Readers' Newsletter


Hengrave Hall manuscripts saved

A major collection of manuscripts which had been available for consultation in the University Library for over fifty years has been saved from the threat of dispersal and its future secured permanently in the Library. The papers, accumulated by various families whose main home was Hengrave Hall in Suffolk, date from the twelfth to the twentieth century, and include a particularly fine archive from the Tudor period. A campaign was mounted when the owners of the documents announced their intention to sell in 2003. At the University Library’s request, the collection was instead offered under the ‘Acceptance in Lieu’ scheme administered by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, on condition that was returned to and remained in the Library. After deduction of the sum in lieu of tax from the valuation of over £800,000, the Library was left with the need to raise over £450,000 by the end of 2005 to prevent the manuscripts being sold at auction in separate lots. A grant of £284,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund was added to contributions from the Friends of Cambridge University Library, the Friends of the National Libraries, the Pilgrim Trust, the Thriplow Trust, individual benefactors and the University Library’s own budget to achieve the necessary sum.

Highlights of the collection include correspondence from Henry VIII, Edward VI, Queen Mary, Sir Philip Sidney and Fulke Greville. Thomas Washington (ancestor of George) writes apologising for the poor quality of some sturgeon. The household accounts give fascinating glimpses of domestic life in the sixteenth century, while the building accounts reveal much about construction methods around 1520. Much can be learnt about pre-Shakespearean theatrical and musical performances. Correspondence of the Kitson family is of great value for the study of post-Reformation English Catholicism and historians of Suffolk will find vast numbers of important source documents. Specialist staff will now begin preparing an online catalogue of the manuscripts, making them more accessible than ever before.

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Two Darwin letters acquired


One of the new Darwin letters

Two particularly significant letters written by Charles Darwin in the year after the publication of Origin of Species have been bought by the Library in separate acquisitions.

The University Library houses the world’s greatest collection of Darwin’s manuscripts, and is also home to the Darwin Correspondence Project which is making a complete edition of all known letters written both by and to Darwin available in print and on the worldwide web (

The first of the two recently acquired letters, bought at Sotheby’s, was previously unknown. In it Darwin justifies his pivotal work in Origin. Staff of the Darwin Correspondence Project have now established the identity of the letter’s addressee, which had remained a mystery. The six-page document, addressed ‘Dear Sir’ and written from Darwin’s holiday home in Eastbourne on 15 October 1860, almost exactly a year after the publication of Origin, was thought to have been sent to the Reverend William Denton. Once they were able to look at the whole letter, and see it in the context of the rest of Darwin’s correspondence from that year, the editors were quickly able to establish that the correspondent was not Denton, but John Medows Rodwell, a friend and contemporary of Darwin’s at Cambridge. Rodwell was a clergyman in London and a gifted linguist. Sadly, his original letter to Darwin has not been found, but the University Library does possess several letters that continue their discussion. These are already published in volume eight of the Correspondence of Charles Darwin.

This particular letter offers an insight into the humility with which Darwin responded to the widespread attacks on the theory of natural selection that he put forward in Origin. ‘I am very far from being surprised at anyone not accepting my conclusions on the origin of species,’ he tells Rodwell. Nevertheless, he remains quietly persistent about his argument: ‘I have some confidence that I am in the main right’. The document illustrates the good relations Darwin enjoyed with many of the clergy of the time, who, although they did not necessarily accept his theories, read his publications with interest and engaged in cordial and intelligent discussion with him.

The Correspondence Project has known about the second letter for some time, through tantalising glimpses in sales catalogues, but its purchase by the Library will make the complete letter available for the first time. Written on 11 December 1860, when Darwin was close to completing the third edition of Origin, it is to the geologist, David Forbes, and was sent in response to an as yet unfound letter from Forbes commenting on, and in some instances correcting, the earlier editions. Darwin included information received from Forbes on glacial action in the third edition of Origin and this letter will throw new light on the details of their discussion.

With the collaboration of the University Library, the Darwin Correspondence Project has put images of both letters up on its website, together with full transcripts.

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selection of images from the RCS collectionUnlocking the RCS archives

Thanks to generous grants from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation and the Smuts Memorial Fund, it is now possible to experience the pioneering days of civil aviation and to explore vast tracts of the former British Empire through new catalogues to four recently acquired photographic collections in the Royal Commonwealth Society Library at the University Library. These catalogues can be consulted through the Janus website at The identifying collection numbers are given with the following descriptions.


Henry Eric Hebbert, 1893-1980, Colonel (RCS/RCMS 120)

Hebbert took most of his photographs between 1924 and 1945 when he was employed in the Sudan Public Works Department, first in Khartoum and then Port Sudan, as Divisional Engineer in charge of the Red Sea Province. This post involved travelling from the Egyptian border to the Eritrean frontier. His subsequent post as Director of the Post and Telegraph Department gave him responsibility for the whole of Sudan and more opportunities for travel. Particularly outstanding among the images are two panoramas of Port Sudan and Kher Arbeal. Many of Hebbert’s Sudan and Ethiopia images are of great anthropological interest, depicting rarely photographed native peoples and scenery, but others reflect his interest in engineering and illustrate scenes such as bridge-building and road-laying.


Sir Frederick Tymms, 1889-1987, Knight and civil aviation administrator (RCS/RCMS 20)

Highlights include early aviation images such as 5 Squadron RFC, France, 1917; the records of the British Aviation Mission, USA, 1918; the RAF School of Navigation, Andover, 1919; the Cape Flight, January-March 1920 (including the plane crash in Shereik, Sudan, on 25 February 1920); the First African Survey of 1925, and the Cape to Cairo air route 1929-1930. India and Burma are well represented in the 1930s to early 1950s, including the official opening of the administrative building in Karachi Airport in 1938.


Fergus Brunswick Wilson, 1908-1999, Lecturer in Tropical Agriculture and Land Use, University of Cambridge, 1950-1952 and Professor of Agriculture, Makerere University College, Uganda, 1952-1964 (RCS/RCMS 162)

Wilson’s collection forms an important documentary record of agricultural and rural life in East Africa between 1933 and 1950. He was responsible for building the modern Faculty of Agriculture complex at Makerere, introducing the degree programme, and starting Kabanyolo University Farm. He also helped to instigate modern agricultural practices in Uganda and in the East African region. Of special interest are images of local ingenuity, such as the Malawi boys fashioning bicycles from local materials that, in Wilson’s own words, ‘go quite well – downhill!’ and those which echo contemporary habits, such as the coffee sellers in Zanzibar, the tradition being that whilst a customer drinks ‘he is informed of the news of the day by the vendor who stands by’. They also include rare images of the Sultan of Zanzibar, his wife, his son, his home and of religious celebrations.


Edred John Henry Corner, 1906-1996, Professor of Tropical Botany, University of Cambridge 1965-1973 (RCS/Y3031M)

Corner’s collection provides a detailed botanical record of Malaysia and Singapore between 1929 and 1945, created whilst he was employed as Assistant Director of the Gardens Department, Straits Settlement. It also includes images of New Guinea, the Solomon Islands (1965) and Borneo (1961 and 1964), taken on Royal Society expeditions that he led.


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Lapwing lands in the UL

The University Library is acting as a pilot institution for Lapwing, the University Computing Service facility for wireless hot-spot connections to the Cambridge University Data Network. This service is offered to current staff members and students of the University and requires a Raven password. With certain restrictions, Lapwing provides laptops with a normal CUDN connection similar to a hard-wired one. After an initial pilot in the West Room in June, wireless networking has now been extended to the Commonwealth Room and the Rare Books and Manuscripts reading rooms. More information can be found at

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Support for the Squire Law Library

The Squire Law Library, with the help of the Faculty of Law, continues to promote the Squire Centenary Appeal which aims to create an endowment fund of £2 million. This fund will enable the library to expand its collection, improve its facilities, increase resources for training in modern legal methods and secure the future of this highly respected and much used library.

The Squire is extremely grateful to all those who have generously provided donations and pledged their support for the appeal. Cambridge alumni members of Essex Court Chambers have been particularly generous, and the City Solicitors’ Educational Trust have again agreed to provide two years funding to assist with sustaining the Squire’s core collections that support undergraduate teaching.

Thanks to the generosity of one private benefactor, Mr Brian Buckley, the Squire Appeal has received two significant boosts including a recent gift in 2006. In a previous, separate, donation to the Faculty of Law Mr Buckley offered a gift in support of legal history. This donation was also of great benefit to the Library as it provided funds to allow the cataloguing of many antiquarian law books. This specialist project was undertaken during the summer vacation 2005 with the books themselves now being located in their correct classification sequence within the Maitland Legal History Room. Moreover, the gift will allow, under the watchful eye of Sir John Baker, Downing Professor of the Laws of England, for the acquisition of digital copies of manuscript law reports not currently available to scholars in Cambridge; a further enhancement to the Squire’s historic collections. We are very grateful to Mr Buckley for all his support.

For further information about the Squire Law Library Centenary Appeal and how you can make a tax-efficient contribution, please contact the University of Cambridge Development Office (3)32288 or .

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Moore shelves mean more space

As a result of a successful bid for funding for physical and digital storage and access from the Science Research Infrastructure Fund (SRIF), the Moore Library has been able to install additional mobile shelving units. These units, which were planned as part of the original layout for the lower ground floor, were omitted at a late stage of the original construction programme due to cost constraints. Work began at the end of the Easter Term and was completed by mid July.

The new mobile shelves add almost two thousand linear metres to the capacity of the Moore Library. This has enabled staff to plan the re-spacing of existing bound journal stock in the lower-ground floor, plus the transfer of a large number of print journals within the subject coverage of the Moore Library from the University Library’s main, West Road, building. Approximately 490 journal titles, covering mathematics, engineering, materials science and computing will be moved from West Road, largely from the South Front, together with a small number from the Central Science Library. In addition to the benefits of relocation of current stock to the most appropriate branch of the University Library, this project is also an opportunity systematically to consolidate holdings and eliminate duplicate runs of print journals held at more than one site within the University Library group.

Further space on the open shelves of the main University Library building will result from the withdrawal to closed access in the course of the academic year of many runs of nineteenth-century periodicals and most of the nineteenth-century monographs remaining on open access. While the expansion space is desperately needed in the open library, this decision has been made largely with the purpose of preserving these older and more fragile books.

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Unregulated printing

A hand platen press

A hand platen press, made by J. Sigwalt, Chicago, ca 1910, on loan from Mrs P.H. Parker and displayed in the exhibition. This press is typical of the many designs aimed at the amateur market in the late 19 th and early 20 th centuries which provided a first introduction to printing for many distinguished printers.

The University Library’s current exhibition brings together examples of a genre which is difficult to define absolutely, but which is immediately recognisable when encountered: the private press book. Private press printers use the tools of the early printers – handset metal type, hand-made papers and traditional presses. Why then the title Unregulated? The aim of the private press printer is not primarily to work for profit, but to create a meaningful object, both for himself, and (it is to be hoped) for others.

Over the last fifty years these enthusiasts have experimented with the traditional techniques to express modern ideas about the chosen text and about what a book may signify. These experiments may be concerned with type design, page layout, paper type, format, binding, or any combination of them, and the hand crafting involved usually results in very small print runs.

The University Library has collected private press books ever since the form emerged in England in the eighteenth century. However, since the Second World War and the accelerating revolution in mass book-production technology, there has been a growth in the number of private presses; traditionally trained printers, amateurs and artists have taken up the absorbing challenge of publishing such books. This enthusiasm is particularly evident in the Anglophone world, and over the last thirty years the material acquired by the Library via legal deposit has been enriched by purchases, donations and bequests of material from North America and Australasia.

The Library is also active in acquiring the archives of printers, typographers and private presses, particularly if they are of local interest. One focus of the exhibition is Sebastian Carter’s Rampant Lions Press. In addition to exhibits demonstrating the wide range of work undertaken by this long-established great press, some material from the archive (recently acquired by the Library) may also be seen. Another focus is artist Leonard Baskin’s Gehenna Press, and the exhibition reflects some of the creative collaboration between the artist and Poet Laureate Ted Hughes.

Such an exhibition can only give a suggestion of the breadth of the Library’s collection, and the wide variety of ways in which private press printers express themselves. Their publications range from the ad hoc to major contributions to the ‘black art’. Their books may be more or less successful as usable, legible texts, but all of them demonstrate a caring concern for the printed word.

Demonstrations of the Library’s historical printing presses will be given in association with the exhibition. Details are available on the Library’s web site.

Exhibition opening times, until 16 December 2006:

Monday to Friday, 09.00 to 18.00; Saturday, 09.00 to 16.30. Admission free.

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Official Publications join the Commonwealth

The reading room formerly called the Official Publications Reading Room (on the third floor of the South Wing) has been renamed The Commonwealth Room. This is to reflect the fact that the room is no longer used solely for Official Publications and that parts of the Royal Commonwealth Society Library are now read there. The RCS Library was saved for the nation as the result of an appeal in the early 1990s and was donated to the University Library in 1993. Funds remaining from the appeal have recently been made available to the University Library to support further cataloguing and digitisation of the RCS collections. A plaque commemorating the donation will be installed in The Commonwealth Room later in the year.

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The Friends of Cambridge University Library

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

Wednesday 15 November 2006, at 17.00  
Stephen Walton
‘The written archives of the Imperial War Museum’

Mr Walton, archivist in the Department of Documents of the Imperial War Museum at Duxford, will provide an overview of the archive collections of the Museum’s sites in Lambeth and at Duxford, and discuss the Museum’s history and acquisitions activity.  

Friends £2.50, others £3.50, junior members of Cambridge University free.  

Saturday 25 November 2006, at 11.30  
Vanessa Lacey
‘“Finding sense in chaos”: the Cambridge Greek play’

Mrs Lacey, archivist to the Cambridge Greek Play Committee, will review the development of the Greek play, illustrated with material from the Committee's archive.  

Friends and junior members of Cambridge University free, others £3.50.

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Editor: Stephen Hills ISSN:1360-9033