Monthly Archives: December 2018

“Encourage the reading, help the readers, and to promote the cause, of Jewish books”: The Jewish Book Council

To mark 41 years since the formation of the Jewish Book Council, we take a look at the sources we hold relating to the organisation in MS385.

Jewish Book Week event, 1952 [MS385 A4040 4/1]

Jewish Book Week event, 1952 [MS385 A4040/4/1]

Similar to The National Book Council in promoting the cause of books, the Jewish Book Council was formed with the intention to “encourage the reading, help the readers, and to promote the cause, of Jewish books.” The organisation wished to act as the common connection for all Jewish education, voluntary workers for Israel and Jewries of Europe, and Jewish youth clubs and societies.

The Council started in 1947 as a small group of people led by Dr George Webber, who was a Hebraist and lifelong book fanatic. At the time, there were few Jewish educational activities, and so Webber had the idea of forming an annual festival of lectures accompanied by a book display, which would be called Jewish Book Week. From its beginnings, Jewish Book Week was a community event, and held annually at Woburn House in central London. Various organisations were associated with it, such as the B’nai B’rith and the World Jewish Congress, which also arranged evening lectures as part of the event.

As a public event Jewish Book Week attracts members from across the whole Jewish community.

Aiming to “help and advise the Jewish reader”, the activities of the Council in its early days included composing lists of books (mainly by Anglo-Jewish authors), which they believed should be available for reference or loan in every synagogue, Jewish Society or Club. Other activities of the Council included publishing supplementary lists, helping to arrange exhibitions of Jewish books, and discussing with Public Libraries extension of their collection of Jewish books.

Jewish Book Council introductory leaflet [MS 385 A4040 1/2]

Jewish Book Council introductory leaflet, undated [MS385 A4040/1/2]

The main activity of the Jewish Book Council is organising Jewish Book Week, now an annual event in the Anglo-Jewish calendar. During the early years of the Council, this event involved a short series of evening talks on literary topics, and small amounts of books displayed and sold. Over time, Jewish Book Week has advanced and expanded, with more emphasis placed on the exhibition and sale of books, resulting in lectures and books having equal value in the annual event. A myriad of literary works are now displayed each year, with books from as far as America and Israel, as well as the United Kingdom.

Jewish Book Week leaflet, 1975 [MS 385 A4040 3/2]

Jewish Book Week leaflet, 1975 [MS385 A4040/3/2]

The lectures held as part of the Jewish Book Week have expanded over the years, with programmes arranged for the morning and afternoon, and for target audiences, such as children, women, senior citizens, and Ecumenists. Some of the outstanding lectures conducted at Book Week have included Professor Jonathan Frankel of the Hebrew University speaking about the Jews of Russia in 1981, and an event marking fifty years after the Anschluss in 1988, which included a performance of a string quartet by Joseph Horowitz, specially composed to mark the event, and talks by George Clare and Richard Grunberger.

Jewish Book Council summer lunchtime lecture series advertisement, 1987

Jewish Book Council summer lunchtime lecture series advertisement, 1987 [MS385 A4040/2/3]

The exhibitions at Jewish Book Week have also developed over time with a trade day provided for publishers, booksellers, and librarians. Jewish Book Week has become such a big event in the Jewish community, that Jewish publishers time the release of books of Jewish interest to fall on the dates of the event.

Jewish Book Week exhibition leaflet, 1971 [MS385 A4040 3/1]

Jewish Book Week exhibition leaflet, 1971 [MS385 A4040/3/1]

Over the years, the Jewish Book Council has built up its activities to cater for children, forming a school programme. Every Jewish primary school in the London areas has been invited to send its top class to Jewish Book Week. In doing this the Council have recognised the long-term need of helping schools arranged their own book events so that all children can participate. To encourage further involvement, the Council also organise a nationwide poetry competition, under the patronage of the Chief Rabbi.

An entry for the Jewish Book Council poetry competition c.1993 [MS385 A4040 3/20/2]

Part of an entry for the Jewish Book Council poetry competition c.1993 [MS385 A4040 3/20/2]

The Jewish Book Council used to receive most of its funding and all of its administrative assistance from the Jewish Memorial Council (JMC). Other organisations that provided small contributions included the Association of Jewish Refugees, Federation of Women Zionists, and the World Jewish Congress.

In 1979, the Council experienced financial difficulties and was almost forced to close down. Determined to keep the Council going, chairman of the Council at the time, Joe Lehter, helped make the executive decision for the organisation to operate on a voluntary and independent basis. Following this change, many people have served on the executive committee and have worked tirelessly to keep the event going and make it prosper. In recent years the Council has come to a sponsorship arrangement with the Jewish Chronicle.

Jewish Book Week leaflet reflecting sponsorship by Jewish Chronicle, 1994 [MS385 4040 4/2]

Jewish Book Week leaflet reflecting sponsorship by Jewish Chronicle, 1994 [MS385 A4040/4/2]

Jewish Book Week has expanded over the years outside its traditional venue in central London – many small communities in London have been encouraged to run their own book fairs based on the Jewish Book Week format and there have been events in Cambridge, Manchester, and Glasgow.

Jewish Book Council Newsletter  [MS385 A4040 2/2]

Jewish Book Council Newsletter, 1986 [MS385 A4040/2/2]

Today Jewish Book Week takes place at the Royal National Hotel in Bedford Way, a much larger venue than their previous venue Woburn House. The event is the second oldest literary festival in the UK, and administers the Risa Domb-Porjes Prize for Hebrew-English translation.

The Jewish Book Council collection that we hold mainly contains material relating to Jewish Book week, 1952-2004, together with papers relating to the formation of the trust and charitable status, council minutes, 1974-87, correspondence, reports and accounts.

Here is a quote from a letter written from Motzoei Shabbat Vayikra to Dr Geo J. Webber, founder of the Jewish Book Council, 15 March 1975 [MS 385 A4040 2/1] :

“A magnificent book week. Lectures good, attendances excellent and to me, more important than all else sales of £1, 220 worth of books which means that more people will have more books to take home and who knows – read. In addition I have been invited to set up book-selling units in the J.F.S. and at Carmel College. Also perhaps bookstalls at Jewish Youth Clubs… In all events at no time between 9.50 am and 10.30pm was there less than six or seven people looking at the books… Some people returned three and four times.”

You can find out more about how Jewish Book Week takes place today at the following webpages:

http://www.jewishbookweek.com/

https://vimeo.com/jewishbookweek

Jewish Book Week Logo

Jewish Book Week Logo

 

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Letting the violin sing: the acoustics of auditoriums

Possibly one of the best known and most widely distributed musical instruments, the violin is honoured on National Violin Day held on 13 December each year. Recognised early for its singing tone, it developed in the Renaissance from earlier bowed instruments, including the medieval fiddle, the lira da braccio and the rebec.

Students at a study day at the Turner Sims Concert Hall, 1994

Students at a study day at the Turner Sims Concert Hall, 1994 [MS1/Phot/19/299]

Creating the perfect acoustics for concert halls or auditoriums, that allow the violin to sing, depends on factors such as reverberation or the avoidance of echo. The stimulus of reverberation had been recognised as far back as ancient Rome, with Horace writing of poets who recited their poems at the Roman baths: “How sweetly the enclosed space responds to the voice”. It was the American physicist Wallace Clement Sabine (1868-1919) who developed Sabine’s law, which stated that the product of the reverberation time multiplied by the total absorptivity of the room is proportional to the volume of the room. He thus created a formula that architects and engineers could use when designing a concert hall to achieve the best reverberation time for their particular venue.

Construction of Turner Sims Concert Hall [MS373 A3048/3[

Construction of Turner Sims Concert Hall [MS373 A3048/4/1]

The Turner Sims Concert Hall at the University is much valued for recording due to its fine acoustics. In 1967, Miss Margaret Grassam Sims had left the University a bequest which enabled the building of a concert hall to be named Turner Sims in honour of her father. The Concert Hall that opened in 1974, after many revisions to the project, was, according to Professor Peter Evans of Music, “a most effective and attractive auditorium for music”. The acoustics of this hall were the work of the Institute of Sound and Vibration at the University with Professor Philip Ellis Doak acting as a consultant.

The Special Collections holds a small collection of material for Professor Doak (MS373) that relates to his work as consultant on the Turner Sims Concert Hall, including questionnaires relating to tests for the reverberation times of the hall.

Questionnaire from reverberation test on Turner Sims Concert Hall [MS373 A3048/3]

Questionnaire from reverberation test at Turner Sims Concert Hall, c.1974 [MS373 A3048/3]

The Special Collections holds further archive collections relating to acoustics: (MS337) Dr Raymond Stephens and British Acoustical Society; (MS339) Peter Parkin who had a long career in an advisory role at the British Research Establishment; (MS340) the architectural theorist and acoustician (Philip) Hope Edward Bagenal (1888–1979), amongst whose important acoustic projects was the Royal Festival Hall, London; (MS341) Hugh Creighton, who acted as consultant on a range of acoustic projects in the UK, including for the Barbican Centre, London; and (MS342) Keith Rose, who was a consultant for the BBC.

So the next time that you attend a concert or a lecture in an auditorium, spare a thought to those hardworking individuals who have contributed to the perfection of the acoustics.

British Polo Day: Lord Mountbatten and Polo

To mark British Polo Day on the 9th December, which takes place at Jaipur in Northern India, we take a look at our sources relating to polo in the Mountbatten Papers.

“I’ve gone completely dippy about polo, which in my opinion is the best game in the world” [Mountbatten to Prince Albert, 25 January 1922]

Lord Louis Mountbatten on a polo pony, New Barnet, 1923 [MB1/L2/92]

Lord Louis Mountbatten on a polo pony, New Barnet, 1923 [MB1/L2/92]

Polo is a horseback mounted sport, and was invented in northeastern India. The sport was promoted by officers of the British military in the mid-19th century, and is now internationally popular.

The sport is played by two opposing teams with the aim of scoring goals by hitting a small hard ball with a long-handled wooden mallet through the opposing team’s goal. Each team consists of four riders, and the game usually lasts for 2 hours, divided into periods called chukkas.

Lord Louis Mountbatten and the rest of the Warspite polo team, Mandelieu Polo Club, c. January 1927 [MB2/L4/210]

Lord Louis Mountbatten and the rest of the Warspite polo team, Mandelieu Polo Club, c. January 1927 [MB2/L4/210]

In 1921, Mountbatten played his first game in Jodhpur, India. He learnt that it would take practice to become good at polo, which included being a good equestrian. In 1923, he took a month’s course in military equitation with the Life Guards. This, along with coaching by specialists, and a scientific study of his weaknesses, helped him become an exceptional player. As a captain, he helped teams reach achievements that they had not previously, such as the Bluejackets nearly winning the Inter-Regiment trophy twice. The success was a result of detailed discussion and practice. One rule Mountbatten implemented was the team calling each other by their Christian names, which gave the players the opportunity to interpret what the caller was thinking, and to respond appropriately.

“He was the perfect captain, both on and off the field… On the field he never got rattled or bad-tempered. And no matter how silly one was he was always forgiving and encouraging.” [‘Mountbatten and Polo’ by Sir Robert Neville, pp.23-4, MB1/L291]

Lord Louis Mountbatten kissing Queen Mary's hand at the prize-giving ceremony after the Duke of York's Cup polo match, Ranelagh, 1 July 1931 [MB2/L4/211

Lord Louis Mountbatten kissing Queen Mary’s hand at the prize-giving ceremony after the Duke of York’s Cup polo match, Ranelagh, 1 July 1931 [MB2/L4/211]

Mountbatten was not only interested in playing polo, but also improving and refining the sport, going so far as to construct and patent an oval-shaped head to the polo stick which provided “loft and length and a strong head.” [‘Mountbatten and Polo’ by Sir Robert Neville, p.14, MB1/L291] The head was named the R.N.P.A. head, which stands for Royal Naval Polo Association. Mountbatten gave the patent rights to the RNPA, which resulted in them receiving large quantities of royalties for many years.

Frustrated with the existing books on polo not meeting the requirements of a complete beginner, Mountbatten decided to write his own, with the assistance of Peter Murphy. An Introduction to Polo by ‘Marco’ was translated into Spanish and French, and became the bible for all polo-players. Referring to what he learnt when he first started playing polo, Mountbatten begins the first chapter on horsemanship with the following lines:

“Before you start to play polo, make sure that you are able to concentrate on your hitting without having to be busy riding. If you have never ridden in your life, begin by taking lessons from someone competent to give them, for you can’t satisfactorily teach yourself.” [An Introduction to Polo by ‘Marco’ (1931, London), p.3.]

An Introduction to Polo by ‘Marco’ (1937, London) MB6 K3a

An Introduction to Polo by ‘Marco’ (1937, London) MB6/K3a

Mountbatten was also interested in the regulations of polo, which is reflected by the correspondence we hold between Mountbatten and key persons on the proposed international rules of polo. Mountbatten was Chairman of the International Rules Committee between 1939 and 1940, and his role in ensuring one set of international rules was played worldwide involved collecting the International Rules himself, in person. As a result of Mountbatten holding this position, one set of polo rules is used all over the world, whereas previously, the Hurlingham, American and Indian Polo Association rules all differed.

“Your letter dated October 18th with regard to the proposed International Rules and the International Rules Committee arrived here at a very opportune time. The ground that you laid down when you edited the first drafts of a set of International Rules have borne fruit in this country already. I might say that your draft of rules was entirely responsible for the greatest activity that our own Rules Committee has shown in several years. It inspired them to review our own rules completely and at our last meeting numerous changes, none of them fundamental, were suggested.” [Letter from Robert E. Strawbridge, Jr., United States Polo Association, to Lord Mountbatten, 22 November 1939, MB1/L310]

Proposed International Rules of Polo, 1938 [MB1/L310]

Proposed International Rules of Polo, 1938 [MB1/L310]

Thinking of ways that Naval Officers could have their polo interests addressed in the same way that the Army Saddle Club did for Army officers, Mountbatten decided to set up the Royal Naval Polo Association. Organising meetings, funds, and questionnaires, the RNPA was formed in 1930. By 1939 membership of the Association had already reached five or six hundred. The Association changed its name to Royal Naval Saddle Club in 1958.

As well as being the first honorary secretary of the RNPA in 1937, Mountbatten also took up many other committee positions in connection to polo, such as Chairman of the London Polo Committee, Secretary of the Malta Polo Club (and later patron); and in 1955, Patron of Rhinefield (New Forest) Polo Club.

Malta Polo Club Rundle Cup Programme, 4 March 1967 [MB1/L292]

Malta Polo Club Rundle Cup Programme, 4 March 1967 [MB1/L292]

The Mountbatten Papers provide a rich resource for those interested in polo, with material including papers on the early days of the Royal Navy Polo Association and Hunt Club, lists of Royal Naval Saddle Club members and Club minutes, correspondence between different countries on the decision-making of international polo rules, and notes and manuscripts for Mountbatten’s An Introduction to Polo.

“I do hope that you are going to be able to give a little time in your television series to the Admiral’s polo. I believe that you might find that this would be a very popular section of the series with the television viewers. We have had many portrayals of the deeds of the great military Commanders but I think that the combination of outstanding Military leadership with his prowess on the field of sport not only highlights Mountbatten’s amazing ability to keep so many balls in the air at once but makes his exploits of more human and general interest.” [Letter from Major General Sir Robert Neville to Mr Morley, 10 September 1968, MB1/L292]

Lord Louis Mountbatten's polo team, the "Shrimps", after winning the Keyes Cup, Malta, 31 December 1928 [MB1/L4/166]

Lord Louis Mountbatten’s polo team, the “Shrimps”, after winning the Keyes Cup, Malta, 31 December 1928 [MB1/L4/166]