Monday 7 January 2019

More on the Vatican Enfer

In my recent post on “The myth of a Vatican porn collection” (here), I mentioned the popular conflation of the Vatican’s Index Librorum Prohibitorum—the bibliography (published by the Vatican) of books that Catholics were prohibited from owning or reading—with the collection that the Vatican itself held.

Over Christmas break, I read an excellent essay on “Prohibited Books in the Clergy Library at Ovada” by Father Ivan Page (a lovely man, and a long-time member of the Centre for the Book at Monash, who died in 2012; see here for his obituary). Ivan’s essay contains fascinating new information about prohibited books that are (or once were) in the Vatican’s collections, by someone who knew the collection well. The essay helps explain how the myth of a Vatican porn collection may have arisen.

Ivan’s essay is based on a paper presented at the State Library of Victoria in July 2010, but has only just been published in a small collection of essays (Censorship in the Ancien Régime), in a limited edition, by the Ancora Press. Since this essay is unlikely to have the scholarly reach that this subject deserves I thought I’d mention it here. It is possible that others have previously reported on Ivan’s findings. If so, it is news to me!

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The parts of Ivan’s essay that are of particular interest are pp.25–26 (concerning the fate of the Vatican’s banned books, which I will discuss today) and 39–42 (concerning licenses, which I will discuss on another occasion). Ivan conducted his research at the Vatican Library to discover why certain works had been put on the Index; consequently, he consulted the “Archives of the Congregation of the Index, which, since the Congregation no longer exists, are held with those of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” (24–25). Since “it has only been possible for scholars to consult these archives since 1998 … the experience is still relatively rare” (25).

(I’d suggest that the experience is more than just rare, it would be a bibliophilic and bibliographic heaven! The records that Ivan had gone in search of are contained in “thick volumes of manuscript reports, mostly written in Latin, each one covering the Congregation’s activities for one or more years” (25). What an evocative description. Below is a reminder of what the Vatican library archives look like!)

Based on this 2005 article by Thomas Heneghan, which reviews the research undertaken by the Rev. Hubert Wolf**), Wikipedia explains (here), the administrative process of evaluating a work: the Congregation of the Index held meetings several times a year; works that were to be discussed at the meetings were thoroughly examined—two people scrutinizing each work. (Prohibitions made by other congregations, mostly the Holy Office, were passed on to the Congregation of the Index.)

At their meetings, the Congregation collectively decided whether to advise that the works should be included in the Index. Documentation from these meetings was passed on to the Pope, to aid him in making his decision. After the Pope decided whether to approve these works being added or removed from the Index, final decrees against the individual works were drafted by the Congregation and made public.

According to Ivan, “Where the work [being scrutinized by the Congregation was] a pamphlet, one sometimes finds it bound up with the report. According to the inventory,” however, “all the books referred to the Congregation were at one time shelved in the Secretary’s office. There came a time when they were too numerous for the space available. With the approval of the Pope, they were transferred to the Biblioteca Casanatense, one of the Dominican libraries in Rome. No instructions were given, such as requiring them to be kept together. The library took some of the books into its collection—and discarded the rest” (25).

Unfortunately, Ivan did not provide any references for this paragraph; his sudden death probably prevented him from fully referencing his essay as a whole. The claim, however, is clear: that the reports compiled by the Congregation of the Index were based on a close examination of the work concerned—something that required access to the book itself. As Ivan writes: while the decree “never gives the reason for the decision … the censor’s report analyses the work examined in some detail; it often quotes a selection of passages … and reminds the reader of the Church’s own teaching on the subject” (25).

It is clear, then, that the Congregation library did, at one time, contain copies of all of the works which it reported on—whether or not the work was ultimately added to the Index (and many were not added). That some pamphlets remain in the Congregation library, but that the bulk of them were—at some point—transferred to the Biblioteca Casanatense, which kept an unknown percentage of them.

It would be interesting to examine the Casanatense collection, to see whether it is possible to establish just how many of the works examined by the censor’s at the Congregation of the Index, survive. That is, what proportion of the Vatican’s enfer resides at Via di Sant'Ignazio, 52.

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Rev. Hubert Wolf is the author of numerous relevant works in German: Inquisition, Index, Zensur [Inquisition, Index, Censor] (2003), Index. Der Vatikan und die verbotenen Bücher [The Index. The Vatican und the Forbidden Book] (2006), Verbotene Bücher. Zur Geschichte des Index im 18. und 19. Jahrhundert [Forbidden Books. The History of the Index in the 18th and 19th Centuries] (2008) etc., right up to the recent audio-book “Die verbotenen Bücher: Die geheimen Archive des Vatikan” ["The Forbidden Books: The secret archives of the Vatican"] (2018).

Collecting Haywood, the last two years

I have been inspired by David Levy’s “Year in Collecting” posts (here, here and here) to write something about the Eliza Haywood books I have managed to buy in the last couple of years.

I don’t usually say much about my purchases so soon after making them because, in many cases, I have only been able to buy a Haywood item cheaply because the person selling it is not aware of the Haywood connection. By publishing some of the details of these purchases here, I probably reduce the chances of being lucky again. I.e., I have a strong motivation to stay silent.

However, in this last few years, I seem to be buying fewer and fewer books anyway, and more of the ones I am buying are from established dealers. So, although I had a little bit of good fortune on eBay, for the most part—when something did come up—I was like the hero of this cartoon strip by Sarah Andersen—Boom!

What stands out, numerically, amongst the two dozen Haywood items I have bought over the last two years, are the seven copies of The Female Spectator, five copies of La Belle Assemblée and three copies of the elusive nineteenth-century reprints of—excuse this circumlocution—the English translation of the French translation of The Fortunate Foundlings (which I will avoid naming for now!). Interesting as these are, I will discuss them last, because the real highlights for me were among the other items.

But the two Haywood items I was most excited to find were a 1735 edition of A Wife to be Lett—a very early work by Haywood and the only play of hers I have seen in an original edition—and a first edition (albeit in a mixed set) of The History of Jemmy and Jenny Jessamy, one of her major novels and, consequently, a work I never expected to be able to buy. (There is a lot more I could say about exactly why, but I will save that for another time.) The first of these was bought for a miserly sum (from Jarndyce!), the second … was the most expensive Haywood item I have bought in seven years.

I also found a lovely copy of the 1788 Harrison edition of The Invisible Spy—a book that I thought (for many years) would actually be very easy to find, but over time have I came to realise that it is extremely uncommon. Indeed, I had reached the point where I had begun to suspect that I would never find a copy of this volume. I was also pleased to find a second copy of a New Present for a Servant Maid. It was very defective (and, so, modestly priced, but it contains the all-important frontispiece that my first copy lacked. I love the image and so I was a very happy to find this indeed.

In what is still, sadly, an extremely uncommon occurrence, I was cold-contacted and offered a copy of a Haywood item—Sir Robert Walpole Vindicated, a pamphlet published by Haywood “at Fame in the Piazza Covent Garden.” This is only the second work I have that was published by Haywood. It would be nice to have more, since this is a period of her life that interests me the most, but many of these works survive in extremely small numbers.

I also picked up another issue of The Wife, Bowdlerised in Boston in 1806 (not a very nice copy, but only three others are known), odd volumes of Epistles for Ladies (1776), and the Dramatic Historiographer (1756) and a number of works of Haywoodiana: Richard Savage’s Miscellaneous poems and translations by several hands (1726), which contains a poem in praise of Haywood’s writing by Savage, Henry Fielding’s The Author’s Farce (1730), which contains a caricature of Haywood (as Mrs Novel), and The Historical Register, for the year 1736 … To which is added Eurydice hiss’d (1737), both of which include Haywood in the cast. Given the dearth of biographical information about Haywood, I particularly like these works that evidence her life outside of her works. There are not many of these and so it was nice to find three of them so close together.

Returning to the works that numerically dominated my collecting: concerning The Female Spectator, I have previously mentioned (here) three of the sets, which I bought from the same dealer, at great expense and with some misgivings, and which raised my total of the 1748 “Second” London edition up to seven. To these, I added a few sets of the 1775 Glasgow edition—one of them, a gorgeous set, was bought on my behalf by James Cummins at a New York auction. This was the first time I had a dealer buy at an auction for me; the process went very smoothly, and the commission and cost of postage was a lot less than I was expecting (for why, see below). However, getting the set to Melbourne turned out to be a bit of a saga. The books were held up in customs and it was almost two months of filling in ridiculous forms before I got them home.

The remaining set of The Female Spectator was of the first French translation—a stunning set of an edition not recorded in my Bibliography, but which I now refer to as Ab.60.10A (the imprints of which are dated 1750, 1750, 1750, 1751 instead of Ab.60.11’s 1749, 1750, 1750, 1751). I would like more of these early editions of La Spectatrice, for the same reason that I would like more copies of the first edition of The Female Spectator—just about every set I have examined closely is, in fact, different from every other set! A bibliographer's heaven.

Among the sets of La Belle Assemblée that I picked was up a Dublin “Fourth” edition of 1740, which David located at a regional Irish auction—thanks David! The set is comprised of three separate printings, all of which are very rare. This was my first experience buying at a conventional auction-house from the other side of the world. The bidding went smoothly enough, but the cost of postage was mind-boggling: almost three hundred dollars! I did a lot better, less than a year later, by having an established dealer (James Cummins) buy on my behalf at an auction, and then package and post the item to me.

The most interesting of the Belle Assemblée sets was a volume containing first editions of the three parts of the first volume. All issues of these parts are very rare, and one of the Parts in this set was previously unknown to me (a “Third Edition” of Part 2). Like the first, octavo, editions of The Female Spectator, and the first French edition of the same work, every copy of the octavo Parts of La Belle Assemblée are always full of (bibliographical) surprises.

The remaining three sets of La Belle Assemblée are of no particular interest bibliographically, but they contain interesting provenance information—or rather, interesting to me. One day I hope to do a wide survey of the provenance of surviving copies of Haywood works, so I feel compelled to collect what I can. Unfortunately, from a collector’s point of view, “interesting provenance information” justifies the purchase of a great many duplicates, in very poor condition; so the less I say about these for now, the better!

The last the items I will mention today are editions of this work. As I said in 2010 “almost all editions are uncommon”—and remain so. Two of the three copies I bought in the last three years (Ed.59.16b2 from 1878 and Ed.59.18 from ca. 1880) were previously unknown to me, and the third (Ed.59.15b from 1822) was known in only a single copy. A monstrously-expensive copy of an issue I have not seen elsewhere has been available in Japan since at least August 2015 for 150K Yen (i.e., about two thousand dollars). I can’t bring myself to pay this sum, but it does reinforce the point about rarity: of the ten nineteenth-century editions and issues that I know of, two are known in only two copies, seven appear to be unique (including this Japanese one) and one has been lost!

Of course, I am probably the only person who is interested in these reprints of a translation of a translation, which is why—with the exception of the Japanese copy—they tend to sell quite cheaply, even from dealers such as Jarndyce. And, since I only have five of the ten editions and issues, let me finish by saying: long may this obscurity reign!

It is probably just as well that I haven’t been exposed to any greater temptations than I have in the last two years, but it is hard not to be disappointed with the quality and quantity of Haywood material that has reached the market. As an eminent, and very experienced dealer, said to me recently: the well of Haywood material is running dry. He continued, “I'm not seeing real collections of early literature turning up anymore, here [in the US] or in England. I guess it’s just as well I'm getting old, but it would be more fun to go out with a bang instead of a whimper.” Hear, hear!

[2019.12.27, corrected]