Cambridge University Library

Readers' Newsletter No. 12


South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission evidence

The government of President Nelson Mandela in South Africa established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1995 to investigate human rights abuses during the apartheid years. It was set up as an investigative body, not as a court of law, and its purpose was not to impose punishment but to establish the truth, to encourage reconciliation, to grant amnesty and to recommend appropriate compensation. The Commission was chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and spent over two years gathering evidence, conducting public hearings and taking statements from witnesses.

The Official Publications Department has now acquired a complete transcript of all the hearings held before the Commission throughout the country. This verbatim record was obtained by our supplier through a contact in the company that was providing the transcription service. As such, it represents the fullest record available. There is an unofficial web-site ( which contains much, but not all, of the material, and the same person who mounted the web-site has produced a CD-ROM which is, likewise, far from complete. The University Library's hard copy runs to over 300 volumes and represents the statements and evidence of over 2,700 witnesses. It is the only set in the United Kingdom and will be a valuable resource for many African specialists for years to come.

At present the collection is in the process of being bound and we are currently developing an online index which will enable researchers to pinpoint the relevant volume and witness statement. Limited access is, however, already possible. By using the five volume Report of the TRC (classmark OP.23800.323.6-10) some identification of the hearings will be possible.

Anyone wishing to consult the collection should ask for the Head of the Official Publications Department, Bill Noblett (, or Keith McVeigh ( who is indexing the transcripts.

Digitising the Gutenberg Bible

Professor Takamiya's team at work on the project.

In November 1998 members of the HUMI Project of Keio University in Japan, led by Professor Toshiyuki Takamiya, visited the Library to create digital photographic images of our copy of the Gutenberg Bible.

When the HUMI (HUmanities Media Interface) Project was launched in April 1996, its major objective was to digitise Western and Oriental rare books and manuscripts, and provide online access to digital facsimiles via high speed networks and the Internet.

The Bible in Latin produced in Mainz by Johann Gutenberg around 1455 is famous as the first Western book printed by moveable metal type. The Library's copy, given by A.W. Young of Trinity College in 1933, is notable for markings made in a Strasbourg printing-house around 1469 when it was used as copy for a later edition.

Building on the experience gained by digitising the Keio University Library copy, the HUMI team were able to complete work on Cambridge's Gutenberg volumes (1300 images) in just four days. Their equipment included a `one-shot' super-high-definition digital camera and a special cradle with low-pressure page support devised by team members.

The HUMI Project is now negotiating with other major libraries to digitise more copies of the Gutenberg Bible, so that multiple copies of this great work can be studied by scholars from one site. For further information please ask in the Munby Rare Books Reading Room.

Closure of Reading Room corridors

The last issue of the Newsletter explained about the relocation of the Manuscripts and Munby Rare Books Reading Rooms to a temporary reading room during the reconstruction of the North-West corner of the Library beginning this summer. In order to rehouse departments displaced from the temporary reading room the corridors parallel to the temporary Reading Room will have to be turned into working space for staff. Access to the Reading Room and West Room through the Catalogue Room will not be affected. It is planned to rehouse the exhibition cases, secondary catalogues and new book display in the North-South corridor at the front of the building. The work necessary to implement all these temporary re-arrangements will start soon after the end of the Easter Term.

The Phyllis T.M. Davies Collection of Walter de la Mare

`More than any other living writer he has created his own world, introduced us to an imaginative universe infused by a unique quality of vision and sentiment'. This praise was bestowed by Lord David Cecil on Walter de la Mare (1873-1956), poet, critic and essayist, anthologist, and author of two novels and numerous short stories.

The University Library has recently received as a donation a collection containing virtually all the editions of de la Mare's work noted in the check-list of the National Book League exhibition mounted shortly before his death, along with many later printings. The collection was formed by the late Phyllis T.M. Davies and has been generously given to the Library by her son Humphrey Davies. Legal deposit copies of the standard editions of de la Mare's works are in the Library already, albeit much-used and often lacking dust-jackets, but Mrs Davies's collection is rich in limited and signed editions, presentation and annotated copies, ephemera and other related material. In her essay Byways in collecting de la Mare Mrs Davies wrote that the author was `A very suitable subject for the collector of modest means' and described the excitement of building up her collection. The Library is now fortunate to receive the fruits of her expertise and enthusiasm.

The Papers of Ralph Hammond Innes

Art-work for the cover of one of Hammond Innes's many adventure novels.

The Library has recently acquired, as a generous gift from the executors of his estate through the Friends of the Library, the papers and correspondence of the well-known novelist Ralph Hammond Innes, who died last year.

A diplomatic crisis: new light on the death of Mary Queen of Scots

The execution of Mary Queen of Scots on 8 February 1587, like the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre and the assassination of William the Silent, sent a shudder through the courts of Europe. The decision to behead an anointed queen was, however, not taken lightly. Even after sentence of death was passed, Queen Elizabeth procrastinated, steeling herself to an unwelcome task. Elizabeth's Privy Council, though agreed that Mary must die, well appreciated the enormity of the deed.

Thanks to the generosity of the Friends, the Library has been able to acquire two documents, now Add.MS 9462, which shed light on the campaign of diplomatic self-justification waged during the winter months of 1586-87 for the benefit of foreign rulers and their envoys.

King Henri III of France sent his finance minister, Pomponne de BelliFvre, to England, hoping thereby to reinforce the representations of his resident ambassador, Chateauneuf, on behalf of the Queen of Scots. The first document, a version of BelliFvre's Raison ou Harangue which asked Elizabeth to remit the sentence of death on Mary and which was published over a century ago by Alexandre Teulet, is of interest essentially because it is one of the earliest surviving copies of his speech. However, the other paper, which has never been printed, provides historians with a point by point rebuttal of the further arguments for leniency advanced by the ambassadors over a month later, on 6 January 1587. It was apparently compiled by or under the direction of the Privy Council. We know that Elizabeth discussed the matter with BelliFvre for over two hours that day, showing, so the envoy recorded, signs of indecision.

Again a contemporary copy, this is an uncompromising statement of the English government's position. Though taken reluctantly, and in great sorrow, the decision to proceed with execution cannot be avoided. The security of the sovereign, and, by implication, of England itself, demands no less. While Henri III has argued that, because Queen Mary is unlikely to live much longer on account of her illnesses and afflictions, her execution is both inexpedient and pointless, the paper reminds his ambassador that `the shorter time the Scots Quene hath to live heare in this world the more hast hir complices will thinke they have to achive to her wicked intencons'. Elizabeth must balance the displeasure of the Scots against `the satisfaction and contentment of all the nobilitie and Commons of hir realme'. Mercy has its place, but, the paper insists, in a stark conclusion, `their wisdomes do well knowe that pittye is not to be regarded in cases of justis beinge of such consequence, and that pittye in such cases is mere iniustice and folley'.

Twenty five years of the Darwin Correspondence Project

Memorandum by Darwin's daughter Henrietta concerning the behaviour of cats, with annontations by Darwin (DAR 189:9).

The Darwin Correspondence Project was founded in 1974, and celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Its aim is to publish a complete edition of the correspondence of Charles Darwin, including letters written to him as well as letters written by him, and third-party letters which shed light on his work and personal life. Darwin used his correspondence to gather information from all over the world, and to discuss his ideas with friends and colleagues. The letters also shed light on life among the Victorian gentry, and on reactions by both fellow scientists and laypeople to Darwin's theories.

Cambridge University Library houses the largest single Darwin archive, with around 9000 original letters, as well as Darwin's library and working notes, which provide valuable research material. The first ten years of the project were spent carrying out a systematic search for letters and obtaining copies, and making transcriptions of all the letters. In 1985 the first edition of the Calendar of the correspondence of Charles Darwin was published, providing brief descriptions of nearly 14,000 letters then known. The first volume of the correspondence, containing letters from 1821, when Darwin was twelve, to 1836, was also published in 1985. Volume 11 (letters from 1863), will be published this year. The letters are proof-read four times and footnoted by editors working in the Library's Manuscripts Room and in the USA. In 1998 a paperback edition of a selection of letters from 1825 to 1859, the year of the publication of Origin of species, was published.

New letters continue to be discovered at a rate of about sixty a year; new information also often allows letters to be redated. As well as publishing volumes of correspondence, editors at the University Library, with the help of colleagues in Bennington, Vermont, and Blacksburg, Virginia, keep the electronic archive up to date with the latest research.

The correspondence of Charles Darwin is published by Cambridge University Press.
Web page:

New electronic resources

Two important resources have been added to the Library's electronic collections in the social sciences with the acquisition of PsycLIT and Criminal Justice Abstracts, both made available on the University network to current staff and students via the Computing Service ERL server. PsycLIT contains over one million records from the American Psychological Association's PsycINFO database covering academic, research and practice literature in psychology together with material from related disciplines such as medicine, psychiatry, education, law, criminology, and the social sciences. Criminal Justice Abstracts indexes and abstracts material on criminology and related disciplines, covering crime prevention and deterrence, juvenile delinquency and justice, police, courts, punishment and sentencing. Access to these and other ERL databases, including Medline, has been simplified by making them available via a Web interface at in addition to existing routes.

The Library has signed a new agreement for the Ei Compendex database, produced by Engineering Information Inc., which remains the most comprehensive interdisciplinary engineering information database available. Since January 1999 responsibility for providing national access to this database has been given to the EDINA data service centre which is working with the Edinburgh Engineering Virtual Library (EEVL) to provide cross-searching between Compendex and INSPEC as part of the Distributed National Electronic Resource, thus creating an unparalleled research facility.

Bibliographical resources in history were recently augmented by the acquisition of Historical Abstracts on the Web, networked University wide, and the Royal Historical Society Bibliography on CD-ROM, which is available from workstations in the University Library.

New electronic journals include titles from the Optical Society of America, including Applied Optics Online, Optics Letters Online, and the Society's Journal, and the Proceedings and Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.

`A brave bad man': Oliver Cromwell, 1599-1658

Panorama of the battle of Naseby, 1645 - a resounding victory for Cromwell's parliamentarians.

Oliver Cromwell was born in Huntingdon on 25 April 1599. His father was the younger son of a knight, and Oliver inherited only scraps of property, barely enough to sustain gentle status. However, through the terrible upheavals of civil war and regicide, he rose to be, first, commander of the army, and then ruler of England, Scotland and Ireland, enjoying the powers, if not the title, of a king.

At his death in 1658, Cromwell the Lord Protector was buried in state at Westminster Abbey, but less than three years later his corpse was disinterred and hanged in its shroud at Tyburn. From that day to this Oliver Cromwell has been arguably the most controversial figure in British history, for while some regard him as the defender of liberty and toleration, the champion of the underdog, others see him as nothing more than a tyrant, a murderer, and a bigot.

The University Library's new special exhibition tells the whole, dramatic story. Drawing upon treasures held in the Library, and including items generously lent by the Fitzwilliam Museum and by Sidney Sussex College, it illustrates each phase in Cromwell's extraordinary career, and allows visitors to draw their own conclusions about the East Anglian farmer who was offered, and declined, the crown itself.

Map Room - Saturday opening

In addition to its previous opening hours (Monday-Thursday 09.30-12.45, 14.00-17.10; Friday 09.30-12.45, 14.00-16.50), the Map Department of the University Library is now open to readers on Saturday mornings, 09.30-12.45. This extension of opening hours is dependent upon the availability of suitably experienced staff; fetching may have to be restricted. Any unscheduled closure will be advertised as early as possible within the Library and on the Library's Website (

Readers travelling from outside Cambridge or paying an essential Saturday visit to consult Map Department materials are advised to place their orders in advance (telephone 01223-333041/2; email: In the event of an unscheduled closure material requested or reserved in advance will normally be made available in another reading room.

Current exhibition (Main Library)

In the Exhibition Centre
`A brave bad man': Oliver Cromwell 1599-1658

27 April to 9 October (closed 16-23 September inclusive)

Opening hours:

Monday - Friday09.00 - 18.00
Saturday09.00 - 12.30

The Exhibition Centre is open to the public and admission is free

The Friends of Cambridge University Library

Forthcoming meeting

Tuesday 4 May 17.45

(Tea will be served from 17.15)

Professor John Morrill
`Oliver Cromwell: puritan saint and godly bigot'

John Morrill is Professor of British and Irish History and the author of Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution.

The talk will take place in the Library's Morison Room. £2.50 for Friends: £3.50 others.

Editor: Ray Scrivens ISSN:1360-9033

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