Remember, remember, the 5th of November: Guy Fawkes and gunpowder in the collections, from 1679 to 1990

This weekend sees the British tradition of Bonfire Night (or, Guy Fawkes Night) taking place across the country, marking 407 years since the plot to destroy Parliament and assassinate James I was foiled. Although the plot was concocted by 13 members, the name synonymous with the event is Guy Fawkes (or Guido Fawkes); most likely as he was the individual discovered by authorities guarding the gunpowder. The event holds much traditional cultural interest to this day – for instance, The Houses of Parliament are still ceremoniously searched by the Yeomen of the Guard for before the State Opening. To celebrate, we have selected some of the best BANGing works from the collections here at Liverpool University relating to Fawkes and Fireworks.

The Gunpowder-treason … its discovery; and … the proceedings against those horrid conspirators… (1679)

Parliament declared the 5th of November as a day of commemoration and thanksgiving (this was enforced until 1859). For many years to come pamphlets were published on the anniversary date of the event, to remind readers of the consequences of disloyalty to the king and parliament. This pamphlet (SPEC Knowsley 118), published in 1679, printed the confessions of the conspirators and the speech of James I.

The art of making fireworks… (c. 1810)

Although bonfires were a common sight, fireworks were not a popular mode of celebration on the 5th of November until the 1650s onward. This locally printed pamphlet (SPEC G35.14(3)) from the early nineteenth century demonstrated how to make fireworks using gun powder and various other household objects with detailed instructions and colour diagrams (a health and safety nightmare by modern standards).

Guy Fawkes; or, The fifth of November (c. 1840)

This small Protestant chapbook (SPEC Oldham 157(17)) produced in the mid nineteenth century was aimed at retelling the story of Guy Fawkes for children. Chapbooks became a popular method to disseminate tales with a moral meaning to children. The main characters in this particular publication build a guy for a bonfire, and the narrator uses the opportunity to provide a religiously-driven message – the conspirators of 5th of November are presented as Catholic sinners, who acted against the authority of the King.

V for Vendetta (1990)

Skipping forward around 150 years: although still synonymous with celebration, fireworks displays, and bonfires, the anti-establishment sentiments of the 5th of November hold much cultural weight in modern literature and media. V for Vendetta is a DC Comics series by Alan Moore and artist David Lloyd (also developed into a 2006 movie). The series follows V, an Guy Fawkes mask wearing anarchist, who rebels against the dystopian United Kingdom setting of the fascist dictatorship Norsefire. In the Science Fiction Foundation Collections held here, we have a 1990 copy, the first edition printed in the U.K. (PN6737.M66.V46 1990).

As usual, the items featured in this post are available to consult in the reading room here at Special Collections and Archives. Please email scastaff@liverpool.ac.uk for more information. However, our reading room is silent study; please leave all fireworks at home.

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.

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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.

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  • 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

 

Fleas, flies and fire: Micrographia350

Aside

Robert Hooke’s Micrographia, published in 1665 is now 350 years old. To celebrate this anniversary of the world’s first illustrated book of microscropy, and the way it changed the way people understood the world, SC&A’s copy is on display in the Victoria Gallery & Museum from today. The exhibition sets it in the context of the contemporary disasters of the Great Fire of London and the plague, and brings the illustrations to life with surprising additions from the Museum’s scientific collections.