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

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.

Hereditary, like a wooden leg

The annual Appleby Horse Fair, in Cumbria, which takes place in June, provides a rare occasion when images of Romany Gypsies are prominent in the national press.

The Victoria Gallery & Museum’s current exhibition from the Gypsy Lore Society Archive – Fred Shaw (1867-1950): Gypsy Portraits – continues until Saturday 26 September, showcasing the work of this skilled amateur photographer. The exhibition’s curator, Moira Lindsay, has selected her favourite photo from the display, of Charlotte Cooper:

P193blog

Photograph of Charlotte Cooper, wife of Jack, with infant, by Fred Shaw. Taken on Bookham Common, Surrey, 22 April 1923. GLS Archive SMGC 1/2 Shaw P193

Moira explains her choice:

I think the way Shaw has captured her expression combined with the composition is superb. I also noticed the other day – while looking for something else as you do – that Charlotte and the child are also in P.192, which is such a different photo, and P.192 is the print that Shaw had inscribed on the back ‘showing the type which the general public call Gypsies’.

I think looking at P.192 in relation to P.193 reinforces his skills in capturing that moment in time in P.193 when clearly there are a lot of other things happening around them yet Charlotte is sitting calmly gazing off: Shaw has made a moment in time monumental.

The best way I can put it, is that sometimes an image makes you catch your breath, and this one does that for me.

Frederick James Shaw’s fascination with gypsy life and culture began as a small child when he accompanied his nursemaid on visits.  In his childhood he learnt much of their language and quickly became fluent in several Romani dialects.

Shaw worked as a printer, but his spare time was taken up with photography. Some of his photographs were reproduced in the journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, of which he was a member. He clearly had a fascination and respect for the people he met. His photographs show a real trust and connection between Shaw and his subjects which combined with his skill is what makes them so captivating.

His photographs do not romanticise their life, nor does Shaw approach them as an ethnographer, but as a portraitist. He said that ‘the best and truest Romano Rai is the man who likes to be with Gypsies for their own sake and is not everlastingly questioning them about their ancestry and their customs’. His friend and obituarist, Andrew Macfarlane, recalled that he was scathing about writers who claimed ‘some remote Gypsy ancestor as responsible for their interest, and by inference, subtle insight into Gypsy life: “hereditary, like a wooden leg”.’

SMGC 1/2 Shaw P192

Photograph by Fred Shaw of unknown group, including Charlotte Cooper, taken at Bookham Common, Surrey 22 April 1923: GLS Archive SMGC 1/2 Shaw P192

Shaw’s collection was presented by his wife Helen to the Gypsy Lore Society Archive which is deposited with University of Liverpool’s Special Collections & Archives. The titles in the exhibition are the captions recorded by Fred Shaw on his photographic negatives or prints.

 

 

Edward Rushton, Blind Eye-witness

As Liverpool continues to celebrate Edward Rushton (1756-1814) “Liverpool’s most radical son” with the bicentennial conference, Edward Rushton and Romantic Liverpool, some notable contemporary works are on display in Special Collections and Archives, alongside the two newest works on Rushton, published by Liverpool University Press: a new edition of the Collected Writings of Edward Rushton, prepared by Paul Baines of the Department of English, University of Liverpool, and a critical study of Rushton, Talking Revolution, by Franca Dellarosa of the Università degli Studi di Bari ‘Aldo Moro’, Italy.

rushton122 November 2014 marks the 200th anniversary of the death of Edward Rushton (1756-1814). Born in Liverpool and apprenticed as a sea-boy at the age of 11, Rushton contracted a devastating eye infection on a slave ship and returned, blind, to Liverpool to live on a small allowance from his father, a vintner and dealer in spirits. At various times he ran a pub (in Crooked Lane), a newspaper, and finally and most successfully a bookshop (in Paradise Street).

With the help of various assistants he read as extensively as he could and began writing poems in about 1780, publishing them in newspapers. He thus came to the attention of the small group of intellectuals and radicals in Liverpool centred on the figure of William Roscoe. In 1787 the West-Indian Eclogues appeared as a separate publication, and many of his marine ballads (notably The Neglected Tar) were sung in taverns, at theatres, and in the streets.

Rushton was a staunch support of radical causes including the French revolution and American Independence (though he continued to berate both countries for their involvement in imperialism and slavery). He protested against the use of press-gangs, British violence in Ireland, the Russian domination of Poland, and any neglect of the poor by the rich. He also wrote charity songs for the Blind School and other humanitarian institutions. Many of his poems appeared in chapbooks or as single-sheet items; some were finely printed by the Liverpool-based printer and poet John M’Creery, who also printed his Poems of 1806.

At around the same time Rushton was operated on, five times, by the Manchester eye-surgeon Benjamin Gibson, who managed to restore some sight in one of Rushton’s eyes, allowing him to see his wife and children for the first time. Rushton was well-known in the radical and intellectual societies of Liverpool. He had a wide range of political connections in Belfast and Manchester, and was much reprinted in America. He suffered from gout – the subject of some of his more comic poems – and his death in November 1814 appears to have been brought on by a proprietary gout medicine. He was buried in St Johns’ Cemetery, Liverpool, and in 1824 his son (also Edward, later a Liverpool magistrate) and the Unitarian minister William Shepherd, edited a further volume of his Poems, and Other Writings.

Copies of Rushton’s work and other material from Special Collections and Archives can be seen at the Victoria Gallery & Museum as part of the city-wide Unsung exhibition.

 

 

 

Edward Rushton

Aside

From Sat 1 Nov 2014 until 10 May 2015, Liverpool is celebrating the bicentenary of Edward Rushton (1756-1814) “Liverpool’s most radical son”. Contemporary volumes of Rushton’s poems, letters and other writings from Special Collections and Archives are on loan to exhibitions at the International Slavery Museum (opens Fri 7 Nov) and the Victoria Gallery & Museum, as part of Unsung, a city-wide project celebrating the bicentenary, activism and legacy of Edward Rushton. Funded by the Heritage Lottery and led by DaDaFest as part of DaDaFest International 2014.

A politician’s desktop

Aside

The exhibition Northwich’s Industrial Voices opens at the Weaver Hall Museum on Tuesday, including much material from our own Sir John Tomlinson Brunner collection. The letters and papers of which we have provided digital surrogates are to be part of a reconstruction of Brunner’s writing desk and work space, and lend an insight into the life of this local 19th century politician.

The business of war at 30 Bold St

In celebration of the International Festival of Business, the University has opened a pop-up shop in Liverpool One. It will show visitors to the city what life is like on campus for today’s students and researchers. Meanwhile, Special Collections & Archives is showcasing a story from Liverpool’s business community 100 years ago.

Liverpool Philomathic Society crest on session card (LPS 2/6)

The Liverpool Philomathic Society was founded in 1825 as a debating and dinner society for businessmen. Membership was men-only and restricted to those ‘in business on their own account’ – i.e. the proprietors of their own businesses. Its purpose was to  ‘advance knowledge by discussion’, prove the compatibility of commerce and culture, and enhance Liverpool’s cultural image. The Society’s invited speakers and dinner guests included the American Consul and Ambassador for their Jubilee in 1899, Winston Churchill in 1901, and the Earl of Rosebery in 1908.

Seventy-five years after its foundation, the Society was described as “one of the few remaining bulwarks against the flood of feminine invasion of men’s privileges and prerogatives”, and membership remained men-only until 1920. The catalyst for change was the First World War.

Members of the Liverpool Philomathic Society reacted swiftly to the outbreak of war: C.Y.C. Dawbarn wrote to the Honorary Secretary, Mr Martindale, on 8 August 1914,

There must be in the philomathic a lot of chaps like myself who want to do their share. I put it no higher and no lower…. Well I am over fifty five and I am told I am not much good in the ordinary way … yet I am sure there must be a lot of clerical work – letter writing store keeping organizing – they must want help over which I feel I would be of some use. Now there must be numbers like me. War is not all shouldering a rifle.

The Liverpool Philomathic Society’s answer was the Liverpool Civic Service League Intelligence Bureau at 30, Bold Street – the present day location of the Halifax – set up by a Philomathic Sub-Committee “to give information to applicants for relief and assistance”. The LPS list of members was annotated to show who was available on which evenings to give information and advice – later annotations showed LPS members’ war service and, increasingly, casualties.

h1406LPS booklet

The Intelligence Bureau struggled to find a lasting purpose, or surviving members with spare time to staff it, but the effects of war continued to be felt by the Society. By 1915, special wartime arrangements included admitting ladies to meetings. By May 1919, James Tyson could write,

as regards the admittance of lady members I quite approve

and less than a year after the end of the war the Society held its first debate opened by a woman. On the first anniversary of the Armistice, in November 1919, an LPS member, H. Cunningham, wrote looking for advice on a suitable post for his daughter, recently demobbed from the RAF.

Despite these advances, G.J. Hodgson wrote on 15 December 1922, referring to a forthcoming debate on the Victorian Age,

I must try to whip up the young blood of the Socy to support me but shall lose to a dead cert. The Phil. Soc. is the most Victorian thing I know!!

Highlights from the archive of the Liverpool Philomathic Society, and other items from Special Collections & Archives showing the changes brought about by war will be on display at the University of Liverpool  as part of the forthcoming Liverpool Libraries Together exhibition Over by Christmas? Life in Liverpool during World War One.

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday LUP!

Liverpool University Press is celebrating its 10th birthday since relaunch in April 2004 – and its 115th birthday too. To mark the occasion, Special Collections & Archives is showcasing each of the ‘Ten for £10’ landmark books published by LUP in the last decade, and pairing each one with a book published by the Press one hundred years previously, drawn from the complete collection of the Press’s output back to 1899.

LUPexhib

So alongside the award-winning Liverpool 800 (2006) and Sophistication (2010) are displayed The Liverpool students’ song book (1906) and the inaugural lecture on Naval Architecture (1910). Each new pairing will be added to the display as the Ten for £10 list is revealed by LUP during April, and added to the blog with more about LUP: Then and Now.

 

 

It’s a FACT

The seed of Science Fiction: New Death is a wide-ranging exhibition which opened at FACT on 27 March and includes the Personal Archive, curated by John Denning, using the University of Liverpool Library’s Science Fiction collection. It shows how science fiction has been viewed in many different ways over the years, from lurid trash to modern classics. On 7 April, Andy Sawyer, Science Fiction Librarian, gave a well-received Special Guest introduction to Duncan Jones’ Moon (2009).

FACTexhib1

Part of the selection of science fiction texts from which Personal Archive was drawn

FACTexhib2

Part of the selection of texts from which Personal Archive was drawn