UL News
  No 1 OCTOBER 2009


Stacks of books and new bookstacks

art work
One column of revolving books from Harry Gray’s artwork Ex Libris.

In the 75th anniversary year of Giles Gilbert Scott’s University Library building, the approach to its iconic façade has been greatly enhanced. Funded by a generous donation from the Arcadia Fund, Cambridge-based artist Harry Gray has created fourteen bronze sculptures representing columns of books. The books in the four central columns rotate independently and when correctly aligned reveal the title of the artwork: Ex Libris. The position of the sculptures delineates a clear public space in front of the building. In the words of University Librarian, Anne Jarvis, “We wanted to bring the Library out beyond its walls and create a welcoming space by expanding the entrance beyond the front steps.”

Harry Gray, whose design reflects some of the building’s architectural features including the revolving doors, wants to encourage people to touch the bronze books. “Almost by accident the finish on the bronze has a leathery look, which makes them look like the real thing,” he said. “The bronze will age, and like real books they’ll get older and change in appearance.” The sculptures were cast at the FSE Foundry in Braintree and installed over a two-week period at the end of August. They were formally unveiled on September 4th.

The following week, the “topping out” ceremony performed by Professor Steve Young, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Planning and Resources, marked the rapidly approaching completion of the extension on the opposite side of the building. Constructed by R.G. Carter Cambridge Ltd, the five-floor structure whose bricks and roof-tiles were hand made to harmonize with Scott’s original vision, will provide 30 kilometres of new storage capacity. In addition, it will enable the UL to release what is currently a closed access bookstack on the fourth floor into a fully refurbished open stack with new group study spaces. This will lead to respacing of the collections on all the open stacks, enabling overflows of books in reader spaces to be restored to the shelves. The project is expected to be completed by August 2010.

topping out
Professor Steve Young and others at the topping out ceremony for the Phase 6 extension.

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Books of enduring scholarly value

A witty dissection of University life in Victorian Cambridge by Virginia Woolf’s father, first published anonymously in 1865.
In a joint venture with Cambridge University Press, the University Library is making available from its holdings selected out of print and out of copyright works dating from the late 1780’s to the early 1900’s which have been selected by academic experts as still used by scholars or recommended to students. Over the next three years the Cambridge Library Collection will digitise and make available for purchase worldwide on a “print on demand” basis works on topics embracing most aspects of the sciences and humanities, with a special emphasis on Cambridge itself.

Works already available include many by Darwin and his contemporaries, titles documenting the 19th century debate between science and religion, editions of Shakespeare ranging from Thomas Bowdler to Dover Wilson, many records of Victorian travel and exploration and the works of such mathematical eponyms as Boole, Euler and Laplace. Titles of Cambridge interest range from monumental histories of town and gown by Cooper, Venn, Mullinger and others, through major library catalogues and studies of local flora and geology to University oars: being a critical enquiry into the after health of the men who rowed in the Oxford and Cambridge Boat-Race. Full details can be found on the University Press website at

A witty dissection of University life in Victorian Cambridge by Virginia Woolf’s father

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Darwin and gender

The Bonita Trust, dedicated to addressing health and education challenges through new technologies and the Internet, has kindly donated £480,000 to fund a three-year project to investigate Charles Darwin’s impact on attitudes to gender and sexuality. The Darwin and Gender Project, overseen by the Darwin Correspondence Project at the University Library, will make available Darwin’s private and largely unpublished writings relevant to all aspects of gender, including his own domestic life, gender in a scientific context and gender and society. The letters and other documents will be accurately transcribed, provided with contextual material and made available online. Darwin had some 148 female correspondents, many of them practising scientists whose work he encouraged. Differences between the sexes figured prominently in his own theoretical thinking which had a major impact on Victorian society. His relationship with his daughter Henrietta and her importance in the writing of The descent of man are likely to be illuminated by the Project’s research. The Trust’s funding will also provide for an education officer to work in partnership with schools.

mary Mary Everest Boole (1832-1916), spiritualist writer, widow of George Boole, after whom Boolean logic is named, and mathematician in her own right, who corresponded with Darwin on natural selection and religion.

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Darwin’s library to be digitised

Cambridge University Library holds the single most important collection of Charles Darwin’s letters, papers and publications. One of the lesser-known treasures of this collection is his working library. Part of this library is displayed at Down House, Darwin’s home, but the most heavily annotated books are securely stored within the Library’s stacks.

On his return from the Beagle voyage (well illustrated by the Library’s current exhibition), one can think of Darwin embarking on a new voyage – a voyage of the mind and the imagination, which included a deep exploration of the fast-expanding literature of 19th century natural history.  The books Darwin collected would become a vital resource as he developed his thinking about the problem of ‘transmutation’ and worked towards his theory of natural selection.  Darwin the world traveller became Darwin the close reader and his books bear the marks of this exploration.  Darwin read with pencil in hand – always ready to fill the margins and inside covers of his books with copious annotations and passionate marks.  These marginalia were painstakingly transcribed in the late 1980’s and made available in published volumes. To make full sense of the annotations, however, a scholar needs to obtain the corresponding printed texts, a task made very difficult by the rarity of many of the books on Darwin’s shelves.

Thanks to funding from the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Library will be able to make digital copies of Darwin’s books available online alongside transcriptions of his marginalia.  This is an eighteen-month project involving an international collaboration between Cambridge University Library; the Natural History Museum (NHM); the Darwin Manuscripts Project at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH); and the Biodiversity Heritage Library, a major initiative to make important works of natural history freely available on the Internet (see  We expect Darwin’s Library to be available in early 2010 as a sub-collection of the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

For further information about this and other library projects, please see:

books from Darwin's library

Books from Darwin’s library which he carried with him on the Beagle voyage.

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E-theses in DSpace@Cambridge

From October 1st 2009 it will be possible to deposit electronic theses in DSpace@Cambridge, the University’s institutional repository. The theses will be disseminated online via the DSpace@Cambridge interface, allowing interested readers from all over the world to access them.

Each University faculty or department will have its own e-thesis collection where students, staff and alumni will be able to deposit their theses. The goal is to build a complete digital collection of theses from the University, ensuring continued access to this valuable material for future generations.

The deposit process is simple. The University Library is collaborating with the Board of Graduate Studies on the scheme. Students submitting their thesis for examination will be able to deposit their thesis in DSpace@Cambridge. Deposits are made on a voluntary basis. Librarians from the University Library will verify that all details are correct before the thesis is made available for online access.

It will also be possible for University staff and alumni to make their theses available in DSpace@Cambridge. Further information about e-thesis deposit for current staff and alumni will be distributed to all University departments throughout the autumn. Interested parties can also contact the DSpace@Cambridge team at

Further information about the scheme is available at:

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Exhibitions roundup

Joseph Haydn: an engraving by W. Daniell after a pencil drawing of 1794 by George Dance.
The University Library’s major exhibition A voyage round the world, devoted to Charles Darwin and the Beagle collections in Cambridge University, continues in the Exhibition Centre until 23rd December. It is open Monday to Friday, 09.00-18.00, Saturday, 09.00-16.30. Admission is free.

The cases in the North Front Corridor are currently housing a display marking the sesquicentenary of the death of the scientist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859). This will be followed in November by a commemoration of the visit to Cambridge made in 1765 by Samuel Johnson, who was born 300 years ago this year. January offers the chilling prospect of “The body in the library”, marking the 80th anniversary of the appearance of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple.

As a further contribution to this year’s many anniversaries, the Music Department has arranged an exhibition from the Marion Scott bequest. For the remainder of 2009, the cases in and just outside the Anderson Room will contain memorabilia of Joseph Haydn (1732-1809). Portraits and scores (including the first edition of The creation and works self-published by the composer in London and signed by him on the title-page) are joined by commemorative medallions and Haydn’s own breast-pin.

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The Friends of Cambridge University Library

 Forthcoming events, to be held in the Morison Room, University Library:

Wednesday 4 November 2009, at 17.30

‘Swinburne in the Library’

This talk will explore aspects of the life and career of Algernon Charles Swinburne, who died a hundred years ago but is still perhaps the least-known of the great Victorian poets.

Friends £2.50, others £3.50. Junior members of Cambridge University free.

Wednesday 11 November 2009, at 17.30

‘Creating the English Everyman, or, How John Mills won the Second World War’

Focusing on the screen persona of John Mills, Professor Plain will examine how films have shaped what it means to be British in this illustrated talk.

Friends £2.50, others £3.50. Junior members of Cambridge University free.

Saturday 21 November 2009, at 11.30

‘Samuel & Tetty Johnson’

Professor Nokes will examine Johnson’s decision to propose to his much older wife, Tetty, as a means of revealing how little we still know of him.

This talk will be preceded at 11.00 by the Annual General Meeting. Coffee will be served from 10.30.

Following the talk, there will be an opportunity to view an exhibition on the subject of Samuel Johnson’s visit to Cambridge in 1765.

Friends and junior members of Cambridge University free, others £3.50.

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Editor: Stephen Hills ISSN:2042-7638