Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Writing in the library

This is a guest post from Dave Beer, Reader in Sociology, reblogged from his own Medium page with permission. All the images are by Dave too.

I’m working on a book at the moment. It’s largely drafted and I’m trying to work it into shape. I always find it a bit of a slog when I’m having to read my own words back, again and again. I keep the writing and editing stages very seperate, which means that I’m often working with an extremely rough draft that need lots of work over several months. It’s a slow process. This is when I tend to turn to the library. When it comes to the trickier bits of writing and editing — whether it’s books, chapters or articles I’m working on — I’ve found that relocating to the library can help a little. The slog is the same, but being surrounded by books seems to give the work a little bit of an encouraging nudge.

The library is a bit of a bubble. I use it more in the gaps between terms. In the ebb and flow of the academic year — described beautifully in Les Back’s book Academic Diary: Or Why Higher Education Still Matters — the library space is most welcoming at the time when my own diary is at it’s thinnest. I’m in the library now, writing this short piece as a way of getting warmed up for a few hours of editing. The library space just seems to invite thinking and writing. Wifi connects me into the usual networks, but the space seems somehow to provide a refuge from the distractions and endless flows of information that call for our attention. It frowns on anything too fivilous; Twitter mentions and the like. The attention economy still calls to us through our devices, but somehow the quiet contemplation of the library space suggsts to us that we should be ignoring it and directing our attention elswhere.
In terms of our connectivity, the spaces of the library are no different to anywhere else. They just feel different. Part of the this is the kind of affective properties that are designed into the spaces — they are put together to make you feel a certain way. But the bigger presence is that of the books. Even if we are not taking them off the shelves, the books set the tone for the space. Their physical presence, looming down from the shelves, reminds you of the history of knowledge. This is partly liberating because, as when looking at pictures of outer space, I’m reminded of the meagreness of what I am contributing. The enormity of knowledge is there on display in the library. This frees me up becuase of the perspective it gives to the writing.

I think though the tone of the library is also a product of how evocative the books are. A little while ago I wrote a short piece about the properties of old books. That short piece used both Sherry Turkle’s notion of ‘evocative objects’ and Walte Benjamin’s account of the importance of the materiality of books to reflect on why working with old books is so interesting. Their yellowed pages suggest something of their past and istantly evoke a history of use — a material biography. When we sit amonst them rows of them we are placed within a mass of those historcial traces. The presence of shelves full of old books has a collective effect. The impact of evocative objects is multiplied when they are displayed in concert. The library space is where these evocative obejcts intersect and their dusty dogeared and sun-lightened spines tell stories of accumulating knowledge. The aura of these obejcts is powerful in itself — we need not always be working from these books to feel a sense of the weight of knowledge and the history of thinking that they evoke.

Writing spaces matter. The environment we write in inevitably shapes the work (as an example, I previously I wrote this short piece on the book I wrote whilst sitting in a fold up chair and leaning on a towel box). The liberating enormity and evocative presence of the library’s books make it a place to think and work that, I think, adds some energy and a bit of fizz to what I’m doing. It’s a space I tend to turn to when I need a bit of a push to keep writing or to keep editing. Sometimes I fetch those books come down from the shelves to inform what I’m doing, but often they sit there suggesting to me to think more, to be a bit freer and to get on with it.

Friday, 25 August 2017

The Ralph Vaughan Williams Collection

To mark the 59th anniversary of his death on Saturday 26 August, Olivia Else, Academic Liaison Librarian for Music, explores the set of scores that originally belonged to Ralph Vaughan Williams that are now housed in the Library's Rare Books collection.

Vaughan Williams by Rothenstein in 1919.
Image from
by-Rothenstein.jpg in the public domain.
As the Academic Liaison Librarian for Music at the University of York I am proud to oversee the excellent collection of scores and academic texts that are housed in the John Paynter Music Library, as well as the large selection of music related DVDs and CDs, microfiche and electronic resources held elsewhere in the building, or online.

One of the lesser known parts of the Library’s Rare Books collection includes a set of 81 scores bound together in 21 volumes that were originally owned by the eminent British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958).

The scores were gifted to the Library by the Department of Music’s Professor Nicola LeFanu, an internationally recognised composer in her own right, and she in turn received them from another acclaimed composer, her mother Elizabeth Maconchy, who studied under Vaughan Williams (henceforth RVW) at the Royal College of Music in the 1920s.

The somewhat eclectic set of scores contains works by RVW’s forbears, contemporaries and pupils, as well as a handful of his own works. Most interesting to scholars are perhaps the annotations on some of the works. Although most show no signs of having been used in performance, some of the chamber works contain fingering and rehearsal marks, and a number of the scores have handwritten dedications to RVW by their composers, including Gustav Holst (a close friend of RVWs), Herbert Howells (a younger composer profoundly influenced by RVW’s music) and Arnold Bax (another younger composer who developed a close working relationship with RVW).

A selection of annotated scores from the Ralph
Vaughan Williams collection. Photograph by Paul Shields. 

RVW appears to have solved a problem that many musicians continue to grapple with today. He bound his score collection into larger volumes to make it easier to find what he needed when searching through large quantities of anonymous looking slimline sheet music. Some of these volumes have rather beautiful covers with RVW’s initials embossed on them in gold, and all contain handwritten contents notes on the front flyleaf, apparently written by RVW himself.

Front cover and contents page of a collection of scores, Morris dance tunes. Photograph by Paul Shields. 

The two most exciting volumes in the set contain a handwritten reduced score of RVW’s ballad opera Hugh the Drover. The opera was first composed during the period 1910-1914 but it did not receive a formal performance until 1924. A scrawled note on the cover of the first volume states “Curwen
Editions 3661” and this indeed reflects the details of the publisher and plate number of the 1924 edition of the score, but our version appears to be a pre-publication copy, possibly a final proof.

Front cover of Hugh the drover: a romantic
ballad opera in two acts
. Photograph by Paul Shields.

Although largely identical to the published version, as you look through the score there are numerous areas of correction or re-working. On a casual glance it is impossible to be certain whether these reflect errors or deliberate revisions of the music - maybe there is a PhD thesis waiting for someone in these pages! What we do know is that Vaughan Williams continued to work on the score of Hugh the Drover throughout his lifetime, with the final version being published in 1956, over forty years after the work was first ‘finished’.

Annotations in Hugh the drover: a romantic
ballad opera in two acts
.Photograph by Paul Shields.  
Whatever the role played by these volumes in the evolution of Hugh the Drover, for myself as a librarian and music graduate it is thrilling to be able to handle scores with such an illustrious provenance, and gain a little insight into the workings of one of our nation’s greatest musicians. As with any item in the Library’s Rare Books Collections, members of the University can arrange to consult the RVW collection in the Borthwick Institute’s Search Rooms. A full list of the scores in the collection can be seen on YorSearch,  I do encourage you to come and make full use of them. As for me, I’m off to bind my own score collection in leather volumes with OJE embossed in golden letters on the corners…

Monday, 21 August 2017

Creating the Story

In the second of his two blog posts regarding the IPUP internship, Alex Jubb tells us more about Clement Attlee's Indian Books.

There is certainly an air of mystery surrounding Clement Attlee's relationship with the University of York. The presence of books donated by Attlee reflects two major questions; why did he have these books in the first place? And secondly, how have they ended up in the University's collection? The internship, brought about by the seventieth anniversary of the independence of India and Pakistan, has contributed to bringing both Attlee's involvement in the early history of the University to the surface, in addition to the wider knowledge of the accessions book; a source rarely known about outside of the Rare Books Department within the University.

Attlee's interest in Indian and Pakistani affairs was recognised by a great number of Indian authors. He had been a member of a number of influential commissions, including the Indian Statutory Commission between 1928 and 1934, and later became the expert on India within the Labour Party. During the Second World War Attlee was placed in charge of Indian Affairs, setting up the Cripps Mission in 1942 in an attempt to bring all the various factions within India together. As a result of this wealth of experience, Attlee played a crucial role in ultimately bringing about the independence of both states. It soon became obvious through many of the inscriptions in works personally donated by Attlee to the University that the ex-Prime Minister was a greatly admired, clearly knowledgeable individual who was seen as a man who could provide patronage to works on the subject of India and Pakistan. Authors such as Bhagavan Das,  MM Aslan Khan, and S Rawachaudra Rau, in addition to organisations such as the Anglo-Indian Association based in London, made hand-written notes to Attlee himself within many of the works. Das, in his 1934 work Ancient versus Modern “Scientific Socialism”, wrote to Attlee to ask for a review of the aforementioned work. This can be seen in the image below;

The inscription in Ancient Versus Modern "Scientific Socialism'"by Bhagavan Das.
In Rawachaudra Rau's case he forwarded on to Attlee his late father's 1912 work, K Srinivasu-Rau's The Crisis in India, stating that; 'For favour of noble acceptance by Major C. R. Attlee MP this work is presented in fulsome loyalty and devotion' (see the image below). This could be evidence for the respect for Attlee from authors of Indian affairs. Moreover, whilst the Anglo-Indian Association donated a work to Attlee from their offices in London, Attlee received many works from the Indian sub-continent itself. For example, Aslan Khan's analytical work 'Safeguards in the New Indian Bill' arrived on Attlee's desk all the way from Lahore.

The inscription in The Crisis in India by K Srinivasa Rau
The second question is clearly; how have these works ended up in the University's collections? The University had sent out a call to institutions and individuals across the country and as a result there were a series of generous donations of books between 1961 and 1963. During these years, the University had been announced but was not officially open until 1963. The founding of the University of York and other universities of the same period,  was a definite factor in receiving these donations. Socialist and Labour politicians such as Attlee appreciated and valued new universities as they provided education for a greatly increased number of potential students; 'education for all' being a key feature in the vocabulary of the majority of left-leaning politicians.

However, it is unclear what were the other driving forces behind the donation of these works. John Bew, the author of the most recent biography of Attlee, assumes that one possibility is that Violet Attlee, Clement’s wife, donated these books as the family was moving to a smaller home with less space for a vast library. The dates in which these works were logged in the accessions book all fell in August of 1962; Violet Attlee passed away in 1964, and Clement Attlee died in 1967. He was increasingly frail as the 1960s wore on, but in 1962 he did give two speeches in the House of Lords; he was very much still capable of enacting his political beliefs both in and out of Westminster, but was certainly in less good health than he had ever previously been. The latest possible date for these documents to have been donated would clearly be in 1962 with the logged date evidenced in the accessions book. The Attlee of the early 1960s would possibly have still been capable of donating these works, as well as also deciding which works to donate and which ones to keep within his collection. Documents that would support this theory have yet to be uncovered, and it is the accessions book that is the main piece of evidence for Attlee's contributions.

After correspondence with the British Library, the Bodleian Library in Oxford and Attlee's biographers, the mystery has only grown exponentially. In the correspondence with the Bodleian, the Superintendent for the Library’s Special Collections stated that; 'in keeping, perhaps, with his [Attlee's] seemingly quiet and methodical nature, he did not routinely keep personal correspondence … the collection we [the Bodleian] have is very much a collection of governmental and official documents'. The Bodleian holds the mainstay of manuscripts relating to Attlee, so the mystery would continue.

Clement Attlee's bookplate, found in
many of the works.
What is also interesting is that the collection of mid-twentieth century Indian works have been greatly
supplemented by major gifts from the Riddy family in 2008. Felicity Riddy was an academic at the University of York between 1988 and 2007, becoming the Vice-Chancellor in 2000. She is a specialist in late-medieval English and Scottish Literature, whereas her husband John had 'made his mark as a book collector, and built up a much-admired private library on the history of British India… once the largest of its kind in private hands'. He was known to give lectures and wrote articles illuminating various aspects of Indian history. The Riddys can also be found in the very same accessions book within the Borthwick Library, having gifted even more works than Attlee did himself. This project highlighting twentieth century Indian works within the University has accompanied the continued employment and recruitment of specialists in all departments within the University; specialists in fields such as Indian and Pakistani affairs, global and transnational history, in addition to scholars of worldwide independence movements following examples of de-colonisation in the twentieth century.

There is undoubtedly a great amount of scope for more research to be done in the particular field. The accessions book holds many hidden secrets; Attlee personally donated hundreds of works, to the University of York and this placement has only served to highlight those works relating to the independence movements of both India and Pakistan. A full programme of research into the accessions book will certainly be useful to create a greater level of understanding of the history of the Morrell Library.

There are plenty of sources still to find, and plenty of manuscripts still to uncover within the University’s archives to unearth the mysteries that have arisen as a result of this internship.

The information gathered during this internship will be used to enhance catalogue records making it easier for researchers to identify Attlee donations. For more information please contact the Rare Books Librarian

All photos by Alex Jubb.

Clement Attlee's ‘Indian Books’

In the first of two posts to mark the 70th anniversary of Indian Independence, Alex Jubb explains how his internship led to him learning about the Library's collection of books once owned by Clement Attlee.

This will be the first of two blogs written about an internship undertaken with the Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past (IPUP). The first post will discuss how this internship came about, the first stages of the internship, and the internship's successes. The second post will develop the narrative that I have unearthed whilst progressing through the internship.

The accessories book, available in the Borthwick
Archives, open on just one of the many
pages of Attlee's donations
Every summer, IPUP offer part-time internships 'intended to give graduate History students an
opportunity to develop their skills, experience and CVs in various employment contexts.' I was lucky enough to be offered an internship closely associated with the History Department and the University Library's Special Collections. The University Library holds a vast array of hidden wonders within its collections; many of which are catalogued without copy specific details, leaving these particular books difficult to locate even if an avid historian tries to find them on the University's databases. Clement Attlee, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom immediately following the end of the Second World War, donated many books to the Library in the early 1960s. Attlee was one of the most important figures in orchestrating the granting of independence to India and Pakistan in 1947. As a result of this, in his vast collection of books he had obtained many works on Indian and Pakistani affairs. Attlee donated over 100 of these works to the Library, and I was to play a role in finding these works on the Library's shelves, listing them, and ensuring that they are widely advertised and explored thoroughly by other researchers, not just myself through improved catalogue records, and promotion via social media and exhibitions. This was primarily because this year marks the 70th anniversary of the Indian Independence Act, and is fresh on the minds of many eminent scholars and historians.

It is only known that these works originally belonged to Attlee through the exploration of the University's 'Accessions Book'; a book detailing all of the books, articles and other items donated to the Library over a two year period between 1961 and 1963. I spent a day working with this book in the Borthwick Reading Room, transferring the data from the book onto an electronic spreadsheet. It soon became obvious that there was minimal detail on the accessions book, and from a quick search of several of the books using 'Yorsearch', the University of York's online catalogue,  it soon became evident that these details were also missing from the online catalogue. Publishers were missing, first names of many authors were missing, and the title of the book and date of publication were often incomplete. To the outside world, and to most within the University itself, there was no indication that these were donated by Attlee. Only the accessions book had this crucial information. This lack of information was initially quite worrying, but a day spent collating all of the relevant works from the accessions book allowed me to 'fill in the gaps'. This was a long and arduous process, but one that will be of use to future researchers of Attlee and the independence stories of India and Pakistan. Many of these works have authorial inscriptions to Attlee, Attlee's family crest and bookplate, and other notations made by Attlee himself. These works are not known to scholars and biographers of Attlee, and by sharing the database of these works that I have now created it is hoped that this information will soon be out in the public domain via the online catalogue.

The accessories book, held in the Borthwick Archives, showing Attlee's donations.
This new research into Attlee's donations will also lend itself to the creation of an exhibition within the University Library. This exhibition will showcase several of the books that have been researched, and will be the first step to bringing Attlee's relationship with the University to life.

Clement Attlee with his instantly
recognisable smoking pipe
Being given the chance to work alongside both Sarah Griffin, the Rare Books and York Minster Librarian, and Mark Jenner, one of the University's Research Champions and also a Reader in Early Modern History, has certainly been something that I have really appreciated. The works that I have looked at within this internship were initially unknown to me, but I now have a much clearer understanding of the immense wealth of material that the University has within its collection. A simple use of the Library catalogue might highlight the location of a particular book but, at present, it is not always possible to tell via this method just how important an individual the book belonged to. This opportunity has been something that I have relished; it has provided me with inspiration for future avenues of research, and invaluable experience of working within the Special Collections Department of an academic institution. Not only will this be of great use in future when I am searching for jobs and deciding which career path to follow, but has provided me with a newfound set of skills; I am now confident in working on a project where the narrative has not been created and is not necessarily easy to come across. The second part of this blog will discuss the 'narrative' and story of Attlee's donations to the University, particularly focusing on his relationship with India and Pakistan. This relationship can be told through the information within the accessions book and Attlee's donated works, and the story is an interesting one indeed.

Photo of Clement Attlee used under a Creative Commons licence from Wikimedia Commons. All other photos taken by Alex Jubb.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Philip Larkin’s connections to the City of Culture

Kyra Piperides, a PhD student in the Department of English and Related Literature, looks at Larkin’s connections to Hull including the recent preservation of his flat in the city by Historic England.

Some of Larkin's poetry set up in a printing press.
(Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
As a researcher studying Philip Larkin’s poetry, I am frequently confronted with the comment: “I remember his poem about… you know… what your parents do to you!” In 2015 Professor Edwin Dawes, chair of the Philip Larkin Society, remarked that “[Larkin’s] words are quoted more frequently than those of any of his poetic contemporaries”. While the often allusively rephrased first lines of This Be The Verse roll so easily off the tongues of so many, it is the closing line of An Arundel Tomb that demonstrates the poet’s continuing relevance. A quick Twitter and Instagram search shows that #WhatWillSurviveOfUsIsLove has become associated with such diverse topics as LGBT+ rights, war and random acts of kindness. It is easy to see why Larkin became known as the country’s unofficial laureate.
Philip Larkin photographed in the
newly-completed Brynmor Jones
Library, 1969.  Photograph
by Fay Godwin. 

In 2003 Larkin was named favourite poet by the Poetry Book Society and the Poetry Library and in 2008, he topped The Times’ list of greatest British postwar writers. Despite declining the position of Poet Laureate shortly before his death, Larkin was finally memorialised in Westminster Abbey’s Poet’s Corner in December 2016. Further official recognition has come very recently, with the announcement in July 2017 that Historic England are to preserve the Hull flat in which he lived for eighteen years and wrote much of his poetry, with a Grade II listing.

While it may have taken a little longer for Westminster to officially recognise the poet, Larkin has long been celebrated in Yorkshire. From the windows of the University of Hull’s Larkin Building, you have a perfect view of the Brynmor
Jones Library, the iconic building that the poet-librarian oversaw the development and running of from 1955-1985. In the city immortalised in Here – “Here domes and statues, spires and cranes cluster/ Beside grain-scattered streets, barge-crowded water” – Larkin’s statue greets those arriving by train, his poems engraved below their feet. The Larkin trail guides visitors through significant points in Hull and beyond, and 40 technicolour toads graced the streets to mark 25 years since the poet’s death in 2010.

One of the technicolour toads.
CC-BY 2.0
It was the poet’s poignant words that introduced the promotional video for Hull’s successful campaign for the title of UK City of Culture 2017. The year’s celebrations have provoked all-the-more interest in Larkin, with a biographic exhibition opening in July 2017. Larkin: New Eyes Each Year features an enormous collection of the poet’s possessions, fittingly presented in the Brynmor Jones Library. Shelf after shelf of books are displayed, still in the order that the poet-librarian had them arranged, their breadth of topics highlighting his diverse interests. The words “books are a load of crap” are wittily placed, half-concealed on the shelves, behind his collection. As the complexities of the poet’s character are explored in the exhibition, visitors are given the opportunity to take a seat on a park bench, to immerse themselves in the former librarian’s poetry. Biographical interest and controversy aside, it is ultimately Larkin’s poetry that secured his place in Poet’s Corner and the title of the nation’s favourite poet.

A statue of Philip Larkin
(Flickr CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0)
The University of York library houses a range of Larkin’s work alongside related critical and The Complete Poems of Philip Larkin (2015), edited by Archie Burnett, contains all of Larkin’s published Larkin, Ideology and Critical Violence: A Case of Wrongful Conviction (2008). Andrew Motion’s Philip Larkin: A Writer’s Life (1993) and James Booth’s Philip Larkin: Life, Art and Love (2015) are engaging biographies. Audio cassettes of Larkin reading his poems are also available.
poems and a selection of unpublished pieces, complete with a comprehensive commentary. The library’s collection includes several introductions to Larkin and his poetry, as well as a selection of excellent critical works including John Osborne’s
biographical texts.

A number of Larkin’s works are held in the Poetry Society Library collection, shelved at the end of the literature section in the JB Morrell Library. This collection has over 10,000 books available to borrow, concentrating mainly on 20th century poetry in English. The Library’s rare book collection also has the Eliot collection, focusing on 20th century literature with a wide range of different authors. All the material held by the Library can be searched using the catalogue YorSearch.

Larkin: New Eyes Each Year is open until Sunday 1 October 2017, and Hull is only an hour away by train!