Tyndale Treasures


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A 16th century engraving of William Tyndale, religious radical responsible for the first printing of the Bible into English.

A 16th century engraving of William Tyndale, religious radical responsible for the first printing of the Bible into English.

Renegade, rogue and radical: Martin Luther, King Henry VIII and William Tyndale. Of the three pillars of our Reformation exhibition, the radical Tyndale is the least well-known, yet he has been credited with founding the English Reformation and his legacy still influences us today.

His first print translation of the New Testament into English had profound consequences for England, the reformist movement and the future of Christianity in Europe. Only twelve unique editions of Tyndale’s New Testament were produced during his lifetime (there are also three variants and four questionable dates), six of which are in the collections of the John Rylands Library.

Three copies of the Rylands Library New Testaments came from Mrs Rylands’ own collection; a 1534 edition printed by ‘M. Emperowr’ (R14876) and two other Antwerp editions, printed in 1536 (R5051, R13962). All of these books were in the Library by March 1908, just eight years after its official opening. It appears that at least one of these had remained in Mrs Rylands’ personal collection until this time, emphasising their importance to her personal views, as well as her public initiative.

Photograph of the first page of the Gospel of St Mark showing a woodcut of the Evngelist.

First page of the Gospel of St Mark in a 1536 Antwerp printing (R17689)

With the intention of forming the most extensive Bible collection in Britain, early librarians at the John Rylands managed to purchase three further copies of Tyndale’s New Testament. Two had previously been part of the Amherst Collection which was sold between 1908 and 1909. One of these was a 1535 Martin de Keyser printing, bought by the library in 1913 from the British and Foreign Bible Society (R33166); the other was a further 1536 Antwerp printing, purchased through Bernard Quaritch booksellers in March 1909 (R17689). The sixth Tyndale New Testament in the collection, a 1536 Antwerp edition, was acquired in 1914 (R37634).

As well as these copies, Mrs Rylands acquired two other Tyndale Bible editions from her purchase of the Spencer Collection; a 1534 printing of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) and a further copy of the New Testament which claims a 1536 imprint, but scholars believe may be closer to 1549. Mrs Rylands’ own collections then continued to provide Tyndale material for the Library, with the addition of a number of his pamphlets after her death.

The impressive number of Tyndale editions in the John Rylands Library is testament to Mrs Rylands’ own vision, and the shared purpose with the librarians who built the collections. Her Nonconformist Christian views were an important driving force in setting up the Library, although the collections were far broader than her own beliefs. As a radical, printing copies of his illegal writings abroad and smuggling them back into England, Tyndale’s period of work was shortlived: in 1535 he was captured and was executed the following year. This martyrdom was recorded in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, and it is this propaganda source which tells us most about Tyndale’s life.

A photograph showing verses in Matthew from the 1536 Antwerp edition.

Tyndale’s translation made his radical views clear: this verse of Matthew he translates as: ‘And I say also unto the[e], that thou art Peter: and upon this rock I wyll bylde my congregacyon’. Later versions of the Bible in English, including the King James Version, would revert to the traditional ‘Church’ instead of ‘congregation’, which implied more equality between believers. (R17689)

From Tyndale’s own writings, it seems that he sympathised with the Lollards, a sect active in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, which had circulated manuscript copies of the Bible in English, fiercely criticised the Church and was then suppressed by Henry IV. While Mrs Rylands may never have been so vocally critical of those in power, she shared one key ideal with William Tyndale: that an English translation of the Bible was essential for people to understand the Christian message, and live a godly life.

Beyond his death, Tyndale had a profound effect upon the English language, his translation stirred up new theological debates and ultimately supported the English break away from Rome with its long term consequences. His translations of both the New and parts of the Old Testament were the basis of succeeding Bible editions in English, including the third authorised edition, known as the King James Version. Editions published during his lifetime are scarce: this may be due to effective destruction of copies by the authorities, but equally owners may have used their copies so much that they simply did not survive. Which makes the existence of six copies in the John Rylands Library all the more remarkable.

Parr’s Pubs: New Photograph Collection


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In contrast to the many Victorian photographs that we blogged about last year, we’re pleased to share the news that the library has expanded its photographic portfolio with a collection of photographs from 1983. There are twenty four, signed, gelatin silver prints by photographer Martin Parr, which detail scenes from Yates’s Wine Lodges in England.

Martin Parr, via Wikimedia Commons

Martin Parr, via Wikimedia Commons

Martin Parr is an award winning British photographer, photo-journalist, artist and curator with an international reputation.  Over five decades his radical approach to social documentary photography has made a substantial contribution to photographic expression in the UK and beyond.

Although Parr originates from the South of England he can also be claimed as a Manchester Man and son of the North.  From 1970-73 he was a student at Manchester Polytechnic and throughout the 1970s and 1980s he lived in Greater Manchester, on the Wirral and in West Yorkshire.  Parr’s profound engagement with Northerners, Northern-ness and Northern places has been a recurring theme throughout his career as demonstrated in this photo-story, Yates’s Wine Lodges, England, 1983.

These images are shot mainly in Northern towns and cities and this collection examines the culture of one of Britain’s oldest pub chains.  Yates’s was established in Oldham, Lancashire by Peter and Simon Yates in 1884. Yates’s Wine Lodges spread nationwide, but retained a stronghold in the north of England with its headquarters in Manchester.

Martin Parr signature from the reverse of VPH.24.1

Martin Parr signature from the reverse of VPH.24.1

It is interesting to look at these images with a glance towards our other collections and what they say about the social mores and attitudes from the era when Yates’s was established.  For example, the image below is from a nineteenth-century Temperance Movement cuttings book that the library holds.  The illustrations depict the physical and moral consequences of drinking alcohol and Yates’s motto of ‘moderation is true temperance’ is perhaps a nod to those values. It will be fascinating to see what our readers feel our new photographs reveal about the pub culture of the 1980s.

Temperance Movement Cuttings Book, Ref: JRL1410614

Temperance Movement Cuttings Book, Ref: JRL1410614

By the 1980s, when Parr was working on this project, the firm had become synonymous with what the Manchester Evening News reporters described as images of a ‘smoky, dimly-lit, male-dominated environments more in keeping with Victorian England’. These are precisely the qualities that Parr has captured in his elegiac, black and white evocations.  Despite the extensive refurbishment, rebranding and financial success of Yates’s in the 1990s, and periods of subsequent rebranding campaigns, this image still persists.

Parr’s photographs form part of a broader, more substantial, sociological shift that plots the demise of British pub culture which has resulted in the closure of over 21,000 public houses to date.  They embody, in visual form, an account of a national trend by showing its impact on particular people and places at a particular historical moment in time.  It tells a national story in a Northern accent.

Details and descriptions of these images can be found on Library Search.

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.

What price would you pay?


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It is the time of year for resolutions – go on a diet, join a gym, give up drink. Whatever your guilty pleasure might be, what if you were offered an easy way out. A way of writing off all that guilt and sin, for a price. Would you take it? In the middle ages the Church had just the thing for you and by the early 16th century it seemed that just about everyone with enough spare cash would be buying an indulgence to ease their guilt and smooth the path to heaven.

At this time, the sacraments of the medieval Catholic Church were at the heart of everyone’s lives, and it was important to perform them in order to get into heaven. The confession of sins, and the ability of a priest to absolve people’s sins, was a central feature of the medieval Church. Indulgences were intended to offer remission from other punishments that might be handed out as part of confession.  People believed that the forgiveness of sin reduced their time in purgatory – a temporary stop for souls before entrance to heaven. As Purgatory became more prominent in Christian thinking, the idea developed that the term of indulgences related to remission of time in Purgatory.

The sale of indulgences became an important income stream for the Church. Many were issued in the late 15th century to raise funds for a new crusade against the Ottoman Turks. In 1517, Pope Leo X offered indulgences for those who gave alms to rebuild St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The aggressive marketing practices of Johann Tetzel in promoting this cause provoked Martin Luther to write his 95 Theses, condemning what he saw as the purchase and sale of salvation. In Thesis 28 Luther objected to a saying attributed to Tetzel: “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs”.

The invention of printing boosted the use of indulgences, allowing thousands to be printed at one time. We have a number of original printed indulgences in our collection, many of which only survive as fragments reused in the bindings of books. The example currently on display in our Reformation exhibition is especially significant as it has been preserved exactly as it was issued on 7 March 1455. This particular indulgence was ordered by Pope Nicolas V in support of the defense of Cyprus and the distribution was delegated to the Cypriot nobleman Paul Chappe whose name can be seen in the middle of the first line. When Chappe arrived in Germany he commissioned Johann Gutenberg to produce the indulgences for him on his new printing press. This makes our indulgence one of the earliest dated examples of printing.


Indulgentia, Printed by Johann Gutenberg, Mainz, 1454-1455. Ref. Spencer 17250.2

This indulgence was issued at Würzburg to Heinrich Deupprecht and his wife Anna (Heinricus Deupprecht et Anna vxor eius legitima). Under the fold at the bottom of the document are the further details that it was sold by Johannes Allendorf, the abbot of St. Burkhard monastery in Würzburg for the sum of 1 florin. This was equivalent to about a week’s wages for a skilled labourer – a price worth paying to absolve you of all your sin ?

Digitisation of Lantern Slides from the Christian Brethren Archive

I am pleased to announce the completion of the digitisation of the lantern slides donated by Echoes of Service to the Christian Brethren Archive. A total of 901 slides are now available to view via the Manchester Digital Collections site and have been catalogued by John McCrory and Jane Donaldson, who provide below a description of their experiences on the project.

John McCrory writes:

For the last month, Jane and I have been cataloguing a fascinating collection of lantern slides from the Christian Brethren Archive, featuring an array of photographs, bible studies materials, verses from hymns and maps, all giving a broad insight into the mission work performed by members of the Christian Brethren. My focus was primarily on the slides containing illustrations of bible studies, along with two boxes condensing The Pilgrim’s Progress, and I also covered two boxes of slides featuring photographs of China and India. The process for dealing with the separate themes was quite different.

I began with the two boxes of slides telling the first part of John Bunyan’s Christian allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress, (a book I have since been inspired to read!) Through a dramatic series of illustrations we follow Christian’s journey to the Celestial City, and his encounters with all manner of characters (Evangelist, Pliable, Mr. Worldly Wiseman etc.) and places (Vanity Fair, Slough of Despond, Valley of the Shadow of Death). These materials would have been used by mission workers on their travels, and it quickly became clear to me how much of an impact these stories must have had on their audience.


Startled guests at King Belshazzar’s feast pointing at the illuminated writing on the wall, foretelling the King’s doom.

The slides often had labels with a title listing the main characters, sometimes elaborating on their location or current predicament. After noting this I would look through the text of the original work, finding details on the other characters in the scene, or giving additional context to the illustration. It was a similar process for the other illustrated slides, covering the lives of the prophets Daniel, David, Elijah, Elisha, and the parable of the prodigal son. The only difference was the source text; The Pilgrim’s Progress was replaced by the Old Testament. These illustrations were equally vivid, and it was a delight to be reminded of many dramatic passages from the Bible, with the images portraying scenes such as ‘the writing on the wall’ foretelling King Belshazzar’s doom.

While in each series the slides worked as a coherent narrative, the works of different illustrators or artists were occasionally mixed together. The slides portraying the life of Daniel contain two paintings by the artist Briton Rivière, one of which, Daniel’s Answer to the King (1890), is held by the Manchester Art Gallery (EOS/4/1/11/3). Very occasionally, printed labels on the slides would inform us of the artist directly. One such is an image of ‘Elijah and Ahab’ (EOS/4/1/11/41), with the label stating the illustration comes from Harold Copping’s The Gospels in the Old Testament. Slides from The Pilgrim’s Progress occasionally feature printed labels indicating they were issued by the Religious Tract Society, which again suggests that Harold Copping was the artist responsible for many of these images.


In The Valley of the Shadow of Death from John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. Illustration by Harold Copping

I was also fortunate enough to look through two final boxes of slides with photographs from both China and India, taken by mission workers. These photographs, some of which were in colour, covered a tremendous number of themes. These included images documenting mission work, showing groups of scholars and (one presumes) worshipers. There are photographs of rural and urban China and India, containing fascinating examples of local homes, dress, and working lives; scenes of religious temples, rituals and processions; and what we might describe as ‘tourist’ shots, showing landmarks such as the Taj Mahal, and the city walls of Mukden (modern-day Shenyang).


Photograph showing several large temple buildings at Benares Ghat.

Alongside these photographs were slides featuring maps of the countries visited by the mission workers, verses from hymns, and annotated illustrations with texts written in the local script, and conveying the Christian message. Some of the photographs were a complete puzzle. I was unable to determine whether the scene in, say EOS/4/1/8/25, was a ritual punishment- even a form of public execution, or something more innocuous and less violent.


Man bound, cloaked in animal skin and tethered to pole.

While a few of these slides contained brief titles, cataloguing them was more often a case of describing the image as clearly as possible. This presented unexpected difficulties, and I was reminded of my own inability to distinguish between, say, an ox, a bull and a cow; a donkey and mule; a horse and pony, and other such things.

Without a description of the regions featured in these photographs, we were unable to make any suppositions about the local people and their religion, dress and other aspects of their culture. My descriptions are therefore as pared down as possible in a deliberate attempt not to misrepresent the material.

We would welcome the addition of any further information on these superb photographs, capturing a world which was soon to undergo dramatic change.

Jane Donaldson writes:

As part of my ongoing volunteering at Special Collections, I have been working again with Jessica Smith, Archivist for the Christian Brethren Archive, helping to catalogue and research items within the collection.

My task has been to add catalogue descriptions to the lantern slides prior to their being added to Luna, the University digital image collection.

The slides I worked on depict the life of mission workers in various countries including India, Rural China and Africa, and are dated roughly as from the early 20th century.  Some of the slides are hand-coloured and some are black and white, some have labels on them and a couple had notes inside their boxes, including a running order of slides for a presentation and dates, which indicate that the slides were shown by the mission workers after they had returned home in the 1950s. They were used to highlight mission work abroad and to illustrate a world that many people would not have had knowledge of. The slides come from a time when Britain wielded vast colonial power.


Mrs[?] Teskey Mr and Mrs Hopkins, Vera Kingham and Ruth

The first slides I looked at were labelled as being from rural China, but this was the sum total of the information provided. Included are posed images of groups containing different generations, and are possibly families.  Photographs include people in traditional dress but also in more modern western clothing of the time, and several group shots of children. Although the slides are mainly of Chinese groups and activities, there are a couple of pictures which include Westerners who are likely to be the mission workers.


Crowd with children in headdresses

Everyday activities of people that may be unusual to westerner eyes are documented, including ploughing, making food, taking tea, travel in Sudan chairs, and funerals as well as the more unusual such as sword swallowing, fetish sticks and religious rituals. It was interesting to see that the mission workers had made a record of examples of other religions and rituals that were performed across the globe. Images of architecture include Brethren churches, Mosques, and the houses built for mission workers. Another slide from Africa was labelled ‘Palava shed’, which I found referred to a structure featuring a roof but no sides, used by villagers to talk to each other in the shade.


Chinese Sword Swallower

A set of slides from Africa show that missionary work included helping with the health of the communities they worked in. There are photographs showing general healthcare including weighing of infants and children, and dispensing of medicine. The dispensary proved extremely popular as there are notes to accompany this set of slides showing people were prepared to travel many miles and with their family and belongings in order to seek healthcare.


Christian Woman arriving for a conference having walked 73 miles carrying child and load

As some of the slides may not have labels, some of the descriptions added may be rather basic. Some research was undertaken to try and improve descriptions where possible, but it is hoped more information can be acquired once the images have been made available online.

As you can see from the reports above, there is often not a great deal of contextual information to accompany the slides. I have therefore decided to experiment with crowd sourcing in an attempt to enhance the slide descriptions. If you are able to assist in the identification of the people, or activities depicted in the lantern slides, I would be delighted to hear from you.

I can be contacted at Jessica.Smith@manchester.ac.uk

The digitised lantern slides can be accessed here

What will we be reading in the year 2367?


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A photograph of the decorated Milton alcove.

The Milton alcove in the Historic Reading Room was decorated for the weekend.

Naomi Billingsley, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the John Rylands Research Institute, writes:

On 9 December 2017, the Library celebrated 350 years of Paradise Lost, on the birthday of the poem’s author, John Milton.

The events included talks from University of Manchester academics, projections of illustrations to Paradise Lost from the Library’s collections, and an intervention in the activity alcove that included information about editions of Paradise Lost in the collections and an invitation for visitors to nominate the book that they thought should still be read 350 years from now.

Although one visitor predicted that “There will be no books in 350 years”, we had over 100 more optimistic responses, nominating works that spanned thousands of years and from across the globe.

Image of response cards to the question 'which book will still be read in 350 years' time?'

We received lots of responses to the question, ‘which book will still be read in 350 years’ time?’

By some distance, the most popular choice was Harry Potter, nominated eighteen times (only one of which specified an individual book in the series – The Philosopher’s Stone). The Bible clocked in second, with eleven nominations (one of which specified the Book of Genesis “because it’s the beginning of so many things”), followed by Cervantes’ El Quijote, with five. There were also five nominations for Tolkein’s writings (The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings), and four for Roald Dahl stories.

A photograph of the facsimile ediitions of Paradise Lost decorating the Milton alcove.

Facsimiles from different editions of Paradise Lost decorated the Milton alcove, many of them in different languages.

There were also a number of non-fiction suggestions, including the works of Charles Darwin, Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations and Karl Marx’s Das Kapital.

Some visitors included a reason for their suggestion. The Bible, The Lord of the Rings and Shakespeare’s plays were all described as “timeless”; similarly, another visitor nominated “any poetry, because it will always be relatable” and various answers valued the presentation of human nature in the nominated books.

Among the more memorable responses were: “Alice in Wonderland – because time may present it as historical fact”, “Sjon’s The Blue Fox – because we will always need time to dwell in this strange world of foxes, magic and snow” and “Gone With the Wind – because Scarlett O’Hara is a way of living.”


A response card reaing: 'Gone with the Wind. Because Scarlett O'Hara is a way of living'.A high proportion of the suggestions were children’s books; while some were obviously written by children, we wondered how many of the others were written down by adults for children, and how many were adults nominating children’s books. Perhaps such books readily sprang to mind because they are readily passed directly from one generation to the next, as in the experience of one visitor who responded: “Shel Silverston’s The Giving Tree – I read it as a child and my daughter loves it now.”

Overall, the responses showed that reading in various genres is alive and well in 2017, and I’m hopeful that if humanity has not destroyed itself in 2367, people (and perhaps bots) will still be reading at least some of the works suggested – be it in codex, tablet, or some yet-to-be-invented reading technology.

Paradise Lost at 350 was organised by Jane Gallagher and Naomi Billingsley. We are grateful to the Visitor Engagement and Facilities teams at the Library for supporting the activities, and to Dr Douglas Clark (English Literature) and Dr Holly Morse (Religions & Theology) for contributing talks to the event.

An argument in books: Augustus Toplady versus John Wesley


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Long before social media, people could still engage in vitriolic public debates without actually meeting. The rise of the cheap and easy to produce printed pamphlet meant that educated and well off authors could pen arguments against their peers, who might respond in kind. Popular printing of the early modern period is littered with these episodic, sometimes witty and often sharply worded exchanges, none more so than those on the subject of religion.

In this blog, Methodist minister Rev. Dr. David Hart tells us about Augustus Toplady, one of the most vociferous opponents in print of John and Charles Wesley’s early Methodist movement.

'Rock of Ages', Toplady's most famous hymn from his 'Psalms and hymns for public and private worship' (London, 1776).

‘Rock of Ages’, Toplady’s most famous hymn from his ‘Psalms and hymns for public and private worship’ (London, 1776).

Augustus Toplady (1740 – 1788) was probably not at the top of John Wesley’s list of favourite correspondents in the 1770s. Toplady’s biggest claim to fame is probably as the author of the hymn ‘Rock of ages, cleft for me’, written in 1763 and first published in 1775. The hymn was inspired, so the story runs, when Toplady sheltered in the lee of a rock cleft at Burrington Coombe in Somerset during a violent rainstorm. Be that as it may, what is certain is that the John Rylands library now holds two significant volumes which were at one time in Toplady’s ownership.

A brief biography of Toplady may be found in the Methodist biographical index on the Library’s website. As a Church of England clergyman, Toplady was also associated with the Calvinist Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion. It was, however, his vehement opposition to John and Charles Wesley that marked out his theological significance.

John Wesley’s Notes on the New Testament was published in 1754 and Toplady’s own annotated copy is held in the University of Manchester’s Special Collections. The volume is peppered with marginal notes and references by Toplady (who probably made the annotations during his time as an undergraduate at Trinity College, Dublin in the late 1750s) which reveal a systematic desire to derail, at least in his own thinking, Wesley’s  theology.

The marginalia of this volume offer some insight into the opposition faced by Wesley from Toplady. In his preface, John Wesley writes  ‘But I write chiefly for plain, unlettered men, who understand only their Mother-tongue and yet reverence and love the Word of God, and have a desire to save their Souls.’ In response, Toplady writes in the margin ‘Happy had it been for Mr Wesley, if only unletter’d men had read this commencement for then he could not have been detected in his mistranslation’.

Toplady's annotations in Wesley's Preface of his Explanatory Notes on the New Testament.

Toplady’s annotations in Wesley’s Preface of his Explanatory Notes on the New Testament. Toplady became one of Wesley’s fiercest critics in print.

Part of Toplady’s (Calvinist) argument focuses on challenging Wesley’s translation of the Greek New Testament.  A. W. Harrison’s work[1] has shown that Wesley probably used the Greek text by Johann Albrecht Brengel published in Tubingen in 1734. Toplady’s annotations also serve to express points of theological divergence between Calvinist and Arminian doctrine.


Toplady was an educated man and wrote annotations in Latin, English and Greek.

Titlepage of the recently acquired volume annotated by Toplady (R228935).

Titlepage of the recently acquired volume annotated by Toplady (R228935).

If Toplady’s copy of John Wesley’s Notes on the New Testament reveals the precocious outpourings of a young undergraduate, another volume which was in Toplady’s possession reveals one of the sources of his scholarship. Acquired by the John Rylands Library from a New York bookseller in 2017, this is an edition of William Cave’s Antiquitates Apostolicae: or, The History of the Lives, Acts, and Martyrdoms of the Holy Apostles of Our Saviour printed in London by M. Flesher for R.Royston, in 1684. This is a fifth edition, and is bound with William Cave’s Apostolici: or, The History of the Lives, Acts, Death, and Martyrdoms of Those Who were Contemporary with, or immediately Succeeded the Apostles. As Also the most Eminent of the Primitive Fathers printed in London by J. R. for Richard Chiswel, 1682.

These two volumes are in effect a collection of ‘lives’ with engraved illustrations. The copy contains lengthy indices in manuscript on the paste downs and ownership inscription on a slip pasted above the Dedication: “È Libris Augusti Toplady: Empt. Londini, Maii de 15to 1761.” There are extensive annotations and these appear to have been made shortly after Toplady’s graduation from Dublin. Like his copy of the Notes on the New Testament the volume will offer valuable insights into the emergent and developing theological thinking of one of Wesley Methodism’s most vociferous opponents.

Librarian of the printed Methodist Collections Jane Gallagher adds;

William Cave (1637–1713) was an Anglican clergyman from a strongly Royalist family, whose studies looked back to the early days of the Church to find greater truth and simplicity in the practice of the faith. His first book harked back to the first ‘primitive’ Christians, but he soon began to show a preference for historical, rather then meditative, works on the Church.

An image of the handwritten index which note important pages within the book. This is partially obscured by later repair work.

A handwritten index on the paste down notes important pages within the book. This is partially obscured by later repair work.

Antiquitates apostolicae (first published as part of a larger work in 1675) focuses on the lives of the twelve apostles as well as Paul, Mark and Luke during the first two centuries of the spread of Christianity. The next book, Apostolici (first published 1677), followed this chronological pattern, including martyrs from the early decades of the Church. Having these two books bound together, as in the case of Toplady’s copies, makes sense for a scholar interested in tracing the history of the Church, particularly one focussed on the idea of returning to older and what were believed to have been simpler ways.

Cave’s works were popular during and immediately after his lifetime and published in many editions, but fell out of favour in the mid nineteenth century. Toplady’s ownership of two editions contemporary with the author suggests that he too may have believed that the closer to the original meant closer to the truth. In any case, the two annotated volumes from Toplady’s library now in the John Rylands collections demonstrate the power of the printed word to leap off the page, to be repurposed, and to leave tangible traces of hard fought debates so many centuries after their inception.

See also: John S. Simon, ‘Mr Wesley’s notes upon the New Testament’, Proceedings of the Wesley Historical Society Vol. 9.5 (1914) 97 – 105.

[1] (published as, ‘The Greek text of Wesley’s Translation of the New Testament’, Proceedings of the Wesley Historical Society, Vol. 9.5 (1914), 105 -113).


‘A Ghost in the Rylands Library’: The Papers of Elaine Feinstein


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Elaine Feinstein’s archive is one of our most important modern literary collections, and we are delighted to announce that a catalogue of its content is now live in our ELGAR database. This cataloguing project was made possible by a grant from the Strachey Trust, and Project Archivist Jane Speller has written this blog post to celebrate the extraordinary breadth of Elaine Feinstein’s literary output as seen through her collected papers.

‘She is an extremely fine poet. She has a sinewy, tenacious way of exploring her subject that seems to me unique. Her simple, clean language follows the track of the nerves. There is nothing hit or miss, nothing for effect, nothing false. Reading her poems one feels cleansed and sharpened.’  (Ted Hughes).

In addition to being a celebrated poet, Elaine Feinstein is a prolific novelist, biographer and playwright. She is the author of fifteen novels and even more poetry collections.

Gwen and Jamies portrait

This portrait photograph of Elaine Feinstein was taken by Gwen Riley Jones and Jamie Robinson – two of the Library’s photographers – in 2013. Some of the box files containing Feinstein’s working papers can be seen in the background.

An expert on Russian literature, it was only later in life that Feinstein began to learn Russian herself. Despite her Russian heritage, Feinstein grew up speaking English at home and only learnt Russian in her twenties. She has since received three Arts Council Awards for her translations of the Soviet Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva (1892-1941), whom she describes as ‘the most important single influence on my poetry’. Feinstein first read the poems of Marina Tsvetaeva in Russian in the 1960s and the encounter transformed her. ‘What drew me to her initially,’ she writes, ‘was the intensity of her emotions, and the honesty with which she exposed them.’  Feinstein’s translations of Tsvetaeva’s work, first published to great acclaim in 1971, introduced Tsvetaeva to English readers, and in 1987 Feinstein’s biography, A Captive Lion: The Life of Marina Tsvetayeva, was published.  Feinstein’s enduring relationship with the work of Tsvetaeva culminated in 2009 with the publication of Bride of Ice: New Selected Poems (Carcanet), an enlarged edition to which Feinstein added five major pieces, including ‘Girlfriend’, a sequence of lyrics, written by Tsvetayeva for her lover, the poet and journalist, Sofia Parnok (1885-1931).

Feinstein has also translated a host of other Russian writers, including Margarita Aliger (1915-92), Yunna Moritz (b.1937) and Bella Akhmadulina (1937-2010). In addition, she is the biographer of literary giants Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966) and Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837). Feinstein’s other biographical studies include two further writers with turbulent lives: the English novelist D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930) and the UK’s Poet Laureate (1984-98) Ted Hughes. The papers relating to all of these biographies are included in her archive.

The Feinstein archive is now housed in over 150 archive boxes, and whilst the material is physically ordered and contained, the contents are bursting with life: narratives and partial narratives, drafts and redrafts, meticulous translations from Russian into English – literal and poetic; detailed notes from Feinstein’s research visits to Russia; transcriptions of interviews; and correspondence with major literary figures from around the world.


A tiny portion of Elaine Feinstein’s archive during the cataloguing project. Her papers have now been repackaged into archival folders and boxes, but all her original file labels have been carefully transcribed in the catalogue.

Feinstein’s novels often feature Jewish characters. The tense poignant action of The Border (1984) concerns a couple forced to flee from Austria following the Anschluss. Loving Brecht (1992) follows the life and times of Frieda Bloom, a Jewish cabaret singer whose chaotic emotional life takes her from Weimar Berlin to Stalin’s Moscow, from New York to eventual refuge in London. Children of the Rose (1975) deals with the lives of the European Jews and the Second World War, exploring the current and past lives of a group of people scarred as a result of the war. Jewish identity in England is explicated in The Survivors (1982), a novel set in Feinstein’s native Lancashire where issues of assimilation, acculturation and tradition are portrayed. Feinstein’s most recent book, The Russian Jerusalem (2008) is a fascinating mix of fiction, autobiography and poetry, in which the author, with the ghost of Marina Tsvetaeva as her guide, reconstructs the fates of the great Russian writers during Stalin’s Terror. The Terror and its aftermath is also a dominant subject in her biography of Akhmatova, Anna of All the Russias: The Life of a Poet under Stalin (2005). Feinstein often illuminates important episodes in Akhmatova’s tempestuous life by interpolating her own translations of passages from Akhmatova‘s poems.

Feinstein came from a Jewish background, and one of the themes of her fiction is religion and spirituality, although not of the orthodox type. Feinstein’s novels, The Ecstasy of Dr. Miriam Garner (1976), and The Shadow Master (1979), and her radio play The Temptation of Dr. William Fosters (1991) display a unique blend of religious morality and social awareness combined with an investigation of personal desires. Papers relating to these plays as well as Feinstein’s other work for radio, television and theatre can be found in the archive.

Feinstein continues to write, and one of her most recent poems has an archival theme. She attended this year’s annual John Rylands Research Institute conference in June 2017. Called Archival Afterlives, the event focused on archives relating to post-war poetry. Reflecting on her own ‘archival afterlife’, Feinstein was prompted to write a poem on the subject. ‘A Ghost in the Rylands Library’ was published by the Spectator in September, and Elaine has given us permission to reproduce the text below. We have also been given permission to share a wonderful film of Elaine reading the poem: follow this link to view the clip, which was made by Colin Still of Optic Nerve.

Ghost in the Rylands Library

A selection of items from Elaine Feinstein’s Papers can currently be seen on display in the two Literature-themed exhibition cases in our Rylands Gallery until March 2018.

Reader Services Curious Find – The Path of the Comet


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Today’s Curious Find once again comes from our regular reader Michael Gilligan.

Mr Gilligan is studying the history of science, and was most impressed by beautiful engravings in Johannis Hevelii’s Descriptio Cometae.

As you can see, included in the book is Fig. D, which is an engraving of the structure of the tail of a comet on various dates:


While Fig. E depicts the path of the comet during the year 1665:


Unfortunately we missed the 350th anniversary of the comet, which was in April 2015, however I’m sure you’ll agree that sharing such engravings is timeless.

Descriptio Cometae, Johannes Hevelii, available at John Rylands Library, SC 13129E.

If you would like to consult any of our collections in our reading room, please contact the Reader Engagement Team at uml.special-collections@manchester.ac.uk.

Framing Luther: Woodcut Borders in Reformation Pamphlets


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As part of our series of posts to accompany the current Reformation exhibition we are pleased to welcome guest blogger Drew Thomas for more on Martin Luther and the printing of pamphlets:

The arguments surrounding the Protestant Reformation saw Martin Luther become one of Europe’s bestselling authors. Pamphlets first printed in Wittenberg, where Luther was a professor and preacher, were quickly re-printed in cities across the Holy Roman Empire.

The John Rylands Library has a large collection of these pamphlets, many acquired by Enriqueta Rylands and her first librarian Henry Guppy. They are a testament to the importance of print in spreading Luther’s evangelical ideas. Although most of the pamphlets were quite short, several featured ornate woodcut title page borders. These were wooden frames with space in the middle for the insertion of movable type. As Luther’s movement grew, workshops in Wittenberg began decorating his works with artwork on the title pages. Because using woodcuts increased production costs, printers usually only used them for longer books that would command a higher price. However, using them in Luther’s pamphlets helped them stand out in a crowded bookstall and they quickly became synonymous with Reformation print.


Auff des bocks zu Leypczick Antwort , R7418

An early example is a 1521 edition of Luther’s Auff des bocks zu Leypczick Antwort (Concerning the Answer of the Goat in Leipzig). It was printed by Johann Rhau-Grunenberg, the first Reformation printer. It features his initials at the bottom centre and notably, also depicts two men operating a printing press in the bottom corner, one of the few depictions on a border. The border was created by Lucas Cranach the Elder, the famous German Renaissance artist. He was court painter to the Elector of Saxony and provided many woodcut borders to Wittenberg’s printers.


Verantwortung der auffgelegten Auffrur von Hertzog Georgen Sampt einem Trostbrieff an die Christen von jhm aus Leiptzig vnschuldig veriagt D. Mart. Luther, R6787

Although Rhau-Grunenberg was the only printer in Wittenberg when Luther wrote his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517, the movement’s popularity brought other printers to town. Nickel Schirlentz became one of Wittenberg’s leading printers, printing the first edition of Luther’s Small Catechism in 1529. Schirlentz also used many woodcut borders from the Cranach workshop. To make up the increased costs of using a border for such a cheap work, printers would often use the same border in different books. The John Rylands has a copy of one of Schirlentz’s most popular borders, which featured Salome holding a platter with the head of John the Baptist. It is a 1533 edition of Luther’s Vindication against Duke George’s Charge of Rebellion, which was acquired in 1900 from the bookseller David Nutt. Schirlentz used this border in over fifty editions, making it one of the most used borders in Wittenberg.

Printers in other cities started imitating Wittenberg by using woodcut borders in their re-prints of Luther’s works. However, in addition to using their own borders, some printers used copies of the original Wittenberg borders. In a testament to the breadth of the John Rylands pamphlet collection, the library has examples of both Wittenberg borders and the copies used elsewhere. In 1523 Lucas Cranach and his business partner Christian Döring published Luther’s Against the corrupters and falsifiers of the imperial mandate. It featured a woodcut title page border with square columns on the sides and angels at the top.

Nearly twenty years later the Augsburg printer Heinrich Steiner used a copy of this border in a re-print of Luther’s sermon against the Turks. The borders are nearly identical, but you can spot the differences in the face at the bottom centre and the depiction of the angels at the top.

Title pages

Widder die Verkerer vnd felscher keyserlichs mandats Martinus Luther, R7434 and Ein Heer-predigt wider den Turcken, R4787

From the beginning of his movement, Luther’s followers collected his works. Many of the pamphlets were collected and bound together in single volumes, which helped books which were ephemeral in nature survive to the present day. Just as the presence of a woodcut border increased the printer’s financial investment, today such artwork commands a higher price on the antiquarian book market. Due to the careful curation of the John Rylands’ early librarians, the library has a valuable collection representative of this unique Reformation medium. Many are on display in the Reformation exhibition marking the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, open to the public until 4 March 2018.

Drew Thomas is a Research Assistant with the Universal Short Title Catalogue at the University of St Andrews. His PhD focused on the rise of printing in Wittenberg during Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation and counterfeiting in the early modern book trade. He is the Project Manager of the Caroline Minuscule Mapping Project hosted by the University of Pennsylvania and the Technical Editor for the PhD blog Pubs and Publications hosted by the University of Edinburgh. You can follow him on Twitter (@DrewBThomas) or Academia.edu.