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19th century engraving of the effects of laughing gas

A Dream of Fairyland: Conversazioni ... and more

Writer Horace Walpole is credited with the first English use of conversazione in a 1739 letter in which he writes, "After the play we were introduced to the assembly, which they call the conversazione." As this Italian borrowing was used through the years, it gained nuances of meaning and in England by the 19th century, conversazione also referred to assemblies and soirees of people connected with the arts or sciences. And at the Lit & Phil they lead they led to other things...

Portrait of Charles Hutton

Pit to Pi: The Life of Charles Hutton

The Lit & Phil has had many remarkable members in its 200 year history. Some are well known, such as Stephenson and Swan; in a new blog Chris Jackson of Heaton History Group has written about Charles Hutton who deserves to be much better known. Born in Newcastle, briefly a miner then a teacher, he became a hugely important mathematician and surveyor. 

Sandhill, Newcaslte

Katy's Coffee House

Coffee houses were hugely important meeting places in the 18th century, including here in Newcastle. One such was Katy's on Newcastle's Quayside. Lit&Phil volunteer Susan Lynn tells its fascinating story.

Photo of crocuses

Account of some Experiments on the Root of Crocus Vernus

In its early days, the Lit&Phil held monthly meetings at which members delivered papers. Hand written transcripts of many of those papers are held in four large volumes at the library. The topics were very wide ranging from "common manure" to "iron in Sweden" to "hats". Many are too long to publish here, but over the coming months there will be a small selection, starting with making flour from crocus bulbs! 

Photo of Charles Baudelaire

Baudelaire, Dante and Keats

2021 is an anniversary year for Dante, Keats and Baudelaire. Perhaps, therefore, 2021 is a good year to find connections, and it’s always good to connect everything to the North East, and in particular our Pre-Raphaelite heritage.  

Ball of twine

Reading on string

The Braille alphabet is probably the most common and best know of many alphabets that have been created to enable the blind to read by touch. In one of the hundreds of volumes of Tracts (random printed papers) at the Lit & Phil there is an account of a string alphabet - and a puzzle to go with it!

Portrait of Lord Armstrong

Lord Armstrong : his science and his legacy

Baron Armstrong was a 19th century English engineer and industrialist and a prominent inventor, scientist and philanthropist and president of the Lit & Phil for forty years. He founded the Armstrong Whitworth manufacturing concern on Tyneside employing many thousands.

Brown is the new white

A light in our darkness or a candle in the wind?

Alan Beale examines the Latin origins of whiteness.

Head of Irtyru

Irtyru – Newcastle’s second mummy

The Lit & Phil was the host to two Egyptian mummies. The second, Irtyru was extensively and rather gruesomely examined by three doctors in the prescence of members of the Lit & Phil. Anthea Lang tells the story of its unwrapping.

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