skip to content
 

Giant ant hills in Bechuanaland, 1868 by A.A. Anderson (RCMS 191.62)

Picture credit: Giant ant hills in Bechuanaland, 1868 by A.A. Anderson (RCMS 191.62)

Finding published information

How do I know whether the RCS library holds published information on a particular subject or place?

The best place to start is by searching our online catalogue iDiscover

It includes over 66,000 items, including rare books, bound pamphlets, special collections, such as the Cobham collection on Cyprus, periodical holdings, official publications from Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, the Caribbean and many parts of Africa, colonial 'Blue books', staff and civil lists, yearbooks and commercial directories, fiction and poetry, bibliographies, and monographs on Africa, Canada and Cyprus. 

Refer to the excellent iDiscover LibGuide for tips and searching advice, and to our project webpages for further guidance on locating official publications.

About 25% of published collections are currently catalogued online. If you are unable to locate an item on iDiscover, and are able to visit the library, please check the RCS Card Catalogue which is located in the Rare Books Room, behind the glass wall.

Card Catalogue

This includes entries for monographs, pamphlets, journal articles, official publications, directories and yearbooks, periodicals and annual reports across the Commonwealth and colonial territories. It includes an author catalogue, a biographical catalogue, a periodical titles catalogue, a catalogue of society publications and a subject catalogue; the latter sub-divided firstly by geographical region and then by subject chronologically. It is a wonderful tool for seeing what has been published on a particular topic over time.

A very useful guide to abbreviations of periodical titles in the RCS collection gives classmarks and holdings.

More information on using the card catalogue is available in the Rare Books reading room, in a blue ring file located on the low shelf beside the catalogue. This includes a list of subject headings and a guide to standard abbreviations.

Please be aware that the card catalogue includes items re-catalogued on iDiscover which have been given new shelf marks (classmarks).  Always check iDiscover too, as it is much quicker finding items by their new classmarks!

Finding Images

If you are looking for images (digitised albums, photographic prints or slides), first browse or search Cambridge Digital Library.  The RCS has images in four sections:  RCS collections, Voices of civilian internment (WWII Singapore), Celebrating 150 years of the RCS (1868-2018) and Curious objects. Approximately 19,000 RCS images are currently accessible via Cambridge Digital Library.

Digitised archival photographs may also be located via the RCS Slide Show, RCS Online Galleries  and Apollo respository;  and moving images via the small RCS cinefilms collection.

Many more photographs have yet to be digitised; these can be found using ArchiveSearch.  Following your initial seach, filter by ARCHON code: Royal Commonwealth Soc. (GBR/0115).  You can further narrow your search by subject or name.  For guidance, please refer to the ArchiveSearch LibGuide.

Images located via ArchiveSearch may be viewed in the Manuscripts Room, on completion of an Order Form. In the box marked ‘classmark or other reference’, please use the Reference code. It is recommended that you also describe the item briefly e.g. School Empire Tours Record, or Royal Tour of India 1905-1906.  Using the Citation button (top right of an archive description) will save you time. You may also email the Manuscripts Room in advance of a planned visit.

If you are unable to locate an image online or in ArchiveSearch, the third place to search is the typescript Photograph Catalogue . This is located in the Manuscripts Reading Room.  The catalogue consists of a series of spring-back folders, containing detailed descriptions of collections and individual photographs. The first folder explains the layout of the catalogue, which is organised primarily by country with separate volumes for special named collections. To determine which folders contain catalogues to which country, refer to the Royal Commonwealth Society Country Classification Guide.  Classmarks comprise the prefix Y30 followed by the country classification – e.g. Y3022 refers to photographs of India; Y307 photographs of the West Indies.

For an index to photographers whose work is represented in the collection, see the RCS Photographers Index.

There is also an incomplete card index of individuals photographed, known as the RCS Portrait Index, located in six wooden catalogue drawers on a windowsill in the Manuscripts Room.

Finding archival material – correspondence, manuscripts, pictures, family papers etc.

Use ArchiveSearch for your initial search.  Following your initial seach, filter by ARCHON code: Royal Commonwealth Soc. (GBR/0115).  You can further narrow your search by subject or name.  For more guidance, please refer to the ArchiveSearch LibGuide.  ArchiveSearch enables you to locate relevant material not only in the RCS collections, but also in other Cambridge archives.

If, however, you fail to find relevant archival material on ArchiveSearch, refer secondly to:

The manuscript catalogue of the library of the RoyalCommonwealth Society, edited by Donald H. Simpson. London: Mansell, 1975. ISBN 0720104483

A copy of this published catalogue is kept in the Manuscripts Reading Room behind the Superintendent’s Desk.

Archival material may be viewed in the Manuscripts Room, on completion of an Order Form. In the box marked ‘classmark or other reference’, please use the Reference code e.g. RCMS 108/2.  It is recommended that you also describe the item briefly e.g. Personal and family papers of Lillian Newton: Memoirs and anecdotes. The Citation button in ArchiveSearch summarises this information.

Further information about using the RCS special collections is available on the Collections page.

Further information on the RCS Photograph Project

Contact us

Please address enquiries about RCS holdings to:

Rachel Rowe, Smuts Librarian for South Asian and Commonwealth Studies
Cambridge University Library
West Road
Cambridge
CB3 9DR

Email: rcs@lib.cam.ac.uk

Please note the Librarian is part-time and usually works at the University Library on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Rachel may be reached by phone on Wednesdays and Thursdays on +44(0)1223 333146, but it is preferable to email details of your enquiry.

If your enquiry concerns a valuation, please note that we are unable to provide valuations.  We recommend you contact a specialist antiquarian bookseller or auction house.