Book of the month
Explore highlights from our collections, from the 15th century to the present day.
This month’s Book of the Month by Edward Maunder, a Library volunteer, is inspired by two books in our Early Science collection – Thomas Young’s A course of lectures on natural philosophy and the mechanical arts (1807) and George Peacock’s Miscellaneous works of the late Thomas Young (1855).
Rain, rain, go away, come again another day ... Are you wondering where summer is? From January 1817, one of the most important tasks of the Librarian at the Devon and Exeter Institution was taking twice-daily readings from the Institution's barometer and thermometer and recording them in a meteorological register.
Though we are not quite out of the woods yet, we are delighted to welcome back our members and volunteers - and to meet new members. Our summer display in the Outer Library is a selection of poetry inspired by trees and spanning four centuries, from Robert Herrick’s ode to the willow to A. E. Housman’s celebration of the blossoming cherry – the loveliest of trees. Our display is organised in collaboration with Exeter Cathedral Library and Archives to celebrate Love Your Burial Ground Week, 5-13 June 2021.
The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations opened in Hyde Park, London, on 1st May 1851. It was spearheaded by Prince Albert and members of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (later the Royal Society of Arts), including Sir Henry Cole. The Crystal Palace - an incredible cast iron and glass structure, measuring 1848 feet long and 454 feet wide – was constructed in just nine months. The Great Exhibition was to be a ‘wonder of the world’ – a celebration of international industrial design and technology with exhibits from all corners of the earth. But, principally, it was to be a grandstand for Britain and for British manufacturing.
In the 17th century, books began to acquire frontispieces – an illustration, usually a full-page engraved plate, facing the title page. The frontispiece was often an exquisite work of art in its own right - but what was its purpose in the narrative?
Born in Mithian, St Agnes, Cornwall, John Opie (1761-1807) overcame his humble birth to become a Royal Academician and one of the foremost portraitists and landscape artists of his day. He was introduced to the London art world as a self-taught Rousseauian 'noble savage', raised in a ‘remote and secluded part of the island’, who rose to fame ‘unassisted by partial patronage’. However, little of this was true.
While working as a soap manufacturer in Stoke-on-Trent, Samuel Parkes (1761-1825) became fascinated in chemistry. A Chemical Catechism (1806), originally written for his young daughter, became a best-seller across Europe. His method of teaching stressed the importance of observation – but we don't recommend trying his 'amusing experiments' at home!
Beth Howell, our Saturday Events Coordinator, has been exploring the Institution's science collection for inspiration for astronomical making activities for our youngest members. Richard A. Proctor (1837-1888) was a lawyer turned astronomer who wrote a series of works on the planets. His investigation of the moon is illustrated with incredible photographs by Lewis Morris Rutherfurd (1816-1892) who also ditched law to study the heavens.
As a politician, Pierre Laplace (1749-1827) had an 'incapacity for administration'; as a mathematician he was one of the greatest scientists of all time. His thinking brought him close to the origins of the universe and he was one of the first scientists to suggest the existence of what we now refer to as black holes. This guest blog is written by Edward Maunder following his rediscovery of the first four volumes of Laplace's Traité de mécanique céleste (1798-1805) in our early science collection.