Friday 24 February 2012

Are you celebrating the Feast of St Matthias?

According to this page of the 1549 edition of the Book of Common Prayer, today is the Feast of St Matthias, in honour of which the owner of the book has noted that a 'vygyll' should take place the previous day. This is one of only twelve copies of this earliest edition of the Prayer Book, and you can find out more on our 101 Treasures page.

Friday 17 February 2012

A secret ticket...

It's two hundred years since the Luddites attacked looms in the textile mills of Lancashire and Yorkshire as part of their protest against the mechanisation of the weaving industry. Find out more about the mythical figure of General Ludd and where this ticket might have taken you on a dark night in 1812 on the 101 Treasures page this week...

Wednesday 15 February 2012

Did you forget Valentine's Day?

Well, don't bother with all those rubbish cut-price cards and reduced flower arrangements... Take a look instead at this beautiful nineteenth-century handwritten Valentine's letter with pictorial clues and see if you can decipher its meaning. More details on this week's 101 Treasures page.

Wednesday 8 February 2012

Birthday look-alikes

Senior Librarian at Chetham's Library - One of the greatest writers of all time

By an amazing coincidence, it so happens that Charles Dickens and Senior Librarian Fergus Wilde share the same birthday - yesterday marking the 200th anniversary of Dickens' birth and a happy 50th birthday for Fergus. Congratulations from us all.

Here's to you, Mrs Robinson

When Joshua Reynolds painted his portrait of Mary Robinson as 'Perdita' from The Winter’s Tale in 1782, her affair with the Prince Regent had been over for a year, and she was still trying to wrest from him the £20,000 he had promised to settle on her. Although her fame in the role of Perdita was such that she became known as 'Perdita Robinson', her affair with Prinny put an end to her acting career. Subsequent affairs with several distinguished gentlemen including Charles James Fox and Banastre Tarleton gained her an unfortunate reputation.

In later years Mary became an invalid and gained a new fame for her writing, including four collections of poetry, seven novels, a play, two political tracts, a translation, and countless individual poems. She was admired by Coleridge, whose Kubla Khan is said to have been inspired by a poem Robinson dictated to her daughter when she woke from a Laudanum-inspired dream. Her best known work, Sappho and Phaon, is loosely based on the Heroides and gained her a new soubriquet as the 'English Sappho'.

Her many portraits by Reynolds, Gainsborough, Hoppner, and Romney provide her with an afterlife that her poetry failed to win, although Paula Byrne's 2005 biography Perdita: The Life of Mary Robinson has helped to redress the balance between brains and beauty. This coloured stipple engraving from the Library's collections of prints was made by William Dickinson from a painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds and was published in 1785.

Bring, bring to deck my brow, ye Sylvan girls,
A roseate wreath; nor for my waving hair
The costly band of studded gems prepare,
Of sparkling crysolite or orient pearls:
Love, o'er my head his canopy unfurls,
His purple pinions fan the whisp'ring air;
Mocking the golden sandal, rich and rare,
Beneath my feet the fragrant woodbine curls.
Bring the thin robe, to fold about my breast,
White as the downy swan; while round my waist
Let leaves of glossy myrtle bind the vest,
Not idly gay, but elegantly chaste!
Love scorns the nymph in wanton trappings drest;

From Sappho and Phaon

Congratulations Dr Joel

Many congratulations to our second collaborative doctorate student Joel Swann, who was awarded a PhD from Keele University for his work on seventeenth-century prose and verse miscellanies at Chetham's Library. It has been a pleasure to work with Joel during his time at the Library and we will all miss his erudite presence. He leaves with all our good wishes for the future. Here he is shown holding the degree certificate he printed himself...

Wednesday 1 February 2012

Who was Apothecary Thyer?

Find out about this eighteenth-century Manchester character as well as others including Little Major and Ogden the Fish Porter in this week's 101 Treasures Post.