Stored in the Bloodaxe archive in the Robinson Library there is a note written in the margins of the manuscript of Ken Smith’s poetry collection, ‘The Poet Reclining’ from 1977, one of Bloodaxe Book’s first publications:


‘pity Janet, you’ve done it again!’


References to ‘Janet’ continue to appear frequently in the editorial marginalia, minutes and notes. As part of her practice-based PhD research, Kate Sweeney has decided to build a ‘Janet’ – from traces of administration ephemera found in the archive. An amalgamated, chimerical idea of a ‘Janet’ from paper. From the margins, notes and minutes, but mainly from the post-its – a part of the archive and Apart from the archive – much like Janet herself…



‘Treasure of the Month’



This month’s treasure is Janet. Janet seeps through on post-its pressed upon other people. A part and apart, her stickiness is temporary, her yellow glow fleets over faces. She is deeply disposable unless undetected – then, she slips off her sheet, off her box and into the archive…


Image: Post-it note attached to material in The Bloodaxe Archive, contained in BXB/4/5/1 and stored in Special Collections at The Robinson Library.

Votes for Women: Newcastle’s own Radical Suffragist

To mark the centenary this month of the 1918 Representation of the People Act which gave some womens the right to vote for the first time, our Treasure of the Month takes a closer look at Ethel Williams, Newcastle’s own radical suffragist.

Portrait photograph of Ethel Williams (Ethel Williams Archive, EWL/2/4)

Dr Ethel Mary Nucella Williams (1869 – 1948) was Newcastle’s first female doctor, and became the first woman to found a general medical practice in the city as well as co-founding the Northern Women’s Hospital.

Ethel was also a radical suffragist and pacifist. As a suffragist, she served as Secretary of the Newcastle Women’s Liberal Association and became president of the Newcastle and District Women’s Suffrage Society. As a pacifist, she was a founding member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

Being a radical suffragist meant that Ethel believed in more peaceful means of campaigning and demonstration but took a broader view than many other suffragists, who tended to be drawn from the middle classes, recognising as she did that the movement needed the support of working class women, and that the issue of the franchise should draw women from all sections of society together with a common identity.

Ethel was one of the first women in the North East of England to own and drive a motor car. We see her here photographed with her car, which was crucial to enable her work in mobilising the women’s suffrage movement in the region.

Photograph of Ethel Williams in her car (Ethel Williams Archive)

Ethel took part in the ‘Mud March’ of 1907 in London, the first large procession organised by the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies Sand so-called due to the terrible weather conditions on the day. Despite the hardship, over 3,000 women from all walks of life took part.

This Ethel Williams Archive in Newcastle University Library’s Special Collections includes letters from her contemporaries, a number of photographs of her throughout her life, and objects connected to her involvement with the campaign for women’s suffrage, including a suffragist banner and a ‘Winged Victory’ statuette bestowed on her in 1918 to commemorate the Representation of the People Act which momentously gave women householders and wives of male householders over thirty the right to vote for the very first time.

Ethel’s suffragist banner is currently undergoing conservation work at The People’s History Museum in Manchester; when it returns to Newcastle later this year, it will be fit to be enjoyed by all as we celebrate this significant centenary year of women achieving the vote.

Ethel Williams’ suffragist marching banner (Ethel Williams Archive, EWL/3/5)

Learn more about the Ethel Williams Archive in Special Collections here.

And read more about Ethel’s suffragist banner here

Happy Anniversary Frankenstein’s Monster!


2018 marks the 200 anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Why not celebrate by starting the New Year by reading or re-reading this classic.  And for the faint-hearted our amazing Book Trust Collection on Level 1 of the Robinson Library has some great kids’ versions!

The circumstances of the novel’s genesis are well-known: Claire Clairmont, Lord Byron, John Polidori, P.B. Shelley, and Mary Godwin (as she was then) passed a stormy night in Geneva, June 1816, inventing ghost stories. Mary’s contribution, inspired by a dream, would be published two years later as Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus and marked the birth of the science fiction genre. Victor Frankenstein raids graveyards to acquire the parts he needs to create life but his experiment goes horribly wrong and he rejects his nameless creation. Denied companionship, the monster endeavours to destroy his maker. The novel explores themes which would characterise much of Mary Shelley’s subsequent work, such as alienation and solitude; justice; the purpose of life; destiny; and social class as it relates to political power.

Critically acclaimed in her own day, Mary is perhaps remembered today as the wife of Percy Bysshe Shelley and the author of Frankenstein (1818), her most enduring novel.  More recent scholarship however has tried to shed a greater light on her later literary output.  Mary Shelley was the author of seven novels, a great number of short stories and two travelogues, both of which use the travelogue genre as a vehicle to explore and comment upon politics, war and culture.

In one of two letters written by Mary Shelley which are held in the Manuscript Album here in Special Collections, she enquires about the history, religion and politics of Bohemia. This appears to be related to one of her last-known projects, which was a partial translation of a novel by German author, Ida Hahn-Hahn, called Cecil (1844). The letter was written in March 1844 which is also the same year that her final full-length book was published: Rambles in Germany and Italy, in 1840, 1842, and 1843.

The other day I sent you some books by a friend going to Paris – & I enclosed a letter for you to another friend which I hope she will present. Meanwhile I am going to intrude upon you, asking for some information which I think you can give me.

I want some account of the old Kings of Bohemia & the fire worshippers of that country – of Jerome of Prague of the Hussites of Bohemia – of Zizska – & also of the manner in which Bohemia is at present governed.

Pray forgive me for giving you this trouble – but you know every thing – . . . living among the learned – I (not knowing German) know nothing – & live the life of a recluse. I shall be very glad to hear how you are – I hope quite well – with compliments to Mr. Dunbar, I am very truly yours.

Shelley, M.

from a letter to Rose Stewart, 17th March 1844 (MSA/199, Manuscript Album, held at Special Collections, Newcastle University Library)

Mary Shelley [Letter] [MSA/1/99], Manuscript Album, Newcastle University Library.

Oh and did we mention that one of the versions of Frankenstein in the Book Trust Collection is a pop-up?  Go on, you know you want to!

Thank you to Melanie Wood, whose full research on Mary Shelley and the letters we hold in the Manuscript Album can be seen in the online version of the exhibition Very truly yours…

Lady Tabitha and Us – Peg Doll Games

Door No. 24


The Newcastle University Special Collections team
would like to wish you all a very

What does your Christmas Eve consist of? Do you play games just like Kathleen Ainslie’s peg dolls, to get you in the mood for Christmas?

Illustrations taken from ‘Lady Tabitha and Us’ by Kathleen Ainslie (Rare Books, RB 823.912 AIN). You join Tabitha, a peg doll and her friends on Christmas Eve. They play party games, such as tug of war and drop the handkerchief, along with musical chairs, hunt the slippers, hide and seek, orange and lemons, blind man’s buff, guessing games and the Sir Roger dance. They then finally eat supper and “we didn’t go home till morning, till daylight did appear”.

Visit Door number 1 to find out a little bit more about Kathleen Ainslie.

Explore another Kathleen Ainslie book that we have in Special Collections; ‘Catherine Susan and Me’s Coming Out’, in our February 2017 Treasure of the Month Feature

Christmas Tree at Windsor Castle, 1848

Door No. 23

Christmas Tree at Windsor Castle from ‘Illustrated London News, Christmas Supplement’, 1848 (19th Century Collection, 19th C. Coll, 030 ILL)

This illustration from the December 1848 Christmas Supplement to the Illustrated London News, shows the royal family gathered round a christmas tree at Windsor Castle. When this image first appeared in the Illustrated London News, it attracted a huge amount of attention. The upper classes had been decorating trees for some time, having been introduced by Queen Charlotte in the 18th century, but this image spread the fashion to the rest of society.

Decorating a tree with candles and gifts was a German tradition that was enthusiastically enjoyed by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. This image of the royal family, which depicts children, parents and grandmother, all enjoying themselves around the tree was influential in promoting Christmas as a family occasion. By the end of the 1840s, Christmas had become a festival celebration of the Victorian calendar.

Illustrated London News is found in our 19th Century and 20th Century Collections.

Geoffrey Trevelyan’s letter to Father Christmas

Door No. 22

Letter from Geoffrey Washington Trevelyan to Father Christmas, 1917 (CPT Uncat/30)

This letter to Father Christmas was written by Geoffrey Washington Trevelyan, the youngest son of the politician Charles Philips and Lady Mary Trevelyan of Wallington (find out more about the Trevelyan Charles Philips Trevelyan here). Written at his grandparents’ house Rounton Grange on Christmas Eve 1917, when he was seven years old. Geoffrey requests that Father Christmas decorate the tree and bring presents for the children.

Geoffrey later became an engineer at de Havilland, and the 5th Baronet of Wallington.

Rag Pie Christmas Advertisement

Door No. 21

Powell’s Products advert from Rag Pie, 1932 (University Archives, NUA/13/5)

Advertisement for Powell’s Products in Rag Pie.

This advertisement is contained within the 1932 issue of Rag Pie, which was created and published by University students of Newcastle upon Tyne, in aid of the Newcastle Dispensary, The Babies’ Hospital, The Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital and the Eye Hospital. The magazine contains advertisements alongside stories, poems and songs written by students and sold for 6d to raise money for charity.

Front cover of Rag Pie, 1932

RAG is a student-led committee which organised fundraising activities and is still active today, although Rag Pie is no longer published.

Powells Products Ltd. operated on Kells Lane Low Fell until it went into liquidation in 1970.

Christmas Eve in the Olden Time

Door No. 20

Christmas Tyde poem, pgs 194-195, from ‘Christmas Eve in the the Olden Time’ (Robert White Collection, W245 COL)

Christmas Tyde poem, pgs 196, from Christmas Eve in the the Olden Time (Robert White Collection, W245 COL)

Poem by Walter Scott from ‘Christmas Tyde: A Series of Sacred Songs and Poetical Pieces suited to the season’, published London: William Pickering, 1849, created by Sara Coleridge.

Find out more about the White (Robert) Collection.

Cholera scrapbook – drinking on Christmas Day, 1831

Door No. 19

Newspaper cutting and handwritten account of the Cholera outbreak, 1831 from ‘Collection relative to the cholera at Gateshead, in the county of Durham Vol I (Rare Books, RB 616.932 BEL)

This page from the Cholera scrapbook details circumstances around George Foster Smith, who sold some of his spirits to people on Christmas Day. It explains that nearly all of those that consumed the liquor from Smith’s establishment were those with whom Cholera first broke out in Gateshead. The Cholera outbreak occurred in Gateshead and lasted from 1831-2.

See another page from Cholera scrapbook Volume I, in Door No. 9 of the Special Collections Christmas Calendar.

Transcription reads;

George Foster Smith, then a considerable linen draper NoG(?)4. side, Newcastle with his spare cash began a cheap spirit shop in Tyne Bridge End Buildings in the last week of November 1831. – to gain custom with cheap spirit drinkers he gave to a number of persons some of his spirits, particularly on Christmas day, and strange to say the whole or very nearly the whole of the persons with whom the Cholera first broke out in Gateshead were proved to have been at, and partaken of this cheap spirit, the day before. – he and his spirits were much blamed. – the expected great trade of the spirit shop became nought, and his large linen drapery concern dwindled down to a Haberdashery shop, when he took himself drinking and died at his house in Leazes Terrace the 22. September 1846 aged 57 years

Find out more about our Cholera scrapbooks here.

The scrapbooks are part of the Rare Books Collections. Find out more about it here.

Christmas Entertainments Prologue

Door No. 18

Prologue from ‘Round about the coal-fire: or Christmas entertainments’ (19th Century Collection, 19th C. Coll 398.268 CHR)

To get you in the Christmas spirit, here’s the Prologue from ‘Round about our coal fire, or, Christmas Entertainments’ “wherein is described abundance of Fiddle-Faddle-Stuff, Raw-heads, bloody-bones, Buggybows and such like Horrible Bodies; Eating, Drinking, Kissing & other Diversions…” produced in 1734.

Find out more about the 19th Century Collection.