Friday 28 September 2012

That sinking feeling...

This week's flooding reminds us that some parts of the region are especially vulnerable to natural disasters. Northwich, which flooded earlier this week, has a history of flooding dating back almost a century. The biggest flood was in 1946 and resulted in 256 houses and 70 shops being affected. Flooding also occurred in 1977 and in 2000.

For Northwich, however, flooding is only one form of disaster, for the town has long history of subsidence.
During the 1800s, salt mining transformed the fortunes of the town, turning it from a large village of less than 1,500 to a town of more than 15,000. However, the industry had a negative impact, creating huge, unstable underground caverns. Shops, houses and even whole streets would regularly collapse. Indeed, the town’s rickety, cockeyed buildings became something of a tourist attraction during the late Victorian era.

These images are taken from the collection of glass lantern slides taken in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by the local amateur photographer Joseph James Phelps.

The Black Sheep of Hulme

This week's treasure is the 1822 satirical publication the Manchester Comet, a surprisingly amusing attack on radical politics, and the only surviving copy. Well worth a look on the website.

Our new exhibition is now open!

Our autumn exhibition this year is a joint enterprise with The Portico Library on the other side of Manchester, and celebrates two hundred years of Grimms' Fairy Tales.

The exhibition is curated by book collector and friend of the Library, Professor David Blamires, and tells the story of the Brothers Grimm and their lifetime of story collection, which led to a worldwide publishing phenomenon with hundreds of different editions.

Here at Chetham's we are displaying some of the earliest books, whilst the more modern editions are on view at the Portico. Come and have a look!

The exhibition will run until the new year here at Chetham's, and until the beginning of November over at the Portico.

The beautiful poster image above uses the specially commissioned illustration by Clifford Harper for the new Incline Press publication to accompany the exhibition. More about this next week!

Friday 21 September 2012

Radical thinking at Chetham's

Many are aware that Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels spent time studying together at Chetham's, but they are by no means the only radical political theorists to have paid a visit to the Library, nor the first.

In his Completed Biography Volume Two: 1757-1790, the Founding Father of the United States Benjamin Franklin describes a visit he made to Chetham's in the early summer of 1771:

In May, I made with friends a journey of a fortnight to Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds and Birmingham, and return'd in time to be at Court on the King's birthday. My journey was of use to my health, the air and exercise giving me fresh spirits. In Manchester, we visited a school for poor boys and admired its old and well stocked library.

Franklin had another Manchester connection, being a frequent correspondent with the medic Thomas Percival, the founder of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society. Percival made a study of the population of Manchester, producing the first accurate census of the town in 1773-4. Using sextons' registers from Manchester Collegiate Church in which age and cause of death is recorded, Percival carried out a series of demographic studies of the town. Franklin was an admirer of Percival's work, and commented favourably on his research in a letter to him.

Putting on my white hat...

On 24 September 1819, little more than a month after the Peterloo Massacre, feelings in the Manchester area were still running high as can be seen from this broadsheet produced by the Committee of the Anglican Sunday Schools in Manchester and Salford. Worried by working-class unrest, they had called a special meeting to consider what they could do to stop children from attending Sunday School wearing the "white hats or other badges which are now used by the disloyal & disaffected as expression of their political sentiments". 

The reformers had adopted the 'white hat of liberty', after their spokesman Henry Hunt, who had become known for his distinctive white hat. In his book Radical expression, James Epstein includes the account of Isaac Johnson, a Stockport Chartist, who remembered being 'turned out' from Sunday School because his father 'obliged him to wear a white hat with crape and green ribband at Peterloo time'. 

Another anti-reform broadsheet in the Library makes this link between the symbolic white hats and Henry Hunt plain. Titled "The White Hat" it compares Henry Hunt to Oliver Cromwell and concludes 'Now march, my boys, in your radical rags; Handle your sticks, and flourish your flags; Till we lay the Throne and the Altar flat, With a whisk of Harry the Ninth's White Hat!'

Friday 14 September 2012

Not long to go now

Less than a month to go until the opening of our joint exhibition with the Portico Library! The exhibition will celebrate the bi-centenary of the first publication of fairytales by the Brothers Grimm and features material from the collection of David Blamires.

The exhibition opens on October 4th. Look out for more details here.

Another treasure from the collection

This elegantly ornamented medieval hymnal with a contemporary binding by the Caxton bindery is the featured item on our 101 Treasures page this week. Find out more on the website!

Wednesday 12 September 2012

'Anne Walne is a witch and hath killd my chilld'

A fascinating manuscript document associated with witchcraft in the Pendle area has recently come to light at the Library. One of our regular archive assistants, Robert Stansfield, has been working on a collection of seventeenth-century material from the Borough and Church Courts of Clitheroe, and came across this accusation of witchcraft from 1626, some fourteen years after the celebrated Pendle Witch Trial. Here is Robert's account of the document:

In a case brought before the Borough Court of Clitheroe in 1626, Anna Walne, the widow of the labourer Thomas Walne of Clitheroe accused Richard Sharples of Clitheroe and his wife, Isabel, of destroying her good name, fame and reputation through their malicious thoughts and words.

At Clitheroe on or around 10 July 1626, Richard had said to Anna 'thou arte a Chadwicke and a Demdicke [Demdyke]'. Chadwick and Demdike clearly refer to the Pendle Witches, Alice Chadwick or Chattox and Elizabeth Southerns alias Demdike, who were tried for witchcraft only fourteen years earlier, in 1612.

On around 20 May 1626, Richard's wife, Isabel, had also said that 'Anne Walne is a witch and hath killd my chilld'. The Borough Court judged that Anne had brought a legitimate case and she was awarded damages amounting to £20.

The evidence of the parish registers of Clitheroe reveal that a Thomas Walne (or Waune) married Anna Daye on 23 October 1616 at St Mary's Parish Church. Also, a Thomas Waune was buried there on 10 October 1623. Anna had therefore been a widow for only a few years when she brought this case to the Borough Court, presumably because of a fear of being tried for witchcraft.
Richard Sharples married Isabel Booth at Clitheroe Parish Church on 24 June 1624. The child who Anne Walne was supposed to have killed may have been Richard son of Richard Sharples who was buried on 16 March 1626. He may have been their first-born child, but it seems that the couple went on to have another son, Richard, who was baptised in April 1627.

References: The Registers of St Mary Magdalene, Clitheroe, 1570-1680, ed. J. Perkins, Lancashire Parish Register Society, 144 (1998), pp. 30, 110, 111, 173, 176.

The close-up view below shows lines thirteen to sixteen of the document with the word 'Demdike' in line thirteen and the phrase 'Anne Walne is a witch and hath killd my chilld' in line sixteen:

Friday 7 September 2012

Later and de Laeter

This beautiful woodcut is of Chief Powhatan, otherwise known as the father of Pocahontas, and is taken from this week's treasure, Joannes de Laet's Novus Orbis, or History of the New World. The work was first published in 1625, only eight years after the death of Pocahontas, or Rebecca Rolfe, as she became known after her marriage. Find out more about our 1633 edition, the first in Latin, on the 101 Treasures Page this week.

If you fancy a copy for yourself, there's one for sale in the William Reese catalogue, as it happens...

Another Friday, another discovery

Although most of our manuscripts are well documented and often well studied, this manuscript is a bit of a mystery. Our printed documentation for Mun.A.4.105 describes it as a 'transcript of printed book - dated 1643', but we are struggling to find any printed source for the half title Methodus utiliter philosophandi or the title Philosophia Aristotelis disputata in gymnasio monasteriensi anno millesimo 643.

The suspicion is that this is a fine example of a 17th-century manuscript that has been designed to look like a printed book with its architectural half-title and title pages, and formal dedication leaf. The rubrication and colourful decorative borders, though, also remind us of an earlier manuscript tradition. 

Any ideas?

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Our e-newsletter goes live!

We are proud to present the very first issue of our e-newsletter! The newsletter will drop into your inbox three times a year and will keep you up to date with all our news and events in digest form. This is an excellent way to keep in touch with goings on here at the Library. We look forward to sending you the first edition!

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