Nugent – 135 years of care

Nugent – 135 years of care

The Sheppard-Worlock Library’s Archives & Special Collections have been working in partnership with the charitable organisation, Nugent, and Liverpool Record Office at Central Library to mark Nugent’s 135th anniversary by showcasing material from the archives held at Liverpool Hope University, Central Library and Nugent to highlight the work begun by Father Nugent in the nineteenth century and the development of the organisation from the 1970’s to the present day.

Monsignor James Nugent

The origins of Nugent date back to the 1800’s and the pioneering work of James Nugent. Monsignor James Nugent, (1822-1905), better known as Father Nugent, was a Roman Catholic Priest of the Archdiocese of Liverpool. He was a passionate social reformer appalled by the state of the homeless living in the squalor of Victorian England and he dedicated his life to the education and rescue of destitute children.

James Nugent was the eldest of nine children born 3 March 1822 in Hunter Street, Liverpool, to an Irish father, John, a poultry dealer, and an English mother, Mary, a convert to Catholicism. He was educated at private school under the patronage of Rev. James Picton of Christ Church and, although his father wanted him to be a merchant, his mother and the local priest encouraged him to enter the priesthood.

In 1838 he studied at Ushaw College, Co. Durham, and the English College, he was ordained at St. Nicholas’ Liverpool in 1846 and then after working in several parishes in Blackburn and Wigan returned to St. Nicolas’ parish as curate on New Year’s Day in 1849.

At this time Victorian Liverpool was reeling from the effects of the Irish famine and the typhus epidemic that followed. During the Summer of 1849, 5,000 would die from cholera. The influx of Irish immigrants put a huge strain on Liverpool’s already acute housing shortage. Many were simply passing through on their way to North America but a large minority were too poor or too sick to go further.

NCA005 On Admission

In 1841 the population of Liverpool was almost 300,000 and by 1851 this had risen to 376,000. It is estimated that the Irish immigrants and their children accounted for 24% of the total population. Fr. Nugent could not help being aware of the vast numbers of homeless, destitute children roaming the streets, begging and stealing in order to exist, and sleeping in boxes under bridges at night. As early as 1849 Fr. Nugent established a Ragged School at Copperas Hill for homeless children offering shelter, food and clothing. Father Nugent was also keen to provide children with a basic standard of education. He soon set about fundraising for his next venture, the Catholic Institute, which opened at 26 Hope Street in October 1853. The institute, which was open to non-Catholics, was a great success and noted scholars came to deliver lectures, among them John Henry Newman. The Catholic Reformatory Association, with Father Nugent as President, was set up following the Reformatory Schools Act 1854, to authorise financial help to institutions that would accept children convicted of crime. The Liverpool Catholic Reformatory Association established a Ship Reformatory on The Clarence, capable of housing up to 250 boys. The success was quite remarkable for a time until in 1884 a few boys set fire to her. It was refurbished but the same happened again in 1899 and the scheme abandoned. After three years on The Clarence many of the boys were taken into the Merchant Navy.

The Clarence, Reformatory ship, 1884

Fr. Nugent’s reputation as a man of action and compassion had grown so much that he was able to bring together leading figures across the religious divide to promote a charter for children under the slogan, “Save the Child”, foreshadowing legislation to come in the Industrial Schools Act of 1857 which allowed the State to intervene to remove children from neglectful parents and place them in industrial schools where they would receive education and training. From 1866 Fr. Nugent took a leading role in the management of St George’s Industrial School for Boys and the Boys’ Catholic Orphanage in Beacon Lane, under the management of the Sisters of Charity.

In 1863 he founded the Association of Providence from among the young Catholic professionals and businessmen, and former pupils from the Catholic Institute to help support the orphanage and in 1864 he set up a night-shelter for destitute boys at 22 Soho Street, supported by donations, fundraising and subscriptions from members of the Association of Providence.  He came to realise that a night-shelter was not enough. What was needed was a residential school where the boys could learn to read and write and be taught a trade and prepared for adult life. In 1869, Fr. Nugent acquired larger premises on St Anne Street, The Boy’s Refuge, a certified Industrial School teaching shoemaking, tailoring, joinery and printing in order that the boys might be taught a trade. They were responsible for printing the ‘Northern Press’, and later its successor the ‘Catholic Times’, which soon had a circulation of 73,000 and continued until 1923.

Boys’ Refuge Printing Works (NCA006)

Father Nugent was appointed the first Roman Catholic Prison Chaplain in Britain for Liverpool Borough Gaol, Walton in 1863 and served 22 years. He assembled data illustrating the types of crime associated with male and female inmates, Catholic and Protestant. His Prison Chaplain’s Report of 1864 confirmed his observation; that 54% of the male prisoners and 63% of the females were Catholic and, of the Catholics, the majority, 63%, were women. This made Liverpool prison the only prison in the World where the females exceeded the males. Many of the females Nugent met in prison were unemployed or worked as basket girls (street traders), which he believed led directly to prostitution. Nugent was determined to help the young female convicts to begin anew. He persuaded the Order of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God to establish a refuge to help and he also established a home for mothers and their babies, The House of Providence, in the Dingle.

Rescue Notes (NCA006)

In his role as Prison Chaplain, Father Nugent witnessed the effects of alcohol on the poor, especially women. Understanding that a new life abroad presented an opportunity to escape from the dangers of Liverpool, he instigated emigration schemes for children from the Poor Law Schools, young women trading on the streets and ex-offenders from reformatories and prisons.

In 1881 the Liverpool Catholic Children’s Protection Society was founded to care for destitute Catholic children and to continue the work started by Fr. Nugent. Usually the homes that grew up in Liverpool were affiliated to this society. At the peak of their activities the Liverpool Catholic Children’s Protection Society could look after around 550 children. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul was founded in 1891 along with the Homes for Friendless Boys (later Homes for Catholic Friendless Youths).


Fr. John Berry, Rector of St. Philip Neri’s Oratory in Catharine Street, opened St. Philip’s Home for Street Trading Boys in Marble Street in 1892, and a few years later he took over the management along with A.C. Thomas of a home in Shaw Street, called St. Vincent de Paul’s House until ill-health forced him to leave in 1897.

In 1870 Fr. Nugent took the first group of 24 children to Canada on 18 August 1870 on the SS Austrian; this was probably the first organised emigration of its kind. Fr. Nugent used the opportunity to spend nine months on a lecture tour of Canada and the United States, (encouraged by Archbishop Ireland), pleading the cause of these children and raising money. This was a task at which he excelled. The Catholic Children’s Protection Society set up two homes in Canada to cater for children who wished to emigrate; these were St. George’s Home for Boys in Ottawa and the St. Vincent’s Home for Girls in Montreal. Large numbers of children were assisted to emigrate to the New World and this continued until 1930.

Party of Boys Emigrated (NCA009)

Mrs Lacy, Matron of the Society’s Home in Shaw Street Liverpool, accompanied the children and spent a considerable time visiting those previously sent out. During 1885, she reported that she had personally visited 140 children at their new homes, and in 120 cases the results were entirely satisfactory. She concluded that it was only to be expected that some of the children should not realise to the full the hopes of their benefactors. Some were looked upon simply as a source of cheap labour, others were adopted by their new families, and were brought up and educated as their own children.

Fr. Nugent had a vision of happy, healthy children, prospering in a land of opportunity; others saw it as a scheme to rid the city of those who would otherwise become a burden on the rates. Annual reports of the Liverpool Catholic Children’s Protection Society later included copies of letters sent by some of the emigrants to the Home in Shaw Street. Most expressed contentment, or at least resignation to their new life, but there is a constant theme of loneliness running through them. Although the children are described as orphaned or abandoned, most seem to have had some relatives in Liverpool, and there are constant requests for information about them.

In 1924 the three separate organisations; the Liverpool Catholic Children’s Protection Society, the Catholic Children’s Aid Society and Father Berry’s Homes joined together as one under the guidance of the Archbishop of Liverpool. He appointed Monsignor Pinnington, the successor of Fr. Nugent and Fr. Berry, and Monsignor John Bennett (1891-1965) to take charge. This partnership was to be the early development of the present day Nugent. Fr. Bennett was the administrator for over 40 years continuing the pioneering efforts of Fr. Nugent in the field of Catholic Social Welfare. He was an important character in the development of social welfare and his influence and expertise extended beyond Liverpool.

The archive at Liverpool Hope University contains 26 books and 264 items in total, including; Father Nugent’s letters written during his time as Chaplain of Walton Gaol and as co-founder of the Liverpool Catholic Children’s Protection Society, and Fr. Nugent’s successor, Monsignor Bennett’s correspondence letters covering subjects such as child welfare, juvenile delinquency, child psychology, and the end of child emigration to Canada.


Liverpool Record Office host an extensive Nugent archive consisting of nearly 300 items covering 22 different organisations in Liverpool and includes 2,500 files of children who emigrated to Canada under the auspices of the Liverpool Catholic Emigration Association.  The Nugent collection tells the story of children in various institutions, including industrial schools, reformatory ships and orphanages. The Nugent Archive is available to view, by appointment, at Liverpool Record Office.  Some of the records are closed under the Data Protection Act but advice on accessing these records will be given on request.

The exhibition is on display on the 3rd floor of Liverpool Central Library, William Brown Street, from the 22nd November 2016 until the 16th January 2017. There are also items from the Liverpool Hope Nugent Archive on display in the Sheppard-Worlock Library.

Shakespeare 400

To commemorate 400 years since William Shakespeare’s death, Dr. Louise Wilson, Lecturer in Medieval and Early Modern Literature, has been delving into the treasures of Special Collections to share with you some of the books we hold here at Liverpool Hope University that Shakespeare would have been very familiar with.

Abraham Ortelius. Theatrum orbis terrarum (Theatre of the countries of the world). 1584.

The locations of Shakespeare’s plays range across the early modern known world, including Lebanon (Tyre), Egypt, Greece, Turkey, Austria, Italy, Spain, France, and Denmark; however, for Europeans, there were still parts of the world that remained unexplored in Shakespeare’s time and America was a newly discovered continent. Imaginative accounts of the places, people, and creatures yet to be seen feature in the plays, especially Othello and The Tempest.

Abraham Ortelius. Theatrum orbis terrarum. Africae ff.4 (B567)

The latest geographical knowledge was charted in the Theatrum orbis terrarum, the first ever atlas, produced by the Flemish geographers Abraham Ortelius and Gerard Mercator, and the printer-publisher Christophe Plantin. It was published in Antwerp in 1570 and became a bestseller throughout early modern Europe. The atlas was published in 33 editions over 41 years and translated into six other European languages from its original Latin. Earlier books of maps had relied on the ancient Greek geography of Ptolemy. This atlas brought together the latest knowledge of the world from seafaring, including the recent European discovery of the Americas.

Othello woos Desdemona with stories of the people and places he has seen as his soldiering took him to far-flung places:

Wherein of antres vast and deserts idle,                                         (caves)
Rough quarries, rocks and hills whose heads touch heaven
It was my hint to speak – such was my process –
And of the cannibals that each other eat,
The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads                                   (man-eaters)
Do grow beneath their shoulders.

(Shakespeare, Othello, I.3.141-146)

B567_Scandia90_Halfbeast creature

Abraham Ortelius. Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. ff. 90 (B567)

But it is Shakespeare’s The Tempest, set on an imaginary island in the Mediterranean with strong hints of the New World of America, which most fully explores the limits of European geographical knowledge and the potential for imaginative encounters with mythical creatures that still populated the waters and blank spaces of scholarly maps like Ortelius’. The sorcerer Prospero’s spirit, Ariel, is told to transform himself into ‘a nymph o’th’sea’ (I.2.302) and the island is home to a native creature, Caliban, whose mother was imprisoned by Prospero when he landed there. Caliban is variously described by the Europeans as a ‘tortoise’, ‘savage’, ‘fish’, ‘monster’, ‘mooncalf’ and ‘puppy-headed’. He, however, knows the wonders of the island and shares his knowledge with the shipwrecked Italian men he encounters:

I’ll show thee the best springs; I’ll pluck thee berries;
I’ll fish for thee, and get thee wood enough.
I prithee, let me bring thee where crabs grow,
And I with my long nails will dig thee pignuts,
Show thee a jay’s nest, and instruct thee how
To snare the nimble marmoset. I’ll bring thee
To clust’ring filberts, and sometimes I’ll get thee                          (hazelnuts)
Young scamels from the rock. Wilt thou go with me?                   (2.2.157-69)

B567_TerraSancta97_Ship & Halfman

Abraham Ortelius. Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. ff.97 (B567)


John Gerard. Herball, or Generall Historie of Plants. 1636.

Shakespeare’s plays and poems are full of references to plants and the natural world. In the early modern world, plants, flowers, and herbs were known for their practical (medicinal and culinary, in particular) and symbolic properties; for example, the herb rosemary was associated with the Virgin Mary and remembrance. While this kind of knowledge had been popular for centuries, it was formalized in the early modern period in books called ‘Herbals’, which contained practical information on the history, cultivation, and use of plants, illustrated with lavish woodcuts, and Shakespeare would have consulted them for the botanical references in his work.

B410_title page

John Gerard. Herball, or General Historie of Plants. Title page (B410 Folio)

The most famous Elizabethan herbalist was John Gerard. His Herball, or Generall Historie of Plants was first published in 1597 and reprinted and expanded many times during the seventeenth century. Much of it is a translation of the Flemish herbalist Rembert Dodoens’ herbal of 1554 (a 1559 edition is in Liverpool Hope’s Special Collections), but Gerard added plants from the New World into an English herbal for the first time. The portrait of Gerard on the title-page shows him holding a potato plant, which had only been introduced into England in 1586.

B410_Potato plant

Portrait of John Gerard from the title page of Gerard’s Herball. (B410 Folio)

In The Winter’s Tale, Perdita (a princess brought up as a shepherdess) distributes symbolically chosen plants to members of the sheep-shearing feast, including rosemary, rue, carnations and ‘gillyvors’ (gillyflowers, pinks) in Act Four, Scene Four, just as Ophelia famously does in Hamlet, giving out rosemary, pansies, rue, fennel, columbines and daisies (Act Four, Scene Five).

B410_White Rose_1260(2)

John Gerard. Herball or the Generall Historie of Plants. p. 1260. (B410 Folio)

The colour and perfume of roses perhaps hold the greatest significance for Shakespeare. Juliet argues that ‘that which we call a rose / By any other word would smell as sweet’ (Romeo and Juliet, 2.2.43-44) and Sonnet 130 (‘My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun’) claims ‘I have seen roses damasked, red and white, / But no such roses see I in her cheeks;’. Although Sir Walter Scott may have introduced the term ‘Wars of the Roses’, Shakespeare’s use of the white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster to symbolise the two royal houses in his history plays associates the plants and political allegiance:

Plantagenet: Let him that is a true-born gentleman
And stands upon the honour of his birth,
If he suppose that I have pleaded truth,
From off this briar pluck a white rose with me.
Somerset: Let him that is no coward nor no flatterer,
But dare maintain the party of the truth,
Pluck a red rose from off this thorn with me. (Henry VI, Part One, 2.45.27-33)



John Foxe. The Actes and Monuments (Foxe’s Book of Martyrs). 1576.

The Actes and Monuments (more popularly known as Foxe’s Book of Martyrs) was a vast and hugely influential early modern text. Foxe published a short version in Latin in 1559, but the first English version was published in 1563 and relates, with woodcut illustrations, the deaths of Protestant martyrs throughout English history, including 300 executed when Catholicism was briefly restored under Mary Tudor from 1553-58. Subsequent editions of Foxe’s book were expanded and the two-volume 1570 edition had more than 2,300 pages. The Church of England decreed that this 1570 edition should be placed in every cathedral church and made available to all congregations to consult; as a result, it became very widely known and had an enduring influence on opinions of Catholicism in England.


John Foxe. The Actes and Monuments. 1576. p. 664 (Gradwell Collection)

Shakespeare drew on The Actes and Monuments for his history plays, including sections of Henry VI, Parts Two and Three and Henry VIII. One Protestant martyr detailed in Foxe may have been the inspiration for one of Shakespeare’s most famous characters, Sir John Falstaff, Hal’s roguish companion in Henry IV Parts One and Two, resurrected owing to popular demand in The Merry Wives of Windsor. Shakespeare appears to have come under pressure from Oldcastle’s influential descendant, Lord Cobham, the Lord Chamberlain from 1596-97, to change the name from Oldcastle to Falstaff, but residual indications of the earlier name remain in the texts: Hal refers to Falstaff as ‘my old lad of the castle’ in Henry IV, Part One (1.2.40), and critics have noted that the two-syllable ‘Falstaff’ does not fit the metre of the play as well as the three-syllable ‘Oldcastle’; moreover, one speech prefix ‘Old.’ appears in Henry IV, Part Two and the Epilogue protests ‘Oldcastle died a martyr, and this is not the man’.

Liverpool Hope’s Special Collections holds two early editions of The Actes and Monuments (the third and sixth editions). The image above of Sir John Oldcastle’s martyrdom is taken from the third edition in the Gradwell Collection.



Raphael Holinshed. Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland. 1587.

Much of the action of Shakespeare’s history plays, as well as his plays set in ancient Britain including Macbeth and Cymbeline, is based on the accounts in Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Although it carries Holinshed’s name, the Chronicles was in fact the product of a number of scholars and printers. Its two volumes were first published in small folio format in 1577; a second edition appeared in 1587 in the more prestigious large folio format. The woodcut illustrations from the first edition had gone, and so had several passages on contemporary history which fell foul of the censors, but all sections had been expanded and updated.

The Chronicles was the most influential book of Tudor historiography in Shakespeare’s time, and was used widely by other major Elizabethan writers including Edmund Spenser in The Faerie Queene.

Liverpool Hope holds the three-volume 1587 edition which belonged to the antiquarian and archaeologist, Sir Richard Colt Hoare, 2nd Baronet (1758-1838).


Raphael Holinshed. Chronicles. Title page (B467 Folio)


Unusual provenance discovery in Special Collections

Unassuming dictionary with modern twentieth century binding
Unassuming dictionary with modern 20th century binding

Cataloguing books may be perceived, by those unable to appreciate the cathartic pleasure to be gained from logical ordering and close attention to detail, as being quite boring. I admit, it can be monotonous but just occasionally something may happen to alleviate the boredom. Keith Trickey, one of our temporary cataloguers in Special Collections, made an unusual discovery this week whilst cataloguing donations to the library. The book in question is a 19th century Latin-English dictionary by William Smith (London, 1857) with an unadorned mid-20th century re-binding that would normally only arouse a perfunctory glance from any bibliophile, however, this dull-looking volume belies an exciting history.

On opening the book Keith discovered the name of the previous owner written out in full on the title page, “John Ronald Reuel Tolkien” and the initials and date “K.E.S 1908” written underneath.

Title page
Title page with signature

Keith was delighted to have found a book previously owned by J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) when he was only sixteen years old. K.E.S. are the initials of King Edward’s School, Birmingham where Tolkien attended school from the age of eight. It was there that he was first introduced to Old and Middle English, Old Norse, Gothic and, of course, Latin. He showed a special aptitude for languages which would prove to be the foundation for a successful career in linguistic and philological study and helped to create the setting for Tolkien’s imagined Middle-earth, and the mythological peoples and languages within it.


Detail of signature
Detail of signature

It’s not often that we see his name written in full without the usual abbreviated ‘J.R.R.’ This unassuming English-Latin dictionary will certainly be treasured by Liverpool Hope Special Collections.

The Breeches Bible

The Breeches Bible

In September 2015, The Sheppard-Worlock Library’s Special Collections received, on long-term loan, a Geneva or ‘Breeches’ Bible belonging to St. Bridget’s in West Kirby. It is a 1582 reprint by Christopher Barker of the 1577 edition.

The ‘Breeches’ Bible is so-called after the use of the word in the translation of Genesis 3:7 in the Geneva version of the English Bible.

Breeches Bible - Genesis 3:7
Breeches Bible – Genesis 3:7

“Then the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed figge tree leaves together, and made themselves breeches”

During the reign of Queen Mary I, many Protestant scholars fled from England to Geneva, Switzerland to avoid persecution. Among these scholars was William Whittingham who supervised the translation, now known as the Geneva Bible, in collaboration with Myles Coverdale. He was probably born in Chester in 1524 and married John Calvin’s sister-in-law in 1555.

Whittingham’s translation of the New Testament in 1557 was the first appearance of a critical text of the Scriptures in Roman typeface; using verse divisions to facilitate quotation and supplying in italic those words not present in the original, yet required to complete the sense in English.

Breeches Bible, 1582
Breeches Bible, 1582

The Geneva Bible contained a number of study aids, including woodcut illustrations, maps and explanatory ‘tables’, i.e. indexes of names and topics, in addition to the extensive marginal notes. Each book was preceded by an ‘argument’ or introduction, and each chapter by a list of contents giving verse numbers.

The Geneva Bible was immediately established as an authoritative translation genuinely based on the Hebrew and Greek originals and ran through over 140 editions, even after the appearance of the Authorised Version. Notably, in 1620 it was the Geneva Bible not the King James Version that was brought to North America by the Puritans aboard the Mayflower. Its popularity is also attested by its widespread citation by writers and ecclesiastics of the later sixteenth century, including Shakespeare whose plays after 1595 appear to favour the Geneva text.

The Geneva Bible was the preferred Bible of Anglican and Puritan Protestants during the Elizabethan Age, however, King James I, who claimed the throne of England in 1603, very much disliked it. Apparently, his distaste for the Geneva Bible was not necessarily upon all the translations of the numerous passages into English, but mostly the annotations in the margins. In all likelihood, he saw the Geneva’s interpretations of biblical passages as anti-clerical ‘republicanism’, which could imply church hierarchy was unnecessary. Hypothetically, it followed that the need for a king as head of church and state could also be questioned. King James commissioned a new translation and in 1611 the Authorised Version or the King James’ Bible was printed by Robert Barker, the King’s printer.

The Breeches Bible, 1582, and the Authorised Version dated 1639, from the Gradwell Collection, are currently on display in The Sheppard-Worlock Library.

Published Research using Special Collections

July marks the end of the academic year, results are out and undergraduate students have either left for the summer or are waiting to celebrate their academic achievements with friends and family at graduation. The Sheppard-Worlock Library is decidedly quieter after the hubbub of the year gone-by but it is also the time for welcoming academics and visiting researchers to the library to engage with our collections in the pursuit of their own academic interests.
Last week in Special Collections I was delighted to receive in the post a copy of a published book in which the author, Marylynn Salmon, used an image taken from an illuminated manuscript in Liverpool Cathedral’s Radcliffe Collection held here at Liverpool Hope. This was a momentous occasion in the short history of The Sheppard-Worlock Library’s Special Collections, hopefully the first of many!

The published work
The published work


The book, entitled The secrets of the House of York by Marylynn Salmon, is a study of the late medieval English queen Elizabeth Woodville, great-grandmother to Elizabeth I, whose marriage to King Edward IV in 1464 provoked such enmity among the nobility that lasted until her death. Marylynn Salmon is a Research Associate in History at Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts and has been working on her revisionist study of the House of York for the past fifteen years. More about the book can be found at


Radcliffe MS.6 f.5v-6
Radcliffe MS.6 f.5v-6

The manuscript from the Radcliffe Collection is a beautifully illuminated Book of Hours dating from the late 15th century. The image depicts a female scribe and illuminator presenting her book to a queen. Historians do not know whether the queen is Elizabeth Woodville or Elizabeth of York. The reproduction does not show the original in its true light, unfortunately the brilliance of the gold leaf is dulled, as are the sumptuous colours of red, blue and green but it is wonderful that the manuscript is being studied for academic endeavour.

Karen Backhouse, Special Collections Librarian

The Aldine Press: the democratisation of the book in the 16th century

Aldus Manutius
Aldus Manutius

The year 2015 marks the 500th anniversary of the death of the great printer and publisher Aldus Manutius (c. 1449-1515), an Italian humanist scholar who founded the Aldine Press at Venice in 1494. His publishing legacy includes scholarly editions of classical authors, the introduction of italic type, and the development of books in small formats that were read much like modern paperbacks.

Aldus Manutius was a scholar, grammarian and teacher known in the most important humanist circles of the time before coming to Venice around 1490. In 1494 he established the Aldine Press during a time which came to be known as the Venetian High Renaissance. Early attempts to set Greek type had proved difficult, and demand for printed books in Greek was low. While Aldus was not the first to print Greek books, he certainly was the first to do so on a large scale and is credited with re-introducing original Greek texts to the western world after centuries of unavailability. Most of the principal classical Greek authors were first set in type by the Aldine Press. The texts themselves were edited by a large group of scholars, many of Cretan origin. Aldus formed a club of Greek scholars, called the Neakademia (the New Academy) inspired by the revival of Greek learning in Italy that followed the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

An innovative and progressive printer, Aldus is also credited with the creation of italic type which allowed him to introduce books in a small, compact format, known as libri portatiles. The italic font was designed to mimic scholars’ handwriting and to make the text more readable. His initiative to publish humanist texts in portable, octavo editions, which were inexpensive to purchase and easy to carry had a great influence on the democratisation of book ownership and the dissemination of ideas. This also embodied “the renaissance belief that antiquity provided models to be imitated in all activities”. Manutius stated many times that his goal was to make available in print the classic texts of the ancient world which were beloved by Renaissance humanists. The Aldine Press became a gathering place for many of the great thinkers of the day and Erasmus referred to this print shop salon as a university without walls.

Dolphin-and-anchor printer's mark
Dolphin-and-anchor printer’s mark

The printer’s device of the dolphin and anchor is indelibly associated with the name of Aldus Manutius. This hallmark of the Aldine Press is arguably the best-known printer’s device in the history of printing. They serve to illustrate the iconographic representation of the Renaissance motto, ‘festina lente’, a paradox that means “make haste slowly”; the dolphin symbolising the former, and the anchor, the latter. The meaning evokes the idea that all activities should be performed with a proper balance of intensity and contemplation which is also reflective of the detailed yet constant output of the Aldine Press.

After Aldus’ death the press was run by two further generations of his family until 1598; Paolo Manuzio, his son, and Aldo the Younger, his grandson. Both were distinguished scholars and teachers as well as printers. Manutius and his grandson Aldo are also credited with introducing a standardised system of punctuation including developing the modern use of the semicolon and the appearance of the comma.

Liverpool Hope University is fortunate enough to have 10 ‘Aldines’ in the Radcliffe and Gradwell Collections, a few of which are currently on display outside the Special Collections Reading Room in The Sheppard-Worlock Library. There are a number of activities taking place worldwide to commemorate the 500th anniversary, including a free exhibition in the Sir John Ritblat Treasures Gallery at the British Library, entitled ‘Collecting the Renaissance: the Aldine Press 1494-1598’. The exhibition ‘Merchants of Print: Venice to Manchester’ will be on at the John Rylands Library, Manchester from 29th January to 21st June 2015. Aldine Press volumes, easily recognisable from their dolphin-and-anchor emblems have been sought after by many eminent collectors through the centuries. The exhibition at the British Library makes reference to a comment made in 1811 that “all the Aldine Classics produced such an electricity of sensation, that buyers stuck at nothing to embrace them!” and they continue to create a ripple of anticipation in the book world today.