Georgian lady borrowers at the University of St Andrews

I have just contributed a blogpost to a research project blog that is hosted by the University and Stirling. The project is called, Books and Borrowing 1750-1830: an Analysis of Scottish Borrowing Records. There are a large number of participating partners – visit this page to find out more.

I revisited Miss Elizabeth Lambert (later Mrs Williams), Mrs Bertram and her daughters, and Principal Playfair’s daughter, Janet. Here’s the blogpost:-

7 Pieces of Music to be Arranged: Women Borrowers and the First Female Cataloguer of the St Andrews Copyright Music Collection

Lambeth Palace Library fit for the 21st Century

I saw reference to Lambeth Palace’s long-awaited new library on Twitter. (My thanks to Ely Cathedral’s Honorary Assistant Bishop, Graham Kings, for sharing the link – we’re not acquainted, but credit where credit is due!) Revd. Kings shared the link to a new Church Times article, which I shall share here now, for the benefit of all followers of the Claimed From Stationers Hall legal deposit music network.

Church Times, 19 March 2021. “Declan Kelly talks to Tim Wyatt about the new Lambeth Palace Library building”

Archbishop’s library fully public at last

Full citation:-

Why am I interested? Well, Sion College was a college (essentially a social club) for London clergy, and it used to be entitled to receive legal deposit publications under copyright legislation. Some of the old legal deposit material from Sion College subsequently went to Lambeth Palace library. Even though Sion had long ago jettisoned the music before passing on book stock to Lambeth Palace, it’s wonderful to see the new facilities here. I haven’t added this link to our network bibliography, since it isn’t really connected to what we were researching – but it’s still to good to see the ‘long tail’ of the story – the ‘what happened next’.

I don’t have permission to share the picture at the head of the Church Times article. However, you can see it in all its glory at the link that I’ve shared.

Another Christmas Delivery: Article in Catalogue and Index issue 201, Dec 2020

Again with perfect timing, my ‘Cinderella’ article is just published in my professional organisation CILIP’s Catalogue and Index issue 201 (December 2020). This originated as a conference paper that I gave earlier this Autumn. It’s open access, so you can read it online right away. (I shall be adding it to our RCS Institutional Repository as well, goes without saying!)

‘The Cinderella of Stationers’ Hall: music (and metadata) in Georgian legal deposit libraries’


A visit to see the University of St Andrews’ Copyright Music collection led to my undertaking research into the history and contents of several hundred bound volumes of music. They’re intriguingly supported by contemporary Georgian and Victorian borrowing records, allowing us to see exactly who borrowed what, and when. We can piece together some details about how exactly the materials were borrowed, and the archives even hold a handwritten catalogue dating from 1826, which would have shown borrowers what was bound into the individual volumes.

However, since St Andrews was only one of a number of legal deposit libraries in this era, this raised the question as to what the others did with the music they were entitled to. An AHRC grant enabled me to pursue this further by founding the Claimed From Stationers’ Hall research network.

Modern catalogues became a prime research tool, enabling the network to explore what survives to the present day. However, it soon became apparent that not all libraries retained – or even claimed – music that was registered at Stationers’ Hall. Moreover, it has recently come to light that when music was added to stock, or when cataloguing took place, some interesting decisions were made by our Georgian and Victorian predecessors. Furthermore, early 21st century funding for retrospective online cataloguing failed to cover all the surviving music.

Inspired by a British Library big data project looking at British music published over the centuries, I had aspirations for a big data analysis of surviving legal deposit music, but the incomplete availability of automated catalogue records means that this ambition is currently not feasible, although cataloguing is still being updated, and the time may come when such a project can be revisited.

In the meantime, this research demonstrates the value of library cataloguing metadata not only in enabling readers to trace particular publications, but also for exploring a large corpus of music that was originally accepted by libraries almost as a by-product, of considerably less importance than the learned tomes which the universities were keen to claim for their students and professors’ use. You could say that Cinderella has at last made it to the ball!

A Christmas Delivery: Article in Journal of the Edinburgh Bibliographical Society

With impeccable festive timing, two copies of the latest EBS journal popped through my door this morning. The first article is mine, a major output from my research for the AHRC-funded Claimed From Stationers Hall network, for which I won grant-funding a couple of years ago.

‘A Music Library for St Andrews: use of the University’s Copyright Music Collections, 1801-1849’, in Journal of the Edinburgh Bibliographical Society no.15 (2020), pp.13-33. The final proof copy is uploaded on Pure, our RCS institutional repository, though it won’t be visible to the naked eye until the input has been authorised, so you won’t be able to see it straight away.


The author’s researches into the Copyright Music Collection at the University of St Andrews led, inevitably, to the Library’s Receipt Books, in which all loans were recorded, whether to professors, students, or “Strangers” – friends of the professors who borrowed under the names of obliging academic staff.

Several thousand pages later, every music loan between 1801 and 1849 has now been logged.  Notwithstanding the difficulties of inferring much detail from over 400 Sammelbände (ie, bound collections of multiple items), there are still many interesting observations to be made.

This paper explores findings to date, outlining the progress of the author’s research into a field in which music and library history meet, thereby shedding light on early nineteenth century musical activities in a small university town.

Sion College: a Postscript

I have just learned that Anna James, who was for a few years cataloguer at Lambeth Palace Library, wrote her University College London Masters Thesis on Sion College’s history, in 2007.  Part of the dissertation became a paper given to CILIP’s Library and Information History Group in 2013, and that section formed the basis of an online paper on Anna’s Academia page.  Although music isn’t mentioned in this version, we nonetheless learn an enormous amount about the college, so this is a valuable contribution to the field.  I’ll add a link to our network bibliography at the earliest opportunity.

(It’s worth noting that Mr Greenhill (of Stationers’ Hall) sent lists of new publications to all the legal deposit libraries, and Sion College’s lists are still extant, like those at some of the other libraries.  But Sion’s music – as I’ve already noted – is long gone!)

Sion College Library: Vade fac similiter, by Anna James (2016)

(You do need to sign up to Academia to be able to download the pdf – however, there’s no need to populate your new account with your own writings if you don’t wish to!)

Image sourced from Lambeth Palace’s website.

Silence in the Pecha Kucha

I’ve already mentioned that I would be attending Icepops 2019 at the University of Edinburgh yesterday – a conference about copyright literacy, and providing appropriate training to students, researchers and other staff colleagues.

(Icepops = International Copyright-Literacy Event with Playful Opportunities for Practitioners and Scholars).

My challenge was to deliver a Pecha Kucha which mentioned my research into historical legal deposit music, and ALSO touched on library user education into matters pertaining to copyright.  ‘Silence in the Library: from Copyright Collections to Cage’, did just that.  I have never spoken about John Cage’s controversial piece, 4’33” before.  Neither have I deliberately inserted six seconds of silence into a format DESIGNED for brevity and concision!  If you Google how many words you can fit into 20 seconds, you’ll find it’s just 60 words.  That’s if you don’t use long words!  So giving up a third of a slide to silence was, I felt, a calculated risk, but how else was I to demonstrate what you might hear during a silent episode?!  All went well, and my calculations worked out – what a relief!

The conference was about a playful (lusory) approach to copyright education.  In that regard, I discussed how Cage’s piece – silent though it was – still has copyright in the concept, and how students could be encouraged to contemplate how intellectual property can reside in the most unlikely situations – whilst also pointing out that 4’33” cannot be performed or even hinted out without dire legal consequences.  You don’t believe me?  I’ll put my presentation on our Pure institutional repository, and you can follow the references for yourself!

I mentioned playing the piano during the evening social?  Oh boy, did we play?! I wasn’t alone – there was also a clarinet duet, and I staggered through a piano duet, unknown to both of us, with one of the (multi-talented) clarinet duo.  The same clarinettist, on clarinet, kindly gave the premiere performance of a piece I’d recently written. That was definitely a first – I’ve never had an instrumental composition (as opposed to an arrangement) of my own performed publicly before.

Definitely an out-of-the-ordinary conference, then.  I seem to be making a habit of this!  Better get back to the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, now …

Recommended! Tall Tales: Secrets of the Tower

Eves, Reginald Grenville, 1876-1941; Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (1880-1960), PRIBA, OM, RA, RGM
Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, Tower architect – image from RIBA/ArtUK

Here’s a fantastic webpage devoted to the exhibition that Cambridge University Library mounted last year.  It’s an excellent read, and I’ve got the link saved for addition to the next update of our network music legal deposit bibliography.  But I can’t wait to share it with you, so here it is – for your mindful enjoyment:-

(I confess, I have just sauntered via the Amazon page to buy Stephen Fry’s novel, The Liar (2004) for my Kindle.  It’s set in the University Library.  But that’s for leisure reading, so I must leave it aside for a while!)

Golden Triangles? In Legal Deposit Libraries? Well, after a fashion!

Collage map golden triangles legal deposit

This isn’t about mathematical golden triangles!

The other day, I decided to make a map of the UK’s Georgian legal deposit library locations. Yes, I know – it’s a strange way to interpret a serious research project, but I wanted an illustration that would have impact for an audience,  not all of whom may know as much about legal deposit as I now do!  So, first I thought about making a patchwork map, but after experimenting with lines on a map, I concluded that it would be such a weird piece of patchwork that maybe I needed to come up with a Plan B.

A collage map seemed more feasible, and I thought I’d mark out where the legal deposit libraries were by linking them together and then appliqueing the shape that resulted. And there they were – a triangle in England (London-Oxford-Cambridge) and a triangle in Scotland (Glasgow-Aberdeen-Edinburgh, with St Andrews sitting on the line between Aberdeen and Edinburgh).  Finally, there were the new arrivals of two legal deposit libraries in Dublin from 1801 onwards (Trinity College and Kings’ Inns) – I couldn’t force them into a triangle, but I gave them one anyway.  So there it was – the three triangles formed another triangle, and I had my graphic illustration.

But why the big gap in the middle with no legal deposit libraries? Ah, that’s probably because there weren’t any university libraries old enough to be considered when legal deposit was established at the beginning of the 18th century!  As a graduate of Durham myself, I thought it was a shame that we missed out on this privilege, but the fact is that although Durham Hall became Durham College back in 1286, it was actually founded by the University of Oxford, eventually becoming Trinity College, Oxford in 1555.  The University of Durham and University College weren’t founded until 1832, and  the Royal Charter was granted to the University by King William IV in 1837. (All dates from the University website.)  By the time Durham had its university, widespread legal deposit was about to be curtailed, and the Library Deposit Act had already been enacted a year before its Royal Charter was granted.  “Too late”, as a Scottish friend put it succinctly!  (Similarly, the Victoria University of Manchester was formed as a medical school in 1824, but did not become a university until even later, in 1851.)

So, the harsh facts are that there weren’t any old-established universities between the southern golden triangle and the Scottish one, at the time the legislation was enacted! And that’s why the legal deposit libraries were scattered around the UK and Ireland as they were.

Enthusiasm in Edinburgh

Edinburgh Alison House Nicholson Square Historic Environment Scotland image



My research lecture at Edinburgh University went well last week (though I say it myself!) – I was delighted to have received such a warm reception.  Here’s my powerpoint, also uploaded to the Calendar tab of this blog.  It was good to have the opportunity to give a talk focusing on a collection (well, what’s left of the legal deposit music!) that hasn’t had a great deal of exposure before, and I was absolutely delighted to make the acquaintance of a former Edinburgh academic who is probably the only person to have investigated Edinburgh’s legal deposit music in a systematic way.  Apart, of course, from Hans Gal’s bibliographic efforts, which noted some but not all of the Reid Music Library’s contents dating pre-1850.  I’m about to start reading some notes that I was generously given after my lecture – it’s a great privilege to be given them.

Whilst St Andrews has its magnificent collection and all the related documentation and archival material, I’m keen to stress that Edinburgh has different strengths: not nearly as much legal deposit music, but an entire historical musical instrument collection, and the wonderful St Cecilia’s Hall which not only exhibits them, but also offers unique performance spaces.  Nothing would make me happier than to learn that students were inspired to explore the music on the historical instruments!  Early printed music is fascinating in musicological terms, but bringing it back to life in terms of sound is something special – as the Sound Heritage network has been keen to demonstrate in many wonderful ways.

Next stop, meetings in Dublin and London – and then the EFDSS conference.  Better get writing again!