Mackintosh Library Memories III

A series of posts capturing memories of the Mackintosh Library from academics, researchers and readers.


Rachael Grew
Lecturer, Forum of Critical Inquiry

What is your most abiding memory of the Mackintosh Library?

Ever since starting at GSA in 2012, whenever I found myself on the first floor landing I’d sneak a peak at the Mackintosh Library through the locked doors. My favourite and most lasting memories of the space are those of the tableaux vivants set up by a colleague as an assessment exercise for her students. Seeing the Library with students dressed in fin de siècle attire and studying books from the collection brought out a sense of continuity and purpose that went beyond aesthetics. The Library was a beautiful space, but it was also a beautiful space with a function.

What was your favourite item in the collection?

This is a  really hard question, especially when the collection in question contained editions of Aubrey Beardsley’s journal The Yellow Book! Ultimately though, I think it has to be a tie between an edition of William Morris’ The Defence of Guenevere illustrated by Jessie M King, and Anna Muthesius’ Das Eigenkleid der Frau, with the front cover by Frances Macdonald. I have long been a fan of Frances Macdonald and it’s always exciting to see her work in the flesh. As Frances and her sister Margaret also produced illustrations for an earlier edition of The Defence of Guenevere, King’s versions provide a really useful way of exploring the sheer range of approaches and styles taken by the Glasgow Girls.

How did you make use of the Mackintosh Library in your learning, teaching or research?

I offer a Glasgow Girls event for adult learners at the University of Glasgow, in which they can handle and discuss items held in the Archives and the Library to find out more about the work that the Glasgow Girls produced, and their legacy. In the Library students were treated to book plates by Jessie M. King, needlework instruction manuals by Ann Macbeth, issues of The Studio and The Yellow Book illustrating work by the Macdonald sisters, and so much more. They loved being able to see and touch things, and they were able to enquire about details that they would otherwise have never seen from a picture in a book. Serendipitously, the event took place the month before the fire and I am determined to repeat it, somehow, with the resources left to us. While the Library of course holds a key place in art history, I hope that its true legacy will be found in learning and teaching.


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