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.

Friday 3 June 2011

Yeo Ho Ho!

We are very pleased to announce the recent publication of Matthew Yeo's The Acquisition of Books by Chetham's Library, 1655-1700, part of Brill's Library of the Written Word series. It began life as a thesis submitted by Matthew for his AHRC Collaborative Doctorate at Chetham's Library and the University of Manchester, which he undertook from 2006-2009.

Matthew's eminently well-written and readable work examines the motivation and method behind the Library's earliest acquisitions and their significance for the study of provincial intellectual culture and the early modern book trade.

Matthew studied Modern History at Oxford and Princeton Universities, and now teaches History at Charterhouse School. We all enjoyed his spell with us at Chetham's enormously, and miss his scholarly ways, his cheerful countenance and his enthusiasm and talent for tea-making very much indeed. We wish him all the best for the future, not least in respect of his recent marriage to Ellie.

Matthew in action at the Library