Historical books from the Blavatnik Honresfield Library find a new home

Catherine Dack, Research Support Librarian, writes about recent additions to our holdings – distributed from the Blavatnik Honresfield Library.

We were delighted recently to receive a generous donation of books from the Honresfield Library, which has been acquired for the nation by Friends of the National Libraries.  The charity, who work to save the UK’s written and printed heritage, succeeded last year in raising £15m to purchase this significant collection of manuscripts and books, formed towards the end of the 19th century by mill owner brothers William and Alfred Law, who lived at Honresfield House near Rochdale. The manuscripts and books are being distributed to libraries across the UK to ensure they will remain accessible to the public.

Honresfield books donated to the Arts and Social Sciences Library, University of Bristol.

Honresfield books donated to the Arts and Social Sciences Library, University of Bristol.

Among the historical works in the collection is a copy of The Baronage of England by William Dugdale, an English antiquary. Printed in 1675-1676, in three volumes, bound in two parts, it is an account of the lives of the English nobility from the Anglo-Saxon period. Our copy was originally in the library at Stourhead, and was sold at Sotheby’s in 1883, presumably to the Law brothers.

Dugdale’s 'Baronage of England', Vol. 1, 1675.

Dugdale’s ‘Baronage of England’, Vol. 1, 1675.

A very different historical work is The Comic History of England, 1847-8, by Gilbert Abbott A’Beckett.  This popular work was illustrated with many humorous engravings by John Leech who, like the author, was a contributor to Punch, in which the episodes in the book first appeared.

'Georgy Porgy the First going out for a ride in his State Coachy Poachy' from 'The Comic History of England'.

‘Georgy Porgy the First going out for a ride in his State Coachy Poachy’ from ‘The Comic History of England’.

One item with an interesting publication history is a pirated edition of Tennyson’s early poems, printed in Toronto in 1862. Tennyson successfully obtained an injunction to prevent its sale in Britain, receiving an apology and £100. A manuscript copy of the Bill of Complaint in Chancery is loosely inserted into this copy.

Manuscript copy of the Bill of Complaint between Alfred Tennyson and John Camden Hotten.

Manuscript copy of the Bill of Complaint between Alfred Tennyson and John Camden Hotten.

The gift includes eight volumes of Charles Knight’s Standard Edition of the Pictorial Shakspeare 1842-1843, which was originally issued in monthly parts and later published in a number of editions. Knight took a new approach to the illustration of Shakespeare’s works, using images that aimed for historical accuracy, rather than representations of Shakespeare as performed in the Victorian theatre in contemporary costume, which previously had been the standard practice.

Act I of 'The Two Gentlemen of Verona' from Charles Knight’s Standard Edition of the Pictorial Shakspeare, Vol. I.

Act I of ‘The Two Gentlemen of Verona’ from Charles Knight’s Standard Edition of the Pictorial Shakspeare, Vol. I.

We also received some fiction titles, including an 1877 edition of Bracebridge Hall by Washington Irving: a series of tales of life in an English manor, written when Irving was living in England.  The illustrations are by Randolph Caldecott, after whom the Caldecott medal, awarded by the American Library Association for children’s picture book illustration, is named.  Caldecott’s illustrations for Bracebridge Hall were among those which first established him as an illustrator.

'Bracebridge Hall' by Washington Irving, illustrated by Randolph Caldecott.

‘Bracebridge Hall’ by Washington Irving, illustrated by Randolph Caldecott.

We are now looking forward to cataloguing these, together with the other books we received, to make them discoverable to the public.

You can read more about the saving of the Library, which has now been renamed the Blavatnik Honresfield Library, in honour of the principal benefactor, on the Friends of the National Libraries’ blog.

Also note the British Library event on Tuesday 6th December 2022 at 7pm, celebrating the acquisition for the nation of the Blavatnik Honresfield Library and its extraordinary collection of manuscripts by the Brontës, Jane Austen, Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott.

Archiving the Web: collecting web crawls for the University Archive

Sam Brenton, Bridging the Digital Gap Trainee, writes about his work in Special Collections and the Theatre Collection.

Hello, my name’s Sam and I’m the Digital Archives trainee on the Bridging the Digital Gap programme from The National Archives. This scheme aims to place people with technical skills within archives around the country to help preserve the increasing number of digital items they collect. Over the past fifteen months I’ve been at the University of Bristol, working on a number of digital archiving projects with Special Collections and the Theatre Collection. One of the things I’ve been working on is expanding the quantity of web pages in the University’s web archive.

Illustration by Jørgen Stamp digitalbevaring.dk CC BY 2.5 Denmark.

Illustration by Jørgen Stamp digitalbevaring.dk CC BY 2.5 Denmark.

So what is a web archive? And how is it different from the website itself? A web archive is a collection of web pages preserved offline and is totally independent from the source website. This means that should the original web pages become unavailable, or are altered in any way, there is still a perfect copy of the original. The pages are stored as WARC files, a format specifically designed for the preservation of web pages as it acts as a container for all the elements that make up the web page, such as text and images.

When we’re concerned with long term preservation we can’t guarantee that the pages will still be hosted by their original source. Sometimes this is simply because an organisation likes to regularly refresh its content, for example a manufacturer listing their current products. But even something that appears to be more permanent, such as online encyclopedias and other information resources, may be altered, or older content might be removed without warning. It’s important that an archive is aware of any websites that come under the scope of its collection policy, particularly any that might be at risk.

I’ve been archiving parts of the University’s own website, such as the various news and announcements and the catalogues of courses offered, by crawling them in Preservica (our digital preservation system). The websites were identified by the University Archivist as being similar to traditional paper elements of the archive. So in order to mirror those collections, I’ve been doing small individual web-crawls based on dates (either year or month). These smaller crawls deliver more consistent results and will allow for better cataloguing in the future.  Sometimes this is challenging, as it takes a lot of time to process each crawl. When web crawling, it is common to run in to issues when rendering the pages, this if usually because complex JavaScript elements of modern web pages, such as interactivity and animations, are difficult for the crawlers to capture, so it was important that I checked each crawl before adding it to the archive. Fortunately for me, the sites I’ve been crawling are relatively simple, so the only issues I had were with the .WARC viewers themselves. Each one behaves slightly differently, so it’s useful to try rendering the crawl in a different viewer (such as Conifer) if there are issues with it, before re-doing the crawl.

WARC files of crawled University web pages in Preservica.

WARC files of crawled University web pages in Preservica.

In the future I’d like to look into adding relevant external web pages to the collections. In due course, we also hope to be able to catalogue and make web crawls accessible. In the longer term I would like to look into archiving social media profiles.  These are far more challenging to preserve due to log-in requirements and the large number of interactive elements, but they are arguably just as important as standalone web pages. The posts are far more ephemeral than web pages and we are reliant on the platform to maintain them.  They are also a key way that the University communicates with the public.

Atlantic Bristol: Connecting the City to Central America and the western Caribbean

Karl Offen is Professor of Geography and the Environment at Syracuse University in New York. He specializes in the historical geography of Central America and the Caribbean. Caroline A. Williams (1962-2019) contributed in absentia to this post. Caroline was a professor in The Department of Hispanic, Portuguese and Latin American Studies at the University of Bristol until her untimely passing. An article about her many and diverse scholarly achievements can be accessed here. As much as I would like to say that Caroline co-authored this post, I must acknowledge that she did not and that any errors are mine alone.

‘Prepare to be amazed!’ This was how Caroline started an email to me in 2014. She had just received transcriptions of some 30 family letters of a private collection that we had been searching for. ‘There is so much information, I’m at a loss for words’. The email could not contain her elation, and after reading the rest of her message I too understood that we had stumbled upon a once in a lifetime find.

Fast forward seven years to October of 2021, and I was finally able to bequeath the entire trove of associated documents to the University of Bristol Library. The appropriately named, Peter Blencowe Collection (PBC), contains almost 300 letters and miscellaneous papers covering 1730 to the mid-nineteenth century. The collection has the reference number DM3028 and will be catalogued by library staff in 2023.

The collection offers much to scholars of the Georgian era of the greater Bristol area, the epistolary world of Atlantic families, and political events shaping the western Caribbean. Above all, the documents illustrate how multiple generations of Hodgsons maintained family, business, and social ties across the Atlantic.

Central America and the Caribbean. From Thomas Jefferys, A compleat chart of the West Indies, ‘The West-India atlas...’, London, 1775. Courtesy of United States Library of Congress.

Central America and the Caribbean. From Thomas Jefferys, A compleat chart of the West Indies, ‘The West-India atlas…’, London, 1775. Courtesy of United States Library of Congress.

Readers interested in how we came to acquire this private collection are encouraged to peruse the full story in the second half of this post. The short version, however, must highlight the forethought and generosity of Mr. Peter Blencowe. Peter inherited the documents from the descendants of J.J. Blencowe whose first wife, Gratia-Maria Prowett Blencowe (1806-1840), was the grand daughter of Robert Hodgson II, the writer, receiver, or principal subject of the vast majority of the PBC. Peter worked diligently with the documents, and his published writings about the provenance and family significance of the collection can be found in The Hodgson Papers, Appendix VIII of the book The Blencowe Families: The Descendants of the Blencowe Families of Cumbria and Northamptonshire, edited by J.W. Blencowe and published in 2001 by The Blencowe Families Association in Oxford. Peter gave the collection to Caroline and I in 2016 under the condition that we would ensure its public availability.

Book cover of ‘The Blencowe Families’.

Book cover of ‘The Blencowe Families’.

Central characters in the documents are members of the Hodgson family, including Robert Hodgson (father) and especially his son – also named Robert – both of whom served as British Superintendents for the Mosquito Shore (1749-1758; 1768-1775), a British outpost in eastern Central America that was always contested and claimed by Spain. The dominant force on the Shore, however, was the native Miskitu people whose leadership formed a political alliance known as the Miskitu Kingdom. The letters of Robert Hodgson I (the father) and Robert Hodgson II (the son), as well as letters from Robert II’s spouse, Mrs. Elizabeth Pitt Hodgson, and their four children, expose political intrigues in and beyond the contested borderland for much of the eighteenth century.

A particular highlight of the Peter Blencowe Collection is the letters that Elizabeth Hodgson Symons sent to her brother, Robert II, from her home in Stony Hill (part of which is now named Stoney Hill, part Park Row) in Bristol that she shared with her husband, the Bristol solicitor Thomas Symons, and their daughter Elizabeth (Betsy) Symons.

Part of 'A Plan of the City of Bristol', drawn and surveyed by John Rocque, engraved by John Pine, dated MDCCXLII, and published in March 1743. Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Bristol Library. Stony Hill (part of which is now named Stoney Hill, part Park Row) can be seen above and to the left of The Red Lodge

Part of ‘A Plan of the City of Bristol’, drawn and surveyed by John Rocque, engraved by John Pine, dated MDCCXLII, and published in March 1743. Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Bristol Library. Stony Hill (part of which is now named Stoney Hill, part Park Row) can be seen above and to the left of The Red Lodge

Between 1768 and 1776, Elizabeth Hodgson Symons sent 33 numbered letters to Robert II on the Mosquito Shore – sadly letters 9, 13, and 32 are missing. Her letters paused in 1776 because the British government recalled Robert II to answer charges of misconduct. When he returned to the Caribbean in 1780 as a colonel to advance the British assault along the Río San Juan in Nicaragua (along with compatriots Horatio Nelson and Edward Despard), his sister wrote him four more letters.

Elizabeth’s letters contain mundane gossip of Bristol, news from London, the prices fetched by Hodgson’s natural resources, and, especially, notices of relatives near and far, including the Tyndales of Bath and Bathford, Lords Delamere and Earls of Stamford, the Astronomer Royal, Nevil Maskelyne, whose sister Margaret Maskelyne married Robert Clive (Clive of India). In short, the epistolary world of Elizabeth Symons provides an intimate glimpse into eighteenth-century domestic life of an aspiring upper-middle class family and the role played by letters in passing along news, maintaining family relations, and strengthening commercial networks locally and across the Atlantic.

A second highlight of the PBC is a set of letters connecting Robert (Rob) Hodgson II (c.1737-1791) with his four children – William (Billy) Pitt Hodgson (1767-1800), Robert (Bob and Rob) Hodgson III (1769-1808), Martha Maria Hodgson (1774-1850), and Ariadne (Ari) Hodgson (1776-1792) – and his wife, Elizabeth (Betsy) Pitt Hodgson (1740-1797), over a period spanning the American War of Independence through his death in Guatemala City.

Letter from Robert Hodgson II in Guatemala to his son, Robert (Bob) Hodgson III, in Bristol, June 2, 1791, four days before he died. Courtesy of Yamil Kouri.

Letter from Robert Hodgson II in Guatemala to his son, Robert (Bob) Hodgson III, in Bristol, June 2, 1791, four days before he died. Courtesy of Yamil Kouri.

In a letter announcing their father’s passing, Robert Hodgson III assured his sister Martha Maria, ‘at the moment of his death (our father was a) Brigadier General, a Knight of the Order of Charles the third (the first foreigner who ever arrived to that most distinguished Spanish Title) with an appointment of 30,000 Dllrs. per ann. pension …’ Given that none of the family could attend his funeral, he sought to convince his sister that all due respects were paid: ‘The funeral cost three thousand Dollars which were paid by the King. He died a steady Protestant. The King of Spain has sent an express message of Condolence to my mother with his royal word that she and her Children are to be considered his peculiar protection’.

Maps of Bluefields drawn by Robert Hodgson II in 1770, in which he laid claim to the region by virtue of having purchased it from the Miskitu king and governor in 1757. Courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library, Brown University.

Maps of Bluefields drawn by Robert Hodgson II in 1770, in which he laid claim to the region by virtue of having purchased it from the Miskitu king and governor in 1757. Courtesy of the John Carter Brown Library, Brown University.

The revolutionary Atlantic was a time of significant upheaval for many families and the Hodgsons were no exception. Many family members were physically separated by great distances, and in order to stay in touch they needed to cooperate with Spanish authorities, especially following the British evacuation of the Mosquito Shore in 1787. When complex Shore tensions came to a head in 1790, a faction of Miskitu attacked and destroyed the Hodgson property at Bluefields. Robert II, Elizabeth, Billy, and Ari fled to Panama, and then to Nicaragua. Following Robert II’s death in 1791, the family fell on hard times and relied on the generosity of well-connected Spaniards in Central America. Surviving Hodgsons who reconnected at Corn Islands (Elizabeth, William, and Robert III) eventually had to seek refuge in Jamaica where they all died destitute. (Ari had died earlier as a fluent Spanish speaker in León, Nicaragua).

Robert Hodgson II's letter to Thomas Symons from Portobelo, Panamá, informing his Bristol relations of his detention, June 3, 1783. Courtesy of Yamil Kouri.

Robert Hodgson II’s letter to Thomas Symons from Portobelo, Panamá, informing his Bristol relations of his detention, June 3, 1783. Courtesy of Yamil Kouri.

At the very beginning of 1783, Robert Hodgson II was taken as a prisoner of war by a Spanish patrol ship off Portobelo, Panamá. For the next several years, he negotiated his position with the Archbishop of Santa Fé de Bogotá and Viceroy of Nueva Granada, Antonio Caballero y Góngora, while being detained in comfortable circumstances in Cartagena.

'A Map of the Bay of Honduras and the Moskito Shore with the number of inhabitants and the commodities exported in 1782', drawn by Colonel Robert Hodgson II and William Pitt Hodgson. At least 14 maps of different parts of the shore are attributed to Robert Hodgson II, but this is his magnum opus. Courtesy of the Biblioteca Virtual de Defensa de España.

‘A Map of the Bay of Honduras and the Moskito Shore with the number of inhabitants and the commodities exported in 1782’, drawn by Colonel Robert Hodgson II and William Pitt Hodgson. At least 14 maps of different parts of the shore are attributed to Robert Hodgson II, but this is his magnum opus. Courtesy of the Biblioteca Virtual de Defensa de España.

Following the British evacuation of the Mosquito Shore specified in the Treaty of Versailles and the follow up Convention of London in 1786, Robert returned to Bluefields as a colonel in the Spanish Army. Hodgson’s ability to speak Miskitu and his knowledge of the region convinced Caballero y Góngora that he was needed to help bring the Miskitu leadership to Spanish interests. At least 50 letters in the PBC contain correspondence relating to the important decade of the 1780s. For scholars of the Mosquito Shore, the PBC complements the well-known collections covering the activities of Hodgson II held at the Archivo General de Simancas and other locations in Spain, Britain, and Colombia.

The Benjamin Franklin House, 36 Craven Street, London. Wikimedia Commons.

The Benjamin Franklin House, 36 Craven Street, London. Wikimedia Commons.

One of the great surprises of the PBC is its connections to the life of Dr. Benjamin Franklin. Franklin lived on Craven Street in London during two extended stays between 1757 and 1775. There, he lodged with the widow Mrs. Margaret Stevenson and became livelong friends with her daughter, Mary (Polly) Stevenson Hewson. Polly’s ‘dear friend’ from childhood was Mrs. Elizabeth (Betsy) Pitt Hodgson. Two months before she died in 1795, Polly had sent Martha Maria Hodgson a letter stating that she had known her mother Elizabeth for more than 40 years. Not surprisingly, Elizabeth Pitt is mentioned in several letters between Benjamin Franklin and Polly Stevenson, and Pitt and Franklin must have interacted on numerous occasions. The first of these letters, dated circa 1759, was written from Craven Street; Franklin signed off by presenting ‘my best respects to your good Aunts, and to Miss Pitt’. Scholars of Benjamin Franklin have not identified Miss Pitt as Mrs. Elizabeth Pitt Hodgson and now the PBC provides evidence for this and places it in a rich social context.

A stylized Spanish map by Luis Diez Navarro from 1765 showing the main British settlement at Black River in today's Honduras. The map highlights the residence of William Pitt, the settlement's 1732 founder, the grandson of a former governor of Bermuda, a distant relative of the eponymous British prime minister, and the father of Elizabeth Pitt Hodgson. Courtesy of the Biblioteca Digital Hispánica of the Biblioteca Nacional de España.

A stylized Spanish map by Luis Diez Navarro from 1765 showing the main British settlement at Black River in today’s Honduras. The map highlights the residence of William Pitt, the settlement’s 1732 founder, the grandson of a former governor of Bermuda, a distant relative of the eponymous British prime minister, and the father of Elizabeth Pitt Hodgson. Courtesy of the Biblioteca Digital Hispánica of the Biblioteca Nacional de España.

Elizabeth Pitt was born at Black River on the Mosquito Shore, the favourite daughter of the settlement’s founder, William Pitt, and a Spanish widow that William had rescued from the Miskitu following a shipwreck sometime in the late 1730s. Elizabeth (Betsy) Pitt married Robert Hodgson II in London in 1766, returning home by herself before her husband followed in 1768. Letters in the PBC reveal that Robert II spoke with Franklin during and after his courtship with Betsy in the mid-1760s.

First page of a love letter from Robert Hodgson II writing from London to his wife, Elizabeth Hodgson, care of her father at Black River on the Mosquito Shore, Oct. 1, 1766. As he put it, 'My uneasiness at our Separation increases upon me if possible, in so much, that some times I am so miserable about it that I scarce know what I do'. He did manage to enclose a letter to Betsy from her 'dear friend' Miss Stevenson.

First page of a love letter from Robert Hodgson II writing from London to his wife, Elizabeth Hodgson, care of her father at Black River on the Mosquito Shore, Oct. 1, 1766. As he put it, ‘My uneasiness at our Separation increases upon me if possible, in so much, that some times I am so miserable about it that I scarce know what I do’. He did manage to enclose a letter to Betsy from her ‘dear friend’ Miss Stevenson.

At some point, Mary (Polly) Stevenson Hewson had loaned Robert II money. Her will of 1794 – available in The National Archive at Kew, and which varies in significant ways from the published version – testifies to her friendship with Elizabeth: ‘I bequeath to my friend Elizabeth Hodgson the Bond with all the Money due to me from her deceased Husband Robert Hodgson. It is a small mark of the Love I bear her’.

Much more can be said about the traces of Benjamin Franklin in the PBC, and to his poorly known connections to the Mosquito Shore more broadly – including the fact that his only daughter with his common law wife, Deborah Read, Sarah Franklin, married Richard Bache, the brother of Deborah Otway (née Bache), the wife of Mosquito Shore Superintendent Captain Joseph Otway whose appointment was situated between those of Robert Hodgson I and Robert Hodgson II. But that will have to await another venue.

Four watercolours by an unknown traveller dated to July 1845 showing dwellings in Bluefields on the Mosquito Shore at the beginning of a new British protectorate. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Four watercolours by an unknown traveller dated to July 1845 showing dwellings in Bluefields on the Mosquito Shore at the beginning of a new British protectorate. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Family members presumably preserved these documents in hopes of recovering property in Central America. Hodgson II’s oldest daughter, Martha Maria Hodgson Prowett, and especially her husband, the Rev. John Prowett (d. 1851), fought long and hard to acquire Hodgson’s property at Bluefields, or to receive monetary compensation from the Spanish government, and later from the Federal Republic of Central America, and finally from British officials seeking to establish a protectorate at Bluefields (see Colonial Office 123/61; 123/78 at The National Archive). A dozen letters in the PBC document Prowett’s correspondence with British ministers, lawyers, embassy staff, and even a hired investigator who retained a translator in Guatemala to dig into Hodgson II’s possessions at the time of his death. The documents suggest that Prowett became obsessed with his quest, and that his repeated failures ultimately consumed him.

Two letter covers from Robert Hodgson III to his sister, Martha Maria Hodgson, in Bristol. Left: from Blewfields, 17 April 1792, reporting on his return to the Shore. Courtesy of Jesús Sitja Prats. Right: reporting from Corn Island, 1 August 1792, after the family was once again forced to flee Bluefields. Courtesy of Yamil Kouri.

Two letter covers from Robert Hodgson III to his sister, Martha Maria Hodgson, in Bristol. Left: from Blewfields, 17 April 1792, reporting on his return to the Shore. Courtesy of Jesús Sitja Prats. Right: reporting from Corn Island, 1 August 1792, after the family was once again forced to flee Bluefields. Courtesy of Yamil Kouri.

Although the Rev. Prowett emphatically claimed his wife was the last living heir and thus the rightful owner of Robert Hodgson II’s property, including his rumoured pension of 30,000 dollars held in Cartagena, this was not completely accurate. In his Jamaican will of 1807, Robert Hodgson III, left a portion of any share of his father’s pension to the children he shared with his domestic partner Mary Pitt, Catharine Maria Hodgson and Robert Pitt Hodgson. Mary and her children were of African descent and could have also laid claim to Robert Hodgson II’s property and pension. Indeed, the many Hodgsons of today’s Nicaragua and to a lesser extent Jamaica almost certainly trace their ancestry in some way to Catharine or Robert Pitt Hodgson, Robert Hodgson II, Robert Hodgson III, or William Pitt Hodgson.

By the early nineteenth century, many Creole Hodgson descendants resided at Bluefields and likely elsewhere such as Corn Island. More than 20 percent of 53 property lots registered on an 1846 map of Bluefields were owned by Hodgsons with different first names, suggesting they had claimed Robert II’s property on their own (see Foreign Office 53/5 at The National Archive).

How did we learn about these documents?

Caroline and I had been exchanging emails for many years when we finally met in person at The Tap on the Line, a Kew Gardens pub, in the summer of 2014. There we hatched a plan to write a book about Robert Hodgson II. Each of us had been working separately with Hodgson’s diplomatic writings found in Britain, Spain, Colombia, and in other depositories around the Atlantic (e.g. the William Clements Library at the University of Michigan), for over a decade.

My chance reading of ‘The Hodgson Correspondence: 18th Century Mail from the Western Caribbean to England’ – a 2003 article by Yamil H. Kouri, Jr., and Leo J. Harris, published by the Postal History Journal – altered the scope of our research. The article discussed some unusual Hodgson family letters sent from Bluefields, Corn Island, and León, Nicaragua, to Bristol via Spanish carriers. Through daily correspondence with Yamil and, then with his fellow philatelists Leo Harris, Brian Moorhouse, Neal West, Bill Byerley, Mike Birks, and Jim Mazepa, I was initiated into an unknown (to me) world of enthusiastic collectors and knowledgeable Nicaraguan historians. From the good will of these individuals, and especially Yamil Kouri, I received numerous scans of Hodgson family letters that collectors had purchased for their rare postal markings. They were more than willing to provide me with scans, and some of their letters are shown in this post – because these particular letters remain in private collections, the PBC only holds photocopies of them.

When I told Caroline of this correspondence she replied, ‘I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am about this discovery’. We learned that 21 letters had been sold during a Christie’s Robson Lowe auction on 16 July 1992. This got Caroline and I thinking about who had sold these letters and, more importantly, if there might be more of them.

Two pages from Christie's Robson Lowe Catalogue, London, 16 July 1992, showing the sale of the lots 318 to 328 referred to as 'The Hodgson Correspondence'. Courtesy of New York Public Library.

Two pages from Christie’s Robson Lowe Catalogue, London, 16 July 1992, showing the sale of the lots 318 to 328 referred to as ‘The Hodgson Correspondence’. Courtesy of New York Public Library.

After finding a review of The Blencowe Families book mentioned earlier, Caroline reached out to Peter Blencowe in an email explaining our interest in the Hodgsons. Peter quickly wrote back, confessing that he had ‘been waiting for an email or letter like (hers)’ for a long time. When Caroline planned a trip to meet with Peter in person in the summer of 2016, he told her ‘to bring an empty suitcase’.

Screen capture of a database showing a small portion of our early efforts to catalogue the Peter Blencowe Collection.

Screen capture of a database showing a small portion of our early efforts to catalogue the Peter Blencowe Collection.

In the summer of 2017, Caroline and I sat down together in her home in Bristol and did a quick reading of all the documents and a cursory cataloguing of the entire collection. Although we always planned to give the papers to the University of Bristol Library, Caroline’s sudden hospitalization, unexpected passing, and the Covid-19 pandemic delayed the transfer until the autumn of 2021. Thanks to the special care of the documents by Caroline’s husband, Richard Williams, and Gina Robinson, who helped Richard organize Caroline’s papers, the documents are now safe with Special Collections.

In her last email to me, and not hinting at any worrisome health conditions, Caroline offered her commentary on a paper I was presenting on Robert Hodgson II at the Annual Conference of the Omohundro Institute in 2019.

She wrote to say, ‘my inclination would be to emphasise again in the conclusion of the paper the significance of the PBC! What it allows us to do, among many other things, is to delve into and juxtapose the professional and personal aspects of Hodgson’s life, his wider family, the role that close relations (Elizabeth & Thomas Symons, John Peighin, etc played in facilitating his trading activities, the way family fortunes may have motivated his or his father’s adventuring and the impact of these on his children), how their letters shed light on the ways in which a close family maintained contact and – for the Hodgsons – a sense of belonging and identity.’ And so I did, and so I shall.

Pieces of China in Bristol – cataloguing Historical Photographs of China material

Jamie Carstairs has recently catalogued the ‘Historical Photographs of China’ material held in Special Collections. In this post, he describes the material in outline and mentions some highlights.

During the fifteen years of the Historical Photographs of China Project, a surprisingly large amount of archival material was accumulated. This was never the plan, but came about incidentally. As well as photographs, the project acquired negatives, 35mm colour transparencies, post cards, books, vintage cameras, newspaper cuttings, scrap books, maps, silver shooting trophies, shipping labels, cine film, memoirs, ephemera – as well as a Shanghai Municipal Policeman’s whistle, penknife, bus pass, freemason regalia, slippers and other objects (John Montgomery Collection, DM2836). Most of this material was donated, while a few photographs were purchased with a view to filling gaps in the collection.

A print of a caricature by Miguel Covarrubias, of the successful businessman Sir Victor Sassoon with a Leica camera and lighting kit, in Bali, dated 1934. Sir Victor loved photography, horse racing, travel, international friendship and the party life of 1930s Shanghai. This print is in a scrapbook in the George Hutton Potts Collection (DM2831/21).

A print of a caricature by Miguel Covarrubias, of the successful businessman Sir Victor Sassoon with a Leica camera and lighting kit, in Bali, dated 1934. Sir Victor loved photography, horse racing, travel, international friendship and the party life of 1930s Shanghai. This print is in a scrapbook in the George Hutton Potts Collection (DM2831/21).

The first few frames of a roll of 16mm cine film, in the Robert Peck Collection (DM2838/4/1). This part of the footage seems to show a Christian proselytising in a street in China, c.1937. The two reels of cine film in this collection have not yet been viewed or digitised.

The first few frames of a roll of 16mm cine film, in the Robert Peck Collection (DM2838/4/1). This part of the footage seems to show a Christian proselytising in a street in China, c.1937. The two reels of cine film in this collection have not yet been viewed or digitised.

A barograph trace, made on the luxury liner ‘Empress of Asia’, showing an off-the-chart drop in atmospheric pressure during a typhoon in October 1921. The barogram is in a scrapbook in the George Hutton Potts Collection (DM2831/19).

A barograph trace, made on the luxury liner ‘Empress of Asia’, showing an off-the-chart drop in atmospheric pressure during a typhoon in October 1921. The barogram is in a scrapbook in the George Hutton Potts Collection (DM2831/19).

A portrait of a boy reading ‘Amateur Photographer’ magazine, 1940s/1950s (HPC ref: Ha-s056), from the extensive Tita and Gerry Hayward Collection (DM2830), which includes Basil Edward (Dick) Foster Hall (1894-1975) material. A few images in this collection have been published on the HPC web site.

A portrait of a boy reading ‘Amateur Photographer’ magazine, 1940s/1950s (HPC ref: Ha-s056), from the extensive Tita and Gerry Hayward Collection (DM2830), which includes Basil Edward (Dick) Foster Hall (1894-1975) material. A few images in this collection have been published on the HPC web site.

This archival material is now held in Special Collections. It has recently been catalogued and these records can be consulted on the Online Archive Catalogue. To see all the catalogue records for the HPC material, select ‘China (Historical Photographs of China)’ in the ‘Major collections’ drop-down menu in Advanced Search. Or search for a particular archival DM reference in ‘Reference number’ in Advanced Search, or a keyword lucky dip in ‘Any text’ in Advanced Search.

A screenshot showing some results of a search for ‘China (Historical Photographs of China)’, in the ‘Major collections’ drop-down menu in Advanced Search, in Special Collections’ Online Archive Catalogue.

A screenshot showing some results of a search for ‘China (Historical Photographs of China)’, in the ‘Major collections’ drop-down menu in Advanced Search, in Special Collections’ Online Archive Catalogue.

The oldest photographs we hold date from the late 1860s/early 1870s, in an album thought to have been compiled by John Gurney Fry, of the famous chocolate family (DM2887). Many of these beautiful and well-preserved albumin prints are photographs by the great photographers Lai Fong and John Thomson. The John Gurney Fry Collection has been digitised and the images can be viewed on the HPC web site.

Four musicians (singers), with instruments, Fuzhou, c.1868-1874 (HPC ref Fr01-044). Photograph by Lai Fong (Afong Studio). A page from the John Gurney Fry album (DM2887).

Four musicians (singers), with instruments, Fuzhou, c.1868-1874 (HPC ref Fr01-044). Photograph by Lai Fong (Afong Studio). A page from the John Gurney Fry album (DM2887).

Most of the HPC material dates from the 1870s to the 1950s, but we have also collected slides and photographs taken during the early stages of China’s Cultural Revolution (Colin Andrew Collection, DM2818), and slides taken during a bicycle trip from Nanjing to Shanghai in 1983 (John Lyle Collection, DM2993) as well as photographs taken in the 1980s for two historical architectural books by Professor Ronald Knapp (DM2992).

Unidentified event, Jingshan Park, Beijing, c.1966 (HPC ref Aw-t415). One of 553 slides (35mm transparencies) taken by Colin Andrew during the Cultural Revolution (Colin Andrew Collection, DM2818/4).

Unidentified event, Jingshan Park, Beijing, c.1966 (HPC ref Aw-t415). One of 553 slides (35mm transparencies) taken by Colin Andrew during the Cultural Revolution (Colin Andrew Collection, DM2818/4).

The collection includes fascinating self-published memoirs, such as I Remember One Time by Paul Kaye (DM2990/6), and Out of China by Ronald Kliene (DM2990/10). Both Kaye and Kliene were in the Shanghai boy scouts, 1930s. Also of great interest is an ‘extra-illustrated’ mss entitled ‘The Diaries and Letters of Rev. Robert Walker Debenham Peck’ (DM2838/1). Peck was a Methodist missionary in Wuhan during the Second Sino-Japanese war. Other donated books include Five Months of War (North-China Daily News, 1938), illustrated with drawings by the Shanghai’s premier cartoonist ‘Sapajou’ (Georgii Avksent’ievich Sapojnikoff) (DM2836/7).

The cover of Five Months of War, published in 1938. This book about the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) contains many photographs by North-China Daily News photographers and others, cartoons by Sapajou, and maps. (John Montgomery Collection, DM2836/7).

The cover of Five Months of War, published in 1938. This book about the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) contains many photographs by North-China Daily News photographers and others, cartoons by Sapajou, and maps. (John Montgomery Collection, DM2836/7).

Some of the material in Special Collections has been digitised, but many historical photographs remain uncopied and their content undescribed, samples below.

A page from the album in the Pearl Bercht Collection (DM2820). Pearl Bercht was an American missionary, in Guangzhou (Canton) 1919-1922.

A page from the album in the Pearl Bercht Collection (DM2820). Pearl Bercht was an American missionary, in Guangzhou (Canton) 1919-1922.

An uncaptioned photograph in a large album entitled 'Coronation Day / 12th May 1937 / British Embassy / Peking' (Berkeley Gage Collection, DM2827/2). The photographs in this album are by the Russian friend of Hedda Morrison, Serge Vargassoff (1906-1965). Research is required to identify the guests at the Legation event, which include Qin Dechun (秦徳純) (1893-1963) and Zhang Guangjian (張廣建) (1864-1938).

An uncaptioned photograph in a large album entitled ‘Coronation Day / 12th May 1937 / British Embassy / Peking’ (Berkeley Gage Collection, DM2827/2). The photographs in this album are by the Russian friend of Hedda Morrison, Serge Vargassoff (1906-1965). Research is required to identify the guests at the Legation event, which include Qin Dechun (秦徳純) (1893-1963) and Zhang Guangjian (張廣建) (1864-1938).

A trade fair in a mat shed, either in Hong Kong or Singapore, early 1930s. The women are in sailor rig, emblazoned with the words ‘BOVRIL – PREVENT THAT SINKING FEELING’. The John Arber Collection (DM2985) includes many Hong Kong photographs relating to advertising and marketing.

A trade fair in a mat shed, either in Hong Kong or Singapore, early 1930s. The women are in sailor rig, emblazoned with the words ‘BOVRIL – PREVENT THAT SINKING FEELING’. The John Arber Collection (DM2985) includes many Hong Kong photographs relating to advertising and marketing.

Material in Special Collections that has been digitised, but is not yet published on the HPC site, include rich collections such the James Helbling Collection (DM2829) and the Cyril Whitaker Collection (DM2845), samples below.

A Cartier-Bressonesque photograph by Cyril Whitaker, captioned in the album: ‘Calibrating a [petroleum] tank by pumping out and weighing water on alternate scales. Jan. 1938’ (HPC ref: CW08-80). Whitaker was a talented ‘semi-pro’ photographer who documented the Asiatic Petroleum Company (APC) installation near Chongqing. Cyril Whitaker Collection, DM2845/8.

A Cartier-Bressonesque photograph by Cyril Whitaker, captioned in the album: ‘Calibrating a [petroleum] tank by pumping out and weighing water on alternate scales. Jan. 1938’ (HPC ref: CW08-80). Whitaker was a talented ‘semi-pro’ photographer who documented the Asiatic Petroleum Company (APC) installation near Chongqing. Cyril Whitaker Collection, DM2845/8.

This photograph of an impressive matriarchal family group is captioned on the back ‘Lau Ahchiang & family / Tai Ping Compradore 1906 / Foochow’ (HPC ref Od-s017). James Helbling Collection, DM2829/1.

This photograph of an impressive matriarchal family group is captioned on the back ‘Lau Ahchiang & family / Tai Ping Compradore 1906 / Foochow’ (HPC ref Od-s017). James Helbling Collection, DM2829/1.

A recent donation is the fruit of a lockdown clear-out, the Yangtse Corporation Collection (DM2998). The images of salt mining in this collection are on the HPC site, referenced as YC-s.

Special Collections also hold a large born-digital collection of images – the Nicholas Kitto Treaty Port Image Collection (DM3051) – over 4000 colour images of surviving/restored pre-1950 architecture in the former treaty ports, photographed by Nick Kitto in 2008-2016. Kitto drew from these in his book  Trading Places, A Photographic Journey Through China’s Former Treaty Ports (Blacksmith Books, 2020).

The Custom House, Guangzhou, one of the oldest Custom Houses in China, photographed here by Nick Kitto in 2008. This image is on the cover of 'Trading Places, A Photographic Journey Through China's Former Treaty Ports' by Nicholas Kitto (Blacksmith Books, 2020).

The Custom House, Guangzhou, one of the oldest Custom Houses in China, photographed here by Nick Kitto in 2008. This image is on the cover of ‘Trading Places, A Photographic Journey Through China’s Former Treaty Ports’ by Nicholas Kitto (Blacksmith Books, 2020).

DM2956 is a catalogue record of the c.62,000 HPC digital images (i.e. the output of fifteen years digitisation by the HPC project), now stored in a DAMS (Digital Asset Management System). All 168 HPC collections are listed in DM2956, as well as their archival DM references and whether the images in a collection have been added to the HPC web site, or not. DM2956 also includes an outline history of the HPC project, which ended in 2021 – details here.

For the future – a new HPC web site is due to be launched later in 2022. The redesigned site, on a new platform, will draw images and metadata direct from the DAMS. There’s plenty more work to do inputting metadata into the DAMS. This metadata includes descriptive information about the image, names, dates, locations, keywords, etc, which makes images findable on the HPC site. All being well, some of the many thousands of already digitised China photographs that we hold in Special Collections, which are not yet on the HPC site, will gradually be added to it.

If you have any queries, do please contact us.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Letter-Books and the S.S. Great Eastern

Emma Howgill is currently a project archivist at the Theatre Collection, working on the Julia Trevelyan Oman archive. When Emma was project archivist in Special Collections, she completed the cataloguing of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s S.S. Great Eastern letter-books and here writes about some of the highlights therein.

Earlier this year, Special Collections finished a six-month project to catalogue the six letter-books kept by Isambard Kingdom Brunel during his final project, the S.S. Great Eastern.

Built over a seven-year period, from 1852 to 1859, the S.S. Great Eastern was Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s last major project; the third and largest of his three great ships. At 692 feet long and 18,000 tons, the S.S. Great Eastern was, for over 40 years, the largest ship built and was only surpassed in both length and tonnage by the great ocean liners of the early twentieth century. Indeed, the ship was so large that she required not only a screw propeller, which Brunel had used with great success on the S.S. Great Britain, but also paddle wheels.

A page from the Leviathan Number of The Illustrated Times, 1858, showing the S.S. Great Eastern under construction in London. DM1378.

However, the ship was dogged by misfortune throughout her life. Even during construction, the ship suffered misfortune with a disastrous fire in the shipyard and the bankruptcy of ship-builder John Scott Russell. On her maiden voyage around the south coast of England, one of the boilers exploded, blowing off one of the ship’s funnels and fatally injuring several of the stokers. Despite her fame, the ship was not a great success as a passenger ship and she was sold and refitted for the laying of transatlantic telegraph cable. She ended her life moored at Liverpool, where she became a floating billboard for a local department store before being broken up in 1889.

The S.S. Great Eastern, moored in the Mersey, advertising David Lewis’s department stores in Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Birmingham, c.1886-87.

Throughout the construction of the ship, Brunel kept letter-books, six large volumes into which every piece of correspondence sent or received regarding the Great Eastern was copied. These volumes are an amazing resource, effectively detailing the entire progress of the project and illuminating many of Brunel’s thought processes and his relationships with colleagues and suppliers.

Letter from Walter Shelley to Isambard Kingdom Brunel, suggesting that Brunel might like to include a theatre on board the Great Eastern. 3 May 1857. DM1306/11/1/4/folio 331.

The letter-books reveal not only the grandeur and luxury of the Great Eastern but also her technological innovations. Brunel received several letters from people eager to include a variety of leisure activities onboard for passengers, including a theatre and a library with books specially bound to match the ship’s decorations, as well as a working printing press for passengers to admire. As well as leisure activities, the ship was also full of technological marvels, some devised by Brunel, others by a host of inventors eager to use Brunel’s celebrity to boost their own fame. Brunel himself believed that the unprecedented size and speed of the ship would change methods of navigation and would require new instruments for continuously monitoring the ship’s position. He set about, with the help of Professor Airey of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich and Professor C. Piazzi Smyth of the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, to devise new navigational instruments. Brunel also invented a device for monitoring sea-water conditions which would sound an alarm when water conditions were favourable for icebergs.

Part of a letter from Professor C. Piazzi Smyth to Isambard Kingdom Brunel, with ideas for a new type of observational instrument stand. 9 December 1854. DM1306/11/1/1/folio 336.

The letter-books also illuminate some of the project’s failures and the great public interest in the project. In June 1856 Brunel wrote an impatient letter to the secretary of the Eastern Steam Navigation Company requesting that public visits to the ship be restricted to the lunch hour since the number of visitors attempting to visit the ship was seriously disrupting the work (DM1306/11/1/3/folio 275). Then, following the first, disastrous, attempt to launch the Great Eastern in December 1857, the letter-books reveal the out-pouring of public opinion and the wealth of suggestions, some helpful, some not so helpful, that were sent to Brunel in the hopes of assisting with the launching of the ship.

Sketch accompanying a letter from I.M. Adam to Isambard Kingdom Brunel, offering suggestions for launching the S.S. Great Eastern. 21 December 1857. DM1306/11/1/5/folio 344.

Cataloguing these six letter-books has uncovered a wealth of detail about the revolutionary but ill-fated S.S. Great Eastern and reveals the attention to detail that Brunel paid to the ship, as well as the great public interest that the ship aroused. We hope that by making a detailed catalogue and high- quality images of the contents of the letter-books available online, we can continue to serve this public interest which still remains, over 160 years after the Great Eastern’s launch.

If you want to explore Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Great Eastern correspondence in more detail, please visit our online catalogue or you can arrange to visit the original letter-books which are held at the Brunel Institute.

 

 

 

Sixty years since Lady C – The ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ Trial and the Penguin Book Archive

The Lady Chatterley trial ended sixty years ago today, when the twelve jurors, three women and nine men, unanimously returned a verdict of ‘not guilty’. Hannah Lowery, Archivist, outlines relevant holdings in the Penguin Archive at University of Bristol Library, Special Collections.

Point of sale poster printed after the trial. University of Bristol Library Special Collections ref: DM2919/7.

Point of sale poster printed after the trial. University of Bristol Library Special Collections ref: DM2919/7.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930) had been privately published in Italy and France in the 1920s. In 1960 Penguin published a set of books by D.H. Lawrence to mark thirty years since his death, including the first full and unexpurgated version of the notorious novel to be made widely available in the UK. The publisher was then prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 and the watershed trial was held at the Old Bailey (Central Criminal Court) in London from 20 October to 2 November 1960, Sir Lawrence Byrne presiding.

In October 2019, the University of Bristol received Mr Justice Byrne’s marked copy of the Penguin edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, as well as four handwritten pages of notes by Dorothy Lady Byrne and a hand sewn cloth bag, all of which Mr Justice Byrne had taken into court each day. This momentous book and associated items were acquired following a crowd funding appeal, with help from PEN England, Penguin Books, Friends of the National Libraries (FNL), the Penguin Collectors Society, and many kind individuals.

It is catalogued at DM2936.

Mr Justice Byrne’s copy of the Penguin edition of 'Lady Chatterley’s Lover', notes, and bag. Photograph by Jamie Carstairs. University of Bristol Library Special Collections ref: DM2936.

Mr Justice Byrne’s copy of the Penguin edition of ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’, notes, and bag. Photograph by Jamie Carstairs. University of Bristol Library Special Collections ref: DM2936.

Special Collections has held on deposit since the 1960s, extensive archives relating to the history of Penguin Books. Allen Lane and his brothers John and Richard lived in Bristol, setting up the company in 1935. As well as archives still belonging to Penguin Books (such as editorial files), the collection here has been a catalyst for additional gifts to the University, for which we are immensely grateful.  Some of these have a distinctly ‘Lady Chatterley’ theme:

The papers of Michael Rubinstein, the lawyer who defended Penguin at the obscenity trial, are in DM1679.

DM1294 consists of items collected in 1985 to celebrate fifty years of Penguin Books, including papers relating to the trial, such as the court summons, a telegram from August 1960 calling Allen Lane back from Spain for the impending trial, and tickets for courtroom seats.

Court summons, dated 19 August 1960. University of Bristol Library Special Collections ref: DM1294/3/4/1/2.

Court summons, dated 19 August 1960. University of Bristol Library Special Collections ref: DM1294/3/4/1/2.

Telegram from W.E. Williams and Hans Schmoller to Sir Allen Lane in Malaga, Spain, n.d. [August 1960]. University of Bristol Library Special Collections ref: DM1294/3/4/1/1.

Telegram from W.E. Williams and Hans Schmoller to Sir Allen Lane in Malaga, Spain, n.d. [August 1960]. University of Bristol Library Special Collections ref: DM1294/3/4/1/1.

DM1819: Allen Lane’s filing cabinets contain additional materials relating to the trial.

Boxes 1, 12, 13, 17, 18, 20, 22, 23, 33-37

DM1843: Eunice Frost materials relating to the trial.

Boxes 1, 27, 34, 53, 62, 68, 72, 73

DM2097/1 and DM2129/1: Proof copies of Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

Proof copy of 'Lady Chatterley’s Lover'. University of Bristol Library Special Collections ref: DM2129/1/1.

Proof copy of ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’. University of Bristol Library Special Collections ref: DM2129/1/1.

DM2725/4/12: Papers belonging to Hans and Tanya Schmoller relating to the Lady Chatterley Trial.

A search of the online archive catalogue includes 106 entries relating to Lady Chatterley.

Also in Special Collections are:

Copies of D.H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, in many different editions, with a range of cover designs.

C.H. Rolph editor, The trial of Lady Chatterley: Regina v. Penguin Books Limited, Penguin Special (S192), 1961 (transcript of the trial).

Montgomery Hyde (ed.), The Lady Chatterley’s Lover Trial (The Bodley Head Ltd., 1990).

D.H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, with notes by Steve Hare, Penguin Books, 2010, including copies of materials held in the Penguin Archive in Bristol.

And a wealth of other materials.

Sir Laurence Byrne (17 September 1896 – 1 November 1965) presided over the Old Bailey case, and his wife Dorothy (Dorothy Frances Tickell, born 1894, married 1928) was also present, taking notes on court notepaper, and marking up passages in the book, so it could easily be referred to. Byrne’s obituary can be found in ‘The Times’ of 2 November 1965, where he is described as ‘an outstanding advocate’.  An article by Barbara Rich sheds more light on Dorothy Byrne. Details can also be found about Dorothy Byrne in Penguin Collectors Society publications.

Do get in touch if you would like to find out more about Lady Chatterley related materials in the Penguin Book Archive at the University of Bristol Library Special Collections.

'Lady Chatterley’s Lover' – the first two paragraphs. University of Bristol Library Special Collections.

‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ – the first two paragraphs. University of Bristol Library Special Collections.

Link

Covid-19 Collecting and the University of Bristol Community

Like me, you might well be sick of the phrase that we are living through interesting times, though it could be argued that living through a Covid-19 lockdown and trying to work/study from home, is ‘interesting’.

As this is the case, and as we like to collect contemporary materials which may go into a future archive relating to the coronavirus and how it has affected the University of Bristol Community, we are proposing a collection of Covid-19 related materials.

We are well aware that this is a stressful and sensitive situation for all, and that many of you are more busy than usual; trying to adapt to new situations; working to care for people and develop strategies to combat the pandemic; and suffering losses of loved ones. However we would appeal to you all as part of your busy day to consider what is happening around you, and if you think it could be relevant to how people in the future will study how we coped with the Covid-19 pandemic, do please get in touch with us.

We should receive archives of committees and the like due to our current collecting of archives of the University of Bristol, but there are many other strands that will be of interest.

-Webpages and SharePoint sites: The University Coronavirus web pages and share point sites for students and staff

https://www.bristol.ac.uk/students/coronavirus/current-students/

https://uob.sharepoint.com/sites/coronavirus

The work with the Community to help, support, and discover

The work of the Uncover team

We have created our own SharePoint site so people can upload material and submit it to us. This is new to us, so let us know if there are any problems with it.  It is now available here: https://uob.sharepoint.com/teams/grp-Covid-19-collecting

-Press and media: Our academics and students are busy engaging with many forms of media, (we are aware of the public relations web pages and thank them for being supportive)

-Social Media: Blogs, twitter, Instagram, twitter, facebook, yammer. All of which may show a more informal side of what is happening

-Emails: From colleagues/managers/schools to students/staff/individuals giving support and laying down new regimes/suggestions

-Talks and interviews: Such as staff addresses and talks from individual academics.

-Photographs: Images of your working at home desk/study area. Your new co-colleague pets and family. Rainbows, teddy bears in the windows of houses around you. Signs in shop/business/domestic windows. Graffitied messages of support

-Objects: When we go back to campus keep the signs put up to record that a building/library was closed. Did you sew a face mask? Did someone you know create PPE using school 3D-printers or sew scrubs? Did you get involved in volunteering in the community in many different ways? If you don’t want to give up the actual object we would be happy to have a photograph.

 

-Writing: Some people are writing diaries, finding solace in poetry, reading more (or less). The Brigstow Institute has supported diary projects, Mass Observation is collecting diaries on 12 May, and we would love to see your work (but only if you are happy to share).

https://www.bristol.ac.uk/brigstow/projects/re-imagining-diary/

http://www.massobs.org.uk/write-for-us/12th-may

Our Request

We are going to concentrate on the University as a community, be that student, staff, or alumni. We are interested in your story, whatever faculty you are based in (not just the arts) and whatever your job title or course of study.

We are conscious that there is a lot of collecting already going on. For instance the MShed in Bristol is collecting; as are multiple archives, libraries, museums, and organisations.  Collections may be physical or digital, or a mixture of the two.  The Wellcome Trust is also giving some good guidelines about the ethics of current collecting, which we are very anxious to follow.  So if you would like to talk to us that is brilliant, but if you have already offered your materials to another organisation that is equally fine (we are a bit late in asking).

We also realise how busy everyone is and though we seem to be entering the next stage of the pandemic after 7 weeks of lockdown, we would rather that you save something and get in touch in the future, when you have time to process what you are living through.  As I write this on 11 May 2020, the Government and University authorities, and the wider community are talking about what the next stage will be for us all to cope with what we are experiencing.  It is a rapidly changing situation, and we would love to record this as it is happening.

Do get in touch with us at

grp-Covid-19-collecting@groups.bristol.ac.uk or special-collections@bristol.ac.uk

We would love to hear from you, and thank you for your time.

Special Collections Web Page: https://www.bristol.ac.uk/library/special-collections/

Hannah Lowery on behalf of the Special Collections Team

11 May 2020

(images all Hannah Lowery)

The Feminist Archive South and Women’s Liberation Music Archive at Special Collections

Firstly may we take the opportunity to wish you and yours all the best in these very difficult times. We also wanted to reassure you that though Special Collections Staff are now working at home and away from the archives and books, our collections and buildings are also being regularly checked, and are safe. At the moment we are not able to access the archives to answer individual queries, but do get in touch and we will see what we can do to help. Special-collections@bristol.ac.uk

 For our students (and non University of Bristol students)

We know that students working on the Feminist Archive South were some of the last people to be working in our Reading Room as lockdown developed around us. You are probably being ingenious, finding other ways to approach your research, talking to your supervisors, and subject librarians, but remember to get in touch with us, we may be able to help

For our academics (and non University of Bristol academics)

We’ve met some of you or we’ve worked together before. During the Summer term 2019 we held several seminars for University of Bristol academics, using the Feminist Archive South and Women’s Liberation Music Archive. Many issues now arise, such as: planning seminars for this term; looking ahead to teaching sessions for 2020/21, in whatever shape or form it takes; thinking about your research during Summer 2020; advising your students about accessing the archive?  So many questions, do get in touch, we may be able to help.

For our friendly activists, artists, trustees

Special Collections, the Feminist Archive South, the Women’s Liberation Music Archive, and allied collections are not just open for academic study, they are open for inspiration, for activism, and for a wider perspective on the past/present/future. Along with other feminist archives, such as our sister Feminist Archive North at the University of Leeds, and many more, we try to preserve the history of the past to make it relevant for the present. We have worked with you in many different ways, so get in touch and see if we can help now.

News updates

British Library Exhibition

You may know that we were going to lend five items from FAS to the ‘Unfinished Business’ Exhibition at the British Library from 24 April to August 2020. This exhibition has been postponed until October 2020-February 2021, but check out the British Library’s blog for activities which are going on now.

For instance you can listen to an excellent Mary Wollstonecraft birthday podcast or follow  @BL_ModernMSS on twitter to find out more.

‘Unfinished Business’ Exhibition at the British Library, London. Photograph by Hannah Lowery, 29 February 2020.

Monica Sjoo Artist

A group of people are working together to curate an exhibition of the art work of Monica Sjoo.  There is an international angle to their work, and we are happy to put you in touch with people.  Check the online archive catalogue for a description of the rich archive we hold.

‘Still I Rise’ exhibition, Arnolfini, Bristol. Photograph by Hannah Lowery, September 2019.

Hatpins to Hashtags and the Politics and Protest Exhibition

Looking back to 2018 and the wonderful work which the Feminist Archive South did in their Hatpins to Hashtags Government funded workshops Special Collections recently helped exhibit the Politics and Protest banners in the University of Bristol Life Sciences Building. This was the first time that we managed to display these in the University of Bristol. Thanks to everyone involved.  It was a good opportunity for different generations of activists to get together, some who had attended celebratory meetings in Oxford so celebrate fifty years of the first Women’s Movement Conference. Current conditions mean the next planned loans of the exhibition won’t be able to go ahead, but the messages of the posters are as relevant today as they were in the recent past, so we would love to spread the word. Many volunteers were also involved in workshops in 2018, which led to crowd cataloguing of some of the thousand plus posters. The posters now are mainly onsite in ASSL, and we need to have further discussions to see if we can carry on the crowd cataloguing of the digitised posters, do get in touch if you want to find out more.

Politics & Protest exhibition banners in the University of Bristol Life Sciences Building.

Politics & Protest exhibition banners in the University of Bristol Life Sciences Building. Photograph by Hannah Lowery, March 2020.

SPAN Project

The SPAN Project (Single Parent Action Network), based at the Barton Hill Settlement, has been a collaborative project with AHRC funding, organised by Professor Josie McLellan, University of Bristol History Department, and others.  A project archivist and volunteers have been working on the archive, which, as soon as it is possible, will be housed in Special Collections, as an adjunct of the Feminist Archive South. We look forward to receiving the thirty or so boxes and catalogue. Thanks everyone.

Spare Rib

Last year, extra funding from the University of Cambridge allowed us to get an archivist colleague in Bristol to do some extra work on the Spare Rib Archive held in the Feminist Archive South.  So thank you to Lucy Delap and Jayne Pucknell for making that happen. This means we have a much better idea of the holdings and also can better provide access to the materials, as they are sensitive in their content. Thanks too to the many others involved in this project.

Whilst talking about Spare Rib, don’t forget that digital copies can be found here. However they are not complete due to copyright issues, and we look forward to having access again to our physical copies in the near future.

We would also like to remind you about recent acquisitions of archives relating to Asphodel Long  (DM2767) and Daniel Cohen (DM2966). Kind volunteers have helped us to start improving access to these collections, and we hope to be able to do more work on this in the future. For the moment these catalogue entries are not available.

Online Archive Catalogue

Link to Major Collections: Feminist Archive South: Choose Advanced Search then drop down menu Major Collections: Feminist Archive South.

FAS: DM2123

WLMA: DM2598

Our web page

Collections Strength Webpage

Feminist Archive South Website

Women’s Liberation Music Archive

Special Collections also tweets at @BrisUniSpColl, and you may well find mentions of the Feminist Archive South quite frequently.

Finally our version of a sound cloud listing some of the recent research topics in the Archive. It is an amazing resource, do ask and we will try and help make it accessible to you.

Dora Russell’s Peace Caravan; male anti-sexism newsletters; domestic violence; menstruation; Greenham Common; self care in times of protest; first Women’s Liberation Conferences in Oxford, 1970; women in the manual trades; suffragettes; peace movements; Spare Rib; Virago Publishing; Monica Sjoo.

A big thank you to everyone who has helped make the Feminist Archive South and allied collections develop since they were first deposited in Special Collections in January 2008.  A lot of important anniversaries and additional archives have happened since that time. We raise a glass to you then, now, and in the future. Cheers

Hannah Lowery

7 May 2020

Hidden treasures in the University of Bristol Brunel Collection

Emma Howgill is a project archivist at Special Collections, University of Bristol. She has recently completed the cataloguing of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s S.S. Great Eastern letter-books and here writes about her work on part of DM1306.

 For the last nine months, I have been working on cataloguing a small section of DM1306, the Personal Papers of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, specifically dealing with Brunel’s final project, the SS Great Eastern.  The largest ship for almost half a century after her launch, the Great Eastern was packed with technological innovations including a double skinned hull and a compartmentalised bulkhead system that allowed her to remain afloat even if the hull was damaged, and with a novel combination of both screw propeller and paddle wheels.  The series of papers relating to the Great Eastern (DM1306/11) include a detailed record of Brunel’s correspondence relating to the ship’s construction, evidence of the research he carried out when designing the ship, correspondence relating to the fixtures and fitting out of the ship, as well as inventions offered for inclusion on the ship and a large selection of letters from the general public offering help and advice during the protracted launching process over the winter of 1857-1858.

As well as highlighting Brunel’s energetic working and management style, the papers also reveal the wide-ranging public interest in the project. There is correspondence from all over the world and offers of a range of inventions, with many writers hoping to make their fortunes by enlisting Brunel’s support for their inventions or ideas or their inclusion in his magnum opus, as well as letters of interest from harbours as far apart as Portland, Maine and Melbourne, Australia all hoping to boost their profile by becoming a docking point for the ship.

These papers are being catalogued in detail for the first time, and will soon be listed on our online catalogue, allowing anyone, anywhere, to identify items of interest. Some of the papers have a wealth of information to tell us about life on board a nineteenth century ship, or Victorian business practices; others offer mysteries to be solved by future researchers, while still more allow us to tease out threads between personalities and events.  In my recent cataloguing work, I have come across examples of all three…

DM1306/11/17/4 offers us an insight into not only government procedure, but also life as a government-sponsored emigrant on board ship on the way to a new life. At first glance, the blank/unfilled in form seems to offer little in the way of informational value. However, this form ‘Government form D No 12: Tender for Passage Accommodation and Diet of Persons Embarked for …. Under the authority of Her Majesty’s Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners’, to be filled out by any ship-owner wishing to carry government sponsored emigrants to various colonial destinations, contains a wealth of information for anyone wanting to learn about life on board a nineteenth century emigrant ship.

Rather than leaving emigrants to fend for themselves, the form suggests that the government paid considerable attention to the care and safety of emigrants particularly those whose passage was being sponsored by the government. The form details the conditions by which ship owners had to abide, including the need to allow government inspection of the quality of the ship and the need to provide religious instruction and medical care for all passengers as well as schooling for every child passenger.  But possibly the most interesting part lies in the listing of rations to be provided for every person, from the amount of bread and meat, to the quantity of water per passenger per day, as well as the list of medications and medical supplies to be carried on board the ship.

From this simple, apparently boring government form, we can build up the beginnings of an idea of life as a government sponsored emigrant in the 1850s.

Other elements of the collection are perhaps more immediately interesting but also more mysterious, for example DM1306/11/21/7/7, a letter from W.L.E. McLean, of the Lancefield Forge company, to Brunel’s assistant Bradford Leslie.

Letter from W.L.E. McLean to Bradford Leslie about the crank shaft of the Great Eastern. DM1306/11/21/7/7.

Letter from W.L.E. McLean to Bradford Leslie about the crank shaft of the Great Eastern. DM1306/11/21/7/7.

The letter is part of a long-running series of letters between Brunel, his assistants, and Lancefield Forge, a Glasgow-based iron foundry, which undertook the herculean task of forging the enormous crank-shaft for the Great Eastern’s engines.  The task proved so enormous that it took several attempts to complete a flawless shaft. However, the particular interest of this letter lies not in the letter itself, but the fact that the page has been reused as drawing paper.

A pencil sketch by an unknown artist on the back page of a letter from W.L.E. McLean to Bradford Leslie. DM1306/11/21/7/7.

The back page has been used for a pencil sketch of a river scene with three ships, all showing evidence of masts and rigging and the nearest two also carrying paddle wheels.  The size and shape of the nearest ship might suggest that this is a sketch of the SS Great Eastern, although it is unclear whether the sketch shows the ship under construction, in the ‘fitting out’ phase, or if it is an idealised image of the completed ship. The sketch is unsigned and this creates additional mystery. Is this a sketch in Brunel’s own hand showing his interpretation of the completed Great Eastern, is it a sketch of the Great Eastern under construction or is it the work of a bored clerk, idly doodling the view outside his window?  Can the author of the sketch be identified? Perhaps future researchers may identify artist and subject and may even find out why the sketch was created. For the moment, the sketch, its author and its subject are a mystery, leaving us to imagine the circumstances of its creation.

The final treasure uncovered during the recent cataloguing connects two of Bristol’s heroes and some of their lesser known projects.

First page of a letter from Samuel Plimsoll to the Directors of the New River Company. DM1306/11/21/5/4.

Last page of a letter from Samuel Plimsoll to the Directors of the New River Company. DM1306/11/21/5/4.

DM1306/11/21/5/4 has no direct connection to the Great Eastern but may have been part of Brunel’s research process for the ship identifying the best type of coal to power the mighty engines. The letter comes from a coal merchant, boasting to the Directors of the New River Company of the extraordinary benefits of his brand of coal and it is the letter’s author who is of particular interest.

Anyone who has crossed the Cumberland Basin from Hotwells to Spike Island has seen or crossed the Plimsoll Bridge, named in honour of Samuel Plimsoll, author of this letter. Born in Bristol in 1824, Samuel Plimsoll embarked on a brief, unsuccessful career as a coal merchant before becoming an MP, where he championed the cause for which he is best remembered. The Plimsoll line, introduced in the Merchant Shipping Act of 1876, identified the safe loading weight for ships and its introduction may have saved countless sailors’ lives, making Plimsoll a local hero. The current Plimsoll Bridge was installed in the 1960s when it replaced the original, asymmetric swinging bridge designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in the late 1840s as part of the rebuilding of the Cumberland Basin lock (one of Brunel’s original bridges still sits on site, crosswise under the new bridge).

So not only are the two men connected by this bridge, but the letter also reveals connections with another incident in Brunel’s long, varied career. This letter is a copy of an earlier letter which, based on the formatting of the first page, may have been written on headed paper from the Great Exhibition of 1851. Brunel was peripherally involved with the Crystal Palace in which the Great Exhibition was held, both as a member of the Building Committee overseeing the design of the original Crystal Palace and then subsequently as the designer of the enormous water towers supplying the fountains and cascades in the gardens surrounding the relocated Palace.

So maybe, if ever you cross the Cumberland Basin, stop at the Plimsoll Bridge, find Brunel’s original bridge, look down the Basin towards the SS Great Britain and consider the legacies of two of Bristol’s maritime heroes, both connected by a single letter in the University of Bristol Special Collections.

The University of Bristol Brunel Collection is stored at the Brunel Institute, a partnership between the University of Bristol and the SS Great Britain, while an online catalogue is available at https://archives.bristol.ac.uk/.

A guide to our Online Archive Catalogue and other resources

Hannah Lowery, Archivist and Special Collections Manager, has penned this guide to Special Collections resources available online.

Special Collections holds over 5km of books, archives, photographs, and artefacts dating from the eleventh to the twenty-first century.  Due to the current Covid-19 situation you can’t visit us, but here is a brief guide to viewing some of our holdings remotely.

Ceremonial key used by King George V to open the Wills Memorial Building on 9th June 1925. DM320.

Ceremonial key used by King George V to open the Wills Memorial Building on 9th June 1925. DM320.

Start with our web pages.

Use our guide to ‘collection strengths‘ to find out more.

Use the library catalogue to find out about our book holdings, though you will often have to use other sources to find physical or electronic copies of the books.

Our colleagues are bringing together lists of resources available online, so go to the Library page to find them.  Some may only be for University of Bristol people, but there is a wide variety of materials available for all.

Remember if you need advice, or want to find out more, do email us at special-collections@bristol.ac.uk and we will try and help.

Sit down for a tour of our Online Archive Catalogue, and a guide as to where you might find digitised materials, which you can investigate.

Note that when you click on a ‘thumbnail’ image at the bottom of a record in the Online Archive Catalogue, you can view a larger version. For even closer study, click on the symbol for a magnifying glass at the top right. Any text should be fully readable. To close the enlarged image, click on the ‘x’ at the top right.

University of Bristol materials

We hold the ever growing archive of University College Bristol (1876-1909) and the University of Bristol (1909 to date).  As well as papers of academics, departments and students you can find out about the buildings and much more.

Poster about Radio Wills. DM1447/2.

Poster about Radio Wills. DM1447/2.

Did you know that Winston Spencer Churchill (1874-1965) was Chancellor of the University from 1929 until his death?  A search in the online archive catalogue brings up 226 mentions of archives relating to Churchill.

For instance, DM270 contains digitised photograph albums relating to visits to Bristol by Churchill in 1951 and 1958.  Click here to find a photograph of Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) being granted an honorary degree by Churchill on 14 December 1951.

DM1310 is the archive of Sir Charles Frank (1911-1998), who was a physicist.

Although the entire catalogue is not yet available on line, there is a PDF, of the catalogue. We hope to spend the coming months working on making these lists more available.

There are extensive archives relating to the University of Bristol Physics Department, including the papers of Noble Prize winner Cecil Powell (1903-1969) – for example DM517.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859)

A view of Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol, from St Vincent’s Rocks, showing the piers under construction, along with chains, and scaffolding on the towers. DM216/3/4.

A view of Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol, from St Vincent’s Rocks, showing the piers under construction, along with chains, and scaffolding on the towers. DM216/3/4.

Interested in Victorian Engineering and the extended Brunel family?  You are in luck! Our extensive archive relating to Brunel and his family is held at the Brunel Institute, a collaboration between the SS Great Britain and the University of Bristol.

Our online archive catalogue is where you can find descriptions of the archives and related images.  Explore Brunel’s letters, letterbooks, sketchbooks, competition drawings for the Clifton Suspension Bridge, and more.

For instance, do a search for DM162, which was the first gift from the Brunel family to University of Bristol Special Collections…

DM162/10: Letterbooks.

DM162/10/1: Letter book covering 27 May 1832-5 November 1839.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel to W L Moorsom, 9 April 1836, concerning the Cheltenham Railway.

DM162/8: Isambard Kingdom Brunel Sketchbooks and Calculation Books.  There are 63 of these, covering the period 1829-1859.  Click on the link above and you can see sketchbooks arranged by size or topic (Small, Large, Great Western, Other).

A personal favourite of mine is in Great Western Sketchbook 10  – something we might not expect to see in an engineering related sketchbook.

We will return to Brunel in the future, but you can now view newly uploaded materials on the Great Eastern and more (See a previous blog by our colleague Emma Howgill about the Great Eastern ship).

The current change to how we work presents an opportunity to get more paper catalogue lists online, which will make them more accessible in the future.

Medieval Manuscripts

A grotesque or drollery, perhaps serving as a mnemonic, in the margin of a folio in the Cobden Book of Hours. DM832.

A grotesque or drollery, perhaps serving as a mnemonic, in the margin of a folio in the Cobden Book of Hours. DM832.

There are sixteen examples of medieval manuscripts if you search under the ‘Major Collections’ tab for medieval manuscripts in the advanced search, including:

DM104 Kingswood Abbey Deeds, Gloucestershire

The deeds cover the period 1225-1444, and include grants of land to the abbey, confirmation of grants, accounts of receipt and expenditure, confirmations of privileges, and papal letters. They are reputed to contain the oldest surviving rent rolls in England.

Go to the catalogue to find out more about the Abbey which was founded by William of Berkeley in 1139.  The fifty deeds have been digitised.  For instance here is a link to DM104/1 which is a grant of lands in Culkerton, Gloucestershire in 1225.

Two academics from British Universities have approached us about these recently, so it is nice to be able to share all of the images with everyone.

You might also want to explore DM832 Cobden Book of Hours

This is an early 15th-century Book of Hours designed for use in the diocese of Troyes, France and made on parchment, the text in French and Latin.  Watch Dr Erica O’Brien (Department of History of Art, University of Bristol) talk about its beauty and significance, currently understudied. It is beautifully illustrated, and this bird recently got people talking, what do you think it is?  (See our twitter feed for earlier discussion of a part of ff74r-77r Penitential Psalms – an image of this folio is at top of the thumbnails shown here)

DM58 Pinney Papers

We hold on deposit for the Pinney family extensive archives relating to their family, including their estates in Britain and the West Indies. If you are Bristol based, you may know that the Georgian House Museum on Great George Street, now in the possession of Bristol Museums, was once owned by the Pinney family.

Digital images of only one item from DM58 are presently available online, which is DM58/6/Pinney Miscellaneous 7.  This is a notebook covering the period 1783-1794, and includes instructions from the Pinney family to Joseph Gill their land manager, on how to manage their estate.  You can read each page separately.

We hope to do more work on this, so return if you want to find out more.

DM1031 Humphry Repton’s Red Book for Leigh Court, Abbots Leigh

Humphrey Repton (1752-1818) designed new grounds for the Miles family for their property at Leigh Court, Abbots Leigh, near Bristol, in 1814.

You can explore the drawings via the link above.  This book was loaned to the Garden Museum in London in 2018, with many other Red Books to mark the bicentenary of Repton’s death.

John Addington Symonds

John Addington Symonds on a toboggan, Davos, Switzerland. DM377.

John Addington Symonds on a toboggan, Davos, Switzerland. DM377.

John Addington Symonds, (1840-1893), lived at Clifton Hill House, Bristol, now one of the University of Bristol Halls of Residence.  He wrote on the Italian Renaissance, and had a talented and extended family, which included his daughters Madge Vaughan (1869-1925) and Dame Katharine Furse (1875-1952).

We may return to them in the future, but for the moment take time to look at the family scrapbook (DM375/1), compiled by Madge Vaughan and her daughter Janet.  Here you can explore photographs of family life in Bristol and Davos, Switzerland, where John Addington Symonds was forced to live due to health issues.  Find photographs of family groups tobogganing, of friends such as Robert Louis Stephenson (a portrait by Albert George Dew Smith), as well as artwork of flowers and alpine gardens, well-loved family dogs, and press cuttings.

We hope that this helps as a starter to the wealth of Special Collections materials available to all, and do return to find out more.  And remember to ask if you have any questions, and we will help if we can (email us at special-collections@bristol.ac.uk).

Spring is coming! Artwork by Margaret Symonds (Madge Vaughan) of the garden at ‘Am Hof’, Davos Platz, Switzerland, entitled ‘A View of my Mother’s Alpine Garden at Davos / Sketch by Myself 1897’. DM375/1.

Spring is coming! Artwork by Margaret Symonds (Madge Vaughan) of the garden at ‘Am Hof’, Davos Platz, Switzerland, entitled ‘A View of my Mother’s Alpine Garden at Davos / Sketch by Myself 1897’. DM375/1.