2018 meets 1918, 1818, 1718…

To mark (yet another) new year, librarian Antony Ramm takes a brief look at a a small selection of books from the Central Library collections, all celebrating a significant milestone this year (100th-anniversary, 200th-anniversary, 300th-anniversary): 

Women and the Labour Party (ed., Dr. Marion Phillips)

A collection of essays published in 1918, all written by women and exploring Labour-perspectives on issues including trade unions, the poor law, “women as brainworkers”, women as wage earners and internationalism. The First World War and its immense effects on society looms large, of course, in each one of these pieces – but what stands out for a contemporary reader is the restless search for solutions toward a better future; then the desire to know what came of that exploration. Take Margaret McMillan’s “The Nursery of To-Morrow,” for instance: how did Nursery provision through the coming decades match McMillan’s inspiring vision? In that line of questioning – simply: what happened next? – is the germ for every study of history.

The Experienced English Housekeeper (Elizabeth Raffald)

It’s cheating slightly to put the Doncaster-born Raffald’s seminal cookbook in this list, as it was originally published in 1769 – but it makes our list because one edition held at the Central Library was published in 1818; and in Leeds, no less. What’s interesting here is that Raffald’s book – according to one source – went through 13 official editions, all published in London between 1769 and 1806, alongside another 23 pirate texts hailing from Manchester, York, Philadelphia, and London once more.

Our 1818 Leeds edition would appear (although it’s not listed in the aforementioned source) to be yet-another pirated edition – a note informs us that the book contains “some celebrated Receipts by other modern Authors” – but for the fact that it contains three fold-out engravings: a key indicator that the book was an official publication (although it’s also said that only the presence of the author’s signature on the title page indicates authenticity). Either way: the book’s publication in Leeds certainly implies the emerging (emerged?) confidence and demand of the ‘new’ industrial-merchant middle-class (the book has been described as being for “a burgeoning middle class that required explanation and elucidation” – which is a fair description of the self-made Leeds industrialists.

By Elizabeth Raffald – Own scan of The Experienced English Housekeeper, 1775, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39150276. The image shows the table layout for an elegant second course

The Fruit-Garden Kalendar (John Laurence)

Subtitled – in the charmingly verbose way of the 18th-century – “Or, A Summary of the Art of Managing the Fruit-Garden. Teaching in order of TIME what is to be done therein every MONTH in the YEAR. Containing several new and plain directions, more particularly relating to the VINE” (helpfully removing any need to describe the book’s contents), this 1718 volume can be found in the Central Library’s magnificent Gott Bequest of botanical books. Perhaps of most interest to the modern reader, especially the not-too-green-fingered, are those moments where Laurence doesn’t appear to be writing about a Fruit-Garden at all (click on the images to read the text):

A reminder – if one were needed – that what we think a book is about is often only half the story: sometimes a rose isn’t just a rose (with apologies to Gertrude Stein).


You’ll find all these books – and many more – in our Central Library collections. Have a search using our online catalogue to find some more fascinating choices, or contact us on 0113 37 85005 to arrange access to any book.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.