Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Art from across the globe

As our Art literature collection continues to expand, Stephen Town adds a splash of diversity to the selection.

This week's donations contain an eclectic mix
of art and illustration
I spent last weekend going through my late mother’s book collections. She would never have called it a library, but it was very substantial and varied, reflecting her interests, profession, causes and beliefs. It incorporated my late father’s collection and those of both their forbears, spanning nearly a century of commitment to Yorkshire education, a family tradition which of course I also continue until my retirement.

I have selected four items from her collection to add to my donations, all relating to the history of art. Most of her books will go to broader charitable causes, as she would have wished, and her almost complete set of twentieth century crime writing may well be available for purchase in a charity shop near you very soon.

Beach & Koch: King of the World: the Padshahnama

My mother loved India and continued to visit well past the time the rest of the family considered it safe and sensible. This large and beautifully illustrated book was published on the occasion of the exhibition of the Mughal manuscript from the Royal Library at Windsor Castle. The exhibition, organised by the Sackler Gallery, travelled across India, the UK and USA in 1997-98 and was part of the 5oth Anniversary celebrations of the independence of India and Pakistan. The book was the first time these illustrations had been published.

Neil MacGregor: Seeing salvation: images of Christ in Art

The Art section in our Library also has the National Gallery work arising from the millennial exhibition on which this book is based. But this work was produced by the BBC and accompanied a TV series shown in 2000, concentrating on the history of the artistic depiction of Christ. Parts of the holidays of my childhood were spent in galleries and churches across Europe, as a cultural alternative to walking and climbing. My mother had a strong faith, but as MacGregor suggests, these images can still speak powerfully to non-believers.

Pinkney: William Morris in Oxford

Like Morris, my mother was an Oxford student. Also like Morris, she was a strong believer in social justice, although in her later years this was expressed more through liberalism than socialism. This book focuses on Morris’ later life in Oxford, covering what the author describes as his campaigning years, as he took up architectural and social causes to transform the University and City.

Higgins & Robinson: William de Morgan

De Morgan was an arts and crafts potter, and a lifelong friend of William Morris. We already have a selection of works on De Morgan in the Library at LG 8.3, and this slim but copiously illustrated book will further enhance our collection. The pages contain some previously unillustrated designs for tiles, stained glass and pots, showing off his ‘fabulous animals, rich florals and flowing Persian curves’.

Friday, 10 July 2015

A Natural History of English Gardening

As we pass the half-way point in his Nightshelf series, Stephen Town starts to reflect on how he might spend his time after retirement.

Laird, M., A Natural History of English Gardening, 1650 - 1800, in the University library at LA 2 LAI.

Garden pests come in all shapes
and sizes. Image reproduced from
our Special Collections
The most common assumption about retirement, and one strongly held by my wife, is that I will have more time for gardening when I retire. In truth, I may actually spend more time reading about gardening, and this book would be a good place to start. It is not exactly easy nightshelf material, as it is a large and sumptuously illustrated title, produced by Yale University Press for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art; coincidentally this is where our former History of Art colleague Mark Hallett is now Director of Studies.

This is, however, no coffee table book. Although, anyone interested might gain great pleasure just by looking at the illustrations. It is, as the Guardian reviewer suggested, a work of both scholarship and beauty. Mark Laird is a knowledgeable scholar and an accomplished writer, and he and the book have associations with our University, York and Yorkshire which are documented carefully in his acknowledgments.

Photo: Stephen Town. Redressing the balance between
nature and geometry in my own springtime garden.
The title was consciously chosen as a ‘natural history’ to reflect the multidisciplinary breadth of the subject of gardens, and is particularly interesting on the subject of weather in the period documented, which all we gardeners know can ‘subvert the best-laid schemes’. This book brings together successfully all those disparate elements which influenced the art, science and practice of gardening in the eighteenth century, in a set of chapter essays which could each be read alone. The book seeks to redress a perceived bias arising from Walpole in the perceptions of modern English garden taste for ‘nature’ and against geometry and formalism, as I also try to do in my own garden. The book also recovers the significant contributions of both women and amateurs to the development of gardens in this period.

Gardening is, in the end, a joy, and this book fully reflects that.

Further reading:

Books from the Garden History Society Special Collection can be found in King's Manor Library and the University's Special Collections located in the Borthwick Institute for Archives.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

York in pictures, old age in the USSR, the trial of Marie Antoinette...

The Library holds a wide and varied range of pamphlets, covering a variety of political and historical subjects, with influential authors including Mandela and Nehru. Ilka Heale introduces some highlights.

The Library has a collection of just over two thousand pamphlets written by contemporary politicians, writers and historians, which are bound together in volumes and identified by the shelfmark 'OP'. They contain a wide range of topics, including the early Labour movement, Marxism, Communism, Railways, Housing, Russian industry and history of South Africa, Rhodesia and Poland.

These pamphlets comprise of a variety of fascinating primary source material, with subjects drawn largely from the first half of the twentieth century. The Empire and its demise is a popular theme, with pamphlets from southern Africa and India analysing the movement to independence. Another favourite subject is the fragile European situation with its explosion into two world wars, along with the establishment of new nations like the USSR. Other pamphlets focus closer to home, and look at the birth of the welfare state, or the clearance of slums in British cities, including York.

The pamphlets are also immensely valuable as primary sources from some of the twentieth century's most influential figures; there are pamphlets written by Nelson Mandela, Kenneth Kaunda, and Jawaharlal Nehru, to name but a few.

Each pamphlet has a detailed record on the Library catalogue, and can be searched for by subject, title, or author. Alternatively, the full collection can be browsed at its shelf location on the second floor of the Morrell Library. There are also a few volumes of pamphlets published before 1850, which are shelved in Special Collections; these too be found via the Library catalogue.

Below are a few selections from the collection...


The trial at large of Marie Antoinette, late Queen of France, before the Revolutionary Tribunal, at Paris, Oct. 15, and an authentic account of her execution, October 16, 1793 is a transcription from 1793 of the trial of Queen Marie Antoinette, which resulted in her execution on the guillotine.

Also bound into this volume is 'A speech delivered in the Reichstag' by Adolf Hitler on 7 March 1936.

King Leopold's soliloquy: a defense of his Congo rule by Mark Twain finds the American writer and commentator Samuel Clemens (1835-1910), writing in 1905 under his better-known pen name of Mark Twain, satirising Belgium's King Leopold and his country's colonial policies.


York in pictures, a pamphlet published in 1900, is a history and guide to York and includes photographs from the turn of the 20th century.

Also bound into this volume is Who Was Guy Fawkes? by the rather wonderfully named Lockwood Huntley. Published in Beverley in 1914 and covering six pages, this pamphlet was written by the Head Librarian in Beverley.

Cambridge printing, 1521-1924 is a lecture on the history of Cambridge University Press and was donated to the Library by none other than J.B. Morrell himself. John Bowes Morrell (1872-1963) was one of York's greatest benefactors. He played a significant part in the campaign for a university in York. The Joseph Rowntree Social Service Trust, where he was chairman, was the major financial sponsor of the new university and the academic activities which preceded it. In 1955, Morrell persuaded the Trust to buy Heslington Hall and its grounds and later gave them as the nucleus of the University site. The C and JB Morrell Trust also gave large sums towards the founding of the University, and today it supports the Morrell Centre for Toleration.

Books and libraries were very important to JB Morrell. His father, William Wilberforce Morrell, was the chief advocate of a free public library in York, finally achieved in 1891. JB chaired the Public Library Committee from 1913 to 1920, expanding library holdings and arranging funding for a new library building. When the University of York opened in 1963, it was a most fitting tribute that the new University Library should bear his name.

Official guide to the Scarborough and Whitby railway. Things have changed in the 120 years since this was published. The coast route is now part of the National Cycle Network.

Other titles bound into this volume are guides to Wensleydale, Ilkley, Harrogate and Flamborough published in the late 19th century. The name on the title page suggests that these guides were once owned by William Wilberforce Morrell, father to John Bowes Morrell.

To find out more about accessing the pamplets collection, please ask at the Library Help Desk or contact your Academic Liaison Librarian.