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Graduate Open Day

HelenBiggs12 December 2016

With the brand new South Junction Reading Room just opened, a team from Special Collections, Archives and Records were able to put on a display of captivating rare and unique items for UCL’s Graduate Open Day on November 23rd.

Current and future students – as well as interested staff – heard our librarians and archivists talk about a diverse range of materials from our collections, across many fields of study:

Illustration from Campi Phlegraei showing laval flow at night

Image from UCL Special Collections, S R Johnston Lavis Folio 1776 H1

  • Geologists and geographers alike were entranced by the superb illustrations of Hamilton’s Campi Phlegraei, showing Vesuvius erupting. This book is also featured in our own publication, Treasures from UCL; more illustrations from the Campi Phlegraei can be found in Digital Collections.
  • Proving that libraries are about more than just words on paper was Thomas A. Clark’s poem, A small subtraction from the River Add, which, as the title suggests, is a tiny bottle of water.
  • Not above aiming to impress, our archivists showed off a folio from the manuscript draft of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species

Nazlin Bhimani, Research Support and Special Collections Librarian for UCL Institute of Education, writes about the two tiny books she chose to display:

“The Baines Collection consists of 200 books dating from the 1700s to 1920. This is a collection of children’s books that originally belonged to the Baines Family (many of them have inscriptions providing names of family members to whom the books belonged) and were given in 1955 to the Ministry of Education. The collection was eventually donated to the IOE in 1992.

These two tiny books (volumes 4 and 5) I chose (Baines 104) were both published around the 1780s and belong to a series of work published in ten volumes entitled The Lilliputian Library or Gulliver’s Museum. The success of Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels early in the century led to publishers to draw on this popularity by associating subsequent children’s publications on Gulliver and Lilliput. The Lilliputian Library or Gulliver’s Museum is an example of one such publication that uses this marketing ploy.

The frontispiece confirms that when first published the complete series cost five British shillings and each volume six pence for the following reason:

“…[it is ]but for the convenience of those little Masters and Misses, whole finances may not admit of expending to capital a sum at once, they may be supplied with one or more volumes, weekly or monthly, till the whole work is completed, at Six-pence each.”

The small size (the books fit in the palm of my hand!) appealed to children who could more easily hold the books in their hands. We often think of miniaturisation as something that is a modern concept with computer devices getting smaller and smaller but in the 18th century, this was a growing phenomenon most evidenced in the trend towards designing dolls houses with smaller and smaller and more intricately designed furniture including book shelves and tiny books that sat on the shelves.”

For more about these miniature marvels, check out Nazlin’s original post at Newsam News.