Provenance, suffrage and female historians: The sixteen books of C.E. Hodge

Beware! A warning – to Suffragists (1908?) by Cicely Hamilton. Stenton Collection.

Bethan Davies is our outgoing Academic Liaison Support Librarian. In this blog, she speaks about sixteen books within the Stenton Collection, and identifying their former owner, C.E. Hodge.

The beginnings of this story start with the various celebrations to mark #Vote100, the centenary of the Representation of the People Act which allowed (some) women the right to vote. My role based in Special Collections includes managing our social media and blog content, and at the time, I was looking through our collections to find items related to women’s suffrage.

In this situation, I was quite spoilt for choice. A key collection within our archives are the Nancy Astor papers, which have been the focal point in Dr. Jacqui Turner’s research, and further explored in this year’s #Astor100 campaign. We hold the archives and collections of several female authors and artists, including the first female professor in Britain and suffragette Edith Morley. On the other side of the debate, we have Pearl Craige, who was a member of the Anti-Suffragette League. Three of the covers from our Spellman Collection of Victorian Music Hall Covers clearly depict the growing anxiety of the feminist movement. But our story is focused not on the archives, or music hall covers, but on the shelves of the Stenton Library.

The Stenton Library is the combined academic collections of Sir Frank and Lady Doris Parsons Stenton. Sir Frank was a Professor of Modern History and former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading. His wife, Doris Parsons Stenton also worked at the University as a Reader and then Lecturer in History. Both Frank and Doris were medievalists and the Library reflects this interest. (We also hold their personal Papers and the Stenton Coin Collection which goes all the way back to King Offa of Mercia.)

However, the Library also reflects the Stenton’s broader interests, including women’s history. One of Doris’ works was The English Woman in History (1957), and several of these titles are included in Elizabeth James’ Checklist of Doris Stenton’s books (1988). There are entire shelves dedicated to feminism, women in the workplace, and prominent authors such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Hannah More, and Elizabeth Fry. There are also several titles related to suffrage movement, such as this wonderful illustrated pamphlet satirising anti-suffragette propaganda, written by Cicely Hamilton.

It was whilst looking through these titles that I noticed something. About four books I had looked at were focused on key figures, or the overall history of the fight for women’s right to vote (autobiographies or biographies of Annie Kenney, Millicent Garrett Fawcett, Cicely Hamilton and Ray Strachey’s History of the Women’s Movement). All had the name “C.E. Hodge” in the front.

The study of provenance (the origin or early history of a book), is a key aspect of the study of the history of the book, particularly in connection to ownership, marginalia, and how early readers interacted with their books. Special Collections librarians will often try to include any marks of ownership in books in catalogue records, such as bookplates, binding detail or autographs. This can sometimes lead to moments of great excitement – such as when I held a book which had previously been owned by Mary Shelley , or my colleague who recently found a book presented to the University of Reading Library by Thomas Hardy. In this case, however, C.E. Hodge did not ring any bells with me. I put it down to being an interesting quirk and moved on.

A few months later, I was looking up some more works this time related to women’s medical history. Again this is a topic we hold a variety of items on, especially within the Cole Collection. Margaret Sanger’s autobiography came up, also in the Stenton Collection. Our online catalogue mentioned an “Autograph inscription : C. E. Hodge”.  Indeed, it is only because one of my former colleagues had taken notice and catalogued this information, that I was able to take my research any further. Intrigued, I clicked on the author heading for “C.E. Hodge” within our online Catalogue. The catalogue showed that 16 titles, all within the Stenton Collection, all related to women’s history, suffrage or anti-suffrage movements, and women in the workplace, all formerly owned by C.E. Hodge. Only one, Annie Besant’s autobiography, includes the date 9.9.36 next to Hodge’s name (full list of titles below).

This immediately set me off to do further research. Google and Wikipedia, however, let me down. No name sprang up for “C.E. Hodge” except for several businesses and some family history pages. A search “C.E. Hodge AND Medieval” came up with several Google Book references for a PhD thesis from the University of Manchester on ‘The Abbey of St Albans under John of Whethamstede’ by C.E. Hodge, but nothing further. No other variance of search terms seemed to provide any further clues.

Who was C.E. Hodge? Was he/she involved in the suffrage movement in some way? Did they know the Stentons? And how were their books now in our Stenton Collection?

 

 

A few months passed. Christmas came and went.

I had asked a few questions about C.E. Hodge to my colleagues within Special Collections, which had not revealed a huge amount. The Stenton Papers make no reference to anyone by the name of Hodge. The accession papers, which document how the collection came to Special Collections, made no reference to the provenance of any of the titles, beyond their donation by Lady Doris, and discussions regarding furniture. Later additions had been added to the collection by librarian Hazel Mews, but none of the sixteen books were among these items. Elizabeth James’ Checklist only showed that the books were considered part of Doris Stenton’s Library. I even delved into the Card Catalogue, which, apart from making me feel very old-school and fancy, didn’t give me any further clues.

I did not think I would get any further with this search, and as I was going to be starting a new job soon, my chances of doing any further searches were dwindling. I therefore decided to take a different tack.

I decided to try the Library Hub Discover (formerly COPAC) in order to see if there were any more works with the autograph inscription C.E. Hodge. The Library Hub searches across the library catalogues of hundreds of the major UK and Irish libraries, including academic, research and specialist libraries. I wanted to do this in case other collections had Hodge’s work, and whether they had any further information upon who Hodge was. The search came up with the sixteen titles from our collection only. Taking it one step further, I then clicked on the author heading C.E. Hodge, to bring up any further works associated with the name.

This time the search returned the 16 original books, the Manchester PHD thesis, and three new titles. A journal called Women Speaking, an article on the Women’s International Quarterly and a book titled A woman-orientated woman /. All three were under the name C. Esther Hodge.

Esther Hodge (1908-1994) was a history graduate from the University of Manchester, and secondary school teacher. She became editor for Women Speaking, worked for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and chaired the Open Door International for the Economic Emancipation of the Woman Worker. Her autobiography “A woman-orientated woman” documented her experiences as a lesbian, and is often quoted or referred to in works on lesbian history. Her papers are held at LSE and Bristol.

I have contacted both archive collections, and LSE kindly sent me back an image of Hodge’s signature. At first glance, it’s obvious that the signature is hers – especially in relation to the small d. It would make sense for someone with Hodge’s interests to own, or have read the sixteen titles on women’s work and women’s history. The autobiography of Margaret Haig Thomas, 2nd Viscountess Rhondda, is particuarly interesting as she was the founder of the Six Point Group, which Hodge would later work with.  I’ve not been able to visit either collection yet, but I am hoping to do so in the future.

There are still, however, some unanswered questions. How did the books end up with the Stentons? Hodge spent a year in Australia, which might be why she wanted to sell some of her titles – and it is intriguing that the titles are all from the 1890-1930 period and focused on similar topics. The medieval history background seems the most obvious link – could Hodge have known either of the Stentons? Doris Stenton seems the obvious choice, but we cannot rule out that her connection was with Frank instead. Or was it just a fluke that the Stenton’s happened to purchase Hodge’s titles together?

Some of these questions may never be answered. Some may come to light in future discoveries. What I think is key here is that this discovery could not have happened without the dedicated cataloguing by our librarians, the work of JISC and the archival collections of LSE and Bristol. I hope my small find helps and inspires those interested in these topics to look further into the Stentons’ connection to Esther Hodge, or to consider further the role of ownership. The titles that we hold in libraries are not only special because of their authors, but how they inspired and influenced the readers who interacted with them. The study of provenance is not only important within the history of the book, but in the studies of historiography and the discussion of ideas. I have been very lucky to work with the Special Collections, and even now, the collections still surprise me with the wonderful treasures they hold.

If you have any further information on Esther Hodge, or would like to view these items, contact us at specialcollections@reading.ac.uk.  

Full list of the titles owned by Esther Hodge within the Stenton Collection (also available to view in our Library catalogue)

Women and politics (1931) by the Duchess of Atholl. STENTON LIBRARY–BD/04

Annie Besant: an autobiography (1893) STENTON LIBRARY–BB/05

Our mothers : a cavalcade in pictures, quotation and description of late Victorian women, 1870-1900 (1932) edited by Alan Bott ; text by Irene Clephane. STENTON LIBRARY–BB/09

Life errant (1935) by Cicely Hamilton STENTON LIBRARY–BB/24

Memories of a militant (1924) by Annie Kenney. STENTON LIBRARY–BB/11

Margaret Ethel MacDonald (1912) by J. Ramsay MacDonald. STENTON LIBRARY–BB/03

This was my world (1933) by Viscountess Rhondda. STENTON LIBRARY–BB/15

Margaret McMillan: prophet and pioneer (1932)  by Albert Mansbridge. STENTON LIBRARY–BD/03

Women as army surgeons : being the history of the Women’s Hospital Corps in Paris, Wimereux and Endell Street, September 1914 – October 1919 (1920) by Flora Murray. STENTON LIBRARY–BB/10

My fight for birth control (1932) by Margaret Sanger. STENTON LIBRARY–BC/04

Nine women, drawn from the epoch of the French revolution (1932) by Halina Sokolnikova (Serebriakova) ; translated by H. C. Stevens ; with an introduction by Mrs. Sidney Webb. STENTON LIBRARY–BB/04

Unfinished adventure : selected reminiscences from an Englishwoman’s life (1933) by Evelyn Sharp. STENTON LIBRARY–BC/05

Hertha Ayrton, 1854-1923 : a memoir (1926) Evelyn Sharp. STENTON LIBRARY–BC/06

Impressions that remained : memoirs (1919) by Ethel Smyth. STENTON LIBRARY–BB/20 VOL. 1-2

Millicent Garrett Fawcett (1931) by Ray Strachey. STENTON LIBRARY–BC/24

The cause : a short history of the women’s movement in Great Britain (1928) by Ray Strachey. STENTON LIBRARY–BD/05

Publishing and Printing in Milan

In late June, members of the archive and library team at UMASCs travelled to Milan for staff training under the Erasmus+ scheme. The aim of the trip was to visit various institutions in Milan and the surrounding area which hold similar special collections to University of Reading Special Collections. This was in order to provide members of staff with the opportunity to reflect on our procedures and assumptions in order to improve the service at the University of Reading, including both access to collections and collections management.

Collections that we aimed to visit as part of our itinerary were the Fondazione Mondadori and the University of Milan’s APICE archives and library.

Our contact in Milan had been a visiting academic in the Modern Languages and European Studies department for six months and had contributed to both an international conference and teaching sessions using material from the archives here at Special Collections. At this conference we were invited to visit the APICE archives, who later confirmed that they would be happy to host a visit from us.

The first stop on our trip was to the Fondazione Mondadori. Mondadori is, and has been for quite some time, the largest publishing house in Italy. The Mondadori family established the archive in order to preserve their personal history and their work; however, the collections are not solely from the firm. They collect material relating to them from translators, authors, readers and more.

Hearing from staff at the Fondazione Mondadori about their collections

We were introduced to the director, and had in-depth descriptions of their services from the archivist and librarian. As the firm is still very much active we were informed they receive a delivery every week of new material.

A particularly interesting aspect was the use of the collections for teaching. The Fondazione co-run a masters degree in publishing with the University of Milan, classes are held at the archive and modules are taught around the collections. They have the use of a dedicated teaching space/computer lab for this purpose, in addition to a reading room for external researchers.

As part of a larger organisation they have a strong public engagement profile which includes releasing publications about their collections, and books telling the story of authors as seen through the archival material. Additionally, they have a whole institution dedicated to public engagement which is located much more centrally in the city. This is the Laboratori Formentini, which was our next stop.

The Laboratorio was opened in 2015 and is in a building owned by the city council who wanted to highlight Milan’s history of publishing. They host events, exhibitions, meetings/conferences for both the public and corporate groups, an example being Mostro, a graphic design camp. Much like we have in our reading room and open access corridor, they have hung reproductions of posters and archive material in their hallways.

One of the exhibition spaces at the Laboratori Formentini

Like the Fondazione they release publications; these detail the proceedings of events that have taken place.

On the second day our chief stop was at the APICE – the Archivi della Parola dell’Immagine e della Comunicazione Editoriale. It was founded in 2002-2003 by a former chancellor of the University of Milan who had an interest in publishing history. Our contact had arranged for us to meet the librarian and archivist who informed us they have 90,000 volumes in the library and 2.5km of archive collections. 1km of this is the University History Collection containing about 46,000 student files and is not online yet. They are hoping to launch this database to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the university in 2024. Here in Reading we also hold a large University History Collection and have our 100th anniversary approaching in 2026!

Viewing some book cover artwork by John Alcorn, held by the APICE

Many of their library and archive collections are very similar to ours and mainly date from the 20th century. They have a great strength in their futurist collection which attracts a lot of international interest.

Medicine and gynaecology were big areas of research in Milan for many years and so they have a few related collections from former professors, as we do too.

Regular seminars and conferences focusing on the collections are organised, with a publication always following after the latter.

We were shown their new website which had just been launched less than two weeks ago. There has been a push for digitisation of photographs and illustrations, including from those who have deposited their collections.

Staff being shown the new website for the APICE

We were taken to their closed storage and shown some of the library collections, which included some very early printed material.

Staff being shown a storage area for the APICE collections

After this we went to the central campus of the University of Milan and met the director of the APICE who expressed interest in our commonalities and hoped for further contact between the universities.

This marked the end of our formal visits. Staff then chose to visit either the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana or the La Scala museum, and on the final day visited the Museo Nationale Scienza e Tecnologia. These were great opportunities to see a variety of museum displays and methods of interpretation.

We are very grateful to Erasmus+ and our UMASCs colleagues for this rewarding and inspiring trip.

Taking in an audio-visual exhibit about agriculture

Recovering Publishing Histories: the Adam & Charles Black Letterbooks

By Amara Thornton (Research Officer, Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology)

The publishing house Adam and Charles Black was established in 1834 in Edinburgh. Now its archive is held in University of Reading Special Collections, and over the last few weeks I’ve been looking at one part of the collection – the Letterbooks containing delicate copies of “letters out” from the company to prospective and contracted authors and artists.

Much publishing and book history concentrates on fiction – novelists, short story writers and the publishers and editors with whom they worked. But there is also interest in non-fiction publishing history, particularly in relation to popular science and travel.  I’m interested in non-fiction publishing and book history too; my first book, Archaeologists in Print: Publishing for the People (UCL Press, 2018), focuses on works written by archaeologists for a general readership.

It was in researching for Archaeologists in Print that I first came across the A. & C. Black archive at Reading. The company acquired another publishing house, Ernest Benn Ltd, in 1984.  As Benn had published several popular archaeology books – including various archaeological volumes in its “Sixpenny Library” – I came to Reading initially in 2015 to see archives relating to these books.

But I’m currently concentrating on the firm of A. & C. Black and its non-fiction and reference books.  In the early 20th century, the company published various series of illustrated art, history, archaeology, science and travel books.  These ranged from pretty pricey twenty shilling “Colour Books” to smaller volumes for as little as one shilling and sixpence.

Two books, one blue, one red.

Picture of Peeps at Ancient Egypt and Peeps at Ancient Greece. (Photo: Amara Thornton)

During the early 20th century, the firm developed special series aimed particularly at children, “Peeps”.  In the “Peeps” A. & C. Black catered for young readers’ interest in diverse subjects – there were “Peeps at Many Lands and Cities”, “Peeps at History”, “Peeps at Great Railways”, “Peeps at Nature”, “Peeps at Industries” and individual “Peeps” for topics such as “Great Men”, “Postage Stamps”, “Heraldry”, and “Architecture”. The Scotsman considered the “Peeps” to be “as varied as the films in a cinema house and quite as entertaining.”

One of A. & C. Black’s “Peep” authors was a Scottish minister named James Baikie.  When he began writing for the firm he was based at the United Free Church in Ancrum, in the Scottish borders, and a popular lecturer.  He started as a science writer; his first book, Through the Telescope (1906), was a popular introduction to astronomy (his Times obituary noted he had been a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society from the age of 25).  On the strength of Telescope‘s success, Baikie pitched an idea for a new book – this time on Egyptology.

The response from A. & C. Black director W. W. Callender was hesitant at first. He would not accept the proposal outright, but asked for a specimen chapter.[1] On reviewing this and other articles Baikie had written on the subject, Callender offered terms for publication, which Baikie accepted.[2] Story of the Pharaohs was eventually published in A. & C. Black’s Autumn List for 1908.  A review copy was sent to the Egypt Exploration Fund among a few others.[3]  The publication was the start of a new archaeology series for A. & C. Black; Story was marketed alongside two other titles, George Cormack’s Egypt in Asia (about “pre-Biblical Syria and Palestine”), and Ethel Ross Barker’s Buried Herculaneum.

Story of the Pharaohs was an almost immediate success (despite eminent archaeologist Flinders Petrie‘s refusal to provide an introduction).[4]  While much of the correspondence on the book relates to image permissions, two letters sent post-publication relate to the efforts the company made to market the book in Egypt.  A letter from Callender to Baikie on 27 November 1908 noted “You will be pleased to hear that all the Cairo booksellers are stocking your book…” and outlined plans to send special copies to the city’s “six principal hotels” for hotel managers to place – prominently, of course – on Reading Room tables.  Although no list of the six hotels is extant it seems unlikely that Cairo’s famous Shepheard’s Hotel wasn’t one of them.  Only one letter to a manager is included in the Letterbooks; it went to the Ghezirah Palace Hotel.[5]

One of the reasons I’m looking into James Baikie is because I’m interested in his wife, Constance Newman (Smith) Baikie, an artist whose stunning illustrations contribute a definite ‘wow factor’ to accompany Baikie’s texts.  She provided in-text line drawings for Story of the Pharaohs, but it was really Baikie’s first “Peep” that enabled her to stretch her creative wings. This was Peep at the Heavens, another work on astronomy.

On submission of a sample illustration – a watercolour drawing of Saturn – Callender only had minor revisions to make to enable the work, when reproduced, to fit the physical size of the book.  He offered James Baikie terms of 20 shillings per drawing for his wife’s work and equal credit for her work on the book’s title page.[6]  Notably (and unfortunately), there is no correspondence in the Letterbooks directly to Constance Baikie on her work during this period – everything went to her husband.  But I’m hoping that as the Baikies relationship with A. & C. Black strengthened, she began to correspond directly with the firm herself.

When all eight of her illustrations were received in the spring of 1911, Callender was enthusiastic about the skill she demonstrated, declaring “The drawings are excellently done and most interesting…”.[7]  It’s not hard to see why – the frontispiece illustration for Peeps at the Heavens is a striking image of “The Moon in Eclipse” – the sphere is in red-tinted shadow barring a thin crescent, brilliantly illuminated.  She went on to provide colour illustrations to accompany most of her husband’s other books with A. & C. Black.

Beyond my special interest in the Baikies, a number of other interesting details emerge from the Letterbooks.  Each book begins with an Index, listing in roughly alphabet

A list of names, with Corelli's name in the centre.

Corelli’s name listed in the Index of Letterbooks (A/1/26 C)

ical order the names of those to whom letters were sent.  Perusing the Letterbook Indexes revealed the company’s efforts to solicit work from a number of well-known women.

The first woman whose name popped out at me in this way was Marie Corelli, a noted and very popular novelist of the period. In February 1907 the firm wrote to her at her home, Mason Croft, in Stratford-upon-Avon, to ask her to write text for a book on the town.  She must have responded positively. The next letter, sent a week later, sought to pin down firm details on the proposed book, suggesting Corelli could have a great deal of creative freedom:

“Your letter is so kind that we venture to trouble you again.  May we ask if you would write the letterpress were we able to secure an artist of whom you thoroughly approved & to whom you could give instructions as to the choice of subject, etc., & if so, what terms you would suggest.”[8]

This theme of soliciting notable women for text continues in subsequent letterbooks, as two years later the company wrote to Gertrude Jekyll, garden designer, writer and horticulturalist, to ask her to write the text for a “colour book” on gardens.[9] (There is no indication in the Letterbooks of whether or not Jekyll agreed.)

A typed letter in blue ink. Focusing on Marie Corelli's name and address at the top of the page. The address is listed as Mason Croft, Stratford Upon Avon.

A close up of Marie Corelli’s name and address at Mason Croft, Stratford upon Avon.

A. & C. Black’s Art Editor Gordon Home wrote to Countess Elizabeth Von Arnim (author of Elizabeth and Her German Garden) in spring 1911 to ask her to provide text for a “colour book” on Germany. Like Corelli, von Arnim was also offered great creative freedom:

“Should the project attract you we would not wish to restrict you as to the method or style you employed so long as the reader gathered an idea of German life, scenery, historic spots, medieval towns and so on.”

As with Jekyll, there is no evidence in the letterbooks that von Arnim agreed to the proposal.[10]

The letterbooks also provide insights into the diversity of contributors to A. & C. Black series.  I was fascinated to come across two letters to a Japanese artist named Wakana Utagawa.  The firm contracted her to create eight colour and twenty black and white illustrations for its “Peep at the History of Japan”.  The first letter was sent to her at the Baillie Gallery, located on Bruton Street in London, where in Spring 1911 she was exhibiting a series of her paintings to rave reviews.[11]

There is great potential for interesting research and analysis in the A. & C. Black archive in a variety of fields – but particularly the popular publishing of science, archaeology, art, and history, yielding further insights into the artist- and writer-contributors.  The possibilities to recover hidden histories (for lack of a better term) abound, even where the subjects are relatively well known.  I’m looking forward to continuing my own research into the Letterbooks during the course of my time at Reading. I hope that this post encourages others to dive in to the Letterbooks too.

 

The catalogue for the A. & C. Black archive held in University of Reading Special Collections can be found here. For further information, email specialcollections@reading.ac.uk

Dr Amara Thornton is Research Officer for the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology.

 

References/Further Reading

Adam & Charles Black Letterbooks A/1/26, 29, 30, 32, 36, 39.

The Scotsman, 1912. Christmas Gift Books. [British Newspaper Archive], 28 November.

The Sphere. 1911. A Talented Japanese Artist Now in England. [British Newspaper Archive] 18 March.

The Times, 1931. Dr James Baikie. Times Historical Archive. 7 February.

Footnotes

[1] ACB A/1/26/56 and 89, Callender to Baikie 23 and 28 Nov 1908.

[2] ACB A/1/26/598 Callender to Baikie 27 Mar 1907.

[3] ACB A/1/30/123 Callender to Baikie 3 Sep 1908.

[4] ACB A/1/29/835 and 882 Callender to Baikie 13 and 20 Jul 1908.

[5] ACB A/1/30/696 and 731 Callender to Baikie 27 Nov and 5 Dec 1908.

[6] ACB A/1/36/392 Callender to Baikie 21 Jan 1911.

[7] ACB A/1/36/694 Callender to Baikie 4 Mar 1911.

[8] ACB/1/26/427 and 444. A&C Black to Corelli, 15 and 21 Feb 1907.

[9] ACB/1/32/116 A&C Black to Jekyll, 5 Feb 1909.

[10] ACB/1/36/695 A&C Black to von Arnim 6 Mar 1911.

[11] ACB/1/39/774 and 819. Home to Utagawa 3 and 9 Aug 1911.

“Guardian angel” of the Cole Library: Dr Nellie B. Eales

Members of the Library staff came rapidly to recognise her sprightly, bright-eyed figure making its way to the Cole Library for a quiet and productive morning’s work. She had a cheerful greeting for all her friends, acquaintances and colleagues and many came to admire the astonishing vigour with which she laboured day after day to bring the catalogue to completion.

J. A. Edwards describing Dr Nellie B. Eales, A gift and its donor (1984)

Photos showing 90th birthday party held for Dr Nellie B. Eales in April 1979 (MS 5303)

Eales and Cole

Inscription from Eales to Cole in the Cole Library.

Eminent zoologist Professor F. J. Cole (1872-1959) was the foundation Professor of Zoology at the University of Reading from 1907 to 1939.

Cole was a lover of books. He started building up his collections from an early age, amassing a comprehensive and impressive library of between eight and nine thousand volumes of printed books alongside scientific papers. The collection includes very rare works by Hooke, Estienne and Topsell, for example. Cole actively used his collection in his research. His major historical work ‘A history of comparative anatomy’ (1944) was based substantially on his own collection of texts on comparative anatomy and the history of early medicine and zoology, from earliest times to the present day. Cole was also a ‘passionate and creative collector’ of animal specimens, with his collection forming the Cole Museum of Zoology.

Dr Nellie B. Eales (1889-1989) was a Senior Lecturer in Zoology at Reading and Cole’s colleague. Upon his death, Eales arranged for Cole’s library to be transferred to the University of Reading (Rigby, p. 601). Eales painstakingly created a two volume catalogue of the collection, based on Cole’s card index (retained at Special Collections).

While we know quite a lot about Cole, what do we know about Dr Nellie B. Eales? She was a well-respected zoologist. It seems evident she had a significant impact on Cole’s work and his collecting practices. I am currently working on a project to catalogue a selection of printed works from Cole’s library. Eales’ catalogue is an invaluable source of information and finding aid. I wanted to find out more about her.

The career of Dr Nellie B. Eales

Some of Eales’ work on elephants in the Cole Library collection.

Dr Nellie B. Eales (1889-1989) studied at Reading for her BSc which she gained in 1910. Reading gained its University charter in 1926, so at this time it was known as University College, Reading and its degrees were awarded by the University of London. She went on to a become Curator in the Department of Zoology in 1912, helping to keep the department going while her male colleagues were called up to fight in WWI. In 1919, Eales was appointed as a Lecturer in the Zoology department and later became a Senior Lecturer. In 1921 a report to the governors of University College, Reading states “the lecturer, Miss N. B. Eales, has been awarded the Research degree of Ph.D. of London University” (p. 31). A fellow of the Zoological Society of London, Eales researched and published on cheese mites initially, then on marine biology and African elephants. Due to the strength and significance of her research, she was awarded a Doctorate of Science in 1926.

Inscription to Eales from author.

When the University was newly chartered in the late 1920s, it was not unusual for major faculties to be run by one Professor with a Lecturer for support. This was the case with Cole and Eales (supported by a Museum Assistant, W. E. Stoneman), as discussed by Holt in The University of Reading: the first fifty years (p. 16). It is clear that Eales was at the centre of the department during its formative years. It follows that she was so dedicated to the department, and the University, for the rest of her life.

Eales worked closely alongside Professor Cole, as a “student, colleague and friend”, as described in a report on the early history of the Zoology department in the University Archives. From her earliest days at Reading, Eales took an active interest in Cole’s collections of books and specimens. She helped to shape Cole’s collections during his lifetime and after his death in 1939.

All reports of Eales’ time at Reading indicate she took great pleasure in playing an active role in University life and in her field of research. Eales was a member of the University Senate 1928-42, only the second woman to sit on this board of governance (Holt, p. 275). She was involved in the Old Students’ Association at Reading, taught on Marine Biological Association courses at Plymouth, was President of the Malacological Society of London (1948-51) and editor the Journal of Molluscan Studies (1956-1969). The Journal published an obituary of Eales, written by Joyce E. Rigby, where much of this biographical detail is taken from, in 1990.

Cole’s “guardian angel”

In the case of zoology… the formidable figure of Cole still overshadowed the Department from retirement… Dr Nellie B. Eales acted as a kind of guardian angel over all Cole’s work.

Holt, (1977), The University of Reading: the first fifty years, p. 214

Though she retired as Senior Lecturer in Zoology at Reading in 1954, this was far from the end of Eales’ passion for her research and her dedication to the University’s collections. The University of Reading Library had acquired Cole’s vast library collection of many thousands of books upon his death in 1959. From 1964 the collection was housed in a special room on the top floor of the Library. Cole had created a card index for the collection. In order to make it easier for researchers to access the collection and discover what was in it, Eales agreed to produce a chronologically arranged printed catalogue of the extended Cole collection.

Extract from The Cole Library of Early Medicine and Zoology : catalogue of books, monographs and principal papers… / by Nellie B. Eales.

The Cole Library of early medicine and zoology catalogue was published in two parts, in 1969 and 1975 (when Eales was 76). Packed with valuable information about each title, such as about illustrations, provenance and binding, Eales’ catalogue is indispensable to any user of the Cole Library. The catalogues are an incredible piece of research in their own right and have been enormously helpful as I catalogue a selection of titles from the Library collection.

A gift and its donor: Reading’s Book of Hours

Velvet binding of Book of Hours donated by Eales.

In the early 1980s, over 25 years since Eales had retired, she was to offer Reading an item which still stands as one of our most valued treasures.

The surprising and delightful item in question was a Book of Hours produced in Paris in the early 1400s. A Book of Hours is essentially a personalised prayer book of Christian devotion which was popular in the Middle Ages. The gift is described by J. A. Edwards (former Archivist at Reading) in A gift and its donor: some account of MS 2087, presented to the Library by Dr Nellie B. Eales, formerly Senior Lecturer in Zoology in the University (1984).

The stunning Book of Hours donated by Eales consists of 185 leaves of intricately written script, elaborately decorated in blue, red and gold, with borders in an ivy-leaf design, also including other flowers such as columbines, wild strawberries and bluebells. The book itself has a luxurious red velvet binding and red leather slip case, this would have been added later, probably in the 1800s. The early history of the Book of Hours (now given manuscript number 2087) is not known. We know that it at one time belonged to a Henry White and was sold at Sotheby’s with other books from his collection in 1902.

Book of Hours MS 2087

Eales clearly took great pleasure in studying this magnificent item. Her notes (some written inside the cover) reveal how she went to great lengths to identify the wild flowers in the border decoration and to identify and list all the Saint’s depicted in the illustrations.

A “strong personality”

‘Nellie B’ as she was affectionately known… a strong personality: she will be remembered with respect

Joyce E. Rigby describing Eales in an obituary written in 1990.

Sophie Cole (Professor Cole’s sister) wrote many early Mills & Boon titles. Several contain her inscriptions, this is an example of a book gifted to Nellie.

As soon as I started research to discover more about Eales, it became clear how closely her work and that of Cole were tied together. Both Cole and Eales published scientific works and wrote about Cole’s work, his collections and his career. But Eales never seems to have written a great deal about herself. The main sources of information about Eales I found were documents in the accession file for Cole’s archive, an obituary of Eales by Joyce E. Rigby in the Journal of Molluscan Studies in 1990, Holt’s The University of Reading: the first fifty years (1977) and A gift and its donorwritten by one of the University’s first archivists (J. A. Edwards) in 1984.

The more I find out about Eales, the more intrigued I am by her. Surviving records give the impression she was inspired by Cole and contributed greatly to his work. I struggled with how to begin this post – I couldn’t find a way to begin with Eales without placing her in the context of Cole. Yet Eales was clearly strong, respected, intelligent and prominent not only in University life but in the wider research community. It seems likely she was among the first women to study for a Ph.D. at Reading. She kept the Zoology department going during WWI and was active in its formative years. It is clear that her dedication to the University and her work was steadfast throughout her long life.

Claire Clough (Project Librarian: Cole)

More information

Please contact the Reading Room to book an appointment to view items from the University Archives, the Cole Library or the Cole Archive (MS 5315). We also have a small collection of Eales’ notes and papers (MS 5314).

The Cole Library of Zoology and Early Medicine, University of Reading. (1960). Nature, 188, 4757, (1148-1151).

Eales, N. B. (1969-75). The Cole Library of Early Medicine and Zoology: catalogue of books, monographs and principal papers.

Edwards, J. A. (1984). A gift and its donor: some account of MS 2087, presented to the Library by Dr Nellie B. Eales, formerly Senior Lecturer in Zoology in the University.

Holt, J. C. (1977). The University of Reading: the first fifty years.

Rigby, J. E. (1990). Obituary: Nellie B. Eales. Journal of Molluscan Studies, 56, 4, (601).

Best lookers rather than best sellers: Gaberbocchus Press

Written by Fiona Melhuish (UMASCS Librarian)

“There is a madness about various Gaberbocchus books which is the spice of life, an ingredient somewhat lacking in the world of impeccable book production”.

(Ruari McLean in ‘Quarterly News Letter of the Book Club of California, Summer 1956)

 

Two examples of book cover designs by Gaberbocchus Press.

 

Gaberbocchus Press was founded in 1948 in London, by Stefan and Franciszka Themerson. It was the product of an artistic collaboration that had begun in Warsaw, when they worked together as experimental film-makers. With Franciszka as artistic director and Stefan as editor, the Press published sixty titles, during forty years, and the University of Reading Special Collections holds a set of these titles, in various editions, in the Gaberbocchus Press Collection, together with some archive records of the company.

Page from ‘The Good Citizen’s Alphabet’ by Bertrand Russell, illustrated by Franciszka Themerson (1953). GABERBOCCHUS PRESS COLLECTION–1953/01

 

The Themersons used their small press as “a vehicle for introducing new ideas”, and selected intellectual avant-garde texts. These ranged from poetry to philosophical novels, from authors such as Bertrand Russell and Raymond Queneau, to first English translations of Alfred Jarry and Heinrich Heine.

The name ‘Gaberbocchus’ was taken from the Latinised version of Lewis Carroll’s poem ‘The Jabberwocky’, a source which already points to a surreal and often absurdist sensibility running through the publications. Both the choice of text and the illustrations display a concern for morality and ethics, as well as a keen sense of the ridiculousness of human beings. One common characteristic of the publications is the intimate relationship between image and text as an expression of content.

 

Page from ‘The Good Citizen’s Alphabet’ by Bertrand Russell, illustrated by Franciszka Themerson (1953). GABERBOCCHUS PRESS COLLECTION–1953/01

 

A key objective was to produce “best lookers rather than best sellers”. The Themersons felt little sympathy for mainstream taste, with Stefan once identifying a ‘refusal to conform’ to be both the Press’s primary strength and primary weakness. The Press attracted curiosity from critics, who saw it as odd and yet appealing, observing in the words of one that Gaberbocchus books show “a pleasing and intelligent originality in presentation, which make them quite different from anything else appearing in London”. In its position outside the mainstream of the established world of publishing, Gaberbocchus Press is certainly one of the most interesting and original of British small presses of the twentieth century.

Books from the Gaberbocchus Press Collection are all catalogued on the Enterprise catalogue, and are available to view in the Special Collections reading room on request.

 

Page from ‘Semantic Divertissements’ by Themerson & Themerson (1962). GABERBOCCHUS PRESS COLLECTION–1962/01

Further reading:

The Themersons and the Gaberbocchus Press : an experiment in publishing, 1948-1979 / edited by Jan Kubasiewicz and Monica Strauss ; with contributions by Marcin Gizycki … [et al.]. New York, N.Y. : MJS Books & Graphics, 1993. Available to consult in the Special Collections open access reference collection: FOLIO–070.593-GAB/THE

Gaberbocchus Press : an exhibition / curated by Fiona Barnard (draft copy of a catalogue to accompany an exhibition held at the National Art Library, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 14 April – 31 August 2003). Available to consult in the Special Collections reading room on request: PRINTING COLLECTION F–094.0942-GAB/BAR

One of the many versions of the Gaberbocchus Press emblem

 

Images reproduced by permission of Themerson Estate.

Buried Treasure on Campus? A closer look at the Overstone Library

Currently working at the University of Reading as Staff Engagement and Communications Officer, Jeremy Lelean previously worked as a dealer in antiquarian and collectable books. In today’s blog, Jeremy takes a closer look at the Overstone Library, the foundation collection of the University Library. 

I work in science communication, most recently with research into soil, and when looking at the Overstone Library I was struck by a certain similarity. Both are somewhat ignored but just as there is treasure in soil there is treasure in the Overstone Library. This is clearly seen in this stunning (and surely longest ever) illustration of Trojan’s Column from Colonna di Trajano e di Antonio Pio (1770). Or more obviously valuable items like Jules Goury’s Alhambra (1842-1845) or David Roberts’ The Holy Land, Syria, Idumea, Arabia, Egypt, & Nubia. But, there is also a less obvious significance to the Overstone Library. I love books but when I say this, people often confuse this with liking literature. It is the books themselves that interest me: every library or collection is a treasure trove waiting to be discovered.

How the Overstone library was created can be clearly followed in the two bookplates seen in many of the volumes. Though fallen out of fashion now, bookplates were commonly used from the days of early printing into the mid twentieth century. We know, therefore that this library was collected by two people: that is John Ramsay McCulloch and, subsequent to his death, Samuel Jones Loyd, Baron Overstone. Using bookplates as a sign of ownership was important to the sort of collecting that led to the creation of these libraries in the nineteenth century. Having a library was a great sign of being solidly middle class, a notoriously important thing in Victorian England. Once one had made a fortune, showing one’s wealth was important but also one’s knowledge and culture. The books in the Overstone Library demonstrate this well but the significance is that it is still intact and all together.

Many of the books the library contains are not that remarkable and certainly none are very rare. There are many eighteenth and nineteenth century editions of books and poetry we could recognise today, as well as standards of the time that might have been forgotten like The Fables of Aesop or the Decameron (The Ten Days) by Giovanni Boccaccio. In my previous work as a dealer in antiquarian and collectible books I would often see odd volumes from such collections but never saw an intact library like this. Most of these libraries had been broken up post-First or Second World War (this library came to the University in 1920). So, to see such a collection as a whole tells us a lot about the aspirations of Overstone and the wider Victorian middle class.

More social history can be unearthed by looking at the books as objects rather than for what they contain. Until paper tax was abolished in 1846, books were the preserve of the wealthy and were sold as paper text blocks, without covers, so the owner would have them bound, if not uniformly, then sympathetically. This can be seen in these two French reference books (see above) showing Overstone’s choice in binding and decoration. As well as this we can see the Victorians’ love of decoration, for example, in the Decameron (see below). The gilt decoration on the cover is perhaps enough but, if it wasn’t, open the book to see how it continues inside and the beautiful marbled endpapers. You may not agree with the Victorians’ idea of taste but have to admire their commitment to it in all things, even their books.

So the next time you hear the word library, think less of a building or even a collection of books, but of treasure waiting to be discovered!

 

Click here for more information on the Overstone Library. If you have any further queries, or wish to view items from the Library, email specialcollections@reading.ac.uk. 

Cat sketches and cataloguing: Final thoughts of our Archive Graduate Trainee

Special Collections offer year long graduate trainee schemes in both the Archive and Library. In this month’s blog, our departing Archives Graduate Trainee Timothy Jerrome looks back on his year with us. 

 

Now that I am coming to the end of my year’s archive traineeship at Special Collections and the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL), I feel it is a good time to reflect on the range of invaluable experience I have gained. Call me biased, but I honestly believe that this role has provided me with the best possible platform from which to dive into my MA in Archives and Records Management!

On top of the challenges of starting any new job, this was also my first period of full-time employment, so I am most grateful to the researchers and colleagues who tolerated my constantly exhausted expression over the first couple of weeks! However, I soon fell into the rhythm of working at the MERL, and my excellent prior work experience at the University of Surrey archives gave me a good idea of what to expect.

As any researchers who have visited frequently over the past months will know, the majority of my time here has been spent supervising the MERL Reading Room. I have interacted with a vast range of researchers with varying interests, from students interested in the materiality of archives to steam engine enthusiasts poring over engineering drawings. My experience in the reading room has taught me that access is the most important aspect of maintaining archives. Whether this is through creating a clear catalogue, knowing the location of every item in storage, or helping researchers handle material in a safe and sustainable way, I now believe that access to collections should be a high priority of any good archivist – and the archivists at the MERL are very good!

As well as Reading Room duty, I have helped catalogue parts of the Cole, Scrivener and Landscape Institute collections, and contributed to the digitisation of the John Fowler & Co. engine registers. Additionally, I have participated in a locations survey, and updated several of our website’s ‘A-Z’ pages for the MERL archive collections.

I would fully encourage anybody with a desire to become an archivist to apply for the traineeship at MERL and Special Collections. Furthermore I would encourage anyone with even a passing interest in our collections to pay us a visit and explore the archives. I have lost track of the number of researchers who came for a very specific purpose and then discovered a treasure chest of fascinating material which they did not know existed.

The best example I can give is that of my own personal experience. I never would have expected that the Landscape Institute archive, along with the associated collections of the Landscape architects, would become my favourite material both to look at myself, and produce for researchers. In particular, I love the sketchbooks of the Landscape Architect Peter Shepheard, who saw himself as an artist as much as a garden designer, and his sketches (including one pictured here – AR SHE DO1/4/1/14) really demonstrate this.

An unfinished sketch of a cat.

One of Peter Shepheard’s cat sketches, drawn possibly between 1940-80. Taken from the Peter Shepheard Collection (AR SHE DO1/4/1/14)

I wish all the best to my colleagues at MERL, and all researchers past, present and future. I am now looking forward to beginning my further studies at University College London.

Timothy Jerrome, Archives Graduate Trainee

For more information on graduate trainee roles in archives, check the ARA’s webpages on traineeships. 

Born on this day? The strange case of Nancy Astor’s birthday

This weekend we celebrate Nancy Astor’s birthday, said to be on the 19th May. But is there more to this birth date than meets the eye? Head of Archive Services Guy Baxter takes a closer look at the mystery surrounding Nancy Astor’s birth. 

The first female MP to take her seat in the British House of Commons, Nancy Astor was born (as Nancy Langhorne) in Danville, Virginia. But when exactly?

It is not unknown for celebrities to be coy about their age, but there was no such vanity from Nancy Astor. The mystery in this case surrounds not the year (1879) but the date of her birth. Stranger still, it was not until the publication of Adrian Fort’s extensively researched biography in 2012 that the mystery came to the attention of the public – or even specialists in the field.

Fort sums up the mystery thus: “It was at street level in the newly built house at Danville, in a room with dull green walls and a bare wooden floor, that Nancy was born on 30 January 1979 – although subsequently, and throughout her adult life, her birthday was, for no clearly stated reason, given as 19 May.” The biography is aimed at the general reader so, understandably, there is no footnote; I therefore approached the author and asked his source. What came back to me was a scan of Nancy Astor’s birth certificate extracted (with some difficulty, I gather) from the State authorities in Virginia.

The plot then thickens somewhat. Waldorf Astor (Nancy’s second husband) was born on 19 May 1879. So Nancy Astor, for much or her adult life and to the extent it confounded biographers and academics for years, seems to have adopted the birth date of her second husband.

Apart from scratching our heads, what should we do with such information? I suggest three things: we can speculate on the reasons; we can do more research, or at least bear this my

A photo of two people on an ice rink. The man is kneeling on the floor.

Nancy and Waldorf Astor. Was their shared birthday an elaborate in-joke? (MS 1416/1/6/94/10)

stery in mind while researching in the archives; and finally we might use this as a starting point to explore some wider implications and issues.

The speculation first. Is the Virginia record incorrect? There would seem to be no good reason to back-date a birth record, and it seems like an odd error to make. Having said that, the strange case of Ulysses Simpson Grant springs immediately to mind.

Born and raised as Hiram Ulysses Grant, he was the victim of an assumption made by the Congressman, Thomas Hamer, who nominated him to enrol as a student at West Point. A family friend, Hamer only knew him as Ulysses and inserted Grant’s mother’s maiden name (Simpson) into the register. The United States Army bureaucracy proved immovable and Grant, once he realised the error, was unable to change it. By the time he became the head of the U.S. military and 18th President of the United States, it may well have ceased to bother him, and it gave him the patriotic initials “U.S.” which proved a boon as his military career took off. So mistakes in an official record can be hard to change.

If the record is correct, then we must ask whether Nancy was aware that this was her birth date. Could her family have deceived her? Apart from the fact that no obvious reason springs to mind, neither this idea, nor that of an administrative mistake, explains the co-incidence with Waldorf’s birth date. Though it should be noted that the odds of two randomly selected people sharing a birth date are not outrageously long.

Perhaps Nancy and Waldorf decided to align their birthdays: possibly for convenience, possibly as an in-joke or an intimate secret. Given their wealth, sharing a birthday party can surely not have been a money-saving measure. Or is it possible that Nancy concealed her real birth date from Waldorf? Could the shared birthday have been a ploy in her courtship? As the son of one of the richest men in the world, he was quite a catch – was it worth a small lie to grab his attention?

This must all remain as speculation until more evidence emerges. Neither Fort nor any previous biographers found any mention of it in Nancy or Waldorf’s personal correspondence, though this is very extensive. Nancy’s correspondence with her American relatives is more recently available and has been less used by researchers. Deceit, mistake or shared joke, it may well have been referred to in a deliberately obscure manner. Seekers of the truth will find the Special Collections Reading Room a pleasant and friendly environment in which to seek out needles from haystacks. As far as I know, Waldorf Astor’s birth certificate has not been checked: could there be a further twist in the tale?

So to the final, and more serious word about this. Just as his mistaken identity probably mattered little to Grant, especially as he rose to prominence, so Nancy Astor’s birthday must have been of little real

Photograph of a large house, set in gardens.

Cliveden House in Buckinghamshire, family home of Waldorf and Nancy Astor (MS 1616/2/6/94/3)

significance in her life or livelihood. The official record is of minimal practical benefit for the rich and famous. But as the Windrush scandal has brought into sharp focus, for many citizens the possession of verifiable identity documents can be a critical matter. It is not for nothing that patients are identified not just by their name but also by their date of birth: even then, horrific mistakes can occur.

Windrush is not the first time that the quality of the data recorded by the state to identify individuals has been questioned: Dame Janet Smith’s third report as part of the Shipman Inquiry – that looking at Death Certification – noted: “The information received by registrars forms the basis of an important public record that is widely used for statistical and research purposes. It is vital that it is recorded meticulously and accurately.” It was not until 50 years after her death that the search for documentary evidence of Nancy Astor’s birth began. Most citizens rely on the integrity of such systems in their lifetimes: for the most vulnerable, this can be crucial.

So let us toast Nancy Astor, whether it’s her birthday or not, for reminding us of the value of the written record. Or as the Universal Declaration on Archives puts it, “the vital necessity of archives for supporting business efficiency, accountability and transparency, for protecting citizens rights, for establishing individual and collective memory, for understanding the past, and for documenting the present to guide future actions”.

Are you intrigued to do your own research on this mystery? Or just interested to know more about Nancy Astor? Find out more about the Papers of Nancy Astor held at Special Collections here. For further enquiries, or to request access, email specialcollections@reading.ac.uk.

 

 

A selection of Royal Wedding Cakes from Huntley & Palmers

Inspired by the “Royal Wedding Fever” surrounding the upcoming nuptials of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Librarian Bethan Davies takes a closer look at the archive of Reading biscuit manufacturers Huntley & Palmers, and their bakes for previous Royal Weddings! 

Primarily known for producing biscuits, Huntley and Palmers resisted selling everyday cakes until after World War II, when it started selling simple slab cakes. From the beginning, however, Huntley and Palmers would create wedding cakes to order, and by the 1930s, had begun to produce elaborate wedding cake catalogues to sell their products, similar to this 1970 example. 

Three of their most memorable wedding cakes were created for the Royal Family, and our Huntley & Palmers Archive provides a fascinating snapshot into each of these spectacular creations!

Princess Marina of Greece and Prince George, Duke of Kent 

The first royal wedding cake from our archive was created in celebration of the wedding of Prince George, Duke of Kent and Princess Marina of Greece, on November 29th, 1934. Huntley & Palmers produced a wonderful four tiered hexagonal cake, measuring 8 feet high and 33 inches across the base.

The cake design was influenced by the bride’s background, as Princess Marina was the daughter of the exiled Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark. The official cake description states the design is inspired by “the symmetry and balance which was the underlying principle of Greek architecture”. It goes on to state that all the scrolls, images and patterns found on the cake could be found either in the famous “Greek Temples”, or, more closer to home, in the British Museum.

The glamorous Princess Marina inspired a growing public fascination with the Royal Family. To capture this, the department store Selfridges sold souvenir samples of the Huntley & Palmers wedding cake (or at least, “made from the same batch” as the royal wedding cake), distributing 100,000 pieces throughout the store. Our archive includes one of these cake samples, kindly provided by a Mrs. M H Smith from Newark, alongside the original letter of distribution from Selfridges.

 

Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and Prince Albert, Duke of York

Prior to the 1934 wedding, Huntley & Palmers had created a previous Royal wedding cake, for the then-Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and Prince Albert, Duke of York in 1923. Like the Princess Marina cake, this cake is 8 feet high with four tiers, but was cylindrical, and was inspired by Lady Elizabeth’s Scottish heritage. The cake was decorated with York roses, lions, thistles, roses, doves and the crests of the Strathmore family, the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy. Three of the tiers included sugar work reproductions of Windsor Castle, Glamis Castle (the Bowes-Lyon ancestral home), and the famous Glasmis Castle garden and sundial. The top tier was decorated with a scroll which lists Lady Elizabeth’s ancestors through marriage.

Before the cake was sent to the palace, the cake was famously displayed at Huntley & Palmer’s in Reading. The factory estimated that over 600 people came to view the wedding cake. You can see a video of this event through on the British Pathe website.  Many years later, Elizabeth, then the Queen Mother, viewed a replica of her wedding cake on a tour of Huntley & Palmers.

 

Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten

Twenty-four years after creating a wedding cake for her parents, Huntley & Palmers created a wedding cake for the wedding of the then Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, 20th November, 1947. The cake, which was one of 11 cakes presented to the couple, was specifically requested by Buckingham Palace to be reduced in size. This was because wartime rationing was still in effect, and so the cake was re-designed from its intended weight of 400 lb, to an “austerity” size of 195 lb. Even with this specification, the cake was a four tiered masterpiece with each tier’s 6 sides incorporating hand paintings or sugar reproductions of scenes and images which “reflected the Princess and Lieutenant’s interests” – including Balmoral Castle and the horse races at Ascot. No wonder the icing alone took around three weeks to complete!

 

These archival finds show the royal links to Huntley & Palmers, and Reading in general. It’s clear that our archive goes beyond biscuits!

These items are taken from our Huntley & Palmers Archive, which is open to view for researchers and the public. To request access, or for further enquiries, email specialcollections@reading.ac.uk.  

References

https://www.britishpathe.com/video/the-royal-wedding-cake-1/query/Elizabeth+Bowes-Lyon+wedding 

http://collections.readingmuseum.org.uk/index.asp?page=record&mwsquery=%7Btotopic%7D=%7BFour%20Bs%7D&filename=REDMG&hitsStart=32

 

 

Book Covers and Robinsonades: Exploring the Crusoe Collection

This month’s blog post was written by Chloe Wallaker, a final year BA English Literature and Film student at the University of Reading. Chloe has been researching our Crusoe Collection as part of her Spring Term academic placement based at Special Collections. 

Today marks the 299th anniversary of the publication of one of our favourite novels – Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. It is one of the most popular and widely published books today. The University of Reading Special Collections holds hundreds of editions and imitations of the novel as part of their Crusoe Collection, so I decided to visit and explore what the archives have to offer.

For a novel that was intended for adult readers, it was striking to discover the vast number of publications of Robinson Crusoe that were aimed at children. Different editions emphasise different aspects within the story and aim at children of different ages. I have chosen to showcase some of my favourite modern editions of the text that are aimed at children and published in the twentieth century.

A red book cover including pirates, dragons, Alice in Wonderland and a Knight.

The Rand-McNally edition of Life and adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1954)– CRUSOE COLLECTION–A1954.

I came across the edition published by Mcnally and Company (above), which includes the modernised text of Robinson Crusoe, with minor abridgements. The cover includes different illustrations referencing classical children’s literature, including Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland, that was also published in the eighteenth century and forms a part of popular culture today. The edition categorized Robinson Crusoe amongst famous children’s fairy tales and recognised it as an adventure story for young readers.

A book cover showing an island and the sea, with Robinson Crusoe and Man Friday sat together.

Nelson (1960), Robinson Crusoe – CRUSOE COLLECTION–A1960

There are many adaptations of the novel that are shortened for younger children. I discovered Nelson’s adaption of the text. The edition is published to be told to children by adults, demonstrating how the story is constructed for very young readers as well as older children. This edition stood out to me as the cover focuses on the more mature and violent themes of the novel, including slavery and death, than the covers intended for older children. This made me question the appropriateness of the story in challenging its young children

The adaptation published by Hunia (above, left) encourages young children to read the story for themselves, instead of being read to. The cover suggests the story focuses on the relationship between Crusoe and Friday, as opposed to focusing on the adventure story which most of the publications adopt to appeal to children. This demonstrates how Robinson Crusoe not only appeals to children through entertainment, but teaches moral lessons, highlighting the pedagogical value of the novel.

Most of the children’s adaptations use illustrations to appeal to children. Wilkes’s edition (above, right) seems to construct the text to resemble a picture book. As well as focusing on the adventure aspects of the text, the publication focuses on the spiritual themes embedded within the novel, with its cover illustration resembling the biblical story of Noah’s Ark.

The publications I found most interesting were the imitations of the text, commonly described as ‘Robinsonades’, which reveal how Robinson Crusoe was not just a popular novel, but became an identifiable piece of popular culture. Crocket’s imitation of the text constructs Crusoe as a child figure, creating an identifiable protagonist for children. The edition takes the themes of adventure from the original text and constructs a version of the novel that is perhaps more suitable for children.

Perhaps the most interesting imitation of the novel is Ballantyne’s edition. This edition focuses on the relationship between a dog and his master, resembling the relationship between Crusoe and his man Friday. The edition removes the mature and violent themes of slavery, which could be considered inappropriate aspects of the novel, and constructs a pet-master relationship, which would appeal to children and in terms they could understand.

Some of the editions that stayed more true to the novel seemed to present problematic themes for children. This made me question the appropriateness of a novel that was intended for adults, being read by children. I found it interesting how each edition focused on different aspects and themes of the novel, demonstrating the number of ways in which the novel can be read and used to educate and entertain children. This investigation into the children’s editions of Robinson Crusoe has reminded me why the novel has remained a favourite read for people of all ages and continues to be published today.

For more information on our Crusoe Collection, visit the Special Collections website, or email us at specialcollections@reading.ac.uk.  

References:

 

Ballantyne, R.M (1970), The dog Crusoe, London: Abbey Classics, CRUSOE COLLECTION–A1942-2013 [BOX].

Crockett, S.R (1905), Sir Toady Crusoe, London: Wells Gardner, Darton & Co. Ltd, CRUSOE COLLECTION–A1905.

Defoe, Daniel (1954), Life and adventures of Robinson Crusoe, New York: Rand McNally & Company, CRUSOE COLLECTION–A1954.

Defoe, Daniel (196-), Robinson Crusoe, London : Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd., CRUSOE COLLECTION–A1960

Hunia, Fran (1978), Robinson Crusoe, London: Collins, CRUSOE COLLECTION–A1954.

Wilkes, Angela (1981), The adventures of Robinson Crusoe, London: Usborne Publishing, CRUSOE COLLECTION–A1981.