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First Showing: Cardiff Rare Books




Natural History
Science meets Art

After the great age of  European explorers from the 15th to 18th centuries came the botanists and zoologists to record the new plant and animal worlds which has been discovered. By the 19th century (pre-photography) colour printing technology was catching up with the demands of writers for the visual quality required for the magnificent visual exposure and promotion of  their natural history topics.


Gould, John (1804 - 1881)  
The Birds of Great Britain (1862-1873)

This was the most comprehensive work of its time on the topic. His wife Elizabeth created many of the colour plates for his works; many are hand coloured. Started his working life as a gardener, then taxidermist, then curator at the Zoological Society of London. He worked with Darwin and identified the bird species brought back from the Galapagos islands.

John Gould, The Birds of Great Britain, 1862-1873


Trew,  Christoph Jakob (1696-1769) and Ehret, Georg (1708-1770)
Plantae Selectae... (1750-1773)

Ehret was one of the most famous botanical artists of the golden age of printed works on this topic, acknowledged in the famous botanist Carl Linnaeus’ praise, and Sir Hans Sloane’s support. Trew saw and supported Ehret’s talent to bring Science and Art into perfect harmony.

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Travel / Atlases
Travel through six centuries across six continents

15th Century – Asia Minor

Mahomet II (Supposedly Mehmed II, Sultan of the Turks, 1432-1481). [Attributed to Laudivius Zacchia]
Epistolae Magni Turci (1470-1499?)

English translation titled The Turkes Secretorie, 1604/1607, states:
‘The Turkes secretorie, conteining his sundrie letters sent to diuers emperours, kings, princes and states, full of proud bragges, and bloody threatnings: with seuerall answers to the same, both pithie and peremptorie. Translated truly out of the Latine copie’. (Remember that Christian Constantinople had fallen to the Muslim Ottoman empire in 1453)!


16th Century – Europe

Ortelius, Abraham
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum / Theatre of the World, (1570, 1606 ed.)
[Map of Wales by Humphrey Lhuyd, c.1527-1568]

This work is often considered the first true modern atlas, with a unified collection of specially engraved maps bound as a volume – the culmination of 16th century European cartography, removing the old Ptolemy perspective entirely. The 1606 work is the first English language edition; it contains the first ever map of Wales on its own, produced by Lhuyd. (This specific volume was owned by Bussy Mansel, leader of the Parliament’s army in Glamorgan in the Civil War of the 1640s).


17th Century – America

Dampier, William (1651-1715)
New Voyage Round the World (1703 ed.)

First published in 1697. Dampier was a buccaneer and explorer, and harried the Spanish around central America and the West Indies. He ‘dumped’ Alexander Selkirk - Defoe’s character for Robinson Crusoe - on Juan Fernandez island. Dampier was later quoted by Captain Bligh, by Swift in his Gulliver’s Travels, and many other writers.

William Dampier, New Voyage Round the World, 1703


18th Century – Pacific/Australia

Bligh, William (1754-1817)
A Voyage to the South Sea... (1792)

Vice-admiral, famous for the mutiny on his ship, The Bounty, in 1789. Bligh and 18 other castaways survived a 4,000 mile, 47 day ordeal in a small boat, to reach Timor. Served with Captain Cook’s second expedition. His remarkable career influenced many later works, including Byron’s The Island.


19th Century – Africa

Stanley, Henry Morton (1841-1904) (i.e, John Rowlands of Denbigh)
In Darkest Africa... (1890)

Raised in a north Wales workhouse. Joined ship as cabin boy in 1858. Initially a journalist in America, fought in the American Civil War. One of the most controversial African explorers, and famous for ‘finding’ Dr. Livingstone; his later books were best sellers. He was knighted in 1899. (This is a copy personally signed by Stanley).


20th Century – Antarctica

Shackleton, Ernest Henry (1874-1922)
The Heart of the Antarctic... (1909)

Irish born explorer, already on Atlantic ships as a teenager. Volunteer on Scott’s ‘Discovery’ expedition of 1901-1904. Others in Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition reached the magnetic South Pole in 1909. Failed trans-Antarctica trek in 1914-17, but he rescued all his stranded crew. (This limited edition is signed by all the shore party of the expedition).

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Shakespeare, Milton and Dryden
Literary Triumvirate

Shakespeare, Milton and Dryden were the most influential poets and playwrights of the English Renaissance. Their canonical works assisted in defining the English language, being the three most frequently cited authors in Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language (1755). The Cardiff Rare Books collection contains one of the best Restoration Drama collections in the U.K., and includes over 200 editions of Shakespeare.


Shakespeare, William (1564-1616)
Henry IV (1700)

The script of Henry IV as performed at Little Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1700. Contains unique contemporary manuscript annotations by the owner on the character of Sir John Falstaff, ‘a very Wise and Valiant Man’.


Shakespeare, William (1564-1616)
Othello (1695)

The script of Othello as performed at the Theatre Royal in 1695. Contains a contemporary manuscript comment, ‘best next to Hamlet’ and a revised manuscript list of dramatis personae, including ‘Mr Cibber’ as Iago. Colley Cibber was a renowned theatre director and Poet Laureate who began his career as an actor.

William Shakespeare, Othello, 1695


Milton, John (1608-1674)
Paradise Lost (1695)

First published in 1667, Paradise Lost sold very slowly before it was released as a quarto illustrated edition in 1688, after which it became extremely popular and took its place in literary history. The inscription underneath the portrait was written by John Dryden: he compares Milton to Homer and Virgil, and suggests Milton combines the genius of both.


Milton, John (1608-1674)
Paradise Lost (1926)

A modern edition of Paradise Lost featuring illustrations by William Blake. Paradise Lost has fired the imaginations of artists ever since its first illustrated edition was published. The Cardiff Rare Books collection contains multiple copies of Paradise Lost spanning four centuries, featuring changing societies’ visual representations of Death, Satan and Hell.


Dryden, John (1631-1700)
Annus Mirabilis (1667)

John Dryden was an English poet, dramatist, and literary critic who so dominated the literary scene of his day that it came to be known as the Age of Dryden. Annus Mirabilis was a poem celebrating the triumphs of 1666 – two victories by the English fleet over the Dutch, and London’s survival of the Great Fire of London.


Dryden, John (1631-1700)
All for Love: or, the World Well Lost (1678)

The script of the first ever performance of All for Love at the Theatre Royal, Llundain, a tragedy ‘written in imitation of Shakespeare's stile’. Dryden revises Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, focusing on the last hours of the lives of its hero and heroine. Today, it is Dryden’s best-known and most performed play.

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The First Printed Books

Incunabula were published in Europe between 1455 and 1500, and are very rare. The invention of the printing press was a revolution in ‘information technology’. Previously handwritten works could now be mass-produced, which permanently altered the structure of society: the relatively unrestricted circulation of information and (revolutionary) ideas transcended borders, threatened the power of political and religious authorities, and the increase in literacy broke the monopoly of the literate elite on education and learning.


Rolewinck, Werner (1425-1502)
Fasciculus temporum (Cologne, 1474)

In the late fifteenth century, Rolewinck’s work was an indispensable reference work on world history. It employs a distinctive and original graphical design. The text is not arranged in columns; instead, multiple chronologies are arranged in parallel, horizontally across the pages - a noteworthy achievement in the history of printing and also a pivotal development in historiography.

Werner Rolewinck, Fasciculus Temporum, 1474


Bromyard, John (d.1352)
Opus trivium (Lyon, 1500)

Bromyard was a Dominican theologian who distinguished himself in theology and jurisprudence. In Opus Trivium he arranges for the convenience of preachers a threefold compendium of divine, civil and canon laws. This unusual copy is bound in a medieval manuscript musical score.


Petrarch, Francesco (1304-1374)
Trionfi (Venice, 1488)

Trionfi, or Triumphs, was an extremely popular series of vision poems after the manner of Dante’s Comedy, based on the triumphs of ancient Rome. Evidence indicates this is the only copy in the UK.


Watton, Johnannes (fl. ca. 1360-1370)
Speculum christianorum multa bona continens (Paris, 1500)

A tract on moral theology, and a seemingly unique copy in UK. Only one other complete copy is known to exist in the world it. A woodcut shows the Holy Dove hovering over the Virgin Mary, who is surrounded by nine kneeling figures.


Biblia Latina (Nuremberg, 1478)

Cardiff University’s oldest Bible, originally owned by William Morris. The binding is a rare example of cuir-ciselé, an extremely skilled method of medieval leatherwork in which the leather was dampened and engraved, rather than simply tooled using metal stamps. This method was impossible to mass-produce, and probably appealed to Morris’ admiration of fine craftwork.

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The Mystic Arts
Astronomy, Witchcraft and the Occult

At the dawn of the Age of Reason, the boundaries between astronomy, astrology, magic, and religion were blurred. These pivotal examples from the Cardiff Rare Books collection demonstrate that the ‘mystic’ arts were thriving during the 16th and 17th centuries, and that crucial and enduring deliberation about witches and occultism was taking place.


Apianus, Petrus (1495-1552)
Cosmographia (1545 ed.)

A pioneer in astronomical and geographical instrumentation, the German humanist Apianus’ major work (first published in 1524), and based on Ptolemy, contains some of the earliest maps of America, and is illustrated with working paper instruments, called Volvelles, that let readers calculate positions of the sun, moon and planets themselves.

Petrus Apianus, Cosmographia, 1545


Scott, Reginald (1538-1599)
The discovery of witchcraft : proving the common opinions of witches contracting with devils, spirits or familiars…Whereunto is added An excellent discourse of the nature and substance of devils and spirits… (1654, 2nd ed. containing new material)

Intended as an exposé of medieval witchcraft this book contains what is believed to be the first published material on magic, and was subsequently the basis for many magic books in the 17th and 18th centuries, and even modern grimoires. Shakespeare is credited with using it as source material for his witches in Macbeth.


Glanvill, Joseph (1636-1680)
Saducismus triumphatus, or, Full and plain evidence concerning witches and apparitions in two parts, the first treating of their possibility, the second of their real existence. (1700, 3rd ed. with additions)

A collection of 17th century folklore and accounts about witches counteracting the scepticism of their existence. Glanvill believed that to deny the existence of spirits and demons was to embrace atheism, and this should be overcome through science. This book influenced Cotton Mather’s justification of the Salem witch trials in America (Wonders of the invisible world, 1693).


Aquinas, Thomas (1225-1274)
Summa contra gentiles malleus hereticorum merito nuncupata (1519 ed.)  (signed by John Dee - Feb 1556)

The father of Thomistic philosophy and theology, this work discusses divine truth and human truth. Of specific interest is the signature of John Dee, Elizabethan mathematician, astrologer, and magician whose unique private library of 3,000 volumes ended up being stolen, scattered and sold during his lifetime. Queen Elizabeth I called him ‘my philosopher’ yet his involvement in the occult ultimately led to his fall from grace.


Agrippa, Henry Cornelius (1486-1535)
Three books of occult philosophy (1651)

A significant contribution to Renaissance occult philosophy, the three books are concerned with Elemental, Celestial and Intellectual magic. Originally published in Latin in 1531, although it had circulated in manuscript form since 1510, this edition is the first English translation. A major influence on figures such as John Dee, it remains a key esoteric text even today.

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The Reformation
A Revolution in Religion

The Protestant Reformation began with Martin Luther in 1517, and concluded in 1648.  Throughout that time the Reformers were able to spread their ideas widely and relatively quickly thanks to the new printing presses. From pamphlets containing sermons and points of doctrine, to newly translated editions of the Bible that brought scripture directly to the people, the printed word helped bring about a revolution in religion. The Cardiff Rare Books collection contains many of these historical documents, several of which are exceptionally rare copies.


Luther, Martin (1483-1546)
A commentarie upon the fiftene psalmes, called psalmi graduum, that is psalmes of degrees: faithfully copied out of the lecture of D. Martin Luther…translated out of Latine into Englishe by Henry Bull (1577)

A German monk, priest and academic who played a major role in the Protestant Reformation, Luther’s theology challenged the Catholic Church on many points, resulting in his excommunication in 1521. His translation of the Bible into German, making it accessible to the people, also influenced the translation into English by Tyndale.  His last sermon was delivered three days before his death.

Martin Luther, A commentarie upon the fiftene psalmes, 1577


Tracy, William (?-1530)
The testament of Master Wylliam Tracie esquier, expounded both by William Tindall and John Frith (1535)

A Justice of the Peace during the reign of Henry VIII, on his death his will was seen as an heretical document as it expressed the Lutheran belief in ‘justification by faith’; consequently his body was exhumed and burnt at the stake. The will became a sacred text to Protestant reformers; this is a rare copy of the first published edition.


Zwingli, Ulrich (1484-1531)
The ymage of bothe pastoures (1550)

Humanist, scholar and leader of the Reformation in Switzerland, Zwingli’s theology is based mainly on the Scriptures. Although his name is not so widely known today, he has been called the ‘Third man of the Reformation’ after Luther and Calvin. A crimson Moroccan binding of a rare copy is exhibited here.


Calvin, John (1509-1564)
Institutio Christianae religionis (1561)

Calvin’s seminal work on Protestant theology. After he broke away from the Catholic Church in 1530 he became an influential figure in the development of the system of Christian theology that came to be known as Calvinism. Institutio Christianae religionis was his magnum opus, and was revised several times throughout his lifetime.


Tyndale, William (1494-1536)
The practyse of prelates. Whether the Kinges grace maye be separated from hys Quene, because she was his brothers wyfe (1530)

Tyndale completed the first substantial English translation of the Bible, based on Hebrew and Greek texts, which was seen to be a direct challenge to the Catholic Church. He went on to produce this polemic opposing Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon, and attacking Cardinal Wolsey. In 1536, condemned on a charge of heresy, he was strangled then burnt at the stake.


Tyndale, William (1494-1536), Frith, John (1503-33), Barnes, Robert (1495-1540)
The whole workes of William Tyndall, John Frith and Doct. Barnes, three Worthy Martyrs and principall teachers of this Churche of England (1573)

These three men were all ultimately tried for heresy and burnt at the stake because of their major roles in what came to be seen as the English Reformation. Tyndale’s Bible and religious polemics lead to his death, although within four years of his execution English translations of the Bible based on his work were being published at the King’s command. Frith produced many controversial and heretical writings including some against the concept of purgatory. Barnes preached what came to be seen as the first sermon of the Reformation, and was an intermediary between Lutheran Germany and the English Government during negotiations for Henry VIII’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon, and marriage to Anne of Cleves.


Henry VIII (1491-1547)
A necessary doctrine and erudition for any Chrysten man (1543)

Also known as the King’s Book and written after Henry VIII had broken away from the Catholic Church it is an attempt to define the doctrine of the English Church, and was for the most part a rewriting of the earlier Bishop’s Book (The Institution of the Christian Man, 1537). It defends the 1539 Statute of Six Articles including transubstantiation and clerical celibacy.

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William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement
Private Press Books

One of the glories of the Cardiff Rare Books collection is its extensive set of books of the private presses, of which the most famous was William Morris’s  Kelmscott Press.  Morris (1834-1896) established the Kelmscott Press in 1891. Its output was the culmination of his life as a craftsman and artist, looking to the past for the best examples of decoration and highest standards of design. He was inspired by medieval manuscripts and early printed works such as the 1478 Bible which he owned [on display elsewhere in this exhibition]. The Arts and Crafts Movement and British Art Nouveau were influential, particularly in Cardiff where the earlier Gothic Revival work of Burges is so much in evidence.


Meinhold, William
Sidonia the Sorceress / translated by Francesca Speranza [Lady Wilde]. Hammersmith: Kelmscott Press, 1893.  (Quarto; Golden type; limp vellum cover; limited edition of 300).

Lady Wilde (1821-1896) was the mother of Oscar Wilde. Her translation of this early historical romance about witch-hunting inspired the pre-Raphaelite circle in which William Morris moved: the artist Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898) had recently exhibited watercolours based on the story. The book was published partly to satisfy public interest aroused by the exhibition.   (This copy includes the specially printed label -  “Given by Mrs William Morris in memory of her husband, 1897”).


Ellis, F.S. (editor)
The floure and the leafe, & the boke of Cupide, God of love, or the cuckow and the nightingale. Hammersmith: Kelmscott Press, 1896.   (Octavo; Troy type; edition of 300 paper copies and 10 vellum).

The first bound copy of this work arrived at Kelmscott hours before William Morris died on 3rd October 1896. Embroidered bindings are found on English books from as early as the 14th century: this unusual cover of flowers and leaves, reflecting the title of the main poem, is a beautiful example of another revived craft.

F. S. Ellis (ed.), The floure and the leafe, 1896


Morris, William (1834-1896)
A note by William Morris on his aims in founding the Kelmscott Press. Hammersmith: Kelmscott Press, 1898

The last book printed at the press, in March 1898. William Morris explains in his own words how he was influenced by medieval manuscripts and the early printed works which followed them, and how he aimed to bring back the beauty he saw in typography and design to modern book production.
As well as a revival of interest in typography, the Arts & Crafts Movement inspired a return to hand illumination in the style of medieval manuscripts, fine binding, and stylish contemporary book illustration.


Gray, Thomas (1716-1771)
Gray’s Elegy, written out and decorated by Sidney Farnsworth, October 1910.

Sidney Farnsworth was the author of “Illumination and its development in the present day” (1922). This is a sumptuous modern example of the use of gold, red and blue illumination.


Tennyson, Alfred (1809-1892)
A dream of fair women / “Written and illuminated by F. Sagorski and G. Sutcliffe”.

Francis Sagorski (1875-1912) and George Sutcliffe (1878-1943) met at a bookbinding evening class at the London School of Arts and Crafts, establishing their bookbinding firm, Sagorski & Sutcliffe, in 1901 (it is still trading). Francis studied calligraphy and illumination in order to produce hand decorated books for the firm to bind.  It was famous for its jewelled bindings, the best of which, the “Rubaiyat” of Omar Khayyam, was lost on the Titanic.


Arnold, Matthew (1822-1888)
The forsaken merman / ill. Jean M. Archer. London: Dent, 1900.  (Bound in dark red morocco with an inlaid design of 244 inlays and scarlet morocco doublures, with gold tooled designs, gilt edged).

A lovely example of Art Nouveau design by Dorothy Holmes of the Guild of Women Binders. The Guild was a federation of women binders active 1898-1904, drawing its members from a number of art guilds and handicraft classes. Jean Archer’s illustrations are also a fine example of Art Nouveau style.

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