Conference of interest: the annual Vaughan Colloquium

Scholars and readers of Traherne may be interested in the 25th annual Vaughan Colloquium taking place in person from 5-8 May 2022 in Brecon.

The title of the conference is ‘“Bright shoots of everlastingness”: Poetry, Spirituality and the Natural World’, and its focus is ‘the work of the seventeenth-century poets, Henry Vaughan and George Herbert, and the occult philosopher and alchemist, Thomas Vaughan’. The programme is a mixture of talks and other cultural events, and the four plenary speakers are Dr Rowan Williams, Professor Donald Dickson, Dr Holly Faith Nelson and the Revd Canon Mark Oakley.


Marsilio Ficino and the Platonic tradition

Valery Rees, editor of the Ficino Notebook for the Oxford Traherne, has recently published two works relevant to Ficino, and the revival of the Platonic tradition in the early modern period. She is one of the editors of Platonism: Ficino to Foucault, published December 2020 in Brill’s Studies in Intellectual History, which contains sixteen essays tracing the development of Platonism in the history of Western thought. She has also edited The Letters of Marsilio Ficino, volume 11, published by Shepheard-Walwyn in February 2021. 


New light on the seventeenth-century book trade

Dr Austen Saunders, Director of the Printed Books Census for The Oxford Traherne, has published new estimates of the output of English printers in the 17th century. These shed new light on the state of the book trade in Restoration England when the first printed books by Traherne were published. Dr Saunders’ findings can be read here in the journal The Seventeenth Century.


New Neo-Latin consultant for the Oxford Traherne

We are pleased to welcome Ingrid De Smet to the editorial team as our Neo-Latin consultant. Ingrid is Professor of French and Neo-Latin Studies at the University of Warwick, and a Fellow of the British Academy. She specializes in the intellectual culture of sixteenth-century and early seventeenth-century France and the Low Countries (French; Neo-Latin; Republic of Letters). She is currently Past President of the International Association of Neo-Latin Studies.


British Academy biographical memoir of Professor Ann Moss

A British Academy memoir of Ann Moss (1938-2018), former member of the Oxford Traherne editorial team, by Ingrid De Smet of the University of Warwick has been published online, and can be downloaded here. Until her death in 2018, Ann was the edition’s consultant in Neo-Latin, and editor of Traherne’s Ficino Notebook. Ann’s editorial work has now been taken over by Valery Rees, and the edition of Ficino will be published under their joint names.  


A European context for Traherne

Professor Jean-Louis Quantin, co-editor of Roman Forgeries for the Oxford Traherne, and our consultant on patristic scholarship, has recently published an article on ‘A European Geography of Patristic Scholarship in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries’, in the International Journal of the Classical Tradition, 27 (2020), 300-331.

While the article is not concerned with Traherne, and only peripherally concerned with England, it presents a fascinating and instructive analysis of the wider context of European patristic scholarship against which an English work such as Traherne’s Roman Forgeries and its use of patristic sources may be evaluated. The article can be read here.


‘The Tongue of all the World’: Traherne in Hebrew

Dr Julia Smith, general editor of the Oxford Traherne, was recently interviewed by Yehuda Vizan, Hebrew poet and translator, for the major Hebrew literary magazine Dehak. Dehak devotes an entire section of its 2019 issue to discussing and translating some of Traherne’s work.

In addition to the interview, to which the Traherne scholar Elizabeth Dodd also contributes, the issue includes translations, by a number of well-known Israeli poets and translators, of ‘Innocence’, ‘Shadows in the Water’, and passages from the Thanksgivings, Centuries, and Commentaries of Heaven. Vizan comments that although translating Traherne into Hebrew is not easy, it also seems ‘so natural’: Traherne, who believed that Hebrew was the language spoken by Adam and Eve in Eden, and that originally ‘Hebrew had been the Tongue / Of all the World’, would surely have thought this appropriate.

 The full English version of Julia Smith’s interview can be read here, and the published interview (translated into Hebrew) can be read in the 2019 issue of Dehak (pp. 154–61).


The Oxford Traherne summer studentships in early printed books

We have unfortunately not been able to offer the studentships in 2020, because of Covid-19, but we hope to run this popular scheme again next year.

Our two summer students in 2019 were Isla Dawson (Jesus College, Oxford) and Lewis Roberts (Magdalen College, Oxford), both second-year undergraduates. They completed a highly successful programme of practical activities and research designed to introduce them to the many skills and disciplines involved in the study, care, and conservation of early printed books. Some of their comments on their experience can be found below.

Lewis Roberts writes:

Taking part in the Oxford Traherne Studentship has taught me a great deal both about early-modern books and about research generally. I particularly enjoyed spending time in the college libraries, searching out hidden treasures and speaking to the librarians about documents which are not catalogued and which often go unnoticed. The structure of the studentship meant that I never felt out of my depth and a new skill learnt in the morning was often put into practice the same afternoon as my research progressed. Simultaneously undertaking an independent research project and a taught course of study meant that I learnt as much from my own mistakes as I did from the brilliant people who were teaching us.

My research project centred on book prices in the late 17th century. I enjoyed being able to combine quantitative research and my literary interests to produce some really interesting findings. The most rewarding element of the Studentship was being able to move from what I now realise was a rather sparse knowledge of early-printed books to having produced my own research paper which forms a real contribution to the Oxford Traherne project. All the staff we worked with were brilliant and couldn’t have been more helpful or happy to answer questions. There were a huge range of activities from creating our own hand-pressed engravings to exploring my own college’s special collections. It has been a very enjoyable and educational experience which I will be able to use for my dissertation and further study. I would recommend the Studentship heartily.

Isla Dawson writes:

The Traherne studentship has given me so much practical knowledge of early printed books that I can apply to my degree work, as well as being the 3-week highlight of my summer. Every library team has been immensely friendly and instructive in allowing us to use Oxford’s special collections libraries, and I am grateful to be able to contribute something to the Traherne foundation in the form of my research project.

The Oxford Traherne is grateful to the following organizations for their support of the scheme in 2019:

The Bodleian Libraries: Centre for the Study of the Book and Rare Books staff; Balliol College Library; The Oxford Conservation Consortium; The Queen’s College Library; The Strawberry Press; Visual Geometry Group, Engineering Science; Worcester College Library


Professor Ann Moss, FBA, 1938–2018

It is with great sadness that the Traherne editorial team records the death on 13 August 2018 of our colleague Ann Moss, Fellow of the British Academy and Professor Emerita of the University of Durham. Ann was a highly distinguished scholar of international reputation, with wide-ranging interests in French Renaissance literature, the classical tradition, and early modern intellectual culture, and her magisterial works Printed Commonplace-Books and the Structuring of Renaissance Thought (OUP, 1996) and Renaissance Truth and the Latin Language Turn (OUP, 2003) had, and continue to have, an immense impact on the understanding of Renaissance literature and thought.

Ann first joined the Oxford Traherne as our consultant in neo-Latin after her retirement from the School of Modern Languages at Durham. An enthusiastic participant in editorial meetings, she soon became so interested in the project that she asked to take on a larger role, and became editor of Traherne’s Ficino Notebook, collaborating with Angus Vine on volume IV of the edition. It was typical of Ann that  – complaining she was bored with frequent invitations received in retirement to repackage her existing expertise – she relished the entirely new challenge of applying her unrivalled knowledge of European printed commonplace culture to editing an English literary manuscript. She brought to it a sense of intellectual adventure from which we all profited, and it was a privilege to have worked with her.

From the beginning of our project, we have benefited not only from Ann’s world-class expertise, but also from her brisk common sense, her sharp mind, her kind heart, and her generous spirit, the last exemplified by the unstinting support she gave to younger scholars. Her commitment to the highest standards of research was combined with a strong sense of personal and social responsibility, in the best tradition of Renaissance scholarship.

In spite of increasing health problems over the last few years, Ann remained extremely determined to complete her work on the Ficino Notebook. In the end she was unable to do so, but she had finished a substantial amount of material, and her name will remain as an editor of the volume.

  • LEFT IMAGE: Gerard ter Borch, Officer Writing a Letter, with a Trumpeter, c.1658–59, detail (E1924-3-21): The William L. Elkins Collection, 1924, Philadelphia Museum of Art
  • RIGHT IMAGE: MS Eng. th. e. 50, fol. 52r (‘Centuries’, III.26): The Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford