Digitisation of Japanese Maps at the John Rylands Library


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Originally posted on CHICC Manchester:

Digitised material is progressively being added to the Library’s imaging online collection – LUNA – It has grown to include another small but very important part of our Special Collections.

A number of Japanese Maps have recently been digitised with the support of the Library’s Digitisation Steering Group. The Japanese Collection, assembled by the 25th Earl of Crawford in the 1860s and 1870s and purchased by the John Rylands Library in 1901, is not large by international standards, but it contains a number of manuscripts and printed books of great interest and rarity. Amongst them are a number of 18th and 19th century maps together with topographical or geographical books and manuscripts.

Initiated by Erica Baffelli – Senior Lecturer in Japanese Studies, University of Manchester – The aim behind this project was to select and digitise a number of maps and associated books and manuscripts of the Library’s Japanese Collection in…

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History of Midwifery


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For many years the responsibility for delivering children lay in the hands of women.  Female midwives would attend to women in labour and with no formal training learnt their skill from experienced, older midwives.  Given the role of women in society at this time the formation of professional networks and guilds was not possible and it was not an area of medicine commonly investigated by the predominantly male medical profession until the 18th century when Edinburgh University was the first to appoint a Professor in Midwifery.  Dr Thomas Young was the third man to hold this role but the first to make any public lectures.  Within the Manchester Medical Manuscripts Collection there are many copies of lectures given by Young relating to gynaecology and he begins his 1779 lecture series with this somewhat disparaging remark towards the female midwives whilst also making clear just how important this area of medicine is:

“Midwifery, though formerly very much neglected, is certainly an art of the greatest importance toward the preservation of the human race, for by long and sad experience we find how absolutely it is necessary, from the number of lives lost, both of mothers and children, through the ignorance of those who practised it in the days when it was in the hands of the women; and it being confined to them alone was the only reason it was so neglected; they had no learning, knew nothing of the anatomy of the parts, and the greatest knowledge they could boast of was having born some children which some of them could not even boast of.”

Midwifery soon became an established part of medicine and in turn the medical men of Manchester embraced the practice and teaching of midwifery as is evidenced through the proportion of volumes in the Medical Manuscripts Collection relating to the subject.  These include lectures given by individuals such as Thomas Young, Thomas Pole, John Haighton, Thomas Denman, and Andrew Thynne as well as academic essays and more practical case books and records of births attended. Amongst this latter group of manuscripts can be found a volume entitled ‘A Memorandum of the Midwifery Cases Which I Have Attended’ by Richard Hardy, a Lancashire physician working in the area north east of Blackburn.  Covering the period 1794-1832 he often describes in detail some of the more difficult cases and we get a great insight into the attitudes and practices of the early 19th century man-midwife.


All the births are listed under the father’s name and there is often little information about the mother unless of course she is a single woman, and Hardy then often records more details about her age, marital status and the number of children she has.  As might be expected from this period the volume relates many sad cases but one of the more optimistic ones he describes occurred on the 15th October 1812 when he attended to the wife of George Wilkinson and successfully delivered her of a daughter which he describes as follows:

“The left hand and arm presented … by pushing up the child’s arm and hand gently with my left hand which I introduced and got hold of both feet which I brought down and delivered it as a footling case, she had no labour pains during the delivery, the child is alive but was weakly when born, it recovered its strength by letting the umbilical cord remain undivided for a longer time than common and keeping the child warm by wrapping it up in bed cloths … I left them both as well as could be expected.”

‘We Cursed Manchester’: Wilfred Owen and The North


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The Library is delighted to be providing the venue for a forthcoming talk by Dr Guy Cuthbertson of Liverpool Hope University, whose biography of the war poet Wilfred Owen was published to high critical acclaim last year.

Dr Cuthbertson will explore Wilfred Owen’s North in order to discuss both the man and his work. Owen knew Cheshire, Lancashire, Yorkshire, the Lakes and Scotland, spending several years in Birkenhead, and serving – and dying – in the Manchester Regiment. But is he a Northern poet?  The talk will address questions of class, education, accent, geography, literary taste and a North-South divide.

The event, organised by Nicholas Haslam in conjunction with the Library, is taking place at 6.30pm on Thursday 22 October at the John Rylands Library on Deansgate. Entry is free and there is no need to book.

After Dr Cuthbertson’s talk, there will be an opportunity to view some of the archive material which he used in his research for the book. The Papers of Dennis Welland (an early pioneer of Wilfred Owen studies) are held at the Library and include such gems as Welland’s thesis on Owen which has annotations by Siegfried Sassoon, poems by Owen which were transcribed by Edmund Blunden, extensive unpublished correspondence, and some rare photographs of Owen like the one reproduced on the poster below.



John Rylands Research Institute Seminars


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You are warmly invited to the John Rylands Research Institute Seminar Series. Seminars are held on alternate Tuesdays, from 4pm to 5pm, in the Christie Room at the John Rylands Library on Deansgate.

For more information please visit http://www.jrri.manchester.ac.uk/news-and-events/seminars.

Dates for 2015-2016 

29 September 2015, 4pm-5pm

A Baffling Breakthrough: Making Colour in the 1486 Book of St Albans

The Book of St Albans (St Albans: Schoolmaster Printer, 1486) is celebrated as one of the greatest landmarks of printing.  This talk explores how the visionary schoolmaster could (and couldn’t) have made these extraordinary images and explains why unlocking his forgotten secrets is so important today.

Dr Elizabeth Savage, British Academy Post Doctorial Research Fellow

13 October 2015, 4pm-5pm

Abstract to be confirmed

Dr Katharina Keim, British Academy Post Doctorial Research Fellow

27 October 2015, 4pm-5pm

Contesting the Medieval/Modern Binary

The melding of disciplines, which seem upon first impression to be incompatible, has often been described as problematic and fruitless. This discussion will address the ways in which traditional literary studies can be re-read through, and transformed by, book-historical and postcolonial approaches to material culture.

Paul Clarke, PhD Candidate, John Rylands Research Institute

10 November 2015, 4pm-5pm

Rolling back the Years: Peter of Poitiers’ Compendium historiae in genealogia Christi at the Rylands

Peter of Poitiers’ Compendium historiae in genealogia Christi, a genealogy of the history of Christ composed in the late twelfth century, is an example of a diagrammatic chronicle depicting the ancestral predecessors of Christ.  This Seminar will discuss the content and provenance of the two copies of the text present in the collection of the John Rylands Library, placing them within a broader medieval tradition of the use of visual techniques for the representation and recollection of information.

Dr Irene O’Daly, Research Fellow, Associate Programme Director, MA Medieval and Early Modern Studies

24 November 2015, 4pm-5pm

Rethinking persecutions: P.Ryl. 3 469 and the Manichaeans in Egypt

Bought in Egypt in 1920 by B.P. Grenfell , the so-called Christian letter against the Manichaeans published by C. Roberts in 1938 offers a direct glimpse into competing monotheisms in late antique Egypt. Through a new reading and interpretation of the text in its wider context, this paper proposes a different perspective on monotheisms and the imperial answers to the challenges and opportunities they represented for secular power.

Dr Roberta Mazza, Lecturer in Classics and Ancient History 

8 December 2015, 4pm-5pm

Abstract to be confirmed

Dr Stefania Silvestri, Research Associate, John Rylands Research Institute 

John Rylands Research Institute – Visiting Research Fellowships


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The John Rylands Research Institute is pleased to announce its latest call for Visiting Research Fellowships.

The University of Manchester is part of the prestigious Russell Group of Universities and is highly respected across the globe as a centre of innovative research.  The Library’s Special Collections are breath-taking in their breadth and depth.  They cover more than 50 languages, span five millennia, and are written on virtually every medium ever employed from clay tablets to digital, papyrus to pixels.  Contained within the collections are some of the most significant printed books and manuscripts ever produced alongside archive collections and visual resources documenting a wealth of cultural, literary, historical and religious traditions from around the world.

The John Rylands Research Institute is a unique partnership led by the Faculty of Humanities (HUM) and the University of Manchester Library (UML). Humanities scholars, scientists, curators, conservators and digital imaging specialists are brought together to uncover, explore, unravel and reveal hidden ideas and knowledge contained within the Library’s world-leading Special Collections.

The Institute welcomes applications for these Fellowships. The closing date is Friday 27 November 2015 and further details of how to apply, including application form, can be found at http://www.jrri.manchester.ac.uk/opportunities/visiting-research-fellowships.

Kind Regards

Anna Higson
Research Institute Administrator
John Rylands Research Institute

‘The past is a foreign country’: L. P. Hartley’s The Go-Between


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The BBC’s new dramatization of The Go-Between, broadcast on 20 September 2015, seems a suitable occasion to highlight our substantial archive of the novelist L. P. (Leslie Poles) Hartley (1895-1972).

The Go-Between, published in 1953, purports to be the reminiscences of the ageing narrator, Leo Colston, who looks back to his childhood half a century earlier. In particular, he recounts an episode in the summer of 1900 when he stays at Brandham Hall in Norfolk, the home of his schoolfriend Marcus Maudsley. Leo becomes the unwitting ‘go between’ in a secret affair between Marcus’s older sister, Marian, and tenant farmer Ted Burgess. The story crackles with the sexual and social tensions of the end of the Victorian era.

The archive contains Hartley’s autograph manuscript of the novel, in nine volumes. The first volume includes the famous opening words: “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” However, Hartley immediately undercuts the confidence and poise of this first sentence by adding “Or do they?”. Wisely perhaps, he later decided to omit the question.

Detail of the holograph manuscript of The Go-Between. LP Hartley Papers, box 18/1.

Detail of the opening of the holograph manuscript of The Go-Between. L. P. Hartley Papers, box 18/1.

A document in the archive carries Hartley’s explanation of the book’s origins:

“I have sometimes been asked what gave me the idea for the Go-Between, and have always found the question difficult to answer. […]

“I think the most operative stimulus of The Go-Between was my memory of the summer of 1900. I was four and a half and it was the first time I was consciously aware of the weather – at least it was the first time the weather made a mark on my memory. From then on, for many years, I always hoped that that long succession of hot days would be repeated, but unless my memory betrays me it never was, in England at any rate, until 1959. It became for me a kind of Golden Age – almost literally, for I think of it as being the colour of gold. I didn’t want to go back to it but I wanted it to come back to me, and I still do.”

A film version of The Go-Between was released in 1971, directed by Joseph Losey and with a screenplay by Harold Pinter. Julie Christie and Alan Bates starred as Marian and Ted, while young Leo was played by Dominic Guard, and his older counterpart by Michael Redgrave. In 1999 the film was ranked number 57 in the British Film Institute’s list of top 100 British films.

The L. P. Hartley Papers include copies of Pinter’s screenplay, on-set photographs and publicity materials for the film, although copyright restrictions prevent us from showing these here.

Harold Pinters' screenplay for the film version of The Go-Between. L.P. Hartley Papers, box 45/3.

Harold Pinter’s screenplay for the film version of The Go-Between, 1969. L. P. Hartley Papers, box 45/3.




Alexander Monro & Trepanation


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“Alexander Monro secundus” by James Heath (1757–1834)– Wellcome Images. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

Alexander Monro (1733-1817) was a Scottish physician and following in the footsteps of his father became a lecturer at Edinburgh University and held the Chair of Anatomy. He lectured mainly in anatomy and surgery for 41 years from 1759 to 1800 and several volumes of lecture notes taken by some of his students survive in the Manchester Medical Manuscripts Collection. They give a good insight into the 18th century perspective of how the human body was constructed and how it operated. In addition to this he gives quite detailed instructions to his students on the surgical procedures required to treat some common ailments and how best to perform them. One such procedure he alights upon in his 1770-1771 lectures is trepanning; the process of drilling a hole in the skull to relieve pressure.

There is archaeological evidence to suggest that people have been performing this procedure for many hundreds of years and it is probably more commonly associated with the medieval period. Nevertheless it was still a key part of medical education in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and on 13th April 1771 Monro described the process of trepanning in the case of a fracture to the skull causing the oppression of the brain to his students thus:

“I first take away only the skin & leave the proper pericranium and cellular membrane on it. I then make room for the saw: this is made quite circular. We in general avoid the large venous canals – & if possible the sutures, or the frontal sinuses. But if the fracture be over any of these with depression, we certainly had better operate over these than leave to nature or trepan at a distance. … In these cases we do the operation quite cautiously, or perhaps not cut the bone quite through but break its inner table.

A pretty large saw is better than a small one, especially where the depression is great, for this supersedes repeated operations. To let out matter we choose the most dependable part, but if there be a depression with fracture we have no choice but to lay the saw on the sound part & part of the fracture along the suture. It would be dangerous to trepan the depression.

We must be careful of saving as much as possible of the extracted periosteum on account of the bone requiring nourishment from it. This we do by carefully scraping the periosteum.


18th Century Trepanation Instruments. Anagoria – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons 

The Trephine is the cross instrument & in preference to the Trepan according to Mr Sharp. But the Trepan is preferable to it on account of its ease, expedience and safety, were surgeons sufficiently accustomed to the trepan.

We ought never to cut out the bone altogether & bring it along with the instrument, but try from time to time to see if it vacillates, & when the bone is nearly through we should break it out. For there is danger of tearing the dura mater, as I have just now you see, which Mr Sharp would say was rightfully done. To break it off I take two levators & break it out, & the edge will be as equal as if cut through. The levator is more simple and easy to break the bone with than forceps.

If there be matter fluctuating within we open the dura mater with a common lancet & this is in cross incisions, to let out matter better.”

He goes on with more detail about the use of levators and the raising of depressed bone but it is quite clear that this would be a highly dangerous operation, particularly at a time when there was no general anaesthetic and surgery had such a high mortality rate. Monro unfortunately does not offer us any indication as to the levels of success in terms of survival he has had with this procedure.

The Mr Sharp he refers to is most likely Samuel Sharp (1709-1778) a London based surgeon who ceased lecturing in 1757 and practicing in 1765. The clear disagreements Monro has with his methods are possibly indicative of the changes in procedure in a very short time or the simple fact that there wasn’t a clearly defined and accepted way of performing certain surgical techniques; medicine was still very much an evolving practice with much experimentation.

Queues, Clogs & Redemption – Wood Street Mission

Originally posted on CHICC Manchester:

Wood Street Mission today Wood Street Mission today

Tucked away down an unassuming side street that runs directly along the side of The John Rylands Library, you’ll find one of Manchester’s longest running charities The Wood Street Mission.

Founded 30 years before the Rylands was opened, the Mission was set up in 1869 in an area of Manchester that was predominantly a slum. Much like the Rylands, the mission was set up to help the poor factory workers of the area, in particular the children, who were also often working in the same factories as their parents.

For almost 150 years the charity has carried on it’s incredibly important work, working from the same Wood Street base to help alleviate the effects of poverty on local children and families.

‘The City may have changed; society may have changed; the world in which we all live certainly has changed; but remaining at our core is…

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Greek Papyrus 6: The Nicene Creed


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Tim Higson, Collection Care team leader writes:

The Collection Care Department have been preparing a number of items being loaned to the British Museum as part of their Egypt: Faith after the Pharaohs exhibition, which opens in October 2015.



One of the items to be loaned is Greek Papyrus 6, a Christian theological text, which is considered to be the oldest copy in existence of the Nicene Creed.

The papyrus fragment, which measures 124mm x 125mm, was housed within a glass frame along with another fragment of Greek papyrus (Greek P 7).


Greek P 6 recto

The decision was taken to re-mount the two items individually.

When Greek P 6 was carefully removed from its glass frame, a salt deposit, on the inner surface of the glass was evident, which had been partially obscuring the view of the fragment and text.

Salt deposit visible where the document was mounted

Salt deposit visible where the document was originally mounted

During the process and whilst the item was out of its frame, we took the opportunity to have multi spectral images of the fragment taken by the JRL’s Heritage Imaging Team.

Surface dirt was removed from the fragment along with old repair material (Glassine paper), before creases were eased open and relaxed.

Glassine repair

Repair removal

The ink was tested to ensure its stability as this technique involves the introduction of deionised water to areas of the fragment which could compromise the text.

Breaks and splits in the fragment were repaired and joined using small pieces of remoistenable Japanese tissue coated with sodium carboxylmethylcellulose as an adhesive.

repairs on Greek6

Greek P 6 during conservation

The fragment was then secured in position between 2mm UV filtered glass, using small Japanese tissue ‘anchors’. Wheat starch paste was used as an adhesive. It’s important that all treatments carried out are reversible and that materials are of archival quality.

The frame was labelled and bound, using a white Tyvek tape.


Greek P 6 after rehousing, ready to be packed for the British museum exhibition!

Manchester Medical Manuscripts Collection


A year-long project has recently begun to catalogue the varied Manchester Medical Manuscripts Collection. Altogether there are well over 200 distinct manuscripts within the collection all relating to the teaching and practice of medicine from the late 18th century to the early 20th century, with a particular focus on activities in Manchester as well as strong representations of teaching in Edinburgh and London amongst other places.

The majority of the manuscripts originally formed part of the library of the Manchester Medical Society, an organisation founded in 1834. The medical men responsible for the Society’s foundation made donations of books and manuscripts to establish the library and over the years it grew to form a large and rich resource. A sizeable part of the current manuscript collection originated from the Radford Library; a collection of works amassed by the gynaecologist Thomas Radford which he donated to St Mary’s Hospital but was transferred to the Manchester Medical Society Library in 1927 and incorporated into their collections.


Royal Institution

The Royal Institution, Manchester Creative Commons License CC BY 4.0 ©Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

The Medical Society library has moved between various locations since its formation, originally housed at 40 Faulkner Street, before moving to the Royal Institution in 1845, then on to Owens College in 1875, before being officially donated to Manchester University in 1930 where it remains today. Further additions have been made to the collection since it moved to the University, most notably the manuscripts of Dr John Hull, the Society’s first president.



Samuel Argent Bardsley Creative Commons License CC BY 4.0 ©Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

The collection incorporates lecture notes, case books, commonplace books, memoirs, theses, and correspondence which together provide a fantastic insight into the teaching and practice of medicine particularly at a time when there was no clear organisation or definition of the medical profession. Lecture notes from this period were often copied and sold and so it is possible to find copies of the notes of certain lecturers in other archives, however, within this collection we are able in some instances to attribute significant numbers of manuscripts to individual doctors and so gain a fuller illustration of their medical lives with records of the lecture notes they used as students as well as records of the cases they attended and correspondence with their fellow doctors. A few of the leading Manchester medical figures represented include John Windsor, Thomas Radford, Joseph Jordan, and Samuel Bardsley.

The collection has a strong focus on gynaecology and obstetrics as Manchester has a long history of the teaching, practice and development of new techniques and ideas in this area. The collection is not however limited to gynaecology and has a broad subject area including many general texts on anatomy, physiology, and surgery with some manuscripts also offering detailed medical illustrations.

Over the course of the year we will be keeping you updated with the progress of the project and insights into the collection and hope in time to see it become an easily accessible and well-used resource.


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