Tag Archives: Curiosities

Japanese Prints by Hiroshige Found In The Archives

Mariko, from The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido Road by Ando Hiroshige

Mariko, 21st of ‘The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido Road’, by Andō Hiroshige

You always find surprises in the archives, particularly when sorting through boxes of unlisted material to bring some preliminary order to a collection. While working with archivist Fiona Tait, listing the contents of the papers of the Lloyd family of Birmingham, we came across a large number of rolled family pedigrees. Among these we found two small rolled pages bearing Japanese script that seemed very much out of place. Turning them over we were pleasantly surprised to find a pair of prints in a style that looked rather familiar to me. A bit of research on the celebrated Japanese artist Andō Hiroshige led me to the Hoeido edition of The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido Road.  Our mysterious prints were in fact the 21st (Mariko) and 52nd (Ishibe) parts of this sequence.

Ishibe, 53rd of The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido Road by Ando Hiroshige

Ishibe, 52nd of ‘The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido Road’, by Ando Hiroshige

My ignorance of Japanese script prevents me from reading the markings on these pieces though I have worked out a theory as to how these prints came into the collection. During 1935 and 1936 John Henry Lloyd sailed aboard the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation (P&O) steamship Carthage on a tour of the coast of China and Japan. His diary for this period references a shopping trip while ashore in Japan at the end of his holiday. It may be that this note corresponds to the purchase of the prints. Whether this supposition is correct will likely be tested when the collection is catalogued following the move to the Library of Birmingham.

Kevin Roberts,


Carolling in the collections

Continuing with the festive theme from last week, and inspired by singing in a local choir, I thought I would see what I could find in our collections relating to Christmas carols.

I saw three ships woodcut

“I Saw Three Ships” designed by Henry Payne (MS 2717/3/1 page 22)

I was surprised to discover carol singing in many different parts of our archive.  The activity can be found in hospital, school, photographic and individual  collections,  as well as in religious records such as this draft copy of a book of Christmas Carols for the use of the Old Meeting Church.  We  also have  many traditional carols available to listen to as part of the recordings made by Charles Parker.

Black and white woodcut illustration with title of book surrounded by a woodcut of a stylised floral border

Title page for “A Book of Pictured Carols” (MS 2717/3/1 page 15)

One of the most beautiful objects I found was in the records of Joseph Wainwright and Colbran J. Wainwright, manufacturing jewellers. “A Book of Pictured Carols designed by members of the Birmingham Art School” (MS 2717/3/1) is a slim hardback book of carols and illustrations created under the direction of Arthur J.Gaskin. The intricate woodcuts were each created by different artists, both male and female, and are all in the Arts and Crafts style. Some have strong floral and folk motifs such as the title page designed by Georgie E. Cave France. Others are inspired by themes of myth and legend such as the design at the top of this page by Henry Payne.

Contains a black and white woodcut illustration of a Nativity scence showing Mary and Jesus with a cow in the background

“The Golden Harp” (375224, LP 07.2 GUE )

The Local Studies collection contains several volumes of carols printed in Birmingham. This is the cover of a tiny booklet of carols printed by J. Guest of Bull Street in about 1850. The pages are very thin, and it feels like it has been well used. The carols it contains are not the familiar ones that are popular today. They include intriguing titles such as Melodious Sound, Twinkling Stars and Twelve Points. They often refer to death and sin as well as to joyful celebrations.

It has been interesting having a glimpse into how traditions change over the years and I have enjoyed finding some new carols. I hope this brief taster may inspire you to come and see us next Christmas in our new home.

Perhaps a nice way  to end this post is with the last verse of The Moon Shines Bright printed in “The Golden Harp”

 My song is done- I must be gone,
I can stay no longer here:
God bless you all, both great and small,
And send you a happy new year!

 Kathryn Hall
(Libraries and Archives Assistant)

Giant Puffball

Sketch of puffball from the archive of Boulton and Watt

Sketch of puffball from the archive of Boulton and Watt (Ref: MS 3147/4/4)

The serendipity of finding the unexpected in a document is always a pleasure. Recently a researcher came upon a wonderful drawing of a giant mushroom ‘found in Mr Watt’s field, Soho and sent to James Lawson Esq. F.R.S.’ The mushroom, probably a puffball, measured 10 by 13 inches and weighed 6 lb 1 oz.

It was found on folio 267 of Soho Memoranda (Blotting Book No. 1), circa 1786-1803. This large book is almost entirely composed of entries by John Southern, with only a few by James Watt. It contains a wealth of rough notes, ideas, calculations and tables, mostly for engines and machinery to be made for customers. It also contains general thoughts on engine production, experiments on wood and iron, coal prices, weights and measures, accounts of agreements, reports on factories and other engines, thoughts on a boat engine, and so on.   Continue reading

What’s in a name?

Image of a signatureThese images are of a Kings Norton Union building plan.
See the difference between the name on the notice and the name on the docket? Continue reading