Redlands Road closure

MERL courtyardRedlands Road is currently closed for roadworks, but visitors to Special Collections and MERL can still get in by car.

Don’t worry about the ‘Redlands Rd closed’ and ‘RBH access only’ signs on London Rd – you CAN turn left onto Redlands Rd and access the MERL carpark without a problem. The closure is further up the road and only an issue if you are coming from the Shinfield/Whiteknights area.

Favourite finds: Come to the Farm

Come to the Farm


I’m Liz McCarthy, one of the two UMASCS Librarians. One of the best parts of my job is discovering things – whether that’s finding interesting material in our collections, adding items to the library or simply learning new things about our collections from a researcher.

Earlier this summer, I found a charming little book at a London bookseller’s shop, and I thought it was a perfect fit for us. It’s a tiny book, only about 10 cm tall, called Come to the Farm. It was published as part of a series called Tuck’s Better Little Books, and one of what were often called ‘Air Raid Booklets’. Published during the war, these small economic booklets (mainly for kids) could easily be carried in your pocket to an air raid. The subjects ranged from pure entertainment (bedtime stories, fairy tales) to educational or propaganda material (Brave Boys in War, I’m a Land Girl).

In Come to the Farm, two children named Joan and Peter explore a farm for the first time, learning about the buildings, animals and work as well as the answers to such pressing questions as ‘Why do the roads and hedges twist about so much?’ and ‘What do pigs eat?’ It’s ‘the most exciting day they’d had for months’, and it may be that the book was designed to help young children feel more secure about evacuations to the countryside. Although evacuations had largely scaled down by 1942, the uncertainty of the war made the possibility of further moves a very real one.

Come to the Farm is part of our Children’s Collection, but it touches on other areas of relevance to our readers and researchers. MERL researchers may be interested in the descriptions of farm life to children, and the wartime farm focus certainly complements our Evacuee Archive. Please do call up the book and take a look!

Research Tip: Our A-Z lists


One of the quickest ways to find out about our collections – and whether we have a particular collection – is to use our A to Z index.  Although the list is in progress, it includes nearly 200 archive, rare book and other special collections held by the University. Each collection has its own page with a description of scope and content as well as a link to catalogue details.

It is worth noting that we  have recently launched a similar A-Z index of MERL’s archive collections, which has been undertaken as part of the Reading Connections project.

Freud at Reading

Brian Ryder is one of our volunteers here at Special Collections. Brian’s history with Reading collections is a long one; he used to be one of our project cataloguers and is now working his way through the Routledge & Kegan Paul archive.

One hundred years ago, Sigmund Freud despaired of ever seeing published (as The Interpretation of Dreams) the English translation of his book Die Traumdeutung. His publishers, George Allen & Company, normally corresponded on this matter with translator AA Brill, an Austrian disciple of Freud’s living in the United States. However, in January 1913 they wrote directly to the author asking that various references to sexual matters be omitted, pleading that were this not to be done the book would have to be restricted in its sale only to those with a professional interest in its subject.


Freud’s letter to his publishers

On 1 February 1913 Freud replied in German from Vienna (see AU C 2/13). Spencer Stallybrass, George Allen’s company secretary, translated the letter so that it could be considered by the editorial management. Stallybrass carefully folded the letter precisely in half and, in the hand which made the company’s board minutes so easily read and understood, wrote on the back the following:

Dear Sirs

I much regret that, in consequence of your opinion, you found it necessary to make such a request of me. In order not to embarrass either yourselves or the translator, I am prepared to consent to the desired omissions in so far as Dr Brill agrees to them, and I will write to him to this effect.

I wish you a speedy settlement of the matter, and success to the undertaking.

Yours respectfully


Freud Letter - Translation

A translation of Freud’s letter by the company secretary

The book was immediately published and has been in print ever since. In 1914 George Allen & Company, unable to continue in business, was purchased from the receiver by Stanley Unwin and became George Allen & Unwin Ltd. Freud’s letter remained folded and unmentioned in any catalogue until it was discovered during preparations in 2000 for the Allen & Unwin archive to be made searchable online.

In 1929 Allen & Unwin published another book of interest to Freud and his circle, this time entitled A Young Girl’s Diary, anonymous but with an introduction by Freud. It was translated by Eden and Cedar Paul, favourites of Stanley Unwin who believed that no satisfactory translation could be completed which was other than into the translator’s first language (in the 1950s the translations of Freud’s work by Brill, for whom German was his first language, were replaced by new ones by James Strachey). A Young Girl’s Diary attracted the attentions of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the publisher was forced to do what George Allen had feared – booksellers who ordered it were instructed that it should only be sold to members of the medical, legal and educational professions (see AUC 5/15).

Behind the scenes: Hogarth Press transcription project

Hogarth Press ledgers

Hogarth Press order books

Our latest post comes from Dale, who has recently completed a six week UROP placement here at special collections.  Dale has made a great start on the project entitled ‘Selling the books of Virginia Woolf’ using the Hogarth Press Archive and is about to enter his final year studying with the English department. 

The Hogarth Press Archive sits in the Special Collections of the university, available to researchers who have the permission of Random House (who own the archive) and that of the relevant author’s estate, who hold the copyright for the material. My task for the past six weeks has been to transcribe into Excel some of the handwritten entries detailing the orders for Virginia Woolf’s novels and essays in the original order books kept by the firm. In this modern age of digitisation and data sharing throughout the world, it seems only sensible to make information available digitally or in this case electronically for future online access to researchers globally.

Hogarth Press order books - page view

Hogarth Press order books – page view

The process of transcription is at times a slow one. The records are extremely detailed, listing information such as customer, location, date of dispatch and payment, and the exact amount received by the press. On top of this the issue of legibility slows progress considerably, some handwriting being clear and easy to transcribe, some much more difficult due to highly stylised penmanship. Over the course of the past six weeks, I have transcribed the records for four Virginia Woolf novels, namely Between the Acts, The Years, To the Lighthouse, and A Room of One’s Own, with total sales figures ranging from around 4,500 copies to around 15,000 copies.

To the Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf

To the Lighthouse – Virginia Woolf

Transcription may not sound too thrilling a task, but the excitement comes from the long lasting benefits this research could provide to Woolf scholars everywhere. Currently researchers wishing to consult the order books need to visit the Special Collections in person or enlist someone to carry out the research on their behalf. The ultimate goal of this project is for these transcriptions to be made available online as part of the Modernist Archives Publishing Project (MAPP) This will enable scholars throughout the world to access this information, which will appear alongside other types of research and digitised archival material relating to modernist authors and publishing.

My part, however, is just the first step. There’s no telling how long it will take for other parts of the archives to be transcribed and digitised, but perhaps these past six weeks may provide an example of how much can be achieved, and of the benefits of such a project. I have every hope that this project will succeed, and also grow to exceed initial aims and expectations, and I for one will be following its progress every step of the way.

The Years - Virginia Woolf

The Years – Virginia Woolf

As well as providing a useful tool for future research, I too have gained from this project. Before now I had never been to MERL and the Special Collections, never worked with archives, and never carried out research of this kind. I came to this project hoping to discern whether or not I would be interested in postgraduate research, and whether or not I could do this directly after graduating, and I have learned without a doubt that I could indeed go straight into postgraduate research. Working alongside scholars and archivists provides a completely different experience to that of undergraduate research, and it is an experience which I would highly recommend.

Using Special Collections for teaching and research

Using Special Collections material from our archive and rare book collections for teaching as part of a seminar or lecture can be a very rewarding experience for lecturers and students alike.

The excellent teaching facilities at Special Collections Services include two meeting rooms, which can be used by teaching groups who need to work with the collections, including seminars and conferences. The rooms are available for use by both University academic staff and students, and external groups and societies. For more information, see our Teaching and Research Facilities web page.

The Westminster Conference Room at the Special Collections Service

The Westminster Conference Room at the Special Collections Service

Also on this page, read some case studies from University of Reading academics who have incorporated Special Collections material into their teaching, and discover more about the benefits to academic staff and students in using Special Collections material in teaching and learning.