Across early seventeenth-century Europe, the physical boundaries that had structured reading practices in institutional libraries from monasteries to universities suddenly dissolved. Where readers had previously encountered shelving units that projected out perpendicular from the wall to create secluded study spaces, they now found open rooms outlined by shelving along the perimeter walls. Readers thus seemed to have been given a new freedom to pursue idiosyncratic activities; yet the open reading room coincided with sharpened anxiety about the hazards of undisciplined reading. In The Malleable Early Modern Reader: Display and Discipline in the Open Reading Room, a case study of Oxford’s Bodleian Library together with contemporaneous notions of human perception, Kimberley Skelton argues that, paradoxically, the open reading room was an effective response to seventeenth-century concerns about reading because it molded the reader into the ideally studious scholar.
Across Europe during the early seventeenth century, the physical library boundaries that had structured reading practices suddenly dissolved.1 Inside their own homes, wealthy elite readers still withdrew into the quiet seclusion of small closets or studies, but now when they entered institutional libraries such as the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan or the Bodleian Library at Oxford, they found that the reading room unexpectedly opened up in front of them. Where shelving units with desks had usually stood perpendicular to the side walls, and thus created niches into which a reader could retreat, bookshelves lined the walls to leave a vacant center—an emptiness that seemed to encourage a wandering rather than a focused reader. The long ranges of shelves invited readers to dart their eyes from one group of books to another, potentially flitting among various disciplines, while the open room encouraged them to walk about in any direction, for instance, at diagonals or in zigzag patterns. Readers could consequently conclude that the open reading room negated the library’s primary goal of facilitating the accumulation of useful knowledge. Authors across discourses were, in fact, simultaneously worrying about the risks of undisciplined reading and of printed books. Yet this open reading room gained in popularity between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, until it became the expected design for a library. As Oxford’s Bodleian Library reveals, the open reading room paradoxically averted the risks inherent to books and reading by molding a malleable, sensory reader into a studious scholar.
The paradoxical discipline of the open reading room becomes manifest at the intersection of architectural history and history of the book and of reading. Historians of the library and architectural historians, from Nikolaus Pevsner to James F. O’Gorman, have evoked unvaryingly stable spaces in their accounts of library buildings, furnishings, and typological changes over the centuries.2 The library stands often empty of readers and so of the possibility that readers might or might not conform to its order. Historians of reading and the book, however, have stressed the ambiguities inherent to the books lining library shelves and to the reading occurring at library desks. Roger Chartier has even argued that the basic relationship between reader and book can encompass two extremes: the book can mold a reader’s attitudes and practices as much as the reader can mold the book by choosing what to read and what not to read.3 I reinsert Chartier’s malleable reader into the usually empty library to portray how, by experiencing the open reading room, readers were guided away from mental distraction and toward an appropriately studious mind-set. In so doing, I combine Robin Evans’s and Dell Upton’s consideration of how physically experiencing a building can shape one’s attitude and behavior with Michel Foucault’s cultural conception of a “docile body,” an individual who from the seventeenth century could increasingly be conditioned into holding specific attitudes and pursuing specific activities.4
The Orderly, Enclosed Library
Until the early seventeenth century, readers who entered institutional libraries—whether those of monasteries or of universities—encountered clear physical boundaries that determined where and how they read and moved about.5 Before a monk, an elite visitor, or a well-educated scholar entered the Laurentian Library inside the Florentine monastery of S. Lorenzo, he crossed a sequence of thresholds enshrouding the library: the door leading from church to cloister, the entrance to the stairs ascending to the library, the doorway of the library vestibule, and, finally, the opening between vestibule and reading room.6 Each threshold, moreover, marked a moment of hesitation and potentially puzzled reorientation, interrupting the reader’s fluid movement to suggest a new and discrete environment. Beyond the church door, readers found a cloister of evenly spaced arches that offered little hint about the library entrance concealed in their shadows. Likewise, when readers stepped from library vestibule to reading room, they found exaggerated playfulness replaced by a sternly restrictive grid. Inside the vestibule, columns stood within the wall thickness, as if they were the hidden skeleton of the room, and the stone stairs flowed outward, as if made of wax. But then inside the reading room, a single grid encompassed floor, wall surface, ceiling, and reading desks (Figure 1). Readers saw ceiling coffers that were precisely as deep as two of the seats where they would sit, and precisely as wide as the aisle where they stood or walked: they could measure their position easily, no matter where they were in the room—simply by counting the ceiling coffers.
A century and a half later, at the late sixteenth-century library of Leiden University, readers encountered yet stricter boundaries to their reading (Figure 2).7 They stepped inside the Faliede Bagijnen Kerk, where the library was located, and ascended its staircase to reach a shallow vestibule space and then a narrow corridor between unusually tall shelving units.8 Once inside the vestibule, readers could walk in any direction and converse freely about the objects on display, as do the visitors in Swanenburgh’s engraving. Because the vestibule was so shallow, however, merely a few strides carried readers into the narrow corridor of bookshelves. And among these bookshelves, readers were particularly constrained to focus on the volumes that they studied; their eyes could not wander to other readers, for there were shelves both below and above their desks.
These large-scale boundaries underscored an insistence on mental and physical stasis that was essential to successful reading and to the very survival of the library. Readers could not juxtapose volumes scattered across the library but instead had to focus on a single volume or a small group of volumes, since books were chained to specific desks.9 Comparing scattered volumes, and so wandering among many authors’ arguments, would have required wrenching books free of their chains and damaging both library and volume. Libraries, too, imposed strict stipulations that confined readers to a narrow profile of acceptable behavior. While studying their own books, readers sometimes cut out a passage of text or an illustration from one volume and then pasted it into another book to compare two authors on the same topic. Such cutting and pasting, however, threatened an institutional library, since later readers might find that books lacked the information they sought if other readers had previously cut out text or illustrations. The Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel, Germany, explicitly guarded against this practice in its 1572 statutes, which forbade readers to carry knives or scissors and prohibited the wearing of long robes, where one could conceal knives and scissors.10 Such physical and mental restraint, as the well-educated readers who studied in these rooms knew, guarded against potential distractions inherent to the process of reading. One had to touch and look in order to learn from a volume, pulling it off a shelf, turning its pages, and examining text and illustration, but the senses easily led mind and body astray into unpredictable thoughts and gestures. Philosophers argued repeatedly that the senses were closely allied to the violent passions that could quickly overrun reason’s calm control to spark undisciplined actions. In his Passions of the Mind in Generall, Thomas Wright even asserted that the senses and the passions were particularly connected through an alliance stretching back to childhood and predating reason’s dominance.11 Consequently, humans offered little resistance to the senses and the passions; Wright claimed that “the most part of men resolve themselves, never to displease their sence or passions, but to graunt them whatsoever they demaund.”12 Once humans recognized the impulse of a certain passion, they readily succumbed to it and ignored reason’s restraint.
Sight and touch, which were so necessary to reading, especially sparked such overwhelming passions. The eye was “profitable” in offering a wide variety of objects through its far reach, according to Wright, yet there was also “no sence … more perilous.”13 A mere glance at a glass of wine “dart[ed] … into the hart inordinat delights,” and correspondingly prompted “too much affection, or drinking.”14 Glancing at a sparkling glass of wine, individuals recall the “delights” of drinking wine, its pleasant taste and merry social gatherings. Because of these memories, they then desire to drink the glass before them and to continue drinking until they may have drunk too much. Touch, philosophers and theologians asserted, should stand at the bottom of the sensory hierarchy, because it distracted humans from rational striving toward God’s perfection.15 The fifteenth-century Italian philosopher Marsilio Ficino, for example, observed in his Epistolae that an individual “plunges himself into the mire through touch” because he “returns to beast by preferring the physical shadow of form to true spiritual beauty.”16 Humans can reach toward divine perfection only if they ignore their own physicality, their sensory experiences and the temptations of those experiences. Following Ficino’s Platonist line of thought, one returns to the sensory “mire” occupied by irrational beasts when one erroneously prefers material objects that are merely shadows—secondary manifestations—of the abstract Forms that one should study to comprehend the world.
Even books could invite this sensory distraction that undermined rational analysis. When readers open Robert Peake’s translation of Sebastiano Serlio’s architectural treatise, they see a title page filled with illusionistic strapwork, which prompts visual pleasure more than analytical inquiry (Figure 3). Around the words of the title, there are convex and concave curls that can be measured only with difficulty and that playfully lead the viewer’s eye to move forward and backward within the plane of the page. The very tools that could be used to measure these curls, too, appear partially obscured, including the rulers whimsically woven behind and in front of the strapwork, and so seem more like anecdotal details than the book’s main focus. Yet Serlio’s subsequent pages emphasize precisely such detailed mathematical analysis through a section on geometry and through numerous carefully proportioned columns, façades, and doorways. If readers are to comprehend Serlio’s volume, they must resist the sensory distraction of the playful title page; responsive to the pleasingly fanciful strapwork, however, they are likely to slip free from reason’s control and wander in unpredictable directions—for instance, contemplating fantastical building design. One learns from reading only if one remains mentally in place, predictably under reason’s calm control; the physical boundaries of library reading rooms helped to strengthen such inevitably tenuous mental positioning.
The Open Reading Room and the Risks of Reading
This familiarly reassuring library structure vanished in the early seventeenth-century open reading room, despite ongoing intense anxiety about the hazardous flood of printed books. Inside the open reading room, readers could glance across large sections of a library’s collection on a single wall and thus jump quickly from one discipline to another. At the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan, the first institutional library with an open reading room, readers no longer even needed to sit at a particular desk in order to read the volume that they sought (Figure 4).17 Because there were no longer seats in front of particular shelving units, readers could retrieve volumes from various shelves and then study them on any table at the center of the room. There were still some restraints to their reading, since the ground-floor shelves were hidden behind grated doors, and the staircase leading to the gallery was concealed behind the door at the back-left corner. Yet these boundaries were momentary limits—encountered only as readers went to retrieve a book—rather than continuous guidance about how one should interact with the Ambrosiana’s volumes. Such freedom from strict bookshelf order was even desirable according to Gabriel Naudé, the librarian of Cardinal Mazarin’s collection in Paris. Throughout a pamphlet praising Mazarin’s library, which was open to any well-educated reader, Naudé described how there were piles of books on the floor in room after room.18 Naudé, however, never mentioned the risk that a book might become lost among these piles; it was more important to underscore the library’s profusion of books than to stress an orderly grid that would guarantee comprehensibility.
Yet the perceived risks surrounding books and reading nevertheless persisted and swirled ever more intensely as Sir Thomas Bodley refounded Oxford’s main library in 1598, and, a decade later, approved the open reading room of the Arts End extension (Figures 5, 6).19 From the history of the earlier fifteenth-century library that had occupied the room above the Divinity School, Bodley knew how easily a collection could decline. As he proposed refounding the library to the university’s vice-chancellor, he reflected that the previous library had failed because it lacked the funds to replace volumes that had been “ether wasted or embezled.”20 Readers had often neglected to return borrowed volumes or damaged other volumes, until Protestant delegates from Edward VI definitively disbanded the collection in the mid-sixteenth century.21 That is, the earlier library had declined at the hands of the very readers whom it was supposed to serve; by facilitating reading and learning, the library had engendered its own demise.
Beyond the specific history of Oxford, moreover, Bodley debated with Francis Bacon whether any library could fulfill its alleged purpose of augmenting human knowledge. Throughout a manuscript titled Cogitata et visa de interpretatione natura, Bacon urged his contemporaries to discard current knowledge for information grounded solely on sensory experience.22 He argued that generations of authors had simply repeated and recombined already known information instead of making new discoveries, and that libraries especially perpetuated this problem by preserving the books of such authors.23 Bodley critiqued Bacon’s manuscript, however, with an emphatic reassertion of the importance of the book, and, implicitly, of the library. He agreed that all human knowledge depended on sensory observations, but asserted that Bacon was mistaken in claiming that new information was possible. Humans experienced a perpetual cycle of forgetting and rediscovering the same knowledge; one generation reached a pinnacle of comprehension, lost interest in their accumulated knowledge once they found they had few further details to discover, and then gradually forgot their pile of information, until a subsequent generation rediscovered these ideas only to lose interest and forget the information once again.24 Libraries, one can infer from Bodley’s argument, alleviate this cycle of loss and rediscovery, because volumes that might have been lost are preserved for generations.
Bodley, however, knew that his opinion was held at best by a small minority, for a range of authors repeatedly fretted over whether printed books produced more confusion than accurate information. Only three years before Bodley proposed refounding Oxford’s main library, Andrew Maunsell published a book catalogue in which he explicitly sought to prevent individual books from becoming lost in the flood of printed volumes.25 Explaining the motivation behind his catalogue, he asserted that volumes were becoming “as it were buried in som few studies.”26 Forgotten under tall piles of books in a wealthy reader’s library, a volume could easily be forgotten, and so individuals—for instance, the reader’s acquaintances—who might find this book useful could not “aske for that they never heard of.”27 Since no one would thus be aware that this volume existed, its information would disappear, and potential readers might unnecessarily repeat the research or experiments necessary to gather its details. Thirty years later, as Robert Burton addressed the reader of his Anatomy of Melancholy, he even argued that books could offer erroneous information. Too often, Burton claimed, authors merely sought “fame and honour” and so wrote “no matter what, and scrape[d] together it bootes not whence.”28 Because it was so easy to publish a printed book, Burton’s contemporaries sometimes simply assembled whatever details they could find in order to gain the “fame and honour” of having their name in print. They might indiscriminately intermingle verifiable fact, speculative rumor, and their own hypothetical fiction, so that a reader who expected an accurate argument would become confused. There was little need, too, for an author to check the validity of a fact or rumor before his book was printed, since publishers freely allowed their authors to revise volumes from one edition to another.29 Readers who owned early editions of volumes, then, could find that they had a copy with an outdated argument or incorrect information. Consequently, Burton hyperbolically asserted, books often became worthless sheets “to put under pies, to lappe in spice, and keepe rostemeat from burning.”30 Cooks would use book pages to absorb juices from pies or to insulate roasts, and would then throw out the pages with the rubbish. Books were expendable, purchased, repurchased, and discarded; thus a library that sought to preserve knowledge for centuries could find that its shelves contained merely rubbish.
The Bodleian seemed somehow to avoid these risks, for even when Bacon criticized the current state of knowledge in his Advancement of Learning, he sent a copy to Bodley with a letter strongly praising Oxford’s refounded library. Throughout The Advancement of Learning, Bacon worried that too often those who sought to learn approached knowledge with inappropriate attitudes. He feared that many of his contemporaries ill-advisedly pursued “lucre and profession” rather than “charity,” and so unleashed the “venom” inherent in learning.31 Instead of accumulating useful information, for example, medical remedies for diseases, they sought their own aggrandizement—higher salaries and more prestigious posts earned by impressing their contemporaries with esoteric details. In these situations, learning became poisonous, since readers could become so focused on intellectual display that they might not accept essential revisions to their opinions and might then perpetuate erroneous arguments that distorted knowledge. A library would seem to facilitate such egotistical learning, as readers could lose themselves amid piles of little-known details in its myriad volumes. Yet when Bacon sent a second copy of his Advancement of Learning to Bodley, he asserted that Bodley particularly deserved this copy because he had refounded Oxford’s main library; the first copy had gone to James I, to whom the volume was dedicated. In the letter that accompanied this second copy of his book, Bacon explained that Bodley, “having built an ark to save learning from deluge, deserve[d] propriety in a new instrument, or engine, whereby learning should be improved or advanced.”32 Through his library, Bodley was filtering and organizing the confusing flood of printed books, since he was “sav[ing] learning from deluge.” Like Noah, who preserved two of each living species on his ark during the biblical flood, Bodley implicitly had selected the most useful volumes of each discipline for the Bodleian. Bacon and Bodley both sought to reform the current state of knowledge, and, therefore, Bodley received the “new instrument” of Bacon’s book from which he could learn how to continue shaping the library into a reliable basis for learning.
As Bacon lauded Bodley’s reform of the flood of printed books, he was, in fact, reflecting on Bodley’s marked attempt to avert the recognized risks inherent to reading and books within the Bodleian. When readers first approached Oxford’s refounded main library, it appeared that they encountered a collection casually inserted into an existing building (Figure 7). Immediately after stepping across the threshold of the Divinity School on the western side of the building, they had to turn either left or right to ascend a turret staircase and, consequently, seemed to be pushed to the margins of the building.33 Before they then even entered the refurbished fifteenth-century reading room (Duke Humfrey’s Library, Figure 8), they encountered strict and explicit stipulations about how to move and to behave. Only members of the well-educated elite were allowed to step across the library threshold, for although Bodley had expanded the library’s readers beyond the Oxford faculty and its students, he stipulated that solely “gentleman strangers”—well-educated elite individuals from anywhere in the world—were to be admitted.34 Otherwise, he feared, the Bodleian reading room would degenerate into chaotic confusion, with curious tourists peering at distracted readers. His statute explaining who could use the library asserted that the exclusive group of university members and “gentleman strangers” would avert the “troublesomeness of a crowd” of spectators who would be “staring, and making noise … and driving all into confusion here and there.”35 A “gentleman” reader, Bodley could reliably assume, had received the meticulous training of a university education to learn about proper reading techniques and the topics discussed in the Bodleian’s volumes.36 So expected was a university education that in 1622, Henry Peacham devoted an entire chapter of The Compleat Gentleman to appropriate comportment at the university.37 Other visitors, whose education had ended after grammar school, would have been less familiar with library comportment and topics, and thus more likely to stare at the books and readers or to converse among themselves.38 Consequently, confusion would arise as readers were distracted by these visitors, becoming self-conscious under inquisitive eyes, preoccupied by footsteps pacing around the library, or curious about stray overheard remarks. Bodley safeguarded the quiet that was essential to a library by categorizing his readers within strict social boundaries that ensured shared expectations about both study and comportment.
Despite these shared expectations, however, the Bodleian’s readers were restrained further before they could retrieve a book from its shelf; they swore an oath that enumerated, at length, the actions they could not indulge in. After a general statement of how they should treat the library and its collections with respect, readers recited how they should refrain from “stealing … scratching, disfiguring, mangling, cutting, annotating, underlining, voluntarily spoiling, blotting, polluting.”39 Every possibly damaging action with a book seemed to be included in the oath. A few clauses later, readers were advised also that they would be constantly watched for misdemeanors, since every reader promised to inform the librarian of any misdeeds he witnessed within three days of noticing an infraction of the library’s rules.40 Correspondingly, the familiar stall system of shelving units with desks perpendicular to the side walls had been turned into a space that more than ever facilitated the discipline of readers.41 Not only were readers confined to the narrow corridor between the shelving units and not only did the shelves above each desk prevent them from distractedly gazing across the room, but other readers beside and behind them were alert to their various movements (Figure 9). A reader was not even likely to notice when adjacent readers on his bench glanced up, for they were at the periphery of his vision, and readers on the bench of the opposite bookshelf were invisible behind him.42 Readers thus studied with the anxious awareness that any slight slip in proper reading habits could be observed at any time.
Such a strict oath was Bodley’s strong response to undesirable reader behavior—the borrowing and damaging of volumes—that had undermined the earlier library. The oath that seventeenth-century readers swore was a revised and enlarged version of the oath that had been required in order to enter the earlier library. Both fifteenth- and seventeenth-century readers promised to treat the library and its volumes respectfully, but whereas fifteenth-century readers had been advised that cutting and stealing were forbidden actions, seventeenth-century readers enumerated their long list with the added stipulation that they report any misdeeds of other readers.43 Less was left to chance in Bodley’s stringent oath, making readers more conscious of specifically forbidden actions because they verbalized these particular prohibitions and because they sat under other readers’ eyes at all times. Bodley narrowed the profile of acceptable behavior to confine readers yet more predictably and unquestionably between the physically tangible boundaries of the shelving units and the intangible boundaries of shared expectations of reading practices.
Display and Discipline in the Arts End Reading Room
In the Arts End, the eastern addition to the Divinity School and the final structure completed before Bodley’s death in 1613, Bodley seemed to push these restrictive boundaries to the periphery of the reader’s experience. Readers continued to swear Bodley’s restrictive oath and still walked through the narrow corridor of Duke Humfrey’s Library, but, at the end of that corridor, they passed between skeletal cages of staircases and suddenly found themselves in a space that invited them to move and look far to both left and right (Figure 10; see Figure 6). The room surprisingly expanded a long distance laterally on either side and seemed larger than its actual dimensions, with the large windows admitting sunlight and allowing views across the Oxford skyline. This experience of spatial expansion, moreover, was inescapable, since readers either had to cross the room in order to approach the bookshelves on the opposite wall or to turn back and see the bookshelves on the entrance wall. Alongside this spatial expansion was an equally unexpected invitation to approach the books themselves with greater physical and mental freedom. In Duke Humfrey’s Library, readers had needed to turn into a niche and then could see only a small group of volumes, but here they were enveloped by long walls of floor-to-ceiling shelves in which nearly all the volumes were visible; only the quarto volumes on the topmost level of the ground-floor shelves were enclosed by locked grilles.44 Readers also could observe a wider range of volumes in the Arts End, because the octavos, which had been stored in closed closets at the eastern end of Duke Humfrey’s Library, were on display in the gallery.45 And they could walk up to a bookshelf with greater ease, as they simply strolled across the room and passed between the posts supporting the gallery. The entrances framed by the gallery posts mimicked the narrow openings between the shelving units of Duke Humfrey’s Library, but the openings of the Arts End were merely momentary experiences as readers stepped through the screen of posts (see Figures 8, 9, 10). Because restraints were so minimal, and there was so much empty space at the center of the room, it seemed that readers were invited more to admire the room by strolling along its length than to focus on quiet scholarly study.
Arguably, as some readers might realize, this open room was simply the most viable means of furthering scholarly study within the limitations of the site and the needs of the library. Bodley could not extend the fifteenth-century reading room to lengthen the corridor of shelving units, because the university classroom buildings of 1439 stood so close to the eastern wall of the Divinity School; there was only a narrow rectangular open area between the two structures (Figure 11).46 In an early design scheme, before 1610, Bodley had used the long rectangular space perpendicular to the Divinity School for his new reading room and had attempted to place traditional shelving units across its width (Figure 12).47 Readers entering this room would have found that the corridor of shelving units continued and was expanded with additional units to either side. But in this design, the central shelving units would have been impossibly shadowy, receiving scant illumination from the end windows, so that readers could have read only with difficulty. In the open reading room, the large windows flood the uninterrupted interior with sunlight to provide essential illumination.
Moreover, as the Bodleian’s collections continued to grow, the open reading room maximized book storage, since shelves could stretch continuously both horizontally and vertically along the walls; there were no interruptions for corridors between shelving units. Already by 1605, five years before the Arts End was begun, in fact, Duke Humfrey’s Library was insufficient to store all of the Bodleian’s volumes, and a gallery had to be constructed at the west end.48 When Bodley discussed the design for the Arts End with the Bodleian librarian, Thomas James, the need for book storage was so pressing that it trumped the then-fashionable classical interest in proportional design. On 12 July 1611, Bodley informed James that he had raised the Arts End wall two or three feet above that of the Divinity School, in order “to winne as muche roome, as we may conveniently for storage of books.”49 Potentially, viewers would praise a building in which the parts seemed proportionally designed to each other—for instance, in which the Divinity School and Arts End roofs were of the same height. Bodley had suggested at least some continuity by repeating the pinnacles and crenellations and adapting the pointed arch windows from the fifteenth-century building (see Figure 5). Except for these specific motifs, Bodley seemed to imply, the library needed to respond pragmatically to its users and contain as many volumes as possible.
On the other hand, readers who entered the Bodleian knew well that the open reading room put on view a cutting-edge international design. They would have been familiar with the slightly earlier Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan, either through the stream of printed books celebrating that library or through the reports of travelers (see Figure 4). In his Monumenta Bibliothecae Ambrosianae, of 1618, for example, Giacomo Filippo Opicelli explicitly described how bookshelves lined the walls of the Ambrosiana.50 Some English travelers, including Lord Cranborne and Sir Henry Howard in 1610 and the Earl of Arundel in 1613, also chose to travel to Milan.51 Inside the Bodleian itself, readers encountered clear evidence of this international importance as they observed other readers from around the globe. In a marginal note of his Treatise on the Corruption of Scripture (1611), Thomas James claimed that the Bodleian had already received visitors from France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, Bohemia, Poland, and Ethiopia.52 The Italian template of the open reading room emphatically reinforced the increasing global renown of the Bodleian by transforming that renown into permanent built form.
From the early 1620s, the new complex into which the Divinity School and the Arts End were incorporated and the library catalogue both evoked this emphasis on display for readers at the Bodleian. In place of the small, early fifteenth-century classroom buildings that had stood behind the Divinity School, readers saw an entire quadrangle that stretched all the way from the Divinity School to Catte Street on the eastern end. The quadrangle towered imposingly, with its massive stone walls interrupted only by rectangular windows, and the entrance tower on Catte Street marked the library on the city skyline, signifying its urban importance (Figure 13; see Figure 5). Readers also could learn from the 1620 library catalogue, which they were required to purchase, that it offered a “General catalogue of books in the Bodleian Library … in order that not only for public libraries throughout Europe but also for private collections and for other [places] it may be of use for the purpose of assembling a catalogue of books.”53 Anyone who lived anywhere in Europe, and who assembled any type of collection, whether a public library or a private study, would find the Bodleian catalogue a useful model—gleaning what volumes to buy and how to catalogue them.
Such interest in international display echoed Bodley’s own concern with impressing the users of his library as he refounded the library and commissioned the Arts End extension. In his autobiography, completed during 1609 (between the refounding of Oxford’s library and the construction of the Arts End), Bodley recalled how, after he had been ambassador to the Low Countries, “My duty towards God, the expectation of the world, my naturall inclination, & very morality, did require, that … I should doe the true part of a profitable member in the State: whereupon examining exactly for the rest of my life, what course I might take … I concluded at the last to set up my Staffe at the Library doore in Oxford.”54 When Bodley returned to England from the Low Countries, he felt that religious, social, and moral expectation—in addition to personal inclination—required him to continue to aid England. A well-educated gentleman was expected to contribute constantly to England’s prosperity in some way, as etiquette manual authors repeatedly argued, and the refounding of Oxford’s main library seemed to Bodley to be the most appropriate task.55 A respected library at one of England’s two most important universities would reinforce England’s cultural prominence, particularly after Leiden University had founded its new library and advertised it internationally through a printed catalogue.56
National, and even international, reputation was also a fundamental design criterion when Bodley conversed with Thomas James about the Bodleian. Discussing the opening of the refurbished Duke Humfrey’s Library, Bodley was concerned more with the appearance of the booklists at the end of each shelving unit than the comprehensiveness of the collection. He informed James, “I am muche more intentive … the sightly and methodical contriving and writing, of the Tables to the Deskes” than to the purchasing of more books in order to avert “any suche errours … as may justly be censured, by all commers in, at their first accesse.”57 Before readers retrieved any book from the Bodleian’s shelves, they would see these booklists and possibly make quick judgments about the library—whether it seemed well maintained and well ordered based on the legibility and accuracy of these lists. Thus, they would evaluate the Bodleian according to their initial reaction, for example, examining the volumes more diligently as authoritative sources if the library seemed meticulously organized. The appearance of the library, then, was the key to its respected reputation, and so of primary concern to Bodley.
To ensure that the open Arts End reading room did not damage the Bodleian’s reputation, however, Bodley and the university needed somehow to restrain readers from the seeming invitation to relatively free mental and physical movement. Since readers could look and walk in any direction, their minds could potentially dart among the books visible on the shelves, and the other readers visible on the benches. Yet the university clearly felt secure about how readers would behave. Without a single worried remark, they announced in 1615 that undergraduates—the most junior readers least schooled in proper reading techniques—should study in the Arts End, among the books most relevant to their work.58 Previously, Bodley and the university had explicitly sought to discipline the physical comportment of undergraduate readers; a statute had insisted that they don academic robes before stepping across the library threshold, and stern punishments were issued for those who forgot: refusal of entry to the Bodleian for a full three months.59 Bodley and the university simply expected, in contrast, that graduate students and university faculty would don their robes, and they could not require gentleman strangers who had traveled to the library to wear academic robes. Undergraduates presumably needed a reminder to assume their robes and, implicitly, a reader’s responsible behavior. As Henry Peacham observed in The Compleat Gentleman, “with your gowne you have put on the man, that from hence the reputation of your whole life taketh her first growth and beginning.”60 When an undergraduate donned his robes to begin his university career, he entered an adult world where he would be judged by other men and women. Correspondingly, inside the library, academic robes were a tangible reminder of the studious, respectful attitude expected of a well-educated reader. Such anxiety about undergraduate comportment strangely vanished in the statutes governing the Arts End.
Bodley and the university, in fact, knew that they could be assured of appropriate conduct within the Arts End, because the openness of the reading room, which could distract readers, also disciplined them. The eyes of readers might dart restlessly here and there in the Arts End, but they simultaneously saw the unmistakable evidence of boundaries restraining their study. Inside Duke Humfrey’s Library, all books seemed accessible; although unchained octavos and precious manuscripts were hidden away in locked closets and behind grates accessed only by the librarian, these closets and grates were at the eastern end of the library—far from the entrance and visible only if a reader walked the full length of the corridor.61 At the threshold of the Arts End, on the other hand, readers learned how they could access merely half of the collection. To either side of the threshold, they saw locked cages enclosing the stairs leading to the gallery and could even watch the librarian ascending the steps within the cage.62 When readers walked into the reading room and observed the expanse of shelves, they knew that they could look at the entire collection and could access by themselves solely the volumes chained to the ground-floor shelves.
The Arts End also facilitated the surveillance emphasized in the oath that readers swore before using the library. In Duke Humfrey’s Library, readers were observed primarily by those in the same niche; the librarian and other readers strolling along the corridor could catch only glimpses of seated readers as they passed the opening of each niche (see Figure 8, 9). Arts End readers, however, were visible to anyone entering the room. Unseen and unheard, another reader or the librarian could walk up behind a seated reader to peer over his shoulder and watch his movements up close (see Figure 10). Those walking at the center of the room likewise were more vulnerable than anyone strolling along the Duke Humfrey corridor, since readers could watch each other nearly constantly across the open space, and the librarian—possibly unnoticed—could survey their actions from the gallery. More than ever, then, readers were held in check by the threat of observation and judgment.
According to theorists across discourses, humans were especially susceptible to such visual stimuli. Architects most often implied a rational analysis of the built environment, explaining the mathematical proportions and the symbolism conveying a building’s purpose or the status of its patron. Yet such explanations relied on a tacit assumption that sometimes became explicit: humans could derive the principles and symbolism of buildings because their visual observations reliably prompted particular mental conclusions. Both Leon Battista Alberti in his fifteenth-century De re aedificatoria and Vincenzo Scamozzi in his seventeenth-century L’idea della architettura universale, for example, mentioned how a building could predictably shape a viewer’s attitude. A beautiful building could halt the approach of a hostile enemy who became overcome with awe, according to Alberti, while a well-lit interior increased the happiness of its occupants, according to Scamozzi.63 And their assertions were based on arguments of rhetorical theorists that stretched back to the ancient Roman Quintilian; humans trained themselves to remember accurately, rhetoricians asserted, if they envisioned walking through a landscape. To assure a predictable memory, one should imagine a familiar or fictive landscape, store one’s ideas at specific points in that environment, and then pass through that landscape again to pick up each idea at its location and thus recall each thought.64 This technique of memorization, Thomas Wilson claimed in his Art of Rhetorique (1585), rested on the belief that the physical environment inevitably sparked specific mental associations. He informed his reader: “Sometimes a chimney telleth them [humans] of many late drinkinges and sitting up by the fire. Sometimes a Bedstead putteth them in remembraunce of many good morowes.”65 Looking at a chimney elicited recollections of pleasant late-night social gatherings, while seeing a bedstead called forth memories of awakening to a fulfilling day. Likewise, when Bodleian readers saw the staircase and gallery to which they were forbidden access, and when they observed readers watching one another, they could readily remember the restraints on their behavior imposed by their oath—the long list of prohibited actions and their promise to report any misdeeds.
Through his Avis pour dresser une bibliothèque, published in 1627, a decade after the Arts End was completed, Gabriel Naudé explicitly explained how a library could shape the attitudes of readers. He recommended that a reading room receive morning sunlight, not only to refresh the air, but to “cleanse the mind, preserve a good mood, improve a bad.”66 Readers who entered a sunlit reading room might be preoccupied and irritated by daily tasks, yet they would find that their cares dissipated, so that they could focus on their studies. They would be cheered by the sunlight, as Scamozzi had argued, and would shed their mental clutter, because of the openness surrounding them. The reading room also, according to Naudé, could ensure that readers studied fitting questions to avoid the possible risks of learning, about which Bacon had expressed such anxiety. Copies of the statues of famous literary men should line the reading room walls because, when seen alongside accounts of their lives, they “may serve … as a powerful spur to excite a generous and well-born soul to follow their footsteps and to continue steadfastly in the spirit of some noble enterprise resolved upon, and to follow the established path.”67 Seeing the statues of these famous men and reading their biographies, readers would focus on the deeds and attitudes for which these men were so respected. The visual stimuli of the statues would heighten their curiosity about why these men were famous, and, through their ensuing respect for these figures, readers would seek to “follow their footsteps” by initiating and then pursuing steadfastly equally well-respected tasks. Since readers were vulnerable to sensory stimuli, Naudé assumed, they could be reliably molded into the studious scholars essential to a successful library.
Bodley and the university, too, assumed the existence of a malleable viewer as they designed the Bodleian and Schools Quadrangle; like Naudé, they strategically placed cues to elicit particular responses from viewers. Those who passed the Schools Quadrangle entrance tower on Catte Street saw yet another Gothic university structure that seemed to blend in with the surrounding college quadrangles (see Figure 13). Although it towered over the adjacent colleges, its rectangular windows containing cusped arches and its roofline of crenellations and pinnacles echoed the college exteriors. Its entranceway also attracted little notice from passersby, since it consisted simply of unarticulated rounded moldings and a larger rectangular frame, supported by small statues of angels. However, the university faculty and students—the individuals most likely to enter the Schools Quadrangle in order to use its classrooms—saw an entrance tower that demanded attention and that proclaimed the importance of the complex, once they were inside the quadrangle. If they turned back to look at the entrance tower, they saw a wall surface filled with classical and fantastical details (Figure 14).68 The tower was divided into five stories, each containing a Classical Order: Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, and Composite, set in the precise sequence described by architectural treatises. On each story, in addition, column pedestals and shafts were covered with fluting and carved decoration that included strapwork and interlaced garlands. Consequently, faculty and students alike would pause in front of this profusion, as their attention was arrested by the complex patterns of light and shade. Before they entered the classroom spaces of concentrated study, they observed a tangible echo of what they would learn inside—the Classical Orders, which were counterparts to the ancient Roman literature, history, and politics discussed inside classrooms, and the patterns of paired columns, which mimicked the frontispieces of books read inside the library.69 Simultaneously, they noted the library’s national prominence, for they could see a statue of James I and recognize royal patronage and approval.70 When faculty and students glanced around the quadrangle, moreover, they saw yet further carving that attracted their attention, fantastical creatures alongside the initials of Thomas Bodley (“TB”) on the side walls, and the blind arcading across the Arts End wall. Everywhere faculty and students looked, carvings arrested their eyes to insist upon the importance of the entire complex, yet this display was deliberately restricted to their eyes alone—another means of reinforcing the respectful behavior suitable to a renowned institution.
Inside the library, Bodley had established equally strict guidelines as to what readers learned; there was little risk that they would become distracted by the worthless volumes of which Burton had written so disparagingly. He transformed his collection into a national repository through a 1610 agreement with the Stationers Company of London, yet he also warned Thomas James about indiscriminately placing Stationers Company books on the Bodleian’s shelves. According to the agreement, the Stationers Company had to deposit “any newe booke or Copy never printed before” at the Bodleian “within some days … after the finishing of the first ympression.”71 Thus, any book—whether popular broadside or scholarly tract—could appear on the Bodleian’s shelves, so that readers might find both respected information and Burton’s sheets of rubbish. Since Elizabeth I’s Injunctions of 1559, high-ranking political and religious officials had been required to censor the Stationers Company’s volumes, but they focused more on political and moral rectitude than on the quality of an author’s argument; a 1599 decree, for example, ordered the Privy Council to consider whether history books contained treasonous sentiments.72
To ensure that the Bodleian would contain only reliable volumes, Bodley consequently urged James to filter the books sent by the Company. He worried, “There are many idle bookes & riffe raffes among them [the books of the Stationers Company], which shall never com into the Librarie, & I feare me that litle, which you have done alreadie, will raise a scandal upon, when it shall be given out … that I have made up a number, with Almanackes, plaies, & proclamacions: of which I will have none, but such as are singular.”73 The Stationers Company had sent numerous books that would be of little use to scholars, among which were almanacs offering speculative predictions about the upcoming year, plays providing fictive accounts scantily based in researched fact, and government proclamations marking decisions of only passing importance.74 Of these books and pamphlets, only a few— those that were “singular,” or exceptional, in their usefulness—should appear on the Bodleian’s shelves; a play that provided unusually detailed information on a historical event, for instance, could be helpful to a historian. Otherwise, “scandal” would surround the Bodleian as readers criticized it for offering valuable alongside erroneous information and for consequently containing distracted scholars. If readers encountered few useful volumes, they might stroll restlessly from one shelving unit to another in quest of an authoritative volume. By removing the volumes that would prompt this wandering, Bodley sought to ensure the focused study essential to a respected library. The Bodleian was a place of instruction about how and what to read, through its physical design and through the volumes on its shelves, molding readers into attentive scholarly study.
Expansive Sight and the Acceptance of the Open Reading Room
In spite of the clear theoretical assumption of a malleable reader across discourses, the open reading room was received with skepticism until the early eighteenth century. Not until scientists and other writers had stressed the importance of visual expansiveness and display did Oxford colleges frequently turn to the open reading room. During the seventeenth century, only two more open reading rooms were constructed at Oxford: the Selden End at the opposite side of the Bodleian, offering additional book storage and symmetrically balancing the Arts End in the mid-1630s, and the library of St. Edmund’s Hall in the 1680s (see Figures 5, 6, 10). Like the Bodleian, Oxford colleges had books overflowing their shelves, but they turned to the familiar shelving units perpendicular to the side walls.75 On the one hand, these smaller college libraries did not require cutting-edge design, since they were used primarily by university faculty and students; few, if any, “gentleman strangers” would step across their thresholds and critique their designs. On the other hand, there was evident unease about the Arts End inside the Bodleian itself. For although the Arts End and Selden End mimicked each other in numerous details, from the large side windows to the Selden End arcade, which evidenced a more classical interpretation of the Arts End gallery posts, readers found themselves more strictly restrained when they stepped across the threshold of the Selden End. They could still see the librarian retrieve books in the gallery, but they could not see the staircases by which he had ascended to the gallery; pedimented cupboards immediately before the arch from Duke Humfrey’s Library hid these stairs.76 Readers could also still stroll in any pattern through the center of the room, yet they had to approach the bookshelves through a more precisely charted route. While they could step across any opening between the Arts End benches, they could enter a Selden End arcade only at either of its ends, and so had to walk along the narrow passages beneath the gallery to find a book. As readers seated themselves to study, furthermore, they were more conscious of the surveillance of their actions; their bodies were especially visible to anyone strolling through the room. With benches that, like those in Duke Humfrey’s Library, had no backs, any reader or the librarian could readily look into a reader’s lap to see how he was handling a particular volume.77 Inside the Selden End, the university thus tempered the open reading room to combine explicit physical restraints with more intense surveillance; visual cues and the associations that they prompted were not sufficient safeguards against potentially unpredictable reader behavior.
Quite simply, the open reading room could prompt associations and actions other than those appropriate to quiet library study. Despite the more continuous surveillance possible in the Arts End, readers continued to remove books; for instance, a copy of John Milton’s Poems, Both English and Latin went missing during 1646. To two undergraduates, Thomas Williams and Botho Heinrich, the Baron von Eulenburg, the long Arts End apparently suggested a space for dueling, as they fought each other with walking sticks in 1640.78 The watching and judging eyes of other readers did not offer sufficient discipline, and the vice-chancellor had to establish a new statute forbidding all readers to carry weapons into the library.
The university itself permitted and sponsored activities that undermined a quiet studious environment. Numerous foreign dignitaries and even casual visitors were given tours of the Bodleian. The antiquary Anthony Wood noted in his journal how he showed the Bodleian to Edmund Gregory and his wife when they visited from Oxford in 1658, and how the Italian Cosimo de’ Medici, the German Prince of Neuburg, the Dutch Prince of Orange, and the Prince of Denmark were led through the Bodleian.79 At any time while readers were studying, they might hear the chatter of curious visitors, and the open Arts End and Selden End especially put readers and books on display to prompt these conversations. During 1663, the university transformed the Selden End into a banqueting hall for Charles II and his retinue, and so actually endangered the Bodleian’s collections.80 While the Bodleian was desirably on display to Charles II and his courtiers, there was the risk that a diner could spill food or wine to damage library furnishings. Such risks to the studious focus of readers and to books and library furnishings, however, appeared to be of secondary concern; in seventeenth-century Oxford, the open reading room evoked display more than the scholarly study that had been Bodley’s goal.
So well established were the Arts End and Selden End as showpieces for curious travelers, that David Loggan not only introduced his Oxonia Illustrata with the Bodleian but also admitted readers and visitors inside these rooms. When readers opened Loggan’s volume, they saw the silhouette of the Bodleian along the Oxford skyline; on the title page, its massive block stood alongside a few other distinctive buildings, including the Sheldonian Theatre and the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, as clearly one of the most notable structures in late seventeenth-century Oxford. Following the title page, as well as an aerial view and plan of Oxford, Loggan’s readers found a meticulously thorough tour of the Bodleian: the entrance façade, another aerial view, the Schools Quadrangle, the Divinity School interior, and the Arts End and Selden End reading rooms. As they continued to peruse Loggan’s other illustrations of the Sheldonian Theatre and the Oxford colleges, they learned that only the Sheldonian was likewise depicted in more than one engraving, though merely in two engravings, and that solely for the Bodleian were interiors included. The Bodleian complex thus seemed the primary structure to be admired at Oxford, placed at the beginning of Loggan’s volume and examined in unparalleled detail. Through his prints of the Arts End and Selden End interiors, moreover, Loggan explicitly encouraged curious admiration from his readers by showing inquisitive visitors and exaggerating the accessibility of each space (see Figure 10). Inside each room, readers could see a few academic robed figures studying volumes, but these robed academics are at the back and edges of the scene. Books and reading, in fact, are of such minor importance that, in the Arts End, readers and librarian turn their backs on the shelves. A reader stares out the window, another strolls across the room, and the librarian surveys the room below the gallery. Simultaneously, inquisitive visitors gaze casually at the shelves and walls surrounding them; a couple walks on the right side of the Arts End, while a family passes along the left half of the Selden End. One curious visitor in the Selden End converses with a robed figure, as the academic raises his arm to point out the notable features of the room. And precisely at the center of each engraving, a well-dressed gentleman looks boldly out to the viewer, and poses with one foot gracefully placed in front of the other, as if the Arts End and Selden End rooms primarily offer opportunities for elite display. Loggan encourages his reader to become yet another curious visitor, since he cuts each space laterally to showcase its full expanse of shelving. Standing in the Arts End or the Selden End and looking back toward Duke Humfrey’s Library, in reality, one can see the expanse depicted by Loggan only if one gradually turns one’s head 180 degrees. Loggan’s reader, however, can see this view simply with a quick glance across his illustration. The Arts End and Selden End evoked and promoted the inquisitive curiosity of travelers, alongside the expected quiet scholarly study.
During the eighteenth century, the open reading room became the dominant design for Oxford college libraries. Only in Lincoln College Library (1739) did faculty and students experience the traditional stall system of independent shelving units. At the library of Christ Church College (1716–61), that of Worcester College (1746), the Codrington Library of All Souls (1756), and the slightly later library at Oriel (1791), they studied in reading rooms where bookshelves lined the walls.81 For the first time, Oxford colleges could be assured that undergraduate readers would comport themselves appropriately in these open libraries. Undergraduates were more accustomed to reading at home within likewise open rooms, as libraries had become increasingly widespread in homes during the later seventeenth century, and were expected by the 1720s.82 Philosophers and other theorists were simultaneously introducing arguments that an expansive view was essential to evoking a calm mind-set. An essayist in the early eighteenth-century newspaper the Spectator asserted, for instance, “The Mind of Man naturally hates every thing that looks like a Restraint upon it, and is apt to fancy it self under a sort of Confinement, when the Sight is pent up in a narrow Compass, and shortned on every side by the Neighbourhood of Walls or Mountains.”83 Individuals grow irritated when they are confined in a narrow space, restricted by walls, mountains, or even shelving units, since their minds naturally dislike any type of restraint. Hemmed in by shelving niches, readers might become restless to the point where they are unable to focus on the volume before them. They are calm with “a delightful Stillness and Amazement” when they can look across “unbounded Views”—or, in the library, across the long shelves of the open reading room. While Thomas Wright had feared that individuals would be led to irrational action when they gazed too long at a glass of wine, the Spectator essayist urged his readers to keep on looking—even to the horizon; they will become irritated only when they can no longer look. Instead of offering distraction, then, the open reading room evokes the calm into which readers once had to be disciplined; it places readers at ease precisely because they can wander at will.
This visual wandering, in fact, was becoming considered the primary means of comprehending one’s surroundings, for the assertion of the Spectator essayist rested on new praise of the far reach of the eye. Since the late seventeenth century, scientists had begun to contrast the reach of the eye with the finite, direct contact of the hand. While earlier philosophers and theologians had placed the eye and the ear at the top of the sensory hierarchy, empiricists stressed the accuracy of immediately perceived data; Robert Hooke explained at the beginning of his Micrographia that one learned most dependably about the natural world by comparing data from eye, hand, and mind.84 Correspondingly, scientists and philosophers divided human comprehension of the world into two discrete modes: the finitude of touch and the expansiveness of sight; eye and ear had both been believed to perceive across a distance.85 As George Berkeley explained the sense of sight in his New Theory of Vision (1709), he isolated the all-encompassing nature of sight in contrast to the specificity of touch; seen objects, he argued, could change their size depending on where they were observed, while touched objects had a constant size since they were always felt by the hand.86 Because the eye could thus perceive objects at a range of distances and in a range of situations, a Spectator essayist argued, it was the primary sense on which humans relied to learn about their world. He informed his readers, “It is this Sense [sight] which furnishes the Imagination with its Ideas.”87 The imagination, with which one reenvisions memories and recombines memories and ideas into new thoughts and images, turned alone to visual data as it generated human ideas of past, present, and future.88 More than ever, then, it was essential to put as much on display as possible inside a library. A reader who did not see the full collection or who did not observe the appropriate comportment of other readers, for example, might imagine that he was seated alone in a space analogous to a private study and so perform deeds inappropriate in a public library, including the cutting and pasting that had been forbidden in Wolfenbüttel. Only as openness ceased to suggest both surveillance and unpredictable distraction was the open reading room repeatedly built; institutional libraries could be assured that expansive spaces would foster both the discipline and the mental calm essential to averting the risks of learning and of books.
For the early modern reader, the library was innately a dangerous space. It collected in one room—and so placed at arm’s reach or within the distance of a few steps—numerous volumes from the criticized and undisciplined flood of printed books. Authors of book catalogues, scientific tracts, and philosophical arguments had all worried that individuals were too easily misled while they read. Books could contain erroneous information alongside accurate facts, and readers could approach volumes seeking either egotistical self-aggrandizement or altruistic betterment of human welfare. Surprisingly, in conjunction with these worries, clients and their architects turned to the open reading room that put the profusion of volumes on display and that also offered myriad sensory distractions, from the variety of books to the activities of other scholars. Yet client and architect relied on these sensory stimuli alongside an innate human sensory malleability to guide readers toward appropriately studious conduct. The very openness of the reading room lined by bookshelves established a disciplinary surveillance and consciousness of boundary limitations to one’s actions. In the seventeenth century, there was still the possibility of dangerous distraction, but visual expansiveness became essential to studious calm during the eighteenth century, and the open reading room became the preferred design for Oxford college libraries. The library, and especially the open reading room that is now so familiar, seems a neutral repository of knowledge—to the point of becoming even emptied of users in historical accounts—paradoxically because it stabilizes the precarious relationship between reader and book, molding a malleable reader into the ideal practice of focused reading.
I am grateful to Alex Bremner, Joseph Connors, Joost Keizer, and Susan Klaiber for their insights into the libraries discussed here, and to Joris van Gastel for his thought-provoking comments on early drafts of this article.
See Francis Wormald and C. E. Wright, eds., The English Library before 1700: Studies in Its History (London: University of London and Athlone Press, 1958); Burnett Hillman Streeter, The Chained Library: A Survey of Four Centuries in the Evolution of the English Library (New York: Burt Franklin, 1970); James F. O’Gorman, The Architecture of the Monastic Library in Italy, 1300–1600 (New York: New York University Press, 1972); Sidney L. Jackson, Libraries and Librarianship in the West: A Brief History (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1974), 125–97; Nikolaus Pevsner, A History of Building Types (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1976), 91–110; The Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland, vols. 1–2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).
Roger Chartier, The Order of Books: Readers, Authors, and Libraries in Europe between the Fourteenth and Eighteenth Centuries, trans. Lydia G. Cochrane (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1994), viii, 1–2. See also Wolfgang Iser, The Act of Reading: A Theory of Aesthetic Response (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978); Jane P. Tompkins, ed., Reader-Response Criticism: From Formalism to Post-Structuralism (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980); Elizabeth Freund, The Return of the Reader: Reader-Response Criticism (New York: Methuen, 1987); Anthony Grafton, “Geniture Collections: Origins and Uses of a Genre,” in Books and the Sciences in History, ed. Marina Frasca-Spada and Nick Jardine (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 49–68; Ann Blair, “Annotating and Indexing Natural Philosophy,” in Frasca-Spada and Jardine, Books and the Sciences in History, 69–89.
Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Random House, 1977); Robin Evans, “Figures, Doors, Passages,” in Translations from Drawing to Building and Other Essays (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1997), 54–91; Dell Upton, Holy Things and Profane: Anglican Parish Churches in Colonial Virginia (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1997).
On the Laurentian Library, see Ralph Lieberman, “Michelangelo’s Design for the Biblioteca Laurenziana,” in Renaissance Studies in Honor of Craig Hugh Smyth, ed. Andrew Morrogh, Fiorella Superbi Gioffredi, Piero Morselli, and Eve Borsook (Florence: Giunti Barbèra, 1985), 571–84; Frank Salmon, “The Site of Michelangelo’s Laurentian Library,” JSAH 49, no. 4 (Dec. 1990), 407–29. On Italian monastic libraries, see O’Gorman, The Architecture of the Monastic Library; and for Italian monastic and other libraries, see Joseph Connors and Angela Dressen, “Biblioteche: L’architettura e l’ordinamente del sapere,” in Luoghi, spazi, architetture, ed. Donatella Calabi and Elena Svalduz, vol. 6 of Il Rinascimento Italiano e l’Europa (Treviso and Costabissara: Fondazione Cassmarca and Angelo Colla, 2010), 199–228.
Stephen Greenblatt describes how Italian scholars, including Poggio Bracciolini, traveled to European monastic libraries, in Stephen Greenblatt, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern (New York: W. W. Norton, 2011), 14–50.
On the Leiden library, see Elfride Hulshoff Pol, “The Library,” in Leiden University in the Seventeenth Century: An Exchange of Learning, ed. Th. H. Lunsingh Scheurleer and G. H. M. Posthumus Meyjes (Leiden: Leiden University and Brill, 1975), 395–459; Henry Petroski, The Book on the Bookshelf (New York: Random House, 2000), 88; Christiane Berkvens-Stevelinck and Jan Frans Dijkhuizen, Magna Commoditas: A History of Leiden University Library, 1575–2005 (Leiden: Primavers Pers, 2004), 14–22.
It has proved impossible to determine the location of this staircase, as the sixteenth-century Faliede Bagijnen Kerk no longer exists and no contemporaneous plan has surfaced.
On the chained library, see especially Streeter, The Chained Library; Petroski, The Book on the Bookshelf, 66–67.
Ann M. Blair, Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information before the Modern Age (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2010), 213–29.
Thomas Wright, The Passions of the Mind in Generall (London, 1604), 9.
Marjorie O’Rourke Boyle, Senses of Touch: Human Dignity and Deformity from Michelangelo to Calvin (Leiden: Brill, 1998), 4–5; Constance Classen, The Deepest Sense: A Cultural History of Touch (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2012), 148.
Boyle, Senses of Touch, 5.
On the Ambrosiana, see Jackson, Libraries and Librarianship, 165; Pamela Jones, Federico Borromeo and the Ambrosiana: Art and Patronage in Seventeenth-Century Milan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 40–45; Petroski, The Book on the Bookshelf, 130–32; Connors and Dressen, “Biblioteche,” 219–22. The first library with wall shelving was that at the Escorial (ca. 1575); while few people visited the library, knowledge of its design spread through the 1589 prints of Pierre Perret. In addition, Pellegrino Tibaldi painted the ceiling fresco of the library and then journeyed back to Milan, carrying with him firsthand knowledge of the open reading room design. Jones, Federico Borromeo and the Ambrosiana, 42; Connors and Dressen, “Biblioteche,” 219.
Gabriel Naudé, “The Surrender of the Library of Cardinal Mazarin,” trans. Victoria Richmond and John Cotton Dana, in Literature of Libraries in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, ed. John Cotton Dana and Henry W. Kent (Chicago: A. C. McClurg, 1907), 6:48–53. On this pamphlet, see Jackson, Libraries and Librarianship, 170.
For a summary of Bodley’s intervention, see Streeter, The Chained Library, 198–212; Jackson, Libraries and Librarianship, 145–64; David Rogers, The Bodleian Library and Its Treasures, 1320–1700 (Henley-on-Thames, UK: Aidan Ellis, 1991), 23–53.
G. W. Wheeler, ed., Letters of Sir Thomas Bodley to the University of Oxford, 1598–1611 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1927), 4.
On the early history of the Bodleian Library, see Thomas James’s seventeenth-century account (MS Wood F 27, 33–34, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford); I. G. Philip and Paul Morgan, “Libraries, Books, and Printing,” in Seventeenth-Century Oxford, ed. Nicholas Tyacke, vol. 4 of The History of the University of Oxford (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), 659–62; Ian Philip, The Bodleian Library in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries: The Lyell Lectures, Oxford, 1980–1981 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983), 5–6; N. R. Ker, “The Provision of Books,” in The Collegiate University, ed. James McConica, vol. 3 of The History of the University of Oxford (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), 465–66; Rogers, The Bodleian Library, 8–9; Giles Barber, Arks for Learning: A Short History of Oxford Library Buildings (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 3–6; Stanley Gillam, The Divinity School and Duke Humfrey’s Library at Oxford (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), 3–27, 49–50.
Francis Bacon, “Cogitata et visa de interpretatione natura,” in The Works of Francis Bacon, ed. James Spedding, Robert Leslie Ellis, and Douglas Denon Heath (London, 1857), 3:587–620. See also a letter from Bacon to Bodley requesting the critique on which Bodley had been delaying: Bacon, The Works of Francis Bacon (London: Printed for M. Jones, 1815), 10:180–82.
Bacon, “Cogitata et visa,” 593–95. On this critique, see Paul A. Nelles, “Libraries, Books, and Learning from Bacon to the Enlightenment,” in The Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland, 2:24.
Copies of Bodley’s response survive as Add. 18648, 9–12; Add. 22591, 271b, Add. 35842, 41; Add. 44848, 101; Hargrave, 225, 11, Sloane, 1775, 50–53, British Library, London. The letter is also reprinted in Bacon, Works, 10:180–82.
On this anxiety about information overload, see Jackson, Libraries and Librarianship, 131; Lina Bolzoni, La stanza della memoria: Modelli letterari e iconografici nell’età della stampa (Turin: Einaudi, 1995), 14–16; Blair, Too Much to Know.
Andrew Maunsell, The Catalogue of English Printed Bookes (1595) (London: Gregg Press and Archive Press, 1965), 1.
Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy (London, 1621), 7. For a similar criticism from a decade later, see John Donne, The Courtier’s Library: or, Catalogus librorum aulicorum incomparabilium et non vendibilium, ed. Evelyn Mary Simpson (London, 1930). On The Courtier’s Library, see Claire Preston, “The Jocund Cabinet and the Melancholy Museum in Seventeenth-Century English Literature,” in Curiosity and Wonder from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, ed. R. J. W. Evans and Alexander Marr (Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2006), 87–106.
Michel Jeanneret, Perpetual Motion: Transforming Shapes in the Renaissance; From Da Vinci to Montaigne, trans. Nidra Poller (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001), 197–216.
Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy, 8.
Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning, ed. Stephen Jay Gould (New York: Random House, 2001), 8, 58.
Francis Bacon, “To Sir Thomas Bodley, upon Presenting Him the Advancement of Learning, 1605,” in Bacon, Works, 10:152–53. On this letter, see Philip, The Bodleian Library, 2–3.
It is unclear whether one or both turrets contained staircases; restoration projects have revealed the staircase in the southwest turret. The entrance was not moved to the current staircases in the Schools Quadrangle until the construction of the Selden End in the 1630s. Streeter, The Chained Library, 200; Gillam, The Divinity School, 21, 60–61; Geoffrey Tyack, The Bodleian Library: A Guide (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 24.
MS. Arch. Seld. A. 75, 28–35, Bodleian Library, Oxford; Reliquiae Bodleianae; or, Sir Thomas Bodley’s Remains, in Dana and Kent, Literature of Libraries, 3:93–95.
“Molesta vulgi,” “aspectando obstrependoque … distursando,” MS. Arch. Seld. A. 75, 29, Bodleian Library, Oxford; Reliquiae Bodleianae, 94.
On this shared expectation of education, see J. P. Cooper, “Ideas of Gentility in Early-Modern England,” in Land, Men, and Beliefs: Studies in Early-Modern History, ed. G. E. Aylmer and J. S. Morrill (London: Hambledon Press, 1983), 43–77; Anthony Grafton and Lisa Jardine, From Humanism to the Humanities: Education and the Liberal Arts in Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century Europe (London: Gerald Duckworth, 1986), 58–98; Lawrence Stone and Jeanne C. Fawtier Stone, An Open Elite? England, 1540–1880 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 308; Mary Thomas Crane, Framing Authority: Sayings, Self, and Society in Sixteenth-Century England (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1993), 93–115.
Henry Peacham, The Compleat Gentleman (1622; repr., Amsterdam: Da Capo Press and Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, 1968), 38–42.
Lawrence Stone and Jeanne C. Fawtier Stone have noted that by the 1580s, county gentry had education beyond grammar school and could hold parliamentary office, while parish gentry rarely progressed beyond grammar school and had jurisdiction over one or two villages. Stone and Stone, An Open Elite?, 6. On grammar school education, see Crane, Framing Authority, 77–92.
“Surripiendo … radendo, deformando, Lacerando, scindendo, annotando, interscribendo, sponte corrumpendo, obliterando, contaminando,” MS. Arch. Seld. A. 75, 32, Bodleian Library, Oxford; Reliquiae Bodleianae, 97.
MS. Arch. Seld. A. 75, 32–33, Bodleian Library, Oxford; Reliquiae Bodleianae, 97–98.
Bodley, in fact, placed these shelving units on precisely the footprints of the fifteenth-century units. See John Newman, “The Architectural Setting,” in Seventeenth-Century Oxford, ed. Nicholas Tyacke, vol. 4 of The History of the University of Oxford (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 147; Barber, Arks for Learning, 6. On the association of visibility with discipline, see Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 195–228.
Initially benches were attached to each shelving unit in Duke Humfrey’s Library; it is unclear when these benches were replaced with the current chairs. Gillam, The Divinity School, 52.
The fifteenth-century oath is recorded in MS Wood F 27, 36, Bodleian Library, Oxford.
Barber, Arks for Learning, 11.
Newman, “The Architectural Setting,” 147; Rogers, The Bodleian Library, 56; Barber, Arks for Learning, 12.
Andrew Clark, A Bodleian Guide for Visitors (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1906), 2.
On this drawing, see Barber, Arks for Learning, 11. It is likely that Bodley alluded to this plan in a 20 December 1608 letter to Thomas James, where he mentions sending James a plan for the new reading room. G. W. Wheeler, ed., Letters of Sir Thomas Bodley to Thomas James, First Keeper of the Bodleian Library (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1926), 183.
Barber, Arks for Learning, 10–11.
Wheeler, Letters of Sir Thomas Bodley to Thomas James, 215.
Jacobus Philippus Opicellus, Monumenta Bibliothecae Ambrosianae (Milan, 1618), 21–23. For a list of similar books, see Agostino Saba, “La biblioteca Ambrosiana (1609–1632),” Aevum 6, no. 4 (1932), 533, 544.
John Stoye, English Travellers Abroad, 1604–1667: Their Influence in English Society and Politics (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1989), 74–78, 85.
Thomas James, A Treatise on the Corruption of Scripture (London, 1611), part V, 16–17. See also Philip, The Bodleian Library, 20–21, 35.
Catalogus universalis librorum in Bibliotheca Bodleiana … Ut Non solum Publicis Europam Universam Bibliothecis, sed etiam Privatis Museis, aliisque ad Catalogum Librorum conficiendum usui esse possit (Oxford, 1620). Readers were required to purchase a copy of this catalogue when they were admitted to the Bodleian. Philip, The Bodleian Library, 31; Rogers, The Bodleian Library, 67. A list of those who purchased the 1620 catalogue from 1620 to 1647 is preserved in Library Records e. 42, Bodleian Library, Oxford.
Thomas Bodley, The Life of Sir Thomas Bodley, the Honourable Founder of the Publique Library in the University of Oxford. Written by Himselfe (1647; repr., London: Pisces Press, 1983), 14–15; Philip, The Bodleian Library, 3–5; Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, Sir Thomas Bodley and His Library: An Exhibition to Mark the Quatercentenary of the Bodleian, Feb.–May 2002 (Banbury, UK: Classic Cheney Press, 2002), iii. Official documents from Bodley’s time as ambassador survive in the British Library, London: Cott. Vesp. F. ix, 167; Cott. Jul. F. vi, 63; Cott. Galba. D. v, 9, 100, 302; Cott. Galba. D. vii, 2; Cott. Galba. D. x, 43.
For representative discussion of this social expectation, see Peacham, The Compleat Gentleman, 2.
News of the Leiden library would have circulated readily both to Bodley and to those who visited the Oxford library through the English scholars who studied in Leiden. John Newman, “Library Buildings and Fittings,” in The Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland, 2:193. In his own letters, while ambassador to the Low Countries, Bodley described to Sir Francis Walsingham a conversation with a Paul Bus who lived in Leiden and noted how a student from Leiden had sent him a book dedicated to Elizabeth I. Other correspondence reveals that a “Master Wilkes” visited Paul Bus in Leiden after Bus conversed with Bodley, and Bodley informed Lord Burghley in 1592 that the young Lord Bedford was currently in Leiden. The Diplomatic Correspondence of Sir Thomas Bodley, 1585–1597 (http://www.livesandletters.ac.uk/bodley/bodley.html): DCB/001/HMTL/0880/008, DCB/001/HTML/0887/008, DCB/ 001/HTML/0802/008, DCB/001/HTML/0941/008, DCB/001/HTML/0407/008, DCB001/HTML/1163/008. On the Leiden library catalogue, see Jackson, Libraries and Librarianship, 160; Pol, “The Library,” 398–405.
Wheeler, Letters of Sir Thomas Bodley to Thomas James, 54.
Philip, The Bodleian Library, 34.
On this rule, see MS. Arch. Seld. A. 75, 30, Bodleian Library, Oxford; Reliquiae Bodleianae, 94–95. From 1613 to 1615, a list was maintained of undergraduates who had entered the Bodleian without their robes and who, consequently, were denied entry to the library for three months. Library Records e. 9, 78, Bodleian Library, Oxford.
Peacham, The Compleat Gentleman, 38.
Newman, “The Architectural Setting,” 147.
Jackson, Libraries and Librarianship, 154; Rogers, The Bodleian Library, 56.
Leon Battista Alberti, On the Art of Building in Ten Books, trans. Joseph Rykwert, Neil Leach, and Robert Tavernor (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1988), 302; Vincenzo Scamozzi, L’idea della architettura universale, 2 vols. (1615; repr., Vicenza: Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio, 1997), 1:321.
Frances Yates, The Art of Memory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974); Bolzoni, La stanza della memoria, esp. 26–86; Douwe Draaisma, Metaphors of Memory: A History of Ideas about the Mind, trans. Paul Vincent (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 40–42; Mary Carruthers, The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).
Thomas Wilson, The Art of Rhetorique, ed. G. H. Mair (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1909), 216.
Gabriel Naudé, Advice on Establishing a Library (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1950), 61–62. On this book, see Jackson, Libraries and Librarianship, 166–70.
Naudé, Advice on Establishing a Library, 72.
On the Tower of the Orders, see Catherine Cole, “The Building of the Tower of Five Orders in the Schools Quadrangle at Oxford,” Oxoniensia 33 (1968), 92–107; Newman, “The Architectural Setting,” 153–54; Rogers, The Bodleian Library, 63.
Christy Anderson, “Learning to Read Architecture in the English Renaissance,” in Albion’s Classicism: The Visual Arts in Britain, 1550–1660, ed. Lucy Gent (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1995), 239–85.
This sculptural group was commissioned to commemorate James I’s donation of his Works, a collection of his political writings first published in 1616, during his visit to the Bodleian in 1617. Rogers, The Bodleian Library, 63; Tyack, The Bodleian Library, 95.
MS Wood F 27, 25, Bodleian Library, Oxford. Other copies of this agreement survive at the Bodleian Library as MS. Wood F 27, 25; MS. Arch. Seld. A. 75, 59–61; Library Records c. 45, 3r–v; University Archives SP/E/13/1, NEP/Supra/Reg K (1606–1615), 124v–125r. For a discussion of this agreement, see Philip, The Bodleian Library, 27–29; Rogers, The Bodleian Library, 49–51.
W. W. Greg, Some Aspects and Problems of London Publishing between 1550 and 1650 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1956), 5, 8–9, 51, 55, 103–12.
Wheeler, Letters of Sir Thomas Bodley to Thomas James, 219. For another example of how Bodley filtered the books on the Bodleian shelves, cf. his requirement that donors send him lists of books from which he could then select volumes for the library. Wheeler, ibid., 35; Philip, The Bodleian Library, 25.
Thomas Dekker’s Ravens Almanacke (London, 1609), for example, predicted a plague, famine, and civil war within England, as well as other parts of the Christian world, during the upcoming year and offered its readers possible antidotes and remedies.
Streeter, The Chained Library, 75; J. N. L. Myres, “Oxford Libraries in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries,” in Wormald and Wright, The English Library before 1700, 236–45.
Clark, Bodleian Guide, 52; Barber, Arks for Learning, 13.
Clark, Bodleian Guide, 47. These benches are no longer in the Selden End; it has not been possible to determine when they were removed.
In 1656, a Bodleian mathematical manuscript was also found by Thomas Marshall (a graduate of Lincoln’s College) in an Amsterdam bookshop, when he was a chaplain in Holland. Clark, Bodleian Guide, 39–40, 109–10.
Andrew Clark, The Life and Times of Anthony Wood, Antiquary, of Oxford, 1632–1695, Described by Himself (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1900), 1:240, 456; 2:158, 161, 209, 315; 5:159; Clark, Bodleian Guide, iv, 72.
Clark, The Life and Times of Anthony Wood, 1:496–97; Clark, Bodleian Guide, 102–3; Tyack, The Bodleian Library, 96.
Myres, “Oxford Libraries,” 237; Streeter, The Chained Library, 76.
Myres, “Oxford Libraries,” 247; Streeter, The Chained Library, 76; Stone and Stone, An Open Elite?, 221.
Donald F. Bond, ed., The Spectator (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965), 3:541.
Robert Hooke, Micrographia; or, Some Physiological Descriptions of Minute Bodies (New York: Cosimo Classics, 2007), a3r. On the relationship of eye and ear, see Thomas Frangenberg, “Auditus visu prestantior: Comparisons of Hearing and Vision in Charles de Bovelles’s Liber de sensibus,” in The Second Sense: Studies in Hearing and Musical Judgement from Antiquity to the Seventeenth Century, ed. Charles Burnett, Michael Fend, and Penelope Gouk (London: Warburg Institute, 1991), 71–94; Penelope Gouk, “Some English Theories of Hearing in the Seventeenth Century: Before and After Descartes,” in Burnett, Fend, and Gouk, The Second Sense, 95–113. See also Hans Blumenberg, “Light as a Metaphor for Truth: At the Preliminary Stage of Philosophical Concept Formation,” in Modernity and the Hegemony of Vision, ed. David Michael Levin (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 30–62.
Aristotle set out at length the perceptions of eye and ear via movements across air or another medium in his De Anima—an argument that was accepted by early modern philosophers and scientists, at least through the seventeenth century. It reappears, for example, in Athanasius Kircher’s music treatises Musurgia Universalis and Phonurgia Nova. Aristotle, De Anima (On the Soul), trans. Hugh Lawson-Tancred (London: Penguin, 1986), 175–79; Athanasius Kircher, Musurgia Universalis (Rome, 1650), 1; Athanasius Kircher, Phonurgia Nova, sive Conjugium Mechanico-physicum Artis & Naturae Paranympha Phonosophia Concinnatum (Campidona, 1673), 6–9.
George Berkeley, “An Essay Towards a New Theory of Vision,” in Berkeley’s Philosophical Writings, ed. David M. Armstrong (New York: Macmillan, 1965), 304–9.
Bond, The Spectator, 3:536.
For a discussion of early modern notions of the imagination, see John Lyons, Before Imagination: Embodied Thought from Montaigne to Rousseau (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2005).