Robert Southey’s ‘Cottonian’ books

Robert Southey’s ‘Cottonian’ books

Contributor: Nicola Lawson

Location: Keswick Museum, Keswick, UK

Description: These books in Keswick Museum’s collection were part of Poet Laureate Robert Southey’s Cottonian Library. The library is known for its fabric overcovers, which Southey’s daughters and their friends created, and the name ‘Cottonian’ – coined by the family as a pun on the fabric used and Sir Robert Cotton’s famous book collection – is how we now identify pieces from this library. Fabric and sewing have been traditionally associated with women, and the re-covering of books in recycled dress fabric is a perfect metaphor for how the women of Greta Hall subverted the dichotomy of public and private spheres.

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Le Temple de la Nature, Chamonix

Image of a stone building - Temple de la Nature

Contributor: Patrick Vincent

Location: Montenvers, Chamonix, France

Description: Built in 1795 as a refuge for travellers visiting the Mer de Glace, the Temple de la Nature immediately became a popular tourist attraction and one of European Romanticism’s most recognizable landmarks. It normally took travellers two and half hours by mule to ascend from Chamonix to the Montanvers meadow, located 1915 meters above sea-level. Accompanied by guides and porters, they often rested half-way at Claudine’s fountain, named after the heroine of Jean-Pierre Claris de Florian’s Claudine, nouvelle savoyarde (1793), before braving a ravine infamous for its avalanches. At the refuge, they were welcomed by a resident shepherd and could take refreshments, including milk mixed with kirsch, or purchase crystals, stone paper weights, and other curiosities. The most popular activity, however, was looking through the visitor book, leaving one’s own name with comments, but also copying the choicest inscriptions. A visit to the Temple de la Nature thus enabled ordinary tourists and celebrities alike to admire one of the Alps’ most spectacular glaciers in the last years of the Little Ice Age, while also participating in the period’s vibrant album culture and contributing through it to a transEuropean tourist sensibility.

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