To Manchester and Russia with the Senate House Library treasures volume

Activities in connection with the Senate House Library treasures volume continue. In January, at an event offered by the CILIP Rare Books and Special Collections Group, Dr Karen Attar had given a talk in London about the experience of editing a treasures volume. On Thursday, 18 July, she gave a repeat session at the John Rylands Library in Manchester. A major focus was the reasoning behind the selection of items and contributors. Then came the process, followed by benefits. The introductory history of the University of London came in for a certain amount of analysis: how such histories function, what they achieve, and their limitations.

Promotion of the treasures volume continued in an academic context with a paper delivered by Dr Attar at a conference hosted by the Institute of English Studies on 23-23 July, on Russian/English studies, covering a wide range of literary and linguistic matters in Russian and English. The paper, “Bookish Delights: Selecting English and Russian Treasures”, featured the items in the treasures volume relevant to Russian or English Studies. Two books fall into the former category, the first Italian translation (1550) of Sigmund von Herberstein’s Rerum Moscoviticarum Commentari, and an apparently unique, anonymous booklet printed in Liverpool in the first decade of the nineteenth century, a threadbare story entitled Love and Honour, or, The Adventures of Serinda, a Beautiful Slave. With English literature being a longstanding strength of special collections, it is more prominent in the volume. Items featuring in the conference paper exemplified various reasons for choice: significant manuscripts (such as a Byron holograph manuscript); important provenance (Thomas Carlyle’s annotations on a borrowed copy of E.B. Browning’s  Aurora Leigh); books which tell a story (Sir Edwin Durning-Lawrence’s copy of Shakespeare’s second folio); early English print (a 1492 edition of the Canterbury Tales); a format known to be liked by readers (part-publication of the Mayhew brothers’ satirical The Greatest Plague in Life or The Adventures of a Lady in Search of a Good Servant, 1847, now scarce even in volume form).


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