Wednesday 7 September 2016

The Last Post

Friends and followers, this will be the last post on this blog platform. You can read all our new blog posts and a full archive of previous posts on our beautiful new website here. See you there!

Friday 5 August 2016

Cats vs Dogs

The image is taken from Johannes van Meurs, Athenae Batavae (Leiden: Elzevir, 1625) and is one of the most famous images of the interior of a seventeenth-century library.

The University Library of Leiden was divided into two rows of bookcases for folios, with the smaller books arranged at the back. On the left is mathematics, philosophy, literature and theology, with history, medicine and law on the right. Each row of books had a table at which readers might stand to study a chained volume.

The image shows tourists as well as scholars - the rows of chained books, the portraits of Willem and Maurits of Orange, a picture of Constantinople, portraits of Erasmus and Janus Seconds, a cabinet containing manuscripts donated by the great scholar Joseph Scaliger, two men examining a globe and visitors courteously greeting and conversing with one another.

Chetham’s Library was housed in a building that was too narrow to allow a central aisle between rows of books. Instead the original bookcases were arranged against the outside wall leaving the passageways against an internal wall (the wall bookcase dates from the middle of the eighteenth century). Where as in Leiden, readers would work where the books were shelved, like Leiden the books were chained, but in Manchester, we made stools so that readers could sit rather than stand to read the books. The arrangement differed from Leiden. At Chetham’s the order was theology, history, mathematics and physics, and then literature. Where the law books were shelved is anyone’s guess. As in Leiden, readers and visitors would mingle: all useful learning, which was universal in its scope, would be housed under one ark of a roof as a statement of civic pride. Unlike Leiden we were less tolerant of dogs, although the number of cat flaps in the building indicates that cats and their ability to keep down vermin were more highly valued.

Wednesday 3 August 2016

Calendar Girls...and Boys

Whilst we pride ourselves in the fact that the collections at Chetham's were built up in a very deliberate, conscious manner, with each book being selected by governors and librarians because it fulfilled Chetham's purpose of establishing a library for the use of scholars, we don’t always know where each book came from, or why or how it was acquired. 

This is illustrated by a large folio volume housed in the gallery, a part of the library not normally open to the public, which is lettered on the spine Oxford Almanacs. When a recent visitor asked what it was, we could answer, large sheet almanacs published each year by Oxford University. When asked why we had it was more difficult to explain.

The volume contains 92 almanacs that were printed annually at the Clarendon Press in Oxford. Our set began in 1716 and continues with some gaps until 1854, but the first Oxford almanac was brought out for 1674 and the series has been continuous since 1676. Each contains a calendar and information relating to the University as well as other more general information. But their interest and appeal lies in the fact that each almanac contains a large picture. They began with allegorical subjects in the seventeenth century but then continued with designs for college buildings and portraits of college founders and benefactors. Later they shifted to topographical subjects.

They are both beautiful and occasionally baffling. The almanac for 1755 is described in Helen Petter’s 1974 catalogue of the series as: ‘A young man is being led by a woman with wings on her head towards two figures seated on clouds; one holds a cross an the other the reins of a lion. Above them three angels hold a book which is flooded by light from the sky. Beneath them putti play with instruments and books. The young man is restrained by two figures at the mouth of a cave; the man has ass’s ears and the woman holds a cup. Behind them is the head of a sleeping figure.’ Thankfully the official explanation accompanying the picture makes it all crystal clear: ’Science or Learning conducting Mankind from Sloth, Ignorance, and Sensuality to the knowledge of divine and Moral Truths, personified by the two women who represent the Christian Faith and Morality, and together make the whole of the Religion, signified by the open Bible.’ Yep. Much clearer.

What's our favourite? Easy, the almanac for 1752 - the opening of the Radcliffe Library. The last almanac engraved by George Verytue (1684-1756), who was engraver to the Society of Antiquaries as well as to the University. The picture is of the Library as designed by James Gibbs which opened in 1749. The official explanation describes the scene as a 'Representation of the Solemnity at the time of opening the said library'. Too right. For any library groupie, and for us that cap really does fit, this image is hard to beat, and solemnity is our middle name…

Thursday 21 July 2016

Fashionable Amusements

One of our wonderful Manchester scrapbooks is always referred to as ‘Cambrics’ - a rather curious name which simply describes the original fabric which covered the scrapbook. Within the book is a rich assortment of what the donor refers to as ‘handbills’ which cover topics as diverse as theatrical performances, a set of rules for the Coffee House, notices and reports of political and trade meetings, and a small collection of very early bills advertising local circus performances.

The term circus comes from the Latin for circle and was first used by the Romans to describe the entertainments staged in their amphitheatres. Our modern usage dates from the eighteenth century, when the showmen Philip Astley and Charles Dibdin developed equestrian entertainments which were performed in circular spaces with the audience seated around the sides (Dibdin was actually the first to use the word ‘circus’ in his advertising). Animals were popular but demonstrations of equestrian skills or ‘trick riding’  were always at the centre of these shows.

Three of our circus bills advertise the performances of Philip Astley’s ‘troop’. The earliest is dated 5 March 1773 and announces:
‘Horsemanship. Mr Astley and pupils will exhibit their various feats, in a manner quite new and surprising, in a field opposite to Strangeways gardens, this afternoon, being Friday, exactly at three o’clock’. The images of the horses and riders have great charm, although the animals do tend to resemble rocking horses. One of the riders has a banner flying above his head which says ‘I’m only five years old’.
By December of 1787, Astley is describing his show as being ‘By his majesty’s royal letters patent. At the riding house in Tib-street…a grand display of various exercises, by Astley’s company of dancers, tumblers, vaulters, and musical performers, on several horses.’ The individual acts are all listed and include ‘a minuet by two horses’ the ‘Metamorphose of the Sack by Mr Lansdale’ and ‘several feats on horseback by a young lady, Miss Vangibles. Performances are peculiar to herself - first appearance in Manchester…’

Philip Astley (1742-1814) is usually credited with the invention of the first circus. He had joined the dragoons at the age of 17 and became famous for his prowess at riding and breaking in horses. In 1768 after leaving the army he set up his own riding school and he and his wife began performing various tricks  and equestrian feats, for which they charged spectators 6d or a shilling to watch. The business flourished and Astley toured his performers to fairs, markets, race meetings and pleasure gardens all over the country.

Horses moving around a circular space are much easier for equestrian performers, as centrifugal force helps them to balance. Over the years Astley developed covered rings and tiered seating and constructed temporary rings for use when travelling.

Other circus shows in Manchester were from Mr Jones in 1784, whose show was to be staged ‘at the riding school near the Infirmary’ and two bills for the New Circus in 1793. One features Mr Parker ‘on his young charger’ demonstrating for one night only the ‘various evolutions of the Broadsword’. The dramatic image depicts Mr Parker, dressed as a hussar, brandishing his sword on his rearing steed.
 The other New Circus poster shows Mr Smith who ‘leaps thro a balloon and lights on the saddle’ although he looks strangely immobile and appears to be weighed down by the huge feathers crowning his hat.
The poster for the Olympic Circus at the Minor Theatre is a later date, 1817, and offers the spectacle of ‘a Country Dance by Six Horses’ and also ‘Miss Bannister the intrepid female Equestrian’ who, in an encouraging example of female emancipation, is demonstrating the Six Divisions of the Broad Sword Exercise.
Circuses remained hugely popular over the next hundred years and Brenda Assail, in her book The Circus and Victorian Society, records that Lancashire had more circus performances in the nineteenth century than any other county and that in Manchester between 1847 and 1848 alone, the public enjoyed 120 performances.

We’ve recently had some very good news relating to Cambrics and our circus posters, as the library has received a grant from the Arts Council’s Designation Development Fund which will enable us to digitise our collection of single sheet material (broadsides, ballads and ephemera).

Wednesday 13 July 2016

The Ballad of Chetham's Library

We are delighted to announce we have recently been successful in our application to the Arts Council’s Designation Development Fund. The money we will receive means we can now digitise our incredibly popular collection of single sheet material comprising broadsides, ballads and ephemera.

The collection is a rarity amongst museum collections consisting largely of sixteenth to nineteenth century printed ephemera such as song sheets, posters, proclamations and trade cards. These materials were largely produced for a quick sale or distribution and not intended for long term survival. Stuck to walls or crammed into pockets, torn and lost, the surviving pieces are rare and yet many thousands of examples lie within our archive.

The collection we are now fortunate enough to make available online includes:

Halliwell-Phillips Collection: 3,100 items of printed ephemera including royal proclamations, broadsides, ballads, poems, sheet music, trade cards, bill headings and advertisements. The proclamations date from the reign of Charles I, but most of the items are from the end of the seventeenth and early eighteenth century.

The Cambrics Scrapbook: One of the most important collections of broadsides, broadsheets, and single-sheet pamphlets in the Library, most of which are unique. Its 254 broadsides range from light-hearted theatre posters and entertainment handbills to discussions of some of the most serious political issues facing England at the end of the eighteenth century. The earliest piece dates from 1739 and the latest 1848; over two-thirds of them, especially the more political broadsheets, come from the years 1789-1800, the turbulent decade of the French Revolution, when Manchester's populace was also stirred by the spirit of Republicanism.

The Holt Ballad sheets: Collection of street songs and ballads published in Manchester and the North West during the mid-nineteenth century, containing over 400 broadsides with around 940 individual songs, many being in local dialect or relating to specific local characters and events.

The Axon Ballad collection: The Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society's Axon Ballad collection. The collection consists of 132 sheets containing 280 ballads. This collection already has good digital surrogates online, and so we will focus on providing them with essential metadata through this project. 

The William Robert Hay Collection: Collection of 286 broadsides, ballads and poems, many of which are rare examples of provincial printing. Hay (1761-1839) was a clerical magistrate and stipendiary chairman of the Salford Quarter Sessions acting at Peterloo and the material is recognised as one of the most significant collections in the country relating to the build up and aftermath of the Peterloo massacre. As we approach the 200th anniversary in 2019, this collection takes on added significance; making it available digitally will make a significant impact on the continuing scholarship of early C19th radicalism and loyalism.

The rarity and fragility of these works, in addition to their use by people such as artist Jeremy Deller, singer Jen Reed and musician Eliza Carthy, has generated a fervent interest; interest that, due to the delicate nature of the pieces and the capacity of the Library staff, we have often been unable to meet.

Furthermore, the collection has already proved a rich source of knowledge, having been the subject of numerous academic publications on Baroque music and used for teaching classes within the Library at undergraduate and postgraduate level. However, these have all required scholars to be able to physically access the pieces. We have separately received over 50 academic research requests in just the last few years directly requesting digital surrogates of the collection.

The digitisation of these works, thanks to the generosity of the Arts Council, will now allow us to make the collection available to academics, students and the general public, worldwide.

Tuesday 5 July 2016

Thursday Lates

We're open again this Thursday until 8.30... come along and enjoy wandering through the medieval buildings in the early evening light, see some books, relax in the Library. We'd love to see you there!

Tuesday 28 June 2016

Waste Not Want Not

The collection of John Byrom, which we acquired in 1870 from a descendant of the poet,  is especially interesting for a number of reasons. 

First, it contains some of the Library’s best manuscripts, including the Aulus Gellius that belonged to Matthias Corvinas, King of Hungary, Humphrey Duke of Gloucester’s copy of Coluccio Salutati, and a C15th hymnale produced for the brothers at Syon Abbey which was later bound at the Caxton bindery. Second, it shows how a collection was put together. Byrom’s journal documents his sickness of book buying, with numerous accounts of visits to booksellers and auctions. Many of the books in his collection can be matched against his journal entries, showing when and where he acquired a particular book and how much he paid for it. Third, and perhaps more importantly, Byrom did not go in for much in the way of rebinding and many of his books are in the same condition today as they were when he acquired them. Often this means the same tatty condition. Byrom was certainly never likely to have got worked up over pristine condition. The result is that Byrom’s books often contain fascinating provenance information.

This is illustrated by two books. First a two volume edition of the works of Origen, printed in Paris in 1530 by Jean Petit and Josse Badius. Both volumes Byrom’s signature on the front pastedown and also signatures of two previous C17th owners: Jo: Wold and  Jo: Jackson. The volumes were bound in a contemporary full calf binding on wooden boards and blind tooled to a panel design. The design consists of a central panel composed of three vertical strips of a metal roll with a design of griffins, wiverns and lions surrounded by an intersecting border of the same roll which continues to edges of boards. The roll contains the initials N.S. (possibly the Cambridge binder Nicholas Spierinck: the roll was used in Canbridge bindings from 1521-33). There is evidence of clasps and both volumes have a contemporary manuscript fore-edge titles; one reading "Tomi duo priores Origens" and the other reading "Tomi 3⁰ & 4⁰ Origens”.

Volume 1 has a leaf of a 15th-century English manuscript on civil law bound as back pastedown, whilst the second volume has another leaf of the same manuscript bound as front pastedown and a leaf from a different 13th or 14th-century manuscript on canon law bound as back pastedown. Both volumes have extensive manuscript marginal annotations in Latin in a variety of 16th century hands throughout.

The second example is an edition of the Catecheses of Saint Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, which was printed in Antwerp in 1564 as a co-edition of Christopher Plantin and the Cologne bookseller Maternus Cholinus. Byrom signed the copy on the title page giving the date of its acquisition as 'Ap. 18. 1722'. The book  is bound in a late 16th-century dark calf binding, with blind thin thick thin fillet border, and blind floral centrepiece on both boards. There is one leaf of vellum manuscript waste at front and back containing part of a breviary, in red and black, with many musical notations, and initials alternately rubricated in red and inked in blue.

So what lessons can we draw from Byrom’s book collection? One very important one for book historians and librarians and that is that that we should not rebind books and lose valuable provenance information. Keep material in original condition wherever possible, even if this is tatty condition. Rebinding books is for suckers.

Tuesday 21 June 2016

Dr. Ferriar or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and See Ghosts

We are very pleased to announce a new acquisition, John Ferriar’s An essay towards a theory of apparitions (1813), purchased from one of our favourite bookshops, Ken Spelman of York. 

Ferriar (1761-1815), was a Scottish physician and a poet, but particularly noted in Manchester for his leadership of the Infirmary, and for his studies of the causes of diseases such as typhoid. In the theory of apparitions Ferriar set forward an argument that spectral illusions were to be traced to disorders and diseases of the human bodily apparatus. Ferriar considered it a fact that ‘the forms of dead, or absent persons have been seen, and their voices have been heard, by witnesses whose testimony is entitled to belief’. How then to explain these occurrences among people classed as ‘normal’ and ‘sane’? For Ferriar apparitions could be explained by what he termed a ‘renewal of external impressions’ through which a visual memory could be reanimated via the visual sense; a sort of 'waking dreams composed of the shreds and patches of past sensations’.

John Ferriar, sporting a stunning quiff

The theory of apparitions was Ferriar’s last published work. It was preceded by his Medical Histories and Reflections, a series of medical papers 3 vols (1792-98) the poem Bibliomania, an Epistle to Richard Heber, Esq. (1809), and his best-known book, Illustrations of Sterne, with other Essays and Verses (1798; 2nd edn, 2 vols., with additions, 1812), in which he traced Sterne's indebtedness to older French novelists.

Laurence Sterne's signature in Le Moyen de Parvenir

Ferriar’s books at the Library are especially interesting for their provenance. Our copy of vol. 1 of his Medical Histories and Reflections was owned at one time by Edward Jenner, the pioneer of the smallpox vaccination. A copy of BĂ©roalde de Verville’s Le Moyen de Parvenir (1757) came into Ferriar’s possession from Richard Heber. But before Heber the book was owned by Laurence Sterne and contains his inscription on the flyleaf of vol. 1.

Tuesday 14 June 2016

Hulme-orous Photos

These wonderful pictures of Hulme (mainly from around the 1970s) have been generously donated by the legendary Terry Wyke, Senior Lecturer in History at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Tuesday 7 June 2016

Two Libraries and an Orrery...

A guest blog by Patti Collins, Chetham's Library Volunteer

As a new Room Guide at the National Trust's Dunham Massey Hall, I've been struck by the enthusiasm which many visitors display for the scientific instruments on display in the library there. The piece that excites most interest is the brass and oak Orrery made by 'Tho. Wright instrument maker to his Majesty in Fleet Street London' around 1730.

An Orrery is basically a mechanical model of the solar system and, although the Greeks developed something similar around 125 BC, early models were of course geocentric (ie the planets were believed to circle around the earth). It wasn't until after Copernicus published De revolutionibus orbium coelestium in 1543 that scientific models were developed which reflected the discovery that the Sun revolved daily round the Earth.

The renowned clock makers George Graham and Thomas Tompion reputedly built the first modern orreries and tellariums around 1704 in England. It is thought that the instrument maker John Rowley saw one of these when it was awaiting shipment to Prince Eugene of Savoy, along with instruments which he had made. Rowley noted its detail and about 1712 produced an improved model. Sir Richard Steele then saw this instrument and, being ignorant of those made by Graham, misguidedly named it an orrery in honour of Charles Boyle, Earl of Cork and Orrery. Tellurions and planetariums subsequently became known as orreries.

Back at Chetham's, whilst returning books to the stacks a couple of weeks ago, I was delighted to come across John Harris' book, published in 1729, Astronomical dialogues between a gentleman and a lady...which also promises on its title page 'With a Description of the famous Instrument called the ORRERY; made by Mr John Rowley, Master of the Mechanicks to the King.'
MAIN Collection - Shelf position: 2.A.6.44

John Harris (c.1666-1719) was an Anglican clergyman and fellow of the Royal Society who through private teachings, public lectures and published writing shared new developments in science with a wide audience. Harris also published by subscription the first volume of his famous Lexicon technicum, or, An Universal English Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (1704), which became one of the first books to display the importance to the public of Newton's science.

As Harris explains in The Preface 'The Reader will easily see that the Conversation in these Dialogues is feigned, and in Imitation of Those of the excellent Mr. Fontenelle, On the Plurality of Worlds. And that the Digressions, Reflexions, Poetry and Turns of Wit, are introduced to render Those Notions pleasing and agreeable, which perhaps without such a kind of Dress, would appear too crabbed and abstracted.'

Entretiens sur la pluralite des Mondes or Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds, was published in 1686 by Bernard le Bovier de Fontanelle. In this work Fontanellle speculates on the possibility of life existing on other planets and on space travel. The book became hugely popular - it wasn't written by a scientist for other scientists but took the form of a series of conversations between 'a charming philosopher and his hostess, a Marquise, as they strolled through her moonlit gardens.'

Harris declares that he gave Fontanelle's book to 'the most engaging Lady M' some seven years earlier and that...
'Some Years before her Death, when I went to visit that accomplish'd Lady at her Country Seat, I was a little surprised to find her, the next Morning after my Arrival, studiously viewing a pair of large Globes, which stood in the Drawing-Room, looking into the Garden, and which I used to make my Place of Study. Good Morrow, said I, Madam, what! hath Fontenelle made an Astronomer of you in good earnest? Are you really contemplating the Order and Motions of the Heavenly Bodies? Or are you rather seeking on the Earthly Globe, where to make new Conquests?'

Harris, like Fontanelle is taking quite a radical stance in choosing to publish a conversation with a woman about scientific theories but states that he…
'…Often wished that the same Curiosity and Love of Knowledge would inspire more of the fair Sex, for it would mightily enlarge their Empire and Power over ours, by endowing them with more real and lasting Beauties, such as would improve with Time, and strengthen even in Age itself.'

In the section of the Dialogues which relates to the ‘Description of the Orrery, Lady M makes a request that he might...
‘Get me a sight of the famous Orrery, which I have heard you and others so often speak of; and which I think was made by Mr. Rowley, the famous Mathematical Instrument-Maker, and Master of Mechanicks to the King; and whom I find you have always recommended in your Books, as the best workman of his Profession…’

Harris gallantly responds 'Madam, said I, the fine Instrument of that Name, which Mr. Rowley made for the East-India Company, is now luckily in a Place where I can come at it; I will go thither to morrow, and then appoint you a Day when I will wait on you to see it.'

Once the orrery is provided Harris proceeds to give Lady M full instructions on how it works  including a description of the instrument can illustrate day and night.

‘He hath provided this little Lamp to put on upon the Body of the Sun; which casting, you see, by the Means of a Convex Glass, and the Room made a little dark, a strong Light upon the Earth; will shew you at once all these things; first how one half of our Globe is always illuminated by the Sun, while the other Hemisphere is in the dark; and consequently, how Day and Night are formed, by the Revolution of the Earth round her Axis; for as she turns from West to East, she makes the Sun appear to move from East to West. And you will please to observe also, Madam, that as I turn the Instrument about in Order to shew you the several Seasons of the Year, and the Length and Decrease of Day and Night, how the Shadow of the Moon's Body will cover some part of the Earth, and thereby shew you, that to the Inhabitants of that part of the Earth there will be a Solar Eclipse.’

There is a famous and very dramatic painting by Joseph Wright A Philosopher Giving that Lecture on the Orrery, in which a Lamp is put in the Place of the Sun held by Derby Museums and first exhibited in 1766.

Scientific lectures and demonstrations presented by traveling scientists were a popular form of public entertainment during Wright’s lifetime. As an artist who showed an early interest in mechanics and science, Wright may have attended lectures on astronomy and pneumatics, among other topics, held at the town hall in Derby during the 1750s and 1760s.

Chetham's Library holds flyers for two such events, promoted locally by Mr Lloyd in 1818...

'Grand illuminated orrery. Mr Longstaff respectfully announces to the ladies and gentlemen of Manchester, his intention of delivering in February next, a course of familiar lectures on astronomy, which will be illustrated by his newly-invented and superior transparent orrery, fifty feet in circumference...'
MAIN Collection - Shelf position: Cambrics.25(1)

And Mr Longstaff in 1822...

'Mr. Lloyd has the honour, most respectfully, to inform the ladies and gentlemen of Manchester and its vicinity, whose friendship he is ambitious to conciliate and maintain, that he has appropriated...: Three evenings. Minor-Theatre, Manchester. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The 18th, 20th, and 22d of May, 1818. The dioastrodoxon, or grand transparent orrery. The largest and most magnificent in the British Empire...'

MAIN Collection - Shelf position: Scrapbook B.9.41.161(1)

Tuesday 31 May 2016

Second city of the Empire

We have just acquired a copy of the The Graphic thanks to our colleague Ian Mayer in Chetham’s School of Music. 

The Graphic was a British weekly illustrated newspaper, first published on 4 December 1869 by William Luson Thomas as a rival to the world's most successful illustrated paper, The Illustrated London News. Luson Thomas was exasperated by the unsympathetic treatment of artists by the ILN and created The Graphic as "a superior illustrated weekly newspaper, containing twenty-four pages imperial printed on fine toned paper of beautiful quality, made expressly for the purpose and admirably adapted for the display of engravings." The Graphic covered home news as well as news from around the Empire and devoted much attention to literature, arts, sciences, fashion, sport, music and opera. 

It continued to be published weekly under this title until 23 April 1932 and then changed title to The National Graphic between 28 April and 14 July 1932; it then ceased publication after 3,266 issues.

The volume that we have acquired is of particular interest because of a sixteen-page article published on 4 October 1876 devoted to Manchester. According to the editor, "We have an especial pleasure in endeavouring to depict 'Manchester' for it was in Manchester during our early struggles (when such an enterprise as ours was regarded as Quixotic) that The Graphic first took firm root; and we take it as a high compliment tour labours that the City so justly celebrated as foremost in collecting works of Art (long before the days when such collections became a matter of profit) should have always been a steady upholder of The Graphic.”

The article covers all of Manchester’s principal buildings, including the Cathedral, Chetham’s, Town Hall, Grammar School, Assize Courts, and Royal Exchange. There are two pictures of Chetham’s - boys dining in the baronial hall and a picture of the interior of the Library - one of the very few illustrations that we have that shows women visiting the Library.

As well as short descriptions of attractions, the article has lengthy accounts of ‘a bird’s eye view’, the history and religion of the city, and Manchester men, concluding that "'The second city of the Empire' is rapidly rivalling the first in eternal beauty and splendour, in setting an example of municipal administration which Londoners can only envy without the hope of copying it, and has a life of its own which points to a magnificent future. The climate may be depressing, the atmosphere heavy, the surroundings of the city unlovely, but all these things count for little when the spirit of the people is so high."

Tuesday 24 May 2016

Novel Experiences of Horses' Heads - the Origins of the Palatine Building

The Palatine Building demolition continues apace. It won't be long until it's gone and many more Mancunians will be treated to a view of our smiley faces waving to them from the windows of the lovely medieval buildings. Now seems an appropriate time to look at the origins of the building. Below is an excerpt from 1908's Manchester Streets and Manchester Men by T. Swindell...

"The next change to be noted took place in 1842, when the pile now known as Palatine Hotel and Buildings were erected. They were evidently put up in anticipation of the demand for hotel accommodation that would follow the projected extension of the Manchester and Leeds Railway line from Collyhurst to Hunt’s Bank. The speculator was Robert Gill of Mansfield Woodhouse, Notts, who was the manager of the railway company. Over the shops were a number of stables, and the top storey was intended to serve the purposes of a riding school. The approach to the stables and school was by means of an inclined slope to which there was a doorway next to the gateway of the Chetham College. It was a novel experience to see a horse’s head thrust through a window on the third floor, but such an experience was by no means rare. The venture paid for a while, but after the novelty had worn off patronage fell away, and about fifty years ago the stables and school were altered into sitting and bed rooms and added to the hotel."

Palatine Building with shop fronts

Current view of the site
Unfortunately, we don't have any pictures of said horse heads poking out of windows, although the demolition team have said that, if you listen quietly, you can hear faint neighing and a distant clip clop...

Thursday 19 May 2016

Samuel Bamford (1788-1872)

        ‘The more the bloody tyrants bind us
         the more united they shall find us.'

The Manchester Scrapbook is a fascinating miscellany of drawings, pen and ink sketches, watercolours, maps, prints and engravings depicting  Manchester places, buildings and people in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It was compiled by Francis Egerton, 1st Earl of Ellesmere, and presented to the Library in 1838. Many of the characters portrayed are rarely remembered, but others such as Samuel Bamford are still familiar, at least to readers interested in Manchester’s radical history.  Finding Bamford’s portrait in the scrapbook led me to explore the library’s comprehensive collection of publications by and about Bamford.  His writing is particularly valuable as accounts written by working people are remarkably absent from our history. 

Samuel Bamford - Manchester Scrapbook portrait


Bamford, a silk weaver born in 1788, was a well known political activist immersed in the reform movements of the period. The library holds several editions of his two volume political autobiography, Passages in the Life of a Radical.  The 3rd edition was printed by Bamford's friend John Heywood, a local bookseller and printer.

Cover - Passages in the life of a Radical

Bamford's first hand account of his life as an activist from 1816 to 1821 contains vivid, passionate writing from a witness who conveys the excitement and optimism and well as the disapointments and bitterness of his struggles, for instance his response to the suspension of Habeas Corpus which :

 ‘… seemed as if the sun of freedom were gone down and a rayless expanse of oppression had finally closed over us.’

Many aspects of Bamford account will be familiar to today’s activists: meetings, discussions, resolutions, writing, marching, arguments, splits, arrests and imprisonment, although fortunately we are no longer hung for high treason.  Groups were also plagued by infiltrators and informers such as ‘Oliver the spy’ who reported on the activities of the  Middleton Hampden Club, which Bamford set up in 1816  to campaign for parliamentary and social reform:

'It was not until we became infested by spies, incendiaries, and their dupes – distracting, misleading, and betraying – that physical force was mentioned among us.’

Bamford was a man of strong opinions.  On the 1 January 1817 the Hampden club passed resolutions calling for universal manhood suffrage and annual parliaments.  Although he was committed to universal manhood suffrage, Bamford’s depiction of the 'bungling knavery' of the election process illustrates his objection to an annual repetition:

‘Behold the banners: hear the music; mere glare and noise; the speakers – one side yelled dumb, the other drummed deaf – good men bullied by ruffians, and spit upon by poltroons, - demagogues cheered – scurrility applauded – fraud devised and practised – truth suppressed – falsehood blazoned – friendship – severed hatred gratified – courage threatened - cowardice rewarded – vanity flattered – modesty disparaged – cupidity bribed – sobriety scoffed - gluttony indulged - conscience hushed – honour abandoned- wrong triumphant- right abashed and contemned.'

Bamford played a significant part in organising the Middleton contingent of the reform meeting in St Peter’s Fields, Manchester, that became the Peterloo Massacre.  His eyewitness account of the day, in Passages in the Life of a Radical, depicts the horror of the cavalry charge on the crowd:

‘The cavalry were in confusion : they evidently could not, with all the weight of man and horse, penetrate that compact mass of human beings ; and their sabres were plied to hew a way through naked held – up hands and defenceless heads ; and then chopped limbs, and wound – gaping skills were seen ; and groans and cries were mingled with the din of that horrid confusion. Then, “Break ! Break! They are killing them in front and they cannot get away ;” and there was a general cry of “Break! Break.” For a moment the crowd held back as in a pause ; then was a rush, heavy and resistless as a headlong sea; and a sound like low thunder, with screams, prayers, and imprecations from the crowd-moiled, and sabre-doomed, who could not escape.’

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Bamford was imprisoned in Lincoln Castle jail for his part in Peterloo.  After his release, his political activity became less central to his life.  He returned to work as a silk loom weaver but found it hard to make a living and started to focus on writing to supplement his income. In addition to his autobiographical writing, he was Manchester correspondent for the London based Morning Herald and wrote material about Middleton for the Manchester Guardian. 

The library has recently acquired a rare first edition of Walks in South Lancashire and on its Borders which Bamford published in 1844.  Marbling and gilt lettering on the cover make this a lovely volume. In this publication he portrays the lives and social and industrial conditions of Lancashire working people through a series of chapters and sketches with headings such as  'An Insane Genius', 'The Traveller', 'A Temperance Orator', 'Robert, the Waiter', 'Walks amongst the Workers' and 'What should be Done'?

Cover - Walks in South Lancashire


Bamford was interested in dialect even though he wrote most of his work in standard English.  He used the vernacular when reporting  working men’s dialogue in Passages in the life of a Radical and wrote a small number of dialect  poems such 'Tim Bobbin' Grave', published in Hours in the Bowers.

The library holds an 1850 edition of Bamford's Dialect of South Lancashire published by Heywood who was also a dialect writer.  John Collier, who was also known as Tim Bobbin, wrote the original volume but Bamford thought it represented Cheshire rather than Lancashire dialect so published his own ‘correct’ version.

Dialect of South Lancashire title page
Vernacular title page

This text takes the form of a dialect conversation between Tummus and Meary (Thomas and Mary) in which Tummus tells about his misfortunes on a journey to Rochdale. The piece is a fascinating illustration of how words become obsolete as language evolves over time. The glossary of words and phrases at the back is essential the modern reader confronted with passages such as:

‘Zeans! O' Inglanshoyr'll think at yoar glenting at toose fratching, byzen, cradinly tykes, at writ'n sitch papers osth' Test : an sitch cawf-teles as Cornish Peter, at fund a new ward, snying weh glums an gawries.’

‘Inglun-shoyer all England, Glentin glancing, Toose those, Byzen blind.’
We don't find Fratching' in the glossary, perhaps it was in common use at the time and readers didn't need to be told that it means quarreling.


The Library holds several volumes of Bamford’s poetry including Hours in the Bowers, 1834 and Poems, which he self published in 1843.  Miscellaneous Poetry was published in 1821 by Thomas Dolby at Brittania Press, The Strand, price 2s. 6d.  A clue to the  intended reader is seen in the description of the author as 'Samuel Bamford Weaver of Middleton in Lancashire, lately imprisoned in the Castle of Lincoln' as well as in the cover illustration by George Cruikshank,  a prolific and popular caricaturist and satirical politic artist. 

Miscellaneous Poetry front cover

There is an extraordinary warning in the preface:

'In laying before the public the poems of SAMUEL BAMFORD , the Publisher is totally unmindful of the swift and bitter arrows of Criticism.  His Author is unlettered. The arrows of Criticism which to Book Poets convey bitterness and and dismay , fall pointless and powerless against SAMUEL BAMFORD. He lives not in books. He sings to the motion of his loom…'

Bamford’s poetry is very variable. His prison writings include Eclogue, written when he was incarcerated in Coldbath-Fields prison awaiting trial for High Treason in 1817 and Hymn to Hope written in Lincoln Castle.  He wrote lyrical as well as political works, addressing themes of life, love, nature and death.

Bamford wrote for the rest of his life. In 1858 on his 70th birthday started a diary which has been edited by Martin Hewitt and Robert Poole and published as The Diaries of Samuel Bamford.  The diaries offer invaluable insights into the activities, contacts and reflections of a long lived working class man:

  ‘Above all, they reveal the poignant struggle for dignity of an old radical fallen on hard times and determined to set the historical record straight.’

Look in the library catalogue for publications by and about Bamford :

Tuesday 10 May 2016

Poet's Corner - Manchester After Hours at Chetham's Library

Chetham's Library collaborates with the University of Manchester's MA Arts Management, Policy and Practice and MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies students to bring you an evening of entertainment as part of Manchester After Hours! Join us from 7-10pm in the Baronial Hall where there will be poetry and writing workshops, spoken word performances, live music and a specially curated exhibition!

As part of Manchester After Hours, this exhibition explores the artistic milieu of local poets, as well as the domestic and working lives of Mancunians in the 19th century. Brought to you by the MA Museum Studies and Art Management students from the University of Manchester, the exhibition showcases our finest collection of manuscripts and early printed books published in Greater Manchester.

The Poet's Corner, formerly known as the Sun Inn, was once situated outside Chetham’s gates and became a prominent hub of Manchester culture in the 19th century where authors and poets gathered to write and hold irregular social meetings. Some of the works produced by these poets are on display.

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M is for Manchester

One of the nice things about working in a library is the opportunity to fill gaps in the collection, acquiring the book that we thought we should have but which was somehow overlooked at the time of publication. Sometimes these come by gift - and here we can flag up that we don’t have a Gutenberg Bible or a First Folio Shakespeare in case anyone is looking to downsize their library - and sometimes we pick things up at auctions or from bookshops. These don’t always have to be particularly rare or expensive: more often than not we’ve missed a cheap piece of printing that later turns out to be significant and collectable.

Roger Oldham’s Manchester Alphabet fall into this category. Oldham (1871-1916), a Manchester-based architect published his alphabet by the firm of John Heywood in 1906. It has a lot in common with a children’s ABC: 26 comical illustrations of scenes from daily life around the city of Manchester, many of them featuring local landmarks, accompanied by simple rhymes. C stands for Chorlton and not for Chetham’s, and L for Lord Mayor rather than for libraries. G, of course stands for the Guardian, and the problem letters of X and Z are used respectively for Exodus (the flood of people leaving town once the factories and offices closed at Saturday lunchtime) and Zoo, the Belle Vue Zoological Gardens.

Manchester Alphabet  provided inspiration for a recent artistic and literary production by MMU, 'A New Manchester Alphabet’, a snapshot of Manchester in 2015: illustrated by students from the Manchester School of Art and written by poetry students from The Manchester Writing School.

More details about the book can be found here.