World Poetry Day (1): International Women’s Day

This month we are celebrating both International Women’s Day (8th March) and World Poetry Day (21st March). Therefore, we are showcasing material held in the Special Collections and Science Fiction Foundation collections which contains poetry written by women who personally or professionally impacted greatly on their respective field of literature.

Phillis Wheatley, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773)

Poems on Various Subjects was authored by Phillis Wheatley. Phillis was purchased as a slave by John Wheatley, a Boston Merchant and Tailor, in 1761. She was tutored by John’s children in reading and writing, and wrote her first poem ‘To The University of Cambridge, New England’ at the age of 12. She was relieved of her domestic duties by the Wheatley family, and encouraged  to continue working on her literature. An illustration of Wheatley by Scipio Moorhead, another Boston slave, is provided in the frontispiece; the below extract is taken from a poem within the volume written by Wheatley in return. Our copy belonged to one of the William’s of the Rathbone family (by date most likely IV or V), as signed on the title page. 

SPEC Y77.3.255

To S.M. a young African Painter, on seeing his Works (p. 114).
When first thy pencil did those beauties give,
And breathing figures learnt from thee to live, 
How did those prospects give my soul delight,
A new creation rushing on my sight?

Radclyffe Hall, Rhymes and Rhythms (1948)

Rhymes and Rhythms was published posthumously in an edition of only 500 numbered copies in Milan. Our copy from the Zania collection is numbered as “5”. The text is provided in both the original language of English as well as Italian. Radclyffe Hall (1880-1943) is best known for her work The Well of Lonliness, which when published in 1928 was subject to a trial for obscenity and banned in Great Britain. A self-described “invert”, she lived with two long-term female partners during her lifetime, hence the dedication page inscription “Dedicated to Our Three Selves”.


Those Who Have Eyes… (p.61)
As I took my way down a certain street,
I saw a shop with a corpse of meat,
And a horse that hadn’t enough to eat,
And a cur that limped on neglected feet,
And a cat that rubbed its sores on a wall,
And a lobster that crawled about a stall,
And an organ monkey coughing and small.
But the sight that filled me with deepest rage, 
Was a nightingale in a six inch cage.

Carol Ann Duffy, Jackie Kay (and various others), Five Finger Piglets: Poems (1999)

Carol Ann Duffy and Jackie Kay contributed to this anthology for children, Five Finger Piglets: Poems. Duffy was appointed poet laureate in 2009, and she is the first woman, first Scot, and first openly LGBT person to hold the position; Kay is the third Scottish Poet Laureate, appointed in 2016, and also identifies as LGBT. Our copy of the anthology is held in the SPEC Patten series, as Brian Patten also contributed to this volume. The poetry is understandably centered upon many themes that would be familiar to children (such as friendship disputes at school and losing a ball in the neighbours garden), but, nonetheless, the volume is a excellently fun read for adults, too.

SPEC Patten 108 © 1999 Macmillan Children’s Books, Carol Ann Duffy, Jackie Kay

Excerpt from Dracula (p. 36-7), by and © Jackie Kay
I crawled along the pine floor to my father’s bed.
It was empty. Just a white pillow and a headrest.
My dad gave a large guffaw from the balcony. 

Took off his black cape; threw back his head, 
said, ‘Got you there didn’t I?
Okay. The Joke’s over. Back to your bed.’

Can you believe that? All I am asking is:
who needs imagination, a fear or a dread, 
when what we’ve got is parent’s instead?

Charlotte Brooke, Reliques of Irish Poetry (1816)

Reliques of Irish Poetry was first published in the late eighteenth century. Brooke (c. 1740–1793) was passionate in the preservation of Irish culture and heritage through translating traditional poetry. Our beautiful gilt-tooled calf-bound copy of the 1816 reissue includes an extensive biography of Brooke’s life, as well as poetry and prose in both English and Irish. The text contains poetry of varied types, including quasi-epic style heroics, elegies to loves lost, and odes to wars.

SPEC Y81.3.426

Elergy III, exerpt (p. 260, attributed by Brooke to Edmond Ryan)
For thee all dangers would I brave,
Life with joy, with pride exposing, 
Breast for thee the stormy wave,
Winds and tides in vain opposing.

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination (2004)

As one of the most influential female Science Fiction authors of all time, Ursula K. Le Guin (1929-2018) is best known for her fiction, including The Left Hand of Darkness (1969; which won both the Hugo and Nebula awards in 1970). However, in her 2004 collection of non-fiction essays The Wave in the Mind, she explores themes including the family, on being a woman, Tolkein, and writing. One particular interesting essay is her thoughts on stress rhythms in poetry and prose; she demonstrates, using various texts, the technique and necessity of reading with stress and rhythm in mind.

PX320.L34.W38 2004 © Ursula K. Le Guin

The observation of a pattern, even a arbitrary pattern, can give strength to words that otherwise would be bleating like lost lambs. (p. 78)

All the above can be consulted in the reading room. As usual, please do contact for more information.

New Accessions: Children’s Literature

In our final blog post sharing the bumper crop of new accessions to SC&A over the summer we turn our attention to three additions to the children’s literature collections.

SPEC 2017.a.011

The first is an 1800 copy of Robinson Crusoe, bearing a woodcut frontispiece plate. This copy is printed in Liverpool, and is one of only 7 copies recorded on the ESTC in the British Isles. The item has a contemporary calf binding and is signed in ink on the upper inside board “Alex:r Patton Junr. Sundragen Dec.b 30th 1807”, it also bears the bookmark of William Kidd of Armagh.

The second item is an 1847 copy of “An alphabet of emblems“, with the publisher issued red buckram binding with gilt tooling.

SPEC 2017.a.016

This rather pious set of poems was designed to improve the moral fibre of the juvenile reader via poetry with biblical themes. The devout tone is somewhat improved, for the modern reader, by the images throughout (see below). This work, written by the Church of England clergyman Thomas Boyles Murray, has only four reported copies according to COPAC.

The final item in this round up of new children’s literature is “The little grammarian“, an 1828 book printed by that well known children’s book publisher John Harris.

SPEC 2017.a.021

Another effort from a clergyman (where did they find the time?!), this beautifully illustrated effort by William Fletcher introduces a young audience to the basics of English grammar.

All of these items are now available for consultation in SC&A, you can check our new website for information on how to make an appointment.

New Accessions: Guides to Health

As part of our series introducing new summer acquisitions to SC&A, we are pleased to showcase two items from 1854 and 1890.

SPEC 2017.a.023

Controul of the passions, printed in 1854, is, on the surface, a guide to the “duties and obligations of the married state”. With a brief nod towards conjugal relations the text focuses primarily on “self pollution”, gonorrhoea and other venereal diseases and includes some choice images of the ravages of syphilis. This item is exceptionally rare, despite it being printed as the twenty first edition, with no copy with this imprint being recorded elsewhere. In keeping with the theme of sexual health and propriety, the second acquisition is The golden referee: a guide to health, printed in 1890.

SPEC 2017.a.024

Heavy on “the injurious effects of solitary and sexual indulgence” one of the most interesting aspects of this book is a printed note on the inside upper wrapper stating that the copyright for the item is owned by Joseph Thornton Woodhead. The same Mr. Woodhead was the owner of the Liverpool Museum of Anatomy, a notorious attraction which remained open in Liverpool until 1937. On the lower wrapper is an advertisement for the Museum, previously at 29 Paradise Street, which seeks to present it as “An interesting collection! An intellectual study!! And a public advantage!!!”. In reality it offered a mix of models and diagrams of the human body, discreet consultations for men with sexual problems and even courses on midwifery with a heavy tone of morality, rather than titillation.

Already included in the collections here at SC&A is a copy of the descriptive catalogue of the Museum at shelfmark Y87.3.222, which includes a matching advertisement to the one found on The golden referee.

SPEC Y87.3.222

For further reading on medical museums the Sydney Jones Library holds:

  • Morbid curiosities: Medical museums in nineteenth-century Britain by Samuel J.M.M. Alberti
  • Medical museums: Past, present, future edited by Samuel J.M.M. Alberti and Elizabeth Hallam.
  • Anatomy as spectacle: Public exhibitions of the body from 1700 to present by Elizabeth Stephens.

This Week’s War: 155


“In the present crisis the question of the supply of food for the population of the country, both human and animal, has come to occupy a place in the mind of the intelligent… it has become a matter of absorbing interest to every thinking man, and almost a nightmare to many.”

Extract from preface dated July 1917, The National Food Supply in Peace and War by T.B. Wood (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1917), reference number SPEC POV X48.3.47.

World Health Day

In keeping with World Health Day on the 7th of April, we have selected a range of printed material from Special Collections that provides advice on health and wellness, from the 17th century to the 20th century.

The Treasury of Hidden Secrets

How would a 17th century English housewife monitor the health of herself and her family? Homemade remedies made from flora were popular, as shown in the below pamphlet (1653). For instance, wormwood was (and still is) used frequently to settle illnesses of the stomach.

SPEC Knows.pamph 458 (15)

SPEC Knows.pamph 458 (15)

An Essay on the Gout

Among the elites and aspiring middling sorts of the 18th century, taking the waters at Bath was considered an excellent method of promoting one’s good health. The physician George Cheyne published his work, An Essay on the Gout, With an Account of Nature and Qualities of The Bath Waters (second edition) in 1720. Despite suffering from gout and obesity himself, Dr Cheyne promoted vegetarianism and treated famous patients such as Samuel Richardson and Alexander Pope.

SPEC Knows.pamph 221

SPEC Knows.pamph 221

Home Gymnastics for the Well and the Sick

In the later 19th century the popularity of German-influenced “physical culture” led to emphasis on gymnastics in the USA and England. As part of this general trend, Home Gymnastics of the Well and the Sick  (1889) promoted exercises that were simple, without specialist apparatus, for people of varied ages.

SPEC Children EVIII:257

Instructions on how to dad dance – SPEC Children EVIII:257

As always, the items featured in this post are available to view in the Special Collections and Archives reading room. Please see our website for more information.