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UCL Special Collections Presents…

By Helen Biggs, on 21 May 2018

We’re excited to announce UCL Special Collections Presents… – a day of talks and displays in UCL’s South Junction Reading Room on Tuesday, June 5th.

Join our team of friendly archivists and librarians at the South Junction Reading Room to hear about some of their favourite Special Collections items in an informal setting. Come face to face with exquisite treasures, learn about the work of our conservators, and discover which curious tomes our volunteers have been studying.

We are running a range of sessions throughout the day, including:

11am-11:30 and 11:30am-12pm:
Protest songs for equal pay
A balloon’s eye view: historical maps of London
Maps from the Jewish Pamphlets collection

12-12:30pm and 12:30-1pm:
A history of the book
“Confessions of a Down and Out in London and Paris”: gems from George Orwell’s archive

1-1:30pm and 1:30pm-2pm:
UCL’s student disruptors
Small Press magazines on vinyl

2-2:30pm and 2:30-3pm:
Jeremy Bentham and Lord Brougham, social reformers
Enid Blyton’s Teacher’s Treasury

3-3:30pm and 3:30-4pm:
Medical and Scientific Manuscripts and Rare Books
A 14th Century Haggadah, and other Jewish and Hebrew treasures

When: Tuesday, 5th June, 11am-4pm

Where: South Junction Reading Room, Wilkins Building, University College London, WC1E 6HJ

Book your free tickets now!

Dante display and other events

By Christopher J Fripp, on 15 May 2018

Last week saw the launch of a new UCL Special Collections display outside the Donaldson Reading Room entrance on the 1st floor of the Main Library. Dante’s Divine Comedy: Modern Visual Representations features a selection of printed materials inspired by the great medieval Italian poet’s literary masterpiece. Produced over 700 years ago, the Divine Comedy is still celebrated today for its incredible imagery of the afterlife. The twentieth-century publications chosen for the display contain their own distinctive illustrative depictions of Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, but are united in the way they seek to capture elements of Dante’s extraordinary imagination. The display is scheduled to run until Tuesday 26th June.

Detail from Gyabo Szebó Belá’s untitled woodcut, in La divina commedia: XX stampe in legno – xilogravuri – fametszet – Holzschnitte [Bucharest?]: Dacia, 1976. UCL Special Collections, DANTE FOLIOS DD95 SZA

Running alongside this display and throughout the summer term are two public programmes dedicated to Dante. Weekly readings of the Divine Comedy take place on Monday evenings at the Warburg Institute, Woburn Square (6:00 – 7:30 pm), while talks about Dante, his life and works take place on alternate Tuesday evenings at the Italian Cultural Institute, Belgrave Square (7:00-8:30 pm). Both programmes are free and open to all. On Tuesday 29th May, UCL Special Collections will be at the Italian Cultural Institute to present a selection of highlights from the Dante Collection from 18:00-19:15 pm. In addition, Tabitha Tuckett (Rare-Books Librarian) will be providing expert insights on the Collection in a public talk at 18:30 pm. We hope to see you there.

If you wish to consult materials held by UCL Special Collections, please send enquiries to the following email address: spec.coll@ucl.ac.uk

‘The Lover’s Confession’: students research Confessio Amantis fragment

By Helen Biggs, on 23 April 2018

This post contributed by Calum Cockburn and Lauren Rozenberg.

On the 8th and 9th December 2017, UCL Special Collections hosted the third workshop in the Digital Editing and the Medieval Manuscript Fragment series (DEMMF), organised and taught jointly by UCL and Yale postgraduates students to twelve graduate students (the majority of whom are UCL-based).

The workshop began with a lecture on UCL’s manuscript fragment collection and a handling session held at the Institute of Education library led by Katy Makin (UCL Library Services). A huge variety of materials was on on display, including a leaf from a music manuscript, once thought to have been used as a binding for an Early Modern book; a thirteenth-century breviary with a charming inhabited initial; a Hebrew papyrus from the Book of Genesis; and a tiny piece of parchment with lines from Euripides’ Medea. Examining these materials, the participants were introduced to the unique and complex challenges literary scholars and digital editors face in creating literary editions from medieval manuscript fragments, fragments that often vary considerably in size and shape, in the legibility of their scripts and hands, in the nature of their decoration and layout, and the amount of damage they have sustained during their different lifetimes.

The students examining the the Confessio Amantis fragment.

The ultimate aim of this workshop was the collaborative transcription, encoding and publishing of a digital edition of a four-leaf fragment of the Confessio Amantis ‘the Lover’s Confession’ (MS FRAG / ANGL / 1), dated from the fifteenth-century and now housed in UCL Special Collections. This poem is a 33,000-line Middle English work by John Gower (d. 1408), a contemporary of Chaucer (d. 1400), whose compositions were particularly popular during the late medieval period. This text alone survives in 59 copies, one of the most copied manuscripts that survives to us, alongside the Canterbury Tales and Piers Plowman, written by William Langland (d. 1386). The Confessio uses the confession by an ageing love to the chaplain of Venus as the framework for a long series of shorter narrative poems, linked thematically by each of the ‘Seven Deadly Sins’. UCL’s fragment is unique in the collection in that its four leaves were given their own brand new binding at the turn of the twentieth century. It originates from Book V of the poem, concerning Avarice.

 

Two details from MS FRAG / ANGL / 1

To aid them in the creation of their edition of this text, the graduate students took part in a series of discussions and exercises concerning the palaeography and codicology of fragments, digital editing and TEI markup, the use of XML editing tools, most notably oXygen software, and project-based collaboration in the digital arena. Subsequent sessions across the two-day event focused on the teaching of common markup languages and the Text Encoding Initiative.
Subsequently, this expertise was used to mark-up and encode UCL Special Collections’ Confessio Amantis. The fragment itself reflects issues frequently encountered by digital editors of manuscripts and fragments. Most significantly, the fragment’s leaves are actually bound in the wrong order, an observation unrecorded in the manuscript catalogue itself.

Students and instructors examining the Confessio Amantis fragment and discussing its features.

The first folio ranges from lines 775 to 966 of Bk. V while the second one jumps to line 1735 continuing to 1926, before returning to lines 1159 to 1541 over the last two folios. Additionally, the fragment includes numerous small illuminated initials and marginal Latin glosses, separate from the main body of the text, and this raised questions across the weekend as to what the workshop participants should mark up and thus include in their edition itself. Such issues prompted the students to think about the nature of the text and the materiality of medieval manuscripts, and to consider fragments as objects rather than simply illustrated books.

Special Collections provided invaluable high definition images of the fragments. This helped students to prepare their own transcriptions of each manuscript page, and in addition better grasp the necessity for scholars of medieval manuscripts in the digital age. Digital reproductions can indeed alter our experience of the text in different and unforeseen ways. The finished digital edition of our own fragment will be published online at the end of this year, accompanying an edition of another item in Special Collections, a medical manuscript (MS / Lat / 7), transcribed and encoded during a similar workshop that took place during the summer.

The December workshop was made possible thanks to the support of UCL Doctoral School, the Octagon Small Grant Fund, the UCL English Department and Yale Beinecke Rare Book & Music Library. We’re especially grateful to Katy Makin (UCL Special Collections Archivist), for allowing us access to the fragment collection and assembling these materials on the day, and to Dr. Alex Lee (UCL SELCS), for all her palaeographic expertise and help in the transcription of the document itself.

The DEMMF workshop was coordinated by Dana Kovarik (UCL PGR English). The team of instructors included Ph.D. students from a number of different departments and institutions. From UCL’s Arts & Humanities and Social & Historical Sciences faculties: Calum Cockburn (UCL PGR English), Lauren Rozenberg (UCL PGR History of Art), Agata Zielinska (UCL PGR History). From Yale University: Gina Marie Hurley (Yale PGR Medieval Studies) and Mireille Pardon (Yale PGR) as well as Stephanie Azzarello from Cambridge University (Pembroke College, History of Art).

The Norris Photography Project

By Rebecca J Webster, on 9 April 2018

This is a guest post by Euan Guckian, UCL Special Collections volunteer.

Over terms one and two this year I have had the opportunity to sort and catalogue the photograph collection of Arthur Norris for the Special Collections team. Norris was a railway engineer who, at the beginning of the twentieth century, spent several years (roughly 1909-1916) working in Latin America. He captured scenes from across the continent, annotating some of them for his mother back home in Britain.

Already gathered into region specific files, alongside a separate one for a soccer game played at one of the highest points in the Andes, my first responsibility was to sort them into a more coherent order. I was at first helped by the extensive notes provided by Norris on the back on the photos, but as the years went on I was fortunate to have a date and location. A sense of lethargy that anyone who has committed to keeping at diary will be familiar with. Having sorted each file, my next job was to list them digitally, this comprised either paraphrasing Norris’ notes or, in their absence, describing concisely what would be considered each one’s important features.

UCL Special Collections, NORRIS/9

Having previously studied the modernisation of Latin America during this period, it was interesting to see the region enter the 20th century from such a visual perspective. This was most obviously represented by the numerous photographs of the laying of tracks, carving of tunnels, building of railway bridges, and constructing of train stations taken by Norris from Buenos Aires to Lima. Amongst my favourite photographs, was a shot taken from 13,000ft above sea level of an Argentine mountain range. It came with instructions from Norris to place it next to another to create a carefully framed panorama. Unfortunately, after weeks of searching I never found it. There is plenty however, that would be appeal to those with an interest in Latin America. These include, depictions of rural village life, as well as that of the region’s capitals, all alongside photographs of ceremonies both native to South America, and those, such as bullfights, brought over from Spain.

UCL Special Collections, NORRIS/1

You can see the full catalogue for the Norris photographic archive here. To arrange a visit to consult the collection please email us at spec.coll@ucl.ac.uk

 

Slade Small Press Project, 9-11 March

By Tabitha Tuckett, on 8 March 2018

This Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the Slade Small Press Project is opening its work to the public, alongside an exhibition on Friday afternoon from UCL Library Special Collections’ Small Press Collections. Events will take place at the Slade Research Centre, top floor, 16 Woburn Square, WC1H 0AB.

Staff and students from the Slade School of Fine Art, alongside invited artists, have created works on the theme of sound inspired by the material from Special Collections, as part of a term-long research project supporting UCL’s Connected Curriculum.

Participants in the project have seen and heard material from UCL’s collections by experimental and avant-garde writers, poets, artists, photographers, dancers and composers. These include graphic musical scores (to learn more about these, see for example this blogpost), and works by John Cage, Cornelius Cardew, Henri Chopin and performance poets. On Friday you might even pick up a specially-pressed vinyl record of the students’ work made in response to our collections.

Recordings from the avant-garde poet and musician, Henri Chopin UCL SMALL PRESS COLLECTIONS

Friday 9 March, 2-4.30pm, includes not only the library exhibition and listening booths, but talks from an artist, a poet, a film-maker and an art critic, discussing lullabies, the connection or not between grime music and concrete poetry, Daphne Oram (co-founder of the pioneering BBC Radiophonic Workshop), and dance notations by Jennifer Pike (held in Special Collections). 4.30pm till late will see the launch of an exhibition of work created during the Project, the launch of the students’ specially pressed vinyl record, and a specially editioned print in honour of the late Mark E Smith and his inspiration, Blast (copies of which are held in Special Collections). The evening programme also includes a series of live performances by Slade staff and students and invited artists. The Project exhibition and listening booths continue on Saturday 10 March, 1-5pm and Sunday 11 March, 1-4pm, with a further programme of live performances on the Saturday.

Events are free and open to the public. Full details in the Project brochure below or here.

Read more about the Subject Liaison Librarian Liz Lawes’ experience of running the project in Tabitha Tuckett and Elizabeth Lawes, ‘Object literacy at University College London Library Services’ in Art Libraries Journal vol.42 issue 2 (April 2017) pp.99-106.

UCL SMALL PRESS COLLECTIONS

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The Small Press Project 2018
Slade Research Centre, Woburn Square
Friday 9th March

The Small Press Collections held by UCL Library Services Special Collections are a globally significant collection of Little Magazines, literary pamphlets, and counter-cultural newspapers produced as a result of the independent publishing scene of the mid 20th century to the present.

From the late 1950s experimental poets and visual artists took advantage of newly accessible printing techniques to self-publish, and distribute their work outside of mainstream literary journals or established gallery spaces. The collections focus on experimental text and image, visual and concrete poetry, the documentation of performance and sound poetry, and text works by artists.

The theme of Sound is in evidence throughout the collections in various manifestations: actual sound recordings, the visual scores of experimental composers, sound and performance poets, poetry and other texts to be read aloud. This year’s Small Press Project seeks to illuminate all these aspects.

The Small Press Project Event, also includes an exhibition of works and recordings made by the staff and students at the Slade School of Fine Art.

Schedule

2.10        Hannah Dargavel-Leafe

Introductions and welcome

2.15      Aura Satz

Aura Satz’ practice encompasses film, sound, performance and sculpture. She has made a body of works that look at key female figures largely excluded from mainstream historical discourse, in an ongoing engagement with the question of women’s contributions to labour, technology, scientific knowledge and electronic music. In her presentation she will give an overview of 3 projects made about women composers, including ‘Oramics’, an artist’s film made in homage to Daphne Oram.

2.45       Holly Pester

Holly Pester will present ‘A short talk on the process of recording lullabies and composing lines from an archive of efforts.’ As well as the talk (and possibly short reading of one of the poems), she will play extracts from her record Common Rest.

3.15 – 3.30     Tea & Coffee

3.30      Holly Antrum

For her presentation, Holly Antrum will introduce an artistic interest in the original items and materials that went into Computer Dances by artist Jennifer Pike (1919 – 2016), as a subsequent tool for inter-generational collaboration and intervention. Jennifer Pike produced the ‘Computer Dances’ and other works within and around a productive, shared domestic studio, printing and publishing space wherein she was the oft-collaborator, and also marriage partner of Bob Cobbing (1920-2002). Computer Dances compiles Pike’s abstract notations for dance and performance: they were made in her 70’s, and she created them stepping into digital working, through scans and digital drawing using a simple early Sketch-Up programme. Holly will explore how arriving at these drawings occurred through being in Pike’s home and studio and how this sonically entered her 16mm/HD film, titled Catalogue (2012-14). Excerpts will screened from the film (19 minutes).

4.00    Jonathan P Watts

Jonathan P Watts will present ‘g, g, g, grime & kon kon kon konkrete poetry’

There is no actual relation between concrete poetry and grime, but the mix and blend might open up affinities. For example, by concentrating on the physical substance of language, concrete poetry can, to echo Bob Cobbing, help us consider how the microphone and the tape recorder extends the human voice, teaching the human new tricks of rhythm and tone, power and subtlety’. Grime, the Lewisham MC Novelist recently explained, is ‘an unorthodox, rebellious sound that represents madness from the hood, the streets’. Concrete poetry is now mostly in the academies, but it was unorthodox in its time. As grime has formalised into a mainstream genre so, arguably, its unorthodox, experimental beginnings have been forgotten. Wiley, writing in his recent autobiography, Eskiboy, reminds us: ‘I’ve got a lot of songs that I’ve never released which are just trying different things with the mic, very experimental kind of stuff. I’ve had ideas for whole songs just using the mic, my voice and nothing else.’ From Flirta D’s ‘splatterisms’ to Flow Dan’s New Age Synchronised Avengers, D Double E’s ‘blukuuus’ to God’s Gift’s rhyming gunshots, this talk will not place grime in the service of concrete poetry.

4.30 – 8.00     Private View for the Small Press Project Exhibition

The evening will feature live performances, curated by Hannah Dargavel-Leafe, Honorary Research Associate, by invited artists and students and staff from Slade School of Fine Art. We will also launch a special edition and a 10” vinyl publication produced by students as part of the project.

Biographies

Holly Antrum (b. London 1983) is an artist filmmaker based in London, and a current participant of the Acme Fire Station Work-Live residency in Bow. She works with 16mm, paper and digital mediums, and often in collaborative processes and study of practice with other artists and writers. She is interested in the moment of our accustomisation to celluloid-as-digital-material, and in a material moment of being at once archived and removed from the original and native aesthetic. Through her films she utilises the poetics of layered film processes, presence, communication and templates of speech, memory and in-situ sound. Recent projects include EIDOLON(2017) a film commissioned by International Literature Showcase with poetry by Sandeep Parmar. The new work was screened alongside artist-selected archival works within the Cinenova collection at The Showroom (February 2018). Solo gallery installations include Catalogue at Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop, Edinburgh (2016) and A Diffuse Citizen at Grand Union, Birmingham (2014). Her work has also been screened in galleries internationally. Holly Antrum earned her Masters in Printmaking at the Royal College of Art, London (2011), and her BA Fine Art Painting at Wimbledon School of Art, London (2005). A copy of Computer Dances (first published by Writer’s Forum in 1995) is also held in the UCL Special Collections.

Jonathan P. Watts is a contemporary art critic and occasional curator. He is a visiting lecturer in Critical and Historical Studies at the Royal College of Art, London. Writing by Jonathan has appeared in frieze, Art Monthly and Artforum. His review of Wiley’s recent autobiography Eskiboy appeared in the Times Literary Supplement this week. As ‘helter helter’, he makes performances that respond to aspects of instrumental grime music.

Holly Pester is a poet and Lecturer in Poetry and Performance at University of Essex. Her work has been situated as recordings, print, sound installation and live readings at international venues and esoteric spaces. Her most recent work, Common Rest was an album of collaborative Sound Poetry and accompanying poetry pamphlet. More info can be found at hollypester.com 

Aura Satz has performed, exhibited and screened her work nationally and internationally, including Tate Modern, Tate Britain, the Hayward Gallery, Barbican Art Gallery, ICA, the Wellcome Collection, BFI Southbank, Whitechapel Gallery, (London); Oberhausen Short Film Festival (Oberhausen); the Rotterdam Film Festival (Rotterdam); the New York Film Festival (NY); Anthology Film Archives (NY); Gertrude Contemporary (Melbourne); De Appel Art Centre (Amsterdam); AV festival (Newcastle); Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art (Gateshead); Irish Museum of Modern Art (Dublin); InterCommunication Centre (Tokyo); Lentos Museum (Linz); and The Sydney Biennale (Sydney). Recent solo shows include John Hansard Gallery (Southampton); Dallas Contemporary (Texas); Gallery 44 (Toronto); Tyneside Cinema Gallery (Newcastle); George Eastman House (Rochester NY); Fridman Gallery (NY). In 2012, she was shortlisted for the Samsung Art+ Award and the Jarman Award. She is a Reader and Tutor at the Royal College of Art, London. www.iamanagram.com

Hannah Dargavel-Leafe (born 1987, London) graduated with an MA from the Slade School of Fine Art in 2016 and Manchester School of Art with a BA in 2010. She has exhibited at The International 3 in Manchester, Bluecoat in Liverpool, and at ICA London. In 2016 she was in residence at the East Tower at Television Centre, White City and worked collaboratively with the artist Jack West. She was a featured artist in Ambit Magazine.
Dargavel-Leafe runs The Loop, an ongoing research project through symposiums, exhibitions and publishing. She is an associate artist with The International 3.

Small Press Project is organised by:

Liz Lawes, Subject Liaison Librarian for Fine Art, UCL Library Services

Lesley Sharpe, Holding Page & Teaching Fellow, Slade School of Fine Art;

Hannah Dargavel-Leafe, Honorary Research Associate, Slade School of Fine Art;

Sarah Pickering, artist & Teaching Fellow, Slade School of Fine Art

The Small Press Project is generously supported by the Teaching Initiatve Fund, IAS and the Dean’s Strategic Award.

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