Spotlight on digital resources

Although the Special Collections and Archives service is currently closed, today we will take a look at the collections which have been digitised and are readily available online. And remember, even though we do not have access to the collections to answer research enquiries, the Special Collections and Archives team are still here to help at scastaff@liverpool.ac.uk.

First, let’s start with the oldest collection we house. The SC&A Oxyrynchus Papyri are digitised and available online on their dedicated collections web page. Excavated in 1903 by Arthur Hunt and Bernard Grenfell, the Oxyrhynchus papyri are one of the most important collections discovered since the recovery of papyri began in the mid-18th century. They give an extremely rich insight into everyday ancient life and business, and include such diverse remains as private letters, certificates, receipts, contracts, verses, Old and New Testament passages, the ground plan of a house and many other writings in Greek, often illustrated, which make the papyri an invaluable source for the study of 1st- 7th century AD Egypt.

Reference: LUL OP 859. 3rd C poetical fragments.

In keeping with the theme of Egypt, the largest books SC&A houses are the Denkmäeler aus Aegypten und Aethiopien (Monuments of Egypt and Ethiopia) by Carl Richard Lepsius (1810-1884). These important 12 volumes of plates showing technical drawings of monuments and tombs in Egypt were the fruits of a scientific visit by Lepsius on behalf of His Majesty The King of Prussia, Frederick William IV, from 1842 to 1845. The volumes held in SC&A were gifted to the Liverpool Royal Institution in 1860 by Queen Victoria’s son-in-law. Although it is hard to gauge the size of these volumes by the digitised versions, they stand at nearly a metre tall – see Special Collections Library Katy Hooper with the texts for reference!

A digitised version of the texts may be viewed via the Lepsius Projekt website.

Reference: SPEC SXF/PJ1501.L61

The Gypsy Lore Society Collections contains the records of the Gypsy Lore Society (GLS) 1888-1974, comprising: administrative files on GLS members’ Gypsy research and the publication of the Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, with the Scott Macfie Gypsy Collection of books, manuscripts, photographs, illustrations and press cuttings collected by R.A. Scott Macfie and other GLS members. This is a rich and invaluable resource for those studying the history of Romany communities in Britain and Germany.

The catalogue records for the Fred Shaw Photographic Negatives under the reference ‘Scott Macfie Gypsy Collection Shaw.P‘ contain a preview image. The Journal of the Gypsy Lore society is digitised and available for free via the Haithi Trust.  

Reference: SMGC Shaw P.13. Dozer Smith, his wife, Jack Symes, Render Smiths’s son and wife Jemima – 2 Jun 1910.

The Knowlsley Hall Library contains over 5000 17th-19th Century texts. As part of the 19th Century British Pamphlets Online Project, 1560 pamphlets bound in 139 volumes dating between 1812-1869 have been digitised and are accessible online via JSTOR (requires an institutional login). This covers the reference numbers SPEC Knows. pamph 531 to SPEC Knows. pamph 669; direct links are provided on the catalogue records for the relevant pamphlets on the Library Catalogue.

The nineteenth-century volumes of the Knowsley Pamphlets were accumulated by  Edward George, 14th Earl of Derby (1799-1869). He was successively Irish Secretary (1830-33), colonial secretary (1833-34 and 1841-44) and three times Prime Minister (1852, 1858-59 and 1866-68). His career was summarised by Disraeli as “He abolished slavery, he educated Ireland, he reformed parliament”. The subjects detailed in the pamphlets therefore reflects his parliamentary career and that of his son, Edward Henry, 15th Earl of Derby (1826-1893).

In the realm of modern politics, the collected papers of the Rt Hon the Lord Owen, former Chancellor of the University of Liverpool, cover his political career from his early Labour Party membership until his retirement as SDP MP for Plymouth Devonport. The main body of records date from c.1962-1995. Lord Owen’s distinguished political career has encompassed service as British Foreign Secretary in the 1974-77 Labour government, foundation and leadership of the Social Democratic Party in Britain and co-chairmanship of the International Conference on Former Yugoslavia (1992-1995).

The Balkan Odyssey Digital Archive comprises 760 PDF versions of documents, fully available within the SC&A archives catalogue, relating to the negotiations for peace in the Former Yugoslavia, particularly those relating to the work of Lord Owen, the International Conference on the Former Yugoslavia and the UN.

Lastly, we’ve created an online version of our current exhibition Banned, Binned, Bombed: Selection and Survival in Special Collections and Archives. This means you can still tour the exhibition from the comfort of your own home!

Exhibition cases in Special Collections and Archives
Banned, Binned, Bombed: Selection and Survival in Special Collections and Archives

New exhibition: Binned, banned, bombed: selection and survival in Special Collections & Archives

Have you ever wondered why there is what there is in Special Collections & Archives?

Our collections are a fascinating mixture of what survives physical degradation, individual actions, historical events and official censure. But just because something has survived for a long time doesn’t automatically mean it has a place in Special Collections & Archives.

The survival of printed books and archival collections usually contains an element of serendipity; a modicum of good fortune which means they have been able to transcend neglect, wilful destruction, environmental dangers and the censure of authority. But there is also the hand of the librarian and archivist in evidence, selecting and preserving through careful management to ensure the items are kept secure and made available for years to come in a way that is appropriate to both the resources available and the intellectual content of the broader collections.

Our new exhibition displays a range of items from the collections to provide an insight into some of the issues we deal with whilst working to ensure our collections are cared for and made available to facilitate your research and requests. 

For more information on the exhibition, please see our website here.

Visit us anytime between 9:30am-4:45pm Monday – Friday at the Ground Floor Grove Wing of the Sydney Jones Library to view the display, no appointment is needed. Also, keep an eye on our twitter for information on special events focused around the material used in the exhibition.

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)

‘Seeing Euclid’ at the Harold Cohen Library

Euclid’s Elements of Geography is the subject of a new display in the Harold Cohen Library. Throughout the summer, a network of exhibitions – ‘Seeing Euclid’ – will highlight the legacy of Euclid’s work in Early Modern Britain and Ireland, with displays of books and other artefacts from the first two hundred years of Euclid in print. Organised as part of the University of Oxford’s AHRC funded research project ‘Reading Euclid’, the exhibition is a collaboration between nearly thirty institutions across Britain and Ireland.

Written around 300BCE, Euclidean geometry has held sway in Europe for nearly two and a half thousand years. It has been used by surveyors to map fields and architects to design buildings, as well as being critically important to the teaching of mathematics at many different times and in many different places. Early thinkers turned to it as a source of philosophy, whilst later readers saw in it a monument to the genius of the Greeks, or an exercise for improving the mind. Nearly three hundred editions of the text appeared between 1482 and 1700 – with a particular resurgence in the seventeenth century – and more than 1900 copies of these editions survive in libraries and repositories across Britain and Ireland. As a consequence, this text represents an important meeting point in the history of mathematics, the history of ideas, the history of practice, and the history of the book.

The ‘Seeing Euclid’ website includes details of the displays at each of the participating institutions. The display at the Harold Cohen Library runs until the 15th July and is open to external visitors as well as members of the University, Monday-Friday, 9am-6pm.

 

Items on display:

Contenta. Euclidis Megarensis Geometricorum eleme[n]torum libri… XV.

Paris: Henri Estienne, 1516

This is the earliest edition of Euclid’s Elements held by the University of Liverpool, and the first to be printed in France. Our copy was part of a British Museum duplicates sale of 1787.

Euclidis Megarensis, philosophi & mathematici excellentissimi, Sex libri priores, de geometricis principiis, Graeci & Latini

Basel: Johannes Herwagen, 1550

This item has been owned by a number of interesting characters, including royalty.

 

The elements of geometrie of the most auncient philosopher Euclide of Megara. Faithfully (now first) translated into the Englishe toung, by H. Billingsley, citizen of London.

London: John Day, 1570

This was the first English translation of Euclid. The edition boasts striking engravings, and a number of pop-up diagrams – which give the book a 3D, interactive aspect.

 

Euclides metaphysicus, sive, De principiis sapientiae, stoecheidea E.

White, Thomas

London: John Martyn, James Allestry and Thomas Dicas, 1658

This copy of a work by Thomas White (1593-1676) – English priest and scholar – contains an inscription by Dr. Sir Charles Scarburgh (1615-1694), physician to Charles II, James II, William III and Prince George of Denmark. Scarburgh was working on an edition of Euclid at his death, which was completed by his son in 1705.

More information about each of these items is available on the ‘Seeing Euclid’ website, and in the physical display.

 

Other works of Euclid at the University of Liverpool include:

Euclidis Elementorum libri XV. breviter demonstrati, opera Is. Barrow, Cantabrigiensis, Coll. Trin. Soc. Et prioribus mendis typographicis nunc demum purgati.

London: Abel Swall, 1687

This pocket-sized Latin edition, issued by English mathematician Isaac Barrow (1630-1677), contains the inscription of William Stanley Jevons (1835-1882), a Liverpool-born economist and logician. On the title-page are two further inscriptions: G. Stinton, E. Coll. Reg. Oxon, and Matt Walls.

 

Evclidis elementorvm libri XV. Græce et latine, quibus, cum ad omnem mathematicæ scientiæ partem, tum ad quamlibet geometriæ tractionem, facilis comparatur aditus.

Cologne: Maternus Cholinus, 1564

This early, compact edition has a number of ownership marks, many of which have been obscured – or in the case of a bookplate, torn out. There is also a pencil drawing of a building on one of the endleaves.

 

Euclid’s Elements of geometry. In XV. books: with a supplement of divers propositions and corollaries….Published by the care and industry of John Leeke and George Serle, students in the mathematicks.

London: George Sawbridge, 1661

This was the third complete edition of Euclid in English, and includes a reprint of the John Dee preface that first appeared in the 1570 translation. The edition also contains the first English printing of Euclid’s Data. With an engraved frontispiece portrait of Euclid and verse by G. Wharton:

The University of Liverpool: A History through Archives

Reflecting the growth and achievements of the University since its beginnings The Archive of the University of Liverpool contains records recording the history of the University over 137 years from its beginnings as University College in 1881 through to the present day. The archive reflects the functions of the University through the records it produces and includes administrative records, personal papers of former staff and students, photographs, objects and ephemera relating to the history of the University of Liverpool.

This exhibition celebrates 50 years of the establishment in 1968 of the official repository for the University Archives. The repository currently comprises over 2000 linear meters of material and continues to grow, receiving a wide range of deposits from the University, it’s staff and alumni, benefactors, affiliated members and other external donors and individuals.

Highlights of the exhibition include:

  • Grant of Arms: Grant by Garter Principal King of Arms, Clarenceux King of Arms and Norroy King of Arms to the University of Liverpool, (30 October Edward VII [1903])
  • University of Liverpool medals, buttons and badges
  • University of Liverpool Appeal poster, 1920
  • Guild of Undergraduates Dance and Debating Society programmes, 1919-1922

The exhibition is available to view on the Ground Floor Grove Wing Special Collections and Archives exhibition area during the opening hours of the Sydney Jones Library.

Roscoe’s University: Liverpool Royal Institution 1817 – 2017

To celebrate the bicentenary of the Liverpool Royal Institution, opened by William Roscoe on 25 November 1817, an exhibition is on display at the Sydney Jones and Harold Cohen libraries until the end of the year.

In addition, a reading of selected passages from Roscoe’s 80-page opening address will take place in the School of the Arts Library between 3 and 5pm of the 100 year anniversary date, with a tour of the exhibition. The free public event is hosted by Eighteenth-century worlds.

The display in the Harold Cohen cases, including the Toucan from within William Swainson’s Zoological Illustrations (1820) .

The Harold Cohen Library is showcasing scientific books from the Library of the Liverpool Royal Institution, including a selection of coloured plates of insects and birds which made use of the new technique of lithography. The plate of a toucan from the first volume of William Swainson’s Zoological Illustrations (1820; above image) recalls the Google doodle for Swainson’s (224th) birthday in 2013 (below image).  John Blackwall’s A History of the Spiders of Great Britain and Ireland (1861-1864) describes 300 spiders and illustrates 272 of them. It was the life’s work of the Manchester businessman, who retired to North Wales to complete it. The copy in the Liverpool Royal Institution Library was one of the first to be borrowed when rules changed to allow the fee-paying subscribers (“proprietors”) to take books home. The borrower, Rev. H. H. Higgins, had a professional interest, having arranged the invertebrate display in Liverpool’s Free Public Museum when it moved to William Brown Street.

The exhibition in the Special Collections and Archives exhibition area in ground floor Grove Wing, Sydney Jones Library.

Science Fiction on Tour

Quite a number of books and other items from the Science Fiction Foundation Collection are on migration this year.

Some have only just nipped across the campus – comic books and novels illustrated by Liverpool artist John Higgins are now part of Beyond Dredd, the exhibition at our own Victoria Gallery and Museum until October 2017.

Others have gone further afield. A collection of books and magazines are being prepared for Guernsey Library’s “Engage Warp Drive: Science Fiction from the 1950s to the Present Day” which is planned for on 22nd September 2017  –  31st December  2017.  Currently Compton Verney Art Gallery in Warwickshire is celebrating the sleepy village of Midwich – disrupted by alien infiltration in John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos – as part of their Creating the Countryside  exhibition (until 18th June). Material on display includes a typescript of the novel and the typewriter on which Wyndham wrote it:

More books, by Isaac Asimov, Margaret Atwood, Ray Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein, Marge Piercy (and more) back up Durham University Library’s Time Machines exhibition (until 3rd September).

The jewel in the crown however, is probably the 100+ books that make up part of the massive Into the Unknown exhibition at London’s Barbican Centre (3rd June – 1st September). Each section of the exhibition – which also features films and installations by acclaimed artists – is introduced by a display of books from the Science Fiction Foundation Collection, as well as manuscript material from the Brian Aldiss, John Brunner, and Olaf Stapledon archives.  Following its stint at the Barbican, the exhibition will embark upon an international tour, including Denmark and Greece.

The exhibition’s catalogue contains a chapter from Science Fiction Collections Librarian Andy Sawyer, who was one of the exhibition’s advisory team. Andy’s introduction to science fiction on the exhibition’s blog can be found at http://www.barbican.org.uk/bravenewwords/  .

Books from the Science Fiction Foundation Collection on display at the Barbican Centre’s “Into the Unknown” exhibition.

Books from the Science Fiction Foundation Collection on display at the Barbican Centre’s “Into the Unknown” exhibition.

Typescript from Olaf Stapledon#s LAST MEN IN LONDON on display at the Barbican Centre’s “Into the Unknown” exhibition.

Typescript from John Brunner’s STAND ON ZANZIBAR on display at the Barbican Centre’s “Into the Unknown” exhibition.

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Thomas Rickman (1776-1841) Architect and Antiquary

The first staging post of the travelling Thomas Rickman exhibition to commemorate the bicentenary of the 1817 printing in Liverpool of Thomas Rickman’s epoch-making book An Attempt to Discriminate the Styles of Architecture.

 Special Collections and Archives, Sydney Jones Library and Harold Cohen Library. 

In 1817 Rickman, a Quaker accountant in a Liverpool insurance firm, wrote An Attempt to Discriminate the Styles of Architecture, the first accurate history of English gothic architecture, which became a nineteenth-century bestseller. Rickman’s Attempt was a scholarly milestone which resulted in greater understanding and appreciation for medieval architecture; its clear schematic illustrations of the varied styles of Norman and gothic architecture enabled architects to employ the styles more knowledgeably in their executed buildings. In 1818 the second Church Building Act was passed by Parliament, creating demand for his services as a recognised expert in gothic architecture with a strong financial background. Thanks to the Church Commissioners, Rickman went on to have a large and varied architectural practice.

 Highlights of the exhibition include:

  • An original first edition of Rickman’s An Attempt to Discriminate the Styles of Architecture (1817) and copies of every subsequent edition
  • The handwritten text of Rickman’s lecture on modern church architecture delivered to the Liverpool Literary and Philosophical Institute
  • A manuscript letter from Thomas Rickman to Matthew Gregson
  • The copy of Rickman’s book owned an annotated by his friend William Whewell, Master of Trinity College, Cambridge
  • William Roscoe’s proprietor’s ticket for the Liverpool Royal Institution
  • Etchings of churches by John Sell Cotman (1782-1842).

 

Discover more about Thomas Rickman 

 

Holford archive features in Royal Institute of British Architects’ new exhibition

“Mies van der Rohe & James Stirling: Circling the Square” is a major new exhibition at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), offering a re-examination of two iconic architectural schemes proposed for the same site in the City of London. Commissioned by architectural patron and developer Lord Peter Palumbo, Mies van der Rohe’s unrealised Mansion House Square project is explored alongside its built successor, James Stirling Michael Wilford & Associates’ No. 1 Poultry.  The design history of the two schemes highlights the differing movements and influences of the mid-20th century. Intended to replace an eclectic block of listed buildings, both became subjects of passionate debate, and high-profile inquiries.

A major new exhibition, Mies van der Rohe and James Stirling: Circling the Square, at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in London. Photo credit: Jeff Spicer/PA Wire

Mies van der Rohe, one of the most prominent architects of the 20th century, designed his proposal for Mansion House Square at the very end of his career, between 1962 and his death in 1969. The glass tower of 19 storeys and accompanying public square and underground shopping centre would have been Mies’ first and only project in the UK. After a protracted planning process, the scheme was finally rejected in 1985. Lord Palumbo then approached James Stirling, fresh from his success at Stuttgart with the Neue Staatsgalerie in 1984, to conceive an alternative vision for the site. James Stirling, Michael Wilford & Associates’ No. 1 Poultry was completed in 1997, two years after Stirling’s untimely death. It has recently been awarded Grade II* listed status; while it still divides opinion, the building was designed with a consciousness of both its historic surroundings and Mies’ earlier design.

On display from Special Collections & Archives are two letters from the archive of William Graham Holford, Baron Holford of Kemp Town (1907-1975), architect and town planner. Holford studied at the University of Liverpool’s School of Architecture under Professor C.H. Reilly, and in 1936 was appointed to the Lever Chair of Civic Design, a post which he held until becoming Professor of Town Planning at University College London in 1948. During his career Holford sat on many committees, including the Royal Fine Art Commission, the National Joint Council of Architects, Quantity Surveyors and Builders, the Royal Academy of Arts, and the Royal Society of Arts. He was President of the Royal Institute of British Architects from 1960 to 1962; amongst personal and consultancy papers, records of international visits, lectures and articles, his papers include records of the Institute during his presidency. These detail his activities and the influence he was able to bring to the questions of architectural politics of the time (D147/RBA).

The letters exhibited are one written by Mies van der Rohe to Holford on 15th February 1963, claiming “to be building such a building in London would indeed be an honour” (D147/C39/1/(ii)), and another dated August 1969 written by Peter Carter on the death of Mies van der Rohe (D147/C39/1/(i)). One of the numerous criticisms levelled against Mies’ scheme for Mansion House is that he took little personal interest in the project, which the 1963 letter helps to disprove. The correspondence is also indicative of the nature of the two mens’ collaboration, and, alongside digital images of Holford drawings also on display, provide an important insight behind the scenes of this much publicised project.

Holford papers D147.C39.1.(i) – letter from Peter Carter to Holford on the death of Mies van der Rohe.

The exhibition, which was rated 4 star in a recent Guardian review, opens on 8 March and closes on 25 June 2017.

The Mersey Sound

Photograph (n.d.) Photograph of Brian Patten, Adrian Henri, and Roger McGough. McGough/12/2/2

Photograph of Roger McGough, Adrian Henri and Brian Patten (n.d) McGough/12/2/2 Copyright: Mark Marnie

Influenced by the success of the Beatles and the resultant media interest in Liverpool, the heady days of the mid-1960s saw Penguin Books take the decision to devote a volume of their prestigious Penguin Modern Poets series to three virtually unknown young writers. The Mersey Sound’s optimistic print run of 20,000 copies was expected to last ten years.  Published in 1967, it sold out in three months, and went on to become the one of the bestselling poetry collections of all time.

As fresh, exciting and irreverent as the decade itself, the anthology “brought poetry down from the dusty shelf and onto the street”. The three voices of Adrian Henri, Brian Patten and Roger McGough, known popularly as the ‘Liverpool Poets’, were key figures in the city’s burgeoning underground culture.  Linked by art schools and cultural happenings rather than academia, each poet has their own individual style, but are united in their influences and the immediacy of their subject matter and language. Their popularisation of poetry, and interest in its connection with art and music, marks an important development in post-war poetics, and lent a peculiarly English (and indeed Liverpudlian) twist to the Beat movement.  As former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion has written, “The Liverpool poets are important because the early appearance of the work marked an unusually dynamic and original movement in British poetry, and because their continuing achievement has been loved by a large public”.

Fifty years since The Mersey Sound was first published, we are celebrating the enduring popularity of Adrian Henri, Brian Pattern, and Roger McGough with a Special Collections and Archives exhibition.  The notebooks, typescripts, artwork, posters and photographs, taken from our archives, and collected by the poets themselves, piece together the story of the three unique poets from Liverpool and their rise to national acclaim.

Adrian Henri, stanza from the poem 'The New Our Times' later published in The Mersey Sound. Henri C/1/4

Adrian Henri, stanza from the poem ‘The New Our Times’ later published in The Mersey Sound. Henri C/1/4

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.

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.

Something in the water? Liverpool and the literary fantastic

Space Diversions back coverThe author Clive Barker’s biographer, Douglas E. Winter, writes: “Some have suggested, jokingly, that there was something in the water in the Liverpool of the 1960s – or, perhaps that Carl Jung was right, and Liverpool is indeed the pool of life.”

We all know that Liverpool is famous for music . . . but the city and surrounding region has always been home to some of the greatest names in science fiction, fantasy and horror.

“Something in the water?” celebrates Merseyside’s connection with writers of the fantastic:

• the pre-war Liverpool sf fan group out of which a host of British science fiction writers came:
• Olaf Stapledon, who whose epic future-history influenced a young Arthur C. Clarke
• Eric Frank Russell, the first British writer to win a Hugo award for science fiction
• Fanzine-publisher Bill Harry who went on to promote his friends the Beatles in Mersey Beat.

• And modern writers of the fantastic such as Clive Barker, Stephen Baxter, and Ramsey Campbell, winner of the World Fantasy Society’s lifetime achievement award.

• Ken Campbell’s Science Fiction Theatre of Liverpool and artists such as Dan Dare creator Frank Hampson and Josh Kirby (famed for his covers for Terry Pratchett) are also remembered – as are works by a new generation of sf and fantasy writers such as Priya Sharma and Debbie Johnson, comic book stars such as Leah Moore, John Reppion, Tim Quinn and John Higgins, and film greats such as Alex Cox.

The exhibition is launched as part of the University’s LIGHTNIGHT celebration of culture on May 13th. On Saturday 14th May, Andy Sawyer will be joined by award-winning author Pat Cadigan at Liverpool Central Library to discuss The History of Science Fiction in 10 Objects – carefully selected from the science fiction treasures in Special Collections and Archives!

http://festival.writingonthewall.org.uk/events/10-events/18-event-four.html

Exhibition: Knowledge is Power

Knowledge is Power

Knowledge is Power exhibition at the Victoria Gallery & Museum

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.

Knowledge is Power exhibition at the VGM

Knowledge is Power exhibition at the Victoria Gallery & Museum