Have you ever wondered why there is what there is in Special Collections & Archives?
Our collections are a fascinating mixture of what survives physical degradation, individual actions, historical events and official censure. But just because something has survived for a long time doesn’t automatically mean it has a place in Special Collections & Archives.
The survival of printed books and archival collections usually contains an element of serendipity; a modicum of good fortune which means they have been able to transcend neglect, wilful destruction, environmental dangers and the censure of authority. But there is also the hand of the librarian and archivist in evidence, selecting and preserving through careful management to ensure the items are kept secure and made available for years to come in a way that is appropriate to both the resources available and the intellectual content of the broader collections.
Our new exhibition displays a range of items from the collections to provide an insight into some of the issues we deal with whilst working to ensure our collections are cared for and made available to facilitate your research and requests.
For more information on the exhibition, please see our website here.
Visit us anytime between 9:30am-4:45pm Monday – Friday at the Ground Floor Grove Wing of the Sydney Jones Library to view the display, no appointment is needed. Also, keep an eye on our twitter for information on special events focused around the material used in the exhibition.
SC&A is positively brimming with such heroines across various fields of study and practice, so we’ve picked out a few to shout about.
Dr Margery Knight, a lecturer in botany at the university from 1912 until her retirement in 1954, was a seaweed specialist. She and her students could often be seen scrambling over rocks at the Port Erin marine research station, even after Knight lost her leg in a car accident in 1936.
As well as her scientific contributions, she was known for her
generosity and support of students. Dr Burges (Professor of Botany, 1952-1966)
wrote her obituary for the University of Liverpool Recorder and noted that:
‘It was I believe completely unappreciated that the “small fund to
which she had access,” and from which she helped so many, was in fact her own
The high esteem in which she was held is evident from this gift: an album containing messages from staff, former students and members of the scientific community, presented to Knight on her 80th birthday (alongside pressed seaweed).
May Rathbone, part of the Liverpool family of politicians, philanthropists and social reformers, initially trained as a doctor at the turn of the 20th century. She went on to become a botanist, an amateur artist and a keen mountaineer. She spent many holidays in Norway and even worked on a glossary of Norwegian botanical terms.
Knotty Ash-born Phoebe Powell was the first female medical graduate at the University of Liverpool, gaining her MD in 1912. She later married fellow doctor Douglas Bigland.
Over her short life (she died in 1930), she held a variety of medical posts and published widely on venereal disease. She lectured in pathology at the university, was house physician at the Liverpool Stanley Hospital and, on the establishment of the Crofton Recovery Hospital for Women in 1922, became Consulting Physician. In 1926 she set up a Mothers’ Welfare Clinic, dispensing contraceptive advice to women.
She was also committed to supporting women in the field of medicine, serving as president of the Liverpool Association of the Federation of Medical Women. In an obituary of Bigland, pioneering surgeon and gynaecologist Frances Ivens-Knowles celebrated her as: ‘a real “live wire” when there was any work for medical women to be done.’
Littlejohn graduated as a vet from the University
of Liverpool in 1949, and stayed here to lecture on veterinary medicine. After
leaving Liverpool, she worked at the Animal Diseases Research Association in
Edinburgh and the government’s Central
She mostly focused on farm animals, though clearly she had time for important doggy medicine too.
Ahem… not technically a branch of science, we know. But we couldn’t miss this opportunity to shout about some of the fantastic female authors represented in our science fiction collections.
We have now entered the assessment period at the University of Liverpool, and the Sydney Jones Library is filling up fast. But how many of the students currently passing long hours within the walls of the library have taken a moment of procrastination to consider the man for whom the library is named? As detailed in a previous post on this blog – Sir Charles Sydney Jones (1872-1947) was a successful politician and businessman who took an active interest in education in Liverpool. He was member, Treasurer (1918–1930), and then President, of the Council of the University (1930–1936); and served as University Pro-Chancellor from 1936–1942. Motivated by a staunch belief in the transformational importance of education, Jones was also one of the most important benefactors in the history of the University. Amongst his generous gifts he donated both books and the funds to buy books, and so it is fitting that the Library bears his name. In this post, I hope to look a little more closely at some of those books. In particular, I am interested to uncover the important role Jones played in the formation of University of Liverpool’s impressive collection of incunabula (books printed before 1501) and early printed books (in this case, books printed between 1501 and 1540).
Most of the books which Jones donated to the University were not from his personal collection. Rather, acquisitions records and letters in the archive make it clear that Jones was a willing and generous provider of funds to buy books old and new. Indeed, he often took a pro-active role in this respect – personally identifying and purchasing books he deemed befitting of a University, in order that they might enrich the education of the many. In particular, Jones bought books for the University as part of his grand plan to create a leading centre for educational research and teacher training in Liverpool. To this end, he purchased, adapted, and furnished numbers 20 and 21 Abercromby square, before gifting them to the University in the early 1920s. He was clear that this gift must include a “panelled and fitted Library to contain about 9000 volumes and a reading room adjoining”, writing that a “well-equipped Library will enable Liverpool to become an important centre of Educational Research” (University of Liverpool archives: D728/4/1). For those familiar with the University, the library Jones created is now the School of the Arts Library, though the books he filled it with are now primarily housed in Special Collections.
As his activities on behalf of the University suggest, Jones had considerable knowledge of the rare books market. Indeed, as well as buying books destined specifically to adorn the shelves of the Department of Education Library, he also bought rare books intended – at least in the first instance – to line his own bookcases. His impressive personal collection included a Nuremberg Chronicle (1493), as well as works printed by Nicolaus Jenson, Aldus Manutius, Johann Mentelin, Wynken de Worde and Richard Pynson, to name but a few. Mostly purchased during the 1910s and 20s, Jones’s personal library was eventually also gifted to the University, in the mid-1940s.
In all, we can thank Jones for around 150 books printed between 1501 and 1540, as well as for 46 incunables (the earliest complete work dating from 1465). These books were purchased from a range of booksellers, including Goldschmidt and Dobell in London, Gregory in Bath and Henry Young in Liverpool. The collection boasts the work of a wide range of early printers, and includes some landmark editions in the history of printing, as well as a number of especially rare early printed books.
A particular strength of the collection consists in the large number of books printed at the Aldine Press that it contains. As well as donating a number of Aldines from his own personal collection, Jones funded the acquisition of 100 formerly owned by the Rev. Mr. Charles Daniel (1836-1919), late Provost of Worcester College, Oxford, and founder of the Daniel Press. In a letter to his friend and collaborator, Professor Ernest Campagnac, he expresses his “delight” at this acquisition, and his desire to see the books for himself, particularly the “’Politiani’: I shall be interested to compare it with my copy for which I paid £15” (University of Liverpool archives: A192/5/2). The total sum paid for the Daniel collection was just £396.
Jones’s books are rich in provenance, providing ample evidence of centuries of ownership. Many still contain marks of very early owners – in their early bindings, illuminations and inscriptions. Moreover, a number of the books have spent some part of their lives in the collections of important figures in the history of rare books collecting, including George Dunn, Michael Wodhull, Maffeo Pinelli, Richard Heber, Lord Spencer and Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex.
Catalogue records for all of the books donated by Charles Sydney Jones and printed before 1540 have now been updated, and his incunabula have been added to the Material Evidence in Incunabula project.
Twenty-eight architectural drawings from Norah Dunphy’s time as a student at the University of Liverpool and in employment in the North-East have recently been added to the University Archive.
Norah Dunphy was a student of the Liverpool School of Architecture. Graduating in 1926, she was the first woman to obtain the degree of Bachelor of Architecture in the country. She studied architecture under Professor Charles Reilly and obtained a first-class certificate in civic design under Professor Abercrombie. Norah Dunphy was also the first woman in the in the country to be employed as a town planner, appointed as Town Planning Assistant to the Tynemouth and North Shields Corporation in 1931.
The catalogue for Dunphy’s architectural drawings is available online. If you would like to book an appointment to view these drawings, or if you have material that you wish to donate to the University Archive, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have visited Special Collections and Archives since
the start of December, and have seen our Christmas tree adorned with 2B
pencils, latex glove baubles, and tinsel made from paper clips and unbleached cotton
tape, then you will know that SCA is fully into the swing of Christmas.
Our latest Christmas-themed treasures event will take place Thursday
5th December 5pm – 6pm, and will look back at how Christmas has developed
into the holiday that we know it as today.
As we approach the Christmas break here at the University of Liverpool, we wanted to share some of our festive favourites that will be shown at the event.
This facsimile of the first ever Christmas card produced in 1843, shows a family
celebrating together in the center, surrounded by images of charitable giving. This is a theme that became ever more popular in the
Victorian-era, and other Christmas souvenirs were quick to follow in promoting
concepts of charity and togetherness.
The idea for the card came from Henry Cole (1808 – 1882), in response to the growing number
of unanswered letters he had received containing Christmas well-wishes. Looking
for a way to reply to these letters quickly, Cole commissioned the artist John
Callcott Horsley (1817 – 1903) to design a Christmas card.
Cole had more of these cards printed, and sold them at a shilling a piece. This was considered a lot of money for the period, and initially the idea didn’t cotton on. It wasn’t until a few years later that the idea of the Christmas card grew in popularity.
Dickens, C., A Christmas Carol: In Prose: Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, (London: Chapman & Hall, 1843) – SPEC Y84.3.65
second edition of Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’, from 1843, includes beautiful
illustrations by John Leech.
In the century before its publication, as a result of
industrialisation and social changes, Christmas traditions had fallen into
decline. However the Victorian era marked the revival of old traditions such as
Christmas carols, as well as the introduction of new ones, such as the
Christmas card and the decorating of Christmas trees, which was popularised by
Prince Albert and Queen Victoria.
‘A Christmas Carol’ was fundamental in re-popularising
Christmas. Dickens (1812 – 1870) wrote the text in response to the growing
problem of child poverty he had witnessed during his lifetime. He had hoped
that the text would remind readers of the need to address wealth inequalities
between the poor and rich, and that by encouraging Christmas traditions he
would be able to promote ‘carol philosophy’, a term coined by Dickens to mean
charity, generosity, and merriment.
The first print of six thousand copies had sold out by Christmas Eve, and since then the book has never fallen out of print.
Christmas Book (1930-1938) – RP XVB.4.7
This notebook from the papers of Sybil and Reynolds Rathbone
shows just how much the concept of gift-giving and sending Christmas cards has grown
since the Victorian era. The notebook includes pages of names of intended
recipients for cards, calendars and presents.
The book records giving gifts such as chocolates and bath
salts- not too different to today it would seem.
Also at the event there will be a selection of books from the Sci-Fi collection, which show the extent to which these modern concepts of Christmas have fed into popular culture since Dickens.
Tolkien, J. R. R., Letters from Father Christmas, (London: Harper Collins, 1999) – PR6039.O32.L47 1999 O/S
This book contains letters written by J. R. R. Tolkien (1892
– 1973) to his children, pretending to be Father Christmas, sharing stories of
life in the North Pole and discussing the gifts they have asked for from Santa.
If you would like to see all these treasures and more then
come along to tonight’s event, held in Special Collections and Archives from
5pm to 6pm.
Don’t forget to keep an eye out on our social media for details of the next Treasures event in the new year!
How do you imagine yourself, and your community, 10 years in the future? Conversely, looking to the past, how has society changed in ten, twenty, thirty years?
To inspire engagement with these questions, and to commemorate the last day of Black History Month, SCA’s Science Fiction Collections Librarian, Phoenix Alexander, installed a pop-up Afrofuturism library in the International Slavery Museum on October 31st 2019. Collaborating with Adam Duckworth and Mitty Ramachandran, Alexander curated the library to feature Black-authored texts from the SF collections: texts ranging from the Caribbean folklore-based speculative fiction of Nalo Hopkinson to the neo-slave narratives and far-future worlds of Octavia E. Butler. Alongside the books, specially-printed postcards were designed and printed to feature two striking Afrofuturist artworks from items in the SF collections. During the course of the afternoon visitors could write their hopes and aspirations for the future on the back of the postcards, which were displayed on a wall of the museum to create a community archive of sorts.
The term ‘Afrofuturism’ was coined in 1993 by cultural critic Mark Dery and fleshed out in a now-famous 2003 issue of the academic journal, Social Text. In the introduction to this issue, Afrofuturism was defined as any “text and images… [that] reﬂect African diasporic experience and at the same time attend to the transformations that are the by-product of new media and information technology.” In the preceding decade the term has become short-hand for any speculative ‘text’ – music video, film, novel, or comic – that foregrounds Black characters and communities, from Black Panther to the ‘ArchAndroid’ stylings of musician Janelle Monáe.
The small selection of texts on display at the International Slavery Museum showcased not only the literary works of Black authors but the often-striking artwork that helped to visualize worlds in which historically excluded communities could be seen and considered in narratives of futurity. The library proved particularly popular with younger visitors, who were inspired by the objects to produce their own artwork on an adjacent activity table. On display, too, was an interactive timeline detailing the history of Afrofuturism and Black speculative writing more broadly.
The library was a successful first step in bringing these inspiring texts to a community wider than the University’s walls – but also energized a commitment to giving voice to those communities who have not historically been afforded the kinds of institutional recognition that an academic library provides. Looking ahead, Dr. Alexander hopes to facilitate more events like this in the future and to build on the amazing SF Collections by collecting works by BAME, queer, and disabled authors.
Science Fiction is perhaps the most nakedly political of all fictional genres in that it explicitly renders who has a place in societies in the future – and who is excluded. Afrofuturist texts help make a space both physical – in institutions, in homes, in public spaces – and in the cultural imagination. By reading and enjoying these works, by encountering the physical objects that serve as interventions in new and exciting forms, we shape our own imaginations and, little by little, help to build a better world.
“I agreed on an internship within Special Collections and Archives, promising that I would catalogue the papers left by Frank William Walbank (archive reference D1037), Rathbone Professor of Ancient History and Classical Archaeology at the University of Liverpool (1951 – 1977). At first, I thought that it would be a great job for an internship. I was not too excited because I barely knew Walbank’s work, and he is not one of the authors with whom I have to be constantly in dialogue for my own research, since I focus on the late Republic. On the contrary, Wallbank worked mainly on the Hellenistic Age. He is remembered as the “Polybius Man” (how Mary Beard called him in an article for The Times Literary Supplement, 29th May 2013) because his most important work is a three volumes commentary of Polybius’ text that occupied him between 1944 and 1979. Dedicating thirty-five years to Polybius, producing the commentary and a plethora of academic articles expanding on some details, made him probably the greatest expert on the subject of the 20th century.
Even though I knew about some interesting adventures in his personal biography, I was still expecting to find correspondence and notes about Polybius and the Hellenistic age, depicting a rigorous scholar, to the point that I pictured him to be quite boring. Well, I was terribly wrong. Letters of colleagues asking him about passages or details in Polybius constitute indeed an important part of the archive, together with many detailed notes on bibliography in several languages (including Russian and Hebrew). On top of this, however, a very complex figure emerged. A good man, certainly, but also a very political man, involved in anti-fascist activities and part of the Communist Party in 1938-9; a Marxist in analytical terms, until very late in his life (though his research has never been held back by doctrinal positions). Some of the important documents in the archive were indeed mentioned in his Hypomnemata, a memoir composed in 1992 and covering the years between his birth (10th December 1909) and the end of WWII. The archive gives us all the possibility to brush his memoir against the grain, to complete his reluctances, to extend the narrative to the years he did not manage to cover (and for which he had prepared a long set of memorialistic notes, conserved in the archive).
Spending an entire summer in Merseyside could be quite tough, notwithstanding how lovely is Liverpool, with his great music and foodie culture – especially if you are used to the Italian countryside, where I grew up. However, even with a very wet and sometimes cold summer the archive helped me keeping my energy level high. I enjoyed going through the documents, creating this catalogue, looking up which articles or books was he commenting on, finding scholars’ names I knew before and learning some new ones. To make everything work better, and immerse myself in Walbank’s world a little more, I visited his houses, where he lived in Liverpool and Birkenhead: a very curious form of tourism, I reckon. I met many wonderful academics, whom I only knew by name (and I was somewhat frightened of), such as John K. Davies, Bruce Gibson, Robin Seager, Christopher Tuplin, and, most important of all, Dorothy Joan Thompson, distinguished Cambridge scholar who happens to be Frank Walbank’s daughter. All of them gave me a nuanced image of Wallbank, telling me memories and stories, jazzing up my picture of him, and listening to me, rambling excited about what I was finding in the collection.”
Emilio’s detailed catalogue of the Walbank papers is available, please do contact email@example.com with any queries.
The recently opened exhibition at Tate Britain: William Blake: Artist includes Liverpool’s copy of the Meditaciones poéticas by José Joaquin de Mora (1783-1864), the only copy known in a UK library of this work, designed for the South American market.
This 1826 publication was inspired by one of the most famous poems of the 18th century, Robert Blair’s The Grave, and has plates based on illustrations by William Blake originally designed for a extensively promoted subscription edition (1808). Our loan features in the Independence and Despair section of the Tate exhibition, focused on Blake’s illustrations to ‘The Grave’ which came to define his reputation. The book, in the Tate curator’s words, is “a remarkable and unique demonstration of Blake’s penetration of the non-English world.”
Liverpool’s copy (SPEC H9.13) has the University College Liverpool 1881 bookplate, with a presentation note: bequeathed by the Rev. John Hamilton Thom. The work is listed in the 1895 catalogue of Thom’s bequest: In memoriam John Hamilton Thom. List of books bequeathed by the late John Hamilton Thom to the Tate Library of University College, Liverpool with separate index of the books once belonging to the late Rev. Joseph Blanco White.
Thom (1808-1894), a prominent Unitarian minister in Liverpool, was also the executor of Joseph Blanco White (1775-1841). White and Mora were fellow Spanish emigrés, and both worked for the publisher Rudolph Ackermann: the connection probably explains the presence of Mora’s work in Special Collections.
Liverpool University Library was collecting works by William Blake (1757-1827) even before Thom’s bequest of the Meditaciones poéeticas: in 1892 the Liverpool solicitor and MP, A. F. Warr, gave his “delightful and almost complete series of reproductions of William Blake’s works” and the Library purchased the 1826 edition of Blake’s Job.
It is no coincidence that 1892 was also the year John Sampson (1862-1931) became the first full-time librarian at University College (later the University of Liverpool). Sampson was a renowned Blake scholar and in 1906 the Liverpool Courier, reviewing his then definitive critical edition of Blake’s Poetical Works, described the “broadening of public taste” in relation to Blake and of “the prominence of the part Liverpool has played in this essentially modern movement”.
Sampson’s scholarship was complemented by a more light-hearted approach to Blake’s poetry; in addition to a popular edition of a selection of Blake’s poems (1906) he also wrote Blake parodies (SP9/4/1/3), such as ‘Songs of Idiocy and Insanity’ and ‘The Girl’.
Liverpool University Press published a posthumous collection of Sampson’s work, In Lighter Moments:a book of occasional verse and prose (1934) and the Sampson archive holds drafts for the volume including unpublished work such as “After William Blake but before the new racing regulations.” (SP9/4/2/22).
The William Blake collections continue to be notable for facsimile editions of Blake’s work, including the important Trianon Press series, contemporary editions of works with engravings by Blake, and works on the critical reception of Blake as poet and artist, dating from Alexander Gilchrist’s Life of William Blake (1863), described in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography as, “arguably the most important work ever published on Blake”.
Sampson’s scholarly contribution to William Blake studies is described by Angus Fraser in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography as, “the restoration of the text of William Blake’s lyrics, long overlaid and ‘improved’ by editors. In the Poetical Works (1905) he established the definitive text, with much critical and bibliographical apparatus, and in the edition of 1913 included ‘The French Revolution’, never before published, and long selections from the ‘prophetic books’. Partly for his work on Blake, but more for his linguistic studies, he was awarded an honorary DLitt at Oxford in 1909”.
This exhibition celebrates the 120 year anniversary of the conception of the Liverpool University Press (LUP) in 1899. Drawing on archival material held within the Liverpool University Press archive and LUP publications held within Special Collections and Archives and the University Libraries, this exhibition seeks to document and display the key points in the rich history of the Press.
As with the scholarly communities it serves, LUP’s fortunes have waxed and waned over many decades but the unfailing commitment of Press staff, authors and editors, and a wider community of scholars who understood the distinctive and important contribution of university press publishing, have helped to lay the strong foundation on which LUP stands today.
Publishing more than 150 books a year, 34 journals and a number of digital products, and still the only university press to have won both The Bookseller and IPG awards for Academic Publisher of the Year, Liverpool University Press has been widely acclaimed for its willingness to embrace change. To that end, the team at LUP have chosen to celebrate the future as well as the past in 2019 with the strapline ‘Forward-looking for 120 years.’
The exhibition is available to view at Special Collections and Archives, Ground Floor Grove Wing, Sydney Jones Library. It will run from September 2019-January 2020. We are open Monday to Friday, 9:30am-4:45pm.
Tweet us at @LivUniSCA & @LivUniPress; alternatively, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
John Sampson (1862-1931) was the first full-time librarian at University College (later the University of Liverpool) as well as an ardent Romani scholar. Thanks to various donations over the years, including some from the Sampson family, we have a large and fascinating John Sampson archive. Recently, we were delighted to receive some new additions – they have now been catalogued and should be a fantastic resource for researchers.
Sampson was also a prolific correspondent, and the new material contains a large amount of correspondence between Sampson and a host of well-known names.
One such name is Theodore Watts-Dunton, the critic and poet who shared Sampson’s passion for gypsy lore and literature; they corresponded enthusiastically on such matters. Watts-Dunton is also known for being the last carer of the great poet, Algernon Swinburne. Due to Swinburne’s poor physical and mental health he lived with Watts-Dunton at ‘The Pines’ in Putney from 1879; he died there in 1909, three days after Watts-Dunton wrote this letter to Sampson.
Other correspondents include Joseph Conrad (author of Heart of Darkness), who wrote this letter to Sampson in 1922, respectfully refusing an honorary degree from Liverpool.
The new material doesn’t only contain insights into the literati of the time, but to Sampson himself. Thanks to a large amount of material gathered by his family, including his daughter Mary Arnold, we have photographs, personal letters and even more unusual items.
The catalogue is now available online (SP9/5). The new material also perfectly complements our huge Gypsy Lore Society archive; Sampson was an active member of this society, serving as president in 1915-1916.