In August, the Cathedral Library and the University of Kent’s Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (MEMS) launched Picture This, a new and exciting collaborative project, designed to reveal some of the Library’s treasures.
The Cathedral Library contains a wealth of fascinating and historical literature. It houses some 30,000 books and pamphlets printed before 1900, and an expanding collection of some 20,000 books and serials published in the 20th and 21st centuries. It is particularly rich in books on church history, older theology, national and local history, travel, natural science, medicine and the anti-slavery movement. Although available for research purposes with prior notice, the delicate condition and age of some of the collections has meant that there are limitations on viewing by the general public.
Picture This is the brainchild of Cathedral Librarian, Karen Brayshaw, and Ph.D. student and Associate Lecturer at the University of Kent, Jayne Wackett. The project will be a monthly item, available to view on the Cathedral’s website. It will feature an image taken from one of the Library’s gems and will be accompanied by a descriptive article, written by a student or researcher at the University. “We hope that Picture This will reveal some of the treasures hidden within the Cathedral Library” said Cathedral Librarian Karen Brayshaw; “our aim is to make items from our collections more widely available and provide an awareness, both of some of symbolism and meaning within the images, and of their historical significance.”
Picture This will not only allow the public an enhanced insight into the Library, it will also provide valuable study opportunities, using original sources, for postgraduate students from MEMS, and visiting European Ph.D. scholars from the Text and Event in Early Modern Europe project.
“Picture This is a wonderful testimony to the partnership that exists between the University and the Cathedral” remarked Jayne Wackett. “MEMS really values this special relationship which allows students first-hand access to the Cathedral’s treasures. It is a wonderful opportunity to be able to offer on Masters and Ph.D. courses. This new venture means that access to some hidden gems is made easier for absolutely everyone, which is fantastic”.
Each month a new image and accompanying text will be added to the Library’s webpage. At the beginning of 2013, a workshop will be held in the Cathedral Library, where students will be invited to have hands-on experience with a selection of primary sources. The work produced by the students will form part of an exhibition to be held next summer featuring the books and articles that have appeared on the website.
The first article in the Picture This collection has been provided by Jayne Wackett. The image, taken from a fifteenth century Book of Hours, is a depiction of the Annunciation. Click here to see the first Picture This
The Library and the University of Kent are also co-operating on a project to safeguard the Mendham Collection, which is owned by the Law Society of England and Wales but which has been housed in the Cathedral’s Library since 1984. The Collection was assembled during the 19th Century by the Revd Joseph Mendham, and comprises about 5,000 books relating to the Reformation and doctrinal splits within western Christendom. Many of the books are extremely rare and several are not known to exist anywhere else in the world. The Law Society plans to sell the books individually at auctions over the next few months. The University of Kent and the Cathedral believe that the Collection should be kept together as source for future scholarship.
This really is an act of vandalism on a collection which contains the annotations of the collector: always a reason for maintaining the collection’s integrity, quite apart from the intrinsic historic interest and value of the individual books.
Sir Diarmaid MacCulloch from Oxford University
The Cathedral is trying to persuade the Law Society to change its policy and keep the Mendham Collection in one place. The campaign was strengthened on the 17th August 2012 when Jane Giles, a great-great-great-great-niece of Joseph Mendham, came to the Cathedral to view the books; she also gave an interview to Radio Kent about her fury at the Law Society’s actions. Please sign the online petition to show your support for the Cathedral’s stance.