Tag Archives: Rare Books Collection

The Repository of Arts

Objects found in books hold a fascination for those who find them. Usually they are unrelated to the text – tickets used as bookmarks or letters placed for safekeeping; it is less common to find objects which were part of the original publication, as is the case in the Repository of Arts which contains tiny fabric samples, as colourful today as when the issues were first published in the early nineteenth century.

Fabric samples: June 1812

Fabric samples: June 1812

Published by Rudolph Ackermann (1764-1834), the Repository of Arts, or, to give it its full title the Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions and Politics, was the style bible of its day. A monthly magazine, running from 1809 to 1829, it covered all of the subjects listed in its title as well as providing reports on public health and agriculture. The emphasis though, was on stylish living and the magazine was designed to appeal to members of fashionable society who could afford the subscription of three shillings and sixpence, approximately £11 today.

Morning dress: February 1813

Morning dress: February 1813

The Repository had developed from Ackermann’s publishing and print-selling business, also named the Repository of Arts, which he established in the Strand in 1798. There, the early nineteenth-century equivalent of ladies (and gentlemen) who lunch could keep up to date with latest trends, acquire art supplies and prints, take tea or attend lectures in the gas-lit surroundings of what became a fashionable social centre. The magazine kept those who could not visit the Repository informed by including hand-coloured fashion plates and by providing the fabric samples. These were accompanied by suggestions of the type of garment for which the material could be used – the issue for June 1812 included a new printed cambric ‘of the mosaic pattern, calculated for morning and domestic wear’, an example of the recently introduced ‘Chinese crape’ and ‘a new lilac sarsnet for evening or full dress’.

Furniture: February 1811

Furniture: February 1811

Interior design was another feature of the magazine, with many issues having a ‘fashionable furniture’ section, or presenting ideas for room designs, such as the ‘gothic conservatory’ illustrated in the April 1813 issue. On occasions, samples of wallpaper or decorative papers were also included, the final sample in the June 1812 issue being a ‘specimen of the new embossed fancy paper, coloured in oil over a silver ground, in every shade and colour’. The amount of descriptive detail contained in the Repository makes it an important source for anyone with an interest in the aspirational fashions and interiors of the Regency period.

Gothic conservatory: April 1813

Gothic conservatory: April 1813

Ackermann is considered to be a pioneering publisher of colour-plate books, having set up a lithographic press in the Strand prior to opening the Repository. The hand-coloured aquatints in his many publications were highly valued by contemporaries. Later generations have also to thank him for the record he provided of contemporary London in his celebrated Microcosm of London, (1808-1810), in which he employed the talents of Augustus Pugin (1768/9-1832) and William Rowlandson (1757-1827).

Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions and Politics, vols.3-9 (1810-1813) Rare Books N1

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Reading Readers in the Special Collections

In this week’s blog post Jennifer Scott, a PhD candidate in the English Department, examines a unique copy of Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Goal held in the Special Collections.

There is something undeniably thrilling about handling an early or rare edition of a much-loved work of literature. An even greater thrill of working with Special Collections, however, sometimes comes from an unexpected discovery. The Hartley Library’s copy of The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde – a copy of the fourth edition of this work from 1898 – was, for me, one of those discoveries, holding between its covers a special collection of its very own.

The book is inscribed ‘R. Bruce Boswell 1898’ and has been treated as a kind of scrapbook. Pasted throughout, on the blank verso sides of the pages alongside the text, as well as on the book’s inside covers, are numerous contemporary newspaper clippings, many of which have been marked and dated in the owner’s hand. The clippings concern Oscar Wilde himself, The Ballad of Reading Gaol, the impending publication of De Profundis in 1905, and debates surrounding penal reform. Boswell’s careful collation of these clippings, as well as his written comments, show a reader forming links between the reports of the press and Wilde’s own poetic description of his prison experience.

Examining Boswell’s pencil markings, which range from ambiguous crosses and question marks to more revealing statements and questions, one gains a sense of a reader who was sceptical of Wilde’s account and of his views – a reader who even had the gall to correct some of Wilde’s most famous lines, changing ‘Each man kills the thing he loves’ to ‘Each man may kill the thing he loves’ and replacing ‘The brave man with a sword’ with ‘The bravo with a sword’!

Yet, one may also discover a reader willing to thoroughly engage with Wilde’s text and open-minded enough to also highlight some consistencies between Wilde’s account and those reported in the papers.

Remarkably, Boswell is not the only reader to have left their mark on this book either. A second reader, identifiable only as E.G.C., has responded to comments by Boswell, showing debates about penal reform, and Wilde’s place within it, to have transcended public spaces such as courtrooms and the House of Commons, and to have also occurred more privately.

This book provides a unique glimpse of some of the ways in which ordinary readers responded to Wilde and his poem following his release from prison in 1897. Despite Wilde’s name being too cloaked in scandal to appear on the ballad until 1899, Boswell’s copy reveals just how open the secret of its authorship was.

The first six editions of The Ballad of Reading Gaol bore only Wilde’s cell number, C.3.3.

The first six editions of The Ballad of Reading Gaol bore only Wilde’s cell number, C.3.3.

Furthermore, it reveals the human complexity of Wilde’s readership, which did not fall, as it is so easy to imagine, into black and white categories of supporters and detractors. The marginalia of R. Bruce Boswell and E.G.C. rather exhibit a developing engagement with this text that was influenced by both public and private debate.

I first wrote about this book in my MA thesis in 2010. I am now studying for a PhD and recently revisited the book for a conference paper, which I delivered at the British Association for Victorian Studies (BAVS) Annual conference on 23 August 2017.

The Book The Object exhibition and private view

The Book The Object

This new exhibition in the Special Collections Gallery celebrates the culture, the manufacture and the artistry of the book, from the 15th to the 21st century.

It runs from 22 February – 18 March and 4 April – 27 May 2016 during which time the gallery is open weekdays 10am to 4pm.

A private view of the exhibition will take place on Thursday 25 February, 5pm – 7pm. All are welcome!

The private view will be held jointly with the exhibition Re: Making which runs from 15 February – 8 March 2016 in the Level 4 Gallery.

Re: Making is a documentary exhibition of three PhD seminars at Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton.

For a campus map and information on parking see, please visit the University website.

Please note that visitors may be asked for proof of identity at the Library reception.

Claude Montefiore and the Montefiore Lecture 2015

The Montefiore Lecture 2015 will take place this evening at the Avenue Campus. Titled ‘Magna Carta, British Values and Religious Minorities’ the lecture will be given by Professor Maleiha Malik, King’s College London. The Montefiore Lecture is part of the Parkes Institute annual lecture series and is the oldest lecture in the University’s calendar.

Bust of Claude Joseph Goldsmid Montefiore

Bust of Claude Joseph Goldsmid Montefiore

Claude Joseph Goldsmid Montefiore (1858-1938) was a Jewish theologian, Reform leader and philanthropist. He was the son of Nathaniel Montefiore and Emma Goldsmid, and the great nephew of Sir Moses Montefiore. Noted as a great scholar, Montefiore was educated privately and at Balliol College, Oxford, where he obtained a first class degree. He was Hibbert Lecturer in 1892 and was awarded the British Academy Medal for Biblical Studies in 1930.

In 1890 Montefiore founded and edited, together with Israel Abrahams, the Jewish Quarterly Review. From 1892 to 1921 he was President of the Anglo-Jewish Association. He was President of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue and Acting President of University College, Southampton, 1910-13 and then President, 1913-34.

The Special Collections Division holds a small collection of Montefiore’s  papers. The collection contains a volume of manuscript notes, chiefly on Aristotle’s politics; an address to Montefiore, written on vellum and signed by members of the senate of University College, Southampton, 1913; a letter from D.D.Balfour, 1885; and a typescript of ‘Some old fashioned opinions and reflections about the Jews: a die-hard’s confession’, 1935. In addition to the manuscript collection, Montefiore donated his private book collection the University which now forms part of the Library’s Printed Special Collections.

It was through the collections of Montefiore and the library of Dr James Parkes that the University formed a special interest in papers concerning the relations of the Jewish people with other peoples. Since 1989 this has been developed with a particular focus on the records of Anglo-Jewry, of national organisations, and of individuals, leading to the acquisition of the Anglo-Jewish Archives in 1990. The Special Collections Division has continued to receive a considerable number of major accessions relating to Anglo-Jewry and this remains an area where collecting is most active.

For further details on this year’s Montefiore Lecture please visit the Parkes Institute Events page.

Rare Books Collection: Between the Boards

Today’s post marks the first in a series focusing items from the Rare Books Collection. Further posts in the series will appear over the coming months.

There are certain things which you expect to find when you open a rare book – text and illustrations being obvious examples. But books can be full of surprises, not only in their published content but also in the materials and markings that they accumulate over the years.

The Rare Books Collection at Southampton includes examples of early books in such good condition that they could have been printed yesterday, but many bear, all too clearly, the evidence of their age and use. This is seen in the condition of the bindings and in annotations and bookplates, additions which have sometimes been seen as detracting from their value. With the increasing availability of early texts online, there is renewed interest in this copy specific information, now more easily traced through online catalogues and databases. Such features can provide an insight into the history of an individual book, in terms of its ownership and use, and also contribute to the study of both the history of books as cultural objects and the history of reading.

Signature of Elizabeth Cumberland

Signature of Elizabeth Cumberland
The Book of Common Prayer (Oxford, 1700)
Rare Books BX 5145.A2 (in box)

Ownership might be indicated by an owner simply writing his or her name in a prominent place and possibly recording how much the book cost and where and when it was acquired. Bookplates were often pasted inside the front cover, whilst wealthy owners also had the option of including a coat of arms on their personally commissioned bindings.  As well as recording ownership by individuals, books can also bear the labels of long defunct libraries and reading societies, some of which even list the borrowers’ names.

Annotations by Sir Frederic Madden

Annotations by Sir Frederic Madden
Lake Allen The History of Portsmouth (London, 1817)
Rare Books Cope POR 92

Evidence of use can be seen in the critical annotations made by former owners, often in a book’s margins whilst blank pages at the beginning and end of the text were used for a variety of purposes. These included unrelated lists and handwriting practice, as well as the records of family births, marriages and deaths which are often found in Bibles. Books could also be personalised with the addition of illustrations and cuttings related to the text or meaningful to the owner in some other way.

Advert for a Daimler car re-used in binding

Advert for a Daimler car re-used in binding
W.G. Johnstone The Nature-Printed British Sea-weeds v.4 (London, 1859-60)
Rare Books QK 466

The structure of the book can also be revealing. The fact that a binding is in poor condition or that a book has been rebound suggests that it has been well-used and valued, whilst a book with uncut pages tells a different story. Even damaged bindings are useful in exposing the practises of book-binders. Printers’ waste and discarded manuscripts were commonly re-used in bindings and only become apparent when damage has occurred.

Later posts will highlight examples of different copy specific features found in items from the Rare Books Collection, as well as books which on their publication contained unusual materials, quite literally in the case of the Repository of Arts, with its tiny samples of early 19th century fabrics.