Aldus Manutius & Frances Richardson Currer

The Sion College Library collection includes a beautiful set of early 16th century books printed by the renowned Venetian printer, Aldus Manutius (1449-1515). The set is composed of four volumes and constitutes a series called Poetae Christiani veteres, published between 1501 and 1504.


K21 C46 (1)
The four volumes of Poetae Christiani veteres from the Sion College Library collection [K21/C46]
This series contains editions of works by ancient Christian poets. The aim of these volumes is primarily pedagogical: youths could learn Christian morality and the Greek letters (the works contained parallel texts in Greek and Latin). In the third edition of his Annales de l’imprimerie des Alde, Antoine Augustin Renouard describes the series as a “collection infiniment rare et précieuse”.

Title-pages of the volumes

K21 C46 v.2 (2)

This work is also particularly interesting as it marks the first appearance of Manutius’s famous and most recognizable printer’s device – the dolphin and the anchor. This emblem was used to represent the Latin proverb “festina lente”, or “make haste slowly”.

K21 C46 v.2 (4)
First appearance of the dolphin and the anchor device in volume 2

The four volumes are bound in 19th century gilt-tooled blue morocco and bear the armorial bookplate of Frances Mary Richardson Currer.

K21 C46 (2)
Armorial bookplate of Miss Richardson Currer

Miss Richardson Currer (1785-1861) was a British heiress and a book collector, “head of all female book collectors in Europe” as Thomas Frognall Dibdin, the English biographer, wrote. She inherited the library of her great-grandfather in Eshton Hall. In 1820 Robert Triphook compiled A catalogue of the library of Miss Currer at Eshton Hall, in the deanery of Craven and county of York.

Frances Currer was praised for her good heart, “big as St Paul’s Dome and as warm as Volcanic lava” according to T. F. Dibdin in 1837. Her charitable donations included money to fund the new school at Cowan Bridge, attended by the Brontë sisters and she is likely to have helped Patrick Brontë with his debts. Charlotte Brontë’s pseudonym, Currer Bell, was inspired by Frances.

Other marks of provenance can be found on the title-page of volume 1. Unfortunately, the inscriptions have been washed out and are now illegible. If you want to help us decipher them, please visit the Sion College Library Provenance Project and leave us a comment!

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