Rare Books in Scotland

3 September 2003
Brian Hillyard
[SLIDE 1: title]

On behalf of the National Library a warm welcome to everybody. Some of you are familiar faces here, and some not. For those who haven't met me, my name is Brian Hillyard and I'm the Head of the Rare Books Division. Alongside me is John Scally, who is the senior Curator in the Division and the Deputy Head. I'm pleased to see so many of you here. It may well be that, for example, all of you happened to be at IFLA in Glasgow on the same one day last year, but I don't think I've ever seen representatives of so many Scottish rare book collections come together before for a specifically rare books event. That's a good sign, I hope, that our topic today is worth discussing: what benefits are to be had from extending our collaboration, and whether we want to join together to set out on this road. Please be assured that the National Library's hosting this meeting today is a sign of our readiness to play our part to the best of our ability.

The programme is that John and I will each give a short presentation. Both of us will focus on specific areas of work in which we think collaboration has something to offer and may be of interest to you. Then after we've finished, at 11.30, I'll introduce the break out sessions at which you'll be asked to record your preferences on a prepared list of proposed areas of collaboration, and make any additional suggestions you may have: the Red Group, led by David Weston, will go to a nearby room on this floor, and the Blue Group, led by Iain Milne, will stay here. At 12.00 we'll assemble here again, collate the findings and invite further discussion, coming to some conclusions by about 12.30. After that, the Blue Group, guided by my Rare Books colleagues Joe Marshall and Helen Vincent, will go on a short tour of the building, while the Red Group will stay here and have lunch. At about 1.15 the Blue Group will return here and have lunch, while the Red Group, guided by more Rare Books colleagues, Eoin Shalloo and Anette Hagan, will go on their tour.

Both tours will end in the Rare Books office where there will be several recent acquisitions on display, and where you will be able to talk with your guides and other members of staff about our work. Specifically, Karen Lindsay will be on hand to answer questions about our microfilming projects, and Robert Betteridge will be showing the small Fuji digital camera that we use to snap images of inscriptions that we plan to attach to our rare book catalogue records. John Scally and I will remain here for most of the lunch period to answer any further questions, and in case you want to make any contacts over matters other than rare books, Almut Boehme will be here from the Music Division, and Rab Jackson from the Preservation Division. Chris Fleet from the Map Library is sorry that he cannot be here just then, but he will here at tea-time for anybody with something to ask about maps. Kenneth Dunn from the Manuscripts Division was going to be present but unfortunately is unwell, but if you want to make contact over manuscripts, please speak to Murray Simpson, Director of Special Collections. Cate Newton, Director of General Collections, will also be here. NLS staff by the way will be identified by NOT wearing conference name labels: they will have - or should have - their oval staff badges.

The afternoon session begins at 2.15 when David Shaw will give his presentation on CERL. I'll give you details about that when the time comes. I hope nobody minds that both downstairs in the Rare Books office and here at the beginning of the afternoon session there will be a photographer to take some pictures for a record of the event.

[SLIDE 2: title]

The immediate cause of today's event is that the Consortium of European Research Libraries suggested to the CILIP Rare Books Group (of which I'm a committee member) that a meeting be held in Edinburgh in order to promote to libraries in Scotland and the North of England the use of the Consortium's database, the Hand Press Book file. I'll leave David Shaw to expand on that this afternoon.


As soon as that meeting was suggested I thought of expanding it into a full day for Scottish rare book librarians. This has been in our minds for a long time but particularly since that day several years ago when the senior management of the English Short Title Catalogue was in Edinburgh and came to us at the National Library to explain their 'endgame' project - basically their ideas for finishing (as far as it ever can be finished) the ESTC database, i.e. creating a database containing a full record for all items before 1801either published in Great Britain and Ireland in any language or published anywhere in the world in the English language. You probably know that ESTC began at the British Library in the late 1970s by cataloguing the BL's eighteenth-century British holdings, to which those of other libraries were then gradually added; in the process a second editorial centre was created in Riverside, California, ESTC/NA. Then later the decision was taken to push the scope of ESTC backwards to the beginning of printing in the UK, and the meaning of E in ESTC was changed from 'Eighteenth-century' to 'English' [remember that ESTC includes books in any language printed in the UK, so this cannot mean 'English-language'], not entirely to the liking of this part of the UK but it was a clever idea. So pre-1701 British books were gradually added to the file.

More recently the ESTC acquired machine-readable files of the printed bibliographies of pre-1641 books [SLIDE 4], STC or 'Pollard & Redgrave' as it's still sometimes called after its original authors, and of books printed 1641-1700 [SLIDE 5], Wing. Where ESTC already had full records, holdings could be added from the STC and Wing files. Where ESTC did not have any records, they loaded these brief STC/Wing records which some people call 'place-holder' records [SLIDE 6]: they mark the place until full records can be provided from somebody's copy. In 'endgame' a particular objective was to replace 'place-holder' records with full records, and when they came to Edinburgh they gave us a list, which they called the 'Scottish canvas' [SLIDE 7], of Scottish libraries holding unique or rare copies of books for which they lacked full records (this list is now out of date), with the request that we at the National Library would help them acquire this information. While the idea of travelling round all your libraries and meeting you amidst your books was most appealing, that day I also felt it would be helpful all round to invite everybody to a meeting.

[SLIDE 8 of Scottish holdings in ESTC]

At this point I thought it might be interesting to show you a list of the Scottish holdings in ESTC. This information can be found on the ESTC website, which you may find useful [SLIDES 9-11 of ESTC website]. Back to the list of Scottish holdings in ESTC [SLIDES 12-13]. The first column shows the number of pre-1641 items, the second the 1641-1700 items, and the third the total number of all pre-1801 items. Some libraries have only pre-1701 holdings recorded: I suspect these were taken straight from published STC and/or Wing, and some of these libraries may not even know that they have holdings recorded in ESTC. Such libraries, and many other libraries without holdings at all in ESTC, may also have 18th-century books, including some not known to ESTC.

It's important to stress that smaller libraries - especially those with any subject or local collections - still have an important contribution to make to ESTC. For example, the recent deposit of the Scottish Beekeepers' Association collection in NLS [SLIDE 14 shows one of these, shelfmark MRB.66] enabled us to report several items to ESTC that were entirely unknown, not to mention some items that were not otherwise located within Scotland and in some cases within the UK. And by the way private libraries - provided that they are willing to make items available (which could be done through another library) - are also welcome to contribute to ESTC [SLIDES 15-16 showing two such records]; if necessary, ESTC does have a Private Libraries location that hides the real location. (As it turns out there is nobody here today from the National Trust for Scotland, but they are fully aware of the desirability of recording books from NTS properties in union catalogues such as ESTC, and discussions about how this might be done have begun.) So I would say that if we are to make the most of our national resources, there is still work to be done, and co-operating with ESTC has two main benefits: one that when your holdings are visible on ESTC, you are reaching a wide audience worldwide, and the other that you may be able to gain MARC records without creating them yourselves, for a standard model of collaborating with ESTC is for them to provide you with records if you tell them what books you have (I said 'may' because I have no authority to speak for ESTC).

I think there are other benefits too that are very useful in all sorts of collaboration: in particular, you can see how rare your book is and where other copies are. This enables us to target conservation/preservation resources where they are most needed, and also helps us to take acquisition decisions. So Aberdeen University now knows [SLIDE 17] that it holds the only known copy of the first edition of Alexander Dunlop's Greek grammar - the standard Greek grammar that complemented Ruddiman's Latin grammar - a book that the late Alex Law in his work on 18th-century Scottish textbooks had never been able to trace. National Library staff have a lot of experience with ESTC items (after all, we have a lot of them, the fifth largest of any library included in ESTC) and we have close contacts with the editorial offices in both Riverside, California, and the British Library in London. We've been able to help some libraries set up projects, and if we can be of further help, we will be happy to do so. But others of you too will have ESTC experience that you are willing to share, and the mechanism for that is perhaps something we should discuss later. Of course, matching items to ESTC records and creating new records to ESTC standards for items not known to ESTC require various bibliographical and cataloguing skills: for example, bibliographical formats need to be identified, and pagination needs to be fully described accounting for every leaf. If it is felt useful to hold workshops on these skills, we will be happy to assist where we can. You can give your views on this in the break-outs.

While on cataloguing I might mention something else that is receiving growing attention internationally (with IFLA discussions and also recognition in the forthcoming revision of the Descriptive Cataloging of Rare Books in the United States) and that is provenance description. There is growing interest in studying the ownership of books. As librarians we need to meet this demand, and we do that by describing and indexing provenance (including bindings), most simply as part of the catalogue record. [SLIDE 18, in which an owner records being given the book by Walter Scott] Over recent years we have ourselves been developing our standards for describing and indexing provenance, most recently beginning to take digital snaps of inscriptions that we can attach to catalogue records. This is something else that we would be glad to discuss with anybody who is interested.

I also want to mention 'Aldis', shorthand for Harry Aldis's List of books printed in Scotland before 1701 [SLIDE 19, title page of Aldis, but the title just quoted, the most succinct title that describes the contents of the book, is found only on the half-title] that invaluable reference book that lists year by year the output of Scottish publishers before 1701. 'Aldis' is thus a subset of books included in ESTC, though with the important difference that it is not restricted to books that have been described from copies seen - it includes books known to have been printed on the basis of secondary evidence. Researchers tell us that 'Aldis' remains an important book. It was first published by Edinburgh Bibliographical Society in 1904 and then published in a revised and extended edition by the National Library in 1970. Until recently additions to the 1970 edition - new editions or further copies - have been recorded in an interleaved copy available only to those who visit the National Library, and shelfmarks are not recorded in published Aldis.

[SLIDE 20 of online Aldis front page]

We are now working on an online version, entitled 'Scottish Books 1505-1640 (Aldis Updated)', which, as its name says, has so far reached 1640; we're expecting to add 1641-1660 before Christmas. This is what a page currently being revised looks like in detail [SLIDE 21 of Aldis page]. We haven't checked the holdings except for our own. (At present the location symbols are old 'Aldis' symbols: we intend to replace them with the same symbols as used by ESTC except for Scottish locations which we intend to spell out in a longer more easily recognisable form.) What we have done is to check all the cross-references to STC and Wing and we are now adding new references to ESTC and, where relevant, to our own online catalogue, to the UMI (now ProQuest) microfilm series, and to any other surrogates we hold, for example photographs of originals in the Huntington Library, California. If an item is noted here as included in one of the main UMI microfilm series, that means that it is also included in the digitised version of these microfilm series, EEBO or Early English Books Online, through which we can give users access to over 125,000 pre-1701 British books. For NLS copies in 'Aldis' we have added our shelfmarks.

We hope for several benefits to come from this: a convenient summary of Scottish publications pre-1701 which also provides details on both originals and surrogates. Eventually this should help us to list systematically the Aldis items for which surrogates are NOT available within Scotland, a gap which we can then plan to make good for two purposes: the first to provide access to pre-1701 Scottish books within Scotland, and the second to hold within our care surrogates for all pre-1701 Scottish books. We are of course particularly keen that Aldis records all Scottish-held copies of pre-1701 Scottish books, and we hope that its availability in an online file will encourage you to check your pre-1701 Scottish books to make sure that 'Aldis' does about them and to let us know if you find any copies or better still any editions not recorded there. [SLIDE 22 of NLS.Sut.279] Just to show you that new substantial books can turn up, here is an hitherto unknown edition of Virgil (Edinburgh, 1662) that came to light in 1982 in a farmhouse near North Berwick and is now part of our Suttie Collection.

[SLIDE 23 of Andro Myllar's windmill]

And here is the windmill device of Scotland's first printer Androw Myllar to take us to the topic of celebrating 500 years of Scottish printing. Here [SLIDE 24] is the colophon of the earliest dated Scottish book, 4 April 1508, taken from the unique copy of one of the Chepman & Myllar prints in the National Library. It would be very appropriate to achieve some of these 'Aldis' revision targets by the time of this celebration, and to celebrate the event knowing, for example, that all accessible copies of 'Aldis' books are on record. As for the celebration, Patrick Mark, Chairman of the Scottish Printing Archival Trust (otherwise known by that memorable acronym SPRAT), has suggested a meeting of interested parties, and the National Library will host a meeting here, in this room, on 7 October at 2 o'clock, to discuss it further: you are all invited (please let Patrick Mark know if you are going to come). If those of us here today decide to collaborate in some of our activities, there is surely scope to collaborate over celebrating, for example, the origins of printing in the various parts of Scotland. Copies of books could be loaned and/or photographic copies supplied so that libraries were able to tell the story of the earliest printing in their own area. You'll have an opportunity to record views in the 'break outs' on this and on many other points.

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