Collections of Distinction

Category Archives: Collections of Distinction

Recently processed: three manuscript treasures

Posted on January 12th, 2016 by Jay Moschella in Collections of Distinction

(Click on the title of each item to view the digitized copy)


Picture above: the author’s autograph on the final line of the leftmost page, and the license on the lower right.

Lope de Vega. El Castigo sin Venganza. 1631. MS D.174.19

This is the original autograph manuscript of Lope de Vega‘s El Castigo sin Venganza (Punishment Without Vengeance). Felix Lope de Vega y Carpio (1562-1635) was a major Spanish playwright and poet during the period of flourishing Spanish art and literature known as the Siglo de Oro, and Castigo sin Venganza is considered by many to be his finest tragedy. The manuscript itself represents a remarkable working document, with many authorial corrections and interlineations. Though it once belonged to George Ticknor, whose collection of Spanish and Portuguese literature was acquired by the BPL through a bequest in 1871, this manuscript remained with the Ticknor family until his daughter, Anna Eliot Ticknor, gave it to the library in 1895.

(Bibliographic record)


Read more »

Frances Wolfreston and ‘Hor’ Playbooks at the BPL

Posted on December 21st, 2015 by Jay Moschella in Collections of Distinction

Title page to East-ward Hoe (G.3962.2 no.1) with Frances Wolfreston's autograph and annotation.

Title page to East-ward Hoe (G.3962.2 no.1) with Frances Wolfreston’s autograph and annotation.

Boston Public Library Rare Books Librarian Jay Moschella in collaboration with University of Illinois scholars Sarah Lindenbaum and Lori Humphrey Newcomb would like to announce the recent identification of four playbooks in the Boston Public Library collection as items once owned by Frances Wolfreston, the best-known English woman book collector of the seventeenth century. Wolfreston has been of great interest to scholars and collectors since Johan Gerritsen’s 1964 essay “Venus Preserved: Some Notes on Frances Wolfreston” called attention to her remarkable collecting habits. The frequently cited 1989 essay “Frances Wolfreston and ‘Hor Bouks’: A Seventeenth-Century Woman Book Collector” by Paul Morgan includes an appendix of 106 books owned by the Wolferstan family, 95 of them bearing the trademark inscription “frances wolfreston hor bouk.” The most famous of these items is the sole extant copy of the first edition of Shakespeare’s poem, Venus and Adonis.

Read more »

The Dutch Lady: a late seventeenth-century play, in manuscript

Posted on November 17th, 2015 by Jay Moschella in Collections of Distinction

dutchladymanuscr00bart_0005The Rare Books Department recently cataloged and conserved a curious and fascinating item: the ca. seventeenth-century manuscript play text of a comedy titled The Dutch Lady.

The plot of this play centers around Fuscara Gabriella, the eponymous Dutch lady, a widow who has travelled to England in order to collect the sizable debts owed to her late husband. Nearly destitute and unable to collect what she is owed, she decides instead to search for a new husband, along the way contriving various plots to lure wealthy men into marriage. At the same time, several Englishmen, either taken by her beauty, or under the mistaken belief that she is still a wealthy woman, hatch their own marriage gambits. These men include Dispensation Surfet, a lascivious Puritan preacher; Justinian Aimwell, a kindly gentleman; Aimwell’s lawyer, the corrupt and bumbling Francis Withernam; and Hotlove, a young gallant enamored of and in league with Fuscara, who plans to marry her off to the wealthy, but elderly Sir Ralph Beetl so that the two might soon inherit Beetl’s fortune.

The play itself, a withering social satire, is a delightful read. The majority of The Dutch Lady‘s most pointed barbs are aimed toward Puritans, collectively embodied in the play by the above-mentioned Surfet, who is described as “a holderforth, gluttonous, lustfull, cruel, covetous, hypocritical”, and who spends much of his time bumblingly attempting to seduce various women.

Read more »

Newly digitized: five early, rare, and unusual books

Posted on September 8th, 2015 by Jay Moschella in Collections of Distinction

The Associates of the Boston Public Library continue to provide critical support for an ongoing round of collections maintenance. This work includes the cataloging, conservation, and digitization of many noteworthy, though frequently under-described items, including the five books detailed below. To see the digitized copies of each, click on the titles.

coryatscrudities00cory_0009Coryate, Thomas. Coryats crudities. London: William Stansby, 1611.

Ben Jonson, in his caption to the engraved title page (pictured at left) that shows a seasick Thomas Coryate leaning over the side of a boat, wryly quips: “First th’ author here glutteth sea, haddock, & whiting with spuing, and after the world with his writing.” It’s an ironical jab that sets the tone for this eccentric, highly amusing travelogue.

Coryats Crudities details Coryate’s tour — by boat, horse, cart, coach, and on foot — through 45 different European cities. In addition to the author’s observations on the people he meets, places he visits, and the retelling of his various misadventures, the main text is itself preceded by a full 108 pages of bitingly satyrical poems, epistles, and panegryics — all aimed squarely at Coryate — by a virtual who’s who of Jacobean poets, including Jonson, John Donne, Michael Drayton, and numerous others.

The BPL’s copy of this book is in remarkable condition and is annotated with numerous corrections in Coryate’s own handwriting.

Read more »

Early bindings at the BPL

Posted on July 2nd, 2015 by Jay Moschella in Collections of Distinction
Tags: , ,

Distributed throughout the many distinct collections in  our  stacks are thousands of early bookbinding specimens. Pictured below are a few representative examples, pulled at the request of a visiting researcher.