All I want for Chistmas is … a book and a Turkish bath



Book and Turkish Bath

If you’re one of those people who like to read in the bath, this is for you. Bystander 1920, UL classmark: 1920.11.86. Order in West Room


Miniature and midget books – a modern English language special collection

A few years ago I purchased a miniature book from the Lilliput Press, entitled The Silver Penny ABC.

silver-penny-2-copyI started to look in the Library catalogue and discovered we held even smaller copies than the one I had. The publisher of these midget books (so called as they are under 6cm and are placed in Syn.10) is Gleniffer Press. The publisher was founded in 1967, by Helen and Ian Macdonald and was originally based in Paisley, Scotland (where I was born) then moved to Wigtown, Dumfries and Galloway. The smallest letterpress book they printed was a 1978 edition of ‘Three blind mice’. The press produced 57 different titles before it closed in 2007.


Sir Roger De Coverley – Syn.10.99.5


Most of the books are issued on a card held in place by a slot cut into the card, the idea is to remove this and use it as a bookmark.




Flat hand Sierra Bears


You can hold them in the palm of your hand. We even manage to write the classmark and record number on.

Hand Sierra Bears1





Selected items from the collection include:



The snow queen / Hans Christian Andersen.


Robert Burns (Syn.10.200.14); Paisley American folk (Syn.10.200.9); Scottish Highland Postal Service (Syn.10.98.2)




Stickeen; a short memoir by American naturalist John Muir. It is about a trip he took in Alaska with a dog named Stickeen and their outing together on a glacier.







Wee Willie Winkie rins through the toon,
Up stairs an’ doon stairs in his nicht-gown,
Tirlin’ at the window, crying at the lock,
“Are the weans in their bed, for it’s now ten o’clock?”

William Miller (1810–1872)








Greyfriars Bobby











Snow-Drop & the seven dwarfs / by Jakob & Wilhelm Grimm.









Thumbykin / by Hans Christian Andersen









Delia Smith chose her favourite chocolate cake recipe for a raffle in aid of the Sick Children’s Trust in association with the International Dolls’ House News. This is no. 7 of a limited edition of 25



I thought I had found the smallest books in the Library and then I discovered this box. It contains two perspex boxes, one containing a copy of Old King Cole, the other an uncut page, a certificate of authenticity, and a photocopied letter. The book measures 1mm x 1mm and held the title of being the smallest lithographic book in the world for 20 years verified  by the Guinness Book of Records.


Old King Cole – Syn.7.98.2


Uncut sheet


Old King Cole









Books produced by the Gleniffer Press featured in an  exhibition at the National Library of Scotland the from 18 September to 17 November 2013.

The value of Legal Deposit

On a recent training programme in English Cataloguing we have been asking staff about some of their favourite things in the Library. In collections as rich as the Library’s this can be a very difficult question to answer, with many of us having long lists of items, but close to the top of my list are five publications by the same author and held in the Library’s twentieth century secondary collection. All five books are works of fiction, published between 1929 and 1932 and as such are stored, with their dust jackets intact, up in the Library tower.

So, what is it about these books that interest me so much? Well, they are special to me because they bridge several areas of interest in my life: the Cambridgeshire Regiment, researching First World War gallantry medals and enjoying reading detective fiction.

For almost twenty years now I have been researching the history and men of the Cambridgeshire Regiment. Unusually, it was a purely territorial unit, never having a regular battalion, but served with distinction in both world wars. On the Western Front from early 1915 to April 1919 earning over 250 awards for gallantry, and then in Singapore in 1942; the 1st Battalion was reputed to have been the last unit of the allied forces to surrender to the Japanese, but both battalions were captured and endured the harsh captivity and worked on the infamous railways.

But where do these five detective novels fit in? In 1915 the majority of the men serving in the Cambridgeshires were from the county of Cambridgeshire, with one whole Company coming from Cambridge University Press, and a large proportion of the officers were University men; either current students or graduates who subsequently lived locally.

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B. G. Quin M.C.

Basil Godfrey Quin, from Newcastle, was an undergraduate at St John’s College; he had just completed his first year of the mathematical tripos, and gained a first. His studies were then interrupted, his country needed him, and he volunteered for service and gained a commission in the Cambridgeshire Regiment. After training, he joined the 1st Battalion on the Western Front in Ypres on July 11, 1917 and only three weeks before the Battalion took part in the Battle of St Julien on 31 July. Coming through this immense trial unscathed he was then involved in the Battalion’s attack, eight weeks later, on a feature known as Tower Hamlets Ridge, on 26 September. Quin distinguished himself during the battle by his gallantry, and was decorated with the Military Cross as a result. It is awe inspiring to think that he had only been in theatre for eleven weeks at this point. His citation was published in the London Gazette in April 1918:

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He carried a report over a fire swept zone to battalion headquarters and returned to his company through an intense hostile barrage. Later, he twice went to the battalion on his right, under a heavy bombardment, to ascertain the situation. By his example he inspired all ranks with confidence.

Despite being a war hero, Quin was an unassuming man; he opted to receive his Military Cross in the post rather than at a royal investiture and, although he attended Old Comrades events in the post-war years, he never wore his MC or campaign medals; they remain in their boxes of issue. That’s not to say he wasn’t proud of his war service and it’s in his writing that it’s really seen. After the War Quin became the mathematics master at Rutherford College for Boys, in Newcastle, and three years later became the senior mathematics master, a post he would hold until his retirement in 1951. During this time he was also a keen writer and in 1929 Hutchinson of London published his first work of fiction: The death box (UL: 1929.7.2987), then four further novels followed: Mystery of the black gate (UL: 1930.7.1043), The murder rehearsal (UL: 1931.7.1179), Mistigris (UL: 1932.7.65) and The phantom murderer (UL: 1932.7.1792). There are two main characters, the flamboyant and omniscient Clarkson Parry, and his trusty sidekick Harvey, who is also the narrator. Both are old soldiers, having served together on the Western Front, and after meeting again during the late 1920s come together to solve a series of murders, robberies and blackmails by extraordinary means of deduction. Despite regularly coming into the line of fire them-selves, they still manage to maintain a stiff upper lip and a sense of decorum as befits the era. Although Harvey’s character is somewhat diffident, he derives immense confidence from his time in the trenches and this manifests itself with descriptive comparisons to his wartime experiences. Knowing the author was really there somehow makes these reminiscences more powerful – at least to me, anyway, and I can’t imagine a modern author managing it in the same way.

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Having researched Quin and read his work over a number of years I concluded that Harvey’s character was probably semiautobiographical and it was fascinating to have this confirmed through correspondence with his two daughters. It was said that Clarkson Parry was the man he would have liked to be, but Harvey was the man he thought he was, though this is by no means a bad thing in my mind.

Since first reading them, I have tried to acquire my own copies of the Hutchinson editions but with no success, only an economy reprint of The death box is abundant. Having agreed with various booksellers up and down the country that they are not rare and shouldn’t be expensive they nonetheless, remain elusive. Therefore I can attest to the immense value of Legal Deposit, which has ensured that there are at least six sets of Quin’s novels spread across the UK and Ireland, in the Legal Deposit Libraries, for the modern reader to enjoy.

In September and October 2017, to coincide with the centenary of the Battle of Tower Hamlets Ridge, when Quin won his MC, a small exhibition about him and his works will be held in the Entrance Hall display cases.

Targeting J.M. Keynes


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Contrary to popular opinion not all material in the supplementary catalogue is purely of literary interest. Local economist, J.M Keynes is one of the more famous non-literary figures and is of particular interest because of his Cambridge connections and connections to other academics in the online catalogue.  John Maynard Keynes was born in Cambridge on the 5th June 1883 to an upper-middle class family. His father John Neville Keynes was also an economist, John Maynard was the eldest of 3 children, having a sister and brother – His brother Sir Geoffrey Keynes, a surgeon, also had a strong connection with Cambridge having graduated from Pembroke College. He also has a room named after him in the University Library which houses a vast collection of some 8000 volumes which he donated to the Library.  John Maynard’s education took him from kindergarten at the Perse School for Girls, through a Scholarship at Eton College to King’s College, Cambridge. His early inclinations drew him towards philosophy, although influential economist Alfred Marshall tried to persuade and even begged Keynes to be an economist, By 1909 he had finally accepted a lectureship in economics, funded personally by Marshall. He had also published his first professional economics article in the ‘Economics Journal’ about the effect of a recent global economic downturn on India. He had published his first book ‘Indian currency and finance’ by 1913, using his preferred professional identity J.M. Keynes – amongst his family and friends he was simply known as ‘Maynard’.


Keynes analysis on the predicted damaging effects of the Treaty of Versailles appeared in the highly influential book, The economic consequences of the peace, published in 1919. This work was described as Keynes’s best book.

Keynesian economics gets its name, theories, and principles from John Maynard, who is regarded as the founder of modern macroeconomics. His most famous work, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, was published in 1936. But its 1930 precursor, A Treatise on Money, is often regarded as more important to economic thought. Until then economics analyzed only static conditions—essentially doing a detailed examination of a snapshot of a rapidly moving process. Keynes, in Treatise, created a dynamic approach that converted economics into a study of the flow of incomes and expenditures. He opened up new vistas for economic analysis.

Keynes had a keen interest in literature and drama.  He was a member of the Bloomsbury Group, whose most famous members also included Virginia Woolf and E.M. Forster.  More locally he was a supporter of the Cambridge Arts Theatre, which he helped finance, and was the founding chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain.  Keynes was a proponent of eugenics and a supporter of women’s rights who also campaigned against job discrimination, unequal pay and for reform of the law on homosexuality.

Keynes’s final book was ‘How To Pay For The War’  published in 1940.  Following the outbreak of war his policy recommendations were accepted and used by Western governments.  In addition to being an economist, Keynes served as a civil servant holding the position of Director of the Bank of England.

Maynard suffered ill health throughout his life-time, and suffered a series of heart attacks which ultimately proved fatal. He died at the age of 62.  He was outlived by both his parents.


Targeting C.S. Lewis


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img_3919bWhen many authors writing between 1920 and 1976 were first published, their works were classified as fiction and went into our Supplementary Card Catalogue.  While the University Library general catalogue was computerised years ago, this was never done to the supplementary catalogue.  This meant users searching the online catalogue found only later editions of classics, and may not have realised that we had certain works, or the first editions of others, because the only evidence was in the card catalogue.  So we are converting the catalogue cards of major figures from 1920 onwards, particularly those with Cambridge academic connections, and any persons specifically requested by departments, so that all titles by these “target” authors are in the online catalogue.

img_3785aMemories of junior school, when our teacher would read to the class from a novel of classic children’s literature, particularly bring to mind C.S. Lewis’ most famous works, the Chronicles of Narnia, where began my lifelong love of adventure stories of characters on a journey, with many pitfalls and disasters to overcome on their way.  So from our target list of Cambridge connected authors, it seemed appropriate to help the works of this well-loved author become more available to academics, and make it easier for them to learn more about his books, which have been translated into all sorts of languages, and the subjects he was famous for writing about.  Especially as he was more than just a classic novelist.

pickerel_bClive Staples Lewis was a British novelist, poet, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian, broadcaster, lecturer and Christian apologist.  Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland on 29 November 1898, he died in Oxford on 22 November 1963.  Lewis graduated from Oxford with a focus on literature and classic philosophy, and in 1925 was awarded a fellowship teaching position at Magdalen College, Oxford (he is affiliated “Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford” on some of his novels).  At Oxford he famously joined the “Inklings”, an informal group of writers and intellectuals, which included fellow fantasy novelist J.R.R. Tolkien.  Like Tolkien, Lewis seems to have had an ongoing interest in Norse, Greek and Irish mythology, which explains the mythological worlds in both their writings.  Through philosophical conversations with this group, Lewis rediscovered his Christianity, and he went on to write rich apologist texts explaining his faith through arguments of logic and philosophy.  In 1954 he accepted the newly founded chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Magdalene College, Cambridge, (A post founded with him in mind) where he finished his academic career.  By the way, an interesting little-known fact is that The Pickerel Inn in Cambridge, close to Magdalene College, claims to be a place where Lewis and Tolkien met to discuss their writing, during Lewis’ nine years here.

img_3910Lewis began publishing books in the mid 1920s, and in 1938 released Out of the silent planet, the first in the Space Trilogy of science-fiction novels which dealt with the concepts of sin and desire.  Among the holdings we’ve recently added to the online catalogue are the first edition (and 1966 and 1973 editions) of this, and some early editions of the two sequels, Perelandra and That hideous strength.  Also uncovered was the 1956 first edition of a novel that reveals his love of mythology, Till we have faces: a myth retold, a retelling of the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche.

img_3915The project has unobscured lots of early copies of the Chronicles of Narnia.  Our online holdings now show the 1950 first edition (and 1959 and 1965 editions, plus a 1973 Welsh translation) of the original book, The lion the witch and the wardrobe, in which Lewis’ Pevensie children are introduced to a fantastic world where a benign and loving lion called Aslan rises from the dead (Lewis’ Christian inspiration is clear) to help them defeat an evil witch and a land locked in winter.  All early editions of the Narnia series were illustrated by Pauline Baynes, an English illustrator of more than 100 books noted for her illustrations of the works of Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.  Also now discoverable are the 1951 first edition (plus 1962 and 1967 editions) of Prince Caspian: the return to Narnia; the 1952 first edition (and 1965 and 1968 editions) of The voyage of the Dawn Treader; the 1953 first edition (with 1965 and 1969 editions) of The silver chair; the 1954 first edition (plus 1965 and 1971 editions) of The horse and his boy; the 1955 first edition (and 1963 and 1968 editions) of The magician’s nephew; and the 1956 first edition (plus 1964 and 1973 editions) of the final Narnia book The last battle.  An interesting anomaly with the series is that the order in which they were published is not the chronological order that the stories take, so that the story in The magician’s nephew (the penultimate book published) tells of early times in Narnia before the events told in The lion the witch and the wardrobe, although Lion was clearly originally written as the first book and is the reader’s introduction to Narnia.  Similarly, the story in The horse and his boy (the fifth book) comes at the end of Lion, and before Prince Caspian.

img_3787bAs explored above, C.S. Lewis was also known for his apologist Christian texts.  Highlights of this previously somewhat hidden collection are two 1940s copies (one of them a Czech translation) of Broadcast Talks, a work about “Right and wrong, a clue to the meaning of the Universe and what Christians believe”; another called Christian behaviour; a 1963 edition of The four loves, which explains four categories of love as friendship, eros, affection and charity; a 1972 edition of The Great Divorce: a dream, which is about good and evil; and a 1966 edition of A grief observed, in which Lewis talks about how his faith helped him upon the death of his wife.  Other pamphlets found include Letters to Malcolm: chiefly on prayer from 1966; the 1957 edition of The problem of pain; the 1961 edition of Reflections on the psalms; Shall we lose God in outer space? from 1960; and Transposition, and other addresses from 1949.  It was discovered we had two editions of a religious tome he wrote a preface for, called How heathen is Britain?  Also found was a 1960 edition of Lewis’ autobiography, Surprised by joy: the shape of my early life, which tells of his rejection of the Church of Ireland at the age of 15, and how he rediscovered his faith at and joined the Church of England in 1931, the title actually comes from the first line of a Wordsworth poem, and was written before he met his wife, Joy Gresham.  On another subject, he explored his views on animal morality in Vivisection, a 1950 book published by the National Anti-Vivisection Society.  There were a couple of books about him too, C.S. Lewis – speaker and teacher, edited by Carolyn Keefe is about his spiritual writings, and The secret country of C.S. Lewis by Anne Arnott is a biography.    For apologetics still relevant today, Lewis’ connections with Oxford and Cambridge are to be celebrated from July 24 to August 3, 2017 with a C.S. Lewis “Oxbridge” Summer Institute, which will include lectures, workshops, meaningful worship services and cultural programs, some of them in Cambridge.