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.

 

Incunables identified

Written by Erika Delbecque, UMASCS Librarian

Last month we wrote about the process of identifying loose leaves from incunables, books printed in Europe before 1501. We also asked for your help in identifying the remaining four leaves. With help from Geert Lernout and the team behind the Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke, all leaves have now been identified!

The leaf below was identified as part of Jacobus Magni’s Sophologium, printed by Adolf Rusch around 1470. It is a popular anthology of extracts from ancient and medieval writers including Muhammad Abu Mashar (Persian astrologer), Seneca, and Chaucer. Adolf Rusch (1435-1489) was a printer and paper merchant based in Strasbourg. He was one of the first printers north of the Alps to start using roman instead of Gothic type. Because he did not include his name in the books he printed, he was initially known only as the “R-printer”,  referring to a special Roman type capital “R” he uses in his early works. An example of this letter is included on our leaf. Some have argued that it is in fact a monogram derived from his initials, A.R.

Unidentified edition of Summa de exemplis by Giovanni da San Gimignano. May be early 16th century

Magni, Jacobus. Sophologium. Strassburg: The ‘R-printer’ (Adolf Rusch), about 1470.

The  striking capital R used by Adolf Rusch

The striking capital R used by Adolf Rusch

A complete copy of this publication can be browsed online here.

The other unidentified fragments were identified as a leaf from Casus longi Sexti et Clementinarum by Élie Regnier (Strasburg, 1496), a leaf from Agenda sive Benedictionale (Basel, 1518) and a leaf from Postilla super totam Bibliam by Nicolaus de Lyra (Rome, 1471-72).

From the cradle of printing to binder’s waste: incunable leaves in the John Lewis collection

Written by Erika Delbecque, UMASCS Librarian

Earlier this year, we shared some exciting early printing finds from the John Lewis Printing Collection on this blog. In the past few months, I have been researching these leaves, so that they can be catalogued and the collection can be made more accessible. In the first instance, I have been focusing on leaves from incunables.

The cradle of printing

Incunables, from the Latin incunabulum (“cradle”) are books that were printed in Europe before 1501, in the infancy of the art of printing with movable type, which was introduced by Johannes Gutenberg in ca. 1450. These books from the cradle of printing can give us a glimpse into the early stages of one of the most significant human inventions.

Often a hybrid between manuscript and print, with hand-painted initials and decorations sitting alongside the black ink of the printed text, incunables embody the gradual transition from a world where the manuscript was the prime medium for the transmission of knowledge to one where the printed word took on this crucial role.

Hand-painted initial (Alighieri, Dante. La Commedia. Venice: Wendelin of Speier, 1477)

Hand-painted initial (Alighieri, Dante. La Commedia. Venice: Wendelin of Speier, 1477)

Hand-painted initial and decoration (Beauvais, Vincent of. Speculum historiale .  Strassburg: Johann Mentelin, 1473)

Hand-painted initial and decoration (Beauvais, Vincent of. Speculum historiale. Strassburg: Johann Mentelin, 1473)

Some of these craftsmen reach an astonishing degree of esthetical perfection in those early stages. Consider, for example, the woodcut from a leaf from the famous Nuremberg Chronicle (1493) below, or the leaf from Plutarch’s Vitae illustrium virorum, printed by the Venetian printer Nicolas Jenson in 1478. The typeface that Jenson designed for his printing business would later be praised by William Morris for its elegance and beauty, and it continues to influence type design to this day.

Detail from a leaf from the Nuremberg Chronicle (Schedel, Hartmann. Liber chronicarum. Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, 1493)

Detail from a leaf from the Nuremberg Chronicle (Schedel, Hartmann. Liber chronicarum. Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, 1493)

Jenson's celebrated roman type (Plutarch. Vitae illustrium virorum. Venice: Nicolaus Jenson, 1478)

Jenson’s celebrated roman type (Plutarch. Vitae illustrium virorum. Venice: Nicolaus Jenson, 1478)

We owe the survival of these leaves to the thriftiness of early modern craftsmen. Rather than wasting new paper, which was a relatively expensive commodity, bookbinders recycled leaves from earlier documents to reinforce the spine and covers of a book. Some of the leaves in our collection provide clues as to why they ended up in the bookbinder’s stack of wastepaper: the pages of this double leaf from Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, a romance that was printed by Aldus Manutius in 1499, are in the wrong order.

Pages printed in the wrong order (Colonna, Francesco. Poliphili Hypnerotomachia. Venice: Aldus Manutius, 1499)

Pages printed in the wrong order (Colonna, Francesco. Poliphili Hypnerotomachia. Venice: Aldus Manutius, 1499)

Incunable leaves in the John Lewis Collection

Although it is uncertain how these leaves ended up in the collection of John Lewis (1912-1996), a typographer and graphic designer whose collection of ephemera we purchased in 1997, the foreword in his book Printed ephemera provides a clue:

A dozen years or so ago, I bought from a bookseller in Ipswich, Suffolk, an album compiled about the year 1820 by a Dr Lodge, sometime librarian to the University Library at Cambridge. Dr Lodge’s album contained a wide variety of printed matter including […] an Indulgence printed by Thierry Martens.
As librarian to a great library, Dr Lodge’s opportunities for collecting pages from damaged books and packings from broken bindings were extensive. It would seem that this particular Indulgence may well have lurked for three hundred years or more inside some vellum or calf-bound volume, doing duty for the paste-boards which in those days did not exist.

Thus, it is possible that these leaves spent centuries sitting undisturbed in the bindings of their younger relatives on the shelves of Cambridge University Library, before ending up here at the University of Reading through the rather dubious collecting efforts of this Dr Lodge…

On the trail of early printers

Identifying what work these leaves are part of often requires quite a bit of detective work, as the features by which an early printed book would normally be identified, such as the title page, the incipit or the colophon, are lacking.

The first step is the identification of the text. Search engines like Google are immensely useful for this purpose in many cases, but for more obscure texts skim-reading the pages or translating a part to form an idea of the content is more fruitful. This can be particularly challenging when dealing with a text in heavily abbreviated Latin, which many of these leaves contain! Then, a search on incunabula catalogues, such as the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue and the Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke, will reveal which editions of this text were printed in the fifteenth century. Finally, a comparison with digitised copies, if available, will let you determine what edition the leaf was once part of.

Fifteen leaves have been identified in this way. They are currently being catalogued onto Enterprise, our library catalogue, and our holdings on the ISTC have been updated. However, four leaves remain unidentified. If this blog post has inspired you to try your hand at researching an incunable leaf, have a look at the photographs of the leaves below. Let us know in the comments section if you discover anything about them!

References

Lewis, J (1976) Collecting Printed Ephemera. London: Cassell and Collier Macmillan.

Nancy Astor: Reading and Parliamentary Archives collaborate on exciting new project

Special Collections are delighted to have been supporting this collaborative project, which celebrates the parliamentary career of Nancy Astor. We have been working closely with Dr Jacqui Turner in the History Department and with the Parliamentary Archives.

Viscountess_Astor (1)

Nancy Astor, sketch by John Singer Sargent, 1923. From: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Viscountess_Astor.jpg

A new leaflet has been produced to accompany the project.

Look out for more Astor news in 2016 as we continue to explore the archives of this amazing political family.

Celebrating 100 years of Ladybird

Shopping with Mother (used with the kind permission of Ladybird)

Shopping with Mother (used with the kind permission of Ladybird)

In 1915, jobbing printer Wills & Hepworth published the very first Ladybird book in Loughborough. They soon registered an official logo and devoted themselves creating ‘pure and healthy’ literature for children. After the WWII, the publisher expanded its remit to include educational nonfiction, and Ladybird books have been a beloved part of many childhoods ever since. As a publisher, it’s range has changed to suit the needs of today. Alongside its famous classics, the current portfolio includes Peppa Pig, Hello Kitty and Lego, as well as digital publishing ventures.

Ladybird, now part of Penguin Books, celebrates its centenary this year. Here at Special Collections, we’ll be celebrating too, as we hold the records of Ladybird Books. The collection comprises 700 boxes of original artwork, proofs and some documentation from the 1940s to the 1990s, including examples of the work of notable artists such as C.F. Tunnicliffe, Rowland Hilder and Allen Seaby. The collection also covers the wide range of subjects Ladybird published, ranging from What to Look for in Spring to Transformers: Laserbeak’s Fury.

Most recently, we welcomed the BBC Breakfast team into our archives to discuss Ladybird with leading design illustrator Lawrence Zeegen, author of the upcoming book Ladybird by Design. The programme aired this morning and is available on the BBC website.

We’ll be contributing to and taking part in further events throughout the spring. If you’re interested in illustration, you can view quite a few of our Allen Seaby pieces at Reading Museum’s current exhibition, Allen Seaby: Art and Nature (through 22 March). On Tuesday 10 March, we’ll be hosting a lecture by Lawrence Zeegen, who will discuss Ladybird by Design, which investigates the design history and cultural impact of these ‘well-considered, well-written and well-designed, affordable little books’. Guests will have a chance to view a special pop-up exhibition of items from the Ladybird Archive before the lecture (for more info, please see our What’s On. To book, email merl@reading.ac.uk).

 

A strange sad week in the Beckett archive

 

Beckett library at University of Reading Special Collections Service

Beckett library at University of Reading Special Collections Service

It has been a very sad week for all of us involved with the Beckett Collection, as it marked the passing of two people associated with him, as well as the 25th anniversary of his death. Billie Whitelaw is widely recognised as having been Beckett’s favourite actress and the foremost interpreter of his work. Our colleague Professor Anna McMullan paid a fulsome tribute to Billie and noted her long association with the University of Reading.

The news of Billie’s death came on Sunday. On Friday we had announced that the University of Reading and the Beckett International Foundation had purchased the archive of Billie’s work with Beckett, and we were (and remain) full of excitement about that. The purchase has been the result of Special Collections staff working closely with academic colleagues to raise the necessary funding. It is this type of collaboration that created the Beckett Collection here at Reading and that helps to sustain and enhance it.

On Sunday we also learned of the death of veteran photographer Jane Bown. Her encounter with Beckett was less collaborative than those of Billie Whitelaw: Bown surprised him in an alley outside the Royal Court Theatre after he had spent the day avoiding her lens. The result was a portrait that has become one of the most iconic images of the author.

The co-incidence of these two extraordinary women dying on the same day  perhaps enables a moment to reflect on the strange and different ways in which works of art comes to be “born”. Billie Whitelaw’s brilliant interpretations of Beckett’s work were the result of long rehearsal periods and many hours of discussion, and of a close, friendly association – Dr Mark Nixon has called it a “crucial working relationship”, and the archive will throw more light on exactly how they worked. Jane Bown’s incredible image was certainly not the result of a collaborative venture – it was spontaneous to a large extent. In some ways it is a reminder of the fable about Picasso charging an exorbitant sum for a quick sketch (“It took me my whole life”).

While mourning their passing, we celebrate the extraordinary lives of these three people and the incredible art that their encounters – both long and short – generated.

New acquisition: Actress Billie Whitelaw’s Beckett archive

BillieWhitelawdress_2web617394_37793The University of Reading and the Beckett International Foundation are delighted to announce the purchase of a unique archive of actress Billie Whitelaw’s work with playwright Samuel Beckett.

The £35,000 acquisition, funded by generous contributions from the Beckett International Foundation, the Arts Council England/Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund and the Friends of the National Libraries, was made at an auction at Sotheby’s, London, last week.

Billie Whitelaw was Irish writer and Nobel Prize winner Samuel Beckett’s favourite actress. He directed her in several theatrical productions and revivals of his plays. The collection includes correspondence, annotated playscripts, rehearsal notes for some of Beckett’s most famous works, including Play, Not I, Happy Days, Rockaby, Eh Joe, Embers and Footfalls, as well costumes worn by Billie during those performances.

The items will join the rest of our Beckett Collection, which is the world’s largest collection of manuscript materials relating to Beckett. This will offer anyone with an interest in Beckett’s plays or the theatre a unique insight into how one of the world’s greatest writers worked with his actors.

Billie Whitelaw has had close links with the University of Reading since 1992 when she became the first Annenberg Fellow. During her week-long residency, she gave a series of workshops and performances for staff, students and members of the public. Over the years she has been an important supporter of the Beckett Collection and is still a Patron of the Beckett International Foundation. In 2001 she received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of Reading.

Billie famously performed ‘Not I’ in 14 minutes at the Royal Court in 1973. The University hosted two rare performances of this iconic Samuel Beckett work which were performed by Lisa Dwan in 2013.

The Billie Whitelaw archive will feature in public events (such as exhibitions) and in undergraduate and postgraduate teaching programmes.