In the spotlight: Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species

Written by Erika Delbecque, UMASCS Librarian

Today is Darwin Day, an annual event that marks the anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin on 12 February 1809. It aims to highlight Darwin’s contribution to science and celebrate science in general.

Darwin first published his groundbreaking theory of evolution through natural selection in his famous work On the Origin of the Species, which was published on 24 November in 1859. The 1250 copies of the first impression of the first edition sold out on the first day, and the book would go through six further editions during Darwin’s lifetime.

The title page of On the Origin of the Species

The title page of On the Origin of the Species

University of Reading Special Collections holds a copy of this first impression of the first edition. It can be distinguished from later impressions of the work through the presence of the misprint “speceies” on one page, which was corrected in the second impression.

The page containing the misprint "speceis"

The page containing the misprint “speceies”

The Reading copy is bound in the publishers’ original green cloth. It came to Reading as part of the library of professor F.J. Cole, which was purchased in 1959. Cole was Professor of Zoology at the University of Reading from 1907 to 1939.

The first edition of On the Origin of the Species, in the publisher’s original green cloth binding

When On the Origin of the Species was published 159 years ago, it met with shock, admiration, and astonishment. In the first review, published in the Athenaeum of 19 November 1859, J.R. Leifchild derides the idea that “man descends from the monkeys”, and he concludes that the influence sphere of the book will be limited to the confines of universities and churches:

The work deserves attention, and will, we have no doubt, meet with it. Scientific naturalists will take up the author upon his own peculiar ground; and there will we imagine be a severe struggle for at least theoretical existence. [….] Having introduced the author and his work, we must leave them to the mercies of the Divinity Hall, the College, the Lecture Room, and the Museum.

He could not have been more wrong. From the day of its publication, the interest in On the Origin of the Species went far beyond the scientific community, and the impact of Darwin’s theory on society was profound. Indeed, Darwin’s book has justly earned its place as one of the treasures of the Special Collections here at the University of Reading.

Sources

Darwin, Charles. 1859. On the origin of the species. London : John Murray.

[Leifchild, J. R.] 1859. [Review of] On the origin of species. Athenaeum no. 1673 (19 November): 659-660.

Reading Readers – Jack Davies

Jack Davies, Assistant Lecturer of History and PhD student at the University of Kent, tells us about his research into stately home hospitals during the First World War, notably at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire – the home of the Astor family.

The Astor estate at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire (MS 1416/1/6/94)

The Astor estate at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire (MS 1416/1/6/94)

My research examines the social and cultural importance of the stately home hospital during the First World War. These personal residences were used to supplement the inadequate military medical infrastructure to provide care for wounded soldiers from all over the British Empire. The University of Reading’s Special Collections have been remarkably useful due to its Nancy Astor archive (MS 1416). The library contains a wide range of correspondence from Nancy herself, who is most famous for being the first female MP to take a seat in the House of Commons in Great Britain.

A lesser-known fact about Nancy Astor, however, was that her and her husband Waldorf converted their home into a hospital during the First World War. After having their initial offer rejected by the War Office, the Astors turned instead to the Canadian government. Though they rejected the use of the home, they agreed to build a hospital on the covered tennis courts; eventually a 600 bed military hospital was created within the house itself.

Though perhaps a strange place for me to come to do my research, the Nancy Astor archive contains hundreds of examples of personal correspondence between Lady Astor and the men who recovered within the walls of Cliveden. These letters allow an interesting insight to the use of this building as a hospital. Not only do they enable us to gain an understanding of the events that transpired within the hospital, such as:

Correspondence from Albut. L. Pope to Nancy Astor, (9 October, 1952) MS 1416/1/2/693

Correspondence from Albut. L. Pope to Nancy Astor, (9 October, 1952) MS 1416/1/2/693

‘when you [Nancy Astor] played the part of an old lady visiting the Canadian Hospital in which I was a patient at the time, to lecture a young Canadian soldier for paying too much attention to her daughter’.

They also provide the chance to examine the emotional significance that the hospital space held for wounded Canadians and Australians, many of whom were experiencing Britain for the first time:

Correspondence from Private Brook to Nancy Astor, (ND) in ‘First World War Soldiers B 2 1914 – 1921’, MS 1416/1/2/653

Correspondence from Private Brook to Nancy Astor, (ND) in ‘First World War Soldiers B 2 1914 – 1921’, MS 1416/1/2/653

 

‘I often wish I was wandering round your beautiful place again.’

In an attempt to discover the aristocracy’s attitudes towards the transition of their personal space, I also searched through Lady Astor’s correspondence with a number of her relatives, the most interesting of which were those sent by her brother-in-law J.J. Astor. In one, he bizarrely declared:

Correspondence from J.J. Astor to Nancy Astor, (21 June, 1916) in ‘Col. J.J. Astor (Lord Astor of Hever)’, MS 1416/1/3/4

Correspondence from J.J. Astor to Nancy Astor, (21 June, 1916) in ‘Col. J.J. Astor (Lord Astor of Hever)’, MS 1416/1/3/4

‘I trust you chose the lingerie with care and great taste, not that it would really matter very much, I expect!”

In another, written after he and fiancée Violet Kynynmound had decided upon a wedding date, he wrote:

‘I am so looking forward to seeing you again, please don’t abuse me for getting married, and you will forgive me for it wont you?’ (ND, MS 1416/1/3/4)

Unfortunately the collection does not contain Nancy’s responses to these peculiar letters, and while we may be unable to discover the truth surrounding their relationship, the discovery of this correspondence certainly piqued my attention, as well as the archivists’ after a long day of research.

 

Jack Davies is an Assistant Lecturer of History and PhD student at the University of Kent.

You can find out more about the Nancy Astor Archive here, and information about accessing our collections here.

#readingreaders

 

 

Reading Readers – Jeremy

One of our volunteers, Jeremy, tells us about how an encounter with a book of remembrance in the archive has led him to trace the stories of those from the university involved in the First World War.

I started researching the Great War Dead of University College, Reading after being shown the Memorial album containing the names of 141 people who lost their lives, together with photographs of 119 of them. The collecting of photographs as a means of remembering those who died in the war was suggested by Dorothy Nölting at a meeting of the Student Representative Council on 4 November 1915. In October 1919, the Council decided that the photographs should be mounted in an album and displayed in the Union Common Room. That work was carried out by Clara Wilson, a former student of the College and member of staff in the Art Department, and was completed by 28 June 1920.

The inside cover of the Book of Remembrance of those Members of The University College Reading who fell in The War 1914-1918 (MS 5339). The volume contains black and white photographs of each person, with name, rank and regiment and a list of those fallen.

Four years later the College completed the building of a War Memorial in the form of a tower containing a bell and clock. The original intention had been to erect a tower alongside the College Hall at an estimated cost of £5,000-£10,000. It was not possible to raise this amount and the existing tower was built at a cost of £2,750. By the time of the tower’s dedication on 7 June 1924 the list of those who had died extended to 144 names. However, this list excluded two names included in the Memorial Album: those of Francis Edgar Pearse and Wilfred Owen. Was their omission deliberate or accidental? Was it at the request of their families? Were Owen and Pearse deemed in some way not to be members of the College? It would be nice to know why this happened, but so far I have failed to find any explanation.

IMG_4287

The University Calendars, available to browse in the open access library at the reading room (378.4229).

In trying to find out more about those who died I looked at a number of sources held by the University of Reading Special Collections Service. The College Calendars contained lists of academic and administrative staff, together with the names of students who had passed examinations, won prizes, been awarded scholarships, and been made associates of the college. They also contained the names of students who held positions within the various student bodies, clubs and societies. The University College Review, which was last published in December 1916, contained the Roll of Honour, obituaries of those who died and details of those on Military Service. The Old Students News, published annually but not in 1918 and 1919, contained similar details to those in the Review. Tamesis, the Student magazine, also contained the names of those on service and those missing, wounded or killed. Additionally, I trawled through boxes of University Archives in the hope of finding something useful. I hoped that I might find details of those students who had been members of the College’s Officer Training Corps, but whilst record cards exist for those who were members of the Corps after the Great War, I have not found any such records for those who were members before 1914.

DSC_1095

The Memorial Clock Tower during its construction at the heart of the London Road campus in 1924 (MS 5305/M162).

Starting, I assume, in 1924 and continuing until 1938, the bell in the Memorial Tower was tolled 144 times on 11 November starting at 10.45. At 11 o’clock the bell was struck just once to mark the start of the two minutes silence. Whilst the formal remembrance of the Great War dead continued until the outbreak of the Second World War, I found an item in Tamesis (Vol XXXI, No 1, 1932) that indicated that, with the passage of time, details of those who had died were being forgotten. The article noted that the list of names on the Memorial Tower contained that of one woman, Florence Mary Faithfull (a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse), and requested information about her. A contribution to Vol XXXI, No 3 provided some details, but we are now able to say so much more about her life and death. Florence was born in India in 1891, the second of five children, to William Conrad and Constance Mary Faithfull. William was an officer in the Indian Army. In 1905 Florence and her elder sister, Constance Ellen, entered the Edinburgh Ladies’ College (now the Mary Erskine School). Florence then studied Commerce at Reading 1909-12. I don’t know what she did after leaving the College, but during the war she nursed, initially, at Fir Grove Military Auxiliary Hospital, Eversley. Her Red Cross record only runs from June 1917 when she went to Salonika. She then went, as part of the 65th British General Hospital, to Basra, and it was here that she lost her life on 15 January 1918. This was not the result of enemy action, but of an accident. The launch, Smelt, in which she and thirteen other members of the hospital were travelling, was in collision with a steam tug. Florence and three other nurses were drowned, although Florence’s body was not recovered until 2 February 1918. The four nurses were buried in adjacent graves in Makina Cemetery (now part of Basra War Cemetery).

What I, and others, have found out about those from the College who died can be seen at www.flickr.com/photos/reading_connections/albums. There is still more to do as we have yet to properly identify H Turner, probably an evening student who may have served in the Royal Navy, and have yet to explain the omission of the names of Francis Pearse and Wilfred Owen from the Memorial Tower.

Find out more about accessing the archives here.

#readingreaders

From Devon to Derbyshire, the Shell Guides to Great Britain

This blog post first appeared earlier this week on Our Country Lives: the new MERL blog.  The Shell Guides we already hold mentioned below are part of our Printing Collection.  Written by Claire Wooldridge, Project Senior Library Assistant: Landscape Institute.

Shell Guides on the shelf

Shell Guides on the shelf

The Shell Guides, published between 1934 and 1984, were designed to be light hearted but engaging guide books to the countryside and historical sites of Great Britain for the growing number of mid twentieth century car owners.  Published by the Architectural Press and funded by Shell-Mex (more driving = more fuel…) the Shell Guides were intended to tag along with day-trippers, being less than 50 pages long they were ideal for a glove compartment.  Bold and visual, each guide contains an introduction to the area covered and descriptions of each place or landmark to be found there.

From Dorset to Derbyshire, Cambridgeshire to Cornwall, the guides covered most regions of Great Britain.  Different regions were studied by different writers, including a host of well know names including John Piper (artist, 1903-1992, writer of Oxfordshire published in 1938) and Paul Nash (artist and painter, 1889-1947, writer of Dorset published in 1935).  Paul Nash went to live in Swanage for a year to work on the book, suffering from shellshock from WW1, this was an opportunity for Nash to find peace in the countryside.  Sir John Betjeman (poet, writer and broadcaster, 1906-1984) edited the series and also contributed several titles, most notably Cornwall (1934).

Selection of Shell Guide covers

Selection of Shell Guide covers

We received several editions of the Shell Guides from the Landscape Institute library, some which were new to us and some which are different editions of titles we already hold.  Several of these were presented by Shell-Mex and B. P. Ltd to the Landscape Institute.  These new additions to the collection will sit alongside our existing ones in our Printing Collection (part of our Special Collections) with Landscape Institute provenance recorded in the catalogue records.

Shell-Mex presentation book plate in Shell guides received from the LI library

Shell-Mex presentation book plate in Shell guides received from the LI library

The guides have an enduring popularity (such as being the focus of books and two TV series, one featuring Richard Wilson and another with David Heathcote, a cultural historian who has written about the Shell Guides) and are very collectable today.  Thirteen Shell Guides were published before the outbreak of WW2 and were reissued after the war.  Different editions within the Shell Guides series, with contemporary typography and images, were published in later decades – making collecting all the different copies something of a challenge!  The Shell Guides from the Landscape Institute Collections make a wonderful addition to our existing holdings.

For more information see David Heathcote’s (2010) A Shell eye on Britain: The Shell County Guides 1934-1984 (Libri).

Hiroshima at 70

In 2011, the University of Reading received a remarkable and moving gift from the University of Hiroshima in Japan: a shattered roof tile collected from the riverbed near the hypocentre of the atomic bomb attack of 6 August 1945.

hiroshima-tiles-1

The gift was made in recognition of the fact that the University had sent books in response to an appeal by its Japanese counterparts in 1951, as part of a project to establish an international peace library. Recent research conducted by the University’s History Department has revealed that Reading was one of only a handful of universities in the UK, and the first, to respond.

In 1951 HU President Tatsuo Morito sent letters to universities world-wide, asking for support to re-establish the university by donating books for a peace library, as well as seeds to bring the charred grounds back to life. Documents from both universities’ archives reveal Reading was the first to respond, a decision that remained a secret for 60 years.

Intriguingly, in the post war environment of economic gloom and emergent details of the war in the Far East, the research suggests that the decision may not have been sanctioned by senior management.

Records show that is was not discussed, or at least minuted in any formal meeting, by senior figures at the University. A letter from Mary Kirkus, University Librarian from 1941 to 1959, to President Morito suggests she may have made the decision alone. The University of Reading was inscribed on the donations in acknowledgment of ‘the contribution’ and ‘good will’, and remain in the Peace Library today.

Hiroshima letter

The University of Hiroshima also donated ten volumes of early Japanese manga books – Barefoot Gen by  Keiji Nakazawa, first published in Japanese in 1974.  Barefoot Gen was originally published in a series of magazines until circa 1985. Elements of the work are autobiographical and reflect Nakazawa’s 6 year old self and the experiences of his family. A complete set of books were donated after the translation of the last book into English in 2001. The comic strip format of the books is made more poignant by the fact that this is a child’s view of the bomb and a description of impact on his family. The books and their ‘comic strip’ format were not without controversy in Japan where several Education Areas chose to have them removed from school libraries because of their graphic nature.  The introduction to the first edition of the English translation was by author of Maus, Art Spiegelman.

 

Barefoot Gen

The tiles and manga books are now a unique and emotional part of the University’s Special Collections. Together with related documents, included those sent by the University of Hiroshima to accompany the donations confirming that the tiles are safe, are on display in the Special Collections staircase hall until 8th September 2015.

 

 

 

New acquisition: The Song of Songs

Written by Fiona Melhuish, UMASCS Librarian.

When turning the pages of The Song of Songs, one of our recent acquisitions for the Printing Collection, for the first time, you could be forgiven for thinking it is a medieval illuminated manuscript, with a handwritten script and elaborate handpainted illumination. However, it is actually a printed book, published in 1849 by Longman, and written and ‘illuminated’ by the influential artist, designer and architect Owen Jones (1809–1874).

 

FirstpageJones

The first page of ‘The Song of Songs’

 

The Song of Songs, also known as the Song of Solomon or Canticles, is the fifth of the “wisdom” books in the Old Testament of the Bible. This romantic song or poem is a celebration of sexual love which has been interpreted in numerous ways. In the Christian tradition, for example, in addition to recognising the literal meaning of a romantic song between man and woman, the poem has also been read as an allegory of Christ (the bridegroom) and his Church (the bride).

Religious works such as The Song of Songs appealed to the Victorian taste for morality and piety, and Owen Jones produced a number of other ‘illuminated’ gift book editions of religious texts, including the Sermon on the Mount (1844, 1845), The Psalms of David (1861) and The History of Joseph and His Brethren : Genesis Chapters XXXVII. XXXVIII, XL (1862), and we have copies of all of these books in the rare book collections. All of these works, including The Song of Songs, were printed using the technique of chromolithography, a new and elaborate method of colour printing.

 

Verso of t-p from song of songs

Verso of title-page from ‘The Song of Songs’, which reads ‘Illuminated by Owen Jones’.

 

Owen Jones is perhaps most well-known for his influential publication, The Grammar of Ornament (1856), a lavish compendium of nineteen styles of historic and world ornament, concluding with a final chapter on nature. The book contains one hundred magnificent and highly detailed chromolithographed plates of ornaments drawn from architecture, textiles, tiles, rare books, metalwork, stained glass and many other decorative arts, and was the subject of one of our Featured Items. Jones’s publication Plans, elevations, sections and details of the Alhambra, which appeared in several parts between the years 1842 to 1845, was to be the first significant published work to be printed using chromolithography, and a copy of this two-volume work is held in our Overstone Library collection.

 

Samplepage from song of songs

Illuminated page from ‘The Song of Songs’

 

The Song of Songs is also interesting for its original brown ‘relievo’ binding [see image below], a Victorian invention of moulded and embossed leather which was intended to imitate both medieval books and wood carvings. The Psalms of David, another of the ‘illuminated’ religious publications by Jones in our collections, has a similar binding (by Leighton, Son & Hodge).

This new acquisition not only complements the other publications by Jones which we hold in our collections, but also examples of original artwork by Jones for diaries, calendars and Huntley and Palmers biscuit packaging, held in the University’s archive collections.

 

RelievobindingJonesresize

 

This post also presents a good opportunity to pay special tribute to the work of Geoff Gardner and Jane Li from the University Library, who do a great deal of our rare book conservation work. Geoff and Jane produce many intricate book repairs and make special boxes for our rare books which enable many of our treasures to be handled and studied by students and other researchers, and to be in a suitable condition to exhibit as part of displays here at Special Collections and to be loaned to other institutions for external exhibitions.

 

Janesbox

 

For example, in order to protect the relievo binding of The Song of Songs, Jane produced this exquisite, padded conservation-standard box [see image above] in which to store the book, reproducing designs from the book to create a suitably elegant and decorative design. We are very lucky to be able to undertake conservation work and repairs in-house and are very grateful to Geoff and Jane for their hard work!

References

Flores, Carol A. Hrvol, Owen Jones : design, ornament, architecture and theory in an age of transition. (New York : Rizzoli, 2006). Reference copy available at the Special Collections Service: REFERENCE–720.942-JON/FLO

Rural Reads Plus: All the Truth That’s In Me

 

Our latest review from Volunteer Coordinator Rob Davies

All the Truth That's In Me book coverWe read our first young adult novel this June, All the Truth That’s In Me, by Julia Berry. This book was another first among the group in that everyone was unanimous in their enjoyment of it (which is a rarity).

All the Truth That’s In Me is set within a settler’s village in early America, a time when people from Europe were making the treacherous journey across the Atlantic to carve out a new life. Some were fleeing from persecution and others were seeking to create a better world. These communities were hardened, used to tough winters, disease and mortality. They were driven by religious zeal, ambition and a deep spiritual strength.

Within this world our narrator Judith, leads us and it is not for the faint hearted. Judith retells her story of being kidnapped by a man thought dead, followed by him removing her tongue and then her tough reintroduction into the village. The village is filled with sinister and graceful characters, all of them written believably and earnestly. The story ends in a dramatic apex, but I don’t want to provide any spoilers.

The relationship between Judith and the other characters drives a lot of the story, but it’s the relationship between Judith and her mother which is heart rendering. Her mother, believing her daughter to be dead, struggles to welcome her back. She is widow looking after her maimed son and the new world is bleak for her. There are scenes when Judith’s mother maliciously locks her out the house in the freezing night.

The story is told from Judith’s point of view. Judith has a stump for a tongue after it was savagely removed; at first believed to be a mute, she is vulnerable and believed to be a fool. However through a friendship with Mary, she soon learns to speak once more. It is a strand of the story that symbolises overcoming the odds, something that rings very heavily with Berry’s chosen audience.

This novel is a young adult novel and Berry is very aware of that. Even though she is dealing with adult issues she uses clever constructs to speak to her audience. This, I believe, is the genius of this book and of course other good young adult novels.

All the Truth That’s In Me is a rural read; the settlement is built upon agriculture and is surrounded by the wild unknown. The community depends upon fertile fields, their livestock and a good harvest. The novel also inhibits the isolation that rural communities used to (and still do some cases) embody, which adds to the drama of the story.

All of us would recommend reading All the Truth That’s In Me and if you know a teenager, pass it on to them once you’ve read it. For July we’re reading Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver – stay tuned!

New exhibition on early Venetian printing

Written by Fiona Melhuish, UMASCS Librarian

The year 2015 marks the 500th anniversary of the death of Aldus Manutius (c. 1451-1515), one of the most influential figures among the early Venetian printers. Our new exhibition features some examples of his publications from the University of Reading rare book collections, together with works by his son, Paulus Manutius, and some of Aldus’s contemporaries who were working during his lifetime and afterwards.

Aldusdevice

The printer’s device of Aldus Manutius

At the turn of the fifteenth century, Venice was at the centre of the book market, with about 150 presses at work in the city. Aldus established a reputation as one of the finest printers of the period, producing quality, compact and affordable editions of classical and contemporary texts for the growing market of humanist scholars. Aldus is known for his development of an italic type, cut by Francesco Griffo. The condensed size of this type, which was based on the humanist script, enabled Aldus to create compact editions which were popular with scholars for their portability.

One of the highlights of the exhibition is an illuminated edition of the works of Giovanni Gioviano Pontano (1426–1503) [see image below], the celebrated Italian humanist and Latin poet, published in 1505 and an example of one of Aldus’s compact publications, printed in the italic type designed by Francesco Griffo.

pontanipages

 

The exhibits also include a facsimile reprint of Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, a romantic allegory, which was published by Aldus in 1499. Illustrated by an unknown artist, the book has been described as “the most beautiful woodcut book ever published”. The use of illustrations in printed books was a relatively new development at this time. This work is also notable for the way in which the content of the illustrations closely follows the storyline of the allegory.

The exhibition will be on display in the staircase hall at the Special Collections Service until 27 March 2015.

12 Days of Christmas roundup

It’s almost Christmas! That means good cheer, Christmas spirit and….a fight to the death competition?!

Although technically the 12 days of Christmas begin with 25 December, we won’t be around over the break – so we had a 12 Days of Christmas #12off competition with the Museum of English Rural Life and the Ure Museum in early December! We’d like to think that we came out on top. Here’s what we came up with – follow us on Twitter or Tumblr to see the other collection’s choices.