Thursday, 29 November 2012

Spotlight on the collection

“The politician, the lawyer, and the spider, they are all alike, they have the manoevering eye. Beware of these I tell you. Mind your eye. Women is more difficulter still to read than man, because smilin’ comes as natural to them as suction to a snipe.”

-          Haliburton, Thomas Chandler (1844) The Attaché; or, Sam Slick in England. London: Richard Bentley  [Bg 20-1]

Thomas Chandler Haliburton was a 19th century novelist from Nova Scotia. He is often regarded as Canada’s first international bestselling author, and rose to popularity with his Clockmaker series, detailing the humorous adventures of his hero, the irrepressible Sam Slick. Sam featured in a number of Haliburton’s works, including The Attaché, which follows Mr. Slick’s exploits on a trip to England, detailing in his most distinctive voice his witty and often satirical thoughts and views on English society.

Haliburton is perhaps less well known now in comparison to some of his contemporaries. However his novels constituted popular light reading at the time, and this is reflected in the library’s collection, which along with The Attaché also holds copies of The Clockmaker and The Old Judge.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Portico Poetry Prize Anthologies: Amendments.

The library can now confirm full details of our prizes' anthologies.

There will be two anthologies. One will contain winners and shortlisted poems from the Portico Poetry Prize; the other will publish winning / shortlisted poems from the Portico Young Poetry Prize and winning / highly commended pieces from the Portico Prize for Young Writers.

The anthologies will be available to buy soon.

Portico Prize for Young Writers: Fiction.

The chosen pieces for the fiction strand of the Portico Prize for Young Writers:

Ruth Baillie's "Liver Bird"

Runner up:
Rosalind Pearson's "Extreme Duck Feeding"

Highly Commended:
Viktoria Baraneckaja's "Deal with the Devil"
Joshua Chiles' "Untitled"
Jessica Clapson's "The Mess Up"
Rachel Dodd's "Untitled"
Bethany Frost's "Maleficium"
Poppy Graham's "A Place of Dreams"
Corwyn Hall's "The Darkness of the North"
Charlie Harris' "The Case of Mistaken Identity"
Robert Kaye's "A Night Time Wandering"
James Martin's "Winter Shadows"
Charis McKeown's "How Dreary is this Road I Walk"
Jason Neal's "The Last Device"
Vidya Ramesh's "Heights Short-Lived"

Ruth Akinradewo's "The Unfailing Helper"
Harry Bowers' "Untitled"
Robyn Carty's "Mrs Potter"
Eleanor Dodds' "The Liver Bird Legend"
Isla Donohoe's "Outside"
Sarah Gilbert's "Untitled"
Miranda Gold's "The Diary of Emmeline Pankhurst"
Tia Harland-Say's "Invisible Threads"
Ella Langley's "The Buxton Line"
Saffron Lowsley's "Have You Seen Rosie?"
Shannon McCormack's "My First, First Day of High School"
Jessica McNamee's "The Boy with Biscuits in His Pocket"
Ella Nixon's "The Crimson Sky"
Daniel Price's "Martyrdom"
Artsiom Ramazanov's "Enex Tame"
Lloyd Williams' "Antonio"
Adam Woolley's "The Event Horizon"

Portico Prize for Young Writers: Poetry.

Here are the chosen pieces for the Portico Prize for Young Writers, an off-shoot of the Portico Prize for Literature.

Erin Taylor's "Stockton Heath"

Runner up:
Ellie Price's "True Beauty"

Highly Commended:
Nina Levy's "A View from Across the Mersey"
Annie Simon's "Neighbours"
Georgia Thurston's "Weft and Weave"
Jinan Younis' "Dementia"

Katherine Benson's "Hive of Industry"
Ella Friedenthal's "A Selection of Poems"
Hugh Lomas' "Manchester Metro-link Piccadilly to Altrincham at 23:32"
James Selby's "The Labourer's Tale"
Julie Shah's "Journey to the Centre of the Heart"

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Portico Poetry Prize 2012: prize giving.

The library is delighted to announce details of a prize giving for the Portico Poetry Prize.

The event will take place at the Mechanics Institute in Manchester on Saturday 13th October, running from 1.45-5.30pm; it will be part of an event at Manchester Literature Festival called Dickens Readers' Day. The prize giving will commence at 5pm.

The event costs £10 or £8 for concessions. To book, head over to

Portico Poetry Prizes 2012: winners.

Portico Poetry Prize

1st: `In the Dock, Fagin Reflects' - Marion Brown

2nd: `Great Expectations' - Ian O'Brien

3rd: `The Ghost of Christmas Present' - Holly Hopkins

Portico Young Poetry Prize

1st: `Hospital Visit' - Natalie Steinhouse

2nd: `Hollow' - Eugenie Yen

3rd: `Biddy, Or Unrequited Love' - Emily Stevenson

Once again, thanks to all who entered and taken interest; the prizes have been very successful. The library would like to offer congratulations to the winners.

We're also delighted to say we are planning an anthology for the competition, which will incorporate the winners from both prizes and list of commended poets. To those who didn't win, keep an eye out as you may be published in the anthology!

Monday, 3 September 2012

Madeline Miller and The Song of Achilles

Thursday 6th September from 6.30pm

The Portico Library, Urmston Bookshop, and Bloomsbury present

Winner of the Orange Prize for fiction 2012
Madeline Miller
reading from her award winning debut novel,
The Song of Achilles
A breathtakingly original rendering of the Trojan War - a devastating love story and a tale of gods and kings, immortal fame and the human heart
On the New York Times Best Seller list and hailed to great acclaim.
The reviews say it all ...
“If I were to give a prize for the best work of fiction I’ve read this year, this would be the runaway winner.”   A N Wilson
 [This novel] “will appeal to young and old, men and women, readers of both commercial and literary fiction”   The Guardian
 "Miller's fantastic first novel – shortlisted for the Orange Prize this week – seems singular in its scope and scholarship" The Independent
“A captivating retelling of the Iliad and events leading up to it … it’s a hard book to put down, and any classicist will be enthralled by her characterisation of the goddess Thetis, which carries the true savagery and chill of antiquity.” Donna Tartt,The Times 
Tickets - £7.per person –
7.30pm start (drinks will be available from 6.30pm)
Book by ‘phone (0161-236 6785), email (, in person or through Eventbrite

Friday, 31 August 2012

Play your part in ensuring the future of The Portico’s unique collection with our adopt-a-book scheme

Since it was built in 1806, The Portico has developed a fascinating collection of mainly 19th century books, with subject matter ranging from Botany to Architecture, and from History to The Occult. Having been chosen over the years by its members, the collection can be said to be truly unique to the Portico, and representative of the interests of those who frequented the library in years gone by. The collection also forms a valuable aid to 19th century studies, with researchers from across the UK and beyond consulting the many volumes on the shelves.

Yet having been built in the centre of an emerging industrial city, a combination of the resultant pollution, the mass production of paper and the use of gasoliers for lighting and heating have all taken their toll on the books. Whilst the generosity of a number of grant giving bodies and of supportive individuals has enabled crucial conservation and preservation work to be undertaken upon approximately a quarter of the Collection, there are still many books whose deterioration needs to be addressed.
The Portico needs your support to continue carrying out this vital conservation and preservation work, so that we can ensure that the books on our shelves may be read and enjoyed by many more generations to come.

Our adopt-a-book scheme is one way in which you could help. The scheme works in two ways: if you have a particular interest, you can select the author, title or subject of a book you wish to adopt, or you can simply make a donation that will help towards other priority volumes within the collection. In return for your generosity and support, a permanent bookplate will be placed within the volume/s, recording your name, date and a dedication of your choice.

Please feel free to ask a member of staff should you require any further information.



Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Saturday Openings from September

September 8th and 9th (Saturday and Sunday) The Portico will be having special 'open days' as part of Manchester's Heritage Open Days 2012.  Members of the public are welcome to come in and have a (free) tour of the Library. Staff and volunteers from the membership will be on hand and refreshments will be available.  This will be taking place during Stephen Fallow's photography exhibition Sidetracked: A Visual Journey from Carlyle to Manchester in the Gallery.

Following our Heritage Open Days, we will be trialling Saturday openings at the Portico - 10am to 2pm.  The first Saturday we open will be the 15th September and this will run every Saturday until Christmas closing!  Tea, coffee and cakes will be available on the Saturdays and the Gallery and Reading Room open as normal.  We are very excited for it and wondering why we haven't done this all along?! 

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Portico Poetry Prizes 2012.

The 2012 Portico Poetry Prizes are now closed to entries. Thank you to everyone who entered and invested interest, it has been a fantastic success.

Keep an eye out for future updates, including results and prize-giving.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Portico Poetry Prizes.

We've had a wonderful response to the new prizes and would like to thank everyone who was invested interest in the prize.

The deadline is the 31st of July, so there's still a few days left for entries. After that, judging will commence!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Coming up at the library in August 2012

An Exhibition of Sculpture and Framed Three-Dimensional Works
Fiona Heron

Natural Collection, Fiona Heron, 2012

Fiona Heron is an artist, photographer and landscape architect. Inspired by the intriguing, organic patterns of Nature, Fiona’s creativity is fuelled by a desire to infuse Nature’s poetry into visual expression. Her work embraces the dual influence of Natural and Architectural forms and is enlivened with an elegant formality. Inhabitants of Manchester will already be familiar with her work - as Fiona is the creator of the  11m high bronze Tree of Rememberance that can be found in Piccadilly Gardens.

Fiona makes no distinction between the different fields of her work, be it sculpture, landscape architecture or photography. Rather, she has a central creative vision which is expressed through each chosen medium. Her expression derives from a deeply-felt personal link with Nature and a decisive awareness of how it exists within a distinctive, man-made context. The Fiona Heron Practice strap line – ‘the nature of art and design’ - carries this message with light-hearted ambiguity.

Nest, Fiona Heron, 2012

In the same way that Fiona makes no discrimination between the different aspects of her work, she rejects the division made between science and art: this philosophy is embodied in A Natural Selection. Responding to the historic context of the Portico Library and its internal architecture, the exhibition plays upon a Darwinian reference in bringing together what might be termed a free-standing and framed personal collection of art species. In keeping with the main character of her work, Fiona merges natural and architectural forms with an innovative approach to materials and techniques.

 Preview on Wednesday 1st August, 6pm-8pm

Exhibition continues until 30th August 2012
Admission to preview and throughout the exhibition is free

For further details, phone the Library on 0161 236 6785 or e-mail

Friday, 13 July 2012

Portico Poetry prizes.

The deadline is nearing for the new prizes and we are delighted with the response so far. The Young Prize in particular has had a fantastic response. The Poetry Prize still needs more entries but they are slowly growing in number. 

Those interested in entering the Portico Poetry Prize must do so soon. Don't forget there are great prizes to be won, including £200; £150; £100 and publication.

Forms can be found under the `Portico Poetry Prizes' heading or you can pop in to the library itself and pick one up!

Portico Prize: Alan Forsyth - `Waypoints' review.

by Richy Campbell

Nature, in all its faces, is the primary concern of Waypoints. We read about Nature’s operations, in the elegiac `Suddenly at Burneside’ in the `Dew-laden grass | Laced with sparkling webs of spiders’ necklaces’ in `Lambrigg Spring’ and about her people, from `The reclusive guardian of the warehouse | On Brunswick Dock North’ to the soldier `Travelling untrammelled | By wealth or obligations` in `Travelling Light’.

Forsyth’s eye is panoramic, spreading wide, from across the world he sees and to the inside of the mind. His work brings to mind the Larkin quote `the impulse to preserve lies at the bottom of all art’ with the world in the poems preserved in detail that is intricate, physical and photographic. Indeed the reader sees and smells the `Coal gas and over-heated bodies | encased in oil-soaked overalls’ in `The Black Years: undoubtedly some of the conjurations in these poems would make for an interesting collection of photographs.

Often, there is high commitment to music, which we see in `Brown Gold’; `A luckless un-spent penny, offered boldly by a careless boy'; and `Hunted’:

For something or someone is creeping there,
Too close for ease, in tom-tiddler’s ground
In that zone of unreality
Between light and shade, silence and sound.

With the last example showcasing the poet’s awareness of breath and subtlety, with close reading revealing intricacy in the way the para-rhyme of `ease’ and `unreality’ falls in the lines.

More often than not, the poems maintain their tone, consistent within themselves; an impressive example of this is in the ode to lost love `Ghost Hunting' which deals perfectly with the subject without straying into cliché:

            What sort of future can survive.
            Other than the ritual dance of love
            Performed by proxy lovers
            To the half remembered sounds
            Of our old music?

Converse to this, I feel that similar treatment could have been employed in `Lullaby’ which deals with parenthood. I felt it used tired rhymes `Oh little love | My gentle dove’ and second-hand sentiment `My hand and | Command | A lifetime Of devotion’. There are also other instances where I feel that sometimes certain lines weaken the impact of their precedents such as in `Suddenly at Burneside' where the speech `They always look like that, | The blood sinks to the lower side | When ever they die facing down.' feels unnatural, as if it slips out of tone.

With consideration of all its poems, Waypoints is an intricate and sensitive collection. There is mostly a sense of control within the lines and a personalised dealing with the subjects. It is a collection for human beings and deals with our confusing relationship with Nature and the finality of its control over us. In this instance, how fitting it is that the collection is bookended by the natural polars of life and death, with `Lambrigg Spring’ detailing `The power of the growing Birch tree’ and `When I Have Gone’ addressing a presumed loved to `Have no concern’ after the narrators death.

Portico Library Fundraising Quiz Night!

Come to this summer night of Julian joie de vivre designed to tickle your intellectual palate and send your sensibilities soaring into the stratosphere. Expect serious questions, fun questions, difficult questions, very difficult questions, really really tough questions and a few tasty little teasers. Themed rounds will include, in this bicentenary year, Dickens — of course — as well as other literature and general knowledge.

Food and drinks will be served on the evening to stimulate the brain cells.

Mein host Ed Glinert will first provide the answers—then pose the questions. That’s when it gets even more interesting!

£15 per Ticket. Book by telephone (0161 236 6785), email (, in person or through Eventbrite

Friday, 6 July 2012

Portico Poetry Prizes 2012.

So far we have had great sucess with the Portico Young Poetry Prize with a constant, and growing, number of entries.

We are, however, in need of more for the other prize. The competition is still open, until 31st July, so there is time!

If interested, please see the guidelines and head over to the prize tab at the pages' header to see / print forms.

Friday, 22 June 2012

New e-mail address for the Portico Prizes.

In order to improve communication for the prize, we have created another e-mail for the prize. Our intern, Richy Campbell, is only in on Thursday and Friday and, owing to access, communications are only enabled on those days.

The e-mail is Entries to the competition via the address are still valid, however pressing queries are best sent to the gmail address.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Intern reading at the Anthony Burgess Centre.

Portico intern and poet Richy Campbell will be reading a selection of his work as part of the MMU End of Year Poetry Reading on Tuesday, 26th of June.

The event, hosted by MMU lecturer Adam O'Riordan, is at the Anthony Burgess Foundation. It is free to attend and will commence at 7PM.

For more, including contact details, please visit

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

A Paranormal Performance at The Portico Library

Quite recently the Library collaborated with Faro Productions to host the premier of their new play Apparition. It was an absolute success. With the lights dimmed, the audience awaited the performer’s emergence to the shadowy platform in apprehension. The atmosphere was ghostly and the suspense ripe.  The team did a fantastic job with effect lighting, sound and costumes, and together with the surroundings of the library they managed to evoke an eerie ambience and transported the audience back in time to a grieving family sheltered by their country house during the Second World War. Their isolation soon breeds resentments, paranoia and something altogether much darker! With two performances a night the production team did a fantastic job and watching all four performances gave me an interesting perspective on how the different audiences perceived the performances in their own ways.  I enjoyed a superb two nights and the performances provided an altered angle at which newcomers and members alike could experience the library.  

Monday, 18 June 2012

The Portico Library - Music Through a Lens

Manchester based photographer Priti Shikotra approached the Portico regarding a photo-shoot for five-piece indie Manchester rock-band The RubysShe has shared the experience with us in writing and pictures: 

Manchester is famous for it’s music scene - The Stone Roses, Oasis, Joy Division, heck even Take That! We have had heaps of talent starting their journey right here. The talent of the past has been great - but the light needs shining on the talent of the present and future. Manchester has such a fantastic music scene - multiple live music venues and such amazing musical talent. For a music photographer, well, that’s bliss.
The Rubys - An up and coming band is one that I slowly approached over social networking site Twitter, after seeing them live at Manchester HMV Ritz back in December.
I loved their sound and turned around to a girl friend of mine and said ‘I’m gonna work with these guys’ - Fast forward a month or so and Dave Earlam aka The Bat Ruby (Drummer, The Rubys) and I were discussing locations for a photo shoot.
The guys didn't want a typical northern grimy location - I began researching into whats in and around Manchester. Having been away for the best part of a year travelling, I came back with a different perspective on Manchester and was keen to find hidden gems that would be perfect for this shoot to pitch to the guys. You appreciate whats around you a hell of a lot more when you haven't been around it for a while - everything is the same yet so different.
Some how - I came across The Portico Library. I arranged a meeting with the lovely Emma. When I went by to see the library - I was surprised to see where it was - for the sheer fact that I had walked past it heaps of times before and never noticed it!
Have you seen Disney’s Beauty and the Beast? You know the Library Belle has all to herself at the castle? Yep, The Portico Library reminds me very much of this! 
I was blown away by how quirky the library is - the smell, the feel, the look of the library - it tells a story even just by standing in there. Such a stunning library with so much personality. The interior has been well maintained and the stacks upon stacks of books - piled high to the ceilings - it’s such an atmospheric place.
Fast forward another few weeks and the shoot was about to take place - The Rubys were super excited about the venue - it definitely doesn't have the typical northern look and feel after all! We were at the library for a few hours, and then shifted outside and hit the streets to get some shots on location.  We got some great shots and The Rubys were happy with the results. So happy, that the shots have been used on the album artwork for their new album - ‘Limelight Paradise’ . You can have a listen and buy the album over at - Head on over!
As a photographer - the place is perfect - so many different angles to shoot from, multiple rooms to work with, plenty of natural light, so quirky, and so many props to work with ( with permission of course! ) Not only that, but since it’s bang right in the middle of Manchester, there are surrounding areas which can be of good use in a shoot. So you can get various different feels to different shots.
This is what Dave from The Rubys had to say about the venue.

"The Portico Library is a literary 'Time Capsule of Cool' hidden away on the busiest of Manchesters' streets.

We found it like silence looking for sound; a clash of isolation centred in the chaos of Piccadilly.

The atmosphere bled into our photographs; split-second shards of frozen time caught in a timeless environment of books with leather-worn looks, furniture with overtures, taxidermy with history.

Unique is an over-used term, although we found the Portico to be just that,.....just not in the obvious sense. It has character that doesn't overpower, a richness which did not make us look poorer, a pride of vision that didn't put shame in ours.

Artists and Photographers know the power of a good location, and in the Portico, we felt that we were passing through the history of the Library. Melville stared at us from across the bookshelves whilst Rambeau waited patiently.

There are few locations in the world that will give you the same sense of time standing still, to the point where the hours on the clock had no Meaning; at the Portico, we found Meaning, Relevance, and Elegance bleeding from every fissure." 

PSHIKOTRA Photography :

Friday, 15 June 2012

Barry Smith's Kimberley Trilogy UK Book Lauch

Last month The Portico hosted author Barry Smith's book launch.  He writes about it below:

It was with great delight that I launched the first two novels - For Freedom’s Cause and Battle for the North - in my Kimberley Trilogy of Australian historical adventure stories, at the Portico Library in my hometown of Manchester in the UK.

Whilst a committed resident of Richmond in marvellous Melbourne, and Australian by choice, I was pleased to be able to introduce my family and friends to Dan Bevan, the Manchester coal miner-cum-First War Officer who is the hero of my novels, especially as there were several real-life Bevans in the audience. I was amused to reveal that the mine in the novel (Bradford Pit) near where I was born and raised is now the site of Manchester City’s football ground!

The setting was wonderfully appropriate and inspiring as the Library opened in 1806 encompassing a reading room and newsroom for gentlemen of a Liberal political persuasion. There is much evidence that long standing Chairman Reverend Gaskell, husband of Elizabeth Gaskell, renowned author of North and South and Cranford, borrowed books for his wife and Sir Robert Peel, reforming Prime Minister and founder of the Police Force (hence ‘Peelers’) was a member.

John Birkett, a friend from Cambridge University days, introduced me in his usually warm and witty style and invited the audience to question me about my books and motivation for writing. The questions were shrewd and some of my responses were a revelation even to me.

Then a mischievous Australian visitor asked the thorny one-“After 40 years in Australia do you feel more Australian or more English?” My answer ignited the fire of Anglo-Australian sporting rivalries and affiliations amongst the gathering to everyone’s amusement.

I am returning to Melbourne in early July and plan to launch the second of my historical adventure novels-Battle for the North-which has not yet been released in Australia- in Melbourne later in July and after in Perth, Broome and Darwin.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Portico Prize Preparations

Entries for the Portico Prize have been flooding in from publishers over the past few weeks, and with two £10,000 prizes being awarded this year, the competition is already proving to be fierce in both the fiction and non-fiction categories.  

Titles entered for the prize must fit two main criteria: as the prize aims to celebrate the strong regional identity of the North, including its cultural, literary and historical heritage, they must be set largely or wholly in the North of England. They must also have been published between the 31st of August 2010 and the 31st of July 2012, so as to coincide with the biennial awarding of the prize. Being open to both established as well as new authors, entrants will be made up of an intriguing mix of both new and familiar names, including Ann Cleeves, Nicky Harlow, Lynn Knight and John Champness.

As the books come in, they will be boxed up and sent on to the judges, who will receive an array of titles for their delectation. From these books they will have to perform the daunting task of deciding on the winning title. This year, Adam O’Riordan, Sarah McLennon and Arthur Bostrom will be choosing the winner of the prize for fiction, whilst Stuart Maconie, Kay Easson and Mike Rose will decide on the winning entry for the non-fiction prize.   
Entries for the Portico Prize will also be made available for members of the library.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

The Portico Poetry Prizes

The library is delighted to announce full details of our new poetry competition.

There will be two awards; The Portico Poetry Prize and The Portico Young Poetry Prize. Entry for the former is £4 plus £2.50 for each poem after; the latter is free. There's a cash prize for the Portico Poetry Prize and the Young Poetry Prize winner will be named Portico Young Poet of the Year and an opportunity to be anthologised and published. For more, refer the competition leaflets at the bottom of the page.

The guidelines are relatively loose; the only stipulations are that all poems entered must be linked in some way to the works of Charles Dickens and no more than 40 lines (not including the title).

The Portico Poetry Prize will be judged by Mandy Coe; The Portico Young Poetry Prize will be judged by Richy Campbell, Lisa Mansell and Krishan Coupland.

The closing date for both competitions are 31st July. Please see the details below on how to enter or print an entry form, found at the bottom of this page.

Please send a short cover letter, telling us who you are, no more than four lines.

Entries to both competitions in the e-mail's body to Please state which competition you are submitting to in the e-mail header e.g. `Portico Young Poetry Prize Entry' or `Portico Poetry Prize Entry'.

Postal entries to:

The Portico Library
The Portico Poetry Prize 2012 / The Portico Young Poetry Prize 2012
57 Mosley Street
M2 3HY

Please address cheques for the Portico Poetry Prize to The Portico Library.

You can also pay by bank transfer:

The Royal Bank of Scotland

A/C Name: The Portico Library

Sort code: 16ž00ž01

A/C No.: 14052426

PorticoForm / PorticoYoungForm

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Elizabeth Gaskell Borrowed These Books!

Portico friend and researcher Megan Healy writes about her experiences researching Elizabeth Gaskell at The Portico:

In 2009, I traveled across the Atlantic to move to Manchester for two months for a research project at the Portico Library. Funded by my undergraduate Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, I spent my days going through the Portico’s Issue Books, which log every book and journal borrowed from the library from 1850 to 1904. My focus was the borrowings from 1850 to 1865 of the library’s chairman, William Gaskell, husband to Victorian author Elizabeth Gaskell. By creating a typed account of Reverend Gaskell’s borrowings, researchers visiting the Portico now have access to records of Gaskell’s reading history, available chronologically and alphabetically, with details of the call number (when available) and the date checked out and returned.

Within this extensive list, one finds the classics—Shakespeare, Milton, and Swift—as well as several popular contemporary journals borrowed frequently, including Fraser’s Blackwood’s, Athenaeum, and Saturday Review. Though the books are all checked out in William’, one can assume the Jane Austen’s and Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s works were for Elizabeth and not William. Not surprisingly, Collins, Cooper, Hawthorne, Scott, and Trollope feature frequently, as well a pleasantly wide range of female novelists, including Maria Edgeworth, George Eliot, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Margaret Oliphant, and Dinah Mulock Craik. Interestingly, apart from the first volume of Household Words, the only Dickens work checked out by Gaskell was David Copperfield, borrowed in July 1852 and November 1858.

In addition to the extensive fiction borrowings, there is a range of biographies, including European rulers such as Louis XIV and Peter the Cruel and literary figures Samuel Johnson and Goethe. Lives of the Queens of Scotland and English Princesses was borrowed five times by Gaskell. More obscure borrowings include Personal Narrative of Thirteen Year’ Service amongst the Wild Tribes of Khondistan, for the Suppression of Human Sacrifice; Narratives of Sorcery and Magic, From the Most Authentic Sources; and Six lectures on the chemical history of the candle to which is added a lecture on platinum.  

Furthermore, there is a wealth of travel literature alongside Gaskell’s name, ranging from Yorkshire and Devon to Italy, Greece, and Spain, as well as Bengal, Turkey, Egypt, Ceylon, China, Koordistan, Mesopotamia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States and Algeria. Titles range from the Winter Studies and Summer Rambles in Canada and Account of the Arctic Regions, with a History and Description of the Northern Whale Fishery to Egyptian Sepulchres and Syrian Shrines, Including Some Stay in the Lebanon at Palmyra and in Western Turkey, and, my personal favourite, Unprotected Females in Norway; Or the Pleasantest Way of Travelling There, Passing Through Denmark and Sweden with Scandinavian Sketches from Nature.

A particular point of interest is that occasional entries appeared in Mrs Gaskell’s name; on the 17th of March, 1853, she is noted to have borrowed Robert Chamber’s Life of Robert Burns and, two days later, Mariotti’s A Historical Memoir of Fra Dolcino and His Times is ascribed to Mrs Gaskell. Gaskell scholars who had previously worked with the Issue Books question what happened on these days: was William out of town? Was he ill? What do you think?

Can you spot Reverend William Gaskell's name?

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Portico Poetry Prizes.

The library is delighted to announce full details of our new poetry competition.

There will be two awards; The Portico Poetry Prize and The Portico Young Poetry Prize. Entry for the former is £4; the latter is free.

All poems entered must be linked in some way to the works of Charles Dickens.

The Portico Poetry Prize will be judged by Mandy Coe; The Portico Young Poetry Prize will be judged by Richy Campbell, Lisa Mansell and Krishan Coupland.

The closing date for both competitions are 31st July.

For more and entry forms head over to the page entitled The Portico Poetry Prizes.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Keeping it Clean

Here at the Portico our decor reflects the original atmosphere of the Library from the 19th century.  With copper side tables, brasses galore, leather backed chairs and wooden dining tables the Library allows its members to study, lunch and relax in style.  But while this style may appear effortless, it is the hard work of our cleaner Pat that maintains the atmosphere.

She has given us some tips on how she keeps the place looking so good. 

For the copper tables a good rub down with lemon and salt initially brings up the shine. She wipes this off and then washes with soapy water.  A day or two later she begins a regular polish with Brasso.  The tables speak for themselves!

For the wooden tables its Lord Sheraton's Caretaker Wood Balsam with pure beeswax (the most important ingredient), pine turpentine and linseed oil which, used once a week protects the wood.
It is these efforts and more that keep the Library looking like new, er, rather, like old... 19th century old, but in grand condition!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

"Big Writing for a Small World"

One of our regular researchers came in last week to continue her research on certain volumes in our collection, but before she headed down to the Reading Room she stopped to show us something...  It was a publication entitled Big Writing for a Small World which was launched in Manchester on May 1st and is organised in Manchester by English PEN with partnership support from Community Arts North West as part of their Exodus Greater Manchester Refugee Arts programme. The project was funded by John Lyon's Charity and the European Commission Representation in the United Kingdom.

Big Writing for a Small World is, as Jonathan Scheele states in his introduction "an ambitious cultural community project"  (p. 2).  The publication contains illustrations, short stories and poems in the English language by various contributors, all of whom speak English as a second language.  We were excited not only by the fact that our researcher is one of the contributors to this impressive collaborative work but by the publication itself and the amount of work that has obviously gone into it.

We are proud to have a signed copy of the book now in our collection and to be providing copies for sale on site.

Copies of Big Writing for a Small World are available at the Portico Library for £3 each.