Shakespeare Week 20th-26th March 2017

Alternative Shakespeare

While in the past we have done numerous posts and exhibitions showcasing some of the amazing Shakespeare-related materials we have in the archive, we could not resist posting something for Shakespeare Week

So, we set ourselves the challenge of trying to find some of the more unusual items in our collections that have not been used before. The following four items are a testament (as if we were ever in doubt) to the fact that Shakespearean culture and references can be found everywhere and in archival collections where you might not expect!

First up is this beautiful slide from the UNESCO World Art Series: Iran. The image shows the titular characters, Laila and Majnun, from the Persian love story written by poet, Nizami Ganjavi in the 10th century. Despite being written before Shakespeare’s play, the poem is often referred to as the Romeo and Juliet of the East.

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No. 25 ‘Laila and Majnun’ from the National Art Slide Library Collection. Originally housed at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, the collection came to DMU in the 1990s and includes a number of art and architecture series.


Second, is an extract taken from a book that has only recently come to Special Collections with the acquisition of the Briggs-Blake-Zurbrugg Memorial Library. Eyewitnesses of Shakespeare: First Hand Accounts of Performances 1590-1890 is a fascinating collection of contemporaneous reactions to Shakespeare’s plays and how they were performed, with one nineteenth-century reviewer bewailing the tendency for Juliets to over-act their grief in a violent manner. For variety, the extract below is one of the earliest records of an audience report of Julius Caesar from 1599.

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This brief response is a wonderful insight into how one Swiss traveller spent an autumn afternoon in London – dinner followed by a matinee! ‘Eyewitnesses of Shakespeare’ by Gamini Salgado. London: Chatto and Windus Ltd, 1975. pg 18.


Third, is an image from our Vogue collection. In the 1940 August issue this fabulous image of Laurence Olivier (swoon) and Vivien Leigh celebrates their marriage as well as promoting their Broadway performance in Romeo and Juliet which took place during the same year.

Olivier as R&J

‘Vogue’ August, 1940 pg 25. The caption reads: “The true-life love story of Scarlett O’Hara and ‘Rebecca’s’ Maxim de Winter was apotheosised in their broadway ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Tepid press notices but a big thrill for their fanatic fans.”

The Vogue Collection spans from 1937-1997 and includes the British, French and Italian publications as well as L’uomo Vogue (Men’s Vogue).


And finally, we have a script taken from the Andrew Davies Collection, Rohan and Julie, sub-titled Romeo and Juliet Today in Northern Ireland. Here we have a contemporary setting and instead of the Capulets and Montagues our vying families are the Caffertys and Morrisons.


Title page and character list from ‘Rohan and Julie’ first performed in 1975.


Rather unexpectedly, this post has developed a distinct Romeo and Juliet theme. If only I had started earlier in the week  – I could have done a play a day!



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DMU Rugby Varsity!

De Montfort University Rugby Varsity

This evening the De Montfort University Rugby teams take on the University of Leicester’s in the last events of the annual Varsity games!

Faces shall be sufficiently planted into the mud at the famous Tiger’s Stadium! Good luck to both our Women’s and Men’s teams!!!

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Photograph from DUO: The Magazine of The Leicester Colleges of Art & Technology, 1946-47 session.

Looking back through some of De Montfort’s predecessor student magazines we came across the Men’s XV from 70 years ago. These smiling bruisers are noted for playing a full game on a flooded pitch on Vicky Park against the Leicester Thursday team resulting in a “very slippery, muddy game.”

Details of tonight’s fixtures can be found by following this link.

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#LoveInternational March 2017

In anticipation of DMU’s latest #Loveinternational event scheduled for tomorrow, we thought we would show our support by highlighting how DMU and its predecessors has always had an international outlook that actively promotes tolerance and compassion.

On this day in 1980, the Leicester Mercury reported on how DMU and its students  took action to help refugees:

Students; Aid for Refugees

From the ‘Leicester Mercury’ March 21st 1980. pg 32

Tomorrow’s event will feature the unveiling of an installation created by art graduate, Marcus Dove, in the Vijay Patel Building. This will be followed by a speech from the Vice Chancellor, Dominic Shellard who will then lead a march to Welford Road for the inaugural men’s and women’s rugby fixtures.

Keep supporting #Loveinternational

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Goodbye and Good Luck, Miten

Today is our volunteer, Miten’s, last day in the DMU archive.

Soon to start as a Trainee Digital Archivist at the Bodleian Library, Oxford we wish him lots of luck and success. Your work and commitment to the Andrew Davies Archive has been invaluable. We thank you very very much.


Miten: the dental chemist turned digital archivist. At work here on the Andrew Davies digitisation project.

We will miss your sanguine approach to everything. Keep in touch!

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International Women’s Day 2017

Today is International Women’s Day and as a way of showing our support for the campaign to make a more inclusive gender equal world we wanted to showcase one of our collections that we felt reflects this year’s theme #Beboldforchange: the Papers of Bryony Lavery.

Feminist playwright, Bryony Lavery was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Arts from DMU in 1998 and she donated her papers to the archive in 2011. Associated with feminist and socialist theatre groups such as Monstrous Regiment and  The Women’s Theatre Group she has also been artistic director for Gay Sweatshop and Female Trouble.

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Bryony Lavery in the Graduation Cermonies Programme, 1998

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Bryony Lavery receives her honorary Doctor of Arts award from DMU at the 1998 ceremony

Lavery was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire, in 1947. To date, she has written over 60 plays, many of which have all-female casts and include feminist and queer themes. Some of her most well-known works include Origin of the Species (1984), Peter Pan (1991), and Frozen (1998). The latter won the TMA Best Play Award and was nominated for 4 Tony Awards when it appeared on Broadway.

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A selection of material from the collection including theatre programmes, posters, flyers and scripts.

Much of Lavery’s work can be considered from an adaptation perspective as she draws on historical events and well-known literary works and films for inspiration and as a means of challenging patriarchal and gender norms in narratives as well as in real life.

Examples include,Witchcraze (1985) , a masked play with only three actors that charts the history of witches and witchcraft across the centuries, encouraging us to consider how women who do not conform become societies’ scapegoats or “witches”:

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Theatre programme and script for ‘Witchcraze’


Her Aching Heart (1992), a Gothic lesbian romance and pastiche of the Mills & Boon genre:

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Promotional material for ‘Her Aching Heart’

and Ophelia (1996), a retelling of Hamlet from the perspective of its traditionally tragic heroine:


Theatre programme and first draft for ‘Ophelia’

The collection includes a diverse range of materials, including play scripts, sound recordings, reviews, playbills, proposals for radio and television dramas, and project files. As well as writing fictional works, Lavery has also been involved in many other creative projects, producing educational sketches and courses that raise awareness about gender issues and promote gender equality. Materials in the collection that refelct this work include drafts of plays and workbooks on family planning, ‘Developing Women Managers’, challenging the glass-ceiling, and sexual harassment in the work place.


How to identify if an action constitutes sexual harassment. From the vignette, ‘Everyday Encounter’ which includes characters Cindy and Harry the Harasser c. 1995.

Bringing humour and wit to some serious and challenging issues Lavery’s creative take invites us all to “be bold” and to strive for change to accelerate gender parity.

This has to be one of my favourite collections in the archive!

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Happy Birthday DMU

To celebrate DMU’s 147th birthday this week we thought we would dig out some material that would shed some light on how the institution first came into being.

On 1st March 1870, DMU, then known as Leicester School of Art, was officially opened to students. The foundation of the School had been driven by Leicester citizens and local societies, including the Leicester Literary and Philosophical Society with the desire to create educational and trade opportunities for local men and women. The Art School Committee selected Wilmott Pilsbury, a landscape painter who had exhibited at leading London galleries from the 1860s, to be the first Principal.

Wilmott Pilsbury

Photograph of Wilmott Pilsbury. n.d. Taken from the Leicester School of Art Photo Album 1870-1939. Created by the School in 1957.


Classes were initially based at 2 Pocklington’s Walk, in a disused warehouse. This area of Leicester is now associated with legal proceedings and chancery as the street is now home to the Magistrates Court, the Registry Office, and a number of solicitors’ offices. While substantial work had to be carried out to make the building a suitable teaching space, it became clear early on that the premises were unsuitable in terms of lighting and ventilation and the School was soon re-located to a site adjoining New Walk Museum in 1877.

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While there is no image of the area in the archive for 1870, here, 2 Pocklington’s Walk can be seen in the upper right of this city insurer’s plan from 1926.


Panoramic looking toward Site

Today the site is a car park but the space between the remaining Victorian buildings is suggestive of the size and situation of the former premises of the School.


What we do have from the early days of the School however are the first annual reports and student registers providing an exciting window into the evolution of the institution and the lives of its students.

Full Front Cover 1st annual report

A big moment in the history of DMU: the publication of the First Annual Report of the Leicester School of Art, April 1871.

Tenth Annual Report Cover

The publication of the Tenth Annual Report, July 1880, is a testament to the growing success of the school as it details an increase in student numbers and the garnering of more national awards and prizes. The front cover is decidedly more ornate than the one published 10 years earlier.













The first annual report prepared in April 1871 details the foundation of the school, its location, and the achievement of finally getting the School up and running where previous efforts had failed. It states that 269 students attended the School of Art in the first year which according to national tables at the time meant ‘it already ranks amongst the largest Art Schools in the Kingdom’ (pg, 5). At a meeting of the national examiners from the Department of Art and Science the work of the students was highly commended: ‘the works from Leicester were numerous, and evinced promise as the product of a first year of instruction’ (pg 7)

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Leicester School of Art Students Attending List 1870-1901


The registers, organised alphabetically, list students by surname and includes their age, date of entry, and occupation.

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The first page of ‘B’ students.


Here I have chosen, at random the first page of ‘B’ entries but like all the pages in the register the document is a real testament to the diverse range of students who attended the school. The list below are some examples of the entries taken from the page above:

Lawrence Banfield, age 22, 1870, Teacher

W Broadhead, age 29, 1875, Photo Colourist

Arthur Brown, age 12, 1877, Ironmonger (father’s profession)

Violet Baker, age 11, 1878, Clergy (father’s profession)

Aubrey Bright, 16, 1879, Architect’s Assistant

Mrs Isabella Blunt, age 31, 1879, None

Janet Barclay, age 18, 1879, Physician (father’s profession)
As well as attracting a diverse range of students from a variety of backgrounds and circumstances DMU’s courses have always fostered strong links with industry and employability and public enthusiasm for the School can be found in an anonymous letter, signed ‘A Lover of Art’, published in the Leicester Chronicle and Mercury where the author describes the benefits of art education for not only the individual apprentice but for wider society:

“There is no doubt it would improve [the apprentice’s] habits, and perhaps reveal latent talent… None could be more interested than manufacturers in the increase in taste and ability in their employees; indeed it is on these elements in a great measure that the prosperity of our country and trade must depend…”

Leicester Chronicle and Mercury Saturday February 26th, 1870. pg 7.

In a time when the importance of art and art funding appears precarious, a reminder of DMU’s continuing role and its founding principles and aspirations is a timely reminder of the cultural, economic and global value of art and education in industry.

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Museum and Exhibition Design Student Seminar

Last week Special Collections held a seminar for MA students taking a module in Museum and Exhibition Design. The purpose of the seminar was to examine the preservation requirements of historic objects and how these requirements might affect exhibition design.

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Preservation refers to preventative measures taken to halt the deterioration of historical objects and extend their life, slowing down natural decay. Each artefact or document has unique needs so the measures taken to protect a glass vase would be different to those needed for a vellum manuscript.

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Major threats to historical items are:

  • Poor handling and storage
  • Vandalism or theft
  • Fire and flood
  • Pests (insects, rodents, birds)
  • Environment (pollution, light, temperature, humidity)

After discussing the threats and seeing some examples of damage caused by pests, mishandling or poor storage, the students were invited to examine eight items chosen from DMU’s Special Collections. For each object the students were asked to consider what preservation requirements the item had and what special measures they might take when using the item in a display.

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There was a great deal of lively discussion and the opportunity to practice handling fragile items. After everyone had the opportunity to look at all the items we reconvened and discussed the needs of each one, with suggestions as to how they could be displayed. Particularly challenging were items with an element of interaction, such as this ‘slipping slide’ which needs to be moved to be appreciated. Ideas included making a video, replicating the item itself, or constructing a display case with protruding levers that visitors could use to manipulate the item.

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The Special Collections team is responsible for two display cabinets in the Library and are happy to work with any student who would like to gain some exhibition design experience. Please contact us on

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The Briggs-Blake-Zurbrugg Memorial Library

 We are very proud to announce that the Briggs-Blake-Zurbrugg Memorial Library has arrived in the archive and is now in situ. Once housed at the heart of the School of English in the Clephan building the care and maintenance of the books has now been handed over to the Special Collections Team in Kimberlin. The Library itself significantly contributes to our expanding English-related archives and collections.

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Panoramic view of the collection taking in all 75 metres of the Library

The transfer of 3500 books was no mean feat and the space needed to house the collection required some well-thought-out re-arranging in the Archive. With the help of our volunteer Phil to help pack the books we then awaited their arrival and enjoyed carefully going through the collection as we organised it onto the bays.


Steven discovers an interesting read.

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Working in an Archive allows one to regress into one’s fort-building youth.








The Briggs-Blake-Zurbrugg Memorial Library is so called because it is comprised of three collections that were bequeathed to the University from three former members of staff, Julia Briggs, Norman Blake, and Nicholas Zurbrugg. All were professors at DMU during the 1990s and their eminent work and generous approach to teaching in their respective fields brought them international recognition. The Library, while providing insight into the reading and research pleasures of these three scholars is a wonderful resource for students of English and the Arts.

Julia Briggs (1943-2007) – came to De Montfort University in 1995 as a Professor of Literature and Women’s Studies. Much of her work focused on marginalised areas of writing such as children’s literature and female authors, especially the modernist writer Virginia Woolf. As well as publishing academic works she also wrote biographies on both Woolf, Virginia Woolf: an inner life (2005) and the children’s author E Nesbit, A Woman of Passion: the life of E Nesbit (1987). Briggs was appointed an OBE in 2006.

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Three books from the “Briggs section” illustrating her interests in children’s literature and the Modernist author, Virginia Woolf. From left: ‘The Virginia Woolf Manuscripts’ from the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection at the New York Library. Connecticut: Research Publications, 1994. Percy Muir, ‘English Children’s Books 1600-1900’ New York: Praeger Inc., 1969. W. M. Thackery, ‘The Rose and the Ring’ London: Tapp & Toothill Ltd, 1948.


Norman Blake (1934-2012) – was a historian of medieval literature and languages specialising in old Norse, Middle English and the works of Chaucer. He also came to DMU in the mid-nineties. He is perhaps best known for his work on The Canterbury Tales publishing The Textual Tradition of the Canterbury Tales in 1985 and was subsequently involved in the Electronic Canterbury Tales Project providing online access to electronic transcriptions of all the manuscripts and early printed versions of The Canterbury Tales.

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Blake bequeathed several series of works relating to the history of English literature and ‘The Canterbury Tales’. Here you can see one of those which is comprised of 10 variorum editions published in 1993.


Nicholas Zurbrugg (1947-2001) – came to DMU in 1995 as Head of the English Department. He was Professor of English and Cultural Studies as well as the Director of Contemporary Arts. A poet and artist he adopted an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the arts, exploring the connections between creative practice and academic theory. Focusing on the avant-garde and postmodernism his most eminent publicationss include, The Parameters of Postmodernism (1983) and Critical Vices: the myths of postmodern theory (2000).

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Zurbrugg’s collection of art books is wonderfully diverse taking in a range of periods, movements and cultures. From left: John Gruen, ‘Keith Haring’ New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992. R A Walker ‘The Best of Beardsley’ London: Edmund Evans, Ltd, 1948 and at the front Balraj Khana ‘Kalichat’ London: Redstone, Press, 1993, which comes with two fold-out posters and several postcards.

The library has always been accessible to students, staff, and external visitors but it is hoped its transfer to the archive will encourage further awareness and use. While the collection will eventually become listed on the Kimberlin Library catalogue in the meantime there is a catalogue available online through Library Thing. Please drop in or contact the Special Collections Team if you wish to access the library.

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Love in the Archives

To celebrate Valentine’s Day we have collated a selection of love themed material from Special Collections.

Our collection of women’s magazines include many short stories of a romantic nature:

Lady's World 1901 pp478

Extract from “Cupid on Crutches”, The Lady’s World, Feb 1902

Illustration "The Ring", from  The Lady's World, January 1902

Illustration “The Ring”, from The Lady’s World, Jan 1902










Our small collection of Victorian Sheet Music covers includes this romantic scene.

"Down Where the Blue Bells Grow", written by J Bruton, composed by Alexander Lee, published by D'Almaine and Co [1851]

“Down Where the Blue Bells Grow”, written by J Bruton, composed by Alexander Lee, published by D’Almaine and Co [1851]

“T’was there first dawned my early love

And all of joy below

I love to stray at the close of day

In the vale where the blue bells grow”

Questionable advice for the unlucky in love from Jackie Annual 1977

Questionable advice for the unlucky in love from Jackie Annual 1977

How does your star sign affect your love life? Jackie Annual tells all, 1977

How does your star sign affect your love life? Jackie Annual tells all, 1977

Love is traditionally seated in the heart, although the heart shape ubiquitous at this time of year bears only passing resemblance to the actual organ.

Diagram of the heart from "The Descriptive Atlas of Anatomy", 1880, from the Leicester Royal Infirmary Nurses' Library

Diagram of the heart from “The Descriptive Atlas of Anatomy”, 1880, from the Leicester Royal Infirmary Nurses’ Library

Valentine’s Day reminds us that Spring is approaching, and as this illustration of the folk song “Come Lasses and Lads” shows, Spring is the time for lovers to dance around the maypole, a suggestive courtship ritual.

From "Come Lasses and Lads", R Caldecott Picture Books

From “Come Lasses and Lads”, R Caldecott Picture Books, 1910

Come Lasses and Lads

From “Come Lasses and Lads”, R Caldecott Picture Books, 1910

Come Lasses and Lads pp23

From “Come Lasses and Lads”, R Caldecott Picture Books, 1910

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From 12pm today Hawthorne Square at DMU is the site for a 24 hour Love International vigil. Created by Vice-Chancellor, Dominic Shellard, the event is an impassioned response to the many concerned voices of staff and students on the latest developments on the global political stage. The event is a testament to the DMU community bringing together a range of talent and expertise from diverse fields to make a stand against intolerance.

And, of course, all of us at the library and in special collections are proud to be a part of the event. Our pop-up library stall is around from 3-5pm today providing a welcoming backdrop to the al fresco academic board meeting debating the adoption of Article One of the UN Charter.

LoveInternation Library

Pop-up Library for LoveInternational24 2017

Love international

The Academic Board begins to gather to discuss adopting Article One of the UN Charter – which among other things is to “achieve international co-operation by promoting and achieving respect for human rights and freedoms regardless of race, sex, language or religion…”

So far the vigil has seen dance performances, speeches, sign making and poetry readings. For more information and a timetable for the rest of the event see LoveInternational24

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