Friday, 27 March 2015

What do the terms 'whizz-bang', 'pipsqueak', 'toffee apple', 'coal-box', and 'souvenir' all have in common?

Believe it or not, they're all slang terms for 'shells' (the explosive kind) and were coined during WWI. And if you knew that already then the Oxford English Dictionary Needs YOU!

Recruitment image of Uncle Sam pointing
Photo: Uncle Sam by AJ Cann. Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence
The OED researchers consult a huge range of sources to check the earliest usages of words but they simply don't have the time or resources to check them all. And that's where you could come in: they have an appeals page on their website where volunteers can submit examples of early word usage (properly known as antedatings... but you already knew that).

At the moment, they're particularly interested in World War One words and phrases. Kate Wild, an assistant editor at the OED explains:
"As part of the First World War centenary commemorations, the OED has launched a special set of appeals relating to some of the WWI words and phrases it is currently revising. In each case, we believe that there is earlier evidence out there - perhaps in a private letter, a personal diary, a local newspaper, or a government record." Lexicon Valley blog (SLATE magazine) 27 Feb 2014
So if you fancy a challenge or always wondered what was in those old papers in that box in the attic, perhaps now is the time to dust off your research skills, dust off the boxes and get digging.

If you're on campus you can access the OED online for free - you'll get logged in automatically. If you're not on campus, you can go to our e-resources guide: from there you just need to scroll down and select Oxford English Dictionaries Online - again, you'll be automatically logged in with your University account.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

It's a conference, Jim, but not as we know it. UXLibs, Cambridge 2015

Conferences are great. You get to meet people you don’t know (or more likely see people you do know and sit next to them) while you watch some presentations and drink lots of coffee. But UXLibs was a conference like no other. Rather than sit there and hope that the ideas people were talking about would somehow become embedded in your mind, waiting to be drawn upon at a later date, at UXLibs you had to learn something. Then do it. In real life. With real people. In a matter of hours. Scary! 

St Catherine's College Cambridge, the beautiful venue for the conference.
Photo: St Catherine's College by Abraham Chacko.
Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence.

For the conference, all delegates were divided into separate teams and given the following mission:

Create a product, concept, or service that you could implement which increases awareness and use of library resources and services. Your proposal could solve a specific problem, offer an alternative approach, meet an unmet need, or completely re-imagine an existing service.

But this product or concept couldn't be something teams just dreamt up. Oh no. This was a user experience conference (if you were wondering what the UX stood for), we needed to employ ethnographic research methods to collect our data, go through a process of ideation driven by the outcomes of the fieldwork to determine our idea and then pitch it Dragon's Den style in a competition against other teams. All in three days. Yes, everyone was exhausted.

Librarian as explorer

On the first morning we attended workshops designed to equip us with the knowledge and skills needed to go out into the wilds of Cambridge and conduct our fieldwork. We learned a range of ethnographic techniques, from cognitive mapping, retrospective process interviews, the AEIOU framework for observation, touchstone tours and love-breakup-letters. The aim? To fully understand the experiences, views and feelings of library users.

After a quick lunch we were off to put our money (or Amazon vouchers) where our mouths were and conduct our studies. There was some initial fear - what are we doing, where are we going, we have to conduct three interviews now!? quickly followed by a feeling of elation that yes, this was achievable and wow, we've gained some fantastic insights!

Librarian as designer 

Team Green Eggs and Ham's ideations
Day two brought with it the concept of ideation (idea creation), with workshops focussing on how we could synthesise the data we’d collected the previous day and techniques for formulating ideas based on it. These included empathy maps, affinity maps and the 6-8-5 technique.

Warning: do not attempt the process of ideation without an ample supply of post-its.

Librarian as sales person

Day three was pitch day! Paul-Jervis Heath delivered an immensely useful session on selling ideas in the morning and afterwards we were off to finesse our idea and craft a persuasive presentation.

In the afternoon all the teams pitched their concepts. It was amazing to see the depth of research and the variety of ideas that could be created in such a short period of time - an absolute testament to the effectiveness of the methods used and everyone's hard work.

The team I was in didn't win, but it honestly didn't seem to matter, there was a palpable sense of achievement among all delegates at the end of the conference. And, having actually put what was taught into practice there, I felt equipped and confident to do so again when I got back to work. A great outcome!

Jessica Stephens, Communications and Marketing Officer 

Further reading:

Monday, 23 March 2015

A Concise History of Spain

Exploring the ancestry and culture of Moorish Spain, Stephen Town talks about the latest donation from his Nightshelf, A Concise History of Spain

Philips, W.D, and Philips, C.R, A Concise History of Spain, in the University Library at Q 46 PHI

The red brick walls contrast against
a delicate doorway in Marrakech 
My blog this week comes on my return from a break in Marrakech. At this time of year, for the last two years, I have taken a holiday in an Alhambra (the previous year’s trip being to Granada in the Andalusia region of Spain).

The Arabic meaning of al-hambra as ‘red (castle)’ was originally a description of the sun-dried mud bricks of the outer walls of a city or palace. In Marrakech last week our driver was very keen to assure us that the Medina walls there were the original ‘Alhambra’, and that the Granada name was chosen because the Moors in Andalus were reminded of their home city and its red earth.

Last year before visiting Granada I felt the lack of a history book which would put the Moorish occupation of Spain in a wider context. Hence this week’s donation of a work by the husband and wife partnership of William and Carla Phillips of the University of Minnesota.

The Moorish and Catholic Monarch elements of the book which inspired my purchase suitably lived up to expectations, but I had my reservations with the more recent history covered. It is difficult to take an even-handed approach to the Spanish Civil War, and the authors seemed to have an almost sycophantic approach to the contribution of the Spanish Royal family in modern times. But as they suggest, this is a small book on a vast topic, and, as what they refer to as a ‘casual traveller’ I found it accessible and an easy cover-to-cover read.
The walls of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain reminded
early Moor settlers of home.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Read all about it!

With many newspaper websites now placing content behind paywalls as they seek to make up for the dramatic decline in print sales, Martin Philip, Academic Liaison Librarian for Economics, Law and Politics, explains how you can get the article you need using Nexis, part of the Library's E-resources collection.

Most, if not all, newspapers have websites nowadays, however the exact type of content they provide via this medium can vary considerably from publication to publication. The Times, for example, provides readers with a preview of articles, in most cases the first paragraph, before asking you to log in to its subscription service, costing £26.00 per month. Compare this with the Guardian's website which provides free access to all content published from February 1999; however if you require content before this date you will need to log on to a subscription-only archive, which the University subscribes to:
To simplify this arrangement, the University subscribes to Nexis, a database that provides full-text access to over 34,000 publications including more than 12,000 news sources. These include UK and worldwide daily and regional newspapers, current affairs magazines, and professional journals. Nexis is updated daily and includes back issues, although archives vary by title.

The interface may not be as intuitive as others, however Nexis has improved over recent years and allows users, as soon as they've logged in, to enter keywords and/or phrases into the search box on the home page.

Nexis home page: copyright LexisNexis

A great feature in Nexis is the ability, whilst searching or reading articles, to add results to a My Documents folder. This folder is only available for 24 hours but lets you organise anything useful you come across into a list that you can then print, download or email to read later on. Just remember to do this before you log off, or it will all vanish!

Newstand (detail) by Martin Hearn
Used under a Creative Commons license
Nexis also provides the ability to export the article's bibliographic data to EndNote or equivalent bibliographic software. One feature not seen in many academic databases is Google Translate allowing you to read any article, whatever the language.

As well as Nexis, we also have subscriptions to Financial Times, The Times, American Historical Newspapers (includes New York Times and Washington Post), Daily Mirror Digital Archive, Guardian and Observer Archive, and the Times of India Archive. You can access Nexis and all of our other newspaper subscriptions via the E-resources Guide:

We also provide a guide to get you started using Nexis:

Monday, 16 March 2015

Question: What links Kevin Costner, James Bond and the Fairhurst Building?

Tom Grady knows...

Answer: John Barry the film score composer, of course. 

Photo: Classic Bond with Gadget Briefcase by Andrew Becraft.
Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence.
You may have noticed that the Library's collection of DVDs and CDs has a sign above the door, reading: "The John Barry Audiovisual Collection."

This is to recognise the achievement of a former York resident who went to school at St Peters and whose family home on Fulford Road is now the Pavilion Hotel (though in later years he lived in New York).

John Barry was an Oscar-winning composer perhaps best-known for his work on eleven James Bond films, from Dr No to The Living Daylights. He also wrote the music for Kevin Costner's horse-opera Dances With Wolves. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University in 2001, made an Honorary Freeman of York a year later and given an Academy Fellowship at the BAFTAs in 2005 for his lifetime contribution to cinema.

Most people could instantly recognise the 007 theme tune but not everyone knows Barry's involvement in its turbulent history. The theme was performed by the John Barry Seven and the John Barry Orchestra but law courts have twice ruled that, despite some stories to the contrary, the tune itself was written by Monty Norman, the successful singer and composer.

Over the course of a starry career John Barry won five Oscars and four Grammys. He died in January 2011.

(Little-known fact: according to the York Press, the great composer "kept pigs at his home in Oyster Bay, Long Island, just as [his] family did in Fulford.")

Friday, 13 March 2015

All the world’s a stage: Northern theatre at York Minster Library

Maria Nagle and Andrew Brownlie delve into the theatrical world of 19th Century entertainment

While millions of people have flocked to London’s West End to see the Lion King over the past fourteen years, very few have heard of an earlier ‘Lion King’ - the American Mr John Carter. Although reputed to be an imitator of Issac Van Amburgh (the original ‘Lion King’), Carter captivated audiences with his daring exploits. He and his troupe of animals performed twice in York Theatre Royal. The first time was in November 1840, in a new French melodrama 'The Lion of the Desert' (pictured), where he regaled the audience by a combat with a tiger and by driving a lion in harness. He later returned in August 1843, appearing in Boyle Bernard’s melodrama Mungo Park.

This is just one of around 1,400 loose and bound theatre playbills contained within York Minster Library’s collections. They might seem an odd addition to a Cathedral Library but most were bequeathed by Edward Hailstone in 1890 as part of a large Yorkshire history collection.  We are lucky to have them as they give a fascinating insight into the world of late eighteenth and nineteenth century theatre.

Many of the playbills are from the Theatre Royal in York; as a military town, a tourist destination and a centre for many of the Northern nobility, York has always been a good place for theatre. The playbills would have been pasted up outside the theatre and around town to advertise the evening’s entertainment, much like the posters for performances today. That so many of these ephemeral cultural objects survive in such good condition is wonderful news for theatre historians, or those interested in the cultural aspects of eighteenth and nineteenth century society.

Library playbill cataloguing project

Today, the playbills are being organised and individually catalogued by library volunteer Andrew Brownlie. Here he provides some highlights of his experience of working with the collection:

As well as the York Theatre Royal the collection includes playbills from theatres in Leeds, Wakefield, Hull, Scarborough and Whitby. While cataloguing these items it slowly became clear what was expected in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries of an evening's entertainment. A bill might begin with an abridgement of a Shakespeare play followed by comic songs or an acrobat on a tight-rope. The evening would often conclude with either a short farce or a pantomime.

Famous performers that made appearances included Mrs Sarah Siddons who was greatly celebrated for her Shakespearean roles. A six year old Ellen Ternan acted in 'Young Nap', and much later became better known as Charles Dickens's mistress. One actress who had great success in adaptations of the novels of Sir Walter Scott took what must surely be a stage name and became Miss Waverley Scott. 

The catalogue records are providing as much information as possible, and include details such as the names of each performer and how much tickets cost.

The playbills are all available to view as part of York Minster Library’s special collections; anyone can book an appointment to see them by emailing


Kotar, S.L. and Gessler, J.E. 2011. The Rise of the American Circus, 1716-1899. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland

Rosenfeld, S. 2001. The York Theatre. London: The Society for Theatre Research.

Monday, 9 March 2015

In the Library: artists of the floating world

One of the most enjoyable aspects of our job is getting to see new acquisitions for the Library before they go out on the shelves. A few weeks ago, these books landed on Ilka's Heale's desk - they are part of the gift collection from York Art Gallery.

Torii Kiyonaga (1752 - 1815) was a Japanese printmaker and painter of the Torii school - a school of ukiyo-e painting and printing founded in Edo (now modern day Tokyo). Born Sekiguchi Shinsuke, he took on Torii Kiyonaga as a nom d'art and for much of his career he portrayed women, for which he was particularly revered.

'Evening by the Sumida River' by Kiyonaga (18th century) from Japanese colour prints : from Harunobu to Utamaro London : Faber and Faber 1952
This print, probably produced about 1784, is of special interest as it attempts to suggest the effect of twilight. It is taken from the book Japanese colour prints: from Harunobu to Utamaro with an introduction and notes by Wilfrid Blunt [London: Faber and Faber 1952]. (Wilfrid Blunt was an art teacher, author and artist, whose brother Anthony was a member of the Cambridge Five, a group of spies working for the Soviet Union from some time in the 1930s to at least the early 1950s.)

The ukiyo-e movement ("pictures of the floating world") is a genre of woodblock prints and paintings that flourished in Japan from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Aimed at the prosperous merchant class in the urbanising Edo period (1603 - 1867), among its popular themes were depictions of women; kabuki actors and sumo wrestlers; scenes from history and folk tales; travel scenes and landscapes; and flora and fauna.

Restored version of Katsushika Hokusai's 'Great Wave off Kanagawa'. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Katsushika Hokusai (1760 - 1849) is probably best known for the woodblock print series 'Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji' which includes the internationally recognised print 'The Great Wave off Kanagawa' created during the 1820s (above). He created the 'Thirty-six Views' both as a response to a domestic travel boom and as part of a personal obsession with Mount Fuji.

'Self-portrait in the age of an old man' by Hokusai  (19th century) from Hokusai : paintings, drawings, and woodcuts London : Phaidon, 1955
The picture above is a self portrait of Hokusai as an old man from 1839 and is taken from Hokusai: paintings, drawings, and woodcuts by J. Hillier [London : Phaidon, 1955].

Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797 - 1861) was one of the last great masters of the ukiyo-e style and was a member of the Utagawa school.  He is known for depictions of the battles of legendary samurai heroes. His artwork incorporated aspects of Western representation in landscape painting and caricature. The picture below, 'Nichiren in the snow', was made by Kuniyoshi around 1835 and is taken from Japanese masters of the colour print; a great heritage of oriental art by J.Hillier [London : Phaidon 1954].

'Nichiren in the snow' by Kuniyoshi (19th century) from Japanese masters of the colour print London : Phaidon 1954

For further reading, you could try these other books on Japanese art in our collection:

Japanese colour prints by Edward F. Strange.
London: Printed for H.M. Stationery Off., by Wyman, 1908.
On the shelves at LK 9.952 STR
And if Japanese comics are more your style...
Manga: sixty years of Japanese comics by Paul Gravett.
New York: Collins Design, 2004
On the shelves at LH 1.5952 GRA

Thursday, 5 March 2015

The magic of stories and books

This World Book Day, Alison Barrow, University of York Graduate and Director of Media Relations at Transworld Publishers, reflects on the transformative and magical effect books can have.

Photo: d221 books by az. Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence.

A significant privilege of working in publishing is the encounters one has with authors, with writers, editors, and the creative people who help bring their stories into the wider world.

Last week over one thousand people gathered under one roof in Central London to celebrate the gift of words. It was the Penguin Random House annual conference. I was there. Variously we were stimulated, provoked, delighted and moved by a stageful of writers.  All were individual and distinct but one note chimed consistently high. Writing and books transform lives.

I'm not a writer. I am a reader and book promoter. So I hope they will forgive me when I steal from the two writers we heard whose words still echo around my head two days later. They put voice and words around the reasons I love the magical world in which I work. Novelists Anne Enright and Rachel Joyce spoke with passionate eloquence about the power of words to a rapt audience. Afterwards, smiles were broader, cheeks were damper, heads higher.

"Reading is a kind of wildness," Anne Enright told us. "I write because there is something I can't work out . . . Who are we when we are alone? This is what a novel does. It makes our questions beautiful."

"We need stories and we need books. We read them and we write them to give a voice to what we don't know," said Rachel Joyce. No matter if fiction or non-fiction, poetry or picture book, we need them all because we must keep trying to understand."

Photo: 031/365 - The Reader by Antoine Robiez.
Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence.
Most of  the questions and some of the answers. This is what books can give. There are so many, many things which we don't understand (we never will). But books open the doors to some responses and offer deep connections with other minds and ideas. More than that, books only truly come alive when they are read. And further, when they are shared and that connection ignites a literary electricity which bonds us together.

"People need books," said Rachel Joyce. "I mean, we really need them. Quiet, ordinary people like me. Books come alive for readers and meet them, in the privacy of their homes, or as they sit alone on a bus. The books have said, No, you’re not alone. Because that thing you feel, I feel too."

Clarifying and uniting - but a small reflection of what reading can do. Libraries and bookshops are the places where we can take the first step on that journey. Discovering for oneself is exciting, and sharing that discovery links us to the place in which we live. And then afterwards, books have a life beyond the writer, beyond the publishers, beyond the bookshops and libraries, in the imagination of the reader. How magical is that?

The Green Road by Anne Enright will be published on 7 May 2015 (Jonathan Cape)
The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce is available now (Doubleday)

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Diary of a Yorkshireman

Ilka Heale discovers the 19th century diary of a singular York resident

In the Library’s Raymond Burton Yorkshire Collection, there are three volumes of a diary kept by Yorkshire gentleman, Joseph Sherwood (1828-1910). Joseph was born in Hull but moved to York as a teenager; he was an organist and teacher of music, and lived on Bishopthorpe Road. He worked at King’s Manor when it was a school for the blind.

'Diary' by Magic Madzik. Re-used under a Creative Commons licence.

His diary starts in 1858, a year when the Indian rebellion raged, Charles Darwin read his paper on natural selection to the Linnaean society, and the source of the river Nile was discovered. These great events are not recorded by Joseph; his diary reflects the day to day life of a Victorian middle class gentleman in York.

He regularly attended the races, got excited when royalty came to town, and enjoyed the theatre and concerts. He always voted and took all his holidays on the east coast, mostly travelling by train.

Typical diary entry from 1866. Photo courtesy of Paul Shields.
In 1866, Joseph wrote about the Yorkshire Fine Art and Industrial Exhibition in York. The first of these exhibitions was held between 24 July and 31 October 1866 on a site in Bootham Asylum in a temporary building.

Photos courtesy of Paul Shields from the publication Yorkshire Fine Art and Industrial Exhibition, York, 1866
These photographs have been taken from a book in the Library: Yorkshire Fine Art and Industrial Exhibition, York, 1866.

The York Art Gallery building was originally constructed in 1879 to house the second Yorkshire Fine Art and Industrial Exhibition.  The exhibition building, designed by the York architect Edward Taylor was opened on 7 May 1879, and the area in front - Exhibition Square - was created at the same time. The front of the building was described in the exhibition catalogue as 'in the Italian style of Architecture'.

The Library has a collection of art books from the York Art Gallery collection.  To search the Library catalogue for the books, click on the advanced search option, select ‘Provenance’ and enter ‘York City Art Gallery’.

York Art Gallery is closed for refurbishment and is due to open in Spring 2015.