Cambridge University Library

Readers' Newsletter No. 5


"Paper Palaces"

Exhibitions of architectural works at the Fitzwilliam Museum and the University Library. Arranged by Vaughan Hart, University of Bath

The University Library and the Fitzwilliam Museum have joined forces to present a major exhibition showing over 500 years of architectural books.

The University Library boasts one of the most complete collections of printed architecture books in the country, ranging from the earliest treatises of the Renaissance to the no less controversial works of the twentieth century. Architectural works dating from 1472 to 1800 in the rare book collections, together with maps and manuscripts, are currently displayed in an exhibition entitled 'Paper Palaces' in the Adeane Gallery at the Fitzwilliam Museum. This exhibition of architecture treatises is one of the largest in Britain to date; indeed many of the books have never been publicly displayed in this country, although collectively they tell the story of the development of architecture from the early Italian Renaissance onwards.

The appearance of the first printed architecture treatises, in 1486, closely followed the replacement of a form of architecture whose signature was the pointed arch with one recognisable by a display of the antique Orders. Architectural writers sought, through the medium of text and image, to codify the rules of these five 'styles' of building, as the Orders were called. For sources, the early theorists turned to ancient Roman monuments and to the text of the Roman architect Vitruvius since his was the only comprehensive treatise on architecture to survive from antiquity.

As the exhibition demonstrates, the illustrated treatise greatly assisted architects who practised in lands remote from the principal Roman remains by providing easy-to-use design patterns. These books illustrated ideal projects for villas, temples and even cities. The principles of Gothic architecture had been transmitted orally, within guilds, and were not intended for publication. With the advent of printing, the art of building was to be studied by a much wider audience represented by the new breed of patron and architect. The printed text and its matching illustrations gave enormous encouragement to the fashion for architecture all'antica amongst patrons eager to emulate the grandeur of ancient Rome. The printed book was not welcomed by all, however. According to Bernardino Baldi the works in the library of Federico da Montefeltro, the Duke of Urbino and a patron to Leon Battista Alberti, were 'all written by hand, and not one printed, for he would have been ashamed to own such a thing'. And in Victor Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris, the scholar, gazing at the first printed book which has come to disturb his collection of manuscripts, turns to the vast cathedral and exclaims that the printed word will destroy the building. The inevitable, if gradual, popularisation of the theory and practice of architecture was underlined by the increasing use of the national vernacular and by the appearance in the eighteenth century of pattern books which for the first time were aimed exclusively at the more humble readership of builders and craftsmen. Although the art of building lost a sense of its esoteric meaning through this process, architecture gained through its literature an accessibility and a power to express more secular themes.

The exhibition of architectural works in the Fitzwilliam Museum is complemented by two further exhibitions in the University Library. The exhibition in the Reading Room corridor focuses on the work of Inigo Jones and Christopher Wren, both of whom were fundamentally influenced in their theory and practice of architecture by many of the treatises shown at the Fitzwilliam. It displays the principal books which informed the planned and executed work of both architects in London and, in the case of Wren, in Cambridge. The importance of the book as unique medium and record of architectural theory through half a millennium is emphasised by the third exhibition, shown in the Library Entrance Hall, of twentieth century architecture books and tracts. These modern works are no different from their Renaissance counterparts in serving as 'manifestos' for their authors' architecture and for the architectural movements to which these authors belonged. In particular, the books shown here illustrate the modern development of the timeless concept of the 'ideal city', moving as they do from illustrating Ebenezer Howard's Garden City, Le Corbusier's Radiant City, Frank Lloyd Wright's Broadacre and Peter Cook's 'Plug-In City' to Leon Krier's Poundbury.

Architecture books of whatever period are consistent in their use of the image as a powerful part of their content and message concerning architecture's meaning. A mere glance at an illustration by Dürer or Serlio shows the astonishing detail which the early printers achieved in their woodcuts. Indeed from the inception of the printed architectural image onwards it was impossible to design a building without reference to these mass-produced images, whether woodcuts, engravings or photographs. Just as the woodcut played an important part in a fundamental change in the popular style of European architecture, replacing esoteric Gothic principles with a pictorially defined order, so contemporary digital imagery may again lead to a shift in architectural style. For the first time in five centuries, however, the printed book might be destined to play a secondary part in this development. From the didactic 'paper palaces' on show in the Fitzwilliam Museum and the University Library we may be in the process of returning to an exclusive form of architectural communication, this time developed through the less accessible world of computer aided design software.

Fitzwilliam Museum opening times:

Tuesday - Saturday 10.00 - 17.00

Sunday 14.15 - 17.00

Closed Good Friday, 28 March. Open Easter Monday, 31 March.

A record in a million

A notable landmark will be reached this term when the one millionth entry is added to the online Main Catalogue.

Creation of machine-readable catalogue entries began in the University Library in 1978. Initially, reader access was provided by producing a microfiche catalogue from this computerised data, supplemented by unwieldy print-outs listing the most recently catalogued items. In 1983, the first trial version of the online catalogue was released for public use. Since that date, subsequent upgrades to the interface have introduced a host of additional features, whilst retaining the essential simplicity that has been a characteristic of the system since its inception.

The pre-1978 General Catalogue (colloquially known as the 'Guardbook') remained open for inclusion of items published before 1978 until a decision was made to close it completely in 1995, and for all future catalogue entries to be added only to the Main Catalogue. Today, in addition to current acquisitions - of both new and older material - the content of the Main Catalogue is boosted by a range of projects leading to a rapid growth in the number of earlier publications to be found there. Principal amongst these is the Library's Greensleeves Project (described elsewhere in this issue), as well as those concerned with the holdings of the Royal Commonwealth Society, the Rosenthal Africana Collection, Hebrew, Arabic and Indic script material.

With the arrival of these additional projects, the rate of growth of the Main Catalogue has accelerated dramatically in the past two years. In the year 1995-96, some 130,000 entries were added. Between August and November this year a further 50,000 were created.

The one millionth entry is likely to be made towards the end of January. The Guardbook Catalogue, created over a period of 135 years, contains approximately 1.4 million entries. The Main Catalogue may possibly overhaul that figure by the end of the century - an achievement that will have taken just 22 years.

Hands up for hands-on training!

The familiar sight of a two o'clock gathering of readers around a PC in the Medical Library watching a demonstration of search techniques on Medline is a thing of the past. Since September 1996, the Medical Library training programme has been developed further to take advantage of the new 20 workstation Computer Learning Laboratory, which has been established in the Clinical School. In the field of electronic information resources, training sessions are available on using Medline via the University ERL Service; Embase and Science Citation Index via the BIDS Service; electronic journals; and OMNI (Organising Medical Networked Information) and other Internet search engines. After a short talk and demonstration, participants follow a set of practical exercises at their own pace and library staff are on hand to offer guidance and answer individual queries. The weekly schedule and booking details are available on the Web at

Napoleon online - Greensleeves Project update

What do Napoleon and Nietzsche have in common with Bernardino Ochino and William of Ockham?

The University Library's collections of their works (and works about them) are now catalogued online. Readers searching the University Library's online catalogue for works on or by Napoleon, for example, will now find records for all works held by the University Library, from Napoleon's despatches on the Egyptian campaigns, published in the 1790s, to the most recent biographies published in the 1990s. As a product of the Greensleeves Project, records for items published between 1501 and 1978, previously catalogued in the guardbook, are gradually being added to the online catalogue. Most of these records are included in the online Main Catalogue (option 1 on the online catalogue menu), but a small percentage are added to the Interim Catalogue (option 2 on the menu) if they lack information such as subject headings.

Details of Cambridge holdings for older material are thus increasingly accessible from beyond the University Library building whether via terminals in Cambridge departments or from farther afield. Napoleon is just one of the many authors whose works are now catalogued online: others include Nabokov, John Henry Newman and Nostradamus, with Ovid soon to be added to the list. In the University Library Catalogue Room progress of the project is marked by green dots on the spine of guardbook volumes which have been completely converted. In addition, updates on the progress of the Greensleeves Project will soon be available on the World Wide Web, via the Cambridge University Library home page. Alternatively, contact the Project Leader, Vanessa Lacey (e-mail address:

IT developments in Cambridge University Library

Further additions have been made to the suite of electronic information services available from Cambridge University Library since the last edition of the Newsletter in October 1996.

The Institute of Physics is now making the text of electronic journals available to users in higher education institutions and Cambridge University Library is pleased to be able to offer this service to its readers. 32 journal titles are currently available from the Institute of Physics, which provides access to all tables of contents, to abstracts and to full-text. For further information, please see the URL

In 1997, the Library is making a substantial investment in World-Wide Web technology. Thanks to the support of the Isaac Newton Trust, Chadwyck-Healey Limited, and the Genizah Research Unit, a new post of WWW Project Officer has been created, initially for five years. The new officer will establish and maintain a WWW server at the University Library, will continue the highly successful 'GOLD' project to digitise items from the Genizah collection, and will begin the digitisation of the Library's medieval manuscripts with the 13th century Life of St Edward the Confessor.

World War II propaganda re-surfaces

Bill Noblett writes:

Having been the Head of the Official Publications Department for more years than I care to remember, I thought that I knew the Department's holdings fairly well. To be sure, I am from time to time thrown by some very obscure enquiries, but I really thought I knew the stock, having moved it repeatedly over the last few years - the perennial problem of not enough space.

Imagine my surprise then, when a chance discovery in the Periodicals Department of six issues of a dog-eared, tatty and very faded journal entitled Die andere Seite resulted in my stumbling across an archive that nobody seems to have known about.

Die andere Seite led me to the Foreign Office section of the storage stacks and there I found eight boxes containing copies of nearly 2400 propaganda leaflets which the RAF had dropped on occupied Europe during World War II. They were produced in millions - it has been estimated that in 1943 alone 573 million were distributed over Europe - in ten different languages. But because of local circumstances and their ephemeral nature ('Bomber' Harris asked why the Allies should provide so much toilet paper!) few copies have survived and complete sets are extremely rare.

The Library's set is virtually complete. Only a handful of the published titles are not held, some of those that were not even dropped are available, and all ten languages are represented. The whole collection is available for consultation. For further information contact me in Official Publications (3)33138 (e-mail:

Photography orders by fax and e-mail

The University Library's Photography Department now accepts orders for photographic work by fax or e-mail. The fax number is 01223 334194 and the e-mail address is Requests may, of course, still be made in person or by post.

Reader survey

During the period 25 November to 2 December we carried out a survey at the request of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to establish the number of library users who were academic staff or research students at other UK universities. This was part of a data-gathering exercise at several university libraries to attempt to quantify, and thus to cost, the use of university libraries by researchers from other universities. The information collected has indicated that, even in November (which, in the middle of term, is a quiet month for external use) some 5% of the readers entering the Library were research staff and postgraduates from other universities. Approximately 10,000 visits were logged in all during the seven days of the survey and 554 survey forms were issued to those readers covered by the HEFCE survey. Coopers & Lybrand, who are carrying out the research on behalf of HEFCE, expect to submit their report in January.

Access to CURL libraries

The University Library is a member of the Consortium of University Research Libraries, which includes the major academic research libraries in the British Isles. All of these libraries welcome visits by academic staff or graduate students from other universities who are undertaking research for which the collections in the library to be visited will be valuable. In most cases your University Library Reader's Ticket will be acceptable as appropriate identification. Further details of specific arrangements are given in the Reader's Handbook section C6: Access to CURL libraries. Undergraduates are normally admitted to a university library other than their own during the vacation of the university being visited.

Eighteenth-century literature collection acquired in microform

The library of Schloss Corvey, originally the court library of the Landgraves of Hessen-Rotenburg, is one of the largest private libraries in Europe. The University Library has purchased microfiches of all the literary works in the collection, 9572 titles in total. French works predominate, with 3658 titles. There are 3261 in English and 2653 in German. More than half the works in the collection are novels, with plays and short stories each numbering over a thousand titles.

The English language edition (Microfiche Series 28) dates mainly from the most important period during which the Corvey collection was built up: the era of English romanticism. Most of the German material (Series 27) was published between the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and 1850. The range of French imprints (Series 29) is much wider, and includes many complete editions and single works dating from the eighteenth century, besides a number of novels published in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Although Corvey's library includes numerous first editions by major authors, the main interest of the collection for Cambridge readers lies elsewhere. The library is particularly remarkable for its collection of women's literature in various genres, material which is very poorly represented in most major libraries. The Edition Corvey has works by some 730 women writers, and includes texts which were previously unknown to literary scholarship. It is reputedly the largest single collection of English novels of the period in the world. Between 15% and 20% of titles are registered neither in the National Union Catalog of American academic libraries nor in the British Library catalogue. No other library location has been found in Germany, the United States, France or Great Britain for over 100 of the German novels.

Catalogue records for all the items in the series have recently been added to the University Library's Interim (online) Catalogue, and these fairly basic records will gradually be upgraded and added to the online Main Catalogue. Printed guides to the collection are available for consultation in the Microfilm Reading Room.

The Friends of Cambridge University Library

Forthcoming meetings - Lent Term 1997

Wednesday, 29 January at 17.45 in the Anderson Room (tea will be served at 17.15)

Professor Colin Matthew The New 'DNB': a Report on progress

Colin Matthew is Professor of Modern History at Oxford, President of the Friends of the Bodleian, and editor of the Dictionary of National Biography

A charge will be made for attendance: £2.50 for Friends, £3.50 for others.

Saturday, 22 February at 11.30 in the Anderson Room (coffee will be served at 11.00)

Mr Peter Meadows The Records of Ely Diocese

Mr Meadows is Keeper of the Ely Diocesan Records, and a member of the Library's Manuscripts Department

Saturday, 15 March at 11.30 in the Meeting Room (coffee will be served at 11.00)

Dr Vaughan Hart Frontispieces in paper and stone: architecture

books through the ages

Dr Hart is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering at the University of Bath: he was responsible for the architecture exhibitions at the Fitzwilliam Museum and the University Library

Current and forthcoming exhibitions

Main Library - In the Exhibition Corridor (outside the main Reading Room)

'Theory into practice: the architecture of Inigo Jones and Christopher Wren'

22 January to 23 April

Main Library - In the Entrance Hall

'Architectural books in the twentieth century'

22 January to 23 April

Fitzwilliam Museum (Adeane Gallery)

'Paper palaces: architectural works from the collections of Cambridge University Library'

22 January to 20 April

Editor: Ray Scrivens ISSN:1360-9033

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