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

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.

Movember Mondays: 4

Our fourth and final Movember Monday introduces a style there might still be time to grow – the pencil moustache. Modelled here by a stylish couple from the Cunard archive, alongside the most popular moustaches from this month’s previous weekly posts.

Read more on Movember moustaches and support the University’s Wolfson Centre and Library staff teams.

Photograph of Cunard couple

Couple enjoying Cunard hospitality, photograph from the Cunard Archive

 

Photograph of Liverpool University Dental School students

Liverpool University Dental School students, Moustache of the Week: 3

Heinrich von Wlislocki, Gypsy Lore Society, Moustache of the Week: 2

 

 

Principal Rendall of University College Liverpool, Moustache of the Week: 1

 

Movember Mondays: 3

For the third Movember Monday, our images show luxuriant walrus-style moustaches, cultivated in the Dental School, and by some notable figures in local business and culture, including Philip Henry Rathbone (1828-1895) and John Paul Rylands (1846-1923).

Read more on Movember moustaches and support the University’s Wolfson Centre and Library staff teams.

Photograph of W.H. Gilmour, Richard Edwards and T. Mansell, dentists

University Archives A306/4/1/16: W.H. Gilmour, R. Edwards and T. Mansell

 

The three figures sporting fine moustaches and academic dress in this photograph from the University Archives include Liverpool-born W. H. Gilmour, the country’s first (and for many years only) Professor of Dentistry, and Dean of the Liverpool Dental Hospital, and his predecessor as Dean of the LDH, Richard Edwards.

Gilmour had given up a lucrative private practice to take up the inaugural Professorship. Read more about the Liverpool Dental School and search its archive online.

Photograph of Philip Henry Rathbone

Photo of P. H. Rathbone from B.G. Orchard, Liverpool's Legion of Honour (1893)

 

Philip Henry Rathbone (1828-1895), the youngest son of William Rathbone V, played an important part in Liverpool’s cultural life through his role on the Library, Museum and Arts Committee of Liverpool Town Council, and on the exhibitions committee at the Walker Art Gallery.

Renowned for his bohemian dress and artistic nature, he also “steadily and earnestly advocated whatever project tended to beautify or increase the healthiness of the city.”

Photograph of John Paul Rylands

Photo of John Paul Rylands from B.G. Orchard, Liverpool's Legion of Honour (1893)

John Paul Rylands (1846-1923), a Liverpool barrister, was the son of the University Library’s first major benefactor, Thomas Glazebrook Rylands, and inherited his father’s wide-ranging interests. He researched and wrote about archaeology, heraldry, genealogy – and book-plates.

Unlike his artistic fellow-citizen Philip Henry Rathbone, he was described as “just the sort of erudite, active, capable gentleman who seems out of place in contemporary Liverpool.”
We can now reveal the result of the Library staff poll for Moustache of the Week for Movember Mondays:2 was Heinrich von Wlislocki.