Satan’s mistress

SouthcottSatan’s mistress is certainly a title to grab your attention, and includes plenty of strange facts about the life of 18th century fanatic and prophet Joanna Southcott.  The blurb on the back of the book is equally sensational:

“Joanna Southcott’s yearning to make her mark in the world was so strong that she inadvertently sold her soul to the Devil.  She would rather have given it to Jesus, but the Devil persuaded her that the voices she heard were from God.  It was only on her death-bed that she realised she was not the Bride of Christ at all, but the mistress of Satan.”

A sparsely educated daughter from a farming farming Joanna grew up to be a widely influential prophet who in her mid sixties claimed to be pregnant by immaculate conception, and that her son Shiloh would be born on Christmas day.  In fact she died on 27th December, unsurprisingly without giving birth.  Even today there is a sect of believers called the Panacea Society who are waiting for the spirit of Shiloh to manifest.

Val Lewis leads us through Joanna’s life, and explores what may have happened to the sealed Box of Prophecies, which was only to have been opened by 24 Church of England Bishops.

An extraordinary story about a woman who had 14,000 followers and a cult that still survives today.

Lewis, Val (1997) Satan’s mistress. Shepperton: Nauticalia.
ISBN: 0953045803
Classmark: BF1815.S6.L3 (ASSL)

The Severn Tsunami?


By a happy coincidence – or is it just good timing, given the weather we have been having? – a new book on the floods of 1607 was recently ordered just as our colleague cataloguing Cardiff’s rare books was discovering a contemporary pamphlet about the same event. The Severn Tsunami? The story of Britain’s greatest natural disaster has been written by Mike Hall, a retired geography teacher, and it claims to be the first comprehensive account of the flood of 30 January 1607, which modern science now suggests may have been a tsunami.  It was a catastrophic event: a huge wave swept up the River Severn and flooded the land on both sides, killing many people and sweeping whole settlements away. The book is written in a fairly informal style, appealing to a general readership rather than a strictly academic one, but it nevertheless examines the sources thoroughly, drawing on several contemporary accounts. The pamphlet which we hold in our Special Collections is not directly quoted, although some of the same material and a similar illustration from  other sources are used. You can read about our seventeenth century pamphlet over on our Special Collections blog here, and if that has whetted your appetite you can borrow the modern book from the Salisbury Collection on the third floor of the Arts and Social Studies Library.

Detail from the woodcut on our 1607 pamphlet, "A true report of certaine wonderfull overflowings of water" in the Cardiff Rare Books collection in SCOLAR

Detail from the woodcut on our 1607 pamphlet, “A true report of certaine wonderfull overflowings of water” in the Cardiff Rare Books collection in SCOLAR

Hall, Mike (2013) The Severn tsunami? The story of Britain’s greatest natural disaster
Stroud: The History Press
Classmark: Celt GB1399.5.G7.H2 (ASSL Salisbury Collection)

Slang and swearing: what language do you use?

SwearTwo entertaining books on language have been added to the library recently, one about swearing and the other about slang.  Melissa Mohr’s Holy Sh*t looks at the history of swearing – both obscenities and oaths, from the ‘big ten’ worst Latin words in Ancient Rome up to the ‘big six’ worst English words today, lists that fluctuate depending on culture and society.  In between we visit the Bible, look at the Middle Ages when English was the minority language in England next to Latin and Norman French, discuss ‘equivocation’ during the Renaissance, and the euphemisms of the 18th and 19th centuries, and end up in the modern world wondering as taboos change what the swear words of the future will be, and whether we are swearing more now than we did in the past.

slangIn The life of slang by Julie Coleman we learn just what slang is, how it developed throughout the English speaking world, and how it continues to flourish.  She explains that “Slang is an attitude…expressed in words.  Any word habitually used with one of these slangy attitudes retains the association, but the association wears off when the word is used by people who don’t share or are only pretending to share the attitude. When a group of people are stereotyped by their attitude, outsiders will find signs of it even where it isn’t being expressed.” (p.306).

Coleman also discusses swear words in the context of slang, which aren’t necessarily the same things.

Both these books will probably teach you several new words, whether you can use them in polite company is another matter.

Mohr, Melissa (2013) Holy sh*t. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
ISBN: 9780199742677
Classmark: PE3724.S85.M6 (ASSL)

Coleman, Julie (2012) The life of slang. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
ISBN: 9780199571994
Classmark: PE3711.C6 (ASSL)

Titles from Cardiff authors

Over summer the library added several books to its collections that were written, or contributed to, by Cardiff authors, here is a selection:

PlotTarbatt, Jonathan (2012) The plot : designing diversity in the built environment : a manual for architects and urban designers. London: RIBA Publishing.
ISBN: 9781859464434
Classmark: 724.7 PLO (Bute (ARCHI)

Jonathan Tarbatt is a former Cardiff University student who is now a practicing architect.  This books is a professional manual for making more sustainable places.



BelongingHurdley, Rachel (2013) Home, materiality, memory and belonging : keeping culture. Basingstoke:  Palgrave Macmillan.
ISBN: 9780230230286
Classmark: HM753.H8 (Bute (SOCSI)

Rachel Hurdley is a Research Fellow in the College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences whose research focuses on everyday relations between people, things, space and time.



channelsOviedo-Orta, Ernesto, Kwak, Brenda R. & Evans, W. Howard (2013, eds.) Connexin cell communication channels : roles in the immune system and immunopathology. London: CRC Press.
ISBN: 9781439862575
Classmark: 571.96364 CON (Health)

W. Howard Evans is the Professor of Medical Biochemistry in the Institute of Infection & Immunity, Cardiff University.



ByzantiTougher, Shaun.  Bearding Byzantium : Masculinity, Eunuchs and the Byzantine Life Course In, Neil, Bronwen & Garland, Lynda (2013, eds.) Questions of gender in Byzantine society. Farnham: Ashgate.
ISBN: 9781409447795
Classmark: HQ1075.5.B97.Q8 (ASSL)

Shaun Tougher is the Senior Lecturer in Ancient History in the School of History, Archaeology and Religion, and the co-director of the Centre for Late Antique Religion and Cutlure at Cardiff.



lawEgede, Edwin & Sutch, Peter (2013) The politics of international law and international justice. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
ISBN: 9780748634729
Classmark: JC578.E4 (ASSL)

Edwin Egede is a Senior Lecturer in International Law and International Relations at Cardiff, and Peter Sutch is the Professor of Political and International Theory at Cardiff.

Modernity and reproduction: seductive motorcars, rebellious robots and friendly trees

ModernityWhat does the organization “Men of trees” and the woman who campaigned for birth control, Marie Stopes, have in common?  Perhaps surprisingly the answer is the eugenicist Reginald Ruggles Gate, who was the first husband of Stopes and a member of this tree planting society.   It was this fact that first provided the spark for author Angus McLaren to set off on a journey looking into sexuality and modernity.

Looking at popular literature, films, and public debate from the 1920s and 1930s, alongside the work of biologists and psychiatrists, McLaren discusses the way the mechanistic ideas of modernity were turned to ideas of sexuality and reproduction, and the conversations and discussions that ensued.

“While American science-fiction writers were obsessed with extraterrestrials, rocket ships, and death rays, the British were hypnotized by the possibilities and pitfalls of harnessing biological change.” p. 5 (Introduction)

We are shown how man’s relationship with the environment and ecological issues became intrinsically intertwined with that of eugenics and modernity.

“A large and eccentric cast of characters including seductive motorcars, rebellious robots, friendly trees, and timorous test-tube babies populate this brief study.  Its goal is to better understand why in a remarkably short space of time modernizers (of a variety of stripes) succeeded in advancing the arguments that the protean forces of sex and reproduction had to be subjected to planning and control. They, of course, did not win the debate – it is still going on.” p 6 (Introduction)

McLaren, Angus (2012) Reproduction by design: sex, robots, trees, and test-tube babies in interwar Britain.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
ISBN: 9780226560694
Classmark: PR478.F87.M2 (ASSL)

Death and humans

DeathWhen you pick up a book and it has chapter headings such as “The edible dead”, “An unexpected vampire” and “A skeleton illuminated by lightning” you can pretty much surmise you are not going to be in for a dry reading experience.  The buried soul: how humans invented death by Timothy Taylor (who also wrote The Prehistory of sex) is a scholarly yet entertaining adventure through the archaeology of death and how we humans have regarded it and interacted with it throughout our time on earth.

“When did humankind become intelligent enough to formulate the idea of the soul? Tim Taylor’s search for an answer combine cutting-edge science, personal insight and scholarship, and spans the entire period from our prehistoric evolution to the present.  It is an extraordinary journey through vampirism, cannibalism, near-death experiences, modern-day human sacrifice and mummification.” note the publishers on the back cover.

With plenty of interesting stories and examples we learn how differently death has been, and is, regarded by different societies and individuals. Even just dipping your toe into this book will probably also make you think about your own attitude to death.

Taylor, Timothy (2002) The buried soul: how humans invented death. London: Harper Collins.
ISBN: 9780007291472
Classmark: GT3150.T2 (ASSL)

Blasphemous art – shocking or thought provoking?

A thought provoking and interesting book that crossed my desk this week was ‘Blasphemy: art that offends‘ by S. Brent Plate.

Art, historically, has often been the cause of controversy. Works considered blasphemous were destroyed or banned, those viewed as obscene and not to public taste, banished.

The author of this book considers the religious-political divide and arts’ relationship to authority, covering issues such as censorship and freedom of expression, citing that ‘The boundary between artistic freedom and incitement is becoming ever more blurred…’ 

‘Myra’ by Marcus Harvey

Included in the book are works from 14th century Islamic calligraphy to Theo Van Gogh’s ‘Submission’ and more modern art works such as Marcus Harvey’s ‘Myra’ illustrated below.

Plate, S. Brent (2006) Blasphemy : art that offends
London: Black Dog
ISBN: 9781904772538
Classmark: Folio N72.R4.P5 (ASSL)