Friday 20 December 2013

A Merry Christmas to all our Readers!

The Library closes today at noon for the annual staff party and re-opens on Thursday 2nd January, when we look forward to seeing you all again. Meanwhile we leave you with this 1843 illustration of Mr Fezziwig's Ball from A Christmas Carol, an approximation of some of the activities the librarians may or may not be getting up to this afternoon. You can find out more about these exquisite illustrations by John Leech on the V&A website here.

Thursday 19 December 2013

Fashion forward

So cool we might freeze over: here's the results of our recent Hack Clothing fashion shoot, in which the Library played a starring role. We're thinking of adopting some of these outfits as Library uniform in the new year.

Wednesday 18 December 2013

Several curious performances...

Everybody loves a circus at Christmas, so here's another poster from the Cambrics collection for you, this time from December 1787, featuring the nimble Mr Wilkinson in 'several curious performances on the slack wire'. Not content with any straightforward acrobatic feat, Mr Wilkinson proposes to 'sit on a chair on the wire with a table before him, with a bottle, glasses, candlesticks etc'... and by the looks of things, play the violin at the same time. The advertisement also promises spectacular performances from the Learned English Dog and his friend the Learned Military Horse, to whom 'no other horse in this kingdom was ever equal'. Quite an evening's entertainment for only 6d in the upper gallery!

'A truly original machine'

This splendid broadside of 1819, published by William Cowdroy, advertises an exhibition in Manchester of a velocipede or swift walker, a forerunner of the bicycle. It was produced for the London coachmaker Denis Johnson who had taken out a patent for a 'pedestrian curricle' in December 1818. Johnson made several hundred machines (often popularly referred to as 'hobby-horses' but more respectfully 'velocipedes') in the early part of the following year and during April and May his son John Johnson toured England displaying the machines and giving riding lessons. Johnson visited Bristol, Bath, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and eventually moved north again to Liverpool. He probably visited other cities as well on his lengthy tour. Despite all this energetic advertising, for a variety of reasons the hobby-horse velocipede began to fall out of favour in the latter part of the year 1819.

The broadside is one of a number of items devoted broadly to the theme of entertainment in the Cambrics Scrapbook, a scrapbook containing over 250 items of local single-sheet printing. We are very grateful to the cycle historian Roger Street, whose work Dashing Dandies: The English Hobby-horse Craze of 1819 tells the story of Johnson's machines and sets this single Manchester broadside in context.

Thursday 12 December 2013

Grains of gold

These little Christmas books were a recent gift to the Library from bookseller John Worthy of the Rochdale Book Company. They belonged to the library of Victor Tomlinson (1908-1996), who amassed probably the largest collection of local history material in the north of England.

The author of the books was J.A. Goodacre, a member of the Manchester Literary Club, who published papers in the society's journal as well as publishing reproductions of works of art by the old masters. 

These two books, dating from 1912 and 1932, were part of a series of Christmas pamphlets published by Goodacre. They contain a curious mix of his own verses combined with reproductions of well-known paintings, as well as prose and poems by authors such as Shakespeare, Milton and Wordsworth.

Thursday 21 November 2013

Culture in Manchester

Culture in Manchester: Institutions and Urban Change since 1850 is a new book published by Manchester University Press which will be launched on Monday. The cover features a delightful image of Belle Vue promotional material from our collection, and there are more treats within, including a chapter on Belle Vue written by the Library's very own Michael Powell and the ever-prolific Terry Wyke of MMU.

Edited by Janet Wolff with Mike Savage and available soon, it comes highly recommended.
ISBN 978 0 7190 9038 7

Friday 15 November 2013

Dear Diary...

Diaries and life writing is the subject of this week's 101 Treasures page, which is newly updated today. We have a large and growing collection of diaries dating from the seventeenth to the twenty-first century, many of them of local interest, but also covering life in India, Zimbabwe, both World Wars and a series of religious meditations. This is a cracker of a Treasures page, with many more links to follow and pdf versions of several of the diaries to read. Have a look here...

Thursday 14 November 2013

Mr Chambers and Persephone

Whilst browsing through the Pickles Collection* recently, we came across a small book called Mr Chambers and Persephone. Written by Christopher Whitfield, it was published in 1937 by the Golden Cockerel Press and tells the story of a young man who embarks upon a brief, passionate affair with a mysterious girl whom he meets at the vicar’s tennis party but who then disappears, leaving him broken hearted. However, this mildly titillating romantic tale is transformed by the stunning, sensuous black and white wood engravings by Dorothea Braby.

We were keen to discover more about the artist but, although she was responsible for illustrating a number of other books for Golden Cockerel, we could find very little information about her. Eventually some detective work in the library of Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections revealed the background to the book.

Christopher Sandford notes in Chanticleer (the first of the Golden Cockerel bibliographies):  

When we received the manuscript of this book we all felt that it was one of the most enchanting love-stories of its kind we had ever read: it had freshness, sensibility, imagination and emotion. It did not matter to us that the author’s name was unknown to the general public....we were also fulfilling what we conceived to be one of our functions, to introduce young and lesser known artists to our patrons. For this book we chose Dorothea Braby to interpret the elusive quality of Mr Whitfield’s lovely fantasy...

Christopher Whitfield was a very wealthy young man and part of the 'country set', but had serious literary ambitions, so when Golden Cockerel suggested they would publish his book as a cost-sharing arrangement in return for higher royalties on eventual sales, he was happy to agree to it. One hundred and fifty copies of the limited edition were published at 30 shillings each, with the unlimited soft cover edition (of which the Library copy is an example) priced at 8s 6d.

When the book appeared, H.E.Bates described it in his review as a ‘small masterpiece’ but warned that the ‘novella’ format would not sell well, and sadly this proved to be the case, as the partners found their store room ‘filled with unsold volumes with further copies in sheets at the printers’

Despite this, Dorothea went on to become one of Sandford’s favourite illustrators, as she was willing to vary her style to suit different projects, worked hard, and was not temperamental. She is described in an article in The Studio from January 1947:

Dark and beautiful, Miss Braby might seem at first to have been destined to sit as a model to artists rather than practise the arts herself. Her restless energy and creative fire would, however, render this impossible.

Strangely, after the early 1950s Dorothea herself seemed to disappear and we wondered what had become of her, until a couple of weeks ago we found the answer in a letter to the Radio Times which began ‘I was delighted to see the Radio Times covers for the 1930’s. Dorothea Braby was my mother and she was heavily pregnant with me when she drew the Talks Number cover from 1934... she was a single mother and her work for the Radio Times was very welcome since it kept the wolf from the door during those years...’ The writer, Penelope Woolfitt, goes on to say that her mother retrained and went into social work in the 1960s but continued to design delightful birthday and Christmas cards for friends and family until her death in 1987.

* The collection of Adrian Pickles donated by his wife Anne

Wednesday 13 November 2013

The Diaries of Dora Turnor

What do The Times Top Twenty Hotels for Christmas have in common with our new exhibition? Easy! Stoke Rochford Hall near Grantham in Lincolnshire, which is now a luxury hotel offering packages for Christmas and the New Year, was once the home of Dora Turnor (1858-1899), author of a fascinating diary bound in three small octavo volumes which form part of our newest display of material.

Dora started her journal just before her fourteenth birthday and finished it, with some soul-searching, just before her twenty-second birthday in June 1880. There are almost one thousand pages totalling perhaps a hundred thousand words. The diary documents her life at the hall, and at the family’s London home at Chesham Place, Belgravia, one of the grandest of London streets and now home to three embassies.

Dora Turnor’s diary is a remarkable survival. There are surprisingly few diaries written by teenage girls in the late Victorian period. Dora died in 1899 and was survived by her husband and two children. To find out more, visit the website or come to see our latest exhibition, 'An Affection for the Past', which showcases Dora's diaries and many more of our recent acquisitions.

Friday 8 November 2013

Manchester Poets

This photograph shows the Sun Inn on Long Millgate, now sadly demolished but once known as Poets' Corner owing to the regular meetings of writers and poets which were held there in the nineteenth century.

Out of these meetings was formed the Lancashire Authors Association, whose members included Isabella Varley (Mrs Banks, author of The Manchester Man), John Critchley Prince and Samuel Bamford. The group contributed to several publications including the Athenaeum Souvenir, published in 1843, and now made available as a pdf on our website.

You can view the pdf here, along with several other digitised works of local interest, all available free on the website.

Beware the Basilisk

One of our volunteers brought these two volumes to our attention recently, having removed them from the shelves for conservation work and discovered that they had been rather extensively eaten. Luckily, the culprit is now long gone, and indeed was probably active several years before the Library bought the books in the nineteenth century, and so no longer poses a threat to the Library's collections.

Aside from the bookworm damage, the books are extremely interesting in their own right, and have been beautifully bound as well as extensively annotated and rubricated. The work is Antoninus' Summa Theologica of 1511, printed in Basel and bound with a German vellum binding which is probably contemporary. It is blind-tooled with an intricate design including naked men firing arrows at flying birds (sadly not pictured).

There are extensive Latin annotations in a sixteenth-century hand, and German personal names such as Bartholomeus Gabler and Fridolinus Grob. In addition, one of the volumes has a manuscript indulgence in Italian in what is possibly a sixteenth-century hand on the verso of the rear fly-leaf:

The title page of both volumes features this elegant woodcut printer's device (see below) of a serpent-tailed bird, or basilisk, holding the arms of the city of Basel, a pun on the place of publication. This idea has been taken up by the author of the annotations at the bottom of the page, who is likely to have been a Catholic sympathiser bewailing the fact that Basel has become a centre for protestant reform. The annotation reads:

O Basilea seu civitas regia, quae olim regina virtutum eras
Et verae doctrinae Nunc Basilisci atroci veneno
infecta et corrupta requiris medicinam salutis

Which may be translated as: 

O Basel, or city royal, who once was queen of virtues
And of true doctrine! Now, infected and corrupted
with the atrocious poison of the Basilisk, you need the medicine of salvation!

The worms certainly chose an interesting meal! Thanks to our hardworking NADFAS volunteers for bringing the work to our attention.

Thursday 7 November 2013

The Political Apple Pie

We recently acquired from the bookseller Christopher Edwards a collection of fifteen pamphlets, mainly the work of William Hone, published between 1817-1821. The Library already holds examples of a number of these in different editions, but there are quite a few that we didn't have, including The Political 'A, Apple-Pie;' or, the 'Extraordinary Red Book' versified… 4th edition, 1820.

This political satire was based on an official document published as The extraordinary red book: an account of all places, pensions, sinecures, grants, &c. The expenditure of the civil list, the finances and debt of Great Britain; with a variety of official documents never before published, a list of persons receiving state salaries.

The Political Apple Pie satirises those who received a healthy salary for doing no actual work and purports to be by 'the author of the Political House that Jack Built', i.e. William Hone, but according to Dorothy George in her Catalogue of Political Satires in the British Museum, in this is not the case.

The splendid woodcuts are by George Cruikshank and the descriptions are from Dorothy George.

Title page: Three men stand together: a bloated and repulsive tax-collector with ink-bottle attached to his coat writes on a long paper headed Tax; a man with a huge constable's staff holds out a writ inscribed [E]x Officio, denoting Press prosecutions … and a jailor holds keys.

B - Bit it: The pie is surrounded by fat, greedy bishops on hands and knees. The two in the foreground are identified as Barrington (1734-1826) bishop of Durham from 1791, and Bathurst (1744-1837), bishop of Norwich from 1805.

E - Envied: Erskine, in wig and gown, stands beside the pie, holding a broom. He puts to his mouth a spoon in which are a sealed patent and a mace. A satire on Erskine's pension as former Chancellor.

 Y - Yawn'd o'er it (shown at head of post): John Bull, a 'cit' in tattered clothes with empty pockets, stands despondently over the empty dish. York had so much pie that none was left for 'poor old John Bull… nor for X, nor for Z'.

The full list of pamphlets is as follows:

1. Lennox, Charles, Duke of Richmond. The right of the people to universal suffrage and annual Parliaments clearly demonstrated. London, W. Hone, 1817.

2. The bill of the late Duke of Richmond for universal suffrage and annual parliaments … with his declaration of those rights of the commonalty of Great Britain. London, W. Hone, 1817.

3. The sinecurist's creed, or belief; as the same can or may be sung or said throughout the Kingdom. Bristol, J. Arnold, n.d.

4. The political litany, diligently revised; to be said or sung until the appointed change come. London, printed for one of the candidates for the office of printer to the King's most excellent Majesty, 1817.

5. The political house that Jack built. London, W. Hone, 1819.

6. The man in the moon &c. 5th edition. London, W. Hone, n.d.

7. The political 'A, Apple Pie', or, the extraordinary red book versified. 4th edition. London, for the author, 1820.

8. The Queen's matrimonial ladder, a national toy. London, W. Hone, 1820.

9. 'Non mi ricordo!' &c. &c. &c. 17th edition. London, W. Hone, 1820.

10. The King's treatment of the Queen shortly stated to the people of England. 3rd edition. London, W. Hone, 1820.

11. In Parliament. Dropt clauses out the Bill, against the Queen … W. Hone, Ludgate Hill, Solicitor for said clauses. [1820?]

12. Buonapartephobia. The origin of Dr. Slop's name. 9th edition. London, W. Hone, 1820.

13. The green bag: 'a dainty dish to set before a King'. 8th edition. London, J. Robins, 1820.

14. The form of prayer with thanksgiving to Almighty God … for the happy deliverance of her Majesty Queen Caroline from the late most traitorous company. 3rd edition. London, W. Hone, 1820.

15. The political showman - at home! Exhibiting his cabinet of curiosities and creatures - all alive! London, W. Hone, 1821.

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Captain Peacock

Visitors to our gents' loo this afternoon might have been surprised to find it already occupied by this beautiful chap who we have rather inevitably nicknamed Captain Peacock. After following him around for a bit hoping for a suitable photo opportunity, we have compensated for our paparazzi-like behaviour by finding the Captain a more suitable place to hibernate for the winter where he can snooze undisturbed.

Friday 1 November 2013


Here's a calendar for the new month from a Dutch Book of Hours, which isn't the most sparkling manuscript in the collection, but is an attractive work nonetheless, with some striking pen work borders. 

Written in the Netherlands in the second half of the fifteenth century, the Hours of the BVM of the use of Utrecht are in the translation of Geert Grote. A note on folio 157v reads: 'Desen bock hoort Toe eff Ians dochter van Amsterdam'.

It is bound in a sixteenth-century binding of wooden boards with heads in medallions and a crested roll with the remains of two clasps and was bought by the Library at a sale at Sotheby's on 8 February 1870.

Thursday 31 October 2013

A head in the dandelions

This account of the Manchester medic Daniel John Leech was found by one of our volunteers Paul Carpenter in a box from the Leech collection. It was taken from Ernest Leech's Yellow Books, a series of manuscript notebooks on members of the Leech family.

The account was dictated to Ernest shortly before Daniel's death in 1900 and relates to Daniel's days as a medical student in Manchester in the late 1850s. Ernest Leech published this as part of an account of Daniel, 'Some Memoirs of an Infirmary Physician', in the Manchester Medical School Gazette, in 1922.

Being now paid assistant to Mr Richmond his principal, he could not be much away from home, hence he at times brought parts for dissection from the dissecting room, which at this time was very little looked after. This, of course, was quite illegal, and twice he was nearly found out. On one occasion he amputated the upper extremity of a subject, wrapped it up in brown paper and preceded to carry it home. Rain came on; after waiting some time he got in an omnibus, but the rain had softened the paper and he was horrified on looking at his parcel to see the hand sticking out. What the people thought he never knew, for he 'made tracks' at once. 

On another occasion in the spring months when those who had 'parts' were willing to sell them, he bought the head, neck and chest of a subject of which he was dissecting the upper extremity and succeeded in carrying it home. But it was a big thing to hide and he found eventually the best place for it was in the field just behind the back door where there were a large number of dandelions, many of which had sprung to the height of above two feet. 

When Mr Richmond had gone to bed he used to begin; he would bring the subject in and dissect it on the surgery counter until one and two o'clock in the morning and then take it among the dandelions again. But unfortunately a youth climbed up the wall and seeing the fine dandelions got over to gather them for his rabbit. Suddenly he saw the outstretched hand and the head of a man partly dissected, and he jumped back again, fainted, and was taken to an adjacent public house, where he told what he had seen. The result was a visit from the police, and Leech had no little difficulty in satisfying the authorities and bribing them to let the matter pass. 

The photograph above shows Daniel Leech with one of the first x-rays of his own hand. Read more about Daniel and the Leech family on the website.

Thursday 17 October 2013

The Edward Watkin Collection

You may remember our recent post on forgotten Mancunian Sir Edward Watkin, and the sterling work undertaken on the collection by our volunteer Catriona.

These images are from Watkin's own 1820 copy of London Cries, which forms part of the collection.

We are now pleased to say that there is a new page on the website devoted to Sir Edward and his mighty contribution to the Victorian railway age. The collection is now available for study, so please do get in touch if you would like to make an appointment to see it.

Watkin's copies of volumes 1-6 of the very rare journal The Anti-Monopolist have now been digitised and can be viewed here.

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Welcome to Michael Wood!

A warm welcome to Michael Wood, our newest Honorary Patron. He joins Dame Joan Bakewell and artist Jeremy Deller, and don't forget that you can join in too! Anyone can be a patron of Chetham's Library and help to support our beautiful building and ancient library. Find out more on the 'Support Us' page of the website.

Thursday 3 October 2013

A bias for binding


Gorgeous medieval bindings from the John Byrom collection featured on the 101 Treasures page today including this beautiful example of work by the 'Virgin and Child binder'. Read more on the website.

Wednesday 2 October 2013

Public history at a public library...

It's been a pleasure to welcome historian Michael Wood to the Library this week, along with several groups of first-year History students from the University of Manchester. Michael has recently been appointed Professor of Public History at Manchester, and was keen to introduce his new students to the resources available here at Chetham's. We look forward to many more collaborations in the future and wish the new students all the best for the year ahead.

Over to Olivia...

We have a guest post for you this morning from Olivia Hill, who is currently doing work experience here at the Library. We are all enjoying having her here, and have asked her to write a little about her experiences:

My name is Olivia Hill, I am a third year Art Restoration and Conservation student at the University of Lincoln. This is a three year practical degree which includes work on all things from tea cups to taxidermy as well as a lot of scientific work and the study of art history.

I am currently at Chetham's Library for a six-week practical placement in paper and book conservation and restoration, as well as spending some of my time with the conservation bookbinder Cyril Formby. To have the opportunity to work in a place so rich in history and knowledge is at times overwhelming, but mostly extremely exciting!

I have had the good fortune to undertake several different projects during my time here, including dry-cleaning a set of prints, learning how to stain faded leather and apply leather dressing to books, as well as picking up invaluable skills in archival conservation-restoration, bookbinding, and in-situ conservation-restoration.

My time spent with Cyril Formby has been a fantastic experience, and I have been learning all kinds of new skills. Recently we washed and de-acidified prints from an old scrap book. This was a terrifying experience as it involved laying around fifteen prints in a large sink with hot water, then pushing them down and agitating the prints to help clean them. I was more than a little surprised when all the prints came out unharmed! However, the delicate work didn't end there, we then had to carefully peel the prints off the paper they had been glued onto (another heart-in-mouth experience) and place them onto wire meshes to dry. Once dried the end results were fantastic: it has given a new lease of life to some of the older and more dirty prints, the detail is now more profound and they are great to look at. I also tried my hand at sewing a book for the first time, this turned out to be great fun and I don't think anything went too wrong!

All I hope now is that the breadth of knowledge from these books and experiences will enter my brain via osmosis during my time here and I will leave a genius!

Friday 27 September 2013

Bishop Fraser

In the process of returning items to the Reading Room, we have been re-examining the Bishop Fraser collection, an assortment of papers by and about the second Bishop of Manchester. He was actively involved with the social and political issues of his day, and the twelve volumes of newspaper clippings from the 1870s and 1880s provide an illuminating insight into the life of Manchester and Lancashire in that period.

Much of the material is related to the Church, but Bishop Fraser was also renowned for his work in education and was commissioned by the Government to report on the state of education and on agriculture. He was a great supporter of the Temperance movement, and had reservations about the new trend for 'respectable' women to socialise outside the home:
The Right Rev chairman in his address said he had heard that there was a town near Manchester, where lately the publicans were so obliging, and so wishful to accommodate their customers, that they had opened private rooms for ladies inclined to drink, in which persons of the coarser sex were not admitted to see what was going on; and he had heard many honest artisan's wives, starting on the Saturday afternoon for purposes of marketing in the town, found their way to those places where the met numbers of congenial neighbours and where the afternoon was spent in a way not altogether edifying. 

27 Nov 1877

There are many clippings that resonate strongly with the present day. Fraser writes about urban riots and the influence of 'outsiders'. There were tensions between Russia and Britain in Asia, and a strong lobby both inside and outside parliament for war, which he vehemently opposed. The many industrial disasters during this period with a loss of many lives provoked a response which was not always appreciated by contemporaries and does not make comfortable reading today. Similarly his attitude to the great industrial disputes of the day is complex: he is genuinely moved by the hardship and very real suffering of striking workers and their families, but is also convinced that their demands for no cut in pay pose a threat to the continuance of their industry.

Thanks to our volunteer Paul Carpenter for his work on the Fraser collection and for writing this post.

Thursday 26 September 2013

Lucky wedding rings!

The Library, of course, has very few dusty corners, but we did recently discover, at the back of a rare cobwebby shelf, a copy of a mail order catalogue, still in its original envelope, dating from March 1905.

H. Samuels, the well-known high street jeweller, was founded in 1862, when Harriet Smith took over her father-in-law's Liverpool-based clockmaking business and moved it to Manchester. From here she and her son developed a retail and mail order jewellery business, with stores throughout Lancashire and beyond.

The cover depicts the 'Main Depot' on Market Street which seems to have been an extensive site, with the warehouse and offices at Marsden Square and Palace Street. The catalogue also includes scenes from the watchmaking factory and the order and despatch section.

H. Samuels offered an astonishingly wide range of personal and household effects, ranging from watches and jewellery to gold and silver toothpicks, electroplated fern pots, 'violins, mandolines, and autoharps'.

Included in the catalogue is a charming little 'standard ring size card for measuring exact size of finger' and a page of 'lucky' wedding rings (we wonder what kind of benefits these might deliver - a long and happy marriage? A short and happy marriage? A mother-in-law who kept her opinions to herself...?

However, the main business was clearly considered to be their 'world famous watches', with great numbers of 'testimonials' and 'tributes' from satisfied customers. These include a slightly unsettling explanation for the late running of trains from a signalman in Croydon, who declares 'so firm has been my confidence in the watch that I have kept trains standing for time, even against the wishes of their guards'.