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:

http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/26145?docPos=1 (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:

http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T020135?q=walter+crane (Athens login details needed)

Featured Resource: Name Index of Artists

The Library’s card indexes are no longer heavily used and understandably, as they have not been updated since 1992.  Nevertheless, if you aim to gather as much information on a specific artist as possible, it would be unwise to ignore the name index of artists located to the left rear of the space occupied by the photocopiers and online public access catalogues (OPACS).

Although the Aleph online catalogue should always be your first option, do remember that some of the library’s pre-1992 non English language material has yet to be added.

The Name Index to Artists

As an A-Z name index, it enables you not only to quickly locate the required artist, but also indicates whether the artist worked in more than one medium, and if so, where (approximately) on the shelves you might find a relevant book.

To summarise, you would not expect to find mention of Grayson Perry, Ai Wei Wei or Banksy in the name index but suppose you were researching the Dutch artist Anton Mauve (1838-1888).  The Aleph catalogue gives you two references to exhibition catalogues but no reference to the book at D653 M by E.P. Engel.  This demonstrates the value of searching both name index and online catalogue.

An index card

As a general rule, the more obscure the artist and the less written in English, the more likely the name index will help.  For certain artists, only the name index will work, e.g. Jan Wouwerman (Dutch) or Boguslav Zivkovic.

Andrew Gifford

Assistant Librarian (Cataloguing / Short Loans)



New Book Display

Over the summer there has been a wealth of new and exciting exhibitions in and around London and internationally, and this is reflected in the recent acquisitions on show in our New Book Display. There is a variety of material on view, ranging from bold psychedelic art in the Sixties (Electrical Banana), a comprehensive collection of talks by well-known art historians, artists, curators and critics (The Secession Talks: Exhibitions in Conversation 1998 – 2010) with brilliant orange-red edged pages,to works on Warhol and Picasso.  Some of the highlights include:

Catalogue cover of Peter Lely: A Lyrical Vision

Catalogue cover of Peter Lely: A Lyrical Vision

Peter Lely: A Lyrical Vision

The catalogue for the Courtauld Gallery’s current exhibition, Peter Lely: A Lyrical Vision is on the UK Exhibitions stand. This exhibition is an opportunity to see some of the most rare and enigmatic paintings of 17th century England, and will be on until the 13th of January. It looks at the early work of Peter Lely, (1618-1680) the celebrated portraitist. Lely was Charles II’s Principal Painter, but this exhibition looks instead at Lely’s early work- allegorical paintings of lush idyllic landscapes, shepherds, nymphs and musicians, painted after the turmoil of the Civil War. These works illustrate Lely’s initial ambition to become a painter of narrative scenes, yet they proved unpopular with his patrons, and he produced only thirty. The book jacket shows Lely’s The Concert, arguably one of Lely’s most personal and intriguing works, as the musician seated in the centre of the composition could well be Lely himself. Lely was influenced by artists such as Titian, and by the time of his death had a rich collection of Italian 16th and 17th drawings. A catalogue pertaining to this collection, dating from 1758, is available in our CABS (Closed Access Book Store) section.

Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde

The current exhibition at Tate Britain, Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde, brings to the fore some of the best-known and most iconic work of the Pre-Raphaelites, a self-styled ‘brotherhood’ of painters- led by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt-whose work revolutionized fine art with their heady use of symbolism, colour, and controversial subject matter such as poverty and prostitution. The book delves into the history and impact of the Pre-Raphaelites, from their work’s poor initial reception-  after viewing Millais’s Christ in the House of His Parents, (1849-50)Charles Dickens dismissed the figure of Mary as ‘horrible in her ugliness’-to their present-day status as arguably  highly influential artists.

Illustrated throughout with some of their most well-known works- such as John Everett Milliais’ Ophelia- the exhibition cataloguefocuses on the Pre-Raphaelites’ revolutionary techniques and ideas, their role in the Arts and Crafts movement, and their impact on society and art. It also includes essays by Diane Waggoner (author of The Pre-Raphaelite Lens, 2010, Z5020 WAS NAT) and Elizabeth Prettejohn (author of Art of the Pre-Raphaelites, 2000, D467 PRE.) We have a wide range of other material on both the Pre-Raphaelites and Peter Lely in our collections.

There are also new exhibition catalogues for exhibitions based in Liverpool, work on Hong Kong artists, Korean art and other interesting current exhibitions, so please take a look the next time you’re in the Book Library.

Useful links:

About the exhibition: Peter Lely: A Lyrical Vision

The Courtauld Gallery Blog (which includes additional information on The Concert and on curating the exhibition)

About the Tate Britain’s exhibition Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde

Blog for Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avant-Garde (which includes an interesting ‘drawing/painting of the week’ feature)

Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery Preraphaelites Online Resource

The world’s largest Preraphaelite online collection: the extensive digital collection of Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery (over 3000 images) has been digitised, allowing users detailed access to their images and full record information.

-Eleanor Keane, Graduate Trainee Assistant.

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



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 – October

A review in the magazine Nature of Studies in the history and method of science, described Charles Singer’s book as “a notable contribution to certain branches of medical history and evolution.”1 We, in the Book Library, didn’t realize we had the author’s corrections, albeit only for the introduction and the two chapters he contributed to the work. His chief role was as editor of this seminal text.

Our volume was presented by Lord Conway to the library in 1933. It has lived in the Kilfinan Librarian’s office for some time until this summer when it was sent off to binding. Although just a pile of papers at the time we found it, evidence shows that it was, at one time, in a ring binder. Once compared with a couple of copies of the book at Kings College London, we realized that the thin paper and the cut and pasted illustrations were pre-publication versions of the texts; and the extensive annotations were corrections by the author, not overly-pernickety comments by Lord Conway.

Singer was born in 1876 in London and he attended the City of London School, where he distinguished himself as a Latin and Greek scholar. However he chose to study medicine at University College London, eventually graduating with a BSc, with a specialism in zoology. He then took a scholarship to study zoology at Magdalen College, Oxford. He returned to medicine in 1898 and graduated in 1903. He had a long, distinguished career holding several medical posts. He was also a founding member of the History of Medicine section of the Royal Society of Medicine.2

The first volume of Studies in the history and method of science was published in 1917, the second volume which the library does not hold, came out in 1921. Volume 1 includes the results of his investigation of Hildegard of Bingen’s manuscripts. It is likely this chapter which drew Lord Conway to it. However, we have no idea how he came to own this unique and quite special item. This chapter has the name Hugh of St. Victor corrected throughout, as it originally appeared as Hugo de St. Victoire. It also includes his handwritten addition of a note of thanks to a number of colleagues who permitted him access to the manuscripts.

The Wellcome Library holds a lot of correspondence between Singer and his wife Dorothea, who was herself a medieval scholar and who assisted with research and publications throughout his career.

Erica Foden-Lenahan
Special Collections Librarian

1. Nature 101, 82-83 (04 April 1918)
2. E. Ashworth Underwood. “Obituary: Charles Singer (1876-1960)” Medical history. V.4(4), 353-358 (Oct. 1960). Accessed 28 Sept. 2010 through the National Center for Biotechnology Information http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1034567/pdf/medhist00173-0092.pdf
Julia Sheppard. “Charles Joseph Singer, DM, DLitt, DSc, FRCP (1876-1960): papers in the Contemporary Medical Archives Centre.” Medical history. V.31 (4), 466-471 (Oct. 1987). Accessed 28 Sept. 2010 through the National Center for Biotechnology Information http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1139787/pdf/medhist00065-0088.pdf

Asia has moved

Librarians have not taken over running the world (yet!), however Courtauld librarians, volunteers and students assistants have been hard at work for the last few weeks re-organising exhibition catalogues from Asia. Asia exhibition catalogues have long been a mess, including anomalies such as six different classmarks for the Israel Museum in Jerusalem – which us unhelpful for anyone trying to locate one of these catalogues!

We are pleased to announce that the Asia exhibition catalogues have now been re-classified, re-labelled and re-shelved in an orderly manner. The classmarks for our “new-look Asia” are as follows:

Z5085 – China
Z5086 – India
Z5087 – Israel, Palestinian territories
Z5088 – Japan
Z5089 – Other Asian countries

Over the course of the project we made some interesting discoveries about our collection of Asia catalogues. It was fascinating to see the extent of our collection of Japanese exhibition catalogues, and the variety of towns, cities and venues represented. While assigning class marks to Japanese exhibition venues I was fascinated by the systematic and logical naming of the galleries and museums: I wish all countries would make my life this easy! We also made some worrying discoveries about the geographic knowledge of previous librarians. Bagdad is in India?! Bangkok is a country?! Thankfully, these have all now been rectified!

So, if you are passing the exhibition catalogues we can thoroughly recommend taking a moment to look at our fascinating and orderly collection of Asia catalogues.

Deborah Lee
(Senior Cataloguer)

CABS book of the month – July

Coinciding with the current London exhibition – Treasures of Lambeth Palace Library (17 May-23 July 2010) – July’s CABS book-of-the-month is a full-colour fascimile of the Lambeth Apocalypse (manuscript 209 in Lambeth Palace Library).

The Lambeth Apocalypse is a richly-illustrated copy of the text of the Revelation of St John, accompanied by extracts from the commentary of Berengaudus (9th century) on the allegory.

Apocalypses were amongst the most popular manuscripts used by the clergy and laity throughout the Middle-Ages. The Lambeth Apocalypse is one of about 20 apocalypse manuscripts still in existence that were produced in England in the 13th and 14th centuries.

It is believed to have been produced some time in the latter half of the 13th century and though its provenance is debated, one theory is that it was created under the patronage of Lady Eleanor De Quincy, Countess of Winchester, (c.1230 and 1274), presumed to be the kneeling figure beside the Virgin in one of the full-page images in the manuscript.

For a while the Lambeth Apocalypse was in the hands of the Elizabethan book collector, John, Lord Lumley (1534-1609). After his death, his book collection became part of the Royal Library, (which eventually formed the nucleus of the British Library), and it then passed on to become part of the founding collection of the Lambeth Palace Library.

The full-colour facsimile, in our CABS collection, was published in 1990 with an accompanying critical commentary by Nigel Morgan in a limited edition of 550 copies (which can be found on the open shelves at D2897.LAM MOR). Photographs of many of the images from the Apocalypse can also be found in the Conway Library.

As explained in the foreword by the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time, Robert Runcie, interest in the Lambeth Apocalypse also threatened its preservation. To preserve the original manuscript and to make it available to a wider audience, the Lambeth Librarian, Dr. E. G. W. Bill, decided to have the facsimile made.

If you wish to see the original manuscript along with a range of other archives and manuscripts from Lambeth Palace Library, information on the exhibition can be found here:

Boryana Bojkova
Graduate Trainee