Tag Archives: Books

43. Journey Down a Rainbow: the Priestleys’ New World Honeymoon

In 1954, J.B. Priestley and Jacquetta Hawkes, who had married the previous year, took a kind of literary honeymoon: the result, this book, Journey down a Rainbow (1955).

Cover of Journey Down a Rainbow

Cover of Journey Down a Rainbow

The couple wanted to explore the impact of technology on society.  A visit to the South-West United States would allow them to contrast the people of the pueblos in New Mexico, who still preserved “much of their ancient culture … living more or less as they always did” , with Texans, “the latest men”, living in the most technologically advanced society which represented “a pattern to which all our urban Western civilisation is beginning to conform”.

The Priestleys travelled together to Kansas City, then went their separate ways, he to Dallas, she to Alberquerque.  Jacquetta explored the remaining pueblo society of New Mexico, Priestley to the booming Texas of Cold War, oil, and mass markets.   The book reproduces their letters, with chapters alternating between their experiences.

Jacquetta had the better time: her strong visual sense delighted in pottery and weaving, her love of the deep past responded to the power of the cave sites and ritual dancing.  J.B. did not find his trip as congenial.  However, it did draw out some of his most significant writing of the 1950s, as he described what he called Admass i.e. consumer society: materialism driven by mass communications, advertising and salesmanship, at its most obvious in the places he visited.  Jacquetta too contrasted the frenzy of unnecessary shopping in New York with the moving experience in a museum of seeing beautiful woven patterns created from dog hairs by a prehistoric woman, “living as humbly as a badger”.

The Priestleys during the 1950s

The Priestleys during the 1950s (archive ref: HAW 18/5/17)

The couple were joyfully reunited in Santa Fe, where they shared their adventures: “We talked and talked, had a drink or two and talked, prepared dinner and talked, ate the dinner and talked.  Afterwards we went out to feel the icy breath of night on our cheeks, to see the huge glitter of stars …”   Journey remains one of their most interesting works, full of thought-provoking ideas even more relevant to 21st century societies,  and is a perfect introduction to each of them as writers.


Happy 1st Birthday!

The 100 Objects exhibition was born on 4 January 2011.  Since then, over 9000 virtual visitors have enjoyed 42 fascinating items with stories to tell about Bradford’s  industries and culture, the University and its predecessors, peace and political campaigns, Yorkshire’s wonderful Dales, and plenty more. The most popular Object is Potential Graduate, the 1960s film of Bradford student life, closely followed by the Nuclear Disarmament Symbol sketches which created modern icon, the “peace sign”.  We’re delighted to have been awarded Archives Pace Setter status for this innovative project and look forward to sharing 60 more great stories with you over the next year or so.


30. “A Great Stay and Strength”: Dr Raistrick’s Quaker books

This week’s Object sheds light on another aspect of the life and ideas of Dr Arthur Raistrick (we already encountered his Yorkshire map inscriptions in Object 10).  It is an inscription by Dr Raistrick on a copy of A book of Quaker saints by Lucy Violet Hodgkin, published in 1917.  The book contains mini-biographies of George Fox and other key individuals in Quaker history.  In the inscription, Dr Raistrick explained what the book meant to him when imprisoned as a conscientious objector in Durham Jail during the First World War:

“I think this came into the small Quaker library in Durham Jail soon after publication in 1917.  It was a great discovery for all of us and helped to bring Fox’s Journal, Sewell’s History and a lot of the early journals to life.   Two which I was reading when this appeared were Stephen Grellette and Caroline Stephens, and I bought copies of all three as soon as I could, after my release,  and still value them.  They are very precious.  It was a great stay and strength in jail for many of us”.

The annotation is a wonderful example of provenance: how evidence left by a book’s owner can tell us more about the book itself and the person involved.

Raistrick at the time he was imprisoned was not actually a member of the Society of Friends: he joined later, in 1919.  However he was clearly already sympathetic to their ideas.   This little note shows how important Quaker ideas and history became to him.   It also illustrates his deep interest in the writings of past Friends.   He built up a large collection of such publications, many now held by Special Collections at the University of Bradford, in the Quaker and Raistrick book collections.  His interest in Quaker history also linked up with his love of Yorkshire landscape, as he developed interests in the study of lead mining and other industries with strong Quaker connections, especially the London (Quaker) Lead Company.  Witness books by Dr Raistrick such as Two centuries of industrial welfare, Silver and lead, and Dynasty of iron-founders (about the Darbys of Coalbrookdale).

Raistrick’s books generally are full of intriguing provenance: he was a great annotator and liked to explain how he came by his books.  For instance, this copy of Quaker saints also includes the note, “Arthur Raistrick 1919 given to me on my release from prison Sept. 1919”.

It is particularly pleasing that we have Raistrick’s copies of the other works he mentioned in the featured inscription: a memoir of Stephen Grellet by William Guest,  and Quaker strongholds by Caroline Stephen.  An inscription in the latter gives us another aspect of Raistrick’s wartime imprisonment: “A. Raistrick No. 4559 B.2.17. H.M.P. W.Scrubbs. 1.4.1918.” i.e. Wormwood Scrubs.

Quarter Way There!

We’ve now shown 25 Objects: a quarter of the way through the exhibition.  We’re really enjoying writing about and sharing the wonderful stories behind the Special Collections at the University of Bradford: we hope you find them interesting too.   Please let us know via blog comments or otherwise contacting us if you have something to say about the Objects.

This site has had over 5000 views, not to mention all the visits to the Objects on Facebook, Flickr and now Youtube.  We would never have been able to fit you all into the Reading Room to see the Objects for real, which shows how online exhibitions can bring Special Collections and people together as never before.

The most popular Object (site views): Singing Sixties!

Most popular (Twitter buzz): Dr Raistrick’s mapsThis image of one of his maps is the most popular image on the site.

Most popular Google search to reach this exhibition: bizarrely, “Clarkson Book Support System”.  Lots of librarians must be looking for their own Foam Family.  The next most popular is, fittingly, the University of Bradford Coat of Arms, part of our history with a story behind it.

17. On Bacon, On Gardens, On Science: Our Oldest Book

Bacon's EssayesThis little book is the oldest in Special Collections.  It is a 1639 edition of the Essayes of Sir Francis Bacon.  The essays cover how to behave in public life and are full of quotable aphorisms and good advice on topics such as building a house and travel.  There are also reflections on deeper issues including death, goodness and truth.

Detail of titlepage of Bacon's Essayes

Beginning of Bacon On Gardens from 1639 editionMy personal favourite is the essay On Gardens, in which Bacon advises that the garden should be planned so that each month “severally things of beauty may then be in season”.  He lists by month what would be in flower in London:

“In April follow the double white violet; the wallflower; the stock-gilliflower; the cowslip; flowerdelices, and lilies of all natures; rosemary-flowers; the tulippa; the double peony; the pale daffodil; the French honeysuckle; the cherry-tree in blossom; the damson and plum-trees in blossom; the white thorn in leaf; the lilac-tree …”

Spines of Bacon's worksThere is an important connection between Francis Bacon and Special Collections.  One of Bacon’s most famous works was the utopian New Atlantis, in which a group of sailors blown off course in the South Sea find refuge on an island.  A scientific society known as Salomon’s House, whose aim was “the knowledge of causes, and secret motions of things; and the enlarging of the bounds of human empire, to the effecting of all things possible” had transformed agriculture and other activities on the island.

Serbian philosopher Dimitrije Mitrinović, who lived in England from 1914, gathered people to share his vision, which, inspired by Bacon’s book,  he called “New Atlantis”.  The “task is now to review the whole of human past history …  so as to make these live again imaginatively in our present experience; and then to revalue them in relation to one another and to humanity as a whole”.  To this end, Mitrinović and his followers gathered a large library of rare books on philosophy, science, politics, history and much more (including Bacon’s works, shown here), now part of Special Collections.  We also have their Archive, more of which in a later Object.

14. The Call of the Heather: Windyridge by W. Riley

In 1912, a novel set in the Yorkshire Dales became an instant best-seller.  Described by reviewers as pure, wholesome, refreshing, and sweet,
Windyridge told the charming story of Grace Holden, an artist who takes refuge from London life by renting a cottage in a Yorkshire village: Windyridge, based on Hawksworth, near Guiseley.

Grace makes the choice to stay in Windyridge because she is so moved by the sight of the heather-covered moors, which remind her of her father’s homesickness for his own part of the country.   The heroine encounters interesting local characters, finds friends, and after many difficulties, love and happiness.  The book was written from her point of view so effectively that readers and reviewers, and indeed at first the publisher, believed this new author, W. Riley, to be female.  But in fact W. Riley was Willie Riley, a 46-year-old Bradford man, who had previously managed his family’s pioneering optical lantern business and was an active Methodist lay preacher.

Willie Riley

Willie Riley

Riley wrote the book to entertain some friends who were having a difficult time after a bereavement.  They were delighted with the book and, along with his wife Clara, urged him to send it to a publisher.  Riley did so, though not taking the idea seriously.  However, new firm Herbert Jenkins recognised the qualities of the book: Windyridge was their first publication.  Riley was to publish over 30 novels with them until his death in 1961.

Like Windyridge, Riley’s other writings are full of his love for Yorkshire; the stories are set in real places under disguised names.   His work also shows the Methodist faith that was so important to him (and I think his success with Windyridge owes much to the communication skills he built up in his activities as a lay preacher).

A lovely period dustjacket for Windyridge Revisited

A lovely period dustjacket for Windyridge Revisited (1928)

Special Collections has copies of all these books, and we are receiving his Archive which documents how he organised his writing career.

Riley was almost forgotten for many years, Windyridge surviving only in the names of houses around the world.  Now there is a revival of interest: Windyridge itself is now in print again, from Jeremy Mills Publishing.  Find out more about Riley and Windyridge on this website, created by Riley enthusiast and Bradford graduate David Copeland.

7. Handle with Care: Foam Family and Friends

Foam supports ready for use

Foam Family ready to help

Special Collections at Bradford offers a range of materials to help staff and readers handle fragile objects carefully.  For example, the Clarkson Book Support System, which we call the Foam Family.  The System was designed by conservator Christopher Clarkson with Polyformes (also available from other conservation supply firms).   The foam wedges range in size from mini to massive and help support open volumes so their spines aren’t broken. We also offer booksnakes and weights, to hold down maps and other rolled items without damage.  Pencils avoid damage from ink; cotton gloves keep photographs free of sweat.

Foam supports in use with rare books

Foam Family at work

Special Collections staff teach our visitors  how to handle original archives and rare books with understanding and respect.  This is part of our preservation policy.  Special Collections, like most organisations, has very limited funding available for conservation work on individual items.   So we rely on preservation: simple, cost-effective ideas which prevent damage to collections occurring in the first place.

Book with foam supports

Map weights in action