Spanish documents about the Gitanos in the Fraser Collection

Massimo Aresu is a Brotherton and Leeds Humanities Research Institute Postdoctoral Fellow studying our Romany Collections. Here he offers an insight into the important Spanish documents in the Angus Fraser Collection. These are almost unknown to scholars of Romany studies.

The Spanish collection consists of around 150 documents, printed and manuscript, from the 17th and 18th centuries. They were assembled by Sir Angus Fraser (1928-2001), who became fascinated by Gypsies in his youth, and published articles in academic journals from the 1960s. After retiring from the Civil Service, he wrote his most famous book ‘The Gypsies‘ (1992).

Fraser divided the Spanish documents into six sections on these subjects:
(1) Spanish (mainly Castilian) decrees etc. of general application, affecting Gypsies, (2) Sanctuary, (3) Dance, (4) Conscription for armed forces, the galleys and other forced labour, (5) Individual cases, (6) Other matters

He added a seventh section (G), of a single envelope, which contains photocopies, notes, and receipts relating to the six sections, A-F. The Spanish documents are available in Special Collections, catalogued and distributed in five boxes (A1-A25), (A 25-A54), (B, C, D), (F, G).

A list of 130 Spanish documents filed chronologically and entitled ‘Oferta sobre Gitanos’ (box F, G: envelope G) shows that the majority of the manuscripts and printed documents in the Spanish section were bought from a Sevillian bookseller, Antonio Castro. A handwritten note by Fraser explains that they relate mainly to the South of Spain, especially Andalusia. It adds that they were “collected by Colonel Benigno Gonzalez Garcia, a nationalist with a strong interest in Gypsies”.

We don’t know how and when Fraser purchased the collection. The earliest date could be the death of Colonel Gonzalez Garcia in 1993, after which the documents were probably acquired by Castro. The Fraser Collection contains a copy of the facsimile of ‘Libro de la Gitaneria de Triana’ (F6), published by Castro in 1995, after the original manuscript was discovered by Gonzalez Garcia. The facsimile’s dedication suggests that the relationship between the bookseller and Fraser wasn’t only motivated by business reasons, as it reads: “Para sir Angus Fraser con sincero afecto. Antonio Castro”.

Thanks to the list ‘Oferta sobre Gitanos’ we know that three printed documents from the original sale are no longer with the other Spanish documents, but they are in the Brotherton Library. These are:

To show the richness of the Spanish documents in the Fraser Collection, in future blogs I will comment on some of the most original and curious texts. I aim to publicise and give new life to them.

Working with Wikipedia in Special Collections

Our intern, Imogen, talks about the work she’s been doing with Wikipedia and how it benefits Special Collections.

The Collections Enhancement internship is well under way, with only a month remaining. Fortunately I will be moving to another project with Special Collections this summer. But for now, I wanted to explain the work I have been doing with Wikipedia.

Recently I wrote a Wikipedia article about Leeds University Library’s Cookery Collection. It’s tricky for a library staff member to create a Wikipedia page about Special Collections itself due to our conflict of interest.  Instead I created an article about this designated collection.

Other Wikipedia editors will delete work that is not in keeping with the principles of Wikipedia. The main principle is that articles needs to be well referenced, use independent sources and evidence the topic’s notability.

It was a big job to bring together my research about Wikipedia editing and the Cookery Collection as a finished article, but I’m really pleased that it is now live and has been awarded a B-class rating.  I have put together a comprehensive how-to guide for library staff on writing Wikipedia articles to facilitate future work.

I have also been enriching Special Collection’s representation on Wikipedia by adding links to Wikipedia pages which refer readers onto our relevant archives and collections. For example, if somebody was researching Jon Silkin and checked his Wikipedia page, they would find links to our collections about him in the page’s references and ‘External Links’ section.

To create these links I have been using Wikidata – a sister project to Wikipedia. Wikidata stores structured data. This means that information about people represented in our collections can be stored as items with properties that describe characteristics such as their gender, name or occupation.

I have been using the property ‘archives at’ to link relevant items with Leeds University Library archives. Storing this information with Wikidata makes it possible to pull out data and display it in lists, diagrams or on maps. For example, click on run in this query to see a bubble diagram illustrating the institutions with the most ‘archives at’ properties in Wikidata.

Alexa Internet cites Wikipedia as the fifth most popular website, viewed more often than Reddit, Amazon or Twitter. It is widely used as a first stop for research and 70% of students use Wikipedia to begin their research and obtain a summary of a topic. This is why Wikipedia is an important platform for the Library to be working with. Improving our representation on Wikipedia will strengthen our overall online presence and help make Library collections more visible to students and researchers.


Walking Home with Simon Armitage

Collections Assistant Ruth Burton writes about her experience working on the Simon Armitage Archive.

What do we need to find our way? A map? A guidebook? poetry? Poems might not be the first things you put in your rucksack before you head out to the hills, but they can provide new and sometimes startling perspectives on the landscape.

As part of the Simon Armitage archive, Special Collections holds physical and digital material relating to Walking Home: Armitage’s account of his 2010 Pennine Way walk. This includes his journey notebook, prose and poetry drafts; guidebooks; maps; proofs and over 200 photographs.

These materials together show how complex our relationship with landscape is. Ordnance Survey maps identify the Pennine Way as geographical terrain, while guidebooks show the route as a repository of history. These perspectives on landscape are combined in Armitage’s writing with other elements, personal and public, real and imagined. His Pennine Way journey notebook shows the different ways in which landscape can be approached through prose and through poetry: how writing both shapes, and is shaped by, our surroundings.

In Walking Home, Armitage writes that it is ‘in some ways, more essential to know where you’ve been than where you’re heading’, a comment that is relevant to both the historic and the literary past.  Embedded in the Pennine Way are some pertinent historical lessons: the ruins of Hadrian’s Wall for example, ‘in the end a shrine to failure […] and as much a statement of insecurity as one of power.’

Writing, too, benefits from looking back. The Walking Home materials include initial book proposals which show how physical and logistical challenges shaped the project. More broadly, Armitage repeatedly looks back to a poetic past. Invoking literary tradition from Homer’s Odyssey and the journey of Gawain and the Green Knight, to the more specifically Pennine writing of Ted Hughes  or W.H. Auden, he shows how poetry works to locate the reader, if not always to calm them. That it can help us to take our bearings, and find our way.

An online resource including digital mapping of the Simon Armitage Walking Home materials will be available on the Special Collections website from October 2017.

New Catalogue for Kathleen Raven Archive

To mark International Nurses Day 2017 on 12th May, discover the archive of an influential nurse leader.

Today is International Nurses Day, celebrated on what was the birthday of Florence Nightingale. To coincide with this I’m pleased to announce the launch of a new catalogue for the archive of Dame Kathleen Annie Raven (1910-1999).

Explore the Kathleen Raven Archive

Kathleen Raven was a nurse who went on to become Chief Nursing Officer between 1959 and 1972. During her time in post she was involved with important developments in nursing, particularly through the Salmon and Briggs Committees. She also advocated for the introduction of intensive care units and progressive patient care in UK hospitals.

Born in Coniston, she developed links with Leeds from her time as Matron of the Leeds General Infirmary (1949-1957), and was later awarded an honorary degree by the University of Leeds in 1996.

Kathleen Raven’s archive came to Special Collections in 1999, and the new catalogue has been created as part of our Medical Collections Project, funded by the Wellcome Trust. It has also been repackaged to help better preserve the material for generations of future researchers.

The archive is extensive and covers the span of Raven’s career, from her early days as a trainee at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, to her involvement in a number of committees and associations after her retirement. One of these was the Distressed Gentlefolk’s Aid Association, where Raven was a member of the Council between 1974 and 1989.

The records are not only work-related, the archive also contains some family photographs, letters, and a number of paintings and sketches by Raven.

Fascinatingly, Raven’s family had a link to the famous art critic John Ruskin (1819-1900). Her maternal grandmother, Kate Raven (née Smith), was Ruskin’s housekeeper at Brantwood and the archive contains a small collection of letters sent from Ruskin to Kate Raven (see: MS 1721/7/7/1).


New accessions – April 2017

We’ve taken in a small, but interesting number of new accessions this month.

Special Collections has taken in an accrual to our BC MS 20c Orage Collection.  Alfred Richard Orage (1873-1934) was the editor of the literary magazine ‘The New Age’ from 1907-1922.  With his colleague, Holbrook Jackson, Orage used the magazine to promote the ideas of Nietzsche and Fabian socialism.  Contributors included H. G. Wells, Katherine Mansfield and G. K. Chesterton.  The influential magazine helped to define modernism in literature, art and music.

In the early 1920s Orage heard the mystic and philosopher George Gurdjieff lecturing and became interested in his teachings.  Gurdjieff devised a path he called ‘The Fourth Way’ to help people to achieve their full potential.

To train his pupils Gurdjieff set up the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man’ south of Paris.  Orage became one of his pupils.  Our Orage collection includes letters from Muriel Draper, a friend of Orage and his wife Jessie, in which she mentions Gurdjieff’s activities in the early 1930s.

Traditional Food in Cumbria‘ is the latest work from renowned food historian Peter Brears, former director of Leeds City Museums. This book is a far wider study than the title suggests. Brears uses food and cooking traditions as the vehicle for a wide-ranging picture of Cumbria’s social history in town and country. Working and domestic lives are covered, together with communal celebrations such as fairs, calendar customs and weddings, all illustrated with Brears’s distinctive line drawings. Naturally there are lots of recipes.