#FolkloreThursday 08/02/2018: “the course of true love never did run smooth”

For this week’s #FolkloreThurdsay #Love theme we thought we’d add an extra dimension of our own by sharing some of the symbolic representations of love we found while exploring our collections.

As we know from any contemporary perfume advertisement, a pleasing aroma is key to attraction and romance but its association with courtship can be found in ancient writings. According to George Barbier, author of The Romance of Perfume, 1928, the Greek biographer Plutarch, said “the soul of a man in love is full of perfumes and sweet odours”

Judging from the illustrations then, women are not blessed with the innate gift of their love giving off a sweet odour and instead had to rely on the perfume seller!

Now on to medieval times, when the ladies would present knights with their jewels as tokens of their affection before their loved ones went into battle, as William Jones explains in Precious Stones Their History and Mystery, 1880.

Precious Stones: Chapter II

The story of the Lady of Astolat who later dies from unrequited love was the inspiration for many artworks and literature, including Tennyson’s 1833 poem The Lady Of Shallot, and John William Waterhouse’s painting of the same name, 1888.

What discussion of romance and love symbolism would be complete without considering plants and flowers. The Flora Symbolica or the language and sentiment of flowers by John Ingram c 1870 acknowledges that there are many different types of love: bashful, pure, hopeful, silent, concealed, unrequited, etc. etc. and they can all fortunately be  symbolised with the presentation of a specific flower.

The rose is the flower most associated with romantic love.

The Rose

Shakespeare Sonnet from The Book of Perfume, 1865

And of course, the secret to true love, according to Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream also lies in a potion that can be extracted from the purple, yellow and white flower known as love-in-idleness:

Character Costumes for ‘A Midsomer Night’s Dreame’ 1924

If nothing else writing this post has highlighted the history of traditional Valentine gifts: flowers, perfume and jewellery – I just needed chocolate for a bit of completionism!


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#FolkloreThursday meets #NationalStorytellingWeek

Today’s #FolkloreThursday theme is favourite fairy tales, in honour of #NationalStorytellingWeek! We were absolutely spoiled for choice with this theme, as we have such a wonderful collection of beautifully illustrated children’s stories.

To start, a Walter Crane illustration for Sleeping Beauty which adopts a Germanic woodcut feel appropriate to the Grimm Brothers origins of the tale (from The Art of Walter Crane, 1902)


These illustrations of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast and Snow White are from Six Old World Fairy Tales, illustrated by J.K. Wilkinson, c.1920

Next are a couple of more modern interpretations of classic fairy tales Puss in Boots (1975) and Little Red Riding Hood (1976):


Finally some images by Edmund Dulac: scenes from Aladdin from Sinbad the Sailor and other stories from the Arabian Nights, 1911; Puss in Boots escorting the King and Fortunata and the Hen from A Fairy Garland, 1928.


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New Catalogues, January 2018

Thanks to the sterling efforts of Gursharan, our Graduate Champion, we have eight new catalogues live on the Archives Hub this month! They are a wide ranging selection of items relating to the history of DMU, fashion, and art.

L/011: Brochure for the Royal Visit to the city of Leicester, 1958, when the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh visited the city to open a new building at the University of Leicester. The brochure was designed by Leicester College of Art staff.

D/071 portrait photograph of Queen Elizabeth II from 1992, gifted to the University to commemorate two visits by The Queen in 1993 – one in March to open the Milton Keynes campus and one in December to open the Queens Building

D/069: Ephemera relating to the visit of The Queen to De Montfort University in 2012

A/08: Engravings after paintings by Ford Madox Brown, depicting scenes from Shakespeare: ‘Cordelia’s Portion’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet’

D/073: Cartoon presented to De Montfort University to mark the formal launch of a ‘compact agreement’ with the Sir John Gleed Technology School. The compact system allowed a pupil to study at a designated college, making them ‘compact’ with the university to have automatic entry to a degree course.

F/023: Colour sketches of Bakst designs for ballet costumes, possibly cut out from a publication, and mounted on card. The sketches include designs for plays such as ‘Scheherazade’ and ‘La lampe d’Aladin’

F/021: Fashion Drawings from 1938 show designs for a tweed suit, summer clothes and swimwear

F/020:  Cartoon showing a man looking at four different corsets in a shop window, which remind him of the women he has had in his life

Gursharan is working away on more descriptions so watch this space!


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#FolkloreThursday : Traditional Leicestershire Food

For this week’s #FolkloreThursday #food theme we turned to the Leicestershire and Rutland Magazine to see what local traditions there are surrounding mealtimes, cooking and eating.

First we found an account of the hearty fare served to the workers during sheep shearing in the 1870s: large breakfasts of tea, bread and cold boiled bacon, bread and cheese mid-morning, roast beef and Christmas pudding with ale for the midday meal, and a late supper of cold beef, bacon, fruit pies and ale.

Next was an article entitled “Traditional County Cookery”, pondering the way that dishes and food habits vary from county to county. The author notes that locally produced food follows the conditions of the local soil, and that Leicestershire pastures are especially good at rearing beef and of course only the cheesemakers of the Vale of Belvoir know the secret of making Stilton. Differences in food preparation are also mentioned along with a list of traditional Leicestershire recipes:

Leicestershire Curd Tarts

Melton Mowbray Pork Pie

Thurnby Savoury

Kibworth Baked Roll

Lutterworth Tice Tarts.

Another article mentions singing games and folk song, which often developed specific local variants and reflect the rituals of everyday life – courtship, weddings, births, funerals – all of which are interwoven with food and eating traditions. Here is an excerpt from “All the boys in our town” (Welland Valley variant):

Sylvia made a pudding, she made it nice and sweet,

She daredn’t stick the knife in till Stan came down the street.

“Stanley will you have a bit, and don’t say nay,

For next Monday morning is our wedding day.”

“Sweet Nancy” from North Leicester includes the lines:

Pork Pie, mutton chop,

Mother take me to the shop,

If I fall pick me up,

Pork pie, mutton chop.

Source: Leicestershire and Rutland Magazine, December 1948 and June 1949

And, just because we like it, here’s Mrs Purry and Patty in the kitchen, from Louis Wain’s Baby’s Picture Book, 1903.


NB- for a reconstruction of Leicestershire Curd Tarts see https://riseofthesourdoughpreacher.wordpress.com/2014/04/14/leicestershire-curd-tarts/


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First new collection of 2018

Our collections relating to textile and clothing manufacture are growing with the addition today of two boxes of knitted fabric samples from the Stibbe company, a Leicester company involved in the manufacture of industrial knitting machines.

The samples were donated to Special Collections by the Leicestershire Industrial History Society, who were given them by the daughter of a former member, Roger Duffey (1920-2010).

Duffey attended the Gateway School before joining the Stibbe company as an apprentice. During his apprenticeship he studied at the School of Textiles in the Leicester College of Technology (one of DMU’s predecessors) and later became a lecturer in knitwear here. Duffey was sales director and technical director at Stibbe before moving to work for HATRA, the Hosiery and Allied Trades Research Association. He retired in 1980.

Similar holdings here at Special Collections include books, journals and papers from HATRA, the Boyd (Mac) McGeoch Collection, and papers and clothing samples from the William Baker factory.


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Folklore Thursday 18/01/2018

What an amazing theme for #FolkloreThursday this week! Requests for #clothing lore makes for the perfect opportunity to highlight this wonderful poster set produced by the International Wool Secretariat in 1954, titled ‘Costumes of Europe in Wool’.

Each beautifully illustrated poster, while offering somewhat stereotypical representations of European nationalities, is accompanied by explanatory text on the types of wool used (of course) and the costumes, shedding some light on the meanings and traditions behind the garments.

For Norway, we are told that the mountainous regions between villages meant that inhabitants of the  valleys rarely saw each other. This led to communities developing their own distinct traditions and costumes making for a bit of decorative rivalry.

In Austria, we discover that the origin of the phrase ‘a feather in his cap’ is associated with the Tyrol-style hat. Wrestlers in the region would fight wearing their hats and attempt to pin their opponent while plucking the feather from their hat. The acquired feather would then become a symbol of the victorious combat.

In Portugal, a fisherman’s hat is of the utmost importance as his woollen “pyjama-like” garments have no pockets. Prudently, small personal items “such as matches and tobacco” are stored safely in his thick woollen cap away from the water.

Handed down through generations of Flemish families, a mother teaches her daughter the tradition of lace-making in the poster for Belgium.

The collection was used as a fashion and textiles teaching resource and were held in the DMU library before being transferred to the archive.

Let’s get knitting!


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New Collections

Just before Christmas we were excited to take in three new collections. We are processing them and will put catalogues for each one on the Archives Hub in due course. Meanwhile if you are interested in viewing the papers please contact us to make arrangements for a visit.

Leicester Riders Basketball Club

The Leicester Riders are the oldest operating basketball team in the country, founded in April 1967. Their collection includes material from the 1970s to 2015 such as match programmes, press cuttings, administration and finance, papers relating to projects with schools including Hoops for Health and Sports Unlimited, papers relating to marketing and merchandising, match night recon, statistics, match photographs, magazines, guides and handbooks, rules and regulations, directories and coaching manuals. There are also some objects including vests, t-shirts and a signed basketball.

Leicester Area National Union of Mineworkers

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) was a trade union for coal miners, formed in 1944 from the earlier Miners Federation of Great Britain (MFGB). The Union represented its members on a variety of issues including wages, holidays, pensions, fuel allowances, social welfare benefits and the recognition of industrial diseases. The Leicester Area branch was based on Bakewell Street, Coalville, and was active at a number of coalmines including Desford, Snibston, Whitwick, Ellistown and Belvoir Prospect.

The collection includes committee minutes, correspondence, reports, plans, machinery schemes, maps and charts. It spans the 1930s to the 1980s.

Papers of David Batchelor, Community and Youth Work lecturer

David Batchelor undertook a degree in Sociology before becoming a teacher. He became a lecturer in Community and Youth Work at the City of Leicester Training College for Teachers, later known as the City of Leicester College of Education, which merged with Leicester Polytechnic in 1976.

The papers span the 1950s to 1990s and illuminate community, youth and social work teaching in this period. They include course papers such as timetables, modules and handbooks; brochures and promotional material; papers relating to students such as photographs, demographics and enrolment; papers relating to staff including photographs, appointments and regulations; and photographs of the Scraptoft Campus, events, and student activities.

Some of the material relates to the National College for Training Youth Leaders, founded in 1960, which merged with the Training College for Teachers in 1969; including prospectuses and photographs of a visit by Princess Margaret.



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Folklore Thursday 11/01/2018

As collections of European folk songs and poems, books on Nursery Rhymes became popular during the golden age of children’s literature in the mid-nineteenth century but many of the rhymes themselves are much older. Full of working-class imagery and trades they are the perfect subject for this week’s #folklorethursday theme of #work.

From Little Song of long Ago, Illustrated by H. Willebeek Le Mair1912


From Old King Cole’s Book of Nursery Rhymes, Illustrated by Byam Shaw, 1901.


From Mother Goose, Illustrated by Kate Greenaway, c 1880.


From Young England’s Nursery Rhymes, Illustrated by Constance Haslewood, c 1890.



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DMUglobal in New York 2018

As hundreds of staff and students went on #dmuglobal’s second trip to New York  despite the disruptive weather bomb and the cancellation of many flights — and for all those that didn’t make it we’re pleased to know that a summer trip has now been scheduled — we thought we’d have a search through our collections to see what Big Apple-inspired items we could find.

To launch DMU’s involvement in the UN Together Campaign, which aims to offer worldwide support to refugees, students attended a summit held at the United Nations Headquarters located in the Turtle Bay area of Manhattan. To mark the occasion, here is  an image from the Illustrated London News showing the newly-opened assembly chamber in 1952.

From the ‘Buildings Ancient and Modern’ article published on 18th October 1952.

No trip to New York would be complete without a trip to the harbour and Liberty Island to take in the Statue of Liberty. As a gift from France, the statue, designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and built by Gustave Eiffel arrived in sections in 1885 but didn’t have its official inauguration and dedication ceremony until October 28th, 1886:

From the ‘Illustrated London News’ 20th November 1886.

Some other examples of U.S. landmarks and architectural features can be found in our Art Design and Architecture rare books section, such as this article on the Embassy Suites hotel in Times Square.

Close up of the west elevation

From landscape and architecture to some New York culture next, starting with a little bit of sporting history and three famous New York teams, The Giants, The Mets, and The Yankees.

Founded in 1962, the New York Mets are a professional baseball team hailing from the Queens Borough of the city.

The Mets secure first place in the Eastern Division of the National Baseball League in 1969. From ‘Amazing: the Miracle of the Mets’ by Joseph Durso, 1970.

And we also have a book on their rivals, from the Bronx, the New York Yankees, founded in  1901.

Front cover, 1991.

Now on to some literature and journalism from the Briggs-Blake-Zurbrugg Memorial Library.

I hope the students ate so well!: taken from Wharton’s ‘The old maid’.

And just in case you do find yourself in a new social situation Wharton-style this Etiquette for Ladies, compiled by a Lady of New York in 1844 may come in handy… or not.

Title page

Social obligations and customs for new year’s day.

And for our final jaunt around the Big Apple some examples and images from our Photographers Gallery Library.

From ‘The New York I Know’ by Marya Mannes and Herb Snitzer. The image here was taken in Central Park.



From ‘Firehouse’ by Dennis Smith and Jill Freedman a journey through the daily working lives of New York’s firefighters.

What an epic journey through our rare books. I almost feel like I’ve been to New York myself… almost!

Wishing all our staff and students a safe journey home.

All of the books included in this post, and many more in Special Collections, can be found on the main library catalogue.

Natalie and Katharine

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Folklore Thursday 04/01/2018

To kick off this year’s #FolkloreThursday then we have the theme of #Beginnings and what better way to start than by having a brief foray into one of the founding myths of the city of Leicester.

Browsing through our local history section reveals that Leicester’s origins are often associated with the writings of medieval chronicler, Geoffrey of Monmouth who claimed that King Leir (Lear) founded Leircester aka Leicester in 800 BC.

Eric Porter as King Lear in a 1968 programme of a Royal Shakespeare Company production. From our Theatre Archive Project collection.

While this is not really taken seriously by any self-respecting historian it is referenced as a part of the mythology of the area in James Thompson’s History of Leicester (1849), and Mrs Fielding Johnson’s Glimpses of Ancient Leicester (1906).

King Lear, has of course been immortalised as the tragic king in Shakespeare’s play whose descent into madness and death also brings about the death of his beloved daughter, Cordelia.

Lear with his three daughters, Goneril, Regan and Cordelia

A part of the mythology of the story suggests that Lear was buried close to the edge of the River Soar,  once known as the River Leir, where the remains of the Roman bath, Jewry Wall, can be seen today:

Brochure for Jewry Wall museum c early 2000.

With such a literary flavour to our city’s history it seems only fitting to mention our Theatre Archive Project collection featuring many Shakespeare related programmes and playbills:

Selection of programmes featuring the King Lear 1968 production with Eric Porter.


And the Briggs-Blake-Zurbrugg Memorial Library that comprises a range of Shakespeare criticism:

A snapshot of the Shakespeare criticism texts that can be found in our B-B-Z Memorial Library


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