The Fables of John Gay

The pre-1850s printed books of Sion College Library have been part of Lambeth Palace Library’s collection since 1996, following the closure of the college (you can read more about the History of Sion Library by following the series of blog posts here). The collection is currently being surveyed by our Sion Conservator, being lovingly cleaned and cared for alongside cataloguing by our rare books team to enrich and bring the old card-catalogue records up-to-date. This is giving us the chance to appreciate the full breadth of this diverse collection. From religious works to novels, educational tomes to poems, the Sion material is nothing if not eclectic. Two volumes of Fables by John Gay (1665-1732) are prime examples (K65.1 G25 C).

Image 1      Image 2
Title pages from the two volumes of John Gay’s works.

Published in 1727 the first volume (printed by J. Tonson and J. Watts) contains an assortment of fables which were dedicated to Prince William Augustus (later Duke of Cumberland), third son of King George II. Written in verse with rhyming couplets and purportedly drawing inspiration from classical works, the moralizing tales were originally composed to educate and amuse the six year old prince. Each was preceded by detailed copper engravings created by William Kent, John Wootton, and Hubert-François Gravelot (aka Hubert-François Bourguignon), to capture the spirit of the allegories. The titles of the works are somewhat curious and, much like the collection to which the copies belong, present an intriguing assortment of topics. Fable II, for example, is entitled “The Spaniel and the Cameleon” [sic] which warns against flattery and falsehood in order to win favour. The consequences in this instance were severe, as a companionable spaniel is cautioned by a passing stranger. Jove, seeking to teach a sycophantic courtly gentleman a lesson, one day turns him into a chameleon – a changeable figure indeed.

Image Spaniel
When near him a Cameleon seen,
Was scarce distinguish’d from the green…”

A particular favourite in the library is “The Elephant and the Bookseller” (Fable X). An elephant is to be found browsing in a bookshop, taking books from the shelves and reading the many and varied works that are available – from Greek literature to Natural History. However, the wise and knowing elephant dismisses the written works of man as inaccurate.

Image 4
“A book his curious eye detains,
Where with exactest care and pains,
Were ev’ry beast and bird portray’d,
That e’er the search of man survey’d.
Their natures and their powers writ
With all the pride of human wit;
The page he with attention spread,
And thus remark’d on what he read
Man with strong reason is endow’d;
A beast scarce instinct is allow’d:
But let this author’s worth be try’d,
‘Tis plain that neither was his guide.”

Meanwhile the elephant is overheard in his musings by the Bookseller, who with excitement piqued by the polymath pachyderm, bows to the elephant and implores him to “take up his pen” and share his wisdom. This however is met with disdain:

“When wrinkling with a sneer his trunk,
Friend, quoth the Elephant, you’re drunk”

And so the Elephant seemingly trundled off.

The fables proved popular and would go through numerous reprints over the years, entertaining both young and old. The works are still being produced and adapted today for contemporary audiences, with editions now available in e-formats. What Gay’s impressions of this would have been can only be imagined. Fifty years after the first publication, the accompanying images were redesigned by the engraver and naturalist Thomas Bewicke, who was known for his History of British Birds (1797) and the many illustrations for Aesop’s Fables that he produced during his lifetime. In 1823 James Plumtre produced a revision (K65.1 G25 F), prefaced with somewhat mixed praise:

“The Fables of Gay have ever been esteemed for their easy flow of versification for their wit and humour and for containing a considerable portion of moral and worldly instruction. They are not, however, without a very considerable portion of alloy” (Plumtre, 1823, iii).

Gay is best remembered for his poetical, dramatic and observational works, which include the Shepherd’s Week (1714), the Beggar’s Opera (1728) and the Wife of Bath: a comedy (1730) – each of which are held in the Sion collection alongside a plethora of Gay’s other works. But with the royal dedication of his fables Gay had hoped to secure himself a prestigious (and indeed lucrative) position at court. However, when royal notice fell upon him he was offered the role of Gentleman-usher to the Princess Louisa (Prince William’s younger sister). This he refused – the role it would seem, was not quite what he had in mind. Although, perhaps he had thought twice for fear of taking a reptilian turn?

Gay died in December 1732 and is now buried in the south transept of Westminster Abbey, just across the river from Lambeth Palace Library. A second volume of his fables was published posthumously by J. and P. Knapton and T. Cox in 1738, produced from manuscripts left behind by Gay. The tone of the work is slightly darker than those in the first edition, but equally varied in scope – from the Degenerate Bees to the Ant in Office. Inside can be found an image of Gay’s monument and a short dedication to him as “a man of sincere heart”:

Image 5

Annotated copy of the first Bible printed in England

A guest blog post by Dr Eyal Poleg, Queen Mary, University of London 

Lambeth Palace SR2 E75 is a peculiar book.  It is a copy of the first Bible to be printed in England – the ‘best of’ the Latin Vulgate, printed by Thomas Bethelet in London, July 1535.  But it is not the original text that is the most interesting about this book.  At first glance it appears to be a clean copy, with little to no marginal annotations and signs of reading.  A more careful look reveals a hidden layer.  At empty spaces at the end of prologues and sections, or at blank margins, a very thick paper was carefully pasted.  This was done so professionally that previous librarians have placed the library stamp and wrote the shelf mark on this pasted paper.

Pasted page with Library stamp

Pasted page with Library stamp

Naturally, one wonders why was this paper placed, and what lies underneath.  Having discussed the matter with the Library staff, a go-ahead was given to experiment with non-obtrusive ways of uncovering this.  Using long exposures and a light-sheet, Steph Eeles, the Library’s resourceful photographer, was able to reveal some of the happening underneath.  It revealed a mass of marginal annotations.  However, as the images merged texts from both sides of the paper, they were virtually indecipherable.

Images merging text from both sides of the paper

Images merging text from both sides of the paper

Help came from an unexpected place.  Dr Graham Davis from the Institute of Dentistry at Queen Mary University of London has long been developing innovative technologies and instruments for digital imagery within his discipline, as well as assisting medieval scholars and archivists (see  Seeing the images, he began developing ways of ‘subtracting’ one image from the other, thus clearing up the annotations.  Two joint sessions with Graham and Steph assisted in perfecting the images.

Photography in progress

Photography in progress

Graham then took the time to develop a software for image subtraction, which he trialled and tested.  Eventually it enabled the desired result of isolating the hidden annotations.

Isolation of hidden annotations

Isolation of hidden annotations

A full analysis of the annotations will be published in due course, but they incorporate an English table of liturgical reading, revealing the parallel use of Latin and English in the liturgy during the reign of Henry the Eighth.

Bright yellow pages of ARC A62.12 ER1C.

Wholly Yellow Pages, Librarian!

Everyone has probably seen book pages discoloured by time, pollution and exposure to light.  The pages turn yellow and brittle, especially at the edges. If they are ‘dog eared’ with corners folded over, these will often break away. This is often accompanied by that delicious old book smell, which is unfortunately a sign of deterioration products in the paper.

Discoloured pages.

Discoloured pages in ARC A57.9 IR2.

A62.6 W84

More discoloured pages in ARC A62.6 W84.

However, this discolouration, which is often more brown than yellow, is very different to the colour found in ‘Preparation to the Crosse’, a collection of three volumes printed in 1540, 1544, and 1545. The pages of this book are dyed a bright yellow. It is unclear what was used to dye the pages but orpiment and lead tin yellow were in use at the time of printing. Both orpiment and lead tin yellow are light sensitive, but this doesn’t seem to have affected the vibrancy of the colour as the pages are protected by being bound into a book.  Whichever pigment was used, it is water sensitive as can be seen in areas of water staining where the colour has readily moved. The original colour of the paper underneath can bee seen in these areas.

Bright yellow pages of ARC A62.12 ER1C.

Bright yellow pages of ARC A62.12 ER1C.

It is likely that the pages were coloured by the first owner, rather than the printer. The owner may have purchased the pages in sheets, had them coloured and then bound together. Looking down into the fold of the section the yellow colour can be seen to fully colour each folio, see image below. This points to the colouring happening before it was sewn or bound. The sewing appears to be original and of a natural fibre, probably linen, and stands out starkly against the bright yellow. The sewing stations match the raised bands on the spine and the book does not appear to have been resewn despite being rebound. The current binding, a nondescript pale sheep, was likely done in the early 19th century.  It was not uncommon for rebindings to retain the original sewing at this time. When the original sewing supports broke and the boards became loose a new binding was simply created to replace the old.

A62.12 ER1C thread (4)

Centre of section showing sewing thread and fully dyed page.

In addition to what was used to colour the pages, it is also unclear why the pages were dyed. There are references at the time to yellow being the colour of Judas and therefore an unfavourable. Conversely, there are references to yellow being a colour of valour and bravery. Unfortunately, neither of these meanings sheds light on why this book was coloured yellow. However, colour has long been used to organize libraries. For example, the fore-edge may have been coloured a variety of shades to distinguish subject headings while books were still shelved fore-edge out. Our books edges are coloured red, likely trimmed and coloured at the time of the 19th century rebinding. Later books shelved in the modern spine-out fashion used a similar system by utilizing various colours of leather. Unfortunately, this doesn’t explain the very yellow pages on the inside of the book either. If you have any other thoughts or can shed light on this mystery, we would love to hear about them in the comments!

Early Modern Archbishops’ Papers Project 5

Dr Richard Palmer has re-catalogued the papers of Charles Manners-Sutton, Archbishop of Canterbury 1805-28. Despite the length of his archiepiscopate, the papers comprise only four volumes. The first is miscellaneous in character but includes interesting papers on the enforcement of clerical residence, the Royal Bounty for the Vaudois, and the role of Reginald Heber, Bishop of Calcutta, and his chaplain Thomas Robinson in securing relations between the Church of England and the Churches of the East.

Manners Sutton 2 comprises a volume of papers on King’s College, Nova Scotia, continuing the series from Moore 1. The papers show the decisive role of the Archbishop in determining the statutes and affairs of the College and his efforts to preserve it as an Anglican institution. His opposition to the proposed amalgamation of King’s College with the non-sectarian Dalhousie College is reflected in copies of letters from the Earl of Dalhousie, Governor-in-Chief of British North America, to Sir James Kempt, Governor of Nova Scotia; blame for the failure of the amalgamation was placed on “the abominable obstinacy or rather the bigotry of the Archbishop of Canterbury”.

Manners Sutton 3 and 4 comprise two versions of a long memorandum by John Lewis Chirol, minister of one of the French Protestant churches in London. Previously catalogued as concerning the Vaudois in Piedmont and Germany, these were found to relate to the Royal Bounty for Huguenot clergy in England.

This concludes the project to re-catalogue the early modern Archbishops’ Papers, kindly supported by the Library Trustees. In summary, these comprise correspondence and papers of eight Archbishops of Canterbury from Gilbert Sheldon to Charles Manners-Sutton (1664-1828, 36 vols). Here are to be found papers of Gilbert Sheldon on the plague and fire of London; of Thomas Tenison and Thomas Secker on the Church in the American colonies; of Thomas Secker on the Methodists, Moravians and the relief from persecution of foreign Protestants; of John Moore on the Church in Australia, Canada and India; and of Charles Manners-Sutton on the affairs of King’s College, Nova Scotia. Alongside these are Canterbury diocesan and metropolitical papers, and records of the Archbishops as Visitor of colleges, hospitals and schools.

The Project to produce new online catalogue descriptions of the papers was carried out between August 2014 and April 2015.  Brief catalogue descriptions of entire volumes were replaced by far more detailed accounts of the papers, usually on an item by item basis. As a result researchers are now able to find a wealth of new documentation, much of it unexpected. Amongst myriad examples are a letter from John Bowes, Lord Chancellor of Ireland, giving a vivid first-hand account of the anti-union riots in Dublin in December 1759; the original order for the appointment of Gowin Knight as the first  Principal Librarian of the British Museum, together with his cantankerous objections to rules for the Museum; letters on the development of Bognor as a resort by Sir Richard Hotham; letters from Jacob Duché, Rector of Christ Church, Philadelphia, on his life and ministry, the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War and the dilemmas faced by loyalist clergy; papers on the fabric of St. Paul’s with Archbishop Secker’s mordant comments on the ‘obstinate perverseness’ of its  surveyor Henry Flitcroft and on the ‘fraudulent and insolent behaviour’ of  Flitcroft’s successor Robert Mylne;  letters from James Cornwallis, Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, on the fabric of Lichfield Cathedral, where the spire was in danger of collapse; and papers on the clandestine marriages of the brothers of George III, including brotherly communications between the King and the Duke of Gloucester exchanged through the Archbishop as intermediary. Significant correspondents are recorded in the catalogue descriptions for the first time, amongst them John Wesley, George Whitefield and Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon, who all appear in the papers relating to Methodism and the Moravians.

Report by Robert Mylne in the fabric of St Paul's Cathedral (1781)

Report by Robert Mylne on the fabric of St Paul’s Cathedral (1781)

The Early Modern Archbishops’ Papers appear to have lurked unobserved in the Library for centuries until they were finally brought together as a series between 1982 and 1984. They comprise papers of various provenances and often relate closely to other papers in the Library from which they had become separated in the course of time. The new catalogue descriptions highlight these connexions and facilitate the reintegration of the original series.

Material Witness Seminar 5: 27 April 2015


An account of an excellent seminar held at the Library recently.

Originally posted on Material Witness:

History of Libraries and Conservation at Lambeth Palace Library

with Dr. Giles Mandelbrote and Dr. David Rundle

Lambeth Gate

Blogpost by Helen Kemp

I was excited to be visiting Lambeth Palace Library for the first time, especially since it involved finding the hidden door in the wall and giving the secret password (my name) to the gatekeeper. It was also my first attendance at a Material Witness seminar, and I was looking forward to meeting the other participants. The workshop was led by Dr Giles Mandlebrote, Librarian and Archivist of Lambeth Palace Library, together with guest speaker Dr David Rundle, Lecturer in History and Co-Director of the Centre for Bibliographical History, at the University of Essex. As a group we introduced ourselves and our research interests, and it was apparent that we brought together many different disciplines – history, literature, art history, bibliography – and period specialisms spanning some 600 years.Giles and David 1


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New addition to the archive catalogue: The Church Defence Institution

Established in 1859, the Church Defence Institution was formed as ‘an association of Clergy and Laity for defensive and general purposes’[1]. With such a broad remit, individual records are often fairly nebulous, particularly in the Institution’s early days, but the archive taken as a whole reveals a strive towards greater unity within the Church of England and a desire to protect it from decline – topics that continue to resonate strongly within the Church today.

The CDI existed on a national scale, with the Executive Committee meeting in London and managing various sub-Committees (which governed its finances, publications and sub-organizations), but was also active locally. Local branches were encouraged to pay subscriptions to the national Institution, hold lectures, produce literature and to generally promote and protect the role of the Church in society. This page taken from the National Church, a monthly publication produced by the CDI,  shows the importance of this local action in its work.

National Church 1905

Page 63 of The National Church (1905)

Issues of national importance were tackled by the CDI from its London Committees, and campaigning against Welsh Disestablishment was its focus for many years. An example of this can be seen in the leaflet below highlighting the financial difficulties disestablishment would cause, reproductions of which  were distributed to all dioceses c.1913-14; just one of many books and pamphlets they produced. Indeed, the Central Church Committee (founded in 1893 by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Edward Benson), which was formed solely to fight against Welsh Disestablishment, merged with the CDI in 1896. The two bodies together became known as the Church Committee for Church Defence and Instruction, and later, in 1908, simply the Church Committee for Defence and Instruction.

[Picture CDI/5/3]


The need to defend the established Church can be also seen in the CDI’s moves to resist legislation reforming church rates, education, tithes and burials. Many of these Bills were instigated by nonconformists, whose influence was growing in Britain in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, spearheaded by the Liberation Society which aimed to separate Church from State.

The CDI continued to work to protect the Church’s role in society until 1923 when it appears it to have been incorporated into the National Assembly, which was later to become the General Synod of the Church of England.

The records of the Church Defence Institution have been catalogued by the Church of England Record Centre and are available for research – please visit here to view the archive catalogue records. The CDI’s publications, The National Church and the National Church Almanack are listed on the printed books catalogue

[1] Church Defence Institution: A Sketch of Its Origin, History and Progress, by the Revd. H Granville Dickson, p. 2

Early Modern Archbishops’ Papers Project 4

Dr Richard Palmer reports further on the project to re-catalogue the early modern Archbishops’ papers. The papers of John Moore, Archbishop of Canterbury 1783-1805, have now been catalogued.

Moore’s foreign correspondence and papers (Moore 1) include well-known documents such as the royal warrants for the consecration of three of the earliest American bishops (William White, Samuel Provoost and James Madison) and the correspondence of Richard Johnson, Australia’s first clergyman. These documents are now catalogued for the first time on an item by item basis.

Plan of a temporary place of worship at Sydney, New South Wales [1794]. The plan depicts seating for 500, with areas for male and female convicts, soldiers, free persons, officers etc.

Plan of a temporary place of worship at Sydney, New South Wales [1794]. The plan depicts seating for 500, with areas for male and female convicts, soldiers, free persons, officers etc.

The catalogue also draws attention to related items, including a detailed letter written in 1794 by Samuel Marsden relating his voyage to Sydney to assist Johnson, and the conditions he found in the colony. The Moore papers also include significant documentation on the church in Canada, especially the affairs of King’s College, Nova Scotia. Recorded for the first time are letters and memoranda from Charles Inglis, Bishop of Nova Scotia, and William Cochran, President of the College. Also present is a letter from Jacob Mountain, Bishop of Quebec, on the need to carry into effect the establishment of the Church of England in Quebec. The papers also contain documentation on the church in Madras and Bengal, including letters on the establishment of schools for the native population and on the case of Richard Hall Kerr, senior chaplain at Madras, who was found to be officiating without ordination as a priest.

Volumes 2-4 of the Moore papers relate to benefice and parochial matters in the diocese of Canterbury and the peculiars, licences for non-residence, and visitations. Many papers relate to clergy discipline, including the case of John Robertson, curate of Eastchurch, who took revenge for his dismissal in the form of an ‘impudent’ inscription in the parish register, and that of John Symmonds, curate of Shoreham, who had forged his letters of ordination. Papers relating to the foundation of a chapel at Bognor, Sussex (Moore 4 ff. 1-47) document the development of Bognor by the speculative property developer Sir Richard Hotham and the opposition of the local clergyman, Thomas Durnford. Numerous letters from Hotham document his pressing concern to erect the chapel, a sine qua non of the fashionable new resort.

Moore 5, loosely described as provincial and metropolitical papers, contains a diversity of material now recorded for the first time, including letters from William Cartwright, nonjuring bishop of Shrewsbury, giving an account of his life and theological outlook, and letters from James Cornwallis, Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, on the fabric of Lichfield Cathedral, where the spire was in danger of collapse. Moore 6 mainly comprises papers of Moore and his predecessors relating to the royal family, including the clandestine marriages of the brothers of George III, the Dukes of Gloucester and Cumberland. A letter from the Duke of Gloucester asserts his willingness to go through a second marriage ceremony if the King so wished; the King responded that he neither required nor desired such a ceremony, but would permit it if the Duke so wished. These brotherly exchanges were communicated through the Archbishop of Canterbury as intermediary. Also present are papers relating to the Episcopal Church of Scotland, including letters from Granville Sharp on the status of the consecration of Samuel Seabury by Scottish bishops.

Moore 7-9 relate to parliamentary reform, charities (especially the work of Queen Anne’s Bounty) and the disadvantages endured by Dissenters. Their cataloguing brings the project close to completion.