Centenary of the Destruction of the University of Leuven Library


, , ,

Next month marks the centenary of one of the most notorious incidents of the First World War, the destruction of the University of Leuven (Louvain) Library on the night of 25 August 1914.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In the first few days of hostilities, German troops occupied and ravaged the historic Belgian city of Leuven. The university library was burnt to the ground; around three hundred thousand books and a thousand manuscripts were destroyed. This gross assault upon learning and culture caused world-wide indignation, and appeals were soon launched in Britain, the United States and elsewhere to make good the losses.

Henry Guppy, Rylands Librarian, ref. JRL 4/1/4/16.

Henry Guppy, Rylands Librarian, ref. JRL 4/1/4/16.

Henry Guppy, the visionary Librarian of the John Rylands Library, spearheaded the campaign to collect books for Leuven. He and the Library’s governors ‘wished to give some practical expression to their deep feelings of sympathy with the authorities of the University of Louvain, in the irreparable loss which they have suffered, through the barbarous destruction of the University buildings and the famous library.’

Guppy put out an appeal in the Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, ‘which met with an immediate and encouraging response from all classes of the community, not only in this country, but in many parts of the world’.

By the end of 1915 some 6,000 volumes had been collected or promised. Books continued to flood into the John Rylands Library, which acted as a clearing house for donations from individuals and institutions throughout Britain. The first consignment of books was sent over to Belgium in December 1919. When the appeal closed in 1925, 55,782 volumes had been donated.

Guppy was invited to the ceremonial laying of the foundation stone of the new library on 28 July 1921, which was built largely with American funding. He was assured by one of the professors: ‘You cannot fancy what it is to have been deprived of such an indespensible tool as a library, and then to see streaming in the choice and valuable books that make it possible for us to resume our work.’

As a token of thanks, in 1924 Guppy was presented with a few charred fragments of 13th-century manuscripts recovered from the ruins of the library. They stand as sad testimony to this act of wanton destruction.

Fragments of manuscripts from Leuven Library, presented to Henry Guppy. Latin MS 447.

Fragments of manuscripts from Louvain Library, presented to Henry Guppy, ‘the great Restorer of the Louvain University Library’, in 1924. Rylands Latin MS 447.

Sadly, Guppy’s and others’ efforts were in vain: the library was destroyed for a second time by German forces in 1940.

You can read more about this poignant story in an excellent article by David Atkinson in the Daily Telegraph online.

A digitised version of Henry Guppy’s account of the reconstruction of the Leuven Library, in the Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, is available to download at https://www.escholar.manchester.ac.uk/uk-ac-man-scw:17m1193.

Museum Leuven is commemorating the centenary of the First World War with an exhibition, ‘Ravaged’, which continues until 1 September.

New book on John Wesley published by University of Manchester PhD graduate


, , , , , ,

John Wesley in America

John Wesley in America

Dr Geordan Hammond, a University of Manchester PhD graduate, has recently published John Wesley in America: Restoring Primitive Christianity (Oxford University Press, 2014). The book is a revision of his doctoral research completed at The University of Manchester under the supervision of Professor Jeremy Gregory in Religions & Theology. The research was made possible by Dr Hammond being the recipient of a John Rylands Research Institute Fellowship.

Much of the research for the thesis and book was based at the Methodist Archives and Research Centre within the Special Collections at The John Rylands Library, with a focus on manuscripts and rare books that shed light on Wesley’s experience as a missionary in the British colony of Georgia. The primary theme of the book is the centrality of the ideal of restoring ‘primitive Christianity’ in Wesley’s reading, thinking, and clerical practice in the colony.

After his graduation from The University of Manchester, Dr Hammond has maintained a close working relationship with The John Rylands Library through his research and role as Director of the Manchester Wesley Research Centre (MWRC), which supports research in the field of Methodist Studies. Both Religions & Theology and the Rylands Library have been partner institutions of the MWRC since its establishment in 2003.

Dr Hammond is Senior Lecturer in Church History and Wesley Studies at the Nazarene Theological College (Manchester) and Director of the Manchester Wesley Research Centre. He is also an Honorary Research Fellow of The University of Manchester. Amongst his ongoing publishing work is serving as co-editor of the journal Wesley and Methodist Studies. He was co-organizer of the June 2014 ‘George Whitefield at 300′ conference.

Dr Geordan Hammond, Director of the Manchester Wesley Research Centre

Dr Geordan Hammond, Director of the Manchester Wesley Research Centre

Further information about the book and Dr Hammond’s work can be found on the Manchester Wesley Research Centre website.

From Manchester to Melbourne: Gutenberg Bible on the move


, , ,

GB on stand

We are very excited that our copy of the magnificent Gutenberg Bible is on display for a limited time at the University of Melbourne as part of Melbourne Rare Book Week and the Cultural Treasures Festival. This Bible is the first book to be printed in Europe with moveable type, by Johann Gutenberg in Mainz around 1455.

The substantial two folio volumes are remarkable for the fine quality of the printing, executed with great care and attention to detail. The John Rylands Library copy is one of forty-eight substantially complete surviving copies, now housed in libraries across the world. Purchased by George John, 2nd Earl Spencer in 1790 it found its way to Manchester in 1892 when Enriqueta Rylands purchased the Spencer Collection of books. It includes original hand decorated initials at the beginning of each book and was probably at the Augustinian monastery in Colmar, northern France, in the fifteenth century.

The Bible goes into its display case

The Bible goes into its display case

There are no copies in Australia, or even in the southern hemisphere, and this is the second visit ‘down under’ for the John Rylands Library copy. It was previously displayed at the National Library of Australia’s exhibition ‘Treasures of the World’s Great Libraries’ in 2001.

This copy has been digitised and is available on the University of Manchester Library’s Luna image database. The volumes are also available to download in full from the eBookTreasures site.



The exhibition opening, attended by more than 100 invited guests

The exhibition opening, attended by more than 100 invited guests

The Bible will be on display for ten days only, from Friday 18th to Sunday 27th July. More information on the Melbourne exhibition and associated events can be found at http://library.unimelb.edu.au/gutenberg

A Woman’s Life


, , , , , , , ,

Jane Speller writes:

In recent weeks I have reported on the Sir James Phillips Kay-Shuttleworth archive cataloguing project.  Funded by the John Rylands Research Institute, the aim of the project is to open the rich content of the archive up to researchers here in Manchester and elsewhere.  The one thousand plus letters which mostly span 1814 to 1877 give us a particular insight into Victorian gender roles and social mores.

Women were not allowed to vote which at that time signified their status at second class citizens, and had little independence outside of the home unless they were women of means.

Blanche Marion Kay-Shuttleworth painted by Michele Gordigiani, 1876. With kind permission from the Shuttleworth family.

Blanche Marion Kay-Shuttleworth painted by Michele Gordigiani, 1876. With kind permission from the Shuttleworth family.

Blanche Marion Kay-Shuttleworth (neé Parish) married Sir James Phillips Kay-Shuttleworth’s eldest son Ughtred in 1871. Her letters to her father-in-law and other family members describe her life as wife of a Liberal MP and mistress of three households – Gawthorpe Hall near Burnley, Barbon Manor near Kirkby Lonsdale on the edge of the Lake District, and a London residence in Princes Street, Mayfair. In a letter dated 1876 she recalls how she listened in secret to the after dinner speeches of a Liberal Party meeting which was being held in the drawing room at Gawthorpe. Other letters describe having her portrait painted by Florentine painter Michele Gordigiani whilst on an extended tour of the Continent in 1876. This portrait now hangs in Leck Hall, the current home of the Shuttleworth family.

Aunt Puss and Aunt Pop are prominent figures in the letters. Puss was the eldest child of James and Janet. She spent many years nursing her sick mother at the Villa Ponente in San Remo. There was an expectation that on her mother’s death she would return to England to nurse her father, but she remained in Italy and surrounded herself with female friends. Her niece Catherine Leaf (neé Kay-Shuttleworth) recalls Puss as being, ‘…the thinnest person I’ve ever seen and one of the most saintly. She had a great sense of humour. Papa [Ughtred] said her twinkling eyes and arched eyebrows were signs of her inborn fun’. She also recalls Puss describing Charlotte Brontë’s visit to Gawthorpe, exclaiming, ‘…how short sighted she was and not attractive to children’.

Pop was Marianne North. The North and Shuttleworth families came together when Janet Shuttleworth married Frederick North, Liberal MP for Hastings, after the death of her husband Robert Shuttleworth of Gawthorpe Hall. Marianne was their eldest daughter.

Janet and her baby daughter (from her first marriage), also named Janet (the Gawthorpe heiress), lived at the North home in Hastings, East Sussex. Lady Janet Shuttleworth eventually married James Phillips Kay in 1842. Marianne was an accomplished botanical painter and travelled extensively around the world (1871-1885) painting and drawing exotic flora and fauna. She donated her work to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, London, and built a gallery to house them in which opened in 1882. You can visit the Marianne North Gallery at Kew today.

Over the course of his life Sir James Kay-Shuttleworth made many rich and powerful friends in the worlds of politics and education. Two such friends and correspondents were Harriet Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, Duchess of Sutherland and Angela Georgina Burdette-Coutts, Baroness Burdette-Coutts. As women with large fortunes and by that token great independence, their lives are described in stark contrast to those of, for example, James’ mother Hannah, whose world revolved around her husband, sons and chapel; and his sister Hannah who spend her life looking after her mother and her three much younger brothers.

Charles Dickens, engraved by John Forster, 1872 (Ref: JRL Eng. MS 725)

Charles Dickens, engraved by John Forster, 1872 (Ref: JRL Eng. MS 725)

Angela, daughter of the former Sophie Coutts (of the banking family Coutts), was 23 years old in 1837 when she inherited the huge fortune of £1.8 million from her grandmother the actress and great beauty, Harriet Mellon. Angela was famed for the wonderful parties and festivities that she held at her rural home, Holly Lodge in Highbury, London. Queen Victoria and Charles Dickens, a good friend, were both regular visitors to the estate. Angela was a generous philanthropist and spent the majority of her wealth on scholarships, endowments, and a wide range of charitable causes. She took a great interest in Blanche and Ughtred’s first born child, who was christened Angela Mary.

Harriet was born a Sutherland, one of the most powerful Whig families of the day. Her mother was Georgina Cavendish (neé Spencer) the celebrated Duchess of Devonshire. Harriet was, like her mother, a great society hostess and active political campaigner. She served as Mistress of the Robes for all Queen Victoria’s Whig governments until 1861. She was a great friend of Queen Victoria and used her social position to undertake various philanthropic undertakings including the protest of English women against American slavery. She and James Kay-Shuttleworth shared many political views and she supported his work, for example visiting his teacher training college at Battersea.

Rachel Kay- Shuttleworth, aged 18, miniature portrait by Mabel Lee Hankey, 1905. © Gawthorpe Textile Collection.

Rachel Kay- Shuttleworth, aged 18, miniature portrait by Mabel Lee Hankey, 1905. © Gawthorpe Textile Collection.

The Hon. Rachel Kay-Shuttleworth, daughter of Ughtred and Blanche, was the last Kay-Shuttleworth to live at Gawthorpe Hall. She died in 1967. Rachel or ‘Miss Rachel’ as she became known was a talented embroiderer and lace maker, skills she inherited from her mother. She amassed a world famous textile study collection, the Gawthorpe Textile Collection. In fitting fashion the collection is curated and cared for by a team of dedicated women. Parts of the collection can be seen on display at Gawthorpe along with work by contemporary textile artists from across the region.

Preserving the Email Explosion


, , , , , ,

2012010_003aDuring the past two years, the Library has been engaged in an innovative project to rescue and preserve the email archive of Manchester-based Carcanet Press, one of the UK’s leading poetry publishers.

Carcanet publishes poetry in English from across the world, poetry in translation, and new editions of work by earlier poets, as well as a range of fiction, lives and letters, and literary criticism. Carcanet count among their writers both national and Nobel Laureates – and even one former Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Carcanet Press Archive is one of the Library’s most outstanding modern collections. Filling around 1,300 boxes, it contains manuscripts, proofs and letters of poets, editors, critics, translators and many others from across the globe, dating from 1969 to the present.

Since the turn of the century, the Carcanet correspondence files making their way to the Library have diminished in size – reflecting the gradual shift to digital communication. In more recent years, only a tiny proportion of email was being printed off for posterity, with the rest languishing on hard drives and local networks at the Carcanet office – safe for the time being, but potentially at risk with the passing of time and changing technology.

In 2012, we made our first acquisition of email from the Press, augmenting this with another batch last year. This extends to around 225,000 email messages (with their attachments), covering a twelve-year period. Literary correspondence has always been a goldmine for biographers and critics, and email is perhaps even more valuable as it captures those elusive exchanges which formerly took place by phone or face-to-face. It also provides a fertile resource for other types of researcher, including linguists and sociologists.

The preservation challenges for custodians of ‘born-digital’ archive material like this are complex, but now we have resolved the basic preservation issues, we are beginning to think about how access to large digital archives like this might be managed in the future. Currently, the archive is closed for data protection and copyright reasons. However, we have begun exploring ways in which certain types of access might be possible without compromising privacy or IPR.

2012010_004_exampletimeline_1_blogOne of these is data visualisation. At a basic level, we can depict the volume of email exchanged over a specific time period. The simple graphs reproduced here are based on exchanges between Michael Schmidt (Carcanet’s Managing and Editorial Director) and three different correspondents, the bars above the line representing his outgoing messages and those below the number of messages received from each individual.

2012010_004_exampletimeline_4_blogThese provide a useful visual summary and reveal obvious peaks and troughs which may immediately be meaningful to a researcher working on a specific writer or publication. They also reveal degrees of mutuality in correspondence which, as illustrated by the larger example below, can sometimes be rather lacking.


Network graphs are more complex, and altogether more beautiful. We have only begun to scratch the surface of these as yet.

In the examples shown here, the nodes are individual correspondents, with the lines representing both direct and indirect relationships between them.

Network graph of the Managing Editor's email dating from 2002-2012 (9,909 email messages)

Network graph of the Managing Editor’s email dating from 2002-2012 (9,909 email messages)

When interrogated closely, these graphs reveal many simple one-to-one relationships, but there are also lots of small groupings where two or three individuals participate in the same ongoing thread of correspondence. Larger groupings represent distribution lists, and in some cases a single individual links two otherwise distinct groups.



Network graph of Michael Schmidt's email dating from 2001-2003 (3,536 email messages, all of them sent items). The graph at the very top of this blog post is based on the same data as this one.

Network graph of Michael Schmidt’s email dating from 2001-2003 (3,536 email messages, all of them sent items). The graph at the very top of this blog post is based on the same data as this one.

Networks could be based around a single writer represented in the archive, or around a series of keywords; they could be mapped over time – perhaps to plot the progress of a specific publication, and as Carcanet Press is the hub of a global literary network, this kind of mapping can be particularly illuminating. My favourite graph, shown below, also rather aptly illustrates the email ‘explosion’ of recent years.

Network graph of Michael Schmidt's email dating from 2001-2004 (8,275 messages; no sent items).

Network graph of Michael Schmidt’s email dating from 2001-2004 (8,275 messages; no sent items).

Dying Giants of the Countryside – E. Mitford Abraham’s Windmills and Watermills


, , , ,

Banham Windmill

Banham Windmill, Norfolk

The extent of my knowledge about windmills and watermills is mainly derived from Windy Miller and Maggie Tulliver, so I was rather intrigued when asked to get out scrapbooks and albums from our collection of E. Mitford Abraham Windmills and Watermills for an Archaeology Library Guide.

E. Mitford Abraham (1883-1959), came from a family of distinguished Quakers from Ulverston, in Lancashire.  He began to photograph and document windmills and watermills in a round 1900, at a time when they were fast disappearing.  He amassed a remarkable collection of 47 albums containing over 1200 views of mills.  This collection documents these historic buildings and provides a survey of their decline and the landscape which they inhabited. Many of these mills were rendered obsolete by new technologies but some remain as beacons of our heritage.

Coleby Windmill

Coleby Windmill near Lincoln

Windmills are often portrayed as the dying giants of countryside, quite often being ascribed human characteristics, which these photographs and articles provide evidence of. One article describes “windmills, like houses, have a kind of facial expression, especially those in Kent where they wear a boat shaped bonnet.” They show the variety of structures and different styles of windmills, for example the photos showing the number of different number of sails.

Holgate Windmill.

Holgate Windmill, York.

The Holgate Windmill in York is the last surviving windmill in England to feature five double shuttered sails and a fantail.  This Mill has now been restored and opened to the public through the efforts of a local preservation group: To read accounts of their project see : http://holgatewindmill.org

However, the collection provides more than just a record of the buildings, for many of the photographs include pictures of people and their daily lives lived in and around these buildings, such as The Holgate Windmill, with its clearly visible washing line.  The images depict a vanished way of life and evoke nostalgic recollections, which seem to be encapsulated in the current trend for heritage tourism and preservation of historic buildings.

The images of Bebington Windmill on the Wirral chronicle its slow demise. This windmill was finally demolished in the 1970s and exists today only on the school badge of the junior school that was built on the site of the old windmill.


High Mill Pickering, R103625.34, No. 1
High Mill Pickering, R103625.34, No. 1

 The High Mill in Pickering closed in 1958. It operated as a corn mill until the advent of steam power and then electricity rendered water mills uneconomical. This mill has been renovated and adapted and is now used as holiday accommodation.

Among the photograph albums that E. Mitford Abraham collated were a number of scrapbooks, where numerous articles from newspapers, magazines and leaflets from campaigns to save the mills have been cut out and pasted in. These reflect the changing use of the buildings as well as providing a testament to the efforts to save them. The Manchester Guardian from March 1956 shows one of the most novel ideas for recycling a disused windmill.

Manchester Guardian, March 23rd. 1956.

Manchester Guardian, March 23rd. 1956.



Shedding Light on the Celebrated Victorian Educationalist, Sir James Phillips Kay-Shuttleworth


, , , , , , , ,

Jane Speller writes:

A new cataloguing project funded by the John Rylands Research Institute aims to illuminate the life of the celebrated Victorian educationalist Sir James Phillips Kay-Shuttleworth (1804-77). The resulting on-line catalogue will open up this important collection to researchers around the world.

Kay-Shuttleworth’s career spanned many years and encompassed both the medical and political worlds, giving us a fascinating insight into life in Manchester and Salford during some of the key events of the Victorian era, including the cholera epidemic of 1832 and the Cotton Famine of 1861-65. His efforts to establish the first ever system of national education are also well documented.

The beautiful Gawthorpe Hall, Padiham, Lancashire, home of Sir James Phillips  Kay-Shuttleworth from 1842. Photo credit: Lee Pilkington. http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/gawthorpe-hall/visitor-information

The beautiful Gawthorpe Hall, Padiham, Lancashire, home of Sir James Phillips Kay-Shuttleworth from 1842, and now owned by the National Trust. Photo credit: Lee Pilkington.

James Phillips Kay was born in Rochdale to a textile manufacturing family. He was baptized at Bamford chapel, where he later taught at the boys’ Sunday school. In the tradition of dissenting families he was educated at Leaf Square Grammar School in Pendleton, Salford. As a young man he worked in his uncle’s bank in Rochdale, before studying medicine at the University of Edinburgh.

He graduated in 1827 and returned to Lancashire to practise as a doctor in Manchester, lodging initially on King Street. In 1828 he was one of the founders of the Ardwick and Ancoats Dispensary at 181 Great Ancoats Street, a charitable organisation which treated the poor. It was here that Kay witnessed first-hand the grim living conditions of the urban poor, many of whom were cotton operatives.

Engraving of a Manchester tenement, c.1800. © University of Manchester Library.

Engraving of a Manchester cellar, c.1800, from George Catt, Pictorial History of Manchester (1844). © University of Manchester Library.

This experience prompted Kay to embark on a lifelong crusade for public health and education reform. In 1832 he published a pamphlet entitled The Moral and Physical Condition of the Working Classes Employed in the Cotton Manufacture in Manchester. This seminal document predates the famous Frederich Engels book, The Condition of the Working Class in England, written during his stay in Manchester in 1842.

The Training of Pauper Children by James Phillips Kay, M.D., 1839 © University of Manchester Library.
The Training of Pauper Children, by James Phillips Kay, M.D., 1839.
© University of Manchester Library.

In 1835 Kay was appointed as Assistant Poor Law Commissioner, administering the counties of Suffolk and Norfolk, a role which involved him in implementing the new Poor Law and in managing schemes such as government-controlled labour migration. Under this scheme the rural unemployed were encouraged to relocate to work in the industrialized centres of the North. Kay’s interest in education and his fervent belief that education held the key to society’s regeneration continued to develop. In 1839 he published a report entitled The Training of Pauper Children.



Initials carved over the Gawthorpe kitchen hearth. Photo credit: Jane Speller.
Initials carved over the Gawthorpe kitchen hearth.
Photo credit: Jane Speller.

In 1842 Kay married Janet Shuttleworth, the heiress of Gawthorpe Hall in Lancashire. They had become acquainted when Janet wrote to Kay asking for advice about the local infant school at Habergham. On marriage he assumed her family name and became Kay-Shuttleworth. During the renovations of Gawthorpe Hall by fashionable architect of the day Charles Barry, the initials K and S were worked into many decorative features including ceilings.

Through his appointment as Assistant Secretary to the Whig government’s Committee of the Privy Council on Education in 1839, a post he held for nine years, Kay was able to lay the foundations of the British public school elementary system. In 1840 he established Battersea College in London, the first teacher training college in the country.

You will be able to follow the progress of the project through future blog posts. These will include information on the later life of Kay-Shuttleworth, his literary endeavours and his relationship with Charlotte Brontë.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,597 other followers