Readers' Newsletter


Official Opening of the South West Corner extension

The University Library’s new South West Corner extension, which has been available for public and staff use since the spring, was formally opened on 26 November by the Rt. Hon. Lord Hurd of Westwell. Peter Fox, the University Librarian, told guests at the opening reception that this development represented the latest stage of a plan approved by the University in 1993 to improve facilities for readers and to provide space for the storage and display of the Library’s collections. Since then, the sum of £26 million has been raised - £9 million from Cambridge University Press and the rest from external sources. The results have been the Aoi Pavilion for the Library’s East Asian collections, a new public exhibition area, basement bookstacks at the rear of the building as a first stage in meeting storage needs, and the North West Corner extension providing increased space and improved facilities, environment and security for rare books and manuscripts and their users. The symmetrical development of the South West Corner was funded by a grant of £6 million from The Atlantic Philanthropies, designed by architects Harry Faulkner-Brown and Christine Howe.and constructed by the firm of R.G. Carter.

Full details of the public rooms appeared in Readers’ newsletter no. 24. These provide facilities for official publications, microforms, inter-library loans and digital resources, with spacious accommodation, new equipment and staff areas close at hand. Housed on the ground floor is the Legal Deposit department, which deals with the Library’s entitlement, under legal deposit legislation, to a copy of every book, printed journal, map and piece of music published in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. The week’s intake of books and periodicals was on display to demonstrate its range and quantity and the Library’s role in preserving the research material of the future. A similar display of official publications went further back in time to include the report of Wellington’s victory at Waterloo from the London gazette, first stirrings of the Channel Tunnel project (from Hansard in 1883!) and, also from Hansard, the maiden speech in 1974 of the new M.P. for Mid-Oxfordshire, Douglas Hurd.

Lord Hurd, a graduate of Trinity College, served in the Diplomatic Service before entering politics. He was successively Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary and was created a Life Peer in 1997. In his Memoirs he recorded his pleasure in using the University Library as an undergraduate and has greatly supported the Library since. He has been involved in fundraising as a committee member and speaker on both sides of the Atlantic. In opening the new development he repeated his fond memories of using the Library, which he described as ‘one of the great institutions of the University and therefore of the country’.

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The Sandars lectures 2004

This year’s Sandars lectures in bibliography will be given by Christopher de Hamel, D.Phil., F.S.A., F.R.Hist.S. Dr de Hamel is Donnelley Librarian and Fellow, Corpus Christi College. He was formerly Director of Western Manuscripts at Sotheby’s. His lecture series is on the subject of Sir Sydney Cockerell; the individual lectures, all at 17.00 in the Morison Room, Cambridge University Library, are on March 4th, 9th and 11th.

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Legal Deposit of non-book material

The Legal Deposit Libraries Act, extending previous legislation to require publishers to deposit publications in electronic format and microform with the six legal deposit libraries in the UK and Ireland, received royal assent on 30 October 2003. The passing of the private members bill, introduced by Chris Mole MP, followed a campaign by all of the legal deposit libraries, in which Cambridge University Library took an active part. A working party, set up by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and chaired by Sir Anthony Kenny, concluded in 1998 that “in the longer term only statutory deposit could secure a comprehensive national published archive”. The new Act, which replaces the sections of the Copyright Act of 1911 relating to deposit of print publications, is generic and makes way for secondary legislation to be approved by Parliament to cover specific electronic formats such as CD-Roms, e-journals and online databases. This will ensure that emerging and future formats do not fall outside the scope of the Act. It builds on the voluntary code of practice for the deposit for non-print publications, in place since 2000, in which the Library has participated.

The legislation will help to support the long-term preservation of UK electronic publications. Cambridge University Library, through its participation in the DSpace, Cedars, Camileon, and LOCKSS projects, has been investigating the issues, partly technological, partly organisational, involved in the preservation of digital publications since 1998. The Library’s collections include very substantial holdings in a number of digital formats: online databases, e-journals, e-books, digitised images, diskettes and CD-Roms. In the coming year the legal deposit libraries will develop collecting policies for these formats. As a research library, Cambridge University Library’s strategy will be to ensure that digital publications of value to the University of Cambridge and wider research community are preserved and remain usable in the long term.

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Criminal marginalia revisited

Marginalia and other crimes was the title given to an exhibition mounted last spring of books that had been damaged (mostly) by readers. Generally, this aspect of our work is invisible; damaged books are removed and replaced where possible, and relatively few readers suffer the consequences of their carelessness, or see the effort that goes into restoring the damaged items.

When designing the exhibition, and choosing the style of expression of the labels, Tony Harper, Head of Reader Services had hoped to provoke a reaction from readers and perhaps a response, or an expression of the wish to do something about the problem. A report on any feedback was promised in a future issue of the Readers’ newsletter and now follows:

The display attracted a great deal of interest. Although there were many written replies, for which I thank our correspondents, most readers accepted the status quo. The only suggestion that was generally approved was for Cambridge to use a spoken declaration, as Oxford used to do, when readers register with the Library.

In trying to resolve the contradiction between the evident popularity of the exhibits and the lack of passion to extirpate this problem, I came to the following conclusions. The exhibition was like a freak-show – exciting curiosity about the horrors that conservators have to face. It was an exhibition that left its audience feeling morally superior – those of us who never mark books felt we were better that those who did, while even those of us who do mark books had the satisfaction of knowing that we do not treat them as badly as the ones on exhibition. Although the display showed how the collections were being mistreated by some of their users, the sacrifice of having them damaged seemed to be a price that was considered acceptable in order to have the privilege of access to them (current self-interest outweighing the longer-term needs of scholarship).

The exhibition has been captured as a set of digital images. These can be found on the Library’s website at This will be a useful teaching tool to instruct readers who are new to libraries with heritage collections, and a stock intended to last longer than the disposable, current edition of a book

Tony Harper (

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New additions to the Genizah series

The Taylor-Schechter Genizah Collection is a priceless accumulation of centuries-old Hebrew manuscript material and Judaica that was brought to Cambridge University Library from the storeroom of an ancient synagogue in Old Cairo at the end of the nineteenth century. The Collection consists of 140,000 fragments, principally written in Hebrew, Judaeo-Arabic, Arabic and Aramaic. They date from as early as the sixth century CE to as late as the end of the nineteenth century, but the majority were written between the tenth and thirteenth centuries.

Medieval Bible fragments are a substantial part of the Collection. They range from large sections (several feet across) of leather Torah scrolls, through vellum leaves from beautifully written and carefully annotated codices, to scraps of paper bearing a few biblical verses for private reference.

Following the successful publication twenty years ago of the first two volumes of Hebrew Bible manuscripts in the Cambridge Genizah Collections, the important work of describing the Bible fragments in the Genizah is now complete with the publication, by Cambridge University Press for Cambridge University Library’s ‘Genizah Series’, of the third and fourth volumes. The two new volumes present a comprehensive catalogue of the Hebrew Bible fragments in the Taylor-Schechter Additional Series, describing in detail an impressive total of 14,679 items. Besides the identification of the exact content of each fragment, the volumes contain thorough physical and linguistic descriptions, as well as notes on additional features of interest. Taken together, all four volumes now provide the researcher with details of 24,260 biblical fragments in the Cambridge Genizah Collections and will be an indispensable tool for those with interests in Hebrew Bible, Jewish studies and Semitics.

Details are as follows: Hebrew Bible manuscripts in the Cambridge Genizah Collections. Vol. 3: Taylor-Schechter Additional Series 1­31, described by M.C. Davis and Ben Outhwaite. xiii, 500 p.+16 plates (ISBN: 0521816122); Vol. 4: Taylor-Schechter Additional Series 32­225, described by M.C. Davis and Ben Outhwaite, with addenda to previous volumes. xi, 553 p.+16 plates (ISBN: 0521816130). Price: £90 per volume.

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User education available 24/7

The last three years have seen a steady stream of dedicated readers attending one of the Library’s regular user education sessions and leaving with some extra understanding of the Library’s collections and services, of special subject resources and of the ins and outs of electronic information retrieval. However, attendance pre-supposes a certain amount of forward planning, time and simply being awake. By the very nature of today’s workloads and routines, many readers are excluded from the user education programme.

Since October 2003 those migratory birds, busy bees and night owls stuck for help at midnight have no longer been disadvantaged. Substantial enhancements and additions to the user education pages, prepared over the summer, are available from the Library’s web pages. A collection of over 250 guides, workbooks, online tutorials, etc., written by database providers, has been compiled and integrated with details of presentations, seminars, practicals and tutorials at both the University Library and the Medical Library.

Hand-outs accompanying UL user education sessions are also being added. To date, subject guides for General Reference, Classics, English literature, History, Music, Philosophy, Social Sciences and Political Sciences are fully downloadable. Course hand-outs for electronic resources sessions currently include a general introduction to the selection of, and access to, e-resources, an introduction to electronic journals and a guide to online current awareness services.

The majority of guides are in pdf format and can be printed out or downloaded. Adobe Acrobat Reader plugin is required. Many guides are only available on the providers' websites and access restrictions may apply. Some online tutorials require recent versions of browsers or additional plugins, such as Flash, although instructions on how to download and install these are usually given.

Finally, to facilitate the search for support, online or otherwise, the user education pages can now also be searched by discipline or by type of support (

For further information, please contact Isabel D. Holowaty, Reference Department, (3)33016, e-mail:

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RCS collections on the web

RCS Photograph website launched

Picture researchers will be pleased to read of the launch of the RCS Photograph Project website ( The site includes details of the project’s objectives, a brief history of the RCS Collection, a gallery of images from the collection, links to related websites and publications, contact details and conditions for accessing and reproducing images from the collections.

The themed gallery will eventually hold about 700 images demonstrating the variety and quality of the collection - royal tours, immigration, trade, industry and agriculture, education and health, family life and recreation.

Images from the Indian Tour of 1905-6 give a wonderful insight into the pomp and ceremony which greeted the then Princess Mary wherever she travelled, but also a rare glimpse of the décor of rooms on H.M.S. Renown and the Royal Train, and of the scrapbooks which the Princess kept of her Indian tours, including fabric swatches, dinner menus and race cards.

Publication of RCS catalogues on Janus

Catalogues to some RCS photographs, manuscripts and archives collections have already been published on Janus (the web-gateway to archives and manuscripts collections in Cambridge).

Enquirers are recommended to check the URL ( often during the next year and a half as descriptions are being added all the time.

EEMLAC grant success

The RCS collection has recently been awarded a grant from EEMLAC (East of England Museums, Libraries, Archives Council) to produce an Electronic Who’s Who of Photographers in the Royal Commonwealth Society’s Collections.

The grant will enable a web-searchable database to be built which will give public access to the vast store of additional information about the more than 500 photographers of images in the RCS collections, augmenting and adding value to the RCS Photograph Project. The database will include information about professional and amateur photographers and enquirers will be able to search for photographers by name, studio, time period, geographic area and photographic work.

The Library hopes that by making such information publicly available it will encourage further pictorial research into this rich historical archive.

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The Research Libraries Group (RLG), of which Cambridge University Library is a member, has recently launched a new style of catalogue, designed specifically with the needs of students and researchers in mind, which allows the user to locate books, serials, archival collections, manuscripts, maps, musical scores, sound recordings, films, photographs, and electronic resources in any of RLG’s 160-plus member libraries. These include university and national libraries, archives, and historical societies. Available to any Web user at, the RedLightGreen catalogue searches around 130 million records to put the most widely held, most relevant items near the top of any search results list. Once a particular title is found the “Get it at your library” feature allows the user to locate copies quickly at any number of local libraries by linking into their catalogues, including Cambridge’s Newton. If a work is in print it will also check for availability through online booksellers, including Amazon. RedLightGreen provides detailed bibliographic information on any book, including data about editors, contributors, and subject classifications, and creates a properly formatted bibliography according to MLA, APA, Chicago, or Turabian rules, which can be printed out or e-mailed.

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Ernst Hermann Meyer Collection

The University Library has received a gift of music by Ernst Hermann Meyer from his daughter Marion Kant. Meyer studied music at Heidelberg University, completing his PhD in the 17th century chamber music of North German composers in 1930. He opposed the rise of the Nazi party, and in 1933 emigrated to England. Before returning to East Germany in 1947 he researched English chamber music of the 17th century and lectured for the Workers’ Educational Association. He was also a significant composer, and as a supporter of the Communist regime, wrote music for Young Pioneers, and many Communist Party festivals. The gift comprises photostat reproductions of his manuscripts, both of 17th-century transcriptions and his many compositions (the originals are in the Stiftung Archiv der Akademie der Künste), a few original manuscripts, and (probably) all his published editions.

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The Friends of Cambridge University Library

Forthcoming events, to be held in the Morison Room, University Library, except where stated:

Sunday 18 January at 20.30 in Selwyn College Hall
Rediscoveries: an orchestral and choral concert in association with Selwyn College Music Society. To include See mighty land: a welcome song (1698) by Vaughan Richardson (from a manuscript in the University Library) and Sing to the Lord by John Alcock (1715-1806).
Tickets from Selwyn Porters’ Lodge, price £8 (Friends of Cambridge University Library £6)

Wednesday 4 February at 17.00
Linne Mooney

‘Who wrote medieval English manuscripts?’

Wednesday 11 February at 17.00
Christopher de Hamel

‘Elephants and archbishops : the Parker Library’

Wednesday 25 February at 17.00
Duncan Wu

‘Wordsworth’s poets’

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. Tea is served at Wednesday evening meetings from 16.30.

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Exhibition in the University Library

Sacred scripts: world religions in manuscript and print.

This exhibition continues to 24 April 2004
(closed 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.

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Editor: Stephen Hills ISSN:1360-9033