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.

South of Hitler: Marcel W. Fodor and the Manchester Guardian


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Sandra Cruise, who is cataloguing the inter-war European Foreign Correspondence in the Guardian Archive, writes:   

One of the journalists featured in the Manchester Guardian‘s foreign correspondence archive is Marcel W. Fodor, who chronicled events in Austria and the Balkans for virtually two decades from his base in Vienna and central Europe. Besides the Manchester Guardian, he also wrote for various American newspapers over the course of his career.

One of the strengths of the Guardian archive lies in its chronicling of the developing situation in the smaller and lesser known countries of central and south-eastern Europe by the Vienna and Balkans correspondent, Marcel Fodor, areas which, during the late 1930s, were increasingly becoming victims of Hitler’s expansionism and influence. Fodor’s vast and detailed knowledge of the politics not only of Austria, but also of the Balkan states, a subject the editor thought that British people found difficult to follow, is poured out into a series of detailed memoranda. He made regular Balkan journeys, his itinerary including Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey; he was somewhat ahead of his rivals in having visited Turkey before other newspapers’ correspondents; one of his memoranda even refers to Albania. In March 1939, an eight week trip included Poland and the Baltic states of Latvia and Estonia, where, amongst other things, he gathered information on Russia and the Ukraine from various contacts, as he was unable to obtain a visa for a short visit to Russia.

 Fodor’s character is not as evident from his missives as that of some of the other correspondents, notably Dell, who has been the subject of a previous blog post, but his experiences were amongst the most dramatic. Born in Hungary in 1890, his parents were wealthy industrialists and bankers, his father owning two newspapers. After gaining a degree in engineering in 1911, he left Hungary for England, intending to improve his English. After a short spell in London, he headed to Sheffield, where he attended Professor John Arnold’s lectures in metallurgy, this background no doubt explaining his later proficiency in detailing the natural resources available to Germany in 1939. From 1912 he worked at the Frodingham Iron and Steel Company in Scunthorpe, where he established a research laboratory, and rose to the position of assistant manager of the melting department, but war was to interrupt his developing industrial career, being interned as an enemy alien on the outbreak of the First World War. He was released in March 1917, carrying out ‘important war work’ on the estate of Lord Mowbray at Allerton, near Knaresborough. He returned to Hungary in 1919 on his father’s death, when he tried, largely unsuccessfully, to salvage something of the family’s fortune; his mother became a victim of the Béla Kún regime, dying in April 1919.

Fodor related that his journalistic career with the Manchester Guardian began in August 1919 in Budapest; four years later he was appointed correspondent for Austria and the Balkans, remaining in Vienna until forced to flee the German advance in the Anschluss of March 1938; leaving his possessions behind, he was seen across the border by the Military Attaché of the American Chargé d’Affaires in Vienna. For the next eighteen months he kept one step ahead of the advancing Germans, as he moved from place to place. His next destination, Prague, was short-lived; living in fear of invasion in what he likened to ‘a besieged city’, he managed to leave before the Germans severed the road and rail links. He describes the difficult journeys, closed frontiers, the censorship and restricted communication, which made his job difficult, and complains to W. P. Crozier (the Manchester Guardian’s editor) that people in England did not understand how difficult things were in central Europe.

Extract from a letter sent by Fodor to W.P. Crozier in October 1938

Extract from a letter sent by Fodor to W. P. Crozier in October 1938

Fodor’s immediate future after the Anschluss was in crisis; he had left possessions and papers in Vienna and Prague as he made emergency exits from both countries; his salary from the Manchester Guardian was not sufficient, and despite an increase made in August 1938, still remained less than that of Dell in Geneva; as a Hungarian Jew in an increasingly German-dominated Europe, he needed the protection of another country to carry on his work; an attempt to gain British citizenship failed; he visited America on a lecture tour in 1938, successfully beginning an application for American citizenship, while the Manchester Guardian sought to find him a suitable base from which to work. Fodor eventually found refuge in America, and gained his naturalisation in 1943, but in the meantime he returned to Europe, basing himself in Zürich at the behest of the Chicago Daily News, for whom he had worked for some years, yet still writing for the Manchester Guardian. Danger did not prevent him from returning to visit Prague later in 1938, which he described as ‘a terrible return’, and recalls a detailed conversation with Göbbels’s chief agent there.

Extract from another 1938 letter to Crozier, in which Fodor describes leaving his possessions behind in Vienna.

Extract from another 1938 letter to Crozier, in which Fodor describes leaving his possessions behind in Vienna.

Fodor’s reputation for knowledge was legendary; William Shirer, another foreign correspondent, described him as ‘a walking dictionary on central Europe’. According to another biographer, this facility for acquiring and retaining information was developed in his youth. Fluent in at least five languages and familiar with leading figures in many countries, it is easy to see how other journalists flocked round him, as he willingly shared his knowledge in the Café Louvre in Vienna, which he regularly frequented, encouraging younger, up and coming journalists.  Amongst his company were eminent journalists and writers, notably Dorothy Thompson and John Gunther. The latter described Fodor as having ‘the most acutely comprehensive knowledge of Central Europe of any journalist I know’, and on a personal basis described him as ‘one of the true good men of this earth, generous to a fault and incredibly kind.’

His book, South of Hitler was published in 1937, alternatively titled Plot and counter-plot in central Europe in America as he was told by the publisher’s representatives that at the time no book with Hitler in the title could be sold there. In 1940 he removed to America, but later returned to Europe to resume his correspondent role for American papers. In the late 1940s, he accepted a post with the American occupation forces in Berlin. A short interview with him in the city in 1953 can be found in Edward Murrow’s ‘See it Now’ programme (the interview begins at minute 29.40). From 1949 to 1955 he was editor of Die Neue Zeitung in Berlin. He worked for the Voice of America and the U.S. Information Agency, before retiring in 1964; he died in Germany, aged 87 in 1977.

Images are reproduced courtesy of Guardian News and Media Ltd.

A Two-edged Weapon


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As I work through C.P. Scott’s correspondents, (alphabetically), I am encountering a raft of renowned names, my own personal highlights to date include: Margot Asquith, Herbert Barker, the bone setter, Winston Churchill, Charlotte Despard, socialist reformer, Benjamin De Jong Van Beek en Donk, pacifist and writer, and Katharine Furse, nurse and founder of the English Voluntary Aid Detachment force.

The correspondence with the regular contributors and staff members of the Manchester Guardian has proved to be of equal interest, producing gems such as Mrs White Fishenden, the industrialist researcher who contributed sunrise and sunset tables for the paper, and James Drysdale, the parliamentary correspondent who completed his copy one evening, was taken suddenly ill, and died at his post in the House of Commons in 1924.

However, as might be expected, it is the significant events that are witnessed by these correspondents that are the most exciting. Scott, as a Liberal politician, and advocate of home rule for Ireland, cultivated and supported John Dillon, an Irish MP, and leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party. Dillon was a supporter of land reform, attended the Buckingham Palace peace conference, and was in Dublin during the Easter Rising. He contributed letters on Ireland to the Manchester Guardian, and his private correspondence with Scott covers many of the events in this turbulent period of Irish history.

The letter selected for this month’s blog post is part of a discussion between Scott and Dillon on proposals for a referendum on the Home Rule Bill, 1914.

Image reproduced courtesy of Guardian News and Media Ltd.

Image reproduced courtesy of Guardian News and Media Ltd.

The comments made by Scott on the use of referendums as a political tool seem particularly apposite to current political events. Since 1973, there have been 11 referendums held in the UK, the majority of which were related to devolution, and the first national referendum was not held until 1975. Their employment can therefore be regarded as, relatively, a recent occurrence, and the views held by Scott on this issue are arguably as relevant in 2016 as they were in 1914.

There are 10 letters between Dillon and Scott in Scott’s editorial correspondence, written between 1912 and 1925, archive reference: GDN/A/D37/1-10.

The Cellar Art Project


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The Visual Collections Team has joined forces with Collection Care conservator Niki Pantazidou to try and make sense of a group of wrapped pictures that are stored in the cellar.  Many of these pictures haven’t been unwrapped or seen since the major refurbishment of the library, which began in 2003.  As storage for our art works becomes a growing concern within the library due to limited space and conservation concerns we are endeavouring to identify items that might be de-framed and possibly stored or displayed elsewhere without damaging the material.  Niki and I are conducting an initial survey of the material and trying to work out who and what the images are of and the condition of the pictures themselves.

The first images that have been unveiled were a collection of the great and the good related to the library, mainly black and white, formal portraits of the former Keepers of Manuscripts, Librarians and Directors of the Rylands – all men! Many of the names were familiar even if the faces were not as these figures have been commemorated in the building names across the University Campus, such as Arthur Armitage, Lord Stopford and Sir William Mansfield Cooper.

We have discovered an array of Methodist Conference photographs, my favourite being a collage of attendees faces cut out and grouped together to create an image of all the conference participants.  There have been a series of school photographs from the Hunmanby School from the 1980s, which chart an enviable display of hairstyles and fashions. However, our most exciting and timely find so far has been a collection of Jeff Nuttall (1933-2004) drawings and photographs from the 1970s.  This serendipitous find was just too late to be included in our new exhibition, Off Beat: Jeff Nuttall and the International Underground, which starts in September 2016.  The Cellar Art Project continues as there are many pictures left to unpack yet, so who knows what we will discover next.


Art and Exegesis: Nicholas of Lyra’s Bible Commentary


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Dr Sarah Bromberg from Suffolk University, Boston, has spent the last month in Manchester as the Newberry Library – John Rylands Research Institute Exchange Fellow. She writes:

As the 2016-17 Newberry Library and John Rylands Institute Exchange Fellow, I had the wonderful pleasure of examining Rylands Latin MSS 29-31 in the Special Collections reading room for the past month.

These three volumes contain an extremely lavish and unusually luxurious copy of Nicholas of Lyra’s Postilla litteralis super totam bibliam (Literal Commentary on the Entire Bible), written in the mid-fourteenth century and widely copied in manuscript and print into the sixteenth century. Lyra (1270-1349) sought to reconcile Jewish and Christian biblical commentaries and designed diagrams to illustrate his points. The Rylands Postilla contains numerous, brilliantly colorful, highly ornate and stunningly beautiful illuminations.

God creating Adam and Eve, from Nicholas of Lyra's Commentary on the Bible, Latin MS 29, fol. 2v

God creating Adam and Eve, from Nicholas of Lyra’s Postilla (Bible Commentary), Latin MS 29, fol. 2v.

I first became aware of the Rylands Postilla through the Rylands Library’s comprehensive digitization of the manuscript. However, the experience of continuously looking at Rylands Latin MSS 29-31, in person, for a sustained amount of time, was extremely valuable for my research. I noticed many visual elements that were not readily apparent on the digital images in terms of the color, iconography, content of Lyra’s commentary, style of the script, and techniques of illumination. I also enjoyed working with the Centre for Heritage Imaging and Collection Care to use Multispectral Imaging to help me learn about aspects of the manuscript illumination that are not visible to the naked eye. I was grateful to observe this photographic process, which greatly helped me understand this technology, and the ways it can be applied to medieval manuscript studies.


Detail of shield from Latin MS 29, frontispiece, under standard light (left) and a processed Multispectral Image (right).

The Rylands Institute was extremely welcoming to me, especially when they arranged for me to attend their conference, “‘The Other Within’: The Hebrew and Jewish collections of The John Rylands Library.” Listening to the talks about the medieval illuminated haggadot in the Rylands’ collection was fascinating, and I enjoyed the opportunity to view first-hand Hebrew MSS 6 and 7 during the conference.  I found the Rylands Library’s Gothic Revival architecture inspiring for my research on medieval manuscripts, and enjoyed working under ribbed vaults and stained glass windows. And the city of Manchester has terrific architecture as well!

A chapter of my book project, Art and Exegesis: Nicholas of Lyra’s Postilla, focuses on Rylands MSS 29-31. The observations that I made while at the Rylands Library will be very useful to my book’s overall goal: to chart the changes in manuscript and print copies of Lyra’s Postilla from the fourteenth the fifteenth centuries. I am now off to the Newberry Library to look at incunables containing woodcut copies of Lyra’s illustrations, and am thrilled that my fellowship supports research at both libraries because it will allow me to understand the broad extent of the Postilla tradition.

All three volumes of the Rylands Postilla have been fully digitised, and they can be viewed online via Luna.

Leopard and hare in the margins of Nicholas of Lyra's Postilla (Bible Commentary), Latin MS 29, fol. 2v.

Leopard and hare in the margins of Nicholas of Lyra’s Postilla (Bible Commentary), Latin MS 29, fol. 2v.


Countdown to War


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Several blog posts last year reported on our John Rylands Research Institute-funded project to catalogue the European foreign correspondence in the Guardian Archive. Sandra Cruise has been continuing this work, and reports on the foreign correspondence dating from 1936-1939:

The Guardian foreign correspondence is a rich source of material for historians, providing a fascinating and detailed narrative of the events and political machinations in Europe in the years leading up to the outbreak of the Second World War.

The correspondence comprises letters, telegrams, dispatches, confidential notes and scribbled messages, exchanged mainly between the editor, William Percival Crozier (or occasionally other members of staff), and five of his foreign correspondents: Alexander Werth in Paris, Marcel Fodor in Vienna, Charles Lambert in Berlin, and the septuagenarian Robert Dell in Geneva; Frederick Voigt, by this time, acts as diplomatic correspondent from the London office, having been removed successively from Berlin and Paris for his personal safety, assisted by Swiss refugee, Max Wolf, and exploiting a network of underground German contacts. From their vantage points in major European cities are viewed the events of the years 1936 to 1939, a period characterised by the growing threat of war, and chronicling the shifting alliances, Hitler’s expansionism, and including the continuing Nazi terror, the Stalinist purge of the mid 1930s, and, from mid 1936, the Spanish Civil War and its repercussions.

It is not so much what the papers say, as what they don’t say; the archive contains a great deal of information which did not make it into, or was never intended for the paper’s columns for whatever reason, be it confidentiality, diplomacy, or simply lack of space: the details of articles and letters omitted or heavily edited; names withheld for the writer’s or subject’s own safety; the views of the correspondents, their interviewees and the editor himself. Most of all, the archive reveals the confidential sources and reports of private conversations previously known only to the correspondents and the editor, sent for the purpose of verifying a story, or keeping the editor informed. A scribbled pencil message from Frederick Voigt to the editor gives confirmation of German and Italian assistance to the rebels in Spain via his receipt of a decoded message from Franco to General Mola: ‘the offensive on Madrid can begin…as soon as the Italian planes are ready…our identity is known to Berlin’.

Scribbled message from Voigt reporting on the content of a decoded message from Franco.

Scribbled message from Voigt reporting on the content of a decoded message from Franco.

Besides being a narrative of the inter-war years, the correspondence also gives an insight into the status of the paper, how the correspondents worked, their relationships with the editor and each other, and also with other papers and journalists. The paper, under Crozier’s editorship, built up a reputation for foreign news, particularly letters to the editor from significant foreign figures. On 2 September 1936 Crozier told his men that the Manchester Guardian led the way in foreign correspondence and letters on topics from abroad, and he frequently urged them to actively encourage people they encountered to write to the paper. The archive contains many letters or accounts from, or about victims of the Nazi persecution, and the Stalinist purge in Russia, whose identities had to be concealed for fear of reprisals, even if the writers were no longer resident in the country in question. The paper led the way in reporting the atrocities of the Nazi regime; Voigt’s pioneering reporting of the German concentration camps had already made him a Gestapo target as, in Crozier’s words, ‘the most serious opponent of Nazi Germany in the English press’, and necessitating his removal from mainland Europe. The paper was banned indefinitely in Germany in September 1936. Of all the English papers, only the Manchester Guardian and the Yorkshire Post were independent; the Telegraph was viewed as the voice of the establishment, while Voigt commented that the Nazis ought to be grateful to The Times for its editing of the articles of its Berlin correspondent.

The dangers faced by many of the correspondents and the immediacy of the situation make compelling reading. Voigt reports picking up fragments from his balcony and hotel corridor when his side of the hotel in the Gran Via in Madrid was shelled.

Extract from letter of 30 April 1937 in which Voigt describes picking up hot fragments of shell on his hotel balcony.

Extract from letter of 30 April 1937 in which Voigt describes picking up hot fragments of shell on his hotel balcony.

Both Voigt and Werth visited Spain during the Spanish Civil War in an attempt to discover the truth about the terror and the reaction of the ordinary Spaniard in the street. Voigt’s desire to venture into unchartered territory was quashed by Crozier, who forbade him to enter rebel territory, as the Germans, who were assisting Franco, would get to know that he was there, and might see it as an opportunity to ‘get rid of him’. Charles Lambert in Berlin, tired of the stress of living in Nazi Germany, expresses relief at being able to live in a ‘normal country’ without being ‘spied on’, whilst covering Paris during Werth’s holiday in August 1938. Fodor was forced to flee Vienna in the American Military Attaché’s car at the time of the Anschluss in March 1938, and spent the next year or so one step ahead of the advancing Germans in Europe, as he moved from place to place. Dangers did not always come in the guise of foreign attackers, however; Voigt faced problems closer to home, as he was more than once libelled by other journalists and writers.

In this telegram of 13 May 1937, Voigt announces that he is leaving Barcelona for Toulouse. Crozier responded to this with a note expressing his relief that his correspondent was well.

In this telegram of 13 May 1937, Voigt announces that he is leaving Barcelona for Toulouse. Crozier responded to this with a note expressing his relief that his correspondent was well.

Managing the team of correspondents was not always an easy task, as the editor strove to manage the different and strong personalities, to avoid any clashes with the paper’s policy and prevent any differences of opinion from spilling over into the columns. Being at the sharp end of events, many a correspondent gives vent to their frustration, particularly at the lack of understanding of the European situation. On a holiday to England in August 1936, the veteran Robert Dell cannot conceal his exasperation:

‘I find opinion here worse than I thought. It terrifies me. The ignorance of people that ought to be well-informed about the real situation on the Continent is alarming and the apparent indifference to what may happen even more so. I saw Blum and Delbos in Paris and I fear that they are both humbugged by Eden and the F[oreign] O[ffice]. They appear to have acquiesced in allowing the Nazis to do as they like in Danzig.’

He concludes that Hitler ‘is likely to be master of Europe in about six months without firing a shot’ and states that if he were in England, he would support Churchill, who ‘recognises the danger of Fascism in England.’ Yet, at the same time, there is an acknowledgement amongst the correspondents that England needs time to re-arm and gain strength, Voigt predicting in August 1937 that England would not be ready until 1939.

One of the archive’s strengths lies in its chronicling of the developing situation in the smaller and lesser known countries of central and south-eastern Europe by the Vienna and Balkans correspondent, Marcel Fodor – areas which were becoming the victims of Hitler’s expansionism and influence. Fodor will be the subject of a future blog post.

The archive continues until December 1939, and gives a snapshot of the conditions for both paper and correspondents in the first weeks of the war – the censorship, difficulties in communication, plus the overriding uncertainty. Crozier wonders how many men he will lose from his staff; the paper, already suffering from a paper restriction in the period before the war, is now restricted to twelve pages. Looking for safe, yet significant news gathering centres in which to base their correspondents had already been a problem; they had struggled to find a suitable haven for Fodor, a Hungarian Jew, after the Anschluss, in a Europe becoming increasingly German dominated; the other correspondents’ futures were now also in question. Lambert was still expecting to return to Berlin after covering for Werth in Paris some ten days before war was declared; after various suggested destinations, he eventually was dispatched to Stockholm. Werth, recuperating in Glasgow after a bicycle accident, returned to Paris to take over from Lambert, while Dell, by now 74, had retired and was contemplating more American lecture tours. Fodor himself, who was also working for the Chicago Daily News, for whom he was in Morocco, Tunis and Algiers around the time of the declaration of war, eventually found himself in the Hague. Evelyn Montague, working in London as Bone’s deputy, was dispatched abroad as war correspondent.

Extract from a letter written by Voigt on 4 September 1939, the day after Britain declared war on Germany. He speculates on potential bombing targets, commenting that there is nothing worth bombing in Manchester apart from the Manchester Guardian.

Extract from a letter written by Voigt on 4 September 1939, the day after Britain declared war on Germany. He speculates on potential bombing targets, commenting that there is nothing worth bombing in Manchester apart from the Manchester Guardian.

Amongst all this, it is sometimes possible to catch a glimpse of the people behind the messages, their characters and their background, such as Dell’s outspoken, heartfelt views, and his penchant for listening to dance music while he worked. Occasionally, the correspondence affords a brief glimpse of domestic affairs; there is a passing reference to the abdication crisis and the activities of King Edward VIII and Mrs. Simpson. Closer to home, Lambert sends Crozier a newscutting from a German paper concerning the discovery of the St John fragment in the John Rylands Library. Interestingly, Alexander Werth also had a connection to the University of Manchester – he acted as senior Simon Research Fellow from 1953 to 1955.

Images in this blog post are reproduced courtesy of Guardian News and Media Ltd.

The Jeff Nuttall exhibition: thoughts from the developer behind the app visualising his life


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Veneta Haralampieva writes:

Hello everyone,

My name is Veneta Haralampieva and I have just graduated from the University of Manchester obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. You might be wondering what a Computer Science student and Jeff Nuttall have in common. Well, I am currently working on a web-based application which aims to provide a visualisation of the relationships between Jeff Nuttall and other artists by utilising his archive held in the Library, which soon you will be able to visit. But don’t worry: I won’t bore you with a bunch of technical things about the app itself. Instead I would like to tell you about my tour around the library.

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Veneta Haralampieva examines items from the Jeff Nuttall Collection in the Collection Care Studio at the John Rylands Library.

A few weeks ago I and my supervisors and colleagues from the university were offered a unique private tour around the library led by Janette Martin who works there. It is needless to say how excited I was to actually physically see some of the items from the archive I have been working with only digitally (for which I am deeply grateful to Imogen Durant who has digitized all the content).

Our tour started from the Christie Room, which is an exquisite Victorian-style room with wooden chairs and tables where one feels like a hero in a J.K. Rowling novel, exploring the world of magic. We were then taken to the area where the Jeff Nuttall exhibition will be, which was yet another stunning room. I can definitely say that I would love to see how the curators will intertwine the Victorian style of the room with Nuttall’s very modern Sixties look and feel. I am sure it will be a wonderful mix which would make the exhibition even more enjoyable and it will be worth seeing.

What Happened to Jackson

Cover of Jeff Nuttall, What Happened to Jackson (London: Aloes Books, 1978). R226249. Copyright The Jeff Nuttall Estate.

Afterwards, we found ourselves in the most famous area open to the public where one could book a desk and enjoy reading in this marvelous building. After a short wander around we were taken through a metal gate, normally not for use by visitors of the library, which led to a small stairwell. Following Janette and climbing the old stairs carefully we came out into the upper floor of the room, overlooking the visitors below. Janette told us that this is where usually PhD students and researchers have desks to carry out their daily work. How amazing would that be! For a Computer Scientist like me, who has spent the last four years in buildings like Kilburn (where there is little sunlight and definitely no Victorian wooden desks) this looked simply astonishing. Quiet, beautiful and relaxing atmosphere where one could focus without getting interrupted and really engulf in the work to be done. We took the scenic walk around this area and came out of the other side of the room, again taking an ancient looking staircase and exiting through a metal gate.

Our final stop was the research room, which was located in the newer part of the building. The John Rylands Library is outstanding in the way it allows the new and modern to flow into the original style of the building. In there we got to see some of the actual works that will be on display on the exhibition. But don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything for you🙂 We got a closer look at some of Jeff Nuttall’s publications and his collaborations with other artists which was fascinating. It is incredible how artists from different countries communicated extensively and influenced each other’s work. This is what I truly hope to visualise with the application, the magnitude of the international collaboration. Another thing that I found very impressive is the unique artwork on all the book covers. They seem to illustrate the main ideas of each piece and capture the imagination of the reader. We explored some of the material very carefully (some of it handwritten letters from and to Jeff) and I pondered the fact that we are in fact just seeing a fraction of this man’s life and there will be so much more which has never been recorded and no one will ever know about.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and so did our lovely tour. So we made our way out and into the rainy streets of Manchester and I returned to my work, with one goal, to try and capture some of the extraordinary life of Jeff Nuttall.


The Manchester Histories Festival: What We Learned.


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On the 11th June, the John Rylands Library Special Collections put together a stall for the Manchester Histories Festival which focused upon the Guardian Archive.

Manchester Histories Festival Stall

We had a couple of aims for the day, to publicise the collection and promote its use, and also, if possible, to gather information from the collective memory of Manchester. The second of these objectives evolved whilst material for the stall was being selected. The Guardian Archive contains a number of photographs, many of which were taken by their staff photographer, Walter Doughty.

These photographs show employees at the Manchester Guardian and Manchester Evening News at work, carrying out the various functions required to produce a daily newspaper. The majority of these photographs don’t include descriptions, or dates, and they feature equipment and practices that we were not always able to confidently identify. Our hope was that we might meet someone at the Histories Festival who would be able to assist us.

Luckily for us, we did!


One of our favourite pictures, of the last horses to retire from the newspaper’s delivery service in 1952, generated a memory in one of our visitors. He remembered seeing an article published at the time the horses were retired which included this photograph, and that described the distinctive chocolate and gold livery of the horses.

We also had the good fortune to have a visitor who had worked for a number of newspapers during the 1950s and 60s, and provided us with details including:


The employees in this picture are operating linotype machines, which were used for typesetting. The keyboards pictured produced lines of metal text for use in the printing press.



Guardian Archive Images

The printing press pictured is a Crabtree Viceroy Rotary Printing Press. The size of reels used for printing is determined by the number of pages to be printed. A broadsheet requires a 60 inch reel.




The employee in this picture is working as a fly hand, and would remove completed copies of the paper from the press by hand. The paper for each copy was measured in quires, and the speed of the printing press could be altered using the control panel pictured in the top left hand corner of the picture. This could, on occasion, be used by employees to play pranks, as it was easy to amend the speed on a machine in passing and increase the speed of work for an unsuspecting colleague.



There was a date attached to the delivery vans in this photograph of 1955, but a visitor who was more versed in the history of automobiles suggested to us that the cars pictured were far more likely to be from the 1930s.


We also heard an anecdote about C.P. Scott, who, in later life, reportedly fell off his bicycle whilst cycling home in the snow, and was aided by a policeman who, not recognising Scott as editor of the Manchester Guardian, expressed indignation that an elderly man had been kept at work so late in inclement weather!

The information we gathered at the Manchester Histories Festival enhanced our knowledge of the collection, and as a bonus, I got to hear people from the city talk about their pride in the origins of the Guardian. My opening explanation that the Guardian was originally the Manchester Guardian proved to be quite unnecessary, as more often than not, it was greeted with: ‘Oh, we know!’

We also learned from a visitor that the John Rylands Library had been built in what was, at the time, Manchester’s red light district…but that may be a story for another blog post.

For more information on the Manchester Histories Festival, please visit:

Images from the Guardian archive are reproduced courtesy of Guardian News and Media Ltd.

Techniques for recovering lost texts


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CHICC Manchester

Research Fellow Renate Smithuis and Research Associate Stefania Silvestri, are working on a Catalogue of Codices, Scrolls, and Other Texts in Hebrew Script in The University of Manchester Library.

The Library holds one of the most important smaller collections of Hebrew manuscripts in Europe and this project will create a full, online catalogue compliant with current cataloguing and metadata standards. To support the production of the catalogue, digitisation of a number of manuscripts is being undertaken. All images, included fully digitised volumes, are added to the Hebraica Collection in the John Rylands Library Image Collections, LUNA.

A substantial portion of the Rylands Gaster manuscript collection have already been selected for digitisation, including a number of manuscripts that suffered water damage during the Second World War. The level of water damage varies, some texts are still legible but faint, others have whole sections of pages rendered illegible.

The Heritage Imaging…

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