Category Archives: Collection of the Month

Collections of the Month: Poems in the Reading Room

For National Poetry Day (6 October), some poetic links for Special Collections at the University of Bradford. The poets whose work we hold were inspired by the wider themes gathered by Special Collections, such as Yorkshire scenery, anti-nuclear campaigning, and archaeology.

Title page of Airedale in ancient times, by John Nicholson (London: 1825)

Title page of Airedale in Ancient Times, by John Nicholson (2nd ed, London: 1825)

Jacquetta Hawkes was inspired by the past and nature to write many poems during the 1940s.  In particular she turned a mystic experience into a marvellous poem, Man in Time.

J.B. Priestley was not (he felt) a natural poet, but his first published book was actually a collection of what he later called “dubious verse”.

We have plenty of poetry with a Yorkshire flavour.  The Archive of Yorkshire author, John Waddington-Feather, includes work inspired by Yorkshire and the natural world.  The Rev. Waddington-Feather also donated volumes of Yorkshire dialect verse by John Hartley, Ben Turner, F.W. Moorman and more.  More local verse can be found in the Local and W.R. Mitchell book  collections, including Airedale in Ancient Times, by John Nicholson, shown above.

Reflective and campaigning verse appears throughout our peace-related archives, see for example the Archive of Adam Curle and the Papers of Sarah Meyer.

The Mitrinovic Collection includes plenty of classical and modern poetry valued by Mitrinovic and his circle, in many languages notably Greek and Serbo-Croat.  Try a Classmark search for ML/C on the library catalogue to see the poetry and other language/literature works in this collection.  I particularly like a copy of Edith Sitwell’s Bucolic Comedies which she inscribed to Mitrinovic.

The Peart-Binns Christian Socialist Archive includes material on poet, entrepeneur and pacifist Tom Heron.

Finally, an update on the Sounds of Science Poetry CompetitionSee the winner, Emily Fioccoprile, reading her poem on Youtube. The entries and publicity will be added to the University Archive soon: it is fascinating to see how the authors interpreted the idea of science and the different kinds of poems that resulted.  There is also a display in the J.B. Priestley Library of the winning poems.

Collections of the Month: Elections in collections

Independent Labour Party mural in Bradford

Independent Labour Party mural in Bradford

The modern archives in Special Collections were almost all created by people  engaging with public affairs in some way, whether as politicians or campaigners.

Here are some of the most interesting political characters in our archives, all liberal/socialist/left-leaning, influenced in some way by Bradford and West Yorkshire.  Bradford was a radical city, fast-growing, full of ideas from non-conformist religion and the growth of trades unions.  The Independent Labour Party was founded here in 1893.

Sir Isaac Holden

Sir Isaac Holden

Isaac Holden. Bradford wool manufacturer.  He was Liberal Member for Knaresborough 1865-1868, for the Northern Division of the West Riding 1882-1885, and for Keighley 1885-1895.  He had been advised to enter Parliament as a change of occupation for health reasons.  Born in 1807, Holden was still an MP in his eighties, though e.g. “when the Home Rule Bill of 1893 depended on the willingness of Liberals to pace the division lobbies for two solid hours on a sultry summer night, among the faithful few were ‘two young fellows'”: Gladstone and Holden, both well over eighty.  A committed Wesleyan, Holden favoured self-help, education and temperance.

The Holden Papers.

J.B. Priestley statue, in Bradford

J.B. Priestley statue, in Bradford

J.B. Priestley. His father, Jonathan, was a socialist, and, like Holden and many others, believed in the power of education.  Priestley was loyal to the basics of socialism throughout his life, which inspired his finest works. He wrote passionately about 1930s social inequalities in English Journey, his shock at discovering the class system in the WW1 trenches in Margin Released, his belief in society in An Inspector Calls.  In WW2 he tried to ensure a post-war world that would be worth fighting for, as he explained in his famous Postscripts.   Priestley stood as an independent candidate for the Cambridge University seat in the 1945 election, when he was also broadcasting and writing to promote the Labour campaign: Labour won, but he came third.  Given his dislike of committee work, that may be just as well.

The J.B. Priestley Archive.


Barbara Castle

Barbara Castle. She grew up in Bradford, which had a huge influence on her political ideas.  Cabinet Minister in Labour governments 1964-1970, 1974-1976.  Best known for equal pay, road safety improvements, and the failed attempt to tackle trade union power.  Special Collections holds her Cabinet Diaries, which give a wonderful view of her immediate responses to developing events, complete with doodles and handwritten comments.  While her political career was effectively ended by the failure of “In place of strife”, she definitely made it possible for women to be taken seriously as senior politicians.  She faced many difficulties she faced in her working, personal, and political life and always fought back, characteristically entitling her autobiography “Fighting all the way”.

Harold Wilson at Bradford University

Harold Wilson at Bradford University

Harold Wilson. Huddersfield-born, Prime Minister 1964-1970, 1974-1976. First Chancellor of the University of Bradford.  His political life was turbulent and remains controversial, particularly the extraordinary February 1974 election which has been much discussed recently in view of possible developments in the May 2010 election.  There are many documents relating to him in the University Archive: he was clearly sympathetic to higher education and to the University of Bradford.

“It is only at ceremonies like today’s that a glimpse can be had of the wide-ranging activities that are this University’s proud achievement.  Undergraduate courses which offer … a real appreciation of the marriage of theory and practice, research which plays a vital role in the economic and social well-being of this country; a lively interaction with the local community.  Some ivory tower!” (Harold Wilson, at a degree ceremony in 1982).

Collections of the Month: November 2009.

What has a 1970s guide to Bolton Abbey

Info about Bolton Abbey

in common with a scrapbook of 1980s press cuttings about anti-nuclear activities in Cambridge?

Press cuttings collection

They are part of our new collections of ephemera.  Such items can be fascinating and important primary historical sources and link us directly to the ideas and opinions of their creators in a way that more formal documents may not do.  This is particularly true of pressure groups such as those campaigning for nuclear disarmament, who use leaflets, posters and other informal sources to reach out and spread their message.

Some of our ephemera belongs to individual archives, for instance, the J.B. Priestley Archive is rich in programmes, playbills and posters for performances of Priestley plays.  But much of it does not fit into a particular archive, so we have decided to create distinct ephemera collections for key subject areas:

PEACE.  Organised using the Commonweal classification (ref: Eph PAC).  Mainly relating to nuclear disarmament campaigning in the UK, 1980s camps at Molesworth and Greenham, but all sorts of other interesting items are appearing.  Supplementing our extensive peace-related collections of books and archives.

YORKSHIRE, particularly our special interests, the Dales and the West Riding. (ref: Eph YOR). Organised by Dale or town.  Guides to towns, walks or caves, the story of a holiday cottage in Dentdale, mini maps.  Supplementing our Yorkshire collections.

Former YUGOSLAVIA and the Balkans (ref: Eph YUG). Historically, the University has had close links with this region, and the Library specialises in its social and economic history.  Hence interesting materials will come our way!  The first chunk is a collection of manifestos and other papers relating to elections in former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Collection of the Month December 2008: Magic lanterns and Methodists

New on Special Collections web: the Joseph Riley Archive. Joseph Riley (1838-1926) came to our attention as the father of Willie Riley, author of “Windyridge” and other popular novels set in Yorkshire, but his archive is fascinating in its own right, full of detail about Bradford life and the Methodism that was so important to him. His career took him from poverty (he started work at seven) to great success in the stuff trade and magic lantern business, but he faced many setbacks, and ultimately bankruptcy. The global nature of the Bradford wool trade and the resulting cosmopolitan attitude of Bradford business is reflected in Riley’s account of a business trip to Constantinople.

Collection of the Month October 2008:”Bones, bodies and disease”

Calvin Wells (1908-1978) is often referred to as the father of palaeopathology: he used his medical training to shed light on the diseases and physical problems found in skeletal remains. Special Collections holds his archive and his library of over 800 books. The title of his well-known work, “Bones, bodies and disease”, sums up many of the books e.g. 17th and 18th century medical texts, particularly on gynaecology and obstetrics, by authors such as Thomas Sydenham, Francois Mauriceau and William Smellie.

This illustration depicts “Emblems of Immortality”, caterpillar to butterfly and acorn to oak, from “Philosophy of medicine” by Robert Thornton, published 1799-1800.

Emblems of Immortality

Emblems of Immortality

The collection also includes modern works on archaeology and anthropology, practical medical and nursing works, and books on exotic travels. A few recurring themes: ear, nose and throat medicine, the archaeology of Norfolk, where the Wellses lived in later life, ancient tribes such as the Aztecs, and medical biography, whether of doctors or of famous individuals. All these books appear on the Library Catalogue, and can be easily found using keyword search and limiting by Special Collections.

Web page for the Calvin Wells Archive and Book collection

Collection of the Month June 2008: Extra! extra!

Special Collections holds relatively few newspaper collections but those we have are really useful to our readers.

Our star newspaper is a complete run of “Reynolds News”, and including variant regional editions. This paper, which continued under various names from 1850-1967, mixed a radical political stance with Sunday paper fare of crime and sensation, and the advertisements offer their own fascinating angle on the period. However, the originals are very fragile, so it is good to know that the Newspapers Digitisation Project has digitised up to 1900: thanks to JISC, access to this is free to further and higher education institutions in the UK.

Our other historic papers include editions of the “Bradford Pioneer” featuring J.B. Priestley’s very early published work in a column called “Round the Hearth”. These writings are a fascinating glimpse of his development as a writer: although he had not yet found his distinctive literary style, he wrote on subjects he returned to many times in his later writings, notably the mass media, love of music, and arguments against war.