Franz Baermann Steiner and the Jeremy and HG Adler collections at King’s

This post is made on behalf of Brandon High, Special Collections Officer in the Foyle Special Collections Library, who has recently been cataloguing items for the HG Adler and Jeremy Adler collections described below.

By Brandon High

The collections of the novelist, poet and distinguished historian of the Holocaust HG Adler (1910-88) and his son, the eminent literary scholar, novelist and poet Professor Jeremy Adler, have for a long time added an extremely valuable dimension to the Foyle Special Collections Library. An exhibition on the Holocaust in 2006, held in the Weston Room at the Maughan Library, was based on materials from the HG Adler Collection

This piece concerns the career of the comparatively little known but fascinating poet and anthropologist Franz Baermann Steiner (1909-52), who was a friend of HG Adler from childhood. Steiner appointed HG Adler as his literary executor.

In common with his close personal friends, HG Adler and Elias Canetti, Steiner’s work was concerned with the causes and consequences of the Holocaust. Through the generosity of Professor Jeremy Adler, several items relating to him have recently been added to both the Jeremy Adler collection and the HG Adler collection.

Background

Steiner was born in Prague in 1909 to middle class German-speaking Jewish parents, who were able to fund his prolonged university studies. The ongoing emancipation of the Jews in Central Europe, coupled with the rise of a new pseudo-scientific antisemitism in the late 19th century, created new cultural tensions for Jewish intellectuals such as Steiner. These found expression in the fictions of Franz Kafka. Like Steiner, Kafka was an educated German-speaking Jew in Prague.

Steiner’s position as a minority within a minority (as a Jew within a German-speaking minority within a majority Czech culture) gave him a particular vantage point as an anthropologist. He also embodied within himself the clash between tradition and modernity, as a practising Orthodox Jew whose intellectual outlook was imbued with Marxism.

Steiner’s intellectual formation

During the late 1920s and early 1930s, Steiner acquired an extremely broad and deep knowledge of philology, Semitic languages, the social sciences and Marxism, through his university studies and private reading. He had become a polymath before he had reached 30.

By the mid-1930s, when he had arrived in Britain for further study in London and Oxford, Steiner was already better educated than most British anthropologists. The breadth of his interests in German literature, the social sciences and Zionism is reflected in the books from his library now in our collections.

Steiner as anthropologist

When Steiner was establishing his reputation, he suffered two huge personal blows. In 1942, his parents perished in Treblinka. Shortly afterwards, he began to suffer the persistent ill health which would result in his very premature death.

His only book length anthropological work was Taboo, (1956) of which there are several copies in the Jeremy Adler Collection. This is a critique of the theories of taboo as propounded by intellectuals since the mid-19th century, including those of the founder of anthropology, Sir James Frazer (1854-1941). Steiner exposes their ideas about the role of taboo in pre-modern societies as fatally undermined by their assumption that their own societies were the summit of human achievement.

Steiner made an important contribution to anthropology’s critique of its own history as a discipline. Although this work is not directly concerned with the Holocaust and antisemitism, it does examine the ways in which one culture can view other cultures with contempt. It concerns itself indirectly with the intellectual conditions which could cause genocide to occur.

Steiner and Canetti

While he was studying in Vienna, Franz Steiner formed a significant friendship with the writer Elias Canetti (1905-94), who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1981. Canetti was also a friend of HG Adler.

Canetti’s novel, Auto-da-fé (1935), of which there are three copies in the HG Adler Collection with the author’s inscription, can be viewed as an anthropological study of a society where individuals have become so atomised and are so obsessed with pursuing their private concerns that society is in danger of devouring itself. This novel reflects Steiner’s own theories about the way in which modern societies have internalised demonic forces which were hitherto natural and external.

Steiner as poet

Steiner regarded his poetic vocation as more important than his work as a social scientist. Much of his poetry, particularly his long poem, ‘Prayer in the garden’, a copy of the first English translation of which is included in the Jeremy Adler Collection, is inspired directly by the Holocaust. The particular event which inspired this poem was the sinking of the Struma, a Jewish refugee ship, in the Black Sea in February 1942, after Great Britain and Turkey had both denied refuge to its passengers. This, and the fate of his parents in Treblinka in the same year, convinced Steiner that the whole of Europe was responsible for the Holocaust, and that the destiny of the Jewish people lay in Palestine.

Although Steiner’s work has been overshadowed by poets such as Paul Celan and Nelly Sachs, Celan regarded Steiner’s work highly. Steiner’s work shares with Celan a concern with the adequacy of language in general, and the German language in particular, to encompass the Holocaust.

Steiner and Iris Murdoch

A very rare volume of Steiner’s poetry, In Babylons Nischen (In the Niches of Babylon), has been recently added to the HG Adler Collection, with HG Adler’s own provenance. This volume was due to be published in 1950, but was aborted at proof-stage. Two copies were produced, one for HG Adler, and one for the philosopher and novelist Iris Murdoch (1919-99).

After Steiner’s death, HG Adler asked Murdoch to have his copy bound. It is this copy which is now in the HG Adler Collection, a moving testimony to relationships cut short all too prematurely.

Murdoch was a close friend of Steiner, with whom he had a deep intellectual affinity. He appears as a character in her novel The flight from the enchanter (1956), a copy of which with the author’s inscription is in the HG Adler Collection.

Acknowledgement

We would like to thank Professor Jeremy Adler for granting permission to use the images reproduced here. They are from:

Jeremy Adler, Richard Fardon. Selected writings / Franz Baerman Steiner. New York: Berghahn Books, 1999

Select bibliography

Jeremy Adler, Richard Fardon, Carol Lisa Tully (Editors). From Prague poet to Oxford anthropologist: Frank Baermann Steiner celebrated: essays and translations. München:, [London]: Iudicium, Institute of Germanic Studies, University of London, 2003

Michael Mack. Anthropology as memory: Elias Canetti’s and Franz Baermann Steiner’s responses to the Shoah. Tübingen: Niemeyer Verlag, 2001

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 Fascinating World of the Pageant Master

David Clarke was a Pageant Master. Not only did he organise pageants, but he also studied and documented the history of these truly remarkable events. As such, his collection, recently acquired by King’s, takes a journey through pageant history within the UK, and exposes not just the highs, but also the lows, of a Pageant Master’s career.

David Clarke, Pageant Master – photograph from David Clarke’s collection

As one of the newest members of the archives team here at King’s, I was so happy to take on the task of listing and repackaging this collection. What an interesting way to start a new job! As a northerner whose previous job was in Yorkshire, I was delighted to discover some familiar locations in David’s pageant programme collection:

The Official Programme of the York Pageant (1909) – from David Clarke’s collection

I also found programmes for pageants in Salford, Bradford and Chester. There were colourful pageant publications for cities, towns and villages across the UK, from Newcastle, Birmingham and London to Old Chiddingford and Shamley Green. These pageant programmes, souvenirs and books of words are works of art in their own right. Carefully illustrated and designed, they often documented the pageant script in detail, and sometimes included photographs, musical scores, and long lists naming everyone who contributed. I particularly liked the cover design for Chelsea Pageant’s ‘Book of Words’.

Chelsea Historical Pageant: Book of Words (1908) – from David Clarke’s collection

Before working with this collection, I only had a very basic idea of what a pageant is/was, but I had no idea of the scale at which such events once took place. Many took months, even years of planning, scripting, designing and organising. Whole communities would be involved as participants and audiences, as can be seen below, in a scene from Warwick Pageant (1906).

Performers at Warwick Pageant in 1906, pictured in the book ‘Pageants’ by Anthony Parker – from David Clarke’s collection

Costumes and props were often elaborate, and people bought tickets to see the performances.

‘The Phoenicians – Episode 2’ from Mary Kelly’s book ‘How To Make A Pageant (1936) – from David Clarke’s collection

I was really impressed with the costumes – even the horses wore fancy attire.

Above and below: Undated photograph from David Clarke’s pageants – from David Clarke’s collection

You can tell that a lot of work and imagination had been invested in these costumes.

Undated photographs from one of David Clarke’s pageants (above and below) – from David Clarke’s collection

Clarke’s collection dates back to events that took place before he was even born. In 1905, Louis Napoleon Parker organised a spectacular pageant at Sherborne. Following this, villages, towns and cities across the UK seemed to go pageant-mad. Clarke’s collection represents an impressive array of these, via programmes, words, musical scores, photographs and research.

Louis. N. Parker in an undated photograph from David Clarke’s folder of pageant research. Pictured with one of the main tools of the trade – a huge megaphone.

The lives and careers of other pageant masters are also documented in Clarke’s collection, including Louis Parker’s son Anthony, actor-turned-pageant master Frank Lascelles, and even a couple of female pageant masters, Mary Kelly and Gwendoline Lally.

Gwen Lally in an undated press cutting from David Clarke’s collection

I absolutely love this image. It’s inspiring to see a woman take on this key role in the pageanting world.

Certainly, there’s plenty here for pageant history enthusiasts and anyone interested in the history of performance and public participation more broadly. However, for me, the most thought provoking and moving part of the collection documents Clarke’s own career.

When Kings Rode to Corfe Programme (1991) – from David Clarke’s collection

His personal papers document the highs and the lows of this unusual line of work. There are programmes signed for him by participants, albums of photographs and letters of thanks (and general support) from people who were enthused by this world of costume, drama and public display.

A Pageant of England: Programme (pages signed by participants) – from David Clarke’s collection

However, the collection also reveals the challenges David faced in keeping the spirit of the pageant alive. Correspondence reveals uncertainty about the terminology (it appears that the word ‘pageant’ had become off-putting to some) and struggles to get participants and supporters on board. Indeed, Clark’s collection documents all the preparation invested in cancelled events as well as those that went ahead.

Undated photograph of a scene from one of David Clarke’s pageants – from David Clarke’s collection

Although the terminology has gone out of fashion, the concept of a pageant never truly disappeared. How about the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony? Wasn’t that just a gigantic pageant? Or what about the work of contemporary artist Jeremy Deller? Local history re-enactors? Cosplay?

Here at King’s the History Department is doing an amazing job of ensuring that pageant history lives on – check out their work here. I’d also like to thank all of those who made it possible to acquire this collection including David Clarke’s family and Professor Paul Readman, who is also in charge of the pageants database linked to above.

In the meantime, I look forward to cataloguing David Clarke’s collection in more detail, and to sharing it with visitors. Please contact us to find out more, and to come and see it!

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.

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.

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

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