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.


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.


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.








  • 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.


  • 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


A Basque exile’s books come to rest in Liverpool

Special Collections & Archives is delighted to have received a significant acquisition to its holdings of books relating to Hispanic studies and the Spanish Civil War. Delivered in person by his grandaughters, Miren and Ane, the books which Manuel Irujo took with him to exile in Paris have been donated to the University, where they will be an important resource for teaching and research in Basque studies.

Book cover from Irujo collectionManuel Irujo (1891-1981), a Navarrese from Estella was the only Basque politician to hold ministerial responsibility in the Second Republican government, he was both Minister of Justice and Minister without portfolio, and became president of the Basque National Council in 1940. Irujo spent nearly half his life in exile – in Paris and London – from the post-Spanish Civil War government of his contemporary General Franco (1892-1975). Even after Franco’s death, Irujo’s return to Spain had to be delayed – leaving him only his final four years in his home country.

The books Irujo had with him in exile have been donated to Liverpool by his family, in recognition of Liverpool’s position as a centre of Hispanist studies, and with the purpose of promoting the development of Basque Studies. When catalogued, they will take their place alongside the library of E. Allison Peers, and other material related to the Spanish Civil war, including the E.J. Burford and Ronald Fraser collections, and the papers of Eleanor Rathbone, who was instrumental in the escape of thousands of Basque children from the conflict.

Irujo’s library of nearly 400 titles, in Basque, Spanish, Franch and English, is arranged in sections relating to: Basque Language and Literature; Navarra (Irujo’s home province); Basque people, culture and folklore; the Spanish Civil War, its aftermath, and Basque politics; political and social issues in the Basque country after the Civil War; Early Basque Nationalism; Basques and the Americas; Newspapers; and works on History, Travel, Geography, Science and Nature.

Many items are dedicated to Irujo by their authors, and the collection includes his own annotated copy of a volume of his memoirs. The Basque diaspora are well-represented, especially through the publications of Ekin, founded in Buenos Aires in 1942 by Basque exiles including Manuel’s Irujo’s brother Andres. 

Euzko Deya cover from Irujo collection





Liverpool Heritage Open Month

Who? Find out more about Joseph Mayer, Josephine Butler, John Sampson, Robert Andrew Scott Macfie, Edgar Allison Peers, Janet Gnosspelius, Olaf Stapledon, Eric Frank Russell, Ramsey Campbell, the Liverpool Science Fiction Group, and the University of Liverpool itself.

Where? Find out where they lived and worked in Liverpool.

When? Find out when they arrived in Liverpool and how long they stayed.

What? From Josephine Butler’s jet mourning jewellery to a Dental Students’ Society tie, via an Occupy Senate poster and Eric Frank Russell’s Hugo Award, see the University’s Special Collections and Archives from a new angle.

A Summer in Spain

Special Collections and Archives are looking forward to receiving the library of Manuel de Irujo Ollo (1891-1981), leader of the Basque Nationalist party, for which he was Deputy and Minister of the Second Spanish Republic (1931-1936). His collection of around 300 volumes is to be transferred during the academic session 2013-2014, and will support Basque modules within the Hispanic Studies department.

The University of Liverpool was chosen as the library’s destination because of its existing strong Hispanic collections, notably the collections of Edgar Allison Peers, an exact contemporary of Irujo’s. These comprise 154 books (classmark SPEC Peers) and 73 pamphlets (classmark SPEC Peers (P.C.) on the Spanish Civil War which were part of Peers’s personal library and over 300 books and pamphlets (SPEC Peers.Add and SPEC Peers P.C.Add) which were bought later to enhance Peers’s collection or donated by Peers’s colleagues, including Professor Frank William Walbeck (former Rathbone Professor of Ancient History and Classical Archaeology at the University) and Professor Derek William Lomax (former Professor of Spanish at the University). The Marx Memorial Library in London and the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in Iowa City have also donated pamphlets to the Peers collection.

Archival materials in the Peers Collection include press cuttings, lecture notes and correspondence, relating both to Spain during the Civil War and its aftermath, and to Peers’s work on the Spanish Mystics.

Image from Nova Iberia SPEC Peers F/13

Nova Iberia (SPEC Peers F/13)

Edgar Allison Peers (1891-1952) was born in Leighton Buzzard, the son of a civil servant who, due to his work, travelled abroad frequently, which gave his young son a passion for Spain and all things Spanish. Peers was educated at Dartford Grammar School, and then went on to Christ’s College Cambridge. He gained a BA in English and French from the University of London, and a First in the Modern Languages tripos at Cambridge, and then went on to study for a teacher’s diploma, teaching Modern Languages at Millhill School, Felstead School in Essex and then at Wellington College.

Portrait of Peers from Redbrick Revisited

Peers was appointed Lecturer in Spanish in 1920 and Gilmour Professor of Spanish in 1922 at the University of Liverpool, where he remained for the rest of his life. He was quick to recognise the importance of Spanish Studies in Great Britain after the First World War and in 1923 founded the Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, which included his column of contemporary analysis, ‘Spain, Week by Week’. Peers had a warm relationship with Spain, and looked upon it as a second home, spending four months out of every twelve there. He produced a number of travel books, including Santander (1927) reissued in a Spanish edition in 2008.

Map from Nova Iberia

Map from Nova Iberia

When the Spanish Civil War began in July 1936 Peers was well placed to interpret the underlying causes of the war to the English-speaking world. He did this in The Spanish Tragedy (1936), The Spanish Dilemma (1940), and Spain in Eclipse (1943). More dramatically, he also helped to bring a group of stranded Liverpool University students who had travelled to a summer school in San Sebastian safely back home after they were caught up in the outbreak of the Civil War.

Peers paper cutting
SPEC Peers IX Press Cuttings

Peers was the author or editor of some 60 books, including Studies of the Spanish Mystics (1927-1930), The History of the Romantic Movement in Spain (1940) and translations of the complete works of San Juan de la Cruz and Santa Teresa, as well as Spain, the Church and the Orders (1939). Under the pseudonym `Bruce Truscot’, he published two controversial and highly influential books, Redbrick University (1943) and Redbrick and these Vital Days (1945). Edgar Allison Peers died of heart failure on 21 December 1952, and his executrix gave the University their selection of books from his library in 1953.

The School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies (SOCLAS) sponsors a Peers Visiting Writer in Residence scheme in honour of Edgar Allison Peers, and there is also a Peers Memorial Prize.