Readers' Newsletter


Newton Universal Catalogue launched

The Newton Universal Catalogue, providing a single point from which to search across the library collections of the University, was launched as a pilot service at the start of the Michaelmas term. Updated daily, it provides information in one place for books held in over 100 libraries, including the University Library, its dependent libraries, and most faculty, departmental, and college libraries of the University and its affiliated institutions, so that a reader seeking a particular work no longer needs to know in which database to begin looking. By removing much of the duplication in catalogue records the Universal Catalogue speeds up the process of searching. Through the ‘Your Account’ option, readers who are registered in more than one library will be able to view information on all their borrower details and books on loan in a single display. Requests for books to be recalled or fetched from the closed stacks in the University Library can also be placed through the Universal Catalogue.

The Newton Universal Catalogue is available at

Newton Universal Catalogue

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Access to major scientific e-journals

The acquisition by the Library of the complete set of Elsevier ScienceDirect backfiles through a Science Research Infrastructure Fund grant will deliver scientific literature electronically to the desktop across the University community on an unprecedented scale. Comprising more than 7 million articles, the collection of digitised back issues of Elsevier ScienceDirect journals purchased with this grant is equivalent to 4 km of shelf space for print volumes. Each title is available electronically from the first volume and issue of publication, complementing the current subscription. Key journals include The Lancet, from 1823 onwards, Physics Reports, Analytica Chimica Acta,Topology, Behaviour Research and Therapy, Neuroscience, Research in Microbiology, and Cell. As well as making existing peer-reviewed titles held within the University more readily accessible, the electronic backfiles widen the range of titles immediately available in Cambridge, obviating the need to acquire articles through document delivery and inter-library loan. This initiative moves the University Library a step closer to meeting demands for all journals to be available online.

In addition to the e-journal backfiles the agreement with Elsevier will add a number of major electronic reference works to the collection, including the International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, the Encyclopedia of Biological Chemistry, the Encyclopedia of Neurological Sciences, and Comprehensive Coordination Chemistry II.

The ScienceDirect backfiles will be available early in the Lent Term and will be listed at ejournals@cambridge.

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Electronic textbooks now accessible through Newton

Electronic versions of over one hundred of the most frequently used titles in college libraries are now accessible to all members of the University through web links in the Newton catalogue and from a dedicated page on the supplier’s website. The agreement with NetLibrary, the e-content division of OCLC, has been negotiated by the Cambridge Colleges' Libraries' Forum.

This agreement is for a trial period of a year starting in January 2006. The cost of the subscription will be met by a generous donation from Professor Robert Z. Aliber, of St John's College, Emeritus Professor of International Economics and Finance, Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago, and contributions from the colleges represented by the project team (Clare, Lucy Cavendish, Queens', St John's, Selwyn and Trinity).

This initiative is being tackled by college libraries as part of the solution to the problem of providing resources despite restricted space and budgets, and is targeted at meeting undergraduate demand for key texts in all subjects taught in the Tripos. The collection has been formed following negotiation by NetLibrary with the five publishers whose titles are most frequently borrowed from college libraries. NetLibrary was selected as supplier of the pilot because of suitability of their catalogue, delivery method and price. They already supply e-books to universities such as UCL, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and the North West Academic Libraries consortium (NORWAL).

During the trial year the team will monitor the project through usage statistics and user surveys. Consultations will also take place with colleagues in college, faculty and departmental libraries as well as the University Library. An evaluation report will be prepared in Autumn 2006.

For further information please contact the CCLF e-book project team on

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ISBNs: spot the difference

There are people who like to spot new car registrations. Now they can extend their horizons to a more restful and safer pastime, the scrutiny of the back covers of books, or that information-rich area on the verso of the title page, where there is a quiet revolution taking place.

From January 2007 the ISBN will have to contain not the current 10 digits, but a new standard 13. Some books now being received in the University Library already have the longer ISBN, because up to that deadline books (which, it is optimistically anticipated, will remain in print into 2007) are allowed to display the two different numbers.

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number and was introduced some 30 years ago in the international book trade, with 166 countries now officially ISBN members. It is used to identify books, can be read by machine, and is applied at the earliest stages of production. The present 10 digits comprise a group identifier (country or language), followed by a publisher prefix, a title identifier and a check digit. The four elements can vary in length, depending on the volume of books published by a particular publisher. If that publisher produces large quantities of books, the prefix is short and gives the title identifier more scope.

The ISBN is used by the book trade for stock control and ordering, sales control and accounting purposes, returns, point-of-sale systems and bibliographic information. Libraries benefit from the ISBN in similar ways in, for example, selection, acquisition and cataloguing, and it underpins most automated activities.

The UK alone publishes over 125,000 books a year. It became clear some time ago that the 10-digit ISBN numbering was running out. An extension to this system was accordingly devised which will work in a similar way (and more simply than car registration plates). The existing ISBNs will be prefixed by the digits 978, to be followed by 979 when those too are all used up.

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Janus marks its third birthday

Pouring the boiled syrup

"Pouring the boiled syrup onto the clean snow, ready for eating", Joliette, Quebec, 1909. An image from the Royal Commonwealth Society Photograph Collection which can be discovered through Janus.

Janus, the Internet resource for catalogues of Cambridge archives, provides a single point of networked access to catalogues of archives in the University, colleges and other institutions in Cambridge.

Since its launch in October 2002, Janus has completely altered the landscape for Cambridge archives, their users and custodians. To judge by the steady increase in number of participating institutions, catalogues online and hits on the site, its facilities are increasingly popular. Now the completion of Phase II development sees additional features for both researchers and archivists.

"Cambridge archives" are extremely diverse in their scope, extending from the personal papers of the many writers, artists, scientists, politicians and others associated with the place to the corporate records of the University and colleges, learned societies and hospitals. There are now more than 1,400 catalogues on Janus; that is 100 megabytes of electronic data. In the last two years, there has been a more than 16-fold increase in the volume of website traffic; from approximately 12,000 pages served in October 2003 to 200,000 in November 2005. Current catalogue favourites are those of the Royal Commonwealth Society archives at the University Library and the politicians' and scientists' papers at the Churchill Archive Centre. Now, as one Janus partner says, readers are able to ‘plan their visits effectively before they arrive and hit the ground running' - very important in the Cambridge context where repositories are small and the collections inter-linked, so that the reader may wish to take in several in one visit.

Key among the improvements now incorporated into the Janus site is "profiled searching". Janus now makes it possible to combine search terms, or to specify that searches be made in particular data fields, or to delimit by archival repository or date. Advanced searching of this kind also now exploits the subjects, names and places used to index catalogue entries. Importantly, it also searches the repository details provided by participants and the glossary of Cambridge-related terminology.

Users of Janus are now better served by the improvements made to the display of hits retrieved by searches of all kinds. Also, if they have any question about the catalogue entry on view, an e-mail option links through to the holding repository, automatically including the reference of the material in question.

New Janus is now greatly improved as a tool for resource discovery, assisting greater numbers of researchers to cut a swath through greater numbers of catalogues. As more archive-holding repositories come online, its aspiration towards complete coverage of Cambridge archives, in all their richness and variety, is becoming a reality.

For further information, please visit the Janus site at

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Catherine Cooke bequest

In Newsletter no. 30 we reported on the important collection of Russian books left to the Library as a bequest from Dr Catherine Cooke. The Library was also the major beneficiary under the terms of Dr Cooke's will, and, thanks to her generosity, is receiving a financial bequest of the order of £1 million.

The Library Syndicate has decided that the major part of this bequest will be used as a contribution towards the final phase of the Library extension, for which fundraising is currently under way. This will contain the special collections storage area, and is where the Cooke Collection will be housed in due course. The remainder of the bequest will be used to pay for the sorting and cataloguing of the collection of books and other materials left by Dr Cooke, and as matching funding for a number of major externally-funded projects due to begin in the next year or two.

In recognition of her generosity, Dr Cooke's name has been added to the benefactors' plaques on the staircase leading up from the Entrance Hall.

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Visible Language: Dante in Text & Image

The Library’s new exhibition opens to the public on Tuesday 17 January and celebrates the ways in which the works of the Italian poet Dante Alighieri (1265–1321) have been interpreted in text and image over seven centuries of book production. Dante has been transcribed and translated, annotated and adapted, printed and illustrated for successive generations of readers from the fourteenth century right up to the present day. In his Defence of poetry, Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote that Dante was ‘ the bridge thrown over the stream of time, which unites the modern and ancient world’. From the youthful lover of the Vita nova to the marvellous journey through the afterlife of Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise in the Divina commedia, Dante’s works continue to challenge and inspire modern audiences.

The exhibition draws on Cambridge University Library’s own collections and the private library of the Italian businessman and bibliophile Livio Ambrogio, and brings together manuscripts and printed books, illustrations and fine bindings - all created to make Dante’s words visible, or themselves inspired by Dante’s writings. It is both a chance to explore some of the Library’s treasures and a rare opportunity to admire a private collector’s books. As well as beautifully illustrated manuscripts and early printed editions, the exhibition includes material relating to the geography of Hell, tracing the Renaissance fashion for mapping out and measuring the underworld, and the cosmology of Paradise. On the theme of ‘Text and Translation’ is the Library’s copy of Henry Boyd’s translation of the Inferno (1785), with pencil annotations to the introduction by William Blake. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in the wake of the sixth centenary of Dante’s birth in 1865, numerous objects were produced to satisfy the popular cult of Dante - diaries, almanacs, prayer books, calendars - examples of which are also on display. Dante’s influence on modern artists and writers is also represented, with illustrations by Salvador Dalí, Tom Phillips, and Monika Beisner, and an autograph manuscript of Jorge Luis Borges’s essay ‘La última sonrisa de Beatriz’. An illustrated catalogue has been produced to accompany the exhibition.

The exhibition will run until 1 July, and is open between 9.00 and 18.00 Mondays to Fridays and from 9.00 to16.30 on Saturdays (closed on Sundays, and from 14-17 April inclusive). For further information, contact Jill Whitelock, tel. (3)33122, e-mail
Illuminated initial for Paradiso Lucifer chewing on the sinners

Illuminated initial for Paradiso (Mantua: Georgius de Augusta and Paulus de Butzbach, 1472). Cambridge University Library Inc.3.B.18.2 [3783]

Lucifer chewing on the sinners, Inferno XXXIV (Venice: Antonio Zatta, 1757). An exhibit from the private collection of Livio Ambrogio to be seen in the University Library’s new exhibition Visible Language: Dante in Text & Image.

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Exhibitions in the North corridor

In addition to the major exhibitions mounted in the Exhibition Centre, smaller and briefer displays are usually to be seen in the showcases along the front corridor of the University Library (leading from the Catalogue Room towards the Tea Room). These are often prompted by events in Cambridge or notable anniversaries. January to April 2006 will see three centenaries from 2005 and 2006 commemorated by such exhibitions. The last opportunity to view the celebration of Anthony Powell (1905-2000) will be followed by a display from the archive of William Alwyn (1905-1985) and another to mark the centenary of Samuel Beckett (1906-1989).

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The Friends of Cambridge University Library

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

Wednesday 8 February, at 17.00

Jennifer Wallace
"Archaeological poetics"

Wednesday 15 February, at 17.00
Zygmunt Baranski
"Dante Alighieri: from experimentation to canonization"

Wednesday 1 March, at 17.00
A William Alwyn evening
Richard Andrewes, Head of the University Library’s Music Department will speak on the composer William Alwyn, whose archive is held in the Library. There will then be an opportunity to view an exhibition based on this collection. (Alwyn’s 1 st String Quartet will be performed by the Endellion Quartet in their concert at the West Road Concert Hall at 19.30 the same evening. For booking details contact the Cambridge Arts Theatre Box Office, 01223 503333.)

Members 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 will be served at 16.30.

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Editor: Stephen Hills ISSN:1360-9033