CABS Archive

Exploring the Wilde bequest: offprints and beyond

Wilde offprints

Having this week completed a reorganization of fifteen boxes of offprints from the Johannes Wilde bequest; I thought I would write a few words on the material preserved within these boxes. This fragment of Wilde’s legacy collection, significant in size and content, is yet to be catalogued on the library’s OPAC, but can be searched by card index (see below). The main bequest of books and manuscripts, as well as his archive of teaching materials, is fully catalogued and kept in the library’s special collections – both can be consulted on filling in a CABS request form.

Wilde drawer

What began as a vast swathe of offprints has now been streamlined into a shipshape assemblage of just over 600 texts, most of which have personal inscriptions to Wilde. There is a broad scope of material chiefly published in the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s, but going as far back as a volume Jahrbuch der Königlich preussischen Kunstsammlungen from 1893. Written in several languages (chiefly German but also English, French, Italian and Hungarian), it contains a lot of Wilde’s own writings, as well as a good amount on Michelangelo – as you might expect – Renaissance art, and architecture.

As well as official offprints from periodicals such as Oud Holland, The Burlington Magazine, the Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz, and Athenaeum, the collection also contains some full issues of journals; festschrifts for scholars such as Julius Schlosser, Paul Clemen and Max Friedländer; and ephemeral items including business cards, compliment slips, newspaper and magazine clippings, and proofs.

Gerard Frankl

Most of the items are marked with Wilde’s distinctive handwriting, either denoting the author’s name at the top of the page (as above on a clipping from The Listener entitled ‘How Cézanne saw and used colour’ by Gerard Frankl), or with his notes or corrections alongside the text. There are also a great number of personal inscriptions written from the various authors, such as this affectionate example from Antoine Seilern to Julia and Johannes Wilde, from his piece on ‘An ‘Entombment’ by Rubens’ (The Burlington Magazine Vol. 95, No. 609, December 1953).

Seilern letter

What is interesting is the network of figures that emerges from these inscriptions, giving you a tangible picture of the who’s who of art historians and scholars from the first half of the twentieth century, with a particular emphasis on the ‘Vienna School’ and on émigrés such as Wilde, Seilern, Charles de Tolnay, Erwin Panofsky and many others. It is an interesting piece of Courtauld Institute history in itself, demonstrating how professors, peers and students influenced one another and continued to correspond throughout their careers. Below you can see an envelope addressed to Professor Wilde from Katherine Freemantle, containing a proof copy of some biographical particulars and a bibliography of Professor Jan van Gelder.

Wilde letter

For more information on the Wilde Collection, see the Special Collections page of the book library website. Further archive material on Wilde is held at UCL’s School of Slavonic and East European Studies. If you want to have a look at the offprints collection, we have a holdings list behind the issue desk in the book library.

Harriet Lam

Featured Book: Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene

Choosing a ‘favourite thing’ from the Book Library is very difficult because we have such a wealth of items in our Special Collections and also on our main shelves.  Since I began working here I have come across tiny, fragile exhibition catalogues from 1900 onwards, letters written by Roosevelt, a completely square book in its own box, a scrapbook of fashion plate cuttings and much more.  It’s hard to whittle down these items to just one, but eventually I chose our two volumes of the 1895 edition of Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, edited by Thomas J. Wise, with wonderful illustrations by Walter Crane.

Title page

The Title Page

The Faerie Queene (1590-1596) sometimes known as Faery Queen, is the best known work of the poet Edmund Spenser (c. 1552/3 – 1599.) It is an epically long, allegorical poem that, although never actually finished, was intended to span twelve volumes. It contains many allusions to members of the Elizabethan court, and can be seen as a celebration of Elizabeth I’s might and Elizabethan culture. It encompasses knights, damsels, magicians, (even Merlin!) monsters and mythical beings. In the poem, Spenser uses a unique rhyme scheme, now known as a ‘Spenserian stanza,’ which was later adopted by Romantic figureheads such as Byron and Keats.

But what makes these particular volumes stand out for me is the illustrations by Walter Crane, especially as I have been an admirer of his work for some time.  Walter Crane (1845-1915) was an Arts and Crafts engraver and illustrator. He is best known for his whimsical, finely-executed illustrations of children’s books, including Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (1873) Baby’s Own Aesop (1887) Arthurian Legends and Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince and Other Stories (1888).

An illustrated page

One of the illustrated pages

Crane’s illustrations for Faerie Queene are stylized, painstakingly detailed and vivid in colour and execution, even after all these years. The cover illustration for both volumes features a graceful woman in a stylized garden, standing next to a lion against a bold red background.  Each blade of grass and each trailing leaf of the foliage behind her can clearly be seen, and the style bears strong echoes of William Morris’s work. This may not be a coincidence, as Crane was involved in the Arts and Crafts movement and was also friends with Morris. (Morris even turned one of Crane’s designs into a tapestry.) His illustrations also appear to be influenced by the style of medieval and illuminated manuscripts, with pensive, chivalrous figures and intertwined flowers decorating their margins.

Our volumes are from the library of the fashion designer Stella Mary Newton, and this fashion angle can arguably be seen in Crane’s cover depiction of the intricate folds of the woman’s gown, corresponding with the thick drapery of the lion’s mane, and the fish-scale or amour-like embellishments on her sleeves. Crane himself was also interested in fashion, and designed dresses, costumes and even sandals. You can really see the imaginative quality to Crane’s work, especially in the whimsical expressions and gestures of his figures and their stylized androgyny. The frontispiece for Part VIII even depicts a rather forlorn-looking unicorn!

George Allen Publisher's bookplate

The bookplate of George Allen Publisher

The rarity of these volumes is suggested in its limited run of just 1000 copies, and in the use of unbleached, handmade and rather delicate paper. I think it is amazing that this work has remained in such good condition, and I hope that it will be continue to be used and appreciated by Courtauldians for many years to come.

Bibliographic Info

Spenser’s Faerie Queene edited by Thomas J. Wise ; illustrations by Walter Crane. Part VII and Part XIV. Published by George Allen, 1895-97.

Classmark: CABS Z7483 SPE OVERSIZE. (Reference Only.)

Related items from our collections

  • The Allegory of The Faerie Queene by M. Pauline Parker, 1960. (Z7483.SPE PAR: criticism and interpretation)
  • Walter Crane: the arts and crafts, painting, and politics, 1875-1890 by Morna O’Neill, 2010. (D497 CRA SPE.)
  • Edmund Spenser’s ‘The Faerie Queene’ -an exhibition on the occasion of the four-hundredth anniversary of its publication (Z5020 PRI UNI: exhibition catalogue)
  • Walter Crane by Isobel Spencer, 1975.

Related Websites

Spenser Online: Cambridge University’s Edmund Spenser Webpage:

Spenser’s The Faerie Queene on Project Guttenberg:

Edmund Spencer biography at The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: (Athens login details needed)

The Walter Crane Archive Project at the University of Manchester:

Walter Crane Biography and Image Gallery:

Walter Crane biography at Grove Art Online: (Athens login details needed)

Good news for Raphael lovers…


Le pitture delle Stanze Vaticane di di Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, 1838, plate 1

Le pitture delle Stanze Vaticane di di Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, 1838, plate 1

The cataloguing of the John Shearman library is proceeding apace and a jewel of the library is his Raphael collection. The Raphael books number just over 250 volumes and are, except for the occasional stray volume, fully catalogued. The collection encompasses second copies of many of the books we already have but, more importantly, there are a lot of titles for which I was unable to find other copies in the UK and, in very rare cases, was not able to find other copies anywhere.


There are multiple editions in English, French, Italian and German of staple 19th-century Raphael biographies by Quatremère de Quincy, Passavant, Müntz, and Crowe & Cavalcaselle. There are early copies of Carl Ruland’s catalogue of Raphael works in the Royal Collection, as well as an 18th-century catalogue of engravings after the Raphael cartoons also in the Royal Collection.


Bellori’s 1695 Descrizzione delle imagini dipinte da Rafaelle d’Urbino nelle camere del Palazzo Apostolico Vaticano has an interesting provenance, having been part of the libraries of two reknowned 19th-century bibliophiles, Gustavo Galletti and Baron Horace de Landau at Villa-Landau-Finaly, both in Florence.

Le pitture delle Stanze Vaticane di Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, 1838 title page

Le pitture delle Stanze Vaticane di Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, 1838 title page

And the Le pitture delle Stanze Vaticane di Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, published in 1838 in Rome, bears the evidence of provenance by at least 4 art historians – A.E. Popham, Jim Byam Shaw, John Gere and, of course, John Shearman. What a pedigree!

Shearman Raffaello Sanzio 1838 provenance markings

Shearman Raffaello Sanzio 1838 provenance markings

About 20% of the Raphael books were published before 1900, including my favourite paper binding, on the Elogio storico di Raffaello Santi, 1829, which complement our later editions and reprints. We are able to see how the views of scholars have changed and how earlier scholars’ own works have been reinterpreted in the 20th-century, gaining a fuller picture of Raphael scholarship almost right up to the present.


Elogio storico di Raffaello Santi, 1829 binding

Elogio storico di Raffaello Santi, 1829 binding

Where a Shearman book is a duplicate of reference books we have on the open shelves, we are making the open shelves copies available for loan, so some important texts can be taken home now, but we still have a reference copy in the Special Collections.

This collection is already being used, judging from the number of slips for books waiting to be reshelved and we hope it complements all our material on the artist and for the broader study of Renaissance art. If you are interested in viewing the records for the John Shearman’s Raphael collection on the library catalogue, you need to select the multi-field search option and use the drop-down menus to isolate search words such as Collection code – SPECL and Former owner, provenance – Shearman, and combine them with Raphael in the Any words field (see search below). Once you know the books you would like to see, you can complete request forms at the issue desk.

Searching the catalogue

Erica Foden-Lenahan
Special Collections Librarian
Shearman Project cataloguer

Special Collections Projects Underway

2012 is proving to be a big year for the Special Collections at the Courtauld Book Library. We now have two dedicated Special Collections Librarians – Erica Foden-Lenahan (Tues & Sat) and Hannah Thomas (Weds-Fri) – who will be working hard on a couple of big projects as well as being your day to day contact for all things Special Collections.

Erica, who has been at the Book Library for three years now, is working on The Shearman Collection. In 2004, the Book Library received the collection of the late Professor John Shearman, an eminent academic and former Deputy Director of The Courtauld. A leading scholar of Italian Renaissance and a Raphael expert, his library contains about 4000 items, including many off-prints, covering Renaissance and Baroque art.

Hannah, who started here in October 2011 and has experience working for the British Library and the National Trust, will be concentrating on The Seilern Collection. Received in 1978, the collection consists of Count Antoine Seilern’s extensive Rubens holdings; catalogues of private collections and sales; works on Tiepolo, Lorrain and Poussin; and extensive material on Dutch art of the Renaissance. There is a lot of material – well over 4000 volumes – some of which was added to the library’s computer system as part of a previous cataloguing project.

Thanks to generous funding from the Foyle Foundation, Erica and Hannah will be making these fascinating collections accessible to the Courtauld community and researchers all over the world.

The collections will be catalogued and united with the already rich and unique Special Collections of the Courtauld Book Library, including the libraries of Antony Blunt and Johannes Wilde. Ultimately this will create an unrivalled Renaissance and Baroque study collection available for students, scholars and visitors for generations to come. It also tells the story of the development of art history as an academic discipline in the UK and the network of art historians, as well as highlighting the contributions made by European émigrés to the subject. These libraries also often yield more personal insights like the note from one of John Shearman’s daughters found as a bookmark.

Erica and Hannah hope to keep us all updated on their progress via the Book Library blog but in the meantime if you have any questions about any aspects of our Special Collections then please contact them at


Provenance help with a bookplate

Descrizzione delle imagini dipinte da Rafaelle d’Urbino nelle camere del Palazzo Apostolico Vaticano, a work by Giovanni Pietro Bellori.

We are fortunate to have two copies of this work and the copy that was part of the John Shearman bequest bears the bookplate to the left and we would like to make reference to it in the catalogue record.

This volume was once owned by the bibliophile Gustavo Camillo Galletti and bears its stamp on the title page.

Can anyone recognize the bookplate and identify whether it is another provenance marking for the Biblioteca Galletti, or if it is one used by another library or collector? Any help would be appreciated.

Erica Foden-Lenahan
Special Collections



Book cleaning CABS book of the month – November

As a conservator you know why it is important to clean books, but sometimes it feels like you are not making any appreciable difference. Until you take a photograph half way through a cleaning job and you see the value of a whole day with a smoke sponge …

This is a book from CABS – Nouveau traité de toute l’architecture : ou l’art de bastir ; utile aux entrepreneurs et aux ouvriers, by Jean-Louis de Cordemoy, 1714 – that is being prepared to have its back board re-attached.

Erica Foden-Lenahan
Special Collections

Emblemata, Emblemata, Emblemata – May

What is an emblem book? It is a form that was tremendously popular during the Renaissance. It is believed that the Italian lawyer Andrea Alciato devised the first such book. The books themselves contained small illustrations (a bit like a modern thumbnail image) that were accompanied by “a brief title or motto, an edifying verse epigram, and often an additional explanatory text in verse or prose.”                (Gordon Collection: Emblem Books

These books were created by individuals and reveal their own outlook, but they also “communicate moral, political, or religious values in ways that have to be decoded by the viewer.” (Glasgow University Emblem Project. They often have classical or humanist sources, such as Erasmus’s Adages. (Gordon Collection: Emblem Books

Alciato introduced the first Emblematum liber, published by Heinrich Steyner and printed in Augsburg in 1531. Scholarship suggests that Alciato himself had nothing to do with this series of editions, but that his associate and friend Conrad Peutinger commissioned the publications based on unillustrated epigrams, etc., that “had circulated among Alciato’s friends in manuscript” (Andrea Alciato’s Emblematum. Alciato at Glasgow. Several versions were printed in continental Europe and were collected widely.

This month’s CABS Book-of-the-Month is a version printed, we believe, in Leiden by Franciscus Raphelengius (son-in-law of Christoph Plantin) in 1608. We don’t know for sure because the title page is a hand drawn copy that was added at some stage, possibly to replace the original title page which was destroyed. But one inclined to conspiracy theories might think that it was a deliberate attempt to associate an inferior copy with a renowned publishing house and established edition of the book. Who knows?

This book is fascinating for a number of other reasons, mostly relating to its binding. First of all, the book has no writing on the spine, but Alciatus is written vertically on the fore-edge of the book, two letters per row. Anyone interested in library history will know that bookshelves as we know them only came into common usage well into the era of the printed book. Manuscripts and early printed books were usually laid flat on lecterns or shelves and were often chained to the furniture. It was only with the mass production of books that forced libraries to find a more space-efficient way of storing them. Initially they were shelved upright, fore-edge facing out. Blind-tooled decoration was common in northern Europe into the 17th century and that did not lend itself well to spine titles. With the spread of gold-tooling from northern Africa via Italy and Spain, which was a more visible way of marking the spine, books began to be shelved spine outwards.

We know very little about the book’s provenance other than it was given to the Courtauld in 1978 in accordance with the bequest of the art historian and collector Dame Joan Evans. But if the book was published in The Netherlands it was northern Europe and the binding tells us a bit more. The book has been sewn onto pasteboard boards using 4 parchment thongs, which are visible because there are no pastedowns. These are all features of that suggest the binding is contemporary to the publication of the book, if 1608 is correct.

The covering is brown calf, blind tooled with floral and compass motif stamps, one of which incorporates the initials RW. The initials could be those of the owner of the book, although they are more likely to have been those of the binder or the finisher (the person who decorated the binding). The initials also suggest a northern European origin, as the letter W appears in Spanish, Italian and French words usually only of foreign borrowings.

The book has a shelfmark of CABS Z7483 ALC. We have another edition (Emblemata ad quae singula, praeter concinnas insciptiones, imagines…) in the Anthony Blunt bequest. This was published in Lyon in 1626. Its shelfmark is BLUNT ALICIATI. The library has a other emblem books, including a copy of Ripa’s Iconologia, which is not an emblem book per se, but has similar elements, Jacob Cats’s Proteus ofte minne-beelden verandert in sinne-beelden, for an example of a Flemish emblem book, and an 1883 facsimile of Jean Cousin’s Liber: Fortunæ centũ emblemata, et symbola centũ, continens…, as well as a number of books about emblem books.

There are numerous emblem projects, so if you are interested:
OpenEmblem Project – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign –
Alciato’s Book of Emblems – Memorial University at St. John’s, Newfoundland –
Glasgow University Emblem site –
Alciato at Glasgow –
The English Emblem Project – Penn State University –
Emblem Project Utrecht –

Erica Foden-Lenahan
Special Collections

CABS book(s) of the month- February

Beginning with the opening line ‘A tear is better than a word’, ‘Das Tränenmeer’ (‘The Sea of tears’) and ‘Dars Wähnen’ (‘The Delusion’) by Dieter Roth are three poetic artists’ books accessible from our CABS collection. The item is classed under two entries in our online catalogue but consists of three volumes, known as bands.
‘Das Tränenmeer’ was published in 1973 and collected together 248 aphorisms, or small one-line poems, which originally appeared from May 1971 in a local advertising bulletin. Band one solely shows these aphorisms, one per page, whilst Band two contain sketches and corrections, and Band three contains sketches, poems and prose. Band three is entitled ‘Dars Wähnen’ (‘The Delusion’) but sub-headed ‘Tränenmeer 3’.

Presented to the library by L. Pedersen in 1988, the books themselves are notable for their sewn pages and illustrations. The book was originally published in editions of 200 per volume. The library’s copy of volume 1 is numbered 108, and volume 2 is number 29.Roth’s Das Wähnen was also presented to the library by Pedersen in 1988, number 21 of another edition of 200 and is signed by the artist opposite the page numbered 262.

Dieter Roth (1930-1988) was a Swiss-German artist, also known as Dieter Rot and Diter Rot. His writing has been described as important as his art, with his poetry inspiring illustrations and so on in a cyclical nature.
As well as artists’ books, Roth was known for his printmaking and sculpture.
Throughout his life he continued to create art in various mediums.

Well known for his artists books’, the library unfortunately (or fortunately, given the tendency food has for rotting) does not hold a copy of the 1972 book Literaturwurst, which consisted of ‘various periodicals chopped up, mixed with lard and spices and stuffed into a sausage casing.’
We do hold a copy of the artists’ book “Tentative little recipe” which he produced with a group of students while he was teaching at the Watford School of Art. Other books by and about Dieter Roth can be found on the library’s open shelves.
Kimmelman, Michael, [obituary] ‘Dieter Roth, Reclusive Artist and Tireless Provocateur, 68’, in New York Times, 10 June, 1998.

Tamsyn Bayliss and Lloyd Roderick
Graduate Trainee Library Assistants

CABS book of the month – January

It may be our smallest book

L’immortalita e Gloria del pennello : Catalogo delle pitture insigni che stanno esposte al pubblico nella città di Milano (1728) . The original was published in 1671 and, as you can see from the title page of our edition, it is without the main title. It is a mere 11.8 cm x 6.2 cm and may be an abridged version.

It has been difficult to find much information about the book, its authors, or where there are other copies in the world. Some libraries hold a 1980 reprint of the first edition. In Shearjashub Spooner’s book A biographical history of the fine arts being memoirs of the lives and works of eminent painters, engravers, sculptors and architects, from the earlies ages to the present, he says that Agostino (circa 1640-1706) and Giacinto (circa 1620-1688) were the sons of Giacomo Antonio Santagostino, a painter from Milan. His sons were both artists with numerous works executed around Milan.

Nice parchment binding and marbled end papers too!

Spooner, Shearjashub Biographical history of the fine arts. 4th ed., v.II M-Z. New York: Leypoldt & Holt, 1867. p.845 Accessed 23 Dec. 2010

Did you know we hold the Cicognara Library?

Conte Leopoldo Cicognara (1767-1834) was, among other things, an artist, a patron of the arts and an art historian. In addition to his publication Storia della scultura dal suo risorgimento in Italia sino al secolo di Napoleone, he also amassed an impressive art library, for which he also produced a catalogue Catalogo ragionato dei libri d’arte e d’antichità posseduti dal Conte Cicognara. This library of approximately 5000 books was so valuable that it was incorporated, in 1824, by Pope Leo XII into the Vatican Library, where it remains today.

The Vatican Library, with support from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, has made the library available in microfiche. And we have a copy. Of course it is never fun to look at fiche, but these early printed books are the basis of our studies of art history. And sometimes the reproduction quality can be slightly better on fiche than in digital copies available on the internet.

We also have some of the titles (not the actual books) that were in the count’s library in our Special Collections, particularly in the Anthony Blunt bequest. As well, we hold the 2nd edition of the Storia della scultura... published in 1824 at shelfmark CABS B611 and the Ciocognara catalogue published in 1821 at shelfmark CABS Z56. The catalogue was used during the project to catalogue our historical books and the reference is included in our catalogue records where possible. Anyway, if you are interested in early books about art, techniques, aesthetics, etc., please ask at the desk to see the fiche.

Erica Foden-Lenahan Special Collections Librarian


Geschichte der Kunstgeschichte –

Dictionary of Art Historians –