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Cambridge University Library


‘The care of books is a difficult business’: The legacy of Francis Jenkinson

Date: Friday 6 October 2023

Time: 9:30am-6:00pm

Location: This symposium is being hosted in-person in the Milstein Room, Cambridge University Library. For information about how to find us, please click here.

‘The care of books is a difficult business’, remarked Francis Jenkinson in his presidential address to the annual meeting of the Library Association in 1905 — and that business was but one of many responsibilities that Jenkinson shouldered during his long service as Cambridge University Librarian from 1889 until his death in 1923. Over this period, the Library’s holdings expanded considerably, with the arrival of some 200,000 medieval Jewish manuscript fragments from the Cairo Genizah, as well as important collections from China, Japan and South Asia, amongst others — an area of Jenkinson’s librarianship in need of further study. Important additions were also made to the Library’s collections of western medieval manuscripts and early printed books through purchases, gifts and legacies (in particular from Samuel Sandars), in which processes Jenkinson played an important role (not least as a donor himself). Jenkinson’s time in office also coincided with important changes in the university landscape, in particular the growth in numbers of female students, and he was involved in contemporary debates about both their admission as readers at the University Library and their admission to degrees. His intellectual interests were also highly varied, with entomology and archaeology featuring alongside bibliographical study and analysis of early printing, the editing of Latin poetry and the collecting of ephemera relating to the Great War.

A symposium is being held at Cambridge University Library in Jenkinson’s memory, in the centenary year of his death. After his passing, contemporaries and colleagues remembered him as ‘a positive and powerful force in Cambridge scholarship’, and ‘one who, primarily a scholar and researcher himself, unselfishly put all he knew at the disposal of any worthy seeker’ — but what is Jenkinson’s legacy today? Taking inspiration from a similar event held in 2017 in memory of Henry Bradshaw (University Librarian, 1867-1886), of whom Jenkinson was a disciple, this event seeks to bring together researchers, curators and library professionals whose work has touched upon Jenkinson’s scholarly, professional or personal life in some way, to provide opportunities for the discussion and critical assessment of his contribution, and for reflection upon how this might inform the future development and direction of libraries, their collections and their staff.

The programme includes a display of manuscripts and printed books.


9.15-9.55            Registration

09.55-10.00         Welcome

10.00-10.30         Ann Kennedy-Smith, Burn after reading: exploring Francis Jenkinson’s and Ida Darwin’s letters at Cambridge University Library (1891–1901)

10.30-11.00         Jill Whitelock, Fly-leaves: books, insects and Francis Jenkinson’s ‘natural history method’

11.00-11.30         Tea break

11.30-12.00         James Freeman, The disbinding of Codex Bezae: a tale of unintended consequences

12.00-12.30         Caylin Smith, The care of digital books is a difficult business: contemporary collecting and the moving target of digital formats

12.30-13.15         Display of Jenkinsoniana curated by Liam Sims (Rare Books Room)

13.15-14.00         Lunch

14.00-14.30         Arnold Hunt, The attraction of opposites: Francis Jenkinson and Edward Gordon Duff

14.30-15.00         Bill Stoneman, Francis Jenkinson and George Dunn of Woolley Hall, near Maidenhead

15.30-16.00         Tea break

16.00-16.30         Nick Posegay, Francis Jenkinson and the Cairo Genizah collection

16.30-17.00         Marie Turner, Scraps of library history: Francis Jenkinson and the collection(s) of fragments of western medieval manuscripts  

17.00-18.00         Drinks reception and portrait viewing on Librarian’s landing (limited spaces)


To download the programme and view the talk abstracts, please find this here.

Book your tickets here

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