Travel Thursday – Taunt and the Thames

Written by Louise Cowan, Trainee Liaison Librarian.

Taunt on his Boat House

Taunt on his Boat House

This week’s Travel Thursday focuses on adventure a little closer to home, with Henry Taunt’s ‘New Map of the River Thames’ (c.1878)  [Reserve 914.22 TAU]

An Oxford-based photographer, Taunt won great acclaim for the high quality and technical skill displayed in his work, and his photographs, sketches and maps helped to transform, ‘the popularity of the Thames during the Victorian era.’ (In the Boat Shed).

Sometime resident on the river, Taunt could often be spotted ‘in his nautical garb and yachting cap’ (Oxfordshire Blue Plaques) and was known to expertly capture the people and places along the river, providing, ‘an excellent record of late nineteenth and early twentieth century architecture, and town and rural life.’ (National Archives).

Book cover: Taunt's new Map of the Thames

Book cover: Taunt’s new Map of the Thames

Taunt’s ‘New Map of the River Thames’ of which we hold the 5th edition, was described by Taunt as a guide, ‘giving every information required by the tourist, the oarsman and the angler.’ Indeed it contains a wealth of insights into the canals and towns along the Thames during the late nineteenth century, including lock tolls and timetables, charts of distances along the canals, navigation advice, and even tips on preparing a water-tight sheet, (some good duck, boiled linseed oil and strong sewing skills required!)

Each place of note along the river is given a carefully sketched map alongside photographs of sites you may see along the way. This sketch of Reading for example, includes photographs of Caversham, Hardwicke House and Mapledurham.

Map of the Thames at Reading.

Map of the Thames at Reading.

The maps are accompanied by a description of some of the main tourist sites in each place. For Reading, Taunt, of course mentions the famous Huntley and Palmers’ biscuit factory, adding that you can pay it a visit, ‘by order obtained on application.’ However, he states that the greatest attractions by far are the Abbey ruins and the Forbury pleasure gardens. Taunt explains their long history and points to the unusual formation ‘of the “Queen’s Head” […] made by the combination of some of the broken walls seen through an opening in them.’ The ruins he declares, ‘form a

charming resting-place if a little time to spare in Reading.’

Father Thames Sketch

Father Thames Sketch

The advertising pages included at the front and back of the book are equally interesting. For example, you could visit ‘Lovejoy’s Library’ apparently the, ‘Largest Provincial Library in the Kingdom’ run by a Miss Langley on London Street in Reading or you could hire a boat from Arthur Henry East at the Kennet’s Mouth if you fancied trying out some of the routes sketched in the guide.

Meanwhile, the adverts at the front of the book boast the talents of Taunt himself, one giving a delightful sketch of his shop on Broad Street, Oxford while another features a fun cartoon of Taunt photographing an anthropomorphised ‘Father Thames’.

As a result of his fantastic survey and mapping of the River Thames, Taunt was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, (Oxfordshire Blue Plaques) and he is credited with sparking, ‘a national love affair with the river that remains to this day,’ (In the Boat Shed).



In the Boat Shed

National Archives

Oxfordshire Blue Plaques

Reading Readers – Jack Davies

Jack Davies, Assistant Lecturer of History and PhD student at the University of Kent, tells us about his research into stately home hospitals during the First World War, notably at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire – the home of the Astor family.

The Astor estate at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire (MS 1416/1/6/94)

The Astor estate at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire (MS 1416/1/6/94)

My research examines the social and cultural importance of the stately home hospital during the First World War. These personal residences were used to supplement the inadequate military medical infrastructure to provide care for wounded soldiers from all over the British Empire. The University of Reading’s Special Collections have been remarkably useful due to its Nancy Astor archive (MS 1416). The library contains a wide range of correspondence from Nancy herself, who is most famous for being the first female MP to take a seat in the House of Commons in Great Britain.

A lesser-known fact about Nancy Astor, however, was that her and her husband Waldorf converted their home into a hospital during the First World War. After having their initial offer rejected by the War Office, the Astors turned instead to the Canadian government. Though they rejected the use of the home, they agreed to build a hospital on the covered tennis courts; eventually a 600 bed military hospital was created within the house itself.

Though perhaps a strange place for me to come to do my research, the Nancy Astor archive contains hundreds of examples of personal correspondence between Lady Astor and the men who recovered within the walls of Cliveden. These letters allow an interesting insight to the use of this building as a hospital. Not only do they enable us to gain an understanding of the events that transpired within the hospital, such as:

Correspondence from Albut. L. Pope to Nancy Astor, (9 October, 1952) MS 1416/1/2/693

Correspondence from Albut. L. Pope to Nancy Astor, (9 October, 1952) MS 1416/1/2/693

‘when you [Nancy Astor] played the part of an old lady visiting the Canadian Hospital in which I was a patient at the time, to lecture a young Canadian soldier for paying too much attention to her daughter’.

They also provide the chance to examine the emotional significance that the hospital space held for wounded Canadians and Australians, many of whom were experiencing Britain for the first time:

Correspondence from Private Brook to Nancy Astor, (ND) in ‘First World War Soldiers B 2 1914 – 1921’, MS 1416/1/2/653

Correspondence from Private Brook to Nancy Astor, (ND) in ‘First World War Soldiers B 2 1914 – 1921’, MS 1416/1/2/653


‘I often wish I was wandering round your beautiful place again.’

In an attempt to discover the aristocracy’s attitudes towards the transition of their personal space, I also searched through Lady Astor’s correspondence with a number of her relatives, the most interesting of which were those sent by her brother-in-law J.J. Astor. In one, he bizarrely declared:

Correspondence from J.J. Astor to Nancy Astor, (21 June, 1916) in ‘Col. J.J. Astor (Lord Astor of Hever)’, MS 1416/1/3/4

Correspondence from J.J. Astor to Nancy Astor, (21 June, 1916) in ‘Col. J.J. Astor (Lord Astor of Hever)’, MS 1416/1/3/4

‘I trust you chose the lingerie with care and great taste, not that it would really matter very much, I expect!”

In another, written after he and fiancée Violet Kynynmound had decided upon a wedding date, he wrote:

‘I am so looking forward to seeing you again, please don’t abuse me for getting married, and you will forgive me for it wont you?’ (ND, MS 1416/1/3/4)

Unfortunately the collection does not contain Nancy’s responses to these peculiar letters, and while we may be unable to discover the truth surrounding their relationship, the discovery of this correspondence certainly piqued my attention, as well as the archivists’ after a long day of research.


Jack Davies is an Assistant Lecturer of History and PhD student at the University of Kent.

You can find out more about the Nancy Astor Archive here, and information about accessing our collections here.




The Bee Collection

Written by Louise Cowan, Trainee Liaison Librarian

Bee from 'Adventures in Hiveland'

Bee from ‘Adventures in Hiveland’

Our collection of printed materials on bees and apiculture brings together the Cotton Collection and the

books from the H. Malcolm Fraser Collection, supplemented by books and periodicals from the University Library’s general collections. The collection examines bees and bee-keeping from a variety of angles, providing a fascinating wealth of knowledge.  Below is gathered a small selection showing the fantastic diversity of material:



The London Apiarian Guide for Bee Keepers

The London Apiarian Guide for Bee Keepers

Bee keeping

The London Apiarian Guide for Bee-Keepers (1823) – by John Milton [Bee Collection Fraser 148]

This short guide for bee keepers provides helpful tips on everything a budding bee-keep needs to know; from how to use the newest glass hive, how to purchase bees (the best time of year is February if you’re interested!), the type of flowers bees like best (Rosemary and Lemon Thyme) and of course, how to obtain your honey!






Bee Anatomy

The Honey Bee: Its Natural History, Anatomy, and physiology. (1890) by T. W. Cowan– [Bee Collection ADDS 05D]

Written by the then chairman of the British Bee Keeper’s Association, ‘The Honey Bee’ is a detailed guide

The Honey Bee

The Honey Bee

to the science of the bee.  The work features several small but detailed diagrams alongside interesting facts and anatomical descriptions.

Interestingly, I learned that bees have different types of sting; the queen generally uses hers only against a rival and is able to extract her sting much more easily than a worker bee by using a spiral motion much like drawing a corkscrew out of a cork.  Worker bees are more likely to lose the lower part of their abdomen when withdrawing their sting while drones are not provided with a sting at all.

Cowan also describes how one apiarist, Stahala, had ascribed meanings to the various sounds bees make; a loud ‘Huummm’ for when the bees have a queen and their food stores are good but a ‘Dzi-Dzi’ when food stores are low or a loud ‘Dziiii’ when they’re too cold!


Bee History

The Lore of the Honey Bee

The Lore of the Honey Bee

Bee Lore (1916) by Tickner Edwardes– [Bee Collection ADDS 006]

Dedicated to the very same T.W. Cowan (above) Edwardes’ book of lore is a full history of bees and bee keeping.  It explores bees from the Greek myth of the nymph ‘Melissa’ (meaning ‘honey bee’) who fed the baby Zeus with milk and honey; praises the fourth book of Virgil’s ‘Georgics’ where the author’s ‘love for his bees shines through,’ and comments on a small book published in 1656 ‘The Country Housewife’s Garden’ which focuses on rule of thumb methods of beekeeping for fellow cottagers.

Alongside this history, Edwardes goes on to describe the features of the hive and weaves the story of the life of a bee in a romanticised light, for example, comparing the architectural supremacy of the honeycomb to the dome of St Paul’s and the great pyramids.


 Bees and Honey

Honey Cookbook (1955) – [Bee Collection Fraser 045]

Our copy of the ‘Honey Cookbook’ by Juliette Elkon was sent to Mr Fraser by the American Bee Journal

The Honey Cookbook

The Honey Cookbook

in 1957.  In it Elkon provides a lovely introduction to honey, which features some key bee basics.  For example, did you know that flower nectar has individual flavours and, “drones and workers who can’t produce their quota of honey are thrown out to die of exposure.” It’s not easy being a Bee!

Bees have also been busy making honey for a very long time.  According to Elkon, the oldest jar of honey was found “in the tomb of Queen Tyi’s parents in Egypt, where it had been placed over 3000 years ago.”

Elkon’s cookbook is full of delicious sounding recipes ranging from honey bran bread, to honey glazed hams and sugarless chocolate honey cakes.  As Elkon points out, honey is much healthier than sugar too…so you won’t feel too guilty for indulging in some of those treats!



Bees in Fiction

Slaughter of the Drones - from 'Adventures in Hiveland'

The Slaughter of the Drones – from ‘Adventures in Hiveland’

Adventures in Hiveland (1903) by Frank Stevens [Bee Collection Fraser 048]

‘Adventures in Hiveland’ by Frank Stevens is an interesting little story following the adventures of Jackie and Vi, two young children who meet the enigmatic elf-man ‘Nameless’ who shrinks them in size until they are small enough to explore inside a Beehive and learn about the lives of the bees who live there.

Although the story has quite a sad ending and sees more untimely deaths than a ‘Game of Thrones’ it gives a fascinating insight to the life of a bee, from Queen to Drone and is full of lovely sketches of the insects!



These volumes from our Bee Collection are available upon request.

Travel Thursday – Egypt and Nubia

Written by Louise Cowan, Trainee Liaison Librarian

David Roberts Series

David Roberts Series

This Travel Thursday post features the masterful landscape illustrations of Scottish painter and traveller, David Roberts. Presented in six volumes, both ‘The Holy Land’ and ‘Egypt and Nubia’ [OVERSTONE–SHELF LARGE 34I/07] were published between 1842 and 1849 by F.G. Moon. These hefty tomes contain detailed drawings alongside historical descriptions of various sites of interest in the Middle East. The prints, created by Louis Haghe, a prolific and renowned lithographer,  have “come to be regarded as the chef d’oeuvre of the tinted lithograph,” (Price).

In the early 19th Century, travel was both difficult and expensive so few people were able to venture beyond their own towns and while photography was beginning to develop, “printed books of landscape and travel drawings were for most people their only window to the outside world,” (Medina Arts).

Portico of the Temple of Edfou - Upper Egypt

Portico of the Temple of Edfou – Upper Egypt

However, even the artists creating such drawings tended to rely on inaccurate or incomplete descriptions from travellers when composing their landscapes of foreign locations. Roberts was one of the first professional artists to visit the Middle East and compose his landscapes ‘on the spot’. He believed that, “there would be a great market in England and Europe for images of such exotic subjects,” (Medina Arts) and with subscribers to his work including Charles Dickens, John Ruskin, Queen Victoria and Tsar Nicholas 1 of Russia– Roberts was proved correct. His works continue to have importance today, giving a glimpse into monuments unseen by many and preserving some views that have been lost to time forever.

Setting out in 1838, Roberts sailed from Alexandria and travelled for eleven months up the Nile River, through Egypt and the Holy Land, recording “his impressions of landscapes, temples, ruins, and people in three sketchbooks and more than 272 watercolors,” (Metropolitan Museum). He also kept a journal of his travels, sections of which are quoted in the historical descriptions written by Reverend George Croly in the published volumes:

Colossal Figures in Front of the Great temple of Aboo-Simbel

Colossal Figures in Front of the Great temple of Aboo-Simbel

The ‘Colossal Figures in Front of the Great temple of Aboo-Simbel’, which represent Rameses II, are described by Croly as being, “the most beautiful colossi yet found in any of the Egyptian ruins,” and he notes the vitriol Roberts showed in his journal toward the, “contemptable relic-hunters, who have been led by their vanity to smear their vulgar names on the very foreheads of the Egyptian deities.”

The height of these enormous statutes is recorded at over fifty-one feet yet despite their size, Roberts affords them minute and careful detail in his artwork. It is therefore no wonder that leading English art critic, John Ruskin is quoted as saying that Roberts’ drawings, “make “true portraiture of scenes of historical and religious interest. They are faithful and laborious beyond any outlines from nature I have ever seen,” (Metropolitan Museum).

However, it is perhaps clear that Roberts was motivated to produce such beautiful drawings as he was inspired by the beauty of the landscapes and objects themselves. In the description accompanying his drawing of the ‘Central Avenue of the Great Hall of Columns in Karnak’ he is quoted as saying:

Central Avenue of the Great Hall of Columns in Karnak

Central Avenue of the Great Hall of Columns in Karnak

It is only […] on coming near that you are overwhelmed with astonishment: you must be under these stupendous masses – you must look […] to them, and walk around them – before you can feel that neither language nor painting can convey a just idea of the emotions they excite.

Indeed the introductory text to the collection celebrates the fact that, thanks to the efforts of previous explorers, “a visit to the Nile is not an adventure but an excursion.” The world of the Middle East had become more accessible and a journey there was more than worth the effort:

A voyage from Alexandria to Wady Halfa, will reward the traveller, by the emotions which the scenes and objects will excite, far beyond any power of promise.



Sources and Further Reading:

Metropolitan Museum

Medina Arts

David Walker Price

Thornton’s Books

BBC – David Roberts

David Brass Rare Books