Archives at Altitude

Monday 11th December marks International Mountain Day 2017, which this year will highlight as its theme ‘Mountains under pressure: Climate, Hunger, and Migration.’ As humans, our relationship with the dizzying heights of the world’s highest terrains is witnessed through the writings of generations of intrepid explorers, artists, and highlanders. Experiences of the harsh quality of mountain life, as well as the dangers of summiting the highest peaks, can be found in many of the writings found within SC&A. Ultimately though, the following items show that we are still captivated by majestic mountainous regions.

Spanish Mountain Life (1955) by Juliette de Baïracli Levy

Expert veterinary herbalist Juliette de Baïracli Levy writes in her memoir Spanish Mountain Life (SPEC Scott MacFie D.6.7) about her experience of living amongst the gypsy community of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The memoir paints a stark portrait of the primitive nature of mountain life and details how the Lanjarón community was impacted by the shadow of disease. The author’s own battle and eventual triumph over typhus is evoked. De Baïracli Levy exclaims her gratitude to the mountain for its abundant herbs and ideal climate: “later the mountain gave us back our health.”


Illustrations of the Passes of the Alps, by which Italy Communicates with France, Switzerland, and Germany (1828 – 1829) by William Brockedon

A traditional ‘rite of passage’ trip for generations of upper class young men was to undertake an educational European adventure known as ‘The Grand Tour.’ From the 17th to mid-19th centuries travellers would be able to experience the cultural highlights that Europe had to offer, including the dramatic Alpine landscapes from Germany to Italy. Brockedon’s volumes containing illustrations and routes of passage through the Alps (SPEC SPENCE 91-92) offered an insight into what these young men were to expect when journeying through the monumental passes that would have been worlds away from the streets of London.


Brochures [1927, 1992] (Cunard Archive)

There is little else in the world of travel that is more luxurious than a relaxing cruise. These items found within the Cunard Archive depict just some of the incredible destinations passengers can be treated to on a Cunard cruise. For the more adventurous, destinations include the Norwegian fjords and Alaskan glaciers, where passengers are transported into the wild.

– D42/PR3/10/44

– D42-ADD/28/2


Mountaineering Club Papers [1958-1984] (University Archive)

– A161/117

Here at the University of Liverpool, one of the more physically active societies students can join is the Mountaineering Club. The Club recently celebrated its 80th anniversary and through the years has organised sponsored climbs, competitions, and trips both at home and abroad, traditions that are continued today by the modern Club.


Everest is Climbed (1954) by Wilfrid Noyce and Richard Taylor

This educational Puffin picture book for young readers details the first successful attempt to summit Mount Everest, relating the experience of English mountaineer Wilfrid Noyce, who was part of the British Expedition in 1953 (OLDHAM 600). The illustrations and diagrams vividly portray the extreme conditions the teams faced, whilst the words of Noyce remind the reader of the perilous nature of the climb and the endurance required to conquer and overall to survive the highest mountain in the world.


The Lord of the Rings (1991) by J. R. R. Tolkien, illustrated by Alan Lee

In Tolkien’s epic fantasy world of Middle Earth, ancient folklore and mythology come together to create an intricate narrative bursting with well-rounded characters and complex locations. The central journey that Frodo Baggins embarks upon in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (PR6039.O32.A6LOR 1991) revolves around the quest to destroy the One Ring, the most powerful and dangerous of all Rings. The volatile and mysterious qualities of mountains and volcanos that is commonly reflected in literature is portrayed in the ferocious fires of Mount Doom. The mountain being where the One Ring was forged and in turn where it must be destroyed.

All of the above are available to view in the SC&A reading room between our opening hours of 9:30am – 16:45pm. Please contact us at for an appointment (but don’t worry, we don’t have ‘peak’ hours).

This Week’s War: 176


“Heard from Constantia through Helen that both Rita’s sons had been killed in the same battle in Palestine on Nov. 29 – too awfully sad.”

Entry dated 17th December 1917.  Diary of Alfred Osten Walker [LUL MS 9]

This Week’s War: 175


“Russia and German Peace Delegates are expected to meet today, to consider terms of an armistice.

Entry dated Saturday December 1st. Diary of John Glasier [GP/2/1/24]

New Accession: Brian Patten Archive, additional material

This second accession comprises material collected and produced by Patten since the purchase of the first accession in 2007. It includes manuscript and typescript poems, children’s plays, unpublished poetry collections and story ideas, and various correspondence, recordings, photographs and ephemera.

Amongst the key material are Patten’s unpublished poetry drafts and memoirs. Many of his recent pieces are elegies for friends and other writers and meditations on life and death, often invoking the natural landscape around his home in Devon. A number of poems appear in multiple draft stages.

The archive includes a small but significant collection of correspondence and mementoes from other writers kept in a first edition copy of The Oxford Book of 20th Century English Verse chosen by Philip Larkin. This volume is signed by Patricia Beer, Adrian Henri, Adrian Mitchell, Gavin Ewart, Roger McGough, Christopher Logue, Basil Bunting, and Brian Patten. Patten has used this copy of the book as a place to store important mementoes of other poets and many of the pieces are placed within the text near related and significant poems. Included are a programme and letters for Christopher Logue’s memorial service, hand-printed Christmas cards with poems from Roger McGough, postcards from Beryl Graves and Adrian Henri and a programme for a remembrance of the life of Seamus Heaney, amongst others.

Also included is material relating to Patten’s trip to India in 1984, undertaken in collaboration with the British Council to do public readings, meet with poets, and research a possible novel. Included is a tape recording of Patten reading his in-the-moment experiences of the city of Calcutta.

The archive also contains original ink and watercolour illustrations by Meg Rutherford for Patten’s first children’s book The Elephant and the Flower, written in 1968, a number of audio recordings of BBC radio shows produced in the last fifteen, year, including Patten’s series Lost Voices on forgotten poets, and large quantity of contracts for books as well as correspondence from poets, friends, family, admirers and publishers.

Copyright Meg Rutherford

It is expected that the archive will be fully catalogued and available during 2018.

This Week’s War: 174


November 1917

1 C/s Hospital goods consisting of 
2 Doz. Hot Water Bags                         6 Doz to Seaforth Military
13 ” Tooth Brushes                               Hospital
6 ” Calox                                               Comrades Assn.
12 ” Face Cloths                                    ” ”
4 ” Hair Combs

Items donated by the wives of active servicemen aboard Cunard ships to be distributed to the indicated areas. From the Cunard Archive [Cunard Women’s War Service Association Report for 1917, D42/C1/1/22/2].

Roscoe’s University: Liverpool Royal Institution 1817 – 2017

To celebrate the bicentenary of the Liverpool Royal Institution, opened by William Roscoe on 25 November 1817, an exhibition is on display at the Sydney Jones and Harold Cohen libraries until the end of the year.

In addition, a reading of selected passages from Roscoe’s 80-page opening address will take place in the School of the Arts Library between 3 and 5pm of the 100 year anniversary date, with a tour of the exhibition. The free public event is hosted by Eighteenth-century worlds.

The display in the Harold Cohen cases, including the Toucan from within William Swainson’s Zoological Illustrations (1820) .

The Harold Cohen Library is showcasing scientific books from the Library of the Liverpool Royal Institution, including a selection of coloured plates of insects and birds which made use of the new technique of lithography. The plate of a toucan from the first volume of William Swainson’s Zoological Illustrations (1820; above image) recalls the Google doodle for Swainson’s (224th) birthday in 2013 (below image).  John Blackwall’s A History of the Spiders of Great Britain and Ireland (1861-1864) describes 300 spiders and illustrates 272 of them. It was the life’s work of the Manchester businessman, who retired to North Wales to complete it. The copy in the Liverpool Royal Institution Library was one of the first to be borrowed when rules changed to allow the fee-paying subscribers (“proprietors”) to take books home. The borrower, Rev. H. H. Higgins, had a professional interest, having arranged the invertebrate display in Liverpool’s Free Public Museum when it moved to William Brown Street.

The exhibition in the Special Collections and Archives exhibition area in ground floor Grove Wing, Sydney Jones Library.

Papers of James Wishart

The works of James Wishart, former Head of Composition at the University of Liverpool, have been archived and catalogued by Ellie Pickles, a Music undergraduate working in SC&A as part of the School of the Arts work experience placement scheme. The project, which has taken place over the past seven weeks, has involved cataloguing and listing compositions, letters and posters belonging to Wishart into an Excel spreadsheet, as well as organising the documents physically.

Ellie’s catalogue of the Wishart papers will now be available to search on the SC&A archives catalogue, and the works can be consulted in the SC&A reading room.

The catalogue has been created to coincide with a performance of James Wishart’s 23 Songs For A Madwoman, hosted by the Lunchtime Concert Series in the Victoria Gallery & Museum on 15th November at 1pm.

This Week’s War: 172


“Went with L. Dale to Dawson’s + bought a lot of things for soldiers’ parcels.”

Entry dated Friday November 9th 1917. Diary of Alfred Osten Walker [LUL MS 9]

This Week’s War: 171


“More terrible news for you! While spending those few days in shell holes, I developed a passion for the army issue of rum. The conditions were so cold and wretched and the entertainment so poor, that rum certainly engenders a little warmth. So I used quite to look forward to the form of an officer with a rum jar looming out of the darkness, though I could not swallow the stuff under ordinary circumstances. As a matter of fact, though the rum feels warm when trickling down the throat, its genuine warming properties do not compare with those of a cup of hot tea, even to one like myself to whom spirits are a new joy.”

Entry dated November 9th, 1917, War Diary 1917 – 1919, by Aleyn Lyell Reade [ALR. A. 1. 2].