Undiscovered collections: John Heath-Stubbs (1918 – 2006)

A team from Collection Management has recently completed restoring and cataloguing the John Heath-Stubbs Printed Book Collection which, along with his papers, were acquired by the Library in 2007 from Golbourne Antiques, London, with financial assistance from the Robert Gavron Charitable Trust.  He died of cancer on 26 December 2006, aged 88.

John Heath-Stubbs was born in London on 9th July 1918. Partially-sighted from birth, by his late teens his sight had deteriorated so rapidly that he was sent to Worcester College for the Blind.  His failing eyesight allowed him to apply for the Barker Exhibition in English at Queen’s College, Oxford, and so, despite having originally wanted to study biology, he became a student of literature[i]. Whilst at Oxford he was part of the generation which included Keith Douglas, Sidney Keyes, Philip Larkin (with whom he had an ongoing quarrel!), Kingsley Amis and Iris Murdoch, and was also heavily influenced by the teachings of C.S. Lewis.


‘By permission of the estate of Sidney Keyes’

Throughout his literary career, John Heath-Stubbs was a prominent figure in British poetry, winning many poetry prizes, including the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry and the Commonwealth Poetry Prize. He was appointed OBE in 1989. His prolific literary output included 30 volumes of poetry, as well as translations, criticism, drama and an autobiographical work. His most famous poems were The Divided Ways and Artorius.


Enitharmon Press

His near blindness did not impede his literary career (he was completely blind by age of 60; having had his right eye was removed in 1956, while his left eye had become too weak for reading by 1961) as he felt deafness must be a far worse disability, saying, “As a poet, I have found that blindness actually tends to stimulate the imagination.”[ii] He also scolded his friend Dannie Abse for describing him as “Heath-Stubbs, the blind poet” – which made him sound, he said, like “Porkie the learned pig”.[iii] Interestingly, he was known to have a close friendship with the deaf poet David Wright, editing many anthologies together.  His deteriorating eyesight can be seen in this collection by the declining accuracy of his signature on most items.

‘By permission of the Estate of John Heath-Stubbs’

‘By permission of the Estate of John Heath-Stubbs’


‘By permission of the Estate of John Heath-Stubbs’

It is clear from the amount of personal dedications, signed copies and limited editions within the collection that he was held in high esteem by contemporaries.  TS Eliot saw him as among the foremost critics and poets of his generation, and Herbert Read said, “It is as though a modern architect had suddenly produced a perfect baroque temple”.[iv] Kathleen Taylor said that “Conversation with him was like having jewels scattered in profusion into your hands and lap”.[v]

Despite having been described as a “towering solitary”, he was also a very sociable man who liked (most) people and welcomed their company.[vi] He was known to frequent many of Soho’s notorious drinking-holes in the 1950s and 1960s, and his own little basement flat in west London was a model of bohemian squalor.[vii]  Despite his fading eyesight, he remained fiercely independent and insisted on attending literary events, living alone, entertaining and even cooking for his many friends.

View the John Heath-Stubbs Printed Book Collection records via the University of Manchester Library website.

[i] Taylor, Kathleen. (2006). Appreciation: John Heath-Stubbs. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/news/2007/jan/06/guardianobituaries.obituaries, (Accessed: 23 April 2015)

[ii] Meyer, Michael. (2006). John Heath-Stubbs. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/news/2006/dec/29/guardianobituaries.booksobituaries, (Accessed: 23 April 2015).

[iii] Ezard, John. (2006). Poet John Heath-Stubbs dies, aged 88. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2006/dec/27/news.johnezard, (Accessed: 23 April 2015)

[iv] Taylor, Kathleen. (2006). Appreciation: John Heath-Stubbs. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/news/2007/jan/06/guardianobituaries.obituaries, (Accessed: 23 April 2015)

[v] Meyer, Michael. (2006). John Heath-Stubbs. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/news/2006/dec/29/guardianobituaries.booksobituaries, (Accessed: 23 April 2015).

[vi] Powell, Neil. (2006). John Heath-Stubbs : Poet of outstanding technical mastery, wry wisdom and deceptive lightness with a timeless lyric gift. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/john-heathstubbs-429904.html, (Accessed: 23 April 2015).

[vii] Powell, Neil. (2006). John Heath-Stubbs : Poet of outstanding technical mastery, wry wisdom and deceptive lightness with a timeless lyric gift. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/john-heathstubbs-429904.html, (Accessed: 23 April 2015).

Antibiotics at War: G. A. G. Mitchell


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James Peters writes:

We have recently catalogued the papers of G. A. G. Mitchell (1906-1993), professor of anatomy at the University of Manchester between 1946 and 1974. This small collection includes some fascinating information about the use of antibiotics during the Second World War.

During the War, Mitchell played a leading role in using antibiotics to treat war wounds. He developed antibiotic treatment regimes during the North African, Italian and Western European campaigns, and ended the War as adviser in penicillin to the 21 Army Group. Mitchell was awarded an O.B.E. for these vital contributions to military medicine.

G. A. G. Mitchell (right) at his desk in Cairo, 1942 (Mitchell Papers, GGM/3/1).

G. A. G. Mitchell (right) at his desk in Cairo, 1942 (Mitchell Papers, GGM/3/1).

Penicillin, the antibiotic released by the Penicillium mould, had been discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928. Fleming, although aware of penicillin’s bacteria-destroying properties, had not pursued research of its practical uses. Instead a research team at Oxford University led by Howard Florey, and including Ernest Chain and Norman Heatley, produced purified penicillin, and successfully used it to treat serious cases of infection. Its importance in dealing with war-related infected wounds was immediately realised, and Florey’s team worked with US pharmaceutical companies to produce penicillin in mass quantities. In 1945, Florey and Chain (along with Fleming) were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine “for the discovery of penicillin and its curative effect in various infectious diseases.”

Penicillin and other antibiotics played a critical role in treating infections during the War, which in the past had been the cause of almost as many deaths as battlefield wounds. Mitchell and others devised procedures for mass treatments using these drugs through continuous observation and testing. Mitchell believed antibiotics could be used not only to treat existing infections, but as prophylactics to prevent infections developing within wounds.

Mitchell’s papers document his trials of various antibiotic agents, and include clinical data about the varying success of different treatments. There are interesting letters from both Fleming and Florey about the practicalities of using antibiotics in the field. Also of interest are the letters of thanks which Mitchell received from soldiers he had successfully treated.

Letter from Fleming, 27 December 1944, sending a culture of streptococcus for estimating penicillin in serum (GGM/2/3).

Letter from Alexander Fleming, 27 December 1944, sending a culture of streptococcus for estimating penicillin in serum (GGM/2/3).

Although Florey is now widely regarded as the great evangelist for penicillin, Mitchell had disagreed with him about its practical applications; he later expressed the view that Florey was “a man who had the good fortune to reap more rewards from penicillin than he deserved” [Copy letter to Sir John Boyd, 1 April 1967 (GGM/2/6)].

After the War, Mitchell came to Manchester and enjoyed a very successful career as teacher in the Medical School. His later research focussed on neuroanatomy and the renal nerves, but it was probably for his war work that he will be best remembered.

A catalogue for the Mitchell papers is now available on ELGAR: http://archives.li.man.ac.uk/ead/search/?operation=full&recid=gb133ggm.

Burnt Books and Degenerate Art: a story from the Archive of the Guardian newspaper


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Jane Speller, Project Archivist for the Guardian newspaper foreign correspondence cataloguing project, writes:

After the end of World War I, new and highly distinct styles in theatre, literature, music, painting, architecture, design and film sprang up in Germany and Austria. This period of intensive creativity came to an abrupt end after the Machtergreifung (the Nazi seizure of power) in January 1933. All non-traditional art and design was labelled Entartete Kunst (degenerate art) on the grounds that it was un-German, Jewish, or communist in nature. Music which was deemed to be decadent or harmful to the listener was labelled Entartete Musik (degenerate music); this included jazz. All Entartete work was banned or destroyed by the Nazis. Books that were viewed as being subversive or as representing ideologies opposed to Nazism, including those written by Jewish, pacifist, anarchist, socialist and communist authors, were destroyed in a nationwide purge or Säuberung (cleansing) by fire, conducted by the German Student Union throughout 1933.

Nazis burn books and archives from the library of the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft, May 1933, Berlin © Wikimedia Commons

Nazis burn books and archives from the library of the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft, May 1933, Berlin © Wikimedia Commons

On 25 May 1933, Manchester Guardian editor W.P. Crozier received a letter from the paper’s foreign correspondent Frederick Voigt, saying, ‘I’m told that amongst the books that are banned or have been burnt in Germany are Spinoza, Lessing and Jack London. An offensive against modern art is also in progress. Jewish pictures naturally, but even pictures by Aryan painters who are modern in manner are being removed from the galleries and exhibited with derisory labels, or are being destroyed (a Chagall was destroyed in Mannheim)’. On 29 Dec 1934, Voigt sends Crozier a photograph of what he describes as, ‘the first piece of Nazi sculpture’. The photograph depicts Toter Krieger (Dead Warrior), a sculpture by German artist Ewald Mataré (1887-1965) which had been commissioned in 1932 by the city of Kleve (Cleves) as a memorial to the dead of World War 1.

Toter Krieger (Dead Warrior), 1934. Courtesy of Guardian News and Media Ltd.

Toter Krieger (Dead Warrior), 1934. Courtesy of Guardian News and Media Ltd.

Mataré was at the time a professor at the Kunstakademie (Arts Academy) Düsseldorf. As a young man he had been a member of the radical November Group whose goal was the union of art and people. Here he mixed with notable Expressionist and Dada artists of the day such as Max Pechstein, Otto Dix, George Grosz, Raoul Hausmann, John Heartfield, and Hannah Höch. Toter Krieger was Mataré’s first public commission. Carved from basalt, which has a dark, glassy surface, the huge figure depicts a fallen soldier wrapped in a flag, lying on a cenotaph. The chest of the soldier was said to hold a list of the dead of Kleve. Voigt describes the sculpture as, ‘if not beautiful, at least not hideously crude and vulgar, nor is it altogether commonplace’. After its inauguration in December 1934, the modernist nature of Toter Krieger was the subject of heated debate. Mataré was denounced as a degenerate artist and expelled from his teaching position. On 19 July 1937, an exhibition of degenerate art was organised in Munich by the Nazis with the intention of shaming and deriding the artists. Mataré’s work was represented by ten animal sculptures. In 1938, the Toter Krieger was smashed up by the Nazis and buried on wasteland.

Annunciation (detail of the Door of Hope), 1956-1958, Salzburg Cathedral © Wikimedia Commons

Annunciation (detail of the Door of Hope), 1956-1958, Salzburg Cathedral © Wikimedia Commons

Mataré undertook many commissioned works for public spaces such as the bronze doors of the Köln (Cologne) and Salzburg Cathedrals, and the doors of Church of Peace in Hiroshima. After World War II, he returned to the Düsseldorf Art Academy where his work influenced a whole new generation of artists, most significantly Joseph Beuys. The remains of Toter Krieger were discovered by chance in 1977 and the sculpture was carefully restored. In 1981, it was erected in front of the Collegiate Church, Stiftskirche, Kleve, where it remains today. 2015 sees the 50th anniversary of the death of Mataré, an occasion which is being marked by a major exhibition at the Museum Kurhaus in Kleve, home to an extensive archive of Mataré’s work. As part of this exhibition, sculptor Max Knippert and photo-journalist Ursula Meissner have created ‘BlackBox’, a walk-in installation, which like the data recorder of an aeroplane, brings together the memory of the past (the story of Mataré’s Toter Krieger) with the experience of the present (images of warfare today). The exhibition and installation are open until the end of June 2015.

Letter-carver David Kindersley’s centenary


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We have recently digitised a set of slides documenting the creation of the carved and gilded lettering on the front of the John Rylands Library. You may be surprised to learn that the panels are not in fact original to the building: they were designed by one of the twentieth-century’s greatest letter-carvers and letter-artists, David Kindersley (1915-95), whose anniversary is being celebrated this month.

David Kindersley served his apprenticeship under Eric Gill (1885-1940), the brilliant but controversial sculptor, carver, type-designer and engraver. Gill’s influences are unmistakable in the clarity of line and integrity of Kindersley’s lettering. After the War Kindersley established his own workshop in Cambridge, where generations of letter-carvers learnt their trade. One was a young Dutch carver, Lida Lopes Cardozo, who became Kindersley’s wife and workshop partner.

In the early 1990s the Cardozo Kindersley workshop was invited to design two panels, to be carved directly into the stonework on the front of the Library. By then David Kindersley was in his seventies, and the actual carving was undertaken by Lida and other workshop staff in April 1992. Direct carving, in the Gill tradition, leaves no margin for error, and it is especially challenging to carve into old weathered stone. Fortunately there were no mishaps, and the panels were hailed as a triumph.

The Cardozo Kindersley Workshop continues to thrive in Cambridge, producing inscriptions and memorials, both public and private, from vast monumental panels to small, domestic pieces. For more information on the Kindersley Centenary see the Kindersley Workshop Centenary Events.

Advance Notice: John Rylands Research Institute Conference 2016


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“The Other Within”: The Hebrew and Jewish Collections of the John Rylands Library

Date: Monday 27 – Wednesday 29 June 2016

Venue: The John Rylands Library, Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH

The John Rylands Library preserves one of the world’s valuable collections of Hebrew and Jewish manuscripts and printed books. The holdings span Septuagint fragments and parchment from Qumran to the papers of Moses Gaster and Arthur Marmorstein. The Rylands Genizah and rich collections of medieval manuscript codices and early printed books are among the strengths of the collection, making the John Rylands Library an important centre for the study of Judaism from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century.

The aim of this conference is to convene scholars and students researching areas represented in the Library’s Hebrew and Jewish collections, including (but not limited to) the Cairo Genizah, medieval Hebrew manuscript codices, early printed Hebrew books, Samaritan manuscripts and the collections of Moses Gaster. It will take place as part of a number of programmes at the John Rylands Research Institute which aim to facilitate the study of the Library’s Hebrew and Jewish holdings, including the 2015-2018 externally-funded project to catalogue the manuscript collections. Studies of the John Rylands’ collections, of related Hebraica and Judaica libraries, and of resources and methods that facilitate such research will be particularly welcome. The expectation is that the conference will result in an edited collection of essays.

Initial expressions of interest in presenting papers should be sent to jrri.conference2016@manchester.ac.uk. Full details of the conference and a formal call for papers will be issued in advance.

For more information about the John Rylands Research Institute, visit www.manchester.ac.uk/jrri.

Picture Store


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Elaine Sheldon from our Collection Care Team writes:

Freelance paintings conservator Elizabeth Jowett has recently been working on a small number of our paintings at the John Rylands Library. Elizabeth has carried out preservation work to four paintings from the visual collection. This work has enabled the paintings to be hung in the library’s purpose built storage area.

Elizabeth Jowett at The John Rylands Library

Elizabeth Jowett at The John Rylands Library

Two of the paintings are portraits of important figures in the history of the John Rylands library, Earl Spencer and Walter Llewellyn Bullock.

The portrait of George John Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer (1758-1834), is painted in oil on panel. It was painted by Jacob Thompson (1806-1879). In 1892 Mrs Rylands acquired Earl Spencer’s collection from the Althorp Library. This is one of our foundation collections and includes the Aldine Collection. Ryman fittings were attached to the painting to allow it to be hung in store. The fittings can also be used to hang the painting during exhibitions.


Back of Portrait of Walter Llewellyn Bullock

Back of Portrait of Walter Llewellyn Bullock

The portrait of Walter Llewellyn Bullock is oil on canvas. Walter Llewellyn Bullock (1890-1944), Serena Professor of Italian from 1935 to 1944, gifted the Victoria University of Manchester his collection of early printed books, many of which he brought into his classes when teaching undergraduate courses. Brass fittings have been attached to the frame of the portrait to ensure the canvas and the backboard are held securely in place. This was necessary in order for the painting to be hung safely.


Portrait of Walter Llewellyn Bullock

Portrait of Walter Llewellyn Bullock


The Grafton Portrait was also moved from the historic building to the storage area in the 2007 part of the Library. The Grafton Portrait dates from 1588; it is by an unknown artist and is painted in oil on an English oak panel. Panel paintings are susceptible to damage caused by fluctuations in temperature and relative humidity. In order to minimise the risk of damage to the panel during the move, the painting was removed from its frame, allowed to acclimatise to the conditions in the storage area, and then returned to its frame.

Paintings in the storage area.

Paintings in the storage area.

The final painting is a large abstract work by Jeff Nuttall. Nuttall (1933–2004) has been described as an artist, poet, jazz musician, social commentator, theatrical innovator and influential art teacher – he was a pivotal figure in the ’60s counter-culture in Britain. A considerable amount of dust and loose debris had accumulated on the back of the canvas. This was removed using a brush and vacuum and hanging fittings were attached to the frame.

15C Booktrade Team Come to Rylands

Originally posted on Manutius in Manchester:

On Tuesday 2nd June we were delighted to host Cristina Dondi and her 15c Booktrade Project team to the Rylands together with Laura Nuovolini from Cambridge University Library for a curatorial tour of the Merchants of Print exhibition followed by a close-up session during which we are able to look at other selected Aldines which didn’t find their way into the permanent show.IMG_4249 Much discussion was had concerning the scope of their 5-year ERC project which is seeking to add further to the CERL MEI database (Material Evidence in Incunabula) in collating information on the distribution, circulation, and price of incunable texts. In turn they asked us many questions about our work on parchment and species identification and the challenges of collecting and making sense of such data concerning the material substrate for print. IMG_4255 Luckily ample time remained to also examine a number of Aldines in close up as well…

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Witness to Waterloo: A Soldier’s First-Hand Account of the Battle


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Sandra Cruise, one of our archive volunteers, writes:

The bicentenary of the battle of Waterloo, fought on 18 June 1815, affords the ideal opportunity to promote one of our recent acquisitions: the manuscript journal of a cavalryman in the Scots Greys (now the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards), who fought in the decisive battle which finally ended the dominance of Napoleon Bonaparte in Europe.


Scotland Forever! Lady Elizabeth Butler’s dramatic (if implausible) depiction of the Scots Greys’ famous charge at Waterloo. Wikimedia image.

The journal is of great value to researchers, as it provides a detailed description of a soldier’s life during the period of the Napoleonic Wars, and includes a lengthy and graphic account of the battle and its aftermath. It covers the years from c.1799 until 1825, when the author finally left military service.

The anonymous autobiographical account is handwritten in a bound journal, compiled at an unspecified date. The soldier’s identity is suggested only by what are presumed to be his initials, ‘W. C.’, revealed in a recollected conversation in the text as he is recognized by a dying comrade after the battle; he may be William Clarke, a sergeant in the Scots Greys, listed in the regiment’s Waterloo roll call.

The writer was born at an unknown location in Perthshire, probably around the mid-1780s, later moving to Alva House at the foot of the Ochil Hills. He recalls leaving home about the age of 14 to work for a farmer near Dunfermline, and the first part of the journal is occupied with his peripatetic lifestyle as he travels around Scotland, working variously as a farm-hand and gardener. When a detachment of the Greys visits Ayr, he decides to enlist. There follows a description of his training in Canterbury, his initial duties on the south coast, and the regiment’s subsequent itinerary around Britain. He describes pursuing smugglers and illegal distillers in Ireland, and he records being stationed in Manchester in May 1812, during the Luddite disturbances, although he does not elaborate on the experience.

An opening of the soldier's journal, with diagrams of the 'squares' - the defensive formations used by the British forces.

Opening of the journal, showing sketches of the ‘squares’ – the British troops’ defensive formations.

Over a third of the journal is taken up with a description of the Waterloo campaign, from the regiment’s leaving for Belgium in April 1815 to the return in January 1816. He recalls the long marches, sometimes of around 50 miles a day, the search for rations and the general preparations for the future encounter. The battle itself and its aftermath are described in graphic detail.  He recounts the death of Major General Sir William Ponsonby, killed by a musket ball, and of other generals, officers and men, and the capturing of the Imperial eagle by the Greys’ sergeant, Charles Ewart. The aftermath is particularly harrowing, as he recalls the scenes of devastation, plunder and the heat as he searches for wounded comrades. As he reaches the village of Waterloo itself, deserted except for the dying, he is moved to remark ‘Hard, indeed, must the heart have been, which was incapable of remaining unmoved in this place!’

The diary also contains an account of the coronation of King George IV in July 1821, to which the Greys were summoned. The royal visit to Edinburgh in August 1822, the first visit of a reigning British monarch to Scotland for over 170 years, is particularly detailed, as he describes the preparations, celebrations and itinerary over the two-week event.

At one point, the writer digresses at length as he relates the story of his friend, whom he encountered amongst ‘gypsies’ in Essex during the early days of his soldier’s career. Wentworth, as he is known, had enjoyed a lengthy and colourful life, which featured a shipwreck whilst fleeing to America in 1754, temporary refuge with Indians, and capture by the French at sea en route home.  Wentworth finally enlisted in the British army and fought in the Seven Years’ War in Europe, and his narrative includes detailed descriptions of battles during the campaign, particularly the battle of Minden in 1759.

The journal, handed down through the generations, was purchased from a local family via an antiquarian bookseller in 2014.

A detailed description of the diary is available on ELGAR.

Historic Dunkirk Evacuation Footage Goes Online


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Unique and historically significant films shot 75 years ago, during the evacuation of Allied forces from Dunkirk in 1940, have been discovered at the Library. They can now be viewed online on YouTube.

As HMS Whitehall enters Dunkirk harbour, other vessels set sail for England, with a pall of smoke in the background.

HMS Whitehall enters Dunkirk harbour, with other vessels leaving for England, and a pall of smoke in the background.

The reels of black and white footage capture key moments during Operation Dynamo, the rescue from Dunkirk of over 300,000 British and allied troops trapped by advancing German forces.

The films were shot by Lieutenant Philip Roderick Hall who was serving aboard the destroyer HMS Whitehall, one of hundreds of naval vessels, merchant ships and small boats that took part in the rescue.

There is also later footage of Lieut. Hall training as a Fleet Air Arm pilot. One scene shows planes attempting to land on the aircraft carrier HMS Argus. There are also scenes of Lieutenant Hall relaxing off-duty in England during the summer of 1941. Sadly he was killed in action on 14 June 1942, flying a Fairy Fulmar Mark II from HMS Argus to provide air cover for a Malta convoy. His plane was damaged whilst engaging with Italian torpedo bombers and, as he attempted a forced land at sea, he was hit by ‘friendly fire’ from HMS Wrestler.

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The two 16mm film reels were discovered and identified by a member of the Heald-Hall family, whose remarkable archive of correspondence, letter-books and diaries, spanning from 1866 to 1987, is housed in the Library.

The films, which have never before been broadcast and have been seen by only a handful of people, were digitised by the North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University. The films can now be viewed on YouTube, while the original reels have been donated to the Imperial War Museum in London for specialist preservation.


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