On a superb visit to Western Bank Library’s Special Collections – hosted by the wonderful archivist, Amanda Bernstein – we went to the deepest darkest dungeon to admire the University’s extensive rare book collection.
Special Collections house a treasure trove of book historical goodies. We saw the ‘quarantine room’ where donations and new arrivals are held until it is clear they are not infested with vermin. We got to play around with the electronic new stacks. We saw the enormous bible collection, which the University Library stores for various parishes in and around Sheffield.
There is some especially fascinating material on the Low Countries, including Flanders delineated by ‘an Officer of the Allied Army new in Flanders’, printed in Reading in 1745 (MDCCXLV). This mentions that the Corn-Market of Ghent is a large square, ‘in which are all the best Taverns’ – plus ça change.
There is also a copy of the ‘Apologie’ of William of Orange, which has been very carefully read by an anti-Spanish partisan. This reader notes on the title page that some people think the tract is actually written by Philips of Marnix, Lord of Saint-Aldegonde – who is also the probable author of the Dutch national anthem. Various passages outlining the cruelty of the Spanish occupation have been underlined and are accompanied in the margin by a manicule (with the cutest little cuff). Finally, the reader notes with certain glee at the end that according to memoirs of M. du Morier (presumably Philippes de Mornay, published in Amsterdam in 1642 (MDCLII)) the Spanish King was so struck by this ‘Apologie’ of William of Orange that he wished he’d never been involved in the affair.
We are looking forward to a return visit to Special Collections on Thursday 11th May at 4pm.