Readers' Newsletter


The Montaigne Library

Montaigne's Essais
Napoleon’s copy of Montaigne’s Essais (1608), from his library on St Helena. The binding is decorated with a crowned initial ‘N’ and bees, one of Napoleon’s symbols.

The University Library has received a magnificent collection of books connected with the life and times of Michel de Montaigne (1533-92), including ten volumes from Montaigne’s own library.

The Montaigne Library was assembled by the scholar and financier Gilbert de Botton (1935–2000). The motivation behind the collection was a desire to recreate Montaigne’s library - either by buying the writer’s personal copies, where available, or other copies of works known to have belonged to or been read by him. The Montaigne Library also has a fine set of early printed editions of Montaigne’s work, including copies owned by Ben Jonson, Napoleon I and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, as well as modern editions and criticism, making this an outstanding resource for scholars of Montaigne.

The ten books from Montaigne’s own library make this the third largest number in any one collection after the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the Bibliothèque municipale, Bordeaux. They include his copy of Lucretius’ De rerum natura (1563), discovered as recently as 1989, an important influence on his work. It is covered with Montaigne’s annotations, allowing us to trace in detail how he read and used his source.

Montaigne’s Essais were printed in Bordeaux in 1580 and revised throughout the author’s lifetime. More properly understood as ‘trials’ or ‘attempts’ than essays in the modern sense, they cover an extraordinary range of subjects from conversation and cannibals to the custom of wearing clothes - all interspersed with absorbing personal details such as Montaigne’s struggle with painful kidney stones or his preference for a particular kind of glass from which to drink.

The collection is to be kept together in the newly created ‘Montaigne Room’ in the Munby Rare Books Room. Many of the works are currently on display in the Library’s exhibition ‘My selfe and my booke’: Michel de Montaigne 1533–1592, which draws on the collection to trace Montaigne’s life from his education at the Collège de Guyenne in Bordeaux to the composition, publication and revision of the Essais, and his influence on other writers such as Bacon, Rousseau and Voltaire.

The arrival of the Montaigne Library has also been marked by a conference of the Department of French’s Cambridge French Colloquia, on the same theme that inspired Gilbert de Botton’s collection, the ‘“Librairie” de Montaigne’. Philip Ford, Professor of French and Neo-Latin Literature at Cambridge, said, ‘Thanks to Gilbert de Botton’s passionate interest in Montaigne, future generations of Montaigne scholars will be able to share in his interest by consulting this magnificent collection in its new home in Cambridge University Library’. A monograph on the collection by Professor Ford, The Montaigne Library of Gilbert de Botton at Cambridge University Library, has recently been published and gives further information on its scope and content. Copies are available free of charge in the University Library’s Exhibition Centre.

The Montaigne exhibition of items runs until 23 December in the University Library (, and is open between 9.00 and 18.00 Mondays to Fridays and from 9.00 to 16.30 on Saturdays (closed on Sundays). For further information, contact Jill Whitelock (

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Developments in electronic resources

After a successful soft-launch during Easter Term, the University Library has officially launched eresources@cambridge, a new service which provides users with seamless access to the University’s growing collection of subscribed electronic resources. The site also has a redesigned help section, covering journal and database access for on- and off-campus users.

Users can also search for article citations and full-text resources by using CrossSearch, a new service which makes it possible to carry out a simultaneous search of over 300 key resources, including Web of Science, ScienceDirect, CSA and major e-journal providers. By using the advanced interface, either multiple subject-areas or specific resources can be searched at once. Users can sort results with relevancy ranking and clustering options, then view citations and full text in the original interface. CrossSearch is available direct to current students and staff within the Cambridge domain. External (off-campus) access is offered via a Raven username and password.

eresources@cambridge is the first step in a series of initiatives from the University Library aimed at promoting e-resource use amongst all groups of Cambridge users. It is available at

In a major enhancement to information provision in support of research and teaching in the sciences and social sciences the University Library has subscribed to Elsevier's Scopus database. Developed in conjunction with researchers to provide an easily navigated single entry-point to the world's scientific information, Scopus is the largest abstract and citation database for the sciences and social sciences. Containing 33 million abstracts, it covers 15,000 peer-reviewed journals from more than 4,000 international publishers, including Open Access titles, 500 conference proceedings, trade publications and book series. 

Scopus also indexes 386 million scientific web-pages, including 22 million patents from 5 patent offices, an area for which existing provision was lacking. Web sources are searched via Scirus, and include author homepages, university sites and resources such as the preprint servers CogPrints and Features include seamless links to full-text articles and other library resources and alerts to keep users up to date on new articles in their areas of interest.

For access to Scopus go to It is accessible off-campus using Raven passwords.

Other online resources recently acquired include:
Chinese ancient texts (CHANT).
International tables of crystallography (Springer).
New Palgrave dictionary of economics (Palgrave Macmillan).
Northern Ireland: a divided community, 1921-1972. Cabinet papers of the Stormont administration (Cengage).
Oxford language dictionaries online (OUP).
Pharmaceutical substances (Thieme).
Soviet Cinema: film periodicals 1918-1942 (IDC Brill). Purchased from the bequest of the late Dr Catherine Cooke
Who’s Who and Who Was Who (OUP)

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Transforming the library service

The University Library has received a generous gift of £500,000 from the Arcadia Trust to allow it to develop existing library initiatives and facilitate the incorporation of new ideas, new services and new ways of working. This will be done through a series of projects intended to help prepare a new generation of librarians to meet the information requirements of what has come to be known as the ‘Amazoogle Generation’. In an online world the library cannot wait for students to come to it, but must go to the students, both physically and virtually, and communicate with them in their preferred modes, whether that be through a PC, an iPod, Facebook or something not yet invented.

The Arcadia Fellowship Programme will harness the potential of rising stars in the profession, either from Cambridge or elsewhere, by offering them the opportunity of a period to work in the University Library. For the three years of the Programme, it is expected that two or three Fellows will be working on separate projects at any one time, forming a support group for discussion and mutual inspiration. They will all be working towards a predetermined goal, such as a report, a new activity or a new service. Each will be supported with specialized training, continuing education and opportunities to visit and work in other leading research libraries, under the guidance of Professor John Naughton, Professor of the Public Understanding of Technology at the Open University. Details of the first Fellowship project, the science@cambridge portal, appear elsewhere in this Newsletter and further information is available from the Arcadia Project website:

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Donation of the Roberto Gerhard archive

Gerhard in his electronic workshop, 1956
Gerhard in his electronic workshop, 1956.

Roberto Gerhard, the Catalan/Swiss composer born in Valls near Barcelona in 1896, was Spain’s most important 20th-century composer after Falla. After his death in 1970 his widow deposited his more important manuscripts in the University Library, and after her death in 1993 the rest of his manuscripts, the surviving correspondence and papers, his library of books and music, and over 600 magnetic tapes (being the working materials of his electronic music) were deposited. Earlier this year Dr Rosemary Summers, whose family had given much support to the Gerhards and who had inherited the estate, donated the entire archive to the University Library.

Gerhard studied piano with Granados, and composition with Felipe Pedrell, before going to Vienna and Berlin to study with Arnold Schoenberg. He returned to Barcelona in 1929 as a music professor at the Escola normal, and as chief of the music section of the Biblioteca de Catalunya. In the 1930s he established a reputation as a composer within the International Society for Contemporary Music, which had been founded by the Cambridge musicologist Edward Dent. When Franco came to power in 1938 Gerhard promptly left Spain for Paris, whence he was invited to Cambridge by Dent, who secured him a research fellowship at King’s College. With this he was able to establish himself here, and within a short time had made useful contact with the BBC for whom over the next 20 years he provided a wide range of talks and incidental music.

Though some of his earlier works used serial techniques, much of Gerhard’s music from the 1940s was within the harmonic tradition and influenced by his Spanish heritage. After a visit to the Darmstadt International Summer Courses for New Music in 1951 his interest in serial techniques was invigorated. As his obituary in The Times puts it ‘he developed, codified, and creatively championed a broader, freer approach to 12-note composing techniques, in which sound and textures assumed the structural role of ideas… Most important, for making contact with an audience (a concept which he discussed cogently in several literary essays), he developed serial techniques for purposes of gaiety, charm, voluptuousness, and colourful glamour.’ For the next 20 years there was a stream of concertos for piano, harpsichord, violin, four symphonies, and chamber music of the highest imaginative quality. He was a pioneer in the field of electronic music, and his music on magnetic tape is of great interest. This includes both incidental music to radio plays and films, and tapes for use in combination with live ensembles (such as his Symphony no. 3 ‘Collages’). The technical challenges for the preservation of this material will be one which the University Library will have to address with some urgency.

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During the Easter Term the University Library hosted the art project Powerhouse by Bettina Furnée, as part of her residency at Kettle’s Yard. The project consisted of an eight-week long word association game, played at the Library. The work was documented by time-lapse photography, creating an overlap of text and image (with the aim of creating a short film) as a nomadic, discursive, narrative of the site. A continuous chain of 483 words, from Powerhouse to Albatross, was shown on a LED display above the revolving doors in the entrance hall. These temporary ‘tags’ became the source of speculation, inquiry and contestation to Library users and staff, who submitted over 7,000 word association entries in order to help determine each next word. Most of these submissions (61%) were made by women.

Every morning, Bettina Furnée was present between 11.00 and noon to ask five or six people to contribute a word association to the latest word, which would be displayed next, for ten minutes. At any other time of the day, associations could be submitted on-line via the Library website. The dominant response would be selected via a poll and displayed at set intervals during the day. From these, the words most frequently displayed in the library were House, Play and Mouse (4 times each), followed by Power, Books, Control, Happy, Sad and Cheese (3 times each). The most frequently submitted and displayed words were Aardvark (30 times, displayed twice) and House (29 times, displayed 4 times).

For more details about this project and to see the complete word index, visit, which is linked to the Library’s homepage.

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Map Room Opening

The Map Room, whose refurbishment was reported in Newsletter no. 39, was officially opened on 13 June by Dr Vanessa Lawrence, CB, Director General and Chief Executive of the Ordnance Survey.


The University Library is spearheading an initiative to increase access to, and knowledge of, scientific electronic resources through the creation of a web-based portal. The Science portal (science@cambridge) is aimed primarily at undergraduates. It has been developed with the generous support of the Arcadia Trust and is the subject of the first Arcadia Fellowship, the creation of which is described elsewhere in this Newsletter. It will be launched in Michaelmas Term 2008.

Science@cambridge is intended to help users discover, search across and improve the use of scientific e-resources, generally and within discipline specific areas. This development acknowledges that for many of those working in contemporary science the library is now largely a ‘virtual resource’. Users want prompt access to electronic information from their desktop, and to tools that help them navigate through the vast number of sources available. Science@cambridge aims to draw users into a virtual library space with on-line real-time help being made available from library subject experts, alongside assistance on using the resources. For further information contact Lihua Zhu (

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HRH meets Library staff

HRH The Prince of Wales meets Library staff in the Commonwealth Room.


Visit of HRH The Prince of Wales

On 27 May HRH The Prince of Wales, who was patron of the appeal which saved the Royal Commonwealth Society Library from dispersal in 1992, visited its new home, the University Library. He was shown treasures from the collection and unveiled a plaque in the recently re-named Commonwealth Room commemorating his visit.

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Prof Takamiya
Professor Takamiya (whose talk is announced in the Friends programme) and his team in the process of digitising the University Library’s Gutenberg Bible in November 1998. The results may be reached from the Library’s website:


The Friends of Cambridge University Library

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

Tuesday 4 November 2008, at 17.30  

Toshiyuki Takamiya

‘Digitisation of rare books: twelve years of the HUMI Project, Keio University’

Professor Takamiya, Director of the Humanities Interface Project, introduces the project’s work of digitising rare books and mediaeval manuscripts. Since 1996, the HUMI team has captured digital images of ten sets of the Gutenberg Bible, including the one held in Cambridge University Library.

All are welcome at this talk, for which no charge is being made.


Saturday 22 November 2008, at 11.30

George Szirtes

‘The slant door and where it leads’

The poet and translator George Szirtes, whose archive is held in the University Library, will give a talk on the idea of becoming part of a poetic community, followed by a viewing of an exhibition of his work.

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

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Editor: Stephen Hills ISSN:1360-9033