Annual events

The week 6-14 July 2013 witnessed the fifth International T.S. Eliot summer school at the Institute of English Studies, University of London. As for previous summer schools, Dr Wim van Mierlo of the Institute of English Studies curated a small display of works by Eliot, based on holdings in the special collections of Senate House Library. In addition to books and booklets ranging from essays of criticism to Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, the display included two typescript letters from Eliot to his fellow poet Thomas Sturge Moore, 16-28 March 1928, held in the Sturge Moore archive (MS978): one rejecting Sturge Moore’s Psyche in Hades for Faber but asking permission to send it to Leonard Woolf for the Hogarth Press, the second hoping that wanting Sturge Moore might contribute a preface to translations of Valéry by the poet Thomas McGreevy (1893-1967).

The T.S. Eliot summer school followed immediately upon the London Rare Books School, to which Senate House Library provided books from the special collections to seven separate courses, ranging from “The Mediaeval Book” to “Modern First Editions” via bibliography and bookbindings among others. Students pored over items as diverse as a twelfth-century manuscript of Bede, the 1674 catalogue of the Bodleian Library, a 1779 edition of Boccaccio illustrated by Gravelot, and the Kelmscott Chaucer. Of primary interest was the book as artefact. Some quite ordinary books gained significance for their presence in different kinds of libraries, for their bindings, or for the demonstrable engagement of a reader with the text, as shown by the Baconian R.M. Theobald’s annotations on his copy of Edwin Reed’s Bacon vs Shakspere (1899; classmark B.S. 822).

This year library staff participated in teaching, with Dr Karen Attar convening a new course on the history of libraries from the Middle Ages to the present.

LRBS class, July 2013

LRBS class, July 2013


Housing London

New Buildings to be Erected by the Association at Battersea Park

To coincide with the IHR Centre for Metropolitan History conference Mobilising London’s Housing Histories: the Provision of Homes in London from 1850, a small display of books from the Library’s Special Collections can be found on the first floor of Senate House near the Jessel Room.  The display focuses on the problem of and proposed solutions for housing the poor and working classes in London in the late nineteenth century.  Collections featured include the Family Welfare Association (formerly the Charity Organisation Society) Library, which includes rare pamphlets, leaflets and publications of charitable organisations and philanthropic enterprises; and the Library of Liberal politician and trade union leader John Burns.  Burns had a particular interest in the housing of the working classes having been closely involved in the construction of the London County Council Latchmere Estate as a member of the council and MP for Battersea.

Among the items featured are a print of plans for worker’s dwellings at Battersea Park (featured above) constructed by one of the many private philanthropic building companies of the late nineteenth century.  Other items explore social campaigns for better housing by exposing the living conditions of the poorest residents of the capital: No Room to Live: the Plaint of Overcrowded London (1899) by journalist George Haw reveals conditions at the end of the century that had to some extent been exacerbated by slum clearances and the construction of model estates which were often financially inaccessible to the those most in need of improved housing.  Many of the problems Haw describes also have a contemporary resonance: homelessness, competition for housing, chronic overcrowding in dilapidated properties, urban isolation and the problems of block housing and rising rents versus income.

Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes

One of literature’s most famous detectives, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, is being honoured by a conference hosted by the Institute of English Studies on 21-22 June 2013, ‘Sherlock Holmes, Past and Present’. To provide a display of library materials to support the conference was a matter of course. Certain items were obvious candidates for display: for example, an issue of the Strand Magazine, the original publisher of 56 Holmes stories, and the first edition in book form of some Holmes stories, with Sidney Paget’s illustrations from the Strand Magazine – we chose the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.

            Alongside these items, which have been in Senate House Library for more than half a century, we were able to show a recent acquisition. This was a sixteen-page, one-act play about Sherlock Holmes entitled Christmas Eve: An Unrecorded Adventure of Sherlock Holmes. It was written by Sir Sydney Castle Roberts (1887–1966), Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge, and president of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London, and privately printed at Cambridge University Press. We further decided to approach Sherlock Holmes from the angle of Baker Street, using a special collection featuring books on London. Dickens’s Dictionary of London, 1896-1897 (Eighteenth Year): An Unconventional Handbook includes an entry for Baker-Street Bazaar, noticeable for Chinese and Japanese goods of which Sherlock Holmes sometimes made use. We also displayed the issues for 1891 and 1910 of the popular annual guidebook London: Illustrated by Twenty Bird’s-Eye Views of the Principal Streets. Whereas the map of the Marylebone Road area in the 1891 issue, which pre-dates the creation of Sherlock Holmes that July, does not show Baker Street, the map in the 1910 issue does – an indication of Sherlock Holmes’s popularity?

Ephemera galore

On Saturday, 18 May the Senate House Library Friends held a seminar about ephemera, which the Library supported with a talk by archivist Richard Temple and with a small display. We devoted half of the display to political ephemera held by the Institute of Commonwealth Studies Library: part of a collection which encompasses more than 270 boxes of material from over 60 countries, including current Commonwealth members, ex-members and even ex-colonies of other imperial powers. The collection includes material made by and for an extraordinarily wide variety of different political parties, trade unions and pressure groups, and includes pamphlets, leaflets, posters, badges, rosettes, stickers, and even paper hats and t-shirts. The display included items relating to South Africa’s 1994 election, the first since the end of apartheid; and a selection of items showing the variety of formats in the collection, several from political elections in Namibia, Australia, Barbados and Rhodesia.

The second part of the display demonstrated some of the diversity of ephemera held at Senate House Library, from playbills for performances at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, between 28 September 1825 and 23 June 1826 to a Victorian scrapbook containing 71 specimens of seaweed and to 1920s receipts for lecture hire for Harry Price’s National Laboratory of Psychological Research. These can shed light on collections. The scrapbook of seaweed was a gift, presumably to a member of the Durning-Lawrence family, by the wife of the zoologist John Edward Gray (1800-1875), a curator at the British Museum; Maria Gray arranged the algae in the herbaria at Kew Gardens and at the British Museum. The scrapbook thus is of botanical interest, in addition to showing something about the social circles of the Grays and the Durning-Lawrence family, and showing how even the most focussed library collections – Sir Edwin Durning-Lawrence consistently described his collection as “Baconian” – can contain more personal, less focused material. Invoices, mainly book invoices, came with the named printed special collections which had belonged to Sir Edwin Durning-Lawrence, Harry Price, and Sir Louis Sterling: these are invaluable for the insights they provide into how much money the collector had to spend, how aggressively and comprehensively he bought, and what his interests were at a particular time; comparison with the books in his library can also show what he once had and then discarded. 

Pamphlets, often bound, are likely to be the most common form of ephemera in any institutional library, and Senate House Library has abounded in them from the time it opened as the University of London Library in Burlington Gardens in 1877. For the display we selected suppressed pacifist pamphlets pertaining to the First World War – a reminder of ephemera’s power to penetrate social consciousness and its potential perceived danger.

Politcal ephemera, Instute of Commonwealth Studies

Political ephemera, Institute of Commonwealth Studies

Invoices from the Harry Price Archive

Invoices from the Harry Price Archive

Jane Austen’s men

St John's College

Combe’s Oxford

This intriguing title is the subject of a day event hosted by the Institute of English Studies on Saturday 16 February, with papers on the armed forces, Jane Austen and the male mind, Jane Austen’s clergymen, and the marriage market and changing fortunes of the landed class. Senate House Library agreed/offered to support the event with a small display of books from within its special collections – and very challenging it was. We did not think that we could do much with the Georgian male mind. But male writers featured largely in the mind of this inveterate novel reader, so to compensate we selected the first edition of one of the novels Jane Austen is known to have admired, Samuel Richardson’s History of Sir Charles Grandison. The armed forces were represented by Thomas Rowlandson’s Loyal Volunteers, replete with numerous full-page colour illustrations; clergymen by Rector Thomas Knowles’s Advice to a Young Clergymen (1796), and the landed class by John Aikin’s Description of the Country from Thirty to Forty Miles round Manchester (1795), with a picture of Chatsworth (thought to have inspired Mr Darcy’s home, Pemberley). We also wished to acknowledge the men in Jane Austen’s family. As several of her male relatives were students or dons at Oxford – as indeed were a couple of her characters – we opted for another sumptuously illustrated book, William Combe’s History of the University of Oxford (1814). Unfortunately both it and Aikin were too large and heavy for the allotted display case, so we had to make do with scans from them. Hopefully delegates will be tempted to come back some time to look at the real thing …

Rowlandson, Loyal Volunteers

Rowlandson, Loyal Volunteers

Going Underground with the Institute of Historical Research: Marking 150 Years of the Tube

The Institute of Historical Research is about to hold a conference (17-18 January) “Going Underground: Travel Beneath the Metropolis, 1863-1913” to mark the 150th anniversary of the London Underground. Senate House Library was pleased to offer a small display in the Jessel Room, on the first floor of Senate House, to support the event. Since 1908, when the University purchased manuscripts and pamphlets about railways which had belonged to the railway engineer John Urpeth Rastrick, the Library has had strong holdings on railways within its Goldsmiths Library of Economic Literature, and over the years several accruals have concerned the tube, from booklets about individual lines to maps and monographs. The books in the display show enduring general interest in the London Underground. The main exhibit is a large map at a scale of 1:15,840 and measuring 111.8 by 102.8 centimetres. Produced by Robert. J. Cook & Hammond in 1903, this shows lines running, lines under construction and lines proposed. Its limits are Highgate, Wimbledon, Wormwood Scrubs and the Isle of Dogs. The map was too large to fit in the display case in its entirety, but we ensured local relevance by including Russell Square in the portion shown.

The University of London at war: Nazi black book et al. on display

The Nazi black book at Senate House Library is a photostatic reproduction of American

Ministry of Information pamphlets

Ministry of Information pamphlets

army microfilm. It is a wartime German list of 3,000 wanted people in Great Britain – Winston Churchill, Noel Coward, Lord Baden-Powell and others whom the German National Socialists intended to arrest when it had conquered Great Britain. Also listed are lists of major British firms, with brief details of their organisational structure and major officers, German firms partly or wholly in British hands, and towns, with their well-known institutions and firms that might be of use to occupiers. This chilling document, given to Senate House Library by the Ministry of Information after the war, was one of several displayed yesterday to accompany a talk given by Dr Karen Attar about the University of London Library during the Second World War, as Senate House Library’s third “Insight” session. Participants leafed through the book with interest after the talk, looking for and finding Vera Brittain among others.

The display also included two bomb-damaged books, their covers shattered and parts of their pages shredded, the oldest book acquired during the war, a 1482 edition of Thomas Aquinas’s Catena Aurea with a beautiful penwork initial, and the most unusual book purchased during the war, a Hebrew translation from 1924 of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. From the University Archive came the diary kept from 1939 to 1943 to record regular activity in the Library (UoL/UL/3/3). The Ministry of Information, which was housed in Senate House during the war and used the Library extensively, gave the Library its publications, and some of its pamphlets on aspects of daily life and on the forces were exhibited.