Wednesday, 25 March 2015

A Dicey moment for Tricky Dicky?

Among Chetham's Library's Halliwell-Phillipps collection lurks another item of anti-Richard III black propaganda. If you're a committed Ricardian, you may not consider it such an excellent song; 

but William Dicey, who seems to have printed this about 1720, certainly wasn't here to sing Richard's praises. What with all the Bosworthing that's been going on, you'll remember that Richard wan't Edward IV's only possible heir - so what happened in the tower? Dicey knows!

 So as we come to bury Richard tomorrow, are we interring the good deeds with his bones (apols to Caesar, Brutus and Shakespeare)? Is the continuing row over his reputation really the evil that he did, living on after him? Is Professor Starkey right in identifying our Yorkist king's fans as 'loons'? As many years of debate on both sides comes to a head (crowned or otherwise), regular readers of this sage blog will not be surprised if they don't come to a conclusion. Dicey's broadside goes into considerable detail about the complex web of family relationships that fed the Wars of the Roses, but he doesn't appear to have cared to spend anything on a new woodcut for his illustration:

Some rough dealings by vaguely gaoler-ish types, but the victim seems both too old and too solitary to stand for the young princes.

Thanks to James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps' passion for the single-sheet item (he gave us over 3,000 of them), you can read the Dicey tale for yourselves, and perhaps even try to sing along with the lyric.

As a Library that likes to maintain scholarly balance, we reserve judgement, but offer our dusty blessings to roses red and white.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Eclipse fever, 18th century style

 Manchester eclipsed? Panic rising? A dastardly scheme by Liverpool? Surely not! Only partially eclipsed, and this was the view from the Library roof around 9 o'clock:

But today's eclipse put us in mind of the total eclipse of 1715, known as Halley's eclipse thanks to Edmond Halley's remarkably successful predictions. His predicted timings were off by only four minutes.

Not quite 300 years ago (22 April 1715, in the Old Style Julian year Britain used then), eclipse fever was building, and then as now a great deal of material was published about it. Here at Chetham's we collected not only a sheet published under his signature predicting the path of the eclipse, Description of the passage of the shadow of the moon, over England, in the total eclipse of the sun, on the 22d. day of April 1715 in the morning, over England, but also his later Description of the passage of the shadow of the moon, over England, in the total eclipse of the sun, on the 22d. day of April 1715 in the morning, which triumphantly showed how well the predictions had worked.

  The mathematics may have eluded the masses, but as we learn (thank you, OU!) from the Penny London Post or The Morning Advertiser, issue 753, March 4, 1748, in which another panic was being run for its own times: 'In 1715, was a great ECLIPSE of the SUN, and was presently followed by the rebellion at Preston.'

We urge readers to calm their nerves and not to worry - until the next eclipse ...

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Sail away

These fantastic ink sketches come from a recently purchased volume which celebrates the Manchester Ship Canal. The identity of the artist is unknown, but he or she created 13 meticulous drawings of the Canal, Barton aqueduct and various ships, including the Tabaristan and the Nero.

At the back of the volume there is a plan of the Ship Canal and a scale drawing detailing the dimensions of the docks, along with some facts and figures about the Port of Manchester, the Dock Estate, locks and oil tankage. Anyone interested in discovering more about the 36-mile-long inland waterway, which opened for traffic on 1 January 1894, will be fascinated to learn that the Canal was navigated regularly by “twin-screw vessels of 12,500 tons D[ead] W[eight]”. Regular lines sailed along the Canal to ports in numerous countries including Canada, the United States, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, India, Greece, Syria and Russia. 

The manuscript appears to have been created some time shortly after 1905, the year “dock no. 9”, then the largest of the docks, opened for business. Its creator’s eye for detail can be seen in the information he or she provides as well as the illustrations. The “Particulars of Tankage Installation” are provided, along with notes about the Dock Estate’s two grain elevators (with a capacity of 40,000 tons each), the several portable elevators, and the “14 five floor transit sheds filled with most modern appliances”. 

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Happy Days

'Happy days.' We heard that phrase many times during the course of Sunday and Monday when our Belle Vue Project Team escaped from the confines of their office into the glory that is Gorton Monastery. Carrying a stack of ephemera, two computers primed with recently scanned digital images of the zoo and pleasure garden and some large-scale posters of some of our favourite images, we hoped to engage with people who had actually visited Belle Vue Gardens in its heyday. 

The doors opened at noon on Sunday, but even before then the crowd gathered; by Monday afternoon over 1000 people had turned out and generously shared stories and memories of happy days and nights spent at Belle Vue. We saw Speedway tattoos, old photographs of Consul the Chimp, and Top Ten Club membership cards with Jimmy Savile's name scrawled across. We were thrilled to be entrusted with Tommy Kelly's treasured scrapbooks full of photos of his father Matt Kelly, the renowned Zoo Keeper, so that they might be included in the online archive. The following day saw Derek 'the Mudguard' Adrian with a Belle Vue scrapbook for us under one arm and Belle Vue artist Syd Lane's son in tow. Mr Lane showed us fabulous photos of his father painting firework backdrop models and promised to come to the Library so we can scan those, too. 

Friends and fellow Belle Vue enthusiasts swelled our ranks: Frank Rhodes brought his local history books to sell, including the ever-popular Belle Vue; Graham Moss came with a printing press ready to help people print Belle Vue Roadshow Keepsakes, and Brian Selby displayed items from his glorious Belle Vue souvenir collection including a cup and saucer with a lion transfer that we eyed with pure envy. 

Both days offered Belle Vue-related talks. On Sunday Livi Michael's reading of her short story 'For One Day Only' captivated the crowd, while Monday featured Stephen Sayers reading from his evocative novel about growing up in the shadow of Belle Vue. Both days included Frank and Brian's popular double act relating the history of Belle Vue, Brian's slideshow punctuated with Frank's humerous anecdotes. Balladeer Jen Reid sang Belle Vue Ballads from the Library's collection before the more formal talks. The Histories Festival loaned banners from last year's exhibition, and the Monastery, in addition to providing the stately venue, and invaluable support, laid on games for the children, a remarkably good cafe, and a friendly welcome for all. 

Outreach is often portrayed as a gift from a museum or library to the local community. We 'give back' to the community, we share 'our' precious collections. These two days were a powerful reminder that outreach is a two-way street. Although it was great fun to see how much pleasure our collection provided, we gained far more than we gave. 

The stories and memories we heard filled gaps in our understanding that we didn't even realise were there. Meeting person after person who worked at Belle Vue underlined the economic impact of Belle Vue, and helped us better understand how the loss of Belle Vue was so much more than just 'the end of an era' or 'fun times past', but a real hardship for those whose livelihoods were inextricably bound up with the zoo, circus, restaurants, rides, stalls and hundreds of other jobs. The importance of the role Belle Vue played within the community was brought  home to us time after time.

Colleagues whose enthusiasm for the Library's medieval manuscripts and early modern books have sometimes blinded them to the wonders of circus guides or photos of elephant rides were as moved as we were by the sheer number of people and their amazing stories. We are amused (and rather smug) that they are now as enthusiastic as we are about the value of our Esm√©e Fairbairn Collections Trust grant-funded Belle Vue Project. Bringing Belle Vue back may be an impossibility, but this weekend renewed our conviction that its chapter in Manchester's history must never be forgotten.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Music and Manuscript

Whilst Chetham’s Library doesn’t specialise in music, it does have quite large holdings of music. These range from liturgical pieces from the fifteenth-century to late nineteenth-century folk songs and ballads, and includes a wealth of seventeenth and eighteenth-century material, including pieces by Purcell, Handel, Blow and Eccles. 

This event provides an opportunity to hear some of the music contained in the historic Library and to visit the Library to see an exhibition of some of its musical treasures. 

Book online here. We recommend booking in advance to avoid disappointment as tickets may sell out on the day.

A journal, commenced Dec 1st 1820

We have just acquired a fascinating addition to our manuscript collection in the form of a 19th-century journal. Begun on 1 December 1820 and concluded in February 1822, the journal was written by a 14 year-old boy, C. Whitworth from Manchester. He records a tour with his papa to Buxton, London and Brighton, and across the Channel to Dieppe, Rouen, St. Germain en Laye and Paris.

There are seventeen engraved plates in the journal, two of which are hand-coloured. An engraving of Brighton Pavilion is accompanied by a detailed description of the 'elegant structure, built in the Chinese form'. His account of Paris, where he spent four weeks, covers 38 pages, and includes detailed priced lists of the menu at their hotel – the soups, hors d’oeuvres, entries of beef, veal, mutton and fish, fancy dishes and wines. In London he particularly enjoyed the 'new pantomime of Mother Bunch', and they also saw Othello at Drury Lane, and the new comedy of Tom and Jerry at the Adelphi. The journal concludes with their return to Lancashire where they 'shortly arrived at the Temple'.


Although little is known of the author, he appears to have belonged to the Whitworth family of Manchester, a member of which founded a woollen manufactory, and we know what he looked like thanks to a pencil sketch of him at the beginning of the volume.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Marx in red pencil

The article ‘A German Account of the Newton Review’ appeared in the Volunteer Journal for Lancashire and Cheshire on 14 September 1860. This article would not merit much attention today were it not for the fact that it was written by Friedrich Engels and was the first of a total of twenty-nine articles that Engels would contribute to the Volunteer Journal between September 1860 and March 1862.

The Volunteer Journal was established in Manchester and edited by Captain Isaac Hall and published by W.H. Smith and Sons, who sold it on their railway bookstalls. This first article by Engels, which appeared in only the second issue of the journal, was written as a review of the Volunteers held at Newton-le-Willows racecourse on 11 August 1860. It originally appeared in the Allegemeine Militärzeitung on 8 September and was then translated and reprinted in the Volunteer Journal

According to Karl Marx, the article was sensational and made a stir in the London newspapers and was even reviewed in the Observer. But as Engels pointed out, this was not without some effort on the author’s part. Engels had sent copies of the Journal to all the London newspapers with his own article marked in red pencil. It was strangely unavoidable.