Thursday, 20 February 2014

Conservation appeal:

John Latham’s A general history of birds

A General History of Birds is often considered to be one of the greatest ornithological books ever published. It was issued in ten volumes between 1821 and 1828, and contains 193 hand-coloured copperplate engravings of unsurpassed beauty. These plates were personally designed, etched and coloured by the English physician, naturalist and author, John Latham (1740-1837), who, having been one of the first naturalists to examine specimens of Australian birds and who was responsible for naming many of them, is often acknowledged as being the “grandfather” of Australian ornithology.

The Portico is lucky enough to hold a first edition set of this seminal work. Unfortunately, however, over the years the individual bindings have deteriorated, and each volume has become increasingly fragile. To ensure it can continue to be used by future generations, it is now in need of urgent conservation and preservation work.

We are currently looking for individuals to sponsor the rebinding of this set. The sympathetic rebinding of each individual volume within the set will cost approximately £135, and in return for your support a permanent bookplate will be placed within your chosen volume(s), recording your name, date, and a dedication of your choice.

If you are interested in sponsoring this work and helping to restore it to its former glory, please contact a member of staff for further details.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Spotlight on the collection: Political Economy

The latest section to be added to the Portico's online catalogue is Political Economy, and one of the treasures unearthed is The Gilbart prize essay on the adaptation of recent discoveries and inventions in science and art to the purpose of practical banking [Kl 25], by Granville Sharp, an accountant in the East of England Bank, at Norwich. 

The prize winning essay was originally published in Banker’s Magazine, winning a £100 prize. Applicants were asked to write an essay or pamphlet based on the Industrial Exhibition of 1851. Also known as the “Crystal Palace Exhibition”, the fair was prompted by the great success of the French Industrial Exhibition on 1844, the first in a series of popular 19th century World Fairs, displaying industry and culture with a particular focus on new manufactured products. World expositions of this period were often focused towards industry and trade, making Sharp’s reflections applicable not only to banking but “to any and all large commercial establishment [...] this essay should be read with interest by every employer and employee connected with business and trade” – Daily News.

This volume is the third edition of the essay - the only illustrated publication, containing numerous plates, including cheque specimens, bank notes, and patent plans, as well as 15 remarkable wax seals mounted on the back pastedown of the book, as shown below.

 For  access to the Library's online catalogue visit