Thursday, 21 July 2016

Fashionable Amusements

One of our wonderful Manchester scrapbooks is always referred to as ‘Cambrics’ - a rather curious name which simply describes the original fabric which covered the scrapbook. Within the book is a rich assortment of what the donor refers to as ‘handbills’ which cover topics as diverse as theatrical performances, a set of rules for the Coffee House, notices and reports of political and trade meetings, and a small collection of very early bills advertising local circus performances.

The term circus comes from the Latin for circle and was first used by the Romans to describe the entertainments staged in their amphitheatres. Our modern usage dates from the eighteenth century, when the showmen Philip Astley and Charles Dibdin developed equestrian entertainments which were performed in circular spaces with the audience seated around the sides (Dibdin was actually the first to use the word ‘circus’ in his advertising). Animals were popular but demonstrations of equestrian skills or ‘trick riding’  were always at the centre of these shows.

Three of our circus bills advertise the performances of Philip Astley’s ‘troop’. The earliest is dated 5 March 1773 and announces:
‘Horsemanship. Mr Astley and pupils will exhibit their various feats, in a manner quite new and surprising, in a field opposite to Strangeways gardens, this afternoon, being Friday, exactly at three o’clock’. The images of the horses and riders have great charm, although the animals do tend to resemble rocking horses. One of the riders has a banner flying above his head which says ‘I’m only five years old’.
By December of 1787, Astley is describing his show as being ‘By his majesty’s royal letters patent. At the riding house in Tib-street…a grand display of various exercises, by Astley’s company of dancers, tumblers, vaulters, and musical performers, on several horses.’ The individual acts are all listed and include ‘a minuet by two horses’ the ‘Metamorphose of the Sack by Mr Lansdale’ and ‘several feats on horseback by a young lady, Miss Vangibles. Performances are peculiar to herself - first appearance in Manchester…’

Philip Astley (1742-1814) is usually credited with the invention of the first circus. He had joined the dragoons at the age of 17 and became famous for his prowess at riding and breaking in horses. In 1768 after leaving the army he set up his own riding school and he and his wife began performing various tricks  and equestrian feats, for which they charged spectators 6d or a shilling to watch. The business flourished and Astley toured his performers to fairs, markets, race meetings and pleasure gardens all over the country.

Horses moving around a circular space are much easier for equestrian performers, as centrifugal force helps them to balance. Over the years Astley developed covered rings and tiered seating and constructed temporary rings for use when travelling.

Other circus shows in Manchester were from Mr Jones in 1784, whose show was to be staged ‘at the riding school near the Infirmary’ and two bills for the New Circus in 1793. One features Mr Parker ‘on his young charger’ demonstrating for one night only the ‘various evolutions of the Broadsword’. The dramatic image depicts Mr Parker, dressed as a hussar, brandishing his sword on his rearing steed.
 The other New Circus poster shows Mr Smith who ‘leaps thro a balloon and lights on the saddle’ although he looks strangely immobile and appears to be weighed down by the huge feathers crowning his hat.
The poster for the Olympic Circus at the Minor Theatre is a later date, 1817, and offers the spectacle of ‘a Country Dance by Six Horses’ and also ‘Miss Bannister the intrepid female Equestrian’ who, in an encouraging example of female emancipation, is demonstrating the Six Divisions of the Broad Sword Exercise.
Circuses remained hugely popular over the next hundred years and Brenda Assail, in her book The Circus and Victorian Society, records that Lancashire had more circus performances in the nineteenth century than any other county and that in Manchester between 1847 and 1848 alone, the public enjoyed 120 performances.

We’ve recently had some very good news relating to Cambrics and our circus posters, as the library has received a grant from the Arts Council’s Designation Development Fund which will enable us to digitise our collection of single sheet material (broadsides, ballads and ephemera).

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The Ballad of Chetham's Library

We are delighted to announce we have recently been successful in our application to the Arts Council’s Designation Development Fund. The money we will receive means we can now digitise our incredibly popular collection of single sheet material comprising broadsides, ballads and ephemera.

The collection is a rarity amongst museum collections consisting largely of sixteenth to nineteenth century printed ephemera such as song sheets, posters, proclamations and trade cards. These materials were largely produced for a quick sale or distribution and not intended for long term survival. Stuck to walls or crammed into pockets, torn and lost, the surviving pieces are rare and yet many thousands of examples lie within our archive.

The collection we are now fortunate enough to make available online includes:

Halliwell-Phillips Collection: 3,100 items of printed ephemera including royal proclamations, broadsides, ballads, poems, sheet music, trade cards, bill headings and advertisements. The proclamations date from the reign of Charles I, but most of the items are from the end of the seventeenth and early eighteenth century.


The Cambrics Scrapbook: One of the most important collections of broadsides, broadsheets, and single-sheet pamphlets in the Library, most of which are unique. Its 254 broadsides range from light-hearted theatre posters and entertainment handbills to discussions of some of the most serious political issues facing England at the end of the eighteenth century. The earliest piece dates from 1739 and the latest 1848; over two-thirds of them, especially the more political broadsheets, come from the years 1789-1800, the turbulent decade of the French Revolution, when Manchester's populace was also stirred by the spirit of Republicanism.


The Holt Ballad sheets: Collection of street songs and ballads published in Manchester and the North West during the mid-nineteenth century, containing over 400 broadsides with around 940 individual songs, many being in local dialect or relating to specific local characters and events.


The Axon Ballad collection: The Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society's Axon Ballad collection. The collection consists of 132 sheets containing 280 ballads. This collection already has good digital surrogates online, and so we will focus on providing them with essential metadata through this project. 


The William Robert Hay Collection: Collection of 286 broadsides, ballads and poems, many of which are rare examples of provincial printing. Hay (1761-1839) was a clerical magistrate and stipendiary chairman of the Salford Quarter Sessions acting at Peterloo and the material is recognised as one of the most significant collections in the country relating to the build up and aftermath of the Peterloo massacre. As we approach the 200th anniversary in 2019, this collection takes on added significance; making it available digitally will make a significant impact on the continuing scholarship of early C19th radicalism and loyalism.


The rarity and fragility of these works, in addition to their use by people such as artist Jeremy Deller, singer Jen Reed and musician Eliza Carthy, has generated a fervent interest; interest that, due to the delicate nature of the pieces and the capacity of the Library staff, we have often been unable to meet.

Furthermore, the collection has already proved a rich source of knowledge, having been the subject of numerous academic publications on Baroque music and used for teaching classes within the Library at undergraduate and postgraduate level. However, these have all required scholars to be able to physically access the pieces. We have separately received over 50 academic research requests in just the last few years directly requesting digital surrogates of the collection.

The digitisation of these works, thanks to the generosity of the Arts Council, will now allow us to make the collection available to academics, students and the general public, worldwide.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Thursday Lates


We're open again this Thursday until 8.30... come along and enjoy wandering through the medieval buildings in the early evening light, see some books, relax in the Library. We'd love to see you there!

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Waste Not Want Not

The collection of John Byrom, which we acquired in 1870 from a descendant of the poet,  is especially interesting for a number of reasons. 

First, it contains some of the Library’s best manuscripts, including the Aulus Gellius that belonged to Matthias Corvinas, King of Hungary, Humphrey Duke of Gloucester’s copy of Coluccio Salutati, and a C15th hymnale produced for the brothers at Syon Abbey which was later bound at the Caxton bindery. Second, it shows how a collection was put together. Byrom’s journal documents his sickness of book buying, with numerous accounts of visits to booksellers and auctions. Many of the books in his collection can be matched against his journal entries, showing when and where he acquired a particular book and how much he paid for it. Third, and perhaps more importantly, Byrom did not go in for much in the way of rebinding and many of his books are in the same condition today as they were when he acquired them. Often this means the same tatty condition. Byrom was certainly never likely to have got worked up over pristine condition. The result is that Byrom’s books often contain fascinating provenance information.


This is illustrated by two books. First a two volume edition of the works of Origen, printed in Paris in 1530 by Jean Petit and Josse Badius. Both volumes Byrom’s signature on the front pastedown and also signatures of two previous C17th owners: Jo: Wold and  Jo: Jackson. The volumes were bound in a contemporary full calf binding on wooden boards and blind tooled to a panel design. The design consists of a central panel composed of three vertical strips of a metal roll with a design of griffins, wiverns and lions surrounded by an intersecting border of the same roll which continues to edges of boards. The roll contains the initials N.S. (possibly the Cambridge binder Nicholas Spierinck: the roll was used in Canbridge bindings from 1521-33). There is evidence of clasps and both volumes have a contemporary manuscript fore-edge titles; one reading "Tomi duo priores Origens" and the other reading "Tomi 3⁰ & 4⁰ Origens”.


Volume 1 has a leaf of a 15th-century English manuscript on civil law bound as back pastedown, whilst the second volume has another leaf of the same manuscript bound as front pastedown and a leaf from a different 13th or 14th-century manuscript on canon law bound as back pastedown. Both volumes have extensive manuscript marginal annotations in Latin in a variety of 16th century hands throughout.


The second example is an edition of the Catecheses of Saint Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, which was printed in Antwerp in 1564 as a co-edition of Christopher Plantin and the Cologne bookseller Maternus Cholinus. Byrom signed the copy on the title page giving the date of its acquisition as 'Ap. 18. 1722'. The book  is bound in a late 16th-century dark calf binding, with blind thin thick thin fillet border, and blind floral centrepiece on both boards. There is one leaf of vellum manuscript waste at front and back containing part of a breviary, in red and black, with many musical notations, and initials alternately rubricated in red and inked in blue.


So what lessons can we draw from Byrom’s book collection? One very important one for book historians and librarians and that is that that we should not rebind books and lose valuable provenance information. Keep material in original condition wherever possible, even if this is tatty condition. Rebinding books is for suckers.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Dr. Ferriar or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and See Ghosts

We are very pleased to announce a new acquisition, John Ferriar’s An essay towards a theory of apparitions (1813), purchased from one of our favourite bookshops, Ken Spelman of York. 

Ferriar (1761-1815), was a Scottish physician and a poet, but particularly noted in Manchester for his leadership of the Infirmary, and for his studies of the causes of diseases such as typhoid. In the theory of apparitions Ferriar set forward an argument that spectral illusions were to be traced to disorders and diseases of the human bodily apparatus. Ferriar considered it a fact that ‘the forms of dead, or absent persons have been seen, and their voices have been heard, by witnesses whose testimony is entitled to belief’. How then to explain these occurrences among people classed as ‘normal’ and ‘sane’? For Ferriar apparitions could be explained by what he termed a ‘renewal of external impressions’ through which a visual memory could be reanimated via the visual sense; a sort of 'waking dreams composed of the shreds and patches of past sensations’.

John Ferriar, sporting a stunning quiff

The theory of apparitions was Ferriar’s last published work. It was preceded by his Medical Histories and Reflections, a series of medical papers 3 vols (1792-98) the poem Bibliomania, an Epistle to Richard Heber, Esq. (1809), and his best-known book, Illustrations of Sterne, with other Essays and Verses (1798; 2nd edn, 2 vols., with additions, 1812), in which he traced Sterne's indebtedness to older French novelists.

Laurence Sterne's signature in Le Moyen de Parvenir

Ferriar’s books at the Library are especially interesting for their provenance. Our copy of vol. 1 of his Medical Histories and Reflections was owned at one time by Edward Jenner, the pioneer of the smallpox vaccination. A copy of BĂ©roalde de Verville’s Le Moyen de Parvenir (1757) came into Ferriar’s possession from Richard Heber. But before Heber the book was owned by Laurence Sterne and contains his inscription on the flyleaf of vol. 1.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Hulme-orous Photos

These wonderful pictures of Hulme (mainly from around the 1970s) have been generously donated by the legendary Terry Wyke, Senior Lecturer in History at Manchester Metropolitan University.






Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Two Libraries and an Orrery...

A guest blog by Patti Collins, Chetham's Library Volunteer

As a new Room Guide at the National Trust's Dunham Massey Hall, I've been struck by the enthusiasm which many visitors display for the scientific instruments on display in the library there. The piece that excites most interest is the brass and oak Orrery made by 'Tho. Wright instrument maker to his Majesty in Fleet Street London' around 1730.

An Orrery is basically a mechanical model of the solar system and, although the Greeks developed something similar around 125 BC, early models were of course geocentric (ie the planets were believed to circle around the earth). It wasn't until after Copernicus published De revolutionibus orbium coelestium in 1543 that scientific models were developed which reflected the discovery that the Sun revolved daily round the Earth.


The renowned clock makers George Graham and Thomas Tompion reputedly built the first modern orreries and tellariums around 1704 in England. It is thought that the instrument maker John Rowley saw one of these when it was awaiting shipment to Prince Eugene of Savoy, along with instruments which he had made. Rowley noted its detail and about 1712 produced an improved model. Sir Richard Steele then saw this instrument and, being ignorant of those made by Graham, misguidedly named it an orrery in honour of Charles Boyle, Earl of Cork and Orrery. Tellurions and planetariums subsequently became known as orreries.

Back at Chetham's, whilst returning books to the stacks a couple of weeks ago, I was delighted to come across John Harris' book, published in 1729, Astronomical dialogues between a gentleman and a lady...which also promises on its title page 'With a Description of the famous Instrument called the ORRERY; made by Mr John Rowley, Master of the Mechanicks to the King.'
MAIN Collection - Shelf position: 2.A.6.44


John Harris (c.1666-1719) was an Anglican clergyman and fellow of the Royal Society who through private teachings, public lectures and published writing shared new developments in science with a wide audience. Harris also published by subscription the first volume of his famous Lexicon technicum, or, An Universal English Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (1704), which became one of the first books to display the importance to the public of Newton's science.

As Harris explains in The Preface 'The Reader will easily see that the Conversation in these Dialogues is feigned, and in Imitation of Those of the excellent Mr. Fontenelle, On the Plurality of Worlds. And that the Digressions, Reflexions, Poetry and Turns of Wit, are introduced to render Those Notions pleasing and agreeable, which perhaps without such a kind of Dress, would appear too crabbed and abstracted.'


Entretiens sur la pluralite des Mondes or Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds, was published in 1686 by Bernard le Bovier de Fontanelle. In this work Fontanellle speculates on the possibility of life existing on other planets and on space travel. The book became hugely popular - it wasn't written by a scientist for other scientists but took the form of a series of conversations between 'a charming philosopher and his hostess, a Marquise, as they strolled through her moonlit gardens.'

Harris declares that he gave Fontanelle's book to 'the most engaging Lady M' some seven years earlier and that...
'Some Years before her Death, when I went to visit that accomplish'd Lady at her Country Seat, I was a little surprised to find her, the next Morning after my Arrival, studiously viewing a pair of large Globes, which stood in the Drawing-Room, looking into the Garden, and which I used to make my Place of Study. Good Morrow, said I, Madam, what! hath Fontenelle made an Astronomer of you in good earnest? Are you really contemplating the Order and Motions of the Heavenly Bodies? Or are you rather seeking on the Earthly Globe, where to make new Conquests?'

Harris, like Fontanelle is taking quite a radical stance in choosing to publish a conversation with a woman about scientific theories but states that he…
'…Often wished that the same Curiosity and Love of Knowledge would inspire more of the fair Sex, for it would mightily enlarge their Empire and Power over ours, by endowing them with more real and lasting Beauties, such as would improve with Time, and strengthen even in Age itself.'

In the section of the Dialogues which relates to the ‘Description of the Orrery, Lady M makes a request that he might...
‘Get me a sight of the famous Orrery, which I have heard you and others so often speak of; and which I think was made by Mr. Rowley, the famous Mathematical Instrument-Maker, and Master of Mechanicks to the King; and whom I find you have always recommended in your Books, as the best workman of his Profession…’

Harris gallantly responds 'Madam, said I, the fine Instrument of that Name, which Mr. Rowley made for the East-India Company, is now luckily in a Place where I can come at it; I will go thither to morrow, and then appoint you a Day when I will wait on you to see it.'

Once the orrery is provided Harris proceeds to give Lady M full instructions on how it works  including a description of the instrument can illustrate day and night.

‘He hath provided this little Lamp to put on upon the Body of the Sun; which casting, you see, by the Means of a Convex Glass, and the Room made a little dark, a strong Light upon the Earth; will shew you at once all these things; first how one half of our Globe is always illuminated by the Sun, while the other Hemisphere is in the dark; and consequently, how Day and Night are formed, by the Revolution of the Earth round her Axis; for as she turns from West to East, she makes the Sun appear to move from East to West. And you will please to observe also, Madam, that as I turn the Instrument about in Order to shew you the several Seasons of the Year, and the Length and Decrease of Day and Night, how the Shadow of the Moon's Body will cover some part of the Earth, and thereby shew you, that to the Inhabitants of that part of the Earth there will be a Solar Eclipse.’

There is a famous and very dramatic painting by Joseph Wright A Philosopher Giving that Lecture on the Orrery, in which a Lamp is put in the Place of the Sun held by Derby Museums and first exhibited in 1766.

Scientific lectures and demonstrations presented by traveling scientists were a popular form of public entertainment during Wright’s lifetime. As an artist who showed an early interest in mechanics and science, Wright may have attended lectures on astronomy and pneumatics, among other topics, held at the town hall in Derby during the 1750s and 1760s.

Chetham's Library holds flyers for two such events, promoted locally by Mr Lloyd in 1818...


'Grand illuminated orrery. Mr Longstaff respectfully announces to the ladies and gentlemen of Manchester, his intention of delivering in February next, a course of familiar lectures on astronomy, which will be illustrated by his newly-invented and superior transparent orrery, fifty feet in circumference...'
MAIN Collection - Shelf position: Cambrics.25(1)

And Mr Longstaff in 1822...


'Mr. Lloyd has the honour, most respectfully, to inform the ladies and gentlemen of Manchester and its vicinity, whose friendship he is ambitious to conciliate and maintain, that he has appropriated...: Three evenings. Minor-Theatre, Manchester. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The 18th, 20th, and 22d of May, 1818. The dioastrodoxon, or grand transparent orrery. The largest and most magnificent in the British Empire...'

MAIN Collection - Shelf position: Scrapbook B.9.41.161(1)