Salon Archive

Issue: 105

Forthcoming meetings

16 December: A Miscellany of Papers, followed by mulled wine.

Our Librarian, Bernard Nurse, FSA, will talk about the Society’s collections digitisation programme and Pamela Tudor-Craig, FSA, will talk about the Society's picture catalogue and our portrait of Queen Mary I. Our Director, Martin Millett, will then say a few words on the Society’s 2004 publications programme and Justine Bayley, FSA, will introduce the new Roman Brooches volume (there will also be a display of recently published books, and an opportunity for Fellows and guests to make purchases). Finally, the President will update Fellows on the conclusion of the negotiations over a new lease for Burlington House.

13 January: Raising the Dead: rescuing redundant chapels in the twenty-first century, by Jennifer Freeman

Parish News

Burlington House will be closed from 12 noon on Christmas Eve until 10am on Tuesday 4 January 2005.

The most recent mailing to Fellows contained, in error, the ballot paper for January 2004 rather than that for January 2005. The correct ballot paper is in the process of being posted out to Fellows.

In the Antiquaries Journal Vol 84, the price of Paddie (C S) Drake’s new book on The Romanesque Fonts of Northern Europe and Scandinavia is incorrectly given as £155. In fact, this is the US dollar price, and the UK sterling price is a more reasonable £90.00 through retail outlets and £65.00 for special interest groups (for further details, see the Boydell Press website).

Salon feedback

Helen Geake, FSA, writes to say that since no prehistorian has come forward to say so, it falls to an Anglo-Saxonist to point out that (re the piece in Salon 102 on Homo floresiensis), the possibility that the skeletons could have been those of modern humans suffering from primordial microcephalic dwarfism (PMD) was considered and discounted in the original Nature article. On that subject, The Independent reported (on 30 Nov 2004) that the research community remains divided. Professor Richard Roberts of the University of Wollongong in Australia who was a senior member of the team that made the discovery says that there are numerous anatomical features that argue for interpreting Homo floresiensis as a new human species, but his colleague, Professor Teuku Jacob of Gadjah Mada University in Indonesia, insists that the remains are those of an anatomically modern human with a congenital disease. Regrettably, he has angered fellow anthropologists by preventing further study by locking the bones away in his private vaults at Yogyakarta University. Professor Roberts explained Professor Jacob’s behaviour as ‘disgruntlement about the fact that other scientists outside Indonesia have had early access to the remains and so were able to describe them formally in the journal Nature’. Staff at Indonesia's Centre for Archaeology in Jakarta are described as being ‘extremely angry’ about this and are demanding that the material be returned as soon as possible or they will be making formal complaints at ministerial level.

Dr Alan Coates, FSA, writes to follow up the note in Salon 104 about the listing of Tolkien's house (20 Northmoor Road, Oxford). He reminds Fellows that the house was, until his death in August 2003, owned by our late Fellow Michael Maclagan.

For the record, our General Secretary, David Gaimster, points out that Martin Luther’s patron was the Elector of Saxony (one of the Federal States of Germany today), and not Lower Saxony, as was incorrectly stated in Salon 104.

Paddie Drake, FSA, takes Salon to task for a sentence containing a singular noun with a plural verb: all that Salon can say in defence is that the editor sometimes perpetuates other people’s grammatical errors by cutting and pasting text from other sources, such as press releases and emails.

On which subject, Norman Hammond, FSA, has asked Salon to be more consistent in stating the source for the stories that are retold in the bulletin: hence, from this issue, the source will be given in the opening sentence if the story is based on a secondary source, such as a press release or newspaper article. If no source is given, it can be assumed that the article is based on personal communications from the Fellow whose activities are described in the story, or on the editor’s own knowledge and journalistic research.

Regarding future developments, the Society has been approached by Swann Hellenic and other travel companies specialising in cultural tours because they would like to promote their products through Salon. Before agreeing to this, the editor of Salon would be interested to know whether Fellows support the idea or not: would information on such holidays be of interest or simply irritating? The tour operators would not pay for advertising in Salon, but they would remit ten per cent of the value of the holiday to the Society if any Fellow books a holiday using a reference code that would be exclusive to Salon readers.

The Society’s Publications Committee has come up with another initiative for Salon, to be implemented in the New Year: rather than waiting for a whole year to read book reviews in the Antiquaries Journal, Fellows are invited to contribute short (350- to 500-word) reviews of any publication of their choosing for inclusion in Salon. The journal Reviews Editor, David Crossley, FSA, will also be approaching Fellows with specific requests to write reviews for Salon of books received by the Society’s Library.

News of Fellows

Martin Stancliffe, FSA, has just merged his architectural practice with that of Purcell Miller Tritton to form the largest conservation practice in the UK, with offices in Norwich, Ely, London, Colchester, Canterbury, Liverpool and York. The merger formalises a working relationship that has been built up over the past three years, as the two practices have been working together at St Paul’s Cathedral, Selby Abbey and at Ballyfin in Ireland. Martin says that: ‘We share a similarly strongly held approach to the careful conservation of historic buildings and to sensitive design in historic settings, and our working practices and ideals are remarkably similar; so this seems a natural progression.’

Martin Stancliffe was in the news last week when The Times (7 Dec 2004) reported the completion of his work (as surveyor to the fabric) of cleaning and repairing the west front of St Paul’s Cathedral. The scaffolding and polythene that has enshrouded the building’s façade for the last eighteen months has now come down to reveal the true colour of the original Portland stone, albeit pockmarked by bomb damage and the unfortunate results of earlier cleaning campaigns. When St Paul’s was last cleaned, in the 1960s, the stone was hosed down with large volumes of high-pressure water. That water penetrated the masonry, opened it up to frost damage, rusted key ironwork and caused the building to leak. This time the stonework was cleaned with a fine spray of aggregate and small amounts of water. ‘We have not damaged the stonework this time,’ Mr Stancliffe said. ‘We have taken the dirt off and we can see more clearly any defects in the masonry. We do not expect it to need another cleaning for about seventy-five years.’

Cleaning the cathedral is a £40 million project being paid for almost entirely by voluntary subscription; £9 million is still needed to ensure that the work is completed by October 2008, 300 years after the placing of the last stone on Wren’s seventy-sixth birthday. At least £4 million is needed for the next phase (the cleaning of the southern elevation), otherwise the team of stonemasons will dissipate. Sir Roger Gibbs, a City financier who chairs the St Paul’s fundraising committee, commented that: ‘The City has never been so well off as it is today, but it’s never been so difficult to get money out of them.’

Obituary

Salon’s editor is very grateful to our Fellow Roger Sims (Librarian Archivist, Manx National Heritage, Manx Museum) for contributing this portrait of our late Fellow, Basil R S Megaw (born 22 June 1913; died 22 August 2002).

‘Basil R S Megaw was born in Belfast on the 22nd June 1913. After primary and secondary education at Mourne Grange and Campbell College he went on to Peterhouse College, Cambridge. In 1936, having graduated in the Archaeology and Anthropology Tripos, Basil was appointed assistant director of the Manx Museum and Ancient Monument Trustees.

‘Following his training at Cambridge, Basil continued his researches into aspects of current archaeology, including the new-found wealth of material on the Isle of Man. In 1938, a monograph on British decorated bronze axes was published under the joint names of Basil Megaw and Eleanor Hardy (younger daughter of the biophysicist Sir William Bate Hardy). This collaboration had begun when both authors were students at Cambridge and the association was made permanent on 6 September when they were married and established their home in the Isle of Man. The advent of war meant that the honeymoon they had planned to take place in France was spent in an equally delightful, but somewhat more convenient location — Peel on the west coast of the Island!

‘On arrival at the Manx Museum, Basil Megaw was immediately involved in the provision of a series of extensions to the display space. This programme was a typical example of Cubbon’s desire to present the Manx people with a rich tableau of the country’s cultural heritage which formed so firm a stand in his own national pride and which was enthusiastically adopted and developed by Basil Megaw. Cubbon retired as Director in 1940. Basil was in a position to continue and enlarge the work of the Museum in preserving and collecting the “folk-life” of the Island as well as maintaining the standard of work in more traditional areas.

‘Cregneash Village Museum project became one of Basil Megaw’s prime achievements. It was the first open-air museum in the British Isles. In addition, his published articles did much to establish a firm academic base for important branches of Manx studies.

‘In January 1942, Megaw left the Museum to take up duties with the Ministry of Aircraft Production, completing war-service in 1946. During this time his wife, Eleanor Megaw, was Honorary Acting Director.

‘The onset of war brought many difficulties in staffing, but still much valuable progress was made, especially in the field of archaeology. The distinguished German archaeologist Gerhard Bersu and his wife Maria were among the many foreign nationals held in camps on the Island under the British Government’s policy of internment. Arrangements were therefore made with the authorities allowing Dr Bersu and a selected group of assistants to perform excavations under armed guard which resulted in the excavation of several highly significant sites. In fact Bersu remained on the Island until 1947 to complete this important work.

‘On his return from war service, Basil Megaw continued the advancement of Manx archaeological studies. He undertook a number of small but important excavations including, in 1953, the famous neolithic burial monument known as King Orry’s Grave. He also instigated a thorough recording format for archaeological artefacts. He was also careful to continue and build on the pioneering work of P M C Kermode with regard to the corpus of Manx cross-carvings, publishing the new finds since Kermode’s death, including the prized fragment of an altar slab known as the Calf of Man Crucifixion. Megaw’s further articles on the early Christian and medieval periods of Manx history remain standard references for students and scholars today.

‘Basil Megaw’s wide vision of the potential role of the Museum within the Manx community had led to his deep concern for the preservation of the Manx countryside. As a result of such activities, he was able to assist in drawing up a Manx National Trust Bill to provide a measure of statutory protection for the scenic Manx landscape. The Bill finally became law in 1951, in consequence creating the single combined body of Trustees known as the Manx Museum and National Trust.

‘Thus, when in 1957, Basil Megaw resigned from the Directorship of the Manx Museum to become Director of the School of Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh, he left behind an institution which had been enlarged in both size and scope from the original concept and which contained the hard-won elements of a modern museum service for the nation.

‘At Edinburgh Basil built strongly on the work of his predecessor, Professor Angus McIntosh, as a centre for the collection, study and dissemination of Scotland’s cultural traditions. Basil was director until 1969, when he was succeeded by and was able to resume the study of archaeology and its allied disciplines which were Basil’s life-long passions. He retired in 1980, but remained an Honorary Fellow of the Faculty of Arts until his death.

‘Basil Megaw’s life was spent in the Q-Celtic world of Man, Ireland and Scotland, which collectively owe a debt of gratitude to him. Long before “interdisciplinary working” became popular, Basil was renowned as its staunchest advocate. On the Isle of Man he helped lay the foundations of what is today a truly integrated national heritage organisation and as director of the School of Scottish Studies and as editor of its journal Scottish Studies, he ensured that Scottish studies attracted and reached a truly international audience.

‘Basil Megaw was a longstanding Fellow of this Society as well as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland of which he was vice-president (1974—7). He was also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. As a person Basil had a natural dignity and a keen sense of humour. He was an approachable man who never failed any person who sought his opinion or advice. Above all he was a family man of the first order.’

Charities express concerns about the National Lottery Bill

The National Lottery Bill, published on 23 November 2004, continues to give rise to expressions of concern by charity leaders, who are unhappy at the potential impact of some of the bill’s clauses.

The main aim of the bill is to set up the Big Lottery Fund by merging the New Opportunities Fund and the Community Fund, but the Government is including other measures within the bill that potentially have an impact on the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) says it has ‘grave concerns’ about the bill, arguing that it undermines the lottery's ‘founding principles of independence’. First, NCVO argues, the bill grants ‘far too much influence’ to the secretary of state, who can redirect money already allocated to Lottery distributors. Second, it says the input of voluntary organisations into how future monies are spent is undermined because the bill has no explicit commitment to consulting them.

Clauses 7 and 8 of the National Lottery Bill gives the Secretary of State new powers to take money allocated to the distributors, such as HLF, and give it to other Lottery distributors. The Secretary of State has indicated in the past that she is unhappy with the ‘slow’ rate at which HLF funds are allocated, and that she would use such powers to confiscate ‘unallocated reserves’ or the interest earned on funds not yet drawn down by HLF-funded projects.

HLF has consistently opposed this line of thinking by arguing that interest earned on deposits adds the amount of funds available for heritage projects and that to confiscate interest is to decrease the amount of money available for the heritage by around £15 million a year. Furthermore that ‘unspent’ balances only exist because HLF is often involved in funding large and long-term capital projects, where it takes time to draw down funding. If the Government were to confiscate such funds, the HLF would not have the money in the bank to meet contractual financial commitments.

Apart from these specific concerns, charity leaders are very unhappy that the Government has announced the Big Lottery Fund’s core themes — promoting wellbeing, community learning and community safety — six weeks before the Fund was due to finish consulting with the voluntary sector on their strategic priorities. Sector commentators have pointed out that these themes look remarkably similar to the Government's own priorities of health, education and crime, and they worry about Government interference and the erosion of lottery funding to voluntary and community organisations.

But better news on the Gift Aid front

A compromise appears to have been reached between the Treasury’s desire to close what it describes as a ‘loophole’ in the Gift Aid scheme. Currently, visitors to heritage attractions (such as Kelmscott Manor) can sign a form designating their entrance charge as a ‘donation’, thus enhancing the value of the donation by the basic rate of income tax. Instead of abolishing the scheme altogether, as threatened last year, the Treasury has now said that charities will still be able to claim Gift Aid on admission, but only if an additional donation of at least ten per cent is added. The entire amount would then be eligible for Gift Aid (in the case of Kelmscott Manor, an entrance fee of £8.50 would become a donation if the visitor paid £9.35 and the donation would be worth an additional £2.15 in reclaimed income tax, totalling £11.50).

Mark Taylor, director of the Museums Association that has led the campaign to retain Gift Aid, said he was greatly relieved. ‘This should reduce the impact of what could have been a financial disaster,’ he said. Others were less happy, saying that there will still be a net loss of Gift Aid for charities because they will find it hard work to persuade all their visitors to make an extra donation. Explaining the virtues of Gift Aid in a crowded admission queue will not be an easy task, and for many people an additional 10 per cent will seem too much to pay, they argue. The new regime will start in 2006, which gives time for charities to work out how to convince visitors of the value of making a donation.

Outstanding library and archive collections to be ‘designated’

MLA (the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council) has announced its intention to ‘designate’ library and archive collections in non-national institutions that are deemed to be of national or international importance (MLA press release). A similar scheme for museum collections was launched in 1997. Being a designated collection brings a range of benefits.

Chris Batt, MLA's Chief Executive, explained that: ‘the Designation Scheme plays a hugely important role in raising awareness of collections and the ideas and information they hold Collections are the bedrock of our sector — they are the foundations upon which all of our work is based.’

MLA is now inviting applications from libraries and archives and joint applications from existing formal partnerships of organisations with complementary collections, which can demonstrate that their collection is of pre-eminent quality and significance. Full guidance notes and an application form are available to download from the MLA website. The deadline for applications is 11 April 2005.

A panel of leading experts, recruited through open advertisement, will meet to consider applications. Panel members will assess applications based on submissions from the applicants and evidence from any site visits. Successful applications will be announced by the end of September 2005.

While museums consider how to deal with their reserve collections

Maev Kennedy, writing in The Guardian on 6 Dec 2004, revealed some of the problems that national museums face in considering what to do deal with the hidden stockpiles of exhibits held in their reserve collections. Maev reported that a big spring-cleaning exercise was under way at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, south-east London, that will lead to the dispersal of at least 4,500 objects, a tiny fraction of the 2.5m in the collection, but believed to be the largest block disposal of objects by any national museum.

Faced with enormous and constantly growing collections, museums have to decide what to put on display, what to store and what to dispose of, but, says David Barry, director of the Art Fund charity, ‘There is no more sensitive subject in British museums. There are an awful lot of objects in stores which are both an embarrassment to museums and a worry to everyone interested, because nobody knows quite what is there, or how well it is being treated. The truth is that a lot of what is in store is not of museum display quality.’

The Museums Association (MA) is in the middle of a review of the whole subject and has suggested that museum objects should be considered as part of an extended national collection, and that if, for the sake of argument, a national inventory showed that there were 10,000 identical Victorian flat irons in our museums, sale, disposal or transfer from one museum to another should not be seen as a betrayal of trust. ‘People feel so passionately that many objects should be seen as peculiarly the property of one museum, either because they were given in good faith to that collection or because of some local connection,’ Maurice Davies, deputy director of the MA commented.

What distinguishes the National Maritime Museum is the determination to tackle the issue systematically and find new homes for thousands of objects. Heather Caven and Angela Doane, who are leading the collections development project, hold daily inquests with colleagues on the 25,000 objects in the museum’s store. After passionate debates about importance, relevance, provenance and condition, the objects are graded from A and B, for objects of core importance and value which should be displayed or stored on site, to E, for those which may be suitable for dispersal.

Those already labelled E include a curiously touching group from Chatham Dockyard which includes the cannonball found buried under a building in 1908 and carefully collected fragments of German bombs which fell on the site in the first and second world wars. They came from a little museum in the dockyard, once the employer of thousands, already in decline when the museum closed in 1957. The yard is now being restored for tourists, and the objects will probably go home.

The Maritime Museum has said it will only consider selling objects if no other suitable museum wants them and only after they have been through an exhaustive appraisal. Mr Davies thinks this may become a big issue if, as he hopes, the exercise spreads to other national and regional museums. ‘Disposal for the right reasons is a good thing, but once money comes into the equation it gets more complicated. The truth is there are going to be lots of things which other museums won't want even as a gift — but I would be alarmed if one day I see a museum that has an income line in its annual report that came from disposals.’

Door to No 10 found in store

Buried until recently in another museum store is the original door to No 10 Downing Street, which had been in service since the 1770s but was replaced by one identical in looks but heavily bombproofed when the IRA was active in London during Margaret Thatcher’s terms of office (The Times, 8 Dec 2004). Workmen rediscovered the door while converting a vault in the Treasury to form part of a new museum dedicated to Winston Churchill, which will open next February. The door will now be one of the museum’s star exhibits. When the builders installed the original door they did so in a rush and painted the ‘0’ distinctly askew. The tradition has been maintained.

New museum devoted to the works of James Audubon

A century and a half after his death, James Audubon, the greatest of all bird painters, is to be given a permanent home in his adopted British city (The Independent, 8 Dec 2004). When the Haitian-born artist was seeking a patron for his project to reproduce his collection of ornithological paintings as engravings, he came to Liverpool with a letter of introduction to the investment firm of Rathbones. The firm agreed to provide financial assistance, enabling Audubon to devote eleven years of his life to completing 200 four-volume sets of his giant book, Birds of America, each of which contains 435 large hand-coloured engravings.

Liverpool purchased its copy in 1860 for £165, when a local merchant bequeathed £1,000 for books and materials to the William Brown Library and Museum. It was nearly lost during wartime bombing in 1941 when the library's storage rooms took a direct hit and the Brown library was reduced to a burnt-out shell. But the chief librarian, J F Smith, removed the four great volumes of Birds of America to safety himself. Measuring up to 100cm by 75cm in size (double elephant print), they have remained in store in the Central Library ever since.

Now the four volumes will go on display in the Audubon Room, which will be created to coincide with Liverpool's elevation to European Capital of Culture, in 2008. The creation of the room follows a recent announcement by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) that £31.5m is to be made available for the 150-year-old library's refurbishment — the biggest government-backed library development in the UK.

Wirral: the cradle of Englishness

According to The Independent (8 Dec 2004), the people of Merseyside have yet another reason for civic pride — scholars looking for the site of the Battle of Brunanburh, the result of which has been described as ‘instrumental in the birth of the idea of Englishness’, believe they have located the battle site at Bromborough, south east of Birkenhead.

At the Battle of Brunanburh, fought in AD 937, King Athelstan, grandson of Alfred the Great, led an army of Anglo-Saxons from the Midlands and the south to defeat an army of Vikings and Scots in a bloody battle in which five kings and seven earls lost their lives, including two of Athelstan’s cousins. Athelstan was hailed as a Christian hero who had united disparate Anglo-Saxon forces — in effect (as our Fellow David Starkey says in his recent TV series Monarchy), creating the concept of Englishness.

The battle was commemorated in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, but no one knows where it took place. Dumfriesshire has been suggested, as have Northamptonshire and Yorkshire. Now three University of Nottingham scholars — Paul Cavill, who runs the English Place-Name Society, Steve Harding, a scientist, and Judith Jesch, a Viking studies lecturer — have identified Wirral as the probable site. A paper explaining their conclusions has been published in the Journal of the English Place-Name Society.

The researchers base their conclusion on analysis of two place names — Brunanburh itself and Dingesmere — also mentioned in the Chronicle’s account of the battle. The former, meaning ‘Bruna's fort’, has long been assumed by scholars to be an old name for Bromborough, where a well-established Scandinavian colony existed at the time of the battle, making it a sympathetic base for northern raiders. The paper now suggests that the name of Dingesmere might be related to the parliament, or Thingwall, that used to be held in the Thing field at Cross Hill, off today’s A551 in the Wirrall (Thing is Old Norse for a place of assembly, as in Manx Tynwald or Icelandic Althingi). Dinges-mere is therefore derived from the Old Norse for ‘marshland of the Thing’, the dangerous marshland of the River Dee, which lies close to the Thing field. The association of the two names in such close proximity seems to confirm that modern Bromborough was the battle site.

Saxon sculpture sold at auction

A rare and beautiful pre-Conquest English sculpture, depicting St Peter in papal vestments giving a Benedictine blessing, was sold at auction to an anonymous buyer on 10 December for £201,000 (The Times, 11 Dec 2004). The stone was rediscovered by chance in the front garden of Ruth Beeston and her family in Dowlish Wake, Somerset, where it had served as a cat’s tombstone for the past two decades, marking the grave of a cat called Winkle. Mrs Beeston’s late husband, a stonemason, found the slab among stone bought for his business. Our former President, Professor Rosemary Cramp, described the find earlier this year as of ‘national importance’, possibly from a frieze in a Saxon church. ‘It is one of the best pieces from that period that has been dug up in a long time,’ Professor Cramp said. ‘I just wish we knew where it had come from.’

Caxton's first page to go on display

The Daily Telegraph (6 Dec 2004) reports that England's oldest surviving printed document is to go on show at the National Archives, in Kew, south London. The document consists of an indulgence, printed by William Caxton at the country's first press in Westminster on 13 December 1476. The author was John Sant, Abbot of Abingdon, who granted the indulgence to Henry and Katherine Langley for raising funds for a fleet to be despatched to Constantinople, newly captured by the Turks. The document is one of several key historical artefacts on display at a free exhibition, ‘Movers and Shakers: Geoffrey Chaucer to Elton John’, open until the end of May.

Caxton’s press was inspired by that developed by Johannes Gutenberg in 1454, but an article in The Times (11 Dec 2004) reports the results of a ‘trial’ held at the Museum and Archive of Printing in Genoa last week, which questioned whether Gutenberg really was the father of modern printing. Bruno Fabbiani, who lectures on printing techniques at Turin Polytechnic, said that he had conducted ‘extensive tests’ which proved that the celebrated Gutenberg Bible was produced using traditional inked blocks rather than movable type. Francesco Pirella, director of the museum, said Signor Fabbiani’s claims had offended many, but had ‘opened up a genuine scientific debate’ and that modern printing would now join a ‘growing list of disputed inventions, from photography to the telephone’.

Fabbiani’s findings are not new, however. Paul Needham, librarian of the Scheide Library at Princeton University and former director of books and manuscripts at Sotheby’s, has used computer enhancement to study the Gutenberg Bibles and suggested four years ago that Gutenberg was ‘not the inventor of movable type as commonly understood — bits of identical type created from metal moulds’. Instead, he had used cruder ‘sand casting’, in which lead alloy was poured into sand moulds which were constantly remade. This did not, however, dislodge Gutenberg from his position as ‘inventor of the printing press and the first person to mass produce Bibles’.

The doodles of a monarch in love

A new book published by the British Library on 6 December reports the discovery of love notes exchanged between Henry VIII and his future wife, Anne Boleyn, written in the margins of books found during the first comprehensive investigation of the king's library (The Independent, 7 Dec 2004). One sixteenth-century Book of Hours has Henry’s handwritten note, in French, saying: ‘If you remember me according to my love in your prayers I shall scarcely be forgotten, since I am your Henry Rex for ever.’ Anne’s reply, in English verse, says: ‘Be daly prove you shall me fynde/To be to you bothe lovynge and kynde.’

The Books of Henry VIII and his Wives, by our Fellow Professor James Carley (with a preface by our Fellow David Starkey), is the result of two decades of research into the collection. It reveals that the king's library had a practical purpose in affairs of state: Henry VIII quoted extensively from his books to defend his actions in seeking divorce and declaring himself the head of the Church in England. Henry's personal annotations to Augustinus de Ancona's Compendium Concerning Ecclesiastical Power, for example, has a passage that reads: ‘First, therefore, it must be said that to have several wives was not against nature in the ancient father’. In the margin, Henry notes: ‘Ergo nec in nobis’ (‘Therefore neither in ours’).

Yet another museum theft

A crystal ball that once belonged to the sixteenth-century philosopher, mathematician and astrologer, John Dee, was stolen from the Science Museum in London last week when a man dressed in a long leather coat smashed a display case on the fifth floor and ran from the museum to evade security guards (The Times, 11 Dec 2004). The thief also took a statement about the ball’s use written in the mid-1600s on the reverse of an ancient deed by the pharmacist Nicholas Culpeper. Science Museum staff say that security is jeopardised by underfunding: staff at the museum are to be balloted on strike action after rejecting a 2.5 per cent pay increase as ‘derisory’.

HLF grant to fund Community Archaeologist in York

York Archaeological Trust has been awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant of £212,500 to help fund a Community Archaeologist in Greater York for the next five years (HLF press release, 2 December 2004). The Community Archaeologist will act as an adviser and facilitator, and will be responsible for co-ordinating training sessions and out-reach events for new archaeology groups. It is also hoped that project material can be developed for incorporating into history, science, geography and literacy learning at key stages 1 and 2 of the National Curriculum.

Our Fellow, Dr Richard Hall, York Archaeological Trust’s Director of Archaeology, said: ‘The Community Archaeologist will help people to discover and enjoy their heritage, therefore increasing everyone’s appreciation and understanding of the local landscape.’

Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society to celebrate 150 years

Alan McWhirr, FSA, writes to say that the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society (formed at a meeting held on 10 January 1855) will hold a reception on 10 January 2005 in Leicester's Guildhall where many of the early meetings of the Society were held in the nineteenth century and where the Society's library is still based. The celebrations were formally launched by HRH The Duke of Gloucester when he visited the Guildhall on 13 October and met members of the Society.

Later in the year a special supplement to the annual volume of Transactions will be published to celebrate the 150 years and this will be devoted to Leicester Abbey. It will be on sale to non-members should any Fellow wish to be put on a mailing list (further information on the Society’s web page).

If any Fellow has early memories of the Society, or knows of any illustrative material relating to the Society, could they please contact Dr Alan McWhirr.

Seminars, talks and conferences

Dr Chris Entwistle, Curator, Late Roman and Byzantine Collections, Department of Prehistory and Europe, The British Museum, will be leading the next Wallace Collection Seminar in the History of Collecting on Wednesday 15 December 2004, at 4.30pm, on the theme of Sir Hercules Read and the Broighter and Cyprus treasures: aspects of cultural colonialism at the British Museum.

The paper will discuss aspects of collecting policy at the British Museum during Sir Hercules Read's Keepership of the Department of British and Medieval Antiquities (1896—1918). It will concentrate on Read's attempts to secure for the British Museum two separate treasures — the Bronze Age gold treasure from Broighter, Ireland, and the early Byzantine ‘Second Cyprus treasure’. In both instances, in his desire to secure these treasures for the BM, Read adopted tactics which might be regarded as dubious, bringing himself and the British Museum into direct conflict with both the Treasury and the Colonial Office.

Mince pies and wine will be provided after the seminar, which will finish by 6pm. Please inform Rosie Broadley, Museum Assistant, The Wallace Collection, in advance if you wish to attend.

Incunable exhibition

Our Fellow Dr Alan Coates, Assistant Librarian and Head of the Incunable Cataloguing Project at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, writes to let us know about an exhibition at the Library that he has curated (with Dr Cristina Dondi and Ms Elizabeth Mathew), entitled After Gutenberg: history and culture in fifteenth-century printed books at the Bodleian Library (Library Exhibition Room, Old Schools Quadrangle, Bodleian Library; open to 30 April 2005; Monday to Friday 9.30am to 4.45pm, Saturday 9.30am to 12.30pm; admission free).

The exhibition marks the completion of work on the Bodleian’s decade-long project to catalogue its incunabula (publication of the catalogue is expected in the spring/summer of 2005). Among the exhibits are the Library’s copy of the Gutenberg Bible, the ‘Douce Pliny’ (the stunningly decorated copy of the Italian translation of Pliny’s Natural History, made for the Florentine banker, Filippo Strozzi, as a gift for the King of Naples and Aragon, and subsequently owned by the collector Francis Douce), one of only two surviving copies of the first extant printed advertisement in English, and the Canon Missae, which was printed using Gutenberg’s type, and that survives in only two complete copies.

Vacancies

Bath Archaeological Trust, Trustees
Bath Archaeological Trust has several vacancies on its Board of Trustees. The Trust is an educational charity and a non-profit-making company limited by guarantee. Trustees are ex officio directors of the company. We are looking for a variety of skills, especially, but not only, in the area of commercial archaeology. The responsibilities are not onerous but neither are the posts sinecures! Please contact the Chair of the Trust, Peter Johnson (tel: 01373 732906 or email: epj@awdrys.co.uk for further information and discussion.

English Heritage, Head of Archaeological Archives, based at Fort Cumberland, Portsmouth
Salary £26,000 to £30,000 pa, closing date 17 December 2004

The post holder provides a full archaeological archives and information management service for relevant English Heritage projects and programmes. For further information send an A4 self-addressed envelope (stamp not necessary), quoting ref J/079/04 to Sarah King, Human Resources, English Heritage, NMRC, Kemble Drive, Swindon SN2 2GZ.

English Heritage, Historic Areas Adviser/Inspector of Historic Buildings, North West Region (based in Manchester)
Salary £27,000 to £30,000.Closing date 16 December2004

Advising on heritage-led regeneration, grant-aided schemes, statutory consultations and other proposals affecting historic buildings and conservation areas. For further information email recruitmentnorth@english-heritage.org.uk quoting ref B/009/04.

English Heritage, Senior Investigator, Historic Buildings & Landscapes (based in Cambridge)
Salary c £28,000 pro rata (maternity cover until end of December 2005), closing date 14 December 2004

The post requires a broad knowledge of architectural history, with a specialism in one or more areas, and some experience in the recording of historic buildings. Further details from e.midlands.recruit@english-heritage.org.uk quoting ref: F/022/04.

English Heritage, Blue Plaques Administrator
Salary £14,869 to £20,115, closing date 10 December 2004

Providing administrative support for the Blue Plaques Scheme, undertaking casework and gaining consents for the installation of plaques in London and across the country. Further information from Raj Kalsi.

British Library, Grants and Bursaries Administrator, Endangered Archives
Salary c £30,000, closing date 17 December 2004

The Library is embarking on a major initiative to save endangered collections of archive material relating to pre-industrial societal development worldwide. The administrator will work alongside the Archives Curator and be responsible for administering and monitoring research grants and bursaries, answering enquiries and updating web pages. Further information from People Media Response quoting ref VM005604.

Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, Buildings Investigator (based in Aberystwyth)
Salary £16,196 to £20,926, closing date 31 December 2004

To strengthen the RCAHMW’s Emergency Building Recording Team, particularly in maintaining the Emergency Building Recording component of the National Monuments Record and in undertaking digital survey. Further details are available from Mrs S Billingsley, Human Resources Office.