Tag Archives: Libraries

Stocking the Shelves of Special Collections

The increasing interest in books as cultural artefacts means that some which have previously been thought of little consequence now find themselves on the shelves in Special Collections. Unlike traditional ‘rare books’ often characterised by their pristine condition, some of these books will have led harder lives and as a result have stories to tell about their manufacture and use.

One criteria for transfer is survival. Older books provide not only physical evidence of developments in book production but also show contemporary cultural and artistic influences. At Southampton books printed before 1850, the products of the hand press era, are routinely transferred to Special Collections. Elsewhere this date has advanced to 1860 and even 1900 in order to preserve examples of late 19th-century developments in printing. The output of small presses, examples of extremely large or extremely small books and those with distinctive bindings and illustrations are also important in showing aspects of book history. Through their post-production life – the bookplates and annotations – books also reveal evidence of their past ownership and use, an expanding area of research and study. Some examples of books added to the printed special collections help to show the changing nature of rare books.

China: Political, Commercial and Social in an Official Report to Her Majesty’s Government by R. Montgomery Martin (London, 1847) is a book which not only fulfils the criteria of having been printed before 1850, but in retaining both its bookseller’s label and its Southampton Reading Society circulation label provides evidence of its past use. With none of today’s concern for privacy, the names of all those who borrowed the book are listed, displaying the reading tastes of the members of the Society. A step up from the circulating library, the Southampton Reading Society, ran from the early years of the 19th century to 1863, when it donated its stock to the Hartley Institution, the forerunner of the University.

R. Montgomery Martin China: Political, Commercial, Social (London, 1847) Rare Books DS 735

Illustrations of the Textile Manufactures of India (London, 1881) was also part of the Hartley Institution’s Library and retains a label recording it as being on a deposit loan from South Kensington Museum since December 1881. The book contains beautiful illustrations of Indian textiles, such as designs for turbans, clothes, scarves and mats, based on the items bought for the Victoria and Albert Museum by Caspar Purdon Clarke. Commissioned to find examples of objects in everyday use, Clarke returned with over a thousand items, which were intended to provide models of good design for both manufacturers and students.

Illustrations of the Textile Manufactures of India (London, 1881) Rare Books folio NK 8876

Another book which has made its way to Special Collections is notable for its distinctive cloth binding which is still in good condition – suggesting it was never part of the general Library stock. This is an edition of Jules Verne’s Cinq semaines en ballon which was published in the later years of the 19th century by the Hetzel firm of Paris.

Jules Verne Cinq semaines en ballon; Voyage au centre de la terre (Paris, 18–) Rare Books PQ 2469.C5

Finally, an example of a small press publication of the early 20th century. The edition of Richard Jobson’s The Golden Trade (Teignmouth, 1904) was intended as the first in the Saracen’s Head’s Mary Kingsley Travel Books series but appears to have been both the first and last book they issued. Printed on handmade paper and with a woodcut title page, it was published in a limited edition. Its bookplate reveals the broader book-collecting interests of Claude Montefiore, President of University College, Southampton, 1913-1934, whose Library, principally on the subjects of theology and philosophy, was donated to the College after his death in 1938.

Richard Jobson The Golden Trade (Teignmouth, 1904) Rare Books DT 376

Richard Jobson The Golden Trade (Teignmouth, 1904) Rare Books DT 376

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although none of these books is of great financial value – the forgotten or previously unidentified treasure which features in news stories rarely makes an appearance – in telling something of the history of books and their use, they all have a place in Special Collections.

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Accessions Registers reveal library wartime cooperation

The news that the University Library is contributing to the programme to help restock the ransacked Library of the University of Mosul confirms the longstanding tradition of cooperation amongst libraries in times of crisis. By coincidence, an earlier example of this recently came to light in the Library’s accessions registers, where amongst the usual entries of ‘lost’ and ‘withdrawn’ some notes were found which recorded the transfer of books to other libraries. In this case the libraries were Plymouth Public Library and Birkbeck College Library and the dates were 1941 and 1942.

Extract from Library Accession Register

It is clear from this, that in addition to the many other ways in which University College, Southampton supported the war effort, it also played its part in helping to restock libraries devastated by enemy action during the Second World War. Plymouth Public Library had been destroyed in March 1941 with the loss of over 72,000 books and Birkbeck Library had suffered a direct hit. With many other libraries suffering the same fate, appeals were made for books to restock those most severely damaged.

The notes in the accessions registers suggest that transferring the books was also advantageous to the Library, enabling it to remove duplicates and free up space – sufficient space being the often unachievable ambition of most librarians. Library Annual Reports confirm that an overhaul of stock had begun in 1940/41 and in response to an appeal from the Universities Bureau of the British Empire, a list of 400 duplicates had already been offered to University College, London, which had lost 100,000 books as a result of fire and water damage following air raids.

The Annual Reports also record the involvement of Library staff in another wartime initiative, the National Book Recovery Appeal which began in 1943. The Appeal had developed from concerns that important books and documents might be destroyed as a result of the Ministry of Supply’s paper salvage campaign which was designed to alleviate the paper shortage caused by the cessation of imports. A Central Committee of Scrutiny was set up to oversee the process and local committees were established to run the ‘Book Drives’. Miss M.I. Henderson, the Librarian of University College, Southampton was appointed as one of the members of Southampton’s Scrutiny Committee and also assisted the New Forest’s Salvage Committee.

National Book Salvage Campaign. Books being examined by Miss H.M. Swift, Mr H.W. Belmore and Miss M. I. Henderson, February 1943.

Southampton’s first Book Drive ran from 6th-20th February 1943, with others being held in Winchester, Basingstoke, Portsmouth and Fareham. Book collection points were established in schools and shops with a central depot at Albion Hall, St Mary’s Street. Books brought in were to be sorted into those suitable for restocking devastated libraries, books for H.M. Forces and those which could be pulped without any loss to scholarship and society. Southampton’s Book Drive yielded over 160,000 books, which took about three weeks to sort. Of these, 3,188 were sent to the Inter-Allied Book Centre for restocking libraries, 16,581 were sent to H.M. Forces, for both recreation and instruction and 141,731 were pulped.

Detail of engraved title page of: John Britton The History and Antiquities of the See and Cathedral Church of Winchester (1817) Rare Books Cope q WIN 26

As an incentive to libraries to get involved in Book Drives, up to 5% of the total number of books collected could be retained locally and the accessions registers reveal that a number of books did make their way into the University Library’s collections. Amongst these was an 1817 edition of John Britton’s The History and Antiquities of the See and Cathedral Church of Winchester, which was added to the Cope Collection, as was C.R. Acton’s Sport and Sportsmen of the New Forest, which still bears a bookplate recording its presentation by Lyndhurst Salvage Committee in August 1943.

From: C.R. Acton Sport and Sportsmen of the New Forest (1936) Cope 97.794