First Aid for Books!

Many of our books here at The Portico Library are very old and well loved, so are often not in the best condition. Luckily we have had Tim Higson, who has a wealth of experience in book conservation, volunteering here at The Portico. He has been taking care of some of our books that are in need of repair, such as The Republic of Letters by Alexander Whitelaw. As the pictures show, these books were in poor condition and needed several minor repairs, which were carried out by Tim.

The leather on the books was very fragile and peeling away.

The leather on the books was very fragile and peeling away.

This picture shows the damage to the spine of one of the books.

This picture shows the damage to the spine of one of the books.

First each book had a surface clean to remove any dirt and dust. Other work carried out included stabilising the leather on the books using a leather consolidant and doing some marbled paper repairs using wheat starch paste. Small weights were used to help weigh down the leather and marbled paper while the adhesive dried and one book even needed a bandage to help with its recovery!

Small weights on one of the repaired books.

Small weights on one of the repaired books.

A member of staff assisting Tim with his repairs

A member of staff assisting Tim with his repairs

The bandaged book.

The bandaged book.

The pictures below show the condition of the books after the repairs. As you can see they look much better and are now sitting on the shelf, waiting to be read!

The repaired books.

The repaired books.


'Breathing Spaces': St Luke's Art Project tour of The Portico Library

St Luke's Art Project is a community-based open studio for people experiencing any form of mental health problems and emotional distress - including just having a bad day! They recently came to visit us for a tour of the library and a look at some of our books. Rae Story from the group said that ‘Everybody appreciated the peace and quiet in this special place, and we felt very welcome and comfortable in the space. I think this will turn out to be a very unique breathing space for us all.’

Read more about their visit here:


Annual General Meeting 2019 documents

In preparation for The Portico Library and Newsroom’s Annual General Meeting on 28 March 2019, downloadable copies of the 2018 Annual Report & Accounts are available below, as well as proposed revisions to the Articles of Association and Rules & Regulations.

EVENT: Fancy Pants Fancy Party

Lindsey Mendick, Fancy Pants, The Portico Library, 2019.jpg

In 1836 newspapers across Britain reported a “Grand Fancy Ball” held at The Portico Library. Now all you fancy people are invited to create and wear your own wild and wonderful costumes to the closing party of the Portico’s current exhibition Fancy Pants. There will be a dance performance by House of Ghetto in exhibitor Ruby Kirby’s wearable artworks and a prize for the best dressed guest will be judged and presented by the artists.

The event will take place on Friday 22nd March from 7pm-9pm, first at The Portico Library and later downstairs at The Bank Pub.

Book your tickets here:

EVENT: A Crafternoon of Wearable Art with Ruby Kirby

Come and create exciting wearable art pieces using your pre-loved items. Artist Ruby Kirby will help you to re-invent them into new wild creations using a variety of other recycled odds and ends. The more bonkers the better! This event accompanies The Portico Library's current exhibition 'Fancy Pants', looking at dress and costume’s historic and contemporary relationships with ritual, play, morality and resistance.

Saturday 16th March, 12pm.

Book Online here:

Crafternoon with Ruby Kirby.jpg

Saturday Selection: International Women's Day

Saturday Selection: We’re observing International Women’s Day (Friday 8th March) with books from some very eminent 19th Century women. They include the activist Millicent Fawcett (1847-1929), novelist George Eliot (1819-1880), novelist Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865) and social reformer Josephine Butler (1828-1906).

Gaskell’s connections with the Portico Library are well-documented; her husband, Reverend William Gaskell, was the Portico’s chairman from 1849 to 1884, the period in which Elizabeth wrote four of her five full-length novels (as well as countless novellas and short stories). At that time, library membership was limited to those who owned property, thus disqualifying married women. Based on the library’s records, it’s believed that William borrowed several books that Elizabeth used as research material for her own writing.

women's day books.jpg

EVENT: Tales of Manchester's Graveyards


In this talk we will delve into the subject of Manchester’s numerous burial sites. Many morbid and bizarre stories emerge as soon as you start digging! Manchester’s body snatchers or ‘resurrectionists’ turned a trade providing corpses to anatomy schools, sometimes relying on criminal methods when legal supply fell short of demand. Other stories tell of a headless corpse and the Manchester mummy!

Steve Little is an historian, local explorer and member of The Portico, who will exhume some of these forgotten stories.

Book online here:…

EVENT: Bookbinding workshop

In this one day workshop you will work with an experienced local bookbinder, Barry Clark, to create four books: two simple no sew / no glue booklets, and two more substantial books, all in the concertina or accordion style. All materials and tools will be provided, but we will be using glue so please wear old clothes or bring a protective apron. The fee includes the cost of materials, tea/coffee on arrival and a light lunch.


This workshop is limited to 12 participants so early booking is advised.

To secure your space book online here:…

International Contemporary Artist's Book Fair


We'll be showcasing highlights from The Portico Library's artist residencies and exhibitions programme at the 22nd International Contemporary Artists' Book Fair this weekend at the The Tetley in Leeds. Visit our stand from 11am on Saturday and Sunday to learn about our research collection, public programme and contributing artists while enjoying free performances, workshops and hundreds of artists' books…/22nd-international-contemporary…

Saturday Selection: the Oscars

Saturday Selection: With the Oscars just around the corner, we celebrate the heavyweight of 18th Century acting, David Garrick (1717-1779). One of the many buildings named in Garrick’s honour was The Garrick's Head pub, which stood for over 170 years on Manchester’s Fountain Street. The pub was originally situated next to the original Theatre Royal, which stood diagonally opposite the Portico Library, between Charlotte Street and Back Mosley Street. Construction began on the theatre in 1806, the year the Portico Library opened.


Politics, Power and the People

Join us for the final of our three events discussing Politics, Power and the People at The Portico Library. This event's theme will be ‘The High Priest of Liberalism’: John Stuart Mill and On Liberty.

Nineteenth century liberalism has enormous influence in our contemporary politics. Our discourse reflects the ideas summed up in Mill’s little book, On Liberty (1859): freedom of thought and speech (and its limits); individual rights; the role of the state in society; applying rational thought to social problems; and democracy and its limits. But is J.S. Mill’s liberalism relevant in today?

The format is a 1 hour lecture followed by tea, cake and casual discussion.

All of these events have been delivered in partnership between History Inc. and The Portico Library. For more information and to book tickets visit:…

Fancy Pants

Thanks to everyone who came to the launch of 'Fancy Pants' on Thursday evening! The exhibition will now run throughout normal opening hours until Monday 25th March, with A Crafternoon of Wearable Art with Ruby Kirby on Saturday 16th March and our 'Fancy Pants Fancy Party' on Friday 22nd March:

Special thanks to Cut Cloth's Sarah-Joy Ford, Sarah from Impolitikal, Juliet at Marc Theprinters, Rosie and Sarah at Manchester Art Gallery, Darren at Manchester Libraries and our Portico Library volunteers.

Ruby Kirby, Fancy Pants, The Portico Library, 2019.jpg

Fancy Pants exhibition launch

Fancy Pants PREVIEW EVENT poster web.jpg

In 1836, the enormously popular Manchester Music Festival came to a close with a fancy dress ball so grand a temporary structure was built to connect The Portico Library with the nearby Assembly Rooms and Theatre Royal. Though tickets to the celebration were expensive, the event attracted around 5,000 attendees and was reported in newspapers across the country.
In this exhibition, books from the Library’s collection are presented alongside new artworks that examine how dress and costume’s relationships with gender, class, power and identity have always been complicated. Artists Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou, Ruby Kirby, Lindsey Mendick and Camille Smithwick offer expressive works that explore how dress and costume connect with celebration, ritual and morality. These works are complemented by volumes from the collection including Joseph Strutt’s Complete View of the Dress and Habits of the People of England and Lucy Aikin’s Memoirs of the Court of Queen Elizabeth.

Politics, Power and the People

Continuing our Politics, Power and the People series, we invite you to our lecture and discussion on 'The Monster of Malmesbury': Thomas Hobbes and Leviathan.

Thomas Hobbes, a timid man, sought peace and order in the tumultuous seventeenth century. Strong government was his answer: to ‘hold every man in awe of it’. Otherwise violence, chaos predominates ‘… and the life of Man would be solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short’. The author of Leviathan (1651) was vilified in his own time and neglected in ours. Why?

The format is a 1 hour lecture followed by tea, cake and casual discussion.

For more information on our Politics, Power and the People series, and to buy tickets, please visit:…

B 1  Thomas Hobbes National Portrait Gallery.jpg