This is the bulletin.

Isaac Watts before .............................and after conservation: Artist unknown

Dear Readers,

I am writing this as we approach a slight opening up of the current lockdown in London. It was fortunate for Dr Williams’s Library that a conservation studio, office space and a temporary reading room had just been set up in the hall at Trinity Congregational Chapel, Brixton when news of the spreading coronavirus in the UK was reported. Although less fortunate for the staff and volunteers who had planned to work at this site and, instead, have had to isolate and work from home. At present, we have a small staff of two people working from the Brixton site and a resident cat, Vinny Jones. It is hoped that colleagues may join us over the coming months. This group may include volunteers and, at least, one of our honorary fellows. We have enough space at the chapel to set up social distancing procedures. It is day 50 of our isolation, although we have made several visits by car to Dr Williams’s Library to check that the environment, in our manuscript storage areas, remains constant and that there are no signs of pest infestation or other threats to the collection.

Readers will already know that a number of projects are being undertaken at Trinity Chapel. Dr Williams’s library closed to the public because of planned building works in 2018. We had therefore made arrangements to see readers at the temporary reading room at Brixton and we managed several such appointments before the added problems of the coronavirus pandemic struck. With all restrictions in place, it seemed a good idea to keep readers up to date with our news and developments. Hence this newsletter.

The office at Trinity has recently supplied images to readers around the world to enable the continuance of their work during the lockdown. The conservator has also checked details relating to DWL’s manuscripts for readers working on transcriptions of those manuscripts. A number of meetings with new readers have taken place through a Zoom conferencing forum. If you want to use these services we shall try to help. We still aim to answer enquiries and provide guidance on sources.

If you wish to order digital images, contact us by email images@dwl.ac.uk

Our resources are not as extensive as when the Library is open but please do contact us. For general enquiries, email us at jane.giscombe@dwl.ac.uk. We regret that we cannot currently respond to telephone enquiries.

New member of staff.

Just before the lockdown, a new member of staff, Ching Yuet Tang, joined us. She is a cataloguer who will carry out essential work on the modern collection and on the early modern printed book collection. She will also take over the work with estc which Dr Wendy Lewis began. Dr Lewis retired at the end of 2019 but hopes to rejoin as a volunteer when the library reopens in Gordon Square.

Ching Yuet worked as a librarian at several major UK cultural institutions, including the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Library, contributing to their archival and special collections. Her particular interest has been in cataloguing Oriental books (Chinese, Japanese and Korean). She is currently working part-time at the National Art Library (V&A) and was recently seconded to develop a retro-conversion project on pre-modern Chinese books at the British Library. She has also worked on the David King and Martin Parr photography collections at the Tate Archive. Her publications include: ‘Tiger’s illustrated dictionary’ (English-Chinese), 2004. We are able to work closely with Ching Yuet, providing her with title page images, from newly donated books, and from early modern printed books but look forward to the day when she can join us in person.

Volunteers and Fellows.

Note of Death: Dennis E Rhodes

E. Rhodes, born 1923 in Nottingham, died 2020 in Aylesbury.

One of the keenest visitors to DWL and a recent volunteer was Dennis E. Rhodes (1923 - 2020). Dennis was thrilled to discover the collection of incunabula in both Dr Williams and the Congregational libraries. He was one of the most eminent scholars in early printing, especially Ιtalian. In the course of his career he published more than 300 bibliographical papers. He served as Deputy Keeper of Early Printed Books at the British Library (formerly British Museum).

Formerly Internationally renowned expert on bibliography, mainly on Italian bibliography of the 16th and 17th centuries.

Author of over 500 articles and many books, among which:

  1. Short-title catalogue of books printed in Italy and of Italian books printed in other countries from 1465 to 1600 now in the British Library. Supplement, London, British Library 1986.
  2. Catalogue of seventeenth-century Italian books in the British Library, a cura di Dennis Rhodes, London: British Library 1986.
  3. Incunabula in Greece : a first census, Munich, Kraus International 1981.
  4. A catalogue of incunabula in all the libraries of Oxford University outside the Bodleian, Oxford 1982.
  5. Catalogo del fondo librario antico della Fondazione Giorgio Cini. Florence: Olschki, 2011).
  6. Giovanni Battista Ciotti (1562-1627?): Publisher Extraordinary at Venice. Venice: Marcianum Press, 2013.
  7. Una tipografia del Seicento fra Roma e Bracciano: Andrea Fei e il figlio
  8. Giacomo. Roma: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 2019

Dennis had a great love for his garden. He died peacefully in April in a nursing home.

Our Dutch bibliographic team.

A group of Dutch bibliographers and book lovers plan to come to London for a week's ‘holiday’ in September to visit libraries - that is, if the coronavirus measures allow them. Amongst their numbers is Marja Smolenaars, one of Dr Williams’s Honorary Fellows. Last year they went to Rome and, the year before to Sweden, so it is already becoming a yearly busman's holiday tradition. One of the libraries to visit will be Dr. Williams's, where they hope to add more titles to the Short-Title Catalogue Netherlands. Although the reading room in Gordon Square is unavailable, Trinity Chapel will be a welcoming space to combine work and pleasure. Where else would you find rare Dutch books in a chapel?

‘Henry Crabb Robinson: Romantic Comparatist, 1790-1811’.

We congratulate Philipp Hunnekuhl, long term reader at Dr Williams’s Library, on the publication on his book ‘Henry Crabb Robinson: Romantic Comparatist, 1790-1811’. The volume forms part of a series entitled ‘Romantic Reconfigurations: Studies in Literature and Culture 1780-1850’. Philipp Hunnekuhl, now Guest Professor of English at the University of Hamburg, has donated a copy of his book to Dr Williams’s library.

Conservation Projects in the lockdown.

Although the Library will be limited to a handful of projects, over the next two years, this time will encourage a much more focused look at a few projects. This will include the conservation of the John Jones Collection.


The conservation of paintings at Dr Williams’s Library has long been neglected. Looking back at the Trusts archives, the Book Committee, we read in the November 1870s . The Librarian Tablets with inscriptions to the Portraits of the Trust, referred by the Board to the Committee was considered. Mr Scott Engraver Great Portland Street. Five shillings each. (Dr Williams’s Trust, Book Committee.

Going back 150 years. Bindings.bound and repaired. A large ‘number still remained in a worn and doubtful state both as to binding and appearance and that a much larger sum than had hitherto been expended in repairing the books would be in the future needed to keep the library in a proper condition’.

The state of the books went to the general meeting. Prior to removal to the new library. Revisit this. The state of the books because everything needs cleaning and repair. ‘An estimate from a Carver and Guilder proposing to restore, clean and gild eighty one oil paintings for the sum of £290 was laid on the table.’

Mr Henry Merritt 54 Devonshire Street, Portland Place. Cleaning portraits. Mr Critchfield 35 Clipstone Street, Fitzroy Square.

Examination of the books and manuscripts in the basement. Basement too damp.


Book Committee. 1873

The header images of this newsletter shows a detail of the conservation work carried out on the Library’s portrait of Isaac Watts. This painting was adopted by Prof Donald Cress who is a great admirer of Isaac Watts. Please read Prof Cress’s reason for adopting the Watts painting below.


The program for adopting items at Dr Williams's Library is at present focusing on a number of portraits, which have received little attention in recent years. The headed on this newsletter shows a detail of Dr Williams’s portrait of Isaac Watts (1674 - 1748) whose influence is still evident in American and English culture, in particular in his hymns. DWL owns a portrait of Watts painted by an unknown artist and is one of two known examples, the other having been purchased by the National Portrait Gallery in 1868 from J R Smith. The painting was commissioned by Sir Thomas Abney (1640-1722), in whose house Watts spent the last thirty years of his life. The work was generally in reasonable condition, although cleaning, some repair and framing and glazing have all become necessary for its long term survival. have given a great deal of thought to your request to provide some background to my interest in Isaac Watts.

Prof Donald Cress

Quite honestly, I came upon Watts entirely by accident. During my nearly forty years as a professor I did research in medieval and early modern continental philosophy; my reading of English philosophers was almost exclusively tied to their bearing on my research on continental figures. In retirement I took an unexpected turn and did a good deal of research on Francis Bacon and John Locke in their own right. While studying Locke’s On the Conduct of Understanding (posthumously published in 1706), I found the following prescient remark by Thomas Fowler in the introduction to his edition of this work:

“What is specially remarkable in the mode of handling logical questions in this treatise is the emphasis laid on what may be called the moral causes of fallacious reasoning: prejudice, haste, mental indolence, over-regard for authority, love of antiquity or novelty, self-sufficiency, despondency, and the various other conditions of mind which are quite as effective in barring the way to truth as any sophisms, however skillful, which others may attempt to impose upon us.”

This rang any number of bells for me, both as a scholar and as a teacher. Fowler certainly was correct in his assessment of Locke; but he also clarified for me what it was that, after nearly 40 years of teaching logic, I had found so dissatisfying in contemporary logic textbooks. Locke indeed pointed the way, but he had not worked out in a systematic way what I was looking for.

I stumbled upon Watts’s The Improvement of the Mind while studying Locke. I read Joseph Emerson’s abridged edition of this work many, many times--long before I eventually read Watts’s complete first edition (1741). I learned that this work was a supplement to Watts’s Logick (1725), and that there was a posthumously published Part II (1753) of The Improvement. The Logick and The Improvement of the Mind, Parts I and II, proved to be a remarkable resource for rethinking what knowledge is most worth having, what lesson is most worth learning for students in an introductory logic course. I had found what I was looking for.

During this time, I also discovered Watts’s Essay Against Uncharitableness (1st ed: 1707, 2nd ed: 1745). I was deeply impressed by this short work for its exceptional insightfulness into the pernicious causes and effects of hyper-passionate disputes about matters of little consequence. Its relationship to Watts’s works in logic was instantly clear to me. Over time, I have read and reread several of Watts’s theological works.

Isaac Watts is by no means a secondary or derivative thinker. In addition to the many contributions he made for which he has received proper recognition and acclaim, Watts also deserves a significant place in the history of logic, of pedagogical theory, and a great deal more.

I hope eventually to complete two projects: (1) an annotated edition of the Essay Against Uncharitableness, and (2) an annotated edition of The Improvement of the Mind (Parts I and II), Discourse on the Education of Children and Youth, along with excerpts from the Logick.

The Congregational Library, Boston.

Alan, it is nice to hear from you. The Library is indeed closed, and has been since mid-March. That coincided with the end of my tenure there, and the very weird beginning of retirement in lockdown. The new executive director, Stephen Butler Murray, is managing as best he can from his home in Detroit, as he has not been able to come out, much less begin to move his family.

Boston has been hit hard, as you may know, and the list of FCC families and friends who've been affected is a long one.

I hope that you and Jane are well.

Peggy Bendroth

Lockdown blog.

The Dissenter’s Library 1727

The Dissenter’s Library 1727 is a project instigated by Jane Giscombe the conservator, which focuses on the foundation collection, that is the collection as printed in the 1727 Dr Williams’s Library Catalogue. This collection has received very little attention. The books are at risk and need urgent conservation work and preservation solutions to stabilise them. There longevity is crucial as they form a unique collection. Many of these books are not yet on the Library’s online catalogue. There are several components to this work and a growing team of cataloguers, book historians and bibliographers including some of Dr Williams staff, fellows and volunteers have come together to work on this project.

This work includes Provenance research which is a central focus at present. The interesting array of book owners emerging will be added to the website. Amongst these are the well known Dr Williams, Elizabeth Williams, William Bates, Cesar Calandrini, John Quick, George Thomason. Less frequent but helpful to others William Dowsing noted his year, month and day in the format shown in figure see pearson p. 33


Owners of few books.

Bates mottos.

Labels pasted into books

Printed heraldic marks

Institutional library inscriptions

Catalogue ref. No


Booksellers’ codes

Books from the early modern period, particularly from the early seventeenth century onwards, often carry combinations of handwritten letters or symbols which are not ownership marks, ciphers but codes used by booksellers to denote prices - either what they paid or what they wish to charge. Effects have been made to interpret some of those codes but they have not made much headway.

But see The Book Collector 35, 1986, pp. 191-198 J M Blatchly, Ipswich Town Hall.

His was for the use of the common preacher.

Connections to puritan study of books.


The single letter ‘e’ is, he suggests e stands for 5, pounds rather than shillings.

All of who have left signs and markings in their books. The study focuses on European book ownership from the mid sixteenth century. This extends to the publication of first Dr Williams’s Library catalogue which went to press in the early eighteenth century. Many books came from private libraries of scholars, dissenters, booksellers .... many more are unmarked. Bindings give away clues.

Elizabeth Williams’s 1083.O.2

‘Elizabeth Williams

May the 19th Lord pardon’.

Prices are evident. Booksellers codes can be found in many books. Monograms, ciphers

Latinized names. Pen trials. Inscriptions. Price paid.

As well as book owners many volumes also carry booksellers’ codes, annotations. This early modern collection shows signs of its use and neglect? Environmental conditions at Dr Williams’s Library have been far from perfect and the books tell there own story. Little money has been spent on binding. However the books give strong evidence to early modern bookbinding practices.

Dissenters? Did they have different habits to other book owners.

Dissenters often on the move. Could they always take there books with them. They are good at handed collections on or at least books. Women ... mother to daughter...

The binding element of this project focuses on laced-case bindings. Laced-case bindings on early modern books from the foundation collection. ADr Williams’s foundation collection of books is also a rich source of physical evidence of the history of the book. Many of the books are in contemporary or early bindings with owner’s or bookseller’s annotations. This includes amongst others, books bound in utilitarian contemporary or early bindings such as sewn single-section pamphlets and multi-section limp bindings.

This project will examine and record the binding structures of the limp bindings. This will complement the information available on the library catalogue. This information may, for example, enhance our knowledge of country specific practices and therefore, indicate with other information, the country where books were bound. Jane Giscombe will be working with Angela Craft and Jane Giscombe.

The collection is meaningless unless it is catalogue. The devil is in the detail.

Early DWL Shelf mark: Cl7. Sh Tt .B7.

1727 cat No: 1616

Example: Patricij Forbesij Liber


Vermibus in terra coiroditur: et aia in inferno cu divite epulone sepelitur...

Resurrectione generali ad

Patrick Forbess

It is a quotation from Homer (Iliad, Book 9, lines 63-64). In a modern text (without ligatures) it appears as:

á¼€φρήτωρ á¼€θέμιστος á¼€νέστιÏŒς ἐστιν ἐκεá¿–νος

ὃς πολέμου á¼”ραται ἐπιδημίου á½€κρυÏŒεντος.

[aphrētōr athemistos anestios estin ekeinos

hos polemou eratai epidēmiou okruoentos]

The translation is:

Clanless, lawless, hearthless is he who loves horrid civil war.

Libraries are expensive things to sustain. We have to reinvent ourselves to remain relevant to their communities. Collections in the traditional sense, have become less important, and people will increasingly question the value of storing books which no one wants to read, whose function is entirely replicated by readily available electronic copies.

Important now in a digital world is the copy-specific information, the provenance, the individual history of a book which will make it unique, and distinguish it from the online master version of the text. The cultural value of a particular book or connected collection of books resides not so much in the text - words on the page - but resides in everything else that manifests evidence of its interaction with users, of what it can tell us about the role it has played as a material object. Researchers either want manuscripts or enquire about their books, now not to read them as texts but because they are interested provenance, annotations or bindings.

The need to winnow the collection. What is the criteria used around retention and discarding. Adjusting our understanding of books and their permanent historical or cultural significance.

What makes our book collections unique? Owners etc..

What marks do the 1727 catalogued books have in common?

1. Do note evidence destroyed by owners.

Take pictures of examples.

2. Removed bookplates.

3.some owners leave no traces

4.use of manuscript or print in binding - recycling.

5.waste parchment and paper

6. Read about waste being sold someones letters.????

7.sellingof waste paper - big business


Large books survive more than small ones.

Read more. Raven the business of books

School primers

Bookbinders lost provenance

John Morris (1580?-1658)

Bibliography is the branch of historical scholarship that examines any aspect of the production, dissemination, and reception of handwritten and printed books as physical objects. (“Books” is shorthand here for various kinds of text-bearing objects, including pamphlets and single leaves.) Among the characteristic activities of this field are the following:

analyzing physical clues in specific books in order to reveal details of the underlying production process;

describing the paper (or parchment), letterforms, design, illustrations, structure, binding, and post-publication features of specific books;

determining the relationship among books that carry texts of the same works (texts both verbal and nonverbal, such as musical and choreographic notation);

writing narrative histories and technical studies of papermaking, paper use, ink, handwriting, type faces, type manufacture, book design, typesetting procedures, graphic processes, bookbinding, printing, publishing, bookselling, book collecting, libraries, provenance, and the role of the physical book in society and culture–along with biographies of the persons involved in these stories.

Traditional bibliographical approaches are also now being applied to objects carrying electronic texts. Because textual criticism and scholarly editing are partially dependent on physical evidence, they are included among the concerns of bibliographical societies. But the making of simple lists of books, which usually focuses on the subject matter of their texts, is not within the scope of bibliographical societies except when that subject matter relates to books as physical objects, or when the physicality of the books listed is recognized (as in a record of those produced in a given geographical area). What links all bibliographical pursuits is an understanding of the significance of books as tangible products of human endeavor.