Cataloguing the Collection: A Sneak Peak

Today we have a guest post from Will Shire, Assistant Librarian at Magdalen College, Oxford, who has been helping to catalogue new acquisitions to the Chantry Library collection. Will has catalogued a whopping 97 items for us so far, for which we are extremely grateful! Here, he picks out some of his favourite finds.

For the last couple of months, I have been helping to catalogue a backlog of books, journal parts, and conference proceedings at the Chantry Library. As I don’t have a conservation background myself, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started! I soon realised, though, that the Chantry Library contains an interesting – and largely unique – collection of texts on a wide range of topics. For this blog post, I thought I’d highlight a few of the favourite books I’ve catalogued and give a sneak peak of a recent donation.

One of the most beautiful items I’ve catalogued has to be the book pictured above. Written by Bruce Barker-Benfield, former Librarian in Special Collections and Western Manuscripts at the Bodleian Libraries, it describes recent research into a manuscript from St Augustine’s Abbey. The manuscript is a Gospel of Luke, produced in Canterbury over 900 years ago and astonishingly remaining in its original binding. It’s a fascinating piece of book history and contains several beautiful images from the original manuscript. The book contains additional text written by Andrew Honey, Book Conservator, Research and Teaching, at the Bodleian Libraries, who kindly donated the volume to Chantry earlier this year.

As the Chantry library focuses on conservation, it doesn’t just focus on book history. Naturally, the collection also contains a wide range of specialist material to aid conservators in their work. When cataloguing items from the collection, I quickly realised that the Chantry contains research from all over the world. One of my favourite examples of this international knowledge can be seen below:

This short book focuses on textile conservation and details the events of the ‘Textieldag’ conference, held in the Netherlands in 1990. I found it interesting to catalogue firstly because it shows how much specialist knowledge is required in just one area of conservation. Secondly, it was the first item I’d ever catalogued in Dutch!

The Chantry Library is by no means limited to material in English and Dutch though. Over the last few weeks, I’ve catalogued and processed material in French, Spanish, Catalan, Italian, and German. One of my favourites in German has to be this book pictured below:

This item is a textbook for students learning about ‘Tintenfraß’, or ink corrosion, caused by iron gall ink. I had never heard of this process before, but it turns out that paper can be severely damaged over time by the very ink used to write on it. This book explains the causes of this damage, how to recognise it, and the best methods of treating it.

In the next few weeks, I will turn my attention to a potential major donation to the Chantry Library. It contains books on several different conservation topics, as can be seen below:

A selection of books from a potential donor.

I’ll sort through this collection to see which books are not already in the Chantry Library. I’m sure there will be some valuable additions to the collection!

I’ve really enjoyed cataloguing for the Chantry over the past few months. It is always exciting to add a completely new book to SOLO’s vast holdings and it is clear that there are many unique resources held at the Chantry. As lockdown restrictions ease in upcoming months, hopefully readers can return soon to make the most of the collection!

Written by Will Shire, Assistant Librarian at Magdalen College.

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