Thursday, 13 October 2016

The Battle of the Somme: part 1

This year marks the centenary of the Battle of the Somme (1st July - 19th November 1916) one of the largest battles of the First World War fought on the Western Front. In the first of two posts, Ilka Heale highlights some books on the subject in the University Library.

At 7.30am on Saturday 1st July 1916, the opening British and French attack was launched near the River Somme in Picardy, northern France. The battle was fought in three major phases and several battles: at Albert, Bazentin Ridge, Fromelles, Delville Wood, Pozières Ridge, Guillemont, Ginchy, Flers-Courcelette, Morval, Transloy Ridge, Thiepval Ridge, Ancre Heights, and at Ancre.

This was the 'Big Push' and was intended to hasten a victory for the Allies and to end the war. It was also one of the bloodiest battles. By the end of the fighting on the Somme, the British Army had lost over 400,000 men for an advance of a mere six miles. Between both sides, over 1,000,000 were killed or wounded. Practically all were infantrymen.

We are fortunate to have a collection of books about the First World War donated to the University Library by A. J. Peacock. Alfred James Peacock (1929-2004) was an educationalist and magistrate who completed a doctorate at the University. He also published a biography of the York "railway king" George Hudson. With an interest in the First World War, Peacock led annual tours of the battlefields.

The photograph above is of a young officer giving his men some final instructions before going into the battle. Taken from The war illustrated album de luxe: the story of the great war told by camera, pen and pencil edited by J. A. Hammerton (published in London by Amalgamated Press, 1915-1919).

The following quote (taken from The Imperial War Museum book of the Somme by Malcolm Brown) about the opening attack on the first day of the battle was written by an anonymous British eyewitness. He was writing about the part played by the 1/1st Welsh Heavy Battery (Territorial Force).

The extract below, from Orders are orders: a Manchester Pal on the Somme, is from an account written by Private Albert William Andrews of the 19th Battalion Manchester Regiment. A Manchester Pal, Albert recalled the first day of the Somme in his memoirs written in 1917 while convalescing from shell shock. You can also read his memories of Saturday 1st July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

Monday 3rd July, 1916

"On the Monday I was put with others burying the dead and this was when we realised the cost of our victory. The first Tuesday the roll was called there were too many that did not answer. Burying your own lads is not a job that I want again, some seeming by their looks to have died very easy, others very hard. [....] The job consisted of ….. taking their equipment off and emptying their pockets. You put the contents in the gas helmet satchel and hand this to the Officer who is with you, giving the man's name, number and Regiment if possible."

British troops advancing under shell fire 1 
On 12 August 1916 Friedrich Steinbrecher, a young German officer, wrote home saying: "Somme. The whole history of the world cannot contain a more ghastly word."

There is currently an exhibition of items from the University Library's collections on the ground floor of the Fairhurst Building; this will remain in place until the end of November (although it will be briefly removed between 19 and 28 October). To find material on the First World War, search YorSearch, our Library catalogue.

1. British troops advancing under shell fire - a British Official photograph taken from The illustrated war record: of the notable episodes in the Great European War

The photographs of the books in the University Library's collections were taken by the University photographer, Paul Shields.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Flying squirrels and medieval knights: the John Heath Collection

Matthew Wigzell explores the recently catalogues John Heath Collection

Tales of a medieval knight, the writings of a Swiss pseudo-scientist, and an illustration of the hooded flying squirrel. There may seem to be no apparent link, but all of these can be found in a wonderful new collection of books recently added to the Library's Special Collections.

The collection was amassed by former British diplomat Sir John Heath (1922-2009), who acquired examples of books illustrated by his ancestors, including the well-known engraver James Heath (1757–1834). The books were left to the University in Sir John's will and have now been fully catalogued and made available for study.

The collection, which is a wonderful glimpse into the late 18th and early 19th centuries, has books on a range of different subjects, with a particular focus on literature, early travel writing, and scientific subjects such as zoology (with some amazing illustrations of exotic animals).

As an added bonus, many of the items have been ornately bound, making this a research resource with great potential for those interested in the art of fine binding, antique book illustration, engravings and portraits.

We have also been recording unique information about items in the collection, including the presence of bookplates, signatures and other provenance information. We have a full set of Bell's Poets of Great Britain passed down through three generations of the Kirby family for example, and many of the books in the collection have personal reminders of former owners.

I have picked out three striking books from the collection which came cross my desk during the cataloguing process.

First up is The history of the valiant knight Arthur of Little Britain: a romance of chivalry. A medieval epic originally written in French, the book follows the hero Arthur doing battle with knights, dragons and other beasts, storming castles, and foiling dastardly plots at the royal court (think Game of Thrones written in Middle English). More striking though are the image plates; beautiful hand coloured book illustrations which show scenes from the text. They have some great details, and some of the battle scenes are surprisingly graphic - seriously, take a look.

My second selection is an odd book on physiognomy - the 'science' of assessing a person's character from physical characteristics, particularly the face. Essays on Physiognomy was written by Johann Caspar Lavater, a Swiss writer and philosopher, and gained something of a cult following thereafter. Containing a series of engraved portraits, the accompanying text describes the character of each portrait, and analysis of different parts of the face.

One unfortunate chap (pictured left) is characterised as having a face showing "Corrupt rudeness, and malignity, contemning morals. Natural power degenerates into obstinacy, in the forehead. Affection is far distant from this countenance. Insensibility usurps the place of courage, and meanness the seat of heroism…. The thing most pitiable in this countenance is an expression of the conscious want of power to acquire the degree of malignity it may wish, or affect to possess".

Even animals don't escape scorn. The hammer-head shark being "a monster, 2. How infinitely distant from all that can be called graceful, lovely, or agreeable! The arched mouth, with the pointed teeth, how senseless, intractable, and void of passion or feeling; devouring without pleasure or satisfaction! How inexpressibly stupid is the mouth of 3, especially in its relative proportion to the eye!".

The final example comes from a multi-volume set, General zoology or systematic natural history, by George Shaw. The set has some brilliant early 19th Century illustrations and descriptions of exotic animals, manly only recently discovered by explorers in Australia. The books describe a wide-range of mammals, birds, reptiles, fishes and reflect the growing interest in zoology and recording of the natural world. My favourite is the truly terrifying Hooded Flying Squirrel.

There is also a wonderful anecdote about the platypus, and Shaw's (who was keeper of the natural history department at the British Museum) initial reluctance to include it in the book. The specimen at the museum was "the only one which had been seen, [and] it was impossible not to entertain some distant doubts as to the genuine nature of the animal … and there might still have been practiced some arts of deception in its structure … Two more specimens, however, having been very lately sent over from New Holland, the suspicions before mentioned are now completely dissipated".

All of the books in the Heath collection can be accessed through the Borthwick Institute for Archives, and can be found in the Library catalogue. From the Advanced Search option, you can perform a provenance search for John Heath.

Hopefully researchers and students find them as interesting to study as we did to catalogue.

All photos taken by Paul Shields.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Banned Books Week

Alice Bennett explores censorship and banned books with a look at controversial items held in the Minster Library.

September 25th 2016 marked the start of this year's Banned Books Week, an annual event organised by the American Library Association (ALA) which aims to highlight the issue of censorship and celebrate the freedom to read. The event has developed in response to the ALA log of challenges an complaints made about books held in the libraries of their members, including decisions to withdraw certain books from circulation. Although American in outlook, Banned Books Week serves as an international reminder of literary censorship, which remains an important topic today.

York Minster Library’s 1793 printing of
The Trial of Thomas Paine' 1
Free political speech is still a right denied to many across the globe. Historically, the printing of anti-government or anti-monarchy works in Britain could be termed an act of sedition - intended to spark the overthrow of the established order and a criminal offence. The political writer, theorist and campaigner Thomas Paine faced prosecution for his work. York Minster Library holds a copy of The trial of Thomas Paine, for certain false, wicked, scandalous and seditious libels inserted in the second part of the Rights of Man, before the Rt. Hon. Lord Kenyon and a special jury, at Guildhall, on Tuesday the 18th December, 1792. Revolutionary ideas such as his were dangerous and their publication and dissemination was treated as a serious offence. His work was banned in Britain for a period following the French Revolution, for fear of inciting similar revolt in the UK. The Rights of Man was also banned following the Decemberist Revolt in Tsarist Russia, over forty years after initial publication.

A 1940 edition of Of Mice and Men 2
Away from the historic tracts and pamphlets, the literature collection of a cathedral library such as York Minster might not be an obvious place to look for contentious works. However, the number of works now considered classics which have been banned may surprise you - maybe more surprising is how recently bans or attempts to suppress works have been made. John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men is a depiction of migrant workers during the Great Depression which is now celebrated as a literary classic and is a staple of the school literature syllabus in both the UK and the US. First published in 1937, Of Mice and Men has been subject to bans in Ireland and in various counties across different states in America. The ALA records it as one of the most complained about books. Whilst most of the objections concern the language used by characters in the novel, others have included fears that the book might reflect Steinbeck's "anti business attitude" (in 1989) and because it contained "morbid and depressing themes" (in 1992). In 2002, Of Mice and Men was banned in schools in George County, Mississippi on account of "profanity".

Alice conversing with the Cheshire Cat 3
More remarkable are the complaints and bans which have been made against books most would consider utterly inoffensive. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was for a time banned in China. In 1931, the censor decided that the talking animals were raised to the level of humans, which was both insulting and a potential source of confusion for children.

For the ALA, the majority of these challenges to books come from libraries in educational institutions, particularly high schools. A common trend is the parents of students pressurising library and teaching staff to remove various books from the library and the syllabus. Reasons for objecting range from feeling the book is inappropriate for the age group, to the use of swearing, or the inclusion of sexual content. Another common theme is for objections made on religious grounds, both in educational and public libraries.

Religious belief and censorship have a long and uneasy past, reflected in the wide collections of York Minster. York Minster Archives hold a Wycliffite Bible - a rare copy of the New Testament in English, produced before full translations from Latin were sanctioned in Britain. Its rarity is in part due to the fact that any such texts discovered by the authorities were burned. York Minster Library holds a multitude of editions of the Bible, with authorised editions produced by Church and State in conjunction and officially issued to churches. Probably the most famous of these translations is the King James Bible, issued as the authorised Bible for Church of England use in 1611 and remaining a popular and influential translation today.

1611 edition of the King James Bible 4
Religious restrictions on literature are still common in many parts of the world. The Diary of Anne Frank is banned in Lebanon for the positive depiction of Jews. Copies of the Bible remain forbidden in North Korea. In 2013, Russia issued a controversial ban on a new edition of the Quran, which was deemed 'extremist' and from 2015 have also banned the import of publications of any Jehovah's Witness religious material, including an edition of the Bible.

This serves as an important reminder of the ongoing issues of literary censorship. Artists, writers and journalists have been imprisoned this year in Egypt, Iran and Singapore. But not just the authors are at risk - those who work in libraries can also face punishment for maintaining intellectual freedom for their library users. Ukrainian librarian Natalya Sharina has been under house arrest since October 2015, imposed by Russian authorities for introducing supposedly extremist Ukrainian literature to the library. The campaign for her release is ongoing.

Thankfully, the novels highlighted by Banned Books Week are easily accessed in the UK today. We face fewer challenges to library content than our colleagues in the US. Here, literary censorship is largely a thing of the past. But Banned Books Week serves as an important reminder of the historic role of censorship and the high price for free speech still being paid by so many around the world today.

Further detail of the images:

1. Title page of York Minster Library’s 1793 printing of The Trial of Thomas Paine for certain false, wicked, scandalous and seditious libels, inserted in the second part of the Rights of Man. For many, his political ideas were as contentious as the supposed libels.

 2. A 1940 edition of Of Mice and Men, which once belonged to Archbishop Garbett. This work is one of the most complained about novels of the twentieth century.

3. The classic John Tenniel illustration of Alice conversing with the Cheshire Cat - talking with animals being something which angered some Chinese censors. This image is of a 1925 Macmillan edition.

4. The title page of a 1611 edition of the King James Bible, one of many attempts to officially control translation and dissemination of Holy texts.

Monday, 26 September 2016

#UoYTips: Five resources to get you started at York

Ned Potter shares a few tips for new students

Welcome to the University of York! It's great to have you here. We hope you're settling in.

There's a lot to take in in the first few weeks, so we wanted to strip things down to the essentials for this blogpost. Here's five resources to get you started:

1) An interactive map of the library. We've created a map of the Library in Prezi, which will take you on a guided tour of our three main buildings. Just click the 'Start Prezi' box below - you can either navigate through the tour using the arrows, or skip straight to a part of the library you're interested in by clicking on it.


2) YorSearch, the library catalogue. You'll be needing books, articles and other materials depending on what degree you're studying. There's a number of ways to get these, starting with the search tool YorSearch which tells you what we have in stock at the Library, as well as linking to hundreds of thousands of online resources. You can find YorSearch on special catalogue PCs around the Morrell Library, or you can go straight to from any device, put in your keywords and see what we have.

Embedded below are some UoYTips on finding what you need and getting the most out of the system:

Finding what you need with YorSearch: #UoYTips from University of York Library

You may also be directed to resources from the VLE (Virtual Learning Environment), via Resource Lists put together by your lecturers which link out to YorSearch and other useful sources.

3) The Subject Guide. Every Department has a Subject Guide. It's a curated collection of information and resources for your subject. Choose your Department from this menu and see what we have that can help you study.

 There are many advantages to using the resources on the Subject Guide. There are often huge collections of online journals or books which you can search all at once with keywords. All the resources are high quality academic sources, the majority of which Google won't be able to find because they're behind a paywall. And we, the Library, have paid to get you through that paywall so you don't have to - just make sure you find the journals and databases via the links on our site, so they ask you to log in with your IT username and password and you get the full access entitled to you as a student at York.

4) The YouTube channel. We have a LOT of useful videos about the Library, IT and Archives on YouTube. But we don't want you to be overwhelmed, so we've created a UoYTips playlist with 6 key videos to start off with: New students start here!

Here's the first video on the playlist, outlining what you can expect at York.

5) The New Students webpage. We've put together a little to-do list on our page aimed at new starters over on the main library website.  Have you written on the walls at the top of the Fairhurst yet?

The final tip on that page is to search for more #UoYTips online. You'll find guidance and advice on the website, on Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram, as well as YouTube and Slideshare as mentioned above. We've also created a special Subject Guide to pull together all the resources we've made - open the UoYTips Subject Guide now and take a look!

We hope you can find useful tips on just about everything, and we'd really like you to add your own across social media. If you've found something that has helped you, let your peers know about it too... Just use the hashtag #UoYTips so others can find it.

Good luck with your first term. If you need help, just ask!

Friday, 8 July 2016

Work experience at the Minster Library

Staff at the Minster Library were recently joined by Sam Rogers, a year 10 student on work experience. We asked him to describe his week for us...

For my work experience I was based at the York Minster Library. I worked there for a week and I did a variety of jobs, involving old collections of books and other items.

For the first two days of the week, I was cataloguing the items - mainly books - from Cage XV in the ante room onto a spreadsheet.

I found many interesting things there, including a list of books in the Minster Library dating from 1687, and an advertisement for services at the York Minster to mark the opening of the South Transept, dating from 1874. What was even more interesting about this advertisement was that it appeared to have been used as rough paper, as it had notes on the back of it.

Left: York Minster programme 1874. Right: The Simmons Bequest
Another thing I found was a bequest by someone named Simmons, dating from 1884. It appears that Simmons was very fond of the Library as he left lots and lots of items on top of a sum of £100! I'm sure that you are aware that £100 pounds would have been a lot of money in those days.

On Wednesday, I was working in the reading room as the ante room and exhibition hall were being used for a private function. I was doing a very similar thing to the days before, in the fact that I was sifting through items in these shelves but by now, I had sorted all of the books, and instead had to tackle the piles of loose sheets that were present.

The catalogue dating from 1687. It was written in Latin and in ornate manuscript text
These were interesting as a lot of them were old shelf registers written in neat manuscript. There were also a lot of things relating to M. Fothergill. I am reliably informed that Fothergill, who was a generous man, ended up donating much of his collection to the Minster Library. This would make sense as, with most dated 1737, there is a large list of items that Fothergill owned, that were then given to the library.

The most interesting thing for me was the York Minster Library visitors book, dating from 1988, that I found on Wednesday. It was fascinating because it showed the reach of the Library with many entries from exotic or far flung countries, such as New Zealand, Australia and the USA.

Our visitors book, with people coming from Australia, New Zealand,
New York, Alabama, Warsaw, San Francisco and Doncaster!
Once I had examined and catalogued the items on Wednesday, I had to put them into envelopes and archival boxes. This was to ensure that they could be conserved for longer.

Thursday was different as I was using item details, and then searching for them in the catalogue. I then had to check that all details had been entered into the catalogue, and once I had identified any details that hadn’t been included, put them back into the organised piles.

Overall, I enjoyed my time here. I came across some very interesting books and although some jobs must be tedious at times, they are vital to ensuring that this Library can continue and look forwards into the future. I found looking at older texts, dating before 1780, interesting as it gave me an insight into the history of the Library and how important it was in the past, and also, as said previously, how important it can be for the future.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Before you leave...

Jamie Clark of IT Support explains what you need to do with your IT account when you're leaving the University.

'Goodbye' by woodleywonderworks
used under a Creative Commons licence
If you're leaving the University soon, you might have wondered when you'll lose access to your IT account. This depends on whether you are a member of staff or a student. Students can still access
their IT accounts for 90 days after their official course end date. Staff accounts will close one day after their employment ends (as required by research funders and auditors).

We would encourage anyone leaving the University to think about the data you have stored in your account. You might have data in your University filestore, Google Drive or email account. What will you still need after you leave?

Whilst it's tempting to take everything with you, you need to be aware of the University's Information Security policies. You must ensure that you do not take anything that would be considered restricted or confidential information:
A common query we get from leavers is how to export University emails to a personal Gmail account. We recommend a tool called Got Your Back if you want to keep the labels you've assigned to your emails. Got Your Back is a command line tool, so it looks a bit daunting at first, but we've put together step-by-step instructions. Or you might prefer to use the simpler Google Mail Fetcher method, but keep in mind that this is much less flexible. It can't export a subset of your emails (it will take everything in the All Mail section of your account) or keep any labels.

You also need to think about whether you own any files that will still be needed by your colleagues and transfer these to someone else. We often get requests from people who need to access files in a former colleague's closed account. We can only provide this once we have received the appropriate authorisation. This creates a delay which may cause problems for your colleagues.

The same applies to any non-personal accounts. For example, if your team uses a shared email address you need to make sure you get in touch with us to nominate a new owner. If you don't this account will also close when you leave. Then we can only transfer the account after we receive authorisation and in the meantime your colleagues won't be able to access it.

It's best to start thinking about all this as early as possible and make sure you leave enough time to take care of everything before you leave. Don't put it off until your last few days, as this doesn't give us much opportunity to help you if there are any issues.

For further guidance (including instructions on how to export data from your account) take a look at our website:

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Swedish children's books in the University Library

Ilka Heale browses some of the children's books held in our collections.

Whilst searching through our Literature section, I came across a collection of children's books written in Swedish. Four of the authors were born and lived in Sweden, and the fifth also wrote in Swedish (although she was Finnish).

Why do we have them? Well, the short answer is that I don't know! The Library has over a million books, the majority of which have been bought for teaching and research. However, we also have many books that have been donated over the years and these may have been part of a gift.

Now, I can't read Swedish, but I have read some of these stories by Astrid Lindgren and Tove Jansson in translation both as a child and as an adult.

Astrid Lindgren (1907–2002) was a writer of fiction and screenplays but she also wrote children's books. Her most famous creation is Pippi Longstocking, a nine-year-old girl who has superhuman strength!

Photograph of an illustration from Pippi Långstrump by Astrid Lindgren

Pippi was named by Lindgren's then nine-year-old daughter, Karin, who requested a get-well story from her mother one day when she was home sick from school. This interview with Karin in 2015, explains how her mother came up with the stories.

Front cover of Mumintrollet no. 4 by Tove Jansson
Tove Jansson (1914– 2001) was a Swedish-speaking Finnish novelist, painter, illustrator and comic strip author. She is best known as the author of the Moomin books for children. The first book in the series, The Moomins and the Great Flood, appeared in 1945; however it was the next two books, Comet in Moominland (1946) and Finn Family Moomintroll (1948) that brought her fame.

In 1951 Finn Family Moomintroll was translated into English. The book's success caught the attention of Charles Sutton, a London agent who offered Jansson a lucrative deal to produce a Moomin comic strip for London's Evening News newspaper. Jansson agreed to produce six strips a week for seven years, starting in 1954. It was an instant hit, reaching up to 20 million readers daily in over 40 countries.

Along with books on the Moomins in Swedish we also have two biographies, The sculptor's daughter: a childhood memoir and Tove Jansson: life, art, words: the authorised biography.

Extract from Mumintrollet by Tove Jansson
Maria Gripe (1923-2007) was an author of books for children and young adults. Although she wrote stories as a child, Gripe did not publish her first book until she was 31. Her first notable success came in the 1960s with a trilogy of books about two school friends, Hugo and Josephine. Over the course of her career, Gripe wrote 38 books, translated into 30 different languages.

Elsa Beskow (1874–1953) was both an author and an illustrator of children's books. As a child, Beskow loved fairy tales and her stories would combine reality with elements of fantasy from fairy tales. Known as the Beatrix Potter of Scandinavia, her illustrations take the reader back to an idyllic, rural Sweden at the turn of the 20th century.

Photograph of the front cover of Sagan om den lilla lilla gumman by Elsa Beskow
Paul Lennart Hellsing (1919–2015) was a writer and translator, particularly known for his nonsense rhymes and word plays. In his books written for children, he experimented with language, playing with words and verb forms. During his career, Hellsing wrote over a hundred books for children and translated and interpreted nearly as many, especially from English.

Photograph of an illustration from Krakel spektakel boken by Lennart Hellsing

To find more books by these authors, along with other material on children's books and illustration, search YorSearch, our Library catalogue.

There is also a small collection of children's literature In the Morrell building. The Peggy Janiurek collection can be found on the first floor, at the end of the Education section. The collection was assembled originally in collaboration with the University's Department of Educational Studies, and named in memory of a former student.

The Library's Special Collections also holds a number of late 18th and 19th century children's literature including books illustrated by Kate Greenaway and Walter Crane among others.

Photograph of the title page of The Golden Staircase : poems and verses for children

Items from the Special Collections can be consulted in the Borthwick Institute for Archives.

The Library has many texts in languages other than English. To find them, search on our Library catalogue and choose the language facets on the left hand side.

All photographs have been taken by Paul Shields, University photographer.