Loch Computer update

The Loch Computer project, which I mentioned last October, is also going well. I attended a networking meeting of the group recently, and very much enjoyed the presentations on “remoteness and connectedness” in the opening session, which were intended to spark conversations on these themes over lunch and beyond. (This was of course partly because I wasn’t doing a presentation myself this time, having delivered my thoughts on Remoteness and Connectedness in the Library World at the previous meeting, so I could relax and concentrate on other people’s treatment of the topic!)

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Data Visualisation Workshop with Mia Ridge

We had an excellent day yesterday with Mia Ridge, who delivered a whole-day workshop on Data Visualisation for Arts and Humanities Researchers.  Currently completing her research for a PhD in Digital History, Mia was formerly lead web developer with the Science Museum Group and has also worked internationally as a business analyst, digital consultant and web programmer in the cultural heritage and commercial sectors.
Yesterday’s workshop provided an overview of common visualisation techniques, including maps, timelines, graphs, network visualisations, entity recognition and topic modelling.  We learned how to access, manipulate and analyse data using visualisation tools such as Gephi, Google Ngram, Bookworm Open Libraryand TextRazor, and were encouraged to think critically about what’s happening “under the hood” in scholarly data visualisation sites such as Digital Harlem, Visualizing Emancipation,  Lost Changeand Mapping the Republic of Letters.  Finally we were introduced to Google’s Fusion Tables and shown how to create maps from geocoded data.

This was a very satisfying course to have attended and I’m sure everyone came away from it feeling, like me, that they could now confidently produce pie-charts, graphs, networks and other “pretty pictures” to enhance their various projects.  If you’d like to know more, there are links to visualisation blogs and other specialist sites on Mia’s Resources blogpost at  http://www.miaridge.com/resources-for-data-visualisation-for-analysis-in-scholarly-research/.  It’s a colourful and fascinating world to dive into.

Library closure during The Open Golf Championship

The University Library (including the Main Library, Martyrs Kirk Research Library, JF Allen Library, and St Mary’s College Library) will be closed from Thursday 16th July to Sunday 19th July inclusive. We are closed because The Open Golf Championships will be taking place in St Andrews. The Open is a major sporting event and it will be an incredibly busy time for the town. If you haven’t experienced this before, the scale of this event may be surprising!

Expect a huge increase in the number of people visiting, the grandstand seats alone for the golf course can accommodate around 20,000 people. Roads and public transport will be busy and Park & Ride facilities are to be made available. Have a look at The Open webpages for more information and FAQs.

Many of the University facilities are being used for this event including halls of residence, car parks and buildings. We are sorry for the inconvenience this closure may cause.

If you are planning to come in to St Andrews to enjoy the golf, we hope the sun shines and you have a great time.

If you have any questions or comments, please email: library@st-andrews.ac.uk.

More power in the Main Library: electrical works beginning June 8th

photo of power sockets to be added to level 3 and 4

Works will begin on Monday 8th June to install power sockets to around 150 study spaces across levels 3 and 4 currently without power. Plug sockets and USB ports, shown in the above photo, will be installed. In order to do this work, contractors will be on site for a number of weeks and some of this work will be disruptive to users.

image of level 2 floorplanArrows indicate where the contractors will be working on Level 2 (entry level) of the Main Library.

We estimate that this work will take around 6-8 weeks to complete. Power needs to be routed through the ceiling on level 2 up through the floor of level 3 and from the ceiling of level 3 up to the corresponding floor area of level 4.

floorplans showing levels 3 and 4Arrows indicate the desk where power will be installed.

Contractors will be on site during the day preparing areas for work but we do not expect any disruption to users other than some study areas being closed off. From Monday the 8th of June to Friday the 19th of June, the contractors will be carrying out noisier work between the hours of 5pm and 10pm. This will involve loud drilling which will be both noisy and disruptive but is unavoidable. This noisy work will only happen during Monday-Friday of each of these 2 weeks.

Study areas will be available to use but may be too loud to concentrate in. Bookshelves will remain accessible throughout these times and Martyrs Kirk will remain open to PGT and PGR students as well as staff until 9pm during the week.

The main areas affected between 5pm and 10pm will be on the south side of the building including the café.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

If you have any questions about this work, please get in touch, email: library@st-andrews.ac.ukMore power in the Main Library: electrical works beginning June 8th

Open Access in the Netherlands: Solid citizens

Despite its small size the Netherlands is punching above its weight in Open Access practice and advocacy, driven by a strong sense of social justice. As early as 2009 The National Library of the Netherlands was involved with the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) in a pilot project looking at long-term preservation of electronic journal collections. The Hague is home to the Ligue des

Open Access in Estonia: the Information Society

Estonia is very advanced in e-government infrastructure compared to the UK. You can’t fail to be impressed by its e-Resident initiative. In 2007 it introduced a Mobile-ID for mobile phones that permits secure authentication and digital signatures. With a population of only about 1.5M the effects of government initiatives are seen quickly and data privacy is legally protected, including access to medical records which are owned by patients. It’s fair to say that in this context Open Access and Open Data could be seen as a natural progression. The University of Tartu is leading in open scholarship – sixty-percent of Estonia’s successfully defended doctoral theses are generated at Tartu annually. It also has six Centres of Research Excellence of which two are European Commission Centres of Excellence.

Reading the Collections, Week 18: Student Reminiscences

box files_1

Student reminiscences in their original boxes (UYM310).

I have been reading through two box files of memories of student life at St Andrews collected by Professor Peter Redford Scott Lang in the 1920s for this week’s post. I wanted to find out whether they do indeed provide a unique viewpoint and extra colour to supplement the administrative record preserved within the Muniment Collection.

Scott Lang was passionately interested in student traditions (see also msLF1110.L2) and the ‘student experience’, truly a man ahead of his time! He wrote in 1925 to alumni of all ages, asking them to send him their reminiscences of their student days, typescripts of which I have been reading. They cover an amazing time span of student life – from 1843 to1923. In fact, one of them contains family stories passed down from father to son, and so goes back as far as 1825. His daughter considered the contents sensitive enough to require the original box to be closed until 1965.

July 1 1935 letter and key for blog_1_1

Keys to the original box in which the reminiscences were stored (UYM310/1).

The reminiscences are generally fairly similar, shaped by the wording of Scott Lang’s request that they might reflect on their course and teachers, their fellow students, and memorable incidents. So we find a rich record of eye-witness accounts of public events from the nineteenth century, such as early Kate Kennedy celebrations and rectorial elections along with descriptions of student lodgings, politics and societies, teachers and curriculum, buildings, sports and pranks.

As I read affectionate descriptions of outstanding academics, I kept coming across stories with slight variations about Thomas Duncan, Professor of Mathematics. So, since I knew little about Duncan, I thought I would try to see just how much of a personal nature I could glean about the man from the box files. But first I would do the standard digging in the archives to see what could be established from the ‘normal’ sources, and then compare the two.

UYUY236/2 The Separate Register, listing details of the families of academics, reveals that Duncan was unmarried (UYUY236/2).

The Separate Register, listing details of the families of academics, reveals that Duncan was unmarried (UYUY236/2).

From Bob Smart’s Biographical Register of the University of St Andrews, 1747-1897 (St Andrews, 2004) Ref LF1108.S6, I discovered that Duncan was baptised in 1777 and had himself been a student at the United College from 1791, being awarded an MA on 29 April 1795. Thereafter he studied in St Mary’s (1795-99), where he was an Exchequer bursar. He acted as Assistant to the Professor of Maths 1798-1802 before being appointed Rector of Dundee Academy (1802-1819), one of the antecedents of the High School of Dundee. His reputation as a teacher still survives as a tradition in Dundee. He held the Regius Chair of Mathematics at St Andrews from 1820 until his death in March 1858.

Left: Duncan was discussed in correspondence with Lord Dundas, the Chancellor of the University, and was a candidate for the chair of Natural Philosophy earlier in 1820. Right: Certification that Duncan had sworn the customary oaths of allegiance, abjuration and assurance before being admitted to the office of Professor of Mathematics, 1820 (UYUY235/1/2).

Left: Duncan was discussed in correspondence with Lord Dundas, the Chancellor of the University, and was a candidate for the chair of Natural Philosophy earlier in 1820. Right: Certification that Duncan had sworn the customary oaths of allegiance, abjuration and assurance before being admitted to the office of Professor of Mathematics, 1820 (UYUY235/1/2).

I was also able to find more records than I had expected: a class certificate he wrote out and signed in 1825, a notebook of his lectures attended by William Carmichael McIntosh, and best of all, two photographs of the man himself.


Left: Class certificate produced by Duncan for James Brown, 1825 (ms30492). Right: Photograph of Professor Thomas Duncan (ALB-42-6-3).


Notes taken down by WC McIntosh at lectures delivered by Thomas Duncan (ms37106/3).

Notes taken down by WC McIntosh at lectures delivered by Thomas Duncan (ms37106/3).

Recollections of College Life in St Andrews_2_1

Reminiscence by Revd Thomas Duncan Miller (UYM310/Miller).

So, armed with quite a lot of information already, what more might I find from the student reminiscences? The one which really set me on the trail was written by Revd Thomas Duncan Miller in Perth in 1925, one of three brothers who attended St Andrews between 1865-79, his father being of the opinion that “the University of St Andrews possessed opportunities and advantages above those of the other Scottish Universities.” In it he explained how he got his names, and referred back to his father, Dr Thomas Miller (1807-91), who had been a student in St Andrews 1825-33, and Rector of the Perth Academy.

“My father was visited occasionally by his old teacher, Professor Duncan, and showed his affection for him by naming one of his sons after him, and I was frequently told how the good man came from St Andrews after the baptism, took me in his arms and gave me his blessing.” What a tribute to a beloved teacher!

David Pryde gives more prosaic detail about ‘Tammy’ Duncan’s appearance and voice:

till the very last he looked a poor farmer, dressed in his Sunday suit to dine with his landlord. He was awkward, bashful, had a broad Scottish accent, talked about the “theodoleet” and about ‘mathematics having treasures richer than the mines o’ goold i’ the booels o’ the airth,’ and invariably asked students fresh from the country, at the beginning of the session, ‘hoo the pitaties were getting’ on?” Let me call him up as I used to see him, coming out of his door in South Street a few minutes before 10 am. A big, raw-boned figure in shabby black, looking ill at ease in a public thorough fare …

You can read the rest here:

Students even wrote poems about Duncan, such as this one from UYM310/Pryde/IV:

Lo ‘ Tammy comes, with his broad Scotch drawls,
And his faces so funny and plastic,
That the Gorgons’ heads on the College walls
Don’t look half so fantastic.
From the circle of fashion he’s far remote.
As his clothes and his looks declare, sir,
With chalk on his features and chalk on his coat
And chalk every here and there, sir.

From Dr Gray we learn that Duncan was popular with his students and was said to have been declared to be ‘the best specimen of the natural man I ever knew’ by his contemporary Thomas Chalmers. He was a bachelor, simple in his habits and had a dog which he brought to class and which usually curled up on the Professor’s chair (UYM310/Gray/IX) Thomas Whitelaw had vivid memory of Duncan who, “besides being a distinguished teacher of his science, was a remarkable personality, possessed of a large vein of Scottish wit and humour, shrewd and pawky which he sometimes exercised at the expense of his students, especially when they tried to be troublesome and make game of him” (UYM310/Whitelaw/59).

But perhaps the best anecdote (which starts halfway down the page), and one which could never be found in the formal administrative record comes from Thomas Wilson, who was a student from 1848-52, and recounts how the professor almost didn’t remain a bachelor.

UYM310 328_1_1

Reminiscence by Thomas Wilson (UYM310/Wilson/328).

For stories like this, there is no substitute for the personal recollection and it is my pleasure to continue to receive student reminiscence for the archives today.


Filed under: Manuscript Collection, Muniments Collection, Reading the Collections Tagged: muniments, Professor Peter Redford Scott Lang, Professor Thomas Duncan, reading the collections, St Andrews University

Lighting the Past completes the Shewan Collection

One of the many busts of Homer found in Der lebendige Homer. The Shewan Collection consists of works bound into 250 volumes, all dealing with Homeric scholarship.

Of all the collections to be catalogued by the Phase 1 team, the Shewan Collection will probably be the only one where every item has passed through my hands as lead cataloguer. As this is something which rarely happens, I found this rather exciting! Donated to the Library in 1936 by Dr Alexander Shewan (1851-1941), these volumes on ‘Homerica’ have never been catalogued. That’s 80 years that they’ve been languishing in the stacks, pretty much unknown to readers except those brave enough to search the giant guardbook volumes in the Library. But now that’s all changed, and for the first time they are available on the online catalogue SAULCAT.

A depiction of the shield of Achilles, based upon Homer’s description. From M. Quatremère de Quincy’s (1755-1849) Mémoire sur la description du bouclier d'Achille par Homère.

Alexander Shewan had an interest in the Classics, having studied this at the University of Aberdeen. After retiring from the Indian Civil Service in 1897, where he had a distinguished career, he became an independent Homeric scholar, based in St Andrews.

A song, in the phrygian mode, intended to be sung in scene III of the play Nausicaa. It is a translation from a Greek original. The story of Nausicaa, the daughter of King Alcinous and Queen Arete of Phaeacia, can be found in Homer’s Odyssey.

Although each volume contains more than one item, a hand-written contents is provided in each, detailing the author, title, and date of publication. This example is from vol. 101.

In all, there are 250 volumes, each containing more than one item (primarily dissertations, articles, notes, and reviews), and two volumes of handwritten indices. Some volumes (including the indices) have been transferred to the manuscript collection, being in the nature of a scrapbook compiled from many small items. Most volumes have under twenty items bound in them, but some have many more than this, with vol. 228 having over 100! In total the Phase 1 team has created 3,459 bibliographic records from just 243 volumes.

An example of a volume which has the item numbers written on the text block (She PA4037.A5S4;5), and a volume which has tabs on the text block (She PA4037.A5S4;144), both intended to aid readers in finding the item they want.

Some of the volumes are themed. For example, Vol. 27 is composed of items concerned with the Greek Language, whilst vol. 237 contains works by W. E. Gladstone (1809-1898) on Homeric subjects, or reviews of these works. Amongst these are found reviews of his three-volume Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age (1858), a work which diverged sharply from contemporary scholarship. In it Gladstone asserted that the Homeric poems were a single body of work (probably by a single author) which offered a glimpse of human society at the unspoilt dawn of its existence. According to Gladstone, subsequent Greek experience had been a gradual corruption of, rather than an evolution towards, the higher civilization of Aristotelian Athens, as his contemporaries mostly believed.

This charming owl graces the cover of Charles Vellay’s (1876-1953) La Question de Troie. St Andrews copy She PA4037.A5S4;248

Although some thought has clearly gone into putting together the volumes on ‘Homerica’, a logical approach does not always seem to have been taken. For instance, some works were published in parts, but these have not always been bound together. Thus the first part of Adolf Keine’s Die epen des Homer can be found in vol. 90, whilst the second part is in vol. 42.

A rather wonderful map of Troy, which is found in P. W. Forchhammer’s (1801-1894) Erklärung der Ilias. This ancient city was the setting of the Trojan War, described by Homer in his epic poem the Iliad.

The title page of the oldest work in the Shewan Collection, Simon Stenius’ Oratio, continens narrationem de vita et Rebus Gestis Philippi Macedonum regis ex diuersis autoribus collectam. Some words in the title have been underlined, by hand, in red ink. St Andrews copy She PA4037.A5S4;125.

Many of the works date to the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, but there are older works to be found. Vol. 157 is composed entirely of works published in the eighteenth century, whilst the oldest work in the collection was published in 1579. This is the Oratio, continens narrationem de vita et Rebus Gestis Philippi Macedonum regis ex diuersis autoribus collectam of Simon Stenius’ (d. 1619), a German teacher, philologist, historian and literary scholar. The work, of which the St Andrews copy has been heavily trimmed (not quite cutting off the text), also contains a Latin version of part of book five of the Odyssey.

Many works may no longer be up-to-date in their thought (although it was not until the 1960s that the works of Samuel E. Bassett (1873-1936) began to influence Homeric scholarship), but they offer an insight into the history of the scholarship on ‘Homerica’. Many of the items in this collection are dissertations, mostly carried out in Germany. This is not surprising, given that Classical philology was a major preoccupation of the 19th-century German education system.

Examples of some of the Mycenaean ware found at Zakro, on the east coast of Crete, in excavations carried out in 1902. From R. M. Dawkins’ (1871-1955) article ‘Pottery from Zakro’, published in The Journal of Hellenic Studies (vol. 23, 1903).

For those interested in how these works were received in their day there are reviews galore in this collection, there being over 500 in total. A good place to start would be vol. 178, of which 25 of the 49 items are reviews, giving an insight into Homeric scholarship in the first decade of the twentieth century. Alternatively, vol. 239 offers a snapshot of Homeric scholarship from 1792 up until 1891, with 29 reviews of works published over this period.

The rather striking green initial from the first page of text of Edmond de Bruyn’s De la jupe divisée et de l'Idéal grec. The title is also printed in this striking green on the title page.

Having handled every one of these ‘Homerica’ volumes I feel as if I know those scholars most active in this field in the late-nineteenth / early-twentieth century. Names which keep cropping up are Shewan (of course!); the archaeologist and historian Sir John Linton Myres (1869–1954) who wrote the provocative Who Were the Greeks? (1930), a review of which can be found in vol. 247; the German classical philologist Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff (1848-1931), a renowned author on Ancient Greece and its literature; the American classical scholar Paul Shorey (1857-1934), who for 25 years was editor of the journal Classical Philology; and Walter Leaf (1852-1927), who was elected as a member of the intellectual secret society the Apostles, and who became part of the generation of literary luminaries. His two-volume edition of The Iliad published 1886-88 remained for decades the best edition in English.

One of the plates from Die Nautic der Alten by Arthur Breusing, showing an example of an ancient ship. Breusing was a navigation instructor at the ‘Steuermannschule’ [Helmsman School]in Bremen.

The Shewan Collection has certainly been interesting to catalogue, and our days just won’t be the same without volume upon volume of ‘bound-withs’ (separate publications which have been bound together in one volume). I can only hope that researchers with an interest in ‘Homerica’ take some time to look at the wonders held within this collection.

As with any collection, items were donated to Shewan by authors. A sense of humour can be seen in the above picture, where the author, Samuel E. Bassett, has noted a typographical error on p. 4 of his Homeric Criticism; Socrates is misspelled ‘Socretes’, so Bassett’s writes  “The Editor is ‘on leave’ this year.” St Andrews copy She PA4037.A5S4;209.

Briony Aitchison

Lead Cataloguer

Lighting the Past (Phase 1)

Filed under: Rare Book Collection Tagged: Homeric scholarship, Lighting the Past, rare books cataloguing, SAULCAT, Shewan Collection, special collections, st andrews