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The Pro-Vice-Provost’s View

Paul Ayris20 August 2019

Medieval Mysteries from UCL Special Collections

Today’s meeting of the UCL Rare Books Club took a fresh and insightful look at UCL’s medieval scientific manuscripts. An outstanding scholar, Professor Charles Burnett from the Warburg Institute, gave a masterly personal commentary on many of the items on display.

Professor Burnett is here seen describing his favourite item on show, MS. Lat. 15, described in some detail in D.K. Coveney, Descriptive catalogue of the manuscripts in the Library of University College (London, 1935). It consists of 33 leaves and 1+2 fly leaves. The MS. is a palimpsest, which means that the original text has been erased and over-written. The original text is still visible on some folios.

The contents are in handwriting thought to date from the 14th century and the text is accompanied by diagrams in red or red and black.  The MS. contains various texts, and the one most discussed by Professor Burnett was Johannis de Sacrobosco, Tractatus de Sphera. This main text constitutes one of the most famous fundamental tracts on astronomy and cosmography being circulated from the 13th to the 17th centuries. It is based on Ptolemy and discusses the terrestrial globe, the rising and setting of stars, and the orbs and movements of planets.  Johannis De Sacrobosco (otherwise John of Holywood, or Halifax), is thought to have been born in Yorkshire and he settled in Paris around 1220. He was a mathematician and astronomer. He wrote texts on arithmetic, astronomy and cosmography. He died either in 1244 or in 1256 (see the UK Archives Hub here). The manuscript was formerly in the Graves collection, no. 3496, bequeathed to the Library in 1870. John Thomas Graves (1806-1870) was a mathematician and Professor of Jurisprudence at University College London, whose collection included manuscripts dating from the 15th to the 19th centuries, relating mainly to mathematics.

My own personal favourite, being a church historian of the English church, was the Perspectiva Communis of John Peckham, formerly Archbishop of Canterbury 1279-92, being a treatise on optics. He was a prolific author of treatises on science and theology. This manuscript dates from the 15th or 16th centuries and is MS. Lat. 31, bound  (perhaps from the first) with two printed works, the Arithmetica of Jordanus Nemorarius, edited by Jacques le Fêvre (Johannes Higman and Wolfgang Hopyl, Paris, 1496), and the Geometria speculatiua of Bradwardine (Paris, 1495) (see AIM25 here). The manuscript also formed part of the library of John Thomas Graves, and was formerly Graves no. 3950.

The session today was well attended by UCL staff, students and external visitors. As Professor Burnett remarked, the medieval holdings of UCL Special Collections deserve a wide and appreciative audience.

Paul Ayris

Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services)

Special Collections at Newham Heritage Week

Helen Biggs20 October 2017

Newham Heritage Week, which runs from 21-29 October, will see the launch of a new pop-up exhibition, Making East London, created as a collaboration between UCL Special Collections and Newham Libraries.

Five banner displays combine items from the Main Library exhibition East Side Stories and Newham Borough’s own archives, to explore two centuries of continuous change in east London.

The exhibition is open now in Stratford Library. From January it will be on tour, visiting the other nine public libraries in Newham.

East London history “open mic” night

As part of Newham Heritage Week, Special Collections’ outreach team are hosting an open mic-style night at Stratford Library, from 6pm on Thursday 26 October. A 30-minute talk on the work behind Making East London will be followed by an opportunity for attendees to share their own research, stories and memories of East London’s past.

For more information, or to book your own space at the talk, get in touch with Vicky at vprice@ucl.ac.uk.

You can learn more about what Special Collections has been doing with Newham Libraries (including poetry sessions and an oral history initiative) and our funders for this project, over at our blog.

To discover what else is happening at Newham Heritage Week, download a programme.

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April to June titles from UCL Press

Alison Fox7 June 2017

We are delighted to announce the publication of 9 new open access books and 5 open access journal issues from UCL Press. Additionally, we are also delighted to provide information about a brand new student journal, Interscript, hosted on UCL’s student publishing platform.

New Books (April-June)

New Journals (April-June)

Student Journals Hosted by UCL Press (April-June)

  • Interscript: UCL Journal of Publishing (vol 1, issue 1). This journal is run by students of the MA publishing course, and hosted on UCL’s OJS platform. The students have also published an online magazine.

Please don’t hesitate to contact the UCL Press team with any questions or queries about UCL press or any of our titles.

UCL Press partners with JSTOR

Alison Fox27 October 2016

UCL Press is delighted to announce a partnership with JSTOR to provide access to open access books on their widely used platform.  JSTOR is a leading digital library of academic journals, books, and primary sources used by academics and researchers worldwide. All titles will also be preserved in Portico, ensuring that they will be available to researchers in perpetuity.

The only UK publisher to be an inaugural partner in this programme, UCL Press titles are included in an initial set of open access books available from four leading university presses, including University of California Press, University of Michigan Press and Cornell University Press.  Books published by UCL Press that will appear on JSTOR’s widely used platform from Wednesday 26th October include:

The ebooks are freely available for anyone in the world to use and do not have DRM restrictions, nor do they have limits on chapter PDF downloads or printing. Users will not need to register or log in to JSTOR in order to access any of our titles. Free MARC records are available for librarians, who will also be able to activate the titles in discovery services; more information for librarians is available here. The titles are also cross-searchable with other content on JSTOR.org.

Jewish Pamphlets Project Phase 2

Andrew Watson8 January 2016

In August 2015, Vanessa Freedman reported on the completion of phase 1 of the Jewish Pamphlets Project. A total of 4,000 rare Jewish pamphlets were catalogued, a conservation survey carried out and a pop-up exhibition presented. In addition, a full-page article about the project by Professor Colin Shindler appeared in the Jewish Chronicle.

Following this noteworthy achievement, we have been successful in obtaining funding to allow us to embark on the next stage of the project. In phase 2, we will be addressing the urgent conservation needs highlighted in the phase 1 survey. Over 1,000 pamphlets are in a fragile state with some 300 in very poor condition.

Jewish PamphletsAngela Warren Thomas and her team of conservators based in the Science Library will be carrying out this work to make the material safe to handle.

Following the conservation of the physical items, Matt Mahon will manage a programme to produce digital surrogates of the rarest and most fragile items. Not only will this reduce the need to handle the originals, it will also allow the material to be accessed globally via Digital Collections.

Lastly, phase 2 includes provision to catalogue the remaining pamphlets in collections of notable provenance, in particular the Montefiore pamphlets, to enrich, as Professor Shindler put it, this “treasure trove for anyone interested in Jewish history”.

Jewish Pamphlets Project phase 1 is complete

Vanessa Freedman4 August 2015

The first phase of the project to to catalogue the Jewish pamphlets at UCL Special Collections is now complete, with 4000 pamphlets catalogued in Aleph.


The 4000th pamphlet

Some notable items from the project will be installed in the display cases next to the Donaldson Room in the Main Library on 13th August and will remain there until October/November, so do go and have a look.

Sadly this means saying goodbye to the project cataloguers, Dalia Maoz-Michaels and Peter Salinger (though Peter will remain at UCL as a volunteer). We held a small celebration after the Retrospective Cataloguing Team meeting last week to thank Peter and Dalia for all their hard work. They in turn thanked Andrew Watson, the project manager, for his guidance and support.

Peter and Dalia

Peter and Dalia

We are now seeking funding for phase 2 of the project, which will involve conservation, digitisation and further cataloguing – so watch this space!

Jerome Bruner’s MACOS Curriculum Project at the UCL Institute of Education Library

Nazlin Bhimani10 April 2015

Christina Egan cataloguing the MACOS materials

I consider myself very fortunate to be able to collaborate with some of the most wonderful people in the world – not just researchers who I work with regularly but also the librarians who I work with everyday. My most recent collaboration has been with the UCL IOE cataloguers, Christina Egan and Dianne Stacey.   Christina and Dianne have just finished cataloguing one of the most interesting of our Special Collections, Jerome Bruner’s MACOS or Man: A Course of Study Curriculum Project. The materials were donated to the library by Mr. Barry D.Varley-Tipton (see: http://newsamnews.ioe.ac.uk/2013/07/24/curriculum-project-macos-man-a-course-of-study/) in July 2013.

Man:  A Course of Study (commonly referred to by the acronym MACOS or M.A.C.O.S) is the brainchild of the American psychotherapist and Harvard academic Jerome Bruner.  Bruner believed that it was possible to teach children to be more humane and eliminate racism and ethnocentrism by studying another culture closely. He also believed that you can teach children complicated ideas using the ‘spiral curriculum’ method which introduces the same theme in increasing complexity over a period of time.

The successes of this collaborative Special Collections project have been partly due to the interest we all shared in the material but also because of the regular discussions Christina (who was tasked with managing the project) and I had over the course of several weeks. I am particularly indebted to Christina for masterminding the inclusion of additional terms which enhance the catalogued records and which will make it easier for users to find additional relevant content. Not only did Christina and Dianne ensure that the catalogue records contain all the necessary bibliographic and descriptive information as is custom and practice – but they also included information about content that we have which the MACOS site lacks and vice versa. We hope this additional information will be useful to other researchers and librarians.

MACOS is an example of one of the many curriculum projects that were devised in what has been referred to as the ‘Golden Age of the Curriculum’ in the US and in England. Now that the collections is fully catalogued, I hope researchers will be able to explore these materials which demonstrate so clearly Bruner’s pedagogic theories. The accompanying LibGuide at http://libguides.ioe.ac.uk/macos has been updated to provide links to the catalogue records.

Christina Egan who was in charge of this project has written about how she decided on what information to include in the catalogue records in the next post on Newsam News.

Uncovering UCL’s Jewish Pamphlet Collections

Vanessa Freedman11 November 2014

Earlier this year we received funding for an exciting project to uncover a hidden treasure in UCL Special Collections: the Jewish pamphlets. The first phase of the project is under way and involves cataloguing some 4,000 pamphlets from the Mocatta and De Sola collections, as a well as a conservation survey and small exhibition.

Two project cataloguers, Dalia Maoz-Michaels and Peter Salinger, started work in July, and so far have catalogued nearly 1400 pamphlets. These mostly date from the 19th century and cover various subjects including the Anglo-Jewish community, anti-semitism, missionary activities focussed on Jews, and Jewish communities in 19th century Palestine.

The history and conversion of the Jewish boy, by the author of the “Twin Sisters”, &c. London, 1829. From the Asher Myers collection. Ref: SR MOCATTA PAMPHLETS A 106 SAN

The history and conversion of the Jewish boy, by the author of the “Twin Sisters”, &c. London, 1829. From the Asher Myers collection.

Look out for an article about the project in the autumn library newsletter. You might also be interested in this post on the Hebrew & Jewish Studies blog written at the beginning of the project.