Night thoughts in Spain

A weekend recently saw one of our conservators en route to sunny Spain … no, not on holiday, but to accompany one of our books to an exhibition at the Fundacíon Juan March, Madrid, starting on 5 October. The exhibition is ‘Treasure Island: British Art from Holbein to Hockney’. One of its seven sections is on ‘Landscapes of the Mind (1760–1850)’,and it is in this context that Senate House Library is involved, lending one of its copies of The Complaint, and the Consolation, or, Night Thoughts (London: R. Noble for R. Edwards, 1797), by Edward Young and William Blake. The book is a large, sumptuous folio with 43 engravings by William Blake, and it is Blake’s illustrations which are on show on the continent until 20 January 2013.

Night thouhts


Dickens and Popular Culture

Little Nell

As soon as the IES Dickens Day conference on ‘Dickens and Popular Culture’ was announced, the Library knew it wanted to support it by mounting a relevant display. After holding a major exhibition on Charles Dickens from January to June this year, we were not quite so sure that we wanted to bring together new material. In the event, however, we found so much interesting and relevant material both within the special collections and in the English stacks that a fresh display appeared to be a sine qua non. The particular emphasis on popular culture was one which did not render first editions appropriate. We chose penny plays based on Dickens’s works; copies of Great Expectations, with two different illustrations, from a couple of editions of complete works based on different pockets; an early continuation of Edwin Drood, showing how Dickens captured the imagination creatively; a guidebook to Great Expectations country; and evidence of Dickens’s descendants utilising and furthering a Dickens industry. The most visual item of the display falls into this category: a re-telling of stories from Dickens for children by his grand-daughter Mary Angela Dickens among others, illustrated by Harold Copping (1863-1932).


Jane Austen and her Readers: Senate House Library contributes

We were delighted to see a new book, Jane Austen and her Readers, 1786-1945 (Anthem, 2012), by Dr Katie Halsey, formerly of the Institute of English Studies, and now Lecturer in Eighteenth-Century Literature at the University of Stirling.  Dr Halsey used the first editions of Jane Austen in the Sterling library, as well as a number of our other volumes, such as the Clarendon complete works of 1933 and the 1896 Sense and Sensibility, introduced by Austin Dobson and illustrated by Hugh Thomson.  As part of her research, Dr Halsey needed to consult as many different editions of Austen’s work as possible in order to establish the form in which Austen’s readers encountered her work over a long historical period. Senate House Library is happy to have been able to support such research.

Widening access to books about London

Time to celebrate! A library milestone has been reached with the complete online cataloguing of one of our hitherto “hidden” collections, the Bromhead Library. The Bromhead Library consists of about 4,000 items pertaining to the history of London. Those printed before 1800 were catalogued online some years ago. Now the vast majority of the collection, the nineteenth- and twentieth-century books, have been added. These range from exquisitely coloured folios to books about specific London suburbs (e.g. Sweet Hampstead and its Associations), coach directories and general guide books – perhaps the most scintillating title is London night and day: A Guide to Where the Other Books Don’t Take You. Books are fully searchable by author, title, subject, keyword or classmark,

The Great Charles Dickens Scandal

Congratulations to Prof. Michael Slater, Emeritus Professor of Victorian Literature at Birkbeck, on his new book, The Great Charles Dickens Scandal (Yale University Press). The book is about the affair Dickens may have had with the young actress Ellen (Nelly) Ternan, the ensuing coverup, and elaboration of the scandal when nobody remained alive authoritatively to deny the rumours. Among material used for the volume was Senate House Library’s MS1003, the Katharine Longley papers: namely, nineteen boxes of material collected and produced by Katharine Longley while she researched the lives of Charles Dickens and Ellen Ternan. Also relevant was MS915, the Ternan Family papers. Material ranges from correspondence to an elegy upon the death of Mamie Dickens’s dog, Tit. We contributed to the 2012 celebrations with an exhibition; it’s satisfying to contribute to research with a lasting impact too.