Thursday, February 19, 2015

At the Harry Price Library again

A reading cushion full of witchcraft sceptics:
A first edition Weyer, Scot from 1584 and 1651, John Webster, Francis Hutchinson
A visit yesterday to Senate House to look at a selection of items from the Harry Price Library. This year, the curator, Karen Attar, had the 20 or so books I had suggested arranged by topics: Demonologists, Sceptics, Victims, Astrology, the last English witchcraft conviction, and some miscellaneous.

What a collection it is! I had been in Toby English's Antiquarian bookshop over in Wallingford two weekends ago, and had casually asked him what he thought a 1520 edition of the Malleus Maleficarum might fetch on the open market. His first guess was for prices that might start at £10,000. Karen indicated that the collection preferred not to think in such terms. I wanted, I admit in rather a crude-minded way, to stress to my students just what treasures they were handling.
Karen Attar explains who Harry Price was.
A briefing before beginning
Rose and Rebecca look at sceptics
 I had never seen a copy of Webster's 1677 book, The Displaying of Supposed Witchcraft, and was interested to see that it was so handsome a volume. But Webster was a bibliophile who assembled a very large library of his own (where did he get the money for those atlases he bought?), so one might have expected that he would not have cheap job done when he finally achieved permission for the work.
Jane, one of our visitors from Shanghai, and Priyanka look at the collection's pristine copy of Scot, 1584

How to use your magic powers to make one dance naked (suborn a poor boy to do it, stop him before the company take offence)

Some of Scott's exposures of juggler's tricks: the decollation of John Baptist.

An early owner added a motto in Greek. I didn't make a transcript, and have no idea. I will find a classicist.
Gemma, Taneth and Christine are looking at Lilly's defiant 'Christian Astrology', 1647.

Gemma is looking at one of my 'must get round to reading' texts, Addison's 'The Drummer'. Rebecca has pencil and paper out to take notes, in the proper research collection fashion. Bottom left is a copy of 'Monsieur Oufle' in the English translation: one of my 'well, I tried to read it' texts.
More or less everyone in view
Karen gave us generous and up close access to these wonderful books, and whole-heartedly encouraged student readers to come and use the collection.

After this, I briefly showed a smaller group of the students the English Literature open shelves, after that, we strolled up the road to ULU, the University of London student union, with me pointing out that for a complete mind-and-body day, it has a swimming pool in the basement. There seemed to be some thought that a young male reader who had escaped my attention, but who was in the library in a suit, might make a worthwhile tertium quid. I left my students as they headed for the ULU cafe, and thought that at the very least, they'd feel a bit more members of this huge university, and might even seek out another experience of research.

My thanks again to Karen Attar - a favourite moment for me was one of the students asking about printers using the long s - and finding out that one of Karen's publications was an entry on the duration of long s type in British printing.