Introduction to Lighting the Past
The Lighting the Past project aims to catalogue the backlog of early and rare printed books held in the University Library’s Department of Special Collections – for only around one third of our 200,000 early and rare printed books are available via the online catalogue SAULCAT. This innovative approach to large-scale retrospective cataloguing is being undertaken in two concurrent phases – conveniently called Phase 1 and Phase 2. All work is undertaken book-in-hand, to ensure the accuracy of records.
Phase 2 cataloguing deals with those items which are bibliographically complex, too fragile, or too important for Phase 1 cataloguing. Thus some collections have immediately been set aside for this phase, such as the Bible Collection, and the G.H. Forbes Collection. Items catalogued under Phase 2 will have full descriptions, which incorporate (in addition to the basic bibliographic information such as author, full title, imprint information, and subject headings) full physical descriptions, full publication history, and the unique characteristics of the book-in-hand, such as binding, provenance, missing pages, etc. This is all carried out to the prescribed rules set forth in DCRM(B), an internationally recognised standard set of rules for rare books cataloguing.
Phase 1 cataloguing aims to produce records quickly and efficiently, so that our resources are made known to the outside world – it is estimated that a Phase 1 cataloguer can work through 6-8 books per hour. Operating to a defined standard and including specific elements of quality control, the process has been boiled down to the simplest elements of rare books cataloguing, with works being bibliographically identifiable, enabling accurate search retrieval. The elements incorporated in Phase 1 records are:
- author entry
- full title transcription
- full imprint transcription
- a physical description (pagination, illustrations, and height)
- basic subject entries
- collection-specific identifiers
- accurate holdings statement (classmark and itemised barcode)
The Phase 1 Lighting the Past team, which has been working since early June of this year, consists of six part-time workers, primarily drawn from the undergraduate and postgraduate student body at St Andrews, who are led by a full-time Lead Cataloguer.
Collections set aside for Phase 1 have been decided by the Rare Books Librarian (Collections Management), and include the Crombie Collection and the St Andrews Collection. Before work can start on a collection, books already on SAULCAT need to be flagged with an acid-free strip, and any potential problems (such as boxes of pamphlets, foreign language material, or fraktur type-face) noted. Cataloguing can then begin!
The Beveridge Collection
The first collection being catalogued is the Beveridge Collection. This collection was chosen first as it is small and appeared to be relatively straight forward – there was a little bit of Fraktur material, whilst the foreign language material would allow the team to get some practice in. It soon became apparent, however, that that all was not as it seemed. What looked like a single volume on the shelf turned out to be a box (cleverly disguised as a book) containing layer upon layer of pamphlets; and there was more than one! But the team were undaunted, and battled through them – perhaps buoyed by their interesting travel nature.
We have created 1320 bibliographic records, and 1534 item records … within 6 weeks.
To date we have created 1320 bibliographic records, and 1534 item records (the former represents the bibliographic entity, the latter the number of physical volumes), the boxes of pamphlets taking us over the expected 1160 items needing cataloguing. This work was completed within 6 weeks, with just a few serials remaining. All of the collection can now be viewed on SAULCAT here.
The Rev. John Beveridge had wide-ranging interests: Norway, Esperanto, and bee-keeping. There are nearly 200 works on travel in Norway, but Beveridge’s interests also extended to Norwegian authors, works by the four great Norwegian writers, Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), Björnstjerne Björnson (1832-1910), Alexander Kielland (1849-1906), and Jonas Lie (1833-1908), being represented in the collection.
Ibsen was a major Norwegian playwright, and one of the founders of Modernism in theatre. His most famous play is perhaps A Doll’s House (Et dukkehjem), Beveridge owning copies in both the original Norwegian and in English translation. Björnson received The Nobel Prize in Literature in 1903, and is noted for his lyrics to the Norwegian National Anthem, whilst Kielland was noted for his realism, his novels and plays being represented in the Beveridge Collection. Jonas Lie reflected the nature, folk life, and social spirit of Norway in his writings, many considering his finest work to be Familien paa Gilje (The Family at Gilje).
Beveridge’s interest in the constructed language of Esperanto led to him collecting many samples of magazines in this language, including those from Brazil, Hungary, Scotland, and Italy. Likewise, specimens of bee magazines from around the world can be found in the collection (including some published in Egypt, Australia, and Russia), as well as larger periodical runs such as The British Bee Journal and Gleanings in Bee Culture. Many monographs on bee keeping feature in the Beveridge Collection, but a favourite of mine is a slim pamphlet containing a selection of honey labels!
The Lighting the Past team has enjoyed cataloguing the Beveridge Collection (with a few grumbles about the number of pamphlets – but the bees appear to have made up for this!), and we look forward to moving on to the Anderson Collection.
Lead Cataloguer, Lighting the Past