Perronet Thompson – a distinguished, globe trotting family

December was a relatively quiet month for new accruals.  A highlight was a small collection of documents added to our Thomas Perronet Thompson Collection.  The archives include ‘A Pedigree of Perronet and Thompson’ by Henry Wagner, FSA, (1840-1926) showing the families’ ancestry from the early 1600s.  Wagner is mainly remembered today for his extensive research into the family history of British Huguenots in the 19th century.

In the pedigree Wagner traces the family back to the French Benjamin Mestral, Seigneur des Vaux and Catherine Baptiste, of Lausanne, who married in 1621.  Jean, the husband of their daughter Susanne, is the first Perronet listed.  His family came from Berne in Switzerland.

Many of Jean and Susanne’s descendants had impressive careers.  They include Jean-Rodolphe Perronet (1708-1794) a celebrated French civil engineer.  Perronet discovered how to design stone arch bridges with narrower piers.  These created larger areas for boats to pass through.  Best known for the Pont de la Concorde in Paris, Perronet continued to work on the construction of the bridge despite the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789.  He was an inspirational teacher and founded the world’s first engineering school in 1747.

William Perronet (1729-1781) was a surgeon and apothecary who, for several years, served as an army surgeon.  Although he was not closely involved with the Methodist movement some letters between him and Charles Wesley exist in the Wesley family archives.  William’s brother’s Charles (1723-1776) and Edward (1726-1792) were Methodists for a time and worked as itinerant preachers accompanying Charles Wesley on his tours.

Vincent Perronet
Vincent Perronet, Mayor of Exeter 1944-1945, brother of Sir John Perronet. Image credit Leeds University Library.

Many of the family served with the army or became colonial administrators.  One such was Sir John Perronet Thompson (1873-1935) a colonial administrator in Simla and Delhi, India.  He was Chief Commissioner for Delhi from 1928-1932.  Our new accrual includes some of John’s letters to his sister Isabel written from 1898-1932, a copy of his speech to the House of Commons and an address to the Lincoln Diocesan Conference ‘The Problem in India’ both dated 1932.

In his correspondence and speeches Thompson comments on political and social issues in India.  He was evidently an advocate of independence for the country long before it happened.  His letters also include news about the Thompson family.  When Isabel asks about career prospects for her son, Basil, Thompson advises that colonial administration in India is no longer a good option.


Images in the Margins

Riza Hussaini, our Digitisation Assistant, uncovers some magical marginalia in our medieval manuscripts.

The prevailing view of medieval illuminated manuscripts is that they contain purely sacred imagery.  It is true that the main illustrations accompanying the text are of saints and angels, the crucifixion and scenes from the Old Testament of the Bible.  They complement the religious messages. However the margins around the text reveal a world of surreal delight where comic life flourished.

Scribes had much more artistic licence in the margins and their imaginations often roamed free.  Weird and wonderful mythical beasts, hybrid monsters, animals behaving like humans and humour related to bodily functions were all fair game.  It was common for the illustrations to be added after the text was written.  This allowed the artists to scatter it with irreverent depictions.

Images of beasts
Clothed beasts from BC MS 1/55 and BC MS 1/63. Image credit Leeds University Library.

Although traditionally, reading and writing were the concerns of the church, by the late Middle Ages there was an increased desire among the laity to express devotion privately. The Book of Hours was the most common genre commissioned by clients.  The books ranged from the modest through to lavishly illuminated tomes purchased by the wealthy and aristocratic classes. It is the luxurious versions that hold the most elaborate illustrations.

Image of grotesques
Grotesques from BC MS 1/28. Image credit Leeds University Library.

There were recurring themes and imagery in the margins. The most striking are nuns and monks behaving curiously, anthropomorphic animals, dragons and snails. Plenty of illustrations give us an insight and clues into everyday medieval life. All the images in this post are from Horae Beatae Mariae Virginis (Book of Hours) and you can access digitised medieval manuscripts on the Special Collections catalogue.

Sadly, upon the arrival of movable type, marginalia in medieval manuscripts diminished.  The inclusion of marginalia on musical scores continued longer as modern music printing as we know it came about much later.  Doodling and writing notes in margins will never go out of favour as people add their own sketches and comments to texts.

Illustrating the margins of medieval manuscripts provided much more than a break from lethargy for the artisans, it brought levity.  Marginalia shows the modern reader that medieval life was just as complex as ours.

November’s new accessions

This month we received a welcome addition to our collection of Glyndebourne Festival programme books 1952-1981.  Our new accession brings the collection up-to-date.  The Glyndebourne Festival of operas takes place annually at Glyndebourne Manor House, near Lewes, East Sussex.  The first festival was organised in 1934 by John Christie  who owned the house and had a specially built theatre installed.  The opening performance was Mozart’s ‘Le marriage of Figaro’ which launched a six week season.

Each programme contains fascinating articles about the season’s operas and composers.  The Glyndebourne Festival Society was formed in 1952 to take over the financial management of the event from Christie.  More recent programmes include updates about its activities which include community and educational projects.  Tours around the UK take Glyndebourne’s operas to thousands of people a year.  The programmes are lavishly illustrated and the artwork, photography and advertisements show changes in society and culture over the years.

Malcolm Quin (1854-1945) was a positivist philosopher who became an independent Catholic Priest.  Positivism is a philosophical theory which holds that people’s definite knowledge comes from sensory experience which they interpret using logic and reason.  A recent accrual to our Malcolm Quin Collection contains five letters and six Christmas cards from Quin to a  Mr Robertson, dated 1906 to 1927.  In each card Quin included one of his own poems on a seasonal theme.

Quin and Robertson had a lively intellectual discussion on positivism, Catholicism and Darwinism in their correspondence.  They debated in particular the views of two positivists, the philosopher Richard Congreve (1818-1899), and the trade union advocate Henry Crompton (1836-1904).

Robertson sent Quin a copy of Susan Liveing’s book ‘A nineteenth-century teacher, John Henry Bridges’ (1926).  Bridges was a positivist philosopher and medical inspector.  Commenting on the book, Quin wrote to Robertson that Liveing faced an ‘almost insuperable obstacle’ in being a woman writing about a man!  Somewhat grudgingly he acknowledged she ‘has gone a long way towards overcoming it’.

Medical Manuscripts Go Digital

Riza Hussaini, Medical Collections Project Assistant, writes about digitising medical manuscripts from Special Collections.

For today’s blog I’ve picked three of my favourite medical manuscripts to focus on, out of the thirty-eight I’ve digitised for the Medical Collections Project.

The first is ‘Lecture notes on medical topics, reputedly made by James Tatham’ (MS 2032/16).

Modern student notes may often contain rough notes, sketches, quotes and the occasional doodle.

A number of the manuscripts of medical lecture notes I have digitised dissolve that perception. Most are dense with information and some are beautifully illustrated.

It has been thought, for several of the manuscripts, that the student surgeon attended lectures around the country, with the notes providing reading material for other would-be surgeons.

Mostly compiled in elegantly bound volumes they all appear to be similar in style; introductions to medical conditions, followed by the causes, treatments and occasionally, patient cases. They are written in neat and fairly legible hand. The tone is utilitarian and doubtless, this was how the lectures were conducted.

Digitising this particular manuscript was tricky as a lot of the pages were brittle and holding together like a jigsaw. It has since been rebound; an example of how we are committed to preserving the collection through digitisation and physical conservation.

James Tatham Lecture Notes
MS 2032/16 James Tatham Lecture Notes; rebound. Image credit Leeds University Library

It may be surmised, but impossible to confirm, that this was transcribed by James Tatham, a surgeon-apothecary based in Leeds. There are lectures delivered by several notable individuals like Thomas Pridgin Teale Senior and William Hey III; founders of the Leeds School of Medicine.

Next is ‘Notes on forensic medicine and on insanity’ (MS2032/19).

If you, like me prefer your medical notes to be accompanied by chemical formulae, this is it. The unknown author is thought to be Berkeley G.A Moynihan (1865-1936), but the provenance is unclear.

Manuscript in tête-bêche style
MS 2032/19 Notes on Forensic Medicine. This manuscript is in tête-bêche style (first half written normally, second half written from the back and upside down). Image credit Leeds University Library

It is a comprehensive toxicology guide offering a fascinating insight into forensic medicine. The manuscript focuses on different aspects of ‘insanity’ from the reverse. It goes into detail about the affective symptoms of different conditions to ascertain grounds for insanity defence in legal cases.

Finally, ‘Notes on surgery made by Leonard Ralph Braithwaite’ (MS 2032/23).

This is probably the most legible and also one of the youngest manuscripts (early 20th century). It is written in ball point pen and is one of the few manuscripts that has coloured illustrations.

The notes were written by Braithwaite during his medical training and early career as a surgeon, and delve into quite significant detail. For example, he provides information about how to perform both simple and invasive surgeries, such as amputations. Even without a medical background, I found the notes comprehensible and fascinating.

Leonard Braithwaite Notebook
MS 2032/23 Leonard Braithwaite Notebook. Three examples of illustrations. Image credit Leeds University Librar

If this has piqued your interest, you can explore The Medical Manuscripts Collection and search through the Special Collections catalogue to browse the digitised manuscripts. 

Library project: Flying Start

As a Student Ambassador for the Library, one of my tasks over the last couple of months has been to work on an individual project with supervision from one of the library’s Learning Advisors. The project is based on one of the Skills@Library resources, Flying Start, which seeks to provide guidance to first year students in their transition to studying at university.

There is information on everything from how to make the most out of your lectures, how to manage your time and guidance for tackling your first assignment. Speaking from the point of view of a current student, I can see how useful Flying Start will be for people who are about to start university and want to get a head start before the beginning of the semester.

The bulk of my time was taken up meeting with my supervisor to discuss the main aims of carrying out the survey and coming up with questions for the survey. Once the survey machine was up and running in the Laidlaw Library, I did some observation of how people reacted to the machine and whether it was visible to passers-by. By doing this, we’ll not only have feedback on the Flying Start resource, but also on the mode of gathering feedback and how effective this was in practice.

All in all, I think that Flying Start is a fantastic resource for giving new students an insight into studying at university and helping them to feel less nervous at the prospect of new learning styles and assessment methods. It will be really useful to see the feedback that students have given in the survey, and it will hopefully give us some pointers as to how the Flying Start resource can be improved in the future to better suit the needs of first year students.

‘Austin Wright: Emerging Forms’ Exhibition Launch

On Tuesday 21 November we welcomed visitors to celebrate the opening of our new special exhibition, Austin Wright: Emerging Forms. Guests were treated to some personal insights into the artist and his life by his son, Crispin Wright, and an opportunity to explore the incredible works on display.

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The evening opened with a private viewing for FUAM members who listened to curator Layla Bloom talk about the artworks on display. We then welcomed visitors to the public launch with an introduction from Stella Butler, University Librarian and Keeper of the Brotherton Collection, and some words from Crispin Wright which delighted the audience .

Austin Wright was a Gregory Fellow at the University of Leeds from 1961-1964. The exhibition explores the development of his practice and his reputation in the art world between 1955-75. Wright began practicing as an artist quite late in his life after being bluntly told by Henry Moore to ‘just get on with it’.

Through his drawings and sculptures, visitors can see how Wright’s work developed. In the 1950s he focused on dynamic human figures and in the 1960s, during the Gregory Fellowship, he shifted towards more abstract forms. Following his service in the Second World War he moved to Yorkshire where he drew inspiration from his surroundings and the landscape. The exhibition thus focuses on Wright’s time in Yorkshire as a key period in his career.

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The exhibition displays drawings, maquettes and sculptures made by Wright, many of which have been generously loaned by his family. The distinctive aluminium sculptures hanging in the Gallery were intended to hang within the landscapes which inspired their creation. We imagine this would been quite a spectacular sight! Our guests were particularly taken by these works.

Following such a wonderful launch evening, which was marked by enthusiastic responses and discussion, we invite you to come along and explore this archive of Austin Wright’s work. This exhibition will be on display in The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery until 17 March 2018.


Rediscovering Herbert Read

Photographic portraits of Herbert Read
Image credit Leeds University Library

Recent cataloguing work has highlighted undiscovered gems in the Herbert Read archive.

Sir Herbert Edward Read (1893-1968) was an art historian, poet, literary critic, philosopher and anarchist. Born in Yorkshire, he lived at Stonegrave House near York for much of his life. He maintained a strong connection with the University of Leeds up until his death in 1968.

Special Collections acquired Read’s extensive library and much of his archive during the 1990s.  A lot of the material has been catalogued, but a series of files remained unlisted.

We were recently able to record this material due to generous support from the Strachey Trust.  An inventory of the contents of 84 boxes of archives was created, with records now available online.

The material discovered in this collection is exceptional. Letters, manuscripts and photographs show the extent of Read’s influence on artistic and literary life over many years.

Files cover key literary and artistic figures of the 20th century.  They include letters from people as diverse as E.M. Forster, Leonard Woolf & the Hogarth Press, T. S. Elliot, and Jon Silkin. There is also correspondence with artists Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Hans Richter and Naum Gabo.

The collection indicates how Read helped shape artistic and literary sensibilities at home and abroad. Letters from Peggy Guggenheim show Read encouraging her to bequeath her collection to the Tate, while correspondence with publishers highlights Read’s influence as an editor. A long series of letters from Bonamy Dobree (Professor of English Literature at Leeds, from 1936 to 1955) show Read’s prominence in the development of Gregory Fellowships at the University.

The Dobree correspondence covers the years 1925 – 1968 and is an important record of their relationship. The letters demonstrate, in great detail, their collaborative work on the London Book of English Verse (1953): evidence of the creation of a national literature in action.