Skip to 0 minutes and 9 secondsI'm Jacky Hodgson. I'm Head of Special Collections at The University of Sheffield Library. The role of Special Collections is to care for and look after 24,000 rare books and around 200 collections of archives and documents. These we want to make widely available for people to use, both for learning and research. And not just people in The University, but anyone is welcome to come and look at our material. You'll see quite a lot of things from Special Collections during the course that you're taking. The oldest thing that we're bringing to the course is the 1551 edition of Sir Thomas More's 'Utopia', which is a first edition of that work.

Skip to 0 minutes and 54 secondsI've also brought along some more examples of material from our collections, which relate to the same time period. These include some of our English Civil War tracts, which are political, social, religious propaganda that was put out during the English Civil War from 1642 to 1651. They're really entertaining, as much as anything, in the titles that they're given. So this example says, 'We have brought our hogs to a fair market.' And it was all to do with the position of Parliament at the time, dated 1648, which is towards the end of the English Civil War period. Many of these tracts were given to us by Sir Charles Harding Firth, who was The University's first history professor.

Skip to 1 minute and 44 secondsAnd he was here at the very beginning of The University in the early 20th century. Very generously, both during his lifetime and in his will, he gave a lot of this material to the library. And we have a really good collection of these materials, as well as broadside ballads and social and political caricatures, as well, which all came from Firth, who was a great benefactor as far as The University was concerned. I've also brought some material that relates to our collection of manuscripts from James Montgomery. James Montgomery was a very famous Sheffield radical from the late 18th, early 19th centuries. He was a poet, a hymn writer, editor of the 'Sheffield Iris' newspaper.

Skip to 2 minutes and 31 secondsHe was also an abolitionist and a social reformer as well. There's a real selection of material amongst his papers, particularly like this one, which is an invitation to a dinner that he put on every year for the chimney sweeps' boys to benefit them, raise money, and also give them a good meal. And lots of the great and good of Sheffield in the late 18th and early 19th century were invited to that event. One of Montgomery's most famous poems was called 'The Pelican Island'.

Skip to 3 minutes and 4 secondsAnd as well as a first edition of the book in our collections, we also have a set of illustrations which was created by John Holland Bramhall, who was Montgomery's successor as editor of the 'Sheffield Iris', and who also created 136 illustrations of parts of 'The Pelican Island' poem. And we have all of those in our collections. They make a really interesting addition to the material about James Montgomery. We also have handwritten letters from Montgomery's own correspondence. And we have copies of some of hymns that he wrote. We have an ongoing programme to digitise Special Collections material so that we can make it available more widely to anyone on the internet, not just people within The University.

Skip to 3 minutes and 52 secondsAs well as that, The University has invested in a digital preservation system, which means that we can keep material safe for the future. So that will look after the data itself. And it will also make sure that we're warned if a file format is becoming obsolete and can't be used anymore. Hopefully, that gives us the option of looking forward, looking after material for the future, in the way that we have done with print and books and documents in the past. So I hope you'll be able to spot some of our Special Collections material as you work your way through this course.

Welcome to Special Collections

In the next step, we will introduce you to the first video in our ‘Material Conditions’ strand where we will explore the varied conditions of textual composition and how that might affect your interpretation.

In order to see the original conditions in which each of our texts would have been presented, we have enlisted the help of the Special Collections Archive at The University of Sheffield. From these collections, we have been able to borrow and showcase original texts, manuscripts and letters which you will see throughout the course.

In this video, Jacky Hodgson introduces us to Special Collections and some of the texts we will see as we work through the steps each week.

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This video is from the free online course:

Literature of the English Country House

The University of Sheffield