THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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Sharing stories from the past, worldwide

22 February 2018

Mr Robertson and the Great Stupa at Amaravati

In the British Museum’s Asahi Shimbun Gallery there is a permanent display of sculptures from Amaravati Stupa. These beautifully carved limestone sculptures originally surrounded a massive Buddhist monument in Andhra Pradesh, India. It was constructed between the 3rd Century BC and the 3rd Century AD. When Buddhism’s popularity in southern India went into decline, the Great Stupa at Amaravati became disused, and was eventually abandoned.

1 Asahi Shimbun GalleryThe recently reopened Asahi Shimbun Gallery in the British Museum. Noc

In 1816-17 a British survey team excavated Amaravati Stupa’s remains, and in 1859, 121 of the stupa’s sculpted stones were shipped to the British Museum. What few people realise is that some unusual things happened to these precious sculptures in the four decades between these two events.

 2a IMG_1743King standing with attendants -  in the Asahi Shimbun Gallery.Noc

2b WD1061f13largeKing standing with attendants - drawing taken during the 1816/17 excavation. WD1061, f.13.Noc

2c photo958 23b detailKing standing with attendants - photograph by Linnaeus Tripe taken at Madras in 1856, before it was sent to London. Photo 958/(23b). Noc

Francis W. Robertson was the East India Company’s Assistant Collector at Masulipatam from 1817 to 1819. Masulipatam was the closest seaport to Amaravati, and Robertson knew the man in charge of the stupa’s excavation in 1816-17. Together, they made plans to beautify Masulipatam’s market place by building a monument out of Amaravati sculptures.

The resulting monument, known locally as “Robertson’s Mound”, was probably completed in around 1819. It attracted virtually no outside attention until 1830, when the Governor of Madras, Sir Frederic Adam, paid a visit to Masulipatam. Adam wanted to establish a museum in Madras Presidency, and upon seeing Robertson’s Mound in the market place, he gave orders for it to be dismantled so the sculptures could be deposited in the new museum, once it was created.

3a IMG_1741Horse walking through gate - in the Asahi Shimbun Gallery. Noc

3b WD1061f28largeHorse walking through gate - drawing taken during the 1816/17 excavation. WD1061, f.28. Noc

3c photo958 32b detailHorse walking through gate - photograph by Linnaeus Tripe taken at Madras in 1856, before it was sent to London-  Photo 958/(32a). Noc

Over 20 years later, the Madras Government Museum was finally established. In 1854 the stones from Robertson’s Mound, along with some other sculptures from Amaravati, were sent to Madras. 121 of them were sent to the British Museum in 1859. By looking at drawings, photographs and other documentation in the British Library, one can identify which of the British Museum’s 121 Amaravati sculptures were part of Robertson’s Mound. One can also ascertain the condition of these sculptures before and after they were attached to this curious and short-lived monument.

4a IMG_1759Man and woman standing next to a horse - in the Asahi Shimbun Gallery. Noc

4b WD1061f31largeMan and woman standing next to a horse - drawing taken during the 1816/17 excavation. WD1061, f.31.Noc

4c photo958 31 detailMan and woman standing next to a horse - photograph by Linnaeus Tripe taken at Madras in 1856, before it was sent to London. Photo 958/(31). Noc

Jennifer Howes
Art Historian specialising in South Asia

Further reading:
Howes, Jennifer. “The Colonial History of Sculptures from Amaravati Stupa.”
In Hawkes, J. & Shimada, A. Buddhist Stupas in South Asia. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Taylor, William. On the Elliot Marbles. Madras: 1856. (BL, V9700)
Tripe, Linnaeus. Photographs of the Elliot Marbles. Madras: 1858-9. (BL, Photo 958)

 

20 February 2018

‘Conceal yourself, your foes look for you’: revealing a secret message in a piece of music

At the Battle of Worcester in 1651, Charles Stuart (later Charles II) unsuccessfully tried to reclaim the throne lost through the execution of his father Charles I. He was forced into retreat to avoid capture, and whilst on the run from Cromwell’s New Model Army he stopped at Boscobel House. When the patrols came looking for him, Charles concealed himself in the nearby woods by hiding in a tree, known today as The Royal Oak.

A manuscript newly acquired by the British Library claims to be a coded message passed to Charles at Boscobel by an unnamed lady, warning him of his imminent danger. A small sheet of music which, when folded correctly, reveals the message ‘Conceal yourself your foes look for you’ (Add MS 89288).

Add MS 89288 image 1
Add MS 89288

The manuscript ended up in the hands of John Port, who said he came into possession of it through his wife, a lady-in-waiting to Queen Charlotte, wife of George III. Port lived out his life in Portland, Dorset after losing the family fortune and left the manuscript in the hands of his landlord, William White.

Also in the British Library is a 19th-century copy of this message (Add MS 45850, f. 68). This manuscript names the author of the message as Jane Lane, who helped Charles escape England by disguising him as her servant.

Image 2 Add MS 45850 f 68
Add MS 45850, f. 68

However, this is not the only story of this code’s origin. Elsewhere, the same cryptograph is said to have been passed to other historical figures.

Walter William Rouse Ball, a mathematician at Trinity College, Cambridge, used a version of the message in his book ‘Mathematical Recreations and Essays’ as an example of a cryptograph.

Image 3
W. W. Rouse Ball, Mathematical Recreations and Essays, 4th Edition (MacMillan and Co., 1911), p. 403 ( 8507.e.35.)

He reports that this was a message to Prince Charles Edward (also known as The Young Pretender and Bonnie Prince Charlie) after the Battle of Culloden, although the author points out, ‘…of the truth of the anecdote I know nothing, and the desirability of concealing himself must have been so patent that it was hardly necessary to communicate it by a cryptograph’.

Another version of this code was apparently given to Napoleon Bonaparte ‘At a period when the Emperor was surrounded by Spies & pretended Friends who had combined with his enemies to betray him’.

Image 4
h.127.(1.)

Published in 1830, this facsimile purports to be reproduced from the original held by the Emperor’s son, the Duke of Reichstadt. It claims, when presented with the note, Napoleon ‘…with his usual penetration instantly solved the Enigma & carelessly remarking “Tis pretty Air to caper to” immediately removed to a place of safety’. Why a French soldier would present the French Emperor with a coded message in English we are not informed.

Whilst it may not be possible to verify the true origins of this message, all these items are now available to be viewed in the British Library Reading Rooms for you to make up your own minds.

Stephen Noble
Cataloguer, Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Further reading:

Readers of this blog may be interested in this forthcoming publication, which discusses the cryptograph: Nadine Akkerman, Invisible Agents: Women and Espionage in Seventeenth-Century Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018)

16 February 2018

Fashion fit for a suffragette procession

White attire detailFebruary includes London Fashion Week and marks the centenary of the Representation of the People Act which gave some women aged 30 or over the right to vote. Suffragette purchasing-power provides an unexpected link between the world of fashion and the fight for women’s right to vote.

In early June 1911, fashion purchasing-power was highlighted as a weapon to be deployed in the struggle to achieve women’s suffrage. Suffragists and suffragettes were preparing for a procession to highlight their cause on 17 June during the Coronation of George V. They were asked to wear white when they took part in this procession.

  Whet Your Weapon article 02-06-1911 cropped                               

 

 Votes for Women, 02 June 1911

 

 

 

Readers of the weekly newspaper, Votes for Women, which was edited by Frederick and Emmeline Pethick Lawrence, were urged to buy their outfits from firms that advertised there. ‘If they find it pays them to advertise in VOTES FOR WOMEN they will advertise – if they find it doesn’t, they won’t. The more money that flows into the coffers of our advertisement department the better our paper can be made, the wider its influence reaches. Therefore let every woman who believes in this cause never enter a shop that does not advertise in VOTES FOR WOMEN, and let her deal exclusively with those firms that do, and inform them why.’

Women who obeyed this call to arms would have had a good choice of items to ensure a suitably modish appearance during the procession. Advertisers enticed them with pictures of dresses, dainty blouses, charming hats, smart coats and hair care products. The procession through London from Westminster to the Albert Hall comprised around 60,000 women from around the world carrying 1,000 banners and stretched for seven miles. One hopes that they also bought the comfortable shoes on offer!

 

   March route detail

                                  Votes for Women, 16 June 1911

 The advertisements below, taken from Votes for Women 1911, give an idea of the heights of elegance that might be achieved.

Charming hats 09-06-1911  

Universal Hair detail

The fashions of the day generally required a good corset. It is fascinating to see how Mesdames I&L Hammond developed their advertisement for their corsets, garments that might now be regarded as instruments of female oppression, to appeal more strongly to suffragettes.

Corset Hammond detail 1

  Corset detail 19-05-1911 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The advertisement on the left comes from Votes for Women for 21 April 1911. The advertisement on the right, from Votes for Women for 26 May 1911, shows how the company had developed its marketing strategy to be in tune with the suffragette cause.

The British Library's Votes for Women online resource highlights many more treasures in the collections that tell the story of the campaign for women's suffrage.

Penny Brook
Head of India Office Records

Further reading
Votes for Women online resource
Votes for Women, 1911
https://www.findmypast.co.uk/suffragettes/

Untold Lives blogs relating to women's suffrage
Indian Princess in Suffragette March
Emily Wilding Davison: Perpetuating the Memory 
Lord Curzon's Anti-suffrage Appeal
Christmas Crackers and Women's Suffrage
The Women's Co-operative Guild


Untold Lives blogs relating to fashion
Knitting a shower-proof golf coat
Thomas Bowrey's Cloth Samples 
Muslins, Kincobs and Choli Cloths 
Was 'water rat' the new black in 1697?