Important new acquisition: the European Manuscripts Collection

Written by Fiona Melhuish (UMASCS Librarian)

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

From Artistotle to Anatomy and the tongue of a woodpecker… Digitising the Cole photographic records

Diagram of a Woodpecker Tongue

A lantern slide of a scientific diagram of the tongue of a woodpecker, taken from the works of Giovanni Alfonso Borelli. (MS 5315/2/30). You can also see the string (left of the illustration) used by Cole.

 

 

In today’s blog post, Tim and Ceri discuss their progress in digitising the glass lantern negatives created by Professor F J Cole (1872-1959), F.R.S., Professor of Zoology in the University of Reading from 1907 to 1939.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tim Jerrome – Graduate Trainee Archive Assistant

Though I am admittedly fairly new to work in archives, I already have the belief that accessibility to collections is the most important part of an archivist’s job. As such, when given the chance to participate in the Cole project – cataloguing and digitising the lantern slides of Professor Cole – I was eager to get started!

Illustration of a Rhinoceros

A lantern slide of a Rhinoceros by Albrecht (Albert) Dürer, taken from one of his works. (MS 5315/4/2/76/5

The cataloguing part of the project has been a learning experience in more ways than one. Not only have I become involved with the nuances of cataloguing hierarchy, as well as using the cataloguing software, Adlib, I have also learnt a great deal about Professor Cole’s collection simply by observing the slides as I catalogue them. For example, I came across an image of Dürer’s Rhinoceros at one point, which encouraged me to research the fascinating story behind it.

 

Once I had catalogued my first set of slides, I moved on to digitisation; essentially, taking high-quality photographs of the lantern slides, editing the images, and adding them to our database of digital assets. I was a little sceptical when I first heard the camera described as a ‘praying mantis’ but it really does fit that description, and it is also enormous! The quality of images it produces is worth it, however, and I’ve relished the chance to get to grips with such high-end hardware.

I’m hoping that my contribution to the project will make the Cole collection more accessible to researchers, and I’m looking forward to continuing.

 

 

Ceri Lumley – Archive Assistant

Purple gloves handling box of glass negatives

Careful handling of the Cole glass plate negatives.

For someone who has an interest in the history of science the opportunity to work on the Cole digitisation of glass plate negatives was a welcome one. However, it was not without its technical trickiness.

Cole photographed images from many core medical and natural philosophy texts, from Aristotle to Leeuwenhoek and beyond. He used these images in his lectures and teaching at the University of Reading but also in his published works, something which is evidenced elsewhere in his papers. From these glass plates we can see his process and the painstaking effort he went to reproduce these images, sometimes taking multiple copies of the same image until he was happy with the result. The photographing set up he had devised can be seen in the images with string and pins delicately holding pages in place to enable him to get the best picture possible.

When digitising glass plate negatives there is often a choice to be made between digitising the object as an object and capturing the image on the glass. This is particularly true of Cole’s process as he often used tape or paint to conceal or highlight parts of the images he was photographing; a kind of early Photoshop. The materiality of the negatives is fascinating in itself and I hope the efforts to digitise them captures a bit of both the image itself and the condition of the negative as a ‘thing’.

It has been quite a task to digitise the photographic records within the Cole collection held at Special Collections. There are almost 1500 glass negatives alone!

Stay tuned for further updates regarding the slides as this work continues. The images of the glass plate negatives from the digitisation project for each individual author will soon be available to view on our Enterprise catalogue and through our online database.

To learn more about the papers of F J Cole see our previous blog post by Cataloguing Archivist Sharon Maxwell here. For the Cole Museum email colemuseum@reading.ac.uk. You can also follow the Cole on Twitter @ColeZoology

 

Michael Mitchell (1939–2017)

The printer’s mark for Libanus Press, taken from an exemplar (Printer’s Collection Folio 094 LIB)

 

We were sad to hear that Michael Mitchell, one of England’s most noted fine typographers, passed away last week. Founder of the Libanus Press, Mitchell quickly became a leading typographer, most known for clear, yet aesthetically pleasing publications.

Libanus Press originally began as a letterpress, and it was his skills in typography that Mitchell was most known. After Libanus Press closed their letterpress in 2006, they moved into digital production, specialising in catalogues and informative guides for museums and cultural institutions. This included helping to design the catalogue for the Finzi Book Room at the University of Reading, held by Special Collections.

Mitchell also co-authored two works with Susan Wrightman, Book typography : a designer’s manual (2005) and Typographic style handbook (2017), both works regularly consulted by the University of Reading Typography students.

The battle of the Frogs and Mice, illustrated by Fiona Macvicar ; translated by T. Parnell. (Libanus Press, 1988) Printing Collection Folio 883.1.

The frontispiece of The Symposium of Plato, translated by Tom Griffith; engraved by Peter Forster (Libanus Press: 1986) Printing Collection Folio 888.4

Special Collections also holds copies of Libanus Press’ most noted publications. The Battle of frogs and mice, an ancient Greek parody of The Illiad, is beautifully illustrated by Fiona MacVicar, and allows the reader to spread the pages out.

Another publication, Symposium of Plato = Platōnos Symposion, beautifully presents the Greek and English text, allowing for a clear and concise translation.

 

 

 

 

We hold a collection of papers related to the Libanus Press as part of our Rowley Atterbury and Westerham Press Papers (MS 5347 C/1/122). This includes various ephemeral items, such as Open Day invitations and prospectuses, specimens, lists, forms, notices, keepsakes, bookplates, including notes written by Mitchell. All of these documents offer valuable insight into publication, and the study of private presses and typography.

An examplar of For Those in Peril, poems by Martin Trowell (1976), with added notes by Michael Mitchell.

An invitation to a Libanus Press Open Day for the 29th of April 1989, showing the everyday workings of the Press.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can find out more about Mitchell in his obituary in the Guardian or through our information on the Rowley Atterbury Collection.

 

 

Ladybird: Art from the Auction House

Clare Plascow (Collections Officer) describes her exciting auction experience, a rare opportunity to see examples of John Berry’s work for Ladybird during MERL’s extended hours tonight… and her love for kippers… 

I like the word kippers. This might seem like a little bit of odd revelation to have come to on a relatively warm day in August, but I think it’s justified having looked through the latest arrival of artwork.

All laid out ready to be checked over

To explain this rather unusual statement, I’ll have to take you back a few months to April. Walking past a colleague’s office, I was hailed with query:

Did you want to go to an auction?

It rapidly transpired that this auction was the next day in Yorkshire, but I was intrigued as it would be the first of two which would include artwork by Ladybird artist John Berry.

Ladybird books with illustrations by John Berry

The University of Reading’s Special Collection Services holds the Ladybird Archive on behalf of publisher Penguin Random House. Containing approximately 20,000 illustrations in 740 boxes and with the first permanent gallery dedicated to the subject, you’d be mistaken for thinking the University has every illustration by Ladybird within its stores. The truth is there are a few gaps in the collection with some artists retaining the majority, if not all of their work. John Berry was one of them.

Some of the artwork which was already at the University

Berry was employed by Ladybird Books Ltd from 1961 to 1978. Previously a war artist, his first illustrations with Ladybird made their way into The Ladybird Book of London. There a sense of his whimsical humour can be found with the addition of his own Ford estate car directly in front of the Bank of England.

The Bank of England and Berry’s car

Bigger projects soon beckoned with Berry made responsible for creating artworks for the entire People at Work series. Made up of twenty titles, this series generated a glimpse into the pre-digital age employment of the 1960s and early 1970s. Drawing from a combination of photographic reference material and real life, Berry was able to capture day-to-day working life across a broad range of occupations.

It is in this popular series that the aforementioned kippers make their appearance. Written by husband and wife team, Ina and John Havenhand in 1963, The Fisherman was the fourth book in the People at Work series. Designed “to give interesting and accurate information about the Fishing Industry” the hardback volume included the differences between various boats and nets, along with a mention of the variety of ways herrings can be eaten; whether fresh, canned, or smoked.

A clarification: kippers are basically smoked herrings.

Precariously balanced using the edges of the kiln, the man in this illustration is adding herrings to the lines hung across his smoking oven. Depicted in various shades of pink and brown the image could be seen as monotonous, however it’s a testament to Berry’s artistic skill that a sense of intrigue and drama can be found. Looking from below it’s impossible for the viewer to tell how many kippers are being smoked or just how high he has climbed…

For a closer look at these new artworks come along to the extended opening hours of Museum of English Rural Life, this evening from 5pm – 9pm.

Recently Acquired Ladybird Artwork- Extended Hours Exhibition

Don’t miss this special opportunity to view our recently acquired additions to our Ladybird Archive!

Thanks to our partnership with Ladybird Books Ltd, Special Collections will be displaying a total of 59 original illustrations by

Ladybird exhibit

A view of the Exhibition within the MERL (photo courtesy of A. Koszary).

the artist John Berry. The artwork will be displayed within the University’s Museum of English Rural Life (The MERL), during extended opening hours on the 31st of August 2017.

Artist John Berry (1920-2009), provided illustrations for 35 books for Ladybird during the 1960s and 70s. Notably, the acquisitions include examples from the “People at Work” series, showing illustrations of the miner, the soldier, the sailor, the airman, the fisherman, the shipbuilders, and the life-boat men. Examples from Learning to Ride, the Public Services series (water, gas, electricity) and Come to Holland were also purchased.

For millions of children, Berry’s illustrations would have served as an early introduction to the world of work; today they provide a glimpse into how roles and careers were viewed at the time. A talented realist painter, Berry served as a war artist before becoming a high-profile portrait painter, as well as undertaking work for advertisers, such as the famous Esso tiger.

Guy Baxter, Head of Archive Services at the University of Reading, said: “We are tremendously proud to have been the home of the Ladybird Archive for over 15 years. Thanks to generous funding and support from Ladybird Books Ltd, we have been able to ensure that a very strong representative sample of John Berry’s work for Ladybird has been secured. This will greatly enhance our ever-changing displays in the Ladybird Gallery, and bring enjoyment to many future generations.”

Our exciting new exhibitions will be on display from 5-9pm tomorrow evening, as part of our monthly extended opening hours. Entry into the MERL, and the Ladybird Gallery, is free.

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).