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Don’t forget our annual book fair is this Saturday!

The fair starts tomorrow at 10.30am. There will be books from both our own collections and other sellers, delicious cakes & hot drinks, a raffle, photographic prints & more. As usual it’s free entry and everyone is welcome. We hope to see you there!

 

New Display: A Journey to Space

A Journey to Space: Morrab Library, Cornwall & Beyond

Inspired by a recent well attended Morrab Library talk about Spaceport Cornwall, Sue created a display of books and items from our Library collections.

50 years ago NASA sent explorers to the Moon. Now Cornwall is looking to host a spaceport at Newquay Airport. Closer to home, an exploration of the inner space of the Morrab Library reveals our changing view in the heavens through time.

Topics covered in the display are:

Pioneers of Ideas

Humans have always looked to the sky … drawing some very different conclusions about what they see and what it means.

Cosmogony: Or the Records of the Creation at the Time of Adam. from Morrab Library collection

Mapping space

A rational scientific approach requires examination and organisation of data.

The discoveries, inventions and work of many people are needed.  Cornish scientists contributed to the field of discovery including astronomer John Couch Adams who discovered Neptune.

Past Preoccupations

Items from the Morrab Library show some of the events and topics of interest in the past to our members.  We have several old astronomy books including a beautifully illustrated copy of Ball’s Popular Guide to the Heavens – a popular guide to the study of the sky (1905).

The 1999 solar eclipse was a memorable event in Cornwall. Morrab Library’s  Archive holds very special scrapbook of the 1999 Solar Eclipse.

Technical Details

As well as some of Cornwall’s past aerospace connections we looked at space technologies.  “Sound Barrier” by Duke & Lanchbery (1953) has photos of the X-1 high altitude aeroplane and rocket launch from aeroplane. Using an aeroplane as a launcher is an older idea now being reconsidered for the Newquay Spaceport.

“Sound Barrier” by Duke & Lanchbery (1953)

Other Views 

There are other views of the stars in the sky  – for example the artistic view. Children’s books such as “Vincent’s Starry Night” by Michael Bird (2016) have wonderful illustrations and stories.  The painting from the title of this book was created while Van Gogh was in an asylum. There are many theories of the meaning of this painting including speculation that he had seen an illustration of the Whirlpool galaxy in a French book popularizing astronomy by Camille Flammarion, the Carl Sagan of the 19th century. Compare it to the illustration in our copy of Ball’s Popular Guide to the Heavens.

Ball’s Popular Guide to the Heavens

 

The English Country House & The Novel

This blog piece was written by Library member, Jean Y. Jones.

 

A sunny morning. In Morrab Library I sat in my leather chair, book in lap, gazing out of the Georgian window over the gardens and out to sea. The library was quiet and peaceful. The book on my lap, taken from the shelves in the Cornish Room, was Daphne de Maurier’s Rebecca.

 

Manderley, the house of all our dreams, a country house of the kind familiar to us all through the medium of the novel. The link is astonishing. From its earliest inception as a literary genre, the novel has looked to the english country house for background and setting.

 

When Richardson considered using imaginative story-telling as a vehicle for his views and opinions he placed his heroine, Pamela, in the country house, a pretty servant faced with moral dangers therein. So successful was he that Smollett and Fielding rapidly followed in his footsteps. The country house proved a perfect background to exploit, for tales of high romance and derring-do, of Gothic mysteries and horror. Jane Austen, writing a while later, used the country house as a more conventional setting, with its beautiful parklands, grand rooms well-furnished and well-appointed, of the kind so highly admired by Henry James. With it came a way of life that over generations had evolved into a strong social class system, the English gentleman exhibiting an etiquette of manners, at times civilised in the extreme, exclusive and insular. Save for the imaginative incursions of the novelist.

 

So great was the attraction of the country house to literature that it moves frequently from background to foreground. In Pride and Prejudice Darcy might well have remained a bachelor  were it not for Pemberley and its effect upon Elizabeth. Similarly, in Northanger Abbey Catherine is quite led astray by the house, almost as much as General Tilney was by rumours of her wealth. 

 

The country house is used to a more passionate and vibrant effect by the Brontes – Wuthering Heights, brooding over the moors, Jane Eyre with its mad woman in the attic. Even Charles Dickens succumbed to its use, in Great Expectations skilfully creating in the mind’s eye the dark and deserted rooms leading ever inward to Miss Havisham’s wedding feast. 

 

But with industrialisation breaking up the patterns of rural life, universal education and democracy, the tenor of novels shifted to the more social and political. Disraeli’s Sybil, George Eliot’s Felix Holt, the Radical, Trollope, concentrating on domestic dramas played out in the country house, closely followed by Galsworthy’s Forsyte Saga. All still using the country house and its social context to centre their narratives on. 

 

As the twentieth century progressed, writers of a different mettle appeared, some, self-proclaimed self-conscious intellectuals like those of the Bloomsbury Group, products themselves of the country house epitomised in novels like Mrs Dalloway, Howard’s End and Brideshead Revisited. These gave way in turn to the novelist writing for a newer kind of reader, exploring a wider range of experience. Though still the country house maintained its allure as in D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Crime writers found it a great setting and jumping-off platform, as evidenced in Agatha Christie’s works, and Conan Doyle. This has persisted to the present day. 

 

Its romance endures, in the charm of Georgette Heyer’s Regency works, in for example Catherine Cookson and Jilly Cooper’s writings, right through to contemporary fiction. And who can forget the superbly written “Remains of the Day” by Ishiguru?

 

The country house may no longer by the symbol of power, wealth and privilege it once was. Yet it lives on, in our novels, in our imaginations, and on the shelves of our own country house, Morrab Library.