Readers' Newsletter


University Library secures collection of Newton papers


Letter from Newton to Edmond Halley, 3 December 1724, referring to the computed positions of the 'great' comet of 1680-81 (not the one which became known as Halley's comet). Newton was at this time preparing a new analysis of the comet's orbit for the third edition of the 'Principia'; the University Library has, in the Portsmouth collection, two draft versions of the same letter but with important variation. (Macclesfield Collection)

In the last Newsletter we reported that the Library had been offered a grant of £4,790,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund towards the cost of purchasing the Macclesfield Collection, one of the most important collections of scientific papers still in private hands, and including about 500 manuscript notebooks and a further 500 or so unbound documents written by Sir Isaac Newton. Most of the letters are from the years of Newton's greatest creativity as a mathematician, 1664-72. The total cost of the collection was £6,370,000, which meant that the Library had to find the remaining £1,580,000.

The appeal, launched in August, has been spectacularly successful, particularly in the USA, and the full amount of the partnership funding has now been raised, thus ensuring that the collection will remain in Cambridge and will be made available to scholars. Within a few weeks of the launch of the appeal, a most timely gift of $250,000 was received from the Dibner Fund, founder of the Dibner Institute for the History of Science and Technology at MIT, and given in honour of the eminent Newton scholar, I. Bernard Cohen. This encouraged further support. A very generous private benefactor offered a million-dollar challenge grant, which the Library has now been able to call upon, thanks to a donation from Trinity College, Newton's own college, of £300,000 and a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation of $500,000, together with a number of private gifts of sums ranging up to $100,000. The purchase grant from the Mellon Foundation was augmented by a further $273,000 to meet the costs of cataloguing the collection, carrying out the necessary conservation work and preparing a major exhibition, which will be mounted in the Library's exhibition centre in the coming autumn. Parts of the collection will also be digitised and made available via the Web to scholars and the general public.

The close ties between Sir Isaac Newton and the University of Cambridge identify the University Library as the natural home for the Macclesfield Collection, and it complements and enhances the Library's existing collections of Newton's work, particularly the Portsmouth Collection, acquired in 1872, as well as its holdings of papers by many other celebrated scientists.

The acquisition by the University Library of the Macclesfield Collection means that two major sections of the Isaac Newton archive, separated following his death, will be reunited for the benefit of scholars and the public. We are grateful to the many benefactors who, with gifts large and small, have helped to ensure that the University Library has been able to secure this collection, one of the most important to have been acquired during the six hundred years of its existence.

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New integrated library system for Cambridge

Endeavor Voyager has been selected to provide a new integrated library system for the University Library, its dependent libraries, and the Union Catalogue libraries of the University. After an intensive period of evaluation involving wide consultation within the University, Voyager emerged as the system which best met the libraries' aims of providing an improved public catalogue with extended search facilities, integrated access to print, manuscript, and electronic material, and handling and displaying non-Roman characters. Library staff and readers will benefit from the efficient tools which it offers for processing and cataloguing new acquisitions. Uniquely, Endeavor has developed software to support union catalogues, a vital issue for the University of Cambridge where Union Catalogue membership now stands at ninety five and meet the requirement to maintain the independence of individual libraries while offering readers an overview of library holdings University-wide.

Voyager has a strong customer base in university research libraries worldwide and its existing users include the Library of Congress, the National Library of Scotland, and the libraries of the University of Edinburgh and Cornell University. Endeavor Information Systems, based in Illinois, have an unmatched record on project management and are in the process of setting up a UK office to support their growing list of customers in this country.

Work on implementing the Voyager system is already well under way. It is intended that the new public catalogue will be available by the start of Michaelmas Term 2001.

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The Freshfields IT Centre

The opening of the new Freshfields IT Centre, located in seminar room S19 of the Law Faculty Building, has provided the Faculty of Law and the Squire Law Library with an additional twenty-four computer workstations which library users can utilise for research purposes. The main purpose of the room is to provide an IT teaching facility which can be used to support an extensive programme for training law students in legal research skills.

The financial support for the project was generously offered to the Faculty by the law firm, Freshfields. In addition to the IT Centre, the gift has also allowed the Faculty to create a new post to develop and support a programme to be known as the Freshfields Legal Research Skills Course. The Squire is fully involved with the programme and library staff will contribute to the teaching where appropriate. The law students will all have an opportunity to gain a full grounding in the skills that they will need as academic researchers and as practitioners. The donation from Freshfields will also help the Library with subscriptions to key legal databases.

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Los trabajos de Hercules


The Library has recently acquired a copy of the first printed edition of a major work of Spanish medieval literature, Los trabajos de Hercules by Enrique Villena, Marqués de Aragón (1384-1434). Its author led so colourful a life that his story was dramatized by Lope de Vega: he feigned impotence to divorce his wife, who was mistress to King Enrique III, and assembled an important library which only just escaped the bonfire. He translated Dante and wrote on poetic composition, on cookery, and on the evil eye.

This prose treatise is divided into twelve chapters, each devoted to one of the labours of Hercules, which are narrated and explained as allegory. Originally written in Catalan and then translated into Castilian by Villena himself, the text was apparently much read, in manuscript and in print, in the fifteenth century but was later neglected.

Printed in Zamora by Antonio de Centenera and dated 15 January 1483, this is the first Spanish book to be illustrated with original woodcuts. Unusually, in each of the ten cuts some part of the figures extends beyond the frames, perhaps in an attempt to give greater animation to the scenes. Only six other copies of the book are known, and the Library has only three earlier examples of Spanish printing. It was purchased from the Dorothea Oschinsky Fund, with additional help from the Friends of the Library.

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Learning from Alexandria

Readers will already have noticed, and certainly heard, some of the work going on in the Library to improve fire precautions. Some of this has happened out of sight, in the roof spaces or up the tower. A major phase of the work to come at some point this year will, though, be rather visible. A number of the Library's corridors are no longer considered safe unless fire barriers are installed. The continuity of the high first floor corridors at the front of the building has therefore to be broken up by fire doors. This is an aesthetically sensitive area and the design and materials for the two pairs of doors near the top of the stairs from the Entrance Hall have yet to be agreed by the Library Syndicate. The doors will normally be held open and will shut automatically if the fire alarm sounds.

There will also be further work in the open bookstacks to create fire barriers around the staircases, and additional fire doors will be installed adjacent to the stairways. We regret any inconvenience from the inevitable noise caused by these works, but are sure that readers will appreciate that they are essential not only to comply with current fire regulations but, more importantly, to protect the Library's users and its irreplaceable contents.

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Hebrew University of Jerusalem celebrates with Cambridge's 'Ester'


One of the main events in the seventy-fifth anniversary celebrations of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was the first performance in modern times of an oratorio recently discovered and acquired for the University Library by the Head of its Music Department, Richard Andrewes. The manuscript oratorio of 'Ester', written in Pisa in 1774 by the little known composer Christiano Giuseppe Lidarti, was bought from an antiquarian music dealer as an Italian oratorio. When it arrived in the Library it was realised that the text was not in Italian but in romanised Hebrew. The story of Esther, with its themes of love, sacrifice and the redemption of the Jewish nation, has always been central to Purim, one of the happiest Jewish festivals. The newly discovered oratorio, lasting over two hours, has proved to be the longest and most richly scored piece of Hebrew art music of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries now known. Further research relates both the composer and text to the Sephardic community in Amsterdam, where a manuscript translation by Rabbi Jacob Saraval of the libretto of Handel's oratorio survives in two copies, one with English 'stage directions' and another with Italian. Dr Israel Adler, whose doctoral researches were on the art music of Jewish communities around Europe, had known of these libretti for many years. He also knew, and had published, the few known short Hebrew cantatas that Lidarti had written for the Amsterdam community. But because the libretti gave Handel as the composer, he had never suspected that there might be another setting. Hence his excitement when told of the new acquisition. He flew to Cambridge to see the manuscript for himself, to confirm that it was a setting of Saraval's translation, and to arrange to have copies made. With the assistance of David Klein a performing edition was prepared and plans set in motion for its first performance. This was presented at a gala concert in the brand new Atzmut-Mexico Hall of the Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University on 30 May 2000 as part of its Anniversary celebrations. The following night it was repeated and broadcast on Israeli Radio from the Henry Crown Symphony Hall as part of the Jerusalem Festival. An international line up of soloists, with the Moran Choir and the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra were under the direction of Avner Itai.

The work is for dramatic and lyric sopranos (Esther and an Israelite woman), dramatic and lyric tenors (Ahasverus, King of Persia and Mordecai), a villainous bass-baritone (Haman), and a three-part chorus (without tenors). The style is classical, half way between Handel and Mozart, and there are several very fine arias, duets and choruses. It was enthusiastically received at both performances. It is to be hoped that in due course there will be a performance in Cambridge.

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Sandars Lectures

The Sandars Lectures for 2000/2001 will be given by Dr David McKitterick, Litt.D, FBA, Fellow and Librarian of Trinity College, at 17.00 on 28 February and 7 and 14 March 2001 in the Morison Room, University Library. His subject will be 'Printing versus Publishing: Cambridge University Press and Greater Britain'. Dr McKitterick offers a foretaste of the lectures:

There have been histories in plenty of late-nineteenth-century publishers and printers, but we still know extraordinarily little about how exactly they worked. The records of Cambridge University Press, now gathered in the University Archives and housed in the University Library, offer a unique combination of source material: from the decisions of the Press Syndicate (sometimes made mostly in hope) to dealings with occasionally fractious authors to the daily working of the compositors and pressmen, and the difficulties of selling books. Over the last several years the University Library has provided much of the material for the first two volumes of the three-volume history of the Press which I hope to finish in the not too distant future. The Sandars Lectures provide the perfect opportunity to look at a crucial period, from the 1870s to 1914, when the Press turned itself into a London publisher, and was transformed from a business dominated by printing with a little publishing on the side, to one dominated by educational and academic publishing in the widest sense. The little world of Cambridge printing and publishing, and the ever more inadequate quarters behind the Pitt Building, made itself heard across the globe. In every sense, the University Press was turned during this period into one of the most powerful instruments available to the University as a whole. I plan in these lectures to show how this was done, and who did it.

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New electronic resources

New database subscriptions recently taken out by the Library include The Times Literary Supplement Centenary Archive which, when complete, will make available the full text from its first publication in 1902 until 1980. Initially the text for issues published during the period 1902-1939 has been re-issued electronically. A full index of contributors is provided for the first time. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians is a fully-searchable online version of the entire 29-volume text of the second edition of this work, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell, complementing the Grove Dictionary of Opera online already provided by the Library.

Two new titles have been added to the Justis collection of law databases, jointly funded by the Library and the Faculty of Law: Family Law and, appropriately as the Human Rights Act comes into force in the UK, Justis Human Rights, incorporating case law from the European Court of Human Rights, Human Rights conventions and relevant UK legislation.

The Bibliography of Asian Studies contains more than 410,000 records on all subjects pertaining to East, Southeast, and South Asia published worldwide from 1971 to the present. It will be immensely valuable, not only to Orientalists, but to researchers in the social sciences, humanities, economics, and education.

ZETOC, the British Library's Electronic Table of Contents (ETOC) database contains details of approximately 20,000 current journals and 16,000 conference proceedings published per year. With almost 15 million article and conference records, the database covers every imaginable subject in science, technology, medicine, engineering, business, law, finance and the humanities. ZETOC Alert is a current awareness service which emails users the tables of contents of their chosen journals.

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Lockers inside the Library

The wooden lockers in the South Wing corridor are available for hire again. They are intended for readers to store their personal notes and files. Lockers may be hired for periods of up to six months. There is a charge of £5.00 for the locker rental, and a returnable deposit of £25.00 for the key. Applications to hire a locker may be made at the Reader Services Office in the Catalogue Room, Monday to Friday, 10.00 - 12.30 and 14.00 - 16.30.

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Friends of Cambridge University Library

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

Saturday 20 January, at 11.30

Ann Thwaite

'Writing lives: tackling the biographies of Frances Hodgson Burnett and A A Milne'

Saturday 3 February, at 11.30

Professor Peter Holland, Director of the Shakespeare Institute, the University of Birmingham

'Researching Shakespeare in the Stratford Triangle'

Thursday 8 March, at 17.00

Dr Frances Spalding

'The unknown Gwen Raverat'

Saturday events are free of charge to Friends. Members wishing to attend weekday evening meetings pay at a special rate of £2.50 a head, to help us to recover costs. Non-members are welcome at all talks; the admission charge is £3.50.

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Exhibitions in the University Library

The journey to Hogwarts: women writing for children, 1750-2000

2 January to 17 March 2001

This exhibition is sponsored by Bloomsbury Publishing plc.

Fantasy to Federation: European maps of Australia to 1901

3 April to September 2001 (closed 13-16 April)

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

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Editor: Stephen Hills ISSN:1360-9033