Archive for September, 2011

Dr Lucy Hughes, the College’s Modern Archivist writes:

The Modern Archive recently received an exciting donation of personal correspondence which casts light on the day-to-day life of a Corpus undergraduate in the 1930s. The letters by Eric Cooper (written on letterheaded College notepaper and in envelopes bearing the College crest) came with some photographs and also some embroidery from a sporting blazer, and were given by Cooper’s niece, who has been transcribing and studying the letters as part of a family history project. This donation is very good news for the College.

Writing to his fiancée, Patience, Cooper gives a vivid picture of the academic, cultural and social environment in which he lived and worked. It is interesting to note the many references to attending the cinema (called ‘flicking’) in the letters, with comments on the films seen. Eric had something of a background in the world of cinema as his father, Frederick Holmes Cooper, had set up a chain of the earliest cinemas in East Anglia in the days of silent film, and built a fortune in this way. There is a chapter about him and his achievement in a book called The Picture House in East Anglia by Stephen Peart (1980).

Eric attended Norwich School and thus followed in a tradition of Corpus men from that background. Until the nineteenth century, there was a rule that four of the College Fellowship elected were to be from Norfolk, and although this rule had been abandoned by the twentieth century, the Norfolk and Norwich connection lingered. Eric’s letters refer to meetings of ‘old boys’ of Norwich School, who considered themselves something of an élite club. Two of the current Fellowship – the eminent ecologist and landscape historian Oliver Rackham and the official historian of MI5 Christopher Andrew – were pupils of Norwich School, and so the tradition continues.

Eric went on to serve in the Royal Army Service Corps and, after the War, built a career with Telephone Rentals, eventually becoming Managing Director. He and Patience had a long and happy marriage. His letters from 1935-36 are full of youthful optimism and joie de vivre and thus make enjoyable, as well as interesting, reading. A sample quotation from 30 May 1935 will give a flavour:

I thought I deserved some recreation so decided to flick with Nigel. We went to the Rendez-Vous to see The Lives of a Bengal Lancer. I got out my bike and put Nigel on the back and went there like greased lightning – it’s some distance away – 2 miles. Six policemen yelled at us, but we took no notice (it’s illegal to take anyone on a step now, you know) and arrived there with a flourish. Well, we both fingered our old school ties, wept profusely, stood to attention for ‘God Save the King’ and decided to join up at the earliest possible moment!! We really did enjoy it, though, for it is an excellent film, the sort of film that affects one in a marked manner. To discuss the ethics of it now would be impossible and rather controversial, but this I will say ,the spirit which activated those officers is fine and right because they believed that what they were doing was right. We had an exhilarating ride back here along the backs. We made some tea and talked till 12 when we went to bed.


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Perspectives on filming

Professor Mary Beard, our local multimedia star, has an interesting blog post about film crews. When they were coming to film in her space, the Museum of Classical Archaeology, she was irritated by the disruption and by how they always seemed to overrun their allotted time. Now that she’s the presenter out on location, she appreciates how hard the crews work and how tight the timing. Certainly the film crews we’ve had in the library have all been very well-behaved; almost every one of them has overrun their time but they all seem to be working incredibly hard to fit in as many hours of shooting as possible in any given day.

Along the same lines, the curators of manuscripts at the British Library have written on their blog about the vexed question of white gloves. Every library that allows its manuscripts to be filmed being handled receives feedback about the fact that we don’t oblige readers to wear gloves. There are lots of good reasons not to wear gloves while handling manuscripts. On the advice of conservators, we much prefer (and insist on!) clean dry hands.

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The annual Parker Library audit was carried out on Friday 9 September by Dr John Pollard, the Fellow Librarian of Trinity Hall. As I mentioned in last year’s post, we’re required to check the contents of the library under the terms of the indenture by which Matthew Parker donated his books to the library. If a certain number of books have been lost, the whole collection is forfeit to Gonville and Caius College. If they should be similarly neglectful, the collection passes to Trinity Hall and, if necessary, back to Corpus. In this way, the three colleges were set to watch over each other – and each was provided with a copy of the Parker Register, the checklist of Parker’s books.  Our copy is MS 575.

Dr Pollard recalled at the audit dinner that two years ago when he last came to inspect the books, we told him that NONE of the manuscripts were present. They were all being stored safely in the vault of the Churchill Archives Centre at Churchill College while we were having some refurbishment work done in the Parker Library itself. Luckily he was happy to take our word for that – and to see some of Parker’s printed books. This year the manuscripts were all present – except for one of those that Dr Pollard wanted to see – MS 373. It’s still on exhibition in Speyer – but we were able to show him a picture of it in the exhibition catalogue for the Die Salier exhibition to prove that.

CCCC MS 373 in Speyer catalogue

The auditor was satisfied and he received his fee – an Elizabethan sixpence. We were then able to enjoy the audit dinner, which also marked the end of the Parker Library Keio EIRI conferenceon digitization.

A guest visiting the library before the Audit Dinner

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On Friday 9 September we hosted a very successful conference on ‘Text, image and the digital environment’ organised by Dr Satoko Tokunaga of the Faculty of Letters at Keio University who has also been a Visiting Fellow at Corpus this year. Satoko put together a really interesting programme and I thought it might be helpful to record a few notes about the papers on the blog.

The opening papers by Giles Bergel and Kiyoko Myojo addressed theoretical questions concerning the materiality of the text, distinctions between a text and a document, the process of copying, the nature of authorship, and the relationships between print and handwriting and between digital reproductions and original artefacts. Giles Bergel, whose research focuses on the long eighteenth century, illustrated his arguments with examples of lettering printed from engraved plates, including elaborately inscribed frontispieces and writing manuals which presented a scribal exemplar for students to copy. Kiyoko Myojo examined the textual history of the works of Franz Kafka, whose manuscripts were heavily edited by his literary executor Max Brod, and the potential benefits of digital editions.

In the next session, Satoko and Takako Kato described a new project that they are launching called ‘Caxton and Beyond’ which will provide a new census of individual copies of texts printed by William Caxton. They already have some interesting work on the rubrication of the various copies and plan to use the TEI Manuscript Description module, drawing upon Takako’s experience of using it for the Production and Use of English Manuscripts 1060-1220 project. James Cummings, a member of the TEI Technical Council, alluded to this in his Prezi talk concerning some upcoming developments in TEI. Since many people are using the Manuscript Description module to describe items that are not (or not wholly) manuscripts, a new TypeDesc tag is being added to the module, among other new features.

In the afternoon sessions, two ongoing projects and two libraries reported on their digital activities. Ben Albritton and Rob Sanderson talked about their Mellon-funded project which focuses on the development of interoperable tools which can be used to interact with texts and images held in various manuscript digitization projects, including Parker on the Web. These tools, using the Shared Canvas model, allow users to work with images from different collections side by side, including cool tools for working with medieval maps and transcription and annotation tools. Take a look at T-PEN on YouTube.

Peter Stokes talked about what palaeographers might want to do with digital images of manuscript pages and his Digital Palaeography project which is working with images of eleventh-century Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, including many from the Parker Library manuscripts.

DigiPal Project Homepage

(Note the image of St Jerome receiving inspiration on their homepage from CCCC MS 389.)

In the final session of the day, Joanna  Fronska of the British Library talked about the Royal Manuscripts project and the ongoing work to integrate data from the Digital Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts with the Digitised Manuscripts. The Royal project is both a cataloguing project and the opportunity to research and present an exhibition. Joanna gave us some tantalising details about what looks like being a sumptuous exhibition: Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination. It opens at the BL on 11 Nov and runs until 13 March 2012. No less exciting, particularly for those of us in Cambridge, Grant Young and Huw Jones laid out some of the treats in store with the launch of Cambridge University Library‘s Digital Library Initative. This will offer all sorts of new ways of displaying and interacting with digital versions of many of the library’s treasures. More about this when it launches in a few weeks’ time.

All in all, a great conference. Looking round the room, it seemed that almost everyone was wearing at least two hats – librarians, textual scholars, medievalists, (early) modernists and technical types – which made for a very informed and fruitful discussion.

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Wer’re gearing up in the library for the annual Audit Dinner on Friday evening. This year we’ve also scheduled a one-day conference to coincide with the dinner which has been organised by Visiting Fellow Dr Satoko Tokunaga and is in collaboration with Keio University. The conference addresses digitisation of manuscripts and rare books and includes a preview of several exciting new projects in the field. A full conference report will follow…

As if that wasn’t enough, this weekend is also Open Cambridge, where the university and the city get together to open up buildings not normally open to the public. It’s really grown over the past couple of years and is a very popular event. Most of the tours were booked up very quickly. This year we’re opening the Parker Library from 10am to 4pm on Saturday and many other libraries around the university are also open. Here’s some details about what’s on offer in the Parker – and there’s also been some great publicity for other events, not least the exhibition at Christ’s College put together by the library assistant (and former graduate trainee) there Charlotte Byrne. Charlotte has also put together a great blog giving some more detail behind the exhibition. I hope I get a chance to see it.

Finally on Monday there’s another one-day conference organised by Karen Begg, the librarian at Queens’ College. It’s called ‘Sharing the Wonder’ and looks at how special collections can be promoted, preserved and shared. We’re giving a presentation about the various activities of the Parker Library. Again, we’ll write more once it’s all over…

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