Author Archives: jcruthven

Geological Excursions in Special Collections

This week we take a look at some geological ‘finds’ amongst the rare books, focusing on the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries when the term ‘geology’ was first used and recognised as a subject in its own right. As canals were constructed and mines sunk, geology’s practical application was becoming increasingly important and its popular appeal can be seen in the many collections of fossils and minerals dating from this period.

Gustavus Brander Fossilia Hantoniensia collecta et in Museo Britannico deposita (1766) Rare Books Cope quarto 55

One keen collector was Gustavus Brander (1720-1787) a director of the Bank of England who collected fossils from Hordle Cliff whilst staying at his country house at Christchurch. These he presented to the British Museum in 1765, the collection being catalogued and illustrated by Daniel Solander (1736-1782). The catalogue attracted much interest as did Brander’s view that the shells could only have survived in a warmer climate. Another collector, on a larger scale, was James Parkinson (1755-1824) who had been collecting fossils for many years prior to publishing his three volume Organic Remains of a Former World (1808-1811). This was aimed at the general reader and became the standard textbook of palaeontology in England.

Plate V James Parkinson Organic Remains of a Former World v.1 (1808) Rare Books quarto QE 711

The interest in geology encouraged the botanical illustrator James Sowerby (1757-1822) to publish British Mineralogy, an illustrated topographical mineralogy of Great Britain which was issued in 78 parts between 1802 and 1817. Sowerby worked from specimens sent to him for identification by mineral collectors from around the country and in 1808 became a Fellow of the recently established Geological Society of London.

Such publications brought fossils and minerals to a wider audience, the illustrations enabling collectors to compare, identify and order their own finds and in turn to contribute to the national geological record. Often hand-coloured, the illustrations provided sufficient detail to act as a proxy for the specimens themselves.

Arsenate of Copper from James Sowerby British Mineralogy v.1 (1804) Rare Books QE 381.G7

The practical and economic significance of geology was evident in the network of canals and expansion of the mining industry in Britain during the eighteenth century. Whilst an understanding of the subject was required for these undertakings, the work itself brought further advances in geological knowledge – often supplying minerals for the collectors and illustrators.

Surveys of the soil and minerals of each county were included in the series of Board of Agriculture reports for Great Britain and Ireland published in the early years of the nineteenth century. That on Derbyshire by John Farey (1766-1826) ran to three volumes and was unusual for its extensive geological coverage. Farey’s interest in stratification stemmed from his association with the geologist, William Smith (1769-1839), creator of the first geological map of Britain, and in the report Farey published for the first time his own analysis of the geometry of faulting.

From: John Farey General View of the Agriculture and Minerals of Derbyshire v.1 (1811) Rare Books Perkins S 453

Descriptions of geological features such as landslips, cliffs and mountains appeared in many of the contemporary guidebooks, sometimes accompanied by illustrations, but it was unusual for such publications to explicitly include geological information. An exception to this was Sir Henry Englefield’s Description of the Principal Picturesque Beauties, Antiquities and Geological Phenomena of the Isle of Wight (1816). Englefield, an antiquarian with geological interests – he was a member of the Geological Society of London himself – commissioned Thomas Webster (1772-1844) a member and employee of the Society to research the geology of the Island and to contribute his findings to the book. Published as an impressive large folio with the subtitle ‘With additional observations on the strata of the island and their continuation in the adjacent parts of Dorsetshire’, the book contains illustrations of many of the geological features of the Isle of Wight and a geological map.

Alum Bay from: H.C. Englefield and T. Webster Description of the Principal Picturesque Beauties, Antiquities and Geological Phenomena of the Isle of Wight (1816) Rare Books Cope quarto 98.55

Map from: H.C. Englefield and T. Webster Description of the Principal Picturesque Beauties, Antiquities and Geological Phenomena of the Isle of Wight (1816) Rare Books Cope quarto 98.55

As well as the copies of Englefield’s book, Special Collections also holds a small collection of correspondence between Webster and Englefield (MS47). This deals mainly with the geology of the Isle of Wight, as do Webster’s notes on what Englefield described in his introduction as ‘that part of natural science lately called Geology’.

 

 

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Robert Morrison, his Chinese Dictionary and Hampshire Connections

Members of a group of Chinese teachers visiting Special Collections recently were very taken with the Library’s copies of Robert Morrison’s Dictionary of the Chinese Language (1815-1823) and Grammar of the Chinese Language (1815). Both books, the first publications of their kind, were given to the Library by John Bullar, a friend of Henry Robinson Hartley, the founder of the Hartley Institution. Intriguingly, the Grammar contains a note from the author to Bullar describing where the language was used, raising the question of how they knew each other – Morrison having spent most of his adult life in China and Bullar being a lifelong resident of Southampton.

The Chinese Language is read in Cochin china, Corea, the Loochoo Islands & in Japan; as well as in China proper, Chinese Tartary and the colonies of Chinese in the Archipelago South of China, note from Robert Morrison in his Grammar of the Chinese Language (1815) Rare Books quarto PL 1107

The fact that Morrison was a missionary and his interest in the Chinese language arose from his undertaking to translate the Bible, suggests that the link between the two men was the British and Foreign Bible Society. As the Secretary of the Southampton Branch, Bullar, a Deacon of Southampton’s Above Bar Chapel, would have known of Morrison’s work and of the grants the Society made towards his publication of the Chinese New Testament in 1814 and the Bible in 1823.

Prior to leaving for China, Morrison had attended David Bogue’s Missionary Academy at Gosport and their paths may well have crossed at this time.  A speech Bullar made in Southampton in October 1827 was reported in the Evangelical Magazine and confirms that he and Morrison were acquainted, ‘I can add, from my personal knowledge of the great, the good, the devoted Dr Morrison, that he told me incidentally that such had been his application to the Chinese language … he had scarcely the pen out of his hand from six in the morning till ten at night.’

Robert Morrison, from Eliza Morrison Memoirs of the Life and Labours of Robert Morrison (1839) Rare Books BV 3427.M

Another Hampshire resident, Sir George Staunton of Leigh Park, provided crucial support for Morrison after he arrived in Canton in 1807. Staunton had had a lifelong interest in China, accompanying his father, also Sir George, on the first British Embassy to China in 1793 and later becoming chief of the East India Company’s factory at Canton. In his memoirs, Staunton wrote that from the time of Morrison’s arrival they were in constant communication, either personally or by letter.

Sir George Staunton, from his Memoirs of the Chief Incidents of the Public Life of Sir George Thomas Staunton (1856) Cope 95 STA

Staunton helped Morrison to find language tutors, it being illegal for the Chinese to teach their language to a foreigner, and later gave him employment as a translator for the Company. When it became know that Morrison had published the translation of the New Testament, it was Staunton’s intervention which enabled him to keep his job – both the East India Company and the Chinese Government prohibiting the work of foreign missionaries. The Company did, however, recognise the value of Morrison’s Dictionary, not least to its own employees, shipping a printing press to Macau so that it could be published.

Robert Morrison Dictionary of the Chinese Language v.1 pt.1 (1815) Rare Books quarto PL 1071

Leaving Morrison to his translating and missionary work, Staunton returned to Britain in 1817, settling at Leigh Park in 1819 and pursuing a political career. His love of China was reflected in his house and the development of the estate, though much had still to be done when Morrison, back in Britain for two years, paid a visit in September 1825. According to his wife this was the ‘longest interval of rest that Dr Morrison allowed himself to indulge in during the two years of his sojurn in England’. Morrison was able to admire the Temple which commemorated several friends from China whom he and Staunton had in common, but the Chinese bridge, Chinese boathouse and Chinese summerhouse described in Edward Lloyd’s Notices of Leigh Park Estate (1836), had yet to be built.

The Chinese Boathouse from Edward Lloyd Notices of the Leigh Park Estate near Havant (1836) Rare Books Cope HAV 72

After this visit, Morrison never returned to Britain, dying in Canton in August 1834, and leaving as his legacy the contribution he made to the opening up of cultural relations between Britain and China, through his pioneering publications on the Chinese language.

Robert Morrison A Grammar of the Chinese Language (1815) Rare Books quarto PL 1107

Stocking the Shelves of Special Collections

The increasing interest in books as cultural artefacts means that some which have previously been thought of little consequence now find themselves on the shelves in Special Collections. Unlike traditional ‘rare books’ often characterised by their pristine condition, some of these books will have led harder lives and as a result have stories to tell about their manufacture and use.

One criteria for transfer is survival. Older books provide not only physical evidence of developments in book production but also show contemporary cultural and artistic influences. At Southampton books printed before 1850, the products of the hand press era, are routinely transferred to Special Collections. Elsewhere this date has advanced to 1860 and even 1900 in order to preserve examples of late 19th-century developments in printing. The output of small presses, examples of extremely large or extremely small books and those with distinctive bindings and illustrations are also important in showing aspects of book history. Through their post-production life – the bookplates and annotations – books also reveal evidence of their past ownership and use, an expanding area of research and study. Some examples of books added to the printed special collections help to show the changing nature of rare books.

China: Political, Commercial and Social in an Official Report to Her Majesty’s Government by R. Montgomery Martin (London, 1847) is a book which not only fulfils the criteria of having been printed before 1850, but in retaining both its bookseller’s label and its Southampton Reading Society circulation label provides evidence of its past use. With none of today’s concern for privacy, the names of all those who borrowed the book are listed, displaying the reading tastes of the members of the Society. A step up from the circulating library, the Southampton Reading Society, ran from the early years of the 19th century to 1863, when it donated its stock to the Hartley Institution, the forerunner of the University.

R. Montgomery Martin China: Political, Commercial, Social (London, 1847) Rare Books DS 735

Illustrations of the Textile Manufactures of India (London, 1881) was also part of the Hartley Institution’s Library and retains a label recording it as being on a deposit loan from South Kensington Museum since December 1881. The book contains beautiful illustrations of Indian textiles, such as designs for turbans, clothes, scarves and mats, based on the items bought for the Victoria and Albert Museum by Caspar Purdon Clarke. Commissioned to find examples of objects in everyday use, Clarke returned with over a thousand items, which were intended to provide models of good design for both manufacturers and students.

Illustrations of the Textile Manufactures of India (London, 1881) Rare Books folio NK 8876

Another book which has made its way to Special Collections is notable for its distinctive cloth binding which is still in good condition – suggesting it was never part of the general Library stock. This is an edition of Jules Verne’s Cinq semaines en ballon which was published in the later years of the 19th century by the Hetzel firm of Paris.

Jules Verne Cinq semaines en ballon; Voyage au centre de la terre (Paris, 18–) Rare Books PQ 2469.C5

Finally, an example of a small press publication of the early 20th century. The edition of Richard Jobson’s The Golden Trade (Teignmouth, 1904) was intended as the first in the Saracen’s Head’s Mary Kingsley Travel Books series but appears to have been both the first and last book they issued. Printed on handmade paper and with a woodcut title page, it was published in a limited edition. Its bookplate reveals the broader book-collecting interests of Claude Montefiore, President of University College, Southampton, 1913-1934, whose Library, principally on the subjects of theology and philosophy, was donated to the College after his death in 1938.

Richard Jobson The Golden Trade (Teignmouth, 1904) Rare Books DT 376

Richard Jobson The Golden Trade (Teignmouth, 1904) Rare Books DT 376

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although none of these books is of great financial value – the forgotten or previously unidentified treasure which features in news stories rarely makes an appearance – in telling something of the history of books and their use, they all have a place in Special Collections.

Richard St. Barbe Baker, Man of the Trees

To mark National Tree Week (24th November – 2nd December) we celebrate the life of Richard St. Barbe Baker (1889-1982), the founder of the ‘Men of the Trees Society’ now known as the International Tree Foundation.

A Hampshire man – his great-grandfather had been Rector of Botley in William Cobbett’s time – Baker grew up at West End in a house appropriately named ‘The Firs’. There he helped his father, John St. Barbe Baker, in the tree nursery that he had established after turning his hobby of growing trees into a business following a financial setback. In the book My Life, My Trees Baker described how as a child he explored the extensive woodland nearby, an experience which had a profound effect on him, influencing his decision to dedicate his life to promoting a greater understanding of the vital role of trees in the natural environment.

His father’s involvement in the Evangelical Movement was another important influence and on leaving school, Baker combined his interest in forestry with missionary work when he fulfilled his ambition to move to Canada. There he attended Emmanuel College, Saskatchewan University, and also worked the land as a ‘homesteader’ in preparation for which he had learned to shoe horses in Southampton and practised pioneering in Burridge.

West End c.1904 Rare Books Cope Postcard WES 91.5 CHU

After three and a half years he returned to Britain to take up a place at Cambridge to read Divinity but his studies were interrupted by World War I in which he was commissioned in the Royal Horse and Field Artillery. Wounded three times, his poor health saw him stationed at the Swaythling Remount Depot, before he was invalided out in April 1918. On his return to Cambridge he took the Diploma in Forestry and on being appointed Assistant Conservator of Forests in Kenya began the conservation work for which he became so well known.

Richard St. Barbe Baker Among the Trees (1935) Cope 96 BAK

Baker was ahead of his time in recognising the role of trees as protectors of the environment and the necessity of replacing those which had to be felled for timber, fuel or simply clearing land. After achieving success in this in Kenya, he established the Men of the Trees Society and following a period of five years conserving forests in Nigeria, spent the remainder of his long life working for the Society. Travelling the world he campaigned for the preservation and restoration of forests and the afforestation of desert areas by writing articles, books and scientific papers, also giving popular lectures and holding discussions with government ministers and heads of state. Through his efforts billions of trees were planted as more and more people were persuaded of his view that ‘unless we play fair to our land the Earth we cannot continue to exist’.

Richard St. Barbe Baker My Life My Trees (1970) Cope 95 BAK

In later years Baker often returned to Hampshire, notably in June 1958, when he undertook a ride of 330 miles through Hampshire, Surrey and Sussex, in emulation of William Cobbett. During the nineteen days in the saddle, he spoke to thousands of schoolchildren with the aim of raising their awareness of the environment. The completion of the ride was marked with a lunch for Cobbett’s descendants which he saw as a way of mending relations between the families, his great-grandfather and Cobbett having fallen out.

When visiting the later owners of  The Firs, Baker spent time reminiscing about his childhood and recalling the first woods he knew. There he had recognised that trees maintain ‘the balance between beauty and utility’ and came to believe  that ‘in the sanctuary of the woods we may breathe deeply, exhaling all thought which is not creative and inhaling the breath of life.’

Richard St. Barbe Baker Green Glory (1949) Cope 96 BAK

Baker’s work was recognised by the award of an honorary doctorate from the University of Saskatchewan in 1971 and an OBE in 1978. Following his death in 1982 at the age of 92, he was also remembered locally with a memorial plaque and road naming at West End, and something he would undoubtedly have appreciated, the planting of a grove of thirty trees by The Men of the Trees at Hatch Grange.

A number of Baker’s books can be found in the Cope Collection and a small collection of his correspondence with Grace Mary Mays is in the Archives and Manuscripts Collections MS 92.

The Bridal Chest of Bramshill, or, A Ghost Tale from the Cope Collection

To mark Halloween we need look no further than the former home of the Cope Collection, Bramshill House in Hampshire. Boasting fourteen ghosts and described as ‘one of the most haunted houses in England’, many of its apparitions feature in a memoir by Sir William Cope’s great-grandaughter, Joan Penelope Cope. They include a lady in grey usually seen at 3 a.m., a woman in white, leaping from the balustrade and a green man seen by the Pale Pond, possibly one Sir Henry Cope, who favoured green for his clothing, decor and more unusually, his food. As well as these visual manifestations, heavily spurred boots had been heard on the stairs and visitors in the Chapel Drawing Room reported the sensation of having their hand taken by a child.

View of Bramshill from George Prosser Select Illustrations of Hampshire (1834-39) Rare Books Cope quarto 91.5

Of these tales, one became particularly well-known, that of a young woman dressed in white seen in the Long Gallery and the Fleur-de-Lys Room. The story went that many years ago at a Christmas wedding, the young bride had insisted on playing a game of hide and seek, only to find herself locked in the chest in which she had hidden. Despite the desperate searches of the wedding party, she could not be found. Some years later the chest was opened, revealing her remains, a sprig of mistletoe still clutched in her skeletal hand.

The association of the story with Bramshill was such that in 1890, perhaps after one too many of his visitors had asked to see the chest, Sir William Cope printed a short pamphlet on the subject, The Bridal Chest of Bramshill. Sadly for devotees of the supernatural, Cope reported that the chest concerned was no longer at Bramshill, having been removed earlier in the 19th century by the widow of the tenth baronet, and more importantly, there was no record of any bride in the family having died shortly after her wedding, neither had the ghost been seen by any living witness.

The Bridal Chest of Bramshill (1890) Rare Books Cope BRAMI 39

Cope’s explanation was that the original bridal chest, of Italian origin, had become associated with a story set in Italy of an entombed bride, told in Samuel Rogers’ 1822 poem ‘Ginevra’. Rogers wrote that he believed the story ‘founded on fact’, though at a time and place uncertain, whilst Cope had been informed that ‘a Lady of a distinguished Italian house’ had claimed the story for her family describing the chest as having been sold to an Englishman. The fifth baronet, Sir John Cope, was known to have lived in Italy during the 17th century and to have returned with various items acquired at this time.

Following the publication of the poem, the story was popularised in a ballad of the 1830s, ‘The Mistletoe Bough’ by T.H. Bayly and Sir Henry Bishop and it became associated with a number of country houses. It was retold in a play by C.A. Somerset in 1835, provided the inspiration for Henry James’ The Romance of Certain Old Clothes (1868), appeared as a short story by Susan E. Wallace in 1887 and was the subject of three silent films, including The Mistletoe Bough by Percy Shaw (1904). More recently ‘The Mistletoe Bride’ has again been retold as a short story by both Jeanette Winterson (2002) and Kate Mosse (2013).

For those who might have hoped that both the chest and its ghostly contents had been transported from Italy to Bramshill, it now appears that the story has an origin earlier than the 1822 poem cited by Cope. It is recounted under the title ‘A Melancholy Occurrence’ in the 1809 issue of The Monthly and Boston Review, but in this case the tale is set in Germany and was described as a ‘singular and calamitous event’ brought to light a few years since.

It seems that Bramshill House, currently the subject of development proposals, might be lacking one of its fourteen ghosts, but who can know what the remaining thirteen will make of any proposed changes.

Bramshill House, showing the oriel window of the haunted Chapel Drawing Room Rare Books Cope c BRAMS 72

For descriptions of more recent sightings of the Bramshill ghosts, including the Mistletoe Bride, see: Ian Fox The Haunted Places of Hampshire (1997) Cope 39.

Accessions Registers reveal library wartime cooperation

The news that the University Library is contributing to the programme to help restock the ransacked Library of the University of Mosul confirms the longstanding tradition of cooperation amongst libraries in times of crisis. By coincidence, an earlier example of this recently came to light in the Library’s accessions registers, where amongst the usual entries of ‘lost’ and ‘withdrawn’ some notes were found which recorded the transfer of books to other libraries. In this case the libraries were Plymouth Public Library and Birkbeck College Library and the dates were 1941 and 1942.

Extract from Library Accession Register

It is clear from this, that in addition to the many other ways in which University College, Southampton supported the war effort, it also played its part in helping to restock libraries devastated by enemy action during the Second World War. Plymouth Public Library had been destroyed in March 1941 with the loss of over 72,000 books and Birkbeck Library had suffered a direct hit. With many other libraries suffering the same fate, appeals were made for books to restock those most severely damaged.

The notes in the accessions registers suggest that transferring the books was also advantageous to the Library, enabling it to remove duplicates and free up space – sufficient space being the often unachievable ambition of most librarians. Library Annual Reports confirm that an overhaul of stock had begun in 1940/41 and in response to an appeal from the Universities Bureau of the British Empire, a list of 400 duplicates had already been offered to University College, London, which had lost 100,000 books as a result of fire and water damage following air raids.

The Annual Reports also record the involvement of Library staff in another wartime initiative, the National Book Recovery Appeal which began in 1943. The Appeal had developed from concerns that important books and documents might be destroyed as a result of the Ministry of Supply’s paper salvage campaign which was designed to alleviate the paper shortage caused by the cessation of imports. A Central Committee of Scrutiny was set up to oversee the process and local committees were established to run the ‘Book Drives’. Miss M.I. Henderson, the Librarian of University College, Southampton was appointed as one of the members of Southampton’s Scrutiny Committee and also assisted the New Forest’s Salvage Committee.

National Book Salvage Campaign. Books being examined by Miss H.M. Swift, Mr H.W. Belmore and Miss M. I. Henderson, February 1943.

Southampton’s first Book Drive ran from 6th-20th February 1943, with others being held in Winchester, Basingstoke, Portsmouth and Fareham. Book collection points were established in schools and shops with a central depot at Albion Hall, St Mary’s Street. Books brought in were to be sorted into those suitable for restocking devastated libraries, books for H.M. Forces and those which could be pulped without any loss to scholarship and society. Southampton’s Book Drive yielded over 160,000 books, which took about three weeks to sort. Of these, 3,188 were sent to the Inter-Allied Book Centre for restocking libraries, 16,581 were sent to H.M. Forces, for both recreation and instruction and 141,731 were pulped.

Detail of engraved title page of: John Britton The History and Antiquities of the See and Cathedral Church of Winchester (1817) Rare Books Cope q WIN 26

As an incentive to libraries to get involved in Book Drives, up to 5% of the total number of books collected could be retained locally and the accessions registers reveal that a number of books did make their way into the University Library’s collections. Amongst these was an 1817 edition of John Britton’s The History and Antiquities of the See and Cathedral Church of Winchester, which was added to the Cope Collection, as was C.R. Acton’s Sport and Sportsmen of the New Forest, which still bears a bookplate recording its presentation by Lyndhurst Salvage Committee in August 1943.

From: C.R. Acton Sport and Sportsmen of the New Forest (1936) Cope 97.794

 

 

Isaac Watts (1674-1748) Son of Southampton, Father of English Hymnology

On the 17th July, 1861 – the anniversary of his birth – a crowd gathered in a Southampton park to witness the inauguration of the statue of Isaac Watts, one of the town’s most famous sons. Financed by public subscription, the statue was the work of Richard Cockle Lucas, the eccentric sculptor of Chilworth and depicted Watts facing towards the town in the attitude of a preacher, with basso- relievos on the sides of the pedestal recording his activities as teacher, philosopher and poet.

The statue of Isaac Watts in Richard Cockle Lucas’ studio (Rare Books Cope 73 LUC)

The events of the day are recorded in the Cope Collection’s copy of Memorials, Historical, Descriptive, Poetical & Pictorial, Commemorative of the Inauguration of the Statue to Dr Isaac Watts in the Western Park, Southampton (1861), which also noted that the area around the statue would in future be known as Watts’ Park. A procession which began at 2 o’clock was followed by poetry readings, hymn singing and an inaugural address given by the Earl of Shaftesbury, the proceedings being concluded by a soirée at the Royal Victoria Rooms at which ‘a large assemblage of persons of all ranks, parties and denominations’ enjoyed refreshments at moderate charges.

Memorials … Commemorative of the Inauguration of the Statue to Dr Isaac Watts (1861) [Rare Books Cope SOU 96 WAT]

Born into a nonconformist family in 1674, Isaac Watts was educated at the free grammar school until the age of sixteen when he left Southampton to attend the dissenting academy at Stoke Newington. His life as an Independent minister was greatly influenced by these early years during which his father, also named Isaac, was imprisoned for his beliefs and was, for two years, forced to live away from the family. Two Bibles which belonged to the Watts family at this time are now in the University Archives, the family Bible which belonged to Isaac Watts senior which records his marriage to Sarah Taunton and the birth of their children, and a smaller pocket Bible, passed from father to son, in which the younger Isaac added his own contemplations and acrostic petitions.

An acrostic by Isaac Watts in his copy of the Bible [MS 52]

Southampton also played a part in Isaac Watts’ career as a hymn-writer. It was on a lengthy visit after he had finished his education, that he began composing many of the hymns for which he became famous. The story was told that after accompanying his father to a service at the Above Bar Independent Church, he complained about the quality of the hymns (the texts, not necessarily the singing) and was told to mend the matter himself. This he did and in 1707 published his Hymns and Spiritual Songs. In 1719 The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament followed, in which Watts interpreted the Psalms in a way which reflected Christian worship. The town has also been suggested as the inspiration for some of the lines in Watts’ hymns, particularly those in ‘There is a land of pure delight’.

Memorials … Commemorative of the Inauguration of the Statue to Dr Isaac Watts (1861) [Rare Books Cope SOU 96 WAT]

Today the links between Isaac Watts and Southampton are clear to both see and hear as the tune ‘St Anne’, commonly used for one of his best known hymns, ‘Oh God our help in ages past’ (a paraphrase of Psalm 90), rings out from the Civic Centre clock tower overlooking Watts’ Statue in the centre of Watts’ Park.

The Handel Commemoration 1784

The Handel Commemoration held during the last week of May and the first week of June 1784 was the musical and social event of the year. Marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the composer’s death, the series of three concerts – two of sacred music at Westminster Abbey and one of secular music at the Pantheon – proved so popular that the Westminster Abbey concerts had to be repeated. Those who paid the one guinea entrance fee were treated to one of the “grandest and most magnificent spectacles which imagination can delineate”.

An Account of the Musical Performances in Westminster-Abbey and the Pantheon by Charles Burney (1785) Rare Books q ML 410.H2

The event was recorded in great detail in An Account of the Musical Performances in Westminster-Abbey and the Pantheon… by Charles Burney (1785), a copy of which has been presented to the Library by a former student. The book contains illustrations of the ticket designs and the assembled performers, a plan of the orchestra and lists of those who took part as well as reviews of the concerts. Dedicated to King George III, the book’s erratic page numbering  (vii, [1], xvi, 8, *8, 9-20, *19-*24, 21-56, 21, [6], 26-41, [6], 46-90, [5], 94-139, [3] p.) was in part the result of additions and revisions suggested by the King, who showed a keen interest in all matters relating to the Commemoration. With the concerts taking place in the aftermath of the constitutional crisis in which William Pitt took office in place of the Fox-North coalition, the high profile event presented George III with an opportunity to promote a sense of national unity and a healing of the political divide.

View of the Orchestra and Performers in Westminster Abbey

According to Burney, Westminster Abbey was transformed for the event. The  staging built for the performers at the west end, rose from seven feet above floor level to an impressive forty feet, where the organ, constructed for Canterbury Cathedral, but being given a trial run, was placed in a gothic frame. Large instruments were assembled to produce enough sound to fill the space and the orchestra had 250 members, with the choir bringing the total number of performers to 522. A Royal Box was built at the east end of the aisle, where there was also seating for the “first personages of the kingdom”, including the organisers, the Directors of the Concerts of Ancient Music, identified by their white wands tipped with gold. Over the course of the concerts, £6,000 was raised for the Fund for the Support of Decay’d Musicians, a charity supported by Handel himself, and £1,000 for Westminster Hospital, whose own charity concert had been displaced by the Commemoration.

List of vocal performers

Coverage in the newspaper and periodical press both in the days leading up to the concerts and in those that followed was unprecedented. There was correspondence concerning retention of the tickets, which included designs by well-known artists and engravers, it was announced that ladies with hats would not be admitted and they were requested to come “without feathers and wearing small hoops, if any”. Reviewing the first concert, the Gentleman’s Magazine could not “in any adequate terms describe the grandeur of the spectacle” the King appearing to be in an “extasy of astonishment” on seeing the sight before him. The Commemoration was widely reported in provincial newspapers, the Hampshire Chronicle also having difficulty in finding the words to describe the sight.

Hampshire Chronicle 7 June 1784 Rare Books Cope per ff 05

Not all of the coverage was so positive. The Universal Magazine suggested that the grandeur of the undertaking was out of proportion to the object, whilst the radical newspaper, Parker’s General Advertiser, dwelt on the vapour which overcame delicate constitutions and the heat which caused many people to faint, something which Charles Burney preferred to put down to the effect of the “choral power of harmonical combinations”.

The success of the Commemoration was such that it was repeated in the following three years and in the early 1790s, by which time there were smaller audiences and, in the era of the French Revolution, more opposition to displays of aristocratic patronage.  Nevertheless, it established a tradition of large-scale performances of Handel’s choral works, with Burney’s book providing a record of the first such event.

Springtime in Special Collections

The arrival of spring and the emergence of spring flowers (despite the weather), presents an excellent opportunity to highlight the botanical and garden-related books in Special Collections. There is a wealth of information on plants, natural and cultivated, and, whether you want to know the healing properties of a particular plant, which wild flowers are native to Hampshire, or how to design your garden, the answer can generally be found in Special Collections.

Detail of a daffodil from The Botanical Magazine v.1 (1787) Rare Books per Q

The Salisbury Collection contains many 19th-century regional floras, originally collected by Sir Edward Salisbury, a former Director of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew. This material is supplemented by botanical books owned by Walter Frank Perkins, who is better known for his agricultural collection. Lists of local flora, past and present, can be found in the Cope Collection, and in the Rare Books Collection there are examples of 17th and 18th century herbals. Books on the practicalities of gardening and garden design feature in the Perkins Agricultural Library, the Hampshire Gardens Trust Library and amongst the books presented by the Southampton and District Gardeners’ Society.

The range of publications reveals the changing interest in plants and their uses. Herbals arose from the need to identify plants for medicinal and culinary purposes, medieval herbals being derived from those of ancient Greece. By the 16th century, herbals were based on studies of living plants, leading to more accurate descriptions and illustrations. John Parkinson’s Theatrum Botanicum (1640) described over 3,800 plants and was used by apothecaries well into the next century.

The Black Hellebore, used to treat dropsy and jaundice, from John Parkinson’s Theatrum Botanicum (1640) Rare Books quarto QK 77.P (in box)

The 18th century passion for ordering the natural world brought a greater emphasis on recording plants, with local floras listing plants of a particular area and thus contributing to the wider botanical record. Whilst most floras were not illustrated, in his Flora Londinensis, the botanist William Curtis set out to produce a lavish record of the wild flowers growing within a ten-mile radius of London. Each of the six fasciculi published between 1775 and 1798 had seventy-two hand-coloured plates, but despite the quality of the work, the publication proved a financial failure, with public interest in the native flora giving way to a passion for newly imported exotic plants, an essential feature of the fashionable garden.

The Wild Hyacinth or Bluebell from William Curtis’s Flora Londiniensis v.2 (1798) Rare Books folio QK 306.L6

Curtis’s attempt to appeal to this new market was The Botanical Magazine. This first appeared in 1787 and was an immediate success, having over 3,000 subscribers, in contrast to the 300 who subscribed to Flora Londinensis. Much of the success was due to the beauty and the scientific accuracy of the illustrations, the artists working from specimens of plants in Curtis’s own botanical garden. Other books intended for the same market were the  Botanists’ Repository (1797) and New Flora Britannica (1812).

Primula and Paeony from Sydenham Edwards’ New Flora Britannica v. (1812) Rare Books quarto QK 306

As well as descriptions and illustrations of individual plants, there are books of botanical dialogue – a form of botanical instruction, usually between adult and child, and examples of calendars of floras which record dates of ‘leafing and flowering’ of plants, as seen in the observations extracted from the writings of Gilbert White and published as A Naturalists’ Calendar (1795). On a practical level there are gardening calendars which take the familiar form of listing tasks to be undertaken each month. Generally intended for larger establishments, activities are divided into the areas of the Kitchen Garden, Fruit Garden, Flower Garden, Nursery and Hot House. Tasks for April include making hot beds for melons and cucumbers, removing pests from fruit trees by means of a ‘garden water engine’, screening hyacinths and tulips from the rain and forcing vines and peaches.

Design for a Knot Garden from The Country-man’s Recreation (1640) Rare Books Perkins SB 97

With the practicalities of cultivation covered, inspiration for creative garden design can be found in the some of the earlier gardening books and particularly in the books of the Hampshire Gardens Trust Library. This includes histories of garden design by period, country and genre, and has many beautifully illustrated books of the work of famous landscape designers.

Color our Collections 2018

Calling all colourers! This week sees the annual festival of colouring organised by the New York Academy of Medicine, when libraries, archives and other cultural institutions create downloadable colouring books based on images in their collections. Southampton has joined in this year with a colouring book of images of woodcuts found in the rare books. So step back from the stresses of daily life, follow your creative instincts and share the results on social media using the event hashtag #ColorOurCollections.

woodcut of a ship

Woodcut of a ship from Holinshed’s Chronicles, 1577

Woodcuts lend themselves well to colouring – the bold black lines of the design make a contrast with the white background and lack the tone of later illustrative processes. To make a woodcut, the design was either drawn in reverse or traced onto the plank side of a block of wood, before the surface was removed with a knife or graver so that the lines of the design stood out in relief. This meant that both woodcuts and type could be printed at the same time which was highly advantageous for the book printers of the 15th and 16th centuries. Although a negative image could also be created, with the background printing in black and the design in white, this was less common owing to the difficulty in printing large areas of black uniformly. In Holinshed’s Chronicles (London, 1577) the woodcuts, such as that of the ship, above, are re-used many times throughout the text – Cordelia also appearing as the King of Scotland.

By the end of the 16th century the woodcut had declined in popularity, and copper-engraving became the standard means of illustrating books. This intaglio process allowed finer detail to be shown in maps and topographical sketches, which outweighed the disadvantages, for book printers at least, that the plates could not be printed at the same time as the text and that they wore out quickly.

Copper-plates were themselves replaced by steel engravings as different methods of book illustration developed, but the late nineteenth century saw a revival of the woodcut as members of the Arts and Crafts Movement, returned to the materials and techniques of the early years of printing in their pursuit of the ‘book beautiful’.

Initial letter from Charles Ashbee’s Psalter (1902)

Charles Ashbee, who founded the Essex House Press in 1898, drew inspiration from the language, literature and illustrations found in the books of 16th century England – the Library’s copy of the 1577 edition of Holinshed’s Chronicles, having been part of his collection. For the Essex House Psalter (1902), he designed a woodcut initial, decorated with a pictorial scene for each of the psalms.

To find out more about the different techniques used to create illustrations, come along to the forthcoming Special Collections Gallery exhibition on printmaking processes. Details will appear on the Special Collections website.