MA History internship 2019

An image from: Report on the manufacture of sisal hemp at Togo Plantation, Togoland, 1919

The post below is made on behalf of Ed Thompson, who is undertaking an MA in Modern History at King’s. From January to April 2019, Ed undertook an internship in the Foyle Special Collections Library, in which he researched early photographic representations of the British Empire in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

An online exhibition showcasing Ed’s work will be available here shortly.

By Ed Thompson

In a recent piece for the London review of books, Susan Pederson, Professor of History at Columbia University, has claimed that archival research acts as ‘the foundation for most breakthroughs in the field of history.’ Whilst my project does not claim to provide any significant ‘breakthroughs,’ having the opportunity to spend 100 hours amongst primary material gets to the heart of what it means to be a historian.

My time in the Foyle Special Collections Library has predominantly been spent collating and researching photographs of the British Empire contained within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) historical collection. Before its acquisition by King’s in 2007, the collection acted as a library for consultation by the staff of the FCO and its former associated offices of government and was described by Gladstone’s Foreign Minister, Lord Granville, as the ‘pivot on which the whole machinery of the Office turned.’

This internship has been exciting, novel and fascinating, with the potential to take my first foray into co-curating an exhibition presenting a challenging but engaging task.

The scope of the collection

The wide scope of the collection has brought me into contact with official documents and reports ranging from A collection of 1937 coronation celebration documents, which includes a programme of the first broadcast football match in Accra, now capital of Ghana and photographic representations of places like Cyprus and Hong Kong, to a work on Togolese Sisal hemp manufacture. Indeed, the materials remained in the process of being catalogued throughout my time, with new items of relevance being added to the catalogue on a weekly basis.

It has introduced me to both broad themes of colonial history and specific (at-times idiosyncratic) narratives and individuals. It can be easy to lose sight of individual tales given the size and depth of the British imperial project. Yet these tales can enlighten empire-wide themes, often hierarchical and profit-driven in nature and mostly presented through official reports.

An image from EW Birch’s 1885 report

EW Birch’s 1885 Report on the Cocos-Keeling Islands is an example. The Islands, situated in the Indian Ocean and now an external territory of Australia, became a formal part of the British Empire in 1857. Before this, from 1820, the Scottish Clunie-Ross family ruled the island as self-styled ‘kings,’ and continued to dominate the island until its sale to Australia in 1978.

The family enforced a racial and patrimonial hierarchy upon the indigenous peoples of the islands and Bantamese immigrants from Java. Whilst they had also appealed to the British government for the installation of a telegraph cable to connect them to the wider world, the seclusion of the Isands was almost absolute.

In the photographs from the report, Birch and his photographer Adams appeared to get along well with the Clunie-Ross family, who themselves had been educated amongst the British elite at Eton and Oxford.

A view of a village from EW Birch’s 1885 report

In this one unexpected example, the colonising behaviour of the British is put into view. Perceived European racial superiority was established as legal and economic realities, with the hierarchy revolving around the Clunie-Ross family. More than anything, it evidenced that the imperial project was as much a private enterprise as it was state-based.

For Birch, a government agent, photography presented a good medium through which he could visually exhibit this unfamiliar and remarkable territory.

The age of empire

The period described by Eric Hobsbawm as ‘the Age of Empire,’ (1875-1914) coincided with the rise and proliferation of photographic technology and, as one might expect, photography became more common in reports towards the beginning of the Second World War.

Hence, my project has brought me into contact with a wider field of theoretical discussion on the photograph, particularly in the colonial context. It has been particularly interesting to question the purpose and unspoken undertones in photographs of the period, an exercise which can reveal a great deal about the cultural processes that go into the creation of any image.

The collection can also demonstrate the complexities and heterodox nature of the imperial project and its agents. Therefore, my exhibition attempts to highlight as much of the full-range of photographic material as possible, covering many different areas and genres which are to be found within.

It is exciting to know that several of the photos included in the exhibition are being presented for the first time outside of their Foreign and Commonwealth Office context. Most of the photos used are originals, taken and stuck into typescript reports to inform officials in London and in governing areas as to the progress (or lack thereof) of varying events or projects in the colonial world.

Insights into the collections

Alongside the exhibition I have been given a fantastic insight into the work here at the Foyle Special Collections Library and have been given introductions to the role of cataloguing and digitisation. The latter has been a crucial part of this process and is of vital importance, in helping to preserve these images for later generations to examine for themselves.

It remains to be said that at times the materials I used were extremely distasteful (and offensive) by modern standards, yet it is imperative that rather than shying away from these sources, historians and indeed the wider public confront Britain’s imperial past and its legacy.

The British Empire remains a large, if often unspoken, influence on British society. Thus, investigating the ways in which colonial territories and subjects were presented is an invaluable exercise in comprehending British colonialism and gives a sense of the processes that have driven the particularities of continuing imperial influence.

As a final note, I would like to extend my thanks to the staff at the Foyle Special Collections Library for their help in directing me through the FCO Historical Collection and, of course, for fetching materials and then digitising most of the photos on display in the online exhibition.

Select bibliography

Eric Hobsbawm. Age of Empire: 1875-1914. London: Abacus, 1987

John Scott Hughes. Kings of the Cocos. London: Methuen, 1950

Susan Pederson. ‘I want to Love it: Eric Hobsbawm: a life in history by Richard J Evans’, London review of books, 41 8 (2019), p.14

James Ryan. Picturing Empire: photography and the geographical imagination. London: Reaktion, 1997

Nick Squires. From our correspondent: the man who lost a ‘coral kingdom’, 7 June 2007[http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/6730047.stm accessed 13 April 2019]

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]

The men of Earth came to Mars: speculative fiction in the Mottram collection, part 2

And this disease was called The Loneliness, because when you saw your home town dwindle the size of your fist and then lemon-size and then pin-size and then vanish in the fire-wake, you felt you had never been born, there was no town, you were nowhere, with space all around, nothing familiar, only other strange men.

(From: Ray Bradbury, The Martian chronicles, 1950)

Part 1 of this post took a look at Ballantine Books in the Mottram collection, and how Ballantine championed the rise of the speculative fiction paperback in the 1950s. Professor Eric Mottram’s Ballantines included others in addition to Bradbury and Lovecraft, however: we hold Synthetic men of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs’s ninth Barsoom book (Bob Abbett’s typically colourful cover illustration depicts a lot of shirtless sword fighting), and the only published edition of The seed by Dan Thomas. The seed was one of only three science-fiction novels by Dan Thomas, a pseudonym of Leonard Sanders, who otherwise wrote thrillers and Texan historical fiction. Added to these, excitingly (and appropriately), is a rare 1968 printing of Childhood’s end, the iconic classic penned by King’s College London alumnus Arthur C Clarke – the Ballantine paperback is the eighth printing of the novel’s first edition, published in 1953.

Ballantine were far from alone in the 1950s – maCover showing a warrior fightingny other paperback imprints were also picking up on sci-fi. Brown, Watson Ltd in the UK had Digit Books, through which they published an array of spacefaring adventures and apocalyptic calamities. Held in the Mottram collection is a rare Digit Books edition of The space merchants, the still-relevant satire on 1950s advertising by Frederik Pohl and CM Kornbluth. Kornbluth sadly passed away at the age of just 34, five years after The space merchants saw publication; Pohl, before moving onto editorial positions for magazines, had acted as literary agent to Isaac Asimov in the late 1930s, and we hold a rare Digit Books edition of Asimov’s most famous work, too: I, robot. The front cover depicts a towering automaton just slightly different to those in the Will Smith movie, and Asimov’s first name is misspelt ‘Issac.’ Like Bradbury’s The Martian chronicles, this book is a ‘fixup’ novel, reworking earlier published short stories into a more seamless narrative – this edition of I, robot, however, excludes two of the stories from the collection’s original publication.

The New American Library ventured into sci-fi in the 1950s, utilising their previously established paperback imprint, Signet Books. Both of our Signet Books are by Alfred Bester: a rare paperback of the very first Hugo Award winner, The demolished man, and a first edition of his 1958 short fiction collection, Starburst. The vivid, dramatic cover of The demolished man was painted by Stanley Meltzoff, who not only provided cover artwork for a number of other Signet science-fiction books, but who also painted for Life and National geographic.

Sci-fi innovator of the mid-20th century, Robert A Heinlein, is also represented with two paperbacks in the Mottram collection, both from other publishers: a Berkley Medallion edition of Stranger in a strange land from 1968, and a Four Square edition of Starship troopers from 1961. These are two of Heinlein’s most prominent works, with Starship troopers popularising the idea of the ‘space marine,’ to which concept modern science-fiction cinema and videogames owe a massive debt.

Of all the authors featured in Mottram’s sci-fi, however, it is Samuel R Delany who is most present, with nearly 20 books. Whereas some of the science-fiction and horror mentioned thus far may have made it into Mottram’s library through various means, Delany is the writer that Mottram most perceptibly sought out – particularly as at least one of the books, Starboard wine, is a signed first edition.

Delany remains an important figure within the world of fantasy and science-fiction; it is not hard to see why, and it is not hard to see why he was a writer of great interest to Mottram: Delany was one of the first major African-American authors of speculative fiction, and also one of the first openly gay authors of it; his first novel was published in 1962 when he was just 20 years old, and he has since accumulated numerous awards for his writing. Of particular interest to Mottram was Delany’s subversion of tropes: in his essay ‘American fiction in the sixties,’ Mottram wrote that Delany used his 1967 novel The Einstein intersection to ‘[exorcise] … the petty gangster cowboy, Billy the Kid, as an American folk hero,’ going on to say that, ‘Delany knows that myths of destruction are man-made, not simply “natural” or part of necessity, and that their analysis and elimination is a necessity.’1

The ‘first novel’ referenced above, The jewels of Aptor, is a combination of science-fiction and fantasy, and the Mottram collection contains a 1971 Sphere Books edition. This edition contains the full, restored text – unlike William S Burroughs’s Junkie, edited by Ace Books in the 50s to remove and/or dilute overt references to homosexuality and drug-taking, the first edition of The jewels of Aptor was only trimmed to make room for its Ace-Double, Second ending by James White. Had they still been his publisher into the 1970s, Ace would most definitely have found question with Delany’s more ‘explicit’ novels.

Ace Books went on publishing Delany’s works (mostly as Ace-Doubles) throughout the 1960s, and Sphere Books continued to publish them in the United Kingdom later on – we hold Sphere copies of Out of the dead city, The towers of Toron, City of a thousand suns and The Einstein intersection, as well as Nova, which was first published by Doubleday. Completing Delany’s run at Ace, we also hold an Ace Book that compiles The ballad of Beta-2 and Empire star together. It is uniquely satisfying, in such an eclectic collection, to hold a complete run of something!

In the 1970s, Delany published four novels, including some of his major works; we hold first editions of both Dhalgren and Triton – their celestial cover illustrations were painted by Mitchell Hooks, who provided art for a great many books and magazines, and who also designed the poster for Dr. No (look closely at the cover for Triton and you’ll see that the grand structures are actually household objects!2). From 1979 and into the late 1980s, Delany worked on a series of sword and sorcery stories, set in the land of Nevèrÿon. We hold the Bantam-published first editions of the first two Nevèrÿon publications: Tales of Nevèrÿon, and Neveryóna. The cover illustrations for these are painted by Rowena A Morrill, one of a small number of women artists providing art for paperbacks at the time.

It is certainly an assorted mix of science-fiction and horror that Professor Eric Mottram collected – while the speculative fiction only makes up a small portion of the wider wealth of his other literature, plenty of the genres’ big names and titles are represented, and we have interesting copies of a mingled range of books. Nearly all of these are paperbacks. While many of the publishers and imprints mentioned here have since been absorbed by the larger publishing houses, their impact for speculative fiction at the time was unmistakable: Ballantine Books, Ray Bradbury’s early supporter, went on in the 1960s to publish a popular edition of The lord of the rings, and shortly after the company’s purchase by Random House, it published Star wars: from the adventures of Luke Skywalker, a novelisation of Star wars that made it to the public in November 1976 – six months before the film.

All of the items mentioned, and many more, are currently being catalogued and formally added to our Special Collections holdings; we are happy to answer any enquiries pertaining to them (including arranging viewing) at: specialcollections@kcl.ac.uk.

Footnotes

1 Eric Mottram, ‘American fiction in the sixties,’ Mottram collection, King’s College Archives, MOTTRAM: 9/19/22-28

2 RC, ‘Look here: seven covers for seven novels by Samuel R. Delany,’ Ragged Claws Network, [https://raggedclaws.com/2013/06/10/look-here-seven-covers-for-seven-novels-by-samuel-r-delany/, accessed September 19, 2018]

The cover illustrations for Synthetic men of Mars, Starburst, and Triton shown here are reproduced courtesy of Penguin Random House.

We have undertaken reasonable endeavours to trace the copyright owners of the cover illustration for I, robot; if you are the rights holder and are concerned that permission was not granted for this image, please see the King’s College London Notice and Takedown Policy at the bottom of this page, and the Archives & Special Collections Takedown Policy here.

Such an odd business: speculative fiction in the Mottram collection, Part 1

This post is written by Jack Gleeson, Special Collections Assistant in the Foyle Special Collections Library at King’s. 

‘What kind of people go up in roller coasters?’

Ralph Banghart rolled his cigar a full thirty seconds. ‘People wanna die. That rollie coaster’s the handiest thing to dying there is.’

(From: Ray Bradbury, ‘The dwarf’ in The October country, 1955).

Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
© 1963, HP Lovecraft.

Nestled amongst the Norman Mailer and the Elmore Leonard in the Mottram collection is a neat run of science-fiction and horror paperbacks, predominantly published in the 1950s and 60s. Professor Eric Mottram (1924-95), Professor of English and American Literature at King’s from 1982 to 1990, was far from picky when amassing his library collection, leaving some gems of mid-20th century speculative fiction as part of our holdings in the Foyle Special Collections Library.

This blogpost marks the first of a two-part look at these items and further information about Mottram’s collection is available here.

Cover of Fahrenheit 451Ray Bradbury, science-fiction pioneer, is represented with a number of items in the Mottram collection, not least of which is a first paperback edition of his most widely-known work: Fahrenheit 451. Damaged, but thankfully not burnt, this edition was published by Ballantine Books in 1953 (simultaneous with the book’s first hardback edition, and only a year after the company’s founding), and is appended by two short stories.

The novel, famed for its decrying of censorship, was Bradbury’s second, following The Martian chronicles, and was Ballantine’s 41st original paperback publication, priced at 35₵ and intended for drugstore racks. Fahrenheit 451 marked the publisher’s swift adoption of science-fiction into their repertoire – having started out with crime and Western novels, they branched out early on by publishing Star science fiction stories in 1953, and, that same year, Frederik Pohl’s and CM Kornbluth’s The space merchants.

Cover of The October countryJoseph Mugnaini’s striking cover illustration for Fahrenheit 451 bears a secret, however: hidden amongst the folds of the central figure’s newspaper attire is the phrase ‘gothic ages.’ Bradbury, Illinois-born conjurer of autumnal fictions, has his love of the macabre intimated even here, and this dark heart is embellished in another Mottram collection item: a rare 1955 reprint of Bradbury’s The October country, also published by Ballantine.

This (not to be biased) perfect short story collection contains haunted tales ripe for Hallowe’en digestion: ‘The lake’ (inspired by a tragic incident Bradbury witnessed in his youth), ‘Homecoming’ (which somewhat evokes The Addams family or The Munsters), and the touching, creepy story ‘The emissary’ (which tells the tale of a young bedridden boy who sends his dog to bring things back from the outside world) are all designed to be read to the sound of dead leaves being blown past the window. The majority had been featured in earlier forms in Dark carnival (published by August Derleth and his company Arkham House in 1947), and retain their sense of morbidity, merging ruminations on death with ruminations on mid-20th century life.

Happily, Bradbury is one of the most heavily represented authors in the Mottram collection: the Foyle Special Collections Library holds not just the above, but also rare editions and reprints of The Martian chronicles, The illustrated man, The golden apples of the Sun, A medicine for melancholy, and The wonderful ice cream suit and other playsall published by Bantam Books.

Detail from the October country

The year before Bradbury’s very first short story was published in Imagination in 1938, one of speculative fiction’s greatest benefactors had passed away. Howard Phillips Lovecraft, Rhode Island-born conjurer of indescribable tentacular fictions, is behind a small, eclectic set of paperbacks found in the Mottram collection. Not having achieved widespread fame in the 1920s and 30s, Lovecraft’s stories found homes at the same imprints responsible for numerous crime, Western, horror, and science-fiction works in the following decades.

Included in our special collections are rare editions of The case of Charles Dexter Ward (prominently featuring an asylum – Gotham City’s own Arkham Asylum is in fact named after Lovecraft’s fictional town), and The haunter of the dark, which collects some of the author’s best-known stories, including ‘The call of Cthulhu,’ ‘The rats in the walls,’ and ‘The Dunwich horror.’ Panther Books followed up these 1963 reprints with Tales of the Cthulhu mythos in 1975, a multi-volume set which consisted chiefly of stories set in Lovecraft’s universe but written by other authors, such as August Derleth (Lovecraft’s early publisher), Clark Ashton Smith, and Robert E Howard. The cover of the first volume, held in the Foyle Special Collections Library, features a nicely moustachioed Cthulhu.

Cover of The case of Charles Dexter Ward

Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
© 1963, HP Lovecraft.

1975 also saw Panther’s reprint of Lovecraft: a look behind the Cthulhu mythos by Lin Carter, first published three years earlier, and accompanying all of the above is a rare edition of Lovecraft: a biography, written by L Sprague de Camp and published by Ballantine in 1976 (first published a year prior). This abridged edition contains much fascinating discussion on the author’s early life, its influence on his weird and fantastical visions, and includes significant conversation pertaining to Lovecraft’s disparaging views on race.

To head, finally, back farther still: most are unlikely to think immediately of The lady of the shroud or The jewel of seven stars when asked to name works by Bram Stoker, yet rare paperback reprints of these appear in place of Dracula, in the Mottram collection. These Arrow Books were published in 1962 – The lady of the shroud takes a non-supernatural twist, while The jewel of seven stars was very loosely adapted into the 2017 Tom Cruise/Russell Crowe bonanza The mummy, and elements of the television series Penny dreadful. The latter book, originally published in 1903, features the text of a 1912 edition, in which the ending was rewritten by Stoker, and a chapter on religion was removed. The final paragraph of the revised 1912 edition, and this Arrow Book, reads:

‘Do not grieve for her! […] She dreamed her dream, and that is all any of us can ask!’

While the original 1903 edition ends rather more damningly:

It was merciful that I was spared the pain of hoping.

All of these Mottram collection items are making their way through our cataloguers and onto our shelves – we are naturally happy to answer any and all enquiries pertaining to our Special Collections.

Please stay tuned for part 2, in which we turn to robots and rocketships…

The cover illustrations shown here are reproduced courtesy of Penguin Random House; and HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

Junk and Justice

This post is written by Jack Gleeson, Special Collections Assistant, who is currently working on the Eric Mottram collection.

Presented to King’s College by his siblings in 1996, and now held in the Foyle Special Collections Library, the library of Professor Eric Mottram (1924-95) is a wide-ranging and varied collection, reflective of an academic with diverse tastes and scholarly interests.

Professor Mottram spent much of his life teaching both English Literature and American Studies, lecturing in numerous places throughout the United States and the world, and holding the position of Professor of English and American Literature at King’s from 1982 to 1990. As a result, a significant portion of his extensive collection is devoted to American novels and poetry, and, in particular, poetry from the Beat scene.

junkieIn the 1960s, Mottram met and corresponded with a number of figures in underground literary movements, and at the close of the decade he befriended and spoke with key Beat personage William S Burroughs (1914-97), who was living in London at the time.

Burroughs was of particular interest to Mottram, who around this time wrote The algebra of need, one of the first critical works to look at Burroughs’s output up to that point. This piece was initially published in Intrepid magazine’s special Burroughs issue of 1969-70, which was edited by Mottram, and then later as a monograph in 1971.

With this background and context in mind, Mottram naturally amassed a large number of books by Burroughs, and in cataloguing the collection we have so far come across signed copies of his later works Cities of the red night (1981) and The western lands (1987). Most captivating as a piece of literary and social history, however, is a first edition of Burroughs’s first published novel, Junkie (1953).

narcoticLater retitled Junky by Penguin in 1977, though even today never published under Burroughs’s intended title, Junk, the first edition of Junkie was put onto drugstore shelves under the pseudonym ‘William Lee,’ and was published as an Ace Double Book, bound together with the previous decade’s Narcotic agent by Maurice Helbrant, the ‘gripping true adventures of a T-man’s war against the dope menace’.

Chiefly autobiographical in nature, a work entitled Junkie was unsurprisingly full of references to opiate use and drug dealing, not to mention ‘alcohol depression,’ ‘crustacean horror’ and ‘junk sickness’; and additionally delved into pickpocketing, and homosexual relationships between Burroughs and others.

Tethered by the much stricter social mores of the 1950s, Ace Books set to work editing and censoring Burroughs’s manuscript, going so far as to insert a number of editorial notes, intended to protect themselves from legal liability for, or moral association with, the writer’s statements that they did not cut out.

These notes are inset throughout the text to rescue the reader from the world of drugs, asserting that Burroughs’s declarations that ‘Sex is more enjoyable under the influence of weed’ and that ‘Weed is positively not habit-forming’ (p. 33) are ‘contradicted by recognized medical authority’ (p. 34). Solomon and Ace Books likewise distance themselves from Burroughs’s disparaging comments about the United States justice system later in the book.

While a number of Burroughs’s remarks about junk and justice were included but accompanied by disclaimers, references to the author’s homosexuality were removed entirely from this first edition, and entire paragraphs and pages detailing relationships between Burroughs and other men were not seen until Penguin restored the complete manuscript in 1977. Further text, taken from letters written to Allen Ginsberg, was reinstated by scholar Oliver Harris for Penguin’s 2003 edition of Junky.

Carl Solomon, a friend of Allen Ginsberg, and nephew of AA Wyn, the founder of Ace Books, assured the readers in his publisher’s note that the text was published purely with noble intent: to ‘forearm the public’ against the ‘drug menace’ and to ‘discourage imitation.’

This seemingly honourable resolve and the social mores of the period did not however stop the publisher from unleashing the book with a lurid, attention-grabbing image on the cover, along with a vivid subtitle: Confessions of an unredeemed drug addict, both of which seem to capitalise on the plight of individuals suffering from drug addiction, and appear unambiguously aimed at a thrill-seeking reader base. It is worth noting that nothing quite as melodramatic as the scene depicted in the cover illustration actually happens in the novel.

The Junkie of this double books edition is a revealing item: we are now able to look back at the Ace Books censored novel, featured in this article, with the 2003 edition of Junkie in hand, and know exactly what was removed. We can witness the trajectory of Burroughs from the author of a throwaway subway paperback, advertised with the slogan, ‘TWO BOOKS IN ONE – 35c,’ to heavily-studied, hugely influential novelist and writer, whose personal life, far from having entire components cut out of texts by publishers, has been thoroughly exposed and explored through countless biographies and collections of letters.

Both of the eye-catching covers of this double book edition are shown here, courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Special Collections staff continue to sort and catalogue the Eric Mottram collection and are happy to answer enquiries on this or other areas of the collection.

Bibliography and references:

Jed Birmingham, ‘Eric Mottram and The Algebra of Need,’ RealityStudio, [http://realitystudio.org/bibliographic-bunker/my-own-mag/the-my-own-mag-community/eric-mottram-and-the-algebra-of-need/, accessed June 21, 2017]

William S Burroughs, Junkie (New York: Ace Books, 1953)

William S Burroughs, Junky: the definitive text of ‘Junk’ (London: Penguin Books, 2003)

William S Burroughs. Rub out the words: the letters of William S Burroughs, 1959-1974 (London: Penguin Books, 2012)

Maurice Helbrant, Narcotic Agent (New York: Ace Books, 1953)

Barry Miles, William S Burroughs: a life (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2015), 491

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

Open source archive software

I co-organised a workshop in early December at The National Archives (TNA) on ATOM and Archivematica software, along with TNA’s Higher Education Archive Programme  and Artefactual Systems, the Canadian development company which supports both these applications.

The workshop was attended by around 40 archivists and records managers from around the UK, including existing or prospective users of the systems and those simply interested in learning more.

ATOM’s development was supported by the ICA and it is used across the world to manage and publish descriptions of archives. Archivematica manages digital preservation workflows for digitised and born digital content.

Key questions/points that inspired the day included:

  • Examples of the real application of Archivematica – how difficult is it to customise and how easy is it to use?
  • Do regional consortia offer the best opportunity for the application of digital preservation?
  • How can data on other systems such as CALM be imported into ATOM?
  • How is training best delivered?
  • How will these open source systems be best supported given the limitations of institutional IT?

 

The day began with an introduction and overview of both systems from Artefactual’s Justin Simpson and Dan Gillean. Their slides are available here.

There were then a series of five/ten minute presentations from invited speakers. Gary Tuson, County Archivist at Norfolk Record Office (NRO), spoke eloquently about the Eastern Region Archivematica trial that saw a number of archives in that Region, led by NRO, use Archivematica for digital preservation. He offered real encouragement that a regional model might help, although it was only a small-scale trial. Archivematica, unlike ATOM, is not available with multi-tenanted functionality. This places some limitations on the creation of a genuinely collaborative initiative and more work needs to be done to assess the viability of consortia – perhaps involving trials in other regions such as London.

Lindsay Ould, Borough Archivist at Croydon, described her experience of migrating elderly CALM data into a new instance of ATOM. Their existing CALM system was used by Archives, Museums and Local Studies, meaning that the style and structure of data was very diverse and often unclean and out of date. More than 1000 collection and accession records were migrated to a new hosted version of ATOM. Lindsay described working with an external developer to cleanse the data and she pointed out that this took up a disproportionate amount of time. Lastly, she spoke about developing a simple search interface and future plans to also make museum descriptions visible.

David Cordery, of Max Communications, was next up and spoke about the challenges of migrating data into ATOM, similar to those which Lindsay had experienced. He stressed the usability and intuitive controls provided by ATOM, but also the ability for users to customise the front end delivery of archive data and that the system is especially useful when managing images. Max provides a service to extract, clean and re-publish data in new ATOM instances and offers ongoing support.

Jenny Mitcham of York spoke next on the use of Archivematica to manage research data – a proof of concept joint venture between the Universities of Hull and York, The National Archives and JISC. Research data management is a big challenge for universities, as it is a requirement of the Research Councils that such data, for example generated by scientific research, be preserved and managed for a time. Jenny highlighted the concept of ‘parsimonious preservation’ coined by Tim Gollins of The National Archives – essentially doing ‘just enough’ to capture the right information in digital preservation, and avoiding unnecessary processes. Jenny listed a number of pros and cons of using Archivematica, including its versatility, flexibility and ability to integrate with other systems, versus its fiddly processes, unsophisticated user interface and the need to train staff to use it. This impressive project is now hoping to move to a production phase and bring on board the Borthwick Institute and integrate Archivematica more fully with ATOM. Much more information can be found on the project website and digital archiving blog.

Ed Pinsent of the Digital Preservation Training Programme at ULCC, is working with Artefactual to develop more mature training in the use of the two systems. He revealed the results of a survey of the digital preservation community in 2015, which highlighted the need for practical (and less theoretical) hands-on training, especially using real tools. ULCC will be working closely with Artefactual on UK Archivematica training in 2017. Learn more about the work of ULCC’s DP training here.

The second half of the workshop focused on hands-on sessions using the two systems and work-sheets provided by Artefactual. This gave the opportunity for attendees, working in groups, to import, manage and manipulate test data and gain a better understanding of what the systems have to offer. Test instances were set up, enabling attendees and those not present to explore the systems from their workplaces.

More information about Archivematica can be found here; and on ATOM, a series of YouTube tutorials here.

Overall, this was a very useful workshop, not least in bringing together a diverse collection of archivists and records managers from higher education, local authorities and other sectors, and others such as representatives of Arkivum, the DP specialists. It is hoped that an ATOM user group will be founded as a consequence of the workshop, to complement a thriving Archivematica group.

I would like to thank The National Archives for hosting and helping to organise the day, and Artefactual for their assistance throughout the day and since.

 

 

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.

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