Page 14 - February2017
P. 14

The Griffi  n Parcels                   labels indicate the title of each work and
                                             sometimes the page range, as many books
            tacked in neat piles, on some 35 feet   have multiple parcels associated with
            of shelving at St Bride Library, are   them. Griffi  n transferred the packages to
       Sthe Griffi  n Parcels. Each is wrapped   St Bride, along with their paper archives,
       in thick brown paper, grimy, fragile with   45 years ago. Six albums of block proofs,
       age, and tied with hairy string in neat   day books, account ledgers and a huge fi le
       bows. At the end of each intriguing bundle   of correspondence and author contracts
       a simple label has been glued into place,   were deposited at the same time.
       with notation in a rather more casual style    Charles Griffi  n and Co. was established
       than that favoured by 19th century    in 1852 after Charles, the nephew of John
       offi  ce clerks and accountants,                Joseph Griffi  n, took over the
       but of the same vintage                           publishing side of the
       nonetheless. There                                   family company. Prior
       are 165 of these                                       to this acquisition,
       packages, some                                          the business ran
       dating from                                               as a partnership,
       1860, but only                                             also providing
       a handful have                                             chemical
       ever been                                                   apparatus for
       unwrapped,                                                  the science
       despite                                                     industry.
       being at the                                                The scientifi c
       library since                                               side of the
       1972. The                                                   business was
       temptation                                                 continued by
       to tear away                                               his uncle under
       the wrappings                                             the name J. J.
       and examine                                             Griffi  n & Sons.
       the contents is                                           Some Griffi  n
       hard to resist, but an                               books are also held
       important aspect of this                          at St Bride. One of their
       process cannot be overlooked –                best-known publications is
       conservation.                         Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and
         The mystery parcels contain mid-19th   the London Poor lavishly illustrated with
       century boxwood engravings, and a small   full-page engravings of those who eked
       number of other illustration blocks from   out their meagre living on the capital’s
       later decades, which were produced by   thoroughfares as beggars, crossing-
       the new-fangled photographic processes   sweepers, bun vendors and prostitutes.
       then emerging. The blocks were all    The original boxwood engravings for all
       used to illustrate books published by   four volumes of Mayhew’s work are held
       Charles Griffi  n & Co, and the package   at St Bride. The illustrations for the book
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