Another update on the electronic resources front: we’ve added another two new resources to our collection since I wrote my last library update back in May.
Access is available from the Caird Library and E-Library here at the museum. (I’ve added the links below as they contain more information about each resource, but please note that you will only be able to access the content itself if you stop in and pay us a visit.)
Early English Books online is a fantastic complement to our rare printed collections, and contains digital versions of over 100,000 books, broadsheets and tracts printed in English between 1475 and 1700. Works can be viewed in digital facsimile images, or transcribed text, and can be printed page by page or in entirety.
Ancestry Library is a well-known and hugely popular family history database that will be extremely useful for anyone searching for naval or merchant seamen. It’s organised into over 4,000 seperate collections, including census, birth, death and marriage indexes, trade, town and telephone directories and passenger lists. Collections of particular interest include:
- 1841, 1851, 1961, 1871, 1881, and 1901 censuses for England, Wales and Scotland.
- Passenger lists for Australia for assisted immigrants 1828-1896 and unassisted 1826-1922, as wells as convict transportation registers and muster rolls.
- A slave narratives database containing over 20,000 transcripts of type-scripted interviews with more than 3,500 former slaves, collected over a ten-year period from 1929.
- A passenger ships and images database containing photographs and information on over 3,000 ships.
A lot of our new resources have been acquired as part of a pilot project initiated by the London Museum Libraries and Archive Group (LMLAG). We’ve been working on this for the last year, so it’s really exciting that we’re now able to offer these resources to our museum visitors and library users. You can read more about the pilot project on the JISC Collections website.
Renee (Digital Resources Librarian)
I recently held a barbecue and determined to ascertain the correct spelling of barbecue. I turned to the online version of Oxford English Dictionary, a personal favourite from our recently acquired resources, for guidance.
It transpires that the word owes its etymological origins to a Haitian word barbacòa meaning ‘a framework of sticks set upon posts’ and was first cited by William Dampier in his work Voyages and Descriptions from 1699:
“… and lay there all night, upon our Borbecu’s, or frames of sticks”
Dampier wasn’t suggesting that he slept all night on a hot barbeque, rather, our modern definition of a barbecue ultimately derives from this frame of sticks or ‘borecu’ that could be used as a sleeping platform or placed over a fire and be used for cooking. You can read the very sentence on page 20 in Volume 1 of our 1729 edition of A collection of voyages by Dampier.
William Dampier (1651-1715) was an English buccaneer, privateer, captain, navigator, circumnavigator, naturalist, explorer, and author. He circumnavigated the globe three times and his New Voyage around the World is considered a seminal work travel literature, combining scientific observations, ethnography, geographical descriptions, and authentic voyage narrative.
In fact, Dampier’s detailed empirical observations recorded in this book would later influence the scientific methods of observing and recording phenomena used by the naturalists Alexander von Humboldt and Charles Darwin. Both James Cook and Joseph Banks relied on Dampier’s A Voyage to New Holland as a guidebook for their exploration of Australia while generations of mariners used Dampier’s works as guides to the Americas and Indies.
Such was the value of Dampier’s writings that the 1699 supplement to Voyages and descriptions which included “A Discourse of Winds” was still being reprinted as part of the Admiralty Sailing Directions into the twentieth century.
Dampier’s prodigious achievements have bequeathed us much, but did not prevent Jonathan Swift from satirising him in Gulliver’s Travels, describing Dampier as “an honest man, and a good sailor, but a little too positive in his own opinions”.
Gary (Assistant Librarian)
This website provides information on Jean Bart at Gravelines and is the home page for an historical theme park at Gravelines (Nord), in France. There is some useful information on the navy of Louis XIV.
This website, from the United States Lighthouse Society, provides access to a wealth of information on historic, and modern, lighthouses, mainly in the United States.
Bringing the Imperial War Museum’s sound archive to life. The website offers a wealth of information available regarding both the publications’ details, extracts from the publications, and some information on the major wars and battles fought by Britain.
This is the website of project initiated by the National Archives of Netherlands with the aim of collecting a guide to all archival material relevant to the history of the Baltic Sea, the trade in the Baltic and relations between countries around the Baltic Sea. It includes a virtual exhibition and an archival database with over 900 descriptions from 10 countries.
This website contains articles written by academics and enthusiasts, on a range of topics relating to ships and maritime activity in Australia and New Zealand. Useful for links to Museums and other organisations.
The E-Library handles surprisingly varied enquiries, from the fairly frequent family history requests to the exact height of Isambard Kingdom Brunel at the time of the launch of the Great Eastern.
However, those who turn to the National Maritime Museum for assistance with their research are still capable of raising queries that could not be anticipated. A researcher recently called to inquire about the influence of nautical terminology on Shakespeare’s vocabulary, and specifically the origin of a song of spurned love from Measure for Measure:
Take, O take those lips away,
That so sweetly were forsworn;
And those eyes, the break of day,
Lights that do mislead the morn (Act IV Scene 1)
He was exploring whether the last line quoted may be punning on the system of ‘leading lights’ used to guide a vessel safely into port. The song is more usually a matter of debate as its authorship is by no means certain, and it also occurs in Fletcher and Beaumont’s play Bloody Brother.
However, while there certainly are many naval terms incorporated into Shakespeare’s works, this promising suggestion proved to be unfounded. A quick referral to the Oxford English Dictionary, the full text of which is available online to all users in the E-library, confirmed that the phrase was not recorded until 1867, some three hundred years after Shakespeare’s birth.
The enquiry did turn up an interesting Shakespeare connection with Emma Hamilton however, who is depicted in the print by George Romney and Edwin Roffe (the engraver) shown above. The title of the work is ‘Shakespeare nursed by Tragedy and Comedy (Lady Hamilton)’.
Richard (Information Assistant)
Whilst the Library team was confined to the laborious task of auditing 9,000 books in the basement last week, the Manuscripts team had the luxury of working in the Caird Library itself.
The project Andrew, Kate, Martin and Mike were tackling was to catalogue a small backlog of recent acquisitions. Irene from the Documentation Department also become an honorary member of the manuscripts team for the week, joining in with cataloguing and data inputting as well as providing guidance and support to the team on data entry.
This work is important preparation for the new research centre and the move to offsite storage next year. It gave us the opportunity to really get to grips with using a new cataloguing system. At the moment manuscripts are in the same catalogue as the Library collections but over the last few months all the manuscripts data (some 66,000 records) was copied over into the new system. A new web catalogue just for manuscripts is being developed right now and should be online at the end of this month (watch this space …).
Unfortunately this means you can’t take a look at the team’s hard work on the catalogue quite yet. To give you a flavour, a letter from the carpenter of HMS Alceste to his father caught the attention of one team member. In the letter, the carpenter provides a vivid first hand account of the ship wreck of HMS Alceste off the coast of Java on 18 February 1817 and his subsequent rescue and return to England. He details a catalogue of injuries and ailments, including dysentery, a broken toe and bruised ribs, and he narrowly escaped having his face burnt! (Once the catalogue goes live you can look this up under HSR/N/9.) And another team member catalogued papers relating to the Court Martial of Admiral Byng, including letters to and from Voltaire (ADL/Z/40).
And here are some photos of both teams hard at work. Well done to all involved.
Cataloguing manuscripts on laptop in the library.
More cataloguing of manuscripts.
Working with the new archival cataloguing standards.
Auditing books in the store using wireless.
Auditing teamwork in action.
Our tallest team member auditing the ‘oversize’ books.
Hannah (Archive and Manuscripts Manager)
July’s item of the month is an illustrated brochure produced by the Orient Line to publicise their 23,000 ton passenger liner, RMS Orion, launched in September 1935.
Designed by Edward McKnight Kauffer, one of the most famous graphic designers of the day, it’s a lovely example of the type of items held in our ephemera collection, much of which focuses on passenger liners.
You can read more about the brochure and the design history of the RMS Orion itself in the full item of the month on the main museum website.
Renee (Digital Resources Librarian)