Launch of the Woolworths Archive

Woolworths Archive material

A fixture of our high streets for many years, most of us will have fond memories of  browsing Woolworths for books, music, toys and sweets.

The University of Reading has recently acquired the corporate archive of Woolworths UK.

What?

The Centre of International Business History (CIBH), at the University of Reading’s Henley Business School, is delighted to announce that has been donated to the University of Reading Archives at the University’s Museum of English Rural Life (MERL).

To celebrate the launch of this archive, CIBH is holding a reception on Friday 10th March, from 18.00-19.30, at the Henley Business School (main Reading University campus). This will also include an exhibition of materials from the Woolworths archive collection.

Where?

Henley Business School, Whiteknights Campus

University of Reading
Reading
Berkshire
RG6 6UD

When?

Friday 10th March, from 18.00-19.30, at the Henley Business School (main Reading University campus).

Booking?

Contact Valerie Woodley on v.woodley@henley.ac.uk to register.

Click here for more information.

 

New collection strengths web page on travel and exploration

Written by Fiona Melhuish, UMASCS Librarian

Plate from Luigi Mayer’s ‘Views in Egypt’ (1801) OVERSTONE–SHELF FOLIO 1I/02

 

Discover our lesser-known collection strength in material on travel and exploration in our new web page. Our collection strength pages on the Special Collections website are designed to help researchers discover more about our collection strengths, provide more thematic entry points into our collections, and hopefully encourage a more integrated, cross-collection exploration of the University’s resources which will help researchers make the most of our collections.

This new page complements our existing pages on authors’ and writers’ papers, book history and children’s books, with more to follow on themes such as business history, literature and art of the 1890s, the First and Second World Wars, and science, medicine and mathematics, so watch this space!

If you have any comments or suggestions to make about these pages, please let us know.

Recent acquisition: a 1908 fine printed edition of ‘The Romaunt of the Rose’

 

‘The God of Love’, illustration by Norman Wilkinson of Four Oaks from ‘The Romaunt of the Rose’ (1908)

 

Written by Fiona Melhuish (UMASCS Librarian)

One of the most significant additions to our rare book collections in recent years has been a copy of a 1908 edition of The Romaunt of the Rose, which was purchased with assistance from Arts Council England/Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund and the Friends of the National Libraries.

This publication was the first book to be printed by the Florence Press, which was founded by the publisher Chatto & Windus to produce books of similar beauty to classic private presses, but in larger editions and at more accessible prices. Other fine quality editions produced under the Florence Press imprint included editions of Keats, Blake, Boccaccio and St Francis of Assisi.

This important acquisition complements the numerous examples of private press books and other fine printing in our rare book collections, and the Chatto & Windus archive, in which the book is mentioned specifically in correspondence and other records.

 

‘Love Pursuing’, illustration by Keith Henderson from ‘The Romaunt of the Rose’ (1908)

 

Due to differences between catalogue records, it is difficult to tell how many copies of the book exist in this country, but there appear to be only a small number. This copy is no. 7 of a limited edition of 12 printed on vellum. The Florence Press also produced an edition of 500 copies of the Romaunt printed on hand-made Aldwych paper, and we were pleased to acquire copy no. 129 of this paper edition as part of the purchase.

 

‘Mynstrales’,  illustration by Norman Wilkinson of Four Oaks from ‘The Romaunt of the Rose’ (1908)

 

The Romaunt was one of the most important and influential poems of the Middle Ages, and is a partial translation into Middle English of a French allegorical poem, Le Roman de la Rose. It was first thought to have been the work of the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer, and while it is now questioned how much of the work is attributable to Chaucer, it is generally agreed that the first part was translated by him and that the poem influenced the poet’s later work.

Le Roman de la Rose was begun by the French scholar and poet Guillaume de Lorris in about 1230 in Old French and was continued forty years later by the author Jean de Meun. The poem begins with a description of an allegorical dream of courtly love, set in a walled garden, in which a courtier (the narrator) seeks to gain the affection of his beloved, a woman represented as the allegorical ‘Rose’, with its dual meaning as both a woman’s name and a flower. The courtier encounters other allegorical figures such as ‘Lady Reason’, ‘Daunger’ and ‘the God of Love’ who offer him advice on courtly love.

 

‘The Daunce’, illustration by Keith Henderson from ‘The Romaunt of the Rose’ (1908)

 

In the second fragment written by Meun, the poem takes on a more philosophical, satirical and sexual tone, as, in the story of the two lovers, ‘Rose’ is represented as less of an abstract ideal and becomes a real woman with sexual and physical reality. There are satirical attacks on women and marriage, courtly love and religious hypocrisy, represented by the allegorical figure of Fals-Semblant (False-seeming).

The publication features twenty exquisite colour plate illustrations, with ten by the Scottish painter, illustrator and war artist Keith Henderson (1883–1982) and ten by the artist, illustrator and theatre designer Norman Wilkinson of Four Oaks (1882 – 1934). Wilkinson adopted the suffix “of Four Oaks” to distinguish himself from a contemporary marine artist of the same name.

The illustrations are reminiscent in style of the early Pre-Raphaelites with their intense detail, colour and realism. Features and figures such as the striking image of the God of Love [see image above], wreathed and clothed in a swarm of tiny flowers, animals and birds, and the unusual compositions and poses of the figures in ‘The Daunce’ [see image above] give the images an intriguing, ethereal quality that perfectly illustrates, and brings to life, the dream world of the poem.

 

‘The End’, illustration by Keith Henderson from ‘The Romaunt of the Rose’ (1908)

 

The two copies of The Romaunt of the Rose (PRINTING COLLECTION FOLIO–841.18-GUI) are available to view on request in the Special Collections Service reading room.

Images reproduced with permission from The Random House Group Ltd.

 

References and further reading

The Roman de la Rose Digital Library: http://romandelarose.org/ [accessed 10.02.2017]

The Romaunt of the Rose manuscript and digitisation project at the University of Glasgow Library: http://www.memss.arts.gla.ac.uk/html/pilot.htm [accessed 10.02.2017]

The ‘New Women’: women writers of the 1890s

Written by Fiona Melhuish, UMASCS Librarian

Cover design for Leonard Smithers’ ‘Fifth Catalogue of Rare Books’ – from ‘A second book of fifty drawings’ by Aubrey Beardsley (1899). (RESERVE FOLIO–741.942-BEA)

The art and literature of the 1890s is one of the strengths of the University’s Special Collections. However, although these holdings, along with the popular perception of the 1890s, tend to focus on male figures of the fin-de-siècle period, such as Oscar Wilde, Aubrey Beardsley and the publisher Charles Elkin Mathews, we also hold a number of early or first editions of publications by women writers of the 1890s. These works appeared in book form and also in short stories in avant-garde periodicals such as The Yellow Book and The Savoy (copies of both titles are held in our Reserve Collection).

Volume II (July 1894) of ‘The Yellow Book’ (RESERVE–820.5)

This new writing was often daring, experimental and innovative, dealing with themes such as marital discontent, female sexuality and the literary and artistic aspirations of women. Their work shocked many contemporary critics, who labelled these ‘New Women’ writers as perverse and unnatural and ‘literary degenerates’, and part of the perceived cultural decline of the decadent period. These women writers were often mocked in the press, particularly in the pages of the satirical magazine, Punch, as shown in the cartoon below.

Cartoon from ‘Punch’, 2 June 1894, p. 255. (University Library: STACK PER FOLIO–052)

One of the key figures among the ‘New Women’ writers was George Egerton, pen name of Mary Chavelita Dunne (1859-1945) . A writer of short stories and plays, she was born in Australia, but was much travelled, living in Ireland, America and Norway before settling in London. Her subject was the lives of working-class women, and her writing was very popular when first published in the 1890s. Egerton’s volume of short stories, entitled Keynotes (1893) [see title-page below of the 1894 edition] was significant for its focus on female sexuality. A second volume, Discords, was published the following year (held in RESERVE–823.89-EGE). We also hold archive material relating to Egerton in the collection of papers of her friend, the poet, bibliographer and bibliophile John Gawsworth (MS 3547).

 

Title-page of ‘Keynotes’ by George Egerton (1894) with design by Aubrey Beardsley (ELKIN MATHEWS COLLECTION–EGE)

Sarah Grand (Frances Elizabeth Bellenden (Clarke) McFall) (1854-1943) was one of the most successful of the ‘New Women’ writers and left her husband in 1890 to pursue a career as an author. She is also thought to have coined the term ‘New Woman’ in 1894. Her first book to attract particular attention was The heavenly twins, published in 1893, which attacked double standards between the sexes ( we hold an 1894 edition). We also hold a first edition of her later work, Babs the impossible of 1901. (both at RESERVE–823.89-GRA)

We also hold the papers of Pearl Craigie (1867-1906) (MS 2133). Craigie was the author of a number of plays and novels under the pseudonym John Oliver Hobbes. She was President of the Society of Women Journalists in 1895, and also a member of the Anti-Suffrage League.

Women writers of the period were often overlooked as they often preferred to write short stories rather than full-length novels. The short story format offered move flexibility and freedom from traditional Victorian plots, which as the critic Elaine Showalter notes “invariably ended in the heroine’s marriage or her death. In contrast to the sprawling three-decker, the short story emphasised psychological intensity and formal innovation”.

The short story was seen by women writers as an opportunity to explore the psychology of women. As Egerton wrote: “I realised that in literature, everything had been better done by man than woman could hope to emulate. There was only one small plot left for her to tell: the terra incognita of herself, as she knew herself to be, not as man liked to imagine her – in a word, to give herself away, as man had given himself in his writings”.

Titles mentioned in this post are available to view on request in the Special Collections Service reading room.

References and further reading

Gawsworth, John. Ten contemporaries : notes toward their definitive bibliography. (London : Ernest Benn Ltd., [1932]). Reference copy held at Special Collections Service: MARK LONGMAN LIBRARY–016.82-GAW and copy held at the University Library: STORE–28802 (Includes ‘A keynote to “Keynotes” by George Egerton).

Heilmann, Ann. New woman strategies : Sarah Grand, Olive Schreiner, Mona Caird. (Manchester : Manchester University Press, 2004). Copy held at the University Library: 823.8-HEI/3rd Floor.

Krishnamurti, G. Women writers of the 1890’s. (London : Henry Sotheran Limited, 1991). Reference copy held at Special Collections Service: 820.99287-WOM and copy held at the University Library: 820.908-KRI/3rd Floor.

Showalter, Elaine (ed.) Daughters of decadence : women writers of the fin de siècle. (London : Virago, 1993). Copy held at the University Library: 808.8-DAU/3rd Floor.

Iris Murdoch’s The Flight from the Enchanter: from manuscript to marketplace

Edward Bawden’s cover design for The Flight from the Enchanter (Ref. CW AW/M/40).

Edward Bawden’s cover design for The Flight from the Enchanter (Ref. CW AW/M/40).

The publishing archives of Chatto and Windus provide a fascinating insight into the process which brings a new book to its readers, allowing us to see the interplay between the literary and commercial worlds.

I decided to follow The Flight from the Enchanter, Iris Murdoch’s second novel, from the submission of the manuscript to the launch of the finished product to see this process in action.

‘By the Way, I Have a New Novel…’

Chatto and Windus maintained correspondence files concerning many of its published titles, containing letters to and from the author, the publisher and other relevant parties. The file for The Flight from the Enchanter (reference CW 548/2) tells us much about the creation of this novel.

Murdoch had already enjoyed considerable success with her debut Under the Net, published by Chatto and Windus in May 1954. Yet despite this achievement, she is casual on the subject of her next manuscript. Murdoch wrote to her contact at Chatto and Windus, Norah Smallwood (one of the company’s board members), on 5 May 1955. Although the letter mainly discusses her financial affairs (it seems most authors at some point write to their publishers asking for money), Murdoch waits until the final paragraph before revealing ‘By the way, I have a new novel…’ Smallwood’s reply, sent the following day, is enthusiastic: ‘I am plunged into the wildest excitement by your letter…. Of course I am dying to see the new novel’.

At this time, Murdoch was combining her literary career with her post as a lecturer in philosophy at St Anne’s College, University of Oxford. In her correspondence with Smallwood, Murdoch reveals something of the circumstances in which she was working. In a letter of 9 May 1955 she explains, ‘I’ll send the typescript shortly – I’d like to look through it again. Frenzied [with] philosophical papers just now’.

Final page of Reader’s Report no.12833, written by Cecil Day Lewis (Series Ref. CW RR).

Final page of Reader’s Report no.12833, written by Cecil Day Lewis (Series Ref. CW RR).

The First Review

Chatto and Windus used Manuscript Entry Books to record all newly submitted manuscripts. Murdoch’s manuscript arrived on 23 May 1955 and was given to three readers for evaluation – Norah Smallwood herself, the then chairman Ian Parsons and the poet, Cecil Day Lewis. Chatto and Windus often used authors to appraise a new manuscript, indicating the significance of the literary perspective in their commercial decisions.

The resulting Reader’s Report written by Day Lewis himself (series reference CW RR) gives a mixed reaction. He begins, ‘This novel seems to me a whirl of scintillating fragments which never quite weave into a whole’. He goes on to find fault in so many aspects of the novel – some chapters drag, the plot construction is too loose and individual characters are merely ‘…bumping into one another, but giving no impression of relationship.’ There is little here to suggest that the novel will be a bestseller.

So why publish? Day Lewis sees merit in the writing, stating that ‘…some of the scenes are wildly funny [and] some excellently sinister…’ but his conclusion that ‘I don’t see that we can do much about this novel, except publish it!’ is hardly a resounding endorsement from Murdoch’s literary peer. Perhaps showing the sensitivity that publishers need in their relationships with authors, Smallwood’s letter of 13 Jun 1955 to Murdoch glosses over Day Lewis’ concerns, noting all reviewers had ‘….read it with very great enjoyment. It is exciting, sensitive, at times a little sinister and on many glorious occasions wildly funny.’ The letter also outlines the proposed terms of payments for the novel. Murdoch must have been greatly encouraged.

However, the same letter also makes the first suggestions for changes to the manuscript, starting the process of negotiated redrafting which characterises the relationship between publisher and author. The editorial correspondence for The Flight from the Enchanter (reference CW 548/2) shows that Murdoch was largely amenable to proposed changes, having previously been through this process for Under the Net. Nevertheless she is not lacking in resolve, especially to some of the more extensive edits suggested by Smallwood. In a letter of 2 Aug 1955, Murdoch refuses to remove one of the novel’s characters as suggested by Smallwood. The publishers, like Day Lewis, also had concerns about the series of accidental meetings between characters but Murdoch was insistent that they remain, stating that ‘They emphasise the dream-like, fairytale-like character of the book’. Manuscripts are evidently fertile ground for negotiation but Murdoch was clear on the boundaries, defending aspects that she considered integral to the text.

Producing the Finished Product

The collection contains a series of ledgers which record the costs incurred in producing a new publication. These include profit and loss figures and author’s accounts, as well as stock books which record printing details such as the numbers of units produced (series reference CW B/2). An initial run of 5,000 copies of The Flight from the Enchanter were printed on 16 Dec 1955, costing just over £238. Chatto and Windus were staking a sizeable amount of money on the title in the hope of making a profit. This initial run was noticeably larger than that of Murdoch’s debut, demonstrating her growing reputation as a novelist. Murdoch’s subsequent books would have increasingly larger first print runs as public interest grew in her work.

Press release sent to bookshops in January 1956 (from file CW 548/2).

Press release sent to bookshops in January 1956 (from file CW 548/2).

Launch and Reaction

The Flight from the Enchanter was published on 23rd of March 1956 but publicity for the novel began well in advance. Stock book CW B/2/22 tells us that 75 copies of the novel were produced for publicity purposes which, along with the above press release, were sent out to various leading bookshops around Britain.

The collection of advertisement books (reference CW D) shows the investment Chatto and Windus put into The Flight from the Enchanter. These are scrapbooks with examples of the adverts placed in newspapers and magazines. Like today, the adverts often used favourable quotes from other authors. In the case of The Flight from the Enchanter, these included praise from the author VS Pritchett. This delighted both Smallwood and Murdoch. In a letter dated 8 Mar 1956, Smallwood tells her ‘His opinion will influence those wavering critics, of which there are, alas, so many nowadays, who are apprehensive about pronouncing their views too definitely.’ Again, the value of the literary perspective in the marketplace is acknowledged; the critical judgement of authors can be used to commercial advantage.

Chatto and Windus kept records of the critical response to their novels, adding small newspaper cuttings into a series of albums (reference CW C), and keeping longer articles in Review Files (reference number CW R). The Flight from the Enchanter received notably mixed reviews on its publication, something which Smallwood felt aggrieved by. In a letter of 9 Apr 1956 to the critic John Russell, Smallwood writes ‘To date the reviewers by and large have been chiefly concerned with condemning it for not being the book it isn’t.’ Smallwood’s belief in both the novel and the novelist is unwavering, but she must also have been concerned about sales and the impact that a commercial failure would have both on company profits and the morale of her author.

She should not have worried. The Flight from the Enchanter enhanced Murdoch’s reputation. She would go on to publish many more novels for Chatto and Windus until her death in 1999.

This is just one trail followed through the archives of Chatto and Windus. Their output was prodigious and diverse, and there are many more titles to be investigated.

Blog post written by David Plant (Project Archivist).

 

Sources and Further Reading

Chatto and Windus is one of several subsidiary companies of Penguin Random House. The University of Reading also maintains archives from other subsidiary companies under Random House, including The Bodley Head, Jonathan Cape, The Hogarth Press and John Lane. For more details of these collections, either use the online search function or visit the A-Z  list of our collections. Both of these are available via our Special Collections homepage:

https://www.reading.ac.uk/special-collections/

Please note that researchers wishing to consult this collection are required to obtain permission prior to access. Please see the Archive of Random House publishers page for more information.

Cover Design © Penguin Random House / The Estate of Edward Bawden

Reader’s Report and Press Release © Penguin Random House

‘Carnivals on the water’ : the Thames Frost Fairs

Written by Fiona Melhuish, UMASCS Librarian

Frost_Fair_of_1683

Print of the Frost Fair of 1683 (This image is in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AFrost_Fair_of_1683.JPG)

Behold the wonder of this present age,

A famous river now becomes a stage.

Question not what I now declare to you,

The Thames is now both fair and market too.

(Printed by M. Haly and J. Miller, 1684)

One of the memorable scenes from the film adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s novel, Orlando by the director Sally Potter, shows King James I and his courtiers looking down at an apple seller woman, frozen in a macabre yet beautiful tableau beneath the ice of the River Thames, her frozen apples appearing to float around her. I was reminded of this, and other evocative scenes from the film of the frozen Thames and a ‘frost fair’, when looking at a printed keepsake from the Thames frost fair of 1684 [see image below], one of the exhibits in our current Wintertide exhibition. For all the hardship caused by a severe winter, the idea of a frost fair, described by Woolf as “a carnival of the utmost brilliancy”, conjures up a romantic, magical image of a temporary (and precarious) world set upon the frozen river, a mini city which should not be there, and I was inspired to find out more.

Frost_fair_2

A keepsake printed for a Mr John Warter at the frost fair on the Thames, 28 January 1684. From the collections of the Department of Typography and Graphic Communication (TYP CES MR/ Frost-fair/ 2 )

Over the centuries, a number of severe winters have resulted in the River Thames freezing solid, particularly in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries which became known as the Little Ice Age. This phenomenon attracted many visitors, and fairs and pageants were held on the ice, including what were to become known as frost fairs. The two most famous fairs took place during the winters of 1683/84, when the Thames froze for ten weeks and the ice reached a thickness of 11 inches, and 1739/40.The last large frost fair in the City of London took place in the winter of 1813/14.

Evelyn frost fair reference

Pages from John Evelyn’s ‘Memoirs’ with several references to the severe frost and frost fair of 1683/4 (London, 1818. OVERSTONE–SHELF 36E/11 Vol. 1)

A number of contemporary accounts and prints, such as the one shown at the top of this post, were produced which describe or depict the fairs and their variety of stalls and entertainments in detail. In his description in his Memoirs of the fair of 1683/4 [see image above], the seventeenth century writer John Evelyn lists “sliding with skeetes, a bull-baiting, horse and coach races, puppet plays and interludes, cookes, tipling, and other lewd places” among the entertainments on offer – even a fox hunt took place on the ice. Stalls and booths were set up selling toys and books, fruit, beer and wine, and gingerbread, and oxen and sheep were roasted. Goods were often more expensive and exceeded their ‘dry land price’.

The fair of 1814 is recorded as being a lively and picturesque sight, the stalls a mass of fluttering, colourful flags, streamers and signs. Evelyn described the 1683/84 fair as a “a bacchanalian triumph, or carnival on the water”. However, as Woolf describes “it was at night that the carnival was at its merriest … the moon and stars blazed with the hard fixity of diamonds, and to the fine music of flute and trumpet the courtiers danced”. The stalls at night, teeming with noise, light and activity and the whirling and gliding of passing skaters, all illuminated by the moonlight on the sparkling ice, must have been an enchanting sight.

One of the most popular entertainments on the ice was to visit one of the many printing presses on the frozen river. According to Evelyn, “ye people and ladyes tooke a fancy to have their names printed and the day and yeare set down”, perhaps with a piece of verse, to create a ‘keepsake’ to commemorate the occasion of their visit:

To the Print-house go,

Where men the art of Printing soon do know,

Where for a Teaster, you may have your name

Printed, hereafter for to show the same:

And sure, in former Ages, ne’er ‘was found

A Press to print where men so oft were droun’d!

As well as the 1684 fair keepsake held in the Typography collections, we have also recently discovered a keepsake from the other famous Thames frost fair which took place in 1739/40 [see image below] in the John and Griselda Lewis Collection which we hold in Special Collections, and are in the process of cataloguing at present.

Frostfair

A keepsake printed for a Mr John Alderson, printed on 21 January 1740 at the frost fair on the Thames in 1739/40 (JOHN/GRISELDA LEWIS COLL–MS 5317/3/8)

Unsurprisingly, although the fairs were a source of much enjoyment, the severe winters caused a great deal of hardship, particularly for the watermen who depended on the river for their livelihoods, famine due to ruined harvests, damage to property and loss of life to many, and, as Evelyn reported, “the fowles, fish and birds, and all our exotiq plants and greenes [are] universally perishing”. Trees were split apart “as if lightning-struck”. The apple seller described by Virginia Woolf may have been inspired by Doll the Pippin woman who fell through the ice and died at the frost fair of 1715/16 and was the subject of a rhyme in Gay’s ‘Trivia’:

‘Pippins,’ she cries, but Death her voice confounds;
And pip, pip, pip, along the ice resounds.

The absence of a frozen Thames sufficient to hold a frost fair in the twentieth and twenty first centuries has not been due to a lack of severe winters, but other factors such as the growing size and heat of London and replacements for the London Bridge which have allowed freer flow of the river, changes which may have consigned the magical “carnivals on the water” to history.

The 1684 keepsake is available to view in our current staircase hall exhibition or by arrangement with the Department of Typography and Graphic Communication. The other two items are available to view by request in our Special Collections reading room.

The Wintertide exhibition, a celebration of winter traditions, customs and experiences, and the effects of the season on the natural world, is on display at the Special Collections Service from 8 December 2016 until 10 February 2017.

References and further reading

Ian Currie. Frosts, freezes and fairs : chronicles of the frozen Thames and harsh winters in Britain since 1000 AD. (Coulsdon : Frosted Earth, 1996). MERL LIBRARY–9639 CUR.

Travel Thursday – Frederick de Wit’s Atlas

Written by Fiona Melhuish, UMASCS Librarian

In seventeenth-century Europe, no library would be considered complete without a pair of globes and the provision of up-to-date maps and atlases as a source of information on new discoveries, and at the University of Reading we are lucky to have not only a large map collection at the University Library, but also a number of early maps and atlases.

Perhaps the finest of these is a copy of Frederick de Wit’s Atlas, produced between about 1670 and 1707, and this beautiful volume is the subject of a new Featured Item on the Special Collections website.

Europe

Map of Europe by Frederick de Wit

De Wit was a prolific and skilled map engraver, publisher and seller who became one of the largest publishers in Amsterdam by the end of the seventeenth century. De Wit’s Atlas is one of a series of world atlases compiled by De Wit in numerous editions. Copies of the Atlas are held in a number of map and special collections libraries and private collections, and vary in content from 17 to 190 finely coloured maps.

As with many Dutch maps of the period, the maps in De Wit’s volume feature many elaborate and beautifully coloured decorative features, including illustrations of exotic beasts and even a winged sea monster.

The volume contains a number of maps by De Wit himself, together with maps by other important map-makers of the period including Nicholas Visscher I, Abraham Ortelius and Joan Blaeu, printed by De Wit from plates that he had acquired.

The Atlas is available to view at the Special Collections reading room on request.

Adventurous of Mind, Young at Heart: Herbert Leader Hawkins

Written by Louise Cowan, Trainee Liaison Librarian

Herbert L Hawkins Signature

The University of Reading’s Special Collections Service is home to the fascinating papers and unique library of Herbert Leader Hawkins, Professor of Geology at the University from 1920 to 1952.  According to his biographer, Allen (1970), Hawkins was, “Adventurous of mind, kindly, young in heart, vividly imaginative and telling a superb tale, he radiated a genuinely joyful dedication to geology.”  This passion for geology is evident in his collection which includes over 700 maps, letters to and from noted geologists and a book collection featuring classics in the field, such as Rondelet Libri de piscibus marinis, (1554) and Phillips’ Illustrations of the Geology of Yorkshire (1874).

Hawkins established the strong foundations of the University’s Geology Department and enabled it to

One of the fantastic illustrations from Rondelet Libri de piscibus marinis, (1554)

One of the fantastic illustrations from Rondelet Libri de piscibus marinis, (1554)

flourish in the early 1900s by gathering together the much needed, but often hard to acquire teaching

materials and collections for the course.  Allen (1970) teases that there are many intriguing stories of, “how Hawkins “acquired, annexed

or just stole” (his words) the rich collections,” though sadly the tale behind the acquisition of Rondelet and Phillips’ work (above) seems to remain unknown.

Some of my favourite pieces from the collection however, are not ones acquired by Hawkins but those which feature the Professor himself, notably a small number of photographs from geology fieldtrips.  Although the geology students didn’t venture far, with labels indicating trips to Dorset, Frome and Shropshire, the images provide a lovely snap shot of Hawkins in his element.  Allen (1970) reports one of Hawkins’ students, Professor P.C. Sylvester-Bradley, recalling that Hawkins’ strength as a professor was in his ability “to fire the imagination, and it was especially in the first year and in the field that he was so successful.”

Geology Field Trip 1920

Geology Field Trip 1920

In the photographs we see Professor Hawkins amongst his students, often with pipe in hand, perfectly matching the description of him given by Allen (1970):

Physically and sartorially Hawkins was the epitome of a contemporary geologist: nimble of gait, wiry, walrus-moustached, unfashionably long- haired, brown-booted and attired in brown tweed hat, jacket and baggy trouser.

Geology Field Trip to Frome 1925

Geology Field Trip to Frome 1925

These field trips often involved demonstrations using Hawkins own hand drawn, large-scale maps, which are also stored as part of our collections and some were even “topped off by Hawkins’s accomplished playing on the piano.”  (Allen, 1970)

Geology Field Trip Shropshire 1919

Geology Field Trip Shropshire 1919

Sources and further information:
Allen, P. (1970) Herbert Leader Hawkins. 1887-1968 Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, Vol. 16 pp. 314- 329 URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/769592
Hawkins Collection
Papers of Herbert Leader Hawkins

Topsell’s Fantastic Four-Footed Beasts

Written by Louise Cowan, Trainee Liaison Librarian

Edward Topsell, a Church of England clergyman, was born in Kent in 1572 and managed the parish of St Botolph in Aldersgate, London from 1604 until his death in 1625 (Lewis, 2004).  Although he wrote several books, his most celebrated work is, ‘The History of Four-footed Beasts and Serpents’ (1607), a wonderful bestiary that describes all manner of creatures from Elephants to Bees to the Bear Ape Arctopithecus (or the three toed sloth as we know it today (University of Houston Library, 2013)).  Each entry describes the creature in detail, giving commentary from ancient, medieval and contemporary sources.  In particular, Topsell relied heavily on sixteenth century encyclopedia, ‘Historia Animalium’ by Conrad Gesner, reusing his work to the point where he could almost be accused of plagiarism (Lewis, 2004).  This makes Topsell’s following claim a little dubious:

I cannot say that I have said all that can be written of these living creatures, yet I dare say I have wrote more than ever was before me written in any Language

However, even though he was not a naturalist by any means and borrowed much of this work from others, ‘A History of Four-footed Beats and Serpents’ remains a fascinating text. One of my favourite things about the beastiary is that includes not only the familiar and common animals but also the fantastical and frightening!  Manticore, Satyr and Unicorn are all considered alongside cat and dog and horse and the descriptions provided are wonderfully detailed and perfectly illustrated.

Below are some of my favourite mythical monsters from the book:

manticore

Of the Mantichora

A terrifying monster residing in India that has earned the fearsome title of ‘man eater’, the Manticore is described by Topsell as a deadly combination of man, lion and scorpion:

a treble row of teeth beneath and above, whose greatness, roughness, and feet are like a lyons, his face and ears unto a mans, his eyes grey, and colour red, his tail like the tail of a Scorpion, of the earth, armed with a sting, casting forth sharp pointed quils; his voice like the voice of a small Trumpet or Pipe, being in course as swift as a Hart; his wildness such as can never be tamed, and his appetite is especially to the flesh of man.

The manticore uses its tail to attack hunters and prey and is able to grow back any quills lost in the fight.

 

 lamia

Of the Lamia

Topsell initially describes what he believes to be the fabled accounts of the Lamia, which show her as a ‘phary’ (fairy) or shape-changer who wishes to steal away children and tempt beautiful men.  As such creatures do not exist in the Bible, these tales originated, according to Topsell, from poets who use the term Lamia as an allegory for a harlot.

The true Lamia, instead hails from Libya and is known in Hebrew as the creature ‘Lilith’.  It is described as:

having a womans face, and very beautiful, also very large and comely shapes of their breasts, such as cannot be counterfeited by the art of any Painter, having a very excellent colour in their fore-parts without wings, and no other voice but hissing like dragons.

The Lamia is said to enchant men with its body before overthrowing and devouring them.

 

Unicorn

Of the Unicorn 

Although Topsell consults many ancient sources, he finds their accounts of the descriptions of Unicorns so divergent that he can only assume there are many varying kinds of the creature, much as there are types of dog or mice.  However, he confirms that they can be found in both India and Ethiopia, that they have a single horn in the middle of the forehead, are roughly the size of a horse, and tend toward a solitary life.

Of course the most fascinating part of a Unicorn is its horn and Topsell recounts an interesting story from the life of Apollonius of Tyana by Philostratus:

the Indians of that horn make pots, affirming that whosoever drinketh in one of those pots, shall never take disease that day, and if they be wounded, shall feel no pain, or safely pass through the fire without burning, nor yet be poisoned in their drinks, and therefore such cups are only in the possession of their Kings.

Although Apollonius discounted some of the effects of the Unicorn horn, he seemed to accept that it may have some medicinal properties.

 

dragon

Of the Dragon

Like Unicorns, dragons are also said to be bred in India and Africa and are diverse in size and colour.  The dragon illustrated above is the Winged Dragon whose wings are described as being of “a skinny substance, and very voluble, and spreading themselves wide, according to the quantity and largenesse of the Dragons body.”

More generally, dragons are beautiful to behold, despite their terrifying treble rows of teeth.  They have bright and clear seeing eyes, “dewlaps growing under their chin and hanging down like a beard[…] and their bodies are set all over with very sharp scales, and over their eyes stand certain flexible eye-lids.”

They also have very keen senses of seeing and hearing, making them the perfect watchful keepers of treasure and unmarried maidens.

According to Topsell (affirmed by Aristotle), dragons are specifically offended by eating apples and lettice and will eat the latter to vomit up any meat they find does not settle well in their stomachs!

To kill a dragon, Topsell recounts that Indians will,

take a garment of Scarlet, and picture upon it a charm in golden letters, this they lay upon the mouth of the Dragon’s den, for with the red colour and the gold, the eyes of the Dragon are overcome, and he falleth asleep, the Indians in the mean season watching and muttering secretly words of Incantation; when they perceive he is fast asleep, suddenly they strike off his neck with an Ax

Our edition of ‘The History of Four-Footed Beasts and Serpents’ is a later revised version to which is attached the ‘Theatre of Insects’ by T. Muffet.  Lewis (2004) suggests that Topsell had originally intended to produce his own third and four volumes on birds and fishes but these unfortunately were never completed.

Sources:
Topsell, E. (1658) The History of Four-footed Beasts and Serpents. London: Printed by E. Cotes, for G. Sawbridge at the Bible on Ludgate-Hill, T. Williams at the Bible in Little-Britain, and T. Johnson, at the Key in Paul’s Church-yard [COLE–004Q – available upon request]
Lewis, G. (2004) ‘Topsell, Edward (bap. 1572, d. 1625)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford: Oxford University Press
University of Houston Library (2013) Topsell’s The History of Four-footed Beasts and Serpents Woodcuts.  Available from: http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/p15195coll18

Fragments of medieval manuscripts

Written by Siobhan O’Mahoney, a recent graduate from the MRes in Medieval Studies, who is currently volunteering with us.

Unknown to many members of the public, Special Collections holds an intriguing assortment of medieval manuscript fragments. They are part of the John and Griselda Lewis Collection, a fascinating collection which consists of some 20,000 items illustrating the history of printing and graphic design from the fourteenth century to the present day. I have had the privilege of working with these manuscript leaves, in an attempt to research, catalogue and raise awareness of their existence.

This project came about through the combination of my personal interest in medieval manuscripts and the need for these fragments to be catalogued for better access. I first became involved with the MERL and Special Collections during my undergraduate degree and this continued into my Masters, for which I just completed my dissertation on French royal medieval manuscripts. The fragments in this collection are all complete leaves/pages which would have made up a medieval book. However, all of the fragments have origins from different books except for two instances.

LewisMSS2

One of the fragments in the collection

I have spent the last three months conducting my research upon this variety of medieval manuscript leaves in an attempt to identify the contents of the fragments, date and localise them. The results of this research have shown that the fragments belong to various different books which were produced at different times and places across the medieval period.

Conducting this research is challenging when so little is known regarding the manuscripts, and when they are separated from their original book. However, with each fragment I began with the text. I was able to identify much of the content of the text through conducting transcriptions, followed by online searches of these texts. All but one of these fragments are in Latin, with the other being in Old French and presenting a much greater challenge to the modern reader. Editions of the various texts were therefore located, and have ranged from Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae to quotations of the Act of Apostles.

Following this identification, an analysis was done of the script. This formed a crucial part of my ability to both date and localise the manuscript fragments. The form of the script indicated the period in which it was written in terms of its style and layout. Gothic textualis was the key script identified across these fragments, although varying in the quality. This was a common book script used from the 12th up to the 16th century. My analysis placed all of the fragments in the 13th and 14th centuries. With a comparison of each the script of each fragment with manuscripts contained in Andrew Watson’s Catalogue of Dated and Datable Manuscripts, I was then able to place these manuscripts within their context. This allowed for a clearer idea of their place of production. All appear to have been produced in continental Europe.

Example of Gothic Textualis Quadrata (medium grade bookhand) from the 15th century

Example of Gothic Textualis Quadrata (medium grade bookhand) from the 15th century

 

Two of the manuscript fragments in this collection have particularly stood out to me as a result of my research, and I wish to share these with you. First are the two leaves which contain the text of Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae. I have dated these the late 13th century and into the 14th century, and to have been produced in France. As the text wasn’t completed until 1270, this is a crucial period for the reproduction of this work.

Fragment of Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae

Fragment of Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae

These particular fragments therefore hold particular resonance with me and my current scholarly research. Thomas Aquinas was a leading Dominican theologian in Paris in the 13th century. The influence of the Dominican Order upon the production of manuscripts in Paris in this period was an integral part of my Masters Dissertation. Therefore with such findings came great excitement.

A noteworthy inscription is also contained within the text of the fragment. ‘Thomas Gardener’ is inscribed in between the two columns of the text. This is an indication of the owner of the text, dating to the 16th or 17th century. Although the name Thomas Gardener remains common for the period, it is the greatest provenance in existence across these fragments.

The second prominent fragments were those containing musical notation which have been identified as a Gradual in Latin produced in the 14th century. Graduals are chant books produced for use in mass. In these two fragments we have the Gregorian chants of St Paul and St Anna. It is fascinating to think these would have been actively used during the 14th century for mass.

Fragment from a gradual from the fourteenth century

Fragment from a gradual from the fourteenth century

I hope that through my work with these manuscript fragments further research upon them will be encouraged and conducted. These have been fascinating fragments to work with and I hope others will find them equally intriguing!