Valuable prints uncovered in John Rylands

Hot property unearthed at the fancier Deansgate version of JRUL

It’s no surprise that John Ryland’s library is brimming with old, dusty things.

But now, library boffins have discovered a very valuable collection of Renaissance prints in Manchester Uni’s Deansgate based library.

The impressive collection has been looming in the basement of the gothic building for over a century. And now, the mesmerizing collection of 2,500 prints including works by artists such as Hans Burgkmair the Elder and the infamous artist Albrecht Durer have been unearthed in the John Rylands archives.

They’ve been collecting dust for years, but staff member Stella Halkyard only stumbled upon the treasure last week. She was quick to tell Dr Edward Wouk, art historian and lecturer at Manchester University – whose ‘jaw dropped’ once hearing the ‘incredible’ news.

The collection was originally purchased in an auction in 1906 for £742 by library founder Enriqueta Ryalnds. The Rylands collection included etchings, woodcuts and engravings, all mounted on cards and assembled in the 19th century by a Pole named Hiero von Holtorp. The collection is made up of prints, which originally involved an artist creating an image onto a stone, block, screen or plate from which the final print is created.

Wouk has jumped at the opportunity to incorporate the new discovery into his teaching programme – and along with his students and Stella has created an exhibition of the works that draws focus on works which convey the rise of printmaking in Europe.

A carefully selected eight of the prints from the unearthed collection -one being the only of its kind on display in the world- will be used in this exhibition where library staff, students and professors have come together to emphasize the integrity of prints in regards to art history.

Dr Wouk said: “Some people underestimate their importance, but, as our exhibition suggests, prints helped to construct artistic identity in the early modern period.”

Dr Edward Wouk. (Photo MEN)

Naomi Chu, Art History student wrote about one of the prints, Hans Burgkmair the Elder, Venus, Mercury and Cupid, for the exhibitions catalogue and said it was extraordinary to be involved.

She wrote: “Each of us brought new ideas to the exhibition and to see it materialise has been really exciting.”

The fascinating collection will be on display at the library in Deansgate until October 26.