It’s a busy time of year in Manchester. The Christmas Fair is in full swing in the increasing number of traffic-free streets in the city centre, its stalls delighting us with prize-winning cheeses from Preston, decorated coffee mugs from the Fire Station in Salford, freshly baked coconut macaroons, and many such earthly delights. In the atrium at the John Rylands Library on Deansgate is more, an exhibition of portraits of recent collaborators and patrons of the library. Portrait of a Living Archive, which runs until 13 January in the New Year, is the work of two of Rylands’ staff photographers, Gwen Jones and James Robinson. This exhibition turns the traditional image of a library as musty shelves and old books on its head, showing instead a few of the people who insure that Rylands continues to develop.
A portrait of Graham is included in the exhibition. Like the others, it aims to show its subject in his working environment. This photo, which perhaps gives a bit too much prominence to our Skipper, was one of the rejected proofs, so we persuaded Jamie to let us have a copy to show here. Although the portrait in the exhibition excludes Skipper, it includes a fair slice the workshop.
Other portraits show bookbinders Dominic Riley and Paul Delrue; Eleanor Crawford and Michael Schmidt of Carcanet Press, Manchester calligrapher Stephen Raw, who designs many of their book covers, and the authors Mary Griffiths and Robyn Marsack. Carcanet’s archive is housed in the Library. Poets Elaine Feinstein and Grevel Lindop, whose archives are also in the Library, are included in the exhibition, as is Vona Groarke. Each of the portraits is accompanied by a short autobiographical statement. Vona, whose archive in the Library is classified as Accession 9, Box 4, offered a poem with that title, which Gwen and James have reproduced to stunning effect high on the atrium wall. It will be published as our twentieth New Year Book early in January.