2015 in retrospect

Burns Night is a suitably celebratory prompt to look back on the Auld Lang Syne of 2015 in Special Collections & Archives and remember some of its highlights – the enthusiasm of students, staff, and visitors; new accessions and new discoveries in the collections; and collaborations with colleagues around the University, throughout Liverpool and further afield.

  • January – our first external visitors were the North West branch of CILIP, visiting the Science Fiction collections.
  • February – SC&A hosted a visit for volunteers from the National Trust’s Jacobean Speke Hall.
  • March – the grandaughters of Basque nationalist Manuel Irujo de Ollo visited the Irujo collections after attending a seminar in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures. The great-nephew of Irujo’s contemporary, Professor of Spanish Edgar Allison Peers, visited with a current Liverpool Spanish student who worked at his publishing company on her year abroad.

Basque-2

Other visitors in March included authors Neil Gaiman and Cheryl Morgan, who explored the worlds of fantasy and comics with Science Fiction Librarian Andy Sawyer, and volunteers at the George Garrett archive.

neilgaimanvisit-2sm

IMG_0917At the University’s School of the Arts, Jenny Higham, SC&A Manager, introduced SC&A’s Renaissance resources at the Department of English seminar ‘Making Knowledge in the Renaissance.’

Inc. Ryl. 63.OS Claudius Ptolemaeus Cosmographia

  • April – Preparations for 2015’s Cunard 175 celebrations got underway in April with the BBC Inside Out team filming material from the official Cunard Archive; SC&A’s new exhibition cases were installed and our copy of Robert Hooke’s Micrographia was measured up for exhibition at the Victoria Gallery and Museum, to celebrate its 350th birthday.

SPEC Y81 3 1637

  • May – Liverpool’s annual Light Night on 15 May launched the LOOK/15 International Photography festival including Gypsy portraits from the Fred Shaw photograph collection. Cunard 175 culminated in the Three Queens choreographed sailing on the Mersey over the Bank Holiday weekend, with news items and interviews with Jenny Higham on the BBC North West Tonight and Granada News.

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  • June – the Cunard theme continued with a creative writing workshop inspired by the Cunard Archive, and both the Fairbridge Archive and the Science Fiction collection hosted external visitors.
  • July – LIHG, CILIP’s specialist Library history group took advantage of the CILIP conference at Liverpool’s St George’s Hall to include a visit to SC&A, visiting the Cunard exhibition and seeing highlights from the early printed book collection chosen for their provenance history.
  • August – the family of Sir Harold Cohen, eponymous founder of the Harold Cohen Library saw his Library, his archive, and the pen that made it all possible.

Phil Sykes with Mrs Penny Gluckstein and Amanda Graves in the Library Special Collections and Archives

  • September – the ships have sailed, but the posters on display in the Victoria Gallery & Museum keep the Cunard glamour alive.

CunardPoster-1w

  • October – more well-travelled visitors included Stanisław Krawczyk from the University of Warsaw, to give a talk on fantastic fiction in Poland, and Eric Flounders, Cunard’s former Public Relations Manager, spoke to a packed Leggate theatre audience on his 27 years of experience of Cunard.
  • November – as part of Being Human 2015, Will Slocombe (English Department) and Andy Sawyer presented Being Posthuman at FACT, and the Knowledge is Power exhibition opened at the VGM.

Knowledge is Power

  • December – SC&A hosted a thank you visit for the Friends of the University, who generously funded a programme to clean and box the incunable collection

Sydney Jones incunables 1

New accessions and newly catalogued collections, now available for research and teaching use, include: University Archive EXT – 70 years of papers from the Extension Studies Dept. 1935-2005 and D1042 (1968-2013) papers of the Academic Institution Management Service; CNDA – Cunard memorabilia from the Cunard Associated Deposits; D709/6 – new additions to the David Owen Archive; LUL MSS and LUL Albums – listings of scrapbooks, commonplace books and other individual volumes previously donated to the University Library; foreign language science fiction; 17th-century pamphlets from Knowsley Hall and 19th-century pharmacological books. Find all these and more by searching the Archive and Library catalogues on the SCA website

 

Nothing new under the moon

The Perseid meteor shower in mid August provided a spectacular show, but if you missed it you will have another chance – next year. The night-time display was identified as an annual event in 1835, and may have inspired the 17-year-old Thomas Glazebrook Rylands (1818-1900), future amateur astronomer, book collector, and University benefactor, who built an observatory with a revolving dome at his home in Cheshire. Rylands bookplate Rylands, a Victorian philanthropist and polymath, sought out books (his “tools”) to explore each new subject which attracted his attention. The list of his ‘pursuits’ in a privately-published family Memoir reads like a University prospectus:

music, phrenology, natural history, botany, entomology, meteorology, geology and mineralogy, astronomy, ancient geography, architecture, heraldry, archaeology, mathematics.

The book collection he eventually bequeathed to University College Liverpool – the predecessor of the University of Liverpool – was the largest gift the college had received and remains one of Special Collections and Archive’s finest separate collections. Ironically, the full range of the collection has been obscured as the medieval manuscripts and early printed books were recognised as uniquely valuable and kept separately.

In the Rylands catalogue (published by the University Press in 1900) the Librarian, John Sampson, took a book history approach in arranging the fifteenth and sixteenth century printed books by country, city and date of printing. This system was continued for later additions to the Library but the early printed books sequences are now being rearranged to bring back together donations such as Rylands’ to make their provenance histories easier to explore.

The focus on provenance also highlights the character of collections from different former owners, and it is not surprising that Thomas Glazebrook Rylands, who was “attracted and fascinated [by astronomy] when quite a young man” later owned books on medieval science which include some very rare astronomical texts, as shown by these three examples:

  • SPEC Inc.Ryl.3 (SPEC E.P.I.A395.1) is one of only five British copies of an astronomical work translated from Arabic
  • SPEC Inc.Ryl.51 (SPEC E.P.I.A338.4.1) contains Albert the Great’s work on meteors – the only other complete copies in Britain are in the British Library and the Royal Astronomical Society – in a volume in its original medieval binding
  • SPEC Inc.Ryl.2 (SPEC E.P.I.A595.1) is the only known copy in the world of this 1496 astrological calendar

Rylands portrait

Advent and After: 23. Nuremberg Chronicle

Nuremberg Chronicle: colophon

Nuremberg Chronicle: colophon

Colophon: The final sentence reads: ”Completed on the 23rd day of the month of December, after the birth of Christ our Saviour, 1493 years”.

Hartmann Schedel’s Liber Chronicarum in the Latin edition or Das Buch der Chroniken und Geschichten in the German translation is a monumental folio illustrated with more woodcuts than had ever appeared in a printed book.

Nuremberg Chronicle: building Noah's Ark

Nuremberg Chronicle: building Noah's Ark


The printer of the Chronicle, Anton Koberger, maintained his printing house, with its twenty-four presses, in the  Aegidienplatz, one of the oldest squares in Nuremberg.

The Chronicle was published in Latin on June 12, 1493. It was then translated into German by Georg Alt (c. 1450-1510), the city treasurer of Nuremberg and the German edition was published on December 23, 1493.

The copy of Das Buch der Chroniken und Geschichten held in Special Collections and Archives is in the original blind-stamped binding, possibly from the publisher’s bindery, it has the bookplate of Josiah Spode and was presented to the University Library by Henry Tate in 1894. Happy Birthday, Nuremberg Chronicle!