Spotlight highlights 2011-2012
Earlier issues of Spotlight are available below:
AIM25: Archives in London
by Geoff Browell, Senior Archives Services Manager, King's College London
The Archives at King's College leads a major cultural consortium for London: AIM25 (www.aim25.ac.uk). Set up in 2000, as both a website and a partnership of archivists from 133 of the capital’s universities, learned societies, hospitals, museums and cultural organisations, AIM25 allows users to cross search descriptions of historic records and archives on dozens of themes and covering more than 500 years of history, and to do so quickly and efficiently. Subjects covered by its constituent archives include politics (LSE archives), exploration and travel (Royal Geographical Society), art and design (V&A), science, technology and medicine (Wellcome Library, Royal Society, Imperial College and Royal Institution), and the history of London (London Metropolitan Archives).
AIM25 remains a popular search tool – regularly attracting some 1.5 million hits per month from the furthest corners of the globe. New institutions joint regularly and add their personal paper and institutional records – recent examples include Kew Gardens, the National Maritime Museum and Transport for London. For many partner institutions, AIM25 remains the only means of providing online public access to descriptions of valuable archival holdings, and the only way in which researchers can discover and use these often unique resources, whether they be literary archives, records of scientific discovery, descriptions of war, catalogues of medicine or details of women’s history.
King’s Archives still manage AIM25, but its broader success relies on the enduring partnership of its constituent archives, which work on joint projects to promote culture in the capital. A recent example was 'Navigating Nightingale', an iPhone app that uses augmented reality technology to bring to life the London of the pioneering nurse, Florence Nightingale, using original photographs, maps, cartoons and sound recordings held in AIM25 archives.
Standards remain at the heart of AIM25, not least indexing, which provides consistency in describing people, places, organisation names and subjects or themes as part of the UK Archival Thesaurus (UKAT), which King’s College Archives and its technical partner, University of London Computer Centre, maintain on behalf of the national archival community. UKAT is currently being improved and extended with new vocabularies relevant to the First World War, to provide a consistent and definitive description of the conflict’s battles and military operations, to support numerous national projects that will anticipate the anniversary in 2014 of the outbreak of war, including commemorations planned by the BBC and Imperial War Museum.
AIM25 remains at the cutting edge of technology: all its descriptions have been accessible to Google and other search engines since inception, meaning researchers can easily find relevant material. Now, with the help of grants from JISC (www.jisc.ac.uk ), it is implementing cutting edge Linked Data tools that will make resource discovery easier and link archive descriptions with other useful information and original content for research and teaching, including bibliographies, video and maps (visit http://openmetadatapathway.blogspot.co.uk) .
A new project will display AIM25 descriptions on the Historypin website, to help introduce archives to new audiences, and to map archives to relevant local historic photography.
For more information on AIM25 and recent projects, visit www.aim25.ac.uk
The 1908 Olympic handbook
The Fourth Olympiad: being the official report of the Olympic Games of 1908 celebrated in London under the patronage of His Most Gracious Majesty King Edward VII and by the sanction of the International Olympic Committee. London: British Olympic Association,  Foyle Special Collections Library, [Miscellaneous Collection] GV722 OLY
by Adam Ray, Special Collections Library Assistant
London and the world have suffered two world wars since the 1908 Olympic Games and this book suffered its small part too. It received water damage during the Blitz, when the Sion College library near Blackfriars Bridge, where it was originally held, suffered enemy action. The vellum covers and fore-edges of the leaves are testament to this damage: they have splayed, and some pages are also difficult to separate. The Sion College library closed in 1996 and its contents were divided between King’s and Lambeth Palace library.
The London games were the fourth modern Olympiad, after the revival of the games had begun in Athens in 1896 under the direction of Baron Pierre de Coubertin. The only other time in the 20th century the city would hold the games would be in the post war ‘Austerity Games’ of 1948.
This work is an authoritative record of the 1908 London Olympics and details preparations, regulations, royal involvement and competitor performance, as well as including maps, reproductions of certificates and photographs. Two identical inscriptions on both of the inside covers of the book record its provenance. They read: ‘Presented to the library of Sion College by the council of the British Olympic Association, April 1910’.
The 794 pages of the book attest to the huge amount and variety of work involved in staging the games. A circular by Lord Desborough of Taplow, president of the British Olympic Council, is reproduced and introduces the first elements of planning. This was sent to ‘the associations governing sport in England asking for their opinion on the proposal’ to hold the games in London. Rome had originally been chosen as the host city, but a national emergency in Italy caused by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius had forced the Italian government to divert funds to Naples, away from the preparations for the proposed Rome Olympics (p.23).
The games were held at White City stadium, alongside the Franco-British exhibition. The arena comprised a central sports field surrounded by a cycle and athletics track, and spectators, attired (with few exceptions) in the millinery of the day, packed in to watch the unfolding events.
A diagrammatic plan (pictured) also details the stadium facilities, including the ‘dressing, assembly and officials’ rooms’. There is no Olympic village for the athletes to relax in and return to after events, but there is an area set aside for ‘temperance and refreshment’.
Lord Desborough further emphasised the spartan, pre-professional ethos that shaped the early games when he recorded in his circular that ‘The events are only open to bona fide amateurs ... and the council do not propose to pay the expenses of any competitor whatever, either for travelling or residence in this country’. Accordingly, there was also no financial reward for athletic achievement: ‘The prizes will consist of certificates, with gold, silver and bronze medals’ (p.24). However, for certain events including fencing, there are prizes offered, in this case ‘an exact reproduction of the Pourtales Vase in the British Museum ... as an appropriate commemoration of the fact that the King has graciously consented to become the patron of the amateur Fencing Association’ (p.25). One wonders whether any of the athletes competing at the 2012 Olympic Games would swap their endorsement and sponsorship deals for such glorious ornamental reward.
Amateurism and a sporting world before neon, lycra and advertising slogans and endorsements are ably represented in the many illustrations of competitors. These plates reveal the physical exertions of the pre-Fosbury-flop era high jump, the uniforms of the smartly dressed lady and gentleman archers, and the fearsome looking competitors of the Graeco-Roman wrestling.
Unlike the swimming, which is held in a tank on the field of the stadium, many events are necessarily held off-site, including the shooting, the rowing and the marathon. In a view of this last event, the unmistakeable profile of a London bobby waving his finger officiously at a group of cyclists, who are presumably getting too close to the South African competitor as he plods along the streets of Ruislip, marks the scene as uniquely British.
A chapter entitled ‘Finance and Entertainment’ reveals some of the logistical and pricing issues that the organisers of the 1908 games encountered, as have all Olympic committees before and since. There was debate concerning whether spectators who had visited the Franco-British exhibition alongside the stadium should also be charged for stadium entry, and discussion of entry fees deterring spectators from attending. England was indeed already well served with popular and well attended sporting events (Henley Regatta, association football, horse racing, cricket etc.), so spectators had to choose carefully as to where they spent their shilling, as the compilers of this report recognised.
Even though athletes were unpaid, they did receive (along with other foreign dignitaries and Olympic officials) the benefit of the host nation’s hospitality, when they were entertained at various formal events. At such an occasion on 13 July, the Lord Mayor of London ‘received the Olympic competitors and officials at the Mansion House, and a brilliant concourse of representatives of all nations availed themselves of the civic hospitality’ (p.395). Further events took place in areas where specific events were held and ‘drives were organised for the entertainment of competitors and their friends to various places of interest in and near London’ (p. 397).
The many diagrams of courts, routes and orders of play serve to enhance the reader’s understanding of these games and the infrastructure and organisation that made them possible. There are tables recording competitors’ scores for the statistician; and for the more aesthetically demanding fan, reproductions of ‘special figures skated’ (p.292) by various competitors in the figure skating, as well as reproductions of complex diving routines (p.579).
Images of the certificates and medals won at the games are reproduced, and the debt and homage to the ancient Greek games is evident within these: they contain images of laurel leaves and depictions of figures from Greek mythology.
The handbook also devotes over 200 pages to the spirit of fair play, in its ‘code of rules’ for the 21 sports, and includes a daily programme of stadium events with a list of officials, a full list of competitors and a selection of speeches delivered at some of the Olympic banquets.
There are sure to be a plethora of official, semi-official and bandwagon-jumping publications commemorating the London 2012 Olympic Games and it would be a surprise if any of them devote a whole appendix to the ‘Definitions of an amateur’, as this handbook does. The section records how various sports associations, national and international, as well as the organising bodies, defined the term at the beginning of a century where sport went global, and athletes became not just participants but international superstars.
Pierre de Coubertin. Olympism: selected writings. Lausanne: International Olympic Committee, 2000.
Helen Clare Cromarty. ‘Brookes, William Penny (1809–1895)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2012 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/39187, accessed 11 April 2012]
A letter from Robert Browning
Alice Meynell. Preludes. London: Henry S King & Co, 1875
Rare Books Collection PR5021.M3P9
by Katie Sambrook, Special Collections Librarian
The year 2012 marks the bicentenary of the birth of the great Victorian poet Robert Browning (1812-89), and this month we feature an item from our collections which illustrates Browning’s encouragement of a younger poet, Alice Meynell.
Alice Meynell (1847-1922) was born Alice Thompson and brought up in England and Italy in an impecunious literary family. A devout Christian all her life, in 1868 she was received into the Roman Catholic Church. She took religious instruction from Father Dignam, a young Jesuit priest, and what began as a teacher-pupil relationship soon ripened into friendship and from friendship into a mutual and doomed love. Knowing that their affection could have no happy outcome, Dignam asked his superiors at the Society of Jesus to transfer him abroad, and the relationship came to an end. Thompson, deeply affected, found an outlet for her grief and love in poetry. Her first collection, Preludes, was published in 1875 and contains a number of poems inspired by her unhappy love affair with Dignam.
Preludes was praised by Tennyson, Ruskin and, as the Foyle Special Collections Library’s copy reveals, Browning. It was widely reviewed, one of the reviews, in the Pall Mall gazette, leading indirectly to Thompson’s marriage; Wilfred Meynell (1852-1948), a young Catholic journalist, read the article and, impressed by the account of Thompson’s poems, bought a copy of Preludes for himself and subsequently made contact with its author. Two years later the couple were married.
The Foyle Special Collections Library copy of Preludes was sent by Alice Meynell to Robert Browning in 1878, as a dated inscription in Browning’s hand on the half-title page – ‘Robert Browning, (from the author) June 7 1878’ – makes clear. Inserted in the volume is a letter from Browning, complete with stamped and postmarked envelope (pictured below), written two days later from his house in Warwick Crescent to thank her for the gift. After apologising for the fact that it is only now, some three years after their publication, that he has read the poems, he goes on:
If you care to know it, I have been struck by the beauty of many of these poems even beyond what the indifference of the reviewer should have prepared me for. I do hope they are Preludes indeed and that the Concerto is to follow duly.
Pencil marks have been made against the titles of some of the poems in the table of contents, and it is possible that Browning made these marks as he read the book to indicate poems he particularly liked. By the 1870s Browning was widely recognised as second only to Tennyson as Britain’s greatest living poet, and it is natural that Meynell should have seized on what the letter makes clear was the slightest of acquaintances to send him a copy of her poems in the hope of receiving encouragement. It is equally unsurprising that Browning, immersed in the composition of his long poem Aristophanes’ apology, should not have read Preludes when it first appeared, especially, as he himself states, as the reviews were ‘niggardly’ and indifferent.
In his letter Browning praises the ‘charming’ illustrations, and the striking woodcut full-page illustrations and delicate tail-pieces, the work of Alice Meynell’s older sister Elizabeth (1846-1933), who later achieved fame as a painter of British military campaigns under her married name of Lady Butler, add much to the attractiveness of Preludes as an example of mid-Victorian book production. Meynell was influenced by the work of the Pre-Raphaelite circle and Preludes is reminiscent in theme (though not in quality) of the work of Christina Rossetti, another devout Christian woman poet, whose best work is often imbued with a sense of sorrow, self-denial and renunciation of earthly happiness. Christina Rossetti’s poems were also sometimes published with illustrations by her brother Dante Gabriel or other artists of his circle, and the striking decorated binding (pictured) of Preludes, which has designs of a bird, a quill pen, an urn, a vine and a lyre gilt-tooled on green cloth, is strongly reminiscent of the bindings designed by Dante Gabriel Rossetti for his sister’s publications.
Despite the hope expressed in Browning’s letter, Meynell’s Preludes were to remain preludes for twenty years, as motherhood and journalism claimed her time. It was not until 1895 that she returned to poetry, and some of her best work was written during and about the First World War. At some point after Browning’s death the copy of Preludes she had sent him was returned to the Meynell family. It was later given to Albert Cock (1883-1953), friend of the Meynells and professor of education at King’s College London, who presented it to the College’s library. Also inserted in the book is a letter to Cock from Wilfred Meynell, written in March 1941. Meynell, then 88, had been for many years a widower and was living in the Sussex village of Greatham; he writes of hearing nightly overhead ‘hundreds of German planes on their way to London & other large centres.’
June Badeni. ‘Meynell, Alice Christiana Gertrude (1847–1922)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2010 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/35008, accessed 29 May 2012]
Viola Meynell. Alice Meynell: a memoir. London: Jonathan Cape, 1939
Clyde de L Ryals. ‘Browning, Robert (1812–1889)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2006 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/3714, accessed 29 May 2012]
Also of interest
Alice Meynell. The children. London: John Lane, 1897 [Humanities Books PR5021.M3C4]
Alice Meynell. The colour of life: and other essays on things seen and heard. London: John Lane, 1896 [Humanities Books Store PR5021.M3C7]
Alice Meynell. Essays. London: Burns & Oates, 1914 [Rare Books Collection PR5021.M3A161]
Alice Meynell. Hearts of controversy. London: Burns & Oates, 1917 [Humanities Books Store PR5021.M3H3]
Alice Meynell. The second person singular and other essays. London: Oxford University Press, 1921 [Humanities Books PR5021.M3S2]
The Transit of Venus, 5 and 6 June 2012
The Archives of King’s College London hold a manuscript notebook entitled 'Observations on the Transit of Venus' describing this celestial event. It was witnessed by King George III and others, on 3 June 1769 at the Royal Observatory in Kew. Their astronomical observations are recorded in the notebook with tables of viewing data. The transit of Venus is an extremely rare occurrence: after 5/6 June 2012, it will not be seen again until 2117.
‘Observations on the Transit of Venus’, 1769 ref: K/MUS1/1
Astronomers recognised the significance of this event, which allowed the distance between the Earth and the Sun to be accurately measured. The transit of Venus in 1769 was observed by astronomers around the world, famously by Captain James Cook on board the Endeavour, and was one of the first examples of its kind of international scientific cooperation.
The notebook, along with other papers and scientific equipment from the Royal Observatory formed part of the King George III Museum donated to King’s College London by Queen Victoria in 1841. Much of the equipment is now on loan to the Science Museum.
Fifty Years of Jamaican Sovereignty: the road to an independent Jamaica
By Shanine Salmon, Special Collections Trainee, King’s College London
On 6 August 2012 Jamaica celebrated 50 years of independence from the United Kingdom. The historical library collection of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, held at King’s College London, provides excellent coverage of the history of Jamaica, from the period of Spanish rule to the present day. This article looks at the political developments and rivalries that led to Jamaica gaining its independence from Great Britain after 300 years of rule.
Emancipation Day, Spanish Town, 1838
The concept of an independent Jamaica was not seriously considered until 1938. The island had been under British colonial rule since 1655 after the eviction of the previous Spanish rulers. Slavery, which saw the black population outnumber the white population by 20 to 1, was abolished in 1834.
The emancipation of all freed slaves in 1838 should, in theory, have led to full citizenship rights for former slaves. However, the Jamaican Legislative Council and Assembly were made up largely of plantation owners, appointed by the governor of Jamaica, who had lost money and slaves through the abolition. Subsequently additional legislation was passed bringing in a property qualification which excluded ex-slaves from full rights, including the vote.
The year 1938 was the centenary of full emancipation. Instead of being a year of celebrations it became the year of strikes and riots regarding low pay and unemployment amongst the Jamaican population. In response there was a growing labour movement, enforcing the nationalist campaign of independence.
Two names emerged in 1938: Alexander Bustamante and his cousin, Norman Manley. Bustamante was not a conventional politician to represent the Jamaican disenfranchised in their fight for full emancipation (only 20,000 out of 1,237,063 had the vote). He was 54, tall with unruly hair and a high pitched voice. His business was the lending of small loans. He claimed to have lived in Spain, been a sailor and held a variety of odd jobs in the United States before returning to Jamaica in 1932.
Manley was more straight laced, a King’s Counsel, First World War veteran and Oxford University alumnus who donated his time and expertise in 1938 to the workers of Jamaica. The intellectuals and activists favoured the educated Manley over his adventurous cousin as the leader of their cause - a sovereign Jamaica with its own culture and control of its economic production.
Horse of the Morning (1943) by artist Edna Manley, Norman Manley’s wife
Manley became leader of the socialist People’s National Party (PNP) and Bustamante was put in detention for his inflammatory speeches during the riots. Manley took over the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) and under him membership doubled.
Bustamante was furious and believed Manley was behind a conspiracy to detain him longer than necessary. The two had a public falling-out and Bustamante announced the formation of a new political party, the Jamaican Labour Party (JLP), just before the 1943 elections. A constitution that year gave universal suffrage, as well as a 32-man lower chamber and an appointed upper chamber plus an executive council and the governor, representing the crown, who presided over them all.
Bustamante was victorious in these elections, taking 23 out of a possible 32 seats; it seemed that Manley, who failed to win a seat, and the PNP’s socialist rhetoric had pushed many of the 60% that did vote into the arms of the JLP.
Norman Washington Manley
The political awakening coincided with a period of mass emigration. The lack of full emancipation in 1838 saw many leave for North America but the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, also known as the McCarran–Walter Act, limited the numbers moving to the USA.
After the Second World War many Jamaicans, prompted by their British citizenship, the lack of jobs in Jamaica and the fact many had lived there as part of their military service during the war, looked towards moving to Great Britain.
Many Jamaicans felt British, not just legally but in identity and character: ‘Jamaican identity’ is still a contentious issue - what is it to be Jamaican on an island with a mixture of races and religions?
Jamaicans found themselves taking on British characteristics long after the end of slavery such as exaggerated upper class names; one child who gained a Jamaican secondary school place in 1961 was named Fabian Fitz Arthur Brown, another Lancelot James Barron Garth Young. Place names were also influenced by Britain such as Victoria Park, Twickenham and Manchester.
Jamaicans had no qualms about making the move, particularly when an old warship called Empire Windrush appeared in Kingston in 1948 offering one-way tickets to Britain. The experience was not always harmonious for Jamaican emigrants; often they were left feeling alienated by the white majority in Britain and were also detached from political developments in Jamaica.
After two defeats Manley made some major changes to his party, sacking the ‘communist’ elements of the PNP and those who were involved with BITU and replacing them with his son, Michael and creating a new trade union called the National Workers’ Union.
Manley also projected a new image of himself as ‘Father of the Nation’ to appeal to the working class population. In 1955 the PNP won its first election and the 1957 constitution saw Manley become Jamaica’s first chief minister; the PNP moved to right, as Manley focused on economic development.
Bustamante’s defeat in 1955 saw the newly knighted leader go into semi-retirement. This was not the last Jamaica heard of Bustamante; in 1958 Jamaica joined the West Indies Federation, which was a political unit of the Caribbean islands looking at eventual independence from Britain.
In 1961 none of the federation members had achieved their aim of independence. In frustration the JLP forced Manley to hold a referendum on the question ‘Should Jamaica leave the West Indies Federation and seek its own independence?’.
Manley was opposed to leaving the Federation but Bustamante, now aged 77, found the spirit he was known for in 1938 and gained the support of the unemployed in both the towns and rural areas. Jamaica voted to leave the Federation with 54% of the vote passed, in the process destroying the Federation, destroying Manley (who was defeated in April 1962) and leading to the re-emergence of Bustamante as Jamaica’s first prime minister.
Crucially, Jamaica faced no opposition from the Conservative British Government. Alarmed at the numbers of Jamaicans making Britain their new home, it brought in the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962, which limited the numbers allowed into the UK.
On 6 August 1962 Jamaica became an independent country.
Emancipation Day, Spanish Town, 1838 [FCO Historical Collection PAMP.BOX F1886 ONE]
Horse of the Morning (1943) by artist Edna Manley, Norman Manley’s wife [FCO Historical Collection PAMP.BOX F1886 ONE]
Norman Washington Manley [FCO Historical Collection PAMP.BOX F1886 ONE]
Alexander Bustamante [FCO Historical Collection PAMP.BOX F1886 ONE]
Clinton V Black, History of Jamaica, London: Collins, 1958 [FCO Historical Collection F1881 BLA]
Katrin Norris, Jamaica: the search for an identity, London: Oxford University Press, 1962 [FCO Historical Collection F1886 NOR]
Independence Celebration Committee, One People, Kingston: Government Public Relations Office, 1962 [FCO Historical Collection PAMPH. BOX F1886 ONE]
Sir James Clark Ross: a pioneer of polar exploration and magnetic observations
Sir James Clark Ross, A voyage of discovery and research in the southern and Antarctic regions, during the years 1839-43. London: John Murray, 1847 [FCO Historical Collection G850 1839 ROS]
By Frankie Kalogirou, Special Collections Trainee
April 2012 marks the 150th anniversary of the death of Sir James Clark Ross, a naval officer and polar explorer who discovered both the Ross Sea and Victoria Land.
The Foyle Special Collections Library holds a wealth of material relating to the theme of polar exploration. Arctic and Antarctic expeditions are covered and the collections contain material relating to individuals associated with Clark Ross, most notably Sir John Ross (his uncle) and Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, who held the position of assistant surgeon and botanist on the ship Erebus during Clark Ross’s expedition to Antarctica.
Sir James Clark Ross (1800-62)
Born in Scotland in 1800, Clark Ross entered the Royal Navy in 1812 and in 1818 joined his uncle Sir John Ross aboard HMS Briseis. During 1818-9 he joined his uncle aboard the Isabella on their fourth voyage together on an expedition to the Arctic in search of the North West Passage. The failure of the 1818 voyage to the North West Passage led to a second privately financed expedition in 1829, again with his uncle Sir John alongside him. The voyage ended in disaster with the abandonment of the ship Victory in 1832 after it became trapped in ice. Clark Ross spent over four years in the Arctic before returning to Britain in 1834.
This image is an oil painting of Sir James Clark Ross by John R Wildman.
Painted in 1834 shortly after Ross’s return from the Arctic, the painting reflects the high standing of polar explorers in early nineteenth century Britain.
1835 saw Clark Ross commissioned to conduct the first systematic magnetic survey of the British Isles, which lasted until 1838. After returning from the Antarctic voyage of 1839-43, Clark Ross was awarded the gold medal of the London and Paris geographical societies and in 1844 was knighted. In 1856 he was made a rear admiral before passing away peacefully in 1862.
James Clark Ross explored the Antarctic regions between 1839 and 1843 with two ships named Terror and Erebus. He made significant progress in the field of magnetic observation by erecting observation posts throughout the regions he visited and during the expedition discovered the Ross Ice Barrier, Victoria Land and Ross Sea. Although he failed to reach the magnetic South Pole, it has been calculated that Ross’s expedition penetrated further south than that of any previous explorer.
After the publication of A voyage of discovery and research in the southern and Antarctic regions, during the years 1839-43 (London, 1847) Clark Ross’s most important scientific contribution was in marine biology, a field which during the 19th century was still in its infancy. Clark Ross’s achievements in this field were not recognised during his lifetime but proved to be vital to understanding the life of Antarctica.
Image of Coulman Island, which was discovered by Sir James Clark Ross on 17January 1841. Clark Ross wrote ‘The land afterwards proving to be an Island, was named Coulman Island after her father’. ‘Her father’ refers to Ross’s father in law, John Coulman.
The work of Sir James Clark Ross is often forgotten in the light of achievements of better known explorers such as Captain Robert Falcon Scott, the centenary of whose death also falls this year.
Although Clark Ross was never able to reach the magnetic South Pole, he undertook important research relating to magnetic observations and made some of the earliest scientific contributions to the marine biology of the region.
Writing to Dr Joseph Dalton Hooker in 1905, decades after the death of Clark Ross, Captain Scott paid this memorable tribute:
‘From the point of view of the general public however I have always thought Ross was neglected and as you once said he is very far from doing himself justice in his book’
John Barrow. A chronological history of voyages into the Arctic regions: undertaken chiefly for the purpose of discovering a north-east, north-west, or polar passage between the Atlantic and Pacific, from the earliest periods of Scandinavian navigation to the departure of the recent expeditions under the orders of captains Ross and Buchan. London: John Murray 1818 [FCO Historical Collection G623 BAR]
Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker. Himalayan journals: or, Notes of a naturalist in Bengal, the Sikkim and Nepal Himalayas, the Khasia Mountains, &c. London: John Murray 1854 [Early Science Collection QK358 HOO]
MJ Ross. Ross in the Antarctic: the voyages of James Clark Ross in Her Majesty's ships 'Erebus' and 'Terror' 1839-1843. Whitby: Caedmon Press, 1982 [Royal Geographical Society Library]
Also of interest
Sir John Ross. Narrative of a second voyage in search of a North-West Passage, and of a residence in the Arctic regions during the years 1829, 1830, 1831, 1832, 1833. London: A.W Webster 1835 [Rare Books Collection G670.1829 ROS]
Robert Huish. The last voyage of Capt. Sir John Ross, R.N. Knt. to the Arctic regions for the discovery of a north west passage, performed in the years 1829-30-31-32 and 33 : to which is prefixed an abridgement of the former voyages of Captns. Ross, Parry & other celebrated navigators to the northern latitudes. Compiled from authentic information and original documents, transmitted by William Light, purser’s steward to the expedition. London: John Saunders 1835 [FCO Historical Collection G650 HUI]
Sir John Ross. A voyage of discovery: made under the orders of the Admiralty, in His Majesty’s ships Isabella and Alexander, for the purpose of exploring Baffin’s Bay, and inquiring into the probability of a north-west passage. London: John Murray 1819 [FCO Historical Collection FOL.G650 ROS]
Learning from Lister
Joseph Lister. Collected Papers. Vol. 1. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1909. KCSMD Historical Collection FOL. R114 LIS
By Brandon High, Special Collections Cataloguer
Note: This article was originally posted in January 2012. The exhibition 'Learning from Lister' ran from 26 January to 14 April 2012.
Lister and his centenary
This volume forms part of an exhibition which marks the centenary of the death of Joseph Lister (1827-1912). It includes copies of his anatomical drawings, one of his casebooks, some of his surgical instruments and dressings, and some personal effects, such as his watch and pen. The exhibition will coincide with a conference at King’s, entitled Learning from Lister, which will explore his impact on the medical world. Lister has been known as the ‘discoverer’ of antiseptic surgery. This claim has been disputed: antiseptics were known before Lister. There is also much debate about what antiseptic surgery actually was: its practice changed significantly during Lister’s lifetime. There is even argument about the extent of its beneficial impact. However, there is no disputing his significance in the history of medicine, nor his status as a ‘household’ name, along with Florence Nightingale and Edward Jenner.
This copy of Lister’s Collected Papers is included in the exhibition, along with two others with strong connections to Lister. This book itself is not rare, but this particular copy has an ownership history and associations with Lister which make it important. It comprises scientific papers which chart the development of Lister’s thinking on subjects which led him to formulate the principles and practice of antiseptic surgery, such as inflammation and putrefaction of wounds, Pasteur’s germ theory and the theory of airborne infection. It also includes papers on anaesthesia: he was an early enthusiast for the use of chloroform during surgical operations, a fact to which his casebooks bear witness. The readers of this book would invariably, with a very few exceptions, have been fellow medical scientists. So it is not surprising that the inscriptions in this copy refer to two eminent medical personages, Sir Rickman John Godlee (1849-1925) and Sir Frederic William Hewitt (1857-1916).
Lister, Godlee and Hewitt: surgical revolutionaries
An inscription on the second free endpaper tells us that this book was given to Hewitt by Godlee in 1909. Godlee was Lister’s nephew: the Godlees, like the Listers, were Quakers. He also had a distinguished career as a surgeon, specialising in thoracic surgery, but also undertaking in 1884 the first operation to remove a brain tumour. Although the patient subsequently died from post-operative infection, the operation itself was a landmark not only in the history of surgery but also in our knowledge of cerebral localization. Godlee wrote one of the first biographies of Lister: not surprisingly, this was an extremely favourable account of Lister’s career and methods. Hewitt was an anaesthetist who not only persuaded the General Medical Council that the (then new-fangled) study of anaesthetics should form part of the medical curriculum, but also wrote many papers on improving instruments and techniques in anaesthesia. His eminence in the medical profession was marked not only by his knighthood but also by his appointment as anaesthetist to Edward VII and George V. His endeavours to ensure that only medically qualified persons should administer anaesthetics came to nothing during his lifetime, however.
The surgical operations which Lister undertook were complex and required increasingly lengthy preparation. They could not have been envisaged without the introduction of anaesthesia. In pre-anaesthetic days, surgical success depended on performing operations very quickly, in order to lessen the sensations of extreme pain and the accompanying feelings of fear and terror. Godlee alludes to Lister’s interest in anaesthesia in the following inscription, dated October 4th 1909, which is on the front endpaper of the book:
My dear Hewitt I know that you will find these volumes really interesting[.] They may remind you that you gave me on one occasion a placid and peaceful sleep for which I am very grateful. R. J. Godlee.
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; witches, wizards, conjurers, and their merry pranks, fairies, spectres, ghosts & apparitions; a right merrie tale :- the story of Jack Spriggins and the enchanted bean; curious memoirs of old Father Christmas. London: Field & Tuer, 
Foyle Special Collections [Miscellaneous] PR3291 C4
By Adam Ray, Special Collections Library Assistant
Any festive chapbook that promises such delights and diversions from our bleakest of economic midwinters is surely worthy of perusal, especially as it does cordially promise to show ‘what hospitality was in former Times, and how little there remains of it at present’.
This promise is recorded on the title page of the book, originally published in 1740, and reproduced in the Foyle Special Collections Library’s copy by the Leadenhall Press, in this pocket sized, facsimile edition of 1893.
The original readers of the book were thus being encouraged to look back nostalgically on a period prior to 1740 where hospitality reigned and to the ‘mirth and jollity’ of the days when ‘every one was busy welcoming of guests ... the lasses were as blithe and buxom as the maids in good Queen Bess’s days, when they eat sir-loins of roast beef for breakfast ... ; In a word, the spirit of generosity ran thro’ the whole house’ (p.2).
Such warming sentiments explain the need, recorded by Field and Tuer in the Publishers’ Note, for a reproduction of this ‘entertaining little work’, which had been ‘thumbed almost clean out of existence, and an original copy now commands more than twice its weight in gold’.
Founded by Abraham Field and Andrew Tuer, the Leadenhall Press, ‘operating from 50 Leadenhall Street, London, was renowned for its facsimile publications of popular and decorative 18th-century texts, especially chapbooks and children's literature’ (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography).
Both the 18th and 19th century editions of the work were, as one would expect due to the city’s historic and continuing position as a centre of publishing and the book trade, published and printed in London. The printer of the 1740 edition was J. Roberts of Warwick Lane and the 1883 edition was jointly published by Simpkin, Marshall & Co. of Stationers’ Hall Court, E.C.; Hamilton, Adams & Co. of 33 Paternoster Row; and Field and Tuer of 50 Leadenhall Street, E.C.
The tales and their illustrations
Bibliographic production may have been resolutely city-centred but a bucolic mistrust of the intellectual quackery of the city (‘they indeed witchcraft it in London, where people knows goodness knows what’), pervade the folk tales contained in this book (p.19).
Doctors, similarly mistrusted, are labelled as ‘the country bone-setters’ and are blamed for inventing the game of ‘Blind man’s buff’, (presumably to increase their income), ’where it is lawful to set any thing in the way for folks to tumble over, whether it be to break arms, legs or heads’ (p.7).
Although small, the ‘diverting cuts’ of the illustrations complement these riffs on tensions between the age of reason and folk knowledge in the 17th century. A conjuror (shown above) is pictured in the chapter entitled ‘Of Wizards and Conjurors’ with the caption:
If a conjurer has not reason to support his credit, then he is obliged to shew a few tricks to support himself and bring in the pence.
The conjuror’s role it seems, like all else, is changing.
Another illustration shows: ‘Witches at an assembly, from a capital piece, by Albert Durer, as supposed by the hardness of the drawing’, in which devilish animals, witches, (and cats), on broomsticks gather, evidently indulging in merry-making and evil-doing.
Other cuts reveal shadowy devils and apparitions creeping around maidens’ beds; fairies in an unsettling game of ring a ring of roses and an image of ‘The Hobgoblin Society, from an original painting of Salvator Rosa’.
The penchant for the ghoulish and gothic, often prevalent in folk tales, and which reached a popular height at the end of the 18th century with works such as Matthew Lewis’ The Monk, is clearly a theme, and Dürer, (who is thought to have worked on the woodcut illustrations for the Nuremberg Chronicle) was also known for employing gothic themes in his work.
A prologue and an epilogue enclose the work neatly. The prologue, in the form of a six stanza ballad promises:
Delicate minced pies,
To feast every virgin,
Capon and goose likewise,
Brawn and a dish of sturgeon.
The epilogue ‘relating to fairies’, consisting also of a ballad, details less hearty fare:
But if our diet fails,
The luscious fat of snails
Between two nut-shells stew’d,
Makes meat that’s easy chew’d,
Brains of worms, and marrow of mice,
Make a dish that’s wondrous nice.
More formal features include an endpaper which advertises, very stylishly, ‘Types of Beauty!’ that can be created by the publishers Field and Tuer. This fine advertisement displays ‘Tuer’s typographic expertise, using the exuberant display faces that were so much a feature of the late Victorian era’ (Chambers 2011, p.326); and would still catch the eye in today’s visually overloaded marketplace.
The author and narrator
The author (and seemingly the narrator) of the work is Dick Merryman. This is, unsurprisingly, a pseudonym for this teller of tortuous tales and further research would be needed to investigate ‘his’ full repertoire. Though many of the stories stem from simple folk tales, this author clearly understood the strands of the traditional and modern that he successfully interrogates, as well as being learned in such stories as those of Dr Faustus whose power is gained ‘because he had the first knowledge of printing’ (p.22).
The power and importance of books and the printed word are thus played upon frequently. The narrator tells of the ‘Ballads and history books sold in Moorfields’, which relate the Dantesque ‘many dreadful ends that unconstant lovers have come to’ (p.47).
At the beginning of the work the elusive Dick Merryman addresses the equally mysterious ‘worshipful Mr Lun, complete witchmaker of England, and conjuror general of the universe, at his great house in Covent Garden’.
Tales of horror, mirth, jollity and craziness
Tall tales and mock-heroism, such as those ascribed to the above Mr Lun, animate and enlighten the tales and are also exemplified in the wonderful tale of ‘modest’ Jack Spriggins and the enchanted bean; Jack being responsible for: ‘rescuing ten thousand ladies and knights from being broiled for the giant’s breakfast ; jumping through key-holes ; and at the last how he destroyed the giant, and became monarch of the universe’ (p.32).
Every page of this little book oozes tales of horror, mirth, jollity and craziness, and it is impossible to do these intertwining tales justice in a short feature such as this.
The tale ‘Of a terrible ghost’ (p.48) sees a man, Stringer, poison himself over a lady’s infidelity: and ‘what a terrible figure did he make in her bed-chamber! ... he crawled like a toad ... croaking as he went, and glaring eyes with horror in their looks’. Finally, revenged, he ‘spit venom in her face, and ... with his iron claws tore her to pieces, and sent her scraps to the devil, as a just reward for her treachery’ (p.49).
This Christmas, may your glories come close to those attributed to Jack, may you enjoy much ‘pleasure in the Christmas Holydays’ and may you resist the manifold diabolic terrors outlined in this great collection of tales.
Bibliography and notes
For a reproduction of the original 18th century texts, there are links through the library catalogue record to the editions of 1730, 1732 and 1734 available on Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO). A reproduction of the 1740 edition is not available on ECCO, however, and no UK library is currently recorded as holding a copy. The 1796 reprint of the 1734 edition most closely resembles the item described here. Accessed 2 December 2011. [King’s username and password required for access to the ECCO full-text off campus]
Chambers, David (2011). Book Review of: Field and Tuer, The Leadenhall Press by Matthew McLennan in The Book Collector, Summer 2011, p.325-6.
Peltz, Lucy. ‘Tuer, Andrew White (1838-1900)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. Accessed 2 December 2011.
Parliament and the beginning of King’s College London
by Shanine Salmon, Archives Services
Parliamentary influence in the formation of King’s College London dates from its inception. On 21 June 1828 a meeting was held in Freemasons’ Hall, London where the then Prime Minister, the Duke of Wellington, announced the establishment of King’s College London. The new College was established in the Anglican tradition serving as an alternative to the University of London (University College London) which was more secular. King’s College was to offer a modern syllabus with subjects such as medicine, engineering and science in contrast to the classics-based education at Oxford and Cambridge.
In the same year Wellington faced pressure to introduce Catholic Emancipation, a process which would remove the political and legal restrictions faced by Roman Catholics. Wellington along with Home Secretary Robert Peel convinced the King that all Christian faiths needed to be represented in Parliament. The Duke of Wellington’s support for both the Anglican King’s College and Catholic relief caused a furious Earl of Winchilsea, an opponent of emancipation, to write to King’s College London’s secretary accusing Wellington of using King’s College as a cover to introduce Catholicism into church and state:
I was one who thought the proposed plan might prove an antidote to the principles of the London University. Late political events have convinced me that the whole transaction was intended as a blind to the protestant and high church party - that the noble Duke might the more effectually carry on his insidious designs [...] the introduction of popery into every department of the state.
Wellington, who believed he had been slandered by Winchilsea, challenged him to a duel, which Winchilsea accepted. They arranged to meet on the Battersea Fields (now Battersea Park) on 21 March 1829. Wellington took aim and missed - he later claimed to have done so on purpose, but Wellington was not known for his skills as a marksmen and Winchilsea didn’t even raise his shooting arm. Both men left with their honours intact, though Winchilsea did have to write an apologetic letter withdrawing his earlier accusations. The 1829 Catholic Relief Act was passed three days after the duel, which allowed Catholics to sit in Parliament.
Duel Day is celebrated, on its anniversary, at King's College London. In 2004, on the 175th anniversary of the founding of the College, a re-enactment of the duel was held.
Images of the Nineteenth Century Houses of Parliament can be found on King’s College London’s Navigating Nightingale app on the App Store. It is free to download.
This article has been published as part of Parliament week, an annual event which aims to raise awareness of Parliament and encourage engagement with the UK’s democratic system and its institutions.
Some observations on the Ionian Islands
John Davy. Notes and observations on the Ionian Islands and Malta: with some remarks on Constantinople and Turkey, and on the system of quarantine as at present conducted. London: Smith, Elder & Co, 1842
FCO Historical Collection DF29 DAV
By Stephanie Breen, Assistant Librarian
Note: This article was originally posted in October 2011. The exhibition 'A brighter Hellas': rediscovering Greece in the 19th century ran from 13 October to 17 December 2011.
Our current Special Collections exhibition in the Maughan Library’s Weston Room, ‘A brighter Hellas’: rediscovering Greece in the 19th century, explores how Greece captured the imagination of British travellers, writers and artists during a period in which the country waged a war of independence against the Ottoman Empire and emerged in 1833 as a new nation-state. This month our ‘In the Spotlight’ feature takes a closer look at one of the books on show in the display, John Davy’s Notes and observations on the Ionian Islands (London, 1842), from the historical library collection of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). The FCO Historical Collection, transferred to King’s on permanent loan in 2007, provides a wealth of resources on Modern Greek history, and in the exhibition our exploration of the Ionian Islands under British rule (1815-64) is drawn largely from this collection.
A brief history of the Ionian Islands
From the 13th century onwards the Venetians gradually obtained control of the seven Ionian Islands of Corfu, Paxo, Santa Maura, Ithaca, Cephalonia, Zante and Cerigo. The map on the left shows the six northern islands scattered off the west coast of Greece, and the seventh island, Cerigo, off the southern tip of the Peloponnese. While the Ottoman Empire grew to cover all of Asia Minor and much of south-eastern Europe, the Venetians exerted their control over these seven islands in the Ionian Sea. When Napoleon conquered Venice in 1797, the islands found themselves briefly occupied by the French, before being passed back and forth between the Great Powers of Great Britain, France and Russia. Finally, by the Treaty of Paris in November 1815, the islands became the ‘United States of the Ionian Islands’ under British protection. They remained a British Protectorate until 1864 when Great Britain formally ceded them to Greece as a gesture of support for its newly-appointed king, George I.
The Ionian Islands: A British Protectorate
In 1815 the Scottish army officer Thomas Maitland (1760-1824) was appointed Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands. At the request of the British government Maitland drafted a constitution, which was introduced in 1817 and gave his role of high commissioner significant powers. Maitland improved administration and built new roads and lighthouses. However, several reforms, including a new system of taxation, met with disapproval from the Ionians who viewed him as an oppressor. Maitland was certainly not a philhellene, or ‘lover of Greece’, and during the Greek War of Independence he upheld the British government’s policy of Ionian neutrality, which proved unpopular with Ionian Greeks who were sympathetic to the cause. Several notable philhellenes landed on the islands before proceeding to mainland Greece to support the Greeks in the war. In 1823 Lord Byron visited fellow-philhellene Charles James Napier (1782-1853) in Cephalonia to discuss the situation in Greece before the poet proceeded to Missolonghi; the latter held the official post of British Resident on the island.
A view of the village of Calafationes, Corfu.
The Scottish army officer Sir Frederick Adam (1784-1853) succeeded Maitland as Lord High Commissioner of the islands from 1824 to 1832 and, like his predecessor, he maintained Ionian neutrality during the remainder of the war of independence. Adam was succeeded by a more liberal governor, the Irish politician George Nugent Grenville (1788-1850), who took over the post from 1832 to 1835.
John Davy (1790-1868), physiologist and anatomist
John Davy visited the Ionian Islands while working with the medical staff of the army in the Mediterranean between 1824 and 1835. Davy grew up in Cornwall, and, following his studies in medicine at Edinburgh University, he entered the army as a surgeon and later became inspector-general of army hospitals. In 1834 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. His work involved periods of foreign service and he published reports about his experiences in several British colonies, including an early work, An account of the interior of Ceylon, and of its inhabitants, with travels in that Island (London, 1821).
Davy believed it was his responsibility as a medical officer to communicate information gathered while serving in the colonies:
If medical officers considered it a duty which they owe to the public to communicate such information, as they may have had it in their power to collect, relative to the countries in which they have been stationed, how many doubtful points would have been cleared up,—how many errors corrected,—how much more perfect would the histories of those countries have been rendered.
Davy’s Notes and observations on the Ionian Islands and Malta (London, 1842)
In 1842 Davy published a comprehensive two-volume account on the Ionian Islands, supplementing his descriptions with information from the official records in the Colonial Office. In the first volume he explores the history of the Ionian Islands and gives descriptions of its geology and mineralogy, springs, earthquakes, climate, the qualities of the soil, and the state of agriculture and horticulture. In regard to the latter, the author notes:
The state of agriculture in the Ionian Islands at present is little advanced; it is merely a rude art, founded on traditional knowledge, a series of processes handed down from father to son, unenlightened by methods of science.
The image on the left shows the agricultural implements in use on the islands including a plough, hoes and reaping-hooks for cultivating corn, a broad hoe and spade used in the currant plantations, and pruning-knives used in the vineyards. Following the destruction of currant vineyards in the Peloponnese during the war, the cultivation of currants on the islands, particularly in Cephalonia, increased.
In the second volume Davy reports on government, arts, commerce, education, charitable institutions, diseases and quarantine, and the character of the people of the islands. In his chapter on commerce he includes tables documenting produce exported from the Ionian Islands into the United Kingdom over a ten-year period from 1831 to 1840, showing significant exports of currants, olive oil and valonia (used in tanning and dyeing). Also of interest are tables outlining the British and Irish produce imported into the islands during the same period, including cotton, linen and woollen manufactures, earthenware, wrought and unwrought iron and steel, soaps and candles, and refined sugar.
While working as a medical officer Davy took a particular interest in the local people. In his chapter describing the people’s character and condition, Davy makes some interesting observations (or rather generalisations):
Of the larger islands generally considered, the inhabitants of the southern ones, in which the currant-vine is cultivated, are held to be more industrious, active, and intelligent, than those of the northern, in which the olive press is the principal produce,—which, too, is no more than might be expected, taking into account how habits are formed, and how the one species of cultivation requires, and therefore promotes, industry,—and how the other, requiring but little labour and exertion, has a contrary effect. …
It has been already mentioned, that the inhabitants of Cephalonia and of Ithaca have shown a more enterprising spirit than any of the other islanders, leading them to engage in adventure and foreign commerce; and it may be added, that the Cephaloniots have also shown more freedom of will and love of liberty, prompting them to resist oppression and to break out into acts of insubordination; and that the natives of the mountainous parts of Zante, of Santa Maura, of Ithaca, and of Cerigo, partake more or less of the same character.
In 1835 Davy was sent to Constantinople by the Foreign Office to help form a medical department for the Turkish army and to organise their military hospitals; he includes a description of Constantinople and Turkey at the end of the second volume.
Later in his career, from 1845 to 1848, Davy was stationed in the West Indies in charge of the medical department of the army, and in 1854 he published the following account partly drawn from his own observations there, The West Indies, before and since slave emancipation: comprising the Windward and Leeward Islands’ military command: founded on notes and observations collected during a three years’ residence. In addition to the works above, he submitted papers to various medical journals and wrote a number of medical books including Researches, physiological and anatomical (London, 1839), On some of the more important diseases of the army, with contributions to pathology (London, 1862) and Physiological researches (London, 1863). He edited Some account of the last yellow fever epidemic of British Guiana by Daniel Blair (London, 1852), and he also published the memoirs and collected works of his brother, the chemist and inventor Sir Humphry Davy (1778-1829).
David Thomas Ansted. The Ionian Islands in the year 1863. London: Wm H Allen & Co, 1863. [FCO Historical Collection DF901 ANS]
HM Chichester, revised by Roger T Stearn. ‘Sir Thomas Maitland (1760-1824).’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. Accessed 10 October 2011.
Nicholas Doumanis. A history of Greece. Basingstoke; New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. [Maughan Library: Humanities books DF757 DOU]
Robert Hunt, revised by Michael Bevan. ‘John Davy (1790-1868)’. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. Accessed 10 October 2011.
Jim Potts. The Ionian Islands and Epirus: a cultural history. Oxford: Signal Books, 2010. [Maughan Library: Humanities books DF901.I6 POT]
Peter Prineas. Britain’s Greek Islands: Kythera and the Ionian Islands 1809 to 1864. Darlington, NSW: Plateia, 2009. [Maughan Library: Humanities books DF901.K57 PRI]
The clash of science and religion in Victorian England: Philip Henry Gosse and Omphalos
Philip Henry Gosse. Omphalos: An attempt to untie the geological knot. London: J Van Voorst, 1857.
[T Stebbing Collection: QE721.2 P24 GOS]
By Rebecca Foster, Information Assistant
Philip Henry Gosse
Although not well known today, in the Victorian period Philip Henry Gosse (1810-88) was a celebrated naturalist and author of a number of best-selling works on zoology. Indeed, the Royal Society remembered him as one of the country’s most important naturalists: ‘no man has ever done so much to popularize the study of natural history in England.’ Equal to Gosse’s passion for the natural world was his zeal for fundamentalist Christianity. Often labelled as a member of the Plymouth Brethren sect, Gosse was in fact closer in theology to the early Puritans. Central to his beliefs were the doctrines of original sin, atonement through Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection, and the expectation of final judgment. Gosse’s theology inevitably influenced his work as a naturalist; as he avowed, ‘I cannot look at the Bible with one eye, and at Nature with the other. I must take them together.’
As a young man Gosse travelled widely in North America, working successively as a clerk, farmer and teacher whilst also indulging his amateur obsession with the natural world. He was particularly fascinated by insects, plants and ocean life. He had already published several books of observations and drawings when the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge commissioned him to write a two-volume introduction to zoology. Capitalizing on the reputation and sales revenue he earned from his first four books, Gosse set off for Jamaica on the recommendation of the British Museum. The years 1844 to 1846 were filled with industrious collecting and examination of Jamaican flora and fauna, and resulted in two well-received books, A naturalist’s sojourn in Jamaica and The birds of Jamaica, a work which earned him the fond title ‘father of Jamaican ornithology’.
The image above is a portrait of Gosse in 1855; the image below shows Gosse’s painting of the estate in Jamaica where he lived for three years.
Science and religion
Gosse was a typical Victorian intellectual in his twin preoccupations with science and religion. Charles Lyell’s Principles of geology, published in 1830, first scandalized readers with the idea that the world was millions of years old, rather than a few millennia, as suggested by scriptural genealogies. In 1844 the flames of controversy flared up again after publication of an anonymous volume entitled Vestiges of the natural history of Creation. The book, later attributed to Robert Chambers (a Scotsman who wrote prolifically on topics including contemporary science), accepted Lyell’s theory of an ancient earth and espoused the ‘doctrine of Progressive Development’, which anticipated Darwin’s 1859 theory of evolution by natural selection. However, Vestiges was not, as some feared, an argument for atheism; instead, Chambers attributed the workings of nature to ‘the action of the ever-present and sustaining God’. Chambers’ viewpoint may not seem radical to today’s readers, but when it first appeared Vestiges swiftly became the most controversial book of its time.
It was into this context of doubt and vicious debate that, in 1857, Gosse launched his own account of how geological findings could be reconciled with Christian doctrine. The book was entitled Omphalos, the Greek word for ‘navel’ – subtly echoing earlier debates about whether Adam, the first man, would have had a navel. Sir Thomas Browne had famously argued that he would not; Gosse countered that any human being would bear the traces of life reaching backward through endless generations, even if he did not experience a natural human birth. The term ‘omphalos’ also bears connotations of holiness and centrality, as it was the name given to the stone that marked the most sacred place at the centre of Greek temples, where direct communion with the gods was believed possible.
Gosse's theory rested on the idea of 'prochronism', subversion of normal time in which items can appear outside their appropriate temporal context. In short, Gosse's hypothesis was that creation was a continuous circle which encompassed all that had ever existed. At the moment of Creation, that 'sudden bursting into a circle', all that ever had existed or could exist would be present on earth, including the fossils of creatures no longer found alive. Thus the earth could have been created at any point – say, in 1857, Gosse playfully suggests – but would appear to be infinitely older because of the fossil remains intrinsic to its perpetual existence.
Despite the peculiar reasoning behind Gosse’s argument, the book begins simply enough as an engagement with the findings of recent geology. Gosse declares himself sympathetic to the aims of scientists who look to geology as a means of attaining clarity about life on earth: ‘I would not be considered as an opponent of geologists; but rather as a co-searcher with them after that which they value as highly as I do, TRUTH’. However, Gosse quickly betrays his doubts about the scientific enterprise, noting that the senses can be deceptive and that ‘Though a strong and healthy child, [geology] is as yet an infant.’ He also derides previous expressions of evolutionary theory, oversimplifying their arguments and mocking the author of the infamous Vestiges with the claim that ‘this writer has hatched a scheme, by which the immediate ancestor of Adam was a Chimpanzee, and his remote ancestor a Maggot!’
Although Gosse admits that species have died out after thousands of generations and been replaced by others, he very carefully eschews the specific language of evolutionary adaptation:
At length the species both of plants and animals grew, – not by alteration of their specific characters, but by replacement of species by species – more and more like what we have now on the earth, and finally merged into our present flora and fauna, about the time when we find the first geological traces of MAN.
Indeed, Gosse dismisses all apparent evidence of evolution as purely circumstantial. In a curious logical step, he argues that a fossil skeleton does not necessarily prove that such a creature ever lived. To accept that a fossil represents something that was once alive, Gosse counters, is to make a simplistic inference; he hopes to reveal to readers the naïveté behind such assumptions.
Gosse takes for granted the tenets of creation and the immutability of species, offering no explanation of how he came to hold these two beliefs absolutely but, rather, exhibiting a stubborn refusal to consider the ideas of those who disagree with him: ‘If any choose to maintain, as many do, that species were gradually brought to their present maturity from humbler forms...he is welcome to his hypothesis, but I have nothing to do with it.’
As he comes to a conclusion, Gosse anticipates that some may twist his reasoning so it appears that God ‘hid’ fossils in the earth in order to test modern man:
It may be objected, that, to assume the world to have been created with fossil skeletons in its crust, – skeletons of animals that never really existed, – is to charge the Creator with forming objects whose sole purpose was to deceive us.
Gosse rejects this protestation as ridiculous, arguing that fossils are to the earth as intrinsic as scales are to a fish, or a navel is to humans – they are each signs of the ‘absolute necessity of retrospective phenomena in newly-created organisms’. Ending with a thunderous affirmation of the Biblical account of creation – ‘IN SIX DAYS JEHOVAH MADE HEAVEN AND EARTH, THE SEA AND ALL THAT IN THEM IS’ – Gosse leaves readers with no doubt of his conviction that revelation trumps science.
‘Never’, Gosse’s son Edmund later recalled in Father and son, ‘was a book cast upon the waters with greater anticipations of success than was this curious, this obstinate, this fanatical volume [Omphalos].’ Gosse had four thousand copies of Omphalos printed; of these, three-quarters remained unsold and had to be pulped. If Vestiges had been a sensation, Omphalos was a disaster. As Gosse himself predicted, many – including his dear friend, author Charles Kingsley – felt that his arguments about fossil remains painted God as a wantonly cruel deceiver.
Public responses to the book were unsparing in their distaste for Gosse’s spurious logic. In the Natural history review of January 1858, Omphalos’s arguments were dismissed as ‘idle speculations...hardly worthy of the serious attention of any earnest man.’ General Portlock, president of the Geological Society of London, had a particular loathing for the term ‘prochronism’, and in his Presidential Address of 1858 derided Gosse’s habit of inventing ‘convenient terms which serve instead of arguments’. From the more moderate reviews Gosse’s publishers were able to pluck out some favourable quotations for use in advertisements. Although these hail Gosse’s logic as ‘striking’, ‘startling’ or ‘ingenious’, there is perhaps a hint that he is being damned with faint praise.
Remaining copies of Omphalos were rebound with a new title, Creation; the change of name may have rendered Gosse’s book less obscure and more accessible, but it did nothing to improve the book’s sales or reputation. Even Darwin, for whom Gosse had a friendly admiration, remarked in an 1861 letter to a friend that ‘in Gosse’s books there is not enough reasoning to my taste’. Edmund Gosse concluded that in publishing Omphalos his father had conspired to ‘burn his ships, down to the last beam and log out of which a raft could have been made. By a strange act of wilfulness, he closed the doors upon himself for ever.’ Although Gosse continued to publish works of natural history and theology, making a notably strong contribution to the field of marine biology, he had lost the chance to be a respected contender in the public debate over science and religion.
The Gosses: Father and Son
If Philip Henry Gosse is no longer remembered as an author in his own right, he is perhaps better remembered as the father of Victorian man of letters Edmund Gosse, who wrote two biographies of his father: The life of Philip Henry Gosse (1890) and Father and son(1907). The former is a fairly straightforward Victorian biography, focussing on his father’s public life; the latter, however, is altogether different. As a psychological examination of Edmund’s relationship with his father, Father and son has a bitter, almost vengeful severity to it. For example, Edmund cites his father’s diary entry from the day of his birth – ‘E. [Emma Gosse] delivered of a son. Received green swallow from Jamaica’ – as proof that he had been unwanted and that his father considered him a distraction from his work. Catherine Raine remarks that in the later biography Edmund paints his father as a‘Calvinist villain’, far removed from the celebrated naturalist memorialized in The life. It is as if there were ‘two different fathers whom Edmund had difficulty reconciling’, a bifurcation that has struck many as ‘forced and artificial’. As a result, biographers tend to regard Father and son as unreliable.
(Below) P H and Edmund Gosse: the frontispiece from Father and son
References to Gosse have cropped up in unexpected places in the twentieth century. In H G Wells’s 1940 All aboard for Ararat, a short allegorical dialogue between God and a new Noah figure, ‘God’ affirms Gosse’s model of creation:
Directly I and the Universe came into Being and Becoming...we brought with us, as an essential necessity, an illimitable past. How could it be otherwise? The trees had to have annual rings; the plants bore flower and fruit and seed; Adam had an umbilicus. Implying a mother. Implying a billion ancestors. Have you never read Gosse’s Omphalos?
In ‘Adam’s navel’ the late Harvard biologist Stephen Jay Gould reassesses Gosse’s arguments in the light of later evolutionary theory. Gould is quite kind to Gosse: although ultimately he must reject the logic behind Omphalos, he tempers his criticism, characterizing the work as ‘inspired nonsense...useless, not wrong’. His respect for Gosse’s reasoning lies in the fact that Omphalos is the ‘classical example of an utterly untestable notion’: the earth would appear the same whether fossils existed prochronically or were deposited over millions of years of evolution. In a short piece about Omphalos Jorge Luis Borges pays tribute both to the book’s ‘monstrous elegance’ and to its incidental ‘demonstration that the universe is eternal’.
Perhaps the greatest resurgence of interest in the Gosses came with Peter Carey’s Booker Prize-winning novel Oscar and Lucinda (1988), in which the character of Theophilus Hopkins, Oscar’s father, is clearly based on Philip Henry Gosse. Carey drew inspiration from Father and son in his account of Oscar’s childhood in a stridently religious household ruled by a brooding naturalist father.
In his Preface to The life of Philip Henry Gosse, Edmund offers the following tribute to his father:
He was less in sympathy with the literary and scientific movement of our age than, perhaps, any writer or observer of equal distinction. It was very curious that a man should write a long series of popular books, and should add in many directions to the sum of exact knowledge, and at the same time have so little in common with his contemporaries…He was careless of opinion, and he lived rigidly up to a private standard of his own.
Peter Caws notes that in an age of religious eccentrics and scientific eccentrics, Gosse managed to be both at once – a striking combination that makes him representative of Victorian obsessions but perhaps also contributes to his diminished standing in both fields. It is hard for modern readers to take Omphalos seriously because of its distinctive blend of biblical literalism and specious science. Yet Gould argues that in his own time Gosse’s reputation was equal to David Attenborough’s today; he was indefatigable in conveying to readers his deep passion and enthusiasm for both the natural world and the Word of God. It is unfortunate that a man of such strong conviction and diligent research now forms only a footnote to the history of Victorian science.
Jorge Luis Borges. ‘The Creation and P. H. Gosse’. Other Inquisitions, 1937-1952. Trans. Ruth L. C. Simms. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1975. pp. 22-25. [Senate House Library: LATIN AMERICAN STUDIES - PN518 .B6713 1975; or full text available on Google Books]
Peter Carey. Oscar and Lucinda. London: Faber and Faber, 1988. [Maughan Library: Humanities books PR9619.3.C18 Os7]
Peter Caws. ‘Evidence and Testimony: Philip Henry Gosse and the Omphalos Theory’. Six Studies in Nineteeth-century English Literature and Thought. Ed. Harold Orel and George J. Worth. Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Publications, 1962. 69-90.
Edmund Gosse. The Life of Philip Henry Gosse, F.R.S. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner, 1890. [Senate House Library - R2.O56; or full text available at http://www.archive.org/stream/lifeofphiliphenr00goss/lifeofphiliphenr00goss_djvu.txt]
Edmund Gosse. Father and Son: A study of two temperaments. London: Heinemann, 1913. [Maughan Library: LGF Humanities Books Store PR4725.G7F2]
Stephen Jay Gould. ‘Adam’s Navel’. The Flamingo’s Smile. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1986. 99-113.
John M. Lynch, ed. “Vestiges” and the Debate before Darwin. Bristol : Thoemmes, 2000. Vol. 7 Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation / [Robert Chambers]. [Maughan Library: Science books QH363 VES]
Catherine Raine. ‘The Secret Debts of Imagination in The Life of Philip Henry Gosse, F.R.S.’ Literature & Theology. 11.l (March 1997): 67-79. [Maughan Library: Humanities journals; or full text available through King's e-journals]
James A. Secord. Victorian Sensation: the extraordinary publication, reception, and secret authorship of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001. [Maughan Library: Science books QH363 SEC]
Ann Thwaite. Glimpses of the Wonderful: the Life of Philip Henry Gosse 1810-1888. London: Faber and Faber, 2002. [Senate House Library: HISTORY OF SCIENCE - DU4 GOS Thw]
H G Wells. All Aboard for Ararat. London: Secker & Warburg, 1940. [Senate House Library: Reference only – H G Wells Collection]
Also of interest:
Samuel Richard Bosanquet. “Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation:” Its Argument Examined and Exposed. London: John Hatchard & Son, 1845. [Early Science Collection QH363 BOS]
[Robert Chambers]. Explanations:a Sequel to “Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation.” London: John Churchill, 1845. [Early Science Collection QH363 CHA]
Philip Henry Gosse. The Birds of Jamaica. London: John van Voorst, 1847. [FCO Historical Collection QL688.J2 GOS]
Philip Henry Gosse. A Naturalist’s Sojourn in Jamaica. London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1851. [FCO Historical Collection QH109.J5 GOS]
Philip Henry Gosse. Tenby: a Sea-side Holiday. London: John Van Voorst, 1856. [Early Science Collection QL128 GOS]
Philip Henry Gosse. A History of the British Sea-anemones and Corals: with coloured figures of the species and principal varieties. London: Van Voorst, 1860. [Early Science Collection QL377.C7 G69]
C. T. Hudson, assisted by P. H. Gosse. The Rotifera: or Wheel-animalcules, both British and foreign. London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1889. [Early Science Collection FOL. QL391.R8 HUD]
Hartmann Schedel. Liber chronicarum. Nuremberg : Anton Koberger , 12 July 1493. [Rare Books Collection OVERSIZE D17 N9] (Copy 1) (Copy 2)
The Liber Chronicarum or the Nuremberg Chronicle, as it is also known, is a history of the world from creation to 1493. It divides earthly history into six ages: from the creation to Noah; from Noah to Abraham; from Abraham to David; from David to the Babylonian captivity; from the Babylonian captivity to the birth of Christ; and from the birth of Christ to the present day, 1493.
Two further ages present future events. The Seventh Age is the age of the Antichrist and the Ultimate Age is the Last Judgment. It is one of the finest illustrated books of the fifteenth century, with illustrations of Biblical scenes, major cities and characters from myth and fable. It also includes genealogical tables of emperors and the presentation of maps. The Foyle Special Collections Library holds two copies of this magnificent work [Rare Books Collection - Oversize D17 N91].
The Liber Chronicarum was commissioned by two wealthy Nuremberg merchants and brothers in law, Sebald Schreyer and Sebastian Kammermaister.
They contracted Michael Wohlgemut (1434-1519) and his stepson Wilhelm Pleydenwurff (c.1460-94) to make the woodcuts for the book and to draw up layouts showing the setting of the type and the placement of the woodcuts.
The text was supplied by Hartman Schedel (1440-1514), a physician and humanist scholar. Schedel supplied little original material for the work but relied heavily on the work of others, including Jacob Philip Foresti of Bergamo, whose Supplementum Chronicarum was reproduced almost word for word and Historia Bohemica, Rome 1475, by Aneas Sylvius Piccolomini. He also used material from Petrarch and Boccaccio, and from Ptolemy and Strabo, and other material from pamphlets, chronicles and manuscripts.
On this note regarding sources, it is worth pausing to examine the form of the actual work. We may think, mistakenly, that postmodern literature - defined as work that self-consciously and blatantly delves into its predecessors for content – is a contemporary phenomenon: the Nuremberg Chronicle shows this to be incorrect. It is a famous 15th century example of how the most enduring works have always had a sharp eye on the past; Homer, Milton and Rushdie being other parts of an enduring tradition that, like this work, log and spin tales for the delectation and enrichment of contemporary and future audiences.
Liber Chronicarum is also - like all else in any literary canon - selective in what it excludes from its pages. For example, the death of Lorenzo di Medici is not recorded, nor is the adoption of Roman law in Germany. It does however contain much historical material, as well as giving room to accounts of curiosities, myth and fable: another point of interest to literary scholars examining the work from a critical perspective. Liber Chronicarum is a truly magical realist work.
This eclectic use of form and content also includes, notably, a 'humanistic approach, embracing academic scholarship, natural science and philosophy’ (Fussel 2001) and serves to demonstrate how Schedel, a bibliophile with a suitably extensive and well cared for library, drew from sources he knew well. These themes of the Renaissance world expand the work from the traditions of the medieval chronicle, into a more universally interrogative work.
Anton Koberger (1445-1513), the most prolific printer and publisher in Germany at the time, was employed to print the book. At the peak of his powers, Koberger ran 24 presses and employed 100 craftsmen. The Latin edition was published on 12 July 1493, and a German edition, translated by George Alt, the city scribe of Nuremberg, was published on 23 December 1493.
The physically imposing nature of this encyclopaedic work that these leading figures of the early German book trade produced adds to its allure. Copies are heavy and best viewed with the aid of book rests (available in the Special Collections Reading Room) and it is certainly not a book one could (or would want to) flick through in the manner modern readers have become accustomed to.
Perhaps the most important features of the Liber Chronicarum are its design and illustration. The layouts for the illustration and typesetting of the book survive and show that the woodblock subjects were sketched in first and the text was then set to fit within the remaining space. The result is a marriage between text and illustration never produced before.
The artists produced fourteen basic page layouts, with a number of variations. They cut 645 different blocks and used some several times for the final 1,809 illustrations, with the same cut often being used to illustrate different towns or people. For example, the woodcut that is used to represent Damascus on fol. XVIII is used to represent Verona on fol. LVII, as well as being used to represent Mantua and Naples elsewhere in the work. However, in some of the depictions of the more important cities (such as Jerusalem and Constantinople), an effort has been made to introduce recognisable landmarks and we see the Temple of Solomon and other landmarks depicted in the woodcut of Biblical Jerusalem. There is evidence of the hand of Albrecht Dürer in some of the woodcuts and to support this claim, it has been suggested he was indeed working with Wolgemut at the time the Nuremberg Chronicle began to be produced.
Biblical stories are also enlightened by the marriage of text and illustrations, and folium xxxi depicts the parting of the Red Sea to allow the dramatic escape of the Jews from Pharaoh’s advancing army (see above). I also particularly like the industriousness of the characters in the building of Noah’s Ark (folio xi). This woodcut image has survived in the copy donated to King’s by Michael Wood but has not, sadly, in King’s other copy. All personnel in this image are gainfully employed in common cause, under the watchful and strict guidance of an onlooking Noah.
Wholesome as this scene of Noah and his crew is, there is much frightening and diabolical imagery throughout the work. On the very next page, we see sixteen images surrounding the text of malformed and devilish creatures. The popular rendering of the devil in human form - with hooves and horns - appears gesturing hideously, while across the page, a one eyed figure kneels in enforced submission.
There are also depictions (taken from the same woodcut each time) representing more unholy aspects of Judaeo-Christian history: images representing the burning of Jewish people, with a willing servant depicted adding wood to the fire. Scenes of the Crucifixion and various beheadings are also graphically depicted.
The Nuremberg Chronicle receives much attention from contemporary scholars, but the fact that some 800 examples of the Latin edition and 400 of the German edition are still in existence testifies to the work’s popularity in its own time and throughout its existence. (So, ironically, do the mutilated pages where illustrations once existed).
It is estimated that around 1,500 copies of the Latin edition and 1,000 of the German edition were originally printed and the work was popular enough to be pirated soon after. Three years after the first edition was completed, Johann Schönsperger (d. 1520) of Augsburg printed a version in German and went on to produce an edition in Latin and another in German.
Sadly, as mentioned, neither of the copies held at King's are complete, both having suffered the loss of a number of pages and illustrations over the last 500 years (see the KCL library catalogue for further details). Charles John Brook, a student of theology at this college from 1953 to 1957, generously donated a copy that is bound in blind-tooled goatskin with geometric designs on front, back and spine, with raised bands and metal cornerplates.
There is no title page to either the German or the Latin edition – a normal convention at this time, but there is a contents page to aid readers as they navigate this most magical of early printed works.
By Adam Ray; with additional material by Hugh Cahill
Further reading and books used in the compilation of this piece
Hartmann Schedel. Chronicle of the world : the complete and annotated Nuremberg chronicle of 1493, introduction and appendix by Stephan Füssel. Köln, London : Taschen, 2001.
Adrian Wilson. The making of the Nuremberg chronicle. Amsterdam : Nico Israel , 1977.
The website of Morse Library, Beloit College is another excellent resource, and includes explanations of key themes and a large selection of images: http://www.beloit.edu/nuremberg/index.htm
There is a facsimile of the German edition in the Maughan library: Hartmann Schedel. Register des Buchs der Croniken und Geschichten mit Figuren und Pildnussen von Anbeginn der Welt bis auf dise unnsere Zeit durch Georgium Alten ... in diss teutsch gebracht. München : Kölbl,1975. [Humanities Books FOL. D11 S32]
Richard Baxter, Sir Matthew Hale and the King James Bible
The Holy Bible, containing the books of the Old & New Testament. Cambridge: printed by John Hayes, 1674.
[Rare Books Collection: FOL. BS 185.C74]
By Brandon High, Special Collections Cataloguer.
Although this particular Bible is not included in the exhibition of Bibles from the Foyle Special Collections Library, it is of particular significance because its ownership history over such a long period is so well documented.
Its first owner was the Puritan divine Richard Baxter (1615-91), one of the most widely read and most prolific of Puritan theologians in the seventeenth century. He purchased this Bible with 40 shillings which the eminent lawyer, Sir Matthew Hale, who had died in 1676, had left in his will to Baxter.
Sir Matthew Hale had been a judge during the Commonwealth and had sat in Cromwell’s Parliament, but was more successful in adapting to the Restoration than Baxter (who had been imprisoned for violating legislation intended to enforce conformity to Anglicanism). Hale was appointed Chief Justice of the King’s Bench in 1671 and stayed there, despite his earlier adherence to the Protectorate.
In this copy of the Bible, Baxter wrote:
I purchased the largest Cambridge Bible and put his picture before it, as a monument to my house. But, waiting for my death, I gave it to Sir William Ellis, who laid out about ten pounds to put it into a more curious cover, and keep it for a monument in his house.
The portrait of Hale shown here must have been inserted in to the book at some point after it passed into the possession of the Ellis family, according to an inscription in this copy, on “June 3rd1681”. The “curious cover”, with gilt-tooled embellishments, to which Baxter refers, has survived and was conserved in 2004. Sir William Ellis was a lawyer and colleague of Hale, and was Oliver Cromwell’s Solicitor General.
The book remained in the Ellis family until some point in the 1880s or 1890s, when a certain Miss Ellis, the last in the line of descent from Sir William, gave the book to Major General Sir Frederick Maurice (the son of the theologian and educator Frederick Denison Maurice), in apparent accordance with her father’s wishes.
Both Frederick Denison Maurice and Sir Frederick Maurice’s son, Major General Sir Frederick Barton Maurice, taught at King’s. Frederick Powicke, Baxter’s biographer, claims that Miss Ellis presented the Bible to Frederick Denison Maurice in 1872, before the probable date of its being in the possession of the Maurice family.
In July 1906 the book was given as a wedding present by Sir Frederick to his son-in-law John Victor Macmillan (1877-1956), who was to become Bishop of Guildford. At that point, Macmillan was Chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the book went with him as a private possession to Lambeth Palace.
In 1915, when Macmillan became a chaplain in the Army, he deposited it in the safe custody of the Librarian of Lambeth Palace. After Macmillan had been appointed Bishop of Guildford he gave this book to King’s.
This book, with its remarkable series of ownership inscriptions dating from 1676 to the 1920s, is available for consultation in the Foyle Special Collections Library.
Frederick J. Powicke. The Reverend Richard Baxter under the Cross (1662-1691). London: Jonathan Cape, 1927. [Sion Collection: BX 5207.B3 POW].
The Festival of Britain 1951: Pride in our past, confidence in our future
By Frankie Kalogirou, Archive Services
[originally published online in August 2011]
Just a short walk from King's College, the Southbank Centre is marking the 60th anniversary of the Festival of Britain with a varied programme of events and celebrations from 22 April until 4 September . The Festival opened on 3 May 1951.
The Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives holds the papers of the Festival Chairman, General Hastings Ismay. These provide a valuable source of information on the Festival and include speeches delivered by Ismay and related correspondence with General Dwight Eisenhower and Lord Louis Mountbatten, both key World War Two military figures. Ismay's previous military career (as Churchill's Chief Staff Officer and Military Adviser, including his role in planning the Normandy Landings) provided useful experience for his new role as Festival Chair, this time in the service of peace rather than war.
As Ismay wrote, the broader purpose of the Festival was to "re-establish [Britain] and reassess her position in the world". In a speech made at the opening of the Chipping Campden festival on 13 May 1951 he developed this theme, declaring that:
"The fundamental motives which inspire the festival are pride in our past, thankfulness for our present, and in particular that we have been saved from moral peril twice in living memory and confidence in our future."
The completed Southbank Centre site for the Festival of Britain in 1951. It was the most controversial and expensive of all the sites associated with the Festival, which Ismay described as the ‘Centrepiece’ of the Festival.
The Festival of Britain was not confined to London, taking place within all the home nations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. At a textile luncheon on 24 October 1950 Ismay explained this wider purpose:
"It is hoped that every town and village in the land will independently and voluntarily arrange such activities as are appropriate to its own individual customs, tastes and resources."
A variety of events were held all around the UK for the Festival, with this particular image, used by the London County Council, showing how local authorities worked hard to make the Festival a success. This image is one of the Festival programmes held at Battersea pleasure gardens, which itself contained a vast variety of exhibitions including The Guinness Clock, Treetop Walk and Battersea Fun Fair.
Despite some contemporary criticism, the Festival proved a big success, not least due to Ismay, with 8 million people visiting the Southbank exhibition. Lord Mountbatten memorably declared,
"In this mad world where everyone else seems to be determined to think only of war it is very refreshing to find such a vast organisation given over to the thoughts of peace."
For further information consult the Archives Ismay collection .