Intelligent, demanding, and meticulous: getting to know Bishop John Cosin

Over the last year, History PhD student Lily Chadwick has been cataloguing the correspondence of Bishop John Cosin, founder of Cosin’s Library on Palace Green in the centre of Durham. Reading through his letters, she caught a glimpse of his personality.

Cataloguing the correspondence of Bishop John Cosin over the course of the last eight months has provided considerable insight into the personality and mind of one of Durham’s most imposing figures. Certainly, there are limitations to the source material, which mean that we cannot draw definitive conclusions about Cosin as a person.

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The miraculous cure of Sister Aloysia Gonzaga O’Connor: Spotlight on the collections

One of our archivists, Dr Jonathan Bush, retells the story of a miraculous cure that stunned doctors and caused quite a stir in 19th-century England. The account of Sister Aloysia’s healing is found in the archives of the Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre, which Jonathan has been cataloguing.

The substantial archive of the Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre, dating back to its foundation in Liege in 1642, documents the rich and colourful history of an English convent abroad. The records in the collection tell the story of the community in Liege, its evacuation to England during the turbulent years of the French Revolution, and its subsequent flourishing as a school and convent at New Hall, near Chelmsford, Essex.

One of its more remarkable personal stories concerns the extraordinary ‘cure’ of Sister Aloysia Gonzaga O’Connor. News of the case caused something of a sensation in a country where Catholics and their tales of ‘miracles’ were treated with suspicion and derision by a predominantly Protestant media.

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University Library and Collections – favourites from our collections…

As part of our World Book Day celebrations, we’ve been exploring the theme of ‘Choice – curiosity has no age limits and neither do books.’ There can be no better examples of this than from our very own collections held within our archives, special collections and museums. With a vast range of books that are as fascinating today as they were when first written, they continue to generate a desire to discover and learn and will cultivate this curiosity for many, many years to come. 

With that in mind, we’ve asked some of our librarians and curators to choose their favourite book from our collections and share their insight into these incredible items… 

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The Importance of the Rainbow in Library Collections

As part of LGBT History Month we wanted to highlight the importance of representation of the LGBT+ Community within our library collections.

When we read a book or watch a film, if we see ourselves or our community represented we have a sense of identity and belonging. It also helps challenge and fight prejudice and encourages education.

In the last year many LGBT+ events, such as Pride, have been cancelled and safe spaces and representation of the LGBT+ Community has been challenging for people to access. This means representation in books, media and objects have been even more important for people to turn to.

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A review of ‘Liberate My Library’. Diversifying collections in a challenging year.

As we approach the end of the year we thought it would be a good time to look back at a new service we launched back in February. Wow talking about February seems like a lifetime ago now doesn’t it? So much has happened in 10 months and although not everything has been what we would have liked there have been things to celebrate. Our ‘Liberate My Library’ scheme we think is one of them.

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#Hist2020: History Day 2020, celebrating our collections

Every year University College London organises a day for academic, cultural and heritage institutions to come together to showcase the enormous range of historic collections in archives, libraries and museums. In pre-Covid times, the day would be held at Senate House and would be attended by anyone in London with a serious interest in historical research.

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Spotlight on the collections: Anne Stevenson Poetry Library

Anne Stevenson at a book launch in 2009 (Photo Credit: Simon James, Flickr, via CC BY-SA 2.0)

According to Anne Stevenson, who died on 14 September 2020, a poet is that rare person ‘who is in thrall to nothing but poetry’s weird tyranny and ungovernable need to exist’. The volume and breadth of her poetry and scholarly interests attest to this uncontrolled creative urge, and we are very fortunate to have part of her poetry library.

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Book conservation in lockdown

What do Conservators do when separated from the archives and rare books they normally work on? One answer is that they make their own! Tony King, our Senior Manager Collections Care and Conservation, describes the process of creating a historic bookbinding.

The history of Western bookbinding stretches back to antiquity and has involved significant changes in the way books are bound, sometimes leading to obvious external differences but often not. Books are complex 3-dimensional objects and working out how a book was put together several hundred years ago requires a fair bit of detective work. Very few descriptions of life in the bindery have survived so the only way to really understand the processes involved is to make a new book using what we believe to be the techniques, tools and materials of the period.

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#Colourourcollections (3): Sunderland High Street

Sunderland_Colouring resized

For those of you who are familiar with Sunderland, here is an image of the High Street in earlier times for you to colour in. The image is part of our Pictures in Print digital collection of printed local maps and topographical illustrations. This particular illustration comes from an extra-illustrated copy of William Fordyce’s The history and antiquities of the county palatine of Durham (1857), which is held at Sunderland City Library.

The domed building on the right-hand side is Hutchinson’s Buildings, opposite Havelock House where in 1898 the “Great Fire of Sunderland” started. Can you identify any other buildings?

Download the image above as a JPG or as a PDF. Do share your creations with us via Twitter (@dulib or @PalaceGreenLib).

Robert Chapman and his plea to the bishop of Durham

Simona Martorana is one of a small group of intrepid Durham University students wrestling with medieval handwriting. They are guided by Michael Stansfield, Senior Manager of Archives and Special Collections, normally in person, but over the last few months online. During these palaeography sessions, students catch a glimpse of a past world through the many stories that surface in our archival sources. Simona discusses a document from the Durham Cathedral Archive, which our staff look after at 5 The College.

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