The current exhibition at the Victoria Art Gallery & Museum – Knowledge is Power -reflects on the Liverpool Athenaeum and Liverpool Medical Library (now Liverpool Medical Institution) as Liverpool’s oldest surviving cultural institutions. Items loaned from Special Collections & Archives, chosen to reflect the long history of libraries in Liverpool, include a view of the Lyceum building (1 Bold St) painted onto the fore-edges of a printed catalogue. A portrait of William Roscoe presides over the exhibition, watching benignly over important books and manuscripts from his own collection.
For National Libraries Day on Saturday 7 February, and Valentine’s Day a week later, Special Collections and Archives staff have each chosen a favourite item from the collections to introduce. Their choices can be seen throughout February in the SC&A display cases, and here’s a quick overview:
Jenny Higham, Special Collections and Archives Manager:
A wry look at the “gentle madness” of book collecting, written for the amateur bibliophile by Scots poet, novelist, literary critic and anthropologist Andrew Lang (1844-1912).
Andy Sawyer, Science Fiction Librarian:
Skimming through these “World of Tomorrow” cards gives us an interesting glimpse into a science fictional future presented outside the usual channels of science fiction.
Jo Klett, University Archivist:
From about 1961, aged 16, Brian Patten began to think of publishing his work and produced several typescript handmade poetry booklets. These, now incredibly fragile, are a precursor to his later published poetry magazine Underdog.
Katy Hooper, Special Collections Librarian:
Only one copy has been recorded in the world of this 1751 pamphlet. The Chester bookseller, John Rowley, advertises his other services on the title-page as a sort of 18th-century eBay:
Siân Wilks, Cunard Archivist:
Taken on board the Cunard Liner R.M.S. Ascania II during embarkation, this photograph shows Princes Landing Stage, Liverpool in 1952. Chosen because it illustrates the proximity of the landing stage to the Three Graces, this bustling port scene captures a moment in time in the ever-evolving Pier Head of Liverpool.
Josette Reeves, Archives Cataloguer:
Discovered recently amongst the Allott papers (a collection of material belonging to former English Professors Kenneth and Miriam Allott). This item relates to the dramatisation of E. M. Forster’s novel A Room with a View by Kenneth Allott and Stephen Tait.
Clare Foster, Assistant Librarian, Special Collections:
Vernon Lee is the pseudonym of the English writer, Violet Paget (1856-1935), famous for her supernatural fiction and her works on aesthetics, who also wrote a number of essays on travel as she spent the majority of her life in Italy. She forged a lasting friendship with the writer Henry James and SPEC ZAINA E.5 was Henry James’s personal copy of Lee’s The Sentimental Traveller, given to him by Vernon Lee in 1908.
Edd Mustill, Graduate Library Assistant:
This is one of a number of zines collected by the music journalist and author Paul Du Noyer, who worked on the New Musical Express between 1978 and 1985.
The zines give an insight into the important of fan-created journalism to the alternative music scene of the 1980s. This issue features interviews with The Jesus and Mary Chain, DJ John Peel, and footballer Pat Nevin.
Colin Smith, Graduate Library Assistant:
Within the University archive we hold a collection of photographs and a pilot log book for former Liverpool University student Captain Henry T Forrest of the Royal Canadian Air Force. He flew a Wellington III plane during the Second World War.
Recently there was an enquiry from a relative tracing their grandfather (Sgt FM Crossman) who flew as part of the aircrew as an M.U with Henry T Forrest during 1944 for a single mission. Using the log book we were able to identify the exact location of this mission.
For the occasion of Burns Night, celebrated on 25 January, Manuscripts and More has a guest editor: Professor Paul Baines of the School of English has uncovered the author of an anonymous sonnet in memory of Robert Burns copied into one of our 18th century books, as he explains below….
“The Scottish poet Robert Burns died on 21 July 1796, at the age of 37, and his death prompted a widespread outpouring of elegies and other poetic memorials across Britain. In Liverpool, several such elegies were published in The Liverpool Phenix [sic] or Ferguson’s Weekly Gazette, a local newspaper. Of these, four were then collected in a pamphlet called Liverpool Testimonials, to the Departed Genius of Robert Burns, the Scottish Bard, published by a firm of printers, Merritt and Wright, operating from Castle Street.
The book is not dated and so far no advertisements for it have been found, but it must date from within a few months after Burns’s death, as the idea of the publication was in part to help raise money for Burns’s widow and children, left by his death, as the preface indicates, in poverty. Thirty-five subscribers were listed, with the amounts donated to the cause. Dr John Currie, who would edit a large edition of Burns in 1800, heads the list with ten guineas, and there are contributions from William Roscoe, William Rathbone, the Rev. William Shepherd, several members of the Gladstone family, and two bookselling firms.
The publication was also designed as a sort of showcase for the talents of ‘the Gentlemen of Liverpool’ who wrote them, on grounds of their ‘distinguished merit’. By the 1790s, Liverpool could boast a lively coterie of poets, mostly of radical, reformist, and anti-slavery views.
We notice these circumstances with pride and pleasure, as we conceive they are not less characteristic of the taste for letters which has lately distinguished this town, than the liberal subscription raised here for the family of the unfortunate Bard, is characteristic of its benevolence.
The first three poems are by ‘J.B.’, identified in the Liverpool SCA copy as ‘Jno. Bree’; ‘G. P.’ (George Perry), and ‘W. R.’ (William Roscoe). The fourth printed poem is by ‘E. W.’, actually Edward Rushton, the blind poet and anti-slavery campaigner (1756-1814), and identified as such, in pencil, in the British Library and Liverpool copies. Rushton’s poem, a kind of tribute to Burns’s own ‘To a Mountain Daisy’, was reprinted in his volume of Poems (1806). Rushton was also a Liverpool agent for Currie’s 1800 edition of Burns, selling it from his shop in Paradise Street.
The manuscript ‘Sonnet’ about Burns reproduced above was written onto the blank final leaf of Liverpool’s copy of Liverpool Testimonials at some point relatively soon after publication. This has not been previously identified, but it is in fact also by Rushton, and was printed, alongside his longer elegy, in an Edinburgh book called Fugitive Pieces (1797), p. 103. It was also widely known in America, being reprinted in The Time Piece, 25 September 1797, The Medley, 20 October 1797, and New-York Gazette, 2 October 1797. Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser, 19 April 1803, printed it under the title ‘Helpless Swallow’, and ascribed it to Roscoe, and at least six other American papers to 1813 followed suit in that mistake.
Rushton himself included a revised version of the poem, now called ‘The Swallow’, in his book of Poems of 1806, and the poem gained in recognition and reputation following Rushton’s death in 1814. Another Liverpool paper, The Kaleidoscope of 22 November 1825, reprinted it from Rushton’s posthumous collection of 1824, as it ‘feelingly and beautifully depicted the power of sympathy for the suffering child of genius’; it then turned up in The Preston Chronicle, 13 October 1832, with some approving commentary on Rushton and his son, the political reformer also called Edward; and in The Leicester Chronicle, 26 January 1833. It was also quoted approvingly in an article on social issues in The Liverpool Mercury, 28 August 1846.
The manuscript text we have in our copy of Liverpool Testimonials is a fair copy,
not a working manuscript, and certainly not an autograph, though Rushton did,
after a series of operations, regain some sight in one eye from 1806-7. It was
probably copied in from a printed source to ‘complete’ the volume. The left hand
edge has been cropped in binding, but it is possible to reconstruct the text
fully from printed copies; it follows the ‘early’ text established in Fugitive Pieces (1797), rather than Rushton’s revised version of 1806, though it is likely that both Fugitive Pieces and the manuscript derive from a local newspaper printing, not yet found.
Go place the swallow on yon turfy bed,
Much will he struggle, but can never rise:
Go raise him even with the daisy’s head,
And the poor twitt’rer like an arrow flies.
So oft thro’ life the man of pow’rs and worth, 5
Haply the caterer for an infant train,
Like BURNS, must struggle on the bare-worn earth,
While all his efforts to arise are vain.
Yet should the hand of relative or friend
Just from the surface, lift the suff’ring wight, 10
Soon would the wings of industry extend,
Soon would he rise from anguish to delight.
Go then, ye affluent, go, your hands outstretch,
And from despair’s dark verge, oh! raise the woe-worn
22 November 2014 marks the bicentenary of Rushton’s death, and the city of Liverpool will be marking the occasion with an exhibition, a specially-written play, an academic conference, and two books from Liverpool University Press: an edition of the poems by Professor Paul Baines of the School of English and a critical study of his work by Dr Franca Dellarosa of the Università degli Studi di Bari “Aldo Moro”.
Featured at #3 in Rough Guides’ Top 10 Cities to visit in 2014, Liverpool is being hailed for its “full-blown cultural renaissance”. From the 18th century onwards, libraries have been part of that culture, as shown in a new display in Special Collections & Archives.
Designed to accompany the Liverpool colloquium on ‘Libraries in the Atlantic World’ on January 24-25 – the launch event for a new international research network on community libraries – it showcases some of the books in SC&A’s collections which provide physical evidence of historic libraries around the city, selected by Dr Mark Towsey, from the University of Liverpool’s School of History.
A map of Liverpool shows the libraries’ locations, whether they have long since disappeared, or still form part of Liverpool’s rich architectural heritage. Liverpool firsts include the Liverpool Library, founded in 1758 and one of the first subscription libraries. It moved to the Lyceum building at 1, Bold Street (built 1800-02) which can be seen in the fore-edge painting (c.1813) by William Ball on a copy of the 1801 catalogue.
Nearly one hundred years later, in 1850, the Liverpool Free Public Library was established, followed in 1852 by one of the first major libraries to open under the Public Libraries Act (on Duke St) and in 1860 by the first purpose-built public library. This is Liverpool Central Library, recently splendidly refurbished in its original building on William Brown Street, which was renamed for the Library’s benefactor.
We could not resist extending the Libraries in the Atlantic World theme into the 20th century, to show photographs of libraries actually on the Atlantic, onboard the Cunard Line ships documented in the Cunard Archive.
The third Sunday in Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday, from the Latin for Rejoice, and is a Refreshment Sunday, when fasting was relaxed midway through the penitential period. The equivalent Sunday in Lent is Mothering Sunday.
So today is a good day for eating mince pies, perhaps made to Hannah Glasse’s recipe: ‘To make mince pies the best way’ in her book The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy (1747). For the fillings in the pies the recipe lists apples, currants, sugar, spices and citrus peel along with a quantity of alcohol. More unusually, meat is also included, as shown in the recipe below.
The Art of Cookery was another of the books shown during the Special Collections & Archives visit for the Mr Seel’s Garden Connected Communities AHRC project.