A quondam alumnus and his gift

A recent post on this blog pays tribute to the work that Sophie Floate is doing cataloguing Brasenose Library’s special collections. Amen to that – it is thanks to her work that I found out that, as I mentioned in the recent Brazen Nose, the library still has copies of eleven works, bound in nine volumes, presented by one of its most fascinating alumni, the ex-pirate turned MP, author and admiral, Sir Henry Mainwaring (c. 1587-1653), who matriculated in 1598.

The eleven works are:

  1. Liber posteriorum Magistri Pauli Veneti, by Paolo Veneto, Venice, 1491 (UB/S I 47, bound with numbers 2 and 6 below);
  2. Questiones Joannis Canonici super octo libros Physicorum, by John Canonicus, Venice, 1492 (UB/S I 48, bound with numbers 1 and 6);
  3. Expositio Egidii Romani super libros Posteriorum Aristotelis, by Giles of Rome, Venice, 1500 (UB/S I 5 5);
  4. Chrysostomi Iauelli Canapicii, philosophi clarissimi, quæstiones naturales super octo lib. Physicorum Aristotelis, by Chrysostomus Javellus, Lyons, 1567 (Lath L 3.11);
  5. Chrysostomi Iauelli Canapicii ordinis prædicatorum, theologi & philosophi, in primis nostræ ætatis eruditissimi, quæstiones in Aristotelis XI metaphysices libros, by Chrysostomus Javellus, Lyons, 1576 (Lath L 3.6);
  6. Fortunati Crellii in Posteriora Aristotelis analytica commentarii, by Fortunatus Crell, Neustadt, 1584 (UB/S I 47.1, bound with numbers 1 and 2)
  7. Psychologia anthropologica; sive, Animae humanæ doctrina, by Otto Casman, Hanau, 1594 (Lath L 3.1);
  8. Secunda pars Anthropologiæ: hoc est; Fabrica humani corporis, by Otto Casman, Hanau, 1596 (Lath L3.2)
  9. Othonis Casmanni Angelographia, seu, commentationum disceptationumque physicarum prodromus problematicus, de angelis seu creatis spiritibus a corporum consortio abiunctis, by Otto Casman, Frankfurt, 1597 (Lath L 3.4);
  10. Othonis Casmanni Somatologia, physica generalis, seu Commentationum disceptationumq[ue] physicarum syndromus problematicus, by Otto Casman, Frankfurt, 1598 (Lath L 3.3);
  11. Iacobi Zabarellæ Patavini Commentarii in magni Aristotelis libros physicorum, by Jacopo Zaberella, Frankfurt, 1602 (Lath I 5.16).

You can, thanks to Sophie’s efforts, find them listed online in the main Oxford library catalogue, SOLO – search on ‘Manwayring, Henry’ and select ‘Show only physical items’: this, at the time of writing, brings up eighteen entries of which these books are the last ten. And yes, I do mean ‘Manwayring’, neither the modern spelling ‘Mainwaring’, nor the ones he himself always used – ‘Maynwaring’ or ‘Maynwaringe.’ I will come back later to the reason for this seeming anomaly in the cataloguing.

We know the books came to us from Mainwaring, for they all carry near-identical hand-written inscriptions, presumably in the hand of a librarian “Ex liber Aulæ Regiæ & Collegij de Brasen-nose ex dono M[agist]ri Henrici Mainwaring hujus Collegij quondam alumni” or some variant thereon. Moreover, four of the books – numbers 4, 5, 8 and the volume that contains 1, 2 and 6 bound together – bear Mainwaring’s autograph signature on the flyleaves. Sophie has been of necessity cautious in cataloguing them as “presumably in his hand.” I would go further – by comparison with surviving signatures of his in the National Archives at Kew, there can be no doubt that the later ones, at least, are his. A couple of the books, interestingly, he has signed more than once, and seemingly at different times to judge from differences in the spelling of his name, in the forms of the letters, in pens and in ink. And I am inclined to think that the Latin motto Ne legito credere, nec contradicere added above the errata of number 6 is in his handwriting too.

There is a securely dateable early signature of his (Oxford University Archives, subscription register, SP 38, folio 113): on 14 July 1602 he signed his assent to the Thirty-Nine Articles and the Queen’s supremacy over the Church of England. This was normally a prerequisite to matriculation, but he had been under age to do this when he came up in 1598, so postponed it till the day before he took his BA:

Blog pic 1 OU archives signature.jpg

This 1602 signature is a classic piece of secretary hand, for example the ‘r’ that looks like a modern ‘w’ and the ‘e’ that looks like a Greek theta. By contrast, the three signatures on Lath L.3.11 display the full flourishes of his mature hand and the top one in particular exactly parallels examples of his signature in the National Archives at Kew from the 1620s and 30s:

Blog pic 2 Latham 3 11.jpg

The other three signed books contain intermediate forms, where he has moved away from secretary hand but not yet adopted the bold but simple flourishes of his mature signature, for example in the three-work volume UB/S I 47-48:

blog pic 3 UBS 47-48

What might account for the changes in his writing? Leaving aside any general change in fashions in handwriting, we know that at some point he studied under John Davies of Hereford. As well as a poet, this man was England’s leading tutor in calligraphy: he was in about 1612 to dedicate a poem to Mainwaring calling him “my most deare, and no lesse worthily-beloved Friend and Pupill.” It is not clear when precisely this period of study was, as Davies taught in both Oxford and London at different times. But the clear change in Mainwaring’s style of handwriting suggests to me that his time with Davies was after he had signed the subscription register in 1602 and so therefore probably after he went down from Brasenose and was in London. But these changes in his style of signature suggest that the ones with early forms, at least, must have come into his ownership quite early on.

Turning to the books themselves, at first sight, they look to be an unusual and almost random collection, but on closer inspection we can point to one or two things. Firstly, several are commentaries on Aristotle’s books on physics or metaphysics. And the places of publication seem to correlate closely with date – the three Venetian books are the oldest and would have been proper antiquarian finds when Mainwaring got them; the two from Lyons both date from early in the second half of the sixteenth century; while the six from the Rhineland straddle the turn of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. No fewer than four are by a single author – Otto Casman, a Roman Catholic theologian and philosopher “determined, in the study of nature, rather to rely upon the decision of the sacred writings, than upon the doctrine of the ancient heathen philosophers”, whose books were nonetheless forbidden by the Catholic church a few years after his death (not that this prohibition stopped Mainwaring getting copies, though).

When and where did Mainwaring acquire the books? As we have seen, the ones with early forms of his signature he must have had early, perhaps even as an undergraduate (though it would have seemed unlikely that the last two could have made their way to Oxford so almost immediately after their publication). For the rest, he could have got them in London, where he spent a fair bit of time on and off in the forty years between taking his degree and having to flee back to Oxford as a Royalist refugee in 1642. It is also just possible that he came by them in his days as a pirate, but the sort of ports we know he frequented then (Mehdia in Morocco, Tunis, Lanzarote) seem unlikely candidates for a thriving market in books of Aristotelian commentary. The most likely occasion, however, seems to me to have been the trip we know he made overland across Europe to Venice and back in 1618-19 to offer the Republic his services as a naval commander. The outward leg would seem to have been via France and Turin. We know he came home via an unspecified city in Germany controlled by the Habsburgs – for which Freiburg seems to me the most likely candidate. So if he came out via the Rhone valley and back via the Rhine valley, he would have travelled to, or close to, the place of publication of all eleven books, and both Venice and Frankfurt were major centres of the book trade. We also know he departed Venice in some haste, leaving behind books and scientific instruments with his good friend the British ambassador there, Sir Henry Wotton (he of “an ambassador is an honest man sent to lie abroad for the good of his country” fame). We do not know whether he ever retrieved his possessions from Wotton, but it must be a real possibility that some of the volumes the college now holds are the very same books, brought back by Wotton on his recall to England in 1624.

Now why the unusual spelling of the donor’s name in the Bodleian catalogue? The reason, I’m told, is that it is because that is how his name appeared on the title page of his own best-known work, the Sea-Mans Dictionary. This work was written in the early 1620s and circulated widely in manuscript (for an excellent summary of this, see The Manuscripts of Sir Henry Mainwaring’s Sea-Mans Dictionary by Dr Amy Bowles of the British Library). Mainwaring had several presentation copies made by a leading copyist of the day, Ralph Crane, who for some reason adopted the ‘Manwayring’ spelling. When it finally made it into print in 1644, this spelling was carried through onto the title page, though we can be sure that Mainwaring himself, by now a Royalist refugee in Oxford lodging in his old college, had nothing to do with its publication. After all, his book received its imprimatur from one John Booker, an ardent Parliamentarian who was perhaps London’s leading astrologer and compiler of almanacs; and it was given a laboured and irrelevant Puritan-style preface of religious material by ‘RY’ –almost certainly Richard Younge, a pioneer in the field of supposedly improving tracts. But the ‘Manwayring’ spelling was adopted by the Library of Congress and so has set the standard for library cataloguers worldwide.

Ultimately, whether the books are textbooks that Mainwaring bought and used as an undergraduate or ones that he collected in later life, perhaps on his trip to Venice, is something we will never know. But thanks to the diligence of an anonymous college librarian in writing their provenance into the endpapers we can be certain that they belonged to one of our most intriguing alumni. Thanks, too, to Sophie’s work, they are no longer invisible among our special collection but their existence and provenance is now clear to researchers.

My thanks go to the college librarians and archivists, and also to the University archivists, for all their assistance.

David Bradbury, huius Collegii quondam alumnus 1981-84

This entry was posted in Antiquarian, Archives, Books, Reviews, Special Collections, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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