52 Weeks of Fantastic Bindings: Week 16

Friday 30 September 2011

Sir D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson’s copy of the 1571 edition of Matthew Paris’s Flores historiarum

Sir D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson (1860-1948) was a fixture of St Andrews in the later years of his life, after he relocated from Dundee to St Andrews in 1917 having been appointed the Chair of Natural History. Although St Andrews hold the entirety of his papers (over 30,000 items), we have relatively few books from his personal collection. On record, St Andrews only owns 22 books from Thompson’s collection; however these items provide a window into the deep interests of this well known and loved polymath.

His copy of the 1571 printing of Matthew Parker’s Flores historiarum, edited by Matthew Parker, is not a particularly rare edition, but it is the only known copy to exist in Scotland. It is bound in contemporary stained calf on boards, and decorated in a traditional London style with a single gold fillet and gold ruled and stamped panelling with a gold stamp medallion in the centre of both boards. A fragment of a 14th century Latin manuscript has been used as binding waste at the front and back, although only the front fragment’s writing is visible.

An unrecorded 17th century English broadside was found laid-in the book, entitled: “By the Kings Grant and speciall Approbation. A Balm or Salve of Paracelsus, most excellent for all kinds of fresh Wounds and Cuts, where no bone is broken, as also for all Aches and Pains of the Joynts or elsewhere. Made by William Reid. Sworn Servant to his Majesty.” Not much is known about this ephemeral piece, but it is assumed that it was printed in London by the middle of the 17th century.


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