Collection of Danish plays uncovered

A collection of Danish plays from the 18th and 19th century has recently been cataloged. This collection of roughly 70 items includes translations of contemporary popular plays from France and Germany. The bulk of these items were found in the cataloging backlog section that our team is currently working through. The rest, which were in our off-site storage facility, were reunited through cataloging and applying subject headings. These plays were all purchased at the same time (29 May, 1948) from Herman H.J. Lynge & Son (Copenhagen) using funds from a donation by Professor Henning Larsen, professor of English (1939-57), Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences (1947-53), and provost (1953-57).

All of these plays were printed in Copenhagen, and many of them were translated from their original source by Niels Thoroup Bruun or Thomas Overskou. This collection provides some interesting insight into the popular drama culture in Denmark, and also into what was being imported from other countries. They are easily recognized by the use of marbled boards and the same, distinct handwriting found on paper labels attached to the front covers of each item. We have gathered this disparate collection together using two different headings: “Danish plays –18thcentury” and “Danish plays – 19th century”. DG


A Collection of Letters to Barnard Gregory

“Satire’s my weapon. I was born a critic and a satirist; and my nurse remarked that I hissed as soon as I saw light.”

In the vault of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, we recently rediscovered a correspondence collection of the London actor and journalist Barnard Gregory (1796-1852). Gregory edited and owned The Satirist; or, Censor of The Times, a London weekly paper and scandal sheet which was first published in 1831 and ran until 1849. Gregory committed libel and frequently blackmailed the subjects of his publications by sending them manuscript copies of the scandals he intended to print and threatening to publish them if not paid by their maligned subjects.  As G.C. Boase so elegantly states, “The weak yielded and were plundered, the strong resisted and were libeled, when, owing to the uncertain state of the law and the expenses attending a trial, it was not easy to obtain any redress.” Gregory was involved in several court cases related to his nefarious practices and was imprisoned on several occasions during his lifetime. Gregory was also fascinated by the theater and performed as an amateur actor. His reputation as a scandal monger, however, made public performances a bit of a spectacle. Twice in his career as an actor, Gregory’s performances were disrupted by riotous mobs.

Many of the letters contained in the collection are anonymous praise and contributions of content from enthusiastic patrons of the paper. One fascinating element of this correspondence collection, and a potential source of research, is the glimpse into Victorian hypocrisy: a thirst for scandal, paired with a prudishness and obsessive fear of blemishing one’s reputation. Papers such as Gregory’s The Satirist found a captive audience, as did the penny dreadful serials with their gruesome tales of murder and villainy. The submissions to The Satirist, while generally not grisly, do tend toward the bawdy. In an undated letter, the correspondent Lynx asks Gregory to use his powers as an editor to publicly admonish an exhibitionist. Another submission, again undated, is a nuptial poem for Victoria and Albert, with a very explicit note written in another hand (perhaps Gregory’s?) in the top margin.

Many of the letters are also from readers asking Gregory to print corrections to previous publications, and these show very well the extent of Victorian prudery. One letter, dated February 26, 1833, from John Thompson, asks Gregory to clear his daughters’ reputations which were endangered by an article printed by The Satirist on incidents in Brighton stating that the Misses Thompsons “Frightened Byshe by each in turn asking him to dance” (The Satirist February 17, 1833). Thompson states that he enclosed £5 in the letter for the printing of a correction.

The correspondence collection also contains many wonderful examples of Victorian letter-writing culture, including wax seals, stamps, and cross-writing. These items are of interest both to scholars and to anyone curious about this period of history.

Some issues of The Satirist can be found at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library and it can be read online via the University of Illinois’ subscription to 19th Century UK Periodicals. For more information on Gregory, see G. C. Boase’s article in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. LK

Collection of Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Spanish Romances (IUA19102-IUA19170)

While working through our miscellaneous backlog, we came across a stack of unbound short dramas printed in Barcelona.  This small collection (about 70 items) turned out to be a group of Spanish Romanceros, or ballads, printed by two different printing families.  The ballad was a popular form in Spain from the 15th century, and often featured heroic themes and would be accompanied by music. Many of the popular ballads drew from historical sources or dealt with the tension between Spain and the East. Often called vulgars or romances morisco, these ballads were written as pulp entertainment for the public, and feature interesting and sometimes grotesque illustrations.  The ballad fell in and out of public favor, but found a new renaissance during the Romantic period of the 18th century.


This collection of ballads was printed by the families of Juan Jolis and Bernardo Pla, both located on the Calle de Cotoners (or Calle de los Algodoneros) in central Barcelona. Both of these printing houses used a very similar format, and the same woodblock illustrations were reused for different imprints. Most of the items in this collection are undated, but can generally be dated from the first quarter of the 18th century to mid-19th century. All of these ballads are 22 cm high and most are 4 or 8 pages, printed on a rag paper, and are designed for popular consumption. Most of the items in this collection are referenced in Palau y Dulcet’s Manual del librero hispano-americano, a standard bibliography for Spanish material.


The majority of this collection is in very good condition; in fact, most of the 8-page items are uncut. This collection provides a unique resource for students of popular culture of the 18th and 19th century.

The collection can be found between the shelf-marks IUA19102 and IUA19170DG

Unidentified coat of arms found in the Incunabula collection

While cataloging a copy of Leonardus de Utino’s Sermones aurei de Sanctis (Venice: Johann von Koln and Johann Manthen, 1475) we came across a coat of arms that is so far unidentified. This coat of arms has been added to the recto of leaf a2 and is located after the incipit to the prologue.  The inscription at the head of the leaf reads:  Emptu[?] Jhr…ne[??] die ii  Juli 16[-]1, and a previous inscription has been struck-through above it. The library is one of seven universities in possession of this text in the United States.

The volume was bequeathed to the Library in 1931 by Mrs. Mary F. Kitchell from the library of her late husband, John Wickliff Kitchell of Pana, Illinois. The rest of the initials in this item have all been added in gilt, continuing the “golden” theme.  It has been bound in parchment on boards, with spine title: “Leonardi de Vtino Sermones de Sanctis 1475”.

We are seeking any information that might lead to the identification of this coat of arms. If you have any suggestions please contact the Non Solus blog moderators or the Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Three books from Alexander Pope’s library

While checking the special collections provenance file, three books owned by Alexander Pope were identified in our collections, in addition to the presentation copies of his collected letters that he inscribed to William Oliver.  The Rare Book & Manuscript Library’s provenance file provides a wealth of information about notable former owners of the books in our collection.  Former owners’ autographs and bookplates are noted, as well as donor information for gift acquisitions.  Unfortunately this information is often not available through online catalog records, so researchers interested in a particular author or historical figure should ask to consult the provenance file when doing research in the RBML.

720.9 F33r 1706 is a collection of three French works on architecture, art and sculpture, all published in 1706 and written by Andre Felibien (1619-1695) and J.-F. Felibien des Avaux (1658?-1733).  Alexander Pope’s ownership inscription appears on the title page of the first work in the volume. This work is number 62 in “A finding list of books surviving from Pope’s library with a few that may not have survived,” published in Maynard Mack’s Collected in himself: essays critical, biographical, and bibliographical on Pope and some of his contemporaries (Newark : University of Delaware Press, 1982)


Q. 822 D84 v.1-2 cop.3 is a copy of John Dryden’s Comedies, tragedies, and operas (1701).  John Dryden (1631-1700) is considered to be a major influence on Pope’s work.  Alexander Pope’s ownership inscription appears on the title page of the second volume and there are several manuscript notes in Pope’s hand throughout the text.  This work is number 60 in Mack’s “A finding list” and is discussed in R.D. Erlich and James Harner, “Pope’s Annotations in His Copy of Dryden’s Comedies, Tragedies, and Operas,” in Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Theatre Research 10 (1971): 14-24.

821 L29p is a copy of George Granville’s Poems upon several occasions (1712).  Alexander Pope’s ownership inscription appears on the front fly-leaf and indicates that it was given to him by the author, one of Pope’s patrons.  George Granville, Baron Lansdowne (1666-1735) was a Jacobite politician and also a poet and playwright.  Granville’s most notable plays, The She GallantsThe Jew of Venice, and The British Enchanters, were all influenced by the work of his friend John Dryden.  Granville also wrote poetry in the style of Edmund Waller.  Poems upon several occasions collects together many of these poems as well as the musical play The British Enchanters, his most notable literary success.  Granville and Pope both promoted and supported each other’s work. For more information on George Granville and his relationship to Alexander Pope, see Eveline Cruickshanks, ‘Granville, George, Baron Lansdowne and Jacobite duke of Albemarle (1666–1735)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online ed., Jan 2008 [].  This work is number 71 in Mack’s “A finding list.”

Thank you to Dr. David Vander Meulen, who pointed me to the references to Maynard Mack’s Collected in Himself and the journal article on Pope’s copy of Dryden. AD

Hans Christian Andersen Presentation Copy from the Library of Carl Sandburg (839.83 An2Eb)

While checking the recently-cataloged Hans Christian Andersen book inscribed to Mary Bruun against the special collections provenance file, a second book inscribed by Hans Christian Andersen was identified.  This copy of The Sand-hills of Jutland has just as interesting a provenance as the last book.

As soon as you open the book, a University of Illinois Library bookplate on the front paste-down announces that the book is from the library of Carl Sandburg (1878-1967), the famed Illinois poet whose library and papers are held in our special collections.  Sandburg was of Scandinavian descent and must have treasured this volume inscribed by Denmark’s most famous author.  Andersen himself was a champion of Scandinavism and in 1839 he wrote the poem Jeg er en Skandinav (I am a Scandinavian), which was set to music by the composer Otto Lindblad.

The book is inscribed on the verso of the front free endpaper and reads: “Statsraad Edvard Collin fra hans ven, Hans Christian Andersen” (Councilor Edvard Collin from his friend, Hans Christian Andersen).

Andersen is well-known for having many unrequited loves.  The Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind (1820-1887) was perhaps his most famous, but Andersen pursued many unsuccessful relationships with both women and men.  Edvard Collin (1808-1886) was a close friend of Hans Christian Andersen and was one of the several men with whom Andersen pursued intimate relationships.

Edvard Collin was the son of Jonas Collin (1776-1861), a director of the Royal Theatre and one of Andersen’s early patrons who paid for his education, along with King Frederick VI.  Andersen was also to romantically pursue Jonas Collin’s daughter, Louise.  The Collin family’s close relationship to Andersen is further evidenced by the fact that Edvard Collin and his wife were originally buried at Andersen’s grave site.

T o learn more about Andersen’s relationship with the Collin family, see Collin, Edvard. H. C. Anderson og det collinske hus. Copenhagen : C.A. Reitzel, 1929. AD

Letters from John Ruskin primarily to Joan Severn (Post 1650 MS 0009)

Sitting quietly in our vault, awaiting further study is a cache of thirty unpublished letters from John Ruskin to his Scottish cousin Joan (Agnew Ruskin) Severn.   Ruskin wrote over 3000 letters to Severn, many of which have been published in the thirty-nine volume edition of The Works of John Ruskin by Edward T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, or, more recently in Rachel Dickinson’s 2009 book, John Ruskin’s Correspondence with Joan Severn: Sense and Nonsense Letters.

The Ruskin letters at Illinois, however, do not appear in either of those collections.  The relationship between Ruskin and Severn has puzzled scholars.  The letters are full of nonsense, private personal references, and baby-talk, yet they also deal with topics of significance for Ruskin’s work such as the arts and crafts movement, aesthetics, travel, and fashion.  Dickinson believes that Ruskin “often used his letters to Severn as a substitute for his personal diary.”  For this reason, this small collection of letters dating from August to October 1888 should be of interest to Ruskin researchers. VH