Exploring Italian books in Special Collections – a view from our work experience student Andrea

By walking in a labyrinth of ancient books and rare materials from the past, I’ve found some books which reminded me of my country and my homeland.

One of them was particularly eye-catching thanks to its size and its green cover full of detailed designs in gold and black. I knew it was about my Home because of the bright title marked on the centre of the cover: Rome. I could not control my instinct of curiosity and so I chose to read that one.

'Rome' by Francis Wey - q DG 806

‘Rome’ by Francis Wey – q DG 806


First of all I’ve found out that what I was holding in my hands was a book older than me, published in 1872 and written by Francis Wey. I thought it was going to be in Italian, but then I discovered it was in English and so I realised how much important traveling was, even in the ‘800s, and that human’s curiosity makes us travel seas and countries to be satisfied. And also, by going through some pages I’ve seen some really interesting illustrations: it was funny try to guess what part of Rome they were representing, and also it made me think about how the time changed those places during the years.


I had in my hands and in 552 pages one big wonderful city, my big wonderful city, and probably this is what made me choose the book at first sight.

Another one that I decided to look at was a little book (quartos, I think they call them) from 1828 with a design of red lions on the front white cover made of a material that lasts well during the years and does not make the book look as older as it actually is [vellum]. The title, “Ossian Poesie”, was on the spine and it looked like someone else has written it on by using an old pen.

Poesie di Ossian, PD 3546.1 Spec Coll

Poesie di Ossian, PD 3546.1 Spec Coll

Unlike the book about Rome, this one was completely in Italian. I’ve found myself wondering about why there wasn’t any English in a book placed in a library in England, and I came to a conclusion about the fact that there might be some Italian students, or someone who was studying this language, that could have enjoyed it.
By reading some pages I understood the contest was about Irish royals, and it made me even more curious about why did an Italian writer, called Melchior Cesarotti, write about something which happened in another part of the planet.

Poesie di Ossian, PD 3546.1 Spec Coll

Poesie di Ossian, PD 3546.1 Spec Coll

If it depended by me, I would have stayed around all those books for days and days, reading about everything from science to theatre, from geography to history.

Andrea Wlderk spent her Year 10 work experience placement with the Special Collections & Archives team this week. Having recently moved to Canterbury from Rome, she’s fluent in Italian, Spanish and English and wanted to know more about library work. Andrea learnt about how Special Collections departments are run and the activities we do, discovered our collections, shadowed meetings, was trained in basic conservation principles and worked in the stores with our volunteer team. Thank you so much, Andrea – we hope you had fun!

Five Fascinating Artefacts

Work placement volunteer, Ellis Spicer, explores the new exhibition in the new library:

It’s already been an action-packed 2016 for the Special Collections and Archives at the University of Kent’s Templeman Library. Their ‘Comedy on Stage and Page’ exhibition is up and ready for perusal displayed in the newly built Templeman West Wing on Level 1 of the library. This exhibition embodies the crossover between the British Cartoon Archive and Stand-Up Comedy Archive, founded forty years apart but very much complementary to each other.

Throughout my time browsing the exhibition, my favourites began to emerge. You may agree, you may disagree. The exhibition features treasures from the collections at Kent, so come along to choose your favourites too!

  1. ‘The Young Ones’ Script, Alexie Sayle Collection

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My first favourite from the exhibition was Alexei Sayle’s script from episode 3 of the second and final series of the Young Ones. For me, this stood out as an item in the collection due to its personalised nature of what seems to be a generic script. This script reveals Sayle’s expressive, cursive handwriting and an absent-minded doodle of a car. It’s nice to know that even the rich and famous still get bored and doodle, whilst referring to themselves as Señor.

2. Bomber Blair, Leon Kuhn Collection

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My second favourite item from the exhibition is an image of Tony Blair that changes depending on the angle you look at it (for photos of different angles see below). I felt the poignant message that the artist, Leon Kuhn, was trying to portray about Blair’s foreign policy, especially once you know how anti-war the artist himself was. The collage style itself is also fascinating and really stood out for me, and the view from different angles resonated with me as the different angles such a complex situation can be looked at.

3. Tory Toff Speak (with subtitles), Chris Riddell (British Cartoon Archive)

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My third favourite item from the exhibition was the image ‘Tory Toff Speak’ with subtitles, featuring David Cameron and Boris Johnson. Parliamentary talk in debates is notoriously ridden with euphemisms due to MP’s potentially being ejected from debates for ‘unparliamentary language’. This image shows a ‘translation’ of that euphemistic dialogue.

4. Rendezvous, David Low (British Cartoon Archive)

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My fourth favourite item from the exhibition resonated with me due to my background as a History MA student specialising in the Second World War. Here Hitler and Stalin greet each other rather cordially, ‘doffing their caps’ to each other in a sign of deference. The two extreme political leaders greet each other politely yet their words disagree. Overall I feel the suggestion that the artists wonders whether the two polar opposite ideological leaders are that different at all….

5. Votes and violence, W.K Haselden (British Cartoon Archive)

Ellen 7

My last favourite item from the exhibition is a Suffragette cartoon by artist W.K.Haselden from 1909. It suggests that militant suffragette activities was not going to be successful, and that violence could not win the vote. With hindsight, women’s wartime contribution has been argued to be more influential, and I found it interesting how hindsight connected with the past views.

Overall, an intriguing exhibition that I thoroughly recommend you see for yourself on Level 1 of the West Wing of the Templeman Library.

Written by Ellis Spicer, student work placement in Special Collections and Archives.