Wednesday 27 February 2013

Diaries of John Reed

The Library has recently been given a large number of diaries belonging to the academic and political activist John Reed (1929-2012), a gift from his brother, Alan. John Reed made a journal entry every day of his life from the age of ten until his death in 2012, and the large collection of volumes represents the largest individual diary held here at the Library, as well as being quite probably one of the longest unbroken run of diary entries in existence.

The diaries are interesting for a number of reasons. For the first years, they offer an insight into the life of a schoolboy during World War Two, including evacuation, the boredom of spending long hours in air raid shelters, and occasions when he and his classmates had to dive under desks as V1 flying bombs travelled directly over the school en route for London.

After school, Reed recorded the daily details of his National Service, as well as his efforts to learn both Russian and shorthand. On his discharge, he studied English at Oxford under C.S. Lewis. However, it is his life as a university lecturer in Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) that is perhaps of greatest interest. In 1957 he travelled to Salisbury to take up a teaching post, soon becoming involved in the anti-colonial political struggle, and developing a close friendship with Terence Ranger. The diaries offer a unique insight into the daily lives of those involved in the Liberation movement, and reveal how he was drawn deeper and deeper into what would become a very dark and dangerous situation. He was later forced to leave Rhodesia or face arrest, and took up a professorship at the University of Zambia at Lusaka. There he worked to develop theatre which drew on indigenous traditions and promoted the growth of a new generation of African dramatists.

Terence Ranger's recollections of this time have recently been published as Writing Revolt: An engagement with African Nationalism, 1957-67. The cover image, taken by photographer Dave Wiley, shows John Reed on the far right, together with Ranger, Nkomo, Chiherema and Robert Mugabe at Ranger's deportation in 1963. The extract below is John Reed's own diary entry from that day:

Wed 27th Feb 1963

A dull day, overcast and then a fine rain falling. I leave the college at about 10, taking Matumba Mainga in the car, and picking up Keith Rennie on the way. We reach the airport soon after Terry and Shelagh – someone is taking photographs of them on the steps. Inside the hall of the airport there are already many people from the university and a few ZAPU people like Robert Mugabe. Upstairs, on the terrace the crowd begins to gather. Joshua arrives, and with him Robert Chikerema, Moyo[?]. George Nyandoro a little later. I think every member of staff in arts Terry who is in Salisbury, with wives. And many students - a group of African nuns from St Francis. Several Roman Catholic priests; photography is continuous. There are I think three film cameras; one is Richards, one RTV – and another – besides the CID man on the roof with the telephoto lens. He goes away when he is noticed, and begins to get too many photos taken of himself. Terry gives two separate recorded interviews that I notice. The crowd is dense – and everyone is seeing and greeting people they have not seen for months. Suman is there, and Natu, Davies Mugabe – who tells me Terry promised him some notes on his career before he went which he has not given him - could I write something as soon as possible – this afternoon? Samkange, Willy Musarurwa, Mr Matiti[?], Moores, Haddons (Eileen says I must see her afterwards so that we can discuss the project of a revived Dissent which there is a hope Theo [Bull] may underwrite) Daryll Angus, the Butterfields, Yateses and Shelagh, whose hand luggage is already extensive is waded with gifts – including a fair sized pot, made I think by George Nyandoro's mother. At last the call for the flight comes, and Terry and Shelagh go downstairs. Through the drizzle they walk out to the plane. Her best Chitepo who is going back to Dar is with them. The crowd claps in union - then sings Ishe komberera Africa, while they stand to attention below. Then, when they are inside the airport the singing begins - a song about Terry. Whatever you do, Terry Ranger is still mwana we pasi - a son of the soil. All this eagerly recorded by the ZBC microphones. And other ZAPU songs, slightly modified... And so off they go. It has been hard for me to feel it as an occasion of sadness. Tony, Shelagh certainly seemed in heart rather than sad. I am told many of the ladies were crying but I do not see this. I drive Eileen back to the Examiner offices, and we talk over the possibility of a revived Dissent after the Examiner goes out of publication. I am to write separately to Theo as soon as possible. After noon I settle and write almost straight off I suppose a couple of thousand words on Terry and Shelagh these are collected by the Parade Car at about half past 4. Arthur tells me Alport[?] has summoned and spoken to three members of the AUT Committee but what he has old them is in such strict confidence that no one else may know. Whether Arthur himself knows (he is not one of the three) or not I am unsure. His tone suggests the news was good rather than indifferent.

With thanks to the African Studies Program of the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the use of the image.

As well as the enormous number of diaries, notebooks and box files, the John Reed archive contains a large amount of other writing and ephemera including letters, political material and newspaper cuttings, and are currently working to sort out this remarkable archive and make it available for study. We are grateful for the work of volunteer Paul Carpenter who has begun to make sense of it for us.

Friday 22 February 2013

It was a dark and stormy night...

This atmospheric image of Manchester Town Hall on a moonlit night was produced in the early years of the twentieth century and is part of a large album of postcards featuring Manchester scenes.

Unfortunately we know very little about the provenance of the album, which contains over two hundred postcards dating from the Edwardian period. There are three night scenes, including St Ann's Square, the Ship Canal and the Cathedral as well as the Town Hall. These were published by Delittle, Fenwick & Co of York, as part of the D.F.& Co series.

You can see these and other postcards from the collection on our new Flickr page here.

Wednesday 20 February 2013

James Crossley

This week our 101 Treasures page is devoted to the fascinating character of James Crossley, Manchester man of letters, prolific book collector, antiquarian, founder of the Chetham Society and Honorary Librarian of Chetham's in the last years before his death in 1883. To find out more about this notable figure who was much in demand at dinner parties and wore a distinctive long black cloak as he strode through the streets of the city, visit the 101 Treasures page on the website.

Thursday 14 February 2013

Let us together be bound!


If this Valentine's Day sees you short of ideas for a suitable declaration of your love and respect, you could do worse than take inspiration from one of the Valentine-themed chapbooks here at the Library.

One of the volumes of chapbooks from the Central Library collection, which is being looked after at Chetham's during the restoration and improvements at Central, contains eight small pamphlets on the art of writing the perfect Valentine's message.

Perhaps our favourite is a twenty-four page chapbook entitled The Trades People's Valentine Writer, a collection of 94 'appropriate Valentines, entirely original', apparently written by various tradesmen and listed alphabetically, beginning with Anchorsmith and ending with Wheelwright. We have reproduced some of these below which you may like to use as part of your own message of love, although we take no responsibility for the outcome.

A Fishmonger to his Valentine:

My fair one's skin, like cod is white,
Her lips are salmon's true;
Her eyes like mackerel sparkle bright,
Like soles she's firm and true.

From a Quack:
My Valentine my skill shall see,
I'll soon love's pain allay;
Belive me, fair I'm an M.D.
What's more - No cure no pay.

From a Porkman:
If my sparerib you will be
I'll devote my legs to thee;
And whenever you fancy pork
You shall have a knife and fork.

From a Dentist:
I clean the teeth - for teeth that's white. 
Will make a kiss yield more delight;
And if to love me you'll agree
Your teeth like ivory shall be.

From a Bookbinder:
Oh! were I my charmer to fold, -
To press her what pleasure profound!
Propitiously Hymen behold,
And let us together be bound!

Wednesday 13 February 2013

In defence of Richard III

The current excitement about the discovery of the body of Richard III prompts us to draw attention to the Library's copies of the two earliest published defences of the king.

Sir George Buck, Master of the Revels to James I, wrote an account of Richard's life, The history of the life and reigne of Richard the Third, which was published in 1646 and refutes Tudor propaganda about the life and death of the king.

Buck 's interest arose because his great grandfather had fought for Richard at the Battle of Bosworth, and was subsequently executed. In the final paragraph of the book, Buck describes in detail how, 'after Revenge and Rage had satiated their barbarous cruelty upon his dead body..' it was finally buried in 'the chief church of Leicester called St Maries, belonging to the Order...of Greyfriars'

The DNB describes Buck's original manuscript account as a 'pioneering revisionist study', and all subsequent 'pro Richard' writers have used the work, including Horace Walpole in his book Historic doubts on the life and reign of King Richard the Third, published in 1768.

Walpole includes this curious image of Richard and Anne, apparently taken from an old drawing in his possession and writes of it that, although 'Richard's face is very comely... He has a sort of tippet of ermine doubled about his neck which seems calculated to disguise some want of symmetry thereabouts'.

Tuesday 5 February 2013

A Cure for the Winter Blues

What with some of the staff trapped in the snowy North (i.e. Oldham), others gridlocked in icy South Manchester, and the weather forecast, according to the Metro, set to be the 'coldest February since 1986', those of us who managed to make it in to work today are spending some time brushing up on our winter-sport skills. We are particularly taken with The Art of Skating by R. Jones, published around 1825, which is from the Manchester Central Reference Library pamphlet collection, housed at Chetham's during their renovation. Bring on that ice and snow!

Monday 4 February 2013

A Bacchanalian Garland

Did you know that the National Anthem of the United States gets its melody from a popular 18th-century British drinking song? We learned that from listening to Radio Four's In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg last week, which reminded us that one of the titles in our new chapbook exhibition is 'A Bacchanalian Garland'. Printed by Elizabeth Sergent of Preston in about 1790, the little eight-page book contains five drinking songs, just right for a proper night out on the razz.

Sure enough, when we checked, one of them is the song Melvyn and his guests were discussing. 'To Anacreon in Heaven' was written for London's Anacreontic Drinking Club, and its wide-spread popularity is attested as much by this Preston printing as by its choice for Francis Scott Key when he celebrated the American defence of Fort McHenry in Baltimore with his 'Star Spangled Banner' written to be sung to this tune. Although it's a difficult song to sing at the best of times, we spent an amusing half hour trying to get the words and the tune straight in our heads before getting back to the exhibition:

To Anacreon in Heav'n, where he sat in full Glee,
A few Sons of Harmony sent a Petition,
That He their Inspirer and Patron wou'd be;
When this Answer arriv'd from the Jolly Old Grecian,
'Voice, Fiddle, and Flute,
No longer be mute,
I'll lend you my Name and inspire you to boot,
And, besides, I'll instruct you like me, to intwine
The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine.

If you're curious to hear it sung, here's a link to the National Museum of American History's version of the song: Listen to the Anacreontic Song (MP3)

The Library's exhibition "Godlies, Merries and Pleasant Histories: the Chapbook Tradition from 1731-2013"  opens today.