THE BRITISH LIBRARY

American Collections blog

7 posts from July 2010

30 July 2010

What you won't be reading on your Kindle, part 2

Coffeestains2 
Some time ago I wrote a blog about some work I was doing to assist our Conservation team with a survey on modern materials. Although the survey has long been completed, I’ve continued to make a note of any interesting or ‘different’ materials used by book artists that I come across so that I can have them up my sleeve for any future surveys. A recent visit from Maddy of Central Booking left me with several new acquisitions, one of which definitely falls into this category, offering a novel variation on the coffee table book –  a book made of coffee. 

Martha Hayden’s accordion fold book Coffee Stains (2009) not only provides information on the ‘health benefits’ of coffee drinking (something I was very pleased to read!), but is also made from coffee products. By apparently dipping her brush in a cup of coffee by accident, Martha discovered that it makes an excellent wash and started to experiment using various different strengths of coffee. But it’s not just the illustrations that are made from coffee. The book is ‘constructed of paper made from a 100% mixture of post-consumer paper and coffee content,’ and the paper is coloured by using brewed coffee and coffee skins from El Salvador. The distributor of the paper – Costa Rica Natural Paper, is ‘committed to the idea of environmental and sustainable development’ and donates a percentage of its paper sales to support research in this area. The cover of the book is made from Lokta paper from Nepal, which comes from a bush rather than a tree, is acid free, environmentally friendly and provides an income for the villagers in remote areas of the Himalayas. So, a book about coffee, made of coffee, and which is eco-friendly. Our conservators will love it.

[C.H.]

28 July 2010

Monticello and the Great Pumpkin

[M.S. writes] Yesterday brought sad news of a tragic culling of pumpkins in my colleague Jerry's shared garden.  His young daughter had been carefully growing some of these fine american plants, but discovered that the pumpkin patch had been destroyed by a zealous neighbour.

Images_Online_008946
[N.Tab.2004/11, plate 23]

Thankfully, Thomas Jefferson took a keen interest in gardening, and this tradition continues to this day at Monticello.  On a recent visit, I brought back five packets of seeds (the maximum allowed by HM Customs, as long as they are not potato seeds, which risk being blighted).

As a result, I've been living off kale and lettuce, which are growing in zinc drink bins outside my window.  Six pots of pumpkins have also been making their viney way along the fence, and one of these is now on its way north with Jerry...

27 July 2010

War Logs Again

[J.J writes]

Last month, when our Chief Executive announced plans to digitize swathes of the British Library’s Newspaper collection in collaboration with Brightsolid she used the well known saying that 'newspapers are the first draft of history.' 

As news broke this week of the leak of 92,201 internal US military records relating to the war in Afghanistan between 2004 and 2009, the journalists at the Guardian, the New York Times and the German magazine Der Spiegel who received these logs found themselves working on this 'first draft' on an epic scale; a modern-day echo of the 1971 leak of the Vietnam 'Pentagon Papers' to the New York Times.

As someone who regularly deals with government documentation, albeit generally somewhat older in origin, it appears that at the very least a portion of this documentation would have been made available in the fullness of time, particularly when one considers the recent overhaul to the US Government’s document classification system (see my blog post 17 February 2010). 

A quick look at the Digital National Security Archive database will uncover a range of US foreign policy decisions.  One document, dating from September 1952 entitled 'Guatemalan Communist Personnel to be disposed of during Military Operations of Calligeris', grabbed my attention. It lists 58 names, all of which have been redacted and are classified as 'Category I - persons to be disposed of through Executive action.' Executive action is of course a CIA euphuism for assassination.

Today, the editorial pages of our papers will offer us a first draft of history based on material that in usual circumstances be classified of at least seventy years.  The question is, can anything be learned from this first draft?  While they are novel in the extent to which they pull back the curtain of secrecy, their contents surely do not differ from what we sadly know to be true about war.

[M.S. adds]

The nature of the leak is also novel but increasingly familiar: WikiLeaks has become a feature of our age.  But it is also one that senses the need for partnership with 'old media'.  As David Michon comments on the Monocolumn ('Young upstart WikiLeaks turns to the old guard'), 'wanting to make a splash, and surely spread its workload, this new media platform turned to the powerhouses of print, with reputations built over decades of accurate reporting – plus a habit of digesting major reports for public consumption.'

21 July 2010

Mark Twain's Autobiography

[M.S. writes] Last week, Carole and I were pleased to be invited to a reading and discussion at the English Speaking Union, thanks to the U.S. Embassy.  The event marked Granta magazine's publication of a long excerpt from Samuel Clemens' reminiscences, which are due to be published in full this autumn after a century-long embargo.

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[10604.i.18, plate XXI]

Bonnie Greer and Robert McCrum gave a U.S. (and Southern) and U.K. perspective, the audience provided some Southern context, and Kerry Shale channelled Huck and Clemens perfectly.  John Freeman(modestly introduced himself as 'just a guy', but also a guy who currently edits Granta) graciously kept the discussion moving along.  We also learnt that 'Mark Twain' echoes the call of safety made as ships reached the second fathom.  The only problem was that the power of Clemen's writing (which sounded powerfully modern, perhaps one reason for the emargo, as if Twain's literary ability could not be recognised in his own time because of his popularfame) summoned up such mouthwatering images of food and home-style cooking, our stomachs were rumbling.

We look forward to the full publication of the autobiography, and swear to revisit Twain's oeuvre.  Meanwhile, here's a rather grainy picture:

Twainblog 
  

13 July 2010

Cricket in the Collections

Having recently had reason to go through the Library’s cricket holdings for the Caribbean and Canada it seemed appropriate to post some notes about them here. Cricket is not only a dynamic and globally popular sport, but it also has an important place in nineteenth and twentieth century history.

Cricketers on the George Town Parade Ground

(Cricketers on the George Town Parade Ground, 1866, An Illustrated History of British Guiana, 10470.i.3) 

Cricket in the Caribbean has long had a political element and the sport has been played by some of the key thinkers and actors in Caribbean politics in the twentieth century and provided opportunities for them to travel and share their ideas with a wide audience. This is illustrated not least by Learie Constantine and C. L. R. James who spent long periods of time in Lancashire and London as a result of their cricket connections. Both James’s and Constantine’s writings on cricket and racial politics are available in the Library, with works such as Beyond a Boundary (James, 1963 [Shelfmark: 7926.n.25]), Cricket and I (Constantine, 1933 [Shelfmark:2271.d.15]) and Colour Bar (Constantine, 1954 [Shelfmark: W49/1369 DSC]) available, along with many works by other notable authors. Furthermore, these materials are well supported by the newspaper collections and Sound Archive which contain articles and recordings by and relating to both men.

Our collections also illustrate the changing face of cricket over at least the last hundred and fifty years. The publication Cricket Across the Sea; or, the Wanderings and Matches of the Gentlemen of Canada, 1887 (Toronto: 1887 [Shelfmark: 07926.b.9]) is an account of the Canadian Men’s Cricket successful tour of England in 1887. Given the success outlined in this work and the prevalence of publications such as The Canadian Cricketer’s Guide (St. Catharine’s: 1858) one can see that Canadian cricket has fallen on harder times, as has American cricket which is also noted in the collection. And, as you can see from, The American Cricket Annual for 1890 (New York: 1891 [Shelfmark: P. P. 2523. fd]), I’m not getting confused with baseball.

Given the continued pace of change within cricket in the twenty-first century, we can learn a lot from these collections as they illustrate the ebb and flow as well as the significance of the sport during the preceding two centuries.

[P. J. H.]

12 July 2010

Argentinian Endangered Archives Accessions

The Endangered Archives Programme helps to preserve global cultural heritage that is at risk. It is based within the BL, and there is an informative blog: the most recent post of which includes a short report on the Museum of La Plata and three images of the preserved plate glass negatives.  The collections are now available for access.

This has also given me the excuse to spend a bit of time on the EAP website, which also includes a google map, which gives a great sense of range of the programme.  Fascinating, and important, stuff.


[M.S.]

01 July 2010

Happy Birthday Canada

Fathers_of_Confederation_LAC_Canada 
Photograph of painting by R. Harris (1884) The Fathers of Confederation. Image by J. Ashfield (1885) and courtesy of Library and Archives Canada 

Today is Canada Day, meaning that the country is now 143 years old if you take the initial British North America Act of 1867 as a starting point. It is worth noting that contemporary Canada was not created by the Act, instead it founded the Dominion of Canada which evolved into the country we know today.

The British Library's Canadian collections contain a great deal of material about the founding and development of Canada in the form of manuscripts, government publications and commentaries from various Canadian and international perspectives. If you are interested to find out more our Help for Researchers guides are a good place to start, as is the Act itself. This is held in the British Laws and Statutes of Victoria, 30. Vict. Ch. 3 (Shelfmark: C. S. E. 41/11).

Another way to express your interest in the foundation of Canada would be to head down to Trafalgar Square today. Canada Day in London  is a celebration being held in the Square from 10:30am until 10:30pm and it offers an opportunity to experience some of the sights, tastes and smells of Canada in the heart of London. With the weather being so good I would highly recommend it.

[P. J. H.]