Thursday 30 January 2014

'Dreadful havock'

The North West may have so far got off relatively lightly in the recent floods, but this late nineteenth-century ballad shows that it wasn't always so. The catastrophic flood of 1872 caused enormous disruption and severe loss of life in Manchester and much of the North, resulting in 'dreadful havock', and is related at length in this 'sad and dreadful tale'.

The ballad is from the collection of tracts, chapbooks and broadsides at Central Library, which we are looking after for the duration of the renovation works taking place there.

Thursday 23 January 2014

A very big adventure

The end of January sees the arrival of the Chinese New Year of the Wood Horse. This year is believed to be excellent for adventure and foreign travel, so what better time to share these amazing photographs of China taken from the collection of J.J. Phelps

The photos are part of an album of around fifty images taken on a trip to Japan, China, Singapore, Indonesia and India, probably undertaken by Phelps around the turn of the last century. As well as the remarkable sight of the Great Wall snaking across the mountains, he also recorded this image of Peking, showing the gate between Chinese City and Tartar City.

Imperfect animals...*

These fabulous engravings are taken from a wonderful volume of work about molluscs and worms which we came across last week when looking for something else.The genera vermium exemplified by various specimens of the animals contained in the orders of the Intestina et Mollusca Linnaei. Drawn from nature was published in 1783 by British naturalist and painter James Barbut (fl. 1776-1799). We have been able to find out very little about Barbut except that he exhibited at the Royal Academy - if anybody knows more about this talented artist do get in touch. Meanwhile, immerse yourselves in the miniature world of strange creatures with single eyes and multiple nipples...

* 'By the ancients they were not improperly called imperfect animals, as being destitute of head, ears, nose, feet, and for the most part of eyes...' (from the chapter on Worms)

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Full of fascinating facts...

We are very pleased to announce the addition of two new volumes to add to our collection of publications by the Daisy Bank Printing and Publishing Company of Manchester. The first, Wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu Fully Explained, with Illustrations, is one that we already have, although as always with this particular press no two copies are ever alike, for the owner Jesse Pemberton often issued new covers for titles he was struggling to sell. No doubt this engaging display of muscular strength and fine physique by the professional wrestler Georges Hackenschmidt attracted more than a few new readers.

The second volume, Paris by Night and Day with Illustrations, is a rare find indeed, for we have not been able to identify a copy of this title in any library in the world. The work, which purports to be 'well written, neatly compiled, full of interesting facts of great interest' is in fact a curiously useless guide to the French capital, being largely a personal account of the author's own experience of the city laced with typically prudish Lancashire judgement about the sorts of activity on display there. Pemberton could not resist giving a Northern slant to the work: one of the illustrations of a courting couple bears the caption 'Come whoam to th' mither an' me', a reference to the well-known poem by the Lancashire dialect poet Edwin Waugh 'Come whom to thi childer an' me'.

With grateful thanks to Josephine Beaton for her kind donation of these two volumes. You can read more about the Daisy Bank Printing and Publishing Company here and here and here.

Friday 17 January 2014

Who let the dogs out?

We couldn't resist sharing this early C20th photograph of a Cheshire gentleman and his furry friends... quite what they were up to is anyone's guess, but they certainly seem raring to go.

The image is taken from an album of photographs of Cheshire taken by Norman Abbot of Didsbury and Wilmslow and gifted to the Library by his family.

Thursday 16 January 2014

'At the hour of 8 and 22 minutes at night...'

The use of a large family Bible to record the dates of births and deaths may not be especially unusual, but this Great Bible of 1553 goes one step further. The owner John Burgis has recorded not only the date but the precise time of birth of his six children, a much less common practice and one which perhaps offers some clues to the character of the man himself, who must have been at home for the births, as well as being the owner of some kind of timepiece.

The dates are recorded on a hand-drawn chart, beginning with John Burgis and his wife Ursala who were '… married the 30th day of November in the yeare of our Lord God 1633'. It continues with the dates, and remarkably detailed times, of the births and deaths of their children: John Burgis 'was borne the 30th of December [1634], being Tuesday at the hour of 9 and a half in the morning'. His death is recorded on October 7 1641. Peter Burgis 'was borne the 8th of September [1637], being Fryday, at the hour of 1 and a half in the morning'. Joyce Burgis 'was borne the 30th of November [1638], being Fryday, half a quarter before 7 of the clock at night'. She died October 21 1641. John Burgis 'the second was borne the 6th of December [1643, although this may be intended to read 1642], Wed, about 9 minutes before the hour of 11 at night'. He died on January 7 1643. John Burgis 'the third of that name was borne the 28th of July [1645] being Monday at the hour of 8 and 45 minutes in the morning'. James Burgis 'was borne the 12 day of October [1647] being Tuesday at the hour of 8 and 22 minutes at night'. James died August 25 1649. The chart is completed by the dates of the deaths of John and Ursala, in a different hand, which read 'John Burgis senior departed this life aged 48, Sept 16 1658, and Ursla Burgis his wife departed this life aged 64, August 24 1671' [Fryday].

Although nothing further is known of the Burgis family, this peculiarly detailed memento of these eight lives and six sad deaths is more than a little touching.

Wednesday 15 January 2014

Chetham's Library awarded Esmeé Fairbairn grant!

We are delighted to announce that the Library has been awarded a grant of £45,000 from the Esmeé Fairbairn Collections Fund, one of only six organisations to be successful in this round of applications. The fund, which is administrated by the Museums Association, aims to support time-limited collections work which falls outside the scope of an organisation’s core resources.

The grant will enable us to begin work on an ambitious project to make the Jennison archive available online and tell the story of Belle Vue from its beginnings in the 1830s, as well as working with schools and community groups to further explore Belle Vue's extraordinary history. The project kicks off with a programme of events in conjunction with the Manchester Histories Festival which runs for ten days from March 21-30.