New Acquisitions: August

A bumper month for new acquisitions here in SC&A. One of the main collecting areas for the department is items printed in, or about, Liverpool.

SPEC 2017.b.003 – Memoirs of mammoth

Memoirs of mammoth was printed in Liverpool in 1806 by G.F. Harris. The author, Thomas Ashe (1770-1835), travelled in America and sent the first mammoth bones back to Britain. The work details the discovery and composition of the mammoth bones which were held at the Liverpool Museum.

SPEC 2016.P2.07 – The geology of the hundred of Wirral

This pamphlet, by John Cunningham and printed in 1864 by J. Oliver in Birkenhead, details the geology of the Wirral with particular reference to the water supply. Items printed by J. Oliver are exceptionally rare with only four works reported to COPAC, this item is not among them making it the only known copy, particularly nice as it is dedicated to a Thomas Duncan by the author.

 

SPEC 2017.c.005 – An address to the merchants of Liverpool

SCA has a wealth of material relating to the maritime history of Liverpool and this 1806 stab-sewn pamphlet is an excellent addition to the collections. Willis Earle, a local timber merchant, was elected to investigate the financial accounts of the Liverpool Dock Estate, it includes a recent history of the docks and the effect of recent Parliamentary Acts on the workings of the port.

SPEC 2017.b.010 – A form of prayer, and a new collection of Psalms

This 1763 volume is one of only 11 copies reported to the ESTC and is beautifully bound in gilt tooled black morocco. The text is a first edition of the experimental non-conformist liturgy at the Octagon Chapel in Liverpool which was developed by Philip Holland and Richard Godwin.

SPEC 2017.b.010 – provenance

The volume bears the names of Robert Pilkington, Joseph Pilkington and Esther Holland. A pencil note explains: “Given by Esther Holland who was the daughter of Robert Pilkington, to her cousin Joseph Pilkington”.

SPEC 2017.a.010 – The stereotype ready reckoner

The final item in this collection of Liverpool related items is an 1814 ready reckoner, owned by an officer of excise. A ready reckoner is a table listing standard calculations such as weights and measures and rates of interest.

These items are available to consult in our reading room, you can find out how to make an appointment on our new website.

 

New Acquisition: February

February saw “The Garland, or Thirteen extracts with colored vignettes for rewards” added to the collections in Special Collections and Archives. 

This item, dated approximately 1820, has 14 leaves printed on the recto which are hand coloured throughout. Each leaf bears an illustration and a poem to reward a child for good behaviour. Some may have been more enjoyable than others for the juvenile reader …

The item also bears an interesting provenance, the book is signed on the first free endleaf recto “Ellen Claye Manchester November 1st 1822” and a blind stamp for a bookseller appears on the final free endleaf for “Claye, Printer and Stationer, Stockport”. Perhaps a gift from the bookseller for a young family member?

This item is now available for consultation in SCA so please do feel free to make an appointment.

New Acquisitions: November

The Special Collections and Archives department has welcomed three notable accessions written by women to their collections in November.

Mont Blanc, and other poems by Mary Ann Browne, who is the sister of the more well know Liverpool poet Felicia Hemans, has been catalogued and added to the SCA collections. As SCA had acquired a portion of Hemans’ correspondence and archive previously, this new item makes an excellent accompaniment to this collection.

Mont Blanc, and other poems. SPEC 2016.b.024

Mont Blanc, and other poems. SPEC 2016.b.024

As well as containing the poems of fifteen-year-old Mary, the item has an interesting provenance history including a poem tipped into the beginning of the volume which begins “I know, my love, thou art false to me …”, a manuscript copy of the poem which appears on page 119. The book also bears the inscription of Mary Hiles, which has been cut away from the title-page, and a cut-out and handcoloured floral image pasted to the upper paste-down.

SPEC 2016.b.024 paste-down

Paste-down. SPEC 2016.b.024

"I know, my love, thou art false to me ..." SPEC 2016.b.024

“I know, my love, thou art false to me …” SPEC 2016.b.024

Poems by one of the authors of “Poems for youth, by a family circle” is written by Jane Roscoe (later Hornblower), the daughter of Liverpool luminary William Roscoe, who wrote “Butterfly’s Ball” for his family.

SPEC 2016.a.019(2)

SPEC 2016.a.019(2)

This handsome 1821 volume is bound in blind stamped pink calfskin and is one of only four reported copies in the UK. The Liverpool connection makes this edition a fine complement to the collections here which already boasts many items by or related to the Roscoe family.

Blind stamped pink calfskin. SPEC 2016 a.019

Blind stamped pink calfskin. SPEC 2016 a.019

Fabulous histories by the Suffolk author and educationalist Sarah Trimmer (1741-1810) uses stories from the animal kingdom to further children’s moral education and to teach about cruelty to animals. This 1786 copy is bound in 18th century sheepskin and is one of only 8 reported copies in the world. Many other works authored by the prolific Mrs Trimmer can be found in our children’s book collection, making this volume an excellent addition to the collections.

Fabulous histories. SPEC 2016.a.020

Fabulous histories. SPEC 2016.a.020

As ever, these items are available for consultation in the reading room here at SCA.

New Exhibition: Local Literary Landscapes

This year sees the exciting launch of the inaugural Liverpool Literary Festival, running 2830 October 2016. To celebrate, a new exhibition at Special Collections & Archives is highlighting the work of those literary figures who have sought inspiration from Liverpool and the surrounding area, particularly local poet Matt Simpson. His newly-acquired archive provides the bedrock for the exhibition and reveals just how much his work was influenced by Liverpool; his verses are full of the city and its people.

Matt Simpson returns to his childhood street

Matt Simpson returns to his childhood street

Simpson (1936-2009) grew up in Bulwer Street, Bootle, where he attended the local grammar school.  He went on to study English at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, and returned to Liverpool in the 1960s after his marriage to German actress Monika Weydert. He taught in various schools and colleges, including Christ’s College (now Liverpool Hope University). He published many collections of poetry, including some for children, as well as critical essays and monographs. He also undertook a poetry residence in Tasmania, which inspired his collection, Cutting the Clouds Towards (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1998). But it was the city where he grew up and lived most of his life which would be his most enduring inspiration.

SPEC Merseyside Poets I.S615.M23 : Matt Simpson, Making Arrangements (Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe, 1982)

SPEC Merseyside Poets I.S615.M23 :
Matt Simpson, Making Arrangements (Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe, 1982)

The exhibition also includes impressions of the city recorded in the poems, autobiographies and travel diaries of a host of others, from novelist Daniel Defoe to physicist Oliver Lodge, social reformer Josephine Butler to poet Donald Davie.

The exhibition will run until the end of the year. In 2017 we’ll be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Mersey Sound, the anthology of poems produced by the ‘Liverpool Poets’ Brian Patten, Roger McGough and Adrian Henri.

Pilots in the Port of Liverpool

We were very pleased to acquire and catalogue four pamphlets on pilots in the Port of Liverpool, a timely acquisition given the Maritime Museum’s current exhibition In Safe Hands: The story of the Liverpool Pilots.

An Act for the better regulation and encouragement of pilots for the conducting of ships and vessels in and out of the port of Liverpool.

An Act for the better regulation and encouragement of pilots for the conducting of ships and vessels in and out of the Port of Liverpool.

 

The exhibition celebrates 250 years of the Liverpool Pilotage Service and these pamphlets, thought to have been printed in Liverpool, detail the Act which sought to improve piloting in the Port of Liverpool. These four 18th century items were unrecorded by the English Short Title Catalogue and so are an exciting and rare acquisition for the Library.

"A petition signed by sixty-five licensed pilots, praying that, for reasons therein assigned, they might be permitted to form a joint stock of their earnings ..."

“A petition, signed by sixty-five licensed pilots, praying that, for reasons therein assigned, they might be permitted to form a joint stock of their earnings …”

The items also detail the local rules developed specifically for the port of Liverpool and the reaction of the pilots to the new legislation. The exhibition will be at the Maritime Museum until 4th June 2017 and these items are available for consultation in the reading room here at SCA.

Not those kind of aliens, although we have plenty of those in the SCA collections!

Not those kind of aliens, although we have plenty of those in the science fiction collections here at SCA!

Are they sitting comfortably? Putting books on display

Special Collections & Archives was a contributor to the recent Knowledge is Power exhibition at the Victoria Gallery & Museum, lending several items from its collections.  Focusing on the development of two of Liverpool’s oldest surviving cultural institutions, the Athenaeum Club and the Liverpool Medical Institution, the exhibition showed how libraries shaped elite culture in the Liverpool, but also how the power of books was opened up to the wider population in the reforming decades of the early Victorian era.  The exhibition items loaned from Special Collections & Archives, chosen to reflect the long history of libraries in Liverpool, included a view of the Lyceum building (1 Bold St) painted onto the fore-edges of a printed catalogue.

A room from the Knowledge is Power Exhibition in the VG&M

A room from the Knowledge is Power Exhibition in the VG&M

What are the main factors which need to be considered when preparing books for display in an exhibition such as this?  Before any loan is agreed, the institution making the request must be able to guarantee appropriate environmental conditions and security.  The relevance of the item for the narrative context of the exhibition is also important.  How will it be displayed?  What is the opening required in the book? Will text, illustrations or bindings need to be shown?  Special Perspex cradles are constructed for each item based on the specific opening required; large, heavy books will need a cradle with a thick lower edge to prevent the text block moving; in the example of the Lyceum catalogue mentioned above, the mount needed to display the book at such an angle and with just the correct amount of light to allow the viewer to see the fore-edge painting without exposing it to damage.

Of course, there would be no question of considering mounts and cradles if the basic condition of an item meant it was too fragile to display at all, and perhaps the major factor influencing exhibition loans is the physical condition of the item itself.  At a basic level, the physical state of a document is influenced by the manner of its production and this, along with knowledge about the impact of environmental factors upon materials, informs how we look after collections and make them accessible.  Special Collections & Archives contains many different types of material: medieval and modern manuscripts; early and finely printed books; modern printed collections including newspapers, posters, photographs and ephemera; audio-visual and digital media.  These all present different preservation challenges.

It can be easy to assume that the older an item, the more at risk it is, but there are some important factors influencing physical condition which are not necessarily related to the age of the item. The technology of printing, binding and paper making remained more or less the same from the beginning of printing in the mid-15th century right up until the early 19th century.  Letters were set by a compositor, inked and pushed against a sheet of paper by a hand press machine operated usually by two men, one to apply the ink and one to operate the levers.  Paper was made of pounded linen rags, mixed with water and sieved, and then stabilised with animal gelatine. Books tended to be sold unbound, and though some remained in paper covers, if money allowed leather bindings were created and the text block was hand sewn with cords well secured to the boards.  These processes, though laborious, used natural materials which stayed strong.  However, in the 19th century the growth of a mass market and the concomitant increase in mechanisation meant linen rags couldn’t meet the demand.  It was replaced by wood pulp (which is chemically and mechanically weaker) and binding also became cheaper and more mechanised.  The effect of these changes can be easily seen when a flaky 19th century newspaper, discoloured by acidification, is compared with the thickness of laid (chain-lined) paper in a 16th century church Bible.

Examples of perspex book rests made for displays.

Examples of Perspex cradles made for displays.

It stands to reason that books couldn’t be exhibited at all if they weren’t cared for properly on a day to day basis.  To preserve material, we need to understand its physical composition.  In Special Collections & Archives our holdings date from the 1st century BC to the present day and include papyri, parchment (prepared animal skin), vellum (specifically calf skin- from the French veau), photographs, and audio-visual material and digital files.  Even in one single printed book there will be different types of paper, glue, ink and binding materials, which will decay at different rates. The chemical stability of parchment and vellum is good, but is very susceptible to the impact of moisture in the atmosphere, and as humidity fluctuates the material will crinkle (known as cockling).

Environmental guidelines are set down in Public Document 5454 – A guide for the storage and exhibition of archival materials. Light is of course the main cause of damage, explaining the low levels of light in exhibitions. Coupled with humidity and temperature, the stability and level of these environmental factors are key considerations the borrowing institution must agree to maintain. Light damage is cumulative and irreversible – cellulose weakens, paper bleaches and darkens, and ink in type and illustrations will fade. UV light is the most damaging, so it is important that no natural light enters storage areas and artificial light is only turned on when needed.  Protection can also be provided via storage in archival quality boxes. Items on long term loan in exhibitions will have the pages turned regularly.

Temperature and humidity are mutually dependent – a high humidity level will hasten chemical reactions and mould growth, whereas a low level dries out paper and parchment, making it brittle.  Fluctuations are the most dangerous as materials will expand and contract as they absorb and release moisture – as well as cockled paper, the finish on photographs may crack.  Photographic media benefits from very cold conditions and benefits from specialist storage, such as that available in the North West Film Archive. The ideal for a mixed media store is that conditions are controlled to achieve a temperature between 13 and 16 degrees Celsius and a Relative Humidity between 45 and 60%.

All this ongoing activity must be complemented by correct handling procedures.  Although white gloves often seem to function as media shorthand for precious material, their use is not general recommended by conservators, archivists and librarians. As there is a higher chance of gloves being dirtier and affording a less sensitive touch than clean, bare hands, their use is more liable to cause damage.  Archival quality plastic gloves are recommended for handling photographs.  Opening books without special supports strains spines, hence the use of book cushions, snakes and weights.  Familiarity with handling guidelines and use of such supports are an intrinsic part of using any special collections and archives reading room.  Rules forbidding use of pens and wearing of coats are not solely based around security – ink can easily be inadvertently transferred and coats bring moisture and dirt into what needs to be a controlled environment.

What is the difference between preservation and conservation? Preservation covers the type of environmental issues we’ve considered and is perhaps best seen as an ongoing management process.  Conservation is generally taken to mean a specific treatment involving intervention, which may be required in order to make an item suitable for display. Modern conservation ethics mean the historical integrity of the item is respected and professional conservators will understand both the history of an item, its production, physical characteristics and the scientific qualities of the materials it is composed of. Conservation work can include surface cleaning of pages, de-acidification, removal of old repairs, sewing, mending tears using Japanese papers, re-backing, rebinding and box making.  Conservation is not about trying to restore something to a perceived original state, or trying to make it look nice – it is primarily undertaken to ensure the unique history and provenance of an item is preserved for research and for posterity.

This blog post is based on a talk given by Jenny Higham, Special Collections & Archives Manager, at the Victoria Gallery & Museum in March 2016, as part of the associated programme of events accompanying the “Knowledge is Power” exhibition.

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on…”

In the wake of this month’s celebrations marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, we pay homage to the Bard with a look at some editions of his works held here in Special Collections and Archives.

This post indulges our library assistant’s own particular predilection for one of the last plays to be penned, The Tempest. Believed to have been written between 1610 and 1611 – and first performed in 1611 at the Royal Court – The Tempest is often cited as the last play believed to have been written solely by Shakespeare. The two plays from 1613, The Two Noble Kinsmen and Henry VIII are often reputed to have been written in collaboration with John Fletcher. Somewhat tricky to categorise due to its complex blend of poignancy, comic farce, violence and fantasy, The Tempest is often discussed in terms of its motifs, as well as the contextual significance these are accorded by commentators, rather than in terms of its dramatic structure.

The epigraph of our title, which is arguably one of the most famous in both this play and the whole Shakespeare canon, comes from Act IV, scene i. Here Prospero cuts short the play-within-the-play, or ‘revels’, he has orchestrated and instead looks to certain pressing formalities to be dealt with before the play’s conclusion. These include the impending nuptials of his daughter and her suitor Ferdinand, an ostensibly joyous occasion which nevertheless signifies a loss to Prospero as a father, and the treachery of Caliban, a creature of uncertain nature and Prospero’s erstwhile serf.

Prospero’s words could be read as a metaphor for both the impending conclusion of the performance and, more broadly, the ‘conclusion’ of all things, animate or not, in death, decay or the steady attrition of time. The Tempest, in blending the fantastical with the profundity of socio-political commentary, has retained its appeal throughout history just as has its author.

Prospero:

[…] Our revels now are ended. These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits and Are melted into air, into thin air: And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff As dreams are made on, and our little lifeIs rounded with a sleep.

[IV:i]

Our collection of early printed books contains editions of Shakespeare’s works from as early as 1623. SPEC Y62.5.14 comprises two plays reproduced from the First Folio, The Taming of the Shrew and All’s Well, That Ends Well, and declares on its title page, “Mr. William Shakespeares comedies, histories, & tragedies; published according to the true originall copies”.

Our earliest full collection of Shakespeare’s works dates from the following decade. Printed in London in 1632, the Second Folio SPEC Morton 334 is of especial value to those with an aesthetic sensibility, with its gilded edges and marbled front- and end-pages. It was gifted to the University Library in 1969 by Robert George Morton, founder of the Argosy and Sundial Circulating Libraries and benefactor of our Morton collection.

Full details of incunabula and early printed books held in SC&A are available on the dedicated webpage, which can be accessed via our homepage.

For a further exploration of Shakespeare’s 400-year legacy, see Catherine Tully’s post on the University’s Student News webpages.

midsummer hamlet lear image