Historical donations to the University Library

HF Jones - A page from the Donations Register

A page from the Donations Register. An example of handwriting better than mine

We have used our blog to talk about a number of donations that the University Library has recently received: Bertrand Russell translations, the Glynne Parker and Schobert film collections, the Denis Mack Smith donation in Italian, and the Yakimiuk collection. We have discussed, in the course of these posts, how to find the books in these donations—in general, they’re either all placed together, or there’s a way to find them all via the catalogue. However, as the University Library has benefitted since its existence from the generosity of benefactors, the Library’s practice in recognising and recording these donations has changed over time. This post explains how the Library has historically recognised and recorded donations of books.

For over 100 years, significant donations of books were recorded in the ‘Donations registers’, which are today held in the Archives of Cambridge University Library (ULIB 7/1/56). These registers were used to record donations of material to the University Library, and to make note of their provenance and the bibliographical information of each book. These registers run from 1871-1995, in a total of 55 volumes. Continue reading

Les Beaux Pays (Arthaud) – illustrated France of the 1930s-1950s

As the weather starts to provide us with some hope for the summer, it is useful for us to look at guidebooks in the University Library, and what role they can play in a collection such as ours. An interesting series, donated to the Library by F.T.K. Caröe, covers some areas of France and provides both a literary and photographic record of these areas as they were at the time of publication.

The series is called Les Beaux Pays, published by B. Arthaud in Grenoble and Paris. These are an excellent example of guide books as historical documents. The University Library had several volumes in this collection, which are significantly augmented by those donated as part of the library of F.T.K. Caröe, about whom we’ve previously written in relation to his interest in Scandinavian literatures. Caröe’s gifts from this series date from 1935-1959, and cover a number of regions of France. The series was very wide-ranging, and our collections cover only a selection. However, this selection is illuminating and a true asset to the University Library. Continue reading

The O’Donoghue donation on mineralogy and gems

As part of my internship at Cambridge University Library, I have been assigned the task of cataloguing the Michael O’Donoghue donation on mineralogy and gems. Michael O’Donoghue was Curator of Earth Sciences in the British Library and has himself written numerous books on gemstones and crystals; he donated his collection of 2,223 documents to Cambridge University Library between 2006 and 2008. A good part of it has already been processed, but more than a thousand are still in the basement, waiting to be catalogued.

You never know what you are going to find in a donation and this one is no exception to the rule. The subject stays the same – mineralogy in general and precious stones in particular – but the forms it comes in are infinitely varied. We have books of photographs, books about famous jewels and jewellers (Cartier, Chaumet, Fabergé), catalogues of gem collections, manuals for gem identification or gem cutting, dictionaries and encyclopaedias, minutes of various mineralogy-related congresses, publications on the mineral resources of different countries or regions, biographies and autobiographies of prospectors… The places of publication are varied, so are the dates: most of the books were published in the second half of the 20th century, but many are also from the 19th century, leather bound and in various states of preservation. Working with those, you start picking up what were the big names at the time: James Dwight Dana, Charles William King, George Frederick Kunz, Edwin William Streeter, whose books have been republished several times in the course of the century, all seem to have been prominent mineralogists.


A shiny plate in “Little Belt mountains” (CCB.53.218)

Maybe the donation’s main interest lies not in the subject itself however, but in how this subject has been studied and represented from the nineteenth to the twentieth century. The great majority of the publications composing the donation are illustrated, either by photographs or drawings, and as you go through the collection, it is the entire recent history of book illustration that you see unfolding before your eyes. It starts in the 19th century with beautiful hand-drawn and colourful plates representing various precious stones – Little Belt mountains (CCB.53.218) even has a shiny illustration picturing inlaid ore in a stone. Some of the strangest and most fascinating to me are the hand-drawn pictures of observations done under a microscope (such as in British petrography CCB.53.202, or The geology of New Hampshire, part IV, CCB.53.268) which, although their purpose is to accurately represent scientific results, look to layman like me more akin to futuristic cities on an alien planet. Photography progressively replaces sketches as the years go by; specific techniques like photomicrography make their appearance (CCB.53.205), and soon photographing gemstones becomes an art, eliciting the publication of manuals (CCB.53.132) entirely dedicated to it. Illustrations sometimes come in surprising forms as well: some of them are not printed on the pages of the book itself, but rather glued to them (CCB.53.219), or slipped in a pocket at the back – this is often the case for folded maps, of which there are a great many in the donation. Continue reading

Autrement Mêmes

This guest post, written by Roger Little (Quondam Professor of French (1776), Trinity College, Dublin) describes a collection that he directs: Autrement Mêmes, published by L’Harmattan in Paris. The University Library has purchased almost all the volumes in this collection, in recognition of the fact that the Library previously held very few, if any, of the texts.

Many a project stems from the recognition of a gap, and so it was with the series ‘Autrement Mêmes’, devoted to the publication in French of books representing Blacks or, more generally, the Other. Once an explanation about the title had been given to the director of the Paris publishing house L’Harmattan, Denis Pryen, suggesting that beyond the surface differences between people there was a common humanity which writers had explored, and would continue to explore, in the light of their personal experience and vision, and the attitudes of their time, the series published its first volumes in 2001. At the time of writing, April 2015, 108 volumes have appeared (pdf), some in two tomes.

A selection of covers from the Autrement Mêmes collection

Continue reading

Günter Grass

A month ago today, on April 13th, Günter Grass died aged 87. He was one of the dominant figures of German contemporary literature, who rose to international fame and earned a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1999. His writing mainly dealt with the German Nazi past and is considered to be part of the genre of “Vergangenheitsbewältigung” (coming to terms with the past). He was socially engaged throughout his life and a firm supporter of left-wing politics, something he had in common with the Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano, who coincidentally died on the same day as Grass. The University Library has an extensive collection of Grass’s literary works and our holdings can be easily browsed by searching the catalogue for Grass as author, or doing a subject heading search for books about him.


A selection of bookcovers desigend by Grass (S746.bb.200.1)

Grass originally wanted to be a painter and enjoyed and tried to incorporate painting into his life as much as possible. He reportedly said that it was something that he had always taken a keen interest in. He illustrated several of his works and usually also the covers of his books, but he also worked on his art as a painter and sculptor on works not connected to his literary output. He published some of his paintings later himself and several exhibitions were held. The UL also has a substantial collection of these works and catalogues that may not come directly to mind when thinking about Grass. Continue reading

Eduardo Galeano

Eduardo Galeano (source)

Eduardo Galeano (source)

The Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano passed away on 13 April 2015, aged 74. He started his career in journalism, but came to greater prominence in 1971 with what remains his best-known work, Las venas abiertas de América Latina (original: 220.d.97.88; translation: 670:8.c.95.866), a history of Latin America from the time of Columbus onwards, focusing on the economic exploitation and military oppression that had shaped the continent. This book remained popular and respected throughout the decades, and even became an unexpected bestseller in 2009, when the Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez publicly gifted a copy to Barack Obama.

Galeano had a long and varied writing career, throughout which he tried to bring to light the usually unwritten history of Latin America and the world – that of the victims, the poor and the downtrodden – as he felt that without acknowledging and understanding this, governments and nations could never truly progress. His outspoken socialist stance unsurprisingly put him at odds with the right-wing dictatorships that dominated the Southern Cone in the 1970s and 1980s. He first fled Uruguay and then Argentina in the mid-1970s, and wrote another of his most famous works, Memoria del fuego (original: 670:8.c.95.547-9; translation: 9743.c.334-336), whilst in exile. Continue reading

Digital Repository of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL) freely available online

ECLAC Digital Repository homepage

ECLAC Digital Repository homepage

The Digital Repository of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC; CEPAL in Spanish) provides free online access to over 35,000 official documents at: http://repositorio.cepal.org/

Originally established in 1948 under the name Economic Commission for Latin America, ECLA later broadened its scope to include the Caribbean countries and became the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). Continue reading