On the occasion of John Ruskin’s bicentenary

Self-portrait of John Ruskin aged 52. From: Terence Mullaly. Ruskin a Verona, 1966

This post is written by Sergio Alonso Mislata, Library Assistant in the Foyle Special Collections Library.

The 8 February 2019 marked the bicentenary of the birth of John Ruskin (1819-1900), and I thought it would be unfair to let this go unmentioned, if only because there are some threads that link Ruskin to King’s College London.

Ruskin was the star art critic of his time: he was a fervent supporter of JMW Turner (1775-1851) and the Pre-Raphaelites; and had an important influence on William Morris (1834-96) and the Crafts Movement. He also had an enormous impact on the Gothic Revival.

With his passionate defence of the fragile architectural styles he saw in danger of disappearing across Europe, he established the spiritual foundation for conservation and heritage enterprises to follow. He was also a skilled draughtsman and watercolourist.

As well as being an art critic and academic (he became the first Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford in 1869), he wrote about many other subjects and was a distinguished advocate for social causes. This is not to say that there were not also shadows in his life, and that he did not have a complex personality.

Ruskin and King’s College London

A street scene from the northern Italian city of Vercelli, painted by Ruskin in 1846

A street scene from the northern Italian city of Vercelli, painted by Ruskin in 1846. From John Ruskin. The poetry of architecture, 1893

According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Ruskin attended lectures at King’s (established 1829) during 1836, before he went into residence at Christ Church, Oxford, in 1837.

As a background to this most direct link to King’s, between 1833 and 1835 Ruskin had attended a school run by the Anglican priest Thomas Dale (1797-1870) of St Matthew’s Chapel in Denmark Hill. Thomas Dale was appointed professor of History and English Language at King’s in 1836 and Ruskin followed.

The second visible link of Ruskin to King’s has just been hinted at: he spent his childhood and an important part of his adult life in the Camberwell area, between Herne Hill and Denmark Hill, not far away from where King’s Denmark Hill Campus is located today. People familiar with the area will know that the name of the beautiful park that neighbours King’s College Hospital is no other than Ruskin Park.

Another connection with King’s is found in the King’s College London Archives where letters (and copies of letters) written by Ruskin to author George MacDonald, a King’s alumnus himself, and to Edgar Prestage, who would later become the first Camões Professor of Portuguese at King’s, can be found.

Items in our collections related to Ruskin

Most of the items by or about Ruskin in the Foyle Special Collections Library belong to either the Miscellaneous Collection or the Adam Collection. Items from the Adam Collection were part of the personal library of Romania-born literary editor Miron Grindea (1909-95). Below are some notable items which we hold in our collections.

Image of the tomb of Cansignorio, Verona, painted by Ruskin

Image of the tomb of Cansignorio, Verona, painted by Ruskin. From: Terence Mullaly. Ruskin a Verona, 1966

The first of these is The poetry of architecture (a collection of articles from the Architectural magazine, 1837-38, published as a book in England in 1893). In this book, Ruskin argues that the basis of all grace and the essence of beauty in architecture is a:

unity of feeling … its adaptation to the situation and climate in which it has arisen … its strong similarity to, and connection with, the prevailing turn of mind by which the nation who first employed it is distinguished

And much to his regret he feels he needs to highlight that the excesses and incongruence of English modern architecture denote an ignorance of this principle:

We have Corinthian columns placed beside pilasters of no order at all, surmounted by monstrosified pepper-boxes, Gothic in form and Grecian in detail, in a building nominally and peculiarly national

For this, he blames not only the architects who will not make an effort to capture the poetry of architecture. He wants to also appeal to the average person who lets the state of things go on unchecked with their passivity:

in a climate like ours, those few who have knowledge and feeling to distinguish what is beautiful, are frequently prevented by various circumstances from erecting it. John Bull’s comfort perpetually interferes with his good taste, and I should be the first to lament his losing so much of his nationality, as to permit the latter to prevail.

In Unto this last (1862), a book comprising articles about political economy published in Cornhill magazine in 1860, Ruskin says of these articles ‘I believe them to be the best, that is to say, the truest, the rightest-worded, and most serviceable things I have ever written; and the last of them, having had especial pains spent on it, is probably the best I shall ever write.’ The pamphlet The rights of labour according to John Ruskin  (1889), consists of excerpts of Unto this last arranged by Thomas Barclay.

The crown of wild olive: four lectures on industry and war (1912), comprises not only the 3 lectures included in the 1866 first edition of the book, entitled, ‘Work‘, ‘Traffic’, and ‘War’, but also a fourth lecture entitled ‘The future of England’, with the appendix ‘Notes on the political economy of Prussia’.

Special Collections also holds some exhibition catalogues related to Ruskin:

These two final exhibition catalogues include the essay ‘Proust and Ruskin’, by Marie Nordlinger-Riefstahl, which discuss the influence of Ruskin on Proust – the Frenchman being a notable translator of Ruskin.

Other publications about Ruskin include A disciple of Plato: a critical study of John Ruskin, by William Smart (1883), and a chapter (written by RH Wilenski) dedicated to him in the book The great Victorians (1932).

Photographic portrait of Ruskin aged 63

Photographic portrait of Ruskin aged 63. From Marcel Proust 1871-1922: an exhibition, 1956

More works by and about Ruskin can be found at the Maughan Library, including his most famous works: Seven lamps of architecture (first published in 1849) and The stones of Venice (first published between 1851-53).

I hope this brief overview has managed to spark your curiosity and that some of you might decide to use our wonderful resources to delve deeper into Ruskin’s work and life. A few final words by Wilenski to perhaps fuel this possibility:

There was a good deal of Cockney impudence in Ruskin; he was vain, conceited, and arrogant; and judged by modern standards, he was inadequately educated in most of the fields in which he worked … But he was a great man all the same. He is commonly regarded as a sentimental moralizing aesthetician. He was nothing of the kind. He was a man of action, who was condemned by an unlucky accident to act for the most part by means of words and sentences …

Select bibliography

France. Direction des Relations Culturelles. Marcel Proust and his time, 1871-1922. London: Wildenstein Gallery, 1955 [Adam Collection PQ2631.R63 F68]

R Hewison. Ruskin, John (1819–1900), art critic and social critic. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. Retrieved 4 Apr. 2019, from http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-24291

Terence Mullaly. Ruskin a Verona. Verona: Museo di Castelvecchio, 1966 [Adam Collection NC242.R8 M85 MUL]

Marcel Proust, 1871-1922. An exhibition of manuscripts, books, pictures and photographs. Manchester: Whitworth Art Gallery, 1956 [Adam Collection PQ2631.R63 Z725]

John Ruskin. The crown of wild olive: four lectures on industry and war. London: George Allen & Sons, 1912 [Adam Collection PR5255 RUS]

John Ruskin. The poetry of architecture. London: George Allen, 1893 Miscellaneous Collection FOL. NA2550 RUS]

John Ruskin. The rights of labour according to John Ruskin. Leicester: Chas D Merrick, [nd] [Miscellaneous Collection PAMPH. BOX HD8390 RUS]

John Ruskin. Unto this last. London: George Allen & Sons, 1912 [Adam Collection PR5261 RUS]

William Smart. A disciple of Plato: a critical study of John Ruskin. Glasgow: Wilson & McCormick, 1883 [Miscellaneous Collection PR5267.P5 SMA]

RH Wilenski. ‘John Ruskin’, in The great Victorians. London: Ivor Nicholson & Watson Ltd., 1932 [Hamilton Collection DA562 MAS]

MA History internship 2018

The post below is made on behalf of Charlotte Chambers, who is undertaking the Early Modern History MA course at King’s. From January to April 2018, Charlotte was an intern in the Foyle Special Collections Library, working with our early printed books.

By Charlotte Chambers.

As part of my Early Modern MA History course at King’s College London, I had the opportunity to become an intern in the Foyle Special Collections Library, working with their incunabula collection. Incunabula is the term used to refer to books printed before 1501.

My interest in studying incunabula revolved closely around the invention of the printing press, and the recurring argument that it was the development from manuscript to print which sparked the transition from the medieval period into early modernity. This argument was always in the back of my mind throughout the experience and helped my engagement with the source material.

Studying the early origins of the printing press led me into new territory and provided a new means of answering the all-encompassing early modernist question of where the progression towards modernity began. My historical period of interest is usually the 16th century. Thus, it was enlightening to have access to both late medieval and early modern sources to evaluate and determine this change for myself.

The core task of the internship was to study the provenance of the incunabula books in the collection, and to update the information on the CERL (Consortium of European Research Libraries) Material Evidence in Incunabula database. The purpose of MEI is to create a map tracing how incunabula have travelled across Europe throughout the centuries. The history of each book begins from the place of printing and ends with how they became housed in their current institutions.

I was invited to a training day at the British Library where I spent the day learning how to use the database and discussing my findings with the curators also present. I found the experience to be rewarding as I acquired new skills and had the opportunity to discuss my research and ideas.

The purpose of the internship was to work closely with the incunabula collection by analysing and researching the provenance of the books. When studying incunabula, the provenance of a book is of great interest. From hand-written notes to illustrations, what may first appear as a book lover’s nightmare, becomes an absolute dream when studying the ownership history of incunabula. The marks can lead one down a variety of historical pathways and provide as many new questions as answers. The printing press revolutionised the early modern world but the blemishes left behind on these works from past owners can also often hold evidence and history themselves.

For example, on the 63rd leaf of Special Collections copy of the 1497 Hortus sanitatis is a wax seal, which is unusual in nature and placement. The mystery of the seal was further interrogated when two letters, dated 12 and 15 January 1948, were discovered at the back of the book. The letters show correspondence between a former owner, Dr Fleming and Howard Nixon of the British Museum, discussing the provenance of the seal.

Nixon’s original theory was that the seal was a printer’s mark, added to the batch of paper before printing took place. However, in his following letter, the red residue of wax found above the seal disproves his theory. The wax is covering the printed text, suggesting it would have had to have been made after printing had taken place.

This red residue of wax asks questions regarding the provenance of the book and the purpose of the seal. Though these letters may not be part of the book itself, they contribute to the rich tapestry of its history. After these letters there is no evidence of a further correspondence, and 80 years have passed since Nixon’s responses and the seal remains a mystery, with numerous questions having yet to be solved. Is the seal a printer’s mark after all, and the spilled wax above was made on a later date, or was a previous owner practising their own seal?

From the research I accumulated on the provenance of incunabula, I was asked to contribute towards the curation of the exhibition: The printed page: the work of the printer over the past 500 years, alongside members of Special Collections staff. The purpose of my contribution was to introduce the incunabula collection and the first age of printing with moveable type, to fellow students, staff and visitors to the exhibition.

This experience allowed me to showcase my research and share my new found understanding, whilst learning the skills needed to curate exhibitions. It also allowed for me to work closely with the Special Collections staff, and gain insight into their specific areas of study. The exhibition is currently on display in the Maughan Library, Weston Room.

Poster for Printed page exhibition, 2018Overall, the Foyle Special Collections Library internship allowed for me to work closely with a variety of sources, covering a variety of topics, across my period of interest. This allowed for me to further develop my practical and theoretical approach to print culture and analyse how it became a central factor within early modern society.

Through taking part in the internship programme, I have gained valuable skills in how to use the source material and how to communicate these findings successfully – skills that are transferrable to my academic career.

The project was challenging, demanding and above all an achievement in completing. The main concepts I will take away from studying incunabula is that these items are not just a product of the invention of print, but they elucidate the beginnings of a centralised print culture, show how print has preserved our history, and indicate how printed material will continue to contribute to future historical research.

The pages of the incunabula books I studied may have been printed in the late 15th century; but the items and their associated provenances will remain to tell a story in the centuries to come.

Eclipses and astrological predictions

This article is written by Heather Anderson, Special Collections Assistant.

Charles Leadbetter. A treatise of eclipses of the sun and moon: for thirty-five years, commencing anno 1715, ending 1749. London: printed for John Wilcox, at the Green-Dragon, in Little-Britain, MDCCXXXI [1731]
Foyle Special Collections Rare books collection QB542.L3 LEA

Title page of featured itemEarlier this year, the Foyle Special Collections Library acquired a copy of A treatise of eclipses of the sun and moon, by Charles Leadbetter (1681–1744), a work which records and predicts solar and lunar eclipses and includes accompanying astrological predictions.

As well as being a work of great interest relating to astronomy, mathematics and astrology, this publication also contains attractive woodcut illustrations throughout. I had the opportunity to catalogue this publication, which gave me the chance to learn a bit about the work and its author, and allowed me to gain experience of cataloguing a rare book.

Charles Leadbetter

Charles Leadbetter was an English astronomer and mathematician. Originally from Lancashire, Leadbetter worked for the local Excise Office until 1713, before moving to London in 1715, where he wrote and edited works on positional astronomy and on forms of measurement, such as gauging.

From his establishment at the Hand and Pen in Cock Lane, Shoreditch, he also taught a number of subjects and offered measuring services, as we can see in an advertisement for his business printed in our copy of A treatise of eclipses, which reads:

Arts and Sciences, Mathematical; proffered and taught by the author hereof, at the Hand and Pen, in Cock-Lane, near Shore-Ditch, London: viz. vulgar and decimal arithmetick, trigonometry, astronomy, surveying, gauging, dialling and navigating: Who also performs all sorts of measuring, either for master or workman, with care and expedition, at reasonable rates.

Leadbetter was described in his obituary in the Penny London post as ‘greatly esteem’d for his comprehensive knowledge in the Mathematical Sciences’.

A treatise of eclipses of the sun and moon

te009In this work Leadbetter records and predicts eclipses occurring from 1715 to 1749, and also includes forecasts for the transits of Venus and Mercury over the sun and the conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn up to 1821. The copy held in the Foyle Special Collections Library is an enlarged edition of the 1717 first edition.

In his introduction, addressed ‘To the sons of Urania’ (Urania being the muse of astronomy in Greek mythology), Leadbetter indicates that his text is aimed at the general reader with an interest in astronomy: ‘my only aim in this treatise is to instruct the ignorant who either loves or desires to be taught the knowledge of these things”.

The majority of the work is then dedicated to comprehensively recording and predicting all solar and lunar eclipses that will occur from 1715 to 1749. Leadbetter forecasts the number of eclipses that will occur each year, specifying the type of eclipse and the date and time of its occurrence. He also notes if and how it will appear to observers in London and includes calculations, showing the reader how he came to his conclusions.

Many of the eclipses described are accompanied by a woodcut illustration. These illustrations show the degree to which the sun or moon will be eclipsed, along with visible stars and planets. Each woodcut, rather charmingly, has facial features, with facial expressions often varying for different lunar and solar representations.

The author also accompanies the most significant eclipses with astrological predictions. He outlines the consequences of certain eclipses and accompanies these prophecies with diagrams displaying the twelve astrological houses.

te013Catastrophic predictions

The majority of the astrological predictions in the book are catastrophic in nature. For example, the lunar eclipse of 9 September 1717:

This eclipse… falls in the 12th House of Heaven; this signifies sedition, cruel and inhumane actions of soldiers, sea-fights and death of fish, great floods of water, death of vulgar people; and being in the 12th House, it foreshews sorrow and imprisonment to the common sort of people….

The solar eclipse of 13 July 1721 is forecast to have similarly cataclysmic consequences:

It falls in the beginning of the regal sign Leo, and in the 11th House of Heaven, signifies the death of a mighty prince, violent mischiefs, cruelty and toil, a scarcity of corn and fruit; murders, thefts, abortions to women with child.

The eclipses, however, are occasionally an augury of more favourable circumstances, such as the partial lunar eclipse of 23 January 1730, which should bring ‘peace and plenty upon mankind in general, both by land and sea’.

Provenance

This copy of Leadbetter’s work page is stamped ‘v. Zach’ on the title page and has corrections throughout by a former owner. It is probable that the owner was German Hungarian astronomer Franz Xaver von Zach (1754-1832), a central figure in the discipline who lived in London from 1783 to 1786.

te004This owner has corrected some calculations and misprints throughout the text and has also amended the dates of forecasts for Venus and Mercury passing over the sun from 1786-1799, which implies that he may have observed these planetary transits. Each of the dates added are only a few days following Leadbetter’s predictions.

The cataloguing process

Having recently been on a CILIP training day at Lambeth Palace that covered the use of DCRM(B) (Descriptive cataloguing of rare materials (books)), I was delighted to have the opportunity to put my learning into practice by cataloguing this newly acquired publication.

When cataloguing a rare book, creating a full description of the specific copy is important, as individual copies often have unique features. In the case of this book, recording evidence of the item’s provenance, which includes the owner’s book stamp and corrections throughout, is essential, as researchers may have an interest in the history of the book’s ownership.

Recording further details on the physical nature of the item, such as the woodcuts and the binding, was also important, as these details may be relevant to researchers interested in the book as a physical object. Ensuring significant printed elements of the book are transcribed as they appear on the page, such as the title page and imprint, and noting additional printed features such as advertisements and pagination was also necessary as these details can vary in other copies of an early printed work (even those of the same edition).

Cataloguing this publication was a great opportunity to look at a fascinating 18th century printed work in detail. The cataloguing process gave me the chance to consider how various aspects of a rare publication may be of interest to researchers, from the book’s subject matter to its physical and printed elements. Researchers are welcome to consult this work in the Foyle Special Collections Library.

Bibliography

DJ Bryden, ‘Leadbetter, Charles (1681–1744)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/16233, accessed 22 Sept 2017]

BS Capp. Astrology and the popular press: English almanacs 1500-1800. London: Faber, 1979

Encyclopaedia Britannica, ‘Franz Xaver von Zach’, [https://www.britannica.com/biography/Franz-Xaver-von-Zach, accessed 22 Sept 2017]

A sheaf of verses

By Katie Sambrook, Head of Special Collections

Radclyffe Hall. A sheaf of verses. London: John and Edward Bumpus Ltd., 1908

Foyle Special Collections Library, Rare Books Collection PR6015.A33S54

A sheaf of verses with association items The Foyle Special Collections Library is delighted to acquire an important association copy of this collection of poems by the novelist Marguerite Radclyffe Hall (1880-1943).

Hall is best known today for her novel The well of loneliness (1928), a work whose open treatment of lesbianism caused a furore upon publication and resulted in its being banned for obscenity, with all copies ordered to be withdrawn and destroyed. However, she was also a talented lyric poet, as this volume, now of considerable rarity, reveals.

This copy of A sheaf of verses is of particular interest for its association with the leading educationalist, Lilian Faithfull (1865-1952), vice-principal of the Ladies’ Department at King’s College, London from 1894 to 1906 and subsequently principal of Cheltenham Ladies’ College.

Radclyffe Hall was briefly a student at King’s during Faithfull’s tenure and, although she did not complete a degree, she clearly developed a lasting respect for Faithfull, to whom she sent this copy of her book, inscribing the fly-leaf ‘To Miss Faithfull from Marguerite Radclyffe Hall’. That Faithfull likewise retained an interest in her erstwhile student is apparent from the fact that she inserted a cutting from The Times, dated 11 October 1943 and containing Hall’s obituary, in the volume.

A heaf ov versesFaithfull’s time at the helm of the Ladies’ Department at King’s saw a considerable rise in academic standards, as she sought to transform the department from a place where women students merely came to hear lectures to a fully functioning university, whose students could and did work systematically towards University of London degrees.  An interesting and informative account of her time at King’s can be found in her memoirs, In the house of my pilgrimage (London, 1924), a copy of which is also held in the Foyle Special Collections Library.

Peace, Love and World War: the Denmans, Empire and Australia, 1910-1917

This blog post is posted on behalf of Shane Breynard, Director, Canberra Museum and Gallery.

Peace, Love and World War: The Denmans, Empire and Australia, 1910-1917 was a travelling exhibition from Canberra Museum and Gallery shown in the Weston Room at the Maughan Library, King’s College London, from Monday 3 July until Monday 25 September 2017.

Governor General's group, 1911

Shane Breynard writes:

In June 1911, a British family of four commenced the long sea journey from England to Australia. The two children, six-year-old Thomas and four-year-old Judith, travelled with their chaperones via the Cape of Good Hope. Their parents Lord (Thomas) Denman and Lady (Gertrude) Denman took a different and more direct route. Accompanied by their own sizeable retinue, they embarked from Marseille and took the searingly hot journey through the Suez Canal and Red Sea.

Tom and Trudie landed in Melbourne in late July 1911 and were driven in an open-topped carriage from St Kilda Pier to Parliament House. The children were still at sea.

One can only imagine the trepidation and excitement that this family felt during their ‘split-in-two’ journey across the world. After a spectacularly productive two years, an exhausted Trudie would return to Britain in 1913. Tom was back home, prior to completing his post, a year later in 1914.

Australia’s fifth Governor-General and his wife had arrived at a critical time for the recently-federated Australia. National projects were underway in transport, industry, defence and trade and the country was also starting to develop its own cultural identity. Now emerging from its role as a British colony, it was looking outward to gain more independence on the world stage. But, alongside this growing wealth and optimism, looking back, we also see the irony of the country’s crushing discrimination against Aboriginal Australians in this period. Recognition of this sad story, in the same frame as the happier one of the Denmans’ contributions, was to come much later in the history of Australia and its capital.

The Denmans were far from being an aloof couple. They enjoyed great popular support while in Australia. Trudie contributed substantially to the success of Australian bush nursing and significantly to the National Council of Women. Lord Denman strongly supported the development of Australia’s defence forces and would become a lifelong advocate for Australia on his return to Britain.

Canberra Museum and Gallery’s fascinating exhibition, Peace, Love and World War: The Denmans, 1910-1917, Empire and Australia, explores both the Denmans’ time in Australia and the period of their immediate return to Britain as it faced the prospect of world war.

But it is for their role in the official naming of Canberra that the Denmans have come to particular prominence in the Australian story. The official ceremony took place on Capital Hill on 12 March 1913 at the laying of the foundation stones of Canberra’s commencement column.

One hundred years later, in 2013, a highlight of Canberra’s centenary year was a toast to this earlier ceremony. It was preceded by reflections from cherished Aboriginal Elder Aunty Agnes Shea, from Prime Minister Julia Gillard, from ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher and from Governor-General Quentin Bryce. This conjunction of four of the nation’s most influential women as they reflected on our centenary, contributed of course to a highly resonant event.

It not only celebrated the progress of Australian women over one hundred years, a story which Trudie herself would have greatly relished, but it also recognised the importance of Aboriginal Australians in our nation. On our centenary occasion, Aunty Agnes Shea asked those present to imagine the difference if, one hundred years ago, we had possessed the understanding we now have of the traditional owners of Australia, and of their connection to this ancient land.

Importantly the event also presented a powerful echo-through-time. As a part of that distant ceremony in 1913 Trudie had the role of reading aloud, for the first time and to great applause, the official name of the new capital. Her strong and elegant articulation of ‘Canberra’ was henceforth adopted as the official pronunciation. Governor General Bryce, on repeating the word ‘Canberra’ with equal resonance 100 years later, explained her understanding of the word as ‘…a hybrid… which connects both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal sources’. She claimed it as ‘a name rooted in traditions – of the land and of local communities’.

I encourage you to reflect on the idea of the ‘hybrid’ as you explore this wonderful exhibition, whether you visit it on site or online. We may come to share an important modern insight as we ask ourselves whether both national identity and personal identity are not both fundamentally hybrid at their core.

Though the Denmans’ stay in Australia was but a short slice of a lifetime, their individual contribution shaped Australia’s national identity as much as their individual experiences of Australia must have shaped them personally. Their influence contributed to the way in which the British people would view Australia in the following period.

Shane Breynard Director, Canberra Museum and Gallery

Canberra Museum and Gallery is grateful to the many contributors to the exhibition: curator, Dr David Headon; the passionate and professional staff of King’s College London, particularly Katie Sambrook of The Maughan Library; the many institutional and private lenders; His Excellency the Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Alexander Downer AC for opening the exhibition in London; Her Excellency the British High Commissioner to Australia, Ms Menna Rawlings CMG for opening the exhibition in Canberra; and sponsors King O’Malley’s, and Denman Prospect – a part of Capital Estate Developments.

The image shown in this article is entitled the: ‘Governor-General’s Group’ and was
photographed at Government House (Melbourne) on the day of arrival, 31 July 1911. Lord and Lady Denman are seated front / middle; Lady Gladys Barttelot, Lady Denman’s Lady-in-Waiting, seated left; and Major Arnold Quilter, Lord Denman’s Military Secretary, standing left.

(The Lady Barttelot album, courtesy Lady Margot Burrell)

MA internship in Special Collections

This post is made on behalf of James Hatherill. James is undertaking an MA in Modern History at King’s and as part of his course is taking the optional internship module. For this element of the course he is based in the Foyle Special Collections Library where the research project designed for him involved:

  • Transcribing a 19th century manuscript report by William Young (1749-1815), Governor of Tobago and MP. The report was a plea to the British government to bring stability and prosperity to the island of Tobago and consolidate British possession of the island. A link to the catalogue record for the item James has been working on is available here: An essay on the commercial and political importance of ye island of Tabago, 1810
  • Assisting in the digitisation of the item for display in an online exhibition; and assisting with the online curatorial process
  • Researching the context of the report by using the holdings of the Foyle Special Collections Library, (including the historical library collection of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office); and undertaking a trip to the National Archives to discover any evidence of an official response to the report
  • Writing an introductory essay and a blog post on the work

The internship runs from January to April 2017 and involves 100 hours of primary research. James writes:

James Read RoomI have found my time in the Foyle Special Collections a rewarding and intellectually stimulating experience. The subject of my research has given me a new perspective on a part of the world I did not previously know much about, and also an insight into the workings of the British Empire and its presence on the world stage.

I was able to consult contemporary documents and maps of the area, and even follow up some research at the National Archives. I found the digitisation process interesting and rewarding in the knowledge that the document I was working on would be preserved in a digital format.

Academia, like much of the world, has been completely changed by new technology and the information age. The benefits are quite immediately apparent in the discipline of history: access to primary sources previously made difficult through geographical circumstances can be more easily obtained. Similarly for secondary sources, websites like JSTOR can allow you to search countless articles from any journal relating to any subject which you may be researching. As a result, my studying of history has involved quite a lot of digital interface.

This has perhaps led to my experience at the Foyle Special Collections Library being quite a novel one as I have never worked quite so intimately with 18th and 19th century documents before. There is a larger debate surrounding digital vs. analogue in the background here, but that is for another day.

I am by no means a Luddite and completely enjoy the benefits of this age, but coming here and working in the collections has reminded me of the reason why history can be so encapsulating. To be connected to a person from the past through the paper with which they put their pen to and made a mark. That, along with the pleasure of working with the staff at the collections, has been the most enjoyable aspect of the internship.

An extract of my research into the work is reproduced below.

The development of Tobago

tob002The island of Tobago has a history of political instability unlike that of any other Caribbean island during the 17th and 18th centuries. Tobago was in a ‘State of Betweenity’ as stated by Eric Williams. This is in reference to the relentless claims of various European powers to their colonial rights to the island, namely France, Britain and the Netherlands. In addition to this, buccaneers and marauders made sailing through this part of the Caribbean at the time a dangerous affair.

Young’s Report

By the beginning of the 19th century, we have an island which is wrestling with its history and legacy. Sir William Young, 2nd Baronet (1749-1815) became Governor of the island of Tobago in 1807. He began to comprehensively assess the island’s viability as a suitable focus for expansion, an assessment which eventually culminated in this manuscript.

In the transcription I undertook I have not edited the text in any way. I have included any misspellings, punctuation or grammar mistakes which Young may have made. In some cases, these may just have been conventions of the 19th century such as the frequency of Tobago being written ‘Tabago.’

Young’s report to the British colonial government was in essence a plea to try and bring stability and prosperity to the island. He quite rightly points out in his report that instability does not encourage investment. The reputation Tobago had found itself with ultimately meant few merchants were willing to station themselves on the island. Young heavily plays up the mercantile spirit of the British and in a fairly typical attitude of the time, champions these as virtues of the British Empire which would benefit all.

International rivalry

There is also the unavoidable, and repeatedly referenced war with Napoleon’s France in the background during the period – France being at this time, of course, a rival colonial power as well as a frequent belligerent. Young constantly reminds the reader of the importance of securing against French interests in the area as a matter of national interest. Young’s ultimate conclusion to his report was that the French were planning to increase their presence on the island before it was handed back to British hands, and that this intention was something that Britain should also take an interest in.

tob004To Young, Tobago was an island of unrealised potential – there were various reasons why it should have been one of the British Empire’s most significant colonial possessions.

Many of his arguments are compelling. However, either the island’s unstable reputation, or pure misfortune, would never see it become a true mercantile capital. While the Colonial Office decided his report worth keeping for preservation, there is no record of a reply from the government concerning this report.

Update – August 2017. The online exhibition of James’s work is now available to view in full: Young’s Essay on Tobago

Bibliography.

EI Carlyle, ‘Young, Sir William, second baronet (1749–1815)’, rev. Richard B. Sheridan, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/30284, accessed 7 March 2017]

Bryan Edwards, The history, civil and commercial, of the British colonies in the West Indies, London, John Stockdale, 1807

Tabago, or, A geographical description, natural and civil history. London: printed for W Reeves, 1759

Eric Williams. History of the people of Trinidad and Tobago. Port of Spain, PNM Publishing, 1962

Sir William Young. The West-India common-place book. London, Richard Phillips, 1807

Provenance and the historical medical collections

st-thoms-booksThe medical books, pamphlets and periodicals held in the Foyle Special Collections Library reflect the rich tradition of medical teaching and research across King’s Health Partners. Many of these items have significant provenances relating to medical figures who have worked for, or been connected with King’s.

In this article, Brandon High, Special Collections Officer discusses some of these that he has noted in his recent cataloguing.

A 1716 treatise on the eye, written in Latin and entitled Tractatus de circulari humorum motum in oculis, is part of the St. Thomas’s Historical Collection and bears the inscription of the physician and popular versifier Nathaniel Cotton (1705-88). His principal claim to fame is that he looked after the poet William Cowper (1731-1800) for two years in his private asylum during one of Cowper’s bouts of mental illness. Cotton’s treatment was apparently successful, as the regime in his asylum was humane, unlike the practices of some of the more notorious privately-owned ‘madhouses’ of that era. There are four other books in the historical medical collections with Cotton’s bookplate or inscription.

Other provenances in the historical medical collections with literary connections include the collection of books with the inscription of the St. Thomas’s surgeon and King’s professor of surgery Joseph Henry Green (1791-1863). Green was a close friend of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge and was his amanuensis for several of his prose works. Joseph Henry Green’s ideas on the role of medical practitioners in society paralleled those of Coleridge on intellectuals, and both agreed on the importance for social and political order of higher education institutions (like King’s) with strong connections to the Anglican Church.

GH Savage bookplateA number of books which bear the bookplate of the psychiatrist George Henry Savage (1842-1921) are now in the Institute of Psychiatry Historical Collection at the Foyle Special Collections Library. Savage was one of Virginia Woolf’s doctors during her frequent periods of mental distress, and was very unfavourably portrayed as the psychiatrist Sir William Bradshaw in her landmark modernist novel Mrs. Dalloway (1925), who lamentably fails in his duty of care for Septimus Warren Smith, a veteran of the First World War.

The St. Thomas’s Historical Collection also includes a limited edition copy of W. Somerset Maugham’s first novel, Liza of Lambeth (1897), published to mark the fiftieth anniversary of its first publication. This novel is heavily based on Maugham’s experiences as a St. Thomas’s medical student, caring for pregnant women. He qualified as a medical practitioner, but never practised.

All these provenances can be searched on the King’s Library catalogue using the drop down menu and selecting the ‘Former owners, Provenance’ search option, and typing the name of the relevant person

You can also read detailed guides to the medical collections and other Special Collections on the ‘About our collections‘ webpage.

Sri Lanka: Empire, coffee and tea

Introduction

This article was written by Veera Mo and is posted on her behalf. Veera recently graduated from King’s with a First Class degree in International Relations and has been undertaking an undergraduate fellowship in Archives and Special Collections, researching material related to South Asia in preparation for a new Research Guide.

The new printed and illustrated guide will cover Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burma, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Tibet. It will span the early modern and modern periods and will cover political, military and social history, topography, natural history and culture.

ci_pl022This article relates to her research into the former British colony of Ceylon, now Sri Lanka. The images shown in this article are from the Official Catalogue of the Ceylon Court (1886). Please see the Bibliography for full details of this and other works mentioned in the article.

Veera writes:

It it is safe to say that the introduction of the camellia sinesis plant in 1824 changed the course of Sri Lankan history. Following a failed attempt at coffee production by British planters, tea plantations had incredible success, and eventually superseded the formerly predominant trade in cinnamon, coconut and pearls.

British involvement in Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, began many years earlier. Indeed, in the late 1700s, Britain was engaged in imperial trade competition with the Dutch and the Portuguese. By 1815 they had captured the island from the Dutch East India Company, and proceeded to expand commercial activities in the non-settler colony.

The Foyle Special Collections Library holds copies of several rare items on the expansion of imperial trade and related works exploring what was termed the ‘Wonderland of the East’ and its potential.

The debate as to the suitability of the island for coffee production is evident in the works held in the Library. Tytler’s 1879 work entitled: The position and prospects of coffee production as affecting the value of Ceylon coffee estates, explains the potential competitiveness of Ceylonese coffee, despite the ravages of Coffee Leaf Disease. Six years later, Ferguson’s work, Ceylon & her planting enterprize in tea, cacao, cardamoms, cinchona, coconut, and areca palms critiques the zeal of the continued, but failing, coffee enterprise:

Theoretically it was shown many years ago that the climate and much of the soil of Ceylon were better suited for tea than coffee; but still the felling and clearing of the most beautiful and tropical forests in the world went on until from 400 to 500 squaremiles of country were covered with the one shrub, Coffea Arabica.

Title page of Officila catalogue of the Ceylon Court, 1886By 1886, faith in the tea plant was evidently growing among British planters. Produced for the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London, 1886, the Official handbook and catalogue of the Ceylon Court introduces Ceylon through its many resources, particularly emphasising the potential of the tea trade.

Later successes in tea production ensured that Ceylon tea became the glory of the island. The more touristically minded work, A handbook on Ceylon: the Wonderland of the East, even appears to contain a marketing attempt, where other teas are described as ‘rubbishy’ in comparison to those produced in Ceylon.

The introduction of the tea plant to Sri Lanka played a role not only in the island’s own historical development, but also in shaping British beverage habits. In fact, tea was partially popularised in the United Kingdom through Thomas Lipton’s entrepeneurship in Ceylon. He bought himself some Ceylon tea gardens in order to cut out the middle-man and produce ‘an inexpensive blend for the public’ (Wickramasinghe & Cameron 2005:127).

ci_tpfr2The expansion of tea production had several consequences beyond production and consumption, and its success was not only determined by favourable soil and coincidence.

The British planters saw the proximity to India as a source of cheap labour as the key advantage in Ceylonese tea production. Hence, imperial trade expansion of plantations began to influence local hierarchies and structures. In many ways, these developments were to shape the foundations of the Sri Lanka we see today.

Select Bibliography

John Ferguson. Ceylon and her planting enterprise in tea, cacao, cardamoms, cinchona, coconut, and areca palms: a field for the investment of British capital and energy: giving opinions of a number of planters of diversified experience in the colony : also, estimates of the outlay on, and return from, a variety of products. Colombo: AM & J Ferguson, 1885  [Foreign and Commonwealth Office Historical Collection SB108.S72  CEY]

Samuel Nicholas. A handbook on Ceylon “The Wonderland of the East”. H.W. Cave & Co: Colombo, 1939 [Foreign and Commonwealth Office Historical Collection DS489 NIC]

Official handbook and catalogue of the Ceylon Court. London: William Clowes & Sons Ltd., 1886  [Foreign and Commonwealth Office Historical Collection T696.G1 COL]

RB Tytler. The position and prospects of coffee production as affecting the value of Ceylon coffee estates. Aberdeen: Free Press Printing Company, 1879 [Foreign and Commonwealth Office Historical Collection HD9199.S722 TYT]

DW Wickramasinghe & CD Cameron. ‘British capital, Ceylonese land, Indian labour: The imperialism and colonialism of evolution of tea plantations in Sri Lanka’. Critical Management Studies Conference (Management and Organizational History), Cambridge. Vol. 4, 2005

 

Chapbooks: Fleet Street time travellers

lane-at-back-of-Fleet-StI would love to have wandered around Fleet Street and this area of London’s alleyways and lanes before the banking corporations supplanted the newspaper offices and severed the unbroken link to the area’s printing history that had stretched back so many years.

In the back streets of this historic centre of the British book trade, at addresses like Shoe Lane, Bow Church Yard and Red Lion Court, all a stone’s throw from the Maughan Library, small volumes of stories and fables and tales known as chapbooks were once printed – their geographical provenance enduringly visible through imprints like: Printed and sold at the London and Middlesex Printing Office, no. 81, Shoe Lane, Holborn.

ac_tpIn my current cataloguing project I have been adding these little, well-thumbed volumes to the Special Collections catalogue.

The chapbooks I have been working on were printed and produced in the later 18th century, though versions of chapbooks existed from the 17th to the 19th century. These were usually produced on hand operated printing presses in small industrial units, with family members sometimes employed at the stages of production. Chapbooks were normally printed on one single sheet of paper and then folded into 8, 12, 16 or 24 pages. They would usually have been sold unbound and held together by a simple sewing.

When you walk through the narrow, high-walled alleyways around Fleet Street, Holborn Circus and St Paul’s (as I do often on my lunch breaks) it is not difficult to imagine the printers, workshop assistants, agents and delivery boys scurrying through the streets in pursuit of their occupation and living.

As easy as it is to imagine these scenes of production, it is also no stretch of the imagination to imagine the itinerant ‘chapmen’, from whom the books take their name, bargaining with printers and agents, buying chapbooks wholesale, and then heading out of town with them tucked inside their bags, ready to sell to country folk at fairs and festivals. The soubriquet ‘chapmen’ derives from an Old English word meaning ‘dealer’ or ‘seller’.

rh_tpAs literacy levels grew in the 18th and 19th centuries, the desire for these affordable, pithy tales also grew, and the stories that I have been working on include recognisable derivatives of the literary canon:

The travels and adventures of Capt. Lemuel Gulliver (abridged to a concise 24 pages)
A true tale of Robin Hood (true being an oft used word in titles, not always reflecting the veracity of the content)
The sleeping beauty in the wood

The tales are usually adorned with charming (and sometimes suggestive) woodcut illustrations. This was a cheap and durable method of illustration: woodcuts can be used for long periods and passed from one printer to another and, as Ruth Richardson says in her excellent British Library article on chapbooks, in the more expensive editions, children were sometimes employed to colour these woodcut illustrations.

penny-histories-spineThe chapbooks I have been working on were bound together in the 20th century by an independent firm on behalf of the Library. Each bound volume contains perhaps 10 or 15 of these wonderful tales on cheaply produced paper, that has evidently been thumbed through by readers of London or the country, and perhaps read aloud around a homestead fire as a bedtime treat for the family.

I like these books because I can sense the mechanics of their production in the streets where I work. In the Foyle Special Collections Library we hold examples of works from the infancy of printing (known as incunabula) to the present day, with grand editions, illustrations and provenance marking many out as significant, unique and of immense value to researchers and historians. These chapbooks have their special place in the collection, and there is something wonderful about the mass appeal that they offered, with their eclectic subject content covering heroic tales, ghost stories, battle and adventure and news and politics.

Their popularity is attested to by the well-thumbed pages, and also by the sparsity of detail on some of the imprints. This lack of detail in an imprint like ‘Printed and sold in London’ suggests that some printers may have been none-too-keen to display that they themselves had also ‘cashed in’ on the popularity of a certain tale, with their anonymity ensuring the pirated edition would not be traced back to them.

I have been reporting these editions to the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC) to ensure they are accessible to researchers worldwide; and of course if anyone would like to have a look at these wonderful little volumes, they are welcome to consult them in the Foyle Special Collections Library.

Select Bibliography

The Bibliographical Society. Chapbooks Working Group.[http://www.bibsoc.org.uk/about/committees/chapbooks] Accessed 20 July 2016

EDPOP. ‘The European dimensions of popular print culture’. [http://edpop.wp.hum.uu.nl/] Accessed 20 July 2016

The National Art Library Chapbooks Collection [http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/n/national-art-library-chapbooks-collection/] Accessed 20 July 2016

Victor E Neuburg. Chapbooks: a guide to reference material on English, Scottish and American chapbook literature of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. London:  Woburn Press, [1972]. Foyle Special Collections [Special Collections Ref.]  Z6514.P7 NEU

Ruth Richardson. ‘Chapbooks’. [http://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/chapbooks], accessed 15 July 2016

Andrew White Tuer. Pages and pictures from forgotten children’s books. London: The Leadenhall Press, 1898-1899. Foyle Special Collections  [Miscellaneous] PR91 TUE

Tameion orthodoxias

Theophilos, Bishop of Kampania. Tameion orthodoxias. En Kōnstantinoupolei: Typographeion Euangelinou Misaēlidou, 1859

Foyle Special Collections Library [Rare books collection BX320 THE]

by Lavinia Griffiths, Special Collections cataloguer

to_tpinlineThe Foyle Special Collections Library has recently acquired a rare edition of the Ταμείον Ορθοδοξίας (Treasury of Orthodoxy) written by Theophilos of Ioannina (ca 1749-95), bishop of Kampania in what is now the Thessaloniki region of Greece. As a bishop at a time when Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire, in addition to his spiritual authority Theophilos exercised temporal power within his ‘millet’, or confessional community.

Taking the form of a dialogue, the Ταμείον Ορθοδοξίας belongs to a tradition of treatises aimed at instructing both clergy and laity in the theology, scriptures and doctrine of the Orthodox Church. One of its themes is the proper use of wealth. The text was first published in Venice in 1788; a second edition, also printed in Venice, appeared in 1804.

nativityinlineOur copy, advertised as a third edition, was published in Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1859 by Evangelinos Misaelidis (1820-90) a journalist, novelist and translator. Born in the city of Manisa in one of the Aegean provinces of the Ottoman Empire, Misaelidis was educated at the Evangelikos School in Smyrna before attending the then newly-established University of Athens. He became a
prominent figure in the ‘Karamanli’ press, employing the Greek alphabet to print Turkish language material for Turkish-speaking Greeks.

kaneinlineThere appear to be no other copies of this edition of the Ταμείον Ορθοδοξίας in libraries in the United Kingdom, or in any other library outside Greece.

It is of particular interest for its illustrations, 12 woodcuts of (mainly) biblical scenes; subjects include Cain and Abel and the Nativity, which are shown in this feature, along with the title page of the book.