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.

 

The Future of Literary Archives: New Publication Announced

Book cover of Future of Literary Archives.

The long-awaited collection of essays reflecting the work of the Diasporic Literary Archives Network has now been published. Entitled The Future of Literary Archives(edited by David C. Sutton and Ann Livingstone), the book is published jointly by ARC Humanities Press and Amsterdam University Press.

The contents reflect many of the themes and challenges which were pursued and developed by the Diasporic Literary Archives Network, and it is indicative that the book’s Index, in addition to referencing the many literary authors cited, has multiple entries for concepts such as “the politics of location”, “archival ethics”, “archival return” and “appropriateness of location”. Other major themes of the book include the market in literary archives, archives at risk, publishers’ archives, the particular case of Caribbean archives, digitisation and digital archives, the collecting of emails, translators’ papers, appraisal and selection, and cataloguing challenges.

The full list of contents is as follows:
* David C. Sutton: ‘Introduction: Literary Papers as the Most “Diasporic” of All Archives’
* Alison Donnell: ‘Caribbean Literary Archives and the Politics of Location: Challenging the Norms of Belonging’
* Maureen Roberts: ‘The Huntley Archives at London Metropolitan Archives’
* André Derval: ‘Conserving Private Literary and Editorial Archives: the Story of the IMEC’
* Jennifer Toews: ‘Migration, Freedom of Expression, and the Importance of Diasporic Literary Archives’
* Jens Boel: ‘The Universal Dimension of Diasporic Literary Archives’
* Veno V. Kauaria and David C. Sutton: ‘Namibian Literary Archives: New Beginnings and a Possible African Model’
* Sophie Heywood: ‘Francophone Archives at Risk’
* Daniela La Penna: ‘Italian Literary Archives: Legacies and Challenges’
* Trudy Huskamp Peterson: ‘Unknown/Unknowns and Known/Unknowns’
* Andrew Nash: ‘Publishers’ Archives, Authors’ Papers, and Literary Scholarship’
* Serenella Zanotti: ‘Diasporic Archives in Translation Research: A Case Study of Anthony Burgess’s Archives’
* David C. Sutton: ‘Conclusion: The Future of Literary Manuscripts – An International Perspective’

For more information about this title, and how to purchase it, click here.

 

 

 

New Exhibition: The John and Griselda Lewis Printing Collection

The John and Griselda Lewis Printing Collection consists of over 20,000 examples of printed documents covering several centuries and a wide variety of research subjects –from Fifteenth Century religious texts, Nineteenth Century love tokens to Twentieth Century book design. It complements other important printing and publishing collections held at the University’s Special Collections Service and the Department of Typography and Graphic Communication. A selection of favourite items from the collection is currently on display here at the Museum of English Rural Life.

A page from a journal article, decorated with red flowers.

An Illustration from Le Journal de la Decoration c.1906 (JGL 23 23)

John Lewis and His Chance Find

John Lewis spent many years as a lecturer in graphic design at the Royal College of Art, and wrote several publications on printing and book design. His 1962 publication Printed Ephemera: The Changing Uses of Type and Letterforms in English and American Printing is considered pivotal in giving credence to the notion of paper ephemera as a subject for academic study.

His interest in ephemera began as a young man. Lewis started his career as a printer for the firm of Cowells in Ipswich. While working here in the mid-1950s Lewis found a large scrapbook in a secondhand bookshop. The book contained an assortment of printed matter including printer’s marks, specimens of typefaces, tradesman’s bills and public notices. The scrapbook had been compiled in the 1820s by a Dr Lodge, at one time the librarian of the University of Cambridge. The exact purpose of the scrapbook remains a mystery, but John Lewis was compelled to purchase the book and study its contents. This original volume, which he later dissembled, formed the starting point of Lewis’s fascination with paper ephemera. In his collecting he was joined by his wife, the noted ceramicist Griselda Lewis. They believed that such temporary documents contain a wealth of evidence of everyday life in the past, as well as charting the development of printing techniques in the UK.

Wolpe and Weinreb

In addition to John and Griselda’s original collection, a proportion of the archive was originally collected by the typographer and illustrator Berthold Wolpe, a fellow lecturer at the Royal College of Art. The collection was further added to by Ben Weinreb, a London-based dealer in rare books who purchased the collection sometime around 1990. What survives today is an amalgamation of the collecting interests of these various parties. The result is a rare and diverse collection of printed ephemera incorporating early printing specimens, newspaper advertisements, street literature, book covers and trade cards, plus specimens of calligraphy, lithography and fine art printing. As such, material in this collection can support the research of many aspects of social history, as well as students of graphic design and the visual arts.

A black and white magazine cover of a woman, with the words Wendingen on the cover.

Cover from a 1924 edition of Wendingen magazine of art and architecture (JGL 29-4 -15)

During his ownership of the collection, Weinreb arranged the documents into various categories. Roughly the first half of the collection is organised by document type. These include Early Manuscripts and Printed Books, Prospectuses, and Trade Cards, Letterheads and Catalogues. Much of the latter half is arranged by themes, such as Religion, Maritime, Agriculture, and so on, each of which contain a broad mixture of documents. The majority of documents were glued and mounted onto around 1,900 light cardboard sheets, presumably as an aid to displaying and discussing the collection.

 

 Our Project

The collection is now fully catalogued, and is to be made available via our online catalogue. Each cardboard sheet has been digitally photographed. In addition, we are mid-way through a programme of conservation, as the glues used to mount the documents are harmful to their long term preservation. Documents are being carefully removed from their mounts and placed in archive-quality folders. This not only creates a better preservation environment, but also makes them easier for visitors to access in our reading room. In the short term parts of the collection are unavailable to researchers, but archive staff can advise enquirers as to specifics of availability.

The John and Griselda Lewis Printing Collection is being celebrated with an exhibition here at our Special Collections Service, housed at the Museum of English Rural Life. This exhibition showcases a range of attractive and unusual documents from the collection, and runs until Sunday 11th February.

Image of the Exhibition space.

A snapshot of our John and Griselda Lewis Exhibition.

New exhibition: From Italy to Britain: Winckelmann and the spread of neoclassical taste

Illustration of a Herculanean dancer. From: Ottavio Baiardi. The antiquities of Herculaneum. London: S. Leacroft, 1773.

Although Johann Joachim Winckelmann may not be a household name today, his influence on British art, design, and architecture was profound. Our new exhibition, ‘From Italy to Britain: Winckelmann and the spread of neoclassical taste’, tells the story of his contribution to the revival of classical arts and culture in Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries. In this post, Professor Amy Smith, one of the exhibition curators, explains how Winckelmann’s discoveries in Italy influenced and inspired generations of British artists, craftsmen and architects.

Like many antiquarians of his day, Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717–1768) first learned about the Classics through immersion in literature. As a teacher then librarian in his native Germany, Winckelmann encountered the ancient world primarily through literary texts, as well as the souvenirs—coins, gems and figurines—Grand Tourists and other travellers had brought north from their visits to Italy. Once he arrived in Rome, where he rose to prominence at Prefect of Antiquities in the Vatican, Winckelmann studied the remains of Greek, Graeco-Roman and Roman art on a larger scale. Through personal contacts, letters and other writings, Winckelmann influenced his and subsequent generations of scholars, aesthetes, collectors, craftsmen and artists both within and beyond Italy.

The judgment of Paris. From: John Flaxman. The Iliad of Homer. London: Longman, 1805.

Winckelmann’s influence came to Britain through decorative designs in country houses that copied the style of wall paintings found in the excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum, on which he had reported. His influence is also visible in John Flaxman’s adaptations of classical and neoclassical images in drawings that illustrated the works of Homer and reliefs that decorate Josiah Wedgwood’s jasperware.

Winckelmann’s writings also encouraged an interest in Greek architecture and architectural sculpture, which was copied and adapted, for example, in Oxford’s Radcliffe Observatory. The upper story of this remarkable building, designed by Henry Keene in 1772 and completed by James Wyatt in 1794, copies Athens’ octagonal Tower of the Winds, with reliefs that emulate Wedgwood’s jasperware friezes.

The Tower of the Winds. From: James Stuart and Nicholas Revett. The antiquities of Athens. London: Haberkorn, 1762-94.

In the next generation architects continued to incorporate Hellenising elements into monuments such as Reading’s Simeon Monument (designed by Sir John Soane in 1804) and Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum (designed by Charles Robert Cockerell in 1845). The latter incorporates casts of the original friezes for the Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassae, the originals of which were found by Cockerell and acquired by the British Museum. Knowledge of Greek architectural reliefs in the British Museum was disseminated on a smaller scale through engravings and miniature casts designed, manufactured and sold by John Henning (1771–1851).

The exhibition at Special Collections, From Italy to Britain: Winckelmann and the spread of neoclassical taste, displays some of Winckelmann’s letters, 18th–19th century printed volumes and drawings and relevant artefacts, ancient and modern, that illustrate Winckelmann’s broad influence. The exhibition, a collaboration of University of Reading’s Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology (www.reading.ac.uk/ure) with Special Collections, runs from 15 September through 15 December 2017.

For information on opening hours and how to find us, please see our website.

All images © University of Reading Special Collections

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.

Brian Aldiss (1925-2017)

Brian Aldiss Collection in the Special Collections store

We were sad to hear that Brian Aldiss (born 1925), one of Britain’s most notable writers of science fiction, passed away earlier this week.  Author of the Helliconia trilogy, one of Aldiss’ short stories inspired the 2001 film AI: Artificial Intelligence.  

Frankenstein unbound by Brian W. Aldiss [RESERVE–823.914-ALD]

Bury my heart at W.H. Smith’s: a writing life by Brian Aldiss. [ W.H. SMITH COLLECTION–010]

 

In 2000 Aldiss received an honorary degree from the University of Reading.  We hold a selection of his papers including notebooks for works such as Helliconia, typescripts of Aldiss’ autobiography Bury my heart at WH Smith’s and other works, articles and books by and about Aldiss, interviews and other papers.

You can read a full obituary on the Guardian website or find out more about our Brian Aldiss Collection.

 

 

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.