Untold lives blog

Sharing stories from the past, worldwide

154 posts categorized "Arts and crafts"

26 September 2023

Wonderful Rice

In 1928, Francis Graham Arnould retired as the Chief Engineer for the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway.  Born in 1875, Arnould had studied engineering at the City & Guilds (Engineering) College in London from 1892 to 1895.  On graduating, he had joined the B,B & CI Railway.  He worked on many important railway construction projects such as the Tapti Valley Railway and the Rewari Phulera Chord Line, gradually working his way up to Chief Engineer.  In 1928, he was awarded the Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire (C.I.E.).

Programme for the Farewell Dinner for Arnould with a photo of him attending a flood on the railway in 1927Programme for the Farewell Dinner for Arnould Mss Eur E403/2


His colleagues saw him off in style, with a grand farewell dinner at the Willingdon Sports Clubs, Bombay on Saturday 31 March 1928.  Guests were treated to a band playing a selection of popular show tunes of the time, such as ‘H.M.S. Pinafore’, ‘No, No, Nanette’, ‘Gonna Get A Girl’ and ‘The Blue Train’.  They ate well too with a scrumptious sounding menu:
• Oeufs au Caviar.
• Consommé au vin de Madère.
• Pomfret du Willingdon Club with Punch a la Romaine.
• Tournedos de Boeuf Bearnaise with Pomme Chippes.
• Pintade au Jambon Froid with Salade a l’Adeline.
• Poires a la Chantily.
• Laitances sur Croutes.
• Dessert.
• Café.

Letter from the Manager of the Darulfalah Museum about the Wonderful RiceLetter from the Manager of the Darulfalah Museum Mss Eur E403/3

However, there was probably one retirement present he was not expecting.  In June 1928, he received a letter from the Museum Darulfalah in Delhi, congratulating him on his C.I.E. and presenting him with a humble ‘present’ of a ‘Wonderful Rice’.  This arrived by separate post with a letter of explanation.  The ‘Wonderful Rice’ was a common seed of rice with the 'difficult and incredible skill of inscription' making it a ‘marvellous curio’.  In his letter, the Museum manager explained that it was inspired by 'the historical event of a verse in the Holy Quran being inscribed on a split pea of a gram, which was then presented to the Emperor Akbar.  The Emperor was extremely surprised and amused of it and rewarded the inscriber with Jagirs worth lakhs of Rupees'.

Suggested uses for the Wonderful Rice Suggested uses for the Wonderful Rice Mss Eur E403/3

Miniature writing goes back at least 4,000 years, with very small clay tablets written in cuneiform from ancient Mesopotamia.  It is thought that writing on rice began in ancient Anatolia and India, with artisans inscribing short messages using rice as a symbol of abundance and good fortune.

Inscription on the Wonderful RiceInscription on the Wonderful Rice Mss Eur E403/3

The grain of rice sent to Arnould (No.7108) apparently had 102 English characters, saying ‘Long & happily live F.G. Arnould Esq., C.I.E., Chairman, Indian Rlys Confce. Assocn (Enging) & Chief Engineer, B.B. & C.I.Rlys, Bombay. 5.6.1928’.  Arnould also received a leaflet on the ‘Wonderful Rice’ which claimed that King George V had sent for one, and that the King of Siam had so admired his that he had given a donation of 300 rupees.  Arnould was also requested to send a donation to the Museum, as the Museum manager explained, ‘As the beginning of every work is difficult, so our work has also great many difficulties and the chief of them is the lack of capital, which is a hindrance to our efforts’.  The correspondence does not say what Arnould thought of his present and whether he did send a donation, and unfortunately we do not have the ‘Wonderful Rice’.

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Papers relating to the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway, 1923-1927, shelfmark: Mss Eur E403/1.
Papers relating to F G Arnould's retirement as Chief Engineer of the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway, 1928, shelfmark: Mss Eur E403/2.
Letters from the Manager of the Museum Darulfalah, Sadar Bazar, Delhi, regarding presenting Arnould with the "Wonderful Rice", a grain of rice inscribed with words, 1928, shelfmark: Mss Eur E403/3.
Supplement to the London Gazette, 4 June 1928 
Doris V Welsh, The History of Miniature Books (Albany, New York: Fort Orange Press, Inc. 1987).

 

22 June 2023

The actor, the fascist, and the reincarnated queen

That is not the title of an unrealised Peter Greenaway film, nor the pub-going cast list of the opening line to a joke, but three roles occupied by Mary Taviner (1909-1972).

Photograph of Mary Taviner in about 1939Mary Taviner, c. 1939. British Library Add MS 89481/10, f. 50

Taviner’s acting career comprised just four films (one of which was as a nine-year-old).  Contemporary and modern critics agree that there was nothing wrong with these melodramatic stories of ghosts, spies, and murder, apart from the acting, the plots, and the scripts that is!  Her stage career lasted longer; from a 1924 London production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, she continued to work until the year of her death.  Again, notices were mixed.  Her only cheerleaders seem to be have been her local newspapers, basking in the glory of having a ‘star’ in their neighbourhood.

Politically, Taviner was on the far-right.  She was a pre-war member of the British Union of Fascists and appeared in a production staged by the Never Again Association, a front for extreme nationalism and anti-Semitism.  Her 1954 film The Devil’s Jest was a vehicle for her view that Britain and Germany should have allied against communism rather than fight each other.  She even sported an Iron Cross on a bracelet.

Taviner had a confused relationship with leading fascists.  She fell in love with Oswald Mosley only to later unsuccessfully sue him for breach of promise.  In this action she enlisted the help of William Joyce (later known as Lord Haw-Haw), who had fallen out with Mosley in 1937.  Yet she later turned on Joyce, accusing him of running a 300-strong pre-war spy ring under the noses of the intelligence services.

She was still working for the fascist cause in the 1960s, and was involved with the White Defence League, Mosley’s Union Movement, and the Young Britain Movement, closely linked to the UM.  She tried to organise a conference of European fascists in Marylebone only for the local council to ban it and she stood as a UM candidate in the Kensington borough elections in 1962 but mustered just 78 votes.

What of that third role Taviner inhabited?  Her claim to be the reincarnation of Mary, Queen of Scots, (she even had her portrait painted as the queen) was the pinnacle of her many fantastical claims about herself.  She claimed her mother was the offspring of German and British aristocrats; she was not.  Taviner styled herself Baroness Marovna, the widow of a scion of the Romanovs, but no such barony existed.  She was supposedly elected spiritual leader of Scotland by an organisation that has left no trace of its existence.  She claimed to have worked in British intelligence during the war; she had not.  Her story about Joyce’s spy ring was a fiction.  All these tales smack of Taviner trying to make herself more interesting to producers and directors.

Despite such an interesting life she remains a peripheral figure.  Her death went almost unnoticed; even The Stage, the theatre’s leading newspaper, missed it.  She is not mentioned in the books written by or about the actors and directors she worked with and there are only passing mentions in a tiny fraction of the books written about British fascists and fascism.

Michael St John-Mcalister
Manuscripts Catalogue and Process Manager

Further reading:
Facts, Fictions, and Fascism: A Life of Actor Mary Taviner (1909–1972), 

Add MS 89481/10

 

20 June 2023

Charles Tuckett junior - bookbinder, inventor, author, researcher and … bankrupt

What did one have to do to succeed in Victorian London?  On the evidence of the life of bookbinder Charles Tuckett junior, versatility, luck, talent, intellect and an engaging personality were not enough.  Despite publications and patents to his name and esteem from both his British Museum Library colleagues and his trade society (the Bookbinders’ Pension Society), Charles died in 1875 at the age of 54 after a long illness, bankrupt, with his teenaged son Frederick as chief mourner.  However the Hampstead and Highgate Express emphasised that ‘affectionate respect was sincerely and mournfully given’.  Many important figures attended the funeral.

A bookbinding workshop in Victorian LondonA bookbinding workshop in Victorian London from A Description of Westleys & Clark's Bookbinding Establishment, 1845

The Tuckett family comprised father Charles, sons Charles, Robert Daniel and John.   The surname was synonymous with bookbinding; notably at the British Museum, and at their own business nearby in Bloomsbury.  They were also official binders to the Queen and Prince Albert.  Charles Tuckett senior managed the Museum workshop for 40 years and Charles junior worked there too.

Plate from Tuckett's Specimens of Ancient and Modern Bookbinding showing the cover of Il Petrarcha published in Venice  1521Plate 3 of Specimens of Ancient and Modern Bookbinding showing the cover of Il Petrarcha (Venice, 1521). 

Photograph from British Library’s database of bookbindings of Il Petrarcha  published in Venice  1521Photograph from the British Library’s database of bookbindings on the same book, Il Petrarcha (Venice, 1521)

Charles junior was devoted to raising the profile of books and bookbinding.  In 1846, he published a book titled Specimens of Ancient and Modern Bookbinding Selected chiefly from the Library of the British Museum.  He subsequently organised displays at locations which would attract the interest of influential members of society, for example the Society of Arts.  Tuckett’s book reviewers encouraged him to extend his study of bindings by issuing more volumes, including a wider range of styles, but it was not to be.

Review of Tuckett’s Specimens of Ancient and Modern Bookbindings from The Bookseller 26 April 1861Review of Tuckett’s Specimens of Ancient and Modern Bookbindings from The Bookseller 26 April 1861, p. 213.

Charles junior’s interests were wide ranging, though books were central to his concerns.  He was keen on practical experimentation.  His 1860 patent recorded ‘an improved method of ornamenting book covers, which is also applicable to other purposes’ received much publicity in the newspapers.  It incorporated a new way of adding or changing colour on the surface of leather.

Detailed account from Tuckett’s new dye process patent 1860Detailed account from Tuckett’s new dye process patent, No. 2408 of 5 October 1860.

The year 1865 proved to be a turning point in the fortunes of the Tucketts.  There was a serious workshop fire in the Museum.  Tuckett senior was held responsible and dismissed.  The capable Tuckett junior assumed his father’s post of Museum Binder.  He oversaw a team of experienced binders including Stephen Would and Joseph Darby.

The Trustees and the august and knowledgeable Keepers of printed books and manuscripts relied upon Tuckett to preserve their fragile collections, maintain the workforce and balance the budget.  Additional stress and calls upon his time were caused by the family business as well as his other occupations.  The 1871 census, lists Tuckett as the supervisor of 55 men, three boys, and fifteen women.  His family home was at 7 Maitland Park Villas, Haverstock Hill, an up and coming area.  A household of his second wife, seven children under the age of thirteen and five servants must have been extremely expensive to maintain.

Perhaps Tuckett over-extended himself: the London Gazette recorded his bankruptcy under an act of 1869.  After years of ill health, which may have impacted severely on his work output, Tuckett died in October 1875.  He predeceased his father, who died five months later in March 1876.

P.J.M. Marks
Printed Historical Collections.

Further reading
Tuckett (C. , Junior ) Specimens of Ancient and Modern Bookbinding. Selected chiefly from the Library of the British Museum . (London , 1846)
The American Bookmaker (August 1894).

 

08 June 2023

Notes on the Birds of Barrackpore Menagerie

The Institution for Promoting the Natural History of India was established by Governor-General Richard Wellesley at Barrackpore outside Calcutta in 1801.  The aim was to increase Western scientific knowledge of the fauna of India, which Wellesley viewed as being ‘altogether unknown to the naturalists of Europe, or [which] have been imperfectly and inaccurately described’.  The Institution was supervised initially by Dr Francis Buchanan (later Buchanan Hamilton), an East India Company surgeon and accomplished naturalist, and then by William Lloyd Gibbons, an assistant at the Calcutta Orphan School and member of the Bengal Asiatic Society.  Animals and birds were collected and sent to Barrackpore for scientific study, the process of which included making descriptive notes and commissioning drawings, often from Indian artists.  The Institution itself was short-lived, receiving little advocacy or financial support from the East India Company.  Barrackpore Menagerie survived as a public attraction until 1878, when the animals and birds were transferred to Alipore, to what later became Calcutta Zoo.

Moore & Horsfield catalogue Falco tinninculus Moore & Horsfield catalogue entry for Falco tinninculus

Copies of many of the notes and drawings produced at Barrackpore are held at the British Library.  Some were deposited directly with the East India Company by Buchanan Hamilton, others sent to London by Gibbons, and still others ended up at East India House via intermediaries such as Nathanial Wallich and Dr John Fleming.  Drawings, notes, and physical specimens were housed as part of the India Museum, and many were worked on by Thomas Horsfield and Frederick Moore for their Catalogue of the birds in the Museum of the Honourable East India Company (London, 1854-58).

Description of Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) from Mackenzie Miscellaneous catalogueMss Eur Mack Misc 167. 6. Notes on ‘Falco tinnunculus’ (Common Kestrel)

Description of Purple Heron !Ardea purpurea) from Mackenzie Miscellaneous catalogueMss Eur Mack Misc 167. 91. Notes on ‘Ardea purpurea' (Purple Heron)

Two volumes of scientific notes made at Barrackpore Menagerie are in India Office Records and Private Papers, the first of which (Mss Eur D541) deals exclusively with birds.  The notes were unbound, (or possibly dis-bound), which made it easier to consult the scientific writings alongside the drawings for identification purposes.  Unfortunately, this did historically make it easier for items to stray, so when the notes were eventually bound, nine of the descriptions – nos. 1-7 and 90-92 – were lacking.  Thankfully, the descriptions were numbered and with some research we have recently identified a small collection of bird descriptions relating to five birds of prey and two herons in the Colin Mackenzie Miscellaneous collection as being seven of the Buchanan Hamilton/Gibbons descriptions.

Watercolour of Common Kestrel  ‘Falco tinnunculus’NHD2/191 Common Kestrel. ‘Falco tinnunculus’. Watercolour by Mahangu Lal, 1805-07.

Our Visual Arts Department holds the drawings, and they are exquisitely detailed.  They were drawn and painted by Indian artists such as Guru Dayal, Haludar, Mahangu Lal and Bishnu Prasad.  East India Company librarians and curators in the 19th century gave each of the natural history drawings in their care a running number in red ink.  The drawings that relate to birds of Barrackpore, as described in Mss Eur D541, are NHD2/186-284, otherwise known as the G & B (Gibbons & Buchanan) Collection.  Additional bird, mammal, and reptile drawings by Buchanan Hamilton are found in NHD3/311-536, the Buchanan Collection, and these relate to descriptions held in the second volume of notes from the Barrackpore Menagerie (Mss Eur D94).

Watercolour of Purple Heron. ‘Ardea purpurea’. NHD2/276 Purple Heron. ‘Ardea purpurea’. Watercolour by Guru Dayal, 1805-07.

The British Library’s newly opened exhibition Animals: Art, Science and Sound includes an important volume of watercolours of Gangetic fish, commissioned by Buchanan Hamilton and made by the artist Haludar.  These were published in An Account of the Fishes found in the river Ganges and its branches, etc. (Edinburgh, 1822), which remains a seminal work on Indian fish species.

Lesley Shapland
Cataloguer, India Office Records

Further reading:
India Office Records and Private Papers - Dr Francis Buchanan Hamilton papers, including Journals of his Deputation from Bengal to Ava [Burma], 1795-1798; Observations on Nepal, 1802; Natural history observations and drawings made at the Barrackpore Menagerie; Notes, descriptions and natural history illustrations in preparation for Fishes of the Ganges; Catalogue of Dried Plants presented to the East India Company Museum; Reports, statistics, drawings and vocabularies produced during the Survey of Bengal (1807-1814). These have various references, including Mss Eur C12-14; Mss Eur D70-98; Mss Eur E68-73; Mss Eur G10-25.
Mss Eur D541: Description of Birds and Animals in the Barrackpore Menagerie, Volume I
Mss Eur D94: Description of Birds and Animals in the Barrackpore Menagerie, Volume II
Mss Eur D487: Description by Dr F Hamilton (formerly Buchanan) of Birds, Quadrupeds and Tortoises
Mss Eur D562/21: Lists of Drawings Birds & Quadrupeds, 1817-1820
NHD2/186-284: The 'G & B' (Gibbons & Buchanan) Collection. Ninety-nine drawings in laid down in an album of birds from India and the East Indies, in a collection formed under the supervision of Francis Buchanan (afterwards Buchanan-Hamilton) and William Lloyd-Gibbons
NHD3/311-536: Two hundred and twenty-six drawings in watercolour and pencil depicting 169 birds (151 separate drawings and 18 duplicates), 38 mammals and 19 reptilia from India and the East Indies
Thomas Horsfield and Frederic Moore, A catalogue of the birds in the Museum of the Hon. East-India Company (London, 1854-58)
Mildred Archer, Natural History Drawings in the India Office Library (London, 1962)
Sally Walker ‘Zoological Gardens of India’, Chapter 8 in Zoo and aquarium history: ancient animal collections to zoological gardens by Vernon N Kisling, Jr. (ed) (Boca Raton, Florida : CRC Press, 2001)
Salim Ali ‘Bird Study in India: Its History and its Important’, India International Centre Quarterly, Vol 6., No. 2 (April 1927), pp.127-139

 

16 May 2023

The ‘Titanic Omar’ preserved for all time (virtually)?

The story of the ‘Titanic Omar’ bookbinding can hardly be described as ‘untold’ but perhaps it is time to add another chapter.

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam bound by Stanley Bray of Sangorski & Sutcliffe following the patterns of the original binding, which was lost on the Titanic -doublureRubaiyat of Omar Khayyam bound by Stanley Bray of Sangorski & Sutcliffe following the patterns of the original binding, which was lost on the Titanic - doublure- British Library C188c27

To recap;
1909-1912 London bookbinders Sangorski and Sutcliffe bound a deluxe copy of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám with over a thousand jewels.

1912 Purchased by American collector Gabriel White who sent the book home on the Titanic. Lost.

1912 July Sangorski drowned in the sea while bathing.

SangorskiPress cuttings about Sangorski's death provided with the Bray bequest

1932-39 Sutcliffe’s nephew, binder Stanley Bray, recreated the binding.

Lower cover of second versionLower cover of second version - image provided with the Bray bequest

1941 Placed for safekeeping in a vault, which received a direct hit during the Blitz. Destroyed.

1985-1989 Bray bound the third (and final?) version during his retirement.

Stanley Bray working on the third OmarStanley Bray working on the third Omar - image provided with the Bray bequest

2005 Bequeathed to the British Library by Mr and Mrs Bray.

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam bound by Stanley Bray of Sangorski & Sutcliffe following the patterns of the original binding - lower doublureRubaiyat of Omar Khayyam bound by Stanley Bray of Sangorski & Sutcliffe following the patterns of the original binding, which was lost on the Titanic - lower doublure- British Library C188c27

The next part of the Omar’s story involves conservation and recording.  The book has been on show in the British Library galleries but needs to be rested periodically.  Can we use new processes including 3D imagery to ensure the binding is available virtually, while the item itself is assessed by Conservation?  You be the judge.  

This model was created by the British Library’s Imaging Services and Sketchfab.   Supervision was provided by the Library’s conservators.  Only the outside of the binding has been captured.  It is important to establish that the process can cope safely with the many protruding onlays and jewels before considering its application to the dazzling inner boards and printed content.

The next stage is an assessment of the book’s structure.  It is hoped that specialists will check and record its physical condition, notably the mounting of the jewels.

P. J. M. Marks
Printed Heritage Collections.

Further reading
Rob Shepherd. Lost on the Titanic (London:Shepherds Sangorski & Sutcliffe and Zaehnsdorf, 2001.)
BL Image Database of Bookbindings

 

11 May 2023

The Papers of Ralph and Penelope Tanner

A recently catalogued collection of India Office Private Papers is now available to researchers in the British Library’s Asian & African Studies reading room.  This comprises the papers of Ralph Esmond Selby Tanner, British Army and Burma Frontier Service; and his wife Penelope Tanner, writer, photographer and illustrator.

Army identity card for Ralph Tanner Army identity card for Ralph Tanner Mss Eur F747/3/1

During the Second World War, Ralph Tanner was part of the Commando unit Layforce that saw desperate fighting in Crete in 1941, and served with the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry during the retreat from Burma in 1942.  His health seriously damaged by this, he spent long periods in hospital in India, before returning to England to recover.  While in England he met his wife Penelope Dell, and they were married in May 1944.  He returned to Burma a year later as part of the British Military Government, before transferring to civil employ as the Assistant Resident at Namhsan.  In May 1948, he travelled to Tanzania on Colonial Service, soon to be joined by Penelope.  They spent the next seventeen years living and working in Africa, before returning to the UK in 1965.  The collection contains Ralph’s letters to his parents describing his experiences in Crete and Burma 1941-43, and letters to his wife Penelope while settling into his new job in Burma in 1945-46.

Description of an air raid Description of an air raid Mss Eur F747/1/9 f.25


The collection also has letters from Penelope to Ralph.  These date from before they were married up to just before Penelope left England to join him in Burma in late 1946.  These very personal letters document their developing relationship, family politics, their wedding, the health of themselves and their young son, and planning their future together.  When the series of letters began in late 1943, the Second World War was still raging, with regular air raids on London.  In one letter written in January 1944, she described a close call: ‘The second air raid we had was very noisy too, and most unlike me I went downstairs, and as I got to the bottom a piece of shrapnel came hurtling down the lift shaft, hit one of the supports and ricocheted against the wall about 3 inches above my head, and shot down into the basement’.

Design for table by Penelope Tanner Design for table by Penelope Tanner Mss Eur F747/1/18 f.62

One fascinating aspect of Penelope’s letters is the light they shine on the amount of work required of her to organise moving herself and her baby son out to Burma to begin a new life with her husband.  From packing all their possessions, arranging shipping, dealing with travel agents, obtaining the correct travel documents, to even thinking about what furniture they would need in their new bungalow in Burma.  Being a skilled illustrator, Penelope sent Ralph sketches of furniture she thought they might need with precise measurements and instructions on having them made by Burmese craftsmen.

Oryx Antelope  Photograph by Penelope Tanner Oryx Antelope - photograph by Penelope Tanner Mss Eur F747/2/5

A very creative person, Penelope Tanner was a writer, photographer and illustrator.  The collection includes several unpublished manuscripts written by her.  They range from short stories, articles, a crime novel, a series of stories on cave dwellers in Kenya, and a memoir of her life in Burma with her husband and son.

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Papers of Ralph Esmond Selby Tanner (1921-2017), Burma Frontier Service 1939-1946; and his wife Penelope Tanner (nee Dell) (1918-1985), collection reference Mss Eur F741, available to view in the Asian & African Studies Reading Room, and the catalogue is searchable on Explore Archives and Manuscripts.

Other Tanner papers held at the British Library:
• Mss Eur Photo Eur 411: Copies of letters from Ralph Esmond Selby Tanner, 1945-46.
• Mss Eur C522: Paper on `Religion and Economics: Kodaung Hill Tracts, Burma, 1945-8 and Sukumaland, Tanganyika 1951-5' by Dr Ralph Esmond Selby Tanner, 1990.
• C63/197 (formerly Mss Eur R195): Ralph Esmond Selby Tanner interviewed by David M. Blake, 7th August 1990.

Burma 1942: memories of a retreat: the diary of Ralph Tanner, KOYLI by R.E.S. Tanner and D.A. Tanner (Cheltenham: The History Press, 2019), BL reference YKL.2020.a.10619.

 

06 May 2023

Monarchs enthroned: ceremonial iconography and coronations

King Charles III’s coronation continues an extremely long-standing ceremonial tradition.  The scale of coronations does vary from reign to reign, yet core elements such as the monarch’s selection, anointment with holy oil, public acclamation and enthronement remain unchanged.  Records for English coronations stretch back over a thousand years, but as David’s instructions to crown Solomon as king reveal, the Judaeo-Christian origins of the ceremony actually stretch back much further in time:
“And let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him there King over Israel: and blow ye with the trumpet, and say, God save King Solomon.  Then ye shall come up after him, that he may come and sit upon my throne; for he shall be king in my stead” (I Kings 1: 34-5).

The coronation on 6 May 2023 includes a rendition of ‘Zadok the Priest’ alluding to this biblical tradition.  Charles III’s enthronement appears to take its lead from early medieval religious iconography.  The Liber Vitae created around 1031CE centres upon King Cnut and Queen Emma presenting a cross to the altar of New Minster at Winchester.  Angels descend from heaven touching the Monarch’s crown.  There is an image of Christ enthroned located immediately above the cross.

King Cnut and Queen Emma presenting a cross to the altar of the New Minster  WinchesterKing Cnut and Queen Emma presenting a cross to the altar of the New Minster, Winchester British Library, Stowe MS 944 f. 6r. 

The earliest surviving English Royal Seal from Edward the Confessor’s reign 1042-1066 depicts the King crowned and enthroned, holding an orb and sceptre.  Excluding the Commonwealth era between 1649 and 1660, every monarch has been depicted in this manner on their Great Seal.

Earliest surviving English Royal Seal from Edward the Confessor’s reign Earliest surviving English Royal Seal from Edward the Confessor’s reign 1042-1066 - British Library, Lord Frederick Campbell Charter XXI 5.

This theme continues within the illuminated manuscript and other artistic traditions into modernity.  The following detail from Matthew Paris’s Historia Anglorum Chronica Majora created around the 1250s illustrates Henry III seated upon his throne holding a sceptre and a model of Westminster Abbey.

Henry III seated upon his throne holding a sceptre and a model of Westminster AbbeyPortrait of Henry III from Historia Anglorum Chronica Majora - British Library, Royal MS 14 C VII, f. 9r (detail)

Centuries later, during the 1670s, Michael Wright’s portrait of Charles II displays the monarch similarly posed, wearing the St Edward’s crown and dressed in parliamentary robes.

Portrait of Charles II wearing the St Edward’s crownPortrait of Charles II  courtesy of The Royal Collections Trust, RCIN 404951.


Philately also embraces such iconographical references.  This die proof made by the security-printing firm Perkins Bacon and Company Limited, London for the State of Victoria in Australia’s 1856 stamps carries an image of Queen Victoria enthroned on King Edward’s Chair.  Created by Edward I, it is now known as the Coronation Chair having been used in most coronations since that time.

State of Victoria 1856 penny stamp with an image of Queen Victoria enthroned on King Edward’s ChairState of Victoria 1d postage stamp 1856 - British Library Philatelic Collections: Supplementary Collection, Victoria

Edmund Dulac’s design for the 1s 3d stamp for the UK Coronation Issue of 1953 likewise includes a modern iteration of Elizabeth II enthroned.

1s 3d stamp for the UK 1953 Coronation Issue showing Queen Elizabeth II enthroned1s 3d stamp for the UK 1953 Coronation Issue - British Library Philatelic Collections: UPU Collection, Great Britain.

Cecil Beaton’s iconic 1953 photographic Coronation Portrait of Elizabeth II reveals fascinating insights regarding the planning of such symbolic imagery.  It depicts her enthronement at Westminster Abbey, but actually it was taken inside Buckingham Palace.  Beaton’s archives at the Victoria & Albert Museum include photographs illustrating preparations for the portrait which was adopted by Jersey on its 6 February 2002 £3 postage stamp commemorating of Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee.

Jersey £3 postage stamp with Elizabeth II at her coronation  commemorating the Queen's Golden Jubilee 6 February 2002Jersey £3 postage stamp commemorating Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee 6 February 2002 -British Library Philatelic Collections: The Holman Collection

 

Richard Scott Morel
Curator, Philatelic Collections

Further reading:
Roy Strong. Coronation: A History of Kingship and the British Monarchy. Harper Collins. 2005, p. 9.
Susanna Brown. Queen Elizabeth II: Portraits by Cecil Beaton. V & A, 2011.
The New Minster Liber Vitae 

 

14 April 2023

Paul Ferris - printer and publisher

Paul Ferris was born in 1766 at Fort St George. Madras, the son of Paul Ferris and Agnes Daniel.  He trained as a printer under James Augustus Hicky at his printing office in Calcutta and was one of Hicky’s assistants along with Archibald Thompson in the establishment of Hicky’s Bengal Gazette, India’s first English language newspaper, printed from 1780-1782.

Men busy in 18th century printing works18th-century printing works from A Picaud, La Veille de la Revolution, (Paris 1886).General Reference Collection 9225.l.12 BL flickr

In 1792 Ferris and Thompson founded their own newspaper, the Calcutta Morning Post, and were later joined by Morley Greenway as a co-owner.  In June 1818 they acquired the Calcutta Gazette, which had been in circulation since 1784 as the Government’s official news circular.  Shortly after this acquisition, the Calcutta Gazette ceased publication, with its last edition being printed on 29 September 1818.

Ferris also went on to establish his own printing press, Ferris & Co, and a bookselling business in Calcutta. By 1802 Ferris & Co were acting as the Calcutta agents for the Mission Press in Serampore.

In 1815 Ferris printed a new edition of John Miller’s The Tutor in English and Bengalee, first published in 1797.  It was published with an addendum stating that it had been ‘carefully revised and corrected by a professional pundit’.  The ‘professional pundit’ was Ganga Kishore Bhattacharji, a publisher of Bengali works who was just starting to work with Ferris. In 1816 Ferris & Co became the first printers to produce an illustrated book in Bengali, a narrative poem Annada Mangal written by Bharatchandra Ray in 1752-1753 and published by Ganga Kishore Bhattacharji.

Ganga Kishore would go on to publish numerous Bengali works with Ferris & Co including Ingreji byakaran (An English grammar), Daybhaeg (Hindu inheritance law) and Bidyasundar (a courtly romance), which was also the first Bengali book to be accompanied by woodcut illustrations.

Pen and ink drawing of the Danish settlement of Serampore  viewed from the opposite bank of the River Hooghly, with a man wearing a turban resting with his arms crossed in the foreground and boats on the water.Danish settlement of Serampore  viewed from the opposite bank of the River Hooghly - pen and ink drawing by Frederic Peter Layard (1842) British Library WD4359 British Library Online Gallery 

Paul Ferris died in Serampore on 29 June 1821 at the age of 55.  He had married Ann Esther Mullins in 1800 (she died in 1845 in Bombay), and the couple had seven children together.  He also had three children prior to his marriage, a son Paul and two daughters Frances and Ann.

Paul Ferris’s obituary is somewhat intriguing as it suggests that, despite the success of his various enterprises, he may have been struggling financially prior to his death: ‘Mr. P. Ferris - in his age 55 years - formerly Editor of Calcutta weekly newspaper, The Morning Post and owner of Calcutta Biblioteck-circulating Library and during the last years reduced to the necessity of keeping a sort of school at this place for Boys and Girls’.

The references in the obituary to the two other initiatives, the Calcutta Bibliotek circulating library and a school, are interesting as no other records of them appear to exist. There was however a Calcutta Library Society with its own lending library, which was established in 1818.  It is perhaps possible that this may be the ‘Bibliotek’ referred to in the obituary, but Ferris’s name does not appear in records as one of its founders.

Karen Stapley,
Curator, India Office Records

Further Reading:
Paul Ferris, Memorial at Fort William Burial Ground
‘Glimpses of Serampore (1810-1820)’, published in Bengal Past and Present, Vol. 46 1933 Jul-Dec. British Library Shelfmark: Ac.8603
Hicky’s Bengal Gazette: PENN.NT330 NPL
Calcutta Morning Post: Asia, Pacific & Africa SM 32

 

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