Thursday, 19 February 2015


Dear Readers,

Many of you will be aware that we run an Adopt-a-Book scheme at the Library, which gives anyone the opportunity to make a donation covering the price of repair for a chosen book. In return for sponsorship, a permanent bookplate is placed in the volume, recording the name of the sponsor, the date and any specific dedication.

Of course, The Portico Library is a strong proponent of the printed word and of the salvation of our cultures' printed volumes. Books are of great importance, both as historic documents and as objects imbued with memory and meaning. People adopt books for different reasons, but most often it is because a particular book has some special significance in their own life-story and to play a part in the preservation of that text is a way of sustaining a history that is important to them. In keeping with this, we have asked some of the individuals who have adopted books from our collection to tell us something about the books they have selected and what it was that led them to make that choice.

So, our first testimonial is offered to you here. We hope it will be the first of many to bring you some enjoyment, as well as further insight into our collection.

Title: Journal of researches into the natural history of geology of the countries visited during the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle round the world, under the command of Capt. Fitz Roy, RN

“When my daughter told me that she would be dedicating the rebinding of a Portico book to me for my birthday, I was pleased to have the opportunity to choose the volume that I would like to see repaired. There were several factors that influenced my choice of book. The first thing to come to mind was Manchester’s position at the centre of the Industrial Revolution, making it an important place in world history as a location of working class struggle and in the development of socialism. So originally I thought I would like to see a book by Karl Marx restored. I then found that, as yet, the Portico’s collection of political books is not yet fully catalogued online, so I would need to choose a book from a different sphere.

Last year I was taken by a cousin to visit Down House - Charles Darwin’s family home and the place where he wrote many of his works. In a gallery in the house I saw a copy of this letter from Karl Marx to Darwin:

Dear Sir:
I thank you for the honour which you have done me by sending me your great work on Capital; & I heartily wish that I was more worthy to receive it, by understanding more of the deep and important subject of political Economy. Though our studies have been so different, I believe that we both earnestly desire the extension of Knowledge, & that this is in the long run sure to add to the happiness of Mankind.
I remain, Dear Sir
Yours faithfully,
Charles Darwin
Letter from Charles Darwin to Karl Marx
October, 1873

To my mind, Darwin and Marx are the two most important thinkers and writers of the last two centuries. I was delighted with Darwin’s friendly letter to Karl Marx, even though Darwin says he could not fully understand Capital [Das Kapital].  Marx, in his turn, found Darwin’s work “crude, in the English style” but still part of the foundation of “the natural history for our (communist) views.

In the absence of a work by Marx, I chose Darwin’s “Voyage of the Beagle” in which Darwin documents the observations he made on his amazing voyage around the southern hemisphere (1831-1836), including the visit to the Galapagos Islands.   This work underpinned Darwin’s theory of evolution.

I was very much delighted to have had something to do with the restoration of this wonderful book, held in the Portico library.  I hope that its poor condition, before restoration, was due to heavy-duty hands-on reading, and I hope that before too long it is again worn out with use and with leafing over, and in need of restoration, again.”

This volume was beautifully rebound in grey cloth and brown leather and is ready to be read to the brink of disintegration once again! The Portico Library is very grateful for the sponsorship of this book.

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