Gertrude Bell’s Hints to Travellers: Scientific and General

Gertrude Bell (1868-1926) was a writer, archaeologist, and colonial diplomat who played a significant role in the creation of the Kingdom of Iraq in 1921. Although Bell spent the latter years of her life living in Baghdad, her archive and book collection were donated to our library by her family following her death in 1926. Bell’s archive remains one of our most heavily used collections and has recently been made available on our dedicated Gertrude Bell website after being digitised and catalogued to current archival standards. Bell’s book collection, which comprises her working and personal library, complements the archive by contextualising her activities and providing an insight into the way she worked and learned throughout her life.

Although Bell’s own output is impressive (the archive contains over 12,000 unique items), her book collection reflects her diverse interests and shows us the ways in which the work of others supported and inspired her travels. Additionally, Bell’s books are often annotated with notes which document the learning process whilst also serving as reminders of key information she regarded as important. The selection of books in her library and the copy specific information they contain can be interpreted by researchers looking to further understand the work and methods of this unique historical figure.

One item within Bell’s book collection which illustrates the way she used and interacted with her books is her copy of Hints to Travellers: Scientific and General (B910.2 REE) published in 1906 by the Royal Geographical Society. Hints to Travellers was originally created by the Society for,

“a person who, proposing to explore a wild country, asks what astronomical and other scientific outfit he ought to take with him, and what observations he may attempt with a prospect of obtaining accurate results”.

The guide included sections on a wide variety of topics including climate, geography, anthropology, and astronomical observations as well as comprehensive lists of pieces of equipment a traveller would need to take with them on their journey.

Front cover of Hints to Travellers: Scientific and General (Vol. 1)
Bell’s copy of the ninth edition of Hints to Travellers: Scientific and General (Vol. 1) [Gertrude Bell Collection, B910.2 REE]

Bell owned a copy of the ninth edition of the Guide (above), which was published in 1906 and split into two volumes. The first volume, which focused on “Surveying and practical astronomy”, is particularly special as Bell has filled many of the pages with handwritten notes and diagrams. These notes document both her learning process and her use of the methods explained within the book.

Pages from Hints to Travellers: Scientific and General (Vol. 1) showing Bell's handwritten notes and diagrams
Pages from Hints to Travellers: Scientific and General (Vol. 1) showing much of the blank space in the first section of the book filled with Bell’s handwritten notes and diagrams [Gertrude Bell Collection, B910.2 REE]

Bell has also included the latitude and longitude of locations in Lebanon (“Beirut”) and Iraq (“Baghdad Citadel”), which she has presumably been able to calculate using the guide.

Pages from Hints to Travellers: Scientific and General (Vol. 1) showing Bells handwritten notes
Pages from Hints to Travellers: Scientific and General (Vol. 1) [Gertrude Bell Collection, B910.2 REE]

Many of the books within Bell’s library, such as language and grammar books as well as works focusing on history and culture within the Middle East, provide a unique insight into the ways in which Bell prepared herself for her travels across the region. They also indicate the voracious appetite she had for reading and learning, and the wide variety of subjects in which she took an interest.

2 pages from Hints to Travellers: Scientific and General (Vol. 1), left page depicts an advert for 'Norris' Boots for Travellers, and the right page depicts an advert for 'Benson's £25 'field' watch
Pages from Hints to Travellers: Scientific and General (Vol. 1) [Gertrude Bell Collection, B910.2 REE]

Bell’s copy of Hints to Travellers: Scientific and General can be requested here.

The Gertrude Bell Collection can be viewed online using Library Search.

Paper Scraps in the Rare Book Collection

Written by Newcastle University Special Collections & Archives bequest student, Sam Bailey.

Books have a limited lifespan. The idea that one might deliberately take apart a book and use it for something other than the transmission of the written word might be cringe-inducing, but it was a practice that was widespread in the medieval and early-modern periods. When a book was no longer of use – because it was undesirable, out of date, or had been used to destruction, the expensive materials used could be recycled.  John Dryden wrote in Mac Flecknoe (1678-83) that even the works of modern authors were destined to be ‘Martyrs of pies, and reliques of the bum.’ Anna Reynolds has recently shown how early-modern England was brimming with reused and repurposed scraps of paper, which provided imaginative inspiration for a variety of literary works. To our knowledge, the Philip Robinson Library does not contain any books that were once used in pie crusts or as lavatory paper, but it does contain books that were repurposed as binding material. Two books held in Newcastle University Special Collections & Archives, from the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries respectively, offer a window into the way that people recycled old books into new ones.

Binding of Tacitus’ Opera (Venice: 1497) [Incunabula, Incunabula 11]

Incunabula 11 is an edition of the complete works of Tacitus, printed in Venice in 1497. Unfortunately for Tacitus, most of the attention that this copy receives is due to its remarkable binding. As you can see from the images below, this book is bound with a limp membrane cover, which was once a beautiful piece of sheet music. The music that is visible here is from a chant: De Sancti Martyribus, which was sung to commemorate Christian martyrs. This is a well-presented manuscript, in a regular hand with decorated capitals. Why is this high-quality music manuscript on the binding of a printed book? The historian of medieval music Margaret Bent can help to answer this; she argues that in the medieval period:

Musical styles changed almost as rapidly as in pop music today, and even new pieces were often adapted, with added or removed voices or changed text. Old music books were regarded as expendable, sometimes dismembered within half a century; parchment was recycled for miscellaneous purposes, paper usually discarded. (623)

Margaret Bent

This chant most likely fell out of fashion and ended up as waste material. It is likely, based on the observable structure of the book, and the dating of both the text and the binding, that this manuscript was used to bind the book shortly after it was printed. From the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries, most printed books were sold as ‘quires’ – unbound stacks of printed sheets that needed to be folded, trimmed, and then covered by a bookbinder. Bindings could therefore be customised based on the budget and tastes of the buyer. Music manuscripts were widely used as binding materials, a well-made manuscript made for a visually appealing cover. As membrane or leather were expensive animal products, reusing material in this way could cut costs for the purchaser. We do not know who first purchased this book, but if they were in an institution such as a monastery, it is possible that they already owned this discarded music manuscript, and reused what was available to them.

Our second book rockets us forward two hundred years, to the midst of the English Civil War and Interregnum of the 1640s. This is a copy of Thomas Browne’s Pseudodoxia epidemica, also known as Vulgar Errors, a work of natural philosophy. It was printed in London in 1646, and it is bound in a typical mottled brown leather binding, with decorative blind rules on the top and bottom covers. Binding styles can be somewhat misleading when dating a book, particular as a style as generic as this endured for so long. Understanding precisely when a book was bound can offer a vital insight into provenance, and luckily, the wastepaper used in this book’s binding gives us a vital insight into its history.

Binding of Pseudodoxia epidemica or Vulgar Errors (London: 1646) [17th Century Collection, 17th C. Coll. 398.3 BRO]

Peeking out between the top cover and first leaf of the printed book, we can see the edge of a single leaf of another book. This is a leaf used as a binding scrap – a piece of paper used to maintain the structure of the binding, that is a feature of many hard-cover bindings. Binding scraps were made from wastepaper that was available to the bookbinder at the time. If we can date the binding scrap, then we can identify more precisely when the book was bound. At the top of this scrap, we can see part of the word ‘Apocrypha’, and we can see in a small blackletter typeface, a number of lines from scripture. A quick comparison between some of these lines and quotations from the Apocrypha sections of English Bibles reveals that this leaf contains lines 26-32 of the 2nd verse from the 2nd book of Maccabees, and lines 1-29 from the 3rd verse of the same book. From that, it is possible to compare printed editions of English Bibles that contain Maccabees and find out which edition this leaf originated from. At the bottom of the page, we see a ‘signature’ – an alphanumeric representation of the position of the leaf within its sheet, that would help bookbinders to keep the sheets in the correct order. In this case, the signature is ‘Yy’ which we can express as 2Y1 (i.e. the first signature of the second sheet labelled Y). To find the edition of the Bible from which this binding scrap was taken, all we must do is find Bibles where these verses are found on leaf 2Y1 and compare them. Only one edition of the appropriate period has these verses, in the same typeface, on sheet 2Y1: the 1641 Authorized King James Bible printed by Robert Barker and John Bill in London. If you compare our scrap to a full leaf from this edition they match perfectly.

Binding scrap found in Pseudodoxia epidemica or Vulgar Errors
Binding scrap found in Pseudodoxia epidemica or Vulgar Errors (London: 1646) [17th Century Collection, 17th C. Coll. 398.3 BRO]

1646 – the year that this edition of Vulgar Errors was printed – was a tumultuous year in England. The parliamentarians had won the civil war against Charles I. The new Puritan-controlled Church issued a new Catechism, a Confession of Faith and a Directory of Worship – documents that sought to transform the nature of the established Church of England. That Confession would reject the authority of the Biblical Apocrypha. Our scrap of Maccabees 2 – from a 1641 Bible, was an example of this newly rejected scripture. New Bibles would be issued without the apocrypha and some old Bibles had their apocrypha sections removed. This is most likely how these verses from Maccabees 2, taken from a fairly new 1641 Bible, ended up as scrap paper in the binding of a 1646 book. The removal of this leaf was intended as an act of textual destruction, but it lives on by serendipity in the spine of another book. This scrap of paper, tucked into the binding of an otherwise unrelated book, is a register of the ways in which political and religious turmoil shaped the lives of books.


I must give all credit to any meaningful identification of the sheet of De Sancti Martyribus to my colleagues in the department of music at Newcastle University: Michael Winter and James Tomlinson. What took them minutes would have taken me days!

References and Further Reading

17th C. Coll. 398.3 BRO. Browne, Thomas. Pseudoxica epidemica. London: 1646. Philip Robinson Library, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.

Authorized English Bible. London: 1641.

Bent, Margaret. ‘Polyphonic Sources’ in The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Music. Cambridge: 2011.

Dryden, John. Mac Flecknoe, Or, A Satyr upon the True-Blew-Protestant Poet, T. S. by the Author of Absalom & Achitophel. London: 1682.

Inc.11. Tacitus, Cornelius. Opera. Venetis: 1497. Philip Robinson Library, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.

Korpman, Matthew J. ‘The Protestant Reception of the Apocrypha’ in The Oxford Handbook of the Apocrypha, ed.  Oxford: 2021.

Marianai, Angela., Giger, Andreas and Thomas J. Mathiesen (eds.). ‘Regino Prumiensis’ in Theseaurus Musicarum Latinarum. REGTONA_TEXT ( (Contains the text of Di Sancti Martyribus)

Morrill, John. ‘The Puritan Revolution’ in The Cambridge Companion to Puritanism, ed. John Coffey and Paul C.H. Lim. Cambridge: 2008.

Reynolds, Anna. Waste Paper in Early Modern England: Privy Tokens. Oxford: 2024.

Benjamin Zephaniah

Photograph of Benjamin Zephaniah
Photograph of Benjamin Zephaniah (BXB/1/1ZEP/1/5, Bloodaxe Books Archive)

In honour of the life and works of Dr. Benjamin Zephaniah (1958-2023), March 2024’s Treasure of the Month is his work from the Bloodaxe Books Archive. Benjamin Zephaniah was a dub poet born in Handsworth in Birmingham who rose to become Britain’s third favourite poet, according to a BBC poll in 2009. He was known for his hard-hitting performance poetry about race, class and injustice in modern Britain as well as his portrayal of preacher ‘Jeremiah Jesus’ in Peaky Blinders.

Benjamin Zephaniah reading his poem Money in Newcastle City Centre in 1991

Zephaniah also famously rejected an OBE (Officer of the British Empire) in 2003, his response was a decisive, honest commentary focused on his relationship with empire:

“Me? I thought, OBE me? Up yours, I thought. I get angry when I hear that word “empire”; it reminds me of slavery, it reminds of thousands of years of brutality, it reminds me of how my foremothers were raped and my forefathers brutalized. It is because of this concept of empire that my British education led me to believe that the history of black people started with slavery and we were born slaves, and that we were born slaves, and should therefore be grateful that we were given freedom by our caring white masters. It is because of this idea of empire that black people like myself don’t even know our true names or our true historical culture. I am not one of those who are obsessed with their roots, and I’m certainly not suffering from a crisis of identity; my obsession is about the future and the political rights of all people. Benjamin Zephaniah OBE – no way Mr Blair, no way Mrs Queen. I am profoundly anti-empire.”

Benjamin Zephaniah, Gaurdian (2003)

The self-proclaimed anarchist’s commitment to his views extended to work that was consistently radical. Zephaniah used the controversy he inspired to fuel his work and draw attention to injustice. Of the artifacts kept in the Bloodaxe Archive, one such document is the information sheet for his 1992 collection City Psalms. In this Zephaniah actively acknowledges the racist prejudices levelled on him by tabloids such as The Sun, which is quoted directly.

City Psalms Information Sheet, includes an image of Zephaniah at the top with 'BENJAMIN ZEPHANIAH' across the image in capitals and then descriptive text underneith.
City Psalms Information Sheet (BXB/1/1ZEP/1/4, Bloodaxe Books Archive)

The archival material on Benjamin Zephaniah at Newcastle University contains proofs of Zephaniah’s collections: City Psalms; Propa Propaganda; Too Black, Too Strong and To Do Wid Me. These collections were published by Bloodaxe Books and as such the material held also includes internal documents from within the publishing house concerning edits and forewords. These artifacts give both an insight into Bloodaxe Books’ workings and attitude to a radical poet such as Zephaniah.

Zephaniah’s social commentary covers key political conflicts over his lifetime; he was involved in Nelson Mandela’s campaign against apartheid, commented on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the 1990 poll tax riots, among others. His work covers all formats, printed, spoken word and digital, allowing for an accessible form of poetry that does not adhere to the traditional British literary cannon. Zephaniah commented on the need for accessibility in his poem “Dis Poetry” which he performed at Live Theatre in Newcastle in 2009.

Benjamin Zephaniah reading Dis Poetry at Live Theatre in Newcastle in 2009.

One of the collections held in the Bloodaxe archives is Too Black, Too Strong, published in 2001. This collection was born of a residency at Tooks Barristers’ Chambers funded by The Poetry Society and as such contains poetry that comments on legal systems and notable cases that occurred during Zephaniah’s residency there. One such poem is called What Stephen Lawrence has taught us, a poem commissioned by Independent Television News for Channel 4 News which discusses the well-publicized murder of 18 year old Stephen Lawrence whilst he waited for a bus in April 1993. This attack initiated a public enquiry, resulting in the Macpherson report, which deemed the Metropolitan Police Service institutionally racist and incompetent. Zephaniah’s poem talks about the state of Great Britain after Stephen Lawrence’s murder and declares that institutional racism “is now an open secret”. Despite this damming conclusion the poem has a thread of hope running through it, Zephaniah states,

“The death of Stephen Lawrence / Has taught us to love each other” and the final stanza of the poem contains a plea to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Paul Condon asking him to “Pop out of Teletubby land, / And visit reality”.

The vibrant life of Benjamin Zephaniah will leave an imprint on Britain’s art and literary scene for generations to come, his infectious passion for the work that mattered, for the future of the British people and for the potential they have, will, I hope, never be forgotten.

The artifacts surrounding Benjamin Zephaniah’s work are accessible via the Special Collections Reading Room at Newcastle University, and his spoken word poetry is available through Bloodaxe Books’ YouTube channel or Zephaniah’s own website.

Written by Charlotte Davison, PGR student at Newcastle University English Literature, Language and Linguistics.

Unravelling the Theatrical Tapestry: A Glimpse into Special Collection’s Rare Books and the Legacy of the Playbill

Written by Megan Hardiman, an undergraduate English Literature student.

Over the last few months, I have been working within the Special Collections team, focusing on material from the Rare Books collection. Here, I was tasked with collecting metadata for over two hundred playbills that advertised performances from 1819-1820 at the Theatre-Royal, Newcastle. From the Shakespearean classics of ‘Macbeth’ and ‘Hamlet’ to the forgotten plays of ‘Bamfylde Moore Carew’, each playbill offered a unique window into Newcastle’s theatre scene.

Page from Play bills and notices, 1770-1820 with the title 'Mr Young and Mrs Garrick, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark'
Page from Play bills and notices, 1770-1820 [Rare Books, RB 792(4282)]

As a third year English Literature student, I am admittedly an avid theatregoer, and often find myself at Northern Stage or Alphabetti Theatre indulging in upcoming and new material, so to see experimental plays were the heart and soul of the theatre in the 1820s was a pleasant surprise. However, the very nature of the plays has changed significantly, with titles such as “Of Age Tomorrow” and “The Day After the Wedding; Or, a Wife’s First Lesson” seldom featured in contemporary theatre. After reviewing the collection, there were thirty-four different titles that had negative gendered connotations, with some performances featured several times throughout the recorded year. The attached playbill illustrates the relationship between male and female performing bodies. Both Mr Young and Mrs Garrick are advertised as featured actors from London, yet Mr Young plays Hamlet, the fallen hero in Shakespeare’s tragedy, whereas Mrs Garrick is cast as Ophelia, who is driven to suicide as a consequence of Hamlet’s control, and Maria, the principal female role in ‘Of Age To-Morrow’. The playbill, like a time-traveling portal, allowed me to witness the disparity in roles assigned to male and female actors. While Mr. Young graced the tragic heights of fallen heroes, Mrs. Garrick drew the short end of the stick, predominantly featuring in what was deemed a musical farce.

 Page from Play bills and notices, 1770-1820, with the title 'Hamlet, Prince of Denmark'
Page from Play bills and notices, 1770-1820 [Rare Books, RB 792(4282)]

Shakespeare’s tragedy ‘Hamlet’ was also paired with ‘Ladies at Home; Or, Gentlemen, we can do without you’. This disparate pairing seemed strange at first, and I spent a while scratching my head as to why the company would have done this. After some deliberation, I came to the assumption that it was an opportune moment to trial the new experimental play and measure its success with a large audience. ‘Hamlet’ generally attracted a bigger reception due to its popularity, and this is evident through the notice at the bottom of the item stating, “Nothing under FULL PRICE will be taken”, which suggests that a sell-out audience was likely. This then gave way for the Farce “Ladies at Home” to be aired. Perhaps this was revolutionary, or simply a marketing technique to test the waters of a female cast, but either way the playbills have given scope for a gendered analysis.

 Page from Play bills and notices, 1770-1820, with the title 'Fazio; or, the Italian Wife's Revenge.'
Page from Play bills and notices, 1770-1820 [Rare Books, RB 792(4282)]

The relationship between the Theatre Royal and gender has inspired me to write a dissertation on the lying-in hospitals around Newcastle, by using the playbills as a portal into the comparative analysis of the presentation of performing female bodies and pregnant women. As seen in the playbill, there were benefit performances for the building of a lying-in hospital, that was completed in 1826 and built opposite the city library. As such, the playbill has become a window into the gendered expectations imposed on both actors and women during the nineteenth century, and I will use the research gathered in Special Collections to inform my third-year dissertation. 

Michael Chaplin – Newcastle United

If you have lived, worked, or visited the city of Newcastle Upon Tyne during match days, you may have seen the sea of fans, all wearing the iconic black and white shirts. You may have heard the roar of the fans emanating throughout the city whenever a goal is scored, or the fans disagreeing with a decision from the referee. Newcastle is a city proud of its football team. The stadium, affectionally known as the ‘church,’ is central to the culture of this part of the Northeast. As a one team city, the love and at times distain for the club runs deep through Geordie blood. For those new to Newcastle, it is easy to get caught up in the excitement and become an adoring fan. Newcastle United, for those not native to the city, can give a sense of belonging. Michael Chaplin, whose archive is located in Newcastle University Special Collections and Archives, is an example of just that…

Michael Chaplin, born in County Durham, moved to Jesmond in Newcastle as a young boy after his family moved back to the Northeast from Essex, where his father (Sid Chaplin) had been working as a writer. Although he attended schools in the area, his accent was different to those around him made, and often made it hard for him to feel like he belonged. But, whilst playing outside with a friend one day, he heard the Geordie roar from the stadium and became intrigued by what could cause such a sound that reached over a mile away. This was the beginning of his life-long love for Newcastle United and in the future would be the inspiration for some of his works in local live theatre, literature and tv dramas.

Fans of Newcastle United will be familiar with some of the famous chants, such as The Blaydon Races pictured below (part of the Michael Chaplin Archive and used as research material for the theatre production Beautiful Game: The Newcastle United Story). These chants fill the stadium grounds whilst the players are on the pitch. They fill the local pubs while the matches are shown on the tv, and they fill public transport across the country and worldwide when the black and white fans are travelling to support their team. They are vital to the club, urging the team to do well, cementing the love of the team between fans, and showing their rivals that they are serious.

‘The Blaydon Races,’ from United: The first 100 years (Michael Chaplin archive, MC/4/1/4/2)
‘The Blaydon Races,’ from United: The first 100 years (Michael Chaplin archive, MC/4/1/4/2)

In 1996, Chaplin’s live theatre production Beautiful Game: The Newcastle United Story, was performed at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle. The production told the story of his much-loved club through the eyes of three generations of the Purvis family and includes the trials and triumphs the team faced in the past through to present through affection, humour, and song. The period before had been a hugely successful year at the theatre. It became Newcastle’s first arts institution to receive a substantial National Lottery Award, and after a post-match pint between Robson Green and Max Roberts about Michael’s ideas for the new production, the history of the Newcastle United production was born.

The programme that was produced for Beautiful Game: The Newcastle United Story described how Michael’s love of Newcastle United evolved, with key images and special event dates included (see the images below). This biographical information was later developed into a book called Newcastle United stole my heart. It tells of the growing sense of belonging that was gained from hearing the crowds and attending matches. It tells the story of his own changing life and career. This book is currently on display within the Sid Chaplin and Michael Chaplin Archives exhibition case, near to the exhibition area on Level 2 of the Philip Robinson Library.

The theatre production of Beautiful Game: The Newcastle United Story, was a tremendous success and enticed those that would normally be at a football match, to come to the theatre and enjoy the ‘game’ in a format different to the usual venue.

Local newspapers wrote of the enjoyment of the production and reviewing Chaplin, Roberts and Green highly. These cuttings are a few of many which we hold in the archives. Many of them sing the praises of the trio and tell the individual stories that brought them together for this production.

Page from The Journal – Toon Barmy Mike on the Ball’ (Michael Chaplin Archive, MC/4/1/4/3/6)
Page from The Journal – Toon Barmy Mike on the Ball’ (Michael Chaplin Archive, MC/4/1/4/3/6)
Page from Evening Standard – ‘Curtain up on a tale of the Toon’ (Michael Chaplin Archive, MC/4/1/4/1/1)
Page from Evening Standard – ‘Curtain up on a tale of the Toon’ (Michael Chaplin Archive, MC/4/1/4/1/1)

Years later in 2009, a new play was written by Michael Chaplin and his son Tom, titled, You Couldn’t Make It Up. The production told of the story of the current turbulent events of the team they both loved. This ‘script in hand’ style of play was created in line with the theatres theme of real-life stories, with other plays such as From Home to Newcastle being an enormous success. This new production centred around key members of Newcastle United and included the characters of Mike Ashley, Kevin Keegan, and Alan Shearer. Key goals from across the seasons were shown on video during the interval. Unlike the previous Beautiful Game production, which was written as a ‘love letter’ to Newcastle United’s history, this new performance was written and performed in a manner to describe the most recent turmoil the club was facing and expressed how much the fans yearned for change. The programme sold during the performance (images below) was designed with the iconic black and white strips and the magpie (the Northeast icon for the nickname of the Geordie team), with the headline ‘Toon fans Vs the Management.’

'You just couldn’t make it up’ programme, themed in the style of a Newcastle United match day programme with the traditional black and white strips and and iconic magpie (Michael Chaplin Archive, MC/411/8/4)
‘You just couldn’t make it up’ programme, themed in the style of a Newcastle United match day programme with the traditional black and white strips and and iconic magpie (Michael Chaplin Archive, MC/411/8/4)
‘You just couldn’t make it up’ programme, short paragraphs describing the back story to the play (Michael Chaplin Archive, MC/411/8/4)
‘You just couldn’t make it up’ programme, short paragraphs describing the back story to the play (Michael Chaplin Archive, MC/411/8/4)

The Michael Chaplin Archive holds scripts, correspondence and some key research material used in the planning process of Chaplin’s journey writing the live theatre plays Beautiful Game and You Just Couldn’t Make It Up, alongside his other successful pieces of work.

Still on the theme of football, but with an entertaining story about a canine, we also hold the archival material for the wonderful drama of Pickles the dog (written by Chaplin and shown on ITV). The story is about the canine that found the stolen World cup in 1966. More information on this can be found here: Pickles – The Dog Who Won the World Cup – Newcastle University Special Collections and Archives (

If you are interested in Newcastle, football, theatre, television, literature, community and culture, the Michael Chaplin Archive is highly recommended. You can find more information and links below:

A ‘humble feast’ for Christmas

A kitchen interior with a young maid hanging carious meats, figures preparing food beyond, oil on canvas, circle of Jan Baptist Saive, 1563
A kitchen interior with a young maid hanging carious meats, figures preparing food beyond, oil on canvas, circle of Jan Baptist Saive, 1563. Public Domain.

Are you in the midst of preparing an elaborate Christmas meal? How about some inspiration from a seventeenth-century recipe book? From turkey sauces and minced pies to gingerbread and marzipan, Gervase Markham’s The English Housewife (17th Century Collection, 17th C. Coll. 338.1 MAR(3)) contains all the recipes you’ll need to create the perfect early modern festive feast.

About the Author

Gervase Markham was born around the year 1568 into a well-connected country gentry family, although not much is known about his early life. It is possible that, like his elder brother Francis, Gervase was educated at Cambridge. We do know that later, he spent several years serving with his brothers in Ireland and was also somewhat active at court. By 1593, he appears to have settled in London, and it is at this point that he turned his attention to writing.

He penned an astonishing variety of texts spanning multiple genres including poetry, drama and prose alongside a wide range of non-literary works on topics such as horsemanship, veterinary medicine, husbandry, domestic economy and military training.

The English Housewife

First published in 1615, The English Housewife is a handbook that, as its full title suggests, contains ‘all the inward and outward Vertues which ought to be in a compleat Woman’. Markham had an extensive list of demands and expectations when it came to the early modern English homemaker. She should be, above all, ‘of an upright and sincere religion’, and ‘a woman of great modesty and temperance’. She should ‘shunne all violence of rage, passion and humour’, and always remain ‘pleasant, amiable, & delightfull’ towards her husband.

The English Housewife provides recipes, methods, and instructions to help its reader accomplish these lofty expectations by mastering a range of skills including cookery, brewing, baking, perfumery, spinning, dying, and ‘all other things belonging to an Household’. As was customary for recipe books in this period, it also includes treatments for a range of medical ailments and advice on the prevention and cure of everything from the plague to bad breath.

It is worth noting that the contents of the text are not entirely original. Markham specifically credits an unnamed Countess as the source for many of the recipes in the text, and it is likely that many others had been in circulation in manuscript form or communicated orally for many years.

Nevertheless, the handbook remains an invaluable resource offering rare insight into the practicalities of early modern life. It was enormously popular, going through nine editions and at least two additional reprints by 1683. The edition currently held at Newcastle University’s Special Collections and Archives dates from 1649, several years after Markham himself had died.

Whilst not explicitly festive, The English Housewife contains recipes for early versions of many of our holiday favourites. Below you’ll find recipes for minced pies, turkey sauce, gingerbread and ‘marchpane’: everything you’ll need to complete your ‘humble feast’, which, according to Markham, should consist of ‘no less than two and thirty dishes, which is as much as can stand on one table’.

A Sauce for Roast Turkey

Roast turkey will no doubt be the centrepiece on many of our tables this festive season. Take a look at this recipe for an accompaniment for this Christmas staple:

Extract for 'a Sauce for roast turkey' recipe
‘Sauce for a Turkey’ extract from The English Housewife (1649)
Extract for 'a Sauce for roast turkey' recipe
‘Sauce for a Turkey’ extract from The English Housewife (1649)

Take fair water, and set it over the fire, then slice good store of Onions, and put into it, and also Pepper and Salt, and good store of the gravy that comes from the Turky, and boyle them very well together: then put to a few fine crums of grated bread to thicken it, a very little Sugar and some Vinegar, and so serve It up with the Turkey: or otherwise take grated whitebread and boyl it in white Wine till it be thick as a Gallantine and in the boyling put in good store of Sugar, and Cinamon, and then with a little Turnesole [turnsole] make it of a high murrey colour, and so serve it in Saucers with the Turkey in manner of Gallantine.

A Recipe for A Minced Pie

These minced pies are quite different to the ones we can buy in supermarkets today. They were more savoury than sweet, and combined meat with dried fruits, sugar and spices. They also were rectangular, rather than round, and were baked into a self-standing pastry known as a ‘coffin’.

'A mince't pie' recipe
‘A minc’t pie’ recipe from The English Housewife (1649)

Take a legge of mutton, and cut the best of the flesh from the bone, and parboyl it well: then put to it three pound of the best Mutton suet, and shred it very smal: then spread it abroad, and season it with Pepper and Salt, Cloves and Mace: then put in good store of Currants, great Raisins and Prunes clean washed, and picked, a few Dates sliced, and some Orange pils [peels] sliced; then being all well mixt together, put it into a coffin, or into divers coffins, and so bake them: and when they are served up, open the lids, and strow [strew] store of Sugar on the top of the meat, and upon the lid, And in this sort you may also bake Beefe or Veale, onely the Beefe would not be parboyld, and the Veale will aske a double quantity of Suet.

A Recipe for Gingerbread

What Christmas would be complete without gingerbread? Here you’ll find a recipe for spiced gingerbread made with liquorice, aniseed and cinnamon:

'To make gin-gerbread' recipe
‘To make gingerbread’ recipe from The English Housewife (1649)

Take Claret wine and colour it with Townesall [turnsole], and put in sugar and set it to the fire, then take wheat bread finely grated and sifted, and Licoras [liquorice], Aniseeds, Ginger and cinamon beaten very small and searsed [sieved] and put your bread & your spice altogether, and put them into wine and boyle it & stir it till it be thick: then mould it and print it at your pleasure, and let it stand neither too moist nor too warme.

A Recipe for ‘Marchpane’

Marchpane was early version of marzipan. Like modern marzipan, it was made using ground almonds and sugar. For the Tudors and the Stuarts, no banquet was quite complete without it. It could be carved into elaborate shapes and covered in gilding to create a glamorous centrepiece. According to Markham, it should have ‘the first place, the middle place, and the last place’ of a banquet. For our last recipe, take a look at the work that went into preparing this luxurious dish:

'To make the best Marcpane' recipe
‘To make the best Marcpane’ recipe from The English Housewife (1649)

To make the best march-pane, take the best Iordan [Jordan] Almonds, and blaunch them in warm water, then put them into a stone morter, and with a wooden pestel, beat them to pap, then take of the finest regined sugar, well searst [seived], and with it Damaske Rose-water, beat it to a good stiff paste, allowing almost to every Iordan Almond, three spooneful of sugar: then when it is brought thus to a paste, lay it up a fair table, and strowing [strewing] searst sugar under it, mould it like leaven, then with a roling pin role it forth, and lay it upon wafers washt with rose-water; then pinch it about the sides and put it into what form you please; then strow searst Sugar all over it; which done, wash it over with Rose-water and Sugar mixt to gether, for that will make the Ice, then adorn it with Comfets, guilding, or whatsoever devices you please, and so set it into a hot stove, and there bake it crispie, and so serve it forth. Some use to mixe with the paste, Cinamon and Ginger finely searst, but I referre that to your particular taste.

Further Reading

Steggle, Matthew. “Markham, Gervase (1568?–1637), author.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Best, Michael R., (ed.), Markham G., The English Housewife. Montréal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2014.

Historic UK – The history of mince pies

The Past is a Foreign Pantry – Marchpane: 1615

Food52 – Tudor(ish) Marchpane Cake recipe

Bulletin on the state of King George III’s health – October 2011

The story of King George III’s illness, the repeated bouts of mental instability and derangement from which he suffered from 1788 until the end of his reign, known variously as “the Royal Malady” or “the madness of King George”, is a familiar one.

This bulletin, carrying the latest news on the status of George III’s illness, was issued from Windsor Castle by his doctors and physicians on 18th January 1811, during his final and longest bout of illness and just a few months after his final public appearance at a reception at Windsor.

A bulletin carrying the latest news on the status of George III’s illness, was issued from Windsor Castle by his doctors and physicians on 18th January 1811, during his final and longest bout of illness and just a few months after his final public appearance at a reception at Windsor.
Bulletin on the health of King George III, 18th Jan 1811 (Pybus (Charles Frederick) Archive, FP/2/7/10)

Bulletins on the king’s health were issued throughout his illness and were intended for public consumption as well as for the eyes of the queen and her council. At this stage the bulletins were being issued daily and deliberately lacked any real or valid detail about the king’s health, being designed to allay alarm rather than to record medical facts and to protect the dignity of the king as well as the feelings of the queen and the royal family. This bulletin, therefore, is a typical example of its type.

It is signed by Matthew Baillie, physician-extraordinary to the king, William Heberden the younger, the king’s physician-in-ordinary, and Robert Willis, who specialised in the treatment of mental disorders. Although the bulletin carries the signatures of all three men, it is known that, by this stage, the royal physicians had been ordered by the queen’s council to leave the daily management of the king’s illness to specialist “mad-doctors” and that to this task the council had appointed John and Robert Willis, sons of the reverend Francis Willis who owned a private asylum and who had been credited with bringing about the king’s recovery from his first bout of illness in 1789.

The Willises favoured the use of repressive and coercive forms of treatment such as the use of the strait-jacket and restraining chair, both of which the king was subjected to, as well as enforced confinement and a strict medical regime to bring down his “fever” and “turbulent spirits”, including vomits, purges, bleeding, blistering, the application of leeches and regular doses of medicine. During the king’s last illness both Baillie and Heberden sounded strong objections to the methods of treatment handed out to him by the Willis brothers, but were ignored.

At the time this bulletin was issued, the king had relapsed midway through the previous month and had been very ill over Christmas and New Year. The following month, he would be declared mentally unfit to rule and his eldest son, the future George IV, would be appointed Prince Regent to rule in his place. Thereafter the king would spend the last ten years of his life in a twilight world, deprived of visitors, conversation and outings under the Willises’ regime, losing his sight and growing increasingly deaf, until his death at Windsor on 29th January 1820.

Although George III’s symptoms were identified as insanity by contemporary doctors, it is now widely held that he was in fact suffering from the rare hereditary blood disorder porphyria. A classic physical symptom of porphyria is deep red or purple coloured urine, and this was found to be evident throughout the notes and observations contained in the journals and correspondence of the king’s physicians when they were re-examined in the 1960s. Furthermore, in its acute form, porphyria is known to produce neurological damage and mental instability. Further research in 2005 concluded that the king’s porphyria attacks were quite possibly brought on by a build-up of arsenic in his system (tests on a sample of his hair showed it to contain over 200 times the toxic level), thought to have been caused by one of his medicines, James’ Powder. The Powder, which, tragically, was administered to him several times daily, was made from antimony which in turn contains significant amounts of arsenic.

The bulletin is contained in a collection of medical manuscripts donated to the library by Professor Pybus (1883-1975) who donated his private collection on the history of medicine, including books, manuscripts, engravings, portraits, busts, bleeding bowls and research notes, to the University Library in 1965.

Proclaiming the Republic of Turkey

October 27th signals 100 years since the Republic of Turkey was proclaimed by Mustafa Kamal Atatürk following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire in 1922.

An influential archive collection held by Newcastle University Special Collections is the UNESCO International Memory of the World listed Gertrude Bell Archive, a collection of personal correspondence and photographs of explorer, archaeologist and colonial diplomat Gertrude Bell, who witnessed and recorded many significant events involving the Ottoman Empire throughout her life.

In addition to this world famous archive, Special Collections is also custodian of the Sir Austen Henry Layard archive and book collection. Sir Austen Henry Layard was an archaeologist, politician and diplomat who was involved in the colonial administration of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. This blog post focuses on some items from the Sir Henry Layard Collection; it provides an additional perspective to elements of colonial administration inherent to understandings of the Ottoman Empire that is available for research through Newcastle University Special Collections

Before Sir Austen Henry Layard embarked on his diplomatic career, he was first and foremost an archaeologist working on excavations at Nimrud and Nineveh, former Assyrian cities in what is now present day Iraq. The following drawing of Lamassu, with handwritten annotations was located in a large red folder with other archaeological drawings and proofs for the publication, Monuments of Nineveh, along with annotated engravings in English and German.

Mounted drawing of the Lion from Nimroud
Archaeological Drawings, originally published 1849. Sir Austin Henry Layard Archive, LAY/1/5

Sir Austen Henry Layard had been on several unofficial diplomatic missions to Constantinople prior to 1845. However, in 1877 he took on the position of Ambassador of Constantinople which shaped  his attitude towards the Ottoman Empire and subsequent diplomatic career. Layard’s belief that Britain could encourage administrative reform in the Ottoman Empire through energetic diplomacy and capital investment and that Turkey should receive greater support from Britain as a bulwark against Russian influence in the region often brought him into conflict with prevailing government policy.

Correspondence in the archive details the connection that Layard had with the Turkish Parliament and the Sultan. Events are captured through the writings of Lady Enid Layard (née Guest) to her sister Charlotte Maria Du Cane (née Guest), which also describe elements of local life and family matters.

An excerpt from a letter from Lady Enid Layard to her sister, dated 29th December 1869, discussing how they are feeling settled in Constantinople now, and how she will endeavour to learn Turkish despite being concerned as to its difficulty
An excerpt from a letter from Lady Enid Layard to her sister, dated 29th December 1869, discussing how they are feeling settled in Constantinople now, and how she will endeavour to learn Turkish despite being concerned as to its difficulty. Austin Henry Layard Archive, Lay/1/1/1/106

The letters provide glimpses of a 19th century perspective to locations that would be encompassed by the modern republic of Turkey in the 20th century, whilst providing a flavour of statecraft conditions which would ultimately lead to the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.

Splashing About: Aquariums as Urban Design Projects

The month of October marks both World Architecture Day and World Cities Day (2nd and 31st October 2023 respectively). Not only that, but The Deep Aquarium at Hull is celebrating its 20th year of operation. With this in mind, Farrell project staff wanted to present some interesting features about aquariums that were built, imagined designs that never materialised and the ways in which they contribute to urban planning around the globe, based upon the material available within the Sir Terry Farrell collection.

Because who doesn’t love an aquarium?

The Deep, Hull (1999-2003)

The aquarium provided the central focus of Terry Farrell and Partners wider masterplan for the city of Hull. The objective of the project was to provide a catalyst for the economic regeneration of the city and the location for the aquarium occupied a former shipyard.

In the final design, the building rises at an acute angle to form an angular point directly above the spit of land between the River Hull and the Humber Estuary. Exterior finishes were chosen for their ability to season over time whilst looking aesthetically pleasing. Cladding choices consisted of marine-grade aluminium and reflective ceramic tiles, suggesting fissured rock plates.

The Deep, Hull by JThomas CC-BY-SA 2.0 <a href="http://http://<>

Visitor circulation within the building was also carefully controlled. Visitors entered the building and were elevated to the top floor before zig-zagging down in a continuous ramp through the various aquariums and interactive exhibits. The Deep stands out as a personal favourite Sir Terry Farrell and Partners attributed project.

But the real question is… does it look like a shark, a ship or an iceberg?

Biota Silvertown – London (1997-2009)

Whilst you may be lucky enough to visit The Deep, there is also material in the Sir Terry Farrell archive of aquarium designs that didn’t get the go ahead.

One of these proposals was the Biota! Silvertown Quays redevelopment, part of the Thames Gateway redevelopment region adjacent to Royal Victoria Dock, London. It formed one of the main public attractions on this site, which also included the Silvertown Venture Xtreme sport and surf centre.

Section and impression drawings of Biota! Item refs: TF-03798 and TF-03799

Biota was intended to be an aquarium based entirely on the principles of conservation, with each of the four biomes representing an entire ecosystem. The eventual building was given planning permission in March 2005 and was expected to be completed in 2008, but was unfortunately cancelled in 2009.

Pacific Northwest Aquarium – Seattle (1999-2001)

Moving across the Atlantic, pausing to marvel at what these man-made aquariums represent, we land at the design concepts for the Pacific Northwest Aquarium.

The Pacific North-West Aquarium sits on the waterfront at Elliott Bay in Seattle. It has occupied the site since 1977 and in 2000 Terry Farrell and Partners were invited to present a scheme with local partner architect Mithun to redevelop the aquarium across two pier arms numbered 62-63. The aquarium straddled two of the pier extensions, with one arm focusing on operational and administrative elements of the aquarium, whilst the other was used for public exhibits.

Sketches and working drawings of the proposed Pacific North-West Aquarium design. Item Refs: TF-08066/1

The shape of the aquarium was to resemble an open basin and contain a microcosm of ‘Puget Sound.’ It was intended to be an iconic structure in the Seattle landscape and hold a revamped exhibition programme. There appears to have been community opposition to the scheme due to its view-blocking appearance and future schemes did not involve Sir Terry Farrell and Partners.

Any Sir Terry Farrell archive related enquiries can be made to Hope you make it to an aquarium near you soon for the buildings as well as the fishes.

Sir Terry Farrell’s archive has been generously loaned to Newcastle University Library and is currently being catalogued. A catalogue is due to be made available to the public at the end of 2023. All rights held by The Terry Farrell Foundation. 

Let’s Get Digital: Working with Born-digital Objects

As a part of my Museum Studies MA student placement, I spent the summer semester of 2023 working with Newcastle University Special Collections. My work focused on the Sir Terry Farrell Archive, using born-digital materials from the collection to create an online exhibition. I chose to focus the theme of this exhibition around the redesign and restoration of the Great North Museum, formerly the Hancock Museum, which was completed in 2009.

Graphic of southern view of GNM. Copyright: TF-2022-11-22-015, SOUTH LIGHTING VIS 02.jpg, Farrell (Sir Terry) Archive, Newcastle University Special Collections, GB 186, kindly loaned by The Sir Terry Farrell Foundation.

What’s in an Archive?

When someone mentions archives, you might imagine famous library scenes in films, such as Nicholas Cage plotting to steal the Declaration of Independence in National Treasure or Rachel Weisz playing an adventurous librarian at the Cairo Museum of Antiquities in The Mummy. While normal archival research doesn’t typically lead to the more action-packed moments featured on the big screen, it can uncover new and surprising information.

Archives are collections which contain documents, pictures, and other small historic artefacts. Born-digital materials are documents that are created digitally. As technology advances, they are being added to archival collections alongside physical collections. This includes emails, document scans, and even digital artwork/renderings. The Sir Terry Farrell collection includes both physical and born-digital items. Having worked with physical collections in the past, I was excited to use this opportunity to explore the digital materials available and see how working with born-digital objects compares with physical ones.

Kara working at the Special Collections Research Reserve. Photograph taken by Jemma Singleton.

Sir Terry Farrell & the Collection

In 2021 Newcastle University Special Collections began a two-year project to catalogue the extensive archive of the postmodern architect and urban planner Sir Terry Farrell. Sir Terry Farrell grew up and studied in Newcastle upon Tyne, where he received a degree in Architecture from King’s College (now Newcastle University).

Farrell’s collection, which he gave as a long-term loan to the university, includes thousands of items relating to the creation of his iconic designs such as the MI6 Building in London, the Embankment Place development above Charing Cross station, and the Beijing South Station in China. While part of this collection is made up of physical objects and documents, it also includes a significant number of born-digital items including digital photographs, project documentation, and online correspondence.

Drawing of GNM long barrel section view. Copyright: TF-2022-12-05-005, LONG SECTION barrel.jpg, Farrell (Sir Terry) Archive, Newcastle University Special Collections, GB 186, kindly loaned by The Sir Terry Farrell Foundation.

Working with Digital vs. Physical Collections

Born-digital archives contain all sizes and types of documents. In architectural collections, such as the Sir Terry Farrell Collection, physical blueprints can run large. I’ve seen blueprints that, when fully open, take up the length of nearly a whole conference table. With so many design variations, there can be multiple versions of the same blueprints for a single site. Digital files allow researchers easier ways to see these documents while also showing the more detailed aspects of the documents and taking up less physical space.

Physical archives can remain safely in storage and be maintained through conservation. Digitized files require periodic updates to keep them accessible for viewing. Some documents can’t be adapted if they were created on older versions of software. If they can be converted, they may not appear in their original format. Those that can’t are at risk of being lost forever.

Special Collections Research Reserve. Photograph taken by Kara Anderson.

Physical archival documents can be fragile and need protection through conservation. Digital files don’t need conserving in the same way as physical documents. There is no need to patch up tears or glue things back together, but they do require file format transformations to be kept accessible. CAD drawings (Computer-Aided Designs) often use proprietary software. The use of proprietary software in files, like CAD drawings, can make them inaccessible once archived and require specialist software to access them. They will also need to have copies kept for preservation in the form of jpg/tiff/pdf files. These transformations can take up significant amounts of storage space. For archivists, this may be problematic as their future work will require them to make sure that files are always up to date. For researchers, such as myself, it may mean that there is a limit to what we can access. At the rate that technology is improving, digital collections will have to be constantly maintained to preserve them for future use.

Aerial digital rendering of GNM from Claremont Rd side. Copyright: TF-2022-12-05-005, aero02_no pattern.jpg, Farrell (Sir Terry) Archive, Newcastle University Special Collections, GB 186, kindly loaned by The Sir Terry Farrell Foundation.

I truly enjoyed my time at the Special Collections Reserve. This project was a great way to learn more about working with born-digital materials in addition to learning more about archival research. I have seen how archivists are handling the addition of born-digital archives to their collections and what it means for how they’re preparing to accommodate future collections. How to best preserve these digital archives is still a concern, but they also present a new challenge for archivists and researchers in how they will approach collections work as future technology develops.

This blog post and accompanying digital exhibition, Making a Museum: Creating the Great North Museum (Hancock), have been created for Newcastle University Special Collections by Kara Anderson as part of the Newcastle University Museum Studies MA placement programme. Images used in this blog post have been used with the permissions of Farrells and uses material kindly loaned by the Sir Terry Farrell Foundation.