Natural history in the LRI Library

Beyond the books donated to the Liverpool Royal Institution by Benjamin Gibson, the LRI’s library collection was dominated by material printed in the 19th century, with a particular strength in the natural sciences – the library having been developed primarily as a resource to support the Institution’s Museum of Natural History. The Museum was the jewel in the crown of the Institution’s activities. The first catalogue, drawn up in 1826, boasted 2467 specimens of rocks and minerals, 99 mammals and 826 birds – most of which were obtained through gift or deposit.

From “Index testaceologicus; or A catalogue of shells British and foreign, arranged according to the Linnean system”, by William Wood (SPEC Y82.3.18). The LRI Museum had one of the best collection of shells in the country.

Natural history books in the collection included works by some of the most important figures in the running of the Museum, including:

William Swainson (1789-1855), naturalist and artist, played an important role in organising the collections, as well as providing advice on their preservation. Swainson was best known for his illustrations, and the LRI library held a number of works illustrated by him:

Images from “Zoological illustrations, or, Original figures and descriptions of new, rare or interesting animals, chiefly selected from the classes of ornithology, entomology, and conchology, and arranged on the principles of Cuvier and other modern zoologists” by William Swainson (SPEC Y82.3.503-505).

Thomas Stewart Traill (1781-1862), was a physician and expert in medical jurisprudence. He nurtured a wide range of interests however, as evidenced in his being editor of the eighth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Traill became Keeper of the Museum in 1822, and was responsible for the creation of the first catalogue of its holdings (SPEC R.5.24/B). 

A second Liverpool physician, Joseph Dickinson (d. 1865) made a number of important gifts of botanical specimens to the Museum. Dickinson was also a lecturer in medicine and botany at the Liverpool Medical School, and wrote a work entitled The Flora of Liverpool (SPEC R.5.52/B).

And finally, one of William Roscoe’s many interests was botany. As well as being a key figure in the founding of the LRI, he was also instrumental in the creation of Liverpool Botanic Garden (later Wavertree Botanic Garden). In 1828 he wrote Monandrian Plants of the Order Scitamineae: Chiefly Drawn from Living Specimens in the Botanical Gardens at Liverpool:

References: H.A. Ormerod. The Liverpool Royal Institution: a Record and Retrospect. Liverpool University Press, 1953.

The Liverpool Royal Institution Library

Introducing our latest newly catalogued collection – the books of the Liverpool Royal Institution (LRI). This is a substantial collection of over 300 titles, published between 1516 and 1887. The LRI books relate chiefly to the Institution’s natural history and art collections, but they are also rich in classical texts, and works of history and politics.

The library and archives, partly destroyed in the bombing of Liverpool in 1941, were transferred to University College, Liverpool in 1894. A “Hand List of Books and Pamphlets of the Liverpool Royal Institution kept at the Tate Library, University College, Liverpool” (Liverpool, 1894) records books transferred to the University, including Gould’s Birds of Australia and Benjamin Gibson’s 1851 bequest of 171 volumes (more on this in our next post). The 1894 transfer was commemorated by a bookplate designed by Robert Anning Bell. A surviving borrowers’ register shows loans made 1859-1893.

Robert Anning Bell bookplate marking the 1894 transfer.

Liverpool Royal Institution was the brainchild of William Roscoe and friends, who published their detailed plan for its activities in 1814. Roscoe was the Chairman of its General Committee in 1814, its first President in 1822, and delivered the 80-page inaugural address at its opening, 25 November 1817.

Liverpool Royal Institution drew on the cultural impetus Roscoe and his circle gave Liverpool during  the late 18th century – founding the town’s Athenaeum, Literary and Philosophical Society, Lyceum (with the Liverpool Library), Liverpool Academy and Botanic Garden – and put it to the service of “promoting the increase and diffusion of Literature, Science and the Arts” (1). The 1814 plan provided for a School, Public Lectures, accommodation for Societies, Collections of Books, Art, and Natural History, a Laboratory and other Apparatus, and meeting rooms for the Proprietors, its financial backers.

19th century watercolour drawing of the Liverpool Royal Institution building on Colquitt Street. Image by courtesy of the Liverpool Records Office.

Writing the LRI’s history in 1953, Henry Ormerod was struck by “how much of the intellectual life of nineteenth century Liverpool was centred in the Royal Institution, and how many of our modern institutions originated either as the direct creation of the Institution itself, or as guests within its walls” (2).

By the end of the 19th century as the LRI’s natural successors, particularly the Public Library and Museum and University College Liverpool, were founded and thriving, the LRI collections were dispersed and its activities curtailed. You can still find its legacy today in the Walker Art Gallery (paintings), Liverpool Museum (natural history), the Victoria Gallery & Museum (minerals), and in the University of Liverpool.

And the LRI archive and Library are both available via Special Collections and Archives, and include lists of subscribers and proprietors; committee minutes; correspondence; legal records; catalogues of the collections; records of gifts; visitors’ books; and financial records.

References:

(1) Detailed plan of Liverpool Institution, as determined upon by the committee – 18. Aug. 1814. Ref: GR.1.2(3) B/8

(2) H.A. Ormerod. The Liverpool Royal Institution: a Record and Retrospect. Liverpool University Press, 1953.

The Grace Library – Sir Isaac Newton: beyond the maths.

This is the third in a series of posts by 2nd year History student Eddie Meehan. Eddie is working on The Grace Library of the Department of Applied Mathematics, a collection of 17th to 19th century mathematics texts, centred around the collections of Walter and Alicia Stott and Duncan C Fraser, and named after Samuel Forster Grace. The collection is rooted firmly in the city and University of Liverpool, and particularly in the Liverpool Mathematics Society and the Worshipful Company of Actuaries.

The Grace Library collection contains a wide range of volumes relating to Sir Isaac Newton, including many that were written by him. Newton is world famous for his work on physics, particularly Newtonian mechanics, but there are a range of other volumes written about and by him that are significantly less well known in the Grace Library collection. Newton’s works make up a significant part of the Grace Library collection, with 11 volumes written by Newton himself and a number of others written by others regarding Newton’s work.

The collection contains a work written by Newton named The chronology of ancient kingdoms, published in 1728, in which Newton detailed the history of various kingdoms located principally in the Near East. This involved linking various figures of Greek and Roman mythology to Biblical and historical events, and ultimately sought to prove that Solomon’s kingdom and temple were the earliest in human history. In doing this, he deviated massively from what is now accepted as Mesopotamian and Egyptian history and from the contemporary chronology of the Near East. The volume itself is part of the collection bequeathed by Duncan Fraser and named after Walter Stott, who were both Liverpool actuaries. However unfortunately it bares no other identifying provenance marks.

Another volume written by Newton is the Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel, published in 1733. This volume is a work of theology, another departure from Newton’s more well-known works of physics and maths. The work is a collection of various notes written by Newton and published after his death by his half-nephew, Benjamin Smith, and as such is divided into two parts. This particular volume has a far clearer provenance history to it, bearing bookplates of ownership of a Rob Taylor and a John Baker, along with also being part of the Walter Stott collection.

The collection also contains many of Newton’s more well-known works, such as Opticks and Principia, along with French translations of the latter that were possessed by University College London and given out as examination prizes. Opticks bears a bookplate of Sir Ralph Milbanke. He was one of a line of baronets that formed part of the family of Ada Lovelace, a mathematician known for her work on Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine, an early predecessor to the modern computer.

Various volumes also appear that were not written by Newton, but were written about Newton. Among these are volumes that seek to analyse his work, such as Henry Brougham’s Analytical view of Sir Isaac Newton’s Principia. Brougham was a significant Whig politician of the early 19th century, who supported free trade and an end to the slave trade, but also was a well-regarded lawyer and scholar who was one of the founders of University College London in 1826. Once again, this volume was part of the Walter Stott collection donated by Duncan Fraser to the University.

X is for χ

The X-like letter in the title of this post is actually the lowercase form of the Greek letter ‘chi’ (the uppercase is X). It earns a place in our A to Z of Books for its role in the collation of printed books: that is, recording all the leaves and gatherings (or quires) that make up the physical volume, as explained in our A is for Alphabet post.

You will see the note ‘Signatures’ in many of the newer catalogue records for our early printed books, for example this 18th century volume from the library of the Liverpool Royal Institution:

catalogue record for SPEC Y76.2.167

Signatures: *⁸ ²*² **⁸ A-I⁸ K¹² [chi]⁴ L-Ee⁸ ²A-B⁸.

For many books, the letters of the printer’s alphabet (excluding J, U and W as being easily confused with I and V) are sufficient to describe the book in hand, but sometimes it is not so straightforward, which is where Greek letters come in. It is common to find these spelled out, as in the example above, instead of using Greek characters which may not be accessible across all devices.

But what do they mean? It is common to find books in which not all the gatherings are signed (that is, marked with, for example, A, A2, A3… at the foot of the leaves in the folded sheet), but there isn’t an obvious gap for them in the alphabetic sequence. So, unsigned leaves at the start of the book, before gathering A, are indicated by the Greek letter π [pi] and unsigned leaves elsewhere are given the signature χ [chi].

And like all oddities in early printed books, looking at the physical volume may reveal what was actually going on as the book was printed and why these unsigned leaves are there.

References and further reading:

Karen Attar, “Collational formula” in Michael F. Suarez, S.J. and H.R. Woudhuysen eds., The Oxford Companion to the Book, 2010.

Erin Blake, Signature statements in book cataloging The Collation. Research and Exploration at the Folger (blog)

Philip Gaskell, A New Introduction to Bibliography, 1995.

The Grace Library – Trigonometrica Britannica

This is the second in a series of posts by 2nd year History student Eddie Meehan. Eddie is working on The Grace Library of the Department of Applied Mathematics, a collection of 17th to 19th century mathematics texts, centred around the collections of Walter and Alicia Stott and Duncan C Fraser, and named after Samuel Forster Grace. The collection is rooted firmly in the city and University of Liverpool, and particularly in the Liverpool Mathematics Society and the Worshipful Company of Actuaries.

Another interesting item I came across in the Grace Library collection was the Trigonometrica Britannica, written by Henry Briggs (1561-1631) and published posthumously in 1633. The volume is notably rare, and is a table of trigonometric values that is noted for its high accuracy. Briggs prepared the tables while he was a professor of geometry at Oxford University, assisted by Gellibrand (1597-1637) who was a professor at Gresham College, London, and it was published in Gouda – at the time part of the Dutch Republic rebelling against Spanish rule.

Tables of logarithms were vital to mathematics prior to calculators, particularly for work on navigation, which Briggs was particularly interested in and spent much of his time working on. In navigation, multiplication of many digit numbers was necessary, which could be performed by the addition of their logarithms. Thus, Briggs worked to compile the first ever table of base 10 logarithms. This simplified laborious calculations for astronomers and navigators at the time, while also proving very significant for more modern mathematics (although Briggs did not have any understanding of powers as we know them today).

The work’s importance to navigation was particularly significant as Briggs also worked with the Virginia Company, who were a joint stock company created by King James I to create colonies in America. The improvement to navigation allowed greater European expansion into the Americas and also further European navigation of the ‘South Sea’, now known as the South Pacific. The work was also significant for astronomy, as prior to its publication many astronomers had feared that the difficulty of accurate calculations of logarithms would make many astronomical discoveries far more difficult.

The copy in the university library is an original Gouda publication, inscribed by what appears to be a ‘Johannus Derning’ and with notes throughout. The book was given to the university in memory of Samuel Forster Grace according to its university bookplate. He was one of the most brilliant mathematicians at Liverpool in the early 20th century and was known for his work on tidal theory, but sadly died in 1937 at just 43 as a result of wounds suffered in World War I. 

W is for Woodcut

Woodcut printing is a technique that pre-dates the printed book; used for printing playing cards and religious prints, for example, as well as for block books. To create a woodcut image, the artist either drew directly onto a wooden block, or onto paper which was then pasted to the block. This image would then be carved in relief – so that the area to be inked stood out, whilst the white spaces in the finished image were carved into the block.

Whilst the very earliest of books were largely printed without any illustration or decoration – perhaps leaving spaces on the printed page to allow for these to be added by hand – printers quickly realised that woodcut printing offered a simple means to add decorative features and illustrations to texts. Crucially, the fact that woodcut printing was, like movable type, a relief technique, meant that images and text could be set and printed together, on the same sheet of paper. By contrast, intaglio printing techniques – which involve an image being incised into a surface – required a different kind of press (a rolling press) in order to produce an image. As a result, if illustrations produced using intaglio techniques were to accompany text on the same page, the sheet would have to be printed twice – once for text and once for image. This was a timely and a costly process.

Woodcuts, then, were the preferred method of producing images for early printed books. Earlier in the series we introduced the most highly-illustrated book of the 15th century – the Nuremberg Chronicles – with its 1809 woodcut images, produced using 645 woodblocks. Since woodblocks were durable, it was not uncommon to reuse images – sometimes even in a different work entirely.

The Nuremberg Chronicle is an excellent example of the close marriage of text and image that woodcut printing enabled.

Whilst the earliest woodcut images in books were generally fairly simple, outline images, designed to allow for colouring by hand, by the end of the 15th century the art of woodcut illustration in books had advanced such that the most sophisticated productions displayed considerable artistry, including the use of chiaroscuro effects to produce tones. Still, in terms of the quality of the finished image, woodcut was not able to compete with intaglio methods of printing. It was for this reason that copperplate printing eventually overtook woodcut as the preferred method of illustrating books, by around the middle of the 16th century. Because of the difficulties in printing text alongside copperplate images, it became common for illustrations to take up entire pages, which were then inserted in place before binding. As a result, books generally contained fewer illustrations and decorations than they had during the golden age of the woodcut.

The use of woodcut printing was just one of the techniques revived by William Morris at the Kelmscott Press. The 87 wood-cut illustrations in this, the Kelscott Chaucer, are by William Harcourt Hooper, after drawings by Edward Burne-Jones.

References and further reading:

Hind, Arthur Mayger, An introduction to a history of woodcut, with a detailed survey of work done in the 15th century, 1935

MacLean, Robert, Book illustration: the woodcut2012

Suarez, Michael F. and H.R. Woudhuysen eds., The Oxford Companion to the Book, 2010.

T is for Title-page

Like so many elements of book design (bindings, bookplates, typography), the appearance of the title-page has been subject to fashions, and the amount of information offered on a title-page has varied over time accordingly. For example, whilst the earliest title-pages were relatively simple, in the 17th century it became standard practice to cram as much information as possible onto the title-page – with extensive sub-titles and detailed author and publisher information, often in multiple types, and within decorative frames. This trend died off in the 18th century, as a tendency for more simply set-out title-pages (often accompanied by half titles) took its place. This pattern repeated; the 19th century saw a return to more elaborate title-pages, whereas the emergence of modernism accompanied a more stripped-back approach in the 20th century.

As engraving came to be used more widely in book illustration from the late 16th century, engraved title-pages emerged. Occasionally books contained additional engraved title-pages alongside a letterpress title-page, as in the example below.

The earliest of printed books do not contain title-pages at all however; nor do most medieval manuscripts. Instead, these texts are generally identified by the “incipit” and “explicit” – the opening and closing words of the text, from the Latin verb incipere (‘to begin’) and explicitus, meaning ‘unrolled’.

An example of an incipit from a work printed in 1481.

Early printed books often closed with a “colophon” – a closing statement, providing, for example, the name of those involved in the book’s production (scribe, printer, publisher), and place and date of publication.

Earlier in this series we met the half-title page: here it is worth noting that the history of the half-title page, as outlined in this earlier post, also helps to reveal how it was that the title-page came to be – “printers would produce the pages of a text – the text-block – which they sold unbound”; a “blank sheet originally intended for protection came to be marked with a short-title in order to help differentiate one text-block from another, and it was this that then developed into the full title-page, with publication details as well as author and title.”

References and further reading:

Smith, Margaret M. “Title-page” in Michael F. Suarez, S.J. and H.R. Woudhuysen eds., The Oxford Companion to the Book, 2010.

Smith, Margaret M. The title-page: its early development 1460-1510, 2000.

British Library, Catalogue of illuminated manuscripts, 2018

P is for Paste-down

‘Endleaves’, or ‘endpapers’ are the first blank leaves of paper you come across when opening the book, and the final blank pages at the end. Found between the front or rear of the main textblock and the front and rear covers of the book, then, they are intended to protect the first leaves of text. The ‘paste-down’ is the half of the first sheet of endpapers which has been  adhered to the inside of the boards or cover of the book (literally, pasted down). Endleaves that are not pasted-down to the cover or boards are usually described as being ‘free’.

This image shows the rear paste-down, and rear free endpaper. An ownership inscription can be seen on the paste-down, which also contains a booksellers price label, and further markings in pencil.

Paste-down is a useful term to know because it appears regularly in catalogue records. This is primarily because the paste-downs of a book are often where we find a number of interesting features – such as ownership inscriptions, bookplates, bookseller’s labels, previous classmarks – which have been added after publication and help to tell the unique history of that particular book (to use another ‘p’ term, we call this the book’s provenance).

All of the hundreds of bound volumes of pamphlets from the Knowsley Hall Library collection contain precise details of their location within the library on the front paste-down.
Bookseller’s label on a colourful paste-down.

Another reason paste-downs may be of particular interest is that they can sometimes feature coloured or patterned paper:

In this image the endpaper is comprised of a colourful patterned endleaf, and contains the bookplate of the Bebington Free Library, reflecting the history of the book.

New Exhibition

Behind the scenes: Student encounters with Special Collections and Archives

Special Collections & Archives has a long tradition of making its collections visible, accessible and available for use by students at all levels within the University. We encourage students to engage with the collections through our social media and blog, through detailed specialist cataloguing showing the context of items and collections, through visits to the reading room with guidance from welcoming staff, and through a series of Treasures events.

This exhibition focuses on some of the closer encounters behind the scenes which allow students to engage in more depth, whether through work placement modules such as SotA300 or collections-based teaching.
The central section has been written and curated by Sophie Craven, an English student who looked at ownership inscriptions in the Literary Annuals collection; a previous work placement project listed the James Wishart archive; and the final section looks at student engagement with the Science Fiction collections in SCA-led teaching classes.

The exhibition will run from Friday 1st February until April 2019. For more information email scastaff@liverpool.ac.uk.

2018 retrospect

As the first month of 2019 draws to a close, we look back on the previous year and all of the events, accessions, and projects that took place here in Special Collections and Archives.

January

We welcomed in the New Year in with a new exhibition, which was titled The University of Liverpool: A History through Archives. This exhibition celebrated 50 years since  establishment in 1968 of the official repository for the University Archives. The repository’s holdings currently comprise over 2000 linear meters of material and continue to grow.

The University of Liverpool: A History through Archives.

February

The Gypsy Lore Society collections were enhanced with the accession of a collection of papers formerly belonging to Helen Murray, secretary to philologist and GLS member Bernard Gilliat-Smith (1883-1974).The collection largely comprises correspondence and photographs, including letters from notable GLS members such as Dora YatesR. A. Scott Macfie and Henry James Francis.

Macfie (left) is pictured alongside a fellow employee from Messrs Macfie & Sons, the sugar refinery business which had been run by his family in Liverpool since 1838.

March

March was a busy month! Katy Hooper, Special Collections Librarian, attended the opening of the exhibition Mondes Tsiganes (Gypsy Worlds) at the Musée national de l’histoire de l’immigration, Paris, in order to see material from the Scott Macfie collections displayed; we celebrated World Poetry Day with two posts, the first also celebrating women poets in connection to International Women’s Day, and the second celebrating Small Press Poetry and the 20th C Liverpool poetry scene. We also celebrated World Book Day on the University of Liverpool Instagram. 

Photographs and a digital version of R. A. Scott Macfie’s photo album on display in Paris.

April

We began a new series of events displaying Special Collections and Archives ‘Treasures’. The series started with a display of medieval books, including the beautiful Nuremberg Chronicle (1493). To find out more, see our new blog post! Another first in April was the launch of the LivUniSCA twitter account, which has grown to have 299 followers to date.

May

The new SC&A exhibition Puzzles, Poetry and Playground Games debuted, which displayed games and pastimes, for children and adults, from the 18th-20th centuries. The exhibition “…don’t forget the photos, it’s very important…” The National Socialist Persecution of Central German Sinti and Roma featuring material from the Gypsy Lore Society Collections made its well received return to Liverpool in the Central Library.

D958: Queen Mary jigsaw puzzle, featured in the Puzzles, Poetry and Playground Games exhibition
…don’t forget the photos, it’s very important…” The National Socialist Persecution of Central German Sinti and Roma at Liverpool Central Library

June

The Harold Cohen Library holds the Mathematics texts for the University, so it was fitting that the ‘Seeing Euclid’ exhibition was on display there during June and July. We also welcomed many prospective students and their family and friends for the first Undergraduate open day of the year.

July

SC&A was awarded Archives Accreditation, the UK quality standard which recognises good performance in all areas of archive service delivery, and is awarded by a Committee representing the entire archive sector. We also welcomed the Society for the Social History of Medicine 2018 Conference delegates to view some of the medical texts held here in the collections.

August

We celebrated World Photo Day by picking our favourites from the collections, including the fantastic below photograph from the Cunard Archive. Niamh Delaney, Assistant Special Collections Librarian, was awarded a bursary to attend the Montefiascone Conservation Project in Italy, where she spent a week cataloguing books held in the collections there.

Dance aboard the RMS Queen Mary, from the Cunard Archive.
D42/PR2/1/97/F67.

The 31st of July also marks the end of the academic year, so in August we are busy totting up the total number of visitors, retrievals, and enquiries we answered throughout the previous year. Between 1st August 2017 and 31st July 2018, we retrieved 5332 items from the stores, welcomed 1107 visitors and readers, and received 1558 email and 210 phone call enquiries!

September

While the hustle and bustle of the first 2018-19 academic teaching semester began, staff changes were happening in SC&A. We said goodbye to Graduate Library Assistant Michaela Garland, who was heading for the Master of Archives and Records Management course, and we welcomed Caitlin Fleming into the same post; Cunard Archivist Sian Wilks gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Dylan Derek Matthews, and Beth Williams began her Maternity cover of the Cunard Archivist post; and finally we said goodbye to the amazing Andy Sawyer, who retired from the post of Science Fiction Librarian which he held for 25 years.

Author Neil Gaiman and Andy Sawyer

Third year English student Sophie Craven began her SOTA300 work experience placement cataloguing the Literary Annuals. The annuals are currently featuring in our new Special Collections and Archives exhibition, Behind the Scenes: Student encounters with Special Collections and Archives. We also began the A-Z of books blog series with Almost an Alphabet; we post each teaching week during semester to demystify some of the specialist words we use in cataloguing our printed books.

October

October was all about the Rathbone Papers and Library; firstly, the Special Collections and Archives Exhibition titled A gift from Greenbank’: reconstructing the Rathbone library was launched, whilst some of the Eleanor Rathbone papers travelled to the other side of campus at the Victoria Gallery for the exhibition Eleanor Rathbone – An Independant Woman. We also hosted a free Science Fiction books event to pass on duplicates from the collections to loving homes, and the next ‘Treasures’ event, ‘Tales from the University Archives’, took place.

A panel from the Eleanor Rathbone: An Independant Woman Exhibition at the VG&M

November

November was events month! Special Collections and Archives hosted a celebration event for the award of Archives Accreditation, at which President of the Archives and Records Association (ARA) Dr Alex Buchanan presented Vice Chancellor of the University of Liverpool Dame Professor Janet Beer with the official certificate (and, there was cake!). Sticking with the theme of archives, University Archivist Jo Klett and Archives Cataloguer Josette Reeve’s hard work on EMu (Collection Management System) became accessible to users via the new and updated archives catalogue.

Head of Special Collections and Archives Jenny Higham introduced Dame Professor Janet Beer to the collections at the Archives Accreditation event.

Other events included: Jenny Higham was welcomed by the Liverpool Nautical Research Society at the Athenaeum for a talk on the Cunard Archive; the ‘Treasures’ series continued with a fascinating display of medical texts, and Niamh Delaney (Special Collections Assistant Librarian) and Robyn Orr (Library Assistant) hosted a KnowHow session on using Special Collections and Archives material in research. Lastly, to mark the centenary of Armistice Day, the ‘This Week’s War’ blog posts were completed with a final overview post  by Caitlin Fleming.

December

We received a new accession to be added to the Science Fiction collections in the form of the library of Brian Aldiss. We wrapped up the year by getting festive in collaboration with the Sydney Jones Library team: images provided by SCA were displayed alongside the Christmas themed books, including this idyllic snow scene.

A268/19 Abercromby Square in the snow (image by
University’s Central Photographic Service)