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.

 

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.