Inside the Parkinson Building – the white building with the clock tower on Woodhouse Lane – there is a small gallery which houses a number of rare and special manuscripts, notes and maps.
The Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery opened earlier this year and is home to a variety of interesting items. According to the website, “Amongst these treasures is a rare copy of the first folio containing the plays of William Shakespeare. Other gems include a Tudor cookery book printed in the time of Elizabeth I and a map and compass used by the first prisoner to escape back to Britain from Germany in the First World War.”
Although not much of a history buff, I love old books so was really looking forward to visiting the gallery. It’s open to the public, free to enter and on Tuesdays they have a drop-in session from 1.15pm to 1.45pm. This is when you can see some of the special collection items up close and ask questions about the authors. As I work at the University, it’s really easy for me to pop in, although unfortunately I often have something on Tuesday lunch times so have only been able to go a few times so far.
Each week focuses on a specific theme or artefact. For example, there have been letters/notes/books from Charlotte Brontë (tying in with her 200th birthday), Melvyn Bragg, and to mark the Somme Centenary.
The first time I went was part of the University’s Be Curious festival. There were a number of medical books and manuscripts out on display. There was one particularly large and impressive book, which I’m afraid I can’t remember what it was called or who it was by, but if I could, I’m sure my medical friends would go “oooh!”. I remember thinking how nice it was that the book wasn’t behind a glass cabinet and you could actually see it up close.
I also went to a drop-in session on JRR Tolkien, who had been a professor at the University of Leeds, and got to see letters written by himself. More recently, I went to a Tuesday session on medieval texts which was rather cool. I just love the intricate illustrations and am amazed at how well preserved some of the manuscripts are.
[Susan – if you’re ever up in Yorkshire, I’m going to take you here as you’d love it. There was a bookbinding session on recently so I’m sure there’ll be plenty to interest you!]
There’s only one more Tuesday session left before the summer break, but if you don’t get a chance to go next week, it starts up again in September. They also have other events on throughout the year which are worth checking out.