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.