‘Come to the Farm’ exhibition now at Special Collections

Visit to the Farm, MERL Library Pamphlet Collection

Visit to the Farm, MERL Library Pamphlet Collection

Just a quick reminder you can now view our fabulous exhibition – ‘Come to the farm : children’s books on farming‘ – in the Staircase Hall at Special Collections.


Timothy's Book of Farming, Children's Collection, Children's Collection

Timothy’s Book of Farming, Children’s Collection, Children’s Collection

Fun at the Farm, Ladybird

Fun at the Farm, Ladybird














This exhibition is a celebration of books on farms and farming for children selected from the Children’s Collection, part of the University of Reading rare book collections, and the library of the Museum of English Rural Life.

The exhibits range from an early nineteenth century book on farming and ‘rural economy’ for children to a twentieth century pop-up book of a Victorian farmhouse. The exhibition also features a selection of Ladybird books on farms and farming from our Ladybird collections.

The exhibition will be on display at the University Library from 9 February until 17 May 2015, and then on display at the Special Collections Service from 18 May until 17 July 2015.

And don’t forget – May is National Share a Story Month


‘Come to the Farm’ and ‘William the Dragon’: sharing stories from our Children’s Collection

What better way to celebrate May being National Share-a-Story Month and 15 May being the International Day of Families – than a chance to look at some of the highlights of our Children’s Collection!  The theme of 2015’s National Share-a-Story Month is dragons!

William the Dragon (1972)

William the Dragon (1972) [CHILDREN’S COLLECTION 823.9 DON]

Our Children’s Collection currently comprises over 6,000 books and journals written for children. Most are 19th and early 20th century English works with around 900 pre-1851 titles. There are good collections of Mrs Hofland and Mrs Sherwood, G.A. Henty, unbroken runs of Aunt Judy’s magazine and the Monthly packet.

The collection originated in the 1950s in a gift of early 19th century children’s books from Sir Frank and Lady Stenton. It was established by the University Library as a separate special collection with the addition of miscellaneous children’s books distributed throughout the University Library in the 1960s. Donations remained a significant factor in its early growth, and included a bequest from the author Elinor Brent Dyer.

The Children’s Collection has also been used during one of our Toddler Time sessions focusing on National Share-a-Story Month, as Karen Goulding from Reading’s Institute of Education describes here.

The collection is complemented by several other collections of children’s literature : the Crusoe Collection, the Wizard of Oz Collection and the Brock Collection. We also hold the archive of Ladybird books, alongside many hundreds of printed editions.

From Shopping with Mother (copyright Ladybird Books)

From Shopping with Mother (copyright Ladybird Books)

Complementing our MERL Library collections, we also hold many titles which celebrate  farms and farming for children.  Included are titles ranging from an early nineteenth century book on farming and ‘rural economy’ for children to a twentieth century pop-up book of a Victorian farmhouse.  Come to the Farm (below) is featured in an exhibition of children’s books on farming which is soon to open here at Special Collections.

Come to the Farm


So why not share a story this month!

For more information, please contact: specialcollections@reading.ac.uk


Rural Reads Plus review: Far From the Madding Crowd

fftmcTo celebrate spring and to coincide with the upcoming film adaption starring Carey Mulligan, the group read the quintessential ‘rural read’ – Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd. To quote myself at book group, ‘Why has it taken us over four years to read this book?!’ Far from the Madding Crowd embodies the Museum of English Rural Life, and there are so many elements of the novel that correlate with our collections. Within the first few pages there is a mention of a spring wagon and countless other objects we hold within our collections.

Far from the Madding Crowd tells the story of Bathsheba, a young woman who inherits her uncle’s farm and decides to run it herself. While running the farm, Bathsheba becomes the target of three potential suitors: the wholesome Shepherd Gabriel Oak, the lonely and wealthy Mr Boldwood and the handsome but dastardly cad Sergeant Troy. It is this narrative that drives the story, which is filled out with events on the farm.

Hardy provides the reader with an accurate and vivid portrayal of living in the countryside in the nineteenth century. The various roles and the ways in which work revolved around the seasons are colourfully revealed with sequences that involve everything from thwacking the corn through to sheep dipping. Gabriel’s role as a shepherd caring for his flock is expertly told; Hardy uses the romantic vision of the lonely shepherd to add to Oak’s character but also delves into the technicalities and realities of shepherding.

Much of the group’s discussion focused on the personalities of Bathsheba’s three love interests. We furiously debated Captain Troy’s return and whether he was attempting to repent for his past actions that had resulted in Fanny’s death. A few members of the group believed he was a reformed character where others were not so convinced and still believed him a shallow cad.

A sense of community encircles the novel, a tight knit rural community where everyone has their role and gossip is always rife. As a group we really liked the ‘yokel’ characters that populated the book; Hardy used them to provide that sense of community.

Overall the group enjoyed the book; I personally loved it and I think that every member of staff here at MERL should read this book (we are making inroads!). For month of May we’re reading The Dig by John Preston. Join us!