Library of the Society of Friends catalogue loaded

We’re pleased to announce that the holdings of the Society of Friends Library have been added to Copac.

Photo of Society of Friends Library

Photo: Colin Edwards. Copyright: Britain Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends (Quakers)

The Library of the Society of Friends is one of the world’s largest collections of Quaker and Quaker related material. Founded in 1673, its printed collections include works published by the Society of Friends, and works written by and against Quakers, as well as a growing collection of work about Quakers and Quakerism.

It holds notable collections of 17th-18th century pamphlets, anti-slavery campaigning literature and peace publications. Quaker work in foreign missions and war relief (such as the Friends Ambulance Units of the two world wars) is well represented.

To browse, or limit your search to the holdings of the Society of Friends library, go to the main tab on and choose ‘Society of Friends’ from the list of libraries.

Special Collections at York Minster Library and the University of York Library

Sarah Griffin, Special collections and York Minster Librarian, talks about
the Special collections at the Cathedral and the University.

I was appointed to the post of Special collections and York Minster Librarian in 2010 following a partnership agreement between the University of York and the Chapter of York Minster.  The university provides all library staff, and technological support through the cataloguing and circulation modules of the library management system. In return university users get free access to the Minster library collections, we run induction tours for students and we host seminars for groups using the books.

The Minster library is the largest cathedral library in England holding around 120,000 items. As well as a substantial collection of early printed books, including 130 incunabula, the library has a modern reference and lending collection. The bulk of the historic library is housed in a 13th-century building to the north of the Minster.Image of Upper Hall of the Old Palace

The Upper Hall of the Old Palace. Image courtesy of the Chapter of York.

Cathedrals libraries are known for their broad and diverse collections and York is no exception. Subjects include travel, botany, science, medicine and, of course, theology.  We attract students of medieval studies, church architecture especially stained glass, and church history. My favourite part has to be the Yorkshire collection which was donated in 1890.

It came from Edward Hailstone, a solicitor from Bradford, who thought public libraries were ‘spoilators of books’ and would not countenance leaving his collection to them. Luckily that meant they came to the Minster where they now occupy a large proportion of our special collections room. They include everything from playbills, to civil war tracts, to children’s books, to local printing; the list is endless. Choosing a favourite item is hard as I have a new favourite every week.  However here is a constant much loved item, a commemorative handbill produced by Thomas Gent who set up his printing press on the frozen river Ouse in 1740.

Image of Verses on the frozen River Ouse, 1740

Verses on the frozen River Ouse, 1740. Image courtesy of the Chapter of York

Thomas Gent was a York printer from 1724 until his death in 1778 with a great line in blarney. He wrote an autobiography which is still fantastic reading although best taken with a big pinch of salt. What he was very good at was writing histories of Yorkshire towns. His books on York, Ripon and Hull contain information not found elsewhere and appear to have been based on first hand research and observation. The Minster library has almost all of Gent’s publications and would like to complete the collection in the future.

At the Minster I battle against the same things as many rare book librarians, namely looking after a collection in a historic building with all the environmental issues that entails, and achieving objectives with limited resources. In fairness big stone buildings do actually control temperature and humidity fairly well but dust and pest control are on-going problems. We suffer every year from a plague of ladybirds that come into the building through poorly fitting windows and promptly drop dead. It can be very disconcerting for readers to find themselves in the middle of a sea of ladybird corpses!

So that’s my first hat dealt with, I am also responsible for the special collections at the university. In the main these are printed books as archives are housed in and curated by the Borthwick Institute for Archives situated on campus. It is a collection of collections, comprising of around 20,000 items. Highlights are the books of Hugo Dyson, one of the Inklings, a group that included JRR Tolkien and C S Lewis; the Raymond Burton Yorkshire Collection; two Yorkshire parish libraries; two provincial medical society collections and much much more. I have got a definite favourite here though. It’s a scrapbook from 1819 produced by Laura Hannam.

Image of Scrapbook 1819

Scrapbook by Laura Catherine Hannam 1819. Image courtesy of the University of York

It was donated to the university on its opening in 1963 but there is no more information than that. However looking at the pictures Laura has drawn it is possible to work out that she must have lived in East Kent, and probably on a farm. The pictures are quite crude but so charming. It sits with a small collection of printed children’s books illustrated by Walter Crane, Kate Greenaway, and Randolph Caldecott among others.

The area I probably spend most time on is promotion of the collections within both institutions and also to the wider community in York and further afield. This is done through a combination of exhibitions, talks, tours and the use of social media.  At present I am working on producing a treasures booklet which will showcase the unique and distinctive collections at the Minster, the special collections and the Borthwick.  I am also working with a group of academics from English and History to create an exhibition and events celebrating the 600th anniversary of the Minster library.

I am lucky to work in an institution that places great value on its special collections and with the initiatives of bodies such as RLUK in this area I am looking forward to expanding the reach and scope of the collections I curate.

More information on the Minster collections can be found at

For more information on special collections see

Humanist Library (Conway Hall Ethical Society) catalogue loaded

We’re pleased to announce that the holdings of the Humanist Library and Archives (Conway Hall Ethical Society) library have been added to Copac.

Library at Conway Hall Ethical Society

Image copyright Conway Hall Ethical Society

Conway Hall, owned and operated by Conway Hall Ethical Society, is a membership organisation and educational charity that began as a dissident congregation in 1787 in London. Since 1929 the Society has been based at Conway Hall in Holborn.

The Library originated in the 1840s as a general lending library for members, but now specialises in subjects relating to ethics, Humanism, rationalism and philosophy. It is the foremost resource of its kind in Europe and the only library in the UK solely dedicated to the collection of Humanist material. The collection includes books, periodicals and pamphlets, all of which are accessible to the general public.

Conway Hall’s book collection comprises around 10,000 volumes, combining those of the South Place Ethical Society, the Rationalist Press Association, the Coit Memorial Library and the National Secular Society. Subjects include animal rights, business ethics, civil rights, education, environmental issues, family issues, free speech, health issues, and medical ethics.

Other collections: journals (the Library houses runs of many rare and important nineteenth century freethought journals), pamphlets, archives, manuscripts, a small collection of audio visual material and a collection of sheet music. Conway Hall and its library also possess numerous original works of art and architectural features, comprising: portraits, sculpture, photographs, posters, architectural plans, and artefacts.

To browse, or limit your search to the holdings of the Humanist library, go to the main tab on and choose ‘Humanist Library and Archives (Conway Hall Ethical Society)’ from the list of libraries.

Zoological Society of London library catalogue loaded

We’re pleased to announce that the holdings of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) library have been added to Copac.

ZSL Library. Image copyright Zoological Society of London

Image copyright Zoological Society of London

Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity, whose mission is to promote and achieve the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats. ZSL Library has an important role in communicating information about, and inspiring an interest in animals, habitats and their conservation. It contains a unique collection books on all aspects of zoology and animal conservation. The book holdings date from the sixteenth century to the present day, and include many of the magnificently illustrated folios of the nineteenth century; books on the development of zoos and menageries; books by Fellows of the Zoological Society; the history of the Zoological Society and zoology.

To browse, or limit your search to the holdings of the ZSL library, go to the main tab on and choose ‘Zoological Society of London’ from the list of libraries.


Implementing RDA in Cambridge University Library

Celine Carty, Cataloguer at Cambridge University Library and member of the Cambridge RDA Steering Group, writes about the Library’s transition to using RDA.

Entrance artwork at Cambridge University Library

Bronze book bollards at the entrance to Cambridge University Library

“Cambridge implemented RDA in 2013”. What a simple statement that seems to be, but behind it lie an awful lot of detail and hard work.

Getting started

The main University Library and four of its affiliated libraries all implemented RDA (Resource Description and Access) on March 31st 2013. The other Cambridge libraries – there are over 90 in total including colleges, faculties and departments – will implement on October 1st. The preparations for this implementation began at least a couple of years ago, however, and the transition to RDA requires ongoing support and learning even after the initial training is over. Those 5 words at the start of this post describe a long process.

Once the Library of Congress and the British Library announced that they would be implementing the new cataloguing standard RDA on March 31st 2013, it made sense for Cambridge to follow suit. As part of the Legal Deposit Libraries Shared Cataloguing Program, we contribute to the BNB (British National Bibliography) and as part of NACO  (Name Authority Cooperative Program) we both use and contribute to the LC/NACO Authority File. Once the date was set, it suddenly felt like we had an awful lot of work to do in a very short time.

Training and implementation

One of the main challenges of RDA implementation in Cambridge was simply the logistics of coordinating training and implementation across so many libraries. By the end of this month, we will have offered RDA training to almost 200 people across all of the Cambridge libraries, some of whom are full-time cataloguers but many of whom only do some cataloguing as part of a more generalist post. Developing and delivering training in this context is quite a big job in itself. Beyond that, though, the main issues were agreeing Cambridge policy for the various options and alternatives available in RDA and also making sure all the systems were able to display, index and interpret the new MARC fields. The fact that RDA itself is in constant flux as changes and clarifications are made to the text and to the practices of the major national libraries certainly makes RDA implementation more complicated too.

The fact of setting an implementation date was itself quite useful, as it helped to focus the mind and encourages staff to take a bit of time out of their very busy work schedules to think about RDA. Over time, the number of RDA records in the BNB, in the Library of Congress and in Copac itself has grown and grown. This meant that many staff saw RDA in their copy cataloguing, which was very useful for familiarising them with the changes that RDA brings (particularly the more immediately obvious such as relationship designators, the loss of GMD (General Material Designation) and the new-look 264 fields for publication, distribution and manufacture information).

Cambridge RDA logo

Cambridge RDA logo (links to training materials website)

Creating policy: Do, discuss, document

Based on our experience of developing local policy for RDA, I would say that there is no need to wait until every aspect of policy decisions is finalised – instead try as early as possible to do some hands-on cataloguing in RDA. This really helps to bring to the surface the main issues and problems. At the recent CIG (Cataloguing & Indexing Group) pop-up workshop on “Getting started in RDA”, I talked about the 3-Ds of creating policy: “do, discuss, document”. This iterative process allowed us to develop our local policy, all of which is documented in the Cambridge Monograph Workflow (available in the RDA Toolkit, for anyone with a subscription) as well as our Cambridge Standard Record. Both of these documents are being constantly updated as changes are made to the RDA guidelines or in light of our own experiences with cataloguing in RDA.

There is a great deal of RDA training freely available online. Originally, we planned to avoid writing our own training by using as much of the freely available material as possible. However, although the Library of Congress modules were thorough and detailed, we felt that their pace and content wasn’t quite right for our local needs. It quickly became apparent that we would need to rework the existing training to make it suitable for Cambridge cataloguers. We therefore adapted the LC and BL modules, with some additional material. At this stage, we incorporated all the Cambridge local policy decisions about RDA (and developed more when we realised we needed them).

While we were preparing the training, I was in frequent contact with colleagues at the University of Oxford, Trinity College Dublin and the British Library as well as in many national and academic libraries in the US, Canada and New Zealand. The help of this international community of cataloguers proved invaluable to our own work and we were extremely grateful to other institutions, in particular to the Library of Congress  and British Library, for making their documentation and training available.

Cooperation and sharing

We agreed that it was very important to build on this spirit of cooperation and sharing and so, in May 2013, we launched CambridgeRDA, a website hosting all of the RDA documentation developed for training the staff of the libraries in the University of Cambridge. All of these materials are made available under a Creative Commons CC-BY licence for anyone to reuse or adapt. CambridgeRDA gives full details of the contents and order of the training modules. Although the training materials were developed for an internal audience and so obviously reflect Cambridge practice and policy, we hope they may be of use to you if your institution is thinking about implementing RDA cataloguing some time in the future.

Card catalogue - "superseded by"

Image is in the public domain:


British School at Rome Library & Archive catalogue loaded

We’re pleased to announce that the records of the British School at Rome catalogue have been loaded onto Copac.

The British School at Rome is Britain’s leading humanities research institute abroad; a centre for interdisciplinary research in the Mediterranean supporting the full range of arts, humanities and social sciences.British School at Rome library

The BSR Library supports the research activity of the Fellows and resident scholars and consists of c. 60.000 volumes and 600 current periodicals.
Collections include:

  • Italian archaeology: prehistory, classical and medieval
  • Italian topography, especially the topography of Rome
  • ancient history and texts
  • ecclesiastical and medieval Italian history
  • history of Italian art and architecture
  • the writings of travellers in Italy
  • ancient religions
  • rare books collection, including Thomas Ashby’s library

The BSR digital collections website, launched in 2009, includes 15,000 records and 12,000 images of historic photographs from the Archive and maps and engravings from the Library’s Rare Book Collection.

To browse, or limit your search to the holdings of the British School at Rome library, go to the main tab on and choose ‘British School at Rome’ from the list of libraries.

Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales library catalogue loaded

We are pleased to announce that the holdings of the Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales library catalogue have been loaded onto Copac.

National Museum Wales libraryThe Museum’s library exists primarily to support the curatorial staff at the National Museum’s seven sites throughout Wales, covering archaeology & numismatics, fine and decorative art, botany, geology, industrial and social history, and zoology. The Library contains a number of special collections, including books on early natural history, tours of Wales in the 18th and 19th centuries, and a selection of private press material, including the Gregynog and the Golden Cockerel presses.

In addition to purchasing material for the collections the Library has accepted several generous donations and loans since the 1920s when the first Librarian was appointed.

To browse, or limit your search to the holdings of the Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales library, go to the main tab on and choose ‘Library Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales library’ from the list of libraries.

Henry Moore Institute Research Library catalogue loaded

We’re pleased to have added the holdings of the Henry Moore Institute Research Library to Copac.

Henry Moore Institute Research LibraryThe Henry Moore Institute Research Library is a specialist resource for the study of sculpture, open to all seven days a week. The library specialises in British sculpture post-1850, with collections spanning international and historical contexts, taking in monographs, exhibition catalogues and themed publications. The library holds around 20,000 titles, including rare publications, artists’ books, ephemera and a unique and growing audio-visual collection.

The catalogue has been added as part of the Copac Challenge Fund.

To browse, or limit your search to the holdings of the Henry Moore Institute Research Library, go to the main tab on and choose ‘Henry Moore’ from the list of libraries.

Senate House Library, University of London treasures volume

Dr Karen Attar, Rare Books Librarian at Senate House Library and author of numerous articles about the Library and its holdings, talks about the Library’s recently published volume of treasures.

(see Senate House Library, University of London, ed. by Christopher Pressler and Karen Attar (London: Scala, 2012) View on Copac)

In November 2012 Senate House Library, University of London, produced a treasures volume featuring a brief history of the Library and sixty highlights from its special collections. The publication is a landmark. The treasures volume is by no means the first publication to appear about Senate House Library. Its first catalogue was published in 1876, the year before the Library opened. Numerous catalogues have followed, culminating in the five-volume short-title Catalogue of the Goldsmiths’ Library of Economic Literature (1970-1995), which has provided a standard for economic completeness (viz. “Not in Goldsmiths’” in booksellers’ catalogues). Articles about specific collections or groups of collections have appeared in various academic journals. But the treasures volume published by Scala is the first large-scale publication with lavish illustrations intended for a general audience.

Senate House Library opened as the University of London Library in 1877. Donations had dribbled in from 1838 onwards. The impetus for a University Library came with the acquisition of the University’s first purpose-built accommodation in Burlington Gardens, Piccadilly, in 1870, with a large ground-floor room to double as an examination hall and library. No sooner had the Chancellor appealed for books to fill its empty shelves than Samuel Loyd, Baron Overstone, purchased and gave the library of the recently deceased mathematician and mathematical historian Augustus De Morgan (1806-1871). This comprised over 3,500 titles, mainly to do with the various branches of mathematics (including astronomy) and its history: a collection which was praised at the time and which, over 120 years later in 1996, Adrian Rice called ‘one of the finest accumulations of books on the history of mathematics in the country’.

Obvious treasures included the first five printed editions of Euclid, first editions of Newton’s Principia and Opticks, and the first edition of Copernicus’s  De Revolutionibus, this last individualised by De Mogan’s annotations; also noteworthy were runs of popular textbooks, such as Cocker’s Arithmetic and Francis Walkingame’s The Tutor’s Assistant. De Morgan’s notes, often humorous and sometimes shedding light on the history of mathematics, enhanced a significant minority of the books: a feature noted as adding to their value even at the time of De Morgan’s death, and one which has gained significance in recent years with the general boom in the history of reading and provenance research. The collection was catalogued online, with help from the Vice-Chancellor’s Development Fund of the University of London, in 2004-6. The iconic 1482 editio princeps of Euclid’s Elements is by no means a rare book, with 41 copies recorded on the ISTC for the British Isles alone and many more across the world; and De Morgan’s copy of the first edition of Copernicus has received prominence elsewhere, as in David Pearson’s Books as History (2008). For the treasures volume, we therefore regarded these as out of bounds. De Morgan’s own extensive writings included an article ‘On the Earliest Printed Almanacs’ in The Companion to the Almanac for 1845 and a separate monograph The Book of Almanacs (1851), and we represented this area of his interest with the first of several early almanacs from his library, the Lunarium ab Anno 1491 ad Annum 1550 by Bernardus de Granollachs (ISTC ig00340700). An added attraction to featuring this work is that De Morgan’s is the only complete copy known.  We featured De Morgan’s copy of his Formal Logic(1847): interleaved and bound in two volumes, it is full of scribbled notes, newspaper articles and personal letters, with some unpublished diagrams which show his mind at work.

One of Augustus De Morgan’s insertions in his Formal Logic (1847)

One of Augustus De Morgan’s insertions in his Formal Logic (1847)

Arithmetic was a major focus of his collecting and there would have been numerous early printed books from which to choose. Ultimately we selected a late edition of John Bonnycastle’s The Scholar’s Guide to Arithmetic, edited by retired schoolmaster Edwin Colman Tyson (1828). This is a prime example of how small, common textbooks are prone to disappear: the Senate House Library copy is one of only two on Copac. De Morgan’s copy includes his note from 1857: “This book was sent to me by the publisher, meaning to call my attention to it as a class book. It convinced me that a work on demonstrative arithmetic was wanting – and was the book which suggested the existence of the deficiency to supply which I wrote my own arithmetic in 1830” – what a devastating verdict by an experienced and dismissive reviewer!

Classical historian and University of London Vice-Chancellor George Grote died on 18 June 1871, just four months after De Morgan. Grote bequeathed his books to the University. Unlike De Morgan, Grote had not been a conscious collector. But he had been a voracious reader, with money from 1830 onwards to satisfy his wide-ranging literary interests, and his library contained about five thousand titles. Director’s Choice, by Christopher Pressler – our Director’s selection of thirty favourite items from the collections –had come out a few months earlier and snaffled Grote’s collection of French Revolutionary pamphlets, comprising some items which were not only very rare (again, because they were ephemeral) but which epitomised an area of Grote’s interest: according to his 1962 biographer, Martin Lowther Clarke, he was thought to have read everything there was to read about the French Revolution. We made do with the French translation (rare in Britian; the only other copy on Copac is at the British Library) of Grote’s History of Greece and with the second-oldest item in his collection, Gregor Reisch’s Margarita Philosophica (1504), in a copy including some hand-colouring and in a contemporary blind-tooled calf binding.

G. Reisch, Margarita Philosophica (1504)

G. Reisch, Margarita Philosophica (1504)

It was the gift of the Goldsmiths’ Library of Economic Literature in 1903 – some 30,000 items – which doubled library holdings and transformed the University Library into a major academic institution. Director’s Choice had already claimed the Collection’s most outstanding item in terms of provenance, a copy of Das Kapital (1872) inscribed by Marx to Peter Imandt (1823-1897), a fellow political émigré and German teacher in Dundee who worked with Marx and Engels for many years after having arrived in London, via Switzerland, in 1852. In the treasures volume we highlighted the founding item of the Goldsmiths’ Library, Dionyius Lardner’s Railway Economy (1850), annotated by the founder of the library, Herbert Somerton Foxwell: “I bought this volume from a bookstall in Great Portland Street at Jevons’ suggestion, one afternoon as I was going to Hampstead with him, for 6d.!  He urged me to buy it, partly on account of the low price, partly because it was a book of great intrinsic value, from which had suggested to him the mathematical treatment of economic theory. [cf. ch xiii] This purchase was the first step in the formation of my economic collection.” In addition to buying Foxwell’s collection and presenting it to the University of London, the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths financed the extension of the collection, such that it is now more than twice the size of the original gift. Our choice of other items from the Goldsmiths’ Library of Economic Literature honoured collection building, with the first printed work on economics (Franciscus de Platea, Opus Restitutionum Usurarum, Excommunicationum, 1472; ISTC ip00751000), and a professional diary of the energetic railway engineer John Urpeth Rastrick (1780-1856).

On the whole the treasures volume follows and acknowledges the receipt of other major special collections to the University, from the Durning-Lawrence Library based around Sir Francis Bacon and the Quick Memorial Library of works on education, both given in 1929, to the M.S. Anderson Collection of Writings on Russia Printed between 1525 and 1917 and editions of Walter de la Mare’s work (given in 2008 and 2009 respectively). But it is important to acknowledge that not all the noteworthy works in a library are held in named special collections, and the treasures volume does this, for example with single purchases or gifts. The most valuable item featured falls into both these categories. It is an illuminated manuscript produced around 1385 chronicling the exploits of Edward, the Black Prince, during the Hundred Years War. Purchased by the University to present to the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) in 1921, it was subsequently placed by him on permanent loan to the University Library. Occasionally the means of acquisition is unknown, as for the short-running journal of the Healthy & Artistic Dress Union Aglaia (recorded on Copac only for Senate House Library and the National Art Library).

Editing a treasures volume is not conducive to cherishing favourite items, as one’s energies are focused on searching for errors and inconsistencies in drafts. Yet certain items do stand out for particular features. For sheer beauty, my preferred item is a small (110 x 72 mm), apparently unique book of hours printed on vellum in Paris for Germain Hardouyn in about 1516: the book is rubricated and illuminated, with a half-page coloured illustration for each of the hours.

Heures a l’usaige de Rome tout au Long sans riens requerir (ca 1516)

Heures a l’usaige de Rome tout au Long sans riens requerir (ca 1516)

The book I am most curious to read is The Greatest Plague in Life or The Adventures of a Lady in Search of a Good Servant, by the brothers Henry and Augustus Mayhew (1847) – a book reprinted at least three times in the Victorian era, as copies on Copac testify, but which has since sunk into obscurity.The first edition of the book is by no means rare, with copies from twelve libraries on Copac, but Senate House Library is the only library to have recorded ownership of the six original parts, complete with advertisements for pens and ink, iron fenders, lingerie, wigs, and hair dye.

Henry and Augustus Mayhew, The Greatest Plague in Life, ot 3 (1847).

Henry and Augustus Mayhew, The Greatest Plague in Life, ot 3 (1847).

For us there is also a local interest, as the narrator is based in Guildford Street, Russell Square, whence she complains that she has been driven “through a pack of ungrateful, good-for-nothing things called servants, who really do not know when they are well off”. This book promises to rate highly for amusement value, although for the top position in that category it vies with Thomas Carlyle’s acerbic marginalia on the first edition of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh (for example, “don’t!” when the protagonist says it is “too easy to go mad”).


“What and where is the University of London?” is a query which vexed University officials before the central University moved from South Kensington to its current home in Bloomsbury in the 1930s.  “What and where is Senate House Library, University of London” albeit not asked so explicitly, has often been implicit. A document from 1946 claimed that the University of London Library was not as well known as it deserved to be, even within the University of London; and half a century later we still encounter researchers who are surprised by the richness of the Library’s holdings. We hope that the treasures volume will stop such a question from being asked at all.

All images copyright Senate House Library, University of London, and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holder.

Wiener Library catalogue on Copac

We’re pleased that the catalogue of the Wiener Library is available on Copac.

The Wolfson Reading Room at the Wiener Library

The Wolfson Reading Room at the Wiener Library

Founded in 1933, the Wiener Library is Britain’s largest archive on the Holocaust and Nazi era. The Library holds an exceptional collection of over one million items including published and unpublished works, press cuttings, photographs, press cuttings and eyewitness testimonies. As much of the collection was amassed during the years of the Holocaust, the Library contains material of great rarity and continues to actively collect books, unique documents, photographs and personal archives.

To browse, or limit your search to the holdings of the Wiener Library, go to the main tab on and choose ‘Wiener Library’ from the list of libraries.