I am disgustingly late in writing up my notes from the 32nd Annual Conference on Book Trade History: The Book Trade and the Classical World, which took place nearly a month ago. I plead pressure of work, and the difficulty of understanding my notes after such a time-lapse.
This page may demonstrate some of the difficulties the notes pose for a paleographer:
Nevertheless, since the official proceedings may take some time to prepare and publish, I shall offer some of what I can remember and decipher.
On the first day, the first speaker was David Butterfield of Christ's College Cambridge, on Verses to Order: the prominence of Latin and Greek verse composition in British publications of the 19th century. Dr Butterfield took us through the history of the practice of composing verse in classical languages, based mostly in schools and universities. Though Milton and Vaughan had both composed verse in Latin, by the 18th and 19th centuries original composition took second place to translation of existing pieces of English into Greek or Latin, most often in the manner of the Attic tragedians or the Augustan poets.
The development of prizes for verse writing gave an impetus to verse composition and booksellers and publishers saw a new market for texts in public and grammar schools.
Dr Butterfield divided the published output into manuals for boys to help them with this task, and collections of compositions such as Musae Etoniensis. These collections included attempts to render classically influenced poems such as Gray's Elegy (and Gray himself was a classicist) and Tennyson, or Jabberwocky, done as Mors Iabrochii. Latin was favoured over Greek. I came across an Oxford example in a second-hand bookshop in Lewes quite recently. It occurred to me, though it would be a huge task to assemble them, that school magazines of the nineteenth century must contain many examples.
Then Freya Cox-Jensen of Christ Church, Oxford spoke on The Distribution and Circulation of Classical Texts in England, France, Scandinavia and the Low Countries in the 16th and early 17th centuries. She based her work on Peter Burke's paper of 1966, A Survey of the Popularity of Ancient Historians† , but has been able to take advantage of the greater availability and searchability of bibliographic tools, particularly the Universal Short Title Catalogue (USTC), due to go online next year, to conduct a bibliometric exercise covering the first two centuries of printing . She emphasised that printed texts did not supplant manuscript immediately, that reading was not synonymous with reading a printed book for some considerable time, and that the book trade was international, so that texts, and their printers, migrated from country to country.
After lunch, the Librarian of the Warburg, Jill Kraye, talked about the history of the library, from its beginnings as Aby Warburg's personal collection in Hamburg to its move to England, and the Deed of Trust with the University of London, supposed to guarantee its future, though this, like so much in British cultural life, is now called into question. They are building digital collections of their rare books, and an iconographic database. Jill's''s talk was followed by a tour of the library.
Then Ceri Davies spoke on Some Latin Writers from Wales, their printers and publishers. I had no idea there were so many humanist scholars in Tudor Wales. Jos van Heel finished the first day by telling us about Images of Ancient Texts: Eighteenth-century facsimiles of Greek and Latin text manuscripts, before an evening reception at Dr Williams Library.
On the second day Dirk Imhof spoke on From School Books to Luxurious Editions of Classical Authors: the Antwerp publisher Jan Moretus I, based on his analysis of the printers' archives. Moretus inherited Plantin's business, not without controversy. for Plantin's family felt it was rightfully theirs. Then Nichols Poole-Wilson, Managing Director of Bernard Quaritch spoke on Classics and Fashion among English Book Collectors, a fascinating insight into books as objects of luxury, fashion, vanity and status, taking us into byways of bibliomania such as leather fetishism (the 18th century craze for morocco bindings), and the vogue for bleaching and washing texts to make the pages whiter, annihilating marginalia in the process. He ended with the tantalising speculation that collectors in the future might wish to track down manga versions of classical authors,.
The final speak was Christopher Stray, whose life of W H D Rouse I read some years ago, on OUP’s Classical Publishing in the second half of the nineteenth century, the results of some extraordinary detailed work in the Press's archives, including accounts of the development of Liddel and Scott's Greek lexicon in its various incarnations of the Big Liddell (aka the Great Scott), the Middle Liddle and the Little Liddle, as well as Lewis and Short's Latin dictionary.
Vol. 5, No. 2 (1966), pp. 135-152