Scope and Arrangement of Ker's List of Pastedowns

The text below is Ker's own explanation of the arrangement of his catalogue, as presented at pp. xviii-xx of his 1954 volume.

The list is confined to pastedowns in Oxford bindings and to the wrappers of college business-books. Offsets of lost pastedowns are included if they are so distinct as to be datable and in part legible. Fragments written after 1500 are excluded, as are the few pastedowns found in undecorated Oxford bindings. The bindings of this sort which contain manuscript pastedowns are mostly the rough calf bindings of medieval manuscripts in the college collections. They date from the seventeenth century and their pastedowns have probably been taken over, as a rule, from medieval bindings.

The first line of each entry contains a description of the pastedown itself. The title of the fragment is in Latin if it has been precisely identified and otherwise in English. It is followed by the date, the number of leaves, and the number of lines to a page or column. The sign + after the number of lines indicates that the written space is or may be incomplete at head or foot. If only a small part of a leaf survives it is described as ‘1 fr.’ instead of ‘1 fo.’

The second line records the shelfmark, title, etc., of the book in the binding of which the pastedown was used. If two or more books are bound together the title and date refer to the latest printed (cf. no. 6). In giving titles, etc., my aim has been to provide information which will allow a book to be found, even if its shelfmark has been altered, rather than to be bibliographically accurate. In giving shelfmarks I have placed a mark of punctuation between each of the three elements which normally form the mark (e.g. 1.a. 1., A. 1.1.) and have not attempted to follow the practice of each library in this matter. The present whereabouts of a pastedown, if it is no longer in the book in which the binder placed it, is noticed here (cf. no. 1).

The binding is described in the third line: for the forms of reference see below. The name of any owner contemporary with the binding and other information which helps or may help to date it are included here.

I am sorry that the reader will find no indication of the size of books—and therefore of pastedowns, except in so far as the information is conveyed by shelfmarks.[1] The nature of the ornament on the binding is, however, often an indication of size. Books in bindings bearing more than one roll are usually folios or quartos, as are most of the books with rolls I-IV, VII and HM.d(I). Nearly all the books with late roll-bindings (nos. 872-1252) are of this size also, except for some octavos at Merton College. Books in bindings bearing one only of the following rolls, VI, VIII, IX, X, XIV, or a subordinate ornament in place of a roll are usually small. Centrepieces iii, vii, viii, xii, xv, xviii, xxiv occur mainly on small books and centrepieces ix, x, xiv, xx-xxii, xxvi, xxviii mainly on large books. The presence of a subordinate ornament as well as a centrepiece usually indicates that a book is at least a large octavo. The pastedowns of the large folios consist commonly of bifolia laid sideways (e.g. no. 1719).

The nature of the ornament on the binding determines the order in which the pastedowns are listed. Nos. 1-871 are in bindings with stamps or rolls executed in the period ending [p. xix] c. 1574.[2] Nos. 872—1252 are in bindings with rolls of the period c. 1574—1616. Nos. 1253—1986 are in bindings with centrepicces of the period c. 1565-1615 and nos. 2000—17 in bindings with ornament 30 in the place of a centrepiece.[3] Some pastedowns in bindings bearing a subordinate ornament only, and no roll, are included under the roll with which the ornament is commonly associated (e.g. no. 257), and others are grouped together (nos. 831-71). Nos. 247, 255, 258—64, 266, 275, 293, 714 are in bindings ornamented only with a pattern of fillets. They have been included because there is evidence from the pastedowns that these bindings are Oxford work.

In all I have distinguished seventy binding-groups. The pastedowns in each group are arranged under libraries in two alphabetical series, the first comprising the Oxford college libraries and the second all other libraries, including the Bodleian. The arrangement under each library is chronological, according to the date of printing of the book which contains the pastedown.

If the two pastedowns in a single binding come from different manuscripts they are entered separately (e.g. nos. 1, 2), but there is only one entry if the pastedowns in two or more volumes of a set are from the same manuscript (e.g. no. 7).

The dispersed fragments of one manuscript are not grouped together, both because it seemed undesirable to interrupt the alphabetical and chronological order, and because often I could not decide whether fragments in different libraries belong to the same manuscript or not. Fragments of unusual manuscripts like the Gaudentius (no. 1209, &c.) and the Gesta of Abbot Whethamstede of St. Albans (no. 819, &c.) are easy to ‘spot’, wherever they may be found, but it is only a likely guess that other less distinguished fragments, found as pastedowns in similar bindings and agreeing in subject, date, and number of lines, do in fact form part of one and the same manuscript. The guess can sometimes be confirmed by means of a photograph[4] or by carrying the details of a script in one’s head: in this matter the student of bindings or of brasses has an advantage over the student of manuscripts. The bringing together of disjecta membra is by means of cross-references in the footnotes, where the word ‘See’ indicates a certainty and the word ‘Cf.’ a strong probability: for example in the footnote to no. 107 the words ‘See no. 119’ show that two leaves of a copy of the Sentences in New College are from the same manuscript as the two leaves in Magdalen College, and the words ‘Cf. nos. 126, 128a’ carry the suggestion that leaves in the libraries of Carlisle Cathedral and Grantham Church are probably also from this manuscript.

It is hardly necessary for me to say that the list is far from complete. I have visited most of the libraries which, I thought, were likely to contain any considerable quantity of Oxford bindings of the sixteenth century, except some of the Cambridge libraries. Without doubt I have missed seeing books which I ought to have seen in these libraries: not, I can only hope, too many books. As for the other corporate libraries, municipal, institutional, parochial, presbytery, college and school libraries, throughout the country, I have been to some and not to others. It is my experience that a few specimens of Oxford binding are usually to be found in these libraries, if they possess sixteenth-century books at all. Many others are, presumably, in private libraries.

[p. xx] When J. B. Oldham’s English blind-stamped bindings was published in 1952 I saw that I had failed to record one undoubted oxford roll, AN.I(1). The seven bindings on which it occurs are listed among Addenda: I owe my knowledge of all but one of them to Mr. Oldham. On pp. 21-3 Mr. Oldham discusses the work of four other binders who may have bound books in Oxford c. 1490-1500, the ‘Greyhound binder’, the ‘Fishtail binder’, the ‘Dragon binder’ and ‘the Floral binder’: he lists the bindings which can be attributed to them in footnotes. Two of the bindings by the ‘Fishtail binder’ are my nos. 31 and 42. Only a very few of the others contain manuscript pastedowns. Mr. Oldham attributes the two very uncommon rolls FL.c(2) and FL.c(3) to Oxford: the bindings with these rolls in the Bodleian, Savile Z.15 and Gough missals 183, do not contain manuscript pastedowns, and do not seem at all likely to be Oxford bindings.

In the following catalogue the numeration of ‘stamps’ and of rolls I-XXVII is taken from S. Gibson, Early Oxford bindings. References to rolls in the form ‘HM.a(5)’ or ‘ IN(2)’ are to J. B. Oldham, English blind-stamped bindings. The numeration of centrepieces, i-xxxviii, and of subordinate ornaments, 1-71, is my own.


[1] For example in the Bodleian a shelfmark in the form A.I.I Th. denotes a folio; quartos and octavos in this class, and in the similarly arranged classes, Jur. Med., and Art., have 4o or 8o prefixed to the shelfmark. At Queen’s College, Oxford, almost all the books shelved in the main library, with shelfmarks in the form 1.a.1, are folios. The smaller books are in the basement and have shelfmarks in the form AA.a.1.

[2] The bindings of this period which have lost their manuscript pastedowns, or which never had them, are listed in the Appendix: Bindings without Pastedowns.

[3] In the 1560s (and 1570s?) orn. 30 was used by itself as a centrepiece on quartos and octavos (nos. 2000-2002, 2004-17). On no. 2003, a large folio book, it is used at the centre of the cover with a triple frame to which it also provides the cornerpieces.

[4] Mr. G. H. Bushnell, St, Andrew’s University librarian, Mr. Kenneth Humphreys, formerly of Leeds University library, and Mr. William Mitchell, librarian of King’s College, Newcastle, have kindly sent me photographs of pastedowns.