As well as packing the Library, a lot of Jacqui’s recent work on extending RUSI’s asset register, which originally was focused on fine art, but now includes a much wider range of materials.
This range was increased recently upon the discovery of a “secret” (previously unknown in recent times) cupboard containing some wax seals, as well as candlesticks and some binding tools.
This isn’t the first sent of items to be “lost” by RUSI. In the 19th century, despite spending its acquisitions budget only on military models for teaching purposes, the Institute received so many donations from across the British Empire that its public museum became a popular attraction in London’s burgeoning tourist market. Objects were listed in its original documentation under the headings Ethnology, Natural Science and Military. It came as no surprise to Jacqui to read that in its sale in the 1860s many of the materials were bought by Augustus Henry Lane Fox, who later changed his name to Pitt Rivers and whose collection was foundational to the Oxford Museum.
Jacqui is investigating the RUSI Museum and its history as part of an AHRC-funded PhD at the University of Westminster. She is currently researching whether the museum’s objects can be seen as “an authorized biography of Empire.” Her results should be significant in terms of the decolonization work that is so important for us to understand our national past and its impact on the wider world and, indeed, Britain’s own citizens.
Our March Book History Seminar will be led by Jacqui Grainger, the Librarian of the Royal United Services Institute, which is currently undergoing a major move.
Jacqui writes, “Learned societies – and think tanks – in historic buildings periodically get to the point where a complete refurbishment has to happen. This involves a lot of planning and preparation for packing up and moving collections to storage that I won’t bore you with; it also creates an opportunity for finding ‘stuff’ that adds to the greater whole of the heritage and legacy you are managing. This talk will focus on the things I have found in dank basement corners, secret cupboards in paneling, and cupboards within cupboards.”
Yesterday, Yvonne Lewis shared the story of ‘The Unwritten Book’ – the evidence William John Bankes left behind him of his travels, and, in particular, a set of lithography stones intended for publication in a book that was never printed in the end.
There are many reasons that these stones are both interesting and mysterious, but the greatest mystery is why they exist in the first place. Lithography was invented in Munich in 1798 by Alois Senefelder, and as Michael Twyman points out in his core text on the topic, “the lithographed book is almost as old as lithography itself” (p. 15). One of its leading proponents in Britain, Charles Hullmandel, set up his press in 1819, and so Bankes’s travels (circa 1815-17) coincided with the very earliest period of English lithography. Hullmandel’s marks appear on the back of the stones, and, as Twyman asserted in a paper he gave in 2016, “Hullmandel can be linked with the stones now at Kingston Lacy in several ways. First and foremost he owned them all, at least initially. Secondly, he made the drawings on some of them himself. And, thirdly, wherever a printer’s imprint appears on a stone it is his.”