Migrating an old card catalogue from hard copy to digital form is a complex task. When we made the switch in 1998, tens of thousands of items made it across – but thanks to our recent stock audit, we’ve turned up a few treasures that didn’t. Although these items still exist in the card catalogue and on the shelf, they may not have been recorded electronically. With such a vast and rich collection, an extra copy or two might escape notice. For this reason, we close annually to audit our stock.
Due to the size of the Library collection, we choose a section each year to audit. Recently, we’ve been focused on ensuring our Special Collections are all present and correct. For most staff, this involves printing a list of what the catalogue says we have on the shelf, and manually comparing it to what is on the shelf. If books are on the shelf but not the catalogue, they need to be added – usually, from scratch.
The Cataloguing Team spent our recent audit (November 2013) rediscovering and cataloguing some pretty interesting stuff – so we thought we’d share them with you. We don’t always know a lot about them though, so the pictures may have to speak for themselves!
A labour of love this year involved unravelling our catalogue entries for Archetypa Studiaque Patris (Hoefnagel, 1592). We hold three copies, all with different plates bound in different orders, inside different bindings, with different histories. One copy of the three is coloured. In its coloured form, this title is exceptionally rare. We can’t be sure our copy was coloured at the time of publication, but we hope so – for artwork 420 years old, the colours are still fantastic.
Our audit is also a good chance to monitor our collections for items which may need some level of conservation -- this set is a prime example (image below). Chemicals used in the tanning process of this binding have become acidic over time, turning the leather flaky and brittle. Using the books n this state will damage them further, while leaving them on the shelf might lead to their neighbours (and librarians!) getting discoloured as well. So, off to the conservation studio...
More unusual was finding “an old pin with the twisted wire head” taped into a page, and a retention request! Adhesive tape and rusty pins aren’t good for books, so they’re both being removed by our paper conservator. The pin will be kept, but in a small pocket or envelope.
Some other new favourites included…
The Dry Fly Man’s Handbook (Halford, 1897). We hold the original manuscript, but you’ll have to be the judge of whether the manuscript is more or less fascinating than Volume 2 – with real fishing flies!
A Victorian tale of murder and mayhem unfolds in Nemesis among the beetles (Gould, Britton Jr., c.1875)…
A 20th century scrapbook of the author’s (Richard T. Lewis) published and original artwork, mounted side by side:
And last but not least, 5 binders full of a stamp collection focused on butterflies and moths (complete with negatives).
I wonder what we’ll rediscover next year? We shall keep you posted.