Polish in the University and in the UL : the July 2017 Slavonic items of the month

This week has seen the very welcome news that the pilot Polish Studies Programme, launched in 2014, has succeeded in attracting funding which will ensure that Polish will remain in the University academic programme in perpetuity.  To celebrate this wonderful development, the July 2017 Slavonic blog post looks at Polish holdings in the University Library.

The UL holds over 25,000 volumes in Polish.  The period covered by the Polish-language collections stretches over a span of more than 450 years from the mid-16th century to the current day.  Books printed before 1800 are the smallest component, but they include some extremely important and rare items.  The earliest book in Polish in the University Library is the first printed translation of the Bible into Polish, which was produced in 1561 in Kraków.  The second translation, printed in 1563, is rarer than the first; all but 20 or so copies were destroyed.  The University Library is fortunate enough to have two copies each of these first two editions (Young.55 and BSS.232.B61; Young.56 and BSS.232.B63).

Images from the Young.55 copy of the 1561 Polish Bible.

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Grouping material by subject

It was only with the closure of the Guardbook for 1978 imprints, and the introduction of a new cataloguing code accompanied by Library of Congress subject headings, that serious attempts were made to analyse the subject content of each item acquired by the University Library. Up until that point subject analysis had been minimal – access points for material about a named individual, and for grammars, dictionaries, encyclopaedias and volumes of conference proceedings, without using a controlled vocabulary. For much of its earlier history, the only consideration of subject which took place was in determining where to place each item on the shelves.

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Collections and Academic Liaison (CAL): the new face of European Collections and Cataloguing

At the beginning of July the European Collections and Cataloguing Department, the team responsible for the European languages across borders blog since its inception in November 2013, joined with the English Collections Department to create a new department called Collections and Academic Liaison (CAL).  It is pure coincidence, but slightly unfortunate timing, that the removal of the word European from our name coincided with the Brexit referendum.  Our commitment to developing the Library’s collections of European-language material and, through this blog, celebrating these and similar collections throughout the University of Cambridge remains as strong as ever.

Images from various posts published on this blog

In the very first post on the European languages across borders blog, I wrote about the work of European Collections and Cataloguing Department, covering the ambiguity of the word “European” in our title (we deal with languages of a European origin, buying from five continents and not one) and also about the division of responsibility here for the acquisition of European-language and English-language material.  Readers who have actively engaged in University Library acquisitions, primarily through donations and book recommendations, will most likely have found themselves dealing with one set of staff for English material and another for foreign material.

As the head of the new CAL department, it is obvious to me that the bringing together of the European and English strands offers significant opportunities to bring the two former departments out of their strict silos and into a more flexible way of working.  Uppermost in our concerns is the reader.  The internal set-up of the Library would not matter to him or her if the right books were acquired promptly, but we are confident that this new structure will help us ensure that our collections meet the needs of the University even more effectively.

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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

Tracking down items in Afrikaans

The languages handled by European Collections and Cataloguing fall into three categories – languages taught in the University and very actively collected, languages formerly taught, in which we sometimes have a considerable number of items but in which few new imprints are acquired (a post on our Icelandic holdings has been written), and items in languages which have never been taught and studied, where virtually all additions are as a result of donation. Afrikaans material is a good example. Afrikaans is a West Germanic language that is widely spoken in South Africa, Namibia and to a lesser extent in Botswana and Zimbabwe. Most of the Afrikaans vocabulary is of Dutch origin but it adopted words from Portuguese, the Bantu languages, Malay and the Khoisan languages too. The First Afrikaans Language Movement, established in 1875, made a concerted attempt to establish Afrikaans as a separate language from Dutch. The first Afrikaans newspaper was started in 1876, and publishing houses specialising in Afrikaans language material began publication in 1914 and 1915. But even the Afrikaner (Boer) Republics at the time of the South African War in 1899-1902 used Dutch in their publications and official documents.

Given that publications in Afrikaans are of relatively recent date, and have never been actively collected, it is slightly surprising to realise that some 1,500 titles in Afrikaans are scattered through the Library’s collections. Approximately 10 to 15 titles are added each year. Afrikaans was never thought important enough to merit a separate number in our classification scheme for language and literature. Literary texts in and about Afrikaans are clustered with Dutch literature in class 751.

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