New Special Collections acquisitions

Plate of Toulouse-Lautrec poster from 'Das moderne plakat'The University of Reading Special Collections and the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) library and archives hold a wide range of collections with relevance to many different areas of study.

This exhibition features a selection of archive and rare book items that have been recently acquired by purchase, gift or deposit agreement.

The exhibition will be on display from 27 September 2011 until January 2012 at the University Library.

Image: Poster by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec from Das moderne plakat by Jean Louis Sponsel, one of the new rare book acquisitions on display.

Display case 1:

Hiroshima and Reading: a special connection

In 2011 the University of Reading received a remarkable and moving gift from the University of Hiroshima in Japan: a roof tile collected from the riverbed near the hypocentre of the atomic bomb attack of 6 August 1945.

The gift was made in recognition of the fact that the University of Reading had sent books in response to an appeal by their Japanese counterparts in 1951, as part of a project to establish an international peace library.

This case contains fragments of the tile, along with documents sent by the University of Hiroshima to accompany it, including those declaring the samples to be safe.

These items were first shown earlier this year at a poetry reading event for the victims of the Japanese earthquake, organised by staff of the English Department. In his letter of thanks for the tile, Professor Gordon Marshall (the then Vice-Chancellor) said: “Here at Reading, naturally we share your hopes for a more peaceful future for the world, and that nuclear weapons will never again be used on our planet.”

Display case 2:

The WH Smith Archive

The latest acquisition by the University of Reading’s Special Collections Service is the archive of the long-established newsagents, WH Smith.

These remarkable business records paint a vivid historical picture of a notable high-street name, and are one of the most important sources for studying the development of the modern book trade.

Significant family, political and estate papers have also been acquired, including the papers of William Henry Smith (1825-1891). He took over the business from his father (also W.H. Smith) and continued to build it up, before moving on to a successful political career as a Member of Parliament and as a Cabinet Minister. He served First Lord of the Admiralty, First Lord of the Treasury, Leader of the House of Commons, and twice as Secretary of State for War.

A news vendor’s business was first started by Henry Walton Smith (1738-1792) and his wife Anna Smith (nee Eastaugh, c.1756-1816) in around 1790 in Little Grosvenor Street, London. Upon Henry’s death, Anna took control and later their son, William Henry Smith (1792-1865, the first W.H. Smith inherited the business, along with his brother Henry Edward Smith (1787-1846). In 1820 the business took its first steps in newspaper wholesale distribution. The firm took advantage of the railway boom by opening newsstands on railway stations, and also went into the newspaper wholesale business.

The Smiths’ former family home at Greenlands near Henley is now a campus of the University of Reading, being home to part of the Henley Business School.

Items on display:

  • Photographs of the WH Smith shop and tea rooms, Paris; and the Reading station bookstall, 1944 - 1962 (WHS M157/23, WHS M157/32, WHS M442/1)

The Paris branch of WH Smith opened at 248 rue de Rivoli on 1 April 1903. The first photograph shows the interior as discovered by Allied forces during the liberation of Paris in 1944 – the store had been used as a Nazi propaganda bookshop during the period of occupation. The second photograph shows the waitresses in the English tea rooms in 1962. The final photograph shows a typical station bookstall, in this case one at Reading station in 1953.

  • WH Smith press cuttings album, 1951-1953

This page shows staff being rewarded for their service and a less than successful book signing: comedian Jimmy Edwards clearly had a limited following in Kensington and declared that he would not be retiring on the proceeds. A small press announcement heralds the takeover by Smith’s of the Bowes and Bowes bookshop in Cambridge: the site on Trinity Street traces its bookselling heritage back to 1581. WHS A93

  • WH Smith in-house publications: The Newsboy and Newsgirl and The book window, 1926 - 1927

One of the great strengths of the WH Smith Archive is the collection of in-house publications. As well as these, there were daily and weekly bulletins for staff, monthly staff magazines, and a trade journal for newsagents who were supplied by the wholesale business. The Newsboy and Newsgirl was produced for the junior staff of the company (during the First World War girls had begun to be recruited), while The book window was aimed at book-loving customers.

Display case 3:

A selection of new rare book acquisitions

  • A biographical memoir of Samuel Hartlib... with biographical notices of works published by him and a reprint of his pamphlet, entitled An Invention of Engines of Motion, by H. Dircks. London : John Russell Smith, [1865] RESERVE--420.8-HAR/DIR

A nineteenth-century biographical memoir of Samuel Hartlib, a seventeenth-century German-British polymath who was active in developing and promoting new ideas to increase productivity in agriculture.

  • Clothes : an essay upon the nature and significance of the natural and artificial integuments worn by men and women, by Eric Gill ; with ten diagrams engraved by the author. London : Jonathan Cape, 1931. RESERVE--391-GIL

Eric Gill (1882–1940) was a British sculptor, typeface designer, stonecutter and printmaker. This first edition complements other writings by Gill held in the rare book collections, including Clothing without cloth : an essay on the nude, also published in 1931.

  • My Miss Nancy : Nancy Astor's Virginia "Mammy" tells why "her littl' mistis ain't neber gwine lose her 'sition ober dar in Inglan'" by Ruby Vaughan Bigger. Macon, Ga. : The J.W. Burke Company, 1924. RESERVE--942.083-AST/BIG

Nancy Astor, the first woman MP to take her seat, spent her childhood at her grandfather's estate in Virginia, USA, surrounded by his loyal family servants. In this book, Nancy's black nanny 'Mammy Veenie' tells of Nancy's tomboyish childhood. This item complements the Nancy Astor archive held in the University Special Collections.

  • Dorset : Shell Guide. Compiled and written by Paul Nash. London, Faber and Faber, 1935. PRINTING COLLECTION--914.233-NAS

Paul Nash (1889-1946) was an English landscape painter, surrealist and war artist. Between 1934 and 1936 Paul Nash lived near Swanage in Dorset, and produced a considerable number of paintings and photographs during this period. At the invitation of John Betjeman, he compiled this Shell Guide to Dorset. The book includes numerous illustrations and photographs by Nash, including reproductions of four of his watercolours.

  • Das moderne plakat, von Jean Louis Sponsel. Mit 52 farbigen steindrucktafeln und 266 textabbildungen. Dresden : Verlag von Gerhard Kühtmann, MDCCCLXXXXVII [1897] PRINTING COLLECTION FOLIO--741.67-SPO

Illustrated with fifty-two lithographic plates of posters, including examples of work by noted artists including Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Théophile Steinlen and Alphonse Mucha. This important example of lithographic printing was purchased in collaboration with the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication.  

  • The little school : a posy of rhymes, by T. Sturge Moore. London : The Eragny Press,1905. PRINTING COLLECTION--821.912-MOO

The Eragny Press was one of a number of important private presses of the Arts and Crafts private press movement championed by William Morris in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This new acquisition complements the Eragny Press edition of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poems, entitled Christabel, Kubla Khan, Fancy in nubibus, and Song from Zapolya (1904), also held in the rare book collections.

  • Puss in boots, illustrated by Kathleen Hale. Boston, Mass. : Houghton Mifflin Company, 1951. CHILDREN'S COLLECTION--398-HAL

Kathleen Hale, who is well-known for her Orlando the Marmalade Cat books for children, was a student at the Department of Fine Art at Reading University College from 1915-17. The University Special Collections contain a complete set of the Orlando books, as well as other publications and archive materials relating to Kathleen Hale in various archive collections.

  • [A fragment of An almanack and prognostication / Thomas Buckminster]. Imprinted in London : by Richarde Watkins and Iames Robertes, 1590. RESERVE--528.2-BUC

Thomas Buckminster was one of the leading almanac-compilers of the Tudor period. This fragment comes from the second part of the publication, the Prognostication, which takes the form of an astrometeorological forecast for the year. It is very rare and is believed to be the only surviving fragment of this particular almanac/prognostication in this country. This item was purchased by the Department of History and is held in the University Special Collections.

  • Grey Rabbit’s May Day, by Alison Uttley. Pictures by Margaret Tempest. London : Collins, 1963. CHILDREN'S COLLECTION--823.9-UTT

This new acquisition complements other early Little Grey Rabbit books held in the rare book collections, and other books by Alison Uttley on countryside themes held in the library of the Museum of English Rural Life.

  • Tone, texture, light & shade: a Barnett Freedman picture album, by Ian Rogerson. Huddersfield : Fleece Press, 2011. PRINTING COLLECTION FOLIO--741.942-FRE/R

Barnett Freedman (1901–1958) was an artist, commercial designer, book illustrator, typographer and lithographer. The University Special Collections hold examples of his illustrated books and archive items including Christmas cards designed by Freedman. This private press book contains some of his finest images, including ephemeral items, paintings, and examples of his student work.

  • Ginger and Pickles, by Beatrix Potter. London : Frederick Warne, 1909. CHILDREN'S COLLECTION--823.9-POT  

This new acquisition forms part of an extensive collection of Beatrix Potter books held in the University’s rare book collections as part of the Children’s Collection.

  • Modèles de lettres sur vingt tons de fonds différents, par N. Glaise. Dourdan : Emile Thézard, [189- ?] PRINTING COLLECTION LARGE--745.6-GLA

This rare portfolio of chromolithographed decorative alphabets was purchased in collaboration with the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication.

  • The zoo, described and illustrated by Moira and Robert Gibbings. London : Printed by Sanders Phillips & Co., The Baynard Press, [192-?] GIBBINGS COLLECTION--KA1920

This rare publication complements the University’s holdings of archives and books relating to the artist and author Robert Gibbings. The text gives an account of a day trip to the zoo by two children and their well-travelled 'Uncle Max', and was produced for London Underground as a piece of publicity.  

  • Exposition sommaire des muscles du corps humain, suivant la classification & la nomenclature … , par M. Chaussier. A Dijon : Chez l'Auteur … , [1789] COLE--X443

François Chaussier (1746-1828) was one of the most distinguished physicians of his time. This volume gives a survey of the muscles in the human body, and contains the first description of "Chaussier's great muscular artery". This title is an appropriate addition to the Cole Library as anatomy was Professor Cole’s main area of research, and is strongly represented in the collection. The purchase of this first edition was facilitated by a donation to the Cole Library by Dr Stanley and Mrs Rita Levy following a visit to the Special Collections Service in 2009. 

  • Railways and agriculture in North Lincolnshire : rough notes of a ride over the track of the Manchester, Sheffield, Lincolnshire, and other railways, by Samuel Sidney. London : William Pickering, 1848. MERL LIBRARY RESERVE--2083-SID

This new addition to the library of the Museum of English Rural Life is a very scarce mid-nineteenth century book on farm produce transportation and issues relating to railways and agriculture by the agricultural writer Samuel Sidney. 

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