Category Archives: Book collections

NARRATIVE OF A JOURNEY TO THE SHORES OF THE ARCTIC OCEAN 1833-5 BY RICHARD KING, SURGEON AND NATURALIST TO THE EXPEDITION, IN 2 VOLUMES : A review by Tony Farr of just one of the remarkable books in our travel collection

Following recent journeys to Arctic and near Arctic regions ourselves, these two books took our eye when they appeared on the list for rebinding and repair. They date back almost to the founding of the library and are important not least because they contain the first recorded drawing of Okanagan marmots and very well fed they look too! Having gone to the trouble of adopting the books, it seemed appropriate to make the effort to read them, which took numerous visits to the library, because obviously in view of their value they are not allowed to leave the premises, but fascinating they proved to be.

The books are an account of this journey, paid for by public subscription and by a government grant in order to extend the knowledge of the Northern Coast of Canada, at that time still a British colony. Much of the account consists of a description of the places discovered and in true colonial style, often such lakes, rivers and other geographical features are named after the British royal family and prominent politicians e.g Victoria Headland (after the then Princess Victoria), Backhouse Point (after John Backhouse, foreign secretary) and Cockburn’s Bay (after the chairman of the Arctic Committee, Admiral Sir George Cockburn. Similarly buildings they used en route have stirring names like Fort Resolution and Fort Reliance.

However, in other respects the writing is surprisingly enlightened for the period, particularly with regard to the indigenous people. In their encounters with the expedition party, they are treated with sympathy and respect. The effect of previous contact between these people and the colonialists is often described unfavourably, for example with regard to the introduction of diseases and the effect of the fur trade. The Hudson’s Bay Company comes in for particular criticism in that the effects of the alcohol and firearms it has provided in exchange for furs have led to addiction and violence amongst previously peaceful people and loss of their traditional hunting skills.

Another interesting subject covered is the Northern Lights. King describes the sight graphically: “Sometimes appearing in the form of a splendid arch flitting across the heavens with inconceivable velocity and resembling the spiral motions of a serpent. Then suddenly disappearing, the veil of night would be at once diffused around, when quick as the flash of a star, a thousand dancing lights would again be seen playing mysteriously through the sky.” He also mentions myths: “The North American tribes believe it to be the spirits of their departed friends dancing in the clouds and when the aurora is brighter than usual, they say their deceased friends are very merry”. However, at a time when the understanding of electricity and magnetism was in its infancy, his explanation of the phenomenon is surprisingly scientifically accurate in associating it with the earth’s magnetic poles.

To get back to the marmots, King’s main role in the expedition was the observation of wildlife. He found Okanagan marmots to be very friendly with some settlers keeping them as pets. He identified them as a distinct species and collected some to be displayed at the recently opened Regent’s Park Zoo, recommending the conditions in which they should be housed. Sadly, their descendants are no longer there, but healthy populations still exist in Canada, especially British Columbia. King describes countless species of mammals, birds, fish and insects. Obviously he was unable to bring back live specimens of all of these, so he preserved them and brought them back in a large packing case, which at one anxious moment was almost lost overboard. This was the heyday of collecting and classifying and eventually in the 1860’s the Natural History Museum was built to house them all, so it is likely that King’s collection found its way there.

As far as this journey was concerned, they did not reach their objective of the ‘Polar Sea’, so the last chapter of the book is devoted to a justification for another overland trip to complete that mission. It would appear that this did not in fact take place, because the government was set instead on sponsoring journeys by sea to find the North West Passage, with disastrous consequences for the expedition led by Sir John Franklin in 1845, when all 129 crew were lost.

Marmots

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Filed under Adopt a book, Book collections, Travel books

Brief Guide to Local History Resources at Bromley House Library

If you search for local history on BromCat you will currently retrieve 1922 items. Some of these are in special collections but most are on the open shelves.
The special collections are the James Ward Collection and The Michael Dobbin Collection.
The James Ward Collection was given to the Library in 1914 by the librarian and book collector James Ward and reflect his interests in local history, poetry, particularly Byron and his life and Henry Kirk White, and the Baptist Church in Nottingham, which is where he was Librarian. It isn’t a complete collection of his books, as he also generously gave books to other institutions. He also put together books himself, having collections of papers bound together either on a particular topic or added to a book that he had purchased. There are also several manuscript items.

The majority of this collection is shelved in its own bookcase in the Standfast Library.

The Michael Dobbin collection is on loan to the Library by Canon Charles Dobbin. This has a slightly wider geographical range and comprises around 750 items, some dating back to the 18th century and again some manuscript items. These are kept in locked cupboards in the ‘Michael Dobbin Corridor’ in the new wing and the doors will be unlocked for you on request.

Philip James Bailey was a Nottingham poet born in 1816, the year the Library started, although he was only a member of the Library for a few years when he returned to Nottingham prior to his death. As well as local history there are key items of poetical works, and theology and mysticism as well as freemasonry. The 200 volumes are housed in the cabinets in the Thoroton Room.

As much as the varieties of sizes of book and height of bookshelves will allow, Bromley House’s own collection of local history is housed in the Standfast Library, although the gems of this collection are in the glass fronted cupboard next to the counter. On the upper shelves are Phillimore’s Nottinghamshire Parish Registers (Marriages) There is also a collection of pamphlets stored in their boxes under the old card catalogue.
Just inside the coffee room you will find the Thoroton Society’s publications, a run of Trade Directories in date order, and the Records of the Borough of Nottingham’.
As the Library was always keen to collect local history, and didn’t dispose of this during any of the sales that took place periodically it has left us with a particularly rich collection. Some of these are inevitably in the locked cupboards, and if such an item is stated as in Case 1 or the Safe Room then you will have to ask and have it signed out to you, and it will be put in the Neville Hoskins Reading Room with the appropriate book rests etc. If this room is unavailable then unfortunately the book will also be, so if you are keen to look at a particular item on a particular day please do check with us prior to coming to the Library

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Filed under Book collections, Uncategorized

Using group codes on BromCat

One of the advantages of a library catalogue is the ability to gather books together virtually, even if they are not physically together on the shelves, or to enable a search to be made on a special collection. To do this at Bromley House Library we use group codes. These are most often used to mark books that have been donated as a collection, but can be used for other reasons.

Those that we use are as follows:

Group code        Description

AB                          Adolphe Brunner Collection

AS                           Alan Sillitoe Collection

BHL1816             Collection of books appearing in the first printed catalogue of 1816

GK                          Books found in an attic of a coal merchant’s house and donated to the Library by Graham Knight

JWC                  James Ward Collection

LH                           Local History Collection

MD                         Michael Dobbin Collection

NH                         Books previously in the collection of Neville Hoskins

PJB                         Philip James Bailey Collection

PPAS                     Parliamentary papers of Alan Simpson

SL                            The remainder of the Standfast Library

TG                          Travel Guides

WWI                     Books relating to the First World War

To search for any of these collections, or within any of these collections, select Advanced Search and using the drop down menus, select  ‘Group’ and enter the group code in the search box.  If you have any problems with this, please ask a member of staff for help.

More information on these collections coming later.

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Filed under Book collections, Cataloguing project

Old books were new books once…

Musings of the Librarian

When we think of old libraries our first image is of rooms full of nice old books, so we easily have an image of a Victorian library looking much as it does today. We forget that it was full of the latest best sellers, because what we consider to be today’s classics were once that. Their spines were bright, not faded from time and sunshine, and dirtied by years of coal fires and the early gas lighting. There were multiple copies to keep up with the demand, and members were not always patient about having to wait their turn. Black and white photographs, or faded sepia, give us no image of the vibrancy that there would have been, with the new books all on display, the magazines with their colour prints of fashion etc, and Punch magazines with their cartoons on current events.

One at least of our grandfather clocks was purchased new, and we had the latest scientific equipment in the form of the barometers, the Wind dial and our Meridian line.  Our members requested that telephone be installed for their use as soon as it was available. The proportion of new books to old would have been much in the favour of new books too, the balance being somewhat different now as those new books have grown old alongside the library. So, when we look at the past, let’s not do it filtered by a black and white photograph, but remember that what is old now was once new and the latest thing. We were then, as we are now, both scholarly and popular, catering for a diverse clientele, and looking forwards as much as backwards.

Outside, Nottingham was busy and bustling too, with a market in Market Square, and frequent events taking place there, often photographed from our parapet. Maybe this is why ‘Members are not allowed on the roof without permission’?  There were businesses and clubs on the premises then too. Members of the billiard club would be coming and going, and the person employed as a marker did get drunk on the premises more than once. One hopes he didn’t meet the members of the ‘Ladies Bible Class’ when under the influence….

NTGM012431 Market and BH

Photograph courtesy of Picture the Past, approx. 1890

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Filed under Book collections, Library History

Hey, BromCat, take me to your collections…

Exploring the Local History Collection

One of the features of the “Bromcat” online catalogue is that it provides a means of exploring the Library’s special collections. The catalogue describes these as “Groups”. If a book is included in one of the Library’s 13 collections it will show up in the “Related” field on the main display pages for each record and under the “Group” field on the dynamic display page (found by clicking the “change display” button on the right hand side and selecting from the “detailed” options). Clicking on a collection title brings up all its titles. The largest, with 1828 entries, is the Local History Collection.

What a fascinating collection it is. If, like me, you find that serendipity is one of the joys of library membership, this is the collection to dip into. All of the titles invite curiosity, some closer study. Who could not be intrigued by a title like “Damn His Charity, We’ll Have the Food for Nought” (Cc03044), the story of the 1766 food riots, when the Mayor of Nottingham was bowled over by a rolling cheese? Or be tempted to explore “British Duck Decoys of Today”, 1918, by Rainworth naturalist Joseph Whitaker (Bb1779 and JWC/1(12)), “The Wonders of the Year 1716” (Cc02238(5)) for prophecies about the Antichrist or, more prosaically, the delights of the “Conchology of Nottingham” 1853 (Bb2407)?

I would guess that members might be particularly interested in notable Nottingham personalities and families: George Green, the Thorotons and the Smiths all have links to the Library, the latter in particular providing Bromley House with its name. There are many others: Holles, Chaworth  Musters, Byron, Trotman, Birkins, Samuel Butler, Jesse Boot, Bendigo, Albert Ball, JT Becher of Southwell, Huntingdon Plumtre and the Pierreponts of Pierrepont Hall, who had brothers on opposing sides in the Civil War. The Collection has books or pamphlets on all of these.

For anyone wanting to dig deeply into the history of a local family there is a Southampton University thesis by G. Jaggar on the Whalley family of Screveton (MD/6(518). Sir Richard Whalley, whose family crest was, yes, a whale, became extremely rich on the proceeds of helping Henry VIII to strip the monasteries. His grandson was a wastrel, however, and the family not only lost its wealth but died out altogether, despite Sir Richard’s 25 children by 3 wives. The family went from riches to rags in 3 generations.  Screveton church has a magnificent alabaster monument to Sir Richard, (see pictures).

There is more, much more.  An illustrated guide to Matlock, perhaps? A book on the scenery of Sherwood Forest? Histories of Gedling, Southwell, Hucknall, Epperstone, Bulwell, Kimberley or Eastwood? Or should we be investigating whether the Nottingham Subscription Library represented an elite institution in the period 1815-1853 (Cc02646)? I think we should be told!

Martin Gorman

Whalley memorialsMG blog 2

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Filed under Book collections