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Special Collections News Archive
Rousseau 300 Exhibition

Following on from the successful Word and Image exhibition, which also featured books from Special Collections, the Rousseau 300 exhibition opened on the 9th January 2012 and featured rare items from UCL’s art and book collections to mark the 300th anniversary of the birth of one of the most controversial authors in the history of philosophy, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778).

Latest Project News

UCL Special Collections podcast

Library Services has been awarded funding from UCL Futures 2008/09 (now the UCL Annual Fund) to carry out innovative projects to showcase its Special Collections.

‘Turning the spotlight on the treasures of UCL Library Services’ is a series of podcasts celebrating the treasures of UCL Library Services’ Special Collections. A video film featuring an overview of the collections and an introduction to how they are already being used in teaching and research has been made, as well as a series of twelve audio interviews in which a number of UCL members of staff enthuse about why UCL Library Special Collections are important in their own field of study.

The video, which is just under ten minutes long, shows the range and extent of the collections and includes comments from students. Scenes show groups of UCL undergraduates handling manuscripts as primary source materials to enhance their learning experience and groups of local school children using themed study packs specially developed to support the National Curriculum.

The audio recordings are based around particular collections or particular themes within collections, ranging from Art and Architecture to Sciences and Social History. Interviews were recorded over a period of time with a number of eminent UCL academics from across the Faculties as well as Library staff, giving a snapshot of individual subject-specific collections which will be of interest to both UCL and the broader research community. Each interviewee was asked to select an item or items and talk about them in great detail - the result being a fascinating insight into the collections at close hand.

The podcasts will be distributed via the UCL iTunesU service. As well as being accessible online at any time, these innovative marketing tools will be used in a variety of promotional activities being planned both within UCL and as part of the Outreach programme of events and Public Engagement activities centering on UCL Special Collections.

Orwell Online
George Orwell in 1939
George Orwell in 1939

The aim of the second funded project, entitled ‘Orwell online: digitisation of the George Orwell Archive’, is to digitise George Orwell’s political and domestic diaries, literary and general notebooks and Spanish Civil War papers. The George Orwell Archive at UCL is the most comprehensive body of research material relating to the author George Orwell (Eric Blair) (1903-1950) anywhere in the world and UCL is considered as the international centre for studies on the author. Manuscripts, notebooks and personalia of George Orwell are a unique resource presented in 1960 on permanent loan by his widow on behalf of the George Orwell Archive Trust.

The creation of a digitised version of the material will significantly enhance accessibility to this resource for teaching, learning and research as well as promotional activities. The resulting digital files will be be deposited in UCL Library Services’ new digital archive Digitool and a range of supporting materials will be created such as online resource packs. In addition a podcast comprising a commentary and interviews with Orwell scholars discussing the importance of the collection to UCL and the wider community will be made available via UCL iTunesU.

As part of the fundraising programme necessary to sustain the Orwell Archive digitision project, two exciting theatre events took place at UCL, instigated by a former alumnus of UCL, the actor and theatre company manager, Ryan Kiggell. On two consecutive nights in November 2009 the Aya Theatre company staged readings from Orwell’s Burmese Days, which raised £1,110 towards the project. Various promotional activities accompanied the events, including audio podcasts delivered via UCL iTunesU. The events drew a good deal of publicity and there are plans to use this innovative method more widely in the future.


AMARC grant received for Latin manuscript
MS Lat 7
Rabanus Maurus Commentaries (MS LAT 7)

Earlier this year, UCL Library Services was awarded a grant from AMARC (The Association for Manuscripts and Archives in Research Collections) to conserve and re-house a 13th century illuminated Latin manuscript, the Rabanus Maurus Commentaries or to cite its ful l title: Rabanus Maurus in Matthaeum/Commentaries on the Gospel of St. Matthew by Rabanus Maurus (Special Collection, MS LAT 7).

MS LAT 7 is a parchment manuscript which was probably written in Pontigny, Burgundy, and was bought by UCL in 1919 to enrich the Library's teaching collections. The author of this work, Rabanus Maurus (c. 784-856), Archbishop of Mainz, was a leading scholar, theologian and teacher of his time, and the Commentaries are important for this reason. The manuscript forms part of UCL Special Collections' significant collection of medieval manuscripts, which serves the research community at UCL and worldwide.

The conservation work has now been completed and the manuscript has been re-housed in a new purpose built archive quality box by ARCA Preservation. This will not only preserve the manuscript for present and future generations, but offer increased opportunities for viewing and study; activities previously restricted due to its fragile physical condition.

We would like to thank AMARC for making this possible.

MS LAT 7 box MS LAT 7 box
UCL Archives

George Orwell's photo taken from his NUJ card UCL Archives, the online database of archive holdings for Special Collections and the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES) will be launched on Monday 16 February 2009.

The database will provide access to the aforementioned library sites' archive collections, enabling users to search both Special Collections and SSEES catalogues and handlists. Highlights featured on UCL Archives will include the catalogue to the George Orwell Papers, from which the accompanying image is sourced (ref: ORWELL/T/2/D/30). Catalogues of other notable individuals including the human geneticist Sir Francis Galton (1822-1911), and politician Hugh Gaitskell (1906-1963) will also be searchable on UCL Archives.

Darwin exhibition

Our new exhibition for the Main Library staircase honours Charles Darwin, who lived in a house on the site now occupied by UCL's Darwin Building from 1839-1842, just over two years after his return from H.M.S. Beagle's second voyage. It has been 26 years since UCL Library Services last held an exhibition about Darwin, and the Darwin200 celebrations, marking the bicentenary of his birth and 150 years since the publication of On the origin of species, provide a new opportunity to showcase items from UCL Special Collections.

The materials selected for this exhibition illustrate Darwin's life, work and the influence of his ideas about inheritance and evolution on his contemporaries and successors, including eminent UCL people. UCL's long association with the development of genetics stems from this period, and several exhibits come from the personal libraries and papers, held by UCL Library Services, of Sir Francis Galton, Darwin's cousin, and Karl Pearson, first Galton Professor of Eugenics.

The exhibition will be on display from September 2008 to January 2009. Additionally, a digital version of the exhibition will be permanently 'on display' through the Library's Exhibitions Online Web site.

Current Exhibition Loans
Galton composite

One of the composite photographs from the Sir Francis Galton Archive is currently on loan to the Museum in Docklands for the Jack the Ripper and the East End Exhibition, on until 2 November 2008. The composite combines the images of a number of faces of men found guilty of violent crimes, by which Galton believed that he could demonstrate the criminal type. The photograph powerfully and directly links Exhibition visitors to some of the ideas about human nature which informed the identification of suspects and the hunt for the murderer at the time.

Recent Accessions

A recent addition to the Rare Book collections is an exact facsimile of a finely executed manuscript, L’Acerba by Cecco d’Ascoli, a copy held in the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence (Ref: Codice laurenziano pluteo 40.52.), complete with uneven edges and holes in the parchment. This item is a reprint of the original, including bindings and clasps, in a presentation box, with commentary.

Cecco d'Ascoli (1257-1327) is the popular name of Francesco degli Stabili, a famous Italian encyclopaedist, physician and poet. He was professor of Astrology at the University of Bologna, but was condemned by the Church for his writings on demons. He was finally accused of heresy and burnt at the stake in Florence in 1327. The book for which he is most famous is the Acerba (from acervus, a multitude of objects), an encyclopaedic poem. By 1546 more than twenty editions had been issued. It is unfinished, and consists of four books of six-line poetry - the first book on astronomy and meterorology, the second on stellar influences, physiognomy, and vices and virtues, the third on minerals and the love of animals, while the fourth propounds and solves a number of moral and physical problems. Of a fifth book, on theology, the initial chapter alone was completed.
This facsimile edition was published in 2006, and can be found at Classmark: R 213 D 257.

Cataloguing News (Printed Books)

The cataloguing of our early printed books continues apace – new records are added daily. In the last two years two very large collections were completed – the Graves Collection and the Rotton Collection

More recently the vulcanological collection of Henry James Johnston-Lavis and the library of the Hertfordshire Natural History Society have been added to the eUCLid catalogue.

The Library’s oldest and rarest books, the Strong Room collections, are also being added to the catalogue. Currently the Strong Room Ogden Collections are being catalogued and have already proved to contain many treasures. Recently catalogued outstanding items of note include:

  • William Lambard, A perambulation of Kent, 1596. A presentation copy from the author to his friend Francis Thynne. [Strong Room Ogden A 267]
  • Le rime di Francesco Petrarca, 1778. This copy belonged to the poet Percy Shelley, and is annotated by him. [Strong Room Ogden A 283]
  • ComeniusVarious editions of Comenius, Orbis sensualium pictus, a picture book for children [Strong Room Ogden A 390, 391, 392]
  • Edward Gibbon, Essai sur l’étude de la litterature, 1761. Presention copy to Lord Shelburne, with the author’s own inscription. [Strong Room Ogden A 588]
  • Newman, Cardinal John Henry. Verses on various occasions, 1868. With an autograph copy of “Lead kindly light”, signed and dated by Newman, stuck onto a flyleaf. [Strong Room Ogden A 668]
  • Early example of a binder’s ticketDisputatio perjucunda, 1638. From the library of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, with a fine binding by the distinguished French binder, Antoine Michel Padeloup, “le jeune”. [Strong Room Ogden A 512]

All Rare Books are catalogued to the highest bibliographic standards, with very full descriptions, including provenance information and binding descriptions. Provenance indexes are being compiled and it is hoped that these will eventually be available online.

For further details please contact the Rare Books Librarian, Susan Stead, email address s.stead@ucl.ac.uk.

Conservation News

Two major projects have recently been completed with the generous support of the UCL Futures programme. 734 issues from the College Collection Periodicals (Magazines) have been conserved and re-housed in new preservation boxes, and over 5000 photographic images charting UCL’s history, dating from the 1850s to the present day have now been carefully cleaned, conserved and re-housed in preservation boxes. These collections include early issues of Pi, the College Newspaper started in 1946, the first surviving photograph of the Wilkins building, dating from the early 1850s, and a large number of splendid images of past Professors including noted persons associated with creating UCL as a world class university.

Other completed conservation work in the newly created programme to preserve Special Collections materials and make them more accessible include a number of important volumes from the Rare Book collections. Conservation and boxing has been carried out on the following items:

Joseph Mede, The name altar, or Thysiaståerion, anciently given to the holy table. Printed in London, 1637 [SRB 1637 M2/1-6].

Nathaniel Roe, Tabulae logarithmicae: or two tables of logarithms. Printed in London, 1633 [SRB 1633 R61].

Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Rome. Printed in London, 1635 [SRB 1635 A8].

Atlas du voyage de la Perouse, a folio volume printed in Paris, 1798. This exceptional atlas tells the ill-fated story of La Perouse which set sail from France in 1785 to continue the discoveries of Captain Cook across the Pacific Ocean. As well as maps and charts, the book contains full plate illustrations of the native peoples, plants, animals, and marine life recorded during the voyage [SRE Large Folios 700 P2].

William Camden, The True and Royall History of the famous Empresse Elizabeth, Queene of England France and Ireland & c. True Faith’s defendresse of Divine renowne and happy Memory. Printed in London, 1625 [SRB 1625 C1].

The soules preparation for Christ. Printed in London, 1632 [SRB 1632 H6].

James Smith, A new treatise of fluxions, with MS text by S. T. Coleridge. Printed in London, 1737 [OGDEN A 383].

Nuremberg Chronicle Other rare and much consulted items from our Strong Room collection that have been conserved include

  • four 17th century Dutch Tortoise shell bindings
  • a fine original imprint of the Nuremberg Chronicle (Liber chronicarum), printed in Nuremberg, 1493
  • Rabanus Maurus, De Sermonum proprietate, sive Opus de universo, printed in Strasburg, 1467
  • Vitruvius, Di Lucio Vitruvio Pollione de architectura libri dece traducti de Latino in vulgare affigurati, printed in Como, 1555
  • Vesalius, De Humani Corporis Fabrica libri septem, printed in Basel, 1555
  • Gersdorff, Feldtbuch der Wundartzney, printed in Strasburg, 1530 Crafte to lyve well and dye well
  • Andrew Chertsey, Crafte to lyve well and dye well… (transl.) printed by Wynkyn de Worde in London, 1505
  • Two copies of Robert Carswell’s Atlas of Pathological Anatomy, published in 1838.
  • Samuel Rogers, The pleasures of memory, with other poems, printed in London, 1810, containing a lost but recently discovered poem by Lord Byron on the flyleaf verso. A special preservation display box was also made to house the book.

Samuel RogersFour other special preservation display boxes have also been made for two of our most precious and vulnerable early Latin manuscripts and two of the outstanding early illuminated Jewish manuscripts belonging to the Mocatta collection. These two fine preservation boxes were funded by a generous gift from the Mocatta family.

All the above work has been carried out either by professional conservators or with the generous assistance of conservation students from West Dean College, Sussex and Camberwell College of Arts, University of the Arts.

For further details please contact the Preservation Librarian, Fred Bearman, email address f.bearman@ucl.ac.uk.

Life Study:

Life Study An exhibition of material from UCL's Biomidicine and Health Libraries, Special Collections and the UCL Art Collection. Opened by Professor Edward Byrne, Dean of UCL Biomedical Sciences, September 2007.
View more information at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/Library/special-coll/lifestudy.shtml

Carswell Restoration Project Update:

Disease of the Iris, watercolour no. D409 This important collection of drawings has now been conserved and re-housed with a generous grant from the Wellcome Trust.
View more information on the restoration at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/Library/special-coll/carswellrest.shtml

A Box of Useful Knowledge: Law, the Library and UCL.

An exhibition of material from UCL Library Services Special Collections opened by Lord Woolf on 14th December 2006.
View more information at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/Library/special-coll/law2006.shtml

Celebrating Jewish Connections:

Celebrating Jewish Connections: Frederic Mocatta An exhibition currently on display within the UCL Main Library staircase, celebrating UCL's long history of connections with the Anglo-Jewish community and the centenary of the transfer of Mocatta's magnificent collection to UCL and the 350th anniversary of the re-admission of Jews into England.
View more information at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/Library/special-coll/moc_remember.shtml

UCL and the World of Knowledge:

A new online gallery has been designed to complement and expand the first exhibition to be launched in the new Display Case installed on the Main Library staircase as part of the recent Wilkins Building refurbishment.
View the gallery at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/Library/special-coll/knowledge.shtml

Lost Byron manuscript An original manuscript of a poem by Lord Byron has been discovered in UCL's library. Thought to have been lost or destroyed, the poem, handwritten by the poet, was found inside an 1810 copy of Samuel Rogers' Pleasures of Memory.

Part of the Digital Archive collection The site is an internet showcase for UCL's Library cultural treasures, containing over 500 digital images selected to illustrate the best of the collections and give a flavour of the sheer range of material available. The next phase of the project is currently underway and by the end of 2006 we aim to have a further 500 images online.

Special Collections' new home - The Panopticon

The Panopticon Special Collections' new home - The Panopticon (or, UCL Institute for Cultural Heritage), specially designed by renowned architects Dixon Jones - will enable UCL's vast array of cultural and scientific artefacts to be conserved and publicly displayed for the first time in an environment that is both protective and accessible. It will ensure that these objects can serve generations to come. Further details on the project can be found on the UCL Institute for Cultural Heritage website.

Last modified 27 February 2013

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