Category Archives: related events

John Rylands Special Collections Update

Burning Bright’  William Blake and the Art of the Book
Over the past two years, curators at The John Rylands Library have been working with the art historian Colin Trodd, and his students, from Art History and Visual Studies to uncover a substantial collection of commercial engravings by the artist and poet William Blake.

Due to their dispersal across our collections, many of these works have previously lain undetected. Julia Stimac and Lavinia Hutanu ‘excavated’ the Blake material by mapping the inventory of Blake’s commercial engraving, produced by the eminent scholar G.E. Bentley, onto the contents of our books in Special Collections. They found a high proportion of matches as our books contain over 350 examples of Blake’s work as commercial engraver. These recently discovered Blake “finds” gave us the opportunity to curate an exhibition, ‘Burning Bright’: William Blake and Art of the Book, which is on display in The John Rylands Library from the 7th February until the 23 June.

The display includes digital facsimiles of two of the highlights of the exhibition (Night Thoughts and the Book of Job), which third year undergraduate Simon Spier sacrificed his post graduation summer holidays to create catalogue entries for.  Simon worked as an intern with colleagues in our Heritage Imaging team who created the digital copies.

‘Burning Bright’ has also taken inspiration from Colin Trodd’s research (Visions of Blake: William Blake in the Art World 1830-1930, Liverpool University Press, 2012) which explores the creative impact of Blake’s work and ideas upon some of the artists and writers who followed him in the 19th and 20th centuries, and examines how they, in turn, shaped his artistic reputation in his afterlife. In tandem with the display students and researchers from across the university campus including, Naomi Billingsley, Rochelle Lyn, Amy Jones and Elizabeth Creaghan are introducing our Blake collection to new audiences through the Rylands’ Schools and Public Programmes.

The Blake project has also benefited from the knowledge and expertise of colleagues at the Whitworth Art Gallery, especially David Morris (Head of Collections) and Mary Griffiths (Curator of Modern Art). We intend to look for ways to connect the remarkable Blake collections that are held across the city in The Whitworth Art Gallery, The Manchester Art Gallery and The John Rylands Library to foster more research and study and to cultivate the delight of all our audiences.

Stella Halkyard
Archives Team Leader

Historical Maps of Manchester Online
The maps are available from the University Library’s Image Collections (LUNA) which allows users to zoom into street level and examine the maps in detail.

The University of Manchester Library’s Centre for Heritage Imaging and Collection Care (CHICC) has recently digitised over 200 historical maps of central Manchester from the University of Manchester Map Collection. This comprises maps by private surveyors, detailed Ordnance Survey maps, and plans of the Manchester Ship Canal.  The first large-scale map of Manchester was produced by William Green in 1794 and shows the town during a period of rapid expansion which would eventually claim the undeveloped pasture fields of Ardwick, Chorlton-Upon Medlock, Collyhurst and Ordsall. Joseph Adshead’s map of the Township of Manchester accurately depicts Victorian Manchester in 1851, distinguishing between public, private and commercial premises and providing detail such as mill-owners names.  The Ordnance Survey maps date from the 1840’s to the mid 1900’s and show how land use has changed over time during Manchester’s vibrant history.  Rich urban and architectural detail such as the interior layout of the Manchester Union Workhouse and New Bailey Prison provide a wealth of information to historians, sociologists, architects, and archaeologists.  A selection of plans showing the development of Manchester Ship Canal compliment Ordnance Survey maps of the same area, providing a fascinating visual resource for those interested in its history.

The Manchester street map collection, made up of commercial street maps of Manchester published separately or with trade directories from 1750 to 1930, is currently held in storage until Central Library opens in 2014. The seventy maps were digitised by CHICC for Martin Dodge as part of the research for the Mapping Manchester exhibition at The John Rylands Library in 2009. The maps show Manchester and Salford’s explosive growth following the Industrial Revolution and can be used to trace how towns have been swallowed up and turned into suburbs by the city region over time.  They can now be explored online alongside maps from the University Library’s collections for the first time.

The bomb damage maps were stored for many years in the Town Hall Extension. They were transferred to the archives in 2011 as part of the Town Hall Complex Transformation Programme and digitised by CHICC in 2012. They are annotated 1930s Ordnance Survey maps showing fire bombs as red dots, high explosives as blue dots and line mines as green dots. Red shaded buildings represent demolished buildings while pink shaded buildings were damaged but still standing. The maps can be used alongside the chief constable’s official casualty reports, individuals’ testimonies and Home Security communications to build up a detailed picture of the Manchester Blitz and its effects on the city’s infrastructure and people. For the first time the lines of bombs can be seen tracing lines of destruction across the city’s main stations and even across the southern suburbs as the bombers dropped their ammunition while heading home.

To view all the maps in the University of Manchester Image Collections please visit:

For more information about the bomb damage maps and commercial street maps of Manchester please visit Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives

Donna Sherman
Assistant Librarian (Maps) 


lI Libro del Cortegiano in Tudor England
We were recently able to acquire a fascinating copy of the third Aldine edition published in 1541. The Library’s collection of editions of Il Libro del Cortegiano includes all the early editions published by the Aldine press and the 1588 trilingual edition (Italian, French and English) printed in London by John Wolfe. Our new acquisition is a copy of the third Aldine edition from the library of Henry Howard, Earl of Northampton (1540-1614), with his signature in lower and outer margins of title, accompanied by a variety of mottoes and quotations in Greek, Latin, and Italian, and with over two hundred marginal annotations throughout the text in his hand.  In his 1995 study The Fortunes of the Courtier: The European Reception of Castiglione’s Cortegiano, pages 79-80, Peter Burke discusses this copy in detail as a prime example of the influence of the book on the aristocracy in Renaissance England, describing the marginalia as “the fullest and most systematic annotations on Castiglione known to me.” Most of the notes are in Italian, but some are in Latin (quotations from Cicero, etc.).

Henry Howard was the second son of the poet Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (d.1547).  As a crypto-Catholic and supporter of Mary Queen of Scots, he was suspect in Elizabeth’s eyes, but he rose to a position of great power under James I.  The DNB notes that “he took an active part in political business, and exhibited in all his actions a stupendous want of principle”.  He was commissioner for the trials of Sir Walter Raleigh (1603) and Guy Fawkes (1605).  He was the friend of Bacon (indeed Bacon chose him as ‘the learnedest councillor’ in the kingdom to present his ‘Advancement of Learning’ to James I), but he was the bitter foe of Ben Jonson.  “Despite his lack of principle”, the DNB concludes, “he displayed a many-sided culture and was reputed the most learned nobleman of his time”.

After his death, Henry Howard’s library was purchased by Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel and the books were part of the sixth Duke of Norfolk’s gift (at the diarist John Evelyn’s instigation) to the Royal Society in 1667.  The bulk of these books were subsequently sold by the Royal Society in 1873 to Bernard Quaritch. More recently the book was owned by the Oxford physician and bibliophile Bent Juel-Jensen (1922-2007). It was purchased by the Library at the sale of Aldine imprints & early printed books from the library of Kenneth Rapoport, on at Swann Auction Galleries of New York on Tuesday October 23, 2012. The acquisition was generously supported by the Friends of the National Libraries.

Julianne Simpson
Collection and Research Services Manager (printed books)


Making an Impact at The John Rylands Library

Being able to demonstrate the impact of their work is of course a vital issue for many researchers. ‘Impact’ constitutes a significant element of the REF2014 and it forms an important criterion for research funding applications. Increasingly the Library is being asked to assist academics in demonstrating the impact of current and completed research projects involving our collections, while also contributing to the ‘impactful’ elements of future research proposals.
We were therefore delighted to host a recent conference on Impact in Early Modern Studies, organised by Dr Liam Haydon (English, American Studies and Creative Writing). Heavy overnight snowfalls locally caused significant travel disruption and forced Dr Haydon hastily to rearrange the programme (your correspondent was trapped in deep snow in the morning), yet the intrepid delegates – mainly PhD students and early-career academics – enjoyed a range of lively presentations on the REF and on innovative collaborations with cultural institutions. Keynote speaker Professor Simon Baimbridge from Lancaster described his work with the Wordsworth Trust and the media interest that it has generated; he concluded that it is essential  to regard impact as integral to your research project rather than as an ‘add-on’ or after-thought. Other speakers included Henry McGhie, Naomi Kashiwagi, Kevin Bolton and myself, recounting our experiences of imaginative impact projects at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester Museum, Manchester Central Library and Archives+, and The John Rylands Library, while Kate Westwood provided a freelancer’s perspective. The day concluded with a lively panel discussion chaired by Dr Jerome de Groot. Thanks to Liam Haydon for organising a stimulating and highly topical conference.

John Hodgson
Collection and Research Service Manager (Archives and Manuscripts)

A Miscellany!
It can be frustrating to find something described as miscellaneous but sometimes that is just what it is. I’d like to share my reflections on a few events which I’ve attended over the last couple of weeks, which taken together give a good idea of the variety of life in the world of Special Collections.

Recently I attended a session on Approaching Medieval Manuscripts which had been organised byartsmethods@manchester primarily for Post-Graduate researchers at the University of Manchester. The session was led by Dr Luca Larpi, a Researcher at the University of Manchester who used early medieval manuscripts in his PhD. The session was highly interactive – we were immediately faced with deciphering the runes on “Thror’s map” from Tolkein’s The Hobbit. Luca showed how perserverance and dedication can lead from confusion and ”strangeness” to familiarity and understanding. The relationship between the text and the materiality of the physical object was also clearly illustrated with examples of interesting provenance from the digitised manuscripts at the British Library and videos showing the construction of medieval manuscripts. The session ended with Mr Bean – a disturbing display of how NOT to handle manuscripts, which I had not seen before.

I went to London for the British Records Association AnnualConference entitled “Jewels in the Crown? Archives of Empire”, where papers were read by academic researchers and library professionals on a wide range of topics, from records of slavery in an English country house to dance across the British Empire. I was struck by the huge potential that British Libraries and Museums have to support and illuminate international research, especially when we can think outside the limits of format and institution. Here at the Rylands our collections encompass Foreign and Commonwealth Pamphlets, letters of East India Company officials, early photographs of Australia, records of mining in Africa, manuscripts created by indigenous cultures around the world and missionary records – to name but a few. Tom Lawson’s paper on genocide in colonial Tasmania showed us that where the official record is lacking, we can often find evidence in cultural remains, reminding me that the Library itself is a record of British Imperialism.

For more about this article please visit the Special Collections blog

Elizabeth Gow
Manuscript Curator and Assistant Archivist



Crossing the Bar: Public Engagement & Humanities Research

Applications are invited from Humanities postgraduate and early career researchers across the North West to take part in this AHRC-funded initiative, which will explore practical methods of finding ways of engaging the public with your research – an increasingly important consideration for researchers entering an academic marketplace which expects research to create impact.

The project will take the form of two workshops. The first, to be held at Keele University on Friday May 17th 2013, will address the idea of “Connected Communities”. At this event, invited community partners (Staffordshire Archive Service, Englesea Brook Museum, the Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum and the New Vic Theatre) will explain their experiences of the nature of collaborative relationships, suggesting ways of establishing meaningful contact with local research institutions, prompting discussions of how such a working-relationship can be sustained and how it can develop the long-term prospects of both researcher and community partners.

Developing from this, the second workshop, to be held at Liverpool University on Friday September 27th  2013, will address the “Care for the Future” theme. Talks from Gladstone’s Library, the Reader Organisation, the Prince’s Trust and the Wordsworth Trust will explore the variety of contexts in which Humanities researchers might interact with it, from digitisation projects which preserve and make accessible a resource, to uses of reading which seek to enhance health and well-being.

The workshops will be supplemented by a blog, which will enable participants to discuss their experiences of seeking public engagement opportunities throughout the time between the workshops. Each participant will be asked to write a short post to contribute to this blog.

To apply, please send a letter of support from your supervisor, a brief outline of your research project, and a brief (500 word) description as to how you see your project being utilised in a public engagement collaboration to and by Friday March 29th 2013. Visit the website at: