As part of the ongoing redevelopment of library space at the Pendlebury, I have continued work on the project to remove volumes published before 1900 from the open shelves both in order to preserve their condition and to allow more space for recent publications. We have now withdrawn around sixteen hundred books, and you may have noticed some changes on the catalogue if you have been searching for historical publications recently.
I mentioned in a previous post (Autumn Maintenance) that the process of initially identifying material to be withdrawn has had to be ‘quick and dirty’ (literally, in some cases, where the bindings have disintegrated on contact!) Whilst we’ve taken some information about publication dates from the catalogue, much of the assessment has been done by eye whilst scanning the shelves; if a book looks old or damaged, as with these examples, we’ve taken it for closer inspection.
These two books are visibly fragile. The spine of the smaller volume has been broken, and the book can no longer be removed from the shelf without further damage being caused – a good example of why readers should grip the sides of a book rather than the top edge when browsing! Some of the binding method has been revealed here – the spine is lined with the travel section of a bookseller’s catalogue. The leather binding of the French volume shows serious deterioration – the source of a pernicious orange dust. Over the years since it left a shop in the Rue Vivienne, this book has evidently been exposed to sunlight, gas fumes and various other atmospheric pollutants, not to mention the mysterious substances that lurk in the corners of student rucksacks.
Some books have not been borrowed at all on the current circulation system, despite their prettiness, such as this 1889 edition of Chansons et Rondes Enfantines. It is still a valuable part of the collection, although more likely to be consulted by a researcher looking at historical children’s songs or Victorian illustrations than by an undergraduate looking for essay material.
National Nursery Rhymes doesn’t have a copyright date or a plate number for tracing the date of its publication, but there are other indications of its age; most obviously, it is stamped as a transfer from the British Museum in 1889. In the absence of such helpful clues, it sometimes helps to consider the pricing of an item. The final pages of this book contain a catalogue of other Novello, Ewer and Co. collections of music for children, ranging in price from sixpence to two shillings depending on the amount of gilt involved, which seems viable for the 1870s.
In some cases, we’ve removed books that have been published after 1900. The paperback ‘Deutsche Orgeldispositionen aus fünf Jahrhunderten’ is a mere 64 years old, but has been selected for withdrawal. Not only is the paper more likely to be damaged, the German text is printed in Fraktur typescript, which is unlikely to appeal to the casual browser.
Eventually, these books will be given new classmarks to reflect the fact that they are no longer on the open shelves. They are not completely out of sight, however – you can see some of them in the Pendlebury display case for the next few weeks.