzio, who in turn introduced him to his Aldo Manuzio, the great humanist printer also known as Aldus Manutius. In 1572 Persio moved to Venice, where he remained in contact with Manuzio. In 1575 he published an important commentary on the Pandects (Digestum vetus seu Pandectarum juris ciuilis tomus primus). In 1577, Aldo Manuzio published Persio’s best known work, Trattato dell’ingegno dell’huomo. Between 1576 and 1590 Persio divided his time between Padua and Venice and in 1590 moved to Rome.

The book’s subject is on the drinking customs and beverages of ancient Rome, and deals specifically with a question that was popular at the time: did the Romans drink their wine mixed with hot water or cold? As a disciple of Telesio, Persio believed that man’s primary characteristic (or spirit) is heat, and thus to preserve that spirit and remain in balance, man must perpetuate this element within himself.

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Illustration of a water heating table, invented by Persio

This is in contrast to the theory of the humours, which stated that a balance must be achieved through opposing elements (water, fire, heat, air). Persio also argues in this work that heated beverages are more pleasurable and flavourable than cold ones. Justus Lipsius (a segment in his 1637 Opera omnia) and Tommaso Campanella (Apologia pro abbate Persio di calidi potus usu, unpublished) both wrote works supporting Persio’s theory.

After publishing Del bever caldo, Persio returned to writing works on juridical subjects, many of which remain unpublished and in manuscript form only. In 1611 he met Galileo Galilei, who was interested in publishing Persio’s works, but never did so. Persio died in Rome in 1612 and was admitted posthumously to the Accademia dei Lincei in Rome. A bibliography of some of his books, printed and in manuscript form, was published in 1613- Index capitum librorum Abbatis Antonii Persii. It can be viewed online at: http://reader.digitale-sammlungen.de/resolve/display/bsb10000382.html.

Persio binding


The Del bever caldo is very rare, with only two other copies recorded in British libraries. As can be seen in the photo, the book is badly damaged and requires conservation work. If you would like to sponsor the book’s restoration at a cost of £350.00, please contact the library: library@middletemple.org.uk.

Renae Satterley, Librarian

April 2018


Rare Book of the Month: March 2018

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The book’s spine being repaired and cleaned during conservation work

Persicarum rerum historia in XII. libros descripta

The March 2018 rare book of the month is Pietro Bizzarri’s Persicarum rerum historia in XII. libros descripta, totius gentis initia, mores, instituta, et rerum domi forisque gestarum veram atque dilucidam enarrationem continens. The book was printed in 1583 in Antwerp, at the Plantin press.

This wonderful folio consists of a history of Persia in twelve books- stretching from antiquity to 1581. It also includes works by Callimachus, Minadoi, Barbaro and Contarini relating to the Turks. Bizzarri, also known as ‘Perusinus’ (i.e. from Perugia), was born in Sassoferrato Castello and sent to Venice for his education, where he converted to Protestantism. From Venice he moved first to Germany, then to England in 1549. The accession of Mary Tudor to the throne, however, saw Bizzarri returning to the continent, but he was back in England once Elizabeth I was crowned. In 1564, for reasons unknown, Bizzarri asked William Cecil if he could once again return to the continent, settling in Venice, from whence he sent “political and diplomatic information” to Cecil.

His first volume of work, Varia opuscula was printed in 1565 by Aldus Manutius. By 1568 he was moving yet again, this time to Lyon, possibly due to a warning received from the Inquisition. He was back in England from 1570 to 1572, leaving for Venice via Paris in August 1572, seeking refuge with Francis Walsingham during the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre. He was based, variously in Basel, Augsburg and Cologne between 1573 and 1577, where he continued to send intelligence reports to Cecil, but more frequently to Walsingham. By January 1578 “he was established in Antwerp, where he frequented the circle of the printer Christopher Plantin”, the printer of this work.

His first work printed by Plantin was Senatus populique Genuensis … historiae atque annales, a history of Genoa that was later placed on the index of prohibited books. Plantin printed Bizzarri’s history of Persia in 1583, and it was dedicated to August of Saxony, “although two presentation copies were also sent to England: one for the queen and one for Walsingham”. Bizzarri died in The Hague around 1586 after some further travels to Dordrecht, England and Dresden, although no formal date of death is known.

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Title page, showing two inscriptions scratched out in ink

Title Page extractAs can be seen here, two inscriptions on the title page have been scratched out.  It is possible that both are ownership marks, but it is difficult to say with certainty. The title page also shows the Plantin printer’s device and motto- ‘Labore et constantia’. The Plantin press was one of the most successful of its time, producing beautiful texts such as the Biblia polyglotta (Polyglot Bible). You can visit the museum in Antwerp, which is the site of the original printing house and bookshop: http://www.museumplantinmoretus.be/en.

The book has been restored recently, due to a generous donation to our book sponsorship fund (http://www.middletemple.org.uk/library-and-archive/library/rare-books/rare-book-sponsorship-programme). The binding was broken, and the paper had become dirty and then damaged over time. If you would like to sponsor a book, please contact the library: library@middletemple.org.uk.

Renae Satterley, Librarian

March 2018

Rare Book of the Month: February 2018

Regula Sancti Patris Benedicti

The February rare book of the month is Saint Benedict’s Regula Sancti Patris Benedicti, printed in Paris in 1604. This volume forms part of the Library’s exhibition featuring the books that once belonged to John Donne (1572-1631), poet, preacher and Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Middle Temple Library owns the largest holdings of John Donne’s library, at 84 recorded titles. All show clear evidence of Donne’s ownership, and many also contain provenance and reading marks in the hand of Robert Ashley (1565-1641), the Library’s founder. Some books appear to have come to Donne from earlier owners, such as Ben Jonson or Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy. Most of the books were rebound in the nineteenth-century, though one or two retain their original parchment or leather bindings.

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Title page of Philosophia epicurea, democritiana, theophrastica proposita simpliciter, non edocta (1601) showing Donne’s signature

Benedict of Nursia (c. 480-547), founder of monastic communities in southern Italy in the C6th, was perhaps best-known in Donne’s day for his influential Regula (Rule), containing precepts for monastic life. Comprising seventy-three short chapters, ‘The Rule of St Benedict’ provided guidance on both spiritual and administrative matters. Donne’s octavo edition, published in Paris, consists of three distinct works under a general title. In addition to the Regula, the volume contains two other works related to Benedict’s Monte Cassino communities: Constitutiones patrum congregationis Casinensis (Paris, 1603) and Bullae tres . . . pro reformatione et obseruantia regulari monachorum ordinis Sancti Benedicti Abbatis (1604). The volume contains copious pencil marks in the margins, but these are confined to the Regula. The title-page was cropped in the nineteenth century, but Donne’s motto, ‘Per Rachel ho seruito, & no[n] per Lea’ (I served for Rachel and not for Leah) is still visible. Donne’s signature appears at the bottom, and is the ‘middle version’ of his signature, found in books Donne acquired between 1602 and 1612, showing a more elaborately knotted and ornate first initial.

Donne referred to the Regula on a number of occasions in Pseudo-Martyr (1610), Biathanatos, Essayes in Divinity (1614), and in his Sermons (published from 1622 onwards). The display gives an example of Donne’s recycling of a favourite image – monasteries as ‘Shops of manufactures’ – used first in Pseudo-Martyr and later in a sermon on the penitential Psalms. Donne’s image is an English paraphrase of his Latin source, Chapter 48 of the Regula. In Donne’s copy we find a pencil reading mark in the left margin next to the relevant lines: ‘quia tunc verè monachi sunt, si labore manuum suarum viuunt: sicut & Patres nostri & Apostoli’ (‘for then are they truly monastics, when they live by the labour of their hands, as did our Fathers and the Apostles’).

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Pencil reading in the left margin made by Donne

Adapted from the exhibition text written by Dr. Hugh Adlington, University of Birmingham


Renae Satterley, Librarian

Feburary 2018

Rare Book of the Month: January 2018

Historiae Brytannicae defensio

The first rare book of the month for 2018 is Sir John Price’s Historiae Brytannicae defensio, printed in London in 1573. Price is also known as Prise, or Syr Siôn ap Rhys. He was born in either 1501 or 1502, studied at Oxford and practised in the Court of Arches, but graduated BCL at Cambridge in 1535/6. Some entries suggest that he was a member of Middle Temple, but there is no evidence of this in the Minutes of Parliament. There is an entry for ‘Apprise/Apprice’, but Sir John Baker, in Men of Court, refers to this as William ap Rhys.

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Title page, showing Ben Jonson’s motto, Tanquam explorator, and scratched out signature

John Price was in service to Thomas Cromwell by 1530 and “played a direct role in the dissolution of the monasteries”. He was seemingly more moderate and conscientious of the historic value of artefacts than his fellow visitor, Thomas Lee. Price was notary public and “principal registrar of the king in causes ecclesiastical” and was thus directly involved in recording and attesting documents such as testimonies, confessions and divorce proceedings. In 1534 Price married Joan Williamson, Thomas Cromwell’s niece by marriage.

Price was able to retain royal favour after Cromwell’s death, but no longer played a central role. In 1540, after making the priory of St. Guthlac at Herefore his principal residence, he was appointed secretary for life of the council of Wales and the Marches. He was knighted in 1547 and elected MP for Brecknockshire. He died in 1555, by which time he had amassed over one hundred monastic manuscripts. It was his knowledge of these texts which informed the Historicae. According to the National Library of Wales: “He entered into the controversy provoked by Polydore Vergil ‘s attack on the Geoffrey of Monmouth tradition in 1534. Price defended the authenticity of the Brutus legend, the Trojan origin of the Britons, and the account of Arthur’s empire. An early draft (written before 1545) of his defence is preserved (B.M. Titus MS. F., iii), but before the death of Edward VI he had composed a fuller answer, and he charged his son, Richard, with its publication, which he undertook in 1573.”

The Historicae is not particularly rare- there are multiple copies listed in the English Short Title Catalogue (link: http://estc.bl.uk/F/87APIFP97IP9F1P67BK3XQ5N9YI7XMYSKY8NQX31FU3EMNHSYH-27084?func=full-set-set&set_number=050352&set_entry=000001&format=999). However, this copy is unique in that it shows previous ownership by Ben Jonson (1573?-1637). Although the signature (‘sum Ben Jonsonii’) has been partially effaced, his motto, Tanquam explorator, is visible at the top. The motto is from Seneca and translates as: ‘As an explorer’. Jonson was an enthusiastic book collector and John Selden described the “well-furnished library of my beloved friend, that singular poet Master Ben Jonson”. But, as Ian Donaldson points out, he “was prodigal with his money, ran periodically into debt, and was obliged on occasions to sell his books”.

This would explain why his books can now be found in so many different libraries around the world. The library at Middle Temple owns six books that originally belonged to Jonson, one of which also belonged to John Donne (1572-1631)- Nicolaus Hill’s Philosophia epicurea democritiana, theophrastica proposita simpliciter, non edocta, 1601. The Historicae also shows marginalia in Robert Ashley’s hand, as shown here.

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Marginal numbering in Robert Ashley’s hand

Renae Satterley


Rare Book of the Month: December 2017

Libro del Infante Don Pedro de Portugal, el cual anduvo las cuatro partidas del mundo

The following blog post was written by Eduardo Peñalver Gómez of the Universidad de Sevilla. The original Spanish version follows the English text. A digital copy of the book can be for free, available through the creative commons license, which means that it can only be used for non-commercial purposes: Libro del Infante don Pedro de Portugal 1604

The Libro del Infante Don Pedro de Portugal, el cual anduvo las cuatro partidas del mundo (‘The Book of Prince Peter of Portugal, who travelled the four parts of the world’) is a short text of around 30 pages which recounts the tale of Prince Don Pedro (1392-1449) in his search for the Holy Land and Prester John. Prester John was a figure of dubious historic authenticity, but very present in the medieval imagination, who was variously placed in India or Africa. Don Pedro was the son of King Joao I de Portugal and brother of Enrique el Navegante (‘the Sailor’).

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Title page

The original text was written in Spanish by the Spaniard Gómez de Santisteban, although in numerous editions he appears as Garcirramírez de Esteban. As his own account reveals, don Pedro went to visit his uncle King Juan II de Castilla first after setting off on his journey, and it was he who appointed Gómez de Santisbean to assemble the group of twelve that was to accompany the Prince, for he “knew all the world’s languages”, and thus could act as their interpreter.

There are no reasons to doubt the veracity of the Prince’s account – nothing odd about it at a time when Portugal was embarking upon its explorations of the world. But both the stated purpose – the search for Prester John – and the geographical improbabilities and descriptions of fantastic animals make it inevitable that the book belongs to the fantasy genre. These fantastical elements include, as examples, flying snakes, the unicorn of Armenia, visiting the Biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorra, where the author tells us about Lot turned into salt, dog-headed men, and men born with a single leg. Many of the fantastical elements can be traced back to old medieval traditions or even older texts.

We have before us, according to some, the last book about medieval voyages. The tale of the journey takes us through an itinerary starting from Barcelos (Portugal), to Valladolid (Castile), and from there on to Venice, Cyprus, Turkey, Greece, Norway, Babylon, Damascus, the Holy Land, Armenia, Cappadocia, Sodom and Gomorra, Mount Sinai, Mecca, and the Lands of the Amazons, to conclude in Castile (hence the geographical improbabilities).

This type of travel story enjoyed great popularity, and was reproduced in countless editions of which we can find examples well into the nineteenth, or even the twentieth century.

Although we cannot be sure of the exact date, this account was most likely written during the last third of the fifteenth century. Since its first edition, printed in Sevilla in 1515 by Jacobo Cromberger, until the last one, edited in Portuguese in 1923, the Libro del Infante don Pedro de Portugal knew no less than 160 editions, some of which are extremely rare, often with a single copy as sole survivor. More or less all of the editions, for their part, present small alterations.

One of the 160 editions mentioned by Francis M. Rogers in his The travels of the Infante Dom Pedro of Portugal (1982) is the one printed in Seville by Fernando de Lara in 1604. This survives, as far as we know, at Middle Temple Library as the only known copy, since in 1957, the other known copy vanished from the Municipal Library of Rouen.


El Libro del infante Don Pedro de Portugal, el cual anduvo las cuatro partidas del mundo, es una obra de corta extensión, unas treinta páginas, conteniendo el relato del viaje que hizo el Infante don Pedro (1392-1449), hijo del rey Juan I de Portugal, y hermano de Enrique el Navegante, en busca de la Tierra Santa y el Preste Juan, una figura de dudosa historicidad, pero muy presente en el imaginario medieval, que le situaba unas veces en la Indias, otras en África.

El texto original fue escrito en español, y español era su autor, Gómez de Santisteban, aunque en numerosas ediciones aparece como Garcirramírez de Esteban. Como el propio relato revela, fue el rey Juan II de Castilla –su tío–, a quien Pedro acudió a visitar a poco de comenzar su viaje, quien designó a Gómez de Santisteban para que se uniera al grupo de doce acompañantes del Infante, porque “sabía todos los lenguajes del mundo”, es decir, en calidad de intérprete.

No hay motivos para dudar que el viaje del infante responda a un hecho histórico real –nada tenía de particular en un momento en que Portugal se lanzaba a la exploración del mundo—pero tanto el supuesto objetivo del viaje –buscar al Preste Juan– como las incoherencias geográficas y la descripción de seres fabulosos hacen adscribir la narración al género del relato fabuloso. Entre los elementos fabulosos se cuenta, por dar algunos ejemplos, las serpientes volantes y el unicornio de Armenia, la visita a las ciudades bíblicas de Sodoma y Gomorra, entre las que el autor asegura que vieron la figura de Lot convertida en sal, o la descripción de hombres con cabeza de perro, o de hombres con una sola pierna. Muchas de estos seres imaginarios procedían de viejas tradiciones medievales, incluso anteriores.

Se trata, según algunos autores, del último libro de viajes medieval. El relato del viaje dibuja un itinerario que lleva al Infante de Barcelos, en Portugal, a Valladolid, en Castilla, y de ésta a Venecia, Chipre, Turquía, Grecia, Noruega, Babilonia, Damasco, Tierra Santa, Armenia, Capadocia, Tamerlán, Sodoma y Gomorra, Monte Sinaí, la Meca, y tierra de las Amazonas, para concluir en Castilla.

Esta clase de relatos de viajes gozaban de enorme popularidad, y se perpetuaron a través de incontables ediciones que llegan a bien entrado el siglo XIX, e incluso hasta el siglo XX. Aunque no se conoce con certeza la fecha de su redacción, probablemente date del último tercio del siglo XV. Desde la primera edición, que dio a luz en Sevilla en el año 1515 el impresor Jacobo Cromberger, hasta la última, en portugués, que se editó en 1923, el Libro del Infante don Pedro de Portugal conoció nada menos que 160 ediciones, algunas de ellas extremadamente raras, a menudo supervivientes en un único ejemplar. Más o menos la mitad de las ediciones son españolas, y la otra mitad portuguesas. Muchas de las ediciones, por otra parte, presentan variaciones menores entre ellas.

Una de las 123 ediciones que menciona Francis M. Rogers fue la impresa en Sevilla por Fernando de Lara, en el año 1604, edición que ha sobrevivido, por lo que sabemos hasta ahora, en un único ejemplar custodiado en los anaqueles de la Middle Temple Library. Hasta que en 1957 se detectó su desaparición, hubo un segundo ejemplar en la Bibliothèque Municipal de Rouen.

Rare Book of the Month: November 2017

Quadrature du cercle ou maniere de trouver un quarré egal au cercle donné

1622 Title page
1622 title page

The November 2017 rare book of the months is by Simon du Chesne or Simon van der Eycke. The book concerns finding the number Pi, the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. We know almost nothing about the author of this book, except that he was from Dȏles in France and was teaching mathematics in Delft. The Middle Temple Library has a rare copy dated 1622 which according to its title page was published in Delft and for sale at the boutique of Nicolas Rousset in Paris. Only one other copy is known to me. It is in the Kungliga Biblioteket, Stockholm.

1614 Binding
1614 binding

The work is a reissue of the edition of 1584, printed and published by Aelbrecht Hendricksz in Delft for the author. It was published with the first dated privilege ever issued for a book by the Lords of the States General of the Provinces united in the Low Countries and dedicated to William I, Prince of Orange who was murdered only several months later. When the work appeared in 1584 Simon van der Eycke came into dispute with Ludolph van Ceulen. Van Ceulen spent a major part of his life calculating the numerical value of the mathematical constant π. After his death his ‘Ludolphine number’ – the value of Pi to 35 decimal places (3.14159265358979323846264338327950288…) was engraved on his tombstone in Leiden. Van Ceulen released several publications in Dutch highlighting Van der Eycke’s error.

Not all copies of the Quadrature du cercle of 1584 were sold. When the author died in or before 1614, the Delft book and print publisher Nicolaes de Clerck bought the remaining stock. He gave the copies a new title page with the impression ‘A Delf, Par Nicolas Le Clerc, 1614’ and added a short explanation to the reader: ‘L’imprimeur au Lecteur’. This reissue of 1584 is also in the Middle Temple Library collection.

1614 Title Page
1614 title page

How much interest there was for the title issue of Nicolaes de Clerck is hard to say, but in 1622 part of the original edition was still unsold. Perhaps it was De Clerck who now tried to sell the remaining copies in France. They were put into the market with the title page of 1622 and the impression ‘A Delf, and vendent à Paris, chez Nicolas Rousset’.

Irene Schrier, MA

PhD Candidate, University of Amsterdam