Aubrey Beardsley, the author: ‘Under the Hill’

Written by Fiona Melhuish, UMASCS Librarian.

Aubrey Beardsley, who died on this day in 1898, is well known as one of the most talented, and most daring, of the artists of the 1890s, with his exquisite, highly imaginative, and frequently risqué, black and white drawings. However, Beardsley also aspired to be a ‘man of letters’, and for several years worked on a ‘Romantic novel’, a preoccupation of his last years, later known as ‘Under the Hill’. This erotic novel was originally entitled ‘The Story of Venus and Tannhäuser’, and was based on the ancient German legend of Tannhäuser, a poet composer on a quest for spiritual enlightenment.

 

The book cover of ‘Under the Hill’ by Aubrey Beardsley RESERVE–828.912-BEA

 

‘Under the Hill’ encapsulates many of the features of the modern Decadent style of the period with its emphasis on art and artifice over nature, the affected tone and style of the writing, a sensibility of immorality and excess, the intense attention to detail and the lavish setting. As the writer Stephen Calloway observes, “in English literature there is nothing quite like ‘Under the Hill’ “. The absence of plot is also typical: in this 1904 edition the hero of the piece, the Abbé Fanfreluche arrives, Helen (Venus in other editions) is lavishly dressed and assisted in her toilette by her attendants and Helen and Fanfreluche sit together at a banquet. There is much satirical wit and humour in the text, combined with inventive, meticulously detailed descriptions. In this passage, Beardsley seems to take great delight in the description of the flamboyant and exotic attire of the banquet guests with a torrent of sumptuous details:

There were masks of green velvet that make the face look trebly powdered; masks of the heads of birds, of apes, of serpents, of dolphins … There were wigs of black and scarlet wools, of peacocks’ feathers, of gold and silver threads, of swansdown, of the tendrils of the vine, and of human hair; huge collars of stiff muslin rising high above the head; whole dresses of ostrich feathers curling inwards; tunics of panthers’ skins that looked beautiful over pink tights; capotes of crimson satin trimmed with the wings of owls; sleeves cut into the shapes of apocryphal animals; drawers flounced down to the ankles, and flecked with tiny, red roses; stockings clocked with fêtes galantes, and curious designs; and petticoats cut like artificial flowers.

 

‘The Toilet of Helen’, illustration from ‘Under the Hill’ by Aubrey Beardsley RESERVE–828.912-BEA

 

Beardsley’s illustrations for his novel perfectly complement the style of his text with their exuberant intensity of decoration and abundance of different, exquisite textures similar to highly wrought pieces of embroidery or tapestry. The illustrations are similar in style to Beardsley’s illustrations for ‘The Rape of the Lock’, published in 1896, and both sets of illustrations are representative of Beardsley’s later rococo style inspired by his love of the eighteenth century. Beardsley’s illustration of ‘The Abbé’ is a masterpiece of this style. The image shows the opening scene of the story with the Abbé entering the gateway to the Venusberg. Beardsley altered the name of this character several times from the Abbé Aubrey to the Abbé Fanfreluche and finally to the Chevalier Tannhäuser.

 

‘The Abbé’, illustration from ‘Under the Hill’ by Aubrey Beardsley RESERVE–828.912-BEA

 

The work was initially intended to be published by John Lane in 1894 with 24 illustrations, although this publication never materialised. Beardsley later produced some new illustrations which appeared alongside parts of the text under the new title of ‘Under the Hill’ in the first number of ‘The Savoy’ magazine in January 1896. We hold a copy of the 1904 edition of ‘Under the Hill’ (RESERVE–828.912-BEA), an expurgated version which was published by John Lane, alongside “other essays in prose and verse” by Beardsley and some drawings. In 1907, the more adventurous publisher Leonard Smithers produced an unillustrated edition of the ‘complete’ work (which remained unfinished on Beardsley’s death), and more complete versions were privately printed at various dates afterwards. We also hold a 1908 edition of ‘Under the Hill’ in French, and a 1966 edition of a version of the text completed by John Glassco, which was originally published in 1959 by Olympia Press.

 

‘The Fruit Bearers’, illustration from ‘Under the Hill’ by Aubrey Beardsley RESERVE–828.912-BEA

 

All the editions of ‘Under the Hill’ that we hold, including issues of ‘The Savoy’ (no. 1-8) and other works illustrated by Beardsley, are available to view on request in the Special Collections Reading Room.

Further reading and references

Stephen Calloway, Aubrey Beardsley. London : V&A Publications, 1998. Special Collections open access reference: 741.6092-BEA/CAL or available to loan from the University Library at 741.942-BEA/CAL (3rd floor).

Matthew Sturgis, Passionate attitudes : the English decadence of the 1890s. London : Pallas Athene, 2011.

‘High art and low life : ‘The Studio’ and the fin de siècle’ : incorporating the catalogue to the exhibition High art and low life: The Studio and the arts of the 1890s, Victoria and Albert Museum, 23 June – 31 October 1993. [London?] : Studio International, 1993.

 

Detail from ‘The Toilet of Helen’, illustration from ‘Under the Hill’ by Aubrey Beardsley RESERVE–828.912-BEA

 

“Guardian angel” of the Cole Library: Dr Nellie B. Eales

Members of the Library staff came rapidly to recognise her sprightly, bright-eyed figure making its way to the Cole Library for a quiet and productive morning’s work. She had a cheerful greeting for all her friends, acquaintances and colleagues and many came to admire the astonishing vigour with which she laboured day after day to bring the catalogue to completion.

J. A. Edwards describing Dr Nellie B. Eales, A gift and its donor (1984)

Photos showing 90th birthday party held for Dr Nellie B. Eales in April 1979 (MS 5303)

Eales and Cole

Inscription from Eales to Cole in the Cole Library.

Eminent zoologist Professor F. J. Cole (1872-1959) was the foundation Professor of Zoology at the University of Reading from 1907 to 1939.

Cole was a lover of books. He started building up his collections from an early age, amassing a comprehensive and impressive library of between eight and nine thousand volumes of printed books alongside scientific papers. The collection includes very rare works by Hooke, Estienne and Topsell, for example. Cole actively used his collection in his research. His major historical work ‘A history of comparative anatomy’ (1944) was based substantially on his own collection of texts on comparative anatomy and the history of early medicine and zoology, from earliest times to the present day. Cole was also a ‘passionate and creative collector’ of animal specimens, with his collection forming the Cole Museum of Zoology.

Dr Nellie B. Eales (1889-1989) was a Senior Lecturer in Zoology at Reading and Cole’s colleague. Upon his death, Eales arranged for Cole’s library to be transferred to the University of Reading (Rigby, p. 601). Eales painstakingly created a two volume catalogue of the collection, based on Cole’s card index (retained at Special Collections).

While we know quite a lot about Cole, what do we know about Dr Nellie B. Eales? She was a well-respected zoologist. It seems evident she had a significant impact on Cole’s work and his collecting practices. I am currently working on a project to catalogue a selection of printed works from Cole’s library. Eales’ catalogue is an invaluable source of information and finding aid. I wanted to find out more about her.

The career of Dr Nellie B. Eales

Some of Eales’ work on elephants in the Cole Library collection.

Dr Nellie B. Eales (1889-1989) studied at Reading for her BSc which she gained in 1910. Reading gained its University charter in 1926, so at this time it was known as University College, Reading and its degrees were awarded by the University of London. She went on to a become Curator in the Department of Zoology in 1912, helping to keep the department going while her male colleagues were called up to fight in WWI. In 1919, Eales was appointed as a Lecturer in the Zoology department and later became a Senior Lecturer. In 1921 a report to the governors of University College, Reading states “the lecturer, Miss N. B. Eales, has been awarded the Research degree of Ph.D. of London University” (p. 31). A fellow of the Zoological Society of London, Eales researched and published on cheese mites initially, then on marine biology and African elephants. Due to the strength and significance of her research, she was awarded a Doctorate of Science in 1926.

Inscription to Eales from author.

When the University was newly chartered in the late 1920s, it was not unusual for major faculties to be run by one Professor with a Lecturer for support. This was the case with Cole and Eales (supported by a Museum Assistant, W. E. Stoneman), as discussed by Holt in The University of Reading: the first fifty years (p. 16). It is clear that Eales was at the centre of the department during its formative years. It follows that she was so dedicated to the department, and the University, for the rest of her life.

Eales worked closely alongside Professor Cole, as a “student, colleague and friend”, as described in a report on the early history of the Zoology department in the University Archives. From her earliest days at Reading, Eales took an active interest in Cole’s collections of books and specimens. She helped to shape Cole’s collections during his lifetime and after his death in 1939.

All reports of Eales’ time at Reading indicate she took great pleasure in playing an active role in University life and in her field of research. Eales was a member of the University Senate 1928-42, only the second woman to sit on this board of governance (Holt, p. 275). She was involved in the Old Students’ Association at Reading, taught on Marine Biological Association courses at Plymouth, was President of the Malacological Society of London (1948-51) and editor the Journal of Molluscan Studies (1956-1969). The Journal published an obituary of Eales, written by Joyce E. Rigby, where much of this biographical detail is taken from, in 1990.

Cole’s “guardian angel”

In the case of zoology… the formidable figure of Cole still overshadowed the Department from retirement… Dr Nellie B. Eales acted as a kind of guardian angel over all Cole’s work.

Holt, (1977), The University of Reading: the first fifty years, p. 214

Though she retired as Senior Lecturer in Zoology at Reading in 1954, this was far from the end of Eales’ passion for her research and her dedication to the University’s collections. The University of Reading Library had acquired Cole’s vast library collection of many thousands of books upon his death in 1959. From 1964 the collection was housed in a special room on the top floor of the Library. Cole had created a card index for the collection. In order to make it easier for researchers to access the collection and discover what was in it, Eales agreed to produce a chronologically arranged printed catalogue of the extended Cole collection.

Extract from The Cole Library of Early Medicine and Zoology : catalogue of books, monographs and principal papers… / by Nellie B. Eales.

The Cole Library of early medicine and zoology catalogue was published in two parts, in 1969 and 1975 (when Eales was 76). Packed with valuable information about each title, such as about illustrations, provenance and binding, Eales’ catalogue is indispensable to any user of the Cole Library. The catalogues are an incredible piece of research in their own right and have been enormously helpful as I catalogue a selection of titles from the Library collection.

A gift and its donor: Reading’s Book of Hours

Velvet binding of Book of Hours donated by Eales.

In the early 1980s, over 25 years since Eales had retired, she was to offer Reading an item which still stands as one of our most valued treasures.

The surprising and delightful item in question was a Book of Hours produced in Paris in the early 1400s. A Book of Hours is essentially a personalised prayer book of Christian devotion which was popular in the Middle Ages. The gift is described by J. A. Edwards (former Archivist at Reading) in A gift and its donor: some account of MS 2087, presented to the Library by Dr Nellie B. Eales, formerly Senior Lecturer in Zoology in the University (1984).

The stunning Book of Hours donated by Eales consists of 185 leaves of intricately written script, elaborately decorated in blue, red and gold, with borders in an ivy-leaf design, also including other flowers such as columbines, wild strawberries and bluebells. The book itself has a luxurious red velvet binding and red leather slip case, this would have been added later, probably in the 1800s. The early history of the Book of Hours (now given manuscript number 2087) is not known. We know that it at one time belonged to a Henry White and was sold at Sotheby’s with other books from his collection in 1902.

Book of Hours MS 2087

Eales clearly took great pleasure in studying this magnificent item. Her notes (some written inside the cover) reveal how she went to great lengths to identify the wild flowers in the border decoration and to identify and list all the Saint’s depicted in the illustrations.

A “strong personality”

‘Nellie B’ as she was affectionately known… a strong personality: she will be remembered with respect

Joyce E. Rigby describing Eales in an obituary written in 1990.

Sophie Cole (Professor Cole’s sister) wrote many early Mills & Boon titles. Several contain her inscriptions, this is an example of a book gifted to Nellie.

As soon as I started research to discover more about Eales, it became clear how closely her work and that of Cole were tied together. Both Cole and Eales published scientific works and wrote about Cole’s work, his collections and his career. But Eales never seems to have written a great deal about herself. The main sources of information about Eales I found were documents in the accession file for Cole’s archive, an obituary of Eales by Joyce E. Rigby in the Journal of Molluscan Studies in 1990, Holt’s The University of Reading: the first fifty years (1977) and A gift and its donorwritten by one of the University’s first archivists (J. A. Edwards) in 1984.

The more I find out about Eales, the more intrigued I am by her. Surviving records give the impression she was inspired by Cole and contributed greatly to his work. I struggled with how to begin this post – I couldn’t find a way to begin with Eales without placing her in the context of Cole. Yet Eales was clearly strong, respected, intelligent and prominent not only in University life but in the wider research community. It seems likely she was among the first women to study for a Ph.D. at Reading. She kept the Zoology department going during WWI and was active in its formative years. It is clear that her dedication to the University and her work was steadfast throughout her long life.

Claire Clough (Project Librarian: Cole)

More information

Please contact the Reading Room to book an appointment to view items from the University Archives, the Cole Library or the Cole Archive (MS 5315). We also have a small collection of Eales’ notes and papers (MS 5314).

The Cole Library of Zoology and Early Medicine, University of Reading. (1960). Nature, 188, 4757, (1148-1151).

Eales, N. B. (1969-75). The Cole Library of Early Medicine and Zoology: catalogue of books, monographs and principal papers.

Edwards, J. A. (1984). A gift and its donor: some account of MS 2087, presented to the Library by Dr Nellie B. Eales, formerly Senior Lecturer in Zoology in the University.

Holt, J. C. (1977). The University of Reading: the first fifty years.

Rigby, J. E. (1990). Obituary: Nellie B. Eales. Journal of Molluscan Studies, 56, 4, (601).

LGBT History Month: Publishing pacifism, ‘perversity’, and prosecution

Written by Anna Murdoch, Graduate Trainee Library Assistant.

You never quite know what you could find browsing the shelves in the rare book store, and how you could reach into the archives of both Special Collections and the MERL to find connections to a particular work. As a former English Literature student, I particularly enjoy the Reserve, the general rare books collection. Not everything has been catalogued yet so you could find an unknown gem sitting pretty, or plainly, on the shelf. Having done research into publications by lesbian and bisexual women, certain books were going to draw my eye. Last autumn, I discovered one such book.

A hidden gem

The unassuming blue cloth cover of Despised & Rejected

Despised & Rejected is a novel set amongst pacifists during World War I. It was published in 1918 under a pseudonym – A.T. Fitzroy – by Rose Allatini. Allatini was a young female author who had been published by Mills & Boon, and Allen & Unwin. In the case of Despised & Rejected a less high-profile publisher (at least in our contemporary consciousness) appears on the title page and the spine, unassumingly covered in blue cloth: C.W. Daniel.

An exciting moment came upon opening the book. The front endpaper is adorned with nothing less than the bookplate of Lytton Strachey, writer, critic and member of the Bloomsbury set.

The bookplate of Lytton Strachey found in the Special Collections copy of Despised & Rejected.

This in itself is pretty fascinating, proof of his, a gay man’s, ownership of a book with gay and lesbian characters. He has signed the front free endpaper, dating it with what I assume to be the month he read it. In pencil he has added an address: “The Mill House, Tidmarsh, Pangbourne, Berks”. This is famous as the location rented by Strachey and artist Dora Carrington and as place where they were visited by other figures of interest during LGBT history month: Duncan Grant and John Maynard Keynes.

A photograph of Tidmarsh Village taken by Philip Collier in the early 20th century.

‘Ishmaelites’ at Allen & Unwin

The story of how C.W. Daniel came to publish this novel can be traced in the archives of Allen & Unwin here at the University of Reading. Allatini had hoped to publish with them a second time as they had published her well-received Root and Branch in 1917.

The sequence of events began in the August of 1917 when Allatini sent in her manuscript provisionally entitled “Ismaelites”. She expressed to Mr. Reynolds, a solicitor hired by the company to act as secretary, she hopes it will find favour in his sight.

The next date of significance is that of Bernard Miall’s reader’s report, later in August. At five pages, full of comically outrageous expressions, it is quite a read. Miall opines that “music does not stimulate sex – except in Germans” and that “if Russian women can fight Germans surely sexual perverts can”. He feared that the “effect [of her work] will not be pleasant; the average female reader will ever after be filled with hectic jealousy of her fiancé’s or husband’s male friends”.

Publishers at the time were under the shadow of the Defence of the Realm Act (D.O.R.A.) and this is obvious reading Miall’s report. He wonders if the military censor reads novels and condemns Allatini – not for making her central character, Dennis, a pacifist, but an “illogical pacifist”. Additional condemnation is expressed for mixing up two subjects “both unpopular, and both under an official ban”. Dennis bears the brunt of Miall’s critique, but Antoinette, the central female character, is subject to a different angle of aggression. Miall espouses the idea that “once she has been subjected to a certain amount of masculine love-making, [she] becomes normal”. He describes Antoinette as having a “schoolgirl infatuation” and that “nine times out of ten it [same-sex desire] is due simply to immaturity and repression”. This recalls the contemporary concern about the school as a single-sex environment: that they were unhealthy and didn’t adequately enforce what we would now label ‘compulsory heterosexuality’. Yet Miall, towards the end, writes “it is too good to lose if you can publish it. Can you?” No, was the strong and firm message from higher authorities. Edgar L. Skinner, who was out on war service, read the manuscript and wrote in early October that he had

no hesitation in saying that if in a moment of madness you were to publish it, you would most certainly find yourself in Bow St [magistrates’ court]. I have seldom read anything so crudely improper.

He ended by begging them to “pray therefore return it hastily lest worse befall you”.

Stanley Unwin, in The Truth about a Publisher touches very briefly upon this episode. Unwin writes that C.A. Reynolds had indicated to the “authoress” (Allatini is unnamed) that they would be receptive to publishing her manuscript and he would therefore feel sorry having to deny her. Reynolds asked for a publisher to redirect her to. Unwin writes he expressed that, due to the subjects involved, the only name he had to suggest was that of C.W. Daniel. Daniel had already been prosecuted under D.O.R.A. for his own pamphlet which attacked Lloyd-George’s war policy.

In the correspondence found in the archive both Unwin and Reynolds kept their opinions on ‘Ishmaelites’ closely held. Reynolds only expressed that he believed the police would find Marie Stopes’ Married Love more objectionable in comparison. Indeed, the only critique one can find is the “geographical and topographical eccentricities” Unwin wrote to Allatini about in September. Later that month, they arranged to meet in person to discuss coming to a “mutually satisfying arrangement” regarding her manuscript. Nothing is to be seen of these discussions, or of the personal impression of her work that she sought from him in early October. Sadly, they do not wend their way into the letters.

Although it was clear Allen & Unwin would not be publishing her work Allatini continued to write to them until the end of the year. In early December she wrote that Edward Carpenter was coming to town on about the 18th. Carpenter was an activist for the rights of homosexuals, was himself gay, and someone Allatini consulted about her manuscript whilst he was in London.

Despised & rejected at C.W. Daniel

At the end of December, Allatini wrote to Mr Unwin that as a result of a “terrific upheaval” within her family, who she described as “very military + narrow-minded”, she would have to publish under a pseudonym due to her economic dependence upon them. By this point, her contact with C.W. Daniel had been established and she described Mr Daniel as “very much distressed” that he would be unable to use the positive publicity generated from Root and Branch. She mentions Edward Carpenter in this letter and she conveyed to Unwin that he believed it a good enough work to attract attention on its own merits and the unknown element would not make much difference. Allatini did confess to seeing the merits of a pseudonym if the book were a failure, or, she writes with foresight “suppressed by the police”.

C.W. Daniel advertised the new publication as being a “vigorous and original story” dealing well with both conscientious objectors and “so-called Uranians whose domestic attachments are more in the way of friendship than of ordinary marriage”. Subsequent advertisements used quotations from the Times Literary Supplement identifying the author’s sympathy as “plainly with the pacifists” and “her plea for more tolerant recognition of the fact that some people are, not of choice but by nature, abnormal in their affections is open and bold enough to rob the book of unpleasant suggestion”.

The Saturday Review published a brief, punchy review of Despised & Rejected on the 6th of July 1918. The reviewer proclaims that “the author’s standpoint is pitifully repellent. Her defence of homosexual feeling is based on misunderstanding [sic] of Edward Carpenter”, but states she has “power of observation and description” and that with “experience, and more love and respect for ordinary people the author may do well”. The mention of Carpenter is rather hilarious with the knowledge gleaned from the archives that he had already read the work himself and, in a fashion, given it his seal of approval.

As Allatini and Allen & Unwin foresaw, legal trouble did follow the publication of the book. The Times reports the day after a court appearance that C.W. Daniel and a director Charles William Daniel were

summoned for making statements in a book entitled ‘Despised and Rejected’ likely to prejudice the recruiting, training, and discipline of persons in his Majesty’s forces, and for having 234 copies in their possession

It seems the argument offered by the defence was that it was “a novel, not a tract or a pamphlet”. The question of obscenity was not being prosecuted but Alderman Sir Charles Wakefield described the book as “morally unhealthy and most pernicious”. This echoes the words of James Douglas, infamous for his earlier attacks on D.H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow and later Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness.

The defence did not prevail and Daniel was ordered to pay £460 in fines and court costs. Interestingly, Stanley Unwin contributed to the fund because he felt guilt for having enabled the publication. Daniel published a pamphlet after the legal troubles subsided proclaiming that he had not been aware the book contained such “depravity” and he would rather have a book burnt than “be party to lending support” to homosexuals. This claim may be believable to some but taking into consideration every individual who is documented to have read the manuscript was aware of the content it strains credulity. Taking the pre-publication advertisements into account stresses this even further.

Daniel had only printed 1,012 copies of Despised & Rejected. After the prosecution, in October 2018, 234 copies were seized, leaving 778 in circulation. Fortunately, the copy that now resides in the University of Reading’s Special Collections was formerly owned by Lytton Strachey, a gay conscientious objector and was therefore, one would think, at very little risk. The book found its way to the library at the University of Reading in roughly the late sixties after being donated by Lytton Strachey’s sister-in-law, the psychoanalyst Alix Strachey.

 

References:

‘C.W. DANIEL’, The Times Literary Supplement, (London, England),Thursday, May 09, 1918; pg. 221; Issue 851.

‘Despised & Rejected’, The Times Literary Supplement, (London, England), Thursday, May 23, 1918; pg. 239; Issue 853.

‘Despised and Rejected’, The Times Literary Supplement, (London, England),Thursday, June 20, 1918; pg. 286; Issue 857.

‘Despised And Rejected’, The Times, (London, England), Friday, Oct 11, 1918; pg. 5; Issue 41918.

Fitzroy, A.T., Despised and rejected, London: C.W. Daniel, [1918] – Reserve—821.912-ALL, University of Reading Special Collections.

Parker, Peter, ‘Differently decent’, The Times Literary Supplement, (London, England), Friday, August 19, 1988; pg. 916; Issue 4455.

Rich, Adrienne, ‘Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence’, Signs, Vol. 5, No. 4, Women: Sex and Sexuality (Summer, 1980), 631 – 660.

Simmer, George, ‘C.W. Daniel, radical publisher’, Great War Fiction, (https://greatwarfiction.wordpress.com/2015/02/12/c-w-daniel-radical-publisher/), [accessed 16th January 2019].

‘The Mill at Tidmarsh: bohemian days leave a rich legacy’, The Telegraph, 18th June 2010,
(https://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/property/period-property/7827396/The-Mill-at-Tidmarsh-bohemian-days-leave-a-rich-legacy.html) [accessed 16th January 2019].

‘Tidmarsh Village (2906)’, P DX323 PH1/E191/4, Philip Osborne Collier Photographic Collection, The Museum of English Rural Life.

Best lookers rather than best sellers: Gaberbocchus Press

Written by Fiona Melhuish (UMASCS Librarian)

“There is a madness about various Gaberbocchus books which is the spice of life, an ingredient somewhat lacking in the world of impeccable book production”.

(Ruari McLean in ‘Quarterly News Letter of the Book Club of California, Summer 1956)

 

Two examples of book cover designs by Gaberbocchus Press.

 

Gaberbocchus Press was founded in 1948 in London, by Stefan and Franciszka Themerson. It was the product of an artistic collaboration that had begun in Warsaw, when they worked together as experimental film-makers. With Franciszka as artistic director and Stefan as editor, the Press published sixty titles, during forty years, and the University of Reading Special Collections holds a set of these titles, in various editions, in the Gaberbocchus Press Collection, together with some archive records of the company.

Page from ‘The Good Citizen’s Alphabet’ by Bertrand Russell, illustrated by Franciszka Themerson (1953). GABERBOCCHUS PRESS COLLECTION–1953/01

 

The Themersons used their small press as “a vehicle for introducing new ideas”, and selected intellectual avant-garde texts. These ranged from poetry to philosophical novels, from authors such as Bertrand Russell and Raymond Queneau, to first English translations of Alfred Jarry and Heinrich Heine.

The name ‘Gaberbocchus’ was taken from the Latinised version of Lewis Carroll’s poem ‘The Jabberwocky’, a source which already points to a surreal and often absurdist sensibility running through the publications. Both the choice of text and the illustrations display a concern for morality and ethics, as well as a keen sense of the ridiculousness of human beings. One common characteristic of the publications is the intimate relationship between image and text as an expression of content.

 

Page from ‘The Good Citizen’s Alphabet’ by Bertrand Russell, illustrated by Franciszka Themerson (1953). GABERBOCCHUS PRESS COLLECTION–1953/01

 

A key objective was to produce “best lookers rather than best sellers”. The Themersons felt little sympathy for mainstream taste, with Stefan once identifying a ‘refusal to conform’ to be both the Press’s primary strength and primary weakness. The Press attracted curiosity from critics, who saw it as odd and yet appealing, observing in the words of one that Gaberbocchus books show “a pleasing and intelligent originality in presentation, which make them quite different from anything else appearing in London”. In its position outside the mainstream of the established world of publishing, Gaberbocchus Press is certainly one of the most interesting and original of British small presses of the twentieth century.

Books from the Gaberbocchus Press Collection are all catalogued on the Enterprise catalogue, and are available to view in the Special Collections reading room on request.

 

Page from ‘Semantic Divertissements’ by Themerson & Themerson (1962). GABERBOCCHUS PRESS COLLECTION–1962/01

Further reading:

The Themersons and the Gaberbocchus Press : an experiment in publishing, 1948-1979 / edited by Jan Kubasiewicz and Monica Strauss ; with contributions by Marcin Gizycki … [et al.]. New York, N.Y. : MJS Books & Graphics, 1993. Available to consult in the Special Collections open access reference collection: FOLIO–070.593-GAB/THE

Gaberbocchus Press : an exhibition / curated by Fiona Barnard (draft copy of a catalogue to accompany an exhibition held at the National Art Library, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 14 April – 31 August 2003). Available to consult in the Special Collections reading room on request: PRINTING COLLECTION F–094.0942-GAB/BAR

One of the many versions of the Gaberbocchus Press emblem

 

Images reproduced by permission of Themerson Estate.

Reading Readers: Lost in Translation in George Bell and Macmillan Publishers Archives

This month’s blog comes from one of our ‘Reading Readers’, Anna Strowe, who’s been looking at the archives of the publishing companies of George Bell & Sons and Macmillan. George Bell & Sons consists of A woman is sat in the Reading Room, surrounded by documents, and a laptop. correspondence, ledgers & miscellaneous records from 1813–1976. The Archive of Macmillan at the University of Reading is vast and mainly consists of around 60,000 incoming letters, covering the period 1875 to 1967 with material also held at the British Library. We asked Anna about her research and about some of her favourite things she had found within the collections.

I’m working on translation in the archives of George Bell & Sons, covering items from 1890-1900. I started out initially just wanting to know what kind of materials there might be that would address issues of translation, and narrowed down pretty quickly to looking mostly at correspondence in and out. This is part of a larger project, where I’m also looking at Macmillan records in the same period.

Within these materials, I’m particularly interested in a couple of things. First, I want to know very generally what kinds of conversations happen around the issue of publishing translations. Who is involved and what do they write about to each other? What do proposals look like? What do reviews look like? How do translators and texts get chosen? Unsurprisingly, a lot of conversation is about whether things will sell, and about pricing and payment, but there’s also a lot of conversation about other issues: why people think a particular book would do well in translation, how people know the translators they are recommending, what various readers think is good or bad about particular translations.

I’m also interested in particular stories that come out of the archival materials. I’ve started to focus on one that involves a Dutch-born professor of English literature in Germany, his three-volume history of English literature and another volume of essays on Shakespeare, three publishers, seven translators (some just hopeful for more work!), a particularly harsh book review, some miscommunication about what the actual problem is, the professor’s wife, and an infringement of international copyright law… That story plays out over the course of around 50 letters back and forth between these various people, and 21 letters that must have existed but that I haven’t found. I’m also interested in the stories of particular translators who come up in the documents repeatedly. I’m trying to find out more about these translators through both their letters and outside research; they can be a bit hard to track though!

A table showing a pile of letters. Two letters are brought to the front.

Just some of the letters Anna worked with. In the forefront – MS 1640/223/255 and MS 291/255.

I love working in archives because there’s so much that is interesting or surprising. Things that are relevant to the work that you’re in the archive for in the first place, and just wonderful things you come across. So a few of each:

One of the things I like the most about the material that I’m getting on my topic is the sense of personality and the intimacy that you get from working with these types of materials. You get to follow people in so many ways: their work, their family lives, their travels. There’s a little of everything in the documents. A lot of the time in translation studies, we work with the texts themselves and maybe with a little biographical information. But holding in your hands a letter that someone wrote over a century ago is just so much more personal. And you start to feel like you’re meeting people: the business-like, the chatty and friendly

And then there are the random little things that you find: a rant from an outraged author who believes his work to be revolutionary, in which he suggests that they probably didn’t even read the manuscript, and offers as evidence the fact that they had misspelled his name in their reply (his signature in the previous letter was almost illegible!); a hint that several of the translators whose names keep coming up in the archives actually knew each other, when one of them writes that she saw “Miss Whoever” at a dinner party the other evening.

Maybe my favourite find (not relevant to my research) so far is a little card from 1921, from

A table showing a letter with a painting of some scenery.

The letter from the Tompkins’ sisters. MS 1640/49/1

two sisters in New Jersey. They write to George Bell & Sons essentially just to thank them for having published so many lovely books that the sisters own, and include a tiny watercolour done by one sister. The picture is a little scene with a meadow and a river with a couple little houses and some birds, and hills in the background. It’s about 4 x 6.75 cm, and it’s been sewn to the card (which is also quite small- about 8 x 9 cm) with six little stitches in white embroidery floss, in the corners and top and bottom centre. It’s signed by the sister, Abigail Brown Tompkins, and titled “A Misty Summer Morning in New Jersey U.S.A.” I don’t really know anything about it or the sisters, and it’s not actually part of what I’m supposed to be working on, but it’s such a wonderful random gesture.

 

I still have a huge amount of work to do though; my time in the archive was really just collecting images of all of these documents, so I’m only just starting to read through them in more detail and get a better sense of what’s there. I’m sure I’ll find many more interesting and surprising things.

To find out more about the above collections get in touch via email at specialcollections@reading.ac.uk or visit our website https://www.reading.ac.uk/special-collections/.  Follow us on twitter @UniRdg_SpecColl and @unirdg_collections on Instagram for updates on services, events and collections.

John and Griselda Lewis Postdoctoral Fellowship: Invite for applications

Applications are invited for the John and Griselda Lewis Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Reading. The Fellowship is available from March 2019, or a mutually agreed date and for a period of up to 12 months (we estimate this would equate to 2-3 months full time equivalent) and will attract a stipend of £5,000.

A page from a journal article, decorated with red flowers.

An Illustration from Le Journal de la Decoration c.1906 (JGL 23 23)

We are seeking an exceptional postdoctoral researcher with an ability to exploit this opportunity to build on the legacy of the Lewis’s pioneering work in relation to the history and development of type and letterforms. They will have a demonstrable interest in printing history, ephemera or the history of typographic design and preferably a strong track record of archival and collections research experience in a relevant area.

The successful candidate will be part of the University’s growing interdisciplinary community of scholars working with its distinctive collections and will be supported and advised by colleagues from the Departments of Typography and Graphic Communication, the Department of English Literature, and the HCIC (Heritage and Creativity Institute for Collections). The Fellowship will be based at the University Museums and Special Collections Services.

John Lewis (1912-1996) was one of the most influential figures in the study of printed ephemera, who combined his role as a lecturer in graphic design at the Royal College of Art with the authorship of several publications on printing and book design. His 1962 publication ‘Printed Ephemera: The Changing Uses of Type and Letterforms in English and American Printing’ is considered pivotal in giving credence to the notion of paper ephemera as a subject for research. He married Griselda Rideout, who as Griselda Lewis was a noted writer, designer and ceramics collector, best known for her publication ‘A Collector’s History of English Pottery’.

A black and white magazine cover of a woman, with the words Wendingen on the cover.

Cover from a 1924 edition of Wendingen magazine of art and architecture (JGL 29-4 -15)

The role of the fellow will be to complete in draft a project funding bid focused on the John and Griselda Lewis Collection, to be submitted to one of the UK Research Councils. The bid preparation will itself involve new research into the collection and, if the bid is successful, there may be an opportunity to continue it as an early-career researcher attached to the project. The project funding bid would aim to support the production of:

  • a new critical edition of Lewis’ 1962 publication ‘Printed Ephemera: The Changing Uses of Type and Letterforms in English and American Printing’ to be accompanied by a collection of essays or articles exploring different aspects of the collection, the work of the Lewis’s;
  • a further publication on the role and influence of private collectors in relation to the growth of print and ephemera studies, as a special edition of a journal such as Printing History, or as a small book or, by agreement, an appropriate alternative research project drawing on the collection.

 

SUBMISSION DETAILS

Applicants should submit:

  • a CV
  • written proposal (of up to 1,500 words) indicating how you would approach this project and apportion time to developing the bid and other related research.
  • Applicants should also ensure that references have been provided by two referees by (see submission details below).

 

Applicants are responsible for ensuring that references reach Kate Arnold-Forster (k.arnold-forster@reading.ac.uk) by the closing date of 28th February 2019. References should be submitted by email, with the applicant’s name added clearly to the subject line. Applicants should ensure that referees are familiar with the content of their proposal and are able to comment directly on their ability to deliver the work outlined. In instances where the applicants have an institutional affiliation, applicants should seek references from external sources.

 

Applications should be submitted by email, with the applicant’s name added clearly to the subject line. We would strongly encourage applicants to contact us in advance for an informal discussion. For an informal discussion in the first instance, please contact Dr Rhi Smith (r.smith@reading.ac.uk) or Guy Baxter (g.l.baxter@reading.ac.uk).

 

You may find it useful to make use of the web-based catalogue at http://www.reading.ac.uk/adlib/Details/archiveSpecial/110412306

 

Assessment of applications will be by a process of peer review and by an expert panel, with the successful candidate being expected to submit a report on completion of their Fellowship.

 

 

Forthcoming pop-up exhibition: ‘Embellish’d with gold: treasures from the European Manuscripts Collection’

Written by Fiona Melhuish, UMASCS Librarian

To celebrate the arrival of the European Manuscripts Collection earlier this year, we are very pleased to announce that we will be holding a launch event as part of the November Extended Hours of The MERL and the Special Collections reading room.

The pop-up display, entitled Embellish’d with gold: treasures from the European Manuscripts Collection, will feature some of the highlights from the collection, giving University staff, students and visitors the opportunity to explore this exciting new resource.

 

Folio 42 verso, Hours of the Virgin (Prime), with a miniature of the Nativity. From a Book of Hours for the Use of Rome, French, c. 1480-1490. University of Reading Special Collections MS 5650/43.

 

The collection consists of 143 items, including some printed items, an exquisite seventeenth century Italian manuscript prayer book, and the centrepiece of the collection, a stunning fifteenth century Book of Hours. Most of the items are illuminated manuscript leaves, and come from a range of different types of manuscript, including Books of Hours, missals, breviaries, graduals, psalters and a papal bull from Perugia, dated 1265. The material dates from the twelfth to the seventeenth century; the items are predominately of French origin (about half of the collection), with about a quarter originating from Italy and others from England, Spain, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

In addition to this pop-up display, we are also planning an exhibition of items from the collection in the Special Collections staircase hall in 2019.

The European Manuscripts Collection has been generously presented to the University of Reading by a private collector with the support of the Art Fund.

The display will take place in the Learning Studio as part of The MERL’s extended hours opening from 5pm to 9pm on Thursday 29 November 2018. The event is free, with no booking required.

This month’s extended hours opening will also feature our annual Christmas shopping evening. Come and enjoy Christmas carols by the University Choir, and make a start on your Christmas shopping with 10% off in The MERL shop!

 

 

Not forgotten: University of Reading to add names to war memorial

On 9 November 2018, the University of Reading will formally announce that the names of nine members who fell in the First World War will be added to its war memorial. This will be the culmination of a long research process by community volunteers based in Special Collections.

A building of a tower being built, surrounded by scaffolding. A note next to the image is states that this is from 1924.

An image of the University of Reading London Road campus Clock Tower being built in 1924. (Image taken from the University of Reading Archives).

The genesis of the project dates back to 2013 and the Arts Council England-funded “Reading Connections” Project. One element of the project was to feed into the commemorations of the First World War. The University’s clock tower memorial, formally dedicated on 7th June 1924, lists those fallen servicemen with a connection to what was then called Reading University College. But this is not the only memorial.

In the University Archives lay a somewhat overlooked volume containing photographs of many of those who fell. As part of the project, this was digitised and made freely available via Flickr along with a brief service and personal history of the individuals listed, well as information on their connection to the College, if known. Information came largely from 1911 census records, WWI service records, War Graves Commission records and the University of Reading Archive. Many people responded to this and added details to the Flickr site.

The story did not stop there. One of the community volunteers, Jeremy Jones, continued delving into the histories of the men and women whose names appeared on the memorial and in the book. Jeremy presented a seminar in 2015 as part of a series looking at the First World War, in which he revealed many of the fascinating stories behind the names.

As the research work continued, it became clear that some names had been omitted from the clock tower, the book, or both. Although the College at the time was small, keeping track of every past student and staff member was not an easy task, and it is perhaps inevitable that there were some names that were missed, primarily through a lack of information, the “fog of war”. In one case, that of “laboratory boy” Charles Flint, the omission had in fact been noted by the first Vice-Chancellor, William Childs, as far back as 1927. A decision was made to wait until “perhaps three or four names come to knowledge”: it has taken a very long time.

These discoveries were a call to action: the University quickly determined that some additional names should be added. Nine have been identified so far. On 9 November 2018 the Acting Vice-Chancellor, hopefully joined by representatives of some of the services and units in which the men served, will announce the names. Also present will be staff and students of the University, who are also the successors of these nine men. The research work continues and more names may be uncovered and added. Some will forever remain unknown, but their sacrifice, made a century or more ago, is not diminished by that.

If the first casualty of war is truth, then by adding these names we hope to make some recompense by painting a more truthful picture of the extent of the sacrifice made by our forebears.

 

The following names will be added:

 

Frederick Wallis Aubrey

Born c. 1884 in Bradfield, Berkshire. Employed at Wantage Hall, described as a “waiter” or “servant”. Served in 4th Btn Royal Berkshire Regiment. Died 16th August 1917. Buried in New Irish Farm Cemetery, Belgium.

 

Richard Herbert Howell Biddulph

Born 1889 in London, Ontario, Canada. One of twelve local men who joined the Officer Training Corps at Reading University College on the outbreak of war, although not a student at the college (he had a degree from McGill University, Montreal and is on their honour roll). Served in the Royal Berkshire Regiment and the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (Eastern Ontario Regiment). Died 5th July 1917 at Avion. Buried in La Targette British Cemetery, Neuville-St. Vaast, France.

 

Charles Henry Thomas Flint  

A man dressed in military uniform.

Wilfred Edward Salter Owen MC. Image taken from the University of Reading Magazine Tamesis (Vol XXXII No 2), which noted that the image was provided by his mother.

Born 1900 in Reading. Employed as a “laboratory boy” at Reading University College. Served as an apprentice in what was to become the Merchant Navy.  Died 11th April 1916 at the Royal Hospital, Melcombe Regis. Buried in London Road Cemetery, Reading.

 

Wilfred Edward Salter Owen MC 

Born 1893 in Shropshire. Famous as one of the leading poets of the Great War, Wilfred Owen attended Reading University College briefly in 1912. Served with the Artists’ Rifles and the Manchester Regiment, earning the Military Cross. Died 4th November 1918. Buried in Ors Communal Cemetery, France. Named in the Reading University College memorial book.

 

John Wilmot Mackenzie Palk  

Born c. 1874. Attended a course in the Faculty of Agriculture in 1905. In 1914 he was living in New Zealand but served in the Black Watch (Royal Highlanders). Died 16th November 1916. Buried in Contay British Cemetery, France.

 

Francis Edgar Pearse 

Born 1891 in Tottenham. Awarded a Borough of Reading Minor Scholarship in Arts for the 1909-10 and 1910-11 sessions to study at Reading University College. Served in the Royal Berkshire

An image of a man in army uniform.

Francis Edgar Pearse. Image taken from Book of Remembrance of those Members of The University College Reading who fell in The War 1914-1918 (MS 5339)

Regiment. Died 3rd October 1916. Buried in Euston Road Cemetery, Colincamps, France. Named in the Reading University College memorial book.

 

Percy Leigh Pemberton 

Born 1886. Studied in the Faculty of Agriculture during the 1905-06 session. Served in the Middlesex Regiment. Died 27th February 1916. Buried in St. Sever Cemetery, Rouen, France.

 

Thomas Albany Troward  

Born 1881 in India. Studied Fine Arts, 1902-06. By 1915 he was living in New Zealand where he enlisted and served in the Auckland Regiment, New Zealand Expeditionary Force. Died 21st May 1918. Buried in the Wellington (Karori) Cemetery, New Zealand.

 

Frederick Charles Wenham

Born 1889 in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire.  Studied in the Faculty of Letters, passing the Final Examination for the Diploma in Letters in 1912 and being made an Associate of the College in May 1913. A member of the Officer Training Corps. Served in the King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment). Died 20th November 1917. Commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, France and in the National Union of Teachers War Record.

 

Post written by Guy Baxter, Associate Director of Archives Services. For more information on our archival material on World War 1, or if you have any further information on the names listed here, please contact us at specialcollections@reading.ac.uk. 

Buried Treasure on Campus? A closer look at the Overstone Library

Currently working at the University of Reading as Staff Engagement and Communications Officer, Jeremy Lelean previously worked as a dealer in antiquarian and collectable books. In today’s blog, Jeremy takes a closer look at the Overstone Library, the foundation collection of the University Library. 

I work in science communication, most recently with research into soil, and when looking at the Overstone Library I was struck by a certain similarity. Both are somewhat ignored but just as there is treasure in soil there is treasure in the Overstone Library. This is clearly seen in this stunning (and surely longest ever) illustration of Trojan’s Column from Colonna di Trajano e di Antonio Pio (1770). Or more obviously valuable items like Jules Goury’s Alhambra (1842-1845) or David Roberts’ The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt, & Nubia. But, there is also a less obvious significance to the Overstone Library. I love books but when I say this, people often confuse this with liking literature. It is the books themselves that interest me: every library or collection is a treasure trove waiting to be discovered.

How the Overstone library was created can be clearly followed in the two bookplates seen in many of the volumes. Though fallen out of fashion now, bookplates were commonly used from the days of early printing into the mid twentieth century. We know, therefore that this library was collected by two people: that is John Ramsay McCulloch and, subsequent to his death, Samuel Jones Loyd, Baron Overstone. Using bookplates as a sign of ownership was important to the sort of collecting that led to the creation of these libraries in the nineteenth century. Having a library was a great sign of being solidly middle class, a notoriously important thing in Victorian England. Once one had made a fortune, showing one’s wealth was important but also one’s knowledge and culture. The books in the Overstone Library demonstrate this well but the significance is that it is still intact and all together.

Many of the books the library contains are not that remarkable and certainly none are very rare. There are many eighteenth and nineteenth century editions of books and poetry we could recognise today, as well as standards of the time that might have been forgotten like The Fables of Aesop or the Decameron (The Ten Days) by Giovanni Boccaccio. In my previous work as a dealer in antiquarian and collectible books I would often see odd volumes from such collections but never saw an intact library like this. Most of these libraries had been broken up post-First or Second World War (this library came to the University in 1920). So, to see such a collection as a whole tells us a lot about the aspirations of Overstone and the wider Victorian middle class.

More social history can be unearthed by looking at the books as objects rather than for what they contain. Until paper tax was abolished in 1846, books were the preserve of the wealthy and were sold as paper text blocks, without covers, so the owner would have them bound, if not uniformly, then sympathetically. This can be seen in these two French reference books (see above) showing Overstone’s choice in binding and decoration. As well as this we can see the Victorians’ love of decoration, for example, in the Decameron (see below). The gilt decoration on the cover is perhaps enough but, if it wasn’t, open the book to see how it continues inside and the beautiful marbled endpapers. You may not agree with the Victorians’ idea of taste but have to admire their commitment to it in all things, even their books.

So the next time you hear the word library, think less of a building or even a collection of books, but of treasure waiting to be discovered!

 

Click here for more information on the Overstone Library. If you have any further queries, or wish to view items from the Library, email specialcollections@reading.ac.uk. 

Important new acquisition: the European Manuscripts Collection

Written by Fiona Melhuish (UMASCS Librarian)

I am delighted to announce a very important recent acquisition, in fact, one of the most significant additions to our collections in recent years.

The collection, which will be known as the European Manuscripts Collection, consists of 143 items, including some printed items, an exquisite seventeenth century Italian manuscript prayer book, and the centrepiece of the collection, a stunning fifteenth century Book of Hours.

 

MS 45: Italy (probably Naples), circa 1460. From a breviary showing Vespers from the Hours of the Virgin. An example of gold tooling.

 

Most of the items are illuminated manuscript leaves, and come from a range of different types of manuscript, including Books of Hours, missals, breviaries, graduals, psalters and a papal bull from Perugia, dated 1265. The material dates from the twelfth to the seventeenth century; the items are predominately of French origin (about half of the collection), with about a quarter originating from Italy and others from England, Spain, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

 

MS 85: France (Valenciennes), circa 1480. From a Book of Hours showing parts of Psalms 115, 116 and 117. It is thought that the border is the work of the illuminator Simon Marmion or one of his circle. Marmion was described as “the prince of illuminators” by a near contemporary.

 

The Book of Hours [see image below] was produced in the latter part of the fifteenth century, and was written in Latin and French in two stages in Southern Burgundy (or near Lyons) in France. The manuscript has several interesting features which may hint at the identity of the original owner, including the unusual prominence of St Humbert (there is a full page miniature of the saint), suggesting that the original owner had the name ‘Humbert’.

 

MS 43 (Book of Hours): Folio 25 recto – Hours of the Holy Spirit – Matins. A miniature showing the Virgin Mary and Apostles and the Holy Spirit (Pentecost).

 

The collection has been very generously donated to us through The Art Fund. The donors, who wish to remain anonymous, chose the University as a home for their collection as one of them is a Reading graduate. They knew that we already held a Book of Hours in our collections, and thought that it would be good to develop and expand Reading’s medieval holdings, particularly for the benefit of the Graduate Centre for Medieval Studies (GCMS).

We are fortunate to have a few early manuscripts in our collections, notably a fifteenth century Book of Hours, but this new acquisition will completely transform our holdings in this area and open up a wealth of teaching, research and other opportunities for the University, and provide an extensive resource for academics and students, especially in the GCMS, and in the History and Typography departments.

We are planning a number of events and other initiatives to publicise the collection, including an exhibition in the Special Collections Service staircase hall in 2019. As a launch event for the collection, we are planning a pop-up display as part of the MERL’s extended hours late opening night on the last Thursday of November this year. We were very pleased to give delegates from this year’s Fifteenth Century Conference, which was held in Reading, a sneak preview of the collection last week, and hope that they will also help us to spread the word about this new acquisition.

 

Detail of MS 89: France (Picardy, possibly Amiens), circa 1300. From a Book of Hours and is partly from Psalm 144, and partly from Luke. This detail shows a drollery with curly hair, holding a red bell.

 

We will be starting to catalogue the items onto our online catalogue soon. In the meantime, a handlist and a series of CDs produced by the donors, with a catalogue and images of the manuscripts, are available to help readers access the items. Please contact Caroline Gould (Principal Archivist) or Fiona Melhuish (UMASCS Librarian) via the Special Collections Service for advice on accessing the collection.

 

Detail of MS 90: France (Paris), circa 1330. From the St. Albans Abbey Bible showing 1-Chronicles 12:40 to 16:5.