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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.