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Showing posts from March, 2015

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

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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!
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…

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

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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! 


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 …

A Concise History of Spain

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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


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 thi…

Read all about it!

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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:
Guardian archive To simplify this arrangement, the University subscribe…

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

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Tom Grady knows...

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

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

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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…

In the Library: artists of the floating world

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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.

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 Utamarowith 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…

The magic of stories and books

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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.

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 w…

Diary of a Yorkshireman

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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.


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.

In 1866, Joseph wrote about the Yorkshire Fine Art and Industrial…