Christmas Magic: Rare Book Gem, December 2013

If you haven’t managed to achieve the Christmas Spirit yet (maybe you are tired of battling through the Christmas crowds…) let us take you there with a bit of magic for Christmas – December’s Rare Book of the Month is Fairy Land – Pictures from the Elf-World by Richard Doyle.

First published in 1869, the folio has been described as one of the finest examples of Victorian book production.

Of particular interest to Illustration, and at Canterbury Library, explore Fairyland further here



Rare Book of the Month, November 2013

November’s Rare Book is, as you can imagine from the title, is a beautifully illustrated tome:

The Art of Illuminating as Practised in Europe from the Earliest Times

The book was published in London on 2nd April 1860 by Day & Son, Lithographers to the Queen (that would be Victoria).

At the beginning of the book there is an essay and instructions by M. Digby Wyatt, Architect, entitled The Art of Illuminating: what is it, what is should be and how it may be practised.

Part I of the essay is a detailed reference guide to the history and use of illumination from the Roman’s creation and use of parchment and black and red ink, through the work of mediaeval monks and other scribes, to the 17th Century where illumination began to die out due to the growing popularity and use of the printing press.

Part II gives guidance on the practical side of illuminating. What is to be decorated, eg. vellum, canvas, plaster, wood, how to design an illumination including scale, style and the harmony of colouring of the letters and ornament and how to apply the art to different surfaces. A selection of ‘Legends’ (suitable wording depending on location of the illumination) are also included and make for fascinating reading: Page 61 suggests “For Supper-Rooms: As men do walk a mile, women should talk an hour after supper: ’tis their exercise.” (Armstrong, Art of Preserving Health)

Part III discusses processes and application eg ‘How a picture is ornamented in books with tin and saffron’ Page 73 and a fascinating and comprehensive chapter on ‘Ink’ Page 75.

There are 99 beautiful colour plates, with examples of illustrated borders, initial letters and alphabets from the 6thto the 14th Century, selected and chromolithographed by W.R. Tymms.

Not only is this tome a history of illumination but is also a practical guide on how to create your very own illuminated art work in the most traditional of ways.

This book would most definitely be of interest to fine artists and illustrators.

It is available in the Rare Books Collection in Farnham UCA Library.



Archive and Rare Book of the Month, February 2013

Old Dutch Town and Villages, 1901 Old Dutch Town and Villages, 1901

Rare Book of the Month

February’s Rare Book of the Month is Old Dutch Towns and Villages of the Zuiderzee, 1901. With decorative woodcuts, zincograph reproductions and architectural references this will be of interest to interest to architects, fine artists, printers and historians alike. To access the rare book and previous rare books see It is currently located in Farnham Library.

Archive of the Month

The Sailor and the Showgirl Project, Tessa Boffin Archive Reference BOFF/1/2/1

The ‘Sailor and Showgirl’ is a photography project regarding safe sex, cross dressing, and playing around with gender roles.

The project is one where a ‘sailor’ (seeming to be a woman dressed as a man), propositions a ‘showgirl’, but the showgirl makes it very clear that the use of condoms must take place. This is significant as the 1980s saw the advancement of AIDS, very new and frightening.

Photographs of the project, paper drawn strips, and captions detail the story of the Sailor and Showgirl, with evocative and strong language. Handwritten and printed captions also tell of a work in progress

The Tessa Boffin Archive can be accessed at Maidstone Campus

January Rare Book 2013 – Typography Department In-house printing press book

  Rare Book – The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare ( 822.33 SHA)

This rare book is from our selection of in-house printing press books, that are accessible at Maidstone, Canterbury, and Rochester. Rochester and Maidstone printing press books have been digitised and will be shortly available on Turning The Pages Technology. They are of high interest for Graphic Design

In 1947, this edition of The Merchant of Venice was designed and printed by the Typography Department of the Medway School of Art and Crafts, Rochester.  The students, under the direction of the Head of Printing Charles L. Pickering, referred to the first and second quartos as well as Shakespeare’s 1623 first folio to reprint the first scene of Act One. 

The Merchant of Venice, inside cover

The Merchant of Venice, inside cover

The Merchant of Venice, Front Cover

The Merchant of Venice, Front Cover

In the School prospectus for 1946-47, Typography is described as a course ‘for apprentices and journeymen in: Compositors’ Work; Letterpress Machine Work; Layout and Design; Monotype (Keyboard) and Intertype Composition; Costing, Estimation and Administration.’  A Society of Medway Printing Students called ‘Typographia’ was also active.  By producing The Merchant of Venice edition, students learnt the skills of their chosen craft. 

Medway School of Arts and Crafts Prospectus, 1946-1947

Medway School of Arts and Crafts Prospectus, 1946-1947

 The Merchant of Venice was performed by the Chamberlain’s Men during 1596-7, a company which included boy actors who played female parts.  The play first appeared in a printed quarto edition in 1600.  Despite its age, the play is relevant to our lives today through its themes of money, debt and prejudice.

Antonio, the merchant, lends 3000 ducats to his friend Bassanio who wishes to marry Portia.  To help his friend he borrows money from Shylock, a Jewish moneylender.  Failure to repay the loan by a set date will entitle Shylock to a pound of Antonio’s flesh.  Meanwhile, Bassanio successfully passes a test and wins the hand of Portia, while his friend Gratiano marries Portia’s lady-in-waiting, Nerissa.

When Antonio’s ships are lost at sea, he is unable to repay his debt and Shylock takes his claim to court.  Portia, disguised as a young male lawyer, defends Antonio by stressing that Shylock can take his flesh if he can promise not to spill one drop of blood.  It is an impossible task and Shylock is soon being trialled for conspiring against a Venetian.  He is forced to split his wealth between Antonio and the state, convert to Christianity and leave his property to his daughter who has fallen in love with a Christian.

Our Rochester edition was finished during the Spring Term of 1947, a post-war period when the horrors of the Holocaust dramatically altered the play’s reception.  Shakespeare’s treatment of Shylock and the issue of anti-Semitism gained a new contemporary significance, one that could not be ignored in later productions.

One of the play’s most famous quotations, spoken by Antonio, appears in this edition: ‘I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano, | A stage, where every man must play a part, | And mine a sad one.’  Antonio understands the world as a commercial stage in which all men must play a part.

Reviewed by Lynsey Blandford, Library Advisor, Rochester. This book is available at UCA Rochester.

Our other Rare Book Gems can be viewed here

The Wood Engravings of Eric Ravilious, September Rare Book Gem

September 2012

The Wood Engravings of Eric Ravilious

Lion and Unicorn Press: England, 1972

This rare and beautifully produced, folio format (420 x 295mm) book was designed by John Carrod for Lion and Unicorn Press, the Royal College of Art’s press. It is printed on heavy Grosvenor Chater’s Basingwerk Parchment paper.

The copy held in the Rare Books collection at UCA’s Farnham campus library is number 99 of a limited edition of 500. This was the first and only edition ever printed. It includes an informative introduction by the architect J.M. Richards, a friend and contemporary of the artist.

Eric Ravilious (1903 -1942) was an English painter, designer, book illustrator and wood engraver. He studied under Paul Nash at the Royal College of Art in the early 1920s. He is associated with the neo-romanticism movement, along with contemporaries Stanley Spencer, Edward Bawden, John Craxton and others.

He was particularly renowned for his wood-block prints and his watercolours. He also undertook ceramic designs for Wedgwood and designed graphics for London Transport.

Much of his work was inspired by the landscape of the South Downs in Sussex. Amongst other rural themes, he made a number of engravings depicting the chalk hillside figure of the Long Man of Wilmington, as illustrated above.

The book contains 421 block prints which represent all of Ravilious’ engraved work for which copies could be found. Many of Ravilious’ original wood blocks were destroyed or lost during World War II bombing of London.

Six of the prints in this book were made directly from Ravilious’ original wood blocks. For the other prints, blocks were specially made.

In World War II Ravilious was an official war artist. He was killed in September 1942, aged 39, while accompanying the Royal Air Force on a mission off the coast of Iceland.

A week before Eric Ravilious’ death his son James was born.  James Ravilious (1939 -1999), a highly regarded photographer, was also inspired by the rural English landscape. He is known for his photo-essays on rural life in Devon in the 1960s and 1970s. See eStream for a documentary on James Ravilious (30 minutes).

On Saturday 17 November 2012 the Victoria & Albert Museum is holding a Ravilious Study Day to examine the works of Eric Ravilious and his contemporaries. For further details and tickets see the V&A website.

For further information on Eric Ravilious and his work see

See also, Eric Ravilious: Ups and Downs (The Guardian, 30 April 2011)    

To view all previous rare book gems access

Archive of the Month and Rare Book Gems

University of the Creative Arts is now producing an Archive of the Month feature to sit alongside Rare Book Gems

Archive of the Month and Rare Book Gems is where an archive or rare book is focused on in depth to bring it to attention for UCA’s staff, students, and wider community

We would be interested to hear feedback from students, lecturers, and the wider community of what they want to see reviewed. Are there any budding journalists who would be interested in reviewing a rare book/archive? Do any students feel their courses/interests are being missed out on?

Please provide feedback!

Canterbury Architectural Student Association Magazine-1957

September’s Archive of the Month is the Canterbury Architectural Student’s Association Magazine produced entirely by the students of the School of Architecture, accessed here

The Magazines run from 1948-1965

This provides

information of  courses and architecture teaching from the students points of view

Architecture Humour!

Drawings and sketches of architecture in Kent and England

Architecture in Kent from the 1940s

Architecture abroad from the 1940s

(If I go to my workbench with a pencil

And if I put some paper on my board

With careful use of ruler, ink and stencil

By dint of labour and of sweat outpoured

I find when strikes three quarters after nine,

I’ve drawn one rather shaky smudgy line

[D.W. Stevens CASA 1948])

The latest Rare Book Gem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, an edition limited to 200 copies, can be accessed here