Literature and Theatre

Poetic History (In memory of William Mark Ormrod, 1957–2020)
David R. Carlson

The article presents a previously unpublished long version of an Anglo-Latin poem on Henry IV’s executions of Archbishop Richard Scrope and others at York in 1405. It is argued that the poem was not part of the well-known hagiography of Scrope that grew quickly up for funding rebuilding programmes at York Minster, also exemplified in the paper; rather, it is a poetic contribution to the contemporary secular historiography of the York Rebellion against the Lancastrian regime, implicating the archbishop in active leadership of it.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
The Testimony of Late Seventeenth-Century Library Auction Catalogues
Lawrence Rabone

In this article on book circulation, I survey twelve English library auction catalogues from the period 1676–97, in order to show how interest in the writings of the Amsterdam rabbi Menasseh ben Israel (1604–57) continued after his death. I do this by identifying the circulation of his works in Puritan personal libraries. I focus particularly on the library auction catalogues of leading Puritans, notably Lazarus Seaman, Thomas Manton, Stephen Charnock and John Owen. I also show that of all Menasseh’s books, De resurrectione mortuorum libri III was the one most frequently owned by Puritan divines. This article demonstrates how books helped to catalyse the boundary-crossing nature of the Jewish–Christian encounter in seventeenth-century England.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
Trevor Russell Smith

This article reconsiders the value of ‘shorter’ chronicles written in fourteenth-century England through a case study of the most popular of these, the Cronica bona et compendiosa, which survives in more manuscripts than most of the chronicles frequently used in scholarship. It examines the text’s authorship and narrative to show what it can reveal about history writing and ideas of the past, especially as they relate to medieval readers. It demonstrates the text’s influence on contemporary writers by showing how it was slightly adapted by the important chronicler Henry Knighton, which use has so far gone unnoticed. This article also includes an appendix listing twenty-three ‘shorter’ histories and their manuscripts, nearly all of which have not hitherto been identified.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
A. D. Morrison

The letter collections of Greco-Roman antiquity dwarf in total size all of ancient drama or epic combined, but they have received far less attention than (say) the plays of Euripides or the epics of Homer or Virgil. Although classicists have long realised the crucial importance of the order and arrangement of poems into ‘poetry books’ for the reading and reception both of individual poems and the collection as a whole, the importance of order and arrangement in collections of letters and the consequences for their interpretation have long been neglected. This piece explores some of the most important Greek letter collections, such as the Letters attributed to Plato, and examines some of the key problems in studying and editing collections of such ancient letters.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
An Unpublished Manuscript Illuminated by the Master of the Haarlem Bible
Natalija Ganina and James H. Marrow

This paper analyses an unpublished Dutch-language Book of Hours in the John Rylands Library, focusing on unusual core texts the manuscript contains and distinctive features of its cycle of illumination. The miniatures and the richly painted decoration of the manuscript can be attributed to the Master of the Haarlem Bible and dated c.1450–75. The inserted full-page miniatures include iconographically noteworthy examples, and the placement of some in the volume is anomalous, suggesting that they may not have been planned when the volume was written. Our analyses of distinctive texts and images of the manuscript lead us to offer suggestions about the religious status or affiliations of its patron and to propose possible monastic settings in which it might have been used. We discuss the disparate character of its textual and illustrative components in relation to current reappraisals of the organisation of manuscript production in the Northern Netherlands.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
Martin Thompson

This article proposes that Manchester, John Rylands Library, Latin MS 165 was an ‘accessory text’ produced and gifted within the Tudor court and passed down by matrilineal transmission within the influential Fortescue family. It proposes that from the text’s conception, the book of devotions participated in various projects of self-definition, including Henry VII’s campaign for the canonisation of his Lancastrian ancestor, Henry VI. By analysing visual and textual evidence, it posits that later female owners imitated the use of marginal spaces by the book’s original scribe and illuminator. Finally, it traces the book’s ownership back from its acquisition by the John Rylands Library to the viscounts Gage, in whose custody the book underwent a transformation from potentially subversive tool of female devotion to obscure historical artefact.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
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Dante studies in Victorian Britain
Federica Coluzzi

This chapter discusses how by the end of the nineteenth century Victorian dantismo began to be practised and understood as a form of public outreach and engagement as well as of political and cultural exchange on a national and international level. It retraces the dynamics of disciplinary specialisation of Dante studies from the perspective of the scholarly activities of the Oxford, London and Manchester Dante Societies established between 1876 and 1906, and the creation of Dante Collections at University College London and at the John Rylands Library. It illustrates how these professional institutions were responsible for catalysing the methodological turn from dantophilia to dantismo, and the institutionalisation of the teaching of Dante in academic (established and extramural) courses. This reconstruction rests on the perusal of archival holdings including the Societies’ records, minute books, teaching syllabi and transcriptions of lectures as witnesses of the diverse political, aesthetic, and ideological make-ups of the Societies as well as of the cultural exchange nationally and internationally. The chapter pays particular attention to figures such as Henry Clark Barlow, Edward Moore, Paget Toynbee, Charles Tomlinson and Azeglio Valgimigli for the way their personal trajectories exemplified the historical and socio-cultural evolution of the Dante enthusiast into a Dante scholar: a turn that fostered the conditions for the creation of one of the most eminent scholarly Dante traditions outside Italy. 

in Dante beyond influence
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From grande amore to lungo studio - rethinking the hermeneutic turn in Dante reception history
Federica Coluzzi

The conclusion revisits the key-claims of the study, drawing the central implications of having expounded the greater intellectual and material complexity of the mechanism of Dante’s Victorian reception. It emphasises how the mapping of the Victorian hermeneutical turn raises crucial questions on the importance of historical practices of reading, annotating and book-collecting for providing a comprehensive representation of the phenomenon and its manifold ramifications in nineteenth- and twentieth-century periodical and print culture.

in Dante beyond influence
Christina and Maria Francesca Rossetti’s Dante sisterhood
Federica Coluzzi

Chapter three argues that by the mid-1870s, the rising field of Dante Studies had become one of the new territories of endeavour claimed by a growing public of women of letters, actively negotiating their critical identity and scholarly authority as professional mediators of Dantean knowledge. Through an initial bibliographical survey, the chapter illustrates how a socially varied community of established and of lesser-known women writers played a pivotal part in launching the process of production, promotion and dissemination of Dantean literature among in late Victorian Britain, through a wide-ranging body of literary and pedagogic works. The chapter focuses on the paradigmatic case of Christina and Maria Francesca Rossetti for the way they negotiated with the forces of patriarchal authority represented by their male-centric “family dantismo”, to achieve authority as public and professional mediators of Dantean knowledge. The chapter first discusses on Christina’s periodical articles - ‘Dante, an English Classic’ for the Churchman’s Shilling Magazine and Family Treasury (1867) and ‘Dante, the Poet illustrated out of the Poem’ for the Century Magazine (1884) – and her work as editor Cayley’s translation of the Commedia: an activity documented in her personal edition of the work, now at the Houghton Library. It then moves onto the textual and book-historical analysis of Maria Francesca’s handbook A Shadow of Dante (1871) to elucidate the biographical dynamics through which she constructed her critical expertise and scholarly knowledge, gaining cultural power and public recognition as a pioneer Dante scholar on the Victorian literary market. 

in Dante beyond influence
Rethinking reception in Victorian literary culture

Dante Beyond Influence provides the first systematic inquiry into the formation of the British critical and scholarly discourse on Dante in the late nineteenth century (1865–1921). Overcoming the primacy of literary influence and intertextuality, it instead historicises and conceptualises the hermeneutic turn in British reception history as the product of major transformations in Victorian intellectual, social and publishing history.

The volume unpacks the phenomenology of Victorian dantismo through the analysis of five case studies and the material examination of a newly discovered body of manuscript and print sources. Extending over a sixty-year long period, the book retraces the sophistication of the Victorian modes of readerly and writerly engagement with Dantean textuality. It charts its outward expression as a public criticism circulating in prominent nineteenth-century periodicals and elucidates its wider popularisation (and commodification) through Victorian mass-publishing. It ultimately brings forth the mechanism that led to the specialisation of the scholarly discourse and the academisation of Dante studies in traditional and extramural universities. Drawing on the new disciplines of book history and history of reading, the author provides unprecedented insight into the private intellectual life and public work of Christina Rossetti, Matthew Arnold, William E. Gladstone, and introduces a significant cohort of Dante critics, scholars and learned societies hitherto passed unnoticed.

As it recaptures a long-neglected moment in Dante’s reception history, this path-breaking book illuminates the wider socio-cultural and economic impact that the Victorian hermeneutic turn had in advancing women’s access to literary and scholarly professions, educational reform and discipline formation.