|2 volumes from the library|
of William Stubbs
I suppose that's one of the functions of this blog, as it turns out.
So this week, the postal system brought me two volumes labeled on their spines "Collectanea Miscella." and numbered "II." and "III." Presumably, at some point, there was at least a volume 1, and very possibly further volumes as well, but these two volumes were the only ones on offer. I bought them via eBay, where they were listed in separate auctions, so I've done some good for these books already, keeping them together, where they otherwise might have been separated.
It was no trouble at all to discover that these collections had been put together by William Stubbs, the bishop of Chester for a time in the late nineteenth century, and the seller I bought these from had identified them as such. But I recognized Stubbs more for his reputation as an important historian of the English middle ages, and some of the offprints included here address medieval topics, so I was very interested. One of the strangest things about working in medieval studies is the fact that medieval studies is a field that itself has a centuries-spanning history: Stubbs's books, in some ways, now have a historical interest in their own right, part of the history of our discipline.
The offprints included in these volumes generally date from the 1870s and 1880s, and some of them are pretty unusual, or scarce, or otherwise interesting: there are several offprints from John Evans, describing hoards of Anglo-Saxon coins, including some with illustrations; A Sketch of the History of Scots Law; Samuel Andrews's "The Seven Holy Crosses of Oldham" (an 8-page pamphlet; WorldCat records copies only in the British Library and the University of Oxford). Some items are accompanied by hand-written letters from their authors, which Stubbs had bound in.
|First Page of the Krebs edition|
of the Old English Dialogues
There seems little doubt, then, that Krebs was working on an edition of this item that never saw final publication, though a substantial portion of the edition reached the proof stage. One copy of these proofs, somehow, made its way into Stubbs's hands. It would have been, of course, the first printed edition of the Old English version of the Dialogues: it still is, in some sense. But one presumes that very few of these proof copies were ever made, and probably fewer survive. This item must be a true rarity in Anglo-Saxon studies, and as such it neatly combines my academic interest in the middle ages and my delight in rare books.
One doubts, of course, that there will be many folks scrabbling to add this embryonic edition to their collections: rarity does not always translate into either interest or monetary value. And yet, even beyond the scarcity of any of the items they contain, each of these volumes is truly unique: nowhere else were these various items ever gathered together, and the books that hold them together now have all of the uniqueness within the world of a medieval (or other) manuscript. I find that uniqueness compelling, regardless of the dollar-value involved: it captures my attention, in a way no digital representation ever could.
In a brief response yesterday, they told me that they certainly had sold the books at some point, and so I don't think there's any reason to think the books were stolen. Like many books over time, though, they have been been assessed at varying levels of value or usefulness at different points in their history. As have we all, I suppose.
I'm delighted to own them, at least for the moment, but I will probably also hope to find them a more permanent home at some point. But for now, I still have more work to do, to learn about what other treasures might be hidden in their pages.
|A fold-out facsimile of a late-medieval will.|