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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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 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 Yates, R. A. Scott Macfie and Henry James Francis.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Nuremberg Chronicle (Liber Chronicarum in Latin or Das Buch der Croniken und Geschichten in German) is one of the most important books in the history of printing.
Produced on commission from Nuremberg merchants Sebald Schreyer (1446-1520) and Sebastian Kammermeister (1446-1503) in 1493, the 600 page text is attributed to Nuremberg doctor and humanist Hartmann Schedel (1440-1514). Drawing heavily from earlier, medieval and Renaissance sources, Schedel purports to tell the history of the Christian world from its creation to the time of writing. The text incorporates its fair share of myth and fable – with geographical and historical information on European counties and towns written alongside tales of epidemics, monsters and comets.
What makes this work remarkable however, is not so much the text itself, but rather the beauty and skill of the images that accompany it – bringing to life the biblical and historical events, major cities and important figures from myth and history within the text. Indeed, the Nuremberg Chronicle is the most lavishly illustrated book of the 15th century. In total, the work boasts 1809 images, produced using 645 woodblocks, many of which were used more than once. A mere 72 blocks were used for the 596 portraits of emperors, popes and other celebrities, for example – so each was used to represent 8 or 9 different people, changing only the caption.
As you can see from the above image, the woodcut images were incorporated closely within the letterpress text. A feat of considerable technical skill on the part of those involved in its production, this resulted in a particularly elegant and satisfying mise-en-page. To enable this, the work was first carefully planned in manuscript drafts (called ‘exemplars’) before printing. Remarkably, complete exemplars of both the Latin and the German edition of the Nuremberg Chronicle survive, and indicate that the images were sketched first, with the text inscribed to fit within the remaining space.
The woodcuts and exemplars for the Nuremberg Chronicle were produced by Michael Wohlgemut (1434-1519) and his stepson Wilhelm Pleydenwurff (c.1460-1494), and the work was printed and published by Anton Koberger (1445-1513) – the largest printer and publisher in Germany at the time. Koberger printed the Latin version on the 12th July 1493, with a German translation following shortly after, on 23rd December 1493. The University of Liverpool Special Collections and Archives (SC&A) is fortunate enough to hold three copies of the 1493 Latin edition, and one of the German translation. A final copy of the Chronicle in SC&A is a pirated edition, printed by Johann Schönsperger (d. 1520) in Augsberg in 1500.
That SC&A holds so many copies of such an early printed book is perhaps rendered a little less surprising when we learn that no other 15th century book survives in as many copies as the Nuremberg Chronicle, undoubtedly an indication of its popularity at the time, as well as its enduring interest to collectors and researchers alike. Indeed, the SC&A copies were given to us by some of the most important donors in the history of the library – Charles Sydney Jones, Henry Tate, Thomas Glazebrook Rylands and Robert George Morton, and we were recently very excited to have all five SC&A copies of this important work on display in the reading room at one time, having beeen ordered up by Dr. Nina Adamova, as part of her research into marginalia in copies of the Chronicle.
References and further reading:
Wilson, Adrian. The making of the Nuremberg Chronicle. (1976)
Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, ed. Worlds of learning: the library and world chronicle of the Nuremberg physician Hartmann Schedel (1440-1514). (2015)
For the last few months, I have been undertaking a SOTA300 work placement here at the Special Collections and Archives. The key focus of the placement has been to catalogue the literary annuals collection; we have around 200 literary annuals in the collections. The literary annuals were popular in Britain in the early-mid 19th Century; most of the annuals we have are dated from 1830-50 and span across many different titles. I have been cataloguing the binding details and inscriptions found in the collection. The annuals were typically targeted as gifts for the female audience with many even written by women. This is evident in the inscriptions as many of the annuals have been dedicated to women: family, friends, and sometimes prospective lovers. The annuals were often extravagantly designed with the content being made up of short poems and pictures. They ranged from tiny pocket-sized annuals to larger ‘scrapbooks’ and ‘drawing room’ books which were intended to be displayed in cabinets. Many prominent authors disparaged the literary worth of the annuals, but they nevertheless have proved important in literary history; the annuals influenced the publishing market and invoked changes due to their sheer popularity.
There are distinct differences between the older annuals;
like the early Forget me Nots (the first of their kind in Britain) and the
later annuals as seen in the pictures below. The annuals saw the introduction
of new binding techniques.
Silk was used on some of the earlier annuals, with leather or cloth covers increasingly used for durability. The use of bright colours and embossed designs were introduced in this period, and it became incredibly commonplace for gold to adorn the annuals; gilt-tooled/blocked designs and gilt edges became almost synonymous with the annuals. The literary annuals were innovative, for example by using steel plate engravings. The standard gradually increased as audiences desired the most attractive books to own.
The annuals were ideal Christmas and New year gifts. They
were released late in the year and were dated for the following year, much like
modern annuals. The Forget me not pictured above provides an example of an
annual gifted at Christmas. This particular copy in our collection is inscribed
‘To M. A. Garle From Mr J Garle. December 25th 1823.’ This appears
to be a gift from a husband to his wife; the presentation plates were provided
in order to prompt buyers to dedicate their editions.
Some of the annuals were even published in Liverpool, and
many of the copies in our collection have links to Liverpool as they have been
gifted by prominent locals such as the Rathbones, the Holt family, Sir Henry
Tate (1819-1899), and Sir. Charles Sydney Jones (1872-1947). Meanwhile, there
are some other annuals in the collection from America and mainland Europe; the
annuals proved popular worldwide. With their beauty and poetic contents making
them ideal Christmas gifts, it is easy to see why they reigned for so long.
Some of the annuals will be presented in our upcoming
exhibition. From the beginning of second semester, the display will show a
selection of the bindings and the interesting inscriptions alongside further
details and information. Visit the exhibition in the Sydney Jones Library from
February 2019 to see more!
It is often these materials that best reflect the day to day activities of travelling by Cunard and of the experiences of the people involved.
One of the most recent additions to the Associated Deposits series is a donation from ex-Cunard Assistant Purser Robin Almond.
On 1st January 1957 the 17 year old Robin Almond from Ainsdale in Lancashire joined the Merchant Navy. Robin started as a Cadet Purser with Elder Dempster Line before, 11 months later, taking up a shore based position as a First Class Reservations Clerk with Union Castle Line.
In April 1959 he secured a position as an Assistant Purser with Cunard Line, and in the next three and a half years sailed on the Mauretania, Queen Mary, Caronia, and Queen Elizabeth.
As a young man sailing the globe on world famous cruise liners, Robin has many a tale to tell.
He has been kind enough to share his story with us. Donating extracts from his diaries as well as memorabilia and photographs collected over his years with Cunard to the archive.
The full catalogue can be viewed online by searching for the reference number D1183.
“Marginalia”, or marginal notes, are marks made in the margins of books. In particular, researchers have become increasingly interested in the marks made by previous owners of a book. Whether these appear as comments, abbreviations, glosses, scribbles, symbols, or doodles, these marks offer an opportunity to better understand the different ways in which individuals have interacted with the book through the course of its life. The passages a reader has chosen to mark can reveal much about the concerns of that individual, and the ways in which they read, as well as about the social, political and religious circumstances in which they lived.
As a leading scholar on Renaissance marginalia, Bill Sherman, has written: “Readers’ marks are better at providing examples (and still better at providing counterexamples) than general rules; but if we cast our net widely they can reveal both large-scale patterns of use and extraordinary encounters of individuals and their books. The former can correct some of our most deep-seated assumptions about reading and readers…” (Used books, p. xvi).
Pictoral marginalia in one of our incunables – Higden’s “Polychronicon”, printed by Caxton in 1482. This book boasts the ownership marks of five different former owners (SPEC Inc CSJ D3).
Sherman’s own study of over 1000 books from the first two centuries of printing has helped to shed light on the ways in which many Renaissance readers used writing – or even drawing – in the margins as a means to aid the memory. For these readers, reading was very much intended to be purposeful, equipping a reader for success in work and in society. Today we might feel we can rely upon near constant access to the internet to provide us with information at the point of need, but for previous generations it was important that readers were able to memorise, or quickly access the information learnt through reading. Engaging the hand in note-taking, or drawing, is thought to have helped to help concentrate the mind and strengthen the learning process, enabling readers to commit passages to memory, as well as ensuring the most important passages could be quickly returned to when needed.
Renaissance readers often employed a range of symbols to help categorise and arrange the texts they read. One of the most frequently recurring of these is the pointing hand, or “manicule”.
Marginal notes can also be used to comment upon, criticise or explain the main text, and as such offer a means by which to trace the reception of specific works and ideas. In a recent Bonnier Lecture given at the University of Liverpool, Professor John O’Brien of Durham University showed how attending to the marginalia left by ‘ordinary’ early modern readers of Montaigne’s Essais, led to unexpected deductions about the ways in which they interpreted Montaigne, and the passages they found to be of most interest. As he noted, these findings can, in turn, help to us to see more current perspective (and its attendant biases) in a new light.
This 1687 copy of the works of Lucian of Samosata contains commentary and cross-references in the margins in more than one language, in a rather neat contemporary hand (SPEC Y68.2.44).
Marginalia offer a rich resource for researchers then, as well as providing an often touching insight into the life and mind of individuals living hundreds of years ago. Indeed, as an important source of paper – a relatively luxurious commodity for much of the history of printing – margins have been put to a wide range of more quaint uses; for handwriting practice by readers learning to write, for example, or to record familial births, deaths and marriages.
A previous reader has gone to town on the paper offered by front cover of this 17th century pamphlet. Handwriting practice, perhaps?
References and further reading:
Sherman, William H. Used books: marking readers in Renaissance England. (2008)
Grafton, Anthony and Lisa Jardine. ““Studied for action”: how Gabriel Harvey read his Livy”. Past & Present, 129 (1990).
O’Brien, John. “What Montaigne meant to them: the Essais and their early modern readers”. Annual Bonnier Lecture in French Studies, University of Liverpool (2018).
The smallest element in bibliographical descriptions of books: the piece of paper comprising two pages. The front side is called the recto and the back is the verso.
A leaf numbered on the recto may be referred to as a folio – foliation (numbering each leaf) is often seen on manuscript texts and became a common printing practice in the late 15th and 16th centuries. Books from 1600 onwards have more usually been printed with pagination (a separate number for each page, or side of the leaf).
Fraser 567: Nicolas Monardes, Ioyfull newes out of the new-found vvorld (1596) showing foliation
The physical description statement in catalogues gives the make-up of the book in sequences of leaves (if the printed text is foliated) or pages (if the text is paginated). Descriptions by number of pages always give an even total to account for both the recto and verso of the leaf, even if the verso if the final leaf is blank.
ix, , 533,  pages,  leaf of plates: illustrations; 20 cm
Illustrations such as woodcuts may be included as part of printing the text, and not separately numbered, but illustrations such as engraved plates printed by a separate process are numbered as leaves, since the illustration is on one side of the leaf only.
Leaf may also be used in terms describing parts of a book: endleaves (or endpapers) are the additional leaves before and after the printed text; flyleaf is sometimes used to refer to a leaf at the beginning of a volume. They are normally mentioned in catalogue descriptions as the location of bookplates, owner’s inscriptions, etc., or for their decorative qualities.
An interleaved copy of a book has additional blank leaves bound in for the owner’s notes, either as an integral part of the publication, or for an individual owner after publication:
2017.b.008 – Liverpool shipping register for 1835 interleaved for corrections and additions.
JUV A727.1 – The illuminated scripture text book with interleaved diary for memoranda and a coloured illustration for every day by Edmund Evans (1875)
The first of the private presses, and one of the most famous, was the Kelmscott Press, which was founded by a key figure in the Arts and Crafts Movement, William Morris (1834-1896), in 1891.
The Arts and Crafts Movement aimed to preserve traditional craftsmanship against what its proponents saw as the insidious growth of new technologies and mass production during the 19th century. They considered the industrialisation of the arts and crafts to be responsible for a decline in design and quality, and thereby in working and living conditions, with damaging detrimental effects on moral and social health. In book production these ideas led to the founding of ‘private presses’ – usually defined as printing presses that aimed at craftsmanship and artistry rather than profit, advocating a return to the materials and techniques used in early book production. The Kelmscott books were produced in a “quasi-medieval” style, drawing on Morris’s admiration for the design and craftsmanship of illuminated manuscripts and early printed books – in particular the work of 15th century Italian printers. Care was taken over all aspects of the book’s production – with Morris designing his own types, sourcing ink from Germany and paper handmade (in a 15th century Italian style) in Kent, and paying meticulous attention to all aspects of design. For many, the results of this painstaking craftsmanship are amongst the most beautiful books ever created.
“The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer” (1896) is arguably the greatest accomplishment of the Kelmscott Press, with 87 woodcut illustrations by Edward Burne-Jones.
From “A note by William Morris on his aims in founding the Kelmscott Press…”, the last book to be printed at the press, in 1898.
Again replicating 15th century craftsmanship, many of the Kelmscott books are bound in stiff parchment, with silk fore-edge ties.
The Kelmscott Press, which closed in 1898, two years after Morris’s death, produced over 50 works, all in limited editions of on average around 300 copies. The University of Liverpool Special Collections and Archives is very lucky to hold a complete set of the Kelmscott publications. They were bequeathed to the University by William Noble (1838-1912), who as well as being Treasurer of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, was an avid collector of illustrated, finely printed and limited editions of English books of the late 19th and early 20th century.
The colophon to Morris’s reprinting of William Caxton’s 1481 translation of “The History of Reynard the Foxe”. Morris’s edition had a print run of 300 copies.
Further reading: Peterson, William S. The Kelmscott Press: a history of William Morris’s typographical adventure (1991).
Morris, William. “A note by William Morris on his aims in founding the Kelmscott Press: together with a short description of the press by S.C. Cockerell, & an annotated list of the books printed thereat” (1898).
Juvenile was a term used by publishers to distinguish books and magazines produced for children – now more usually called children’s books – from those marketed to adults. The extensive Children’s Books collection in Special Collections at Liverpool includes several titles which make their target market clear, for example: The Juvenile: a magazine for the young and Juvenile anecdotes, founded on fact: collected for the amusement of the young. Many such titles provided more instruction than amusement and look very little like contemporary books for infants, children or the more recent publisher’s categories of teen and young adult.
Fisher’s juvenile (left) and drawing room scrapbooks (right)
The distinction between adult and juvenile markets was also made clear in the best-selling literary annuals of the 19th century. Fisher’s drawing-room scrapbook (1832-1852) sits next to the slightly smaller Fisher’s juvenile scrapbook (1836-1850), and the earliest and most enduring titles: Forget-me-not (1823-1847) and the Keepsake (1828-1857) are echoed in The juvenile forget-me-not (1828-1862) and The juvenile keepsake (1829-1850).
JUV 125: Juvenile forget-me-not (1830)
JUV 125: The juvenile keepsake (London & Liverpool, 1830)
Juvenile literature was a well-established category by 1888, when Edward Salmon published Juvenile Literature As It Is based on a survey of the reading habits of two thousand 11-19 year-olds.
Juvenilia is used specifically for ‘juvenile’ writings, as in the poet Leigh Hunt’s 1802 Juvenilia: or. a collection of poems. Written between the ages of twelve and sixteen (SPEC Fraser 293).
Resources and further reading: The Oxford Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature (2006)
Incunables are books printed with moveable type before 1501. Incunable comes from the Latin incunabula – a fake plural Latin noun derived from in cunabulis (in the swaddling clothes). According to S. H. Steinberg’s Five hundred years of printing, the term incunabula was first used in the context of printing at the celebrations of the second centenary of Gutenberg’s invention of the moveable metal type printing press. A tract printed in Cologne in 1639 described the later fifteenth century – from Gutenberg to 1500 – as ‘prima typographiae incunabula’, the time when typography was in its swaddling clothes.
SPEC Inc CSJ.D12.OS: Pliny, Historia naturale (Venice: Nicolas Jenson, 1476)
Incunables have many features in common with manuscript books of the same period, and even more with the books printed in the first half of the sixteenth century, but owning incunables retains a particular cachet and many libraries have separately catalogued collections of incunables.
The British Library’s Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC) is an international database of European fifteenth century printing listing more than 30,500 editions and library catalogues of incunables will often cite the ISTC number.
Liverpool University Library has more than 250 incunable volumes, thanks chiefly to the fortunate coincidence of a revived interest in the medieval period in the late nineteenth century, when the University of Liverpool was founded with the support of many Liverpool benefactors.
Incunables given to the University of Liverpool by Sir Charles Sydney Jones
Further reading: S. H. Steinberg, Five hundred years of printing first edition 1955, 1996 British Library.