Category Archives: Westminster Reference Library

Morningwood by Kit Cox – book launch

As any regular user of Westminster Reference Library will be aware we have an excellent event on the last Thursday of every month, a Salon for the City

Every month the salon focuses on a new area of London, and has two speakers offering their own take on their speciality. Initially only intended on running for four months, the salon has blossomed and is rapidly approaching its 50th session.

The events are sponsored by Hendrick’s Gin whose host, the marvellous Kit Cox is not just an amazing bartender who makes special gin cocktails for every occasion but also an amusing raconteur who delights the salon’s audience with gin based facts at every event.

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As should not be a surprise to anyone, Kit is also an excellent author who frequently goes by the pen name Major Jack Union. For his latest book Morningwood, Kit decided to hold his launch at Westminster Reference Library and it was a wild success. Complete with cosplayers, Kit’s talk was engaging and witty and even revealed the secret behind how he chose his nom-de-plume (believe it or not, the fact that Jack Union is Union Jack is simply a fortunate coincidence!) Kit also spoke about the influences behind the book, from the fashionable streets of 60’s London into the mythology of a world of ancient deities.

Beneath the streets of trendy 60’s London an old and very cold war is about to bubble to the surface: Ancient feuds between creatures, long regarded as myth, threaten to spill back into the world of humans. Is it finally time for the Guardian of the early morning woods to step out of retirement? A ritual killing leads to a roller coaster world of espionage, brutal scooter gangs and mythical worlds as Mulberry Gale ,investigator with a point to prove, decides to call in a favour from one of the greatest protectors of humanity. Can Professor Early Morningwood (yes he’s fully aware) throw off the shackles of his self imposed exile and save not just one but two worlds from the machinations of an old foe? From the sleepy spires of Oxford to the trendy streets of sixties London and out into the wilds of Scotland It’s time to find out if this Old Goat is a myth or a Legend.

 

Nick
Nicholas Alexander
Collection Services Officer

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Art Book of the Month, September 2017

 

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The Biography and Catalogue Raisonne of the Paintings of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema by Vern G Swanson
London: Garton & Co 1990

Recently Westminster Reference Library was contacted by Leighton House Museum who were about to hold an exhibition of the works of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema. They were contacting us to ask if they could borrow from our Art and Design Collection a copy of the catalogue raisonné of his paintings to ensure the information they were presenting was as correct as possible. Whilst normally books from this collection are  reference only and therefore not available for loan, given the nature of the request we decided to make an exception.

Catalogue raisonnés are descriptive catalogues of works of art with explanations and scholarly comments. But to bring some life to this brief sentence I thought it might be nice to show you why the museum was keen to borrow the work and exactly what you get.

This catalogue raisonné starts off with an authoritative biography of Alma-Tadema before proceeding into the nitty gritty.

 

Helpfully Alma-Tadema had a habit of numbering all of his works which makes the organisation remarkably simple. The catalogue raisonné has varying amounts of detail for each painting ranging from the short…

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To the long…

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But, invariably the text details exactly what you need to know about each piece: the title, the style of work, the size, the provenance, what exhibitions it has been in, if it has been included in texts and of course a detailed description of the work itself.

Nick
Nicholas Alexander
Collection Services Officer

The making of mayamada – journey into manga

We’ve got an amazing event on Saturday 5 August, 1.30pm at Westminster Reference Library : ‘The making of mayamada – journey into manga’.  More info on our website

mayamanda founders, Nigel and Lao have written a guest blog post to tell us more –

The story of mayamada starts with failure, also known as a “learning experience”. We’ve had a few of those along the way…

mayamada founders Nigel and Lao

In the beginning, there was just an idea between a group of friends with a love of Japanese culture. We wanted to make cool t-shirts and sell them to an adoring fan base.

Unfortunately, the cool t-shirts never came, and neither did the fan base!

So once we admitted our plan was working we had a rethink. The group became a duo and me along with co-founder Lao set about working on a real brand to build.

As well as an interest in anime, manga, and cartoons, we also had a passion for storytelling. So after a brainstorming session (or two) we put those things together and came up with a whole universe of characters and stories. A brand was born.

mayamada became a universe; a television network with an all star cast of anthropomorphic characters. We started designing characters and writing manga-style comics to tell the story of the shows on the mayamada network.

mayamada manga

Even with the idea sorted, it still took a while to get our first title released. Two years. In 2013, we were able to self-publish Samurai Chef Volume 1 thanks to a successful Indiegogo crowd funding campaign.

Samurai Chef

Since then we’ve released the complete edition of Samurai Chef along with Hot Lunch: The Outer Circle and Serious Volume 1.

mayamada manga titles

We even managed to create some cool t-shirts featuring our characters. The fan base started to come too. It’s been great to see people respond positively to our stories, characters, and clothing.

mayamada clothing

We’ve been able to take our brand to comic conventions across the country where we get to meet new fans and people who have been supporting us for years now.  The support has allowed us to build the mayamada universe through new characters and stories.

Hyper Japan Summer 2016

But it hasn’t stopped there. We’ve also been able to launch our own social gaming event, GamePad. With the aim of making gaming more inclusive, we work with gaming companies including Ubisoft and Nintendo to put on a fun day of gaming for everyone. We’re glad for that initial failure, we never would be here without it.

mayamada GamePad Highlights

This is still at the beginning of our story though. There are lots more mayamada stories to write and characters to meet. No doubt there’ll be more learning experiences too as we keep building our brand – it’s all part of the journey!

mayamada brand

 

Many thanks to Nigel and Lao for sharing their story with us; don’t forget if you’d like to meet them on Saturday 5 August – book your free place on Eventbrite

Mental Health Awareness Week – Surviving or Thriving?

mhaw17-main-banner_0Read, learn and connect with us during this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week –

Libraries’ positive contribution to the mental well-being of the population is well documented – see the Arts Council’s publication on ‘The health and wellbeing benefits of public libraries.’ 

I say population and not just customers or residents as it has been said that living near a library and, indeed, just walking past a library has a positive effect on one’s emotional and mental well-being.

Of course we in libraries are keen to invite people to come through the doors and experience the well-being benefits first hand. The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is ‘Surviving or Thriving’ which encourages us to look at our physical and mental well-being.

mental-health

Some of our offers are more obviously health focused, our health information displays encourage us to feed our brains with the right food and suggest ways to be more active, as well as giving information on managing and living well with chronic conditions.  Poor physical health can be a drain on our mental and emotional strength and poor mental health can lead to inactivity, poor diet and so the cycle continues.

One way to break cycles of unhelpful thoughts and behaviours is cognitive behavioural therapy and Westminster has a free psychological therapy service, Westminster Talking Therapies.

In order to help people decide whether this service is for them or for support while waiting for a referral, or during, or after therapy, the libraries’ Reading Well Books on Prescription collections are recommended by GPs and health promotion specialists. A new collection put together to support those living with chronic conditions will be launched in July this year.

The Reading Well Books on Prescription initiative is part of our Bibliotherapy offer. Our libraries host read aloud groups in partnership with The Reader Organisation. These facilitator led ‘Share a book’ groups meet every week and give members the opportunity to join in reading aloud from good literature and discuss what has been read over a cup of tea or coffee or just sit back, listen and enjoy the company.

lavenderIt is encouraging to look at how we in libraries contribute to what is called ‘the wider determinants of health’  All the things in our lives that support us, family, work, employment, housing, finances, education, lifelong learning, English classes, coffee mornings, knitting groups, activities for children and teenagers, employment advice, business information points for entrepreneurs old and young, all these available in libraries.

Libraries have always been inspirational and aspirational encouraging us to ask for more learning and knowledge and skills to create meaningful lives for ourselves and our families.

There are also some very good enjoyable fiction books available free to borrow hard copy or online! See our new book displays or log on to the 24/7 library. Did you know that reading for as little as six minutes can improve mental well-being?

See what you can do this Mental Health Awareness week to look after your own mental well-being, eat well, sleep well, go for a walk in one of our gorgeous parks and yes, visit your local library.

Kate Gielgud

Health Information Co-ordinator

 

 

 

 

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]

How Westminster Libraries’ resources helped me to trace an elusive artist

'A view from the artist’s studio', print by Jessie Beswick

‘A view from the artist’s studio’ by Jessie Beswick

Recently I found this engraving in a junk shop. The print was crudely held in place with a sheet of cardboard and peeling masking tape. The frame was immediately recycled, the backing replaced with acid free mount board. However I must thank the anonymous framer for their work in keeping the print in its frame but also more importantly for scrawling in ballpoint ink biographical and geographical information about this print titled ‘A view from the artist’s studio’.

The writer also stated that the artist – Jessie Beswick – was a sister of their grandfather. Without this information this would have simply been a pleasing anonymous town view from a window.

Not so useful was the difficult handwriting which made interpretation difficult. Luckily from this text there was no ambiguity in interpreting the picture’s location, King Street Chester. What were more problematical to read were the artist’s maiden and married surnames which meant using possible name variations in any search for this artist!

With no stated date on the print it was not a just a case of Googling a name and finding her. Even if I was confident with the surname spelling of Beswick I found a number of alternative individuals with this name. I suspected that ‘my’ artist was active before 1945, on the basis that the writer was two generations younger than the artist and had written the information relatively recently – ballpoint pens did not come into mass use until the late 1950s. Another fact which proved to be a red herring in an initial search for her in Chester Street directories (located in the City of London’s Guildhall Library) was to assume that the King Street studio was her residence. In fact it turned out from census and other evidence that Jessie Beswick resided at other addresses in Chester.

It was time to bite the bullet and use Westminster’s ‘In House’ online resources for family history, Ancestry and Find My Past.

Having two surnames to deal with, I first checked marriage records using Find My Past. Success: after several false hits I found the marriage of Jessie Beswick to Walter W White (Walmsley-White) in Chester in 1914. The record usefully included her parents’ names and her age, thus narrowing down by date any census searches for further information. The 1901 census found her, aged 15, residing at her parents’ house. The 1911 census entry usefully reminded me that the census is a record of household occupation on a specific night which is not necessarily the home address. A Jessie Beswick was staying with friends in Lancashire but I am convinced that this is the same person as her occupation is listed as an artist and the birth year and place of birth matches the previous census entry.

I have mentioned my problem of reading original handwriting. Transcribed entries from the census enumerator returns can also provide evidence of transcription errors. Jessie’s name had been transcribed as ‘Lessie’ in Ancestry’s 1891 census entry for the Beswick household.

Find My Past also has a useful facility to search selected local newspapers. An October 1915 issue of the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette reports on a local art exhibition which was

“strengthened by the contributions of some new members, and a new feature is collection of etchings by … Jessie Beswick (Mrs. Walmsley White), the latter lady being also represented in the oils section by two excellent studies of Brittany”.

Confirmation of the move was found when I used print resources at Westminster Reference Library’s Art & Design Collection. Post 1914 entries all list Jessie Walmsley White with a Devon address and prior to marriage her maiden name together with a Chester address. With this information it is reasonable to date this print between 1900 and 1914.

Royal Academy Exhibitors, 1905-1970The first resource I used was Royal Academy exhibitors, 1905-1970: a dictionary of artists and their work in the Summer Exhibitions
Vol. 6: SHERR-ZUL. 

This dictionary revealed that she had paintings exhibited in three separate exhibitions. Unfortunately the dictionary does not include illustrations but listed the botanical subjects of these works.

On a previous visit to Westminster Reference Library I had noticed a long run of annual directories: The Year’s Art: a concise epitome of all matters relating to the arts of painting, sculpture, engraving and architecture. 

The Year's Art, volumes 1908 - 1913

The Year's Art, 1915At that point I had not discovered her birth date and confirmation of her surnames, so I hadn’t plunged in with a systematic search of these volumes. Now, armed with this information, I returned to consult this series. Her first entry occurs in the 1909 edition. Usefully, an artist’s entry includes their home address together with the location of any exhibited work in public galleries. Her address details from the 1915 edition confirm the permanent move to Devon.

Find My Past was also used to find her death record. Luckily my assumption that she had remained in Devon was correct and I found her death record. Jessie died in 1961 aged 75.

Having tracked down this artist my next quest is to find further examples of her work, either in a gallery or improbably lurking in another junk shop.

[Francis]

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]