Reader Services Curious Finds – Parabola


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This Curious Find comes to us from one of our regular readers Michael Gilligan.

The item is Underweysung Der Messung, “The Painter’s Handbook”, by Albrecht Durer, 1525.

Mr Gilligan drew our attention to Fig.36 in “Book 1” of the Handbook, a diagram showing the geometry of a parabola.


This diagram has been pasted over with a correction, and Mr Gilligan notes that it has survived without discolouration or peeling.


The original version is visible through the back of the page and so Mr Gilligan requested that our photographers attempt to extract the original image using their techniques.


As you can see from the images the photographers did an excellent job at capturing this Curious Find for us.



Item discussed in this Curious Find is Dürer, A. (1525). Underweysung der Messung. (The printed sources of western art ; 4). Portland (Or.): Collegium Graphicum.  SC 19439

If you would like to book in to view any of our Special Collections, please contact the Reader Services team at

The Hidden Art of Books: Manchester UNESCO City of Literature, by Dr Anne Kirkham

Art History UoM Index

On 1 November Manchester celebrated becoming a UNESCO World City of Literature. It is the fourth city in the UK to achieve this designation and becomes part of a prestigious network of twenty-eight cities around the world. As a Mancunian, I was thrilled that the city has been honoured in this way, and especially excited about the spotlight thrown onto Manchester’s historic libraries, not least the University’s John Rylands Library on Deansgate in the city centre.  This is the library that I use most for my research, since the art that I work on is generally hidden between the covers of books – old books, written and painted more than five hundred years ago.

Some of the illuminated manuscripts looked after at John Rylands relate ancient tales retold by medieval writers, such as John Lydgate’s Troy Book about the Siege of Troy and that horse! The books that I’m currently…

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Protesting in print


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Rare depiction of a printing press on the titlepage of Luther's Auff des Bocks zu Leypczick Antwort (Wittenberg, 1521).

A  printing press depicted on the titlepage of Luther’s Auff des Bocks zu Leypczick Antwort (Wittenberg, 1521).

Back in the days before mass media, quick communication methods and the internet, one of the key ways to protest was in print. The invention of the printing press made it possible for individuals or small groups to produce a large number of copies of their thoughts, beliefs or arguments to share amongst others. By the sixteenth century, the production of pamplets (small books of just a few pages without hard covers) were helping to spread radical, satirical and challenging ideas across Europe from the presses of small printing workshops via travelling booksellers.

As we’ve already mentioned in this blog, few were as consumate pamphleteers in the sixteenth century as Martin Luther, the German monk whose actions sparked off the tumultous events which we now know as the Reformation. The John Rylands Library holds a significant number of pamphlets published by Martin Luther, a few of which are on display in our current exhibition: The Reformation.

An image of a fifteenth century ingulence, printed with manuscript additions, including a seal.

Ingulgence printed in 1455 by Johannes Gutenberg. The text relevant to the buyer has been written in by hand.

Printing wasn’t just used in protest, of course: in the same exhibition (alongside the pamphlet version of Luther’s 95 Theses), you can see a printed copy of an indulgence from 1455. Indulgences were sold by the medieval Church as a way to reduce the amount of time the buyer (or a chosen relative) would have to spend in Purgatory, working off their sins before they could go to Heaven. The printing press enabled the Church to produce indulgences rapidly and relatively cheaply, leading to more sales. Ironically, it was the mass sale of indulgences and the methods used to sell them which triggered Luther’s protest in publishing his 95 Theses against the Church.

On Thursday 16th November, there will be an opportunity to explore protest with print from 5-7pm at the John Rylands Library. In addition, The Reformation exhibition will be open and the Curator will be on hand to answer questions and showcase some more fascinating original artefacts held in the John Rylands collections.

We hope you will be able to join our protest on Thursday, and look forward to seeing you there.

Francis Frith, Manchester & the Business of Art


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Francis Frith (1822 –1898) was an English photographer who captured images of many towns in the United Kingdom but is also renowned for his early images of the Middle East. Born in Chesterfield, Derbyshire he was a very successful business man, working in the grocery business and in printing. In 1850 he started a photographic studio in Liverpool, known as Frith & Hayward and became a founding member of the Liverpool Photographic Society. In the mid-1850s Frith sold his other business interests in order to devote himself entirely to photography. He first travelled to the Middle East in 1856 and the images from this and two further trips established his reputation as an outstanding photographer. The trips were not only artistically but also commercially successful earning Frith a small fortune.

Francis Frith

Francis Frith, via Wikimedia Commons

Fired by his success, in 1859 Frith decided to create a new business; F. Frith & Co. Initially, he took all the photographs himself, but as success came he hired people to help him and set about establishing a firm that became one of the largest photographic studios in the world. In fact, you can still purchase Frith’s images today from the Francis Frith archive.

Our newly catalogued Visual Collections album of ‘Manchester’ by Francis Frith & Co. is dated c1870s, so it is likely that it represents the work of a number of photographers rather than a set of images shot by Frith alone. It is a set of 31 Albumen prints of the city and shows the Gothic grandeur of a booming Victorian city. Some of the beautiful buildings are still very much recognisable Manchester landmarks, such as the stunning Alfred Waterhouse Town Hall, the Cathedral and the Royal Exchange.

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Some buildings such as the Manchester Assize Courts (another Alfred Waterhouse masterpiece) and the Victoria buildings were destroyed beyond repair during the Second World War. However, a good number more of these iconic buildings were extensively damaged during the 1940’s Blitz, and rebuilt after the war, including the Cathedral and the Royal Exchange. Additionally, the Exchange was bomb damaged for a second a time in the 1996 IRA bombing of Manchester.


Manchester Assize Courts c1870s

Just one of the prints is of a University building; there is an image of Owen’s College, now the John Owen’s building which is part of the quadrangle of University of Manchester buildings on Oxford Road. Sadly, our own John Rylands Library is notably absent; not yet built in the 1870s.


Owen’s College

However, another Oxford Road icon is represented. The Church of the Holy Name just opposite the University has a number of prints in the album, but you will notice that the church is slighter shorter than the building we recognise today as it is wanting its full tower, which was added in the 1920s.


The Church of the Holy name of Jesus

Enjoy seeing the full album or viewing the individual prints with detailed descriptions in our online image Collection.

If you can’t wait for the next blog, do follow Library Tammy on IG for updates on what goes on in the Visual Collections office here at The John Rylands Library.

All images unless otherwise stated are copyright of the University of Manchester and can be used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike Licence. With thanks to the Heritage Imaging team.

A Cataloguing Project Supported by:


Recollections of Dunham


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View of Dunham Massey by James Mudd, c1870s, ref. VPH.10.2

View of Dunham Massey by James Mudd, c1870s, Ref: VPH.10.2

A fabulous collection of photographs entitled Recollections of Dunham c1870s has now been catalogued and is available to see via Library Search and Luna.  It complements the John Rylands Library’s extensive holdings of papers of the Grey family, Earls of Stamford, and their predecessors, the Booth family, from Dunham Massey near Altrincham, Cheshire. The details of those papers can be seen here: Grey (Stamford) of Dunham Massey Papers.  The house and gardens are presently one of the National Trust’s most popular destinations in the North West.

George Harry Grey, 7th Earl of Stamford

George Harry Grey, 7th Earl of Stamford [Image above © National Portrait Gallery, London]

The photographs in this album show the house and gardens as they were during the Platt family’s period of residence when it was rented to them by the 7th Earl of Stamford and Warrington.  The Earl had scandalised local society by his love of ‘gambling, racing, shooting and grand building schemes’.[i] This was compounded by his two marriages, first to a much older woman (and a servants daughter), Bessy Billage, and his secondly to a bareback rider in a circus called Catherine Cocks.  In the surrounding furore that accompanied the Earl introducing his second wife to local society, they abandoned Dunham and subsequently rented it to Robert Platt (1802-1882). Robert Platt worked in the family business of cotton manufacturers.

There are 20 albumen print photographs, including one apparently from a paper negative, in the album.  The photographs were taken by one of Manchester’s most important Victorian photographers, James Mudd, (two by James Mudd & Son). James Mudd was born in Halifax in 1821 and his family moved to Manchester in the late 1830s. Mudd started as an apprentice pattern designer before opening his own textile design business with his brother on George Street in 1846.  His earliest known photographs were landscapes taken using the waxed paper process in 1854. In 1873 Mudd’s son, James Willis Mudd, joined his father’s firm.  It is probable that it was in Manchester that Mudd met the successful cotton manufacturer Robert Platt, who had rented Dunham Massey since 1856, through family connections within the design business.

The Library at Dunham Massey by James Mudd, c1870s, Ref. VPH..10.17

The Library at Dunham Massey by James Mudd, c1870s, Ref: VPH.10.17

The album comprises external views from the surrounding garden and parkland, including a view of the moat to the house.  There are a variety of internal shots of the house too which have caused us some detective work.  We have spent time comparing ornaments in the modern National Trust guide to Dunham and what appears in our photographs from the 1870s.  Some of the ornaments and furniture have clearly had a change of location! I particularly like the two plinths with small sculptured figures on, statuettes of Dacian Kings[ii]  [Ref: VPH.10.9], and they come with a great tale too. Apparently ‘during a visit in 1946 George VI reckoned the statuette with the outstretched hand ‘needed a cigarette’ and promptly rested one in its hand.  It became a family tradition to give the statue one cigarette every year.’ [iii]

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We are in touch with the National Trust at Dunham Massey to see if they can add any further details to our descriptions of the photographs, especially the titles and creators of some of the paintings which feature so prominently in the images.

To follow further developments at The Rylands and in the  Visual Collections Team follow #LibraryTammy on Instagram.

[i] A Souvenir Guide to Dunham Massey, Cheshire, Edited by Susie Stubbs, 2012.

[ii] A Souvenir Guide to Dunham Massey, Cheshire, Edited by Susie Stubbs, 2012.

[iii] A Souvenir Guide to Dunham Massey, Cheshire, Edited by Susie Stubbs, 2012.

All images, unless otherwise stated, are copyright of the University of Manchester and can be used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike Licence. With thanks to the Heritage Imaging team.

Upgrade of the Methodist Archives Catalogue: Improving access to one of the Library’s most important collections

Dr Gareth Lloyd writes:

The collection of Methodist archive and rare print materials deposited at the John Rylands Library is widely acknowledged to be one of the world’s finest research collections for the study of Methodism and related evangelical movements in the English-speaking world. This collection – the official special collection of the British Methodist Church – spans the history of the movement from the early 18th century to the present. In addition to central governance records, the collection contains the personal papers of hundreds of ministers and lay people including the founders, John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield and other leading figures from evangelical history.

Online access to a catalogue of a major part of the archival part of the collection was first made available in 2012. This finding aid has now been upgraded to include collections deposited since the catalogue first went live as well as additional features to improve searches and data retrieval.

The new catalogue can be accessed, together with an introduction and explanatory text, at:

Methodist catalogue webpage

This represents a significant addition to an already extensive online library of Methodist finding aids and catalogues, which includes the print collections ( as well as subject guides (


James Bone: the Manchester Guardian’s faithful London Editor


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Sandra Cruise writes:

A frequently recurring name in various parts of the Guardian archive of the first half of the 20th century is that of James Bone, the Manchester Guardian’s long-serving faithful London editor, whose association with the paper spanned two world wars. In addition to these scattered references is a discrete archive relating to James Bone, relating not only to his time as London editor, but also his continuing association with the paper following his retirement in 1945. Although somewhat piecemeal in content, the archive affords a glimpse into the extent and breadth of Bone’s life as the paper’s London editor over a lengthy period, particularly into his literary and artistic connections.

Born in Glasgow in 1872, James was the second born son of journalist, David Drummond Bone and Elizabeth Millar Crawford. After a brief spell as shipping clerk in the city’s Laird Line office, he followed his father into a journalistic career, working for the North British Daily Mail. James’s journalistic talents soon became apparent; his exceptional descriptive skills had already been exercised in the book Glasgow in 1901, written with Archibald Hamilton Charteris under the pseudonym James Hamilton Muir. A chance encounter with the Manchester Guardian’s A.N. Monkhouse, who happened to be visiting Glasgow, brought him to the attention of C.E. Montague and C.P. Scott; after a trial at the paper’s London office in 1902, he was appointed on a salary of £280 the following year, thereby beginning what was to be almost half a century of employment with the paper.

Bone’s talents rested in his artistry with words, his keen sense of news, his ability to capture the mood of the moment and skilful, creative sub-editing. He was also an accomplished art critic, although he failed to comprehend the post-Impressionist movement. He became renowned for the London Letter, an existing feature styled as a letter to the editor, containing domestic and foreign affairs as seen from London, and including all manner of cultural, topical and items of interest; collectively written, and adroitly edited by Bone, the London Letter became recognised as the best of its kind, unrivalled among the provincial newspapers.

Snippet from Cyril Ray letter

In this undated letter to Bone, Cyril Ray (author, journalist and writer on food and wine) passes on greetings from actor Leonard Sachs, who will be remembered by many as the compere on long-running TV series ‘The Good Old Days’.

Bone’s descriptive mastery is perhaps best captured in the collaborative works undertaken with his brother, the printer and draughtsman, Muirhead Bone, who supplied the black and white illustrations to accompany books such as Glasgow in 1901, The Perambulator in Edinburgh (1926), the acclaimed London Perambulator (1925), an account of the city in the first quarter of the 20th century, and the subsequent London Echoing (1948).

Bone’s domain was very much the artistic and cultural world, C.P. Scott considering that Monkhouse’s chance discovery had ‘no great political knowledge or interest’; hence the archive is littered with the names of leading literary and artistic figures, who contributed reviews and articles to the paper and with whom Bone associated, such as writer, Arnold Bennett (1867-1931), and playwright John Galsworthy (1867-1933). Through the Guardian’s connection with the Baltimore Sun, whose London correspondent worked from the London office, he also became friends with many American journalists.

Snippet from Arnold Bennett letter

In this letter dated 28 May 1917, Arnold Bennett expresses his relief that Bone’s brother, David William Bone (sea captain and novelist), safely survived the torpedo attack on his troopship the Cameronia, which sank on 15 April.

Unfortunately, drama was not confined to the pages of theatrical reviews. Whilst returning from a trip to America in December 1940, the ship on which he was sailing, the Western Prince, was torpedoed in the Atlantic, some 200 miles off Ireland, around six o’clock in the morning. Despite still recovering from an operation in Baltimore, Bone survived six hours in an open boat and a close encounter with a German submarine before being rescued by a passing steamer.  Typically, Bone wrote a detailed descriptive piece about the incident, once back in Glasgow. On returning to London, further trauma awaited; his rooms in King’s Bench Walk had been destroyed in the bombing.

Bone’s association with the paper did not end with his retirement in December 1945. He remained a director for some years, and maintained links and correspondence with his former fellow journalists, such as A.P. Wadsworth and his intended successor as London editor, Evelyn Montague, whose career was cut short by his untimely death from tuberculosis in 1948, contracted whilst acting as a war correspondent. Montague, a one-time Olympic athlete as well as a journalist, is celebrated in the 1981 film Chariots of Fire.

Snippet from EA Montague letter

In this letter to Bone, sent from Dovercourt, Essex in February 1947, E.A. Montague describes an ice floe off the coast; 1947 was one of the coldest winters on record.

Bone was created a Companion of Honour in 1947, and on his 90th birthday in 1962 he received messages from the Queen, President Kennedy, Harold MacMillan and Hugh Gaitskell. He died a few months later on 23rd November at his home in Farnham, Surrey.

Although the letters relate mainly to business connected with the paper, they are interwoven with some personal issues and references. The archive includes a small number of letters written to Arnold Bennett from writers and journalists of the Guardian, mainly about literary and theatrical reviews and books. Newspaper cuttings record staff obituaries and other staff events.

Purple is the new black

As part of the preparations for the Colour exhibition opening in March ‘18 at the John Rylands Library, Collection Care had a visit on 25th October from Dr Maurizio Aceto, professor of analytical chemistry at The Università degli Studi del Piemonte Orientale, Italy, and Cheryl Porter, Medieval pigment expert.

Maurizio analysed purple media used in several manuscripts and early printed books using fibre optic reflectance spectroscopy (FORS) to identify the colorants.

Dr Maurizio Aceto

Dr Aceto analysing pigments of Latin 87

FORS is a non-destructive test that has been used for over two decades for the identification of pigments.

Light, via fibre optics, is directed to the object and the reflected/non-absorbed light is collected and analysed by a spectrometer. The resulting information is graphed and compared to a library of data to find a match from known pigments.

The manuscripts analysed included Latin 87 (see photograph above), a 10th-century gospel book illustrated with paintings of the evangelists surrounded by purple. Purple manuscripts were produced in Europe throughout the Middle Ages for Kings and Bishops.


FORS computer programme

The purple colorant was identified as Orchil, a dye made from lichen, instead of the Tyrian purple it was assumed to be.

It has been a very interesting experience and useful to corroborate our findings regarding pigments from other analytical methods e.g. multi spectral imaging and polarising microscope.

Reformation Day, or is it?


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Today we mark the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, but what really happened on the 31st October 1517? The popular story of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg is a very powerful image, but is there any truth in it? Perhaps not, in fact there is no substantial evidence for this event. Luther himself never mentions it – this is what he says in his introduction to the first volume of his own collected works, published in 1545.

When in 1517 indulgences were sold (I wanted to say promulgated) in these regions for disgraceful profit, I was a preacher, a young Doctor of Theology, as they say. I began to dissuade the people from lending an ear to the shouts of the indulgence-sellers. I told them that they had better things to do and that I was sure that in these matters I had the pope on my side. I was relying greatly on his trustworthiness, since in his decrees he had very clearly condemned the excesses of the quaestors [name of a treasury official in ancient Rome] as he called the indulgence preachers.
Shortly thereafter I wrote two letters, one to Albert, the archbishop of Mainz, who was getting half the money from the indulgences (the other half was going to the pope, a fact of which I was at the time ignorant),the other to the ordinary of the place, Jerome, bishop of Brandenburg. I begged them to put a stop to the shameless blasphemy of the quaestors, but they despised this poor little brother. Therefore, finding myself despised, I published a list of theses and, at the same time, a sermon in German on indulgences. A little later I published the “Explanations,” in which, in deference to the pope, I maintained that indulgences should not be condemned but that the works of charity should be preferred to them.
What I did toppled heaven and consumed earth by fire. I am denounced to the pope, commanded to go to Rome, and the entire papacy rises up against me alone.

Preface to the Complete Edition of Luther’s Latin Works (1545) by Dr. Martin Luther, 1483-1546. Translated by Bro. Andrew Thornton, OSB

However a new story emerges in the second volume, published after Luther’s death in 1546. Luther’s friend and colleague Philip Melanchthon introduces the volume with a short biography. When he comes to the significant year of 1517 this is what he says.

When Luther was in this course of study, venal Indulgences were circulated in these regions by Tecelius the Dominican, a most shameless Deceiver. Luther, angered by Tecelius’ impious and execrable debates and, burning with the eagerness of piety, published Propositions concerning Indulgences, which are extant in the first volume of his writings, and he publicly attached these to the Temple, which is next to Witteberg Castle, on the day before the feast of all Saints, 1517 …
These were the beginings of this controversy, in which Luther, as yet suspecting or dreaming nothing about the future change of rites, was not at all completely throwing out indulgences themselves, but only urging moderation. Wherefore they falsely accuse him, who say that he began for a praiseworthy reason, so that afterwards he could change the State and seek power either for himself or for others.

The history of the life and acts of Luther (1547-8) by Philip Melanchthon. Prepared by Dr. Steve Sohmer 1996.

Whatever might actually have happened on 31st October, Luther and Melanchthon agree on the consequences. Luther’s propositions were published: Disputatio D. Martini Luther theologi, pro declaratione virtutis indulgentiarum [Disputation of Martin Luther Doctor of Theology on the power of indulgences], more well known now as the 95 Theses. This ensured the wide circulation of Luther’s ideas, capturing the attention of eager readers across Europe. It is produced first as a single large sheet, printed probably in Wittenberg then Leipzig and Nuremberg. Very few copies of this broadsheet version have survived, especially outside Germany. Also very rare is the eight page pamphlet version which was printed in Basel a few weeks later. There are just four copies in the UK. If you can’t make it to Manchester, two other copies are currently on display – in Edinburgh at the National Library of Scotland and London at the British Library. Our copy has also been digitised here.

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If you are in Oxford today why not join in a recreation of the (non) event at 3.30pm. Or join us in Manchester for ‘The Reformation: Who gives a Fig?’ this evening.

European Dimensions of Popular Print Culture (EDPOP)

Workshop Friday 17 November 2017

jrl17030971 croppedThe aim of the EDPOP project is to develop an international network and a virtual research environment (VRE) to facilitate and stimulate innovative research on European popular print culture. The focus of this workshop hosted by the John Rylands Research Institute is ‘Religion and Popular Print’ to coincide with the current exhibition on The Reformation at the John Rylands Library.

More information on the EDPOP project can be found on their website:

Please book via eventbrite:

Workshop Programme

10.00 Welcome: Julianne Simpson

10.15 Introduction EDPOP: Jeroen Salman (Utrecht)

10.30 Lieke Stelling (Utrecht), ‘Humour, nostalgia and religion in early modern “News from the Afterlife” pamphlets’

11.10: Drew Thomas (St Andrew’s), ‘The Reformation and popular print: production, counterfeits and the role of fraud in spreading Luther’s message’

11.50: Thomas Wroblewski (Manchester), ‘Priests, physicians and possessed patients: medical print culture and demonic possession in early modern England’

12.30 Lunch (own arrangements)

13.30 Laura Carnelos (CERL/British Library): The production of European popular print: a comparative approach’.

14.15 Jeroen Salman (Utrecht): ‘Street sellers and itinerant traders of popular print: what makes a European comparison so interesting? ‘

15.00 Shanti Graheli (Glasgow): ‘Consumers of popular print: problems, methodology and indirect evidence’,

15.30: Discussion and further plans

17.00 Finish