Newberry Library/JRRI Joint Fellowship 2017/2018 – applications invited


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The Newberry Library-John Rylands Research Institute Joint Fellowship provides two months of support for a scholar to be in residence for one month at the Newberry Library in Chicago and an additional month in residence at the John Rylands Library. The proposed project must link the collections of both libraries; applicants should plan to hold the two fellowships sequentially to ensure continuity of research.

All application materials should be submitted to the Newberry, but applications will be reviewed by both institutions. The stipend will be $2,500 per month at the Newberry, £1,500 at the John Rylands Library, plus an additional $1,000 (or the equivalent in English pounds) for travel.

Short-Term Fellowships are available to postdoctoral scholars, PhD candidates, and those who hold other terminal degrees.

For more information, including application guidelines and additional fellowship opportunities, please visit the Newberry’s fellowship page. Questions about the application process should be addressed to

Closing date for applications is 15 December 2016.

Paul & Florence


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One of the great strengths of a correspondence collection is the insight it can provide into personal experiences of historic events. Formal or informal, letters give a sense of the character of the writer, and a sense of connection with the key moments in history that they describe.

They also often include good stories. In this blog post, I have chosen a letter which led me to a story I hadn’t heard before. Paul Ignotus was a Hungarian journalist and press attaché, who had fled his native country at the beginning of the Second World War, and wrote a wide variety of articles for the Manchester Guardian on the political and economic issues facing Hungary.

In the letter reproduced below, written in 1944 to Kingsley Martin at the New Statesman and Nation, and passed on to C.P. Scott, Ignotus describes his desire to return to Hungary to try to provide assistance in a chaotic time. However, a month after this letter was written, Miklós Horthy, regent of Hungary, on the point of confirming an armistice with the Soviet Union, was deposed and replaced by the Nazis. This completed their occupation of the Hungary, and presumably rendered Ignotus’ plan impossible.

Image reproduced courtesy of Guardian News and Media Ltd.

Image reproduced courtesy of Guardian News and Media Ltd.

Ignotus would not return to Hungary until 1949, and on his return, he was arrested by the communist government and charged with acting as a spy for the British. He was sentenced to 15 years hard labour, and vanished into the prison system, where no news of him could be gained, as no contact with the outside world was permitted for political prisoners.

Towards the end of his incarceration, Ignotus found himself in a cell next door to another political prisoner, Florence Matay. During their incarceration, Ignotus and Matay communicated by tapping out messages to one another on the walls of their cell. Despite their surroundings, they fell in love, not ever having seen one another in person. On their release from prison, they were married.

The Manchester Guardian speculated that Ignotus’ release from prison in 1956 was part of ‘…an attempt to improve relations between the East European Communist parties, and the Socialist parties of the West.’ Whatever the reason, on his release, Ignotus was elected as a member of the committee of the Hungarian Writers Council, and played an active part in the Hungarian revolution. He returned to Britain as a refugee, and published books and articles on the politics of Hungary, and also an account of his experiences in prison, Political Prisoner, which describes the conditions in the prisons, the torture of prisoners that he witnessed, and the brutality of the Hungarian Secret Police and the prison officials.

There was one more twist to the story. As I was researching Ignotus’ contributions to the Manchester Guardian, I discovered that, 10 years after escaping to Britain, Florence Ignotus was killed in a house fire. Paul Ignotus was taken to hospital suffering with burns, and their son was said to be suffering from ‘shock’.

Despite the melancholy end, and although Ignotus played a part in some truly significant events in Hungary’s modern history, for me, the image of this story which remains is of Paul and Florence, tapping out messages to each other through a prison wall.


Mary Jane Clarke, an Unsung Hero


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Jane Donaldson writes:

As one of 3 volunteers working on the Guardian Archive project ‘What the Papers Say’, I am assisting in cataloguing the correspondence collection and my focus is Women’s Suffrage.

The Suffragette movement was at its height during the early 1900s prior to WW1 and this is reflected in the correspondence of C.P. Scott. There are letters from prominent suffragists of the time and also politicians and journalists both supporting and opposing votes for women. Scott was a supporter for Women’s Suffrage though did not agree with the militant tactics taken up by The National Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), whose leader was Emmeline Pankhurst.

One of the letters to C.P. Scott from Emmeline Pankhurst gives an extremely personal insight into the complete and absolute commitment of these women to the cause. The letter, sent on the 27th December 1910 informs C.P. Scott of the death of her sister, Mary Jane Clarke, who died on 22nd December 1910.

Mrs Clarke had been imprisoned three times in Holloway. In 1909 she had been among a group of protestors who had gone to number 10 Downing Street and tried to get an audience with Prime Minister Asquith. She was sentenced to one month in prison and was kept for some of the time in solitary confinement.  C.P. Scott had visited her during this time and Emmeline reminds him of this at the beginning of her letter, going on to inform him of Clarke’s most recent incarceration, and of her death two days after her release.


The letter includes her reason for informing Scott:

I write to you not only because you saw her in prison but because I believe you perhaps more than any English man alive out side the Cabinet have the power to bring this dreadful struggle to an end.


In November 1910, a suffragette deputation went to the House of Commons to protest against Prime Minister Asquith after finding out he would not give any more time to the Conciliation Bill which had aimed to give some women the vote. The WSPU had agreed during the reading of the Bill to suspend support for window breaking and hunger-strikes. Mary Clarke was arrested the second time for window smashing soon after the event known as Black Friday.

In her final stay in prison, Mrs Clarke went on hunger strike and was force fed, a procedure the prison authorities had brought in at the end of 1909. It is thought the traumatic effect of forced-feeding may have contributed to her death from a burst blood vessel.

In her letter, Emmeline Pankhust writes:

This year has seen the breaking for me of three of my closest bonds to this world, my boy, my mother and my dearest sister.

Emmeline Pankhurst’s son, Henry had died in January of that year and along with her mother and sister’s death, this seemed to make her more determined to make her voice heard through the militant action she and the WSPU followed.

Can you wonder that today I want beyond all other things to end this fight quickly and get rest?


Mary Jane Clarke’s obituary written by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence stated that Mary Jane Clarke was “the first woman martyr who has gone to death for this cause” but her story is not widely known. This is thought to be because she died at home in the winter holidays at a time where militant action was just beginning after a period of non-action, compared with the later death in 1913 of Emily Davison who was killed very publicly by the Kings horse at Derby, at the height of the WSPU’s fight for Votes for Women. Emmeline Pankhurst wrote about her sister:

She is the first to die. How many must follow before the men of your Party realise their responsibility.







Rapture and Reason: Accounts of Evangelical Conversion in Georgian Britain


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‘Monster at Finsbury Fields’, Anti-Methodist satirical print, 18th century.

Gareth Lloyd writes:

“Western culture … had its foundation in the bible, the word of God, and in the revivals of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.”  (20th century evangelist Billy Graham, 1950)

The University of Manchester Library has digitised a collection of 156 manuscript conversion narratives written during the 18th century Evangelical Revival. These testimonies provide a vivid insight into a dynamic and often disturbing spirituality that fuelled an explosion in popular religion to create one of the building blocks of the modern world. This previously unpublished collection, part of the official archive of the Methodist Church of Great Britain, is now made available to scholars as well as members of faith communities interested in the roots of some of the world’s leading denominations.

Approximately one third of the collection has been transcribed and these copies can be accessed on the library website with the digital images of the original documents.

Access the collection here.

The testimonies document the grassroots response to revival meetings held across the British Isles during the middle decades of the 18th century. At these unruly and often violent gatherings, crowds sometimes numbering in tens of thousands were told of the transforming power of God and offered the choice between heaven and hell. Delivered by charismatic preachers of the calibre of George Whitefield and the Wesley brothers, this message had a shocking impact. The testimonies report cases of physical and emotional collapse with long term effects on the mental and emotional state of converts.


Engraving (detail), ‘George Whitefield preaching at Leeds’, 1749. Meth. Arch./SB 1/151.

This extreme behaviour provoked widespread opposition. Methodists were accused of fanaticism and of undermining family ties and society itself. Hostility to the evangelicals entered the mainstream of popular culture. The “mad Methodists” were attacked in print, dragged into court and mocked in the street for their visions, dreams and eccentricities.

From humble and controversial beginnings, the Revival came to exert huge influence across the English-speaking world. Progressive causes in the 19th century were often championed and led by evangelical Christians including the movements for the abolition of slavery, working class education, factory reform and temperance.

This primary text collection provides a unique insight into the birth of an extraordinary popular movement. These narratives were not written by the leadership, but by ordinary men and women struggling to reconcile deep theological concepts with the reality of daily life.

This digital collection will be of value to scholars and students from the following disciplines:

  • Church history
  • Theology
  • 18th century studies
  • Linguistics
  • Popular culture
  • Women’s studies
  • Psychology of religious belief

The material also represents a spiritual treasure trove. The Evangelical Revival laid the foundations for the world family of Methodist and related denominations, modern Pentecostalism and the evangelical wing of the Anglican Communion.

The testimonies offer answers to questions concerning faith and spirituality that are still relevant for the modern Church.


Engraving (detail), ‘The Tree of Life’, undated. Meth. Arch./SB 1/150.

“This burst of popular devotion, the white-hot experience captured like a snapshot in these letters would be canalized into a powerful and enduring movement, ultimately reshaping the religious geography of the modern world.” (Bruce Hindmarsh, James M. Houston Professor of Spiritual Theology, Regent College, Vancouver)


Job Opportunity: Special Collections Librarian


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jrl021562trWe are seeking to appoint a Special Collections Librarian (Rare Books and Digital Humanties). You will promote and support innovative Digital Humanities initiatives focussed upon the Special Collections, in order to transform the way we connect our academic audiences with our collections, via digital media and new technologies. You will also manage and develop the Library’s World Religions & Theology rare book collections (digital and print) to make them more accessible for researchers, students and visitors.

You will be a graduate with a professional qualification in librarianship or similar. In addition, you will be committed to the exploitation of Special Collections for research, teaching and learning, and public engagement; have excellent communication and team-working skills; have experience of managing rare books; and have a strong commitment to developing a broad knowledge of Special Collections materials across formats, for the benefit of our audiences.

For further particulars and an application form, please visit

The Library’s current Off Beat exhibition features some innovative digital humanities applications, as featured in our recent blog.

Mapping the friends and collaborators of Jeff Nuttall


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Nuttall photobooth cropped

Jeff Nuttall

Veneta Haralampieva writes:

Hello everyone,

In case you haven’t read my previous blog post, my name is Veneta Haralampieva. I am a recent graduate from the Computer Science Department of the University of Manchester and I have spent the past seven weeks working on application aiming to visualise aspects of the life of Jeff Nuttall (1933–2004), one of the most prominent figures in the British cultural life of several decades ago.

Let me give you a brief overview of the project I have been working on. The main idea behind it was finding a new, exciting way to showcase the extent of the international collaboration between Jeff Nuttall and other artists at that time. Douglas Field from English and American Studies in the University, alongside with Louise Lever, Sean Bechhofer and several other people from the Computer Science Department and the University of Manchester Library came up with the idea to use a graph to illustrate this. They needed someone to create this application and this is where I came in. My work involved developing a graph – think of it as a mind map – which shows all the items in the Jeff Nuttall archive, like letters, poems, cut ups, etc., and their authors. So if you picture this as a mind map, you would have a circle for an item, let’s say a letter, which is connected via a line to its author and to Jeff Nuttall of course, our main figure. Quite simple, isn’t it? What’s exciting about this, is that you could very quickly identify close friends and collaborators of Jeff by looking at how many letters or postcards they have sent him: just look at how many circles an author is connected to! And of course you could hover over each circle to find out more about each item; for example, you can see its title, the date it was produced, where it was sent from, etc. (Fig. 1)

Jeff Nuttall Digital Map

Fig. 1: Screen-shot of the Jeff Nuttall Digital Map.

However, this is only one way to visualise this information. There are many more which can be used to demonstrate the relationships between Nuttall’s friends and collaborators. Another way to do this is using a chord diagram (Fig. 2). If you don’t know what these are don’t worry: it’s nothing too complicated. It simply has all the artists lined out in a circle. The connections between them are again influenced by the items they have created. For example, if two people have corresponded by letter, there will be a line connecting them. It might sound a bit boring at first, however, this visualisation very quickly starts to become a wonderful mesh of lines, trying to capture the complicated relationships between over one hundred people.

Jeff Nuttall Chord Diagram

Fig. 2: Screen-shot of the Jeff Nuttall Digital Map: chord diagram.

I am the person who created this application with lots of help from members of the University and the John Rylands Library, without whose help none of this would have been possible. It has been extremely challenging, exciting and something which I have never done before. My main goal was to try and capture some bits and pieces of the life of this amazing artist. Working on this project has made me realise how technology is able to help us peer into the life of this great man, whom we can never meet, and see just a fraction of his relationships. However, I would like you to remember that there were several hundred items in this archive only and yet we see such a rich network. This goes to show how much impact Jeff had on the lives of other people. For the rest of us humble individuals it serves as a reminder that we all touch other people’s lives.

And before I conclude I would like to share some boring but useful technical tips for anyone out there wishing to build a similar application. Data, data, data!!! This is truly crucial for the creation of such an application. You need to have the information in a structured format, preferably one that would be easy to incorporate into a web application (JSON, CSV, etc). I cannot stress enough how important well-structured data is for any visualisation work.

As for the specific technologies used in the Jeff Nuttall app, it was built using a variation of the MEAN stack. If you don’t know what it is don’t worry🙂 I will briefly explain what we used. The app we had relied on was AngularJS and D3, frameworks that centre around building the beautiful app you see in your browser. For the server side the app used NodeJS and ExpressJS and the information the app needed is stored in a graph database called Neo4J (it can stored the data in a mind map like format).🙂

Finally, as we have covered the techy (boring) side of things it is time to conclude this post and I would like to leave you with this: How would a graph of your life look like? Imagine all your emails, pictures, social media activity all represented like this. I cannot even begin to comprehend the extent of this!

Veneta Haralampieva

Jeff Nuttall (1933-2004) was a Lancastrian artist and poet, jazz musician, critic, social commentator, novelist, actor and influential teacher.  He was a major figure in the worldwide network of radical, avant-garde literature and art that challenged mainstream culture in the 1960s and 1970s. His role in counter culture is the subject of a major exhibition at the John Rylands Library, Off Beat: Jeff Nuttall and the International Underground  which runs from 8 September until 5 March 2017.

 The exhibition includes a digital table where visitors can explore, amongst other things, The Jeff Nuttall Digital Map.  For readers who are unable to visit in person you can access the map here.

British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowships


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The John Rylands Research Institute at The University of Manchester invites applications for this year’s round of British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowships, for a fellowship beginning in September 2017.

The Institute offers an exciting and stimulating environment for research, and has an outstanding record of success in hosting BA Postdoctoral Fellows. Projects must demonstrate a strong connection to the University of Manchester Library’s Special Collections. More information can be found here:

For your application to be considered by the Institute, please submit an expression of interest (500 words summary of the proposed project and a 1 page CV) to the Institute Administrator Anna Higson by Friday 2 September 2016. If you are selected by the Institute, you will be provided with full support in making your application to the British Academy.


Photograph of women students at Owens College, 1894. University of Manchester Archive, UA/9/2/89. Life today at the John Rylands Research Institute is a lot more fun.

New Catalogues Online!


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With the culmination of a year-long cataloguing project to tackle some of the Library’s science and medical collections a number of new catalogues are now available online and the material itself available to view in the searchroom at the University’s Main Library.

MMM-Manchester Medical Manuscripts.


Newly boxed manuscripts on shelves

The Manchester Medical Manuscripts Collections is comprised of 317 individual items ranging from approximately the 16th century to the 20th century, although the majority of the material dates from the mid-18th to the mid-19th century. Most of the manuscripts have their origins in Manchester’s 19th-century medical libraries, having been donated to them by some of the city’s most prominent medical men of the time. It is around these men that the collection has been organised, thus illustrating who was responsible for either creating or collecting these manuscripts before they were donated to a larger library. In this way we can analyse the development of Manchester’s medical profession through their collecting habits and manuscripts produced as a result of their professional work.

Of particular note are some of the only known surviving copies of lectures given in Manchester’s early medical schools, including those by the likes of Thomas Turner, Joseph Jordan, and Samuel Bardsley. There is also a heavy emphasis on midwifery with over 25% of the material being directly related to the subject. All the relevant subjects comprising medical education at this time are however covered including anatomy, surgery, chemistry, botany, the materia medica, physiology, and the practice of physic. The catalogue is available via MMM.

JHU-John Hunter Letter

During the course of the cataloguing of the Medical Manuscripts a single letter written by the famous 18th-century surgeon John Hunter that did not belong to the rest of the collection came to light. The letter has been described separately with its own catalogue entry. In the letter Hunter writes to a Hampshire-based surgeon offering him advice on the treatment of a female patient with breast cancer without resorting to surgery. A full description is available via JHU.

John Hunter sig2


JFW-John Frederick Wilkinson Papers

Wilkinson was a renowned 20th-century haematologist and spent his entire career in Manchester. He is most noted for his extensive research into the treatment of pernicious anaemia and the treatment of leukaemia with early chemotherapy drugs. His papers also represent much of the other important work he undertook, for example his extensive work during World War Two into the health of those working in poison gas factories and his work during the 1960s and 1970s for the University of Manchester’s radiology protection committee. The catalogue is available via JFW.

FCC-Frederick Crace-Calvert Correspondence

Crace-Calvert is a little known 19th-century Manchester based industrial chemist who dedicated a lot of time to the application of chemistry to public health. This is only a small collection of 13 letters but is most notable for the presence of three letters written to Crace-Calvert by Joseph Lister of antiseptic surgery fame. In these letters he discusses developments in his work and his recent attempts to produce an effective antiseptic dressing.

Crace-Calvert was the first to successfully devise a method for the efficient industrial scale production of carbolic acid (phenol), a substance that was at the core of Lister’s research. Other letters in the collection demonstrate Crace-Calvert’s wider involvement in matters of public health with correspondence from the sanitation officer Robert Rawlinson and representatives of both the Admiralty and Central Government Offices illustrating his attempts to see antiseptic practices more widely employed. The catalogue is available via FCC.

Lister sig



DDL-Lectures of Professor Daniel Dougal

Finally, time at the end of the project has also allowed for the cataloguing of the obstetrics and gynaecology lectures of Professor Daniel Dougal. Dougal taught at Manchester University and was appointed to the Professorship there in 1926. He produced full and detailed copies of the lectures to assist his students and these served as text books. The content was regularly revised to keep in line with current practices and six separate editions were produced in total spanning 1929-1938. Copies of all six editions, with the exception of the second, survive in this collection and show the development of Dougal’s lectures, several having been annotated by the students who used them. The catalogue is available via DDL.