Thursday, 30 July 2015

Gardening up north

Wrap up warm, don your wellies and grab your umbrella - its time to celebrate the Rainy City’s summer garden festival again. Dig the City 2015 kicks off tomorrow and runs until Thursday 6th August, and appropriately here at the library we’ve been looking at the first gardening book written specifically for those of us who garden in northern climes.

A new orchard and garden was first published together with The country housewives garden in 1618. Our copy is actually from 1638, but the book was highly popular and was reprinted many times over the course of the seventeenth century.

Even in the (exceptionally long) title, William Lawson’s book makes it clear that, unusually, he is aiming his book at northern readers and equally unusually he has added a gardening book written for women:

A new orchard and garden, or, The best way for planting, grafting, and to make any ground good for a rich orchard: particularly in the north and generally for the whole kingdome of England, as in nature, reason, situation and all probabilitie, may and doth appeare. With the country housewifes garden for hearbes of common use, their vertues, seasons, profits, ornaments, variety of knots, models for trees, and plots for the best ordering of grounds and walkes. As also the husbandry of bees, with their seuerall uses and annoyances, all being the experience of 48 yeares labour, and now the third time corrected and much enlarged, by William Lawson. Whereunto is newly added the art of propagating plants, with the true ordering of all manner of fruits, in their gathering, carrying home and preservation.

Lawson was a long-lived Yorkshire parson and a real ‘hands on’ gardener: he declares his book to be written from ‘my meer and sole experience, without respect to any former-written Treatise’. His two passions were orchards and bees and he covers all aspects of his subjects, soil management, planting and pruning, the construction of beehives, the control of various ‘nuisances’ (including birds, deer and moles) and the harvesting of fruits and honey.

Lawson refers several times to the difficulties of the local environment and warns his fellow northern gardeners to ‘meddle not with Apricockes nor Peaches, nor scarcely with Quinces, which will not like our cold parts’. He also stresses how important it is to keep bees in weatherproof accommodation using a good northern term to explain that the ‘nesh Bee can neither abide cold or wet’!

However, he writes lyrically of the pleasures of an orchard: ‘your trees standing in comely order which way soever you look … your borders on every side hanging and drooping with Feberries, Raspberries, Barberries, Currents and the roots of your trees powdred with Strawberries, red,white and green, what pleasure is this?

Interestingly, in his advice to the country housewife, Lawson advises that every household should maintain two gardens, a kitchen garden and a flower garden. He suggests that the reason for this is that ‘your garden flowers shall suffer some disgrace if among them you intermingle onions, parsnips etc’.

The woodcuts which illustrate the book are delightful (Lawson tell us that he instructed the publisher to expend ‘much cost and care … in having the Knots and Models by the best Artizan cut’) They include patterns for knot gardens (the little prancing horse and the man with a sword represent topiary designs) and images of gardeners, sporting some very jaunty headwear, digging and planting.

Lawson’s summary of the satisfaction to be gained from gardening remains as true today as it was for his seventeenth century readers: ‘whereas every other pleasure commonly fills some one of or senses, and that only, with delight, this makes all our senses swim in pleasure’.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Is there a doctor in the house?

In these days of rising costs, waiting lists and funding threats to the NHS, almost everyone can relate to an exhibition that looks at the doctor-patient relationship. Last term, a group of students from the University of Manchester’s MA programme in Art Gallery and Museum Studies took that theme for one of their assessed modules, creating an exhibition proposal centring on books, manuscripts and prints from the Library's collection, and a selection of historical medical instruments from the Manchester Museum of Medicine and Health.

They had so much fun working on the project, that this summer they've returned, laden with doctor's bag and eager to turn that proposal into reality. The exhibition, which opens on 17 July, explores how the development of technical aides has changed the doctor-patient relationship, perhaps adding an element of impersonality, even as the implements have aided diagnosis.

Next Thursday evening, 16 July, Sense & Diagnosis formally opens with a special exhibition preview and performance event that is open to all.  See / Hear / Touch will feature one-to-one performances around the Library by Ayaka Furukawa, iOrganic, Tom Parkinson, River Lin and Andrew Houston. These performers will explore the relationship between the senses of sight, hearing and touch and medical diagnosis. The performances draw on a variety of influences, from personal experience and medical equipment to research into historical diagnosis techniques. The curators' blog is well worth a read, providing more information about the Thursday evening performance, as well as insight into how the exhibition was curated.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Belle Vue Bingo!

Chetham's Library Belle Vue Collection takes to the road again. This Saturday the 4th of July we will be at Mecca Bingo on Hyde Road in Gorton showing ephemera and artifacts from the Belle Vue Collection, including circus and zoo guides, photos, handbills and postcards. See a demonstration of our Virtual Belle Vue online photo archive! 

We will be joined by Belle Vue historians and collectors Brian Selby and Frank Rhodes, who will be talking about Belle Vue, and showing artifacts from their remarkable collections. Frank will have copies of his entertaining and informative books on the history of Belle Vue for sale. Come say hello, and maybe play a game or two of bingo while you are at it.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Chetham's in the naughty nineties

The 1890s, that is - the original and best naughty nineties, as our governing body the Library Committee insists. Many of them remember the period well and are still hoping for the Gibson Girl look to come back. We're grateful to Mrs Hazel Frances for coming all the way to the library to make us a gift of a splendid set of late Victorian postcard views of the dear Alma Mater, intended for the halfpenny post for postcards introduced not long before. Not a great deal has changed about the bones of the building and its main furnishings, but the detail has changed a little and they are full of atmosphere.

The tympanum in the Library's Reading Room, with Chetham's coat of arms. Many of the institution's portraits in oils used to hang here.

The stairs here now lead up to the flat of the Head of Chetham's School

The cloisters have changed barely at all

The desk in the Reading Room famous for the visits of Marx and Engels in 1845.We still have the pyramidal top, but it's not usually in use.

The Reading Room again, the central table pictured here without its large false top.The fireplace seems to have had some rather nice tiles, and again more art on the walls.

The Baronial Hall when it was still the refectory for the boys of Chetham's Hospital. 
The oak benches are now in the school library, but not much has changed.

The 'river steps' - already by the date of this picture the River Irk wasculverted away under Victoria Station and its associate access roads.

The 'Tudor Buffet' sounds rather as if you're going to a dodgy Christmas party, and we now believe this unusual item to be made up from an important late-medieval bed.

'The wickets' - reference to a wicket gate? 

The view towards the Audit Room, very little changed today,though our Chinese bell was not in its current position yet.

And finally the 'Secret Chamber', which we have long regarded as being called 'the Scriptorium' by the Victorians. It is neither secret nor a scriptorium.

Why not come down and see the place as it now is? Here are the details for visitors.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

‘It had not been my intention to write a journal…’

A small journal written by a young lady from Jersey will be the focus of today’s post. Miss Mary Ann Lemprière began her journal on 6 January 182[5], the day she left her home to travel to Plymouth. She commences her journal by stating:
'It had not been my intention to write a journal but so many pleasant circumstances have happened which ought to be brought back to my recollection that I [shall] briefly state what has taken place'.
Throughout her journal Mary frequently refers to her brother and sister and travel companions, George and Jane. Following their arrival at Plymouth, where they spend a week in quarters at the Royal Hotel, they visit Bodmin and Launceston, before departing for France 'on Saturday morning at 6 o clock 3rd September 1825'.
Two pen and ink drawings accompany the text
The evening before departure Mary allows a friend to fill a page of her journal:
‘With Miss Mary Ann Lemprière’s permission a young man of the name of Frederick [Jauroin] opened this book [and] with the assistance of one of Miss Jane’s best drawing pencils was enabled to commence an interesting journal of her travels from the Isle of Jersey across the vast ocean which separates it from France [and] after having amused her readers made her readers shudder at the description of this sea voyage which was fraught with dangers of every kind she once more gets a footing on dry land then behold the scene changes on a sudden to the sublime [and] beautiful. The city of Granville is painted in all those glowing colours which so eminently distinguish the fair author’s style.’

They arrive at the port of Granville at half past nine in the evening, following an uncomfortable journey:
‘we sailed … for Granville expecting from the state of the weather to reach that port in 6 hours. But who can form plans on the water without being liable to be defeated in them!’
 As she travels to Paris Mary describes in detail the scenery of rural France. She has a particular interest in the architecture of domestic buildings and churches, occasionally roughly sketching parts of buildings to illustrate her text.

During their time in Paris Mary and her companions visit theatres, galleries and gardens and admire the fine architecture. They attend a number of plays and recitals, and spend an evening in the famous Théâtre de Vaudeville, which left her party unimpressed:
‘we were not much delighted with the musick and performance[s]’.
They have a more enjoyable time when they visit the Jardin des Plantes:
‘We were very much amused with a sight of the different outlandish animals and some beautiful birds.’
They also enjoy their visit to the ‘magnificent gallery of the Louvre’ and Notre-Dame Cathedral, which Mary says is ‘the finest Gothic I have seen since Rouen Cathedral’. The party leave Paris to travel to Rouen, and then back to Granville, where Mary ends her journal complaining of a hotel room with filthy floors and full of fleas.
'beds rather damp as at Caen ... however slept tolerably took our meals in George's room whilst at Granville ... attendance bad and floors filthy.'
Mary uses her journal as a notebook, filling it with accounts, copies of letters and various jottings

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Stone circles

As symbols of British summertime, the solstice and Stonehenge go together like strawberries and cream or mud and Glastonbury. With this in mind, we have been browsing through William Stukeley's book Stonehenge a temple restor'd to the British druids… published in 1740.

The historian Rosemary Hill writes of Stukeley that 'He was..the first person to realise that the thing [Stonehenge] was oriented in some way with the solstice... and once you do that, you are no longer in the business of just measuring things and digging things. You are now involved with something that has purpose, motive and meaning - so you have to try to work out what that might be'. 

Stukeley was from a Lincolnshire family, studied and practiced medicine and was eventually ordained and moved to a living in Stamford, Lincolnshire in 1730. His interests were many and varied. He became a fellow of the Royal Society and a friend of Isaac Newton. He joined the Masons and was a founder member of the Society of Antiquaries, and he took great pleasure in travelling up and down the country exploring antiquities, old buildings and ruins, including Stonehenge and Avebury, which at this time were being raided by locals to provide stone for building cottages, barns, pig sties etc.

Stukeley was well read and undoubtedly knew of the theories published by previous researchers on the origins of the stone circles, notably by Inigo Jones and John Aubrey. The most Notable Antiquity of Great Britain, Vulgarly called Stone-Heng on Salisbury Plain, Restored by Inigo Jones Esquire was loosely based on Jones notes but actually published posthumously in 1655 by John Webb. He had concluded that Stonehenge, since it was a structure of ‘elegancy and proportion’, had been erected not by the native Britons but by the Romans. In the mid seventeenth century the antiquary John Aubrey surveyed both circles and eventually published Monumenta Britannica, or, A miscellanie of British antiquities, in 1693. He concluded that the circles were attributable to peoples native to the British Isles and that, based on references by classical authors, this could only have been the priests known as Druids.

Stukeley undertook his own extensive fieldwork at Stonehenge and Avebury during the summers between 1718 and 1724. He made new discoveries - for example the earthwork avenue and the astronomical alignment of the stones - and although some of his interpretations were imaginative but incorrect, he laid the foundation for much of the research by future scholars. His book was based on the many notes, sketches, drawings, and measurements that he made.

 Stukeley is described as 'having drawn all his life' and his illustrations for the book manage to combine scientific detail with considerable quirky charm. Many of the images are so large that they are folded into place within the book's pages. He chooses to indicate scale in almost every landscape by including human figures - visiting tourists, bewigged gentlemen either on horseback or standing gesticulating at the stones with their walking sticks, ladies with fans, a reclining artist or a shepherd and his dog. 

Stukeley's interest in the stone circles became a very personal obsession - alongside his other interests he was an enthusiastic garden designer and his ideas on religion and the early British druids are clearly reflected in his designs for his own gardens. In October 1728 Stukeley writes to his friend Samuel Gale: 'If you enquire what I am now about: I am making a Temple of the Druids, as I call it, tis thus. There is a circle of tall filbord trees in the nature of a hodg [hedge], which is 70 feet in diameter, round it is a walk 15 foot broad circular too... When you enter the innermost circle or temple, you see in the centre an ancient appletree overgrown with sacred mistletoe...'

Thursday, 18 June 2015

The most cruel of all goddesses

The most cruel of all goddesses, a new film by Declan Clarke, is currently showing at the new HOME arts and cinema complex in Manchester. We feature as one of the locations in the film, which takes an oblique look at the life of Friedrich Engels. Engels famously studied at Chetham's Library with his friend and collaborator Karl Marx, and the desk where they worked together is a frequent place of pilgrimage for many of our politically minded visitors.