Readers' Newsletter


The West Bookstack gets under way

Long-term users of the Library will be all too aware of the major building developments that have been undertaken over the last ten years. These have led to the creation of new or enlarged areas for users of manuscripts and rare books, of digital resources and official publications, a photographic and digitisation centre, and an exhibition centre open to all.

The final element of this building programme is the West Bookstack, which will join the north-west and south-west corners at the rear of the building. This stack continues the concept of maintaining the Library and its collections on one site, the vision that inspired the University in the 1920s and one that users of the Library have benefited from ever since, with the enormous open-access collections and rapid delivery of books from closed stack that is the envy of users of similar collections elsewhere.

The feasibility study carried out in 1992, before approval of the building programme was given, estimated that the new storage space would be needed by 2003; by various measures it has been possible to extend the date a little, but the Library is now rapidly running out of space for its ever growing collections, and the new stack has become an urgent necessity if a crisis is to be avoided.

The total cost of the development so far has been over £20 million, most of which has been raised from sources external to the University. A further £14 million is required to complete the West Bookstack, and the University has agreed, in order to provide sufficient breathing space for the Library to continue its successful fundraising campaign, to put aside a sum of £4 million from the Cambridge University Press Fund. This, together with accumulated trust fund income available to the Library, will allow the shell of the northern half of the West Bookstack to be built, and for two and a half of the five floors to be fitted out with shelving.

Work on site will start early in 2004 and this phase will be completed in mid 2005, by which time it is hoped that sufficient funding will have been raised to fit out the remaining floors of this phase. The campaign will also seek to put in place the funding needed to build the southern half, thus completing the Library’s development programme and providing for the needs of users, staff and collections for at least the next quarter century.

Top of document

40,000 Bibles now added to Newton

A collection of versions of only one book makes the Bible Society’s Library possibly the most unusual collection in the UL. It comprises 40,000 bibles and testaments containing examples of all or parts of the bible text in over 2000 languages. Accumulated during the last 200 years - the Society celebrates its bi-centenary in 2004 - its earliest printed edition is a 1470 Latin Bible, its most recent a 2003 edition of the Book of Jonah in Mohawk with accompanying CD of the spoken text, ‘with whale sounds added’.

Until 1997 the catalogue of this unique collection existed only as the 1911 printed Historical catalogue of the printed scriptures in the library of the British and Foreign Bible Society by T.H. Darlow and H.F. Moule, and the 85 years’ worth of subsequent additions to it in a set of ring binders, as well as some catalogues of parts of the collection, notably that of English bibles by A.S. Herbert.

A six-year project to re-catalogue the collection and add it to the Cambridge Newton system has just come to an end. Records for all the holdings in Roman characters, together with those in Greek, Hebrew, Cyrillic and some syllabic scripts - in total almost 90% of the collection - are now available online.

The remaining items have titles in Asian characters; brief records for them are about to be added, with short descriptions in English instead of transcriptions or transliterations of the non-Roman characters. This will mean that, even if the title cannot be accurately transcribed, an item can be found from the language, date and/or place of publication. Thus the Society’s catalogue will come full circle, as a similar way of describing non-Roman titles was used by Darlow and Moule in their original work, the identifying numbers from which will be recorded when applicable.

The Bible Society’s library is to be found in the Bradshaw Room, off the Anderson Room in the South Pavilion. As well as printed bibles the collection also contains the Society’s archives, manuscripts and a small number of reference works. All Bible Society classmarks begin with the letters BSS for scriptures, BSH for reference books, BSA for archives or BSMS for manuscripts. Material from the collection is not borrowable. Printed items are consulted in the Rare Books Reading Room, if dated 1850 or earlier, or in the Anderson Room. Manuscripts and archives are read in the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Top of document

The Digital Library expands

The Book of Deer has been made available electronically in full for the first time by the University Library. The Book of Deer is an illustrated tenth-century gospel book, thought to be the earliest surviving manuscript produced in Scotland and associated with the Cistercian Abbey of Deer in Aberdeenshire. The Library holds the original (MS. Ii.6.32), but it is hoped that the digital copy, freely accessible via the Library website, will make it available to a wider audience.

Forming part of the Library’s expanding Digital Library collection, the electronic copy of the Book of Deer can be viewed as a whole, or readers can jump to individual pages of the manuscript. There is also a brief introduction to the work, describing and detailing the history of the manuscript, with pointers to further reading for those who wish to know more.

Also new in the Digital Library are digital copies of the two Conrad Martens sketchbooks held by Cambridge University Library. Conrad Martens was the artist who accompanied Darwin on the voyage of the Beagle, and his sketchbooks contain images of plants, animals, landscapes, towns and people from around nineteenth-century South America. These images are fully searchable by keyword and category, each picture having a comprehensive description and being indexed in detail. There is also a biography of Martens, two commentaries on the sketchbooks and an itinerary of Martens’ journey to place the sketchbooks in context.

These two new items are additions to the existing treasures of the Digital Library. These include: an electronic copy of an illustrated Anglo-Norman verse life of St Edward the Confessor, written in England in the thirteenth century, together with an introduction to the manuscript (MS. Ee.3.59); digital images of Pascal's Treatise on the arithmetic triangle with an introduction by Professor A.W.F. Edwards; an electronic copy of the Gutenberg Bible, the first substantial work printed from moveable metal type around the year 1455; and digitized images of some of the Taylor-Schechter Genizah fragments held by the Library.

The Digital Library continues to expand, with images from Newton’s manuscripts being added and some of the Royal Commonwealth Society’s photographic collection being made available online soon.

These and the other collections listed above can be accessed from the Digital Library at

Top of document

Collection Development and Description

On 1 August, the University Library initiated the first stage in a structural reorganisation of the main processing areas of acquisitions and cataloguing. A new division of the Library, Collection Development and Description, has been created. Initially it comprises the former Cataloguing Division and the Accessions Department - this latter was the department which had responsibility for the acquisition of books other than those received under Legal Deposit provisions.

Under the new arrangements, the ‘life cycle’ of a book - from initial recommendation, through all of its acquisitions and cataloguing stages, up to and including the spine labelling - is the responsibility of a single Division. (The Dependent Libraries remain responsible for their own processing.)

Of particular interest to library users will be assignment of budgets, for the first time, to individual specialists. These will be controlled by language in the first instance, although a statistical breakdown by subject will support those managing these budgets (the ability to provide this sort of information being one of the benefits available to the Library as a result of the change to the Voyager library system).

Specialists will be responsible for approving recommendations, controlling their budgets, and for the cataloguing workflow once books have been received. They become the point of contact for library users wishing to discuss the development of collections in particular areas of interest. Contact details for those specialists, together with more general information about how to get in touch with staff of the new Division, are on the Library's web pages at The Library’s Collection Development policy can also be consulted online at

Over a period of two to three years the Library expects to incorporate the remaining departments of the Accessions Division - Legal Deposit, Periodicals, Official Publications - into the Collection Development and Description Division.

Top of document

Children in the Library

The Library Syndicate recently reconsidered the rules on admission of children to the University Library, with particular regard to mature students with children. Expert advice on the insurance and health and safety aspects of the question indicated the need for appropriate risk assessments and for children to be fully supervised during a visit. As the size and nature of the building made it impossible to guarantee compliance with such conditions, and taking into account possible disturbance to other users, the Syndicate decided to continue the policy of not permitting readers to be accompanied by children under 16 within the Library. Children are, however, allowed to wait for parents in the Exhibition Centre or Entrance Hall for short periods. Accompanied children of any age are of course welcome to visit the Exhibition Centre whenever it is open.

Top of document

Engineering collections rehoused

The Betty and Gordon Moore Library is entering its third full academic year of operations. The Library holds the University Library’s working collections in the physical sciences, mathematics, engineering, materials science and technology and houses purchased and legal deposit material in these subjects.

The collections of the Moore Library have been significantly strengthened by the transfer of over 4,500 monographic volumes from the University Library during the summer.

The Moore Library already had extensive holdings of mathematics books as a result of absorbing the collections of the former libraries of the two Mathematics departments. In order to promote the library further, the Library Syndicate approved a proposal for the transfer of certain blocks of already catalogued, recently published monographs within the University Library classes 428-431: Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Electronics (previously shelved on South Front 6).

These books have initially retained their University Library classmarks but are identified in the Newton catalogue as being located in the Moore Library. They are available to readers on the same terms as other Moore Library borrowable stock. In due course, staff will reclassify the books into the main Library of Congress classification in use in the Moore and interfile them in the main Moore sequence.

Top of document

CUL on the Hub

Over the past year, descriptions of more than a thousand of the Library’s manuscript collections have been contributed to the Archives Hub, an online resource providing catalogue records for archives held in UK higher education institutions. Alongside related projects, the Hub forms one part of the National Archives Network, and acts as a single point of access to descriptions of an increasing proportion of archival material in British universities and colleges. The creation of the new Cambridge records, made possible by a grant from the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), has been an important development both for the Library and for the Hub.

A high proportion of items in the Library’s Additional Manuscripts series accessioned since the beginning of the twentieth century now have Hub records, as do all the ‘Named Collections’ (large collections of Western manuscripts, typically papers of nationally-important individuals, landed families, or business corporations). University Library manuscripts now represented on the Hub range from the papers of the Societas Sanctae Crucis to those of Charles Darwin; from the vast archive of the Scottish mercantile enterprise Jardine, Matheson & Co. to a solitary rent roll of Newton Manor, County Down; and from a treatise by the seventeenth-century clergyman Thomas Gilbert on the validity of clandestine marriages to papers on the marriage settlement of the artist Gwen Raverat.

A further instalment of several hundred records for University Library manuscripts will begin to be added to the Hub later in 2004, thanks to a further grant from the JISC. The Hub can be explored at; for further information, contact John Wells in the Department of Manuscripts and University Archives, (, or telephone (3)33055).

Top of document

New University Library Exhibition

Sacred scripts: world religions in manuscript and print.

4 November 2003 to 24 April 2004
(closed 24 December 2003- 1 January 2004 and 9 - 12 April 2004 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.

This exhibition will draw on the finest examples in the University Library of sacred scripts from all over the world. It includes printed Buddhist scripts from the eighth century CE, which are among the earliest datable printed documents in the world and features finely illustrated Christian Bibles and magnificent illuminated Qur'ans.

It aims to show how religious devotion has led to the creation of objects whose diversity and beauty are striking, yet whose purpose was both specific and practical.

Top of document

The Friends of Cambridge University Library

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

Wednesday 19 November at 17.00

Mark Purcell
‘The libraries of the National Trust in East Anglia.’

Saturday 22 November at 11.30

Anthony Thwaite
‘Sometimes you want to tell everything’: Anthony Thwaite reads from and talks about some of his poems.

Saturday 29 November at 11.30

Sir Charles Chadwyck-Healey
‘Library publishers and information transfer.’

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. Non-members are welcome at all talks; the admission charge is £3.50. All talks are free to junior members of the University of Cambridge.

Top of document

Back to Newsletters

Editor: Stephen Hills ISSN:1360-9033