Don’t judge a book by its catalogue record

As part of an inventory exercise in the Special Collections, we have unearthed some interesting and useful books, including a copy of Persepolis illustrata from 1739, with plates depicting the Palace of Isfahan. It has now been catalogued on the computer system and can be requested from Special Collections. The shelfmark is CABS A226.PER PER and its oversize.

Perhaps the book that illustrates the title of this post best is located on the catalogue as A description of ancient Rome, containing a short account of the principal buildings, places, &c. …, printed for John Knapton in 1761.  That description is located near the back of a bound volume containing a number of political tracts and pamphlets, including An account of the emancipation of the slaves of Unity Valley Pen, in Jamaica. This document explains how David  Barclay, from Walthamstow in Essex, came to the conclusion that it was ‘subversive of the rights of human nature’ to keep slaves. (p.3) Barclay, of the banking and brewing family, was a Quaker and an abolitionist, supporting William Wilberforce in his attempts to have the House of Commons outlaw the slave trade.

The slaves were ‘inherited’ by Barclay, when he and his brother John inherited grazing land in Jamaica, in St. Ann’s Parish, about 40 miles from Kingston. (p.7) They were taken to Philadelphia where the Barclays had acquaintances and “where was already formed a Society for the abolition of slavery, and for the benefit of free blacks, of which society he was already a member.” (p.6)  The table below gives an account of what happened to the freed slaves 4 years later.

Persepolis illustrata

I am sure that Knapton’s description of ancient Rome is interesting, but this volume is a reminder that there is more to life than art. The book’s shelfmark is CABS Z6920 KNA.

And with that I’d like to thank the Courtauld for the opportunity to work with this wonderful collection of books and archives for the past 5 years. I have learned so much from my colleagues, students, and the collections themselves. There is so much to explore and so many research projects contained in these rich and beautiful collections.

Erica Foden-Lenahan

Special Collections Librarian, 2008-2013