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“Endlesse fame shall crowne thy well-ment actions with applause”: An Olimpick Curiosity, 400 Years On

Michael Drayton, et al. Annalia Dubrensia: vpon the yearly celebration of Mr. Robert Dovers Olimpick Games vpon Cotswold-Hills. London: Robert Raworth, for Mathewe Walbancke [i.e. Printed for Dr. Thomas Dover], 1636 [i.e. 1720?]

While working on a project to create detailed catalog records for items of interesting provenance, I came across an 18th-century type-facsimile of a charming collection of poetry from 1636 called the Annalia Dubrensia (“Annals of Dover”), one of only two documented copies in this country. The poems are dedicated to Robert Dover (1582-1652) and were contributed by more than thirty poets, among whom are such luminaries as Ben Jonson, Thomas Randolph, Michael Drayton, and Thomas Heywood. The volume includes a humble response in verse by Dover himself. An attorney and former scholar at King’s College, Cambridge, Dover is most famous as the founder, or more likely the resuscitator, of the Cotswold Games, a two-day sporting festival held in a valley (sometimes called a “natural amphitheater”) in the Cotswold Hills near Chipping Camden in Gloucestershire, England, starting around 1612. This was only one of many such regular events which are documented from this period, but it became distinguished under the management of Dover, who saw the rise of Puritanism in England as standing in opposition to the freer and more playful spirit which seemed to be in the nature of the English people. Dover believed that physical strength gained through exercise was necessary for the defense of the realm, but he also wished to unite rich and poor in a sporting atmosphere. The games were quite popular and received the approval of King James I. Some scholars believe that Shakespeare (who may have known Dover) makes reference to them in The Merry Wives of Windsor.

The frontispiece illustration from the 1636 edition reprinted in our copy shows an assortment of the activities which went on during the games. At middle-ground in the center of this woodcut is a curious edifice known as Dover Castle, a portable wooden structure balanced on a single pedestal, from which a standard bearing the motto “Heigh for Cotswold!” was flown and cannon were fired during the events. Across the landscape, participants are depicted engaged in several of the events, including sword fighting, wrestling, leaping, coursing with hounds, quarterstaff, casting the hammer, and spear throwing. One man even stands on his head. In the upper left-hand corner of the woodcut, three women in ruffs and long dresses dance, accompanied by a piper.

The games were as famous for their accommodations and refreshments as for their activitie. Poet Nicholas Wallington writes in this work that “None ever hungry from these games come home, / or ere made plaint of viands, or of roome.” At the foot of the hill on which the castle stood (or teetered) are tents set up for competitors, in front of which a group of men are having a meal at a long table. From the style of the illustration, it is hard to tell whether this party are seating on a mat or other covering on the ground as if at a picnic, or if a hole was dug into the ground, at the edge of which they sat enjoying their meal. The square ornamental device at the middle-right may be one of the yellow “ribbands” which Dover famously awarded to all participants. In the midst of all of this revelry and sport rides Dover himself, whose importance is indicated by his size in relation to the other figures. He is elaborately dressed in a feathered hat, ruff, coat, and boots which were a gift from King James out of his personal wardrobe.

Dover’s games continued annually, with the support of the Royal Family, until it was suppressed during the English Civil War in 1642. After the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, the games were revived and continued on and off until 1852. In 1966, they returned as a regular event under the patronage of the Robert Dover’s Games Society, and are still enacted today in the same location as the original games, near what has come to be called Dover’s Hill, featuring such popular events as shin-kicking and tug-of-war.

The rediscovery of this work in the vault of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library is a timely one, considering the start of the 2012 Olympics in late July. In fact, Dover’s Cotswold Games themselves came to be known as “Olimpick” – a term which was the product of the age’s renewed interest in Classical mythology and culture. The British Olympic Association has acknowledged these games as the “first stirrings” of the British Olympic heritage. Furthermore, it seems that the first Cotswold Games celebrated under Dover’s administration were probably held in June, 1612, exactly 400 years ago. Sources say that the Games took place on the Thursday and Friday after Whitsunday (a traditional name for the festival of Pentecost), which is the seventh Sunday after Easter. This would place the date of the inaugural games on the 14th and 15th of June, 1612.

This circa 1720 edition of the Annalia Dubrensia is differentiated from the 1636 version by the addition of an anonymous poem and the inclusion of a note at the end of the dedicatory epistle on leaf A2 verso, stating that this new edition was undertaken because “Dr. Dover [i.e. John Dover, d. 1725] thought it his Duty to perpetuate the Memory of that Good Man his Grandfather.” An armorial bookplate, with the motto “Do ever good,” was pasted onto one of the fly-leaves, with the name of Dover’s father, John Dover of Norfolk, written in what may be a nineteenth-century hand. Below this is a coat-of-arms incorporating the above crest, drawn in pen and accompanied by notes in the same hand, indicating that “These Supporters and other Additions were granted to Robert Dover his Son the Institutor of the Cotswold Games, who died 1652.” It is believed that King James I himself may have been the grantor of these arms. A nineteenth- or early twentieth-century owner of this volume (perhaps Ernest E. Baker, F.S.A., whose bookplate appears on the front paste-down) pasted clippings and copied several quotations related to the games or the Annalia Dubrensia onto the rear fly-leaves. This copy was acquired by the Library in January of 1941. TB

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“Among my various possessions in old books there is none which I more proudly write my name”: Gilbert R. Redgrave’s copy of Petrus Comestor’s Historia scholastica (Incunabula F. 220 P44h 1473)

Petrus Comestor. Historia scholastica. Augsburg: Günther Zainer, 1473.

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library’s copy of Petrus Comester’s Historia scholastica (1473) is one of several books the Library owns from the private collection of Gilbert R. Redgrave.  Gilbert Richard Redgrave (1844-1941) is known primarily to the book world as the editor, with A.W. Pollard, of A Short Title Catalogue of English Books, 1475-1640, also referred to as the STC. However, Redgrave was a man with many varied interests and talents.  As the son of painter Richard Redgrave, Gilbert was also interested in art and published several monographs on the subject.  He was an architect as well as an engineer and published a well-regarded technical study of cement. Redgrave served as an important administrator in the technical education system in Great Britain for many years.  For a more detailed account of Redgrave’s life and achievements see his obituary in The Times of 17 June 1941, p.9.

It was common for Redgrave to write long, learned bibliographical notes on the front fly-leaves of books in his library and this book is no exception.  In his note, Redgrave calls attention to this copy’s excellent state of preservation and the craftsmanship of its printer, Günther Zainer. Redgrave remarks that, “among my various possessions in old books there is none which I more proudly write my name.” Below is a full transcription of his note:

This magnificent work by Günther Zainer of Reuthingen, who was the first printer at Augsburg, and worked there as early as 1468, has, I think, scarcely received its due share of attention at the hands of book-lovers. It would seem from Panzer to have been the third work printed in Germany in Roman type*. Zainer having produced the 1st and 2nd works in the previous year (1472) to the publication of the present volume.

This work is in matchless condition, absolutely perfect, and in the matter both of typography and choice of paper would be hard to rival at the present day.  It is, I think the first work of the German press with wood-cut capitals throughout. The larger capitals are very fair (see particularly the S on the reverse of p XXX which has escaped the attention of the illuminator).

It is a very early example of a book paged throughout with Roman numerals on both sides of the pages.

Panzer makes no mention of the two blanks at the end of the volume and is in error as to the number of pages (he says 224) but he is corrected by Brunet (220). This copy has 222 ff.

There was an edition in 1472 of the New Testament portion of this work at Utrecht by N. Ketelaer and G. de Leempt, the earliest work with a date from that press, but this would appear to be the 1st edition of Comestor’s History. The work was often reprinted before the close of the XV century and it was alas translated into French as a “bible”!

Among my various possessions in old books there is none which I more proudly write my name, Anno Domini 1886.

Gilbert R. Redgrave

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*Nb – The fourth. See Hain *107.

But for a few trifling worm-holes, this work is as perfect as the day it was printed 413 years ago. G.R.R.

On the verso of the last blank folio is a statement that it was to be given, after the owner’s death, to a “Library”? This paraphrase of the Holy Scriptures by Peter the Glutton, was widely regarded in the Dark Ages as the actual bible. G.R.

I think the interlacing I on fol. I is printed from a block.

Redgrave also pasted in a notice he wrote about the book for The British Bookmaker, October 1890, p. 8:

Following in the footsteps of Schoeffer, and taking for his models the usual types of illuminated capitals, came Günther Zainer of Reutlingen, who was the earliest printer of Augsburg, where he set up his press in 1468. He used at first a very beautiful and large gothic type, somewhat resembling that of Gutenberg, but as early as 1472 he supplied himself with Roman characters and printed two works by Isidorus, which are stated by Panzer to be the first books printed in Germany in Roman type. In the following year he issued a complete edition of Comestor’s “Historia Scholastica,” a sort of paraphrase of the bible, and this work is enriched with some hundreds of woodcut, or, as some have thought soft metal, initial letters, evidently intended to be hand-coloured. The initials are in two different sizes, the larger ones, at the beginning of each book, are eight lines in depth, and the smaller ones are three lines deep. There are many different varieties of each letter, and even the large capitals, of which there are twenty-one, are all different. We have reproduced one of these initials, the S on the verso of page 30, which, in our copy of the History, has escaped the notice of the illuminator. It will serve to show how entirely the designer has been guided by the work of the missal-painter, whose art his outlines are intended only to supplement.

The initial “S” mentioned in this notice is reproduced below, as well as Redgrave’s distinctive bookplate from the front paste-down, and the book’s first leaf, showing the distinct woodcut “I”. AD

        

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