Readers' Newsletter


Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd

This full-colour double issue of the Newsletter has been made possible thanks to the generous sponsorship of Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd, the main contractor for the Betty and Gordon Moore Library.

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Chancellor visits the Library

HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, Chancellor of the University, leaves the Library after attending the annual Benefactors' Lunch in June (left to right: The Vice-Chancellor, Brigadier Miles Hunt-Davis, the Chancellor, the Librarian)

Saturday afternoon opening

Thanks to a generous grant from Trinity College, augmented by funds from the General Board and the Higher Education Funding Council for England's Research Support Libraries Programme, the University Library's opening hours are to be extended, beginning on Saturday 29 September 2001.

The Library will open on Saturdays from 9.00 to 17.00. A full Saturday service will be provided in the Reading Room, West Room, Manuscripts Reading Room and Munby Rare Books Room. The open access areas will be available, the books stacks will be open and a fetching service will be provided until 16.00. For the present, Inter-Library Loans, the Admissions Office, the Map Room and Official Publications will not be open on Saturday afternoons. Readers will however be able to request that their material be transferred to an open reading room. The Aoi and Anderson Rooms will also remain open on Saturday afternoons without an invigilation service. The Tea Room will be open for readers from 10.00 - 14.00.

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Lockers inside the Library

New readers might like to know that, in addition to the short-term storage provision in the Locker Room, lockers are available within the Library for the safekeeping of personal notes and files. These wooden lockers are to be found in the South Wing corridor and may be hired for periods of up to six months. There is a charge of £5 for the locker rental, and a returnable deposit of £25 on 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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Betty and Gordon Moore Library opens


The Betty and Gordon Moore Library, located alongside the Centre for Mathematical Sciences and the Isaac Newton Institute at Wilberforce Road in West Cambridge, is the newest dependent library of the University Library and opened to readers on 1 October 2001.

The Moore Library houses the University's main working collections supporting research in the physical sciences, mathematics and technology and brings under one roof print material from four separate locations (the Scientific Periodicals Library, the main University Library, and the former departmental libraries for Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, and Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics). The Library, therefore, is a cornerstone of the University's strategy to concentrate teaching and research in the physical sciences and technology within the West Cambridge development.

Construction of the Library, to a design by Edward Cullinan Architects, has been made possible by a gift of £7.5 million from Dr Gordon E Moore, founder and Chairman Emeritus of the Intel Corporation. The Main Contractor for the project is Sir Robert McAlpine Limited, who are also constructing the adjacent Faulkes Institute of Geometry, on the Centre for Mathematical Sciences site, and another University project to develop Phase II of the BioSciences Laboratory on Tennis Court Road.

Initial design meetings were held with the architects in early 1997. Work on site began at the end of February 2000 and the building was completed at the end of June this year. The mammoth challenge of moving and re-sequencing over 4,000 linear metres of stock from multiple sites took five and a half weeks to complete.

The Library has been designed as a working science library for the twenty-first century, meeting the needs of both present and future generations of students and researchers. It will stand as a benchmark 'hybrid' library, combining quality levels of service and access to both print and electronic information.

There are several key requirements to delivering quality services within this hybrid model and these have been consciously built in to the design.

First was the need to accommodate growing conventional print collections. Scientific publishing, despite forecasts of an early demise at the hands of the Internet, shows no sign of slowing. More than 7,000 metres of custom-designed open-access shelving on four floors provide an initial capacity for over 156,000 volumes.

A second requirement was the provision of over 70 public computer workstations, with, in addition, power and data connections to all 300 seats within the building, so that the library can respond quickly and flexibly to future changes in the balance of print/electronic library use.

Encompassing these two needs and probably the most important factor in the success of any library, is that the building offers pleasing yet functional spaces to visit, work and interact within. The Moore Library has been designed very much as a living social space.

Although designed by Edward Cullinan Architects as one element of their overall concept for the Centre for Mathematical Sciences development, a distinctive circular form for the library was proposed, rather than the square shape of the mathematics 'pavilions'. The design is reminiscent of the library designed by Thomas Jefferson at the University of Virginia in 1817. Jefferson believed the layout liberating and conducive to both private study and the cross fertilization of ideas. Revisited for the twenty-first century, the design provides space, light, flexibility in use and environmentally sensitive natural ventilation and cooling.

On the upper three floors, shelving radiates from the centre of the building towards the natural light at the perimeter, where the majority of reader places are located. Natural light also passes through the core of the library, initially from the lantern on the second floor and then around the central lift shaft between floors. In response to the original brief, the architects have ensured that lighting and other services have been installed with a view that, in the future, seats may be replaced with shelving or vice-versa.

The upper two floors house the main book collection, a current periodicals display and the Stephen Hawking Archive. The ground floor accommodates the print and electronic reference collections, a new-acquisitions display area, library staff work areas and the service functions of user registration, circulation, reference and general assistance, behind a single service desk. The lower-ground floor extends beyond the circular footprint of the upper floors, providing space for over 5,000 metres of shelving for bound periodical volumes and 50 computer workstations.

The opening of the Moore Library marks the completion of the first stage in the University Library's broader strategy to build a modern infrastructure to deliver quality information services to support science at the University. Plans to re-develop the present Scientific Periodicals Library as a Central Science Library covering the Biological, Chemical, Earth and Environmental Sciences are currently being developed.

Moore Library facts and figures

Reader spaces:297
Public computer workstations:74
Current periodical titles: 2,000
Open-access shelving:7,000 linear metres
Gross internal floor area:3,320 square metres
Subject coverage:Pure and applied mathematics
Atronomy and astrophysics
Computer science
Materials science


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Wellcome Trust Grant to Darwin Project

The Darwin Correspondence Project, which is publishing the complete, edited texts of all known and extant letters written by or to the naturalist Charles Darwin, has been awarded a £700,000 grant by the Wellcome Trust to help support the work of its editorial team in Cambridge for a further five years. A second team is based in the United States.

The Darwin archive is one of the University Library's most significant holdings, and contains the largest collection of Darwin letters in the world. The letters are not only the best source for understanding Darwin as a person, but also offer a unique insight into Darwin as a scientist. In seeking to support his theory of natural selection, he amassed great quantities of data about the plants, animals, and peoples of the world, chiefly gathered from his correspondents (almost 2000 of them) who were spread through nearly thirty countries and came from all walks of life.

The twelfth volume of the Correspondence, covering the year 1864, was published by Cambridge University Press in July, bringing the total number of letters published to nearly 5000. The series is expected to run to thirty-two volumes. The team has also published a Calendar to the complete correspondence, an updated version of which is now available through the Library web site, and a volume of selected letters.

The Wellcome Trust has been a major sponsor of the Project since 1996, and during the lifetime of the new grant, the Project expects to complete work on a further five volumes covering the correspondence to the end of 1868. This was an exciting period that included the culmination of Darwin's research contributing to The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication (1868), and work on his book on human descent and sexual selection; his botanical investigations in his garden and greenhouses at his home in Down, Kent, continued to be a favourite preoccupation.

The correspondence is relevant to many different disciplines and is used by both scholars and general readers. It draws support from a wide range of sponsors, and an endowment fund is being established to see the work of the Project through to completion. If you would like to contribute, or simply learn more about the Project, please visit the website:

The Cambridge staff of the Project have recently moved to an office on the third floor of the Library's new north-west extension.

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University Library: provisional periodical subscriptions

The University Library has taken out a provisional subscription, for one year, to the following journals, and the level of use will be monitored in order to ascertain whether a longer-term subscription is justified. West Room pigeonhole locations are given in brackets for each title. Istoriia Peterburga(T.844)
Journal of African business(2376) [order at Periodicals Desk]
Archeo(R.207)Journal of linguistic anthropology(R.218)
Archeologia viva(R.212)Journal of threat assessment(E.67)
Grey room(O.442)Lignes(W.536)
Istoricheskie zapiski(T.828)Madoc(T.820)

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Ensemble Project

Cambridge University Library is a major contributor to a new national co-operative project for the retrospective conversion of catalogues of music in university and conservatoire libraries. The consortium, led by Birmingham University, includes Oxford, London, Edinburgh, and Cambridge Universities, and the Royal Academy, Royal College and Royal Northern College of Music. The first stages, funded by the government through the Research Support Libraries Programme, and supported locally by the Isaac Newton Trust, will add about 200,000 records to national databases (available through CURL and Music On Line), of which 25,000 will be from Cambridge. Each contributing library has chosen different areas of music to catalogue in order to bring the maximum number of different new records to the co-operative databases. For example, Oxford is doing operatic vocal scores, Cambridge miniature scores.

As a special project, Oxford and Cambridge are co-ordinating an approach to Victorian and Edwardian popular song; Cambridge covering the earlier period from 1850 to 1890, and Oxford from 1890 to 1914. Traditionally this type of material has been treated as ephemeral and, if catalogued by any of the legal deposit libraries at all, given a minimum level of description and filed only under the composer. Computers make multiple approaches very much easier, and the new catalogue records will include the words of the first line (and chorus if present) of every song, and entries for composers as well as lyric writers and performers - the latter often being the main selling point of popular songs. In order to help sociologists, historians and a host of others interested in the subject content of the material, wherever it has been easy to identify the topic a subject heading has been given, usually with an additional subdivision '-Songs and music'. A wide selection of these Victorian song subject-headings may be found on the Music Department web pages.

Another feature of popular music publishing of the time was the use of the new techniques of colour printing to increase the potential sales by the use of coloured covers. In order to enable the widest use of the collections, these cover illustrations have been described and the names of the illustrators and lithographers properly indexed. The subjects of the illustrations include portraits, landscapes, famous or new buildings, international exhibitions, battles (India, Balkans, South Africa), merchant and naval ships, sports and recreations, including rollerskating, rowing, horse racing, various kinds of hunting, the fire service, the life boat service, rural life, animals, flowers, birds, etc. All these illustrated covers have the magic word 'illustration' as a 'title keyword' in the online catalogue of music (a subset of the main catalogue). If you want to experiment, do a title keyword search for 'illustration horse', 'illustration exhibition' or 'illustration Cleopatra' (see picture). The title keyword 'illustration' may also be combined with a Library of Congress Subject Heading term, e.g. 'operas'.

A selection of illustrated covers is on show in the exhibition cases by the Anderson Room.

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Are all our journeys really necessary?

Readers requesting items from the closed stacks at the University Library enjoy a service which might be considered enviable by users of comparable institutions. The average wait for items requested in the Reading Room and West Room in the year 2000-01 was 37 minutes (vacancies in the pool of book-fetchers and disruption caused by building work adding only 6 minutes to the previous year's average). Readers also have the facility of ordering several categories of material online from anywhere, however remote.

Things could be even better, however, if book-fetching activity could be focussed on what was genuinely needed. In the year 2000-01 71,517 volumes were fetched to the Reading Room and West Room in response to online requests. Of these, 13,109 (18.3%) were never collected and were returned to the shelves unused.

As well as the waste of staff resources that could be used to improve the service to everyone, this situation means that the books are unavailable to other readers for several days, and also leads to unnecessary wear and tear on items that have often been placed on closed-access precisely because they lack physical robustness.

It seems likely that this situation results from occasional oversights by a large number of people (the rare cases of major abuse can be easily identified and dealt with) and therefore a little extra thought on everyone's part could have dramatic beneficial effects.

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New reading rooms open

The new Munby Rare Books Room and Manuscripts Reading Room, on the first and third floor respectively of the Library's north-west corner, opened to readers in September. The architects for this rebuilt section of the Library are the Harry Faulkner-Brown Howe Partnership, which is responsible for the ongoing extension of Giles Gilbert Scott's 1934 building. Generous funding for the new building was provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund; this was augmented by support from a number of other donors.


Seating capacity has substantially increased to 84 spaces in the Munby Rare Books Room and 66 in the Manuscripts Room, while both rooms have greatly enhanced facilities for readers. Each has an area devoted to PCs for public use, giving readers easy access through their menus to relevant databases and electronic services. The handsome new furniture, designed and produced by Luke Hughes, incorporates power points and ethernet connections. The rooms contain microform reading areas, and the Manuscripts Room has an adjoining teaching room. At the north end, behind a glass partition, is a Quiet Area for readers wishing to work undisturbed by human voices and electrical equipment. In the Rare Books Room this area will be temporarily occupied for some eighteen months by Official Publications staff and readers during the equivalent rebuilding of the Library's south-west corner. Enhanced security measures and a range of new book supports are provided to ensure the protection and safe handling of the collections.

The rooms are already busy with readers whose first reactions to the new accommodation have been extremely enthusiastic.

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The Treasury of Chinese Classics

Dr Karl Men Ky Ching, President of the United World Chinese Association (left) inspects the Treasury of Chinese Classics with Charles Aylmer, the Library's Chinese specialist.

China has a long history of imperially-sponsored collectanea, culminating in the eighteenth-century Great Imperial Encyclopaedia (T'u shu chi ch'eng) and Complete Imperial Library (Ssu k'u ch'Łan shu). In their time these were the largest publishing undertakings in the world, and Cambridge is fortunate to have copies of both, as a result of earlier benefactions.

Recently, thanks to the generosity of the Hong Kong-based United World Chinese Association, the Library has acquired a set of the largest modern compendium of this kind, the Treasury of Chinese Classics (Ch'uan shih ts'ang shu).

The Treasury, which was six years in compilation, comprises one thousand titles chosen by a panel of eminent scholars as representative of the quintessence of China's literary heritage. The texts, totalling 276 million characters, are printed according to the best available editions, typset in a uniform style and bound in 123 large volumes which occupy ten linear metres of shelving.

Among notable works included are the twenty-six Dynastic Histories of China (60 million characters), recording the period from prehistory to the Revolution of 1911; works of traditional Chinese medicine totalling 17 million characters; 48,900 poems and 20,025 prose pieces written during the T'ang Dynasty (618-907 AD), as well as all the most significant philosophical, scientific and literary writings produced in China in the last 2,000 years.

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'All was light!': Newton manuscripts on display

Nature, and Nature's Laws lay hid in Night.
God said, Let Newton be! And All was Light.
(Alexander Pope)

Isaac Newton is considered by many to be the quintessential scientific genius, employing his sophisticated scientific method not only on mathematics, astronomy, optics and mechanics, but also on alchemy, astrology, biblical chronology and theology.

Even now, almost 275 years after his death, his scientific aura has a powerful quality. To contemporaries, such as the Swiss mathematician Johann Bernoulli, Newton's methods were so remarkable that on their own they were enough to identify him, 'as a lion can be recognised from his footprint'. By the time of his death in 1727, Newton was seen as the representative figure of modern science, and his reputation remains undiminished to the present day. Now, for the first time, unique collections are on public display in an exciting new exhibition gathering together words from the hand of Newton.

Two exhibits on loan from the Whipple Museum: the prism with which Newton reputedly examined the nature of white light and refrangible rays, and a replica of a telescope built by Newton.

Since 1872, Cambridge University Library has housed the Portsmouth Collection, the principal archive of Newton's scientific papers, presented to the University by the fifth Earl of Portsmouth. In 2000, with the assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund and many other donors, the Library acquired the important Macclesfield Collection. Together for the first time in centuries, these major collections show Isaac Newton's creativity in letters and manuscripts on celestial mechanics and gravitation, his method of fluxions (the calculus), optics and chemistry. This exhibition gathers together some of Newton's manuscripts and books from his library which tell an even more complex story of an outward face of genius that is quite different from that of the private life of an alchemist and heretic, who had, for much of his life, deliberately avoided publicity of any kind.

Among the extraordinary items on show are first editions of Opticks and the Principia Mathematica annotated by Newton and from his own library, manuscripts detailing solutions to the principal problems of celestial mechanics, and Newton's death-mask from King's College Library. His feuds with other scientists are recorded, his early years are unfolded, but pride of place goes to the manuscripts themselves, recorded in Newton's elegant script. Always readable, not always understandable, they are as close as we will ever get to Newton's extraordinary mind.

Footprints of the Lion: Isaac Newton at work
9 October 2001 to 23 March 2002
(closed 23 December to 1 January inclusive)

Opening hours:
Monday-Friday 09.00-18.00
Saturday 09.00-16.30

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

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The Friends of Cambridge University Library

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

Saturday 20 October at 11.30
John Harvey

'Shakespeare in the house of art: the tragedies, in pictures'

Monday 5 November at 17.00
Mark Nicholls

'What Gunpowder Plot was: the facts and fictions of treason'

Saturday 24 November at 11.30
Milo Keynes

'The iconography of Sir Isaac Newton: ad vivam portraits and posthumous busts'

This talk will be preceded by the Annual General Meeting.

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 recover costs. Non-members are welcome at all talks; the admission charge is £3.50.

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Exhibitions within the Library

Users of the Library will have noticed that less formal exhibitions are mounted for short periods in the showcases along the North corridor at the front of the building. These are often prompted at relatively short notice by conferences being held in Cambridge or by significant anniversaries, and their subjects are very varied. Recent examples include Bob Dylan's 60th birthday and decorative book bindings. As we go to press, a conference on Kipling taking place in Magdalene and Trinity Colleges (and the centenary of the publication of Kim) is the occasion for a display, and late November will see examples of Visual Culture in Spanish and Latin American Studies to coincide with the Annual Symposium of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese.

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Editor: Stephen Hills ISSN:1360-9033