Mad about cycling!


As Saturday 5th July 2014 sees the City of Leeds host Le Grand Départ, the start of the world famous Tour de France, we would like to highlight some of our numerous items relating to cycling, some from our special collections and some loanable.


‘Personal best : the autobiography of Beryl Burton’ celebrates a Leeds lass unknown to many who is hailed as the greatest British female cyclist of all time. She won more than ninety domestic championships and seven world titles. She set numerous National records and in 1967 she pedalled 277.25 miles in 12 hours, famously overtaking Mike McNamara, her male rival, and giving him a liquorice allsort as she passed. She set a woman’s record for the twelve hour time trial which was not surpassed by a male rider until 1969.

Beryl was so highly thought of on the continent that it prompted a Frenchman to write that, ‘If Beryl Burton had been French, Joan of Arc would have to take second place!’


John Ogilby’s survey

The first road maps to have been created in Britain are generally accepted to be those drawn by John Ogilby in the 1670s. These took the form of strip maps and were first published in his book, The Britannia Atlas in 1675 which set the standard for the road maps that followed. In the Leeds Central Library special collections we have a number of John Ogilby’s publications. The picture above is from ‘The Roads Through England Delineated, Or, Ogilby’s Survey’ which was printed at ‘The Black Horse in Cornhill London in 1759 Price 7 shillings and sixpence.’ It is the page that displays the strip map for, ‘The Road from York to Chester’ passing through Tadcaster, Thorner and Leeds. Other books of his that are displayed in the cabinet are ‘Britannia Depicta or Ogilby Improv’d’, a ‘Survey of the Roads’ printed in 1720, and two copies of his ‘Pocket Book of the Roads’, one printed in 1736, the other in 1745.


Photo of Front Cover of Bicycling, 1874

First published in 1874 and reprinted in 1970, ‘Bicycling, 1874 : a Textbook for Early Riders’ contains the ‘Golden Rules for Bicycle Riders.’ Some of the more amusing rules include:

  • Never travel the long journey without having your drawers lined smoothly and carefully with chamois leather or buckskin.
  • Never ride in the early morning fasting; a little rum and milk with an egg beaten up is an excellent sustenance.
  • Never fail if you were in a strange country to ascertain the character of the roads from natives of the district before starting.
  • Never fail to give a wide berth to patchy places in a road.
  • Knickerbockers are the best nether garments to ride in, and modestly thick boots are better than thin ones.
  • Never fail, when resting on a journey, to place your machine beyond the reach of meddlesome hands.


The book ‘Patents for Inventions, Abridgments of Specifications. Class 136, Velocipedes, 1855-1888’ is one of many books on patents and inventions held in the Leeds Central library. Although some of these books may not be borrowed they are all available for public consultation.

Patent office publications can often contain some highly amusing ideas that were, no doubt, taken by the inventor to be very serious indeed. The application submitted by Mr E. G. Bruton in 1879 for the patent for ‘Propelling Velocipedes’ as shown in the diagram above, had it been taken up, would have created a spectacle indeed as they all formed up on the Headrow for the Grand Départ. The idea of them struggling up the hills of the Yorkshire Dales National Park leaves one with the distinct impression that the green and yellow jerseys’ would have remained unclaimed on that day! There are fantastic illustrations of various bicycles including this ‘Modern bicycle’.

Modern bicycle

One Comment Add yours

  1. Jean says:

    Hope people drop by the library for those interesting works. Best wishes from a fellow Canadian librarian-cyclist.

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