Thursday, June 16, 2016

Antiquarian Book News

The British Library

The British Library has made over 300 literary treasures relating to 20th century writers available online for the first time, including literary drafts, rare first editions, notebooks, letters, diaries, newspapers and photographs from Virginia Woolf, Ted Hughes, Angela Carter and Hanif Kureishi among others. The items relate to some of the 20th century’s greatest writers and can be viewed for free on the Discovering Literature website.

Highlights include:

• Virginia Woolf’s manuscript draft of Mrs Dalloway and an early travel notebook in which she begins to explore her ‘stream of consciousness’ technique
• George Orwell’s notebook in which he lists ideas for what would become Nineteen Eighty-Four, including ‘newspeak’, ‘doublethink’ and ‘two minutes of hate’
• Ted Hughes’s manuscript drafts of Birthday Letters
• Sylvia Plath’s draft manuscripts of The Bell Jar and extracts from her diary
• Angela Carter’s manuscript drafts of Wise Children and The Bloody Chamber
• J G Ballard’s manuscript drafts of High-Rise, Crash and Empire of the Sun
• Hanif Kureishi’s manuscript drafts of My Beautiful Laundrette and The Buddha of Suburbia

The site also includes a number of items revealing the interplay between the writers, including:

• A letter from Virginia Woolf to James Joyce’s patron, Harriet Shaw Weaver, declining to print Ulysses
• A letter from TS Eliot declining to publish George Orwell’s Animal Farm
• A poem in which James Joyce attacks contemporary Irish writers
• A letter from Bernard Shaw to Sylvia Beach in which he gives his opinion of Joyce’s Ulysses: ‘It is a revolting record of a disgusting phase of civilisation; but it is a truthful one’
• A review by Angela Carter of J G Ballard’s Empire of the Sun

Discovering Literature: 20th Century ( aims to bring the work of some of the period’s most famous writers to life. It features over 300 digitised collection items from the Library collections and over 90 essays written by writers and academics such as Elaine Showalter, Simon Armitage, Bidisha, Kate Flint, Hanif Kureishi, Caryl Phillips, Laura Marcus and Mark Ford placing the works of the 20th century writers in context.

The materials on Discovering Literature: 20th Century reveal the ways in which key writers of the 20th century rejected inherited traditions and experimented with new forms and themes. Through their notebooks and first drafts, we see their creative processes, innovation, self-doubt, rejection, rebellion and the risks they took on their journey to becoming the literary greats we know today.

Anna Lobbenberg, Digital Programmes Manager at the British Library, said:

“Until now these treasures could only be viewed in the British Library Reading Rooms or on display in exhibitions – now Discovering Literature: 20th Century will bring these items to anyone in the world with an internet connection.“


Silk Road Delivers Again

Scholars and historians are excited about this new cache of documents, which was purchased by Israeli antiquities dealer Lenny Wolfe six months ago. During an ongoing search to find ‘Afghan Genizah’, a reference to the Cairo Genizah collection of some 300,000 Jewish manuscript fragments discovered in a synagogue storeroom in Egypt, he came across nearly 100 mysterious manuscripts thought to be 1,000 years old and written by a Jewish family that lived along the ancient Silk Road which were discovered in an Afghan cave.

Written in a number of languages, including Aramaic, Hebrew, Persian, Judeo-Arabic, and Judeo Persian, these new documents are attributed to an 11th Century family headed by Abu Ben Daniel from the northern Afghan city of Bamyan. Wolfe first purchased twenty-nine of the documents in 2013, which he returned to Israel where they have been studied in the National Library.


Scholarly Scribbles

The scribbles of a 16th-century Welsh schoolboy have given researchers an intriguing insight into the history of a medieval book in the collection of the National Library of Australia (NLA). The ‘English Psalter’ — a book of psalms — was made between 1330 and 1350, probably by monks for a wealthy lay person. It features Latin text in iron gall ink and illuminated letters and decorations.

NLA conservator Freya Merrell said pencil annotations by a boy called Thomas indicated the book might have been smuggled into Wales after Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1536. Apparently the boy had written his name and the date as well as some ’squiggles’.

Shipping Books for Sale
Two hand-written books containing the details of ships built by Swan Hunter between the 1960s and 1980s salvaged from a skip when the receivers were called into the yard are to be sold at auction. Dave Gray, who worked at the Wallsend shipbuilder for 22 years and was employed by the receivers to help clear the site and offices in 1993, found the two books destined for the rubbish tip. He took them out and was given permission to keep them.

The books – a Ships Particular Book containing the details of 57 ships between 1973 and 1987, and Builder’s Certificate book containing 51 completed certificates between 1961 and 1974 – both have Tyne & Wear County Archives labels pasted inside. They will be auctioned as part of the Anderson & Garland Fine Art Sale in Newcastle on 14 and 15 June 2016. The two books together have an estimated value of £100-£200.

Anderson and Garland auctioneer Fred Wyrley-Birch said: “The books are really fascinating and we’re expecting a lot of interest from historians and people who are generally interested in ships, especially with the Tall Ships Race coming to Blyth later this summer.”

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