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Gratitude to the ladies

Andrew Lang was born in Selkirk, Scotland, on 31st March 1844. He studied at the Universities of St. Andrews and Glasgow, and Balliol College, Oxford. He was elected to an Open Fellowship at Merton College, moving there in 1869. Lang was prolific in a number of disciplines, such as pre-history, the relationship between myth and religion, and Scottish history, and was particularly prominent in the field of folklore, being a founding member, in 1878, of the Folklore Society, and its president during the International Folk-Lore Congress in London in 1891. He died on 20 July 1912. It is perhaps paradoxical, given the prevailing view at that time that children’s books were not real literature, that he is probably best remembered for his children’s books, particularly the ‘coloured’ series of fairy books. More ironic still, it was his wife who did the majority of the work on these.

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Judging books by their covers

The saying says ‘never judge a book by its cover’, but sometimes the cover is so attractive you feel you just have to pick up the book. Of course, it’s always a disappointment if it doesn’t live up to its promise! A trend on Twitter in the past couple of weeks has been to post a book cover each day for seven days, with no explanations, and to challenge someone else each day to join in. Glucksman Library Special Collections & Archives at the University of Limerick invited us and I accepted. Here are the covers which featured in my responses: Continue reading “Judging books by their covers”

The Fascination of Fore-edges

parts of bookIn the original College library, books were placed on the shelves with the fore-edges facing outwards. This was normal practice in libraries for much of the sixteenth century for two reasons. One is that writing or printing the title and author’s name on the spine was not common until the 17th century and therefore the ‘back’ of the book was purely functional, holding the pages together. The other is that books, like the manuscripts which preceded them, were often held securely by a chain fastened to a metal staple on the fore-edge of the wooden board. (There are a few examples in this blog post of libraries which have retained their books on chains and, of course, there were the magical books in the library at Unseen University in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.) The chain was long enough to reach both the shelf where the book was stored and a sloping lectern* where it could be read. Continue reading “The Fascination of Fore-edges”

Revelling in Rackham

Arthur Rackham, the fourth of twelve children, was born in Lewisham on 19th September 1867. His father wanted him to have a career in business and he began as an insurance clerk, but attended Lambeth School of Art in the evenings, having won prizes for drawing at school. In 1892, after having illustrations published in the The Pall Mall Budget over the course of the previous year, he took a job there, moving to the new Westminster Budget the following year. After just a few years he was able to become a self-supporting book illustrator, also contributing to The Westminster Gazette and magazines such as Little Folks and Cassell’s Magazine, a career which continued until his death from cancer on 6th September 1939.

This self-portrait is the frontispiece to Derek Hudson’s biography of Rackham, published in 1960.

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