‘Tis the Season: Gifts to the Rubenstein Library, Day Two

MagnaChartaBindingTo celebrate the holiday season this week, we’re highlighting a few of the many wonderful books that the Rubenstein Library has received as gifts over the past year.  We are truly grateful for the generosity of our donors.  A hearty “Happy holidays” and thanks and to all of those who have contributed to making 2013 a wonderful year for the Rubenstein Library!

Richard Heitzenrater, William Kellon Quick Professor Emeritus of Church History and Wesley Studies in Duke’s Divinity School, donated a number of books in the fields of law, religion, and literature to the Rubenstein Library this year.  Among them is an early printing of the Magna Carta and other laws of England, Magna Charta cum Statutis tum Antiquis tum Recentibus, published in 1587 by Richard Tottell, the foremost printer and bookseller of law books in Elizabethan London.

A rare and important book in any condition, the copy donated by Prof. Heitzenrater is particularly notable for its unusual format: the paper is much larger than in typical copies of the book, and the printing confined to one upper corner of each page, as seen on the title page below.

MagnaChartaTitlePageThis format allowed for very large margins in which those in the legal professions could record their notes and cite additional or updated statutes.  Indeed, this copy contains many early (probably seventeenth-century) handwritten notes and citations throughout the text.

MagnaChartaMarginaliaOur thanks to Prof. Heitzenrater for this important document of the Elizabethan era!

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5 thoughts on “‘Tis the Season: Gifts to the Rubenstein Library, Day Two”

  1. What an interesting copy of this book! Could you share more information with us about the book? It seems like, from the information you’ve provided, that this is STC 9282, which is described in the catalog records I’ve seen as a standard 8vo without any mention of large paper, and the copy reproduced in EEBO looks like a typical 8vo with its typical margins. Has this copy been inlaid or otherwise modified by an early owner? The tp looks like it’s one sheet, but the image of the text looks like the paper of the printed area differs from the paper of the margins. How large is this book?


    1. Thanks for your interest, Sarah. To be clear, the book is awaiting its formal cataloging, so our information about it is still provisional. I can tell you that this does not appear to be inlaid or otherwise modified (at least in this way) by an early owner. The paper is approx. 215mm tall x 155mm wide. Signatures match STC 9282, but the last signature (2I) is lacking, and two later (probably c19 or early c20) blanks are added at the end. There are at least two early hands and later (c19) ownership marks and the like. For a somewhat larger image, see

      Looking around a bit for other large-paper copies, I also came up empty, and we’d welcome further information about this fascinating volume!

      1. In March 1845, a copy of this octavo edition of Magna Charta (1587) sold at the auction of B. H. Bright’s collection. A source from 1861 indicates that the copy was printed on “large paper” and has “MS. notes.” Unfortunately, I cannot easily examine a copy Bright auction catalog to see precisely what it says about this book. I don’t know the lot number, but a description should appear in Catalogue of the Valuable Library of the Late Benjamin Heywood Bright, Esq.(1845). I wouldn’t be too dreadfully surprised if it is in fact the very copy Duke now has, but it is just as likely (if not more likely) to be another.

        I’d want to know what the dimensions of the Bright copy are, because I have come across what get described as “large” or “large paper” octavos. These books sometimes have text blocks of a typical size, but with pretty large margins—though nothing like what we are seeing here.

        For a similar book: the Beinecke Library has a copy of Littleton’s Tenures in 12mo that been laid into larger paper, creating a mise-en-page that’s almost identical to what we see in this Magna Charta. It is also interleaved with blanks: The big difference of course is that this one was not printed on larger paper, as this 1587 Magna Charta appears to be.

        1. Thanks for this very useful reference, Aaron. The Magna Charta is #3594 in the Bright catalog. Here is the entire description: “Magna Charta, 12mo, R. Tottill, 1587, printed upon quarto paper, with a very large margin, and interleaved: a few MS. notes in the hand of the time. 4to”. (Incidentally, the catalog at Duke has prices in manuscript; the Bright Magna Charta sold for 2 pounds, 2 shillings.)

          Since the copy at Duke is not interleaved, it’s certainly not the same copy, but the rest of the description does sound very similar. I assume that the catalog’s “12mo” is used as a general size designation for the printed area in the catalog, rather than bibliographic format, as the printed signatures in the Duke copy match the octavo format of STC 9282.

          Thanks again for this useful information!

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