Lighting the Past completes the Shewan Collection

One of the many busts of Homer found in Der lebendige Homer. The Shewan Collection consists of works bound into 250 volumes, all dealing with Homeric scholarship.

One of the many busts of Homer found in Der lebendige Homer. The Shewan Collection consists of works bound into 250 volumes, all dealing with Homeric scholarship.

Of all the collections to be catalogued by the Phase 1 team, the Shewan Collection will probably be the only one where every item has passed through my hands as lead cataloguer. As this is something which rarely happens, I found this rather exciting! Donated to the Library in 1936 by Dr Alexander Shewan (1851-1941), these volumes on ‘Homerica’ have never been catalogued. That’s 80 years that they’ve been languishing in the stacks, pretty much unknown to readers except those brave enough to search the giant guardbook volumes in the Library. But now that’s all changed, and for the first time they are available on the online catalogue SAULCAT.

A depiction of the shield of Achilles, based upon Homer’s description. From M. Quatremère de Quincy’s (1755-1849) Mémoire sur la description du bouclier d'Achille par Homère.

A depiction of the shield of Achilles, based upon Homer’s description. From M. Quatremère de Quincy’s (1755-1849) Mémoire sur la description du bouclier d’Achille par Homère.

Alexander Shewan had an interest in the Classics, having studied this at the University of Aberdeen. After retiring from the Indian Civil Service in 1897, where he had a distinguished career, he became an independent Homeric scholar, based in St Andrews.

A song, in the phrygian mode, intended to be sung in scene III of the play Nausicaa. It is a translation from a Greek original. The story of Nausicaa, the daughter of King Alcinous and Queen Arete of Phaeacia, can be found in Homer’s Odyssey.

A song, in the phrygian mode, intended to be sung in scene III of the play Nausicaa. It is a translation from a Greek original. The story of Nausicaa, the daughter of King Alcinous and Queen Arete of Phaeacia, can be found in Homer’s Odyssey.

Although each volume contains more than one item, a hand-written contents is provided in each, detailing the author, title, and date of publication. This example is from vol. 101.

Although each volume contains more than one item, a hand-written contents is provided in each, detailing the author, title, and date of publication. This example is from vol. 101.

In all, there are 250 volumes, each containing more than one item (primarily dissertations, articles, notes, and reviews), and two volumes of handwritten indices. Some volumes (including the indices) have been transferred to the manuscript collection, being in the nature of a scrapbook compiled from many small items. Most volumes have under twenty items bound in them, but some have many more than this, with vol. 228 having over 100! In total the Phase 1 team has created 3,459 bibliographic records from just 243 volumes.

An example of a volume which has the item numbers written on the text block (She PA4037.A5S4;5), and a volume which has tabs on the text block (She PA4037.A5S4;144), both intended to aid readers in finding the item they want.

An example of a volume which has the item numbers written on the text block (She PA4037.A5S4;5), and a volume which has tabs on the text block (She PA4037.A5S4;144), both intended to aid readers in finding the item they want.

Some of the volumes are themed. For example, Vol. 27 is composed of items concerned with the Greek Language, whilst vol. 237 contains works by W. E. Gladstone (1809-1898) on Homeric subjects, or reviews of these works. Amongst these are found reviews of his three-volume Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age (1858), a work which diverged sharply from contemporary scholarship. In it Gladstone asserted that the Homeric poems were a single body of work (probably by a single author) which offered a glimpse of human society at the unspoilt dawn of its existence. According to Gladstone, subsequent Greek experience had been a gradual corruption of, rather than an evolution towards, the higher civilization of Aristotelian Athens, as his contemporaries mostly believed.

This charming owl graces the cover of Charles Vellay’s (1876-1953) La Question de Troie. St Andrews copy She PA4037.A5S4;248

This charming owl graces the cover of Charles Vellay’s (1876-1953) La Question de Troie. St Andrews copy She PA4037.A5S4;248.

Although some thought has clearly gone into putting together the volumes on ‘Homerica’, a logical approach does not always seem to have been taken. For instance, some works were published in parts, but these have not always been bound together. Thus the first part of Adolf Keine’s Die epen des Homer can be found in vol. 90, whilst the second part is in vol. 42.

A rather wonderful map of Troy, which is found in P. W. Forchhammer’s (1801-1894) Erklärung der Ilias. This ancient city was the setting of the Trojan War, described by Homer in his epic poem the Iliad.

A rather wonderful map of Troy, which is found in P. W. Forchhammer’s (1801-1894) Erklärung der Ilias. This ancient city was the setting of the Trojan War, described by Homer in his epic poem the Iliad.

The title page of the oldest work in the Shewan Collection, Simon Stenius’ Oratio, continens narrationem de vita et Rebus Gestis Philippi Macedonum regis ex diuersis autoribus collectam. Some words in the title have been underlined, by hand, in red ink. St Andrews copy She PA4037.A5S4;125.

The title page of the oldest work in the Shewan Collection, Simon Stenius’ Oratio, continens narrationem de vita et Rebus Gestis Philippi Macedonum regis ex diuersis autoribus collectam. Some words in the title have been underlined, by hand, in red ink. St Andrews copy She PA4037.A5S4;125.

Many of the works date to the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, but there are older works to be found.  Vol. 157 is composed entirely of works published in the eighteenth century, whilst the oldest work in the collection was published in 1579. This is the Oratio, continens narrationem de vita et Rebus Gestis Philippi Macedonum regis ex diuersis autoribus collectam of Simon Stenius’ (d. 1619), a German teacher, philologist, historian and literary scholar. The work, of which the St Andrews copy has been heavily trimmed (not quite cutting off the text), also contains a Latin version of part of book five of the Odyssey.

Many works may no longer be up-to-date in their thought (although it was not until the 1960s that the works of Samuel E. Bassett (1873-1936) began to influence Homeric scholarship), but they offer an insight into the history of the scholarship on ‘Homerica’. Many of the items in this collection are dissertations, mostly carried out in Germany. This is not surprising, given that Classical philology was a major preoccupation of the 19th-century German education system.

Examples of some of the Mycenaean ware found at Zakro, on the east coast of Crete, in excavations carried out in 1902. From R. M. Dawkins’ (1871-1955) article ‘Pottery from Zakro’, published in The Journal of Hellenic Studies (vol. 23, 1903).

Examples of some of the Mycenaean ware found at Zakro, on the east coast of Crete, in excavations carried out in 1902. From R. M. Dawkins’ (1871-1955) article ‘Pottery from Zakro’, published in The Journal of Hellenic Studies (vol. 23, 1903).

For those interested in how these works were received in their day there are reviews galore in this collection, there being over 500 in total. A good place to start would be vol. 178, of which 25 of the 49 items are reviews, giving an insight into Homeric scholarship in the first decade of the twentieth century. Alternatively, vol. 239 offers a snapshot of Homeric scholarship from 1792 up until 1891, with 29 reviews of works published over this period.

The rather striking green initial from the first page of text of Edmond de Bruyn’s De la jupe divisée et de l'Idéal grec. The title is also printed in this striking green on the title page.

The rather striking green initial from the first page of text of Edmond de Bruyn’s De la jupe divisée et de l’Idéal grec. The title is also printed in this striking green on the title page.

Having handled every one of these ‘Homerica’ volumes I feel as if I know those scholars most active in this field in the late-nineteenth / early-twentieth century. Names which keep cropping up are Shewan (of course!); the archaeologist and historian Sir John Linton Myres (1869–1954) who wrote the provocative Who Were the Greeks? (1930), a review of which can be found in vol. 247; the German classical philologist Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff (1848-1931), a renowned author on Ancient Greece and its literature; the American classical scholar Paul Shorey (1857-1934), who for 25 years was editor of the journal Classical Philology; and Walter Leaf (1852-1927), who was elected as a member of the intellectual secret society the Apostles, and who became part of the generation of literary luminaries. His two-volume edition of The Iliad published 1886-88 remained for decades the best edition in English.

One of the plates from Die Nautic der Alten by Arthur Breusing, showing an example of an ancient ship. Breusing was a navigation instructor at the ‘Steuermannschule’ [Helmsman School]in Bremen.

One of the plates from Die Nautic der Alten by Arthur Breusing, showing an example of an ancient ship. Breusing was a navigation instructor at the ‘Steuermannschule’ [Helmsman School]in Bremen.

The Shewan Collection has certainly been interesting to catalogue, and our days just won’t be the same without volume upon volume of ‘bound-withs’ (separate publications which have been bound together in one volume). I can only hope that researchers with an interest in ‘Homerica’ take some time to look at the wonders held within this collection.

As with any collection, items were donated to Shewan by authors. A sense of humour can be seen in the above picture, where the author, Samuel E. Bassett, has noted a typographical error on p. 4 of his Homeric Criticism; Socrates is misspelled ‘Socretes’, so Bassett’s writes  “The Editor is ‘on leave’ this year.” St Andrews copy She PA4037.A5S4;209.

As with any collection, items were donated to Shewan by authors. A sense of humour can be seen in the above picture, where the author, Samuel E. Bassett, has noted a typographical error on p. 4 of his Homeric Criticism; Socrates is misspelled ‘Socretes’, so Bassett’s writes  “The Editor is ‘on leave’ this year.” St Andrews copy She PA4037.A5S4;209.

Briony Aitchison

Lead Cataloguer

Lighting the Past (Phase 1)

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