Hugh MacDiarmid and Mary Poppins: An Unpublished Letter in EU Archives

An unpublished letter from Mary Poppins author P. L. Travers to Hugh MacDiarmid in Edinburgh University’s C. M. Grieve Archive casts further light on the surprising relationship between the two writers revealed in an article in today’s The National. Our letter shows that Travers was so taken by MacDiarmid’s writing that she urged her publisher to bring out an edition of his selected poems.

0078552cJennifer Morag Henderson‘s essay in The National (‘Poppins and MacDiarmid – Truly Whaur Extremes Meet’) reveals that MacDiarmid and Travers met in London in 1931 or 1932, probably under the aegis of Irish writer and mystic George William Russell (1853–1919) who wrote under the pseudonym ‘AE’. Russell was something of a spiritual and literary mentor to Travers, who was then working as a journalist and drama critic, but he also contributed an ‘Introductory Essay’ to MacDiarmid’s 1931 collection First Hymn to Lenin and Other Poems.

As Henderson notes, the meeting is recorded in a published letter from MacDiarmid to another Irish writer Oliver St John Gogarty, dated 22 January 1932, where he writes: ‘The lady with the pheasant-coloured hair [Travers] is quite a figure in Bloomsbury circles. We have had some most amusing times together – and would have had more but for the horrible tangle of my own affairs (the divorce went through last Saturday).’ Henderson wonders whether the pair discussed their conflicting views on nationalism or their mutual interest in Soviet Russia (which Travers was to describe in her book Moscow Excursion). She concludes, however, that during MacDiarmid’s messy divorce from Peggy Skinner, Travers probably interested MacDiarmid ‘as a woman first and writer second’.

mdsmrThe letter from Travers in our Grieve Archive, apparently overlooked by editors of MacDiarmid’s correspondence, confirms Henderson’s conjectures as to mutual areas of interest but also suggests that their relationship had a strongly literary character. The letter is undated. A reference to MacDiarmid’s First Hymn to Lenin which Travers ‘would love to have … some day’ might place it in the 1931-32 time-frame discussed by Henderson. The fact, however, that Travers clearly already has a strong relationship with publisher Gerald Howe, who published the first Mary Poppins book in 1934, makes the mid-1930s a more probable date.

Travers writes that ‘I have been to see Howe and with every sweet and noble adjective at my command put your suggestion of the 50-100 of your very finest selected’. Howe was ‘definitely interested’ but ‘would not commit himself’. He invites MacDiarmid to submit a selection of verse, either directly or through Travers, but on the understanding that Howe is not ‘bound in any way’. Travers confides that Howe ‘knows nothing in the world about poetry’ and depends entirely on advice from an unnamed writer who, fortunately, is a good personal friend of Travers and whom she believes she can influence in MacDiarmid’s favour.

Travers repeatedly stresses her personal enthusiasm for the project (‘Personally I think the idea such a good one!’) and mentions that Howe had particularly liked the suggestion that W. B. Yeats might write an introduction to the MacDiarmid volume.

In the rest of the letter, Travers mentions that ‘AE’ has dined with her the previous night, and that they had talked about MacDiarmid. She also mentions an article that she is writing on ‘Nationalism and Internationalism’, hinting at the political differences between the pair mentioned in Henderson’s article. While MacDiarmid, of course, combined revolutionary socialism with Scottish nationalism, the Australian-born Travers considered herself a citizen of the British Empire. Here she remarks that the concepts of nationalism and internationalism surely ‘don’t exist on other stars’.

The anthology of MacDiarmid’s selected poems never appeared. Travers mentions Gerald Howe’s fears that, as a poet, MacDiarmid might be tied to his original publisher Victor Gollancz ‘the “cutest” drafter of an agreement in London’, and perhaps that effectively stymied the project. The letter is nonetheless a record of what was clearly a warm literary friendship between figures from what one might have thought were very different worlds.

Signature of P.L. [Pamela] Travers

Paul Barnaby

 

Textiles and threads – samples and catalogue

ANOTHER SPLASH OF COLOUR FOR THE COLLECTIONS – FROM EUROPE, CHINA AND JAPAN

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Towards the end of the 2015-2016 financial period, CRC acquired a small number of items relating to textiles and the textile trade, bringing another small splash of colour to the collections.

Threads from Kwangtung (Guangdong), China, in Coll-1766.

Threads from Kwangtung (Guangdong), China, in Coll-1766.

The items reflect both English and French textile production and the textile production of the Far East (Japan and China). The items in question are samples of textiles and threads.

Wrapper from a sample of threads from Guangdong, China, in Coll-1766.

Wrapper from a sample of threads from Guangdong, China, in Coll-1766.

We acquired a collection of silk thread samples from Kwangtung (Guangdong), China, a city in which which silk production is an important sector of the economy, and which began the export of silk during the Han dynasty.

Catalogue of silk samples from Kyoto, Japan, in Coll-1762.

Catalogue of silk samples from Kyoto, Japan, in Coll-1762.

The collection of 15 wrappers offers silk threads in various colours, all housed in paper with ties. The name of the producers are on the upper covers, which state that the silk is produced by natural colours and washed in clear water. They were produced by Shun Shing Ho and Tian Da Lao Dien.

From the catalogue of silk samples from Kyoto, Japan, in Coll-1762.

From the catalogue of silk samples from Kyoto, Japan, in Coll-1762.

We also acquired a catalogue of a silk manufacturer or kimono maker based in Kyoto, which in the 1900s was the centre of the Japanese textile trade. The catalogue has board covers in purple soft fabric with Japanese script which may once have been gilded.

'Cocksey' trademark on bookplate in album of textile samples, in Coll-1769.

‘Cocksey’ trademark on bookplate in album of textile samples, in Coll-1769.

The album contains 198 mounted and different silk samples in various colours or shades.

Textile sample from album, Coll-1769.

Textile sample from album, Coll-1769.

Finally, we now have the remains from two albums which contained mounted textile samples… English (possibly Lancashire) and French. These are mainly printed cottons pasted on stiff paper with numbers and annotations in ink.

Textile samples from album, Coll-1769.

Textile samples from album, Coll-1769.

Some have annotations in French and are dated 1862. Some have the book-plate ‘Cocksey’, a registered trademark.

Wrapper from a sample of threads from Guangdong, China, in Coll-1766.

Wrapper from a sample of threads from Guangdong, China, in Coll-1766.

On our archives and manuscripts catalogue these collections are known as: Coll-1762 Catalogue presenting 198 different mounted fabric silk samples, Kyoto, Japan; Coll-1766 Collection of samples of Chinese silk threads for embroidery, Kwangtung; and, Coll-1769 Collection of British / French textile samples and designs on printed cotton.

Dr. Graeme D. Eddie, Assistant Librarian Archives & Manuscripts, Centre for Research Collections

Cinema at the whaling-stations, South Georgia…: another brief look into the Salvesen Archive

‘…Each man takes a turn to keep the building in a proper state of cleanliness…’

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This look at cinema and film offered to the personnel of the whaling stations in South Georgia is another of our occasional forays into the Salvesen Archive.

Papers in the Christian Salvesen Archive show that cinema was an important leisure-time activity in the life of the personnel working at the whaling-stations of South Georgia. Films could be enjoyed at the ‘World’s Most Southerly Cinema…’.

Collection of season programmes for films at Grytviken Kino, South Georgia, 1960s. In the Salvesen Archive, B2, Box 4, h.

Collection of season programmes for films at Grytviken Kino, South Georgia, 1960s, a cinema claiming probably correctly to be the ‘World’s most southerly cinema beyond the cinema at Ushuaia’, Argentina. In the Salvesen Archive, B2, Box 4, h.

The earliest reference to ‘cinema’ in South Georgia so far found in the Salvesen Archive is a letter from the 1920s. A copy-letter (unsigned typescript) to Edward B. Binney, Magistrate, South Georgia, dated 28 November 1925 – and presumably from the Leith Harbour station – is in effect an application ‘for permission to give Cinematograph Exhibitions’. The letter states that the ‘Cinematograph is the property of all the employees’ of the station, and that a subscription of 15 kroner is ‘being made by each man to cover cost of Machine and Films’, and also the cost of ‘books for a Library’.

Proposed layout for the new Cinema, 1954. In the Salvesen Archive, C5. Box 2.

Proposed layout for the new Cinema, 1956. In the Salvesen Archive, C5. Box 2.

The letter goes on to state that the ‘Company provides the Buildings and electric Current free of charge and every precaution has been taken against the outbreak of fire’, not least through the locating of the building ‘away from the factory’. Finally, the letter tells us that: ‘Each man takes a turn to keep the building in a proper state of cleanliness’.

Proposed layout for the new Cinema, 1956. In the Salvesen Archive, C5. Box 2.

Proposed layout for the new Cinema, 1956. In the Salvesen Archive, C5. Box 2.

Indeed, at Leith Harbour, wrote Sir Gerald Elliot in his work A whaling enterprise (1998), the main recreations ‘came from the cinema, the library and the football ground’. The cinema, the library, and football field were ‘the normal amenities of civilisation’ agreed Wray Vamplew in his work Salvesen of Leith (1975). The cinema, Elliot went on, ‘got a new supply of films every season which were exchanged with the floating factories as opportunity arose’. By the mid-1950s: ‘There was a large new cinema about to be built’.

Proposed layout for the new Cinema, 1956. In the Salvesen Archive, C5. Box 2.

Proposed layout for the new Cinema, 1956. In the Salvesen Archive, C5. Box 2.

Examples of the variety of films acquired for the stations have been found in the Salvesen Archive. A copy-note [Norwegian] from Oslo dated 24 January 1955, and relating to 10 films sent to South Georgia in Winter 1955 via shipping agents Messrs. Ruys & Co., Netherlands, and the Fred Olsen Transport Co. A/S, lists the titles Asphalt Jungle (Asfaltjungelen, 1950), No No Nanette (Nei, Nei Nanette), Operation Pacific (1951), and Rocky Mountain (1950) among others. The films were destined for Grytviken Kino, South Georgia.

List of films sent south to South Georgia from Oslo in January 1955. In the Salvesen Archive, B2, Box 4, h.

List of films sent south to South Georgia from Oslo in January 1955. In the Salvesen Archive, B2, Box 4, h.

Another letter [Norwegian] from Europafilm A/S, Oslo, to L. Klaveness A/S, Sandefjord, dated 18 January 1957, refers to the delivery of 10 films for Grytviken, 1957 Winter Season. The films were to be sent south from Oslo on 29 January 1957 on the vessel Kronprins Olav.

Europafilm A/S, Oslo, supplied 10 films to Grytviken Kino in January 1957. In the Salvesen Archive, B2, Box 4, h.

Europafilm A/S, Oslo, supplied 10 films to Grytviken Kino in January 1957. In the Salvesen Archive, B2, Box 4, h.

The films sent south in 1957 included Bird of Paradise (hopefully the 1951 re-make rather than the much earlier 1932 one), Botany Bay (1952), David and Bathsheba (1951), Desert Fox: the story of Rommel (1951), Roman Holiday (Prinsesse paa vift, 1954), and Star of India (1954) among others.

List of films sent south to South Georgia from Oslo in January 1957. In the Salvesen Archive, B2, Box 4, h.

List of films sent south to South Georgia from Oslo in January 1957. In the Salvesen Archive, B2, Box 4, h.

It wasn’t only the crews of the floating factories that enjoyed the exchange of films with the shore-based stations… films were exchanged between the various shore stations themselves. In the Archive there is a note [Norwegian] from Grytviken Kino to Husvik station cinema, dated 20 February 1960, indicating that a number of films were on the way to Husvik. The same note asks Husvik ‘to please send [back] remaining films of previous lists’.

Grytviken Cinema membership card. In the Salvesen Archive, B2, Box 4, h.

Grytviken Cinema membership card. In the Salvesen Archive, B2, Box 4, h.

Another note [Norwegian] from Grytviken Kino to Husvik, dated 7 November 1961, indicates that ‘more new movies will be sent tomorrow’, and that these should be sent on to Leith Harbour as well. The note also asks that films already watched be returned to Grytviken. In addition, the note states that the ‘film company in Oslo has asked us that care be taken of all the large coloured cinema posters inside the film cans and to make sure they don’t get lost, otherwise they will have to be paid for’.

Interior of a South Georgia cinema. In the Salvesen Archive, C1, Envelope 30.

Interior of a South Georgia cinema. In the Salvesen Archive, C1, Envelope 30.

With the ending of commercial whaling and the closure of the South Georgia stations, infrastructure there has been open to the elements. A 2011 report on the state of the whaling-stations shows that the cinema buildings have not faired well at all, succumbing like the other flimsy structures to the storms and weather conditions of the Southern Ocean.

Interior of a South Georgia cinema. In the Salvesen Archive, C1, Envelope 30.

Interior of a South Georgia cinema. In the Salvesen Archive, C1, Envelope 30.

The cinema venue at Grytviken (a whaling station of Compañia Argentina) has gone – or is at least not referred to in a list of surviving buildings – and at Husvik (established by the Tønsbergs Hvalfangeri) the cinema and library were ‘in a state of collapse either partial or complete’.

Interior of a South Georgia cinema. In the Salvesen Archive, C1, Envelope 30.

Interior of a South Georgia cinema. In the Salvesen Archive, C1, Envelope 30.

At Stromness (first established by the Sandefjord Whaling Company) the cinema is listed as one of the buildings that ‘have collapsed completely’ , and at Leith Harbour too (the Christian Salvesen station) the cinema is among those buildings ‘in a ruinous state’. At Prince Olav Harbour (Southern Whaling & Sealing Company) the cinema has ‘disappeared completely’.

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Dr. Graeme D. Eddie, Assistant Librarian Archives & Manuscripts, Centre for Research Collections (CRC)

The following were used in the construction of this blog-post:

Salvesen of Leith, Wray Vamplew, p.213, published by Scottish Academic Press, Edinburgh & London, 1975.

A whaling enterprise. Salvesen in the Antarctic, Sir Gerald Elliot, p.66, p112, published by Michael Russell, Norwich, 1998.

Inspection of the disused shore-based whaling-stations for the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich islands, by Purcell Miller Tritton, Norwich, July 2011.

If you have enjoyed this glimpse of the Salvesen Archive, have a look at these earlier ones too: June 2014 Whale hunting: new documentary for broadcast on BBC 4; July 1914 Pipe bombs, hurt sternframes, peas, penguins, stowaways and cookery books: the Salvesen Archive; March 2015 ‘Empire Kingsley’ – 70th anniversary of sinking on 22 March 1945; November 2015 Talk given to Members of the South Georgia Association – on the Salvesen Archive; May 2016 Exploring the explorer – Traces of Ernest Shackleton in our collections – 10 May 2016 is the 100th anniversary of the safe arrival of the small boat ‘James Caird’ on South Georgia

James Miranda Steuart Barry and the Crimean War

We recently became aware of a single letter from James Miranda Barry, written just before (s)he was due to depart for Sebastopol shortly after its capture by the ‘allies’ in 1855. We acquired in in 1977.

Margaret Bulkley was born in Ireland: a bright, precocious child, she moved to London, with her mother in 1805 and there had access to General Francisco de Miranda’s library with ‘treatises such as might be considered to form a tolerably complete Medical Library for a private gentleman’. As her father had been declared bankrupt, she had no hope of a good marriage so it was decided she should go to university but this was not an option for a female.

Thus she took the name of James Barry (after her uncle) and went to study medicine, at Edinburgh University, one of the most demanding and rigorous courses in Britain. Barry graduated with a MD thesis dedicated to her patrons, General Francisco de Miranda and David Steuart Erskine, 11th Earl of Buchan (1742-1829). Then, even more extraordinary, after further training, Barry joined the army and travelled throughout the British Empire. There is no definitive version of her adopted name.

Read more about Barry on Our History

We knew about Barry’s matriculation and graduation records and MD thesis.  This letter, while recorded in our sheaf index to manuscripts, had not yet made its way into our online catalogue and was stumbled upon while looking for something else.  It makes interesting reading.

Cookery & recipes – an interesting insight into the Scottish country house diet

VOLUME CREATED BY LADY NINA BALFOUR AND VICTORIA ALEXANDRINE MONTAGU SCOTT (LATER LADY LOTHIAN)

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Recently acquired by Edinburgh University Library is a fine bound manuscript volume of cookery and recipes compiled initially by Lady Nina Balfour of Balbirnie and then continued by Victoria Alexandrine Montagu Scott.

Fishwife illustrated in the cookery book

Fishwife illustrated in the cookery book

The volume was gifted by Balfour to Scott in about 1864-65, presumably in anticipation of her coming marriage, and was added to over some eighty years at Monteviot House (the Borders home of the Marquis of Lothian and the Kerr family).

Recipe for Fish sauce

Recipe for ‘Fish sauce’

Victoria Alexandrine Montagu Scott was a daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch & Queensberry, and she married Schomberg Henry Kerr, 9th Marquess of Lothian on 23 February 1865, becoming Lady Lothian. Lord Lothian was Scottish Secretary, 1887-1892.

Illustration accompanying the recipe for porridge

Illustration accompanying the recipe for ‘Porridge’

Spanning the Victorian and Edwardian eras and encompassing two World Wars, the recipes in the ms volume form an interesting chronicle of the Scottish country house diet.

Illustration accompanying the recipe for 'Sheeps head pie'

Illustration accompanying the recipe for ‘Sheeps head pie’

The opening pages created by Lady Nina Balfour are decorated with recipes and illustrations for Scottish staples, such as: Sheep’s Head Pie, Cockie Leekie, Porridge, Fish & Sauce plus Kedgeree and Boiled Cheese. Lady Victoria then takes over, with the book remaining in her family for the rest of her life and updated to 1945.

Sheep-dog illustrated with the recipe for 'Sheeps head pie'

Sheep-dog illustrated with the recipe for ‘Sheeps head pie’

The Victoria Alexandrine recipes are varied: chicken curry, several hotch potches, flan Germanique, Spanish Salad, ginger beer, liniment and chocolate cake. These are often dated from Monteviot and with a note of sources… Monteviot House in the Borders is the residence of the Marquess of Lothian.

Illustration to 'Cockie Leekie' soup

Illustration to ‘Cockie Leekie’ soup

Dr. Graeme D. Eddie, Assistant Librarian Archives & Manuscripts, Centre for Research Collections, Edinburgh University Library

Exploring the explorer – Traces of Ernest Shackleton in our collections – 10 May 2016 is the 100th anniversary of the safe arrival of the small boat ‘James Caird’ on South Georgia

ERNEST SHACKLETON (1874-1922) – LEADER OF THE IMPERIAL TRANS-ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION 1914-1917 WHICH HAD LEFT SOUTH GEORGIA IN DECEMBER 1914

Signature of Ernest Shackleton on a letter to Charles Sarolea, 5 November 1912 (Sarolea Collection, Sar.Coll.33)

Signature of Ernest Shackleton on a letter to Charles Sarolea, 5 November 1912 (Sarolea Collection, Sar.Coll.33)

Shackleton’s Expedition and its fate has been much written about elsewhere, but in brief, and illustrated with some images from our William Speirs Bruce, Christian Salvesen & Co., and Charles Sarolea collections… read on…

…Some 17-months after his departure from South Georgia in October 1915, Ernest Shackleton suffered the loss of his Expedition ship Endurance which had been sunk by the pack ice of the Weddell Sea. The Expedition – 28 men – had been left adrift but surviving on the ice along with the small lifeboats and other equipment that could be rescued from the ship. By April 1916 however, the ice was beginning to break up and the Expedition took to these lifeboats and made for Elephant Island in the South Shetland Islands. They landed on the small island on 15 April 1916.

'Itinerary' of Shackleton's Expedition, in the William Speirs Bruce archive (Gen. 1647 42/7)

‘Itinerary’ of Shackleton’s Expedition, in the William Speirs Bruce archive (Gen. 1647 42/7)

Elephant Island was remote from anywhere that the original Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition had planned to go, and the likelihood of rescue from the bleak and inhospitable island was slight. Shackleton decided therefore that the most effective means of obtaining rescue would be to sail one of the lifeboats into the prevailing winds and make for the whaling stations of South Georgia some 1,500 kilometres away (800 nautical miles, or 620 miles).

Stamp of the Scottish Oceanographical Laboratory on the envelope containing an 'Itinerary' of Shackleton's Expedition, in the William Speirs Bruce archive (Gen. 1647 42/7)

Stamp of the Scottish Oceanographical Laboratory on the envelope containing an ‘Itinerary’ of Shackleton’s Expedition, in the William Speirs Bruce archive (Gen. 1647 42/7)

Choosing five companions for the journey and selecting the strongest of the lifeboats – James Caird, named after a major sponsor of the Expedition – the boat was launched on 24 April 1916. With Shackleton were Frank Worsley (the captain of Endurance) as navigator, Tom Crean (an Irish seaman), John Vincent (a trawlerman), Timothy McCarthy (an Irish seaman), and Harry McNish (carpenter) who had refitted the James Caird for the journey, masting and rigging it out as a ketch. The other 22 men would have to remain on Elephant Island and wait for the outcome of this vital journey. They had fresh water, and plenty of seals and penguins to provide food and fuel for their survival there.

A contemporary icture of Grytviken, South Georgia, in 1913 (Salvesen Archive, Photographs Envelope 31).

A contemporary picture of the whaling station at Grytviken, South Georgia, in 1913 (Salvesen Archive, 2nd tranche, Photographs Envelope 31)

On 10 May 1916, after over two weeks in the cold open ocean, Shackleton and his men landed their boat at Cave Cove, near the entrance to King Haakon Bay, South Georgia, albeit on the wrong side of the island from the manned stations at Prince Charles Harbour, Stomness, Leith harbour, Husvik, Grytviken, Godthul and Ocean Harbour. From Cave Cove James Caird was sailed a bit further and beached on shingle near the head of King Haakon Bay itself and then it was turned over to provide shelter and the makings of a ‘camp’.

A contemporary picture of Grytviken, South Georgia, in 1914 (Salvesen Archive, Photographs Envelope 31)

A contemporary picture of the whaling station at Grytviken, South Georgia, in 1914 (Salvesen Archive, 2nd tranche, Photographs Envelope 31)

After a period of rest Shackleton, Worsley and Crean set off on 18 May – without a map – on an overland trek across mountains and glaciers making for the whaling station at Stromness, leaving McCarthy, Vincent and McNish behind at the King Haakon Bay ‘camp’, the latter two far too unfit to walk. After 36-hours of trekking what would become the first confirmed land crossing of the South Georgia interior, the three reached Stromness.

The vessel 'Samson' which rescued 3 men from King Haakon Bay after Shackleton's trek to Stromness (Salvesen B4 Box 2)

The vessel ‘Samson’ which rescued 3 men from King Haakon Bay after Shackleton’s trek to Stromness (Salvesen, 2nd tranche, B4 Box 2)

On 19 May, the whaling vessel Samson with Worsley aboard was despatched to King Haakon Bay to pick up McCarthy, Vincent and McNish.

Detail of the vessel 'Samson' which rescued 3 men from King Haakon Bay after Shackleton's trek to Stromness (Salvesen B4 Box 2)

Detail of the vessel ‘Samson’ which rescued 3 men from King Haakon Bay after Shackleton’s trek to Stromness (Salvesen, 2nd tranche, B4 Box 2)

It would be another three months however before Shackleton was able to rescue the 22 men at Elephant Island. This was achieved with the assistance of the steam-tug Yelcho in the service of the Chilean Navy and under the command of Luis Pardo Villalón. All the men were saved and reached Punta Arenas, Chile, on 3 September 1916.

Shackleton was aboard the R.M.S 'Aquitania' in 1921 giving a talk on his Antarctic adventures (Sarolea Collection, Sar.Coll.135)

Shackleton was aboard the R.M.S ‘Aquitania’ in 1921 giving a talk on his Antarctic adventures (Sarolea Collection, Sar.Coll.135)

For Shackleton, army and diplomatic service followed – spending time in South America, northern Norway and in northern Russia – and he entered the lecture circuit too. Indeed in January 1921 he was aboard the R.M.S Aquitania giving a talk in the first class saloon. He was no stranger to this circuit of course and was already a public hero prior to the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, having headed the successful Nimrod Expedition, 1907-1909.

Reply from Shackleton to Charles Sarolea, November 1912 (Sarolea Collection, Sar.Coll.33)

Reply from Shackleton to Charles Sarolea, November 1912 (Sarolea Collection, Sar.Coll.33)

After that earlier 1907-1909 Expedition, Shackleton had received many official honours and he was greeted with great enthusiasm around the country. In 1912, Charles Sarolea – then head of French at Edinburgh University and whose second wife was Shackleton’s sister-in-law – had written to the explorer asking him to ‘do a review, however short, of Amundsen’s book on the South Pole’. Reflecting his strenuous schedule of public appearances, lectures, social engagements, and business ventures, Shackleton had to reply that he had ‘such a lot of worries and business that I could not write the article you mention’. He was however able to congratulate Sarolea on the success of his magazine Everyman.

Telegram, noted Ray, from Raymond Swinford Shackleton to Charles Sarolea thanking him for an appreciation of his father (Sarolea Collection, Sar.Coll.135)

Telegram, noted Ray, from Raymond Swinford Shackleton to Charles Sarolea thanking him for an appreciation of his father (Sarolea Collection, Sar.Coll.135)

In the years following his return from the interupted Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, Shackleton soon tired of the lecture circuit and in September 1921 he left again for the Southern Ocean – the Shackleton-Rowett Expedition – and he arrived in South Georgia in January 1922. On the journey south he is believed to have suffered a heart attack – in Rio de Janeiro – and only a few hours after his arrival in Grytviken he died. His wife asked that her husband be buried in South Georgia and he was laid to rest in Grytviken cemetery.

Shackleton's grave at Grytviken prior to the raising of a granite stone there in 1928 (Salvesen Archive, Photographs Envelope 34)

Shackleton’s grave at Grytviken prior to the raising of a granite stone there in 1928 (Salvesen Archive, 2nd tranche, Photographs Envelope 34)

Afterword:

A memorial bust to the Chilean officer ‘Piloto Pardo’ (Luis Pardo Villalón) was later erected on Elephant Island and, today, visiting ships on the Antarctic cruise circuit frequently stop close to it.

The James Caird was shipped to Liverpool arriving in December 1919. Today it is preserved at Dulwich College, London (Shackleton was an ‘Old Alleynian’ of Dulwich College).

Dr. Graeme D. Eddie, Centre for Research Collections, CRC, Edinburgh University Library

Playfair Revealed

The architect William Henry Playfair was born in Russell Square, London, July 1789. On the death of his father, Playfair was sent to reside with his uncle in Edinburgh. Professor John Playfair, mathematician and geologist and a leading figure in the Edinburgh Enlightenment, took control of his nephew’s education. Following his father’s profession, the young Playfair studied under William Starke of Glasgow. His first public appointment was the laying out of part of the New Town in Edinburgh in 1815.

Old College: Transverse section through southern range

University of Edinburgh (Old College): Transverse section through southern range

Then, after a visit to France in 1816, he established himself professionally by winning the commission in 1817 to complete the unfinished University buildings (leaving the front as designed by Robert and James Adam). He also designed the city’s Royal Terrace and Regent Terrace on the Calton Hill estate; the unfinished National Monument on Calton Hill; and, the Royal Scottish Academy and the National Gallery on the Mound. While Playfair’s most important works in Edinburgh have been executed in the Greek revivalist or classical style – earning for Edinburgh the title of ‘Athens of the North’ – he was competent in other styles too. He designed New College for the ten newly established Free Church of Scotland, a jagged-lined rendering of the Gothic style. He also built country houses and mansions in the Italianate and Tudor styles.

Playfair died in Edinburgh after a long illness on 27 May 1857. His Trustees donated his drawings to the University the following year.

Containing over 5,000 drawings, and with largely only a typescript catalogue of the briefest of descriptions, the collection presents many challenges. Despite these it is one of our most frequently consulted collections. As part of our move to ArchivesSpace, we managed to get a the overarching structure of the catalogue keyed and online.

Late last year we hosted a very productive seminar on Playfair, where academics, curators and others discussed Playfair, the collection and issues around both. This month sees the start of a project where we have two architecture students on placement who are going to make a detailed study of a subset of the drawings, identifying key information within them. This will be both general information (e.g. date, scale, type of drawing etc.) and also detail more specific to Playfair and the buildings. This will allow us to both improve the existing catalogue almost immediately and also draft an overarching schema for cataloguing the collection as a whole. This will then allow us to more accurately estimate the resource that would be required.

Due to both the arrangement of the collection and familiarity (at least to some degree) with the building in question, the project will focus on drawings of Old College. We began with drawings covering the west range and south-west corner. These originally housed Chemistry, Practice of Physic and the Natural History Museum and, even at first glance, the drawings are yielding all sorts of information, such as Playfair’s work pattern – he was generally producing one drawing per day. He also produced a number of detailed drawings at 1:1 scale. There is also much evidence of his innovative use of structural iron work.

This project is a collaboration with Dr Richard Anderson (School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture), whose students, Federica and Xue, are contributing their expertise to a fascinating exploration of one of our most treasured collections.

Illustrations of ceramic vessels used in the Japanese Tea Ceremony, or ‘chanoyu’

RECENT ACQUISITION OF 19th CENTURY ILLUSTRATED JAPANESE CALLIGRAPHIC MANUSCRIPT

BandRecently arrived in to the holdings of the Centre for Research Collections (CRC) is this profusely illustrated manuscript devoted to the ceramic vessels used in the chanoyu or Japanese Tea Ceremony.

Labels to the 4-volume Japanese ms (Coll-1693)

Labels to the 4-volume Japanese ms (Coll-1693)

The tea ceremony, also called the ‘way of tea’ is a Japanese cultural activity involving the ceremonial preparation and presentation of powdered green tea (matcha). Zen Buddhisim was a primary influence in the development of the ceremony and the art and manner in which it is performed.

Bird illustrated in the ms showing illustrations of ceramic vessels (Coll-1693)

Bird illustrated in the ms showing illustrations of ceramic vessels (Coll-1693)

Tea gatherings are classified as: an informal tea gathering or chakai, offering a relatively simple course of hospitality that includes confections, thin tea, and perhaps a light meal; and a formal tea event chaji, usually including a full-course meal followed by confections, thick tea, and thin tea. A chaji can last several hours.

Ceramic vessel illustrated in the Japanese ms (Coll-1693)

Ceramic vessel illustrated in the Japanese ms (Coll-1693)

Some of the utensils used in the ceremony were: kogo – small ceramic or wooden containers used to hold pieces of incense, with their use varying with the seasons (wooden ones holding the chips of incense wood for summer ceremonies, ceramic ones holding kneaded incense in winter ceremonies); and, cha ire – tea container.

Ceramic vessel illustrated in the Japanese ms (Coll-1693)

Ceramic vessel illustrated in the Japanese ms (Coll-1693)

The four volumes comprising the illustrated ms on paper – and dated at circa 1850-1865 – are entitled: Ko Bon Zu-e Ko, and Meibutsu Chajin Zu-e. These are volumes containing c. 188 watercolour illustrative diagrams of regional or speciality utensils – ceramic vessels or tea caddies – for students of the tea ceremony, chajin, and illustrations of incense trays and boxes.

Label on the rather worn silk-covered folding slipcase (coll-1693)

Label on the rather worn silk-covered folding slipcase (coll-1693)

The volumes are gathered in a cover which holds the label: Japanese manuscript (4 illustrated Vols) on Pottery (Kogo and Cha-Ire) of the Cha-No-Yu or Tea Ceremony.

Ceramic vessel illustrated in the Japanese ms (Coll-1693)

Ceramic vessel illustrated in the Japanese ms (Coll-1693)

The text and images of three volumes are on both sides of concertina-bound paper. The volumes are stitched in silk covered wrappers with ms labels to the upper covers.

Ceramic vessel illustrated in the Japanese ms (Coll-1693)

Ceramic vessel illustrated in the Japanese ms (Coll-1693)

Dr. Graeme D. Eddie, Assistant Librarian Archives & Manuscripts, Centre for Research Collections

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Note: this blog-post was constructed using the sales literature, information on the item, and a number of relevant websites.

Hugh MacDiarmid introduces Lewis Grassic Gibbon (John Leslie Mitchell 1901-1935), author of ‘Sunset Song’, to publisher Stanley Nott

FROM LETTERS IN THE HUGH MACDIARMID (C. M. GRIEVE) COLLECTIONS HERE AT EDINBURGH

BandDuring this 80th anniversary of his early death, a new film adaptation of Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon is to be released on 4 December 2015. Lewis Grassic Gibbon was the pseudonym of James Leslie Mitchell who was born in Auchterless in February 1901.

Band2Mitchell was raised in Arbuthnott, Kincardineshire, and in his teens he started work as a journalist with the Aberdeen Journal (which would later become the Press and Journal) and also for the Scottish Farmer.  In 1919 he joined the Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) and then in 1920 he joined the Royal Air Force (RAF). In 1925 he married and settled in Welwyn Garden City. He wrote a number of works under both his real name and his pseudonym before dying in his 30s of peritonitis brought on by a perforated ulcer – in February 1935.

Letter from Grieve to Stanley Nott (Grieve Coll-18)

Letter from Grieve to Stanley Nott (Grieve Coll-18)

His earliest writing is described in a  letter from Christopher M. Grieve (Hugh MacDiarmid) to Charles Stanley Nott (1887-1978) author, publisher and translator, in what reads almost like a letter of introduction. The letter is dated 19 October 1933, and was written from Whalsay, Shetland.

Letter from Grieve to Nott (Coll-18)

Letter from Grieve to Nott (Grieve, Coll-18)

Grieve writes to ‘My dear Stanley’:

I’ve suggested to a friend of mine that he should call in and make your acquaintance. He is a young Scottish Writer, J. Leslie Mitchell, who has published histories of Mexican antiquities etc but also novels and imaginative romances over his own name, the latest being an historical novel…

Letter from Grieve to Nott (Coll-18)

Letter from Grieve to Nott (Grieve, Coll-18)

When referring to ‘histories of Mexican antiquities’, Grieve may have been pointing towards The Conquest of the Maya (1934). The historical novel mentioned was Spartacus which had been ‘well reviewed’ in the Times Literary Supplement, and which had been written under his own name, J. Leslie Mitchell.

Letter from Grieve to Nott (Coll-18)

Letter from Grieve to Nott (Grieve, Coll-18)

Grieve goes on:

…over the name Lewis Grassic Gibbon he has lately scored a great success with ‘Sunset Song’ and ‘Cloud Howe’, the first two volumes of a trilogy of novels…

Letter from Grieve to Nott (Coll-18)

Letter from Grieve to Nott (Grieve, Coll-18)

At the time of this correspondence to Nott – October 1933 – Grieve tells us that Mitchell’s publishers ‘are Jarrold’s, and Faber and Faber for a biography of the explorer, Mungo Park’, and that Mitchell and he ‘are collaborating in a miscellany on Scotland’. The Mungo Park work in question was Niger: The Life of Mungo Park (1934), and  the collaborative work by Grieve and Mitchell was Scottish scene (also 1934).

Letter from Grieve to Nott (Coll-18)

Letter from Grieve to Nott (Grieve, Coll-18)

During these Whalsay years – island life in east Shetland – Grieve then writes:

Excuse haste. This is just being dashed off in time to catch the mail-boat […] Yours C.M.G.

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Dr. Graeme D. Eddie, Assistant Librarian Archives and Manuscripts, Centre for Research Collections (Special Collections)

 

William Henry Playfair, architect

William Henry Playfair

William Henry Playfair

On 2 Nov 2015, the CRC hosted a seminar which looked at the figure of William Henry Playfair (1790-1857), discussing his life and work and looking in some detail at a range of architectural drawings which had been selected from our collection.

John Playfair

John Playfair

Playfair was born was born in Russell Square, London, July 1789. On the death of his father, architect James Playfair, he was sent to reside with his uncle in Edinburgh. Professor John Playfair, mathematician and geologist and a leading figure in the Edinburgh Enlightenment, took control of his nephew’s education. Following his father’s profession, the young Playfair studied under William Starke of Glasgow. Following Starke’s death in 1813, Playfair moved to London where he worked in the offices of James Wyatt and Robert Smirke, returning to Edinburgh in 1816.

He established himself professionally by winning the commission in 1817 to complete the unfinished University buildings (leaving the front as designed by Robert and James Adam). He also designed the city’s Royal Terrace and Regent Terrace on the Calton

College of Edinburgh Transverse Section if the Southern Buildings

College of Edinburgh Transverse Section of the Southern Buildings

Hill estate; the unfinished National Monument on Calton Hill; and, the Royal Scottish Academy and the National Gallery on the Mound. While Playfair’s most important works in Edinburgh have been executed in the Greek revivalist or classical style – earning for Edinburgh the title of ‘Athens of the North’ – he was competent in other styles too. He designed New College for the ten newly established Free Church of Scotland, a jagged-lined rendering of the Gothic style. He also built country houses and mansions in the Italianate and Tudor styles.

The discussion in the seminar was not structured in any major way but flowed directly from looking at the drawings we had selected to view.  Alongside the physical drawings, we also looked at digitised ones, using the complement of both to do things which one or other could not do alone.

With over 5000 to choose from, electing the drawings was never going to be an easy task.  However we settled on one or more drawings relating to the following of Playfair’s projects:

  • College of Edinburgh
  • Royal Observatory
  • Dollar Academy
  • Blenheim Place
  • Elm Row
  • Royal Institution
  • Royal Institution Additions
  • National Monument
  • Royal College of Surgeons
  • Stewart Monument
  • Donaldson’s Hospital
  • New College Edinburgh

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