Hidden Books!

Comparing 2 copies of Compendio del Gran Volume de L'Arte... by G. Palatino. 1566 & (?) at the Harry Ransom Center
Comparing 2 copies of Compendio del Gran Volume de L’Arte… by G. Palatino. 1566 & (?) at the Harry Ransom Center

My stay in Austin was productive, if a bit confusing. Finding books in the catalog and discovering the full extent of the collection took most of my time. I did get to view a few books and learn about writing manual acquisition at the Ransom Center. I thought I’d be looking at works in the Marzoli and Beaufoy collections of up to 120 + books.

Calligraphy: 1535 – 1885, published in 1962 as a sale catalog of 72 writing manuals was considered the standard for describing this type of book. The Ransom Center acquired the collection in 1962. In 1967, they acquired a collection of scrapbooks called the Beaufoy Collection.

Title page of a volume from the Beaufoy Collection at the Harry Ransom Center
Title page of a volume from the Beaufoy Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

In 1850 this collection of 48 writing manuals was created by Henry B. H. Beaufoy and acquired by the Humanities Research Center (now the Harry Ransom Center). The cataloging for this set is very simple:

Description 48 v. in 11. illus. 53 cm.
Local note All manuals have been disbound, and either inlaid or mounted, and then rebound.
Each vol. has ms. title: “Calligraphy being a collection of the most celebrated writing masters, English and foreign, 1539 to 1840 … London, 1845[-1850]”
Binder’s numbering of vols. is inconsecutive (probably to allow for growth in the collection) from I Sup to XII.
Armorial bookplate of Henry B.H. Beaufoy.

As you can see from this, there’s no indication of what these 48 titles are. There are some additional materials that can help. The Ransom Center keeps some records and correspondence associated with the collection and this file can be requested. I knew about the collections file, and asked for it. Within the subject heading of calligraphy, the Hamill & Barker sale list is included. A much photocopied list of the books. Listed by England/date and then Continent/date.

Included in the collections file was a listing of books offered to the Ransom Center by Harvey W. Brewer. The typewritten catalog states: An important collection of 56 58 (penciled in) WRITING BOOKS of the 16th thru the 19th century, rich in the masters of ENGLAND, ITALY, FRANCE, SPAIN, the NETHERLANDS & GERMANY.

There were a  number of titles that were similar to the Marzoli titles. But in viewing the Marzoli printed catalog, then going to the UT online catalog, I was confused as similar titles might have two or more listings. The Marzoli Palatino Compendio del gran volvme de l’arte … has no date in the call number: Z 43 A3 P343. I called up the two titles the online catalog offered. One copy had the Marzoli bookseller’s tag in it, the other had handwritten notes on the pastedown and it’s call number varied by date: Z 43 A3 P3 1566. I had similar things happen when I called up two other titles with similar call numbers.

From Andrade de Fibueyredo's Nova Escola Para Aprender a ler ... at the Ransom Center
From Andrade de Fibueyredo’s Nova Escola Para Aprender a ler … at the Ransom Center

Had the Ransom Center enlarged its collection of writing manuals beyond Marzoli and Beaufoy? If so, when? I sent a query out to ExLibris to see if someone knew what became of Brewer. I couldn’t find an active website, phone or address for the firm, and some additional searching led me to the Grolier Club’s collecting a number of their catalogs. Folks on the ExLibris list were helpful and sent me information.

I asked the staff for help and learned that there is an archive of the HRHRC which has correspondence and other information pertinent to the collection. This lead to a file on the Brewer collection and correspondence with the Brewer firm about the purchase of these books.

Letter from Harvey W. Brewer to Mrs. Hudspeth at the Humanities Research Center describing shipment of type specimens and writing manuals in 1969
Letter from Brewer describing shipment of type specimens and writing manuals in 1969

My confusion when studying the online catalog was that there were two copies of a title, but they differed by date or publisher. And they were clearly from two “collections” as the Marzoli items were often rebound in vellum and the Brewer items had penciled in notes on the flyleaf by the same hand.

The Ransom Center has over 180 writing manuals in its collection and they are some of the finest books to have been published.

Thanks to the diligent staff, I was able to make my way through the labyrinth of acquisitions records, uploaded  records from paper to online (where the records aren’t always complete!) and other bibliographic hitches that keep things hidden in plain view.

Ugo da Carpi "Thesauro de Scrittori Opera ..." at the Ransom Center. 1525 Blado at top
Ugo da Carpi “Thesauro de Scrittori Opera …” at the Ransom Center. 1525 Blado at top
From the text of Andrade de Figueyredo's Nova Escola Para Aprender a ler ... at the Harry Ransom Center
From the text of Andrade de Figueyredo’s Nova Escola Para Aprender a ler … at the Harry Ransom Center
Binder's ticket on Beaufoy volumes
Binder’s ticket on Beaufoy volumes
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