The Future of Literary Archives: New Publication Announced

Book cover of Future of Literary Archives.

The long-awaited collection of essays reflecting the work of the Diasporic Literary Archives Network has now been published. Entitled The Future of Literary Archives(edited by David C. Sutton and Ann Livingstone), the book is published jointly by ARC Humanities Press and Amsterdam University Press.

The contents reflect many of the themes and challenges which were pursued and developed by the Diasporic Literary Archives Network, and it is indicative that the book’s Index, in addition to referencing the many literary authors cited, has multiple entries for concepts such as “the politics of location”, “archival ethics”, “archival return” and “appropriateness of location”. Other major themes of the book include the market in literary archives, archives at risk, publishers’ archives, the particular case of Caribbean archives, digitisation and digital archives, the collecting of emails, translators’ papers, appraisal and selection, and cataloguing challenges.

The full list of contents is as follows:
* David C. Sutton: ‘Introduction: Literary Papers as the Most “Diasporic” of All Archives’
* Alison Donnell: ‘Caribbean Literary Archives and the Politics of Location: Challenging the Norms of Belonging’
* Maureen Roberts: ‘The Huntley Archives at London Metropolitan Archives’
* André Derval: ‘Conserving Private Literary and Editorial Archives: the Story of the IMEC’
* Jennifer Toews: ‘Migration, Freedom of Expression, and the Importance of Diasporic Literary Archives’
* Jens Boel: ‘The Universal Dimension of Diasporic Literary Archives’
* Veno V. Kauaria and David C. Sutton: ‘Namibian Literary Archives: New Beginnings and a Possible African Model’
* Sophie Heywood: ‘Francophone Archives at Risk’
* Daniela La Penna: ‘Italian Literary Archives: Legacies and Challenges’
* Trudy Huskamp Peterson: ‘Unknown/Unknowns and Known/Unknowns’
* Andrew Nash: ‘Publishers’ Archives, Authors’ Papers, and Literary Scholarship’
* Serenella Zanotti: ‘Diasporic Archives in Translation Research: A Case Study of Anthony Burgess’s Archives’
* David C. Sutton: ‘Conclusion: The Future of Literary Manuscripts – An International Perspective’

For more information about this title, and how to purchase it, click here.

 

 

 

Celebrating 50 Years of Bringing Children and Books Together

The Federation of Children’s Book Groups is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Founded in 1968 by parent, teacher and television producer Anne Wood CBE, the organisation is passionate about bringing children and books together, working at both national and local levels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This exhibition traces the history of the Federation of Children’s Book Groups including the Children’s Book Award, which is the only national book award voted for entirely by children. It has been co-curated by the University of Reading Special Collections and Getting Reading Reading, which is one of the Federation’s local children’s book groups. They are one of the twelve Testing Groups for the award.

The exhibition features some of the past winners of the award displayed alongside books and objects from The Museum of English Rural Life and the University of Reading’s Special Collections. There is a particular focus on the theme of animals in children’s literature. The associated trail will lead you around the exhibition and beyond into The MERL, where you will also find the Ladybird Gallery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can find out more about the work of the Federation of Children’s Book Groups by clicking here. The FCBG have also posted a blog about the exhibition on their own website.

The exhibition will be on display at the Special Collections Service until Tuesday 31 July 2018.

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.

Return of the Red Rose

A collection of ephemera related to the Gild of the Red Rose.

A selection of brochures and ephemera from the University History Collection.

 

The Gild of the Red Rose was a literature and theatre society founded in 1897, by W.M. Childs. The group was open to staff and students, hosting dramatic performances and readings for many years. The group was not disbanded until the late 1980’s.  

The Gild was built on customs, titles and phrases that may be unfamiliar today. The committee was called the ‘Curia’ and the functions included Gemots, Morrowspeches and Jantacula. Mr Childs was inspired by the sixteenth century Gild Merchant of Reading when he founded this society.

The University History Collection holds brochures, photographs and other ephemera relating to the Gild. These archives can be accessed by visiting the Reading Room at the University of Reading Special Collections in the Museum of English Rural Life.

Programmes and photographs from this society will be displayed at the end of February. The archives form part of a third year BA Museum Studies project, where myself and fellow students have chosen to exhibit the theme of ‘Belonging’. Choosing a theme and title for the exhibition was not an easy decision, but eventually we agreed upon five sub-themes: Belonging to Conflict, Belonging to Culture, Belonging to Community, Belonging to Countryside and Belonging to Clubs. We chose these sub-themes because they each had a strong link to the vast university collections.  

Throughout this project, I focused mainly on the ‘Belonging to Clubs’ case, and quickly established a link between the archives and this sub-theme. Clubs like the Gild of the Red Rose created a sense of belonging by helping students to find like-minded communities. The Gild archives are fairly extensive and span decades of the university’s history, and the array of colourful programmes and photographs became an obvious choice for this case.

Working with the archives was an amazing opportunity, and researching objects such as scrapbooks and theatre song sheets often felt like opening the door on the university’s past. I was so impressed by the variety of archives that the University Special Collections hold, and much of my inspiration for the exhibition developed from visiting. I’m delighted that I have been able to view a snapshot of the life of former students, and hope that the ‘Belonging to Clubs’ case accurately represents the views of those who were a part of this fascinating society.

The Gild of the Red Rose material will be located in a case outside the Ure Museum on Whiteknights campus, while other sections of the ‘Belonging’ exhibition can be found at the Museum of English Rural Life, the Archaeology building on Whiteknights campus, and Reading Central Library. The exhibition closes on 13th April.  

Did you belong to the Gild of the Red Rose?

We’d love to hear your memories.

 

Lucy Wilkes, Final Year Museum and Classical Studies Student

From Artistotle to Anatomy and the tongue of a woodpecker… Digitising the Cole photographic records

Diagram of a Woodpecker Tongue

A lantern slide of a scientific diagram of the tongue of a woodpecker, taken from the works of Giovanni Alfonso Borelli. (MS 5315/2/30). You can also see the string (left of the illustration) used by Cole.

 

 

In today’s blog post, Tim and Ceri discuss their progress in digitising the glass lantern negatives created by Professor F J Cole (1872-1959), F.R.S., Professor of Zoology in the University of Reading from 1907 to 1939.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tim Jerrome – Graduate Trainee Archive Assistant

Though I am admittedly fairly new to work in archives, I already have the belief that accessibility to collections is the most important part of an archivist’s job. As such, when given the chance to participate in the Cole project – cataloguing and digitising the lantern slides of Professor Cole – I was eager to get started!

Illustration of a Rhinoceros

A lantern slide of a Rhinoceros by Albrecht (Albert) Dürer, taken from one of his works. (MS 5315/4/2/76/5

The cataloguing part of the project has been a learning experience in more ways than one. Not only have I become involved with the nuances of cataloguing hierarchy, as well as using the cataloguing software, Adlib, I have also learnt a great deal about Professor Cole’s collection simply by observing the slides as I catalogue them. For example, I came across an image of Dürer’s Rhinoceros at one point, which encouraged me to research the fascinating story behind it.

 

Once I had catalogued my first set of slides, I moved on to digitisation; essentially, taking high-quality photographs of the lantern slides, editing the images, and adding them to our database of digital assets. I was a little sceptical when I first heard the camera described as a ‘praying mantis’ but it really does fit that description, and it is also enormous! The quality of images it produces is worth it, however, and I’ve relished the chance to get to grips with such high-end hardware.

I’m hoping that my contribution to the project will make the Cole collection more accessible to researchers, and I’m looking forward to continuing.

 

 

Ceri Lumley – Archive Assistant

Purple gloves handling box of glass negatives

Careful handling of the Cole glass plate negatives.

For someone who has an interest in the history of science the opportunity to work on the Cole digitisation of glass plate negatives was a welcome one. However, it was not without its technical trickiness.

Cole photographed images from many core medical and natural philosophy texts, from Aristotle to Leeuwenhoek and beyond. He used these images in his lectures and teaching at the University of Reading but also in his published works, something which is evidenced elsewhere in his papers. From these glass plates we can see his process and the painstaking effort he went to reproduce these images, sometimes taking multiple copies of the same image until he was happy with the result. The photographing set up he had devised can be seen in the images with string and pins delicately holding pages in place to enable him to get the best picture possible.

When digitising glass plate negatives there is often a choice to be made between digitising the object as an object and capturing the image on the glass. This is particularly true of Cole’s process as he often used tape or paint to conceal or highlight parts of the images he was photographing; a kind of early Photoshop. The materiality of the negatives is fascinating in itself and I hope the efforts to digitise them captures a bit of both the image itself and the condition of the negative as a ‘thing’.

It has been quite a task to digitise the photographic records within the Cole collection held at Special Collections. There are almost 1500 glass negatives alone!

Stay tuned for further updates regarding the slides as this work continues. The images of the glass plate negatives from the digitisation project for each individual author will soon be available to view on our Enterprise catalogue and through our online database.

To learn more about the papers of F J Cole see our previous blog post by Cataloguing Archivist Sharon Maxwell here. For the Cole Museum email colemuseum@reading.ac.uk. You can also follow the Cole on Twitter @ColeZoology

 

Michael Mitchell (1939–2017)

The printer’s mark for Libanus Press, taken from an exemplar (Printer’s Collection Folio 094 LIB)

 

We were sad to hear that Michael Mitchell, one of England’s most noted fine typographers, passed away last week. Founder of the Libanus Press, Mitchell quickly became a leading typographer, most known for clear, yet aesthetically pleasing publications.

Libanus Press originally began as a letterpress, and it was his skills in typography that Mitchell was most known. After Libanus Press closed their letterpress in 2006, they moved into digital production, specialising in catalogues and informative guides for museums and cultural institutions. This included helping to design the catalogue for the Finzi Book Room at the University of Reading, held by Special Collections.

Mitchell also co-authored two works with Susan Wrightman, Book typography : a designer’s manual (2005) and Typographic style handbook (2017), both works regularly consulted by the University of Reading Typography students.

The battle of the Frogs and Mice, illustrated by Fiona Macvicar ; translated by T. Parnell. (Libanus Press, 1988) Printing Collection Folio 883.1.

The frontispiece of The Symposium of Plato, translated by Tom Griffith; engraved by Peter Forster (Libanus Press: 1986) Printing Collection Folio 888.4

Special Collections also holds copies of Libanus Press’ most noted publications. The Battle of frogs and mice, an ancient Greek parody of The Illiad, is beautifully illustrated by Fiona MacVicar, and allows the reader to spread the pages out.

Another publication, Symposium of Plato = Platōnos Symposion, beautifully presents the Greek and English text, allowing for a clear and concise translation.

 

 

 

 

We hold a collection of papers related to the Libanus Press as part of our Rowley Atterbury and Westerham Press Papers (MS 5347 C/1/122). This includes various ephemeral items, such as Open Day invitations and prospectuses, specimens, lists, forms, notices, keepsakes, bookplates, including notes written by Mitchell. All of these documents offer valuable insight into publication, and the study of private presses and typography.

An examplar of For Those in Peril, poems by Martin Trowell (1976), with added notes by Michael Mitchell.

An invitation to a Libanus Press Open Day for the 29th of April 1989, showing the everyday workings of the Press.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can find out more about Mitchell in his obituary in the Guardian or through our information on the Rowley Atterbury Collection.

 

 

Sex, Scandals and Censorship: Mirabeau’s Errotika Biblion

Written by Erika Delbecque, Special Collections Librarian

Our copy of Errotika Biblion, part of the Overstone Library.

Inconspicuous amongst the venerable old tomes on the shelves of our rare book store, an unassuming binding contains one of the most infamous texts of the Ancient Regime: Errotika Biblion, Ancient Greek for The Erotic Book, by Honoré-Gabriel Riqueti, Count of Mirabeau. On the occasion of Valentine’s Day, we explore the scandalous love affairs, forbidden passions and relentless prosecution that are intertwined with its publication history.

Honoré-Gabriel Riqueti (1749-1791) was a famous French statesman who played a key role in the early stages of the French Revolution. He was equally well-known for numerous scandals, several of which landed him in prison. When he joined the French cavalry regiment aged 18, he had an affair with the love interest of a superior, which resulted in his first imprisonment. After he was released, he joined the French mission to Corsica as a volunteer, where he had another scandalous affair. In 1772 he married the rich heiress Marie-Marquerite-Emilie de Covet, allegedly under controversial circumstances. She was already engaged to someone else and had rejected him several times, so he devised a treacherous plan to win her hand. He is said to have bribed one of her maids to let him into the room next to hers, and appeared on the shared balcony in the morning in his underclothes, chatting to passers-by. Her furious father realised his daughter’s reputation was at risk and arranged for the marriage to take place within days.

The Chateau de Vincennes, where Mirabeau was imprisoned when he wrote Errotika Biblion (photograph by Daniel Kakiuthi)

Mirabeau was imprisoned again in 1775 for taking part in a violent brawl. Whilst he was there, he obtained permission to visit the nearby town of Joux, which is where he met Marie Thérèse de Monnier, known as ‘Sophie’, who was also married at the time. The couple escaped to the Low Countries, and Mirabeau was sentenced to death for seduction and abduction. He was captured in 1777 and imprisoned in the Chateau de Vincennes in Paris, where he would remain until his release in 1780. To pass the time, he became a prolific writer. He wrote a series of erotic letters to Marie Thérèse, which he published under a pseudonym as Les Lettres à Sophie:

Are you sometimes happy, O dearly beloved? Do you in your dreams seem to realise all that my love means to you? Do you feel my kisses on your lips, do you press your own to mine in an abandonment of tenderness? [1]

The table of contents page of Errotika Biblion

It was during his imprisonment at Vincennes that he also wrote the Errotika Biblion. It is a peculiar work. Organised by different sexual practices and perversions into eleven chapters, including topics such as bestiality (‘Béhéma’), female homosexuality (‘L’Anandryne’) and nymphomania (‘La Linguanmanie’), it purports to offer a history of human sexual behaviour. Mirabeau draws on quotes from the Bible and ancient sources to provide historical examples of each sexual practice, and attacks the corruption of the clergy and the aristocracy in the process.

Fully aware of the outrage that his work would cause, Mirabeau published the book anonymously under a false imprint: although it was in fact printed in Switzerland by François Mallet, a bookseller who would later be arrested for publishing this work, the title page states it was printed ‘in Rome, at the Vatican Printing House’. This deliberate attempt to provoke the clerical authorities did not go unnoticed. The work was immediately banned by the Ancient Regime, and its publishers and booksellers were ardently prosecuted. It was destroyed on such a large scale, that only fourteen copies of the first edition are said to have survived.

The title page of Errotika biblion with the false imprint

However, all these efforts could not stop the text from circulating widely and achieving a notorious status. In 1783, the same year in which it was published, a pirated edition appeared on the market. A second official edition was printed in 1792, after which the book was included in the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, the list of books that were forbidden by the Roman Catholic Church. Although the work remained banned until the mid-nineteenth century, it was never out of print.

Given the amount of censorship it attracted, Mirabeau would undoubtedly be surprised to know that his infamous book is now freely available to all. Digitised copies from the Bibliothèque nationale de France and Ohio State University can be consulted online through, respectively,Gallica and the Haiti Trust website. Anyone who wishes to view our copy is welcome to contact us to make an appointment to view it in our reading room.

References

[1]  Mirabeau, Honoré-Gabriel de Riquetti. Mirabeau’s love-letters. London: A.L. Humphreys, 1909. Available at: <https://archive.org/details/mirabeauslovelet00miraiala>.

New Exhibition: The John and Griselda Lewis Printing Collection

The John and Griselda Lewis Printing Collection consists of over 20,000 examples of printed documents covering several centuries and a wide variety of research subjects –from Fifteenth Century religious texts, Nineteenth Century love tokens to Twentieth Century book design. It complements other important printing and publishing collections held at the University’s Special Collections Service and the Department of Typography and Graphic Communication. A selection of favourite items from the collection is currently on display here at the Museum of English Rural Life.

A page from a journal article, decorated with red flowers.

An Illustration from Le Journal de la Decoration c.1906 (JGL 23 23)

John Lewis and His Chance Find

John Lewis spent many years as a lecturer in graphic design at the Royal College of Art, and wrote several publications on printing and book design. His 1962 publication Printed Ephemera: The Changing Uses of Type and Letterforms in English and American Printing is considered pivotal in giving credence to the notion of paper ephemera as a subject for academic study.

His interest in ephemera began as a young man. Lewis started his career as a printer for the firm of Cowells in Ipswich. While working here in the mid-1950s Lewis found a large scrapbook in a secondhand bookshop. The book contained an assortment of printed matter including printer’s marks, specimens of typefaces, tradesman’s bills and public notices. The scrapbook had been compiled in the 1820s by a Dr Lodge, at one time the librarian of the University of Cambridge. The exact purpose of the scrapbook remains a mystery, but John Lewis was compelled to purchase the book and study its contents. This original volume, which he later dissembled, formed the starting point of Lewis’s fascination with paper ephemera. In his collecting he was joined by his wife, the noted ceramicist Griselda Lewis. They believed that such temporary documents contain a wealth of evidence of everyday life in the past, as well as charting the development of printing techniques in the UK.

Wolpe and Weinreb

In addition to John and Griselda’s original collection, a proportion of the archive was originally collected by the typographer and illustrator Berthold Wolpe, a fellow lecturer at the Royal College of Art. The collection was further added to by Ben Weinreb, a London-based dealer in rare books who purchased the collection sometime around 1990. What survives today is an amalgamation of the collecting interests of these various parties. The result is a rare and diverse collection of printed ephemera incorporating early printing specimens, newspaper advertisements, street literature, book covers and trade cards, plus specimens of calligraphy, lithography and fine art printing. As such, material in this collection can support the research of many aspects of social history, as well as students of graphic design and the visual arts.

A black and white magazine cover of a woman, with the words Wendingen on the cover.

Cover from a 1924 edition of Wendingen magazine of art and architecture (JGL 29-4 -15)

During his ownership of the collection, Weinreb arranged the documents into various categories. Roughly the first half of the collection is organised by document type. These include Early Manuscripts and Printed Books, Prospectuses, and Trade Cards, Letterheads and Catalogues. Much of the latter half is arranged by themes, such as Religion, Maritime, Agriculture, and so on, each of which contain a broad mixture of documents. The majority of documents were glued and mounted onto around 1,900 light cardboard sheets, presumably as an aid to displaying and discussing the collection.

 

 Our Project

The collection is now fully catalogued, and is to be made available via our online catalogue. Each cardboard sheet has been digitally photographed. In addition, we are mid-way through a programme of conservation, as the glues used to mount the documents are harmful to their long term preservation. Documents are being carefully removed from their mounts and placed in archive-quality folders. This not only creates a better preservation environment, but also makes them easier for visitors to access in our reading room. In the short term parts of the collection are unavailable to researchers, but archive staff can advise enquirers as to specifics of availability.

The John and Griselda Lewis Printing Collection is being celebrated with an exhibition here at our Special Collections Service, housed at the Museum of English Rural Life. This exhibition showcases a range of attractive and unusual documents from the collection, and runs until Sunday 11th February.

Image of the Exhibition space.

A snapshot of our John and Griselda Lewis Exhibition.