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…

Andrew Wilson’s An Essay on the Autumnal Dysentery, 1777

For many of us, autumn is synonymous with falling leaves, darker nights, and wrapping up in warmer clothes. It’s a time when the clocks go back, and we can enjoy the last of the sunny days before winter sets in. However, in the Eighteenth Century, autumn was also synonymous with something altogether less pleasant: ‘autumnal dysentery’.

Dysentery was common in Newcastle and wider Tyneside during the Eighteenth Century, but reached epidemic levels during the autumns of 1758 and 1759. There were also significant outbreaks in 1783 and 1785.

Andrew Wilson (1718-1792) was a Scottish physician and medical writer, who studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh and graduated in 1749. He set up a practice in Newcastle a short time after and stayed in the city until 1775 or 1776, when he moved to London.

Wilson was in Newcastle during the 1758 outbreak, and ‘the conceptions that I then formed of the nature and genius of the Autumnal Bloody Flux, and of the true indications of cure to be adhered to in it’ (pp.1-2), he put into his Essay. The Essay was first published in 1760. The second edition that we have in Special Collections was published in 1777. Considering Wilson’s Edinburgh connections, it is unsurprising that he dedicated the tract to Dr John Rutherford, Professor of Medicine at Edinburgh, ‘my respected Master, my Patron, and my Friend’.

Title page from ‘An Essay on the Autumnal Dysentery’ (Medical Collection, Med Coll 616.935 WIL)

Wilson went into considerable detail discussing the causes, symptoms, and treatment of patients with dysentery. He offered a fairly gory description of the symptoms, which may not be suitable for those of squeamish dispositions…:

‘This disease is called the Bloody Flux, because more or less blood is generally, tho’ not always, mixed with the slimy fetid stools which are discharged during the course of it. The bloody discharge may be attributed to different causes, according to the degree, malignancy and continuance of the disease; such as, the vehemence of the inflammation, stretching the vessels opening into the cavity of the intestines, and straining red blood thro’ them, which does not naturally pass that length undissolved; the acrimony of the humours which are discharged into these guts during the inflammation, fretting and corroding the blood vessels…’ (pp2.3)

Page 2 from ‘An Essay on the Autumnal Dysentery’ describing the symptoms of the disease

Page 4 from ‘An Essay on the Autumnal Dysentry’ describing the time of year that dysentery spread

Wilson also mentioned how ‘This disease, like all epidemics, is… more frequent in cities and towns than in the country; among the feeble than among the strong…’ He also claimed that dysentery was ‘more frequent among the poor and labourers, than among the wealthy, and those who live better and pay more attention to their health’. As for the reason for this, he suggested that ‘indigence, but much more especially negligence in the article of cooling after heats by labour, exercise etc., exposes the lower class of people prodigiously to this and many other diseases’. (p.28)

Page 31 from ‘An Essay on the Autumnal Dysentry’ describing the signs of danger when treating patients

The second edition of the Essay, there is also the hint of medical controversy. In the ‘Introductory Discourse’ (which was new to the second edition), Wilson mentioned some of the recent publications on dysentery since his work was first published. Of particular interest to Wilson was a study by the Swiss physician Johann Georg Ritter von Zimmermann, titled A Treatise on the Dysentery. Zimmerman had been made Physician in Ordinary in Hanover to George III in 1768.

First iii of the ‘Introductory Discourse’

Zimmermann’s book was of such interest to Wilson because, in the course of reading it, he ‘discovered that he had made use of my Essay, and totally supressed his knowledge of it, while he was very profuse in his references to every other latter English writer on the subject’. Wilson argued that he ‘would be sorry to mention this circumstance upon presumptive evidence only, but he has extracted a pretty long case verbatim from my Essay, which was to be found nowhere else…’ Wilson found this ‘a very strange way… of extracting from a writer upon the very subject he was treating of, while he was, almost in every page, citing other authors who had written in English as I had done…’ However, drawing back from a full accusation of plagiarism (perhaps because of Zimmerman’s relationship with George III), Wilson left the question open, and stated: ‘I make no remarks upon it’. (p.V)

Title page from Zimmerman’s ‘A Treatise on the Dysentery’ (Medical Collection, Med Coll 616.935 ZIM)

Newcastle University’s Special Collections have both Wilson’s and Zimmerman’s books here in Special Collections. Reading them and deciding whether there has been any wrongdoing might be a nice way to spend a dark autumn day, but only if you’ve got the stomach for it.


Item references

Andrew Wilson, An Essay on the Autumnal Dysentery (1777) (Medical Collection, Med Coll 616.935 WIL)

Johann Georg Ritter von Zimmermann, A Treatise on the Dysentery: with a description of the epidemic dysentery that happened in Switzerland in the year 1765 (1771) (Medical Collection, Med Coll 616.935 ZIM).

Inakanotsuki Animal Prints

One of my favourite books on my own bookshelves is a contemporary reprint of part of the Hokusai Manga. The Manga comprises sketches by the artist Katsushika Hokusai, reproduced in three colour woodblock prints. Woodblock printing was a popular art form in Japan from the seventeenth century onwards. Having arrived in Japan from China centuries before, it gained popularity during the Genroku period (between 1688 and 1703), in part due to the increased wealth and disposable income of the merchant classes. The art form was known as Ukiyo-e, or ‘pictures of the floating world’, in reference to the urban culture of Edo (modern day Tokyo). The ‘floating world’ was the term used to describe the city’s red light district, with its kabuki theatres, brothels and tea houses.

Ukiyo-e’s original subjects were the people and places found within that world. In later years however, the genre moved away from these roots. The Meiji restoration and opening of the Suez Canal in 1868 caused a rapid influx of Westernization. All of Japanese culture felt the impact of these changes, and within the art world there was a shift towards works with a more Western focus including images of the natural world, muted colour palettes and techniques such as shading.

While searching our catalogue, I came across a listing within our 19th Century Collection of rare books for a publication titled Inakanotsuki, which had been tagged with ‘Ukiyo-e’. Intrigued, I decided to seek it out from our stores to see what it contained.

Front cover of ‘Inakanotsuki‘ by Kōno Bairei, 1889 (19th Century Collection, 741 KON)

Inakanotsuki is a small book with a stitched binding, known as fukuru-toji. What appears at first to be a plain, beige cover is itself a very subtle print showing flocks of birds. Inside the volume are multi-colour woodblock prints of various animals. It was published in 1889 – the year the Meiji Constitution was adopted in Japan. The artist is Kōno Bairei.

Kōno Bairei was born in 1844 in Kyoto. As a young man he trained in classical Japanese painting under the tutelage of respected and established artists. He founded the Kyoto Art Association, and was a co-founder of the Kyoto Prefectural Painting School. His involvement with Ukiyo-e consisted of designing prints for illustrated books, often depicting birds. While this example of Kōno’s work does feature birds, my personal favourites are his depictions of animals.

Ukiyo-e depictions of the natural world are also known as kacho-e, and an array of wildlife appear on the books’ pages, including bats, foxes and turtles. Japanese art is renowned for the symbolism vested in its images – not just in the animal subjects, but a whole range of aspects including the scenery, colours and composition.

One of my favourite prints in the volume is a double page spread of cats fighting on a branch. It provides a nice excuse to share this treasure on International Cat Day (#internationalcatday).

Written by Alex Healey, Project Archivist

Universities at War

Over the last two years, a team of volunteers have been using the University Archives to tell the stories of the staff and students from Newcastle University who fought and died in the First World War.

Searching through class lists, course handbooks, registration documents, graduation lists and student magazines, they have slowly pieced together the lives of those who appeared simply as a list of names on our campus war memorials.

These books and ledgers, with plain covers, and lists of information, perhaps wouldn’t normally appear in our Treasures of the Month feature.  But the power of archive documents often lies in seemingly uninspiring lists.  Those lists of names or numbers which can, once you start looking, shine a light on a moment in history, solve a mystery, start a new mystery, be really funny, or heartbreakingly sad.

You can see all of the data gathered so far on the project’s website: www.universitiesatwar.org.uk

And from next week one of our student volunteers, Jake Wall, will be sending us guest blog posts about the stories he uncovers as part of his placement with us.

But for now, this is just a little tribute to those books of lists!

Newcastle University Archive, held at Newcastle University Library, Ref: nua-15-1-roll-of-service

Roll of Service Book: Newcastle University Archive, held at Newcastle University Library, Ref: nua-15-1-roll-of-service

This is the place where all our volunteers start – the Roll of Service. This small and unassuming book lists all those who fought in the First World War, and marks the fallen with a black cross, together with brief military details. From this basic information our volunteers start to follow the leads and try to piece together the story of a fallen serviceman.

Newcastle University Archive, held at Newcastle University Library, Ref: nua-1-4-1-armstrong-calendar-p485

College Calendars: Newcastle University Archive, held at Newcastle University Library, Ref: nua-1-4-1-armstrong-calendar-p485

The Armstrong and Medical Calendars hold a wealth of information about a serviceman’s life whilst he was a student (or member of staff) at the University. Containing student lists, staff lists, course notes, teaching schedules, exam schedules, building maps, and so many other things, they were intended to hold everything a student would need to know for the year.

Of course, for our volunteers, finding out exactly which years a serviceman studied with us is the hard bit. Much painstaking reading of class lists can sometimes be necessary until finally the name you are looking for magically appears.

This list however shows one other impact of the war. Although both Armstrong College and the Medical College already offered places to women before the war, the list here shows how high a proportion of places were taken by women once the War had started.

Newcastle University Archive, at Newcastle University Library, Ref: nua13-1-gazette-p139

An obituary in the student Gazette: Newcastle University Archive,s at Newcastle University Library, Ref: nua13-1-gazette-p139

Often the most heart breaking pieces of the story to read will be the serviceman’s obituary. These obituaries, published in the student journals of the time, were often written by fellow students who had known them during their time at the University.

They are of course desperately sad, but the desire of these men’s fellow students to honour their memory is obvious, and we hope that one hundred years later we are continuing this work.

America enters World War One

6th April 2017 marks the centenary of America entering World War I. Until this point President Woodrow Wilson had outwardly shown a neutral stance whilst allowing the banks to make loans to Britain and France. At this point the majority of American citizens were of European origin, descendants of immigrants who were of previous generations who showed little interest in the war.

However, early in 1917 two major events occurred leading President Wilson to break off diplomatic relations with Germany in the first instance, and made a speech to Congress on the 2nd April (copy of speech available at WR 163 ‘America and Freedom being the statements of President Wilson on the War with a Preface by Rt. Hon. Viscount Grey’).

America declared war on Germany four days later.

The first event which led to this was the increased German aggression shown over the Atlantic. Here, all boats heading towards Europe, no matter the nationality or purpose of vessel, were targets for sinking by U-boats.

The second was the incident of the Zimmermann telegram – a communication from Germany to Mexico which proposed a military alliance between the two countries should America join the War. However, this telegram was intercepted by British intelligence.

At the same time in Europe, there were contrasting emotions from two brothers towards the war and America’s involvement.

George Macaulay Trevelyan was based in Italy commanding an ambulance unit for the British Red Cross, and in a letter to his father he expressed his feelings on America entering the war.

Above extracts are taken from a letter in the George Otto Trevelyan Archive GOT 151/1/1 – GOT 151/1/2

Letter from the George Otto Trevelyan Archive GOT 151/1/1 – GOT 151/1/2


 I am going out to shake the hand of an American citizen, the first I can find in this Eternal City, on the occasion of his country breaking off diplomatic relations with Germany.

I shall also leave my card at the American Embassy.

My only regret is that by a strange chance I was in New York during the Italians Days? of May 1915 and in Rome during the present American crisis.

I saw our Ambassador yesterday and he told me that he felt sure the war would not go on till next year; he evidently thought the germans were in a bad way unless their submarine campaign can force us to compromise with them. If the war does end this year the affairs of our unit on which H. E. puts a high value, will be relatively easy.

I return to the front tomorrow

Your affectionate son

George Trevelyan
(Extract from GOT 151)

On the other hand, George’s brother Charles Philips Trevelyan, Liberal MP and Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education was against the war.  He had already resigned his post and been a founder member of the Union of Democratic Control – a pressure group containing MPs from both the Liberal and Labour parties and included various influential figures such as author Norman Angell and journalist E. D. Morel. They were against conscription, and wanted more negotiations.

During a speech at Bradford, Charles spoke about the number of casualties and America’s position in the war at that time. Three months later at Hammersmith he spoke about America’s entry into the war.

Above extracts are taken from a letter in the Charles Philips Trevelyan Archive, CPT 46/14 - CPT 46/15

Notes for a speech from Charles Philips Trevelyan Archive, CPT 46/14 – CPT 46/15

Word peace has been spoken
been for many days and months
That is the beginning of the end – 

Only question whether several millions more men killed or maimed before national governments begin negotiations.
Present situation
Great change in last month
Began with President Wilson asking belligerents to state terms.
When I think of the abuse levelled against me and my friends –

For 18 months demanding negotiations- negotiated note a dictated pence –
For 18 months for government to state terms.

Cannot ignore President Wilson – voice reverberates throughout world – as the megaphone of will of peaceful millions of America.
(Extracts from CPT 46/14 – CPT 46/15)

At the time of this speech there were eight million dead as a result of the war.

Extract taken from a letter in the Charles Philips Trevelyan Archive, CPT 46/56

Extract taken from a letter in the Charles Philips Trevelyan Archive, CPT 46/56
















Entry of America 
Strike member U.D.C right way and wrong way to go to war. Pres. Wilson made nation confidant – every step of policy overt – acted slowly and deliberately laying down his policy in magnificent declarations. Soberly and with full knowledge. 

Contrast to every European nation. The victim and tool of secret coteries of Kings – ministers- or bureaucrats.

Trevelyan then continues about America bringing a “Breath of healthy idealism to blow away the over…..? ambitions overlaid the finer of our national objects” and wanting nothing from the War.

Exactly the same things in mind as in his previous utterances”. We of U.D.C. cannot ask for peace on better terms because what we have advocated for two years”
(Extracts from CPT 46/56)

With America’s involvement the war lasted another 19 months, and had been dubbed the war to end all wars. However, Charles Philips Trevelyan’s anti-war stance contributed to his rejection from his constituency and he lost his seat in 1918. Four years later, after changing his political allegiance to the Labour Party, he became M.P. for Newcastle Central becoming President of the Board of Education in 1924. The Union of Democratic Control was eventually disbanded in the 1960s.

Kathleen Ainslie’s Mischievous Dutch Peg Dolls

Front cover from ‘Catherine Susan and Me’s Coming Out’ by Kathleen Ainslie (Rare Books 823.912 AIN)

Front cover from ‘Catherine Susan and Me’s Coming Out’ by Kathleen Ainslie (Rare Books 823.912 AIN)

Kathleen Ainslie was an illustrator, active in the years 1900-1911. She is best-known for her series of children’s books based on jointed Dutch peg dolls which were popular during the 19th and early-20th centuries (Florence Kate Upton’s The Adventures of Two Dutch Dolls and a Golliwogg had been published in 1895.)

The first of two books that we have recently added to our Rare Books Collection is Catherine Susan and Me’s coming out, published in London by Castell Brothers Ltd. and in New York by Frederick A. Stokes, c.1906 (COPAC lists just one copy, at Cambridge University).

Catherine Susan and Maria are weary of household chores so they issue a public notice to announce that they are ‘coming out’. Their coming out is both in the sense of venturing out on a trip to London and of being presented to society.

Pages 1-2 from ‘Catherine Susan and Me’s Coming Out’ by Kathleen Ainslie (Rare Books 823.912 AIN)

Pages 1-2 from ‘Catherine Susan and Me’s Coming Out’ by Kathleen Ainslie (Rare Books 823.912 AIN)

Of course, such a momentous occasion requires clothes and the dolls have nothing appropriate to wear. Dutch peg dolls were sold undressed and children made clothes for them from scraps of cloth. Towards the end of the 19th Century, the female silhouette changed rapidly and, certainly in the early 20th Century, styles, designs and fabrics from other cultures had become more influential in fashion. In the haberdashery store, the dolls argue about whether to wear muslin or white satin, both of which were considered stylish at the time. In the 1880s and 1890s, small hats ornamented with birds, feathers and artificial flowers were fashionable. The mischievous dolls chase hens and then secure the feathers to their heads with hammer and nails!

Pages 11-12 from ‘Catherine Susan and Me’s Coming Out’ by Kathleen Ainslie (Rare Books 823.912 AIN)

Pages 11-12 from ‘Catherine Susan and Me’s Coming Out’ by Kathleen Ainslie (Rare Books 823.912 AIN)

Catherine Susan and Maria squeeze into car and find a warm welcome in London. They are invited to attend a ball – in the 19th and early 20th centuries, numerous balls were held for members of ‘high society’. Debutante balls were occasions at which young women ‘came out’. Fans were essential: not just part of the outfit but a form of non-verbal communication conveying rejection (a closed fan), interest (an open fan) or excitement (a fluttering fan). Catherine Susan isn’t shy and sits with her fan open and, later, dances with a gentleman she tells everyone was a prince.

Pages 17-18 from ‘Catherine Susan and Me’s Coming Out’ by Kathleen Ainslie (Rare Books 823.912 AIN)

Pages 17-18 from ‘Catherine Susan and Me’s Coming Out’ by Kathleen Ainslie (Rare Books 823.912 AIN)

The dolls go to a polo match. Polo had been imported to England in the 1860s, from India, and its popularity grew in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Although the dolls exclaim at how fast the horses gallop, British polo was slower and more methodical than the polo played in Manipur. They also try their hands at punting. Punting boats were first built for pleasure in England in the 1860s. Pleasure punting probably started on the River Thames but became increasingly popular in the early 1900s. In the evening, they go to the theatre – although Maria doesn’t remember what they saw, from the balcony scene, it looks as though it might have been Romeo and Juliet. Victorian productions of Shakespeare’s plays often prioritised ‘authentic’ costumes and scenery and to be a bona fide actor/actress, like Henry Irving (1838-1905) or Ellen Terry (1847-1928), was to be a great Shakespearean actor.

Pages 27-28 from ‘Catherine Susan and Me’s Coming Out’ by Kathleen Ainslie (Rare Books 823.912 AIN)

Pages 27-28 from ‘Catherine Susan and Me’s Coming Out’ by Kathleen Ainslie (Rare Books 823.912 AIN)

By the end of the book, the dolls are both exhausted.

Pages 29-30 from ‘Catherine Susan and Me’s Coming Out’ by Kathleen Ainslie (Rare Books 823.912 AIN)

Pages 29-30 from ‘Catherine Susan and Me’s Coming Out’ by Kathleen Ainslie (Rare Books 823.912 AIN)

The second book by Kathleen Ainslie that we have added to our Rare Books Collection is What I did, published c.1905 (COPAC lists copies held at the British Library, Manchester University and Oxford University.) Inside the front cover, someone has written in pencil “I hope you will like reading this book. It is very amusing”. This time, the protagonist is a naughty Dutch doll schoolboy and the book recounts his boarding school escapades: fagging (i.e. slaving) for an older boy called Tomkins; swimming; playing cricket; cavorting in the dormitory; and smoking.

Pages 25-26 from ‘What I Did’ by Cathleen Ainslie (Rare Books 823.912 AIN)

Pages 25-26 from ‘What I Did’ by Cathleen Ainslie (Rare Books 823.912 AIN)

We do not currently have any more of Kathleen Ainslie’s Dutch peg doll books but in other stories, Catherine Susan and her companion, Maria, celebrate holidays, take on odd jobs and even agitate for women’s suffrage (Votes for Catherine Susan and Me, 1910). Ainslie wrote about 25 books (the first being Me and Catherine Susan in 1903), as well as illustrating a series of six calendars (1906-1911). They all feature the same brand of humorous chromolithographed illustrations.

Beauties in Strains Seldom Heard: The Famous Tune

Image from ‘An Introduction to Harmony by William Shield’ (18th Century Collection 780 SHI)

Image from ‘An Introduction to Harmony by William Shield’ (18th Century Collection 780 SHI)

25th January, Burns’ Night, has just passed for 2017. The day (and evening!) celebrates the birth, life, and work of famous Scot Robert (‘Rabbie’) Burns (1759-1796). Regarded as the national poet of Scotland, Burns composed many folk songs. He also collected songs and adapted them for his own use.

To many, he is best-known for his anthem ‘Auld Lang Syne’, which is often sung (in Scotland and throughout the world) at New Year. Burns ‘wrote’ the words for ‘Auld Lang Syne’ in about 1788 and sent a copy of the original song to the Scots Musical Museum with the remark,

“The following song, an old song, of the olden times, and which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript until I took it down from an old man.”

Some of the lyrics were indeed “collected” rather than composed by the poet; the ballad “Old Long Syne” printed in 1711 by James Watson shows considerable similarity in the first verse and the chorus to Burns’ later poem, and is almost certainly derived from the same “old song”.

25 January also marks the anniversary of composer William Shield, who died on the same day in 1829. Shield was born in Swalwell, Gateshead, on 5 March 1748 and was taught music by his father before becoming an apprentice shipbuilder in South Shields following the death of his mother. He continued studying music with Charles Avison, church organist at St John’s Church in Newcastle, and moved to London in 1772 to play violin in the opera at Covent Garden (later the Royal Opera House). He met Joseph Haydn and, in 1817, was appointed Master of the King’s Musick.

Like Burns, Shield was a great plunderer of folk tunes, often incorporating them into his own compositions. He is often cited as being the composer of the tune of Burns’ ‘Auld Lang Syne’.  In 1998, John Treherne, Gateshead’s Head of Schools’ Music Service, studied Shield’s score for his operetta Rosina (1782):

“I started to copy out the score and hummed the tune as I was writing it down. I was coming to the end when I realised the tune floating through my head was Auld Lang Syne.”

Had Burns ‘stolen’ the tune from Shield and taken credit for it? It’s more likely that Shield knew the tune of a traditional Scottish folk song and used it in Rosina to convey a Scottish atmosphere. The same could probably be said of Burns: he may have ‘stolen’ the tune from Rosina, but it’ more likely that he borrowed from a traditional Scottish tune that he’d heard somewhere. The debate has raged on for years, with north-of-England folk song traditionalists claiming that it was their local lad who composed the tune to one of the most-performed songs ever.

Shield’s ‘An Introduction to Harmony by William Shield’ (18th Century Collection 780 SHI) was published in 1800. This comprehensive treatise on the elements of harmony shows Shield’s encyclopedic knowledge of local and more ‘exotic music’ by using (unnamed) excerpts of existing music as exercises and examples. Shield’s ‘Introduction’ is, in fact, composed of an anthology drawn from music in his own library, including obscure pieces never reproduced before.

A second edition appeared in 1817. In the preface to Part the Second, Shield explains his reasons for using excerpts of existing music:

“. . . it has appeared to me the most liberal plan to let every musical illustrative example recommend itself by its own intrinsic merit, and not by the name of its author.”

Is this what Shield possibly felt when he first heard the theme he adapted in Rosina? Or what Burns experienced when he heard the tune he appropriated an obscure air for ‘Auld Lang Syne’?

Shield’s ‘Introduction’ met with varying reviews on its publication. The Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Chronicle, although acknowledging Shield’s genius and popularity, dismissively stated:

“This work has proved serviceable by enticing grown-up lady-performers to acquire some knowledge of musical theory.”

 Robert Burns, 25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796. William Shield, 5 March 1748 – 25 January 1829.


Mary Elizabeth Coleridge’s Handwritten Poetry Collection


Note written by Lucy Violet Holdsworth to accompany Mary Coleridge’s handwritten collection of poems, later to be published as ‘Fancy’s Following’. (Miscellaneous Manuscripts 56)














Mary Elizabeth Coleridge was born on 23 September 1861, and she grew up surrounded by literary and artistic talent. She was the great-grand-niece of Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge and her family friends included Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Anthony Trollope, John Ruskin, and Robert Browning. During her lifetime, she became best known for her essays, reviews and her five published novels. These included ‘The King with Two Faces’ which she received the substantial sum of £900 for in 1897.

However, posthumously it is her poetry which has taken centre stage. Our first Treasure of the Month for 2017 is a fair copy of Mary Coleridge’s first poetry collection, ‘Fancy’s Following’, which was handwritten by the poet for her friend, Lucy Violet Holdsworth.


Page taken from Mary Coleridge’s handwritten collection of poems, later to be published as ‘Fancy’s Following’. (Miscellaneous Manuscripts. 56)






Page taken from Mary Coleridge’s handwritten collection of poems, later to be published as ‘Fancy’s Following’. (Miscellaneous Manuscripts. 56)

The copy was made before it was later issued privately by Daniel Press in 1896, and in fact, it was this small white book which led to the publication. Holdsworth’s cousin, Monica Bridges (nee. Waterhouse) was married to the Robert Seymour Bridges, Britain’s poet laureate from 1913 – 1930. Holdsworth planned for the book to be left out for Bridges to take notice and when he did, he asked to meet Mary to encourage her to publish her work. Coleridge agreed, but with the stipulation that it was published under the pseudonym ‘Anodos’ in order not to disgrace her family name by acknowledging she was the author. It wasn’t until four months after her death in 1907 that a book of two hundred and thirty-seven of her poems was finally published under her real name, and by that time, it proved so popular that it was reprinted four times in just six months.


The score for ‘The Blue Bird’, a poem by Mary Coleridge set to Music by Charles Villiers Stanford. (Stanford Collection, Op.119.3.)


‘A Blue Bird’, which appeared in ‘Fancy’s Following’, was one of eight of Mary Coleridge’s poems which was set to music by Charles Villiers Stanford. The score can be found in our Stanford (Charles Villiers) Collection, and you can listen to a performance of it below.