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We all have traditions around Christmas time and for many this will include a flaming Christmas pudding triumphantly brought to the dinner table, presented to both family and friends. Not all of us though, like a slice of Christmas pudding to round off our Christmas meal. I have heard it described as ‘the dessert from the depths of hell itself’ and ‘a flaming delight; a feast for the eyes and mouth.’ Both descriptions reminded me of a quote from Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol and made me wonder about the origins of the Christmas pudding.
If we were able to return to Victorian London and head down to the banks of the Thames at low tide, we could observe silent human figures aged from childhood upwards, bent over, wading (sometimes waist-high) in the wet mud. Their ragged clothes and limbs would be coated in the foul-smelling mud which included all manner of detritus, but it was within the mud and sewers that they searched for the modest riches which had been thrown away, dropped or lost overboard from the vessels moored on the Thames. These bent, bedraggled figures of humanity were the mudlarks, scavengers in London’s river and sewers who scratched a living by selling the articles they found.
One of my recent cataloguing projects has been a collection of business records relating to Sir William Fraser, principal managing owner of several vessels in the service of the East India Company at the time of the Napoleonic Wars. The catalogued items all have the prefix FRS in the Archive Catalogue.
Edward Thatch had built up a fearsome reputation as the most notorious pirate of the early 18th Century. Never heard of him? If you had lived in His Majesty’s colony of Virginia in 1718 you certainly would have.
Within the Caird Library’s collection of rare books is the personal library of the seventh Astronomer Royal, Sir George Biddell Airy. It features a plethora of scientific and astronomical research, as well as some of the Library’s most historically significant works such as Copernicus’s influential De revolutionibus orbium coelestium and Flamsteed’s controversial Historiae coelestis, which was published without his consent.
On the run up to Halloween most of us like to sit around and tell each other ghost stories, so here are two from one of our books in the library “The Phantom Ship” by R. L. Hadfield published 1937 (RMG ID: PBB4629), that hopefully leave you with icy fingers crawling up your spine.
October’s Item of the Month looks at a practical astronomical work written by the husband and wife team of Walter and Annie Maunder. The Maunders worked in the Solar Department of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich in the early 1890s.
The Caird Library’s display case has a new display featuring items which tell the story of early steam vessels.
Malta, rich in history, is visited by millions of tourists every year, myself included. Famous for its home of the Knights of Saint John, records of Malta’s history can be found as far back as the Neolithic period. No matter where you turn on the island you run into a historical building. One such building often mentioned in the manuscripts is Fort St Angelo.
When browsing the shelves in the library you occasionally come across a title or name that makes you want to investigate further. One such title that stood out for me was an account of the unusually named Captain William Death and his final voyage as commander of the Terrible privateer operating from London during the Seven Years War.