Improved Open Access Library fully accessible again

The MERL and Special Collections Open Access Library is now fully accessible again! In this library, which can be accessed from the Reading Room, you can find reference works relating to our Special Collections and to Samuel Beckett, as well as the library collection of the MERL, consisting of about 50,000 books, pamphlets and periodical volumes. We have been working hard to improve the layout of these collections to make it easier for you to quickly find the items that you need. We have also been able to create more space for future purchases and gifts.

The MERL library

This is a summary of the changes we have made:

  • We have integrated our Landscape Institute collection into the main MERL Library
  • We have created a dedicated pamphlet room for MERL and MAFF pamphlets
  • We have turned a storeroom into an additional room for the MERL periodicals

We would like to thank our readers for their patience while the works were taking place.

 

 

Medieval Caxton leaf: on display from 10 May

University of Reading Special Collections Librarian, Erika Delbecque, with new Caxton discovery

Our discovery of a unique example of 15th century printed text by English printer William Caxton has led to considerable media interest. The item will be on display in the University of Reading’s Special Collections department, within The Museum of English Rural Life, between 10 – 31 May. This is a unique opportunity to see this incredibly rare page. The exhibition tells the story of how this page survived, and how it resurfaced in the collections at the University of Reading .

Exhibition opening hours: Mon-Fri 9am-5pm (Thu 25th May 9am-9pm), Sat-Sun 10am-4pm.

 

Access to the MERL and Special Collections Library: May 2017

 

Due to essential maintenance work, we regret to inform you that access to the MERL and Special Collections open access library corridor will be restricted or unavailable on the following dates:

  • Tuesday 16 May – Thursday 18 May
  • Tuesday 23 May – Friday 26 May

This will affect access to Special Collections and MERL open access library material, including books, periodicals and pamphlets.

Please accept our apologies for this inconvenience.

If you are planning to visit the Reading Room on these days, please inform of us of any requests you have for library material in advance by contacting specialcollections@reading.ac.uk

Please feel free to contact us for further information.

 

Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The Sainsbury Singers are performing The Wizard of Oz from 17th – 20th May 2017 at the Hexagon, Reading.  They visited us here at Special Collections a few weeks ago to get inspiration from our Wizard of Oz Collection.

Lucky Bucky in Oz, WIZARD OF OZ COLLECTION–318

If you hear the name “The Wizard of Oz”, what springs to mind? Visions of the 1939 film starring Judy Garland, with its iconic imagery? Soaring Over the Rainbow, the ruby slippers, evading swarms of flying monkeys…Or do you think of the series of Oz books by American author L Frank Baum, on which the film was based, with its striking illustrations?

Either way, you’re virtually guaranteed to think of something.

But why is The Wizard of Oz such a beloved name in literary and movie history? Why does it inspire such a depth of warm feeling and imagination? The University of Reading Special Collection Service may well hold the answer.

The Sainsbury Singers were lucky enough to be invited to view The Wizard of Oz collection – what is believed to be the largest Oz collection in existence in the UK. It provides a glimpse into the mind of a passionate Baum and Oz collector, with pieces ranging from stage play programmes to Russian book translations.

We spoke to Claire Wooldridge, UMASCS Librarian at the University of Reading Special Collection Service, who told us all about their Oz collection, the other exciting special collections and how to view them. Read our Q&A with Claire below and subscribe to “The Wizard of Vlogs” on YouTube to see a special glimpse of our visit behind the scenes at the Special Collection Service.

The Sainsbury Singers: How did the collection come into the library’s possession?

Claire Wooldridge: Our Wizard of Oz Collection was bequeathed to the University of Reading’s Special Collections service in 2004, by Oz enthusiast Brian Baker.

TSS: What do you know about the original collector and why The Wizard of Oz was so special to them?

CW: We don’t know much about Mr Baker, aside from his obvious passion for all things Oz! The collection contains around 800 volumes, including many editions and translations of The Wizard of Oz, and other associated items. There are a number of sequels by authors such as Ruth Plumly Thompson, John R. Neill, Jack Snow, and other books by Baum, including those written under the pseudonyms Edith van Dyne and Floyd Akers.

The collection also includes some secondary critical material on Baum, several pop-up books, comics, tapes, theatre programmes, sheet music, paper doll books and fan magazines, such as The Baum Bugle.

Illustrations

TSS: Are there any other comparable collections?

CW: This is the largest collection of Oz material that we know of.

TSS: How does the collection evolve? For example, are donations still made, pieces loaned to museums, exhibitions etc?

CW: Our current work on the Oz collection involves adding information on each of the items to our catalogue. This will allow people to search for the items online, then request to view them in our Reading Room. You can see that several hundred items have already been catalogued and are now visible on our Enterprise library catalogue.

TSS: How many countries and languages does the collection cover?

CW: Quite a few! There are translations in Chinese and French for example. There are a significant number of Russian translations too.

TSS: What is the most interesting piece?

CW: It’s hard to pick just one! The first edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published in 1900, is very special and you can find out more about it in this special article. One of my favourite things about this collection is discovering new Oz characters that I had not heard of before, by browsing the shelves…Lucky Bucky and Invisible Inzi of Oz are the ones which spring to mind!

Bookshelves

TSS: What is the most popular special collection?

CW: We are fortunate to hold hundreds of different collections, on all manner of subjects. The University of Reading Special Collections services holds over 5,000 collections of historical and literary manuscripts in our archives and over 50,000 rare books. And that’s to say nothing of the object, archive and library collections held by the Museum of English Rural Life (we are based on the same site).

Our holdings of material relating to the history of books, printing and publishing, children’s books and our Samuel Beckett collection receive most attention.

Two of our collections have been recognised as being pre-eminent collections of national and international significance: the Samuel Beckett collection and the Archive of British Publishing and Printing.

TSS: Who can view the special collections and how do they arrange a viewing?

CW: Anyone can visit us during our opening hours (Mon-Fri 9-5, open to 9pm last Thursday of every month). You will need to fill our a short registration form. The University of Reading Special Collections Service is based at the Museum of English Rural Life, Redlands Road, Reading.

Most of our collections need to be kept in purpose built stores (where we can control light, temperature and humidity). So it’s often worth searching our catalogue before you visit our Reading Room, then emailing what you would like to see to specialcollections@reading.ac.uk.

If you would like to arrange a visit to see the Wizard of Oz collection, or any of our other collection, please email specialcollections@reading.ac.uk.

CW: You can find more information on the collection of our Wizard of Oz collection page and this article on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Everything you need to know about using our collections, searching the catalogue and visiting us can be found on our Using the collections page.

The Sainsbury Singers are performing The Wizard of Oz from 17th – 20th May 2017 at the Hexagon, Reading. Tickets from £10 available through the Society Ticket Officer (0118 988 2510) or from £12 through the Hexagon website.

(c) The Sainsbury Singers / The University of Reading Special Collections Service (2017)

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