Monday, 31 March 2014

Alan Ayckbourn: “Ever since I tried to retire things have got busier”

There was an interesting article in the Guardian this weekend about the dramatist Alan Ayckbourn, his long career and the revival of one of his plays at the National Theatre. 

The Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, where Ayckbourn was Artistic Director from 1972 to 2009.
Scarborough: Stephen Joseph Theatre by Tobias Schiller. Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence.
The University of York acquired Alan Ayckbourn’s archive in 2011 - it contains thousands of pages of material, including original manuscripts, handwritten drafts and plot diagrams, as well as photographs and a collection of letters “that reads like a Who’s Who of theatre”. Speaking at the announcement of the archive’s accession Sir Alan said:
“The archive is really about the writing process. The old method was my wife, Heather, at an old typewriter with me dictating from my handwritten notes. I always like to go to bed with a tidy script and, in the old days, I would trawl back through several pages of typing and blot things out with tippex or cover my scripts with arrows.
“I realised that what I was learning from others and from experience was valuable and I wanted to chronicle it. I hope the Archive is an extension of this. I think the Archive will be a fertile ground for ideas and inspire people to write.” University of York News and Events, 27 June 2011
The material is held in the Samuel Storey Writing and Performance Collection within the Borthwick Institute for Archives. More information on the collection and on the Alan Ayckbourn Archive Education project is available from the Borthwick’s website or by contacting them directly.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas…

Receiving a new gift collection into the library always feels a little bit like Christmas - you unpack it with hope and excitement that it will have all kinds of wonderful items in it… 

And so it was when we first unpacked the book collection that was given to the University of York by the York Museums Trust last year. We were not disappointed!

The collection of approximately 5000 items, which was previously located at York Art Gallery, was transferred to the Morrell Library in Spring 2013. Library staff are currently adding the collection to stock with completion by Spring 2015.

All photos are by Paul Shields, the University Photographer, and are used by permission.
Click on any of them to enlarge the image.

The subjects covered by the collection range from woodcuttings to Warhol, sculpture to sign-painting, and from Hogarth to Hepworth; they will undoubtedly enhance the breadth and quality of the art related stock available at York.

We want to keep you informed of our progress and to highlight some of the items which interest and excite us as we add them to stock. It is a great additional resource for the Library and we want to make sure that our users are fully aware of the collection and can take advantage of the wealth of material it offers, so keep an eye on this blog for updates.

You can also check on our progress by simply searching through YorSearch using the Advanced Search option - selecting Provenance and entering York City Art Gallery.

All photos are by Paul Shields, the University Photographer, and are used by permission.
Click on any of them to enlarge the image.

Ruth Elder,
Collection Space Management Co-ordinator

Monday, 24 March 2014

Judging a book by its cover

Nowadays many books are produced with a ‘perfect’ binding where the pages are stuck to the spine and invariably split open as soon as any pressure is applied. They are still the common book shape we are all familiar with but they are very different to books printed before 1801. Until the early 19th century bindings were all made by hand, so each one is unique.

There are a number of beautiful bindings in the Special Collections and among the best are those created by the Edwards’ workshop in Halifax, Yorkshire.

Image of book front cover
All photos by Paul Shields, used by permission
William Edwards (1722-1808) was the founder of a firm of book sellers and book binders. He had four sons, all of whom followed him into the business, and they made English bookbinding world famous. Edwards’ bindings are still much sought after and the Special Collections hold five of them.

What makes them special is a technique devised by the Edwards’ to make vellum clear. Vellum is untreated animal skin, the same thing that parchment is made out of, and it is normally opaque. At the Edwards bindery the vellum was soaked in pearl ash solution which bleached the vellum and made it transparent. Once treated, images could be painted on the underside of the vellum protecting the picture from dirt and scratches. There are a limited number of designs on Edwards’ books so presumably customers would choose from a book of models.

It is easy to spot Edwards’ books, even without the translucent binding, as they often use the same Grecian influenced design in the border known as metopes and pentaglyphs. Metopes are the concentric circles, and pentaglyphs the lozenges grouped in five.

Also found in Special Collections are some brass tools from the bindery.

Image of Binding tools in Special Collections
Binding tools - click to enlarge
Image of ornate book spine in Special Collections
Spine with gold lettering - click to enlarge
These would have been used to press letters and numbers onto the books. As you can see from the spine, these letters would have been in gold. The tools would be heated and then pressed onto the spine with gold leaf in-between the tool and the spine.

The Edwards’ firm also produced high quality foredge paintings. These were beautifully executed pictures painted on the edge of the book that could only be seen when the pages were fanned out. Ancient ruins and English countryside scenes were popular, and the Edwards’ often used Fountains Abbey.

By adding a foredge painting to an already expensive binding and pink silk linings to the inside of the covers, the firm of Edwards’ were creating the ultimate luxury item for an 18th-century bibliophile.

Image of book foredge with miniature painting
Many other bindings from the Special Collections are on display until 2 May 2014 in the corridor of the Harry Fairhurst building, ground floor.

Please contact the Special Collections Librarian Sarah Griffin for more information.

All photos are by Paul Shields, the University Photographer, and are used by permission. Click on any of them to enlarge the image.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Germaine Greer at the York Literature Festival

Photo by Maggie Hannan. Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence
Germaine Greer is one of the twentieth century’s iconic figures, and she is proving to be a big draw card for this year’s York Literature Festival.

It will be interesting to note the demographic of Greer’s audience tonight (Thursday 20 March). Will someone who was at her most influential in the 1970s still be considered relevant today? Only the other day a colleague referred to her as ‘that woman off Celebrity Big Brother’.

But is she not still relevant?

2013 was lambasted in online articles and videos as 'the year the media failed women’. Greer’s art has always been social and political commentary, so perhaps she is the barometer by which we can measure how far we've actually come?

The Female Eunuch took the 1970s western world by storm; the internet is littered with stories of wives hiding copies in their shoes, and of dinner parties erupting into argument as the ‘little women’ fought back. Today the battle seems less domestic. The imprisonment of Pussy Riot and the Everyday Sexism Project are harsh reminders that women’s lib is far from, well, liberated. With this in mind, Greer’s talk tonight on The Disappearing Woman seems not only relevant, but hugely necessary.

With Germaine Greer appearing in York, perhaps now would be a good time to pick up a copy of The Female Eunuch (JBM Library D 1.433 GRE) and judge for yourself?

Clea Grady
Communications and Marketing Officer

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Welcome to our blog

Well, this is exciting. My first ever blog post, and the first post of the Information Directorate’s new blog. Probably the only time I’ll ever get a double first.

We’ve launched this blog to supplement our existing channels of information; in addition to our website, you can already find us on Twitter and Facebook:
We’d like to use the blog for less formal information to give you a more detailed glimpse at the work we do, and at the interests and preoccupations of our colleagues.

The Information Directorate comprises Library, IT and Archives - our starting point for this blog is with posts from the Library side, but we intend to post from an IT viewpoint too from the summer onwards. Our friends at the Borthwick Institute for Archives have cunningly already launched their own blog, well established at:

Our next post will be with you in just a day or two, offering a personal take on Germaine Greer’s appearance at the York Literature Festival. Subjects that we plan to cover over the coming months include some highlights of the collection recently gifted to us by the York Art Gallery, an insight into the book-binding exhibition currently on display in the Fairhurst building, World Book Night, and the centenary of the First World War.

We hope you’ll be back to join us again - in the meantime, please have a read through some of our favourite blogs, highlighted at the right of this page.

Joanne Casey
Communications & Marketing Manager