Red roses for me

While every day is book day here in EPB Towers, UNESCO have decreed today ‘World Book Day’. Actually some of the activities planned sound pretty interesting. I’m not entirely sure of the connection but the World Book Day website suggests the idea for this celebration originated in Catalonia where it has become a tradition to give a rose as a gift for each book purchased. Click here for a list of activities planned.

‘A Spoonful of Flummery’ from our Pollard Collection of Children’s Books

The Pollard Collection of Children’s Books was bequeathed to the Library by a former Keeper of Early Printed Books, Mary (Paul) Pollard, the fruits of over 50 years of collecting. Now, thanks to generous funding from the UK Trust for TCD, the project is being catalogued and made fully available to scholars for the first time. With over 10,000 items ranging from the 17th to the early 20th centuries, the collection provides all sorts of wonders, classics, oddities and beauties – a unique and invaluable historical insight into the reading life of the child, and a treasure trove for researchers and readers alike.

The Cottage Fire-side. [Dublin]: C. Bentham, 1821. (OLS POL 6494)

Image of titlepage of The Cottage Fireside
The rather crudely printed titlepage for The Cottage Fireside.

The Cottage Fire-side is a relatively unprepossessing little volume (see photo), printed in Dublin by Christopher Bentham in 1821, sparsely illustrated with wood-cuts and still in its contemporary binding. It has survived practically unscathed, despite the best efforts of one Ellen Birmingham – a former owner and eponymous dedicatee – to perfect her juvenile signature on its endpapers and initial leaf.

The volume is among the output of the Society for the Education of the Poor of Ireland, otherwise known as the Kildare Place Society, established 1811, with a view to promoting primary education in Ireland on the Lancasterian model (after Joseph Lancaster 1778 – 1838). It aimed to achieve this in a manner divested of all sectarian distinctions, to avoid the suspicion among the Catholic population that such Protestant benevolence merely masked proselytising zeal. Among its founding committee members were Dublin merchants Samuel Bewley and William Guinness, whose names remain synonymous with successful Irish enterprise today.

Categorised as ‘Instructive in Arts or Economy’, the contents are a peculiar admixture of moral, hygienic, practical and spiritual advice, served-up in the form of fire-side conversations between Jenny and Grandmother. Topics range incongruously from ‘Scandal’ to the curiously subtitled ‘Dress: a single life’, from ‘Tea-drinking’, ‘Vaccination’ and ‘Filial love’ to  ‘Never despair’, ‘Potatoes’ and ‘The annals of the poor’.

Image from titlepage of a Kildare Place imprint
Imprint from a Kildare Place publication.

Book-sales for the Society’s first 8 years of publication (1817-1825) exceeded 1,000,000 volumes. Ireland, which according to an 1824 General Parliamentary Committee report had been ‘teeming with immoral and mischievous publications” had embraced a far more wholesome and improving diet of instruction for the young. As per Grandmother’s advice to Jenny, all it required was ‘a spoonful of flummery’:  books that were cheap, edifying, and easily digested.

Paper Conservators To Face Extinction?

Nanotech scientists in Genoa have developed waterproof paper. The team have created a process that makes paper waterproof without modifying any basic properties of the paper. Is this the future? Perhaps it should come as no surprise that the breakthrough originated in Italy? The flood of the Arno River in 1966 caused enormous damage to special collections in Florence, not least to roughly 1.3m. items in the National Central Library. For more information on the development click here


Image of the first edition of Dracula, 1897
The first edition of Dracula, 1897

Yesterday’s Irish Times contains an interesting supplement about Bram Stoker, who died 100 years ago tomorrow. Bram Stoker was born in Clontarf, Dublin, in 1847, and attended TCD between 1864 and 1870. He is, of course, best known for his novel Dracula, first published in June 1897.

The Department of Early Printed Books has a copy of this first edition (Press F.7. 195), and also a first edition of Dracula’s guest (Press F. 7. 193), which along with other tales, contains an episode from Dracula not included in the novel. Dracula’s guest was first published in 1914, going through three impressions that year, and a further ten in the following two decades. A special souvenir edition was published in 1927.

Image of the souvenir edition of Dracula's guest, 1927
The souvenir edition of Dracula's guest, 1927

This edition was limited to 1000 numbered copies; our copy is number 181 (Press F. 7.191 no.1). TCD library also holds the first Irish edition of Dracula, published Dublin, 1933, and translated into Irish by Seán Ó Cuirrín.

So, do the library stacks harbour any other vampiric treasures? The vampire genre is now so wide-ranging that it would be impossible to give a flavour of it here, but for starters how about John William Polidori’s The vampyre, London, 1819, or Henry Liddell’s The vampire bride, published in Edinburgh in 1833. We also have some very fetching illustrations of bats, from John Gould’s Mammals of Australia, of which more at a later date.

A trans‐disciplinary conference
on the occasion of the Bram Stoker Centenary takes place in Trinity on 20 April 2012. Click here for the programme of events. All welcome.