New LibGuide: German archives: a guide to discovering and using them

Students and researchers intending to use archives in Germany might find the new German archives: a guide to discovering and using them useful.

LibGuide - German archivesCreated by Ms Ulrike Kändler as part of her internship at the Bodleian Library, August 2014, the guide is designed to help you finding your way through German archives and to enable you identifying exactly what you need for your research – quick and easy! There are more than 3.600 archives offering their holdings and services in Germany so it can be daunting to know where to start.

The guide comes in three main sections:

  • Get Ready
    You are planning a research trip to Germany? Or you are for the first time ever on your way into an archive? Here you will find everything you need to know to make the most of your trip
  • Discover German Archives
    Which archives should you visit? Here you will find a short introduction on the various types of German archives as well as links to a number of the more important ones.
  • Find it
    Here you are introduced to some different search tools: Regional gateways to search by region and identify smaller archives or meta/search engines such as Kalliope.

The many archives are usefully indexed by broad subject areas as follows:LibGuide - German Archives - Bundesarchiv

  • State Archives
  • Municipal and local archives
  • Church archives
  • Literary archives
  • Economic archives
  • Political Archives
  • Media archives
  • University archives
  • Movement archives

Do you know your Ablieferungsliste from your Zugang?

A glossary will help you understand specialists terms you are likely to encounter and enable you to communicate with German archives more effectively.

Help, I can’t read the script!

The guide also includes links to script tutorials and useful transliteration resources.


I am very grateful to Ms Ulrike Kändler. Without her incredibly hard work, dedication and expertise this guide would not exist. Her short period in Oxford leaves a legacy from which Oxford researchers can benefit from for a long time to come.

Using digital photography to capture archival material: some tips and tools

As libraries relax their photography rules of library materials, scholars are increasingly using digital photography to capture printed and archival material. That is great news but does pose a few headaches also, in particular, in my experience the following:

  1. How do you get the best quality images? Bodleian Libraries doesn’t permit the use of flash, for instance.
  2. How do you organise your many images so you can find them again?
  3. How do you add description information about the source, copyright statement, etc.?
  4. How do you make sure you don’t infringe copyright?

Following a useful post on the H-HistBibl mailing list recently, I would like to share some pointers for those struggling with their many images or who want to make best use of them.

Check here what the rules are for Bodleian Libraries, British Library, Cambridge University Library and Bibliothèque nationale de France.

1. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Libraries had written a fairly comprehensive guide on Using Digital Tools for Archival Research.

This guide covers all the basics from the choice of cameras, how to take pictures to organising your photos and use of software and the all important back-up (just do it!!).

Illinois guide on digital tools for archival research

2. Thomas Padilla posted a tutorial on how to extract plain text data from images of print based archival content using optical character recognition (OCR).

Padilla - from image to text

3. Finally, Miriam Posner wrote about turning JPEGs into PDFs and about batch-processing photos.

Posner - batch process photosWhat use of digital cameras and personal scanners do other major research libraries allow?

Bodleian Libraries rules:

  • Library visitors may use personal scanners and digital cameras to make copies from library material, with some exceptions.
  • All equipment with the exception of flat bed scanners may be used.
  • The use of flash photography is forbidden at all times.
  • Some libraries and reading rooms have created specific areas where digital photography and scanning can take place. Please look for signs indicating that you are in the designated area or ask staff.
  • Other libraries have not set up dedicated areas and will allow these processes anywhere in the library.
  • Please consult library staff before using your digital camera or personal scanner.
  • As a general rule, scanning or photography of material is at the discretion of library staff. Please consult library staff to see if an item is eligible to be copied. You will be asked to fill out the relevant application form.
  • Please observe the guidelines above and ensure that you comply with the copyright restrictions.
  • You may make digital copies for the purposes of private study or research for a non-commercial purpose.”

British Library rules:

Compact cameras, tablets and camera phones may be used to photograph some categories of material for personal reference use only. Copies, including photographic copies, must not be used for a commercial purpose. Please also be mindful of privacy and data protection laws.

Self-service photography is intended for personal reference copies, not for copying at scale or commercial copying. The Reading Rooms are not able to support the requirements of professional photography.”

Cambridge University Library rules:

“Cameras can be used to photograph most of the Library’s material as long as a form is completed and copyright regulations are observed. These photographs are for private research and study only and cannot be distributed, placed online or used within publications. Images must be ordered for these purposes.”

Bibliothèque nationale de France rules

“Les lecteurs de la Bibliothèque de recherche peuvent utiliser leur appareil personnel pour photographier gratuitement des documents des collections de la BnF.

Seuls les documents publiés il y a plus de 90 ans peuvent être photographiés. Les photos doivent être réalisées à des fins d’usage privé et sur une place désignée à cet effet.

Une autorisation de prise de vue est à demander au bibliothécaire.

La photographie des écrans d’ordinateurs ou d’appareils de lecture de microformes est interdite.”

Calling students: Travelling Incognito? Help us unmask some anonymous authors of manuscript travel diaries, c. 1790-1830

The Detective by Paurian (Flick)

The Detectuve by Paurian (Flickr)

Oxford History Faculty students are invited to come to the Weston Library on Thursday 11 June to use their detective skills and help us solve some manuscript mysteries.

Over many decades the Bodleian has acquired a very large number of manuscript diaries which together form a vital source particularly for social history. Many of these date from the late-18th to the mid-19th century, and travel diaries are the most represented genre. We have never been able to find the authorship for several of these diaries, and their interest and usefulness for research would increase considerably if we knew who had written them. They were mostly acquired before the Internet began to change the possibilities for research, so now, in the light of the increasing range of information available online, it is time to revisit our anonymous diaries to see if we can unmask the authors.

The inspiration for this idea has come from several successful efforts to establish authorship of recently acquired manuscripts. There is a blog post on the ‘Archives and Manuscripts at the Bodleian’ blog, explaining how the author of one diary was discovered. This will help to give some idea about how the problem can be approached.

So now we need your help! Come and help us to read through as many of the diaries as we can, looking for internal clues as to their authorship – names of friends and family, addresses, marriages, christenings, burials – anything that can be used to bring the vast array of internet resources to bear on the subject.


Thursday 11 June, in two sessions 11.00am to 1.00pm and 2.00-4.00pm. We hope you can attend the whole day, but you are free to go when you like! Places are restricted so book your place here. (SSO required; only open to history students.).


Weston Library, Centre for Digital Scholarship (CDS) – meet in the reader Enquiries area (green sofas) on the 1st Floor.

What we will do on the day

  1. Create small teams of 2 or 3 students and allocate a diary to each teams
  2. Read as much as possible of the diaries, and take notes of interesting names, places, events or other information that might help to identify the author, or at least add value to the description
  3. Use the extraordinary range of digitised books, manuscripts and catalogues, academic and family history material to track down names and see how powerful these tools can be if used carefully.
  4. Invite participants to take digital images of pages from the diaries so that they can continue to work on them if they wish and send us further findings.
  5. Invite participants to contribute to the Bodleian blog to highlight discoveries

What you will gain from the experience?

  • This is a chance to meet staff in Special Collections and to use original manuscript resources.
  • To be part of the discovery process, and contribute to the enhancement of catalogue descriptions
  • Learn techniques for reading tricky handwriting
  • Learn about the array of internet resources helpful for historical research, and how to harness the power of Google.
  • Learn about the catalogues of manuscripts in the Bodleian, and the relationship between items and their descriptions.

What you will need

  • Bring your laptop, tablet, i-pad, digital camera or smartphone. We hope to be able to use the resources of the CDS but it is not fully functioning yet.
  • Pencils (but not pens!)
  • Remember to bring your library card and a £1 coin for the Weston lockers.

Any queries?

Contact: Mike Webb, Curator of Early Modern Archives & Manuscripts, Email:, Tel.: 01865 (2)77164

New: Records relating to the slave trade at the Liverpool Record Office

I am pleased to report that Oxford users now access to the online Records relating to the slave trade at the Liverpool Record Office (British Online Archives: British Records on the Atlantic World, 1700-1900) via SOLO and Databases A-Z.

Records relating to the slave trade at the Liverpool Record Office - pamphlet

This full-text database provides access to one of the best collections in British archives of private merchants’ papers relating to the transatlantic slave trade.

Liverpool was the leading slave trading port in the world in the eighteenth century when these documents were compiled.


The material includes

  • correspondence with ship captains and Caribbean agents about the acquisition of Africans and their sale; statistics on the Liverpool slave trade
  • sales accounts of the lots of Africans disembarked in the Americas, often with the names of purchasers and prices; information on dealings with diverse African groups along the coast of West Africa; and details of payments for slave sales.
  • account books of ships’ voyages with material on the outfitting of vessels and the cargoes of goods exported to Africa.
  • Records of the wealthy merchant and banker, Thomas Leyland (c.1752-1827), who was three times Mayor of Liverpool.
  • Letters by the slave trade captain, John Newton (1725-1807), who later became a clergyman, the composer of the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’, and a prominent abolitionist.

Other useful resources

Enjoy! If you have any problems, please contact library staff.

New database: Mirabile – Digital archives for medieval culture

Mirabile logo Oxford medievalists now have access to Mirabile, an aggregator resource for bibliographies and critical journal literature relevant for medieval studies and culture.

It provides online a variety of specialist resources including important resources constituted by the well-known SISMEL‘s databases and important journals published by the Edizioni del Galluzzo.

1. DB mediolatino:

  • MEL (Medioevo latino) – bibliographical bulletin, with more than 250.000 records; covers 6th-15th centuries

    Abelard MEL entry

    MEL entry for Peter Abelard

  • BISLAM (Bibliotheca Scriptorum Latinorum Medii recentiorisque Aevi), the  important authority list for names of medieval Latin authors, with more than 15.000 entries and 80.000 variants
  • CALMA (Compendium Auctorum Medii Aevi) – authoritative index of medieval authors and works.
  • MEM (Medioevo musicale) – bibliographical bulletin on medieval music
  • RICaBIM (Repertorio di Inventari e Cataloghi delle Biblioteche Medievali)

2. DB italiani includes:

  • LIO (Lirica italiana delle origini)
  • BAI (Biblioteca agiografica italiana)

3. DB agiografici

  • MATER (Manoscritti agiografici di Trento e Rovereto)
  • MAGIS (Manoscritti agiografici dell’Italia del Sud)
  • BAI (Biblioteca agiografica italiana)

4. DB francesi

  • MAFRA (Repertorio dei manoscritti gallo-romanzi copiati in Italia)

5. Digitised Società Internazionale per lo Studio del Medioevo Latino (SISME) journals

over 1400 articles in pdf

  • Documenti e studi sulla tradizione filosofica medievale: an International Journal on the Philosophical Tradition from Late Antiquity to the Late Middle Ages. ISSN 1122-5750
  • Filologia mediolatina: Studies in Medieval Latin Texts and their Transmission. ISSN 1124-0008
  • Hagiographica: Journal of Hagiography and Biography of the Società Internazionale per lo studio del Medioevo Latino. ISSN 1124-1125
  • Iconographica: Journal of Medieval and Modern Iconography of the Società Internazionale per lo Studio del Medioevo Latino.
  • Itineraria: Travel Accounts and Knowledge of the World from Antiquity to the Renaissance. ISSN 1594-1019
  • Micrologus: Nature, Sciences and Medieval Societies. ISSN 1123-2560
  • Stilistica e metrica italiana. ISSN 1591-6693

Please note that the interface and help files are in Italian.

#newbooks in the HFL House of Commons 1604-1629 and 1820-1832

House of Commons books

We have two new sets of quick reference books in the History of Parliament series.   Further details about the books are available from the History of Parliament project website.

The links below will take you to their records on the SOLO catalogue.

These books are now nestling between other House of Commons texts in the HFL’s quick reference section at shelfmark B403 Hist in the Maitland Room.

(c) The History of Parliament

The History of Parliament project also has a corresponding free online resource.  It includes biographies of over 20000 Ministers of Parliament, more than 2800 constituency surveys and articles about various parliaments from 1386 to 1832.



Save Oxford Medicine Project catalogues papers from the Rhodes House Library

screenshot of blog

Newly catalogued papers from the Rhodes House Library

Three collections of personal papers from the Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies have recently been catalogued byt the Save Oxford Medicine Project and made available to researchers. The letters, written by British doctors and nurses working in various parts of Africa in the second half of the 20th century, were sent home to family and friends and contain striking first-hand accounts of their lives.
  1. Letters of Barbara Akinyemi who worked as a nurse in the UK during World War II and Nigeria in the 1940s and 1950s.
  2. Letters of Peter Bewes describing his work as a surgeon and lecturer in Uganda and Tanzania in the 1960s and 1970s.
  3. Letters and papers of Cyril Sims Davies, a doctor, describing life in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe from the 1960s to the 1990s.

Related links:

Anthony Sampson Project

Following on from the Bodleian’s 2011 Seminar Series: Authorship, Memory & Manuscripts and the information session of 14 February 2011, where archivists Chrissie Webb and Catherine Parker spoke about the papers of Anthony Sampson (1926-2004), herewith some details of the Sampson Project which is now complete.

Reproduced by kind permission of Methuen Publishing Ltd.

The Sampson Project catalogued the archive of Anthony Sampson, a journalist and writer. The collection reflects Sampson’s interests in South Africa and the anti-apartheid movement, politics, business and publishing, with a list of correspondents including some of the most famous names in 20th-century Britain and elsewhere.

Anthony Sampson (1926-2004) was an influential writer and journalist. He began his career in journalism in South Africa in 1951, editing the black magazine, Drum. There he met Nelson Mandela as the ANC was preparing for its Defiance Campaign against apartheid. On his return to England in 1955 he joined the Observer and published his first book, Drum: A Venture into the New Africa (1956). The work for which he is probably best known, Anatomy of Britain, an investigation of the workings of power in Britain, published in 1962, was an immediate success and was updated five times between 1965 and 2004. > More

> Catalogue of the papers of Anthony Sampson, c.1930-2011

> Selected images of the Sampson papers

Digital Microfilm – new from National Archives – DocumentsOnline

The National Archives

You may be interested in a new TNA initiative: Digital Microfilm. It allows you to search and download some of The National Archives’ most popular records, which were previously available on microfilm. Many of the records are indexes and these may be helpful in locating other relevant records. These records have not been indexed and so you will need to scroll through the pdfs, much as you would when using a microfilm.

The pdfs cover records from the mid-17th century to World War Two and include, amongst others, Home Office, Foreign Office, Admiralty, Cabinet and War Office papers.

This is also bookmarked on HFL Delicious pages.

Bodleian Libraries acquire Sir Edward Heath Archive

The Bodleian Libraries, with support from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) have acquired the archive of former Conservative Prime Minister, Sir Edward Heath (1916-2005).  It comprises almost 1,000 boxes and includes a rich and diverse collection of papers from his time in office, in the shadow cabinet, as well as personal papers from his early life including his time as an undergraduate at Balliol College, and his active role in student politics during the 1930s.

The archive has great research potential as it offers a range of primary sources for scholars and students with an interest in 20th century history and politics. Biographers will also be able to reveal less-known aspects of Heaths’ private life such as his distinguished war service, and of his passion for music and sailing.

More on this…