Category Archives: Staff picks

Astronomy Month: Stars in Your Eyes

September is Astronomy Month at Westminster Reference Library with free events each week and telescopes for loan; more information about everything that’s happening on our website

Bayeux Tapestry 32-33 comet Halley Harold

Isti Mirant Stella, Bayeaux Tapestry, Canterbury, 1070s

They wonder at the star

This is the earliest picture of Halley’s Comet, made at a time when comets were bad omens. In 1066, it was visible from  24 April to 1 May, a few months after Harold’s coronation on 6 January, and before his death and defeat at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October.

Edmond Halley (1656 – 1742) astronomer and mathematician, was the first to compute the orbit of this comet and accurately predict its return in 1758. Halley was a frequent visitor when Sir Isaac Newton lived in the house which was on the site of the library from 1710 – 1727.

Did you know the library has a specialist Fine Arts Collection on the first floor? You are welcome to explore our books on this early medieval masterpiece, from a contemporary account to recent research:

Bayeux Tapestry and the Norman Invasion, Introduction and Translation from the contemporary account of William of Poitiers by Lewis Thorpe, London 1973

David Mackenzie Wilson, The Bayeux tapestry: the complete tapestry in colour, with introduction, description and commentary, London, 1985

Wolfgang Grape, The Bayeux Tapestry: monument to a Norman triumph, Translated from the German, Munich 1994

Lucien Musset, The Bayeux Tapestry: translated by Richard Rex, Woodbridge, 2005

Carola Hicks, The Bayeux Tapestry: The Life Story of a Masterpiece London, 2007

Library staff are happy to help you to find these and other books in the collection.

Not sure where we are? Westminster Reference Library  is off the south side of Leicester Square, behind the main wing of the National Gallery.  For more information, telephone 020 7641 1300.

Art book of the month, March 2018

After a little break, due to the refurb at Westminster Reference Library, ‘Art book of the month’ is back. Over to Nick…

As befits our recent reopening of our ground floor this month (the first floor is due to open up in April so art books won’t be available until then), why not have a thought about what art actually is with ‘A New Dictionary of Art’ edited by Robert Good.

This is an interesting take on the question of ‘What is art?’ which presents over 3000 definitions of art compiled from both established sources and the internet.

These range from the straightforward –

To the bizarre

To the formal

There’s a vulgar definition too, but it’s a bit cheeky for our blog. One of the joys about this books is how the work itself is very much a work of art!

Nick
Nicholas Alexander
Collection Services Officer

PS previous art book of the month posts: November 2017, October 2017 and September 2017

Art book of the month, November 2017

The Illustrated London News

I hope that you will all forgive me for being a bit liberal in my usage of the word book here, as while The Illustrated London News is technically a periodical, when you’re faced with 281 volumes of bound copies it’s easy to forget that they aren’t technically a book.

The Illustrated London News first appeared on Saturday 14 May 1842, as the world’s first illustrated weekly news magazine and ceased publication in 2003. It is an incredible resource for anyone looking to get a view for the past with contemporary images from the time mixed in with articles of the day. Anyone looking to get some insight into the topical issues of the day would be hard pressed to go any further than this.

It is is frequently used by academics as for their research and a volume from our collection is currently on display in the Migration Museum as part of their No Turning Back: Seven Migration Moments that Changed Britain  exhibition.

In addition to the bound volumes held at Westminster Reference Library, The Illustrated London News is also available online here for Westminster’s library members.  Not yet a member? You can join online here

Nick
Nicholas Alexander
Collection Services Officer

PS – Art book of the month for October and September 

Art Book of the Month, October 2017

The Vernon Gallery of British Art Volumes 1-4 London: g. Virtue, 1850  

Buried deep in the stacks of Westminster Reference Library we uncovered the four volume set of the Vernon Gallery of British Art.

This collection lists in delightful detail all of the 152 paintings donated by Robert Vernon on the 22 of December, 1847 to the National Gallery. Each work is shown in full detail with an accompanying description that helps to set the scene as to how the work was viewed at the time.

All of the images are preserved by a thin sheet of grease proof paper that ensures the fidelity is not lost.

The collection donated by Robert Vernon consisted of works by notable artists of his time, such as Turner and Constable. It provided a huge boost to the then newly established National Gallery. While the works have since been split up and some now reside in Tate Britain the value of the collection still remains.

Anyone is welcome to visit the Westminster Reference Library and staff are always happy to retrieve any books from our stacks. If you would like to see this set of books, please do visit us.

Nick
Nicholas Alexander
Collection Services Officer

PS – and if you’re interested to know what was Art Book of the Month last month 

My favourite things

One of the main reasons for starting this blog was that there was so much to tell – as the very first post said: “It’s about the life of the Libraries & Archives”. There are so very many facets to a public library service; I wanted to help bring more of what we can offer into the light.

After eighteen years in Westminster Libraries (a brief interlude in comparison to the tenure of Malcolm and many others, of course), I’ve rounded up a selection of wonderful things and, with apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein, persuaded my library-fan children to spare you my singing voice.  As I move on to pastures new, one of the things I will miss the most is editing this blog (I look forward to being a reader from now on). It’s been a privilege.

So long, farewell…

[Ali]

Art Book of the Month, February 2017

Leaves from a Missionary’s Notebook by Stephen Tennant

Leaves from a Missionary’s Notebook by Stephen Tennant
Hamish Hamilton, 1986
(First published by Secker & Warburg Ltd, 1929)

Stephen Tennant, “the brightest” of “The Bright Young People”, was twenty-three years old when Leaves from a Missionary’s Notebook was first published.  The notebook tells the story of the Rev Felix Littlejohn and his quest to convert the heathens to the light and in the process is exposed to all sorts of outrageous, horrifying and hilarious behaviour by natives, sailors and other characters.

from: Leaves from a Missionary’s Notebook by Stephen Tennant

It is in some ways a book ahead of its time, as the story is told in graphic novel format with drawings by the author who was also an artist as well as a socialite and a quintessential English eccentric.

from: Leaves from a Missionary’s Notebook by Stephen Tennant   from: Leaves from a Missionary’s Notebook by Stephen Tennant

Stephen’s life is as interesting as any book if not more so.  The son of British nobility, as a young man he is supposed to have ‘resembled the youthful Shelley’ and was the inspiration for Cedric in Nancy Mitford’s Love in a Cold Climate. Stephen’s friends ranged from Virginia Woolf to David Hockney and his surrealist poses are a frequent feature in Cecil Beaton’s photographs of the 1920s and 1930s.

Dedication in Leaves from a Missionary’s Notebook by Stephen Tennant

Stephen’s niece was British novelist and editor, the Hon. Emma Tennant who sadly died last month.

[Rossella]

Art for Everyone’s Sake

Art books collage 1

Westminster Reference Library, home of the specialist Art & Design Collection, now has art books for loan. Visit us at 35 St Martin’s Street and browse through our growing collection of inclusive, engaging and expertly written books on a wide range of art interests. The publications shown here are just some of our most recent additions:

Hieronymus Bosch; The Complete WorksHieronymus Bosch; The Complete Works combines new research with superb reproductions to celebrate this unique and visionary painter. His fantasies, grotesques and drolleries, set in natural surroundings, appear as fresh and eloquent today as they were 500 years ago.

Menswear illustration, by Richard KilroyFashion students! The explosion of international sales in menswear means that drawing is no longer dominated by women’s fashions. Menswear Illustration is the first survey of this new trend and features 40 innovative illustrators of contemporary styles in menswear.

Natural histories: extraordinary rare book selections from the American Museum of Natural History library, by Tom BaioneNatural Histories presents selected masterpieces of scientific art from 16th century zoologies to 20th century treatises. Essays by experts in their field explain how these scientifically significant, richly illustrated studies played integral roles throughout the history of natural sciences.

The Craft Companion by Ramona BarryBeautiful or bonkers The Craft Companion offers 170 projects to learn 33 crafting techniques, with inspiration from 150 contemporary artists. Try working with traditional materials (wood, leather, gold leaf) or turn to page 378 and make a recycled Terrarium for your plastic dinosaurs.

Art photography, by David BateArt Photography provides a fascinating introduction to the crucial role of painting in the invention of photography, and the importance of photography in the development of modern art. Visual examples from the 19th – 21st centuries illustrate how global this field of art has become.

Bernard Leach by Edmund De WaalBernard Leach is the first biography and critical monograph of this renowned 20th century potter whose ceramics, writings and teaching hold a central place in the international history of the decorative arts.

 

Making sculpture from scrap metal by Peter ParkinsonMetal workers have recycled broken tools and other scrap since the Bronze Age, but only in the 20th century did artists start using such items to make sculpture. Making Sculpture from Scrap Metal puts this artistic practice into context, describes the concerns and techniques involved, and illustrates these with the work of contemporary sculptors.

Looking at pictures: an introduction to art for young people through the National Gallery collection, by Joy RichardsonWhat are paintings for? This and other topics including colour, light, symbols and techniques are discussed in Looking at Pictures, the National Gallery’s excellent introduction to art for young people. Don’t let this put you off: it’s an illuminating mini-history of European painting.

Contemporary design Africa by Tapiwa MatsindeContemporary Design Africa is the first book on the innovative and sophisticated uses of traditional crafts taking place across the continent.   Over the past 100 years communities have used manufactured “rubbish” to make footwear, household goods, even toys. This practice, alongside the cultural use of natural materials, is an inspiration for any designer.

Alfred Wallis by Matthew GaleAlfred Wallis fisherman and marine stores dealer, is now recognised as one of the most original British artists of the 20th century. In the light of new research, this book traces the development of his painting from when he started 1925, until his death in 1942 at the age of 87.

If you want to borrow these or other art books, bring in your membership card; or bring proof of your home address and join the library for free. We are off the south side of Leicester Square, behind the main wing of the National Gallery. For more information, contact the library.

Art books collage 2

[Philippa]

Wesley Hall Methodist Church

Sydenham, London, UK

The Life and Loves of a Victorian Clerk

The diary of Nathaniel Bryceson, 1846

Discovering Westminster: A walk through time

Lunch time walks through the area

LBHF Libraries

"More than a library..."

The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies

Curious recipes and hidden histories from Westminster City Archives

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