This week’s inspiring illustrations are selected from the beautifully crafted presentation addresses from institutions and learned bodies world-wide which were sent to the University of St Andrews in 1911 to commemorate our Quincentenary.
They are all individual works of art, evocative of their time:
This scroll received from the General Council of the University of Aberdeen might have been created by James Cromar Watt or Douglas Strachan, although Annette Carruthers of the School of Art History has not previously associated these men with the production of manuscripts:
It is clearly heavily influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement and Annette says: “the trees are reminiscent of the work of Charles Harrison Townsend, Henry Wilson or Christopher Whall, all mainstream Arts and Crafts designers.” Our colleagues at the University of Aberdeen Special Libraries and Archives have investigated the records of the General Council Minutes and found the following information:
“The General Council having appointed a delegate in response to the invitation by the University of St. Andrews, the Business Committee thought it proper to instruct the delegate to present an address of congratulations. The preparation of this was entrusted to William Keith Leask, M.A., and H.F. Morland Simpson, LL.D.; and it was engrossed on vellum by Mr. Arthur E. Payne, and was signed by the Chancellor, Lord Strathcona.”
The small selection of Quincentenary scrolls featured here has been chosen from the 145 addresses and framed presentations which survive in the Muniment Collection. Some scrolls clearly illustrate the institutional identity of the donor, even naming the man representing them and his role at the celebrations – the delegate who handed the scroll over at the presentation ceremony in September 1911 was after all, affiliating his own institution with St Andrews at that time and was likely to have been the recipient of an honorary degree during the festivities.
Others try to represent something associated with St Andrews or picked up elements of the history of St Andrews, such as referring to the learned men of distinction associated with the University’s past.
The sample wording for the message may have been suggested by St Andrews, but many universities expressed their congratulations to us in their own words and language, with an individual emphasis. Yet others wax lyrical about some aspect of life in St Andrews:
“From Lahore and the Plains of the Five Rivers stretching to the Sesert, from Delhi the Imperial, the North Himalayas and the Valley of Kashmir to your Ancient University on that happy seabord in the distant west where not alone the Learning of the Schools but also the Pastime of the Greens has the sanction of centuries and is reflected through the world, we send our messenger of felicitation to join in your rejoicing over these five centuries now complete, and to which you other five and more of ever greater honour, learning and felicity” (UYUY185/7/7 Lahore)
Not only the addresses were carefully crafted, but also the wrappings, tubes, cases and bindings in which they were presented are embossed, engraved and upholstered. Coats of arms and seals on coloured ribbons abound.
The calligraphers, artists, typesetters and printers employed to create the addresses have produced wonderful objects, many making reference to the practices of manuscript illustration in use at the time of the University’s foundation in 1410-13.
The Chicago address, in book form, echoes the productions of the Kelmscott Press. Annette Carruthers notes that:
“there was a thriving Arts and Crafts Movement in Chicago and Morris’s work was well known there. Ricketts studied medieval manuscripts so he may have got his ideas direct rather than via Morris.”
Even those addresses printed in plain text often include a decorated initial letter or an ornate border. Finally, it is the hope that some of these examples might provide inspiration for the calligraphers of today!