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.