Another Tale of Peter Rabbit: celebrating the 150th birthday of Beatrix Potter with some lesser known stories of a remarkable artist and writer


On 28th July 2016 we celebrate 150 years since the birth of the gifted children’s illustrator and writer, Helen Beatrix Potter in 1866. She was known to the world as Beatrix, and ‘B’ to her family, to distinguish her from her mother, with whom she shared the same first name.  From a young age Beatrix exhibited the exceptional observational skills and artistic talents that were to later find expression in the series of delightful hand-sized children’s books which are treasured by adults and children alike.

A young woman of many and diverse talents

Beatrix was an extraordinary individual, attaining stature in a wide range of endeavours, including as sheep breeder, naturalist and conservationist. From her mid-teens to age 30 she kept hidden diaries written in code, and her journal of 3 March 1883 records her resolve to: ‘do something’ with her life beyond the confined expectations of the English upper classes.[i]  With a rare talent for recall, Beatrix challenged herself as a teenager to remember long extracts from the Bible, and to recite entire Shakespearian plays, memorising six of the latter in her 28th year.[ii] She was also an acute observer of the natural world, with a special interest in fungi and lichen, and her paper ‘On the germination of the spores of the agaricineae’ was read by proxy to the Linnean Society of London in 1897.[iii]

PeterRabbit22Beatrix’s artistic talents were evident from a young age, and her ability to portray animals was refined during many holidays spent in the countryside. She and her younger brother often brought back animals to London that they had made pets of, some of which did not survive their transplantation to the city: ‘those who died or were found already dead were usually sketched and occasionally skinned, boiled down, and reconstructed in skeletal form’.[iv]

The reverse was also true, and a selection from the menagerie of small animals which shared their upstairs nursery, travelled with the young Potters in specially crafted baskets.  As well as rabbits, these included mice, snails, rats, birds, lizards named Judy and Toby, a dormouse Xarifa (who was reputedly stroked by the artist John Millais, a family friend), bats, terrapins, frogs and a snake.[v]


The Tale of Peter Rabbit

Whilst Beatrix’s favourite of her own books was The Tailor of Gloucester, she is best remembered for creating the mischievously endearing character, Peter Rabbit, though there were several twists and turns before publication of his ‘tale’ was realised.  After at least six rejections, including one from the eventual publishers, Frederick Warne & Co, Beatrix progressed arrangements to have the book privately printed.  Peter_Rabbit_first_edition_1902a (1)This edition was first issued on 16th December 1901 in a run of 250 copies distributed mostly to family and friends.  A second printing followed shortly after in February 1902, such was the demand, priced at one shilling and two pence.

About this time, Beatrix’s friend Canon Rawnsley re-approached Frederick Warne, suggesting that the story be published in 42 paragraphs of his own verse, accompanied by Beatrix’s illustrations:

‘There were four little bunnies

-no bunnies were sweeter

Mopsy and Cotton-tail,

Flopsy and Peter…’[vi]

Frederick Warne & Co editions and ‘pirated’ American imitations

Fortunately Warne rejected this offer, and at last offered to publish Beatrix’s original manuscript in modified form, including omission of the original picture of Mrs McGregor holding a pie containing Peter’s father because the company did not like her face.  Although a woman in her mid-30s, Beatrix expressed concern at the prospect of her father, a trained barrister, accompanying her to witness the signing of the publishing agreement: ‘if my father happens to insist on going with me to see the agreement, would you please not mind him very much, if he is very fidgety about things…’[vii]

Other adjustments debated included whether Peter should face one way or the other on the cover, the finer points of the rendering of Mr McGregor‘s nose and ears (Beatrix lamented that she had ‘never learnt to draw figures’), and whether the white on the wheelbarrow should be ‘wiped off’.[viii] On 8 May 1902, not long before the Warne edition went to print she reflected

‘I wish that the drawings had been better; I dare say they may look better when reduced; but I am becoming so tired of them, I begin to think that they are positively bad’. [ix]

Perhaps the saddest revelation was that her pet, the original ‘Peter Piper’ rabbit and model, had died on 26th January 1901 (four days after Queen Victoria), at the age of nine, just before the drawings for the Warne edition commenced.  Beatrix wrote ‘now when they are finished I have got another rabbit, and the drawings look wrong’.[x]  Peter was actually her second rabbit, the first being Mr Benjamin Bouncer who enjoyed eating peppermints.

None of these changes affected the success of the Warne print runs: the first 8000 copies were sold before publication, and another 20,000 sold before the end of 1902.  Two years later 86,000 copies were in circulation.  Minor adjustments were made with each new edition, some driven by technical demands such as wear to the printing blocks, necessitating re-cutting of the picture plates.

But cLibrary catalogue entry: catalogue entry: confronted the book post-publication, including the failure of Warne to have claimed copyright protection in the United States for the first American edition.  This oversight spawned a succession of ‘pirated’ imitations, variously retaining, modifying or completely rewriting Beatrix’s words and copying, far less successfully, her illustrations.  These versions included The Tale of Peter Rabbit (Henry Altemus & Co, 1904) and Louise A. Field’s Peter Rabbit and his Pa (Saalfield Publishing, 1908).

What happened to Peter and his sisters?

The fate of Peter beyond the Beatrix Potter books remains unrecorded in her letters or papers, though he seems to evaded the pie dish, making minor returns in the tales of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, the Flopsy BunniesGinger and Pickles, and Mr Tod, and on the last page of Pigling Bland.  Of his sisters, Mopsy does not reappear in later books, but Flopsy married Benjamin Bunny, producing several children, and Cottontail was courted by a black rabbit who left carrots outside her burrow, and raised a family of four or five children on a hill.

Given that The Tale of Peter Rabbit had its genesis whilst Beatrix holidayed in Perthshire in 1893, it is perhaps fitting to end with the first sentences from the Scottish translation, The Tale O Peter Kinnen, first published in 2004:

‘Aince upon a time there wis fower wee Kinnen, an their nems wis – Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-bun an Peter. They bid wi their Mither in a san-baunk, aneath the ruit o a muckle fir-tree…’[xi]

I am grateful to my colleague, Susan Millard, Special Collections Librarian, for her assistance with this post.

Susan Thomas, Rare Books Curator


Library catalogue entry: Library catalogue entry:


[i]  MacDonald, Ruth. Beatrix Potter. Boston : Twayne Publishers, c1986, p. 7

[ii] MacDonald, pp. 8-9

[iii] MacDonald, p. 13

[iv] MacDonald, p. 2

[v]  Taylor, Judy.  Beatrix Potter: artist, storyteller and countrywoman. Harmondsworth: Frederick Warne, 1986, p.47

[vi] Linder, Leslie. A history of the writings of Beatrix Potter, including unpublished work. London : Frederick Warne, c1971, pp. 93-94

[vii] Taylor, Judy.  That naughty rabbit: Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit.  Harmondsworth: Frederick Warne, 1987, p.21.

[viii] Linder, Leslie, p. 106

[ix] Hallinan, Camilla. The ultimate Peter Rabbit: a visual guide to the world of Beatrix Potter. London : Dorling Kindersley, 2002, p. 31

[x] Grinstein, Alexander. The remarkable Beatrix Potter.  Madison, Connecticut: International Universities Press, c1995, p. 52

[xi] McGeachie, Lynne.  Beatrix Potter’s Scotland: her Perthshire inspiration. Edinburgh : Louath Press, 2010, p. 132


Grinstein, Alexander. The remarkable Beatrix Potter.  Madison, Connecticut: International Universities Press, c1995.

Hallinan, Camilla. The ultimate Peter Rabbit: a visual guide to the world of Beatrix Potter. London : Dorling Kindersley, 2002.

The history of The tale of Peter Rabbit. London : Frederick Warne & Co, c1976.

Linder, Leslie. A history of the writings of Beatrix Potter, including unpublished work. London : Frederick Warne, c1971.

MacDonald, Ruth. Beatrix Potter. Boston : Twayne Publishers, c1986.

McGeachie, Lynne.  Beatrix Potter’s Scotland: her Perthshire inspiration. Edinburgh : Louath Press, 2010.

McGeachie, Lynne. The Tale O Peter Kinnen. Edinburgh Luath Press, 2004

Taylor, Judy.  Beatrix Potter: artist, storyteller and countrywoman. Harmondsworth: Frederick Warne, 1986.

Taylor, Judy.  That naughty rabbit: Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit.  Harmondsworth: Frederick Warne, 1987.


Discovering the musette: a 17th century treatise on a little known musical instrument

Hotteterre frontispiece (17xx)
Frontispiece engraving in Hotteterre flute method

The Rare Music Collection includes a number of early instrumental methods and treatise, volumes which offer instruction on how to play a musical instrument and how to interpret musical notation, and/or information about the instrument’s history and technical development. Notable early treatises in the Collection for Spanish guitar and flute respectively are Gaspar Sanz’s Instruccion de musica sobre la guitarra Española… (Zargosa, 1674) and Jacques Hotteterre, Méthode pour apprendre a jouer en très peu de tems de la flûte traversière … (Lyon, 1765, 1781 issue).

A third2016035-Hill-Music-40454 early treatise is the Traite de la musette … (Lyon, 1672), the full title of which translates as “Treatise of the musette with a new method for learning to teach yourself to play this instrument easily and quickly”. The musette is no longer well-known, but this beautiful leather-bound volume, with its own marbled slipcase, invites the curious to explore.

Neither the bucolic frontispiece nor the full title page, with its vignette of three putti with bunches of grapes, has the elusive musette at front and centre. The frontispiece was engraved by Nicolas Auroux after drawings by eminent French painter Thomas Blanchet (1614-89) as were, mostly likely, the putti. [1]

The frontispiece shows a shepherd/musician seated near a ruined aqueduct playing an hautboy (oboe). Seven other wind instruments are somewhat improbably propped up or scattered around him. [2] At some distance we see another shepherd playing another oboe to his herd of goats. In order to locate the musette in the engraving we must look at the left foreground where it sits on a low, flat rock. The musette of the treatise’s title, then, is a type of small bagpipe. You can see its cylindrical drone (to the left), the bag in the middle with separate bellows tucked underneath and a chanter (or chalumeau) attached. A chalumeau simple (with windcap) is propped up above the drone. [3]


The author of this treatise was Pierre Borjon de Scellery (1633-91), a lawyer, parliamentarian and amateur musician. While he promises to leave his readers able to teach themselves to play, de Scellery instead spends much of his short volume expounding on the instrument’s history and antecedents. At the back of the volume there are, however, some dances and popular tunes to play on the musette, notated with both conventional five-line stave notation and in tablature, where numbers indicate which holes should be covered by the fingers; the instrument has a “closed” fingering system.

Gueidan bagpipe playing image
Public domain image

Evidence of how the musette de cour was held and played, and by whom, is found in a portrait by Hyacinthe Rigaud of nobleman and lawyer, Gaspard de Gueidan (1738; held Musée Granet, Aix-en-Provence). The instrument, here richly decorated, was held with the bellows tucked under the forearm and pumped to inflate the bag and sound both the drone and the melody played on the chanter; we know that the instrument’s sound was neither harsh nor overly loud. The musette then was played by noble amateurs as well as the musicians at the royal court; it was also, unquestionably, an instrument compatible with courtly elegance.

Jennifer Hill, Curator, Music

[1] Lucie Galactéros-de Boissier, Thomas Blanchet (1614-1689), Paris: Arthéna, 1991, 476-478.

[2] To identify all the instruments see, for example,

[3] James B. Copp, “Before Borjon: The French Court Musette to 1672”, Galpin Society Journal, 58 (May 2015), 3-5.

Artists’ books holding us in their palm

IMG_1490             IMG_1484


As part of Rare Book Week and the Artists Book Makers series, Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison gave a session at the Lenton Parr Library at the South bank campus, showing their beautiful artists books and talking about their collaboration and processes. Special Collections holds a collection of their books, part of the wider Book Arts Collection, which are available to view in the Reading Room in the Baillieu library. They are all catalogued on the Library catalogue. Here are some photos of the event.

IMG_1494            IMG_1502            IMG_1498

Shakespeare in Steel: exploring links between Edward Dowden’s ‘Shakespeare Scenes & Characters’ and the ‘Gallerie Shakespeare’ portfolio of engravings. Part I.

On the 15th July 2016, the University of Melbourne’s highly anticipated After Shakespeare exhibition was officially opened, in the Noel Shaw Gallery of the Baillieu Library. Marking the 400th anniversary of the year of the Bard’s death, the exhibition plays host to a number of artefacts and ephemera that highlight Shakespeare’s lasting legacy throughout the centuries, with particular focus on his reception in Australia.

Shakespeare Scenes & Characters cover2016029-Thomas-SpecColl-40436


Amongst the intriguing stories contained in the cases is a puzzling connection between an 1876 English book of Shakespearian commentaries and engravings, and a separately issued portfolio of 22 engravings with a French title. Helen Kesarios, a student volunteer in the Cultural Collections Projects Program, has been investigating possible connections between the two works, drawing on original correspondence located at the British Library.

The first instalment in this three-part story begins at Case 6

Part I – The English book: Shakespeare Scenes & Characters selected and arranged by Edward Dowden

Case 6 of the After Shakespeare exhibition houses several extraordinary artefacts from the 19th century, one of which is Edward Dowden’s Shakespeare Scenes & Characters (London: Macmillan, 1876) from the Baillieu Library’s Rare Books Collection.

Edward Dowden portraitEdward Dowden (1873-1913) was an Irish literary scholar and poet, Professor of Oratory and English Literature, Dublin University, and recognised for his contributions to the study of Shakespeare, Shelley and Browning, among other notable English writers. Despite his nationality, ‘Dowden disclaimed any desire to be thought of as an Irish writer, stating “I confess that I am not ambitious of intensifying my intellectual or spiritual brogue”’. [i]

In addition to his …Scenes & Characters, Dowden’s other principal works on Shakespeare include Shakspere: a Critical Study of his Mind and Art (1875) [Dowden used both spellings, Shakspere and Shakespeare][ii] together with a Shakspere Primer (1877) and an Introduction to Shakespeare (1893).  Dowden’s literary contributions, particularly his Shakespearean studies, were the topic of praise. An example of this can be found in correspondence from the poet and critic Aubrey de Vere (1814-1902) to Dowden, in which he writes with respect to Mind and Art:

‘I did not like to write and thank you for the great pleasure I have had in reading your book on Shakespeare, until I had time to go over nearly all of it a second time; and I shall certainly before long give it a third perusal. I do not exaggerate in saying that it seems to me the best book I have ever read on Shakespeare’ (March 17th, 1875).[iii]

Shakespeare Scenes & Characters is a large and ornate text, comprising Shakespearean criticism ‘from the best English, American, French and German critics’,[iv] carefully selected and arranged by Dowden himself, and complemented by a series of 36 steel engraved prints by distinguished Munich artists and engravers.  Dowden hoped that readers would appreciate the criticism as more than mere ‘padding’ for the illustrations,[v] as outlined in a letter to his publisher Macmillan:

‘I thought the general mass of readers might also find it pleasant and useful to have this choice body of English and foreign criticism – and that it would really add value to the valuable illustrations’ (July 24th, 1875).

Dowden prefaceAnd in the Preface to his book:

‘In selecting the extracts the editor has been guided by the desire, first to illustrate the engraving, with special reference to the principal persons of the play there represented; secondly, to offer some general views of importance suggested by the play; and thirdly, to give examples of the different schools of Shakespearean criticism’.[vi]

2016029-Thomas-SpecColl-40436Each print within the book depicts an engraved scene from one of Shakespeare’s plays. W. Schmidt’s and August Friedrich Spiess’s Act 5/Scene 2 depiction of Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra and Johann Lindner’s and Max Adamo’s Act 5/Scene 1 print of Lady Macbeth in Macbeth, are just two of the many scenes provided. Referring to his finished product, Dowden writes, somewhat lamentably, to his brother John Dowden:

My Sh. Picture-book is out. It is a handsome book, with some things I don’t like, but for which I am not responsible, and my part of it – the selection of the text – is, I think, well enough done. King undertakes to advertise my book well in the autumn. I have got about £30 from him, and am to get about as much more in July. About 160 copies of 2nd edition have sold, which I think is as many as could be expected in the time, with no advertising. I hope it will go off faster in autumn, and prove a small annuity to me for a year or two’ (9th June, 1876).[vii]

The Spectator was certainly a lot more enthusiastic about Dowden’s work:

‘This handsome volume has a character of sterling worth which books meant to lie on drawing-room tables do not commonly possess. The illustrations will be new to most readers…There are thirty-six illustrations, engraved on steel. Of these, Herr Adamo, whose name many will recognise as belonging to the Munich school, has contributed a third part, and Herr Pecht a fourth. The other names are Hofmann, Makart, Schwoerer, and Spiess…The “explanatory text” is as important a feature as the illustrations which it subserves. Professor Dowden’s study of Shakespeare and his commentaries and critics has been a very wide one…Not one of the more conspicuous names is absent from his table of contents. Altogether he has made up an excellent volume’.[viii]

2016029-Thomas-SpecColl-40436Helen Kesarios

Research Assistant, After Shakespeare exhibition

Cultural Collections Project Program, University of Melbourne

Helen Kesarios will continue the story of the engravings contained within the Dowden volume in her blog instalment next week.

Watch this space for Part II – The German engravings: Shakespeare Scenes & Characters selected and arranged by Edward Dowden!

[i] E.J. Gwynn & rev. Arthur Sherbo, ‘Edward Dowden (1843-1913)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography [website], 2004; online edn, Sept 2013, para. 6, <>, accessed 9 May 2016.

[ii] Gwynn & Sherbo, para. 2.

[iii] Dowden, Letters of Edward Dowden and his Correspondents, p. 73.

[iv] Edward Dowden, letter to Macmillan & Co., 24 July 1875.

[v] Edward Dowden, ‘Preface’, in Edward Dowden ed., Shakespeare Scenes and Characters, Macmillan & Co., London, 1876, p. viii.

[vi] ibid.

[vii] Dowden, Letters of Edward Dowden and his Correspondents, p. 98.

[viii] ‘Shakespeare Scenes and Characters’, The Spectator, Current Literature, 12 August 1876, p. 1018, <>, accessed 9 May 2016.

A 16th century historical feast – leap into Rare Book Week by visiting the Chronicle exhibition (14th-24th July 2016)

Chronicle exhibition

The Baillieu Library is excited to announce for one week only an exclusive exhibition of recent acquisitions from the Kerry Stokes Collection, which have been generously loaned to coincide with this year’s Rare Book Week (14th-24th July 2016).


At the centrepiece is a rare 11 metre scroll printed on parchment, Cronica Cronicarum, recording the history of the world. Ninety-two woodcuts include early depictions of the cities of Paris, London and Rome as well as portraits of kings and rulers, biblical and historical scenes and genealogical tables.


The scroll is supported by a number of illuminated manuscripts on vellum from the same period with interesting provenances. Attributed to Kerver, Bourdichon, Colaud and the Master of Philippe de Gueldre, these manuscripts provide vibrant examples of exquisite decoration and rare inspirational works of devotion. The Triumph of David is a highly finished miniature of David bearing the head of Goliath attributed to Vincent Raymond, mounted in a dramatic carved Italian Renaissance frame.


The exhibition can be viewed in the Dulcie Hollyock Room, Ground Floor, Baillieu Library, University of Melbourne 10am-5pm each day.   Don’t miss out!   The full Melbourne Rare Book Week program is available here.

Public lectures

The event is supported by a series of public lectures featuring scholars who will share their expertise and fascinating stories about these rare and beautiful source materials.  Read more and reserve your place at

After Shakespeare exhibition

And whilst you are in the Baillieu Library, take time to visit the recently opened After Shakespeare exhibition, which brings together for the first time one of only five known Australian copies of the Second Folio of Shakespeare’s works (1632), a unique promptbook for a performance of Antony and Cleopatra at Melbourne’s Theatre Royal in 1856, and numerous production artefacts and ephemera.  Find out more at

A blossoming gift: hand-coloured engravings from the Hortus Eystettensis

The Baillieu Library Print Collection has bloomed with a gift through the Cultural Gifts Program from Ronald Alfred Walker of 12 hand-coloured engraved plates from Basil Besler’s florilegium Hortus Eystettensis, originally published in 1613.

Besler was both an apothecary and a botanist. In his lifetime (1561-1629), the system of scientific classification that we know today had not been fully developed. In this book the specimens were grouped by their season of flowering or fruiting, which resulted in some surprising pairings. This organisational principle followed the arrangement of the garden on which the book was based, created by Johann Konrad von Gemmingen, bishop and prince of Eichstätt in Bavaria (the title of the book means ‘Garden of Eichstätt’).

What is a florilegium?

A florilegium differs from a herbal or herbarium, which is typically a collection of dried botanical specimens with descriptions. One of the foremost herbals is Leonhart Fuchs’ De Historia Stirpium which was printed in Basel in 1542. Fuchs (1501- 1566) was a physician and a field botanist. His book comprised 519 large woodcuts of some 400 native German plants.


Veit Specklin after Albrecht Meyer, Radish (1542), hand coloured woodcut from De Historia Stirpium

Whereas, a florilegium is traditionally a description of living ornamental garden plants, one of the first examples appearing in 1608 was stunningly illustrated. The Hortus Eystettensis then followed in 1613 with its 367 striking engravings after Besler’s drawings, and some copies of the book were painstakingly coloured by hand.

Some specimens from Hortus Eystettensis were singular examples from the region, such as the Eichstätt yellow wallflower, which is now unknown. The morphological characteristics of the thick stem and unusual pocked leaves suggest it may have been affected by a virus, fungus or insect.

wall flower

Bail Besler, Eichstätt yellow wallflower (Flos Cheyri maximus), (c.1613), hand coloured engraving from Hortus Eystettensis

Of the plates that describe orchids, specimen two is an example of the rare stinking orchid (Ochidaceae) found in grassy locations in Europe. As later scholars note, one of its subspecies actually has a pleasant fragrance!

Purple orchid

Basil Besler, Purple orchid (Orchis Iatifolia), (c.1613), hand coloured engraving from Hortus Eystettensis

Two orchid specimens are depicted alongside the Peruvian squill (Liliaceae). In this plate a later hand has (rather clumsily) added more pigment to the engraving. The original and refined hand-colouring of the flowers have been daubed over with pink, white blue and purple paint. Perhaps an admirer was attempting to heighten the already powerful beauty of the blooms. To an extent this plate demonstrates both the popularity of the collection of book illustrations and their desirability as objects of beauty.


Basil Besler, Peruvian squill (Hyancinthus stellatus peruanus), (c.1613), hand coloured engraving from Hortus Eystettensis


Kerrianne Stone (Curator, Prints)

The Besler florilegium: plants of the four seasons introduction and commentaries on the plates by Gérard G. Aymonin; foreword by Pierre Gascar; translated from the French by Eileen Finletter and Jean Ayer, New York: H.N. Abrams, 1989

Diving for Dr Fox

A curious shadow has stowed itself alongside the Baillieu Library Print Collection. As a silhouette ‘cut and paste’ portrait, it is set apart from the majority of the collection which is printed.  Silhouette cutting began in the 18th century and it was adopted as an art form in the 19th century when it reached its height of popularity. While reason for the inclusion of the shadow portrait in the Print Collection is not immediately apparent, what the work of art does reveal, when turned over to the verso, is a marvelous story featuring English doctors, an artist to the French royal family, a shipwreck and fervent collectors.

Dr Fox

Augustin Amant Constant Fidèle Edouart, Dr Fox of Brislington, (1825-45), black card, gift of Dr J. Orde Poynton, 1959, Baillieu Library Print Collection, University of Melbourne.


The inscription under the silhouette states: ‘Dr Fox of Brislington/ near Bristol.’ Here lies the identity of the shadowy gentleman; however, there is more than one doctor by the name of Fox associated with Brislington. The most likely candidate is the English psychiatrist Edward Long Fox (1761– 1835) who established an ‘insane asylum’ at Brislington House, near Bristol. Or possibly it could be his grandson, the physician also named Edward Long Fox (1832-1902) whose dates also span those of the artist.

The stamp on the verso reveals both the artist and a former owner:  August Edouart, Silhouettist to the French Royal Family, 1826–1849, owned by Mrs E. Neville Jackson. Edouart travelled through Britain and also America, capturing the likenesses of as many as 50,000 people in silhouette. In 1831 he made portraits of the French Royal Family; Charles X of France was then visiting Holyrood House in England. His sitters were not always so well-known; nevertheless they are important identities from the 19th century.

Dr Fox verso

Edouart wrote A Treatise on Silhouette Likenesses a record of his experiences which is replete with examples of his works of art. His method was to cut the sitter’s likeness from black card with scissors which was pasted onto a light coloured sheet. Later in the century he found himself competing with early forms of photography and so added embellishments to his work. Sometimes his portraits were placed on a lithograph, a background scene executed by another artist, or they were highlighted with white chalk.

Dr Fox’s only accessories are a dignified top hat and umbrella. Both his austerity and the inscription of his name on the verso of the black card may suggest that he is one of Edouart’s duplicates: Edouart keep a duplicate copy of every portrait he made.  He carefully preserved them in reference folios and transcribed the details of the sitter, writing their name on the back and under each silhouette. As he described in his treatise, these books of duplicate copies had a patented lock to prevent the unauthorised gaining access: ‘Many disappointments I have given those gentlemen, whom presume they are entitled to possess the Likeness of any of the ladies they like.’ (p. 24)

In 1849 his career as a silhouettist came to a devastating end with a shipwreck. He boarded the Oneida and was travelling from America to Europe when the ship was caught in a storm and wrecked on the coast of Guernsey. He was pulled from the sea by a Guernsey man, but his collection of reference folios was claimed by the ocean.  Those dredged-up remnants representing his career he gave to the family who had rescued him, and he never cut another portrait. [1].

Yet the shipwreck did not bring an end to the regard for his silhouettes. Collector, writer and silhouette enthusiast Emily Neville Jackson took up his cause in the early 20th century.  In 1911 she placed an advertisement in the Connoisseur Magazine asking for silhouettes to examine as part of her research on the history of the art form. The response by a member of the Guernsey family was how she came to purchase 16 of Edouart’s folios recovered from the shipwreck. [2]

A small label on the verso of the portrait of Dr Fox shows that Dr J. Orde Poynton, donor to the Baillieu Library and himself a medical practitioner, purchased the work from a Red Cross Antique and Art Exhibition in 1955.

While there is more to examine in this work on paper, this intriguing shadow in the Print Collection shows that it is always inspiring to dive into the university’s collections, and as with the case of Dr Fox, to emerge with a treasure to bring to the surface.

Kerrianne Stone (Curator, Prints)

[1] Helen and Nel Laughton, ‘August Edouart: A Quaker Album of American and English Duplicate Silhouettes 1827-1845’ in Pennsylvania Magazine of History & Biography. Jul  1985, Vol. 109 Issue 3, p. 388

[2] Helen and Nel Laughton, p.396

A novella for entrée, an encyclopaedia for main course, and a digest for dessert: the literary tastes of the larval bookworm

SpitzbergFor many of us, the term ‘bookworm’ conjures up two popular creatures which inhabit the dimly lit recesses of libraries.  One the pale voracious bibliophile, with an almost unhealthy all-consuming interest in books, much like the short-sighted reader depicted in the German artist and poet Carl Spitzweg’s painting The Bookworm (1850).  The other more destructive, a bespectacled and well fed grub, who smiles with great satisfaction from a hole that it has bored through the pages of a book.  Whilst we have probably met, or may even be a proud example of the former, how many of us have ever encountered one of the latter?

Indeed the larval bookworm is an elusive creature, whose presence is more often evidenced by the trail of damaging lacework it leaves behind.  In this sense the bookworm’s crime is a perfect one in that it absconds after its eating spree had finished, metamorphosing into an adult insect, with its dastardly legacy only discovered many years after the attack.   An example of the destructive peregrinations of a family of bookworms in a 17th century Persian manuscript in the Baillieu Library’s Rare Books Collection can be seen in this image.

Lavāʼiḥ [manuscript] [by] Nūr-al-Dīn ʻAbd al-Raḥmān Jāmī

The term bookworm is a generic one, and may refer to the larvae of several species of insect – including house moths, carpet beetles and the paper louse – which feed on paper, pastes, wood, cloth and moulds found in books.  The grub’s fondness for cool, dark, humid and undisturbed corners of neglected bookshelves provides the perfect food source, and a home in which communities can thrive so secretly.

Due to the developments in paper making over time, the taste preferences of bookworms have meant that books produced between the mid-1450s to the 1820s are the most susceptible to this type of insect attack, when the ingredients used in paper making (cotton, linen, starch) were the most natural and pure.  The larvae are not fond of animal parchment (which has protected very early books and medieval manuscripts), and the high proportion of chemicals and other additives in 19th and 20th century papers made them unattractive for the young grubs to eat.Micrographia - title page

Despite their diminutive size, bookworms have captured the imagination of scientists, politicians, book lovers, poets, and even 20th century cartoonists.  The earliest formal depiction of a ‘bookworm’ in Robert Hooke’s spectacularly hand-illustrated work Micrographia actually shows what we now know as a silverfish.  Micrographia caused a sensation when it was published by the newly formed Royal Society in 1665, as it contained the first descriptions of the natural world as observed through a microscope.  Never before had the eye of a fly, or the structure of a snowflake, or the intricate appearance of a ‘bookworm’, been seen in such magnified detail. Silverfish


Hooke writes:

It is a small white silver-shining worm or moth, which I found much conversant among books and papers, and is suppos’d to be that which corrodes and eats holes through the leaves and covers…Its head appears bigg and blunt, and its body tapers from it towards the tail, smaller and smaller, being shap’d like a carret.




As well as attracting scientific interest, the bookworm has also inspired poetry, mostly in the form of humorous verse.  John Dovaston (1782-1854) an English writer and naturalist, and close friend of the celebrated natural historian and wood engraver, Thomas Bewick (1753-1828), published his poem ‘Bookworms’ (playfully subtitled ‘How to Kill’) his 1825 anthology.

Dovaston - title pageBookworm poem










In the later 19th century, the bibliophile, William Blades in his The Enemies of Books (1880) devotes an entire chapter to the bookworm.  Also adopting a humorous tone, he details the attack of the ‘worm’ (in this case a regiment) on an early work from the famous printing house of Peter Schoeffer of Mentz:

‘It is just as if there had been a race.  In the first ten leaves the weak worms are left behind; in the second ten there are still 48 eaters; these are reduced to 31 in the third ten, and to only 18 in the fourth ten…Before reaching folio 71 it is a neck and neck race between two sturdy gourmands, each making a fine large hole, one of them being oval in shape…At folio 87, the oval worm gives in, the round one eating three more leaves and part way through the fourth’.Enemies of books - cover   Bookworm table

In 1879 a Northampton bookbinder sent Blades a live specimen of a ‘fat little worm’ which had been found in an old book by one of his assistants:

He bore his journey extremely well, being very lively when turned out.  I placed him in a box in warmth and quiet, with some small fragments of paper from a Boethius, printed by Caxton, and a leaf of a seventeenth century book.  He ate a small piece of the leaf, but either from too much fresh air, from unaccustomed liberty, or from change of food, he gradually weakened and died in about three weeks.

Despite their extensive destruction, these elusive creatures also found popular expression in the 20th century.  Hugh Harman’s and Friz Freleng’s  Metro-Goldwyn Mayer cartoon The Bookworm (1939) brought together a range of literary and historical characters – Macbeth’s witches, Robin Hood, Black Beauty – in the unsuccessful quest to catch an endearing worm who lives in a tunnel in a thick tome.  Once again the worm triumphs .  And taking on an enemy guise, the villainous character ‘The Bookworm’ was played by Roddy McDowall in the 1960s television series Batman.

It seems certain that whilst both loathed and loved through history, the bookworm and its havoc will continue to intrigue scientists, surprise, frustrate and disappoint book lovers, and remain a delightfully enigmatic creature in the popular imagination.

Susan Thomas, Rare Books Curator




Hands on! A paper conservation workshop at the University of Canberra

Cleaning suppliesSusan Thomas and Jen Hill, the curators of rare books and music respectively, spent a day at the University of Canberra recently learning the basics of paper conservation. While most of the day was “hands on”, the presenters, Dr Mona Soleymani and Ian Batterham, began the day talking about the history of paper making, its composition and common additives and the various contributors to paper deterioration.

Paper cleaning task

Then came the first of our practical tasks. We worked on our own sheets of paper—purposefully dirtied and defaced—to try various techniques of surface cleaning, including vacuuming, gentle brushing and scraping. We also tried using a range of cleaning products ranging from the everyday to the highly specialized.

A paper washing task followed: our heavily acidic and brittle paper from the classifieds section of a 1970s newspaper was checked for colour fastness, then given a magnesium carbonate bath in order to de-acidify it. We also learned different ways to flatten and dry paper.Washing paper

Tissue paper Japanese


Next we used carefully torn pieces of Japanese tissue paper to repair a printed paper sheet with several rips on its edges. High quality Japanese tissue, with long fibres visible to the naked eye—combined with a purpose-made adhesive—gave remarkably good results considering our beginner status. Our last task was to attach a backing sheet to a small colour print.

Backing and repairingThe course was expertly taught and very enjoyable. As curators it has given us knowledge and understanding that we can apply day-to-day in the management of our collections.

Jennifer Hill (Curator, Music)


Studies for masters: new research into old master drawings

The Baillieu Library Print Collection includes approximately 100 drawings, many of them donated by Dr J. Orde Poynton in 1959.

In recent years a series of detailed research projects, undertaken through the university’s Cultural Collections Projects Program, have shone a spotlight upon these works.

Many of the drawings are studies, some by artists perfecting their skills, others created as patterns for prints, paintings or sculptures. They have been executed in various artistic styles and media and range in date from the 16th to the 19th centuries. They have passed through the hands of numerous artists, dealers and collectors before reaching their destination at the University of Melbourne. Some of their secrets and stories remain untold.Their beguiling lines and mysteries invite the viewer to explore beyond the marks that lie on the surface—to plumb their depths for some fascinating surprises.

A selection of drawings are on display on the ground floor, Baillieu Library form 6 June – 24 July 2016.

Selected drawings

Francesco Zuccarelli’s oil sketch is a curious image, and is unlike the majority of the works he produced. He is more commonly associated with rococo decorative painting. The focus
on the figure rather than the surrounding landscape makes this work a rare composition. The inscription on the verso states that it is from a series of ‘6 original drawings, with engravings’.
The Baillieu Library also holds a copy of the corresponding engraving by Antonio Baratta.

Francesco Zuccarelli, La Carità (Charity), c. 1760–70Antonio Baratta, La Carità (Charity), c. 1760–70

Francesco Zuccarelli, La Carità (Charity), c. 1760–70, gift of Dr J. Orde Poynton, 1959, Baillieu Library Print Collection University of Melbourne.

This mysterious mannerist drawing is a study of what appear to be one Juno and two Sabina statues. The drawing was probably executed in late 16th-century Rome, where all three statues were on public display. The drawing bears the monogram of renowned English collector John Barnard, as well as that of the lesser-known E.A. Patterson.

Unknown artist, Three statues of women and a study of a female head, c. 1580

Unknown artist, Three statues of women and a study of a female head, c. 1580, gift of Dr J. Orde Poynton, 1959, Baillieu Library Print Collection University of Melbourne.

A handwritten inscription on the verso of this drawing reveals a name: ‘Antonÿ Georgetti’. This identified the sculptor of the statue after which the drawing was made: one of the
ten stone angels holding the Arma Christi (‘Weapons of Christ’) that adorn the Ponte Sant’ Angelo in Rome. According to the Bible, a sponge dipped in gall and vinegar
was offered to Jesus on the Cross, as a final act of persecution.

Unknown artist after Antonio Giorgetti, Angel with the sponge, 17th century

Unknown artist after Antonio Giorgetti, Angel with the sponge, 17th century, gift of Dr J. Orde Poynton, 1959, Baillieu Library Print Collection University of Melbourne.

This study, which represents a scene in the life of the infant St John the Baptist, can be paired with a more advanced composition drawing held in the Louvre, also attributed to Eustache Le Sueur. An artist of immense popularity in the 18th and 19th centuries, and one of the founders of the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, Le Sueur was often referred to as ‘The French Raphael’, as is inscribed on the verso of this drawing.

Attributed to Eustache Le Sueur, Zechariah regains his speech, 17th century

Attributed to Eustache Le Sueur, Zechariah regains his speech,17th century, gift of Dr J. Orde Poynton, 1959, Baillieu Library Print Collection University of Melbourne.

Abraham Bloemaert’s drawing is a preparatory design for a print which is titled The Annunciation. Another preparatory drawing of the same subject is held in Rotterdam. Bloemaert was a foremost Catholic artist whose voluminous output has endured for centuries.

Abraham Bloemaert, The Annunciation (c.1625-35)

Abraham Bloemaert, The Annunciation c.1625-35, gift of Dr J. Orde Poynton, 1959, Baillieu Library Print Collection University of Melbourne.

This drawing is very similar in technique and composition to that of Mary with the infant Christ In The Crib or Holy Family, another drawing which is in Düsseldorf and is a study for an unidentified painting. Giacinto Calandrucci moved to Rome to undertake training under Carlo Maratta.

Giacinto Calandrucci, Madonna with the Infant (c.1670)

Giacinto Calandrucci, Madonna with the Infant (c.1670), gift of Dr J. Orde Poynton, 1959, Baillieu Library Print Collection University of Melbourne.


Alex Shapley, James Dear, Jessica Cole, Callum Reid, Peter Mitchelson and Fleur McArthur.

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