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Author Archives: ferguswilde

  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. 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.


  4. 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:

  5. 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.

  6. New History of Manchester Cathedral

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    We’re delighted to be able to report the launch of the new history of Manchester Cathedral, dedicated to our late colleague and friend Michael Powell, Librarian of Chetham’s. The work has been a long time in coming, as many hands were involved, but the end result is the only thoroughgoing  history of the church since the nineteenth century, and will be the standard work for many decades to come. The buildings Chetham’s now occupies owe their existence to their being built to house the clergy of the newly founded Collegiate Church in the 1420s, and the links with our nearest neighbour are thus more than close. Our guest blog writer continues:

    Books produced to catch the ringing of anniversary bells are often slight affairs; this is not the case with Manchester Cathedral. A History of the Collegiate Church and Cathedral 1421 to the present. It is a closely researched multi-authored volume published to mark the 600th anniversary of one of the city’s defining institutions.

    It can be divided into two parts. The first opens with an introduction by the editor Jeremy Gregory in which he traces the published historical writings about the church. This literature is surprisingly slight and it is clear that in many respects historians of Manchester know a great deal more about the city’s railway stations and commercial buildings than about what became affectionately known as Th’ Owd Church.

    Chapter 1 ‘A perpetual college’: writing the history of Manchester’s Collegiate Church and Cathedral – Jeremy Gregory

    Ralston drawing of the Collegiate Church tower from Smithy Door

    James lithograph of a drawing by John Ralston, the Collegiate Church tower from Smithy Door, 1820s

    This is followed by seven further chapters spanning the history of the church to the present day:

    2. The pre-collegiate church: origins and early development – Peter Arrowsmith
    3. From foundation to Reformation, 1421-1558 – Lucy Wooding
    4. Manchester Collegiate Church, 1558-1660 – Ian Atherton
    5. The Collegiate Church under the Old Regime, 1660-1829 – Henry Rack
    6. From ‘The O’wd Church’ to Manchester Cathedral, 1830-1914 – Arthur Burns
    7. The Cathedral, 1914-83 – Matthew Grimley
    8. The Cathedral, 1983 to the present – Jeremy Morris

    Importantly, although the title suggests that the church is 600 years old, there was a church serving the medieval parish of Manchester. One of the virtues of these necessarily concise chapters is that the contributors are able to place the church in broader social, cultural and political contexts, indicating connections to the wider history of the parish, town, city and diocese that are almost entirely absent in the work of earlier historians.

    engraving of satire aimed at Joshua Brookes, Warden of the Collegiate Church

    Engraving of Joshua Brookes (satirised here as ‘Martext’) interrupting a biblical reading to shout at a boy sitting on the church wall.

    The building is the focus of the second part of the book.
    9. Architecture – Clare Hartwell
    10. Music – Sarah Boyer
    11. Memorials – Terry Wyke
    12. Misericords – John Dickinson
    13. Stained glass – Marion McClintock

    These chapters begin with a clear account of the complex history of its architecture. It was a building that was ‘knocked about a bit’ but continued to be recognisable. Enjoying it today one is especially grateful that late Victorian plans for a new cathedral were never realised. The Cathedral lost its windows in the December blitz but there is an illuminating account of the modern glass, not least Antony Holloway’s exceptional compositions.

    The fire window in the north west of Manchester Cathedral by Holloway

    Holloway’s Fire Window commemorates the war and the destruction of the Blitz

    Fortunately the sixteenth-century misericords escaped the Luftwaffe – some had been damaged when religious ideologies clashed in earlier centuries – and the chapter detailing these carvings is a reminder of why Manchester was and remains on the list of cathedral hunters. All of these chapters are supported with carefully chosen, high quality illustrations.

    Engraving of a 19th century wedding at the high altar of Manchester Cathedral

    An engraving of a wedding being celebrated at the high altar.

    The book is dedicated to Michael Powell of Chetham’s Library, who worked on the volume from its beginning but did not live to see it completed. He had an extraordinary knowledge of the history and changing meanings of the building and no doubt would have seen this volume not as the definitive account but rather as one that ignited further research into other aspects of this remarkable church.

    Jeremy Gregory, ed., Manchester Cathedral. A History of the Collegiate Church and Cathedral 1421 to the present, Manchester university press, 2021, xx and 472 pp, £30.00

  7. Passing time …

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    A change of pace for the Library blog this week with the story of the republication of a Manchester novel with a difference. Over to Pariah Press publisher, Jonny Walsh:

    Passing Time was first published in French as L’Emploi du temps in 1957. A psycho-mythological murder mystery set in a dank, labyrinthine, reimagined Manchester. Author Michel Butor worked as a teaching assistant at the University of Manchester 1952-3.


    Publishing Passing Time

    Suddenly there were a lot of lights …

    “… Passing Time. You heard of it?” And so it began.
    Both keen paragliders, Danny Moran first mentioned the work to me during a trip we took to Wales. Appropriately enough, soon afterwards, we were high above the caerdroia in the north of that country. Actually, I hadn’t heard of the book. It had escaped my ken, somehow. Though I had the vaguest memory of a cousin mentioning it to me, during a wedding in France years before. Speak memory! a most capricious thing … Faltering memory, recapture — thematic elements of Passing Time that soon, strangely, bled into this whole process. The book itself a kind of hyperstition — entirely in keeping with Butor’s intentions, I would come to believe.

    Back to terra firma: for some months I searched for an edition of the work with little luck. Second-hand copies are to this day prohibitively expensive to buy, unless you’re a Butor tragic — which unfortunately I have become. Ever the gent, Andrew Biswell guided me in the direction of Chetham’s Library who, remarkably, appear to have had the only extant version of Passing Time in a library in the north of England. The handsome Faber hardback, UK first edition. And, a fine copy it is — though replete with sloppy errors, as we were to discover.

    Passing Time, Faber 1st edition

    Faber & Faber edition of 1961, first UK edition

    Fergus Wilde allowed me to sit in for a few afternoon sessions, to peruse the work. Sometimes, appropriately enough, in the very room of John Dee’s experiments with alchemy and divination. The book itself is separated into five sections (within those, five days per week Jacques Revel also records his impressions of events in his diary — L’Emploi du temps translated literally is timetable, a schematic of sorts). After a cursory reading of the first of those segments I immediately felt it was a work worth reviving. A text at least replete with intrigue, written with an economy of style about a thinly disguised Manchester, therefore publishable. Eventually, after much foraging I managed to conjure a not unreasonably priced edition (Jupiter, 1965 — the one with Butor and his pipe on the front cover, which now lies torn and frayed at the left hand corner of this desk).

    The quest I undertook to source the licence for the work was extensive and appropriately labyrinthine. For much of the search I held out no hope of getting anywhere — ‘Of course, this is why no-one’s republished the thing for sixty years!’ Faber, no. Simon & Schuster, no. A letter to Editions de Minuit — translated into French by a friend — non. Potential former editors, nothing. The niece of a colleague from Butor’s backgammon circle in Cairo, zero. A full thirteen months of false starts, dead ends, about-turns, threads and clues. Perhaps I should have heeded Daedalus’ instructions.

    Cover of the 1960 Simon and Schuster US edition of Passing Time

    Cover of the 1960 Simon and Schuster edition of Passing Time : artwork by Robert Brownjohn

    In the meantime, though I had strong doubts around the project’s present future, we thought it prudent to attempt to enlist the knowledge of the foremost Passing Time stan, Catherine Annabel. Who as luck would have it, was at that very moment completing her post-doctoral thesis on the book at the University of Sheffield. Cath graciously, quickly, gave a commitment to the project on the basis of a co-editorial remit. She was initiated into Pariah shortly thereafter — remotely, we were in a pandemic. Swiftly, we resolved to republish Jean Stewart’s excellent English language translation rather than commission a new interpretation — which would have been time consuming, a veritable word-minefield within a tricky text, and ultimately unnecessary as we felt enough people certainly hadn’t read the original. Our decision was later reinforced upon receipt of Butor’s correspondence with Peter Green of the Daily Telegraph: “Jean Stewart has made a lovely job of the translation – this text must have been a brute to deal with.” Butor himself a fan.

    Every time I open it I see something I hadn’t seen before. It’s almost as if it’s shapeshifting, it grows and alters as I read. ~ Cath Annabel, Passing Time blog

    As is often characteristic of such an odyssey, just as I felt all was lost, the moment to give up the ghost, to wind the machinery down until I could consider another angle of attack in the licensing search — or to move onto another book entirely perhaps — I was suddenly, serendipitously passed onto Alma Books — proprietor of John Calder’s catalogue — the Jupiter edition connection, the gravity of its orbit. Christian Müller proved a wonderful help in navigating these moments, though I suspect he has since moved on from Alma. Essentially, the publication rights are held by Editions de Minuit, but are thus represented by a literary agency in New York. Despite a pleasurable trip to Paris and Minuit to discuss matters, once Americans were involved things moved on at a pace (as is ever the case in this industry). A short negotiation of and payment for the rights to translation lead to Jean Stewart’s estate — a delight to deal with when thrashing out terms, and informative on the background to her wider works.

    The cove of the Jupiter edition of Passing Time

    The Jupiter edition of Passing Time, 1965

    The realisation that the text had never before been digitised, led to a mild flux. I have Graham Foster at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation to thank for walking me through the optical character recognition process, and alerting me to common pitfalls. The proto-typescript was then given a final tidying and typsetting by Alex Billington — his work accurate and patient throughout. With a freshly minted, clean-ish manuscript the editing process was established in earnest. Months of cross-checking the various editions and an alignment of the text with Pariah’s house style — a meld of Chicago and Oxford rules. Dispiritingly, we were struck by sheer number of typesetting inconsistencies and grammatical errors within each version. The most accurate in terms of presentation and care of approach is the 1960 Simon & Schuster, US edition (published some months prior to the Faber, UK version — which had been subject to mysterious further edits by a still unknown hand). Nevertheless, the Jupiter is perfectly serviceable in its unconventional demi size and still retains a very English 1960s feel. For instance, this dead-eyed irony from the rear cover blurb:

    “The atmosphere of a British industrial town is perfectly captured, and this French view of England will delight British readers.”

    Whilst we remained absolutely faithful to Jean Stewart’s rendition of the text, Cath cross-referencing to her Minuit first edition and her fluency in French were integral in settling many of the more thorny issues of translation. Ultimately, the concept I had in mind was that of a finalised, mass-market version of Passing Time. The numerous errors corrected and archaisms up-dated, with a thorough effort to eliminate the vagaries of the older editions, including the French. It was a pleasure working closely with Cath upon that aspect of the book.

    The tightness of the typesetting was an intentional departure from the other, more spacious, Pariah paperbacks — whilst still retaining elegance and economy within. [We will persevere with the a-format, pocketbook size so long as I have breath … if you must know, it is a nod to the Penguin Modern Classics editions from 1998-2001, see: One Hundred Years of Solitude, What a Carve Up, etc.] As ever, the holistic reasoning behind the font choices is told within the book itself. The symbolist and semiotic cover art came about after designer Steven Cherry had sent me much remarkable imagery from the back of his brain to the computer screen without even reading the book beforehand. My only promptings had been “a skewered bee – the text is almost anti-Manchester”, and the words ‘fire’, which became the background and ‘diary’, that was converted to the more visually dynamic clock face and its correspondences. Once the design was honed and (rapidly) submitted I suggested the addition of Janus and slight alterations to the alchemical symbols on the clock face. Cherry has a knack for the uncanny, a quiet brilliance.

    Steven Cherry's cover for Pariah Press's new edition of 2021

    Steven Cherry’s cover for Pariah Press’s new edition of 2021

    And what of the book? I’m onto my fifth reading. A primary attraction is its polyvalency, its ambiguities and the deep, rich language employed. Some of the descriptive sections of Lanark suggest Alasdair Gray was familiar with the work. It is a Mancunian sightseeing trip and a type of noir-spoof on the mid-century detective novel. An esoteric, alchemical allegory of the hero’s initiation — characterised by a repetitive incantatory phrasing, a spiralling of words growing tighter as we move through the labyrinth (rather than a maze — the distinction, though not always commonplace, is crucial). An anti-capitalist screed. A rumination on the unstable essence of kairos. A retelling of the Theseus myth. A by-turns funny yet poignant meditation on exile, alienation and blighted mental health, and therefore a type of memory palace in reverse — anyone losing control of their memory is a person bewitched, subsumed on a subconscious level — Revel lost in the chaos of iconography. Is there a zodical element at play within the calendrical structure of the work — Taurus, the bull/minotaur at its centre — a vague whiff of the Mithraic temple found in Hulme (references to mystery schools abound in the text)? Does a system of correspondences underpin the narrative (Liber 777, Agrippa, pseudo-Solomon?), an alchemical apparatus to effect personal change in Revel? And just what does he do on 29th February (there was a leap year in 1952)? Let us know.

    Neurosis and initiation are the same thing, except that neurosis stops short of apotheosis, and the tremendous forces that mold all life are encysted—short circuited and turned poisonous. ~ Jack Parsons

    Passing Time was eventually republished on 7th June (a unique diary entry in the book itself) 2021 to little fanfare and no early reviews. I’m grateful for Cath’s connections which resulted in a couple of early blog pieces — culminating in many more initial sales in the USA than in the UK. Thankfully, the work has since been taken up by the great and the good of UK book retail — our reps seem to have done a decent job on what is not the easy sell. As per Butor’s insistence that Bleston is a totem for any industrial city, we’ve found much more of a readership, so far, in the UK’s post-industrial heartlands (as well as the the US). More recently, journalist Sophie Atkinson wrote a terrific review for the The Baffler, out of New York, and one of a more personal tone for The Mill in Manchester. As it currently stands, we’re working on an interactive map of Bleston, via UCL, which should be available before Christmas. There is ongoing talk of Butor talks, events, salons. Bleston will live on, the labyrinth awaits you.

    None of this discourages me, because I have seen, I have heard, and I have felt. ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

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  8. General Wolfe’s Sword


    As we are preparing to change the objects we have on display, we thought it would be a nice idea to share some of these items from our collection. In this post we will be focusing on something you wouldn’t expect to find in the Library, this is a sword belonging to general Wolfe.

    It is not known how or when General Wolfe’s sword found its way into the Library collection, but by the early nineteenth century it was one of a number of objects displayed and pointed out to visitors by pupils of the school. Many of these were unrealistic, for example, a boot worn by Queen Elizabeth, Oliver Cromwell’s sword, arrows belonging to Robin Hood. Most of these items are no longer in our collection. However, General Wolfe’s sword was somehow overlooked and remained at the Library.

    Major General James P. Wolfe (1727-1759) was a British army officer remembered chiefly for his victory over the French in Quebec, where he was killed at the height of battle by injuries from three musket balls.

    Above: Wolfe’s Sword

    The sword surprisingly, unlike the previous curiosities, following investigations was revealed to have belonged to Wolfe, and appears to date from his time as a young army officer in the 1740s. Given the 1740s date, the sword may well have accompanied Wolfe in his early days of service during the War of the Austrian Succession. It could also have been brought with him to the battle of Culloden in 1746, the final stand of the failed Jacobite Rebellion and the last pitched battle fought on British soil. A famous anecdote claims Wolfe refused an order to shoot a wounded Highland officer after Culloden. Whether the sword saw action at any point is unlikely due to its small size and basic handle. We are currently investigating the swords provenance so watch this space!

  9. Sebastian Münster’s Cosmographia

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    We thought we would share one of the treasures requested by our readers this week, the Cosmographia by Sebastian Münster. The Cosmographia, first published in 1544, was the earliest German-language description of the world. Sebastian Münster was a German cartographer, cosmographer, and Hebrew scholar whose Cosmographia was a major contribution to the revival of geographic thought in 16th-century Europe.

    Above: Sebastian Münster aged 60

    Cosmographia was a bestseller, a book that managed the rare feat of being both scientific and popular. Altogether, about 40 editions appeared between 1544 and 1628 in the original German, but also in Latin, French, English, Italian and Czech. In addition to describing and explaining the cosmos, it revolutionized how 16th-century readers thought about the physical world.

    Above: A Crocodile from the Cosmographia

    Münster obtained the material for his work by using a wide range of the available literary sources, in particular gathering original manuscripts for the description of the countryside and of villages and towns. He also obtained further source material on his travels (primarily in south-west Germany, Switzerland, and Alsace).

    The Cosmographia not only contained the most up-to-date maps and views of many well known cities, but also presented a vast amount of detail about many aspects of the world. He included, for example, portraits of kings and princes, costumes and occupations, habits and customs, flora and fauna, monsters, wonders, and horrors.

    Above: Terrifying Norwegian Sea-monster – the image our reader wanted

    We have two Latin editions, both printed at Basel by Henricus Petrus (1508-1579), whose print-shop was also responsible for the German-language first edition of 1544. Our copies were printed in 1559 and 1572. . The Latin editions differ considerably from the German editions of 1553 and 1564, especially in the description of America which contains additional detail.

  10. Manor Court Rolls from the West Riding

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    We are delighted to announce that the Library has acquired copies of a valuable contribution to local scholarship by Peter Hurst. Peter’s work edits and translates material from Latin to English, beginning with the seventeenth-century Almondbury Manor Court Rolls from the ancient West Riding village. After transcribing the Latin court rolls for Saddleworth, Peter began working on documents for Huddersfield, Meltham, Honley, Slaithwaite, and South Crosland. Peter’s research began when he consulted the Almondbury Rolls whilst investigating his family history.

    Peter’s full list of works is as follows: Mercy of the lord; Almondbury Manor Court Rolls Part 1, 1627-40; Homages for the Lord Protector: Almondbury Manor Court Rolls Part 2, 1641-60; Lady of the Manor: Almondbury Manor Court Rolls Part 3, 1660-90; Survey of the Manor of Almondbury 1584; Where Was Somtyme A Castell: Ancient Records of Almondbury 1086-1638;and Garsomes, geld rents, and Gould: Manor of Saddleworth Accounts 1590-1630. All of these include records for Huddersfield, Honley, Meltham, Saddleworth/Quick, Slaithwaite, and South Crosland.

    Where Was Somtyme A Castell: Ancient Records of Almondbury 1086-1638 takes the story back to the Domesday book and uses a wide range of sources outside the Manor Court rolls to create a broader narrative. The book is 450 pages and includes 57 documents covering the period 1086-1638. These documents include; Lay Subsidies, Taxes, the 1379 Poll Tax, Contrariants from 1322, plus many Surveys and Rentals. About 1,800 individuals are recorded and about 700 places. The book is in three parts and contains numerous copies of original documents complete with translations.

    Primary source material has been used for all 6 books, mainly from the extensive Ramsden collection held by West Yorkshire Archives Kirklees, supplemented by original records from The National Archives, Yorkshire Archaeological Society, and West Yorkshire Archives Leeds. All books include extensive introductions, reviews, statistical analyses, personal, place, and subject indexes, and numerous illustrations, including an early 17th-century manorial tenant map. Records in Latin and one in Anglo-Norman have been translated. Many thousands of individuals are cited, often many times, as well as numerous place names, providing interest for family historians, and surname and place-name etymologies. This work is a very valuable resource for local historians and those tracing their ancestry, as these court records include names of the elected constables and assistants in the areas, as well as those guilty of various offences.

    Above: Huddersfield borough arms incorporating the Ramsden Arms

    An ancient network existed between the manor of Almondbury and the 6 townships of Huddersfield, Honley, Meltham, Saddleworth/Quick, Slaithwaite and South Crosland, each of which had their own manors, but was required for their courts’ jurisdictions formally to elect constables and other officers at the Michaelmas courts. Beginning in medieval times the courts of England divided the legal year into four terms: Hilary, Easter, Trinity and Michaelmas, This meant the towns had to present those in dereliction of manorial customs and township bye-laws at both the Easter and Michaelmas courts. This is why records for these townships are included during the periods covered, although simmering dissent and resistance by some townships is revealed. Court procedures were recorded on large parchment membranes, tied at the head, and rolled up so that, nearly four hundred years later, they are like coiled springs. Part 1 consists of 25 membranes; Part 2, 21 membranes; Part 3, 26 membranes. Membrane condition is variable: the best being thin and almost translucent with a clear calligraphic hand; the worst like thin cardboard, stiff and grey, with variable script, sometimes difficult to read due to serious wear and missing parts.

    Peter was able to extensively research his own family history using the historic documents: ‘My great-Aunt, who lived to be 104, told me of an ancestor named Theophilus Beaumont (fondly known as Uncle Ophie) who married into the extended family. All she knew was that he went to America. Further research established that he left in 1862 during the American Civil War, where eventually he was discovered living in Nebraska. Following this, research for some newly found Nebraskan ‘cousins’ led from the discovery of records of two Saddleworth marriages of Joshua Beaumont, the first person with this name in Saddleworth, to extensive searching at West Yorkshire Archives Kirklees, where after some significant diversion searching likely records without success, entries for him were found in the Almondbury manor court rolls.

    ‘Amazingly, and unexpectedly, numerous entries for Saddleworth were found, and these were extracted, until eventually it seemed one full membrane might be translated. After that, another and another was translated, until the entire Part 1 was completed. After much work editing, checking, correcting, indexing, and so on it was decided to publish the results since it was clear these records were unknown to Saddleworth local historians, or if known had been ignored. The rest is history. Other publications followed over a period of years, working generally during the winter months. Subsequent research provided convincing evidence that Theophilus was a direct ancestor of Joshua, from whom large numbers of Beaumonts living in Saddleworth and environs are descended. As an aside, other relatives of Theophilus, including his father and an uncle left for America, one a leading chartist fleeing before being arrested. Sons of his became rich and famous engineers in Peru and Chile, where one can find descendants with Spanish forenames and Beaumont surnames, such as Santiago Beaumont et. al.’

    Peter’s efforts mean that those wishing to undertake similar research will have an easier time deciphering names and locations. To buy your own copy of his work please contact Peter directly at