10 July 2017

Surprises in a library

One of the surprising things about the John Rylands Library - which is part of the University of Manchester Library - is the automaton, which shows a dragon [the university administration??] taking tea with the widowed Mrs Rylands, who used a tenth of her considerable inheritance to build the library. 
 Back and forth they go, to the gentle sound of gears creaking, having a comfortable chat, until suddenly there's a great CLANK and -
 ... then we're back to normal.

Amid the displays, including a photo op with big books and old-fashioned hats

you can take mirrors to look at the ceiling in comfort -
 and admire Victorian ornateness in all sorts of forms (the library opened to the public in 1900) -

 There are a good few books dotted about, too -
But the main delight has got to be the Historic Toilets -
Historic walls

Historic plumbing and accessories

Historic pipework

Historic lighting casting historic shadows
 Elsewhere the library atmosphere is augmented by old printing presses filling a few corners -

 Great place to visit
 Updated with a new wing
The current exhibition, The Life of Objects, (till 27 August) includes samplers made as a child by Isabella Banks (1821-1897), who went on to publish sewing and knitting patterns every month for more than 45 years - in a design periodical that she created and published (something not yet mentioned in her Wikipedia entry); also aged 17, she had set up a school for young ladies which she ran for nine years, until her marriage.

Other surprising objects from the library's collection are Elizabeth Gaskell's sewing and writing tools, John Wesley's preaching collar, items connected with WW2 air raids that inspired Delia Derbyshire's Dr Who theme music, and a button pen nibs, and the hat lining that belonged to Walt Whitman (the link with Manchester is described here). And an Olivetti portable typewriter, just like the one that came with us to the UK in 1971 and on which I earned good money by typing theses - ah those were the days (tippex, carbon paper...).

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