The life of a photograph and an extraordinary woman

Anne Knight, photograph by Victor Franck, c.1855 (LSF MS BOX W2)

Anne Knight, photograph by Victor Franck, c.1855 (LSF MS BOX W2)

The Library’s Visual Resources Development Officer, Melissa Atkinson, talks about one enduring image in our collection.

I am fascinated with historical material culture and how it translates into modern society. When a researcher in the Library is interested in any of the visual resources such as a poster, piece of crockery or a photograph, I am keen to see how they reinterpret the material for today’s audiences.

When the United Nations contacted me about a photograph of an elderly woman staring defiantly into the camera, clutching a placard on her knee which states:

By tortured millions
By the Divine Redeemer
Enfranchise Humanity
Bid the Outraged World

I wondered about the extraordinary journey this photograph, and the woman in it, had taken.

Anne Knight

Anne Knight (1786-1862) was born in Chelmsford to a Quaker family. From all accounts she was a formidable advocate of abolition of the slave trade without compensation for the slave owners. She also supported free trade and universal suffrage and campaigned fervently for women’s rights. Her sympathies were also with the European republican movements. By 1830 she was deeply involved in the attempt by Quakers to end slavery and spent much of her time arranging public meetings, distributing leaflets and organising petitions. As a member of the Chelmsford Ladies Anti-Slavery Society, she formed the first organisation for women’s suffrage in Britain, the Sheffield Female Reform Association.

Although the British Slavery Abolition Act came into power in 1834, this did not eradicate the problem globally, and British abolitionists still wanted to exert influence, especially over the situation in the United States. Anne Knight’s 1855 protest demanding the abolition of the slave trade, depicted in the photograph, still resonates with the world today.

New audiences

To mark International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, the United Nations in New York had an exhibition entitled ‘Powerful women against slavery” in the UN General Assembly entrance this spring which included this photograph. UN Information Centres globally will have the option to use this ready-made exhibition which includes an online study guide via the website –

The 2015 theme is Women and Slavery which celebrates the mental and physical strength of women and the unimaginable abuses they had to endure.

This image of Anne Knight is from her personal archive (LSF MS BOX W2). The photograph was taken at Saint des Vosges circa 1855 by Victor Franck. The original photograph, known as a carte-de-visite (visiting card), measures 64mm × 100mm (2.5 inches x 4 inches). This format of the carte-de-visite was very popular as they were affordable and easily mass produced. Victorian obsession with collecting made these cards into a novelty and they were traded between friends and large Victorian families. Popular figures of the time such as royalty became collectibles which led to the publication and collection of photographs of prominent persons.

The Library of the Society of Friends holds Anne Knight’s personal papers including diaries, correspondence and notes (references MS Box W2, MS Box G2/3, and MS Vol S 486).
One of our readers was inspired by her journey for his architectural creation for the Burgess Stream project in central Chelmsford. You can read about the historical research behind his architectural design work here:

This blogpost is about the life of a photograph and the woman within it. Anne Knight with her incredible influence and universal admiration for human dignity. If Anne Knight was around today she may have mixed emotions about the current state of women’s rights and modern slavery. Knight would have to admit that there has been improvement and progression to raise the world’s attention for universal suffrage but only so far. I think Anne Knight would look you straight in the eye and say we cannot forget the past but there is still a long way to go to improve the future.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Opening up the manuscript collections: an update on our online cataloguing project

What do silhouettes, the  South Sea journals of Daniel Wheeler, press-cuttings on the General Strike, and a 100 year-old phial of anti-tetanus serum have in common? They’re all to be found in the Library’s main manuscript series, which currently comprises over 1,000 separate and extremely diverse archive collections. And until recently, only a quarter of them were on the online catalogue.

Extracts from the South Sea Journals of Daniel Wheeler (Library reference Temp MSS 366 vols. 3/1-3)

Extracts from Daniel Wheeler’s South Sea Journals for 1834-5 (Library reference Temp MSS 366 vols. 3/1-3)

Anti-tetanus serum phial from Alan F. Ardley papers (Library reference: Temp MSS 452/1/11)

Anti-tetanus serum phial from Alan F. Ardley papers (Library reference Temp MSS 452/1/11)

Since the launch of the new catalogue, a little over a year ago, we’ve been busy increasing the number of archive and manuscript collections users could find there. Once the project to catalogue the remarkable records of Friends Emergency & War Victims Relief Committee was complete, attention turned to the rich and varied main manuscript series.

We embarked on a 15 month project, to run from January 2015, with the aim of cataloguing the bulk of the remaining manuscripts to collection level, making them searchable by name, and overall description. As the project cataloguer would have to examine each collection individually, this was also a great opportunity to repackage the contents in archival standard storage materials – so we can happily say goodbye to collapsing file boxes and overstuffed folders! The collections span 205 metres of shelving and currently fill 1,366 boxes; an estimated 1,000 new archival boxes and 5,000 acid free folders would be needed for repackaging.

A delivery of new archive boxes in the Library

A delivery of new archive boxes in the Library

Now we’re six months through the project, here’s where we’ve got to so far.

We’ve already added nearly 300 new entries to the online catalogue, with brief lists to help researchers retrieve relevant material. 380 archival boxes have been used to replace old brittle and unstable file boxes, and 28 outsized items – rolls, maps, etc. – have been repacked. Visual items that had been removed have been re-united with the collections they came from (for example family photographs of Mary Millior Braithwaite and R. Osmond Catford’s photograph albums of relief work in Poland and Russia 1920-1923).

The collections range in size from single documents (such as the Journal of Anna Louise Evens, relating to mission work in India 1886-1934), or a few folders (such as Theodore Burtt’s papers on Friends Industrial Mission, Pemba 1896-1930), to extensive and complex collections (such as J. J. Green’s copious collection of genealogical research papers, deeds, maps, letters and other documents; or the 22 boxes of Herbert Hodgkin papers – letters, notes, photographs and watercolours, spanning the period 1847-1962, mainly relating to foreign mission work, especially China).

Rachel Howard letter from Temp MSS 373

Cross-written letter from Rachel Hodgkin among the large family archive of A. Ruth Fry (Letters from Rachel Howard to Elizabeth Hodgkin and John Hodgkin, 1829-1836. Library reference Temp MSS 373 B1/1)

Reflecting the varied lives and interests of their original owners, the collections include material on Quakers and Quaker work around the world (in Ireland, Norway, France, India, Pemba and Poland, among other places), family archives spanning centuries, and the working papers, correspondence, research notes, and diaries of individual Friends (such as Isaac Sharp, Ann Mary Burgess, Thomas C. Foley, or Stephen Shipley Wilson).

Highlights include the A. Ruth Fry papers, among whose various treasures from branches of the Howard, Hodgkin, Eliot and Fry families are to be found one of the French revolutionary cockades that appeared in our last blogpost, as well as the two smallest books in our collections.

One of two

One of two “bijou almanacs” among A. Ruth Fry papers (Library reference Temp MSS 373 M4/6)

Another is box 2 of the Elizabeth Lee papers, whose contents include a volume of celebrity autographs (a form of collecting that took off in the 19th century even among some Friends), among them Robert Browning and Oscar Wilde.

Autograph of Ellen Terry (Autograph volume, Elizabeth Lee papers. Library reference Temp MSS 302/2/2)

Autograph of Ellen Terry (Autograph volume, Elizabeth Lee papers. Library reference Temp MSS 302/2/2)

Before the arrival of our combined Library and Archive online catalogue, users who wanted to search the Library’s unique holdings of official Quaker records and unpublished papers of Quakers dating back to the 17th century had to rely on the card catalogue and paper finding aids in the reading room. As more and more archive and manuscript collections are added, through projects like this, the online catalogue opens up the collections to users, wherever they may be, and makes them searchable in new and exciting ways.

Posted in Projects | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

The French Revolution: Quakers and cockades

When our project cataloguer came across a cockade (a type of ribbon rosette for wearing on a hat or pinned to a garment) from 1792 revolutionary France among the A. Ruth Fry papers (TEMP MSS 373), belonging to John Hodgkin (1766-1845), we wondered what involvement Quakers had with the French Revolution. Quite a bit, it turns out, and with cockades themselves in particular!

Tricolour cockade, 17921

Tricolour cockade, revolutionary France, 1791, Benjamin Angell papers, (Library reference: TEMP MSS 58/8)

Quakers in France The story of French Quakerism is an interesting one. A group emerged in the Cévennes region of France around the time of the Camisard War (1702-1704), who chose to use nonviolence even in defence from brutal oppression. Known as the Inspirés du Languedoc, they later picked up the name Couflaïres, which in Provençal means ‘inflated by the Spirit’. Couflaïres worshipped in silence and had no appointed ministers, yet had never come into contact with Quakerism. They lived mainly in Congénies, Sommières, Saint Gilles, Fontanès, Aujargues, Calvisson, and Codognan. In 1785 contact was made between British Quakers and this group in France. One of the French group, Jean de Marsillac, was invited to meet British Friends. This visit, and several more, proved fruitful, and in 1788 the first group of British Friends went to visit Congénies. On this occasion, the French group were invited officially to join the Society of Friends. Around the same time, a group of Nantucket Quakers, led by William Rotch, had moved to Dunkirk and joined the French Friends in Congénies. Jeanne Henriette Louis called William Rotch “the most influential figure on Nantucket during the American Revolution”.[1] Rotch had led Nantucket Quakers in nonviolence and neutrality through the War of Independence and the Revolution, but felt they had to leave in search of better fortune, and ended up in Dunkirk. Quakers in revolutionary France An article by Peter Brock on conscientious objection in revolutionary France (Journal of the Friends Historical Society, vol. 57, no. 2, 1995)[2] sheds some light on French Quaker attitudes to the Revolution, and in particular to the levée en masse, a form of conscription for the army of the new French Republic. Brock remarks on the long held respect for Quakerism among the leading thinkers of the French Revolution, who viewed Penn’s experiment in Pennsylvania as an almost utopian ideal for society. He specifically mentions Jacques-Pierre Brissot de Warville, one of the most prominent Girondin leaders, who had formed a close relationship with French and English Quakers. Indeed a handwritten note accompanying one of the two revolutionary cockades in our collection reads: “Tricolor Cockades. brought by John Hodgkin from Paris in 1792. He himself wore one by advice of Brissot, the Girondist on the occasion of the Federation, in the Champs de Mars” (TEMP MSS 373/B1/5)

Envelope and tricolour cockade, revolutionary France, 1792

John Hodgkin’s tricolour cockade and note in A. Ruth Fry papers (Library reference: TEMP MSS 373 B1/5)

Brissot was in contact with Quakers as an abolitionist; his group, the Société des Amis des Noirs, was inspired by the English Quakers’ anti-slavery activities. He also wrote that Quakers should be invited to revolutionary France, as they had the same aims as the revolutionaries – liberty, equality and brotherhood, albeit desiring to achieve them through different, peaceful means: “We are all striving for the same object, universal fraternity; the Quakers by gentleness, we by resistance.” (Brissot New travels, quoted in Brock, p.169). As war approached, Marsillac, self-appointed spokesman for Friends in France, wanted to deliver a petition to the National Assembly. He consulted Brissot, amongst other Girondists, in putting together a petition that Brissot thought would gain ground with Mirabeau, the new leader of the Assembly. On 10th February 1791, Marsillac, William Rotch, and Benjamin Rotch took the petition to the National Assembly. They entered the packed room, refusing to remove their hats, in Quaker fashion. They also refused to wear the national cockade, despite being pressed to do so and informed that it was a requirement in law. The Assembly warned them that they would not be able to protect them from mob retaliation if they were seen on the streets without the cockades. Can we assume, from the existence of the cockades in our collections, that the English Quakers were not brave enough to follow their example when they travelled in France? The main thrust of the petition was to gain exemption from military service for Quakers, but also an exemption from taking civic oaths, and permission to carry on their own method of recording births, marriages and deaths. They appealed to the Assembly’s avowed religious tolerance and reminded them that Britain and America had already granted similar liberties to Quakers. They made specific mention of Pennsylvania, probably knowing the attitudes of many of the revolutionaries to Penn’s experiment there. While Mirabeau was respectful and admiring of some of the qualities the Quakers represented, his tone was ultimately lacking in understanding:

“The assembly will discuss all your demands in its wisdom, and if I ever meet a quaker, I’ll say to him, My brother, if thou hast a right of being free, thou hast a right to hinder thyself from being made a slave…”

(Address from the Society of Friends, resident in France, to the National Convention, 2nd of 10th month 1791. To which is subjoined the president’s reply. London: Printed for Edmund Fry, 1825 )

Published version of the Quaker petition to the National Assembly

Address from the Society of Friends, resident in France, to the National Convention, 2nd of 10th month 1791, (Library reference: Box 33/35).

Mirabeau declared that having won liberty, all French citizens must be prepared to defend that liberty from tyrants. However the Assembly agreed to consider the petition, and the Quaker petitioners were welcomed into various social circles while in Paris to discuss the issues arising. It seems however that no firm decision was taken before the Assembly’s dissolution. Marsillac was in contact with English Quakers and presented a lukewarm verdict on the treatment of the Quakers by the Assembly. It must have been in this uncertain time for Quakers in France  that their English Friends thought it worthwhile to go and show some support. The 1791 Yearly Meeting minute approving a small group of Friends to go over to Dunkirk is brief, and seems aimed at deciding whether the Nantucket Friends at Dunkirk should join the Yearly Meeting in England:

“The said friends are desired to consider whether their junction with any branch of this yearly meeting will be expedient, & if the same shall appear eligible they are authorised to carry the said Junction into effect.” (London Yearly Meeting minutes, 1791 Library ref. YM/M/39)

London Yearly Meeting minutes, 1791

London Yearly Meeting minutes, 1791 (Library reference: YM/M/39)

London Yearly Meeting minutes, 1791

London Yearly Meeting minutes, 1791 (Library reference: YM/M/39)

Benjamin Angell was one of the Kent Friends who joined the group appointed by Yearly Meeting and travelled to France. Our collection of his papers (TEMP MSS 58/8) includes one of the cockades, a French passport, and a small travel diary describing their visit. We can presume that, as well as the issue of membership, the matter of the petition to the National Assembly and the wider situation in France must have been discussed by the English and French Friends. Unfortunately Angell’s diary is mainly a factual account of the trip, and more taken up with the town planning of Dunkirk, than conscientious objection and issues of citizenship in the new Republic! It wasn’t until later in 1792 that Marsillac and others wrote of a much worsening situation for French Quakers, including rough treatment for refusal to wear the cockade. Marsillac himself was arrested for not wearing a cockade in public. He writes to an English Friend:

“It has pleased the lord to suffer us to fall under divers tryals, which in our weak state, we have found painful & grievious, the civic oath, the obligation imposed by the National Assembly to mount guard personally & the Arm, & to declare the arms every one had in his Possession, under the pain of being found guilty of treason & punished by Death….I was arrested at Paris because I had not the National Cockade, & signified my reasons for noncompliance, before the Judges of the Peace, & since that, before Petition Mayor of Paris, who had me set at liberty…” (Letter from Jean Marsillac, 10 July 1792, Library ref. MS VOL 314/70)

This letter is from a volume of original manuscripts relating to France held here at the Library, featuring several letters from Jean de Marsillac to English Friends (he drops the aristocratic ‘de’ from his name). We can see then, with the worsening crisis in France and the onset of war, that the Quakers’ petition failed. By 1793, the Dunkirk Quakers had left France for England, after run-ins with the authorities, and in 1795, Marsillac left for America. The whole affair shows an interesting clash of ideologies, with the enlightened basic principles of the French revolutionaries being truly tested by the small band of French Quakers.  It is a small episode in the gradual decay of the spirit of the Revolution by years of inward terror and war with other nations. It also demonstrates a close and supportive relationship between the English Quakers and the odd assortment of American Quakers and French ‘Inspirés’ in France, which is evident in the warm correspondence between Marsillac and English Friends in manuscripts in our collection and in the concern shown by English Friends over the French situation in minutes and epistles. [1] Jeanne Henriette Louis, ‘The Nantucket Quakers’ message as an alternative to Benjamin Franklin’s message to the French Revolution’ in Quaker studies: journal of the Quaker Studies Research Association, vol. 5, no.1 (September 2000), p. 10 [2] Peter Brock, ‘Conscientious objection in revolutionary France’ in Journal of the Friends Historical Society,  vol.57; no.2 ( 1995), p. 166–82

Posted in Projects | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sole survivor? A Dutch broadside by an early 18th century woman Friend

A few weeks ago we were enthralled to discover that the Library holds what is possibly the sole surviving copy of an early 18th century broadside by a little known woman Friend, Margaret Langdale (1684?-1742). It’s an undated exhortation in Dutch to the inhabitants of various towns in Friesland and North Holland, with no printer’s name or place of printing, signed simply “En uwe waare Vrindin[1] / M. LANGDALE”.

Though it appears in Joseph Smith’s Descriptive catalogue of Friends’ books (1867), we couldn’t find the broadside recorded in any other library catalogue.

Langdale. Aan de Inwoonderen (1717)

Langdale, Margaret. Aan de Inwoonderen van de Steden Leeuwaarden, Harlingen, en Workum in Friesland, en Medenblik in Noord-Holland. Published about 1717 (Library reference: Vol. D/48)

As far as we know, this is the only published writing of Margaret Langdale. Who was she, and what was her connection with the people of Leeuwarden, Harlingen, Workum and Medemblik?

From the Library’s Dictionary of Quaker biography and the Digest registers of births, marriages and burials, we learned that Margaret Langdale was born Margaret Burton around 1684, married Josiah Langdale, of Bridlington Yorkshire, around 1710, and had several children, at least one of whom died in infancy. In 1723 they left England to settle in Pennsylvania, with their two surviving children, Mary and John, but Josiah Langdale died on the voyage. In America, Margaret Langdale remarried, to Samuel Preston of Philadelphia, in 1724, and lived on in America to her death in 1742.

Some Langdale burials

Some Langdale burial entries in the Yorks Quarterly Meeting Digest registers – Margaret and Josiah’s son(s) Josiah and (possibly) Thomas. Note Thomas’s burial in John Richardson’s orchard.

Beside these simple birth, marriage and death facts, we learned that Margaret Burton/Langdale/Preston was a travelling minister. That is, she felt called to travel to disseminate Quaker beliefs and nurture Friends in distant meetings. A large proportion of Quaker travelling ministers from the earliest days were women, often working in pairs, enduring considerable hardship to take their message to meetings around the country and overseas. At a time when women were discouraged from speaking in public this was bravery indeed.[2]

During Josiah’s second visit to America from 1715 to 1716, Margaret Langdale undertook a religious visit to Ireland (and her concern for Irish Friends is one of the subjects of a manuscript letter of hers in the Library – Portfolio 36/94)[3]. Among other visits at this time, she journeyed to the continent around 1717 (sources differ).  She continued her travelling ministry once she was in America, visiting widely – in the short period between 1724 and 1729 alone she visited Long Island, Rhode Island, Nantucket, New Hampshire, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina[4]. Philadelphia Monthly Meeting’s testimony to Samuel Preston, included a paragraph related to Margaret’s ministry which describes her “excellent gift in the ministry” (Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, A collection of memorials (1787), p. 127).

Margararet Langdale testimony of Philadelphia MM

Testimony of Philadelphia Monthly Meeting, appended to a memorial of Samuel Burton. In: A collection of memorials (Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, 1787), p. 127

We can narrow down the printing date of the broadside Aan die Inwoonderen to the period 1710 to 1723, while Langdale was her married name. It seems fairly likely that it was written during or after a visit to Friesland and North Holland – probably around 1717 when she travelled to “Germany”. In the text she addresses the inhabitants (and also the “Vermaaner” – the Mennonite preachers) of the areas, exhorting them all to live upright lives, avoiding frivolity, strong drink, tobacco, and any worldly preaching, singing and praying not inspired directly by God’s spirit.

So we succeeded in identifying “M. Langdale”, and discovered that she had indeed travelled to Friesland and North Holland in the ministry, but tantalising questions remain. Who translated it into Dutch? Who printed the broadside? Did Margaret Langdale take copies with her to distribute? Or did Dutch Friends publish it either during or after her visit? Making works like this known through our online catalogue is a first step in helping researchers make links and find answers to such questions!

Over the weekend of Yearly Meeting we had the chance to show the broadside to visiting Dutch Friends, and to Gil Skidmore, the editor of Josiah Langdale 1673-1723: a Quaker spiritual autobiography (1999) – Josiah Langdale’s manuscript account of his spiritual journey to Quakerism (Library reference MS Box 10/10). We also reported it for inclusion in the Netherlands Short Title Catalogue, which records Dutch publications 1540-1800.

Dutch Friends in the Library

Dutch Friends in the Library during Yearly Meeting. Photograph by Trish Carn, courtesy of The Friend

Work on adding to our online catalogue is progressing fast: it now includes practically everything we hold published in the 17th and 18th centuries, most from the 1960s onwards, all our printed peace, anti-slavery and temperance material, and much more. The current phase of the project focuses on adding the remaining 19th and early 20th century books and pamphlets (over 7,600 existing collection items were added to our catalogue last year alone). We’ve been able to provide fuller, more consistent information through collaboration with other organisations, like the English Short Title Catalogue, Haverford and Swarthmore Quaker college libraries in Pennsylvania, Netherlands Short Title Catalogue and Copac.

Users can now search our holdings from anywhere in the world – and though we loved our card catalogue, we’re delighted there’s no longer such a need for you to come in to the Library and riffle through its drawers simply to find out whether or not we hold what you want.

M. Langdale catalogue card

The old catalogue entry for M. Langdale’s broadside – cut and pasted from Smith’s “Descriptive Catalogue”, with gradual accretions

[1] Note the feminine form “Vrindin” indicating that M. Langdale was a woman Friend

[2] You can read an excellent overview of the travelling ministry in Sylvia Stevens’ chapter in the Handbook of Quaker studies, edited by Angell and Dandelion (2013), and about 18th century women travelling ministers in Rebecca Larson’s book, Daughters of Light: Quaker women preaching and prophesying in the colonies and abroad, 1700-1775 (1999).

[3] Thomas Wight and John Rutty, A history of the rise and progress (1751), p.357

[4] Larson, Daughters of Light, p.93-4 and L. S. Hinchman, Early settlers of Nantucket, 2nd ed. (1901), p.319


Posted in Projects | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Friends and Armenian relief

April 24 is commemorated as the official anniversary of the Armenian genocide, which began in April 1915 with the round-up of Armenian intellectuals, followed by massacres and forced exile of hundreds of thousands of Armenian people from Turkey.

Quakers at the time had long been concerned with the plight of the Armenian people, in part due to the work of individual Friends, and groups of Friends, in the area in preceding years.

The Library’s collections include records of Friends who, in official or unofficial capacities, observed the effects of persecution and massacres of Armenians in the decades leading up to the 1915 genocide or were involved in relief work with refugees, orphans and the dispossessed.

Besides the papers of the official Armenia Committee appointed by Meeting for Sufferings in 1924 (Library reference: YM/MFS/ARC), some of the most enlightening accounts appear in other printed and manuscript collections.

In 1881 Gabriel S. Dobrashian, an Armenian doctor who had married a British Quaker, Gertrude G. Gillett, established a medical mission for Armenians in Constantinople, with the help of a group of British Quakers. Armenians were already suffering persecution at the hands of the authorities, and the mission brought much needed relief. The papers of the Friends Armenian Mission (Library reference: TEMP MSS 997) are not yet fully catalogued, but are accessible to readers and offer a fascinating insight into the situation for Armenians in this period.

The work of the Mission was taken over by Ann Mary Burgess when Dr Dobrashian was forced to flee to England with his family in the 1890s. She steered it over the years into a flourishing philanthropic, educational and industrial mission. By 1922, its position in Constantinople had become untenable and it moved to relative safety in Corfu. The Friends Armenian Mission’s records include some vivid photographs of work there (Library reference: TEMP MSS 977 Photographs), showing refugees working at looms and making traditional Middle Eastern textiles, as in the photograph below.

Refugee man making Persian blanket, Corfu, after 1922

Refugee man making Persian blanket, Corfu, after 1922. Friends Armenian Mission papers (Library reference TEMP MSS 997 Photographs)

Other photographs shed light on the suffering of the refugees – for example, the note on the back of the picture of the girl below:

“My little orphan whose mother was murdered while this child was sheltering herself in her mothers arms & she in it suffered the loss of one arm, she is a dear girl & does fine needle work. I must send you a piece to see. I thought she had a sister now I hear all her people were killed.”

In 1896, Helen Balkwill Harris (1841-1914), Quaker minister, and her husband, the Cambridge lecturer on palaeography and future director of studies at Woodbrooke J. Rendel Harris, travelled in Asia Minor, researching Syriac and other manuscripts, and at the same time working on behalf of the Friends Armenian Relief Committee set up by Meeting for Sufferings in January that year in response to the massacres of 1894-6.

The Harrises were forbidden to take photographs and were followed and intimidated, but managed to report back in a series of circulars (these and other accounts are among the Friends Armenian Relief Committee records, Library reference MS BOX T2), letters to newspapers and a book. The book, Letters from the scenes of the recent massacre in Armenia by Rendel Harris and Helen B. Harris (1897) (Library reference: 079.190 HAR), gives a detailed account of their work, with photographic illustrations and a map.

Map showing the route of J. Rendel and Helen Harris 1896

Map showing the route of J. Rendel and Helen Harris 1896 . In Letters from Armenia (1897)

Suffering Armenia [public meeting 1897]

Suffering Armenia: public meeting to promote Armenian relief in St Martin’s Town Hall, Charing Cross, on Wednesday evening, May 19th, 1897 [etc.] (Library reference Box 449/33)

There are insights into the situation for Armenian refugees after the 1915 genocide in an  unpublished Account of the work with Armenian refugees compiled by Marshall Nathaniel Fox, former principal of Brummana Friends High School in Lebanon (Library reference MS VOL 216). It includes reports and correspondence from the 1920s about the influx of Armenian refugees to Lebanon and Syria, and the housing programmes for the refugees there. His collection also includes a photograph album with aerial shots of the refugee camps, and  views of city life in Aleppo, made all the more poignant by the recent devastation of that city.

This post only touches on some of the material in the Library for researching this topic, but demonstrates the decades’ long interest and involvement of Friends in the plight of the Armenians stretching either side of the anniversary remembered today.

Posted in Highlights | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

The Hawkins Collection: an early Quaker library, its provenance and some puzzles

We’ve recently finished cataloguing the contents of the Hawkins Collection – a remarkable private library bequeathed by Richard Hawkins (1649?-1735) to Westminster Monthly Meeting. The collection consists of 86 bound volumes containing over 1,200 individual publications – books, pamphlets and folded broadsides – spanning a century from 1612 to 1713. Its ownership was eventually transferred to this Library in 2005, after it had already been on deposit here for many years, arriving in two batches in 1906 and 1933. Every item in the collection has now, for the first time, been fully catalogued as part of the Library’s Retrospective Cataloguing Project and is searchable on our online catalogue.

Printed extract from Richard Hawkins will

Westminster Monthly Meeting. The Library endowed by the will of Richard Hawkins, 1734 [n.d.]
(Library reference: Vol. E/118)

Apart from the wealth of its contents, one of the most remarkable features of the Hawkins Collection is its fascinating and complicated provenance. Given in stages by Richard Hawkins for the use of Friends at Hammersmith and at the Savoy Meeting , and in a final bequest to Westminster Quakers at his death, it includes some well used books, such as this legal textbook mentioned specifically in Hawkins’ will, the oldest title in the collection, published in 1612:

Pulton's Statutes (Hawkins Vol. 82) t.p.

Pulton, Ferdinando. A kalender, or table, comprehending the effect of all the statutes that haue beene made and put in print, beginning with Magna Charta (1612)
(Library reference: Hawkins Vol. 82)

The collection as a whole is of particular interest for the study of early Quakerism, because it includes many items from the personal library of George Fox, one of the founders of the Quaker movement. After his death in 1690/1, Fox’s books had been moved to the home of his son-in-law and literary executor, William Mead (ca. 1627-1713. From Mead’s house, many of the volumes went subsequently to Thomas Lower (1633-1720) of Hammersmith, another son-in-law. Richard Hawkins was in turn Lower’s executor. Some of these books Hawkins passed to Hammersmith Meeting (which became part of Westminster Monthly Meeting in 1750), others to the Savoy Meeting. So among the collection Hawkins left to Westminster Quakers there were eventually at least 24 volumes (books, bound pamphlets and broadsides) identified as having once belonged to George Fox.

You can read more about the complex and detailed work done to identify the books from Fox’s library, in this collection and elsewhere, in a series of articles published in the Journal of the Friends Historical Society[1] in the 1930s. Henry J. Cadbury noted a range of identifying marks in 20 of the 60 Hawkins volumes already in Friends House by that time, including fore edge numbering matching the numbers given in the  the Annual catalogue of the papers of George Fox, “G.F.” ownership stamp on front and back boards of volumes 27 and 53, inscription “G F s Book” on flyleaf in 13 of the books examined (matching the hands of similar inscriptions in other volumes previously identified as from Fox’s collection), the familiar “gf” on the title pages of certain anonymous pamphlets, probably in Fox’s own hand, indicating his own authorship. A further four volumes (67, 84, 85, 86) were subsequently identified among the remaining Hawkins books that came to Friends House in 1933.

There’s considerable scope for further research to establish the full picture of the collection’s history and use. How, for example, did Hawkins volume 41 (volume 33 from Fox’s library) come to be given to Westminster Friends by the bibliographer John Whiting (inscribed “John Whiting His Gift To the Savoy Meeting 4th 11th Month 1715 Numb 4”)? Could any of the other volumes, many of which have been rebound and cropped, thus losing any fore edge numbering, be identified as from Fox’s library? When and how did volumes at Savoy and Hammersmith come together at Westminster Meeting? When was the collection re-numbered in its present form, and some volumes, but not all, re-bound? And who were the rascals who used the margins and blank end pages of some of the pamphlets for handwriting practice?

One mystery we were able to solve – though it raised a few more questions! Although every other item in the collection was published before 1714, volume 14 contained one pamphlet printed in 1777, over forty years after Richard Hawkins’s death (Some expressions of Ann Lever daughter of Iohn and Mary Lever [i.e. Leaver], of Nottingham, during her last illness unique to this Library).

The answer lay in a handwritten note by the Quaker bibliographer Morris Birkbeck (1734-1816), whose spidery pencil annotations are unmistakably in evidence in so many Quaker collections. It seems that Birkbeck had spotted a volume he wanted in the Hawkins Collection and swapped it for one of his own (by agreement one hopes). His note punctiliously records the exchange in what sound like advantageous terms: “for Westminster book case. 25 Pamphlets containing 82 Sheets; in return for 18 ditto containing 80 sheets, had by M. Birkbeck, towards his Collection”. But it doesn’t say “Oh, and by the way, I threw in some death-bed sayings of Ann Leaver, recently published”, or, more importantly, what he got in return.

Note by Morris Birkbeck at the front of Hawkins Vol. 14

Note by Morris Birkbeck at the front of Hawkins Vol. 14

A further mystery we cannot solve, and throw out to you our readers, in the hope that one of you may be able to shed some light. As a result of the project, we reported three completely new works from the Hawkins Collection to the English Short Title Catalogue, (ESTC), among them a broadside appeal to the King and Counsel against persecution of Quakers, probably published around 1664, in Hawkins volume 32 (formerly number 14 in Fox’s library).

For the King and counsel (Hawkins vol. 32/49)

For the King and counsel. In some places they have swept both the houses and fields, and have not left a woman who lay in, so much as a posnet to boyl some milk for her child [London?, 1664?].
(Library reference: Hawkins vol. 32/49)
A posnet is a small metal pot with a handle and three feet used for boiling milk etc. (in case you were wondering…)

Not only is this anonymous work new to ESTC, neither does it appear in Wing’s Short-title catalogue…1641-1700, nor in the printed catalogues of John Whiting or Joseph Smith. Who was the author? All but 11 of the 63 items in the same volume are by George Fox. Could this previously uncatalogued broadside be another of Fox’s works, never previously recorded? All suggestions gratefully received!


[1] Henry J. Cadbury, ‘George Fox’s library again’. Journal of the Friends Historical Society, Vol.30 ( 1933), p. 9-19 following on from earlier articles by John Nickalls (vol. 28, p.2-21) and Henry J. Cadbury (vol. 29, p.63-71)

Posted in Projects | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

William Penn’s “Excellent priviledge” (1687) on display in the British Library’s Magna Carta exhibition

20150226_090547 Tract Volume 563 is a miscellaneous collection of pamphlets dating from the 1670s to the early 20th century, unassumingly bound in blue cloth. But among its contents is a pamphlet that includes the first printing of Magna Carta in America, William Penn’s Excellent priviledge of liberty and property being the birth-right of the free-born subjects of England (1687), a subject of some interest, particularly this year, the 800th anniversary of the original Magna Carta.   One of only three known surviving copies of this work (the other two are in the United States), it has been loaned to the British Library for its forthcoming Magna Carta exhibition, as an illustration of the continuing significance of some of Magna Carta’s core principles far beyond the original mediaeval context. So Tract Volume 563 has made its way down Euston Road, leaving Friends House for the first time since 1926, and will be on display in the exhibition at the British Library from 13 March to 1 September 2015.

Penn's Excellent priviledge p.22-23

Penn, William. Excellent priviledge of liberty and property (1687) p. 22-23

The printer of Penn’s Excellent priviledge of liberty and property was William Bradford (1663-1752), apprentice and son-in-law of Andrew Sowle, printer for London Quakers. Bradford and his wife emigrated to America in 1685, where he set up Pennsylvania’s first printing press (and over the years became embroiled in a series of controversies with Quakers and others over his printing activity – but that’s another story).

Penn, WIlliam. Excellent priviledge (1687) - title page

Penn, William. Excellent priviledge of liberty and property (1687) – title page

Though you won’t be able to read the original here in the Library until it returns at the end of the Magna Carta exhibition, we do have a facsimile, published in 1897 by the Philobiblon Club of Philadelphia; and a digitised version of that facsimile is also available online. Visit the British Library to see our copy of Penn’s Excellent priviledge of liberty and property on display, join in the series of related events or read more about Magna Carta and its legacy on the website.

Posted in Exhibitions, News | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment