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Author Archives: ferguswilde

  1. Who’s got the better Flea?

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    Out for photography this week was the Micrographia Nova of Johann Franz Griendel von Ach (1631-1687), a small quarto response to the ground-breaking Micrographia by Robert Hooke (1635-1703), one of our favourite illustrated scientific works. Hooke’s work was published in London in English in 1665, Griendel’s in Nuremberg, in Latin, and in the year of his death, 1687. We were thinking of a longer blog about Griendel’s work, but discovered  an excellent one by Dr William Ashworth already online at the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City, Missouri. Griendel combined the lenses in his microscope – and microscopes in general were an emerging technology – differently from Hooke and others, and claimed a major advance in magnification.

    Griendel's microscope from Micrographia Nova, 1687

    Griendel’s microscope from Micrographia Nova, 1687

    Hooke, who unlike Griendel lived long enough to see the appreciation of his work develop over years, may not have been impressed with Griendel’s claims of improvement in magnification; but who got the better flea? A function of the skills of drawer and engraver rather than of the power of the instrument, of course; but who wins? First comes Hooke’s:

    Engraving of a flea from Robert Hooke's Micrographia of 1665

    Engraving of a flea from Robert Hooke’s Micrographia of 1665

    And next Griendel’s:

    Engraving of a flea from Griendel's Micrographia Nova of 1687

    Engraving of a flea from Griendel’s Micrographia Nova of 1687

    Hooke’s work was published folio, giving his engraver an edge simply in terms of paper size in comparison with Griendel’s small quarto format; but we’re going to give Hooke’s image an easy lead over the later competitor in terms of detail, shading, and general sharpness. Competition out of the way, and given quoting chunks of Griendel’s Latin might be a bit chewy (you can read it online here if you’d like), we might finish with a little of Hooke’s very engaging English prose, describing his approach to studying refraction, and why colours occur in the heavens:

    Hooke's refraction experiments described in an engraving

    Hooke’s refraction experiments described

    “First, The redness of the Sun, Moon, and Stars, will be found to be caused by the inflection of the rays within the Atmosphere. That it is not really in or near the luminous bodies, will, I suppose, be very easily granted, seeing that this redness is observable in several places differing in Longitude, to be at the same time different, the setting and rising of the Sun of all parts being for the most part red: And secondly, That it is not merely the colour of the Air interpos’d, will, I suppose, without much more difficulty be yielded, seeing that we may observe a very great interstitium of Air betwixt the Object and the Eye, makes it appear of a dead blew, far enough differing from a red, or yellow. But thirdly, That it proceeds from the refraction, or inflection, of the rays by the Atmosphere, this following experiment will, I suppose, sufficiently manifest. Take a spherical Crystalline Viol, such as is described in the fifth figure ABCD …”

    Please send us any spare crystalline viols that you may have lying around the place …

  2. The Kingdom and People of Siam

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    On the desk today is a lovely three volume set of The Kingdom and People of Siam (1857), with a foreword by King Mongkut. These books were composed by Sir John Bowring, a British political economist, traveller, writer, literary translator, polyglot and the fourth Governor of Hong Kong. In 1855 he was sent by Queen Victoria on a diplomatic mission to the Kingdom of Siam, now Thailand, to negotiate a trading agreement. In 1861 he was sent as a commissioner to the newly created Kingdom of Italy. 

    Bowring was a prolific writer, and the Library has acquired many of his books; however, it was his piece on Siam that proved to be the most popular, as it offered a detailed description of the country, people and culture of what was then a very distant and exotic country to a wider audience. 

    Title page of The Kingdom and People of Siam.

    The British diplomats were a welcome presence in Siam and recieved warmly by the King of Siam, Mongkut, who was keen to have western influence in the country and establish friendship with Britain. Mongkut and Bowring were to develop good relations, with Bowring dedicating his account of Thailand to the King. In 1867 Mongkut was to appoint Bowring as Siam’s ambassador to the courts of Europe.

    Correspondence between the King and Bowring.

     An agreement that was to become known as the Bowring Treaty was signed by the two countries on the 18th April, 1855. The Treaty granted British merchants free trade in the ports of Siam, and permitted British citizens to relocate and to own land in Siam. It was specified that British migrants would remain exempt from Siamese legal jurisdiction. The agreement also ensured the development of the Siamese economy, and offered them British protection from other European countries. 

    An illustration of social customs in Siam.

    The most significant impact of the Treaty was the legalisation of opium exports into Siam, which had previously been illegal. The Bowring Treaty enjoyed success for 70 years before it broke down in the 1930s. 

  3. Instruction With Delight

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    As well as a vast collection of rare and academic works the library is home to a small collection of children’s stories and fairytales. In a change of pace for today’s blog, we thought we would share a review of one of our children’s literature stories: The History of Dame Mitchell And Her Cat from the 19th century.

    Just as children’s books today are designed to entertain as well as educate, so were those of the late 18th and 19th centuries. These works tended to lean slightly more towards instruction than frivolity, focusing on religion, morals, social conduct, ideology, or beliefs and ideas of the time. This has since become known as ‘instruction with delight’, a phrase relating to the early children’s books of John Newbery whose frontispiece for A Little Pretty Pocket Book (1744) had the phrase in Latin, ‘Deluctando monemus’.

    The History of Dame Mitchell And Her Cat is no exception to this combination of entertainment and moral compass. This edition was published in 1870 and is part of a collection of short stories featuring four hundred illustrations by eminent artists.

    An example of the fine artwork within the story.

    The tale opens in the reign of Queen Anne and sees a cat being tormented by a group of children; this is witnessed by a wealthy woman named Lady Greenford, who orders them to cease and bring the cat to her. She intends to leave the poor animal as he is not easy on the eye, but he then fixes her with a knowing gaze letting her know he understands she does not want him as a pet because of his sorry state. This changes her mind and she decides to take him to her home in Chelsea.

    Upon his arrival, he is introduced to Dame Mitchell the housekeeper, and Daddy Sharppiz the butler. The two welcome the cat, and although he immediately takes to Dame Mitchell, he remains wary of Sharppiz. The cat, now named Mowmouth, continues to be doted on by Dame Mitchell, and even Lady Greenford begins to grow fond of him. Mowmouth is now resented by Sharppiz because of his popularity in the house.

    Here is Dame Mitchell taking her duty to Mowmouth’s care very seriously.

    A few weeks later Lady Greenford receives news that her sister is unwell and intends to visit her for some weeks, but unfortunately she has to leave Mowmouth behind because of her sister’s aversion to cats. Dame Mitchell is praised by Lady Greenford for her excellent care of Mowmouth since he arrived, and is entrusted with his care whilst she visits her sister.

    Due to her previous good care of the cat, Dame Mitchell is promised a rich pension upon the Lady’s death if Mowmouth is happy and healthy upon her return. This enrages Sharppiz and he becomes consumed with jealousy and vows to get rid of the cat.

    Over the next few chapters we see Sharppiz reveal his true nature, he tries to dump Mowmouth in the river, poison him and employs and blackmails a young footman to do away with the poor animal. When the cat is declared missing the footman is blamed and questioned by Lady Greenford when she returns. The young boy reveals Sharppiz’s treachery and discloses he did not murder Mowmouth because he loved the cat very much, and instead he left him in the care of a local woman. The cat is retrieved and the boy is dismissed as no one believed the duplicity of Sharppiz.

    This is Mowmouth exercising caution around Sharpphiz.

    A few days later Dame Mitchell finds a half-eaten pie with dead rats in proximity in one of the kitchen cupboards, and she recalls some weeks ago, before the cat’s disappearance, his refusal to eat that very pie made for him by Sharppiz. She immediately informs Lady Greenford that the footman was telling the truth about Sharppiz. Overhearing this conversation between Dame Mitchell and Lady Greenford, Sharppiz flees into the night before he is reprimanded. It is later found out that he boarded a ship to the Americas.

    Mowmouth now flourishes in the care of Lady Greenford and Dame Mitchell. Stories of his triumph over the evil butler make him famous in London, and he is even visited by the Queen. When Lady Greenford dies, Dame Mitchell inherits her pension and Mowmouth and his wife and children live with her in happiness. When Mowmouth in turn dies after a long and blissful life with Dame Mitchell, the University of Oxford commissions a commemorative statue of him.

    Mowmouth’s memorial statue with Dame Mitchell visiting.

    The History of Dame Mitchell And Her Cat stresses the moral victory of good ultimately triumphing over evil as well as teaching the virtues of charity and not judging a book by its cover. These lessons are delivered through a compelling story and interspersed with beautiful illustrations, indeed making the story ‘instruction with delight’.

  4. Reading in the Library: Swati Joshi

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    We thought we would share with you the experience of one of our researchers Swati Joshi who visited the library as both a reader and tourist, Swati is a PhD student from India who is currently studying in Manchester, over to you Swati:

    Away from the humdrum of the Arndale the modern fashion hub of Manchester stands the 350-year old Chetham’s Library, the oldest public library in Britain, with its rich collection of books on diverse subjects such as Medicine, Gardening, Importance of Herbs, French and English Poetry, Theology, Literature, Politics, and much more. On each of my visits, I have felt at home in this elegant sandstone building that represents the heritage and history of Manchester. This ancient vessel of knowledge has books dating back to the 16th century.

    I visited Chetham’s library for the first time as a tourist, and during these illuminating guided tours, I discovered books useful for my thesis on the medical humanities. I booked an appointment and enjoyed reading the books at the place where Marx and Engels had studied and discussed the living conditions of the working classes. Everyone at the library has been so supportive, encouraging and generous about sharing the information of the various books and helping me gain access to the digital manuscripts.

    I highly recommend joining the guided tour of Chetham’s library, which will be an intellectual treat to all your senses, be it the smell of the wood and the stones, the texture of the antique objects, the visual delight of seeing stacks of books of varied sizes on myriads of subjects. These tours will definitely inspire you to make your next visit as a reader! I want to extend my gratitude to everyone at the library who made my experience of learning the most enlightening and the most memorable.

  5. Lasers and Tudor Woodwork

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    In honour of Dr. Peter Linfield’s upcoming walking tour of Tudor Manchester and the Earls of Derby, we thought we would promote some of his recent field research. Join Peter this Thursday morning on the 19th of May, for a tour of both the real and the would-be medieval carpentry of the Earls of Derby and their relations at 10.30, meeting at the Cathedral South Porch! Book here.

    On Wednesday 30 April 2022 Drs Ben Edwards and Peter N. Lindfield from the History Department at Manchester Metropolitan University undertook a detailed analysis of historic woodwork at Chetham’s Library. Under examination was Tudor spolia from the royal marriage bed of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York (the royal arms of England and France) and its associated Victorian Gothic Revival framework, which together form a royal sideboard supplied to the Library around 1848 by the Saddleworth architect, antiquary, and forger George Shaw (1810–76). 

    Scanning Tudor woodwork.

    Ben, an archaeologist, scanned areas of this woodwork with lasers to build up a detailed record of tool marks remaining across their surfaces. Other examples of Tudor carving from the royal marriage bed include a set of four heraldic lions. In addition, a copy of these lions by Shaw was also scanned and analysed in detail. When examined closely, these scans will allow Drs Edwards and Lindfield to understand these pieces of Tudor and Victorian carving to an unprecedented degree, and reveal distinct working methods and visual signatures left by the different medieval and Victorian craftsmen and the tools they used. This research will feed into a book on the royal marriage bed of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, that Dr. Lindfield is editing and will be published later this year.

    A closer look at the armorial woodwork.

    The Library staff, alongside Dr. Lindfield’s MA History students observed as these pieces of Tudor and Victorian carvings, were scanned. And received a first-hand explanation of the Tudor fragments, their significance, irregularity, and relationship to Tudor beds made in Lancashire for local families. One of which is in the collection of Chetham’s Library and known as the Adam Hulton bookcase, having been converted from a state bed into a bookcase before it was gifted to the Library by one of its Feoffees in 1827. 


  6. Nicholas Culpeper

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    As our most recent theme for our display and guided tours is based on herbs and remedies, we thought we would focus this blog on the same topic. One of the most famous exponents of herbal treatments was Nicholas Culpeper (1616-1654), a renowned herbalist and astrologer who was practising at a complex time in the history and development of medical and pharmaceutical practice. In sixteenth-century England the medical profession Culpeper was unregulated, which meant that apothecaries and physicians frequently worked without proper training or knowledge, often doing more harm than good. As a remedy for the baleful effects of ignorance or even malpractice, leading physicians of the time desired the ability to award licences to those who met certain standards they would define, and to punish and disbar the incompetent. Members of this group, the most prominent of whom was Thomas Linacre (1460-1524), petitioned Henry VIII on the matter in 1518. The result was the creation of the Royal College of Physicians, who became the regulatory body for medical practice.

    The College’s power extended to regulating the trading of apothecaries, who needed to procure a legal licence to carry out medical treatment if working within seven miles of London. Further restrictions were promulgated under James I, when all physicians were required by royal proclamation to possess and consult the Pharmacopoeia Londinensis or ‘London Dispensatory’. The Pharmacopeia was printed in Latin; most medical practitioners had only basic ability in the Latin language, and the text itself gave only limited recipes, rather than actual surgical or medical advice. The restriction also meant that the Royal College of Physicians were able to create an approved list of all known medicines, their effects, and usage. It was illegal to concoct any medicine or sell any remedy if it did not appear in the Pharmacopoeia Londinensis.

    Our copy of Culpeper’s English Physician.

    Nicholas Culpeper was born on the 18th October 1616 in Surrey. His father died shortly before his birth, so his mother returned with him to her father’s home in Sussex. The Culpeper family was wealthy and well-established: it owned Leeds Castle in Kent and had ties to Catherine Howard (the ill-fated fifth wife of Henry VIII) and her reputed lover Thomas Culpeper, former courtier, and gentleman to the King’s Privy Chamber.

    Culpeper was not to benefit from these family ties as he was raised by his grandfather on his mother’s side, William Attersole, a rector who hoped his grandson would follow him into holy orders. However, Nicholas was more inclined toward the study of physic, astrology, and the occult. He would go on to be apprenticed to various apothecaries, settling into work for a Samuel Leadbetter in London. In 1640, he married a wealthy woman named Alice Field and established a home in London. The Leadbetter apothecary practice was subject to the Royal College of Physician’s restrictions as it fell within the 7-mile radius of its power and would come into conflict with them frequently.

    By the mid-1640s, Culpeper had established his own pharmacy at his home in Spitalfields, outside the authority of the City of London. Culpeper was extremely professionally active, sometimes seeing as many as 40 patients in a morning, using his medical experience and astrology and devoting himself to using herbs to treat his patients, while providing his services and cures free of charge. He was a radical in his time, and was even accused of witchcraft in the early years of the Civil War. Culpeper often came into conflict with other apothecaries and physicians because he condemned their greed and their use of harmful practices such as bloodletting. He also caused dissent by offering much cheaper herbal alternatives to the costly concoctions of others.

    In the 1650s he went further and translated Latin medical texts such as the Pharmacopoeia Londinensis into English. His most famous work is The English Physician, or Complete Herbal, which is still in print today. Published in 1652 the text was deliberately sold cheaply to encourage purchases among the poorest of society and was an attempt to combine astrology with herbal medicine, as well as to provide a translation of Latin texts of descriptions of plants and their medical uses. The Royal College of Physicians was unable to censor the work due to the upheaval of the Civil War.

    Some of the herbs Culpeper identifies.

    Culpeper was also a strong advocate for a republic rather than a monarchy, and predicted the demise of the monarchy across Europe in his posthumously published Ephemeris of 1655. These beliefs were reflected in his decision to fight with the Parliamentarians. He joined the London Trained Bands in August 1643 under the command of Philip Skippon and fought at the First Battle of Newbury, where he carried out battlefield surgery. Whilst with the Bands he suffered a chest wound from a musket ball, which would continue to plague him. He died at the age of 38 in January 1654 from consumption, a condition most likely aggravated by the wound.

    Further works building on his notes and trading on his fame were published posthumously, including Astrological Judgement of Diseases from the Decumbiture of the Sick (in 1655), and A Treatise on Aurum Potabile in 1656. Culpeper’s translations and approach to using herbals have had an extensive impact on both traditional, holistic, and modern medicine, as can be seen by the fact that the English Physician is still in publication, giving it one of the longest continuous print runs of any English language book.

    More of Culpeper’s illustrations.

    Chetham’s Library, founded in the will of Humphrey Chetham at his death in 1653, was being actively formed by his executors in the year of Culpeper’s death, 1654. His posthumous works were already being prepared for the press; when the Astrological Judgement appeared in 1655, our doors were opening for the first time to provide free access to knowledge. So far, the judgement of history seems to be that both he and we still have things to offer the present.

  7. The Great Miss Lydia Becker: Suffragist, Scientist and Trailblazer

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    We were delighted this week to receive a copy of a new book on a Manchester heroine by Joanna M Williams, The Great Miss Lydia Becker. This fascinating piece sheds new and greater light on a figure whose untiring work as a suffragist has been a little overshadowed (perhaps as has the suffragist movement) by the militant suffragette movement. Joanna has made use of some of the political cartoons held here at the Library satirising and lampooning Becker and her political allies in Manchester, particularly the Quaker reforming politician Jacob Bright. (There’s more on the cartoons themselves on this blog post.)

    As the foreword from the publishers, Pen & Sword tells us :

    ‘Fifty years before women were enfranchised, a legal loophole allowed a thousand women to vote in the general election of 1868. This surprising event occurred due to the feisty and single-minded dedication of Lydia Becker, the acknowledged, though unofficial, leader of the women’s suffrage movement in the later 19th century.
    Brought up in a middle-class family as the eldest of fifteen children, she broke away from convention, remaining single and entering the sphere of men by engaging in politics. Although it was considered immoral for a woman to speak in public, Lydia addressed innumerable audiences, not only on women’s votes but also on the position of wives, female education, and rights at work. She battled grittily to gain academic education for poor girls, and kept countless supporters all over Britain and beyond abreast of the many campaigns for women’s rights through her publication, the Women’s Suffrage Journal.

    Contemporary photograph of Lydia.

    ‘Steamrollering her way to Parliament as chief lobbyist for women, she influenced MPs in a way that no woman, and few men, had done before. In the 1860s the idea of women’s suffrage was compared in the Commons to persuading dogs to dance; it was dismissed as ridiculous and unnatural. By the time of Lydia’s death in 1890, there was an acceptance that the enfranchisement of women would come soon. The torch was picked up by a woman she had inspired as a teenager, Emmeline Pankhurst, and Lydia’s younger colleague on the London committee, Millicent Fawcett. And the rest is history’.

    In January 1867 Lydia convened the first meeting of the Manchester Women’s Suffrage Committee, the first organisation of its kind in England. On 14 April 1868, the first public meeting of the National Society for Women’s Suffrage took place in the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. Becker was one of the speakers and moved the resolution that women should be granted voting rights on the same terms as men. She also founded the Women’s Suffrage Journal which she published from 1870 until 1890.

    One of the many derogatory cartoons featuring Jacob and Lydia in our collection.

    Becker also supported Lilly Maxwell in vote=ing in a by-election in Manchester in 1867. Lilly was a Manchester shopkeeper and ratepayer whose name had been included on the register of voters in Manchester by mistake. Lydia accompanied Lilly to the Chorlton Town Hall where the returning officer did allow her to vote. Becker immediately began encouraging other women heads of households in the region to apply for their names to appear on the electoral rolls but the practice was soon stopped when women’s suffrage was declared illegal in 1868.

    Lydia was close friends with Jacob and Ursula Bright, both staunch supporters of women’s enfranchisement. Jacob Bright was a radical from a Quaker family of politicians, activists and reformers. Jacob stood unsuccessfully as a Manchester MP in the 1865 election then was elected in 1868. He was a suffrage campaigner. A Manchester Guardian article described women’s suffrage as Jacob’s obsession. ‘He brought it into all his speeches, much to the annoyance and even dismay of some of his staunchest supporters. “Jacob is at it again!” a affectionate friend would whisper: and it was true. he is always “at it”.

    This is Lydia and Jacob depicted as destroying the values of church and state.

    Becker and Bright (standing as Liberal candidate) made suffrage one of the major issues in the 1868 general election. Their views attracted public scorn and suffrage came in for particular attention in the political cartoons that lampooned Bright’s policy proposals. The cartoonist’s representations are vicious: female politicians were not spared unnecessary ridicule, and with their focus on exaggerating physical features, cartoonists often added an element of misogyny. Some of the portrayals of Becker are clearly intended to be upsetting, and reflect the view among many at the time that women had no business speaking up in public.

    As Linda Walker’s article in the Dictionary of National Biography suggests, cartoonists found it all too easy to belittle and insult Becker: ‘Physically stout from early womanhood, her broad, flat face, wire-rimmed spectacles, and plaited crown of hair were a cartoonist’s delight, and she was much lampooned in the popular press.’

    Another humiliating cartoon of Jacob and Lydia titled ‘Ye Bright Idea’.

    Bright was elected to parliament as Liberal MP where he continued to campaign actively for women’s suffrage, becoming leader of the suffragists in parliament in 1868. He introduced the first suffrage bill to extend parliamentary suffrage to all women. While Parliament refused to give any ground on women’s suffrage at national level, however, the suffragist had their victories. Bright was able to get an amendment through in committee that granted women the right to vote in municipal elections, and in 1880, Becker, Bright and others campaigned in the Isle of Man for women to receive the vote in the House of Keys elections. This venture proved successful when the Isle of Man for the first time included women in the elections of March 1881.

    In addition to her key role in the suffragist movement, Lydia was an accomplished scientist and corresponded with Charles Darwin. She sent some botanical specimens to him from the Manchester area, also forwarding him a copy of her “little book”, Botany for Novices of 1864. However, she gained recognition in her own right for her scientific contributions, being awarded a national prize in the 1860s for a collection of dried plants prepared using a method that she had perfected so that they kept their original colours.

    She went on to give a botanical paper to the 1869 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. The following year Lydia founded the Manchester’s Ladies Literary Society for women to study scientific matters.

    Becker was strongly in favour of a non-gendered education system in Britain, and campaigned more strenuously for the voting rights of unmarried women, believing that women connected to husbands and stable sources of income were less desperately in need of the vote than widowed and single women. In the 1870s, she participated in the campaign to repeal the Contagious Diseases Acts and was a member of the Vigilance Association for the Defence of Personal Rights. She also organised a landmark repeal meeting during the Free Trade Hall debate. In 1890 Becker visited the spa town of Aix-les-Bains, where she contracted diphtheria, and died at the age of 63. As a mark of respect, rather than continue publishing in her absence, the staff of the Women’s Suffrage Journal decided to cease production.

    The publishers’ page for Joanna’s book

  8. Cambrics Scrapbook and Catalogue Update

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    We are pleased to announce that we have added a new selection of digitised images to our online catalogue. These are from our ‘Cambrics’ scrapbook, which is one of the Library’s most important collections of broadsides, broadsheets, and single-sheet pamphlets concerning Manchester and its environs.

    Cambrics’ is a rather curious name that simply describes the original fabric which covered the scrapbook. Within the book is a rich assortment of what the donor refers to as ‘handbills’ which cover topics as diverse as theatrical performances, a set of rules for the Coffee House, notices and reports of political and trade meetings, and a small collection of very early bills advertising local circus performances. Philip Astley (1742-1814) is usually credited with the invention of the first circus, and three of our circus bills advertise the performances of his ‘troop’. Find out more about him in our previous post here. One of the images we have uploaded is an advertisement for Mr. Astley’s display of horsemanship in March 1773.

    The 254 broadsides in Cambrics range widely from light-hearted theatre posters and entertainment handbills to discussions of some of the most serious political issues facing England at the end of the eighteenth century. The earliest piece dates from 1739 and the latest 1848, over two-thirds of them, especially the more political broadsheets, come from the years 1789-1800, the turbulent decade of the French Revolution when Manchester’s populace was also stirred by the spirit of Republicanism. Our selection includes many of the most visually interesting and entertaining items. You can explore all of these on our catalouge. However, we have selected some of the rarest and most visually interesting for you to view below:

    In this one day only display of horsemanship, ‘Mr. Astley and pupils will exhibit their various feats, in a manner quite new and surprising, in a field, opposite to Strangeways gardens, this afternoon, being Friday, exactly at three o’clock’. By next day the handbill would only be useful as scrap, which is why these items survive in such small numbers.

    Mr.Astley and his pupils March 5 1773.

    This playbill is decorated with the unusual image of a cat chariot (please don’t try this at home) and advertises the ‘Last night of Mr. St. Albin & Miss Aylet’s engagement at the Minor Theatre, Spring Gardens, on Monday, Aug. 16th, for the benefit of Mr. St. Albin’. PETA might not have approved.

    Mr St Albin and the cat chariot

    This one is one of our more well-known broadsides featuring the learned pig. ‘This present Wednesday evening, December 26, 1787. Upwards of one hundred feats of activity, by Astley’s troop, from London. To which will be added, the uncommon performances of the learned pig, and musical dog,’

    The Learned Pig from London.

    A good way to spend the afternoon in 18th century Manchester would be to visit a display of ‘ Miniature models, in coloured wax: Mr. Percy’s collection, which he has been fourteen years in completing, may now be viewed at the house lately occupied by Mr. Barford Bushell, Riding’s-Court, St. Mary’s-gate, Manchester’.

    Mr Percy’s Collection.

    Four further examples of the delights – and perhaps the dangers – of a Mancunian night out in the Georgian age:

    Slackwire acts of February 1767 - but hurry, only today and tomorrow!

    Slackwire acts of February 1767 – but hurry, only today and tomorrow!

    digital scan of detail of handbill advertising animal acts

    Feats of learning among the beasts – and a dog that does your accounts

    scan of detail of handbill advertising animal acts

    Are we grateful or sorry not to have lived in the age of the Celebrated Monkey?

    detail of digitised handbill advertising trick riding and swordsmanship

    Miss Bannister terrifies with the broadsword, while the Sagacious little Sicilian Pony fires a pistol – an insurer’s nightmare?

    detail of handbill advertising patriotic celebration of Napoleon's exile to Elba

    Napoleon’s first exile celebrated on stage

    To explore the Library’s collections, please search our catalogues or browse the website and blog.


  9. Charles Henry Heathcote: Designing Victorian and Edwardian Manchester

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    In the first blog of the new year, we explore the life and works of one of Manchester’s influential but lesser known architects, Charles Henry Heathcote. Heathcote was active in the late Victorian and early Edwardian periods, and specialised almost exclusively in industrial and commercial work, though he also designed a few private residences. Heathcote lived at a time when Manchester’s commercial and financial core was growing, and his work can still be seen in many of Manchester’s prominent streets and districts today.

    Photo of the former Lloyds Bank building designed by Heathcote in 1915

    The former Lloyds Bank building (1915) designed by Heathcote: Edwardianism exemplified.

    By the time Heathcote was active, architecture had begun to move away from the Gothic Revival style that expressed itself so forcefully in Manchester in such buildings such as the Town Hall, and was transitioning towards a new, very distinctive style with many neo-Classical influences. He began work as a student of Charles Hansom, of Clifton in Bristol, and would go on to win the Royal Institute of British Architects’ Medal of Merit in 1868. He had established his own firm by 1872.

    His occupation was listed as ‘Architect in Practice’ in the 1881 census. He married Mary Ann Grigg in June 1875, and they had five children. He and his family lived at Washway Road, Sale, Cheshire, as recorded by the 1881 census. This was on the same street as one of the private homes he built in 1887, an era-typical manor house that would be home to a branch of the wealthy Sassoon family of merchants for the period covered by the next two census records, and the address of which can be seen in our copy of Slater’s directory for the period.

    The most prominent buildings he worked on in Manchester include city centre buildings such as 107 Piccadilly, an imposing textile warehouse of 1899; Parr’s Bank in 1902 in York Street; the Eagle Star Building of 1911 in Cross Street; and Lloyds Bank, King Street in 1915. He also worked on the buildings for Richard Lane’s Cheadle Royal Lunatic Asylum. By 1900, two of his sons, Ernest Grigg Heathcote and Charles Harold Heathcote had joined him in business. Later, Edgar Horace Heathcote joined the same architectural partnership in 1919.

    Photo of 107 Piccadilly, textile warehouse built 1899

    107 Piccadilly, a textile warehouse built 1899

    Further developments in the city of Manchester, such as the opening of the Ship Canal, led to several commissions including the planning of the Trafford Park industrial estate. In addition to fifteen warehouses built directly for the Ship Canal Company, it has been estimated that Heathcote & Sons were responsible for more than half the factories built in Trafford Park.

    Before retiring in the 1930s, Heathcote would contribute to the war effort building warehouses for artillery and food supplies. His swan song before his death in 1938 was his involvement in the construction of the building for Ford Motor Company at Dagenham, commemorated today in a plaque on one of his earlier commissions for Ford at Hammersmith, now Citroën House, which itself used a very forward-looking concrete frame structure.

    Photo of plaque commemorating Heathcote as architect of Citroen House, Hammersmith

    Plaque commemorating Heathcote as architect of Citroën House, Hammersmith

    With grateful thanks to the authors of these pages:

  10. Thomas Whitaker


    Recently one of our readers was studying the works of Thomas Whitaker, an influential English clergyman, topographer, and antiquarian. As we have several works and the death mask of Whitaker in our collection we thought we would share his story.

    Thomas Dunham Whitaker came from the Whitaker family of Holme near Cliviger, Burnley. He was born on 8 June 1759 at Rainham in Norfolk, where his father, William, was the curate. Thomas was educated by a series of clergymen until 1774, when he was admitted to St. John’s College, Cambridge. In November 1781 he took a law degree (LLD), and upon the death of his father in 1782, he went to live at Holme to manage the family estate. He was ordained in 1785, but had no clerical appointment until 1797 when he was made curate of the chapel at Holme on his own nomination, having himself bought the right to present to the benefice in 1788. From his early life, the Library holds a commonplace book including verses, notes on the New Testament and from law lectures he attended.

    Photo of the Whitaker family home

    What remains of the Whitaker family estate at Cliviger

    Dr Whitaker became vicar of Whalley in 1809, a benefice then worth about £100 a year. In 1818, Whitaker became the vicar of Blackburn and retained the livings of both Whalley and Blackburn until his death. At this time it was not uncommon for clergy and bishops to have multiple livings and to use curates to perform their duties when they were absent.

    One of his greatest achievements was undertaking landscape ‘improvements’ in the Cliviger area, where he oversaw substantial planting of trees and other work to beautify the wild landscape. He planted about half a million trees between 1785 and 1815, and his work is still the prevailing influence upon the scenery in the valley, also winning the gold medal of the Society of Arts for planting 64,000 larches in a year.

    His involvement in local life extended to politics and the suppression of disorder: he signed the printed resolutions of ‘a numerous and highly respectable meeting composed of the magistrates of the Higher Division of the hundred of Blackburn’ held at Burnley ‘for the purpose of adopting effectual measures, for the maintenance of the public peace, at this important crisis.’ A damaged copy of this rarity is held at Chetham’s, pasted into one of the scrapbooks given to the Library by the infamous Peterloo magistrate, W.R. Hay. Another pamphlet of 1817, printed at Lancaster, contains a speech by Whitaker ‘tending to support the existing laws and constitution of England’; another sign of the unsettled nature of the times.

    Not content merely with changing the landscape, Whitaker now began to document his geographically huge parish and its long history in the shape of his exhaustive History of Whalley. He published it by subscription in 1801, and sales and interest were sufficient to carry it through to a second and third edition in 1806 and 1818. A further testament to the lasting value of the work is that the title and Whitaker’s main authorship was retained for the fourth, two-volume edition of 1872-6, enlarged and continued by Gough Nichols and Lyons.

    ngraving from An History of the Original Parish of Whalley, and Honor of Clitheroe, In The Counties of Lancaster and York.

    Engraving from An History of the Original Parish of Whalley, and Honor of Clitheroe, In The Counties of Lancaster and York.

    While its starting point is firmly embedded in the long-standing tradition of local antiquarianism, the History of Whalley represents a landmark in topogpraphy in terms of its more modern use of identifiable primary sources and breadth of scholarship, giving it lasting value into the present day. The book’s impact on the eye was much enhanced through a member of one of Lancashire’s most active antiquarian families, Charles Towneley, who had taken an interest in Whitaker’s writing from the first, and introduced Whitaker to the young J.M.W. Turner. The artist produced a series of watercolours of the landscape and antiquities that formed the studies for the fine engravings in the published work.

    Whitaker’s success with his publication on Whalley seems to have prompted him to reach further afield for his next books. He continued in 1805 with a History of Craven (it sold well enough for a second edition in 1812), and in 1816 came Loidis and Elmete, a history of the area around Leeds, including lower Wharfedale and Airedale; finally in 1823, after his death, the History of Richmondshire appeared, the first and the only completed part of a history of Yorkshire, which would have been an ambitious undertaking indeed. Turner’s illustrations for these later works are now perhaps the most significant thing about them. Whitaker also published numerous minor articles in general interest journals such as the Quarterly Review, but the work on Whalley is the foundation of his reputation, and set the standard for other works of local history. Chetham’s Library’s very active collecting on Lancashire and Cheshire local histories and topographies reflects the many authors who turned to Whitaker as a model of how to write such books.

    Engraving of Clitheroe castle after J.W.M. Turner

    Engraving of Clitheroe castle after J.W.M. Turner

    In our collection we are lucky to have original copies of the first, third and fourth editions of A history of the original parish of Whalley : and Honor of Clitheroe, in the counties of Lancaster and York with the engravings by Turner, in addition to his other histories; but perhaps the most peculiar item, and certainly a unique one, is his death mask, which now looks out onto the Priests’ wing of the Library.

    You can find records for all the Library’s holdings by or about Whitaker in our catalogues at . The best single source to find out more about him is Alan Crosby’s article for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, to which we gratefully acknowledge our debt.