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Special Collections News
Portrait of Jeremy Bentham
Library treasures from UCL Special Collections

A rare opportunity to view one of the foremost university collections in the UK

Library treasures from UCL Special Collections
Tuesday 27 May, 12:00-16:00
Roberts Building Foyer, Main UCL Site, WC1H 0AT
Admission free.

Feel you might need cheering up on Tuesday after the bank holiday? Or looking for something easy to do with the kids on half-term while you're on campus? UCL Special Collections might have the answer: drop in on our Library Treasures Day, open 12-4pm by the café in the Roberts Building foyer (corner of Malet Place and Torrington Place, opposite Waterstones bookshop).

All afternoon we will have displays of rare and early books, manuscripts and archives, with curators on hand to talk about their work and conservation demonstrations. The programme includes:

  • 12:00-16:00: Mediaeval manuscripts, early printed books and archives
  • 12:00-16:00: Demonstrations by book conservators

We hope to see some of you there.

This event launches 2014's UCL Festival Of The Arts.

Download event poster

Exciting find: first-hand account of prisoners’ escape from Australia in 1791

An exciting find has emerged among the papers of the philosopher and reformer, Jeremy Bentham. It is the only extant, first-hand account of perhaps the most famous escape from captivity by prisoners transported to Australia.

On the night of 28 March 1791, James Martin, in company with seven male and one female convicts and two infants, stole one of the governor.s boats and set off on what became a notorious series of adventures to reach home. Those that survived and finally made it to Britain were arrested again and their story was recorded in this document.

The manuscript has now been transcribed and published by Dr. Tim Causer, Research Associate at the Bentham Project in UCL.s Faculty of Laws. You can read Dr. Causer’s transcription, look at images of the manuscripts (Box 169, folios 179-205), then test your own manuscript skills on our award-winning Transcribe Bentham website.

There will be an opportunity to view the original manuscript and hear Dr. Causer speaking about his work at 1pm on Thursday 29 May in the Haldane Room, UCL Gower Street.

UCL Library Services exhibits in Digital Frontiers exhibition

14 JUNE - 20 DECEMBER 2013

Ever wondered what the prisoners would have eaten in Jeremy Bentham's ideal Panopticon building? Or what terrible things he did to earwigs when he was a boy? Or what one of the first weather charts looked like? Fancy trying your hand at transcribing a Bentham manuscript?

Find out by visiting the new Octagon exhibition, Digital Frontiers, launched this week and running until the end of December. The exhibition not only displays original Special Collections material - manuscripts from the Bentham Collection, including his suggestions for prison recipes, and one of the first weather charts, from the Galton Collection - but also enables you to zoom in, using touch screens, on digital images, transcriptions and information alongside the originals, so that you can try reading and transcribing the documents yourself. The exhibition also includes a wonderful range of items from UCL Museums And Collections.

The digital technology of the Octagon display cases represents a pioneering development in exhibiting rare books and archives, making it possible for visitors to engage with the text while viewing the original documents, something that in the past has been a challenge for conventional library exhibitions. We hope that you will enjoy trying this out for yourselves.

Booking now open for Dante day, Saturday 18th May

The Divine Comedy with illustrations by Dore (Ref: DANTE FOLIOS DD119 (1869) vol. 1) UCL’s Dante Collection is extraordinarily complete and wide-ranging, dating from the 1470s onwards. To celebrate the completion of a cataloguing project that gives access to the collection as a whole, we shall be holding a Dante day on 18 May, in collaboration with UCL Italian Department and the Warburg Institute. The programme includes introductions to Dante’s life and works, readings from his Divine Comedy, and an account of how the work survived in print. Early and rare editions from the collection will be on display, and facsimile copies of a beautiful Art Nouveau 1911 edition will be available for sale. Details and online booking are available here (Early booking is advised.)

Rare editions presented at Dante readings (Spring Term)

The Divine Comedy with illustrations by Dore (Ref: DANTE FOLIOS DD119 (1869) vol. 1) Special Collections’ series of public weekly readings from Dante’s Divine Comedy continues this term, in collaboration with UCL Italian Department and the Warburg Institute. Each week, a selection of rare and early editions from UCL's outstanding Dante Collection will be shown and introduced.


Collaboration with The Wallace Collection and West Ealing Deaf Minority Women’s Group, July 2012

UCL Special Collections is using its current restricted on-site accommodation to explore taking some of its treasures beyond the UCL borders. The first pilot trip was to The Wallace Collection, where members of West Ealing Deaf Minority Women’s Group saw and discussed items related to travel, cultural and linguistic exchange, and the history of the Dutch East Indies.

West Hampstead Women’s Group view illuminated Torah, July 2012

Members of West Hampstead Women’s Group joined Special Collections staff at UCL Art Museum to see one of the library’s treasures, a beautiful illuminated Torah.

200-year-old parchment unfolded for community project, July 2012

UCL Special Collections has unfolded a parchment charter that is unlikely ever to have been read since it was sealed over 200 years ago. The charter was one of the items chosen by a UCL PhD student to show to four community groups as part of Special Collections’ support for The Wallace Collection’s Treasures From The East project. Conservators spent two weeks gradually humidifying the document until it could be opened safely, enabling the student to read and transcribe it, and members of the community groups to be among the first to view it.

Aaina Women’s Group visit Special Collections, May 2012

Members of Aaina Women’s Group visited UCL to see early books, manuscripts and prints relating to the history of the Dutch East Indies as part of a seminar devised by one of UCL’s PhD students from the Dutch Department. The visit supported The Wallace Collection’s Treasures From The East project to celebrate refurbishment of its Dutch painting galleries. Aaina Women’s Group is an Asian Women’s Association support service offering health and child care for Asian women, muslim women and asylum seekers.

Last modified 24 March 2014

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