Access for All: Debunking the Mysteries and Misconceptions of Archival Research

Access for All: Debunking the Mysteries and Misconceptions of Archival Research

I am ushered into an eerily silent room, roughly the size of a cathedral, where everything is gleaming white and pristine. In front of me is a white desk that has been carefully placed in the middle of the room. The door snaps shut behind me with a metallic clang that temporarily disturbs the unnatural quiet of the place. From the far end of the room, a woman frowns at me from behind her own white and immaculate desk. She is the keeper of the archives and I have disturbed her peace, but more importantly I am about to disturb her precious and mysterious archival material, held hostage behind the many closed and locked doors that surround me. However, first I must pass her test in order to gain entry and view the material she guards so fiercely. As I walk towards her I can see that she is thinking how unexpected and unacceptable it is for a university student such as myself to dare to request to use the archives. She looks me up and down before silently turning me away, pointing back towards the door I entered through, which has suddenly re-opened. The test is over already. I have failed. It is widely known that archives are not for the use of students, and that they are reserved strictly for … actually, who is allowed to visit and view archival material?
It is a common misconception amongst university students of all levels that archives are places reserved only for academics, historians, and other seriously clever people who belong to secret societies that are run by even cleverer people. If you are a student, you are an academic, you are an historian, and you are certainly an intelligent individual. There is no secret society, there is no test, and not only are you allowed to access archival material of all kinds, you should feel comfortable doing so. It may be the age, state, or status of the literature and material housed in archives that helps to perpetuate the myth that you must be a senior member of Mensa (at the very least) to access this information. Whilst arguably the main point of archives is to preserve the material and/or information it contains for future generations, there is very little point in preserving something for future use and denying access to those who wish to view and access the material in the present. Whilst it is true that archival material must be carefully and respectfully handled, I cannot stress too much that such care is taken not to discourage potential visitors from accessing the material, but in order to enable others to view, handle, study, and enjoy it in the future. Archives are not terrifying or elitist places. From my own personal experience working in Special Collections in The Sheppard-Worlock Library (under the guidance of the extremely friendly and helpful librarian, Karen Backhouse), archives are fascinating treasure troves of information which can be enjoyed by all who desire access to the material and information within.

Nicola Friar in the children's study
Children’s study where the Brontës wrote their earliest tales and tiny books

My first real experience of handling archival material was in February 2016. I was in the final year of my MA course in Popular Literatures, and in the preliminary stages of research for my dissertation on Charlotte Brontë’s early fiction, or juvenilia, as it is more commonly known. Following a seminar about different types of research, my class were invited into Special Collections to view some material and introduce us to the possibility of archival research, something which I had never thought much about due to the myth that only certain types of people were allowed into literary archives. However, following the class, in which Karen had stressed the fact that access to Special Collections is available to all Hope students, I began to think more seriously about archival research, which, due to the obscurity of my topic, seemed like a good idea as much of Brontë’s early fiction is notoriously difficult to access in print.
The following day, I emailed Karen to enquire about the possibility of volunteering in the department for a few hours a week in order to gain some experience and learn more about archival research due to the possibility of a visit to view some of Brontë’s original manuscripts as part of my dissertation research. Karen kindly offered me some voluntary work, and during those few hours that I spent in Special Collections every week, I learnt so much about both archival work and more general library work, and I sincerely hope that I was of some use to Karen. My duties included assisting in identifying material in the Radcliffe early printed collection that required boxing as part of the on-going preservation programme, assisting in the digitalization of a music manuscript, processing and cataloguing donated stock by their unique classification system, updating online bibliographic records, and hoovering (yes, hoovering!) some of the older books in the department.
Following a few months’ work in the department, I decided to arrange to view some of Brontë’s original manuscripts. Although these manuscripts are now scattered throughout the world, many remain in the UK, housed in private collections, but also in institutions such as the British Library, and the Brontë family’s former home, the Brontë Parsonage Museum.

Brontë Parsonage, Haworth

It was thanks to Karen’s time and kindness that I eventually felt comfortable handling rare material, and had finally arrived at the realisation that I was permitted to view archival material related to my subject if I desired to do so. Following communication with the Curator of the Brontë Parsonage Museum, Sarah Laycock, I was invited to view Brontë’s original manuscripts and letters as part of my dissertation research. Due to the nature of the material I would be handling, I was required to produce an academic reference in order to visit, and also to demonstrate that I had some familiarity with handling archival material, which due to Karen’s kindness, I already had. My visit was fascinating; not only was Sarah kind and welcoming, I finally got to view and handle the texts I had been studying so much and fascinated by for so long. Going into the Brontë archive, I was confident about handling the materials despite their age and size.

Tiny book_toned
Tiny book on display in the Brontë Parsonage Museum

A significant portion of Brontë’s surviving juvenilia is tiny in size, and, despite my training, it was quite difficult to handle, which is why previous experience in the handling of archival material was required. These texts are affectionately and unofficially known as the Brontës’ tiny books (Charlotte’s brother, Branwell, also contributed to the Glass Town and Angrian saga, the same childhood fictional world as his sister). Handling the texts gave me an entirely new perspective on the literature contained within and served as a reminder that whatever the later texts consisted of, the origins of this fictional world were the result of child’s play and the childhood games of precocious siblings, echoes of which can be traced throughout Charlotte’s adult novels, including The Professor, and Jane Eyre.

Tiny book 2_toned
Tiny book or juvenilia by Charlotte Brontë, 1830

Following my visit to the Brontë Parsonage Museum, my perception of Brontë’s early fiction altered, and my dissertation began to take shape. Although it subsequently altered many times before the submission deadline, without Karen’s time and patience in teaching and familiarizing me with archival procedure, I would still be struggling to imagine exactly what the Brontës’ juvenilia meant to them and to understand and appreciate the circumstances surrounding its production and survival. Sometimes you cannot simply read a text, you must experience it, and for me, this is the main benefit of archival research. Once again I would like to thank Karen for her help and advice in the archives and encourage you to pay her a visit if you are considering archival research for a project. My time in the Special Collections really did alter my way of thinking about my material; it can do the same for you too.

“All photos were taken by myself or a relative and appear with the kind permission of the Brontë Society”

By Nicola Friar
May 2017

S. Katharine’s College Archive and Digitisation Project

Firstly, let me start by introducing myself. My name is Conor Bolland, I’m 24 years old and a recent graduate from Liverpool Hope University, the Class of 2016 in HiIMG_3435story and Politics. I was delighted to receive an email notifying me of the Liverpool Hope University Internship Programme 2017 open to Hope’s most recent graduates and including a list of projects across the university. I applied for the Archive and Digitisation Officer as this was a field I had previously had some experience in and also relates to my degree. Additionally, it was something that would give me valuable experience and skills in how to manage an archive and to digitise photographs using a desktop scanner, digital camera and editing software.


Markland Building c. 1960, now Special Collections (where I worked)

I started my three month internship in The Sheppard-Worlock Library’s Special Collections in January 2017. My tasks involved checking the existing records from the S. Katharine’s College and Warrington Training College archives spreadsheet against the contents of the boxed items and amend accordingly. I also created records for additional material discovered in the library stacks. The S. Katharine’s College Archive is now available to download from the Special Collections webpages.

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Library Quad c.1944.

After this task was complete, I began digitising the vast amount of photographs taken by the university and those donated by former staff and alumni. This was done using a scanner and a digital SLR camera to make digital copies of all the photographs. With the scanner, each photo was loaded in and scanned individually to make sure that each one was copied in as high detail as the original photo. Any photographs stuck in their original albums and therefore difficult to scan without damaging, or those too big for the scanner, were copied using the SLR camera to a high resolution. After digitising the photographs, I edited each photo using Photoshop to crop any borders and orientate them correctly. It was important to assign metadata to each digital file such as, name, title, any copyright holders or named photographers as well as names of any students depicted in the photos. I had to be meticulous in this task as it was necessary to be able to easily identify and retrieve images.

Sports Day – Pillow Fight

After digitisation was complete, the next step was to upload any relevant photos to the asset bank. The asset bank is the university’s digital storage for photographic images that can be accessed by university staff for different uses, such as, Then and Now articles for social media or the Hope Bulletin News. The year 2019 marks the 175th anniversary of S. Katharine’s College, a founding college of Liverpool Hope University, and these photos will be utilised throughout the year to highlight the history of the college and the years gone by.


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Quad fountain

This was a task I took great pleasure in because I got a glimpse into the past of the University, seeing all the original buildings, the construction of some of the buildings on Hope Park and the life of students who studied here, which really appealed to my interest in local history.


To conclude, I have really enjoyed my time on the Internship Programme at Hope and getting to know new people around the campus. I was delighted to be able to complete the archival and digitisation work on S. Katharine’s College in Special Collections. I have also gained some much needed experience and good references to add to my CV to be able to move forward in finding a career, which is vital in today’s job market. Whilst working, I was also massively grateful for all the help and support I received particularly from the library staff and the alumni office in identifying some people in the photographs.

by Conor Bolland


Nugent – 135 years of care

Nugent – 135 years of care

The Sheppard-Worlock Library’s Archives & Special Collections have been working in partnership with the charitable organisation, Nugent, and Liverpool Record Office at Central Library to mark Nugent’s 135th anniversary by showcasing material from the archives held at Liverpool Hope University, Central Library and Nugent to highlight the work begun by Father Nugent in the nineteenth century and the development of the organisation from the 1970’s to the present day.

Monsignor James Nugent

The origins of Nugent date back to the 1800’s and the pioneering work of James Nugent. Monsignor James Nugent, (1822-1905), better known as Father Nugent, was a Roman Catholic Priest of the Archdiocese of Liverpool. He was a passionate social reformer appalled by the state of the homeless living in the squalor of Victorian England and he dedicated his life to the education and rescue of destitute children.

James Nugent was the eldest of nine children born 3 March 1822 in Hunter Street, Liverpool, to an Irish father, John, a poultry dealer, and an English mother, Mary, a convert to Catholicism. He was educated at private school under the patronage of Rev. James Picton of Christ Church and, although his father wanted him to be a merchant, his mother and the local priest encouraged him to enter the priesthood.

In 1838 he studied at Ushaw College, Co. Durham, and the English College, he was ordained at St. Nicholas’ Liverpool in 1846 and then after working in several parishes in Blackburn and Wigan returned to St. Nicolas’ parish as curate on New Year’s Day in 1849.

At this time Victorian Liverpool was reeling from the effects of the Irish famine and the typhus epidemic that followed. During the Summer of 1849, 5,000 would die from cholera. The influx of Irish immigrants put a huge strain on Liverpool’s already acute housing shortage. Many were simply passing through on their way to North America but a large minority were too poor or too sick to go further.

NCA005 On Admission

In 1841 the population of Liverpool was almost 300,000 and by 1851 this had risen to 376,000. It is estimated that the Irish immigrants and their children accounted for 24% of the total population. Fr. Nugent could not help being aware of the vast numbers of homeless, destitute children roaming the streets, begging and stealing in order to exist, and sleeping in boxes under bridges at night. As early as 1849 Fr. Nugent established a Ragged School at Copperas Hill for homeless children offering shelter, food and clothing. Father Nugent was also keen to provide children with a basic standard of education. He soon set about fundraising for his next venture, the Catholic Institute, which opened at 26 Hope Street in October 1853. The institute, which was open to non-Catholics, was a great success and noted scholars came to deliver lectures, among them John Henry Newman. The Catholic Reformatory Association, with Father Nugent as President, was set up following the Reformatory Schools Act 1854, to authorise financial help to institutions that would accept children convicted of crime. The Liverpool Catholic Reformatory Association established a Ship Reformatory on The Clarence, capable of housing up to 250 boys. The success was quite remarkable for a time until in 1884 a few boys set fire to her. It was refurbished but the same happened again in 1899 and the scheme abandoned. After three years on The Clarence many of the boys were taken into the Merchant Navy.

The Clarence, Reformatory ship, 1884

Fr. Nugent’s reputation as a man of action and compassion had grown so much that he was able to bring together leading figures across the religious divide to promote a charter for children under the slogan, “Save the Child”, foreshadowing legislation to come in the Industrial Schools Act of 1857 which allowed the State to intervene to remove children from neglectful parents and place them in industrial schools where they would receive education and training. From 1866 Fr. Nugent took a leading role in the management of St George’s Industrial School for Boys and the Boys’ Catholic Orphanage in Beacon Lane, under the management of the Sisters of Charity.

In 1863 he founded the Association of Providence from among the young Catholic professionals and businessmen, and former pupils from the Catholic Institute to help support the orphanage and in 1864 he set up a night-shelter for destitute boys at 22 Soho Street, supported by donations, fundraising and subscriptions from members of the Association of Providence.  He came to realise that a night-shelter was not enough. What was needed was a residential school where the boys could learn to read and write and be taught a trade and prepared for adult life. In 1869, Fr. Nugent acquired larger premises on St Anne Street, The Boy’s Refuge, a certified Industrial School teaching shoemaking, tailoring, joinery and printing in order that the boys might be taught a trade. They were responsible for printing the ‘Northern Press’, and later its successor the ‘Catholic Times’, which soon had a circulation of 73,000 and continued until 1923.

Boys’ Refuge Printing Works (NCA006)

Father Nugent was appointed the first Roman Catholic Prison Chaplain in Britain for Liverpool Borough Gaol, Walton in 1863 and served 22 years. He assembled data illustrating the types of crime associated with male and female inmates, Catholic and Protestant. His Prison Chaplain’s Report of 1864 confirmed his observation; that 54% of the male prisoners and 63% of the females were Catholic and, of the Catholics, the majority, 63%, were women. This made Liverpool prison the only prison in the World where the females exceeded the males. Many of the females Nugent met in prison were unemployed or worked as basket girls (street traders), which he believed led directly to prostitution. Nugent was determined to help the young female convicts to begin anew. He persuaded the Order of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God to establish a refuge to help and he also established a home for mothers and their babies, The House of Providence, in the Dingle.

Rescue Notes (NCA006)

In his role as Prison Chaplain, Father Nugent witnessed the effects of alcohol on the poor, especially women. Understanding that a new life abroad presented an opportunity to escape from the dangers of Liverpool, he instigated emigration schemes for children from the Poor Law Schools, young women trading on the streets and ex-offenders from reformatories and prisons.

In 1881 the Liverpool Catholic Children’s Protection Society was founded to care for destitute Catholic children and to continue the work started by Fr. Nugent. Usually the homes that grew up in Liverpool were affiliated to this society. At the peak of their activities the Liverpool Catholic Children’s Protection Society could look after around 550 children. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul was founded in 1891 along with the Homes for Friendless Boys (later Homes for Catholic Friendless Youths).


Fr. John Berry, Rector of St. Philip Neri’s Oratory in Catharine Street, opened St. Philip’s Home for Street Trading Boys in Marble Street in 1892, and a few years later he took over the management along with A.C. Thomas of a home in Shaw Street, called St. Vincent de Paul’s House until ill-health forced him to leave in 1897.

In 1870 Fr. Nugent took the first group of 24 children to Canada on 18 August 1870 on the SS Austrian; this was probably the first organised emigration of its kind. Fr. Nugent used the opportunity to spend nine months on a lecture tour of Canada and the United States, (encouraged by Archbishop Ireland), pleading the cause of these children and raising money. This was a task at which he excelled. The Catholic Children’s Protection Society set up two homes in Canada to cater for children who wished to emigrate; these were St. George’s Home for Boys in Ottawa and the St. Vincent’s Home for Girls in Montreal. Large numbers of children were assisted to emigrate to the New World and this continued until 1930.

Party of Boys Emigrated (NCA009)

Mrs Lacy, Matron of the Society’s Home in Shaw Street Liverpool, accompanied the children and spent a considerable time visiting those previously sent out. During 1885, she reported that she had personally visited 140 children at their new homes, and in 120 cases the results were entirely satisfactory. She concluded that it was only to be expected that some of the children should not realise to the full the hopes of their benefactors. Some were looked upon simply as a source of cheap labour, others were adopted by their new families, and were brought up and educated as their own children.

Fr. Nugent had a vision of happy, healthy children, prospering in a land of opportunity; others saw it as a scheme to rid the city of those who would otherwise become a burden on the rates. Annual reports of the Liverpool Catholic Children’s Protection Society later included copies of letters sent by some of the emigrants to the Home in Shaw Street. Most expressed contentment, or at least resignation to their new life, but there is a constant theme of loneliness running through them. Although the children are described as orphaned or abandoned, most seem to have had some relatives in Liverpool, and there are constant requests for information about them.

In 1924 the three separate organisations; the Liverpool Catholic Children’s Protection Society, the Catholic Children’s Aid Society and Father Berry’s Homes joined together as one under the guidance of the Archbishop of Liverpool. He appointed Monsignor Pinnington, the successor of Fr. Nugent and Fr. Berry, and Monsignor John Bennett (1891-1965) to take charge. This partnership was to be the early development of the present day Nugent. Fr. Bennett was the administrator for over 40 years continuing the pioneering efforts of Fr. Nugent in the field of Catholic Social Welfare. He was an important character in the development of social welfare and his influence and expertise extended beyond Liverpool.

The archive at Liverpool Hope University contains 26 books and 264 items in total, including; Father Nugent’s letters written during his time as Chaplain of Walton Gaol and as co-founder of the Liverpool Catholic Children’s Protection Society, and Fr. Nugent’s successor, Monsignor Bennett’s correspondence letters covering subjects such as child welfare, juvenile delinquency, child psychology, and the end of child emigration to Canada.


Liverpool Record Office host an extensive Nugent archive consisting of nearly 300 items covering 22 different organisations in Liverpool and includes 2,500 files of children who emigrated to Canada under the auspices of the Liverpool Catholic Emigration Association.  The Nugent collection tells the story of children in various institutions, including industrial schools, reformatory ships and orphanages. The Nugent Archive is available to view, by appointment, at Liverpool Record Office.  Some of the records are closed under the Data Protection Act but advice on accessing these records will be given on request.

The exhibition is on display on the 3rd floor of Liverpool Central Library, William Brown Street, from the 22nd November 2016 until the 16th January 2017. There are also items from the Liverpool Hope Nugent Archive on display in the Sheppard-Worlock Library.

Shakespeare 400

To commemorate 400 years since William Shakespeare’s death, Dr. Louise Wilson, Lecturer in Medieval and Early Modern Literature, has been delving into the treasures of Special Collections to share with you some of the books we hold here at Liverpool Hope University that Shakespeare would have been very familiar with.

Abraham Ortelius. Theatrum orbis terrarum (Theatre of the countries of the world). 1584.

The locations of Shakespeare’s plays range across the early modern known world, including Lebanon (Tyre), Egypt, Greece, Turkey, Austria, Italy, Spain, France, and Denmark; however, for Europeans, there were still parts of the world that remained unexplored in Shakespeare’s time and America was a newly discovered continent. Imaginative accounts of the places, people, and creatures yet to be seen feature in the plays, especially Othello and The Tempest.

Abraham Ortelius. Theatrum orbis terrarum. Africae ff.4 (B567)

The latest geographical knowledge was charted in the Theatrum orbis terrarum, the first ever atlas, produced by the Flemish geographers Abraham Ortelius and Gerard Mercator, and the printer-publisher Christophe Plantin. It was published in Antwerp in 1570 and became a bestseller throughout early modern Europe. The atlas was published in 33 editions over 41 years and translated into six other European languages from its original Latin. Earlier books of maps had relied on the ancient Greek geography of Ptolemy. This atlas brought together the latest knowledge of the world from seafaring, including the recent European discovery of the Americas.

Othello woos Desdemona with stories of the people and places he has seen as his soldiering took him to far-flung places:

Wherein of antres vast and deserts idle,                                         (caves)
Rough quarries, rocks and hills whose heads touch heaven
It was my hint to speak – such was my process –
And of the cannibals that each other eat,
The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads                                   (man-eaters)
Do grow beneath their shoulders.

(Shakespeare, Othello, I.3.141-146)

B567_Scandia90_Halfbeast creature

Abraham Ortelius. Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. ff. 90 (B567)

But it is Shakespeare’s The Tempest, set on an imaginary island in the Mediterranean with strong hints of the New World of America, which most fully explores the limits of European geographical knowledge and the potential for imaginative encounters with mythical creatures that still populated the waters and blank spaces of scholarly maps like Ortelius’. The sorcerer Prospero’s spirit, Ariel, is told to transform himself into ‘a nymph o’th’sea’ (I.2.302) and the island is home to a native creature, Caliban, whose mother was imprisoned by Prospero when he landed there. Caliban is variously described by the Europeans as a ‘tortoise’, ‘savage’, ‘fish’, ‘monster’, ‘mooncalf’ and ‘puppy-headed’. He, however, knows the wonders of the island and shares his knowledge with the shipwrecked Italian men he encounters:

I’ll show thee the best springs; I’ll pluck thee berries;
I’ll fish for thee, and get thee wood enough.
I prithee, let me bring thee where crabs grow,
And I with my long nails will dig thee pignuts,
Show thee a jay’s nest, and instruct thee how
To snare the nimble marmoset. I’ll bring thee
To clust’ring filberts, and sometimes I’ll get thee                          (hazelnuts)
Young scamels from the rock. Wilt thou go with me?                   (2.2.157-69)

B567_TerraSancta97_Ship & Halfman

Abraham Ortelius. Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. ff.97 (B567)


John Gerard. Herball, or Generall Historie of Plants. 1636.

Shakespeare’s plays and poems are full of references to plants and the natural world. In the early modern world, plants, flowers, and herbs were known for their practical (medicinal and culinary, in particular) and symbolic properties; for example, the herb rosemary was associated with the Virgin Mary and remembrance. While this kind of knowledge had been popular for centuries, it was formalized in the early modern period in books called ‘Herbals’, which contained practical information on the history, cultivation, and use of plants, illustrated with lavish woodcuts, and Shakespeare would have consulted them for the botanical references in his work.

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John Gerard. Herball, or General Historie of Plants. Title page (B410 Folio)

The most famous Elizabethan herbalist was John Gerard. His Herball, or Generall Historie of Plants was first published in 1597 and reprinted and expanded many times during the seventeenth century. Much of it is a translation of the Flemish herbalist Rembert Dodoens’ herbal of 1554 (a 1559 edition is in Liverpool Hope’s Special Collections), but Gerard added plants from the New World into an English herbal for the first time. The portrait of Gerard on the title-page shows him holding a potato plant, which had only been introduced into England in 1586.

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Portrait of John Gerard from the title page of Gerard’s Herball. (B410 Folio)

In The Winter’s Tale, Perdita (a princess brought up as a shepherdess) distributes symbolically chosen plants to members of the sheep-shearing feast, including rosemary, rue, carnations and ‘gillyvors’ (gillyflowers, pinks) in Act Four, Scene Four, just as Ophelia famously does in Hamlet, giving out rosemary, pansies, rue, fennel, columbines and daisies (Act Four, Scene Five).

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John Gerard. Herball or the Generall Historie of Plants. p. 1260. (B410 Folio)

The colour and perfume of roses perhaps hold the greatest significance for Shakespeare. Juliet argues that ‘that which we call a rose / By any other word would smell as sweet’ (Romeo and Juliet, 2.2.43-44) and Sonnet 130 (‘My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun’) claims ‘I have seen roses damasked, red and white, / But no such roses see I in her cheeks;’. Although Sir Walter Scott may have introduced the term ‘Wars of the Roses’, Shakespeare’s use of the white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster to symbolise the two royal houses in his history plays associates the plants and political allegiance:

Plantagenet: Let him that is a true-born gentleman
And stands upon the honour of his birth,
If he suppose that I have pleaded truth,
From off this briar pluck a white rose with me.
Somerset: Let him that is no coward nor no flatterer,
But dare maintain the party of the truth,
Pluck a red rose from off this thorn with me. (Henry VI, Part One, 2.45.27-33)



John Foxe. The Actes and Monuments (Foxe’s Book of Martyrs). 1576.

The Actes and Monuments (more popularly known as Foxe’s Book of Martyrs) was a vast and hugely influential early modern text. Foxe published a short version in Latin in 1559, but the first English version was published in 1563 and relates, with woodcut illustrations, the deaths of Protestant martyrs throughout English history, including 300 executed when Catholicism was briefly restored under Mary Tudor from 1553-58. Subsequent editions of Foxe’s book were expanded and the two-volume 1570 edition had more than 2,300 pages. The Church of England decreed that this 1570 edition should be placed in every cathedral church and made available to all congregations to consult; as a result, it became very widely known and had an enduring influence on opinions of Catholicism in England.


John Foxe. The Actes and Monuments. 1576. p. 664 (Gradwell Collection)

Shakespeare drew on The Actes and Monuments for his history plays, including sections of Henry VI, Parts Two and Three and Henry VIII. One Protestant martyr detailed in Foxe may have been the inspiration for one of Shakespeare’s most famous characters, Sir John Falstaff, Hal’s roguish companion in Henry IV Parts One and Two, resurrected owing to popular demand in The Merry Wives of Windsor. Shakespeare appears to have come under pressure from Oldcastle’s influential descendant, Lord Cobham, the Lord Chamberlain from 1596-97, to change the name from Oldcastle to Falstaff, but residual indications of the earlier name remain in the texts: Hal refers to Falstaff as ‘my old lad of the castle’ in Henry IV, Part One (1.2.40), and critics have noted that the two-syllable ‘Falstaff’ does not fit the metre of the play as well as the three-syllable ‘Oldcastle’; moreover, one speech prefix ‘Old.’ appears in Henry IV, Part Two and the Epilogue protests ‘Oldcastle died a martyr, and this is not the man’.

Liverpool Hope’s Special Collections holds two early editions of The Actes and Monuments (the third and sixth editions). The image above of Sir John Oldcastle’s martyrdom is taken from the third edition in the Gradwell Collection.



Raphael Holinshed. Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland. 1587.

Much of the action of Shakespeare’s history plays, as well as his plays set in ancient Britain including Macbeth and Cymbeline, is based on the accounts in Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Although it carries Holinshed’s name, the Chronicles was in fact the product of a number of scholars and printers. Its two volumes were first published in small folio format in 1577; a second edition appeared in 1587 in the more prestigious large folio format. The woodcut illustrations from the first edition had gone, and so had several passages on contemporary history which fell foul of the censors, but all sections had been expanded and updated.

The Chronicles was the most influential book of Tudor historiography in Shakespeare’s time, and was used widely by other major Elizabethan writers including Edmund Spenser in The Faerie Queene.

Liverpool Hope holds the three-volume 1587 edition which belonged to the antiquarian and archaeologist, Sir Richard Colt Hoare, 2nd Baronet (1758-1838).


Raphael Holinshed. Chronicles. Title page (B467 Folio)


Unusual provenance discovery in Special Collections

Unassuming dictionary with modern twentieth century binding
Unassuming dictionary with modern 20th century binding

Cataloguing books may be perceived, by those unable to appreciate the cathartic pleasure to be gained from logical ordering and close attention to detail, as being quite boring. I admit, it can be monotonous but just occasionally something may happen to alleviate the boredom. Keith Trickey, one of our temporary cataloguers in Special Collections, made an unusual discovery this week whilst cataloguing donations to the library. The book in question is a 19th century Latin-English dictionary by William Smith (London, 1857) with an unadorned mid-20th century re-binding that would normally only arouse a perfunctory glance from any bibliophile, however, this dull-looking volume belies an exciting history.

On opening the book Keith discovered the name of the previous owner written out in full on the title page, “John Ronald Reuel Tolkien” and the initials and date “K.E.S 1908” written underneath.

Title page
Title page with signature

Keith was delighted to have found a book previously owned by J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) when he was only sixteen years old. K.E.S. are the initials of King Edward’s School, Birmingham where Tolkien attended school from the age of eight. It was there that he was first introduced to Old and Middle English, Old Norse, Gothic and, of course, Latin. He showed a special aptitude for languages which would prove to be the foundation for a successful career in linguistic and philological study and helped to create the setting for Tolkien’s imagined Middle-earth, and the mythological peoples and languages within it.


Detail of signature
Detail of signature

It’s not often that we see his name written in full without the usual abbreviated ‘J.R.R.’ This unassuming English-Latin dictionary will certainly be treasured by Liverpool Hope Special Collections.

The Breeches Bible

The Breeches Bible

In September 2015, The Sheppard-Worlock Library’s Special Collections received, on long-term loan, a Geneva or ‘Breeches’ Bible belonging to St. Bridget’s in West Kirby. It is a 1582 reprint by Christopher Barker of the 1577 edition.

The ‘Breeches’ Bible is so-called after the use of the word in the translation of Genesis 3:7 in the Geneva version of the English Bible.

Breeches Bible - Genesis 3:7
Breeches Bible – Genesis 3:7

“Then the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed figge tree leaves together, and made themselves breeches”

During the reign of Queen Mary I, many Protestant scholars fled from England to Geneva, Switzerland to avoid persecution. Among these scholars was William Whittingham who supervised the translation, now known as the Geneva Bible, in collaboration with Myles Coverdale. He was probably born in Chester in 1524 and married John Calvin’s sister-in-law in 1555.

Whittingham’s translation of the New Testament in 1557 was the first appearance of a critical text of the Scriptures in Roman typeface; using verse divisions to facilitate quotation and supplying in italic those words not present in the original, yet required to complete the sense in English.

Breeches Bible, 1582
Breeches Bible, 1582

The Geneva Bible contained a number of study aids, including woodcut illustrations, maps and explanatory ‘tables’, i.e. indexes of names and topics, in addition to the extensive marginal notes. Each book was preceded by an ‘argument’ or introduction, and each chapter by a list of contents giving verse numbers.

The Geneva Bible was immediately established as an authoritative translation genuinely based on the Hebrew and Greek originals and ran through over 140 editions, even after the appearance of the Authorised Version. Notably, in 1620 it was the Geneva Bible not the King James Version that was brought to North America by the Puritans aboard the Mayflower. Its popularity is also attested by its widespread citation by writers and ecclesiastics of the later sixteenth century, including Shakespeare whose plays after 1595 appear to favour the Geneva text.

The Geneva Bible was the preferred Bible of Anglican and Puritan Protestants during the Elizabethan Age, however, King James I, who claimed the throne of England in 1603, very much disliked it. Apparently, his distaste for the Geneva Bible was not necessarily upon all the translations of the numerous passages into English, but mostly the annotations in the margins. In all likelihood, he saw the Geneva’s interpretations of biblical passages as anti-clerical ‘republicanism’, which could imply church hierarchy was unnecessary. Hypothetically, it followed that the need for a king as head of church and state could also be questioned. King James commissioned a new translation and in 1611 the Authorised Version or the King James’ Bible was printed by Robert Barker, the King’s printer.

The Breeches Bible, 1582, and the Authorised Version dated 1639, from the Gradwell Collection, are currently on display in The Sheppard-Worlock Library.

Published Research using Special Collections

July marks the end of the academic year, results are out and undergraduate students have either left for the summer or are waiting to celebrate their academic achievements with friends and family at graduation. The Sheppard-Worlock Library is decidedly quieter after the hubbub of the year gone-by but it is also the time for welcoming academics and visiting researchers to the library to engage with our collections in the pursuit of their own academic interests.
Last week in Special Collections I was delighted to receive in the post a copy of a published book in which the author, Marylynn Salmon, used an image taken from an illuminated manuscript in Liverpool Cathedral’s Radcliffe Collection held here at Liverpool Hope. This was a momentous occasion in the short history of The Sheppard-Worlock Library’s Special Collections, hopefully the first of many!

The published work
The published work


The book, entitled The secrets of the House of York by Marylynn Salmon, is a study of the late medieval English queen Elizabeth Woodville, great-grandmother to Elizabeth I, whose marriage to King Edward IV in 1464 provoked such enmity among the nobility that lasted until her death. Marylynn Salmon is a Research Associate in History at Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts and has been working on her revisionist study of the House of York for the past fifteen years. More about the book can be found at


Radcliffe MS.6 f.5v-6
Radcliffe MS.6 f.5v-6

The manuscript from the Radcliffe Collection is a beautifully illuminated Book of Hours dating from the late 15th century. The image depicts a female scribe and illuminator presenting her book to a queen. Historians do not know whether the queen is Elizabeth Woodville or Elizabeth of York. The reproduction does not show the original in its true light, unfortunately the brilliance of the gold leaf is dulled, as are the sumptuous colours of red, blue and green but it is wonderful that the manuscript is being studied for academic endeavour.

Karen Backhouse, Special Collections Librarian