Background - Cubbon's Bibliography

Any Manx Bibliography must acknowledge an enormous debt to that created between 1933 and 1939 by W. Cubbon - first librarian of the Manx Museum. This two volume, 1500+ page, Bibliography of works relating to the Isle of Man could be described as the then card index of the Manx National Library, to which was added a few special bibliographies of major personalities (e.g. Bishop Wilson, T.E.Brown, Hall Caine ...) plus a detailed history of Manx Newspapers, their editors and proprietors, other Mann-based publishers and paper manufacturers.

This card index comprised references to Monographs (i.e. books not published as part of a series); indexes to most major serial publications connected with the Island (e.g. Mannin, Manx Note Book ...) together with references to articles within non-Mann based publications. Little of relevance was missed in this index thanks to the acquistion by the Museum in 1924 of the collection of G.W.Wood who, whilst living in London, had amassed an, as yet unsurpassed, collection of Manx related material.

Cubbon was not a trained librarian, his initial career had been in printing and journalism. He was foreman and acting editor of the Examiner from 1889, before, in 1900, becoming the last editor of the Manx Sun until it was bought out by the IoM Times in 1906. He then became librarian of the Douglas Public Library where he introduced open access to the shelves - to allow this he had adopted a classification and shelving scheme based on the 1897 Brown scheme. When in 1922, at the age of 57, he became librarian of the newly opened Manx Museum he took this classification scheme with him and used it as the basis of the card index and thus of the Bibliography.

A small point is that the title page was as given above, but on the spine the title was "Bibliography of the Literature of the Isle of Man" - a less accurate descriptor.

The first volume (topics A-G) was published in 1933 - Cubbon was then 68, in the previous year on the death of P.M.C. Kermode in 1932 had been appointed Director of the Manx Museum. By July1934 a portion of volume II upto section J10 (p956) was complete and some copies (possibly just two ?) were bound and entitled "the Bibliography of Manx Literature Vol II First Section" - in my copy (probably Cubbon's own) he notes in pencil that one of these specially bound volumes was presented to the Lt Governor on his visit in September 1934. In a tipped in copy of a memorandum, dated 6th Oct 1934, Cubbon states that he has not been able to do any further work on publication since July and that when the Kermode Gallery was ready his time would be fully expended in setting up those galleries. He states "no one is more anxious than I to bring this work to an early conclusion". He adds "According to a rough estimate there will be about 200 pages yet to prepare, including Maps, Plans and Prints." This was a significant underestimate - another 500 pages were added and the intended sections on Maps, Plans and Prints (and Photographs) never appeared though he states at the end of Volume I that a list of several hundred portraits had been prepared but omitted as felt to be incomplete.

The sheets forming the Bibliography were printed by the Victoria Press, Douglas - it would appear that after the initial run of books had been bound (these were bound in plain dark blue cloth) the Museum kept the unbound sheets (of which it is still rumoured to hold a considerable stock) and later volumes were bound when ordered (at 10/6 a copy!) - these were in a similar binding, about 5mm taller, but with "Manx Museum Library" on the spine. The Bib has been out of print now for more than 25 years - current price on the second hand market is generally around £150 or more for the set.

 Manx Note Book  


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
© F.Coakley , 2001