This week we have the first part of a new series by the Lighting the Past team – we will be publishing further posts in the series periodically throughout the year.
The Lighting the Past team is currently working their way through Phase 1 cataloguing of the Copyright Deposit Collection, which numbers around 55,000 volumes across all subjects. As has been discussed in recent posts from Dr Matthew Sangster, between 1709 and 1836 the University of St Andrews Library was one of the Copyright Deposit libraries of Great Britain, and we were entitled to claim a copy of any published work registered at Stationer’s Hall.
In practice it was never so complete, with perhaps only between 10 and 20% of all printed materials added to the collections. However, even this small percentage dramatically increased the library’s holdings. Estimates place the accessions from the copyright era at around 25,000 volumes. The rest of the modern Copyright Deposit Collection is then, confusingly, other books printed between the beginning of the 18th century and 1860, which were acquired by the University Library through conventional means but were then shelved together with the deposited materials due to their age.
The collection is arranged according to Library of Congress classification, a series of 21 class marks grouped by subject. While some topics of the Copyright Deposit Collection are larger than others- see the graph below- the collection is broad and reflects the needs and interests of the 18th and 19th century St Andrews students and academics. World history, literature, philosophy and religion, and the sciences were of greatest interest, but there are treasures to be found in even the rarest topic.
In our new blog mini-series, we plan to go through each letter of the alphabet in the classification scheme and members of our team will highlight an interesting work from each.
Classmark A: General Works
Kieran Cressy writes:
I know what you’re thinking.
“Special Collections,” I’m sure you’re lamenting, “I’ve been searching and searching for a brand new hobby, but I’ve just had the worst time. My grandmother suggested collecting stamps, but it’s just not for me – I’m looking for elegant recreations; arts, sciences, and accomplishments!”
Well, do we have a blog post for you today. Introducing The Young Lady’s Book: A Manual of Elegant Recreations, Arts, Sciences, and Accomplishments:
This late-19th century book was published by Henry G. Bohn, as a part of his self-entitled ‘Bohn’s Libraries’ series. At nearly 600 pages long, it’s a power-house tome featuring comprehensive essays from ‘distinguished professors’ and ‘persons of acknowledged competence,’ on a wide and surprising range of topics.
Amongst the many subjects listed in the book are several hard sciences, including Geology, Conchology, and Entomology. I have several friends who study Geology here at the University, and I’ll be honest, I’ve never heard them describe the field as particularly ‘elegant’ – but its inclusion in this text is nonetheless important.
Classmark B: Philosophy, Psychology and Religion
Jordan Girardin comments:
Within classmark B (for Philosophy, Psychology, and Religion), we made the acquaintance of Joanna Southcott and her works. The Lighting the Past team catalogued six different bound-with volumes, each composed of a multitude of pamphlets.
Joanna Southcott (1750-1814) entered the public sphere in 1792 as she suggested she was the Woman of the Apocalypse after seeing “a woman come out of the castle” in her dreams, which she interpreted to be a sign of God’s judgment. She published an extended number of pamphlets, declarations, sermons, and interpretations of the books of the Apocalypse. Although the movement was followed by a number of believers, it also fuelled passionate opposition, as the illustration here shows.
Southcott died in London in 1814 at the age of 64, a few weeks after announcing she was pregnant and due to deliver the new Messiah.
This amalgamation of pamphlets allowed us to follow the highly peculiar and perhaps eccentric intellectual journey of this self-proclaimed prophetess from Devon.
Classmark C: Auxiliary sciences of history
Emily Gal notes:
Class C contains numerous volumes on knighthood, family crests and social ranking. There is also a series of treatises concerning duelling, both verbal and physical, and how to conduct oneself during such duels.
Among the works is British Army surgeon John Gideon Millingen’s 1841 History of Duelling, a two-volume set tracing the origins and development of male-dominated duels and trials by ordeal. Volume 1 begins with the origins of ancient duelling in Greece and Rome, characterised by ferocious hand-to-hand combat and wrestling. Gruesome descriptions are rife within the pages of Millingen’s work; he describes a fight between Creugas and Damoxenus at the Olympic Games, in which Damoxenus “seized Creugas under the ribs, and with his nails tore out his bowels”.
Early modern duelling, by contrast, developed in the aftermath of the collapse of great empires, when “the right of the sword was the only authority recognised” (2). It was during this period that duelling became intrinsically linked to notions and traditions of medieval knightly systems of chivalry, a moral and social code emphasising the importance of bravery and military skill. France was to become a hotbed for the origins and development of duelling by small-sword and later, pistol.
Duels could be entered to settle any number of disagreements, including family feuds, to reinstate personal honour or to maintain a lady’s reputation with the aim always being “…to conquer or die, but, above all things, never to surrender…” (95). Volume 2 features anecdotes referring to particularly dramatic duels throughout history, such as that between Captain Stoney and the Rev. Mr. Bate on January 13, 1777 in the Strand, London over words written about a Lady Strathmore:
“The case of the quarrel arose from some offensive paragraphs…reflecting on the character of Lady Strathmore. After having discharged their pistols at each other…they drew their swords; and Mr. Stoney received a wound in the breast…and Mr. Bates one in the thigh…On the Saturday following Captain S. married the lady whom he had thus defended at the hazard of his own life.”
Volume 2 ends with the decline of duelling, as it became outlawed throughout Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries. These volumes provide a fascinating insight into social codes of personal honour and reputation during some truly turbulent periods of history.