Thursday 30 May 2013

The Legend of Driff

'A corset may be what this shop most resembles. The parts that show will be very attractive but those that don't will be under considerable pressure.' Driff's, 1986.

Every century has its heroes, those shadowy figures who are part historical, part legend: Lancelot, Robin Hood, Dick Turpin. In the days when every British town had its second-hand bookshops, before the chill winds of the internet closed their doors and bankrupted their owners, Driff was just such a shadowy figure. 


Driff, who was also known as Drif, Driffield, and even Dryfield, was a book-runner, travelling the length of Britain calling in at at second-hand bookshops for books he could buy cheap and sell high from one unsuspecting dealer to another. In 1984 he published his first guide to second-hand bookshops, an excoriating exposé of the worst practices of the book dealers. A must for book enthusiasts at a time when book collecting took years of hard graft and a fair bit of luck, Driff's guide became a book-buyer's bible: 'V. erratic but will answer if you ring bell. Med sz low key Nat Hist bk shp. Farts. Rumoured to be closing down'.

Copies of the several editions of Driff's guide may be found easily via the internet. Much scarcer is Driff's: The Antiquarian and Second Hand Book Fortnightly which appeared for a few months in 1986. Our copies of this magazine, bound in a single red volume, come from the bequest of Paul Minet, book dealer and publisher, and trustee of Chetham’s Library, who died last year.

Driff, who was on friendly terms with Minet, once described the stock of a Minehead bookshop, saying 'I've seen better books in Mr Minet's skip.' Minet used to tell the story of how Driff, a tall man, would stalk into a bookshop and loom over the unsuspecting book dealer sitting quietly at his desk, letting the silence grow long before asking: Do you have any books on DEATH?

Driff himself, like all legendary figures, suddenly disappeared. Like the many second hand bookshops around the country, one day he simply wasn't there.

Wednesday 29 May 2013

A two-part history

The buildings of Chetham's Library were built in 1421 to house the priests of what is now Manchester Cathedral. Over two hundred years before Humphrey Chetham's trustees even thought of buying the building for the new school and library, it had another incarnation as accommodation for the warden and fellows of the newly created collegiate church. You can read more about the incredible history of one of Manchester's oldest buildings on the website.

Big in Washington

Big thanks to Ted Young of Seattle for his article about the Library in the latest edition of the Journal of the Book Club of Washington. Ted visited Chetham's as part of a tour of Europe last year and we are pleased to be featured alongside the Strahov Monastery Library in Prague, as well as John Rylands here in Manchester. You can find the Book Club of Washington online here.

Friday 24 May 2013

Eccles Cakes

As Friday is often Cake Day here at the Library we thought we would share these Eccles Cake photos, which are part of the collection of photographs of old Manchester taken by Frank Mullineux.

The shop above is believed to be the oldest Eccles Cake shop, a claim no doubt vociferously opposed by Bradburn's, who owned the shop shown below:

Given our enthusiasm for cake, we consider ourselves fortunate to hold the archive of Bradburn's, which was kindly donated to the Library by Kathy Percival, whose ancestors ran the business between c. 1870-1900. The archive consists of diaries, photographs, cash books and papers from the period, as well as some later material.

See more of the images from the Mullineux collection on our Flickr page here.

How do you pronounce Chetham's?

Quite often, the first thing people ask us when they come into the Library isn't anything to do with the books or the medieval building, but something that has been troubling them for many years and has sometimes caused lively family debate: how do you pronounce 'Chetham's'?

Unfortunately there is no clear answer to this, and the matter is further complicated by the School of Music having settled on the use of a short 'e', frequently shortening it to 'Chet's', while the Library appears to have mostly used a long 'e', as in the nearby district of Cheetham Hill.

Humphrey Chetham used several different spellings of his name, signing himself on different occasions Chetham, Cheetham or even Cheatham. When he became High Sheriff of Manchester, it was standardised to Chetham, but how he may have pronounced this remains unclear, even to scholars.

In short then, we are unable to give a definitive pronunciation, so perhaps the best thing is to say it exactly as you like - after all, you say 'tomato, I say 'tomato'!

Friday 17 May 2013

Angel Meadow Fest

We were delighted to host a pop-up gallery of work by local photographer Gu yesterday, as part of the Angel Meadow Fest event organised by students at Manchester School of Art. Featuring art, music, dance and performance, the festival aimed to celebrate the history of the area and bring art into the heart of the local community.

You can find out more about Gu's work here.

Looking after the Library

It costs a lot to look after our collection and keep the books in usable condition for our readers and visitors. We are grateful for our NADFAS volunteers who come in on a regular basis to clean books and pamper them with leather dressing, but sometimes more drastic help is needed and we need to call in the conservator.

There are lots of ways you can give support to the Library, including becoming a Patron, which costs a lot less than you might think. Through support in the form of an annual donation of at least £38, you will ensure that the Library continues to flourish, allowing us to fund special projects, acquire new equipment, and add to the Library's collections. Find out more on the website!

Thursday 16 May 2013

Our longest manuscript?

This amazing fifteenth-century manuscript roll measures a full six metres when fully extended, surely a contender for the longest of the Library's treasures.

Not just a beautiful object, this closely written manuscript transcribes letters and documents relating to a medieval property dispute. Read more on the website...

Friday 10 May 2013

John Dalton

We have a small but interesting collection of material relating to the great scientist and mathematician John Dalton (1766-1844), who spent much of his adult life in Manchester and was an enthusiastic supporter of Chetham's Library, declaring 'there is in this town a large library, furnished with the best books in every art, science and language, which is open to all, gratis'.

You can read more about the John Dalton collection on the 101 Treasures Page this week.

Friday 3 May 2013

A C15th interactive text with a difference

The Library's unique 1493 copy of Hartman Schedel's Liber Chronicarum, otherwise known as the Nuremberg Chronicle, is under the spotlight in today's 101 Treasures. The extensive annotations made by one Thomas Gudlawe of Wigan around 1590 double the length of the text. Read more on the website.

Wednesday 1 May 2013

Happy International Workers' Day!

As many of you will already know, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels studied together at Chetham's Library in the summer of 1845, working together in the now-famous window alcove of the Reading Room. You can read more about their experience of Chetham's on the website.