ISSN 0307-7284
New Series no.47
Michaelmas Term 2000

Edited by Aidan Baker, Kathryn McKee, Sheila Cameron



This edition of CULIB looks at foreign language collections in Cambridge: their history, acquisition and management. Cambridge scholarship has bequeathed us rich resources; our Oriental and western European collections in particular are of national importance. History has been generous; our responsibility now is to maintain and develop, in the light of current academic priorities and international relationships. Setting the scene, Catherine Ansorge writes about the development of the Oriental Studies Faculty Library from its early 20th century beginnings into the rich collection housed in today‘s building on the Sidgwick site. In contrast, Charles Aylmer looks at publishing in China and addresses current bibliographical issues, providing an expert insight into the challenges facing the cataloguer of Chinese in today’s co-operative environment. On the European front, and in an environment where shrinking resources are threatening to undermine or forcing revision of collecting policies, David Lowe describes the challenge faced by German book selectors especially. The very large volume of academic material published in Germany, representing important work in most disciplines and demanding almost unlimited resources, has raised the issue of co-operative acquisition and the suggestion that the British Library and Cambridge University Library join forces to maintain the national German collection, such is the importance of our own holdings in this area.

The UL undertakes to build up research collections on behalf of the University as a whole and bases its policy on teaching and research requirements. In the light of this central policy, Aidan Baker comments on foreign language acquisitions in college and faculty libraries where the funding must be sliced up among many contenders. And if you have ever been a one-man band kind of librarian, or have worked in an establishment that expected its cataloguers to be linguistic polymaths, the name of Charles Allen will probably be familiar to you. Language enthusiast Ray Scrivens describes why Allen’s work is a classic.


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Contributions for the Lent edition of CULIB

The next issue of CULIB will look at libraries and the law. Legislation touches our professional lives and our changing environment in many ways: in the copyright licensing and legal deposit of electronic materials, in employment and human rights issues, health and safety legislation, data protection and censorship. What are the issues that concern you most? All contributions please to Aidan Baker at the Haddon Library by the end of January.


The Library of the Faculty of Oriental Studies has grown, from very modest beginnings in the early years of the twentieth century, to what is now a collection of more than 50,000 volumes about the language, literature and culture of the countries stretching across the center of Asia from Turkey to Japan. The diverse nature of the Library's contents and the varied contacts of those studying oriental subjects have attracted personal collections from scholars, travellers and refugees who have found in the Library a suitable home for their personal book collections.

The study of oriental languages in Cambridge dates back to the early days of the University. The Regius Professorship of Hebrew dates back to 1540 and the Sir Thomas Adams's Professorship of Arabic to 1632. In 1867 the chair of Sanskrit (which was first held by Edward Cowell) was established and there were many other distinguished scholars such as Herbert Giles (Chinese), and William Wright, E.H. Palmer and R.L. Bensly (Arabists). The early Cambridge orientalists were pioneers in their subjects, sometimes colourful characters and often avid book collectors. They worked in their colleges as there was no teaching institute or faculty at that time. It was, however, the scholars of the early years of the twentieth century who were responsible for the growth of the original library collections and a rudimentary teaching institute.

Early records on the origins of the Faculty Library are few and far between and provide only an incomplete picture of its development. However, a library of sorts, which was used for teaching purposes, dates back to the first decade of the twentieth century and grew out of the amalgamation of scholarly collections. Cecil Bendall (1856-1906) who became Professor of Sanskrit, beqeathed part of his personal library, with a grant of £100, to form 'a working library in Cambridge for junior students'. These books were mainly grammars and texts published in Europe but also included was an early edition of Kalidasa's 'Sakuntala' published in London in 1792. The Bendall Sanskrit library, was first housed in Caius which was Bendall's college, later in the Divinity School in St John's Street and then, from 1916, was to be found in the Arts School in Bene't Street, which also housed the early collections of the Seeley Library and the Modern and Medieval Languages Library. The kernel of the Arabic section is formed by the collection of A. A. Bevan who was appointed Lord Almoner's Professor of Arabic in 1893. On his death, his bequest of books relating to Arabic, Syriac and Persian were made available for use as a teaching library. These were added to Bendall's books and this original library dating from the early years of the twentieth century (which covered mainly classical Indian languages, Arabic and related studies) was often referred to, for obvious reasons, as the 'Bevan and Bendall Library'.

The first permanent home of oriental languages in Cambridge was in Downing Place, the narrow lane off Downing Street. In 1935, alterations were made to the Balfour Laboratory, mainly for use as a Music School, but also to a building at the rear for a library of oriental languages. This remained the library's home for many years.

In 1937, books were added from the bequest made by E. J. Rapson (1861-1937) who succeeded Bendall as Professor of Sanskrit and it must also have been about this time that the largest and most valuable of the Library's donations arrived. It belonged to E.G. Browne, the oriental scholar whose interests and expertise covered Turkish, Arabic and Persian and who was Professor of Arabic from 1902 to 1926. He came from a wealthy family and he was a keen collector of books and manuscripts. His manuscripts and the greater part of his book collection were bequeathed to the University Library but several hundred books, which were duplicate copies joined the Bevan and Bendall collections. Many of these volumes were rare and valuable editions, and all of them were neatly autographed often with annotated details of where and how the book was acquired. Some of Browne's books had previously been owned by other interesting individuals. A small number of volumes formerly belonged to Lady Anne Blunt, the granddaughter of Lord Byron, and were bequeathed to Browne by her husband Wilfred Scawen Blunt on his death in 1922.

A further important collection, added to the Library in 1947, included books bequeathed by Sir Herbert Thompson (1859-1944) the Demotic and Coptic scholar, who was also responsible for founding the chair of Egyptology in Cambridge in 1946.

In historical terms the growth of the Library up to 1940 comprises its formative years, with the arrival of all the early collections which form its core. It is difficult at this stage in the library's history to find any solid information about its administration but in 1936, there is a record of the appointment as Librarian of J.D. Pearson, later to become eminent in oriental bibliography and as Librarian of the School of Oriental and African Studies. Possibly this was an advisory post held concurrently with his position in the University Library.

It is interesting to note the lack of any spatial division in the Downing Place library between teaching activity and the library resources. The lectures took place in the rooms which formed the Library; or to put it another way, the lecture rooms had books round the walls which could be referred to in teaching.

The late 1940's were marked also by further gifts to the Library such as a set of 30 valuable volumes transferred to the Library from the Museum of Classical Archaeology. These were books purchased in from the estate of Lt. Col. William Martin Leake (1777-1860). He was a classical topographer and numismatist who was involved in the general survey of Egypt in 1801-2. Among the books in the Leake collection is a copy of Charles Wilkins's translation of the 'Bhagavadgita' published in London in 1785 and a 1636 edition of the 'Arabic Grammar' of Erpenius.

By the late 1940's, the Library consisted of an amalgamation of these personal collections of various sizes and with the addition, from the 1930's, of books purchased to fulfil teaching needs. It is important to understand that these individual collections were not kept separately shelved but added to those with similar subject content already in the Library. The origins of a particular volume can, however, often be traced from a bookplate, dedication, signature or notes. Not surprisingly, the Library had notable gaps (often serious) to the great frustration of those involved in teaching, who often had to rely a good deal on their own private collections.

About this time it became apparent that the building in Downing Place was impossible to expand further, so plans were made to acquire more spacious accommodation. At the beginning of the Lent term 1949, the Library moved to 'Mostyn House', 16 Brooklands Avenue which was officially named the 'Institute of Oriental Studies'. This was a three storey Victorian family house where the Library was arranged so that books in a specific subject area were housed in separate rooms. The rooms were situated on different floors, so that the library collections very difficult to organise, and the resulting security problems a nightmare.

In Cambridge, the development of the study of the languages of East Asia came later than those of the Middle East and India. Chinese first appears in the Tripos lists in 1913 and Japanese was first examined in 1948. In 1946, the University Librarian offered to present to the Library duplicate copies of books from their Chinese collections and the transfer of these was organised by Professor Gustav Haloun (1898-1951). Books to form a Japanese teaching collection were purchased by Eric Ceadel the first lecturer in this subject. Ceadel did much to further the interests of the Library both in terms of developing the Japanese collections and by serving for many years on the Library Committee. In 1967 he became University Librarian but continued to promote the well being of the Institute Library and its collections for many years.

In 1953, Christ's College presented to the Institute, on permanent loan, the collection of Israel Abrahams, a distinguished Rabbinics scholar and fellow of Christ's who died in 1925. The book collection, of around 1200 items, contains many early and valuable European-printed works on various aspects of Hebrew history and scholarship.

Despite the numerous problems encountered during these years, the Library continued to grow, and in 1956, according to a Library Report from the time, the total stock of the Library in Mostyn House had reached 13,340 volumes "excluding those items kept in the Attic and in the Far Eastern Cupboard". What treasures these actually contained can now, unfortunately, only be imagined.

The Egyptology collection in Downing Place was always kept in rooms at the rear of the building separated from the Bevan and Bendall library and these rooms were retained as a home for the Library of Egyptology after the other collections were removed to Mostyn House. At that time this was intended as a temporary measure but in fact the Egyptology collections were separated from the rest of the Library for nearly twenty years. They were moved, in 1966, to the ground-floor room of the Old Press Site, Mill Lane. They were at last reunited with the collections of the Institute Library, on its removal of both collections to the Sidgwick site in 1968.

In 1949, the Library purchased volumes from the collection of Charles Allberry, the Coptic scholar, killed in 1943, having been shot down in action over France. He was a student and later, Fellow, of Christ's and did much to further the study of Coptic in Cambridge. The manuscripts with the collection were associated with his publications and included those of his unfinished Coptic dictionary.

Sir Alan Gardiner (1879-1963) was a privately funded Egyptologist with a varied career and author of the Egyptian Grammar which remains the basic textbook for Egyptian language teaching. Gardiner's book collection of some 600 items was bequeathed to the Library; it contained many valuable items, including a complete set of the Description d'Egypte, a complete set of the Denkmaler by Richard Lepsius, the distinguished German Egyptologist and a copy of Lepsius's Koningsbuch der Alten Agypten which contains a dedication and signature in the author's own hand.

In the late 1950's, resulting from the recommendations of the Hayter Report, there was a growing interest in stimulating study and research in the Middle East and in its modern aspects in particular. In 1958, the Faculty Board minutes record the intention to establish a Middle East Centre with a library dedicated to its interests, a lecture series and a publications series. Financial support was provided by the Shell Company and by British Petroleum. The Centre and its Library was established in 1960 by Arthur Arberry (Arabic Professor 1947-1969) in rooms in Pembroke College. This Library moved from its first home in Pembroke to Station Road, where it was housed for some years. In 1965, already a collection of some size, the Library moved to rooms in Botolph Lane. Later, this collection, which grew to around 6,000 volumes, joined the Faculty Library in 1968.

In terms of acquisitions the 1960's were notable for the addition of a number of collections; these were not in general large, or as valuable as the great collections bequeathed to the Library in its early years, but each, in its way, increased the library's breadth and scope. For example, in 1964, E.M. Forster, the novelist and Fellow of King's, gave to the Library ninety books on Indian history.

In 1959, there had been a mention of the possibility of a move for the Institute and its Library to a new building on the Sidgwick Site. This move did, finally, take place during the summer of 1968 when the books were transported by van from Brooklands Avenue by members of the University Library staff. The Egyptology books were transferred from the Old Press Site and, at the same time, the Library of the Middle East Centre was moved from its accommodation in Botolph Lane. The Institute was officially renamed the 'Faculty of Oriental Studies'.

Since the move to Sidgwick Avenue the Library has grown further and many aspects of its administration have been modernized. However, gifts and bequests are still frequently made to the Library from scholars past and present. In 1971, the oriental collection of Queens' College, was transferred on permanent loan to the Faculty. This collection consists of early scholarly works in the fields of Hebrew, Arabic, Egyptology, Assyriology and Sanskrit studies which complement the other early collections very well. A second, smaller, collection on Buddhist studies arrived in the 1980's. This was the collection of Miss I.B. Horner (1896-1981), Pali scholar and former Fellow and Librarian of Newnham College. In 1990, the Library received on permanent loan the Library of Owen Lattimore (1900-1989) the Mongolian specialist.

Today, the Oriental Faculty Library is the first port of call for undergraduates reading for the Oriental Studies Tripos. It is also widely used by research students and by many members of the University whose interests include some aspect of the oriental world. The modern Library is light and spacious and new readers see little immediate evidence of the early history described here. Recent revisions of the Oriental Tripos have encouraged the growth of a collection of wider cultural interest than that of the early years. However, the early collections remain a constant source of surprise and interest.

Catherine Ansorge,
Librarian, Faculty of Oriental Studies,
University of Cambridge,
Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge, CB3 9DA. U.K.
Tel: 01223 335111. Fax: 01223 335110. E-mail caa1@cus.cam.ac.uk

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The Han language (commonly known as Chinese, though it is only one of over fifty languages used within the borders of China) is spoken in its seven major and innumerable minor dialects by over one and a quarter billion people. Up to the end of the eighteenth century, more books had been published in Chinese than in all the rest of the languages of the world put together. Over 100,000 new titles in Chinese are now being published annually, mainly in the People's Republic of China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, but also by the Chinese diaspora throughout the world. These facts sufficiently attest the importance of Chinese and the need for effective bibliographic control. This article presents a brief description of the special features of Chinese, with special reference to its use for cataloguing purposes.

As is well known, the Chinese script is non-alphabetic, consisting of ideographs (usually called "Chinese characters"), pictographic in origin but with arbitrarily assigned phonetic values as well as symbolic significance. Because the symbolic function of the characters is independent of their phonetic value, in much the same way as the Arabic numerals, though understood exactly similarly in each European country, are pronounced differently by speakers of the various European languages, the Chinese script has been able to serve as a unifying factor in both time and space. Dialects which are often mutually unintelligible are recorded using the same script, and a poem written at the time of Beowulf appears to the eye as if written yesterday, because the script is unaffected by historical changes in the spoken language. This also explains how Chinese characters could be borrowed to write languages wholly unrelated to Chinese, such as Japanese and Korean.

The largest dictionary of Chinese so far published contains 84,000 different characters, but 80% of these are of extremely rare occurrence, and a working knowledge of 4-5 thousand suffices for most everyday purposes. By contrast, the phonetic system of all dialects of spoken Chinese is remarkable for its simplicity (disregarding for the moment the question of tones). Standard Chinese, also called Mandarin, has only 420 syllables. The potential for ambiguity when each of 84,000 distinct characters must be read by one of only 420 syllables is obvious. In practice the difficulty is mitigated to a great extent by the use of fixed combinations of syllables in speech and their corresponding characters in writing, though there are no unambiguous rules for word-formation and there is not even agreement as to what constitutes a "word" in Chinese.

The most common transcription or romanisation systems are Wade-Giles (named after its inventor Sir Thomas Wade, first Professor of Chinese at Cambridge, and his successor Dr. Herbert Giles) and Pinyin (which simply means "phonetic spelling"), the official system promulgated by the government of the People's Republic of China in 1958 and now gaining international acceptance. For bibliographic purposes purely phonetic renderings are inadequate unless there is sufficient context to remove ambiguity, and if the underlying characters are not known the correct transcription of a Chinese personal name or book title will always be in doubt.

The nature of the Chinese script causes certain difficulties for bibliographers, one of the most important of which is the very basic question of how to sort the characters in a consistent order. Since the script is not alphabetic, there is no obvious "alphabetical order". The nearest equivalent to such a method is to sort the characters by their phonetic transcriptions, but this means that each character must be linked, both physically and in the mind of the reader, to a particular syllable in the standard dialect. Many characters however have more than one possible reading (depending on context), and it is beyond the capacity of the human brain to memorise the reading of every character. Another serious disadvantage of phonetic sorting is that many speakers of Chinese dialects have an imperfect grasp of the standard pronunciation.

Many attempts have been made to devise methods of arranging the characters in a logical sequence by analysing their structure. The most common method, first used in a dictionary published in 100 AD, identifies certain components (the so-called "radicals") which occur in characters of related meaning and enable those characters to be sorted in sense-groups. For example, all characters to do with fishes, fishing, etc., contain the "fish" radical; all those concerning wood, trees, etc., contain the "tree" radical, and so on. This system produces a kind of taxonomy of meaning, the characters being arranged within their respective groups according to the number of written strokes remaining after the radical has been deducted. Unfortunately there are no universally agreed rules as to how this should be done, and many variations exist.

Another method assigns numbers to the various different writing strokes used to make up the characters (0 for a dot, 1 for a horizontal stroke, etc.), and uses the occurrences of these strokes at various positions in the characters, according to more or less complex rules, to generate a unique numerical value for each character. Literally hundreds of this kind of system have been devised, especially since the advent of computerisation created a demand for ways of directly inputting characters by sequences of keystrokes. Some of them are very quick and efficient when used by trained operators, but they require much time and practice to learn thoroughly.

Until recently the complexity of the Chinese characters was a serious obstacle to their use in automated bibliographic systems, but the situation has been transformed by the availability of cheap and reliable Chinese software packages and multi-script web technology. Large quantities of full Chinese MARC records now exist, notably in the China National Bibliography Retrospective Database on CD-ROM, which contains over one million records and is steadily growing.

Cambridge University Library is one of the consortium of libraries participating in the RSLP UK Database of Chinese Research Materials project which began in November 1999. As part of the project many thousands of the existing romanised-only Chinese records on the Cambridge OPAC have been upgraded to full Chinese MARC records, and the process will continue as more new records become available from China.

Charles Aylmer,
Under-Librarian, Oriental Department,
Cambridge University Library

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A circular in January 2000 from the General Board's Committee on Libraries requested all faculty and departmental librarians to draw up a collection development policy, with their starting point the policy that the UL had adopted the previous year. Most of the libraries will have submitted theirs by the time you read this. But it's relevant to this language-orientated edition of CULIB, because librarians were asked to consider the criterion of language, and lay down their own rules about acquiring books in this language and that.

The UL's own policy includes several discussions of language. The European section ranks its languages as follows:

Elsewhere in the policy, there are separate sections for non-European languages:

Most of us will not have to be so comprehensive. But I compared notes with a few other faculty and departmental librarians, and was struck by the variety of policies we've had to adopt.

The commonest rule, the one that I suppose we'd find ourselves being shoehorned into if people came to believe that one size ought to fit all, could be summarised as "Books in English first; books in other languages if need be." Libraries where the emphasis is on teaching (with the obvious exception of Modern and Medieval Languages) have little need to acquire books in any other tongue than English, and a similar policy obtains even in some research libraries. Criminology has cancelled its subscriptions to foreign-language periodicals and restricts its book purchases to the English language, except where a foreign book is specifically recommended by a lecturer. The Marshall Library of Economics concentrates on information through the medium of English, and books in other languages will not be automatically acquired. But they would be considered.

The distinction between teaching and research is, in any case, not an impermeable one, when so much teaching is research-driven.

Some of the librarians I spoke to reckoned that the language question was of interest mainly because of the related questions to which it drew attention. In some disciplines, Earth Sciences for instance, research tends to be published in the country where it was carried out – meaning, in Earth Sciences’ case, where the rocks were – with the result that place of publication figures more in the librarian’s thinking than language.

Most people found that their drafts were approved by their library committees more or less on the nod. The problem, if problem it be, lay in the need to persuade the committees to take any interest. In some places, however, the discussion was more troubled. One committee had to consider the following passage:

Preference is given to publications in the following languages:

Members declared it insulting: one of the lecturers in the Faculty (not a member of the Committee) was Danish. The Scandinavian languages were duly added. Then a member of the Committee owned up to coming from Brazil: surely Portuguese ought to be included as well. That suggestion was minuted, as were several more. When the Chair of the Committee, a graduate of Deccan College in Pune, suggested that the priority languages ought to include Hindi, the meeting realised that he was not being wholly serious. At that point the list of languages collapsed altogether, and the policy document’s views on language were confined to the matter of translations.

Aidan Baker, Haddon Library

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Review: C.G. Allen. A manual of European languages for librarians. London: Bowker, 1975. xii, 803 p.

Staff of small academic libraries struggling to cope with publications in a variety of foreign languages with which they may have little or no familiarity, as well as language specialists in larger libraries who find themselves saddled with responsibility for additional languages beyond their expertise, have had reason for the past twenty-five years to be grateful to Charles Allen for his manual. The author was inspired to produce his compendium by his experience of working among the multilingual collections of the British Library of Political and Economic Science. The extent to which it answers the needs of staff in other libraries today may be gauged from the fact that until fairly recently the copy of Allen’s manual kept as a working tool in a major department of the University Library was falling to pieces through use. When I asked why it had not been sent to our Bindery for repair I was told that the department could not afford to be without it even for a day or two while repairs were being undertaken!

Allen’s manual is in part a successor to Georg F. von Ostermann’s Manual of foreign languages for the use of librarians, bibliographers, research workers, editors, translators and printers, which first appeared in the 1930s. While Ostermann attempts to cover all the world’s major languages in just over 400 pages, Allen is able to provide much more detail on each of the European languages in his 800 pages. So while, for instance, Ostermann treats Icelandic in two pages, Allen devotes 21 pages to it. Allen’s manual is arranged in chapters each covering a language family – Germanic, Romance, Slavonic, etc. – though linguistic "orphans" such as Albanian and Basque are also included. A general note at the start of each section highlights similarities and differences between the languages in the group, after which the individual languages are described using a consistent pattern. First comes a specimen paragraph of text with an English translation, which seems designed primarily to demonstrate differences in word order from English. This is followed by a summary of the language’s general characteristics, then a section on "bibliolinguistics" (useful for disentangling compound surnames, edition and volume statements, or historical changes in orthography, for instance). An outline of grammar comes next, and finally a brief glossary of bibliographical terms. I have found one of the most useful features to be the guides to numerals and dates: even when one has a passable acquaintance with a language, rendering dates such as 1863 in Polish or 1721 in Latvian when transcribing a title page can be a taxing process without Allen’s help.

There are obviously limits to the amount of grammatical information that can be included on each language in a single-volume reference work, and anyone seeking to delve a little more deeply will find such books as Gregory Walker’s Russian for librarians useful. However, Allen is ideal for solving the sort of quick-reference problem faced by a cataloguer or acquisitions or serials librarian from day to day, such as capitalisation, the identification of personal or place names, or the numbering of periodical issues. More specifically, for example, the German section provides helpful information on the variations in filing of names containing umlauts in major German reference works; the Russian section warns of the awkward habit of nineteenth-century serfs in changing their form of name; and the Rumanian section includes details of their 1953 spelling reform. Indeed, there is a danger of becoming so entranced by some of the linguistic curiosities to be found in the manual that you may forget why you were consulting it in the first place: did you know that the Irish for "Armstrong" is "Mac Threinfhir", or that the Basque for "Pamplona" is "Irunea"?

In helping the librarian to avoid "the perpetration of those linguistic howlers whose existence is of no practical importance, but whose belated discovery is a source of unreasonable mortification" (as the author describes them in his introduction) Allen’s manual can enable both librarian and library user to venture out more confidently into the polyglot bibliographical universe.

Ray Scrivens,
Under-Librarian and Slavonic Specialist, University Library

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Germany issues more books each year than any other country on the mainland of Europe. In 1996, the most recent year for which UNESCO statistics are available, Germany produced 71,515 titles, making it the third most prolific book producer in the world, behind China (110, 283 titles) and the United Kingdom (107,263 titles). Add in some 18,000 titles from Austria and German-speaking Switzerland, and the German selector is currently confronted with about 90,000 new titles per year. This contrasts markedly with an output from Spain of 45,000 titles, and from France and Italy, which are neck and neck at approximately 35,000 titles a year.

The scale of output from German-speaking Europe is undoubtedly the greatest problem for the German book selector. Of course, the number of titles is only significant if it is material, which the University Library might want to collect, but German publishers are also characterised by their commitment to academic publishing. About a quarter of all titles are identified by Harrassowitz (the University Library’s main supplier) as being of scholarly interest, an extremely high percentage in comparison with the academic output of other countries. German publishing output rose from 14,500 academic titles in 1989 to 23,000 in 1996. At 13·6% Germany’s percentage output of historical/geographical titles is the highest in the world.

A third factor makes German publishing of particular significance for British librarians - the high number of English language titles in the overall total. Approximately 2,000 original English language titles a year are produced by German-speaking countries. This commitment to academic publishing means that many English and American scholars working in highly specialised fields are likely to place their books with a German publisher. The print run may be very small - sometimes only 200 to 400 copies - but the titles will usually be kept in print for a considerable period, far longer than is usual with English or American publishers. German publishers also have a reputation for getting titles into print with speed and efficiency, which is increasingly attractive in a world in which publications become increasingly important for departmental evaluation and academic promotion.

For the librarian this readiness to publish academic titles is a mixed blessing. Peter Lang in Bern and Frankfurt was one of the first publishers to identify a market for thesis publication in the mid 1970s, though several other firms have subsequently followed Lang’s example. Lang continues to produce hundreds of new titles a year, at little risk since the author or university department is often subsidising the cost of publication. Titles are usually placed in a series, thereby tempting the harassed librarian to place a standing order. The flagship series, European university studies, currently has 42 subseries. 1750 titles have been published in Series 1, on German language and literature, and a further 875 appear in Series 3, on history. In the 1980s the same title sometimes appeared in more than one series, but howls of protest from librarians quickly led to the abandoning of this dubious practice. The physical appearance of such publications is not particularly good, they are very expensive, and in many cases the academic quality is not high, with little by way of editorial vetting. On the other hand, the University Library continues to buy a considerable proportion of certain subject areas on the Lang list. Some titles do reflect outstanding research, the book will usually have a substantial bibliography, and if it is the only published monograph on a particular topic (often the case), a major research collection cannot afford not to acquire it.

Cost is a particular problem for the German selector. German book production is amongst the most expensive in Europe, and individual monographs costing more than one hundred pounds are not uncommon, although with an average price of DM80 (£25) in 1998, books were still cheaper than in Britain, where the average price was £42. Titles from major publishers such as de Gruyter and Niemeyer are extremely well produced on best quality paper, but it is at a price. Archaeology and classics are particularly expensive, as are books in the physical and biological sciences. Most expensive of all are titles in library and information science, with a staggering average cost of DM319 (£98). If a Spanish selector makes a mistake, it is unlikely to cost more than a few pounds. For the German selector, a mistake can be a sizeable embarrassment.

Another difficulty for the German language specialist is the range of academic disciplines which he or she is expected to cover. There are few subjects to which German scholarship does not make a substantial contribution, and in many fields it is the most important language after English. The point is obvious if one considers the contribution made by the German-speaking world to the history of philosophy or music. German scholarship remains of fundamental importance for theology and classical studies. Research into the former GDR and Eastern Europe expanded greatly after the fall of the Berlin Wall. As was illustrated in last year’s exhibition at the University Library, every aspect of life in the GDR came under scrutiny - the role of the secret police, use of pesticides, children’s comics, crime novels, rock music, sex counselling, adoption, Holocaust memorials, experimental film, nuclear energy, homosexuality, bathrooms.

No one individual can be expert in all these fields. For the most part my decision is based on a detailed bibliographical description supplied by Harrassowitz, which incorporates an LC classification but has no subject analysis. But so many titles do little to illuminate the subject of a book, and a general title such as ‘A history of Germany’ provides no clue to the intellectual level. Compare this with the assistance on French new titles proffered by the Bibliothèque Nationale, which together with a detailed bibliographical description gives a synopsis, subject strings, an indication of intellectual level and target audience, and frequently information on the author or editor. The Deutsche Bibliothek used to provide a similar service in a publication entitled Das deutsche Buch, but abandoned the practice about twenty years ago.

However, if selection is more of a lottery for the German selector than for his/her French counterpart, help is available if you know where to look for it. The habit of German publishers of placing titles in distinctive series facilitates the placing of standing orders. In 1998 the University Library had just over 2000 standing orders for German monographic titles and multi-volume sets. A three-volume directory of German scholars and their publications, Kürschners Deutscher Gelehrten-Kalender, is an invaluable resource, which few other countries emulate. CD-Roms and Web sites offer an increasingly important supplement to traditional reference books in many fields, and in some disciplines the Internet is already firmly established as the best source of information. Nothing better facilitates the evaluation of the importance of a contemporary politician or artist. (The visual arts are a particular problem for the German selector, since information on upwards of a hundred modern art exhibitions is a regular component of Harrassowitz selection slips each month.)

Nowadays the best resource of all is probably the COPAC database. What better evidence that Cambridge should be collecting a particular author than the fact that he or she is well represented in the collections of other COPAC contributors? American union catalogues like Eureka can provide similar insights, but the scale of collecting is very different. I sometimes feel that my counterparts at institutions such as Harvard, Yale and Berkeley don’t really select new titles - they just hoover everything up.

Having carried out whatever research seems appropriate, there inevitably remain some titles about which I feel completely unqualified to make a decision. Fortunately I have a wide network of contacts upon whom I can call for help and advice. Specialist library staff choose German material in their sphere of particular interest. Approximately 800 new titles a year are referred to the University Library’s Slavonic and music specialists for possible purchase. I also collect problematic titles and forward them to a wide range of academic staff, trying to ensure that requests for help coincide with less busy periods in the academic year. German acquisition is, above all, a group activity.

No institution in Britain can afford to indulge in widespread acquisition on the American scale. Each year in September librarians with an interest in German meet for the conference of the German Studies Library Group. This year in Nottingham the talk was all of falling intakes for modern language courses, with German and Russian particularly badly affected, and dire consequences for library collections. The British Library, searching for financial savings, seems likely to target Western European budgets for major cuts in expenditure, arguing that the demand for materials in all foreign languages is extremely small and shrinking.

The British Library is currently considering ways in which Cambridge’s German acquisitions might enable the national library to reduce and redefine its collecting activity in this area. This has involved some attempted assessment of the usage of German language materials within the University Library. The automated ordering system at the British Library allows for extremely detailed analysis of collection usage, which no open-access library can hope to emulate. However, it was possible to analyse readers’ requests for uncatalogued material over a three month period in 1999. The subject breakdown proved beyond reasonable doubt that Cambridge scholars continue to need German language materials in wide-ranging and very specialist fields. Alongside very predictable interest in theology, philosophy, history and literature, requests included titles on Albanian ethnology, French Creole, the history of the saraband, Akkadian children’s lullabies and Danish archaeological excavations. We seem to be bucking a trend.

David Lowe,
Under-Librarian and German specialist,
Cambridge University Library

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Last time, we offered our congratulations to Hilary Pattison, new at the Lee Library in Wolfson College. Her old Selwyn job has now been taken by Michael Wilson – not the Michael Wilson of Scientific Periodicals, but the Michael Wilson who was at Architecture & History of Art for two years. Michael is dividing his time between Selwyn, work towards his Charter, and looking after children.

Meanwhile, back at Architecture, Michael’s place is taken by Gail Barber – and this is where this particular chain of moves comes to an end, as Gail’s previous experience was right outside the University. She was in charge of the library at Plant Breeding International (now Monsanto) in Trumpington, where she had to do everything from shelving to book ordering. Gail says she’s glad to find herself working in an Arts library as she is a Modern Languages graduate and not a scientist.

Rachel Rowe is the new Smuts Librarian, dividing her time between the South Asian Studies Library and the Royal Commonwealth Society collection at the UL. Rachel’s previous jobs have included the libraries of the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal Agricultural College in Circencester, and her passions, depending on where she is, include gardening, hill-walking and fen-wading.

Andrea Thomson takes maternity leave from the Isaac Newton Institute until August next year. When she comes back, she will oversee a rationalisation as other mathematical and science libraries move to join the Newton. In Andrea’s absence the library is being run by Sara Wilkinson, who moves here from Berkshire College of Agriculture.

The Rayleigh Library of Physics has a new Senior Assistant in Gillian Wotherspoon. Gillian helped the Clinical School through its last Quality Assurance experience, and now looks forward to the challenge of the Rayleigh’s building work and the preparation of its collection development policy. She has a new assistant in Nevenka Huntic ,whose architectural background should be useful during the building.

At Lucy Cavendish, Catherine Reid takes over from Jenny Shepherd. Catherine has spent six years in industrial and research libraries, and this is her first venture into an academic library. She will be working part time at the college, and otherwise in the garden or coordinating the hectic social life of her two year old son. Yvonne Larcombe is this year’s Graduate Trainee at St John’s, and comes with a degree in English Literature from Aberystwyth.

The Fitzwilliam Museum’s new post of Assistant Keeper (Manuscripts and Printed Books and Reference Library) has been taken by Stella Panayatova, formerly Patrick Zutshi’s assistant at the UL.

Another beneficiary of RSLP funding is the Whipple Library of the History and Philosophy of Science. They’ve borrowed Samantha Weston-Smith from the UL for eight months for the HOST (History of Science and Technology 1801-1914) project, a retrospective catalogue conversion job headed by King’s College London. An earlier venture of this sort at the Whipple – the HEFCE-funded cataloguing of rare books – is now about to be celebrated by an exhibition, Instruments in print: books and instruments in the Whipple Museum, which will run from November 2000 to June 2001. Contact Joanna Ball on (3) 34547.

In fact, there have been lots of RLSP-funded comings and goings around Cambridge over the last few months, but unfortunately we haven’t space to do them all justice here. One job that looks like RSLP, but isn’t, is Allen Purvis’ Newnham project. Allen retired last year after many years’ service at the UL, and now he’s taken on the job of cataloguing Newnham’s rare books collection in eight months. Back at the UL, Sonia Morcillo-Garcia was appointed in July to the vacancy in foreign cataloguing caused by Valerie Hall’s retirement. Sonia is from Barcelona and, not surprisingly, will be specialising in Spanish and Portuguese (initially, anyway).

Erica McDonald has seen a Unicorn! Taming it is part of her new job as Systems Librarian at Peterhouse. Erica has had a most varied career up to now (see her article in CULIB 43, Michaelmas 1998, for some of the hairier episodes) and unicorns are something she appears to take in her stride.

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Harpsichord player, conservationist, restorer of historic buildings, gardener, cook and host extraordinary, music librarian Michael Taylor organised a Millennium event that will be long remembered by his many friends in Baroque circles.

I was attracted from a very early age to the performance of music played on historical instruments, and gradually became aware of historical performances. I was particularly interested in the harpsichord and its role in chamber music of the 17th and 18th centuries, and so it appeared to me to be a natural course to study and play harpsichord with its rich repertoire of surviving works. Other life-long interests, all of which have some historical bias, include an enduring passion for historic buildings and historic gardens, and these constantly embrace conservation issues which inform most activities, whether it be restoring instruments to play on, buildings to inhabit or gardens to provide pleasure. Working in the UL’s Music Department and extolling the virtues of music-making as a hobby must appear to be advocating the proverbial busman’s holiday, but my social activities and the maintenance of the fabric to support them not only present very different perspectives, but also in my experience involve just about every practical skill in order to achieve a suitable environment.

In 1976 I discovered a derelict former Baptist chapel for sale in a Cambridgeshire village, and it was immediately apparent to me that I had found a (reasonably) historic building which with minimal conversion would not only make a suitable dwelling, but would also provide a perfect hall of modest size with a good acoustic for all those musical activities that were as yet unrealised pipe-dreams. Fortunately the property also included a large schoolroom and two other smaller rooms, so it would be possible to convert the extra bits into living accommodation, leaving the chapel itself with little alteration for the intended purpose of music-making.

Modest in price, yes. The only drawbacks were: no electricity, no water (for a Baptist chapel!), no drainage, little glass left in the many windows and a leaking roof – in short, the perfect opportunity for renovation. Not usually being prone to taking good advice, after many false starts and two gazumpings I became the proud owner of a derelict pile. After my initial reeling through the shock of the month’s events, work began in earnest. Within eighteen months I had secured the roof, installed electrical wiring and plumbing, and the drains were connected. I had divided the schoolroom to provide a living room and kitchen, with the dividing wall consisting partly of a chimney to provide an open grate for the living room and a Rayburn cooker for the kitchen. A small adjoining room provided the bathroom. At this point, once the windows of the domestic rooms were renovated or replaced, I was able to move in.

A further four years’ work was devoted to the chapel building, including excavating the collapsed wooden suspended floor and providing a new sub-floor. Approximately fifty tons of clay were removed and replaced by fifty tons of concrete, laid prior to the construction of a new wooden floor above. At this point, I discovered the original baptismal font beneath the floor. A new staircase to the balcony was fitted and all ten windows renovated and reglazed.

I then turned my attention to the graveyard that came as part of the freehold. From my initial point of dismay at the serried ranks of forgotten memorials, a faint feeling of optimism arose with thoughts of historic gardens, and a topiary garden with high hedges and enclosed spaces became my predominant idea. Shortly after purchase I planted a box hedge and followed this with much planting of the yew hedges which are now a dominant feature of the garden, providing a framework to enclose the gravestones, which are interplanted with old shrub roses and near-generic forms of herbaceous plants.

Since renovation, the chapel is in regular use for a variety of early music activities, including gatherings of Baroque ensembles and viol consorts and playing days with the Eastern Early Music Forum. During 1999, a Baroque dance workshop and a day for singers and instrumentalists performing the Purcell ode, O come ye sons of art away, were held. At the end of 1999, as an antidote to the public Millennium celebrations, it seemed appropriate to have a special gathering of friends to perform a large-scale and memorable work of musical value, and it was agreed unanimously that the work should be the Bach B minor Mass. This involved many months of preparation, with almost every well-known authentic amateur Baroque player being invited to play. The only professionals involved were two trumpet players. All parts were covered and the choir and soloists consisted of local singers. The event lasted two days, culminating in a complete performance on the afternoon of 1st January 2000. Fifty players and singers were involved, and I spent the previous week preparing and freezing copious supplies of food and baking the cakes for the tea during the interval. An audience of about thirty invited guests attended the performance.

My other interests include canal-boating and vintage motoring – but that's another story!

Michael Taylor,
Music Department,
Cambridge University Library

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The electronic version of CULIB is available at http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/CULIB/. The editors would like to thank the University Library’s Automation Department for their assistance with this aspect of production.


CULIB is edited by Aidan Baker (Haddon Library), Kathryn McKee (St John’s College) and Sheila Cameron (Cambridge University Library), and is produced and distributed by Sheila Cameron.