Friday 25 January 2013

Our latest newsletter is now live!

The latest edition of our Newsletter is now out! As well as a round-up of all the latest news and events, it includes special material only available to subscribers, including an interview with one of our regular readers, Professor David Blamires, and a look at the medieval cat-flaps in the cloisters and why they were necessary.

Why not sign up? It's easy and free. We'd love to see you over at the website and soon the newsletter will be winging its way to your inbox!

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Prince Albert and his memorial

On this day in 1867 the Albert Memorial in Manchester was unveiled. It took several years of very slow progress by a committee set up to provide an appropriate memorial to the former Prince Consort, who died in December 1861.

The committee was chaired by Mayor Thomas Goadsby, who decided to offer the town a marble statue of Albert, the sculptor of which was to be Matthew Noble. Thomas Worthington, the Manchester architect, was invited to provide a magnificent shrine-like canopy to house the statue.

The minute book of the Albert Memorial Committee, which was given to the Library by Colonel A.F. Maclure in 1924, records the progress of the scheme. Although the initial intention had been to fund the memorial largely by public subscription, an additional grant of £500 had to be made by the City Council in 1866 to meet the cost.

Friday 18 January 2013

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum

This beautiful woodcut is taken from our 1539 edition of the plays of Terence, part of a remarkable series of illustrations depicting scenes from medieval theatre productions. The attention to detail is exquisite and will delight everyone from serious theatre historians to the casual book-lover. To find out more, check out our 101 Treasures page, which this week is three-quarters of the way through the series!

Wednesday 16 January 2013

Who can stand before His cold?

Who, indeed. This seasonal sermon on snow from the seventeenth century was written by the aptly named John Shower, a Presbyterian minister working in London, who was inspired to respond to the severe winter of 1694-5 with a lyrical exposition of Psalm 147 and the greater mysteries of God. 

The Library holds both first (1695) and second (1709) editions of Winter Meditations, or a Sermon concerning Frost, and Snow, and Winds…, in which the Reverend Shower, who was evidently popular with his contemporaries and is described as having 'a very zealous, lively manner', holds forth on the nature of winter weather. At turns poetic: 'Snow like wool, that descends silently, and lies on the ground like a fleece of wool; so that no sheep is more warmly clad with wool than the earth by great snows', he also exhorts the reader to find spiritual riches in the ravages of the icy weather: 'The extreme cold of the season may assist to warm our devotion and reverence towards Him'.

But not all the author's wisdom resides in the heavenly realm. He concludes sensibly that winter is as necessary and beautiful as summer:  'For a constant uninterrupted course of warm weather and sunshine would make the earth fruitful only in caterpillars and vermin; would quickly produce a pestilence and contagious diseases and be more proper to fill graves than barns.'

Nor does Shower shy away from the natural extension of his metaphors. The first edition includes a dedication to the Lord Mayor of London with a lament for the death of the Queen, 'which compell'd the intelligent world to differ from the natural, and in the midst of that severe frost, made so universal a thaw, as if England were dissolving in its own tears'.

With thanks to our friend Patti Collins, formerly of Central Library, who is generously volunteering her time to help at the Library, and wrote and researched much of this post.

The Library of Cool

The Library's position on the cool wall has improved slightly this week, thanks to the presence of several members of indie bands Everything Everything, Delphic and Dutch Uncles, who were working with one of our favourite photographers Rebecca Lupton on a photo shoot for Big Issue in the North. 

This latest clutch of hipsters can of course be added to our tally of the handsome and talented Liam Fray of the Courteeners, as well as the Daddy of them all, Damon Albarn of Blur, although if we're talking cool, we might possibly not wish to add Sean Ryder filming his UFO series to this list...

Is there a cooler rare books library? We don't think so.


Friday 4 January 2013

Happy Birthday, Archbishop!

The Library holds a large number of works by the prolific scholar and Archbishop James Ussher, whose 432nd birthday it would have been today.

Ussher is perhaps most famous for his chronology purporting to establish the time and date of the Creation, which he established as taking place on the evening preceding Sunday, 23rd October, 4004BC. This would make the earth 6017 years old, a bold claim that is yet, we feel, to be satisfactorily disproved by today's heathenish scientists.

Archbishop Ussher seems to have been a particular favourite of Humphrey Chetham, whose vellum-bound personal copy of his Discourse of the religion anciently professed by the Irish and British, 1631, turned up ten years ago at a London bookseller and was bought and returned to its proper home here at the Library.

Wednesday 2 January 2013

"When danger reared its ugly head, he bravely turned his tail and fled"...

Fans of Monty Python and the Holy Grail will no doubt agree that this fleeing demon does look remarkably like he is being played by Eric Idle...

The delightful image is taken from this week's Treasure, the Arabic-Latin New Testament of 1591, beautifully annotated in silver ink, and an important addition to the Library's extensive collection of Bibles and New Testaments.

Happy New Year!

A very Happy New Year to all our readers and friends - we are open as usual today - why not come in out of the rain and catch the Grimm's Fairytales Exhibition before it closes at the end of January?

We'll be sharing more treasures and surprises from the collection here and on the website as usual over the year, so don't forget to follow or bookmark us and pop back often to see what's new!