Wednesday 14 December 2011

Christmas closing times

The Library will be closed to readers and visitors from noon on Wednesday 21 December until 9 a.m. on Tuesday 3 January 2011.

We would like to wish all our friends and supporters a very Merry Christmas!

Christians Awake!

Find out more about the history of this much-loved Christmas carol, written by the Manchester poet John Byrom, on our 101 Treasures page this week.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

Gorton Parish Library

Have a look at our 101 Treasures page this week to find out why a library of books intended for the Parish Church of St James in Gorton has found a home at Chetham's and become one of our biggest visitor attractions.

Wednesday 30 November 2011

Rocque of ages ago

John Rocque's exquisite 1746 map of London is quite simply a national treasure. Chetham's Library copy has obviously seen plenty of use but remains a thing of enormous beauty which holds many secrets to eighteenth-century London, from its grand squares and elegant avenues to its orchards, wharves and vinegar yards . This week on the 101 Treasures page we take a closer look at this cartographical masterpiece.

Monday 28 November 2011

Woe to the fattest

In Friday's post we looked at Edward Carpenter's political tract England's Ideal, part of a bound collection of thirty miscellaneous pamphlets we recently acquired from Modern First Editions of Ilkley.

Sadly, few of the other authors represented in this volume are anything like as perceptive or relevant as Carpenter. Most of the works consist of the usual anti-Roman Catholic polemics ("Protestantism v Popery: a catechism"), interminable pieces attacking other churchmen ("What is it all about?, or an inquiry into the statements of the Rev. C.H. Spurgeon") and almost certainly some of the worst poetry ever written, of which J.F. Sparke's 1865 offering is a prime example. His seasonal verse entitled 'A Merry Christmas' somehow fails quite spectacularly to get you in the Christmas mood:

"Woe to the fattest and the best,
Struck by the annual "rinderpest." [Cattle Plague]
And great and wide-spread thus you see
The quadruped mortality.
The poultry too, are sure to die,
They are too ponderous to fly,
And after eating corn - some pecks,
The knife is pushed right through their necks.
So let it be, may every sinner,
On Christmas-day enjoy his dinner."

Friday 25 November 2011

Rotten to the core

You might rightly assume that a library with a list of past users including Karl Marx, Daniel Defoe and John Wesley would not be short on works of penetrating social analysis, but for incisive commentary on the evils of the 1% you could do worse than consult the works of Edward Carpenter, whose pamphlet England's Ideal: A Tract (1885) has recently been acquired by the Library.

Edward Carpenter (1844-1929) was a gay activist, poet and radical socialist who pioneered an alternative lifestyle before the concept had even been thought of. In a world of aspidistra and antimacassars, Carpenter gathered around himself a band of sexually liberated free-thinkers and set up a commune near Sheffield where they wore sandals, ate vegetarian food and enjoyed plenty of fresh air. He was passionately in favour of women's rights and equality for all, and in this passage from England's Ideal he offers his thoughts on the class system with a characteristic frankness:

The feeling seems to be spreading that England stands to-day on the verge of a dangerous precipice. And so I believe she does; at any moment the door may open for her on a crisis more serious than any in her whole history. Rotten to the core, penetrated with falsehood from head to foot, her aristocracy emasculated of all manly life, her capitalist classes wrapped in selfishness, luxury and self-satisfied philanthropy, her Government offices – army, navy and the rest – utterly effete, plethoric, gorged (in snake-like coma) with red tape, her Church sleeping profoundly-snoring aloud, her trading classes steeped in deception and money greed, her labourers stupefied with overwork and beer, her poorest stupefied with despair, there is not a pain which will bear examination, not a wheel in the whole machine which will not give way under pressure.

But the disease from which the nation is suffering is dishonesty; the more you look into it the clearer you will perceive: that this is the source of all England’s present weakness corruption and misery; and honesty and honesty alone will save, her, or give her a chance of salvation. Let us confess it. What we have all been trying to do is to live at the expense people’s labour, without giving an equivalent of our labour in return. Some succeed, others only try; but it comes to much the same thing...

If for every man who consumes more than he creates there must of necessity be another man who has to consume less than he creates, what must be the state of affairs in that nation where a vast class – and ever vaster becoming – is living in the height of unproductive wastefulness? Obviously another vast class – and ever vaster becoming – must be sinking down into the abyss of toil, penury and degradation. Look at Brighton and Scarborough and Hastings and the huge West End of London, and the polite villa residences which like unwholesome toadstools dot and disfigure the whole of this great land ...

As far as the palaces of the rich stretch through Mayfair and Belgravia and South Kensington, so far (and farther) must the hovels of the poor inevitably stretch in the opposite direction. There is no escape. It is useless to talk about better housing of these unfortunates unless you strike at the root of their poverty; arid if you want to see the origin and explanation of an East London rookery, you must open the door and walk in upon some fashionable dinner party at the West End; where elegance, wealth, ease, good grammar, politeness, and literary and sentimental conversation only serve to cover up and conceal a heartless mockery – the lie that it is a fine thing to live upon the labour of others. You may abolish the rookery, but if you do not abolish the other thing, the poor will only find some other place to die in; and one room, in a sanitary and respectable neighbourhood will serve a family for that purpose, as well as a whole house in a dirtier locality.

For further reading, we can do no better than recommend Sheila Rowbotham's biography Edward Carpenter: A life of liberty and love.

Thursday 24 November 2011

Another view of the Library

Paul Capewell visited the Library last week with colleagues from CILIP North West and wrote about his experiences on his blog. Do go over and have a read...

Roll up, roll up

There's a real treat for lovers of all things medieval over on the 101 Treasures pages this week. This beautiful paper volvelle forms part of Astrologica, a work of astrology and astronomy dating from the mid-fifteenth century. To find out more, and to follow links to the digitised version of the work, visit the website.

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Mancuniensis in the Evening News

The Manchester Evening News have run a piece today on our recent digitisation of Richard Hollingworth's Mancuniensis, the earliest history of the city: have a look at the article here.

Hello Boys!

This alluring threesome may be found on the pages of Theodor de Bry's Emblemata nobilitati et vulgo scitu digna which is showcased this week on our 101 Treasures page. The wonderfully detailed and hand-coloured miniature marvel is currently on show in our 'Curios and Curiosities' exhibition here at the Library, although it should be pointed out that the image above is almost certainly the raciest page in the work, so adjust your expectations accordingly.

Monday 14 November 2011

Philip's bird

Those of you who enjoyed meeting Philip the Monster may be interested to make the acquaintance of this magnificent creature known as Avis Philippensis - or Philip's bird. She makes an appearance on a previous plate in James Petiver's Catalogus classicus & topicus of 1711, for more details of which see last Friday's post.

Friday 11 November 2011

Introducing Philip the Monster

This splendid fellow goes by the name of Monstrum Philip, and is to be found surrounded by some of his favourite things in James Petiver's Catalogus classicus & topicus of 1711:

James Petiver (1663/4-1718) was an apothecary, botanist and entomologist and Fellow of the Royal Society who owned an extensive herbarium estimated to contain between 5000 and 6000 specimens. He published many works detailing his collection as well as a popular periodical, the Monthly Miscellany.

Petiver was frequently sent objects and specimens from his many friends and colleagues who travelled the world although he himself does not appear to have ventured further than the Midlands to visit his married sister. In 1709 he was appointed demonstrator to the Society of Apothecaries, but was alleged to have exploited his position by removing specimens from their Chelsea Physic Garden 'to enrich his personal herbarium' (DNB).

On his death in 1718 his collection was purchased by Sir Hans Sloane, physician and collector, who also acted as pallbearer at his funeral.

Text describing Monstrum Philip

Wednesday 9 November 2011

A sudden and terrible raine

The infamous Manchester weather has been a preoccupation for local residents for well over three hundred and fifty years, according to the earliest surviving history of the town.

Richard Hollingworth's Mancuniensis, or an History of the Towne of Manchester, contains several references to the region's tendency to rain heavily and repeatedly on both the just and the unjust. In July 1648, for example, 'there was a sudden & terrible raine on the Lords day wch in twoo houres space filled the sellers in the market place hanging ditch & three channels ran downe the stretes like great rivers'. Perhaps next time an unexpected downpour catches us without an umbrella we should bite our tongues and be thankful for modern drainage.

The manuscript of Mancuniensis has recently been digitised in its entirety and is now available to view online as a pdf. Other manuscripts and printed works are due to follow, thanks to a generous grant from the Manchester Statistical Society.

This week's 101 Treasures post takes a closer look at Hollingworth's manuscript. Click here to find out more.

Friday 4 November 2011

Glass slide collection

The Library has a large and varied collection of glass slides, mostly collected by the antiquarian J.J. Phelps in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Read more about them on our 101 Treasures page this week...

Monday 31 October 2011

A bewitching sight

A Happy Halloween to all our readers! May you ward off all the ghoulies and ghosties who beat a path to your door and enjoy a trouble-free time in the months ahead.

These young ladies certainly present a frightening sight, although their clean white aprons and neatly brushed hair give a suggestion that things may not be quite as ghoulishly repulsive as they would have us believe. The six friends are taking part in the Worsley Pageant of 1914, held in the grounds of Worsley Hall.

Friday 28 October 2011

Alain Chartier

An exquisite manuscript of the poetry of Alain Chartier is this week's offering in our 101 Treasures series. For a closer look at the extraordinarily beautiful and imaginative decorative motifs, follow the link to read more.

Wednesday 26 October 2011

The Glamour of Manchester

Can there be any more unlikely title?

This little book published by the National Labour Press in 1920 makes a sterling effort to romanticise the history of the city, with gloriously cryptic chapter headings ranging from 'Dickens is inspired on oysters and champagne' and 'Ralph Waldo Emerson gives a party at Lower Broughton', to 'At Rochdale Lord Byron is very bored' and 'Charlotte Bronte has days of misery by Oxford Road'.

The book pulls no punches in the foreword, informing us brightly that 'In the winter mostly it will be raining ... [and] in summer the sun will shine with a frightful irony'. Warming to the theme, it asserts that 'with its Hulme and Ancoats and the clotted horror of Salford it will hold one as a dead man's eye...'

Not much of a start. But the author's obvious love for the city coupled with his dry wit proves surprisingly diverting, and as he sums up on the final page: 'I have written down my Manchester as I saw it. And seeing is often worse than believing'.

Friday 21 October 2011

Online exhibition now live!

We're very excited about our new online exhibition which goes live today! Don't worry if you couldn't make it to the Library to see our popular exhibition 'Who do you think they were: The story of a Manchester family' last year, because it's now on the website in its entirety and is well worth a look.

The Leech family of Manchester and Ashton wrote diaries and collected material about themselves and their family lives for nearly two hundred years. The extraordinary archive resulting from this activity is now held at the Library, and the exhibition introduces the main characters and offers a look at some of the highlights of the collection. Check it out here.

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Now you see it... you don't. Discover the hidden secret of this apparently unassuming little book on our 101 Treasures page this week.

Wednesday 12 October 2011

What on earth was he on about?

A close-up of the writing of Richard Kuerden (1623-90?) from his manuscript notes for A History of Lancashire, surely a strong contender for the worst handwriting ever... Read more about the manuscript on the 101 Treasures pages here.

Thursday 6 October 2011

Karl Marx at Chetham's

Visitors to the Library frequently ask to see the famous desk in the Reading Room where Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels studied together, and you can find out more about this hallowed spot on this week's 101 Treasures page.

Monday 3 October 2011

Little Lamb who ate thee?

If you have any interest at all in the teachings of Emmanuel Swedenborg, vegetarianism, the history of the Salford Bible Christians, or amusing hymns about roast lamb, then make your way immediately to the newly created Carcanet Blog, where Librarian Michael Powell has guest-written a post about this very subject...

Wednesday 28 September 2011

"I am treasuring these last few days of peace..."

Exactly seventy-three years ago this week, a young Iris Murdoch sat down and wrote a letter to her friend Ann Leech. Believing the country to be on the brink of war with Germany, she wrote with honesty and clarity about her feelings in those politically volatile times. The four-page letter is full of her characteristic zest and humour which she not infrequently turns against herself, declaring her words 'melodramatic rot'.

Of course, the Munich Agreement deferred the outbreak of war for another year, but for Iris Murdoch, aged nineteen and about to go up to Oxford, there was an inspiring and slightly anarchic energy about the uncertainties faced by her generation. She writes:

"I too believe that the worst will happen - but I don't feel at all afraid yet - only sad and strangely amused. I don't want to leave London - I love the city, and if it's going to be smashed up, I want to be there.

I can see nothing beyond Saturday - and so I am treasuring these last few days of peace, and perhaps of life - reading poetry, and enjoying pictures and music...

Singularly enough I feel happier now, despite my sadness, than I have ever felt for years. This isn't real you know, whether we are blown to pieces or not - I am very close to reality now - something infinitely calm and still and beautiful."

The letter from Iris to Ann is part of the Leech Archive and we have sent copies to the Centre for Iris Murdoch Studies at Kingston University. To read more, click on the pages, continued below, which will enlarge.

Wednesday 21 September 2011

The mystery of Humphrey Chetham

Take a look at our 101 Treasures page this week to find out more about the portrait of Humphrey Chetham which hangs in the Reading Room. Who painted it and why? We're not sure... but there's plenty more to discover here...

Friday 16 September 2011

The Grey Lady of Chetham's

Does Chetham's have a ghost?

That's often the question that people ask when they enter the medieval building through the dark stone cloister, ring the ancient bell on the heavy oak door and climb the winding staircase to the Library with its towering book-lined wooden presses. Certainly, rumours abound of a mysterious 'grey lady' who hovers in the passages connecting the Library reading room with the secret stairwell leading to the Minstrel's Gallery.

Evidently, the search for this particular truth has exercised many over the years, as this 'untouched' photograph of 1927, taken by local photographer R. Walker Berry, indicates. In a letter to the editor of 'Our Journal', he relates: 'knowing the camera's aversion to "terminological inexactitudes" I exposed a plate on the entrance to the Minstrel's Gallery, and the enclosed print shows the result'.

What do you think? Why not come along to the Library and see if you can see anything unusual?

Wednesday 14 September 2011

Manchester Weekender 2011

Come along to Chetham's on Sunday 16th October for a family friendly guided tour of the Library and the Curios and Curiosities exhibition, as well as the chance to hear poet and song writer Simon Rennie performing the 1830s ballad 'Johnny Green's Wedding'.

The event is part of the Manchester Weekender festival, a three-day celebration of all things cultural and cool in the city. Tours of the Library will take place at 2pm and 3pm and are free to all, but places are limited and must be reserved beforehand. To book, please email the Librarian.

Elegance and Decadence

Eagle-eyed viewers may have spotted Chetham's Library in scenes from the final episode of the BBC4 programme Elegance and Decadence: The Age of the Regency last night. In this third part, 'The Many and the Few - A Divided Decade', presenter Lucy Worsley looked at the ways that radical thinking and public opinion began to challenge the excesses of the Prince Regent. Peterloo expert Robert Poole was interviewed on the programme, which showed the Library interior and some of the Library's Peterloo holdings.

If you missed the programme, it can be seen on BBC iPlayer, together with the first and second episodes, for another week or so.

Friday 2 September 2011

Curios and Curiosities: A Very Peculiar Assortment of Treasures

Our new exhibition is now open! Come and see a celtic stone head, a death mask and a nineteenth-century sex manual, as well as a book of spells with instructions for finding hidden treasure. Over the years Chetham's has accumulated many strange and unusual items that you might be surprised to see in a library, as well as rare and fascinating bindings and manuscripts to pore over.

The exhibition is in the Priest's Wing and is available to view during normal opening hours.

Saxton's Atlas of England and Wales

Find out more about Christopher Saxton's great achievement in this week's feature in the 101 Treasures of Chetham's series. The beautiful sixteenth-century map shows all the counties of England and Wales and was the first national atlas of any country.

Friday 26 August 2011

A right royal read

This week in the 101 Treasures series we take a look at a very special copy of the works of Prosper of Aquitaine. Have a look on the website to find out who was the famous owner of this beautifully bound book.

Wednesday 24 August 2011

You're under arrest!

The Librarian recently returned from a Scottish holiday to the Moray Firth, where he spotted this rather alarming sign on the A98 at Portsoy. Knowledge, clearly, is no guarantee against the threat of riots and unrest...

Friday 19 August 2011

Birds and their nests

This week's feature in the 101 Treasures of Chetham's series explores the exquisite work of James Bolton in his Harmonia Ruralis, a two-volume work describing and illlustrating the birds of Britain. Find out more about the author and his passion for natural history on the website.

Friday 12 August 2011

Minutes of the Albert Memorial

Another of the Library's treasures to have a look at over on the website.

Many thanks for all your concern over the Library's safety during this week's events in the city centre. Happily we can report that no damage was done and everything is as it should be. Work on the Reading Room is now complete and we will be open again on Monday as usual.

Friday 5 August 2011

Sex, sermons and wig-making

The diary of Edmund Harrold is a closely-written journal full of early eighteenth-century books, religion, sex and wig-making. Read more about this remarkable survival on the 101 Treasures page.

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Treading the boards

Just a quick snap to show the reason for the Library's current two-week closure... not too much reading going on in here at the moment.

We'll be closed until Monday 15th August while structural engineers carry out investigations into the strength of the medieval floor joists. The operation is being overseen by English Heritage.

Friday 29 July 2011

Unlocking the code

If you've been inspired by Marcus du Sautoy's BBC2 series on nature's mathematical code, you may be interested in our web feature on Newton's Principia.

Newton's Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, or Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, is widely recognised as one of the most significant works of science ever published. Chetham's Library has a first edition, and you can read more about it here.

Wednesday 20 July 2011

John Dee Special!

Our 101 Treasures of Chetham's series this week features material relating to the sixteenth-century scholar and warden of the College, John Dee. The success of the opera Doctor Dee at the recent Manchester International Festival has created enormous interest in the life and work of this extraordinary man, who spent a decade in Manchester in the last years of his life. Read more on the website.

Friday 15 July 2011

Attic Nights

Our 101 Treasures of Chetham's series looks this week at the Noctes Atticae, or Attic Nights, of Aulus Gellius, a commonplace book which was later owned by Matthias Corvinus (1443-1490) and bound in Buda by his own bindery in a stunning red goatskin. Learn more here.

Wednesday 13 July 2011

Chetham's Library on The Culture Show

Damon Albarn's opera Doctor Dee has now reached the end of its run as part of the Manchester International Festival and has received almost universal acclaim, not least from members of Library staff, some of whom enthusiastically attended more than once. The opera is an extraordinarily beautiful and mesmerising visual spectacle brought to life by an outstanding musical score, and you can read reviews of the production here and here. The show is due to launch the London 2012 Festival, so if you didn't manage to see it this time round, we strongly recommend that you get down to the London Coliseum next June.

Chetham's Library is one of the stars on tonight's (Wednesday 13th June) Culture Show on BBC2 at 7pm, which is broadcast from the Manchester Festival and includes an interview with Damon Albarn, filmed at the Library. If you miss it, don't forget you can watch it again on BBC iPlayer.

A short video on the BBC website can be found here, featuring Damon Albarn and Rufus Norris discussing the work of John Dee, and Chetham's Librarian Michael Powell makes an appearance on a Guardian video about Doctor Dee which can be found here.

Friday 1 July 2011

Designation's what you need...

We're really proud to have been awarded Designation Status by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. The award is for the entire holdings, which distinguishes them as a collection of national and international importance, and reflects good working practice and excellent service. You can read more about the award on the website.

Wednesday 29 June 2011

Busy busy busy

It's all go at the Library today as the Manchester International Festival prepares to swing into action on Friday. Considerable interest has been generated by Damon Albarn's opera Doctor Dee, and the Librarian is in constant demand from television and radio crews to talk about everyone's favourite Renaissance polymath. All the excitement has meant that the Library has been obliged to close its doors to the public this afternoon to accommodate the lengths of cable, lighting rigs and photography equipment.

At the same time as this, the dress rehearsal for another MIF production has been taking place in the Baronial Hall. Violinist Alina Ibragimova is performing a programme of musically connected works in several different parts of the medieval building, in a production that features a newly commissioned stop-motion animated film by the Quay brothers. The show runs from 1-17 July and tickets can be obtained at the MIF website.

All we need now is a visit from Snoop Dogg...

Friday 24 June 2011

A happy coincidence

Another visit this week from the Library's new favourite musician, Damon Albarn, who is currently in Manchester preparing for the premiere of his opera Doctor Dee. By remarkable coincidence, the Librarian's daughter Kate and her friend George 'happened' to be visiting the Library at the same time, and are pictured here with the great man.

The purpose of his visit was to meet the Guardian journalist John Harris, whose article about Damon and his fascination with John Dee can be found here. Doctor Dee opens at the Palace theatre, Manchester, on Friday 1st July, and tickets are available here.

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Thomas Barritt's sketchbook

This week in our 101 Treasures of Chetham's series, it's the turn of Thomas Barritt and his remarkable C18th sketchbook. In it, he recorded people and places from Manchester and the wider region before the wholesale industrialisation that took place in the city in the nineteenth century. Have a look at his extraordinary sketches here.

Wednesday 15 June 2011

Sights of Britain

A cigarette card from the 'Sights of Britain' series, showing the boys from Chetham's Hospital taking part in the Founder's Day procession in their traditional Blue Coat uniforms.

The card is from the collection of Mr Lawrence Boardman, whose father took many of the original photographs for the series in the mid-twentieth century. Together with his grandson, George Boardman Lee, Mr Boardman is currently involved in a project to retrace his father's footsteps and re-photograph the many different locations from a contemporary viewpoint. We wish them all the best with this not insignificant undertaking and look forward to seeing the fruits of their labours.

Monday 13 June 2011

Patrizia Wiesner

The beautiful seventeenth-century Library interior with its gated oak presses attracts a great deal of attention from photographers and film-makers, who frequently have a natural affinity for its atmospheric environment.

It is always fascinating to view their creative responses to the medieval building, and we were most interested to see this latest set of images taken by professional photographer Patrizia Wiener, who as well as having a most impressive photography CV, also studied philosophy at the University of Vienna.

The photographs can be viewed on Patrizia's website.

Wednesday 8 June 2011

Doctor Dee

One of Chetham's most famous residents has provided the inspiration for a new musical work by Damon Albarn, which is being premiered in July as part of the Manchester International Festival.

The modern opera Doctor Dee explores the life and work of this most remarkable of renaissance men, who was warden of the Collegiate Church - now the Cathedral - from 1595 until his death in 1609. John Dee was a mysterious character, who developed a reputation as an astrologer, alchemist and occultist but was also an important renaissance scientist who believed mathematics was central to human progress and learning, and became a trusted advisor to Queen Elizabeth I.

Members of the creative team behind the work, including Damon Albarn and theatre director Rufus Norris, visited the Library to see the place where he lived and worked in the final years of his life. They looked at a selection of material including letters and books belonging to John Dee, as well as the famous oval burn mark on the Audit Room table which is said to be the hoof print of the devil, conjured up one dark Manchester night by Dee's magic arts.

You can read more about the opera and the man behind it here, including part of a short interview with Librarian Michael Powell. An article on John Dee can be found on the BBC website here.

Doctor Dee runs from 1-3 and 5-9 July at the Palace Theatre. Tickets can be obtained from the MIF website.