Timothy R. Jackson, ed. Frozen in Time: The Fagel Collection in the Library of Trinity College Dublin

Timothy R. Jackson, ed. Frozen in Time: The Fagel Collection in the Library of Trinity College Dublin. Dublin: The Lilliput Press, 2016. 262p., ill. ISBN 9781843516750. €50.00 (hardcover).

Frozen in Time is the first book-length study devoted to the Fagel Collection, shining light on the history and the political interests of the Fagel family as well as the materials that their members collected through time and which informed their governing decisions over the Netherlands from 1672 through the French Revolution. Historians of early modern Europe, of the book, of libraries, and of reading practices will find many topics of interest and new areas of study to explore as they read about the varied and extensive contents of the Fagel family collections.

Within the enticing book covers of this beautifully designed, printed, and illustrated volume are eleven papers selected from the September 4-6, 2008 symposium on the Fagel Collection held at Trinity College Library in Dublin, Ireland. The papers describe the history, cataloguing, acquisition, transportation, shelving, and contents of this massive collection, which comprises over 20,000 volumes, 11,000 maps and atlases, and numerous papers, manuscripts, and drawings. Originally catalogued by Christie’s for auction in 1802, the 10,000 lots were purchased as a whole by Trinity College, then shelved, and pretty much forgotten until now. Frozen in Time and the symposium that was the catalyst for this publication brought this vast collection to light for the first time in over two hundred years. The breadth and depth of the Fagel family’s collection is impressive: therein we find a range of valuable materials on politics, economics, history, geography, cartography, botany, and much more; indeed it covers all the subjects that the Greffiers – the Chancellors of the States-General (similar to prime ministers) of the Netherlands – needed to understand and oftentimes master in order to fulfill the tasks entrusted to them through their government appointments from 1672 (under William of Orange) until 1795 (their exile to England).

The volume opens gradually with a forward, a preface, and an introduction that each describes the collection as a whole and various aspects related to its sale, packing, journey, and shelving in the library of Trinity College. The fascinating topic of how Trinity College acquired the collection as well as the vast scope of the holdings are covered by several of the authors and are repeated as background in most of the papers. The genealogy of the family is also covered more than once.

Helga Robinson-Hammerstein sets the stage with the first essay in which she provides a useful history or evolution of libraries, scolae, and universities in medieval and early modern Europe thus setting the Fagel Collection in time and place. Theo Thomassen and Peter Fox write about the Fagels and, specifically, their place in Dutch society and politics, their downfall during the French Revolution, and the ways in which their collections document the owners/collectors themselves. John Loughman examines primary sources on tulipomania, including studies of tulips and other botanical drawings, while delving into costs for producing and collecting prints and paintings. Loughman’s essay is replete with black and white illustrations as well as color plates. William A. Kelly’s essay encourages scholars to explore firsthand the Fagel Collection and mine the riches of all sorts of primary and ephemeral material, made visible through the online catalog and further described in his essay and others.

Maps, atlases, and charts are a large part of the collection. David Brown from Trinity College expounds upon the breadth and scope of these cartographical documents, plain and illustrated, which encompass all that was known of geography and cartography from the beginning of the early modern period through the French Revolution. Beautiful color plates in the second section complement the information generously shared by the author. Also using extensive evidence from the Fagel Collection, Timothy R. Jackson’s essay examines the relationship of the Dutch to the Irish in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, leaving the door open for further investigation into this complex matter.

Four essays approach and describe the contents of the collection from a subject perspective, including literature, politics, religion, and philosophy. In his essay, Jason Harris reconstructs the thematic arrangement of the Fagel library from the auction catalogs and shelf marks. His second contribution explores the place of the classics (written in Latin, Greek, and Neo-Latin) within the collection. Clare E.L. Guest reflects on the Italian and humanistic literature that was commonly found in collections of this period while comparing the Fagel Collection with those of other contemporaneous collectors. Jaap Harskamp looks at the pamphlets found in the collection in relation to those located through the Short Title Catalogue Netherlands (STCN) and the output of Anglo-Dutch printers from 1540 through 1800. His essay expands our knowledge of the role and reach of Dutch printers in early modern Europe.

Frozen In Time is of interest not only to a specialized audience made up of historians and bibliographers, but also to a more general audience. While each chapter stands on its own, the authors connect their essays to the whole with some background about the collection itself and the role played by the Fagels in Dutch politics and culture. The book is aesthetically beautiful, particularly in the layout of the pages with their footnotes placed in a helpful and pleasing manner. It is an excellent example of a well-conceived and well-executed scholarly book that provides visually appealing examples of title pages, illustrations, drawings, and maps. It should be noted that three sets of color plates are interspersed amongst the numerous black and white examples. Woodcuts and colophons at the end of each essay will delight the readers and historians of print.

Miriam Kahn
Independent Scholar

Links to the collection:

Fagel Collection, Trinity College Library, Dublin, Ireland: http://www.tcd.ie/library/fagel/

Additional audio-visual materials pertaining to the Fagel Collection can be found on Youtube.