Holding the Vision: Collecting the Art of the Book in the Industrial North West

Holding the Vision: Collecting the Art of the Book in the Industrial North West, Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery.


Holding the Vision is a collaborative exhibition curated by Dr Cynthia Johnston of the Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London, hosted by Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery and featuring collections from galleries and libraries across Lancashire. Although Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery is now temporarily closed, over the coming days and weeks we will be bringing the museum to you, online. Visit us here or follow us on social media for daily links.

The images in this exhibition all rest between the covers of books, or were designed to do so. They conjure visions from everyday life and extravagant fantasy. While we now admire these books and their art through the glass of a case, most once sat on modest book shelves in ordinary homes. They were read and held in the hands of their owners, pored over by firelight, or as one later recollected, until the candle for the evening had burnt to its end.

These books and illustrations come from collections created during the first half of the twentieth century by men whose lives began towards the close of the Victorian era and end with the Second World War. James Dunn of Blackburn (1857-1943), John Henry Spencer (1875-1952) and Joseph Pomfret (1878-1944) both of Preston, and Edwin James Hardcastle (1876-1920) of Halifax created substantial collections of rare books and illustrations. These collections are held respectively by the Blackburn with Darwen Library and Information Service, the Harris Museum, Art Gallery and Library in Preston and Towneley Hall Museum and Art Gallery in Burnley.

Next time: Holding the Vision: The John Henry Spencer Rare Book Collection



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