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103 posts categorized "Arts and crafts"

30 November 2017

The journal and drawings of Mary Emma Walter

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Mary Emma Walter’s journal and album of drawings in the India Office Private Papers are two of my favourite collection items.   The illustrated journal describes the voyage to India and her life as an army officer’s wife.  Letters sent to her mother in England have been copied in. The album contains pictures of views, flowers, people, and objects.

Mary Emma was born on 23 July 1816, the daughter of James Battin Coulthard and his wife Mary née Lee. The family lived in Alton, Hampshire, where James served as a magistrate for many years.  On 3 January 1838 Mary Emma married Edward Walter, an officer in the East India Company’s Bombay Light Cavalry, who was on furlough in England.  The journal starts with the couple’s journey back to India in October 1838, travelling via France and Egypt.

   Lyons 1838Lyons 1838 - India Office Private Papers MSS Eur B265/1

  Cairo 1838A street in Cairo 1838  - India Office Private Papers MSS Eur B265/1

The journal gives a fascinating insight into the Walters’ life as the regiment moved around India.  Mary Emma arrived at their new station at Deesa on 15 September 1839 and must have been heavily pregnant throughout the strenuous journey - she tells us that she was ‘unexpectedly confined with a little girl’ three days later.  She left her room on 23 September and resumed her usual amusements, including playing the piano. 

Walter bungalow DeesaThe Walter bungalow at Deesa - India Office Private Papers MSS Eur B265/1

Unusual events such as an earthquake in April 1840 are described amongst the details of the Walter family’s daily routine. Mary Emma records how her baby was vaccinated against smallpox and how the child lost weight when suffering from the heat.

Mary Emma drew pictures of everyday life in India, both people and objects...

AyahAyah - India Office Private Papers MSS Eur B265/1

  Bullock cartBullock cart - India Office Private Papers MSS Eur B265/1

  CarpenterCarpenter - India Office Private Papers MSS Eur B265/1

  Pungi muscial instrumentPungi - India Office Private Papers MSS Eur B265/1

….and buildings and their decorations -

Syed's tomb SukkurSyed’s Tomb at Sukkur - India Office Private Papers MSS Eur B265/1
 

Tiles - SukkurTiles at Sukkur - India Office Private Papers MSS Eur B265/1

…and many beautiful botanical specimens.

Botanical 4India Office Private Papers MSS Eur B265/1

  Botancial 1India Office Private Papers MSS Eur B265/1

  Botanical 3 India Office Private Papers MSS Eur B265/1
         

By the time Mary Emma and Edward took leave to England in 1843, they had two daughters - Emma Frances and Louisa. Two more girls, Mary and Alice, were born during their stay and both were baptised at Bishopstoke in Hampshire.

  Bishopstoke HantsBishopstoke in Hampshire - India Office Private Papers MSS Eur B265/1

Edward returned to India in December 1846, but Mary Emma stayed on until October 1847 and then travelled back to Bombay with Alice.  Her three other daughters stayed on in England and were educated on the Isle of Wight. A fifth daughter Gertrude was born at Sholapore in 1849.

Mary Emma Walter died at Neemuch on 30 October 1850 aged only 34. She was buried there the following day by the splendidly named Assistant Chaplain, Hyacinth Kirwan.  Edward retired from the Bombay Army in 1851 and returned to England. He married Caroline Janetta Bignell in 1853. The 1861 census shows Edward and Caroline living on the Isle of Wight with their two young sons Herbert and Edward, four of Mary Emma’s daughters, a governess, and five servants. Edward senior died on 10 December 1862. 

Eldest daughter Emma Frances Walter had married Julius Barge Yonge in 1858.  In 1871 her sisters Alice and Gertrude were living with her. Gertrude suffered from chronic rheumatism.  In 1873 Gertrude moved into the home of Julius’s sister, the well-known novelist Charlotte Mary Yonge.  She acted as Charlotte’s secretary/companion until her death in 1897.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Journal and album of Mary Emma Walter (1816-1850) India Office Private Papers MSS Eur B265/1-2
Article on Charlotte Mary Yonge (1823-1901) by Elisabeth Jay in the Dictionary of National Biography

 

27 October 2017

Paper bag reveals forgotten history

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This 130 year old paper bag reveals that Indian sweetmeats were being sold in London in the late 19th century, much earlier than most people would expect. This lovely piece of ephemera is one of my favourite items in Connecting Stories: Our British Asian Heritage, an exhibition at the Library of Birmingham until 04 November. It is one of many items in the exhibition that illuminate the forgotten story of early South Asian influences on British life and culture.
  Item 29 Evan.9195 paper bag
Evan.9195

The paper bag is at the British Library thanks to the enthusiasms of Henry Evans, a conjuror and ventriloquist, who performed under the stage name ‘Evanion’. He collected this bag as well as posters, advertisements, trade cards and catalogues which give lively insights into popular entertainment and everyday life in the late 19th century. Connecting Stories also features this beautiful poster which gives more details of the Indian themed entertainments on offer at Langham Place – snake charmers, wrestlers and dancers known as nautch girls.

Item 28 Evan.2591 India in London
Evan.2591

A review in The Era newspaper for 16 January 1886 tells us that this ‘exhibition of Indian arts, industries and amusements’ was held under the auspices of Lord Harris, Under Secretary of State for India. The entertainments included a pageant representing the durbar or levée of an Indian potentate. The reviewer was most derogatory about this, complaining bitterly that he could not understand it because it was conducted in Indian languages. He was also unimpressed by the music, declaring that a performer on a tom-tom ‘rapped away like an undertaker on a coffin’! He was much more enthusiastic about a silent comedy sketch and the arts and crafts on display. The reviewer instructs his readers that ‘visitors to India in London should not leave without tasting the quaint Indian sweetmeats made at a stall in the gallery’ which may have been the treats destined for the paper bag at the British Library.

Despite being held under the auspices of the Under Secretary of State for India, all was not well with the organisation of the entertainments at Langham Place. The St. James’s Gazette for 19 February 1886 discloses that Mr W S Rogers of the India in London exhibition was charged with ‘having kept open that building as a place of public resort without first having complied with the requirements of the Metropolitan Board of Works’. Furthermore, it was ‘unfitted for the reception of the public with due regard to their safety from fire, and that the real and only remedy was to pull down the building and erect a new one.’ He was fined £50. Concerns for health and safety evidently came to London earlier than one might have imagined, as well as Indian sweetmeats.

Connecting Stories with logos

Exhibition details are on the Library of Birmingham website 

Penny Brook
India Office Records

Further reading
Evanion catalogue  
British Newspaper Archive 
Asians in Britain web pages

Untold Lives blogs about Connecting Stories:
Connecting Stories: Our British Asian Heritage 
Miss Jenny the cheetah visits England 

 

 

10 October 2017

Advice for ladies in India

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In 1847 a book called Real Life in India by ‘An Old Resident’ offered advice to British ladies going to live in India. This covered clothing, equipment for the voyage, household management, and ways of passing the time.

European young lady's toilet

From William Tayler, Sketches Illustrating the Manners & Customs of the Indians & Anglo Indians (London, 1842) Noc

A long list of essentials for the voyage was provided.  Women were told to take dozens of chemises, nightgowns, petticoats, ‘cambric trousers’, handkerchiefs, towels, stockings, and gloves, together with fourteen dresses of different sorts, bonnets  shoes, one warm cloak, and six mosquito sleeping drawers.  Other necessities included bedding, table linen, shoe ribbons, haberdashery, hair brushes and combs, tooth brushes and powder, soap, perfume, stationery and books, candles, and a supply of Bristol water and soda.  A considerable amount of cabin furniture was recommended: couch, swinging cot, chest of drawers, bookcase, chairs, looking glass, lamp, foot-bath, waterproof trunks, and air-tight cases for dresses.

India - ladies' equipment

 From Real Life in India by An Old Resident (London, 1847)   Noc

On first arrival in India, ladies were advised to consult friendly females about the management of domestic affairs.  The ‘Old Resident’ pointed out that a British woman who had been accustomed to performing various household duties would be surprised to find that in India there was nothing for her to do. Everything would be done by the domestic staff. The day’s supplies were purchased by the khansuma (butler) at the market soon after day-break.  Shopping, ‘a source of entertainment and economy in England’, was not an occupation for a lady in India.  An immediate supply of hams, cheeses, or pickles could be obtained by sending a peon with a note to the local store.  Only preparations for the gaieties of the cool season gave ladies an excuse to venture out to visit the milliner or jeweller for new finery.

Ladies could combat the lassitude caused by the Indian climate by reading, painting, music, needlework, intelligent conversation and occasional soirées, or taking a morning and evening promenade.  Our ‘Old Resident’ points out the danger of falling victim to ‘indolent habits and coarse indulgences’: ‘the sylph-like form and delicate features which distinguished the youth of her arrival, are rapidly exchanged for an exterior of which obesity and swarthiness are the prominent characteristics, and the bottle and the hookah become frequent and offensive companions’.

Painting and needlework equipment should be taken out from Britain. Silver knitting needles were best as steel ones tended to rust from the warmth of the hand.  Ladies who were accustomed to riding should take out saddles, bridles and a riding habit as prices were higher in India.

The author ends his chapter devoted to information for ‘the weaker sex’ with detailed advice about the care of pianos in India. He encouraged ladies to learn the art of tuning since piano tuners and instrument repairers were not found at every station in India. 

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

 

18 August 2017

Illuminations in celebration of the peace

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In 1814, after almost 20 years of war with France, Britain and the coalition forces defeated Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821). With the French leader exiled and the Hanoverian Kings marking 100 years of sovereignty, there was a lot to celebrate, and in the summer of 1814 London's parks played host to a scheme of spectacular entertainments. Free and available for all to enjoy, the events were depicted in brightly coloured prints, such as these examples from the King's Topographical Collection.

  MapsK_Top_26_7_y
John Fairburn (active 1789-1840), Description of the Grand National Jubilee, held in St James's, Hyde, and the Green Parks, on Monday 1st August, 1814, published by John Fairburn at Fountain Court, Minories, London, August 1 1814, etching and letterpress with hand-colouring, 430 x 335mm, Maps K.Top.26.7.y.

Arguably the most magnificent spectacle was the Temple of Concord, created in commemoration of peace treaties. The Temple was unveiled in a hugely theatrical show. It was initially concealed from view within the walls of a gothic castle, around which a mock siege was performed with cavalry, artillery and rockets. When the siege reached a dramatic climax the walls of the Castle were dilapidated to reveal the Temple in all its dazzling glory. Unveiling the Temple in this way was seen as highly symbolic of the transition from war to peace.

  MapsK_Top_26_7_bb

Thomas Palser (active 1803-43) ,The Fortress (which inclosed the Grand Pavilion) in the Green Park, with the ascent of the Balloon, published in London by Thomas Palser, 24 August 1814, etching and aquatint with hand-colouring, 29.2 x 40 cm, Maps K.Top.26.7.bb.

  MapsK_Top_26_7_gg

Thomas Palser (active 1803-43), The Grand Pavilion in the Green Park, published in London by Thomas Palser, 12 August, 1814, etching and aquatint with hand-colouring, 317 x 48.1 cm, Maps K.Top.26.7.gg.

The mastermind behind the Temple was Lieutenant Colonel Sir William Congreve (1772-1828), a rocket designer and Comptroller of the Royal Laboratory at Woolwich. He had served many campaigns throughout the Napoleonic War (1803-1815), and led a company known as the 'rocket brigade' at the Battle of Leipzig in 1813.

  MapsK_Top_26_7_ff

Matthew Dubourg (active 1806-1838) after John Heaviside Clark (approximately 1770-1863), The Revolving Temple of Concord Illuminated: as Erected in the Park in Celebration of the Glorious Peace of 1814, published Bond Street, London, August 12, 1814 by Edward Orme (1775-1848), aquatint and etching with hand-colouring, 260 x 384 mm, Maps K.Top.26.7.ff.

The Temple revolved so everybody could see its lavish decorations, rendered on semi-transparent fabric lit from behind with rows of oil lamps. Congreve had commissioned some of the nation's best artists like Thomas Stothard to design and paint allegorical scenes of these transparencies, each tableau praising 'the Triumph of England under the Regency'. Congreve had also designed a special type of firework, described by the magazine La Belle Assemblé as a rocket within which a 'world of smaller rockets' were contained so that as soon as it was discharged 'it bursts and flings aloft into the air innumerable parcels of flames, brilliant as the brightest stars'.

London's print sellers never missed an opportunity for business, so cheap and eye-catching prints like this would have been plentiful, and purchased as souvenirs for affordable sums at booths in the parks and print shops.

 

Over 500 views and maps from the King's Topographical Collection and other British Library holdings are available to view at https://www.bl.uk/picturing-places. Keep up to date with what's being discovered at: https://twitter.com/bl_prints.

Alice Rylance-Watson

29 June 2017

One green bottle… Jan Sobota’s book binding

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Good news! We have recently acquired this for the Library:

Sobota1

“A hip flask?” you may ask, incredulously.  Well, yes and no.

Let me explain.

What you’re actually looking at is a modern book binding by a man called Jan Sobota.  Sobota was born in Czechoslovakia in 1939 and grew up there during the Communist occupation.  He studied under a famous designer bookbinder called Karel Silenger in Pilzen and graduated from the School of Applied Arts in Prague in 1957.  In 1969 he was awarded the title of “Master of Applied Arts” in bookbinding and restoration by the Czech Minister of Culture.  Sobota died in 2012.

The restrictions of the Communist regime meant that Sobota couldn’t follow international developments in the fields of art and design for many years.  He struggled with a lack of inspiration until these restrictions were lifted and ideas came trickling, or rather flooding, in.  This was when Sobota started experimenting with creating book objects like the one we’ve just acquired for the Library.  These are three-dimensional, almost sculptural bindings that transform a book into a unique piece of art.  The book itself is housed securely inside the protective sculpture that also serves as a highly experimental, innovative way of expressing its contents.

So what book is contained within this object?  It’s a Czech translation of a book, first published in 1954, about an extraordinary ocean crossing.  Alain Bombard became famous in 1952 for allegedly drifting in a 15-foot rubber boat across the Atlantic, from the Canary Islands to Barbados, in 65 days.  He did this without provisions and relied solely upon fish, salt water and fluids squeezed from raw fish (disgusting, I know) to survive.

The flask itself is made from olive-green, crushed morocco (leather made from goatskin) and Alain Bombard’s initials are embossed on the front.  A note is tucked inside saying that it was made in 1979.  There is even a brown leather cork in the neck at the top of the bottle.

Why did Sobota choose this bottle shaped binding for Alain Bombard’s book?  Perhaps Sobota is wryly suggesting that Bombard should have brought something a little stronger along on his voyage.  It would have broken up the diet of salt water, fish and fish juices at least.  But maybe Sobota is being more whimsical than that.  Could it symbolise a traditional message in a bottle?  After all, Bombard was essentially stranded at sea for 65 days.  My favourite interpretation, however, is that Sobota believed Bombard must have been extremely inebriated to come up with such an insane idea in the first place!

Maddy Smith
Curator, Printed Heritage Collections

For more fascinating book-objects by Sobota - Jan Sobota

 

25 April 2017

William Close - “one deserving of remembrance”

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How does one describe a surgeon, apothecary, hydraulic engineer, inventor, antiquarian, musician, artist, author and editor who was also responsible for saving the lives of the children of his village?  However,  'a little slender man, very clever, but rather changeable... and one who devoted himself assiduously to his professional duties’  is the only contemporary comment which remains of Dr William Close (1797-1813).

The Furness peninsula at the turn of the 19th century provided an interesting environment for a man with Dr Close’s enquiring mind, and he supervised the medical welfare of a variety of people in that region, including agricultural labourers, miners, and factory workers.

Infectious diseases were inevitably rife, and the young were particularly vulnerable, so in 1799, only three years after the development of the vaccine against smallpox, Close inoculated all the poor children of the nearby village of Rampside at his own expense (despite not being a wealthy man).  Within five years, small pox was duly eradicated from the area.

Close 1

 This image is copied from one of Close’s engravings of Furness Abbey used to decorate the cover of The Antiquities of Furness.

Close was also interested in the history of his neighbourhood and was keen to record and preserve local landmarks for future generations. He illustrated and supplemented Thomas West’s The Antiquities of Furness (1805) from his house at 2 Castle Street, Dalton in Furness.  The building is now marked by a blue plaque

Close 2

 Plate indicating the improvements to trumpets suggested by Close reproduced from the Proceedings of the Barrow Naturalists Field Club.

Music, in particular the improvement of brass instruments, was another of Close’s passions.  Volume XVIII of Proceedings of The Barrow Naturalists’ Field Club gives a thorough account of his progress (though this perhaps somewhat over-estimates the lure of such a topic!).

Close was clearly a polymath, his interests ranging from methods of improving the permanency of black ink to the development of safer types of explosives and land drainage technology.  He gave evidence of his research in the form of detailed letters to journals of various kinds.

Sadly this far-seeing man died of tuberculosis on Sunday 27 June 1813, aged just 38.

P J M Marks
Curator of Bookbindings, Early Printed Collections

Further reading:
Damian Gardner-Thorpe, Christopher Gardner-Thorpe and John Pearn ‘William Close (1775-1813): medicine, music, ink and engines in the Lake District’ in Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 2004 Dec; 97(12): 599–602. 

Picturing Places - English Landscape Bindings by Philippa Marks

29 November 2016

A music examiner’s tour of India

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Amongst the India Office Private Papers at the British Library is the personal diary of Dr Charles MacPherson.  A fellow of the Royal Academy of Music, and organist at St Paul’s Cathedral from 1916 until his death in 1927, MacPherson published a number of musical works.  The Library holds the manuscript of his Solemn Thanksgiving Te Deum for orchestra and chorus composed for the service held at St Paul’s to celebrate the signing of the Treaty of Peace in July 1919.

 

  CM photo medium

Charles MacPherson  -India Office Private Papers MSS Eur A93 Noc

 

In the autumn of 1925 MacPherson undertook a tour of India and Ceylon as an examiner for the Associated Board of the Royal Academy and Royal College of Music.  His diary details the trials of travelling from town to town and his forthright opinions on just how foreign this nation and her people are to him, as well as moments of wonder at the beauty of the architecture or scenery.

Accompanied by his wife Sophie, MacPherson left Tilbury on 28 August 1925 bound for Bombay. The couple weren’t taken with the idea of a long voyage and ‘both thought the joys of seafaring overrated’.

MacPherson was keen to document any musical moments he encountered.  He described a ship’s officer playing the harmonium ‘whose left hand was greedy for more notes, that were always forthcoming though seldom possessing any connection with the “time-hand”’.  The crew and passengers formed a chorus, with MacPherson himself having to sing an octave lower than usual owing to laryngitis.

Arriving at Bombay on 18 September, MacPherson was immediately taken with the difference in appearance of the native people: ‘No two people looked or dressed alike …quaint old men wore white shirts, but outside of their lower garments. This custom would look odd in England with dress clothes!’

 

Darjeeling

John H Doyle, View from St Paul’s School Darjeeling (1870) Photo 27/(91) BL Online Gallery Noc


The musician then undertook a programme of examinations that kept him so busy that he even had to turn down an invitation of lunch from the Viceroy.  His schedule took him to St Paul's School in Darjeeling, the highest school in the world at 7,600ft above sea level. In Bombay he visited ‘a girl’s school, good piano, birds flying about in the room’.  He found the town of Hardwar unsettling because it was 'infested with monkies’, wondering that 'these dreadful beasties are counted as sacred'.

In Delhi MacPherson commented; 'The old buildings are things to be wondered at, and seem to belong to picture books rather than reality. Ancient India must have been truly a wondrous country'. In Mysore he notated wedding music: ‘a marriage procession headed by a band consisting of a hand-drum, a tambourine, a native trumpet, a kind of cornet and a bagpipe. The really fine thing was the rhythm maintained between the hand-drum and the tambourine - something like...’

  CM notation medium

India Office Private Papers MSS Eur A93 p.160 Noc

 

The MacPhersons continued onto Ceylon which they found, almost ‘Europe-like’ after India with the port ‘rather like Clacton-on- Sea, or a trifle less distinguished’.  Despite the tiring travels, the trip was deemed a success as he closed with ‘here ends the diary of a wonderful experience’.

Karen Waddell
Reference Specialist Cc-by

Further reading:
India Office Private Papers: Charles MacPherson Papers, MSS Eur A93
Solemn Thanksgiving Te Deum,  Charles MacPherson, Add MS 50776
The English Psalter ed. MacPherson, Bairstow & Buck (London, 1925) – 3089.a.5

 

16 June 2016

A dinosaur dinner and relics from 'one of the greatest humbugs, frauds and absurdities ever known'.

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These are the words which Colonel Charles Sibthorpe (1783-1855) used to describe the Great Exhibition and Crystal Palace. His staunch opposition to any foreign influence, including a deep suspicion of Prince Albert, was the likely cause of his dislike of the Exhibition, which housed 13,000  exhibits from around the world.

  DayandSon

Lithograph published by Day & Son, 1854, showing the Crystal Palace and Park in Sydenham. Add MS 50150. Cc-by

The British Library Modern Manuscripts Department owns two volumes of letters, ephemera and artwork relating to the Great Exhibition, the Crystal Palace and its life in Hyde Park and later in Sydenham, South London. The collection contains posters, letters, tickets, photographs, drawings, newspaper cuttings and advertisements.

One of my favourite items is a letter dated August 27 1862 from Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins (1807-1894) to Edward Trimmer (1827-1904), secretary to the Royal College of Surgeons.

Hawkins was the designer and sculptor of the models of extinct animals and dinosaurs which were commissioned to stand in the grounds of the Crystal Palace after its move to Sydenham. To celebrate the launch of the models, Hawkins hosted a dinner on 31 December, 1853, inside one of the dinosaur models.

  BaxterType

Baxter-type showing the dinosaurs at Crystal Palace, 1854. Add MS 50150. Cc-by

Trimmer had evidently asked Hawkins which dinosaur was the location of the supper party and Hawkins responded:

"In reply to your enquiry as to which of my models of the gigantic extinct animals in the Crystal Palace Park at Sydenham I had  converted into a sale á manger. I send you herewith a graphic answer in a miniature sketch of the Iguanodon as he appeared with his brains in and his belly full on the 31 of Decr 1853 and if you are further interested in the details of my whimsical feast you will find a good report in the London Illustrated News of July 7 1854 as its proprietor The late Mr Ingram was among the press of guests on that occasion; I had the pleasure of seeing around me many of the heads of science among whom in the head of the squadron was Professor Owen and the late Professor Ed forbes with eighteen other friends we were all very jolly to meet the new year 1854."

Hawkins' sketch of the Iguanodon shows a lively scene of people standing and raising glasses inside the body of the dinosaur.

Iguanodon

Detail of the dinner party held inside the Iguanodon, from Hawkins' letter to Trimmer, Add MS 50150. Cc-by

The drawing is similar in composition to the wood engraving from the Illustrated London News which was taken from an original drawing by Hawkins, and shows the dinosaur surrounded by a wooden platform and steps.

  ILN

 Wood engraving from the Illustrated London News, January 7 1854, showing 'Dinner in the Iguanodon Model, at the Crystal Palace, Sydenham'. Add MS 50150, f. 225. Cc-by

The dinosaurs remain in the Crystal Park today and are Grade I listed. There's a brilliant Friends of Crystal Palace Dinosaurs group who promote the long-term conservation of the models. A recent blog on the FCPD site shows images of the interior of the Iguanodon, the dinosaur in which Hawkins hosted his banquet.

Alexandra Ault, Curator, Manuscripts 1601-1850.