Manuscripts and Special Collections

Blog moving!

November 30th, 2011

Manuscripts blog is moving to a new location within the University website. You can access the blog by clicking on the link above, and we do hope you will bookmark it as well.

We hope this move will introduce our collections and services to an even greater range of readers, and we will welcome your comments on our postings, collections or services. Please note that this blogspace will no longer show new blogs, and we will gradually be transferring our blog archive across to the new location.

New cartoons acquired

November 21st, 2011

We have recently had the opportunity to acquire some cartoons or “political sketches” by “H.B”, the pseudonym used by painter and cartoonist John Doyle (1797-1868).  Doyle was born in Dublin, and attended the Royal Dublin Society’s drawing school, where he was a pupil of the miniature painter John Comerford. He became a successful painter of horses, and miniature portraits, but he is best known today for his political cartoons, which he produced for a period of over twenty years from 1827. Published once a month while Parliament was sitting, the sketches poked fun at the politicians of the day, frequently portraying them as characters in contemporary plays.  As a historical resource, the cartoons offer an intelligent and sardonic commentary on political events and personalities, and provide an unrivalled gallery of portraits, comprising all the men of political note from the late 1820s to the mid 1840s.

The University already has a significant number of the political sketches within its Special Collections, and these are used for both teaching and research in more than one discipline, so we are delighted to add these additional sketches to the collection.

Additions for the D H Lawrence Collection!

November 15th, 2011


Cover of Laura Philippine (La L 26)

Cover of Laura Philippine (La L 26)

The latest addition to the Lawrence Collection online catalogue is a group of papers purchased earlier in the summer with the assistance of the V & A Museum Purchase Grant Fund.  Lawrence’s autograph text of the short piece “Laura Philippine” has a special interest, as it survives with a series of letters that provide more information about the writer’s inspiration and the fate of this manuscript.

 The text “Laura Philippine”, which is fictional in form, is in effect a character sketch of a young woman. It was originally published in T.P. and Cassell’s Weekly in July, 1928.  Researchers have known that the piece was based on Mary Christine Hughes whom Lawrence met in 1926 in Italy with her mother, Mrs Christine Hughes of Santa Fe. It can now be consulted together with letters from Lawrence’s widow Frieda to Mrs Hughes and her daughter in the late 1930s and 1949.  Frieda during that period sold the text to Mrs Hughes.

 Although details about surviving Lawrence manuscripts are very fully recorded, the location of this original item was previously unknown.  A typescript version of the text, which is held at the University of California, Berkeley, was used in the Cambridge University Press editions of Lawrence works (James T. Boulton, ed. Late Essays and Articles. CUP 2004.) This addition will enable scholars to understand more about the transmission of the text.

 The V & A Museum Purchase Grant Fund has over the years generously supported the University in acquiring new items for the collections.  The Lawrence Collection, which has been awarded Designation status by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, has particularly benefited. We were delighted that on this occasion we were able to show the acquisition to Janet Davies, Head of the V&A UK Section & Purchase Grant Fund, who was visiting us in Nottingham.

Janet Davies and Dorothy Johnston looking at the manuscript

Janet Davies and Dorothy Johnston looking at the manuscript




New leaflet about the Portland Collection

November 11th, 2011

Cover of Portland Collection leaflet

A new free leaflet is available to those who want more information about the University’s Portland Collection. This joins a series of guides produced in recent years to describe major collections or subject areas. The leaflet highlights some of the strengths of the Collection for political, diplomatic, literary and cultural history, and its relevance to local estates and communities as well as international affairs. It complements a series of webpages on the Portland Collection which link to our online catalogue.

 The core Collection consists of family papers from the Cavendish-Bentinck Dukes of Portland, from Welbeck, Nottinghamshire.  As an archive, it is divided into the papers of particular family members, and includes correspondence of the Cavendish, Holles and Harley families acquired through the marriage of the 2nd Duke to Lady Margaret Cavendish Harley in 1734. 

The current Weston Gallery exhibition The New State of England’? draws heavily on the papers of William Bentinck, the 1st Earl of Portland, whose service to William and Mary brought the Dutch Bentincks to live in England. Three lunchtime talks related to the exhibition have taken place, including one on the University’s Portland Collection.  On 1 December the subject of the final talk will be the related Portland papers held by Nottinghamshire Archives.

The exhibition has provided an opportunity to publicise more widely the strength of the entire Portland Collection, which achieved Designation status in 2005.  This award, from the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, recognizes the national pre-eminence of the Collection. 

Copies of the leaflet are available at the Weston Gallery and from the Reading Room for Manuscripts and Special Collections, or by post on request.




Medieval treasure to be opened to public view

November 3rd, 2011

David crowned, with blank scroll

David crowned, with blank scroll

By Dorothy Johnston.

The 15th-century Wollaton Antiphonal, the most stunning of the medieval manuscripts cared for at the University of Nottingham, is to be made available to the public using the ‘Turning the Pages’ technology pioneered by the British Library.

A research grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), awarded to Emeritus Professor Thorlac Turville-Petre (School of English Studies), is enabling the creation of a virtual edition of about 40 openings, including all the richly-decorated folios. The project team is based in Manuscripts and Special Collections, where staff have completed the digitisation of the manuscript and explored use of  the software. Curators and academic colleagues in the  team are creating  interpretative content to accompany the images.

The Antiphonal is a religious service book containing the music to the sung portions of the Divine Office. It was used in Wollaton parish church from around 1460 until the Reformation in the 1540s, when Roman Catholic service books in Latin were banned. Most Antiphonals were destroyed, but the Wollaton Antiphonal was saved by members of the Willoughby family and kept in the Library at Wollaton Hall until 1924 when it was returned to the church. The  University of Nottingham has cared for the volume on behalf of St Leonard’s parish church  since 1974.

The project will enable the Antiphonal  to be seen once more in the parish of Wollaton, in digital form.  In partnership with the church, the team plans to  install a touch-screen kiosk,  enabling visitors to browse the manuscript. A later development will deliver an online version of the publication for distant readers.

Providing public access to this important manuscript would not have been possible without extensive conservation work which has been carried out on the Antiphonal over the last ten years.  This has been supported by the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust and other funders.  It is finally coming to a conclusion, with the rebinding of the Antiphonal in two volumes.  Details about the volume’s preservation history will be shown in the virtual publication.

Recipe of the month: Stewed rump of beef ‘the Welsh way’

November 1st, 2011

The large quantities of herbs and spices used in 18th-century recipes are thought by some to have helped to disguise the taste of old meat, as preservation of fresh food before the invention of reliable refrigeration techniques was difficult. However, rich families with access to their own livestock, or the money to buy quality food, may simply have liked the complex taste of fashionable spices such as nutmeg.

This recipe is for a boiled rump of beef, left standing for two days, then stewed with a tasty herb and spice stuffing, and served with a wine or cider sauce. Despite the name, it does not seem to include any ingredient which we would nowadays associate principally with Wales. The recipe comes from Elenor Mundy’s book, dated 1728.

Modern cooks with busy lives might like to try leaving out boiling the meat and leaving it for two days. Instead, they could start by browning the meat in a pan, then preparing the stuffing, and finally setting the meat to stew on a fairly low heat for a few hours, following modern recipes and oven temperatures for stewed beef.

A Rump of Beef stewed the Welch Way (MS 86, f. 91r)

First parboyle it, and when it is cold, season it for two days with pepper and salt; then stuff it very thick with Thyme, Marjerome, winter Savoury, and Parsly choppd very small, nuttmegg and mace beaten fine, and beef suett chopp’d very small. Incorporate all these like a Paste, putting a little all suett, before and after, into each hole [modern stuffed rump steak recipes involve making a slit into the side of the steak]; put a crust of bread into the broth [the recipe does not give details about what the broth is made with, but it perhaps just means the water for stewing, which could be a stock], with a bundle of sweet herbs, and an onion. Cover it close, and stew it leisurely. [The recipe misses out a stage at this point, which must be to take the beef out of the pot when it is stewed]. For sauce, have ready seethed together some Claret, or Cyder, some of the broth, and some of the stuffing reserv’d for that purpose, pour it on your Beef in the dish – It must be eaten all, hot.


Seethed: boiled

Manuscripts feature in University’s Impact Campaign

October 24th, 2011

Display cases

Visitors examine our display of manuscript material (photograph by Tracey Whitefoot)

On Monday 17 October, Manuscripts and Special Collections featured as one of the projects in the first day of the University’s new fundraising campaign.  The launch took place on University Park, at the East Midlands Conference Centre.  Guests were introduced to “The Nottingham Experience” theme, which is one of five campaign themes being launched in the course of the week. At the separate stands they learned more about the many different projects.

The campaign objective for Manuscripts and Special Collections is to raise awareness of the rich historic collections held by the university and make them more accessible for both study and public understanding. This will involve conservation and cataloguing activity as well as digitisation and engagement with new users of archives.


At the launch event, we showcased the collections and a number of projects.  Two portable cases were used for safe display, one of them featuring examples requiring preservation and conservation work.  Items from a recent leafcasting project attracted attention and kept our Conservation Assistant very busy – not least in guarding the sample of paper pulp from any accidental confusion with a smoothie!

Conservation display

Professor Stephen Mumford at our conservation display (photograph by Tracey Whitefoot)

New ways to share digital content also featured, showing progress in our current plans to make a virtual publication of a manuscript volume and testing IPad delivery of images from our Midlands water records and our collection of 1940s Soviet War Posters.

Lute playing

John Colborne playing lute (photograph by Lisa Gilligan-Lee)

A more experimental approach to archives was illustrated by biscuits and cake, made using a recipe from the collections. And to keep us all calm we were accompanied by John Colborne, playing the lute in 17th century costume with music from a contemporary source in the collections also on display.


More information on the aspirations of Manuscripts and Special Collections in this campaign can be found on the Impact Campaign website.

Student Union Posters

October 14th, 2011

Monty Python

Poster for a Nottingham University Student Union concert featuring members of Monty Python















 Manuscripts and Special Collections have recently finished digitising a series of Nottingham Student Union posters advertising gigs and events in the 1970s. The posters were carefully preserved for posterity by alumni John Bailey (Agriculture/Horticulture 1972) and Richard Stark (Chemical Engineering 1971), who were involved in booking bands for the Students Union. 

Poster for a rock and roll evening at Nottingham University's Lakeside Pavillion

It is impressive to see some of the big names that the University was able to attract, including members of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and T Rex. With their vivid colours and striking designs (many were too racy to include here!), they are wonderfully evocative and we hope they will bring back some great memories. If you have photographs or material you think would be of interest to the University archive, relating to all aspects of student experience at Nottingham, do contact Manuscripts and Special Collections. To track down old friends, visit the Alumni website.

T Rex

Poster for a T Rex gig at Nottingham University

“Full steam ahead” (Papplewick Pumping Station)

October 6th, 2011

Papplewick Pumping Station visit

Papplewick Pumping Station visit

Earlier this year, to mark the start of the project to catalogue the water records, representatives from the Papplewick Pumping Station Trust visited the University to find out more about our holdings. These include a series of plans of Papplewick Pumping Station which are still proving useful for engineers involved in maintaining the site today.

The Pumping Station, which started operation in 1884, is a remarkable example of Victorian architecture and engineering, and is now the only one in the Midlands to be preserved as a complete working fresh water pumping station.  It ceased operation in 1969 and was finally closed in 1973 but was rescued by a charitable trust, supported by members of the Papplewick Association. After many years of restoration work, and an award in 2006 for “Best Refurbishment Project” from the Brick Development Association, the station is now open for viewing on Sunday afternoons. The next date that the beam engines are “In Steam” is the 22nd and 23rd of October (which coincides with a 1940s themed event).

Engine House

Engine House

Underground Reservoir

Underground Reservoir

Staff from Manuscripts and Special Collections were recently invited to visit Papplewick to see the beam engines in operation. We also had the opportunity of descending into the now disused underground reservoir, constructed of beautifully made brick arch vaulting.  This was a great opportunity for me to ask engineers and experts about the developments in technology for the supply of water that I had been reading about in the files of Severn Trent, The Trent River Authority and Nottingham Corporation Water Department.

The volunteers and staff of Papplewick are looking forward to returning to the University to view more items from the water archive, and to use the catalogues and online resources that we have been creating for this project, so that they can undertake further research into the Pumping Station and its history. So it’s “full steam ahead” with the cataloguing!

Recipe of the month: Cheese rolls

October 1st, 2011

A recipe for dinner party canapés, not from the 1970s, but from somewhere around the 1770s, this recipe for puff pastry Cheshire cheese rolls come from an undated recipe book in the collection attributed to the Willoughby family of Aspley and Cossall.

Cheese Rolls (MS 87/1, p. 2)

A quarter of a pound of Chesire Cheese put into a stew pan with two large spoonful of water and an Ounce of butter & two spoonful of flower, set it on the fire & beat it til it melts & leaves the sides of the pan, then let it boil & when has coold, after taking of [off] the fire, put to it one Egg & beat it all well together, then put it in puff paste rowld very thin, make them in the shape of rolls – bake them about ten minutes & serve them hot.