Stories from the Oxfam Archive: ‘Walking for a new Rwanda’

by Rosanna Blakeley, Archives Assistant, Saving Oxford Medicine

Doris M. Auclair’s sponsor form for ‘Walking for a new Rwanda’, March 1996
Doris M. Auclair’s sponsor form for ‘Walking for a new Rwanda’, March 1996

Work on the Oxfam archive is well under way. Phase I of the project started in January 2013, and is due to be completed in June 2014, and will be followed by two further phases finishing in 2017. The work falls under the umbrella of the Library’s Saving Oxford Medicine initiative, and has been generously funded by the Wellcome Trust.
As part of the first phase the project team has been appraising and cataloguing various communications materials, and within this section of the archive are a series of files entitled ‘Oxfam personalities’ from the former Press Office. In order to give you a glimpse of the variety of stories we are encountering in the archive, what follows relates to just one of these ‘personalities’: Doris Munganyinka Auclair.
Doris Auclair left Rwanda in 1962, aged 18, due to the conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi, and took refuge in Goma, Zaire – now the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, after more violence erupted, she came to Britain where she worked as a teacher and volunteered in one of Oxfam’s shops in Chiswick. She was not able to return to Rwanda until 1995, after 33 years absence. Doris had no idea whether any of her family had survived the violence in Rwanda up until this point, but discovered that only three out of her nine siblings were alive. Her father had also died in 1994. After this, Doris decided she had to do something to help.
She states on her sponsorship form for ‘Walking for a new Rwanda’,

Having seen their plight I could no longer justify spending petrol money to drive a car, so I decided to auction my very beloved 1966 VW Beetle at Sotheby’s and all the proceeds were donated to the Oxfam Rwanda Appeal.

‘Charlie’ the green Beetle, auctioned at Sotheby’s 18th September 1995
‘Charlie’ the green Beetle, auctioned at Sotheby’s 18th September 1995. (Bodleian Libraries, Oxfam Archive)
Sotheby’s advert for ‘Charlie’ the Beetle which states: ‘The proceeds of this lot will be donated to Oxfam’.
Sotheby’s advert for ‘Charlie’ the Beetle which states: ‘The proceeds of this lot will be donated to Oxfam’.. (Bodleian Libraries, Oxfam Archive)

Doris walked 360km from Goma in Zaire back to her former family home in Kibeho in Rwanda in March 1996. In the Oxfam archive there is a day-by-day diary account, handwritten by Doris, which reveals the mixed emotions that accompany a trip of this nature. The opening of this diary reads: ‘Walking for a new Rwanda Buhoro buhoro (slowly slowly)’. Another poignant entry dates from 3rd March, when Doris writes:

‘Got up at 6 am had a glass of water and started the walk at 6.30am it is very pleasant at this time of the [day] and the view along the Lake Kivu was spoiled mostly by the thought that land mines may be anywhere’.

During her walk Doris also visited Kigali, where there was an Oxfam office, and went to some schools in order to look into ways she could help with Rwanda’s devastated education system. On a post-it note stuck to a photograph Doris has written ‘some of the schools I visited in Kigali…many with broken windows and bare classrooms’. Doris also accompanied the deputy director of Oxfam Kigali to investigate repairs to water pumps in the area.
Doris has since been awarded an MBE for her services to Oxfam and was the treasurer for The Rwanda UK Goodwill Organization (RUGO). There are countless examples of the ‘personalities’ who tirelessly work for, and support Oxfam, and this is just one of the individual stories we are coming across everyday as we appraise, arrange and catalogue the Oxfam archive.

(Re)Constructing the Bodleian’s Index of Literary Correspondence; a post from the Cultures of Knowledge blog

The card index of literary correspondence, in Duke Humfrey's Library
The card index of literary correspondence, in Duke Humfrey’s Library

This recent post from Miranda Lewis, in the Cultures of Knowledge blog, delves into the history of the Index of Literary Correspondence. Kept in Duke Humfrey’s Library, this card index of sixteenth-, seventeenth-, and eighteenth-century correspondence in Bodleian collections became a core dataset for Early Modern Letters Online (EMLO), a union catalogue of correspondence from the early modern period.

Ghosts in the Machine: (Re)Constructing the Bodleian’s Index of Literary Correspondence, 1927-1963

Taking revenge on wicked Lord Byron – Chris Fletcher on a ‘Byronic trophy cabinet’

Keeper of Special Collections Chris Fletcher writes in the Spectator blog about the commonplace album kept by Lord Byron’s friends, the Parkyns family, Bodleian MS. Eng. c. 7967 …

Bodleian MS. Eng. c. 7967, a commonplace book kept by members of the Parkyns family
Bodleian MS. Eng. c. 7967, a commonplace book kept by members of the Parkyns family

Automated matching for early modern printed images

Image matching demo
Choose an area within the digital scan of an item.
Image matching demo
Highlight the chosen area
Image matching demo
Press ‘Search’
Image matching demo
Image matching software finds the illustration appears in multiple different items.

A demonstration of image matching software developed to enable scholars to compare printed images is now running in the Bodleian Library.

Alongside a display of broadside ballads printed in the 17th and 18th centuries is the 21st-century technology that reveals how early modern printers copied woodcut blocks to illustrate different publications.

At a lecture on Tuesday, December 4, in the library’s Convocation House, Giles Bergel (English Faculty) will be joined by Professor Andrew Zisserman and Relja Arandjelovic (Visual Geometry Group, Department of Engineering), to talk about how the software was applied to thousands of items from Bodleian Library collections of printed ballads.

See blogposts about image matching in the Bodleian Ballads blog.

Digital versions of Bodleian catalogues of manuscripts

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Now online: digital copies of the Quarto Catalogues of Ashmole, Canonici, Digby, Laud, Rawlinson and Tanner collections, and of Greek Manuscripts.
Now online: the digital copy of the Summary Catalogue of the Western Manuscripts holdings of the Bodleian Library received before 1915.

‘The Bodleian Library’s catalogues of manuscripts, and especially the many volumes of the Summary Catalogue of Western Manuscripts and its supplements, are among the most important research resources in the world for scholars: time spent reading them is never wasted. Now that they are freely available and searchable online, their value and usefulness are hugely increased.’ – Professor Henry Woudhuysen

*Link here to images of SC 29493.

The Bodleian’s original First Folio of Shakespeare

The Bodleian’s original copy of the First Folio of William Shakespeare’s plays is the subject of a campaign to stabilize the volume through a conservation program,digitize the volume, and publish it freely online. This “Sprint for Shakespeare” echoes an earlier effort, over a century ago, to ensure that the book would be housed in the library after a long period of absence from the library.

This copy of the first folio arrived in the Bodleian shortly after its publication in 1623 and was bound in Oxford. Then, in later decades, it left the library, though the date of its de-accession is not clear.

It reappeared only in 1905 when an undergraduate, G.M.R. Turbutt, brought into the library a copy of the first folio that was owned by his family. The preservation of the original binding demonstrated that this was the Bodleian’s original copy.

The story that this book’s own journey tells is recounted by Emma Smith (English Faculty, University of Oxford) in a lecture recorded [here].

The Bodleian Library at different times in its history has responded to a process which had begun as far back as the eighteenth century, in which copies of early books became prized by collectors and by scholars for their embodiment of physical evidence of the history of printing and book-ownership.

In her lecture Dr Smith outlines the work by Bodleian staff in the early twentieth century to purchase the volume in the face of competition from the American collector, Henry Clay Folger, determined to secure as many copies of the First Folio as possible for his library. The multiple copies of the First Folio that Folger did successfully acquire enabled the researches of Charlton Hinman in the 1940s, who collated 55 copies (of the over 200 surviving) to complete his study, The Printing and Proof-reading of the First Folio of Shakespeare (1963).

Information about this copy of the First Folio during its first residence in the Bodleian comes from Library Records, the library’s archive of its own history. Library Records e.528, the Bodleian Library Binders Book from 1621- 1624, contains the record of the Bodleian First Folio being sent to the binder Wildgoose in Oxford, on its arrival at the Bodleian. Library Records c.1259 – c.1262 and Library Records b.862 detail the research and publications of Falconer Madan, the sub-librarian in 1905, on the volume’s history, and the efforts by the librarian, E.W.B. Nicholson, to raise funds for the purchase of the volume in 1906.

Pictures on the “Sprint for Shakespeare” blog show why the volume has not been considered suitable for handling in recent years, and why conservation has been required simply to get it into shape for digital photography.

Read more about the conservation and digitization of the Bodleian’s original First Folio, here.

Affectionately yours, William Godwin – The Abinger Papers Conservation Project – Phase one.

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from Arthur Green, Conservation & Collection Care

The Abinger papers are a substantial part of three generations of the Godwin and Shelley family archive, and were the last third of the archive to remain in private hands. The papers were purchased by the University in 2004 with the support of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation, and other donors through a public campaign.

The collection consists of over 8000 letters and over 100 notebooks, and is the bulk of correspondence and journals of the novelist and political philosopher William Godwin, as well as items from other family members including Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Other significant items within the collection include letters from poets John Keats, William Wordsworth, and Lord Byron. The collection was catalogued in 2010 by Charlotte McKillop-Mash, and the conservation was made possible by a generous donation from Prof. Suzuna Jimbo.

The year-long conservation project has helped to stabilise fragile items and to improve safe access to a well used library resource. All of the 8646 letters are now safely housed in ‘fascicules’ and the notebooks all have custom made archival boxes. Fascicules are a purpose-made storage system devised at the Bodleian in the late 1970’s, whereby loose items of varying size are hinged into suitable sized single-section bindings.

Fasciculing has addressed many of the preservation needs associated with handling and storage. It eliminates the need for folding items, and reduces wear and tear by supporting each leaf when read, particularly the thin paper of the 189 ‘wet-transfer-copies’ within the collection. Wet-transfer-copying was developed by James Watt, and is a system of taking multiple copies of a letter from one original, by sandwiching a letter written with specially formulated ink, with a thin paper, and then pressing. William Godwin was an early adopter of James Watt’s invention and the Abinger wet-transfer-copies are a rare and important example of this technology.

Many items from the collection have been recently displayed in the exhibition “Shelley’s Ghost: Reshaping the image of a literary family” at the Bodleian Library and Wordsworth Museum in 2011, and currently at the New York Public Library.

Phase one of the conservation project was successfully completed in February 2012 by Arthur Green, with assistance from Joan Lee, and under the supervision of Robert Minte, in consultation with Bruce Barker-Benfield. Phase two of the project to conserve two of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s notebooks is scheduled to start soon and will be undertaken by Nicole Gilroy, Book Conservation supervisor.

How to reconstruct dispersed libraries…

from Marie-Eugénie Lecouffe (ENSSIB and CSB intern)

The conference “How the secularization of religious houses transformed the libraries of Europe, 16th-19th centuries” took place in Oxford from the 22nd to the 24th of March 2012 . During these three days, speakers from thirteen different countries worldwide painted a picture of the impact of religious houses’ closure all over Europe from 16th to 19th century on the fate of monastic libraries and their collections.

Some of these manuscript and printed books have been lost, some others preserved. Some of them have been kept in public libraries  – which have sometimes been founded at that point  –, some others sold to private collectors.  The result is: these collections are dispersed today…

But more and more attention is now paid to studying provenance evidence, and tools have been developed to allow the reconstruction of former libraries. A few of them were presented during the conference: Ricerca sull’Inchiesta della Congregazione dell’Indice dei libri proibiti (RICI); Material Evidence in Incunabula (MEI); Index Possessorum Incunabulorum (IPI); CERL Thesaurus (CT); Early Book Owners in Britain (EBOB); Medieval Libraries of Great Britain (MLGB3). We’ll focus here on the ones which anybody can actually use on the Internet. Indeed EBOB and MLGB3 – which is an electronic updated version of  Neil Ker’s Medieval libraries of Great Britain – are still works in progress and will only be available later.

RICI’s resource:

Le biblioteche degli ordini regulari alla fine del secolo XVI

This databank contains the transcription of  lists of books owned by member of Italian convents and monastery and acquired by the S. Congregazione dell’Indice dei libri proibiti from the publication of the Index librorum prohibitorum by pope Clement VIII in 1596 until 1603. These lists are today preserved in the codici Vaticani latini 11266-11326 and concern libraries of 31 male religious orders or books used by some of their individual members.

It allowes search into libraries (by Vatican manuscript, list, location or person) as well as bibliographical research (by author, title, publication date or edition). It’s also possible to combine both approaches. The access to the databank is free, although it requires a registration.

CERL’s resources:

The Consortium or European Research Libraries shares several resources to help searching into provenance information – which often are in catalogues entries as membra disjecta – and reconstructing former libraries.

CERL Thesaurus

The varying names of places and persons depending on countries are an important issue for anyone interested in the period of hand press printing (1450-c. 1830). CERL provides a thesaurus of  printing places, 700,000 personal names  and 10,000 institutional names.

Each record gives besides the various names in different languages some biographical information, if it’s a personal name,  pictures of the devices, if it’s a printer’s name, links to catalogues of the library where books are held today, if it’s previous owner name, georeferences, if it’s a place’s name. .

CERL member libraries as well as other libraries or projects are contributing to these authority files which enable to know which authority forms are used by which library. The CERL Thesaurus links together informations which otherwise would be dispersed.

Material Evidence in Incunabula

Created two years ago, this resource aims to trace the circulation and use of incunables across Europe. Through MEI, which is linked to the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC), one can search not only bibliographical records but also copy-specific notes. As far as possible, provenance evidences are geographically and chronologically identified and the previous owners are socially characterized.  Of course links to CERL Thesaurus allow further biobibliographical research.

Index Possessorum Incunabulorum

This index contains all the entries extracted by Paul Needham (Librarian of the Scheide Library, Princeton University Library) from 200 published catalogues of incunables and up-dated through his own research. It’s the best way to start a resarch for reconstructing a collection. For example the five case studies about evidence and provenance histories of monastic books now in the Bodleian Library,  published on this blog before the conference, base their lists of place where incunabula with the same provenance can be found today mostly on Paul Needham’s IPI.

What’s on the Bodleian Library?

All these initiatives must stimulate libraries more than ever to record and deliver the results of provenance research: they are now able to link different information together and to supply pictures… and pictures are often the easiest way to provide a “description” of provenance evidence and to make the connection between two unidentified monograms or coats of arms for example… Making provenance information available for users  is the topic I’m now dealing with  in the Bodleian Library.

Besides the provenance index of the Bodleian Incunable Catalogue which gives access to extended provenance information for Bodleian incunables, the card index created by the former antiquarian books librarian David M. Rogers (1917- 1995) is the main resource for provenance of the early printed books in Bodleian collections, that still remains outside the rare books catalogue records in the online catalogue.

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The cards provide name of the previous owner, institutional or individual, some brief information about this one, the shelfmarks of the Bodleian books from this provenance and the description of the evidence.   Sometimes a picture is supplied, as in the example shown here.

Inspired by the pictures on these cards, and by the example of other libraries,  I’ve been taking pictures  of provenance evidence in early printed books. The pictures which I’ve taken until now are shown, as an experiment, on flickr. It allows, among other things, the grouping together in sets of all the unidentified monograms or coat of arms, for example.  I’m also thinking about the right way of  supplying a short description with the picture (what information is essential?) and I’m trying to adopt some “standards” in these descriptions (from that point of view CERL’s resources are really helpful).

To conclude, I would just write: to be continued…

Anthony Sampson archive open

— from Chrissie Webb

The Library’s one year project to catalogue the papers of Anthony Sampson (1926-2004), writer and journalist, is now complete.

Sampson read English at Christ Church, Oxford, graduating in 1950. Undecided on a career, he went to South Africa in 1951 as business manager for the black magazine, African Drum. Within weeks he was promoted to editor despite having no journalistic experience. He became immersed in black culture at an exciting time in Johannesburg, and made many friends including Trevor Huddleston, Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo and Nadine Gordimer. He returned to England after four years but maintained a lifelong interest in South Africa, and in the anti-apartheid struggle. On his return he worked for the Observer as a journalist, under David Astor’s editorship. He reported on Harold Macmillan’s tour of Africa in 1960 and heard the ‘Wind of Change’ speech which disassociated Britain from the policy of apartheid. He was in South Africa at the end of the trial of Nelson Mandela and others in 1964, and advised Mandela on his defence speech. Many years later, after Mandela’s release, he wrote the authorised biography, Mandela (London, 1999).

He wrote over 20 books, mainly investigative journalism, but his major best-seller was the Anatomy of Britain (London, 1962), ‘a book about the workings of Britain – who runs it and how, how they got there, and how they are changing’. It was hugely popular, and five updates were published between 1965 and 2004.

In 1979-80 Sampson was editorial adviser to the ‘Brandt Commission’ on international development issues, working closely with Ted Heath, who later became a neighbour in Wiltshire. A few years later he was closely involved in the founding of the Social Democratic Party with friend and former fellow journalist, Shirley Williams.

Sampson’s correspondence and working papers provide intelligent writing, vivid insights, and first-hand experience of some key events of the 20th century, reflecting his wide-ranging interests throughout a full and varied career, The archive will be of interest to anyone studying late 20th century British politics; the workings of power through public institutions, private business and government; the politics of South Africa under the apartheid regime and after; and contemporary journalism and the history of journalism.

The papers can be consulted in the Bodleian’s Special Collections Reading Room and the catalogue can be viewed online: