From time to time, you might see a book in the catalogue listed as Stack. These are books which are housed behind the scenes in the Central Library - items that the Library definitely wants to keep, but for some reason (e.g. older condition, or not in as high demand) the open shelf is not the right place for them. Most can be borrowed.
Please ask at the enquiries counter on the Second Floor and staff will be happy to retrieve them.
This webpage will highlight some of these nearly forgotten treasures - note that the author's selections and recommendations of these golden oldies are entirely idiosyncratic!
Last updated 6 March, 2003
Love among the butterflies, by Margaret Fountaine.
In November 1940, 22,000 butterflies were delivered to the Castle Museum at Norwich, bequeathed by spinster Margaret Fountaine, whose girlhood was spent in the city. There was only one condition - with the butterflies, the Museum must accept a black metal box, wrapped, locked and sealed, and the box must not be opened until 15 April 1978. When the time came and the seals were opened, the box was found to contain 12 diaries - more than a million words of handwriting, along with photographs, drawings, postcards and pressed flowers. It was a record of 60 years of her life. Her early years were spent conventionally, but following rejection by the love of her life, took her broken heart and a butterfly net on her travels - from Turkey to Tibet. But it was not only butterflies she captured, and did not want for travelling companions - including a 28 year voyage of adventure with a Syrian dragoman.
The flame trees of Thika, by Elspeth Huxley. (1959)
Through Elspeth Huxley's marvelous gift for description, early twentieth-century Kenya comes alive with all the excitement and naive insight of a child who watches with eyes wide open as coffee trees are planted, buffaloes are skinned, pythons are disemboweled, and cultures collide with all the grace of runaway trains. With a free-wheeling imagination and a dry wit, she describes the interactions of Kikuyus, Masais, Dutch Boers, Brits and Scots, mixing rapid-fire descriptions with philosophical musings. (From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Erica Bauermeister.)
Eleanor Marx, by Yvonne Kapp. (2 vol.) (1972)
Eleanor (Tussy) was the youngest of three surviving Marx children. Yvonne Kapp, in this highly acclaimed biography, brilliantly succeeds in capturing Eleanor's spirit, earning her living as a free intellectual, and helping to lead England's unskilled workers at the height of the new unionism; being always more than, yet at the same time inescapably, Marx's daughter. This is a different perspective on the Marx household in Victorian London, of the Marx circle, and especially of Frederick Engels, the family's extraordinary mentor.
The life of Joan of Arc, by Anatole France, translated by Winifred Stephens. (1908) (2 vol.)
Anatole is an unashamed devotee. Page 73 of the introduction indicates "I have written this history with a zeal ardent and tranquil; I have sought truth strenuously, I have met her fearlessly." Nevertheless the picture he paints has been researched in some detail from historical documents (especially the Trial), all acknowledged and footnoted, representing a serious attempt to separate truth from legend. A highly readable account of this remarkable woman.
Mrs Beeton and her husband, by Nancy Spain. (1948)
This is a personal insight into the home and family life of one of Victorian England's household names, by her great niece. Born in 1836, she died at a relatively young age of 29. So if your image was of a matriarch, putting one's kitchen to rights in an imposing way, (who may, if she were alive today, flood our screens with the right way to peel a mushroom) this book will lay that image to rest. Her enthusiasm and energy as a young woman drew its critics - "Cookery is a Science that is only learned by Long Experience and years of Study, which, of course, you have not had... " (Mrs English to Isabella Beeton, July 1857). Cookery books were few and far between, and Beeton's Book of Household Management filled a real need for women of the rising middle class.
Lucrezia Borgia : a biography, by Rachel Erlanger.(1978).
The very word Borgia seems to epitomise corruption, decadance, and debauchery. Lucrezia's father Pope Alexander VI (yes, you read that right) could hardly be described as a saint himself. Erlanger looks wider than just Lucrezia's life. The reader learns how Lucrezia would have lived, her daily life, her attitudes towards men and marriage, children, politics and religion. In this respect it is as much social history as it is biography. "Erlanger does Lucrezia justice by viewing the problems she faced and victories won in the context of when she lived". (jacket)
Queen Alexandra - a study in royalty, by W.R.H. Trowbridge. (1921).
In 1844, a young Danish princess was born, taking the name of her godmother. At the time of her birth, her father little dreamt that one day he would be King of Denmark. In 1858, The Times in London carried an article headed "The Prince of Wales and his Destined Bride" where the virtues of no less than 7 women were aired. It concluded "Without venturing on prophecy, we are disposed to think that number 5 will be considered the most eligible lady". These were prophetic words indeed as number 5 was Alexandra, who became the Princess of Wales. Much has been made of Edward's long time as "monarch-in-waiting". This book's view of the same years of Victoria's long reign presents a different perspective.
Edwina : Countess Mountbatten, Richard Hough. (1983)
One half of a fascinating duo whose contribution to "the Empire", and war and peace, was significant. Both had strong German roots (Edwina's grandfather was a Jew of relatively humble origins who decided life in England would be better). But it was of Edwina that one wartime American general remarked "So goddam bright it scares you".
Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, edited by Betty Bennett. (1980) 3 vol.
Mary Shelley, daughter of the philosopher idealist William Godwin and the free-thinking feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, and wife of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, was a remarkable woman in her own right. A month before her seventeenth birthday, she committed the scandalous act of eloping with the then-married Shelley, she wrote the thriller Frankenstein , and after Shelley's death generated a literary outpouring of novels, stories, travel books, essays and letters. Each of the letters here has been transcribed from manuscript, and Bennett has also included excellent information on Mary Shelley's life and career - including the many themes that run through her letters. (drawn from book cover).