Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Activities for all!



We are busy prepping for our fantastic Family Activity Day this Saturday 30th April! These colouring sheets will be going through the printer tomorrow and we have lots of gorgeous pens, pencils and crayons for you to unleash your creative potential.

You can also try your hand at calligraphy, and our wonderful bookbinding friends will be coming along to demonstrate techniques and help you make your very own book to take home.

In addition to all this, there'll be the chance to wander round the Library and medieval buildings, sit at the desk used by Karl Marx, see the devil's hoofprint conjured up by John Dee, or imagine yourself as a priest walking along the stone cloisters.

We're open from 11am until 3pm and you can drop in any time and stay as long as you like. Don't miss out - book a place here and bring your family and friends along to see one of Manchester's hidden gems!

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

The uncertain glory of an April day...

Guest blog by Library volunteer, Patti Collins.

In between struggling with the uncertain glories of wind, rain, hail and snow over the last few weeks, we’ve been enjoying spring flowers, both in our gardens and in some of the books in the library’s collections. Our selections come from works published in the sixteenth, eighteenth and twentieth centuries and both text and images reflect the very different audiences for which each was designed.


From our 1551 edition of Leonhard Fuchs herbal, ‘De historia stirpium…’, come two charming little black and white woodcuts of cowslips, with handwritten notes (added by a seventeen century owner) giving their English names - ‘prymrose or vulgar cowslyppe’. Fuchs work was intended to enable fellow physicians to identify, collect and use plants with medicinal properties. Fuchs considered the illustrations so important that he actually included in the book a portrait of the three artists involved, and in the large folio editions the intention was that the black and white outlines would be accurately hand coloured to further assist with identification. Our copy is one of an edition designed to be compact and pocket sized, so that they could be used on field trips.


Our next cowslip is a simple, but delicate, hand coloured flower from the multi volume set ‘English Botany..’ published in 36 volumes between 1790 and 1814 by the botanist James Edward Smith, who wrote the text, and James Sowerby, who provided the illustrations. This work was aimed at the new wave of serious naturalists, botanists and collectors and combined accurate, scientific information with elegance of text and image.


Compared with Fuchs and Sowerby, the cowslip drawn by Robin Tanner, from the King Penguin volume ‘Flowers of the meadow’ published in 1950, seems a little pedestrian, although the text by Geoffrey Grigson is quite lyrical, including literary references, lines from poets and personal observations on the botany and ecology of meadows. To quote from our previous blog on the King Penguin series…Allan Lane described them as being designed 'to appeal to the general liking for illustrated keepsakes on special projects’, in other words aimed at an intelligent, but broad, general readership.


However, we also have a limited edition copy of ‘Robin Tanner: the etchings’ which includes images of spring flowers which Robin made for ‘Woodland plants’ written by his wife, Heather. These black and white etchings of fritillaries, daffodils and violets, have far more life and texture than those for ‘Flowers of the meadow’ and it seems obvious that they were intended for an appreciative group of art lovers and book collectors.


Finally, Sowerby’s ‘viola odorata' described by Smith as ‘The favourite violet, so justly esteemed for its delightful fragrance, is, like many other most desirable plants, frequently found wild and easily cultivated in the garden. It requires only a moderate degree of shade and moisture, and commonly flowers in March or April. A white flowered variety sometimes occurs, and a double one is preferred by florists, not merely  because it is unnatural but on account of its richer scent’.

Title from William Shakespeare’s The Two gentlemen of Verona

Smith, James Edward, Sir, 1759-1828.
English botany; or, Coloured figures of British plants, with their essential characters, synonyms, and places of growth…, 1790-1814

Fuchs, Leonhart, 1501-1566.
De historia stirpium commentarij insignes…,1591

Grigson, Geoffrey
Flowers of the meadow, 1950

Tanner, Robin, 1904-1988.
Robin Tanner : the etchings, c.1980

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Number Four in an Occasional Series of Stuff You Wouldn’t Expect us to Have - Underwear Catalogue, 1938

What is it?

Affleck and Brown opened in the 1860s in Oldham Street, Manchester (just down the road from us). Beginning as a drapery business, the shop grew to be a fully-fledged department store, before being bought by Debenhams in the 1950s. Not to be confused with the still thriving Affleck's (formerly Affleck's Palace), the store closed in 1973. This is the 1938 catalogue from its annual sale.

What is its significance?

It could be argued that the catalogue is an excellent snapshot of a bygone age, highlighting numerous different aspects of pre-WWII society, including fashion, language, home life etc.. A time capsule in print form. However, we've got because we find it funny.

How did we acquire it?

The catalogue was recently purchased from Turnstock Collectables, one of our favourite sources of ephemera. Unfortunately, and bafflingly in this day, Turnstock do not have a website and you need to be sent their catalogue. When asked how one would go about getting sent a copy, our Librarian, Michael Powell, replied "Errr...I don't remember."

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Nibbles, Tat and Myths - An Evening with the Library Patrons

Last month, the Patrons of Chetham’s Library were invited to attend a special evening with our artists- in-residence, iOrganic. iOrganic are a Manchester-based performing arts company who took up residence in the Library for a six week period in February, exploring the myths and legends that we have acquired over the years. The group sought to collect stories about the building – whether true or not – through delving into the collection, interviewing visitors and through social media interactions.


On the evening, after drinks and nibbles, Librarian Michael Powell gave a talk to the Patrons about various objects within our collection - objects that he so affectionately referred to as ‘tat.’ This was indeed a collection of the weird and the wonderful: from the diary of a family car (including the date of every time the petrol tank was filled up) to a calendar for illiterates. These may not be our most historically significant items in our collection but they are an example of just some of the peculiar objects we have picked up along the way and the stories behind them are often equally as fascinating.

iOrganic then took centre stage to give Patrons an ‘unofficial’ tour of the Library. With just torches to guide them, guests were able to see the Library in a new light and, using closed-off passageways, presses and audio material, a truly immersive experience was created. The tour was designed to light-heartedly question our faith in official histories of heritage sites, and the quick-pace mix of the ridiculous and the sublime did indeed make us question what could be true and what was not.


Despite the unexpected snow we experienced on the day, we would like to thank the Patrons for joining us for what we hope was an enjoyable evening.

The Patrons of Chetham’s Library are integral to helping us stay open, free of charge, to the public. Each week, it costs £4,000 to open the Library and money raised from Patronage directly funds some of these necessary costs, so we really do appreciate their support. If you would like to learn more about becoming a Patron, please visit our website here.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Family Activity Day


If you are in the Manchester area on Saturday 30th April, why not pop along to our brilliant Family Activity Day? We're open from 11am until 3pm and you can drop in any time and stay as long as you like.

Come and get involved with heraldic calligraphy, craft bookbinding, and amazing colouring from the pages of our inspirational collection.

In addition to all this, there'll be the chance to wander round the Library and medieval buildings, sit at the desk used by Karl Marx, see the devil's hoofprint conjured up by John Dee, or imagine yourself as a priest walking along the stone cloisters.

Don't miss out - book a place here and bring your family and friends along to see one of Manchester's hidden gems!


Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Number Three in an Occasional Series of Stuff You Wouldn’t Expect us to Have - Get Your Rocks Off

What is it?

Some rocks. Some pottery. And some mortar.

What is its significance?

We used to jokingly refer to these as the Library's Box of Rocks. However, when they were recently shown to Library Patrons (as part of a larger display of some of our curiosities), a member of the audience pointed out that there were several late medieval ridge tiles as well as possible Roman mortar. Now we still refer to them as the Library's Box of Rocks, just with a little more respect.

How did we acquire it?

We don't know. They've been stored in a wooden margarine box for the last hundred years. We guess that they came to us as part of the collection of Joseph James Phelps. Phelps was associated with a number of archaeological excavations in Manchester around the early years of the twentieth century and we think that these objects were found during one or more of these digs.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Wedding Open Day this Sunday!


Are you looking for a beautiful, intimate medieval wedding venue in the heart of the city centre? Do you know someone who is?

We have a special open day this Sunday 3 April from 11.30 until 3pm and would love you to join us for a glass of fizz! Come and look round the library and medieval buildings and chat with our wonderful event partners Vanilla in Allseasons.

We look forward to seeing you there!