New Exhibition: Puzzles, Poetry and Playground Games

This week sees the launch of a new SC&A exhibition highlighting some of the more unusual items from our collections: those relating to games and pastimes, for children and adults, from the 18th-20th centuries.

D958: Queen Mary jigsaw puzzle [1936]

Included in the display are a huge range of games – some designed purely for fun, others intended to be more educative and improving, particularly for young, developing minds. We have, for example, jigsaw puzzles (depicting Cunard ships such as the Queen Mary, as above); activities which encouraged participants to try their hand at poetry; as well as illustrated guides to various playground and parlour games, many of which have now been forgotten (“Hunt the Slipper”, anyone?).

Noble D6.26: Kate Greenaway’s Book of Games (1889)

Also included are photographs from our Cunard collection which show passengers enjoying a variety of onboard activities, including bottle pushing, shuffleboard, “chalking the pig’s eye”, tug of war, and potato racing, from the 1920s-1960s.

The exhibition will run until September and is situated on the Ground Floor Grove Wing SC&A exhibition area.

Kate Greenaway Medal

Today sees the announcement of the shortlist for the 2018 Kate Greenaway Medal, awarded annually by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) for an outstanding illustrated book for children. We thought this the perfect excuse to highlight Kate Greenaway herself – one of the country’s finest Victorian illustrators – and some of her work held here in SC&A.

Kate Greenaway (1846-1901) was born in the East End of London. From aged 12 she was a full-time student at the Finsbury School of Art, and later went on to attend classes at the National Art Training School in South Kensington, the Heatherley School of Fine Art, and the Slade School of Fine Art. Her first book illustration was published in 1867 – the frontispiece to William Kingston’s Infant Amusements, or, How to Make a Nursery Happy – but real success came in 1879 with the publication of Under the Window, her first book as an author-illustrator.

OLDHAM 794: A scene from Under the Window (1879), which comprised verse and accompanying illustrations. A huge critical and commercial success, the book sold over 100,000 copies in Greenaway’s lifetime.

From 1883 Greenaway also regularly produced illustrated almanacks, which proved hugely popular in Europe and the US. Following a revival of interest in Greenaway’s work in the 1920s, some of the almanacks were reissued with new text.

JUV.135.3, 4: Almanacks, 1883 and 1927, comprising illustrated calendars.

Greenaway preferred to illustrate her own text but she did collaborate with a number of the Victorian period’s foremost poets and novelists: in 1888, for example, she illustrated Robert Browning’s The Pied Piper of Hamelin.

NOBLE D.7.13: The front cover of The Pied Piper of Hamelin (1888), in which Greenaway adopted a Pre-Raphaelite style.

One of Greenaway’s most enduring relationships was with the art critic John Ruskin. She began a long-term correspondence with him in around 1880, and soon became one of his protégées: as her biographer notes, ‘Ruskin became the most important influence in Kate’s life’. In 1883 she visited Ruskin’s Lake District home of Brantwood in Coniston for the first time; initially intended to be a fortnight’s stay, she stayed for almost a month. The visit made a huge impression on her, as is clear from one of Greenaway’s letters held here in SC&A. The letter is one of two we have that she wrote to Eleanor Tennyson, wife of politician and author Augustine Birrell. In it Greenaway declares she is having a ‘delightful time’ and notes the ‘many new impressions in this to me quite new country’.

Birrell/3/1: Letter from Kate Greenaway to Eleanor Tennyson from Ruskin’s Lake District home.

The last of Greenaway’s illustrated works to be published in her lifetime was The April Baby’s Book of Tunes (1900) written by one of her favourite authors, Countess von Arnim. The book tells the story of the author’s own children, April, May and June, and the rhymes the babies enjoyed listening to in the nursery.

OLDHAM 262: A page from The April Baby’s Book of Tunes (1900).

The Kate Greenaway Medal was established in 1955, and past winners have included such giants of children’s literature as Janet and Allan Ahlberg, Shirley Hughes, Emily Gravett, John Burningham and former Children’s Laureate, Chris Riddell. This year’s winner will be announced on 18 June.

Greenaway’s books are part of SC&A’s extensive collection of 19th and early 20th century children’s books: we hold over 7,000 items, including educational texts, annuals, chapbooks and works by the likes of Frances Hodgson Burnett, G. A. Henty and R. M. Ballantyne.

Remember, remember, the 5th of November: Guy Fawkes and gunpowder in the collections, from 1679 to 1990

This weekend sees the British tradition of Bonfire Night (or, Guy Fawkes Night) taking place across the country, marking 407 years since the plot to destroy Parliament and assassinate James I was foiled. Although the plot was concocted by 13 members, the name synonymous with the event is Guy Fawkes (or Guido Fawkes); most likely as he was the individual discovered by authorities guarding the gunpowder. The event holds much traditional cultural interest to this day – for instance, The Houses of Parliament are still ceremoniously searched by the Yeomen of the Guard for before the State Opening. To celebrate, we have selected some of the best BANGing works from the collections here at Liverpool University relating to Fawkes and Fireworks.

The Gunpowder-treason … its discovery; and … the proceedings against those horrid conspirators… (1679)

Parliament declared the 5th of November as a day of commemoration and thanksgiving (this was enforced until 1859). For many years to come pamphlets were published on the anniversary date of the event, to remind readers of the consequences of disloyalty to the king and parliament. This pamphlet (SPEC Knowsley 118), published in 1679, printed the confessions of the conspirators and the speech of James I.

The art of making fireworks… (c. 1810)

Although bonfires were a common sight, fireworks were not a popular mode of celebration on the 5th of November until the 1650s onward. This locally printed pamphlet (SPEC G35.14(3)) from the early nineteenth century demonstrated how to make fireworks using gun powder and various other household objects with detailed instructions and colour diagrams (a health and safety nightmare by modern standards).

Guy Fawkes; or, The fifth of November (c. 1840)

This small Protestant chapbook (SPEC Oldham 157(17)) produced in the mid nineteenth century was aimed at retelling the story of Guy Fawkes for children. Chapbooks became a popular method to disseminate tales with a moral meaning to children. The main characters in this particular publication build a guy for a bonfire, and the narrator uses the opportunity to provide a religiously-driven message – the conspirators of 5th of November are presented as Catholic sinners, who acted against the authority of the King.

V for Vendetta (1990)

Skipping forward around 150 years: although still synonymous with celebration, fireworks displays, and bonfires, the anti-establishment sentiments of the 5th of November hold much cultural weight in modern literature and media. V for Vendetta is a DC Comics series by Alan Moore and artist David Lloyd (also developed into a 2006 movie). The series follows V, an Guy Fawkes mask wearing anarchist, who rebels against the dystopian United Kingdom setting of the fascist dictatorship Norsefire. In the Science Fiction Foundation Collections held here, we have a 1990 copy, the first edition printed in the U.K. (PN6737.M66.V46 1990).

As usual, the items featured in this post are available to consult in the reading room here at Special Collections and Archives. Please email for more information. However, our reading room is silent study; please leave all fireworks at home.

International Cat Day

Today we are feline very good in Special Collections and Archives – August 8th 2017 is International Cat Day. As we are cat-loving librarians and archivists, we have selected a taster of our best cat themed items from the Children’s books, Science Fiction Foundation Collections, Cunard Archive, and University Archive fur you to enjoy.

Children’s Literature

SC&A houses more than 7000 pre-First World War children’s books, of which the tale of mischievous cats throughout is a common feature. In The Tale of Tom Kitten, Tom and his siblings Mittens and Moppet play outside in their best clothes, only for them to be stolen by ducks (Oldham 173). Tit, Tiny, and Tittens: The Three White Kittens are a handful, too – they get themselves in all sorts of predicaments (JUV 308:60).

Oldham 173


The History of Whittington and His Cat is the feline rags to riches story we are all familiar with. The copy held here in Special Collections is in the form of a chapbook, a small paperback for children which would sell for a cheap price and provide a story with a moral message. This copy also includes the alphabet, allowing children to practice their reading skills from the most basic stage (Oldham 43).

Oldham 43

Science Fiction Foundation Collections

Continuing the theme of children’s literature, the below novel from the Science Fiction collections is written for the young adults audience in the Bantam Action series. In this short novel, robot cats are created to clean-up the city, but are hijacked and used for evil deeds (PR6061.I39.C99 1996). Cats also crop-up regularly in Science Fiction as representation of earth-like normality and domesticity on space ships (for presumably a similar purpose as a ships cat; see below). A personal favorite is Jonesy, Ripley’s ginger tom, from the Alien franchise.

PR6061.I39.C99 1996


Cats were commonplace aboard ships for many reasons – they caught vermin, provided comfort to crew, and even predicted storms through their enhanced sensitivity to low pressure environments. Some ships cats have become famous; ‘Unsinkable Sam’, a German cat, survived the sinking of three ships during World War II! From the Cunard archive here, we see below Captain Rostron’s cat and her adorable kittens aboard the Mauretania, from the Cunard Magazine during the mid 1920s (D42/PR5/12).

D42/PR5/12. Cunard Magazine, Vol. 16.

University Archive 

A prominent deposit within the staff papers of the University Archive are the papers of Professor (and Sir) Charles Reilly. One of the most important figures in the history of twentieth-century architecture in Britain, Sir Reilly dominated architectural education and had a profound influence on architectural practice. The below photograph shows Sir Charles Reilly holding a rather uninterested Timoshenko the cat, in the garden of his home in Twickenham during the the World War II era (D938/2/15).

D938/2/15. Photograph by Louise Sedgwick ©

The Special Collections and Archives Cats

From the top left to the bottom right: Audrey and Lilly (Jo Klett, University Archivist), Clara (Katy Hooper, Special Collections Librarian), Chester (Robyn Orr, Library Assistant), Yan, Barry, and Hamilton (Jenny Higham, Special Collections and Archives Manager), and Reginald Ecclefechan (Lucy Evans, Assistant Librarian – Special Collections).

All of these items are available to view right meow in the Special Collections and Archives reading room (except our pet cats – we wish, though…). Please do see our website for more information on visiting us.