Walter de la Mare in the spotlight

JOLISA copy of Walter de la Mare’s poetry book for children Peacock Pie, marked up for a new edition and accompanied by Claude Lovat Fraser’s illustrations, featured in the recent treasures volume Senate House Library, University of London. Entries for that volume were about four hundred words each. Now an article more than ten times as long about the collection to which Peacock Pie belongs is available in the Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 45 (2013), 168-76.

The piece by Karen Attar, “Modern Special Collections Cataloguing: A University of London Case Study”, is basically about describing books in an author collection for which differences between reprints matter: price increases; new advertisements on the wrappers; different sizes of the binding. Such features, while rarely relevant for library descriptions (how many libraries would have thirty-one copies of Peacock Pie, all different from each other but not all distinct editions?), contribute to bibliographical study. But it is impossible to discuss the description of books without saying something about the books themselves. Endearing in the collection are the inscriptions which show the bond between various De la Mare family members, most of which are noted rather than transcribed in catalogue records. The article gives some of these in full. Most evident in the collection is the close relationship between Walter de la Mare and his oldest son and publisher, Richard. But his younger son Colin edited an anthology of ghost stories, to which Walter de la Mare contributed an introduction. The book’s inscription from Colin is fulsome: “To dearest Daddy with all love from Colin. Thanking you with all my heart, for not only the present help you gave me, but also for keeping me at it! April 1931.”  So we hope that people without the remotest interest in describing books in modern special collections, at the University of London or elsewhere, might still find something to interest them.


Malcolm Morley online

The actor-manager and stage director, Malcolm Morley (1890-1966) owned a collection of about 4,000 items from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries devoted to all aspects of the theatre: play texts, monographs about all aspects of the theatre, from biographies to stagecraft, periodicals, and even programmes.  Senate House Library acquired the collection in 1966, before the advent of computer cataloguing. Now records for all items in the collection are available online. Items can be found in the usual way, by searching for author, title, subject, or by keyword. In addition, it is possible to gain an entire overview of Morley’s collection by searching on “Morley, Malcolm” as a former owner. The new computerised records not only make it far easier to find individual items than hitherto, but throw up such features as the marking up of copies of texts for performance: commonly performed plays such as Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit and G.B. Shaw’s Pygmalion, and lesser-known plays such as Rudolf Besier’s The Barretts of Wimpole Street.

The Dingwall Papers: Conservation of a Diverse Collection

EJD cropped 1Welcome to the Dingwall project blog! This blog will follow a project funded by the Wellcome Trust to catalogue and conserve just one of the University’s diverse collections held in the archives of Senate House Library.

First off, a brief introduction to the life of Eric John Dingwall with some key points from his life:

  • Born in Ceylon in around 1891 (Dingwall was unsure of his actual date of birth)
  • A Graduate of Pembroke College, Cambridge, he joined the staff of the Cambridge University Library in 1915 as a volunteer and went on to become an assistant librarian, leaving in 1918
  • In his youth he developed an enduring interest in magic and was eventually elected to the Magic Circle.
  • This informed his approach to the investigation of the physical phenomena of mediumship, his major contribution to the Society for Psychical Research which he joined in 1920.
  • In 1921 he spent a year in the United States as Director of the Department of Physical Phenomena at the American Society for Psychical Research
  • He was then appointed research officer to the British Society in 1922. He also had an interest in sexual deviation and peculiar sexual practices, which annoyed some of his colleagues at the Society and led to the termination of his appointment in 1927
  • Released from his responsibilities at the SPR he continued to publish books
  • In 1932 he was awarded his DSc from University College London
  • After the war he became Honorary Assistant Keeper at the British Museum Library (later the British Library) where he became a recognised authority on historical erotica, as well as on magic and psychical research
  • He also continued to publish books including two collections of short biographies of strange characters
  • Married twice, his first wife left him and his second died in 1976. Dingwall spent his remaining years independently and alone until his death on 7 August 1986.

In his will, Dingwall stipulated that his collection of notes and press cuttings be gifted to the University of London on his death. The collection arrived at the University in 1990, and is housed in the Historic Collections department of Senate House Library. It includes slip indexes, scrapbooks, albums and technical correspondence files. After a successful application to the Wellcome Trust, a grant was given to enable the cataloguing and conservation of the collection.

Once catalogued the collection will be open to viewing for research under supervision with the exception of the technical correspondence, which will remain closed until 2025 (as requested by Dingwall in his will).


Bell’s Shakespeare at Senate House

Skimming bibliographical journals as they appear is one of the delightful duties of a Rare Books Librarian. The winter 2012 issue of The Book Collector is especially relevant for Senate House Library, containing an article by John Wolfson (honorary curator of rare books at Shakespeare’s Globe) entitled ‘Bell’s Edition of Shakespeare’s Plays: A Bibliographic Nightmare’. The major late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century publisher John Bell first published Shakespeare’s plays in two issues in 1774, in a version described by Wolfson as ‘the most corrupt edition ever published’ – the reason being that Bell printed the plays as they were presented on the stage, namely with textual liberties. The edition was financially successful and further editions followed, with various confusions outlined by Wolfson. Senate House Library hold both Bell’s second edition of 1774 and his 1788 duodecimo edition. These were catalogued last year in an ongoing drive to catalogue the Library’s strong pre-1801 Shakespeare holdings: most sets of his works are now online, with individual editions of plays still to come.

Bells Shakespeare