On 10 June 2014 Lighting the Past celebrated its first birthday, when Phase 1 cataloguing on the programme began officially. Over this last year we’ve achieved much, having catalogued three named collections in full (Beveridge, Anderson, and St Andrews) and the folio sections of another four collections (Low, MacGillivray, Mackenzie, and Von Hügel). We’ve also catalogued the classified items in the Crombie Collection, with work ongoing to classify the remainder, comprising some 2,045 unclassified items, before cataloguing work begins on these. Currently we are about half way through the general Reserve Collection, the second largest collection which the Phase 1 cataloguers will be working on; with some 5,144 items identified as not being on the online catalogue this collection has been keeping us busy since we started it last November!
We’ve had fun working our way through the collections, making new discoveries in each. We’ve dealt with pamphlets on a variety of topics, from travel through Norway to the First World War; we’ve had items in many different languages, including the constructed language Esperanto, Welsh, Latin, Russian, and German (which has enabled us to hone our skills at reading Fraktur typescript!); we’ve become acquainted with persons such as the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), and the controversial religious sect leader, Antoinette Bourignon(1616-1680); we’ve had fun cataloguing the wonderfully quirky novels bound Tête-bêche (meaning ‘head-to-toe’); and we’ve battled with the many offprints by professors found bound together in the St Andrews Collection. Had we known it, this was to offer perfect training for the Shewan Collection; being worked on alongside the general Reserve Collection at the moment, this consists of some 250 volumes containing approximately 5,000 items.
Lighting the Past is also responsible for reporting items to the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC). In the last year we’ve reported a total of 514 items to ESTC: 277 new holdings, 215 verified holdings, and 22 unique new records to be added to the database. Many of these have come from the Reserve collection, with a total of 116 items being reported in April alone.
One of the main tenets of this project was to employ student workers (both undergraduate and postgraduate) not only to give them the opportunity to work with the collections but also to enable us to put money back in to the student community. Marc Cole, who has recently left the Lighting the Past team to pursue a PhD in Leeds, left us with these remarks:
“One of the nice features of employment on this project is that it is done with university students in mind … The idea behind Lighting the Past is fantastic. There is a colossal number of books that nobody knows about, which our project seeks to remedy. After working here for almost a year, many of these gems have passed through my hands. Gems that span centuries. Some of the earliest volumes I catalogued were from the 1600s! “
So all in all, with 9,820 bibliographic records and 14,931 item records having been created in this past year, I think we can wish ourselves a very Happy First Birthday!