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Salisbury library


A presentation given at the event "Conversations with Cataloguers" held at Cardiff University, 6th March 2012 : the history of the Salisbury Library, and issues around its classification and propsed …

A presentation given at the event "Conversations with Cataloguers" held at Cardiff University, 6th March 2012 : the history of the Salisbury Library, and issues around its classification and propsed reclassification

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  • Introduction (my dual role); a library within a library, with its own in-house classification scheme, planning to reclassify
  • Enoch Salisbury came from humble beginnings in Bagillt, Flintshire; around 1826 he was given a copy of the 1824 Welsh edition of “Robinson Crusoe”, and this was the beginning of his collection, which he continued for the next sixty years. Although he sold off a large number of books (not relating to Wales) and paintings in 1854, his collection continued to grow. It may have been one of the factors which caused him to get into debt in later life (business dealings also played a part).
  • Obsessive book collector in the subject areas of interest to him. He aimed at a comprehensive collection, and interpreted “Welsh interest” widely (e.g. authors of Welsh ancestry, however remote). Many books in English, so not exclusively a Welsh language collection. Includes large “Border Counties” collection (Cheshire, Shropshire, Herefordshire and Monmouthshire). (Today we would not need to justify including Monmouthshire in Wales!) – His letter reproduced in JWBS explains the Welsh history of Shropshire and Herefordshire and “Cheshire was so intertwined with the early history of North Wales, that I could not have kept it out”. Salisbury is a bit apologetic in his letter about this part of the collection – “”I should not now, act as I did in the past, if I had to commence the work de novo”, but he also says he has learnt much knowledge of [his] own country, “through the labours of these bastards” and that he learnt to “love” them. It’s an aspect of the collection which seems to have caused problems over the years: people can’t see why it is there. I do! Anyone with an interest in 19 th century Cheshire, and particularly Chester, would find it invaluable. Lots of hidden gems in it. His wife was also heavily involved in the selection and purchase of the collection; he says that after her death (in 1879) he lost interest in adding to it.
  • 1886: ES’s financial situation in crisis, and his whole book collection in the hands of the Official Receiver. The registrar of the new UCSWM, Ivor James, heard about this by chance over dinner with Lord Spencer (it was a secret), and he and the first Professor of Celtic at the college, Thomas Powel, set about trying to acquire it, visiting the Official Receiver (who was amenable) and asking the College Council to act. The Council considered this to be outside their remit, but James & Powel did not give up. In the meantime others had heard of the collection: the colleges at Aberystwyth and Bangor, and several interested private collectors including a couple from the USA. Bangor emerged as the main competitor, establishing a committee to try to secure the collection: its registrar wrote angrily to Ivor James: “What the dickens are you going to do with the Salisbury Library? We the North Wales people (not the College people) have made up our minds to secure it, and would have secured it were it not that you have been moving in this matter, and thus sent up the price … I wish you would retire from the field …” The University of Wales did not wish to see Cardiff and Bangor fighting over the collection, and Principal Viriamu Jones suggested sharing it between the two, but this Judgment of Solomon solution did not appeal (“I dislike the idea of breaking up the Library” (Powel)). Various sums were suggested - £800, £2500, £5000 (nobody really knew what value to put on it), letters & telegrams flew back & forth, an expert book collector opined that there “must be lot of rubbish” and suggested trying to buy items individually, and then by 9 th June the collection was bought by Cardiff for £1100, but without the 1567 Welsh New Testament which Salisbury kept back for his son. Ivor James believed the collection’s real value to be £20,000. (ca. £1.7 million in today’s money, as opposed to the purchase price of ca. £93,500, still a large sum for a new and not financially secure institution).
  • E. Salisbury’s letter to Ivor James makes plain that he hoped it would not be a static collection, but would continue to develop: “ I have but one hope left in relation to it, viz. – that the same public feeling which has enabled you to carry it away to Cardiff, may lead to its perfection … there are very many works to be added to it, which a private person never could secure, but which will now be readily acquired, for the use of a National Library”. At the same time, the Cardiff Free Library was embarking on its own remarkable book collecting, as we are to hear later. A letter in The Western Mail on 16 th June lamented the fact that the Corporation had not heard about the collection – “Located at the College, I am afraid that the books won’t be of much use except to an occasional student phenomenally eager for information”, whereas in the public library they would have been available to all. Times change! Cardiff however was not quite ready to think about this next step of establishing a National Library, and in a fairly bitter article in 1937 in the Welsh journal “Y Llenor” one of my predecessors J. Hubert Morgan complains of the lack of respect and reward given to librarians in Wales, and how the library was never seen as a priority for funding: money is spent on laboratories, he says, but not on the library, which is the laboratory of the arts. (Perhaps times don’t change!) Surprisingly, nobody was appointed specifically to take care of the collection until 1919. In 1905, when the idea of a National Museum and Library for Wales was being considered by the Privy Council, a bid was made by Cardiff : the plan was to build a joint museum and library in Cathays Park, and on offer as part of the deal was the Salisbury Library and the treasures of the public library which would all be transferred to the new building. In the “Memorial”, which we hold, there is a map showing the plans for where the National Library would have been: the land has still mostly not been built on (behind the museum and before Main College, in Park Place). It would certainly have outgrown the space by now if it had been built there! However, another obsessive Victorian book collector, Sir John Williams (1840-1926), a court physician, had been buying up whole collections himself since the 1870s, including the priceless Peniarth manuscripts. These were on offer to the new National Library of Wales if, and only if, it was built in Aberystwyth. The decision was made to split museum and library, with the museum going to Cardiff and the library to Aberystwyth, so Sir John Williams is the villain of the piece as far as Cardiff is concerned …
  • However, another obsessive Victorian book collector, Sir John Williams (1840-1926), a court physician, had been buying up whole collections himself since the 1870s, including the priceless Peniarth manuscripts. These were on offer to the new National Library of Wales if, and only if, it was built in Aberystwyth. The decision was made to split museum and library, with the museum going to Cardiff and the library to Aberystwyth, so Sir John Williams is the villain of the piece as far as Cardiff is concerned … … even if it is unlikely that he was really Jack the Ripper, as has been claimed! His collection is at the National Library, but written into the Charter is the condition that if the National Library ever leaves Aberystwyth his collection must be given to the university library there.
  • 20 th century fluctuations in teaching and research needs, some areas no longer relevant to them, but others have expanded in an unforeseen way. Overlap with Welsh & other schools. Separate Welsh History department disappeared; English now takes seriously the work of Welsh writers who write in English, which is a new departure. The Salisbury Collection has come to be seen as the preserve of WELSH, but it was never meant to be that.
  • ES’s original arrangement was by bookcase, with subdivisions by size and running numbers for individual items. These numbers can be found in his hand in many of his books, and one part of his collection, the “Border Counties” collection, retains it (although there are many gaps in the running numbers where items have been classified). I suspect that what remains is what was not thought important enough to classify. He used “W” as a prefix in front of everything (as did the public library): there seems to have been a period when other letters were used too, as there are many books with a “D” prefix still on them from some point in the past, but “D” had to be dropped when the collection moved to ASSL. The outline of the in-house scheme is simple (the subdivisions)
  • Each section uses the same very simple numerical subdivisions. It has never been entirely clear what “general” means, and it has tended to be a number to fall back on when all else fails.
  • The Welsh bit was clearly left to the end to allow more room for expansion. It has some similarities with the other parts but is more complicated (I won’t go into the whole thing). The arrangement probably reflects the relative strengths and weaknesses of the collection in the 1970s, but like other such schemes it did not foresee which subjects might expand. It also only allowed for Welsh literature, divided by century, to reach the 20 th (and used the next number for something else) – this caused heated debate when we reached the Millennium (Yma o hyd!) Over the years extra subjects have been shoehorned in.
  • Duplication, places where the scheme has been interpreted differently by different people
  • WG4.2 – many books at this number, and many of those are by people with the same surname so have the same letter (J, T, W) Examples of subjects which grew more than foreseen, all large and unwieldy. “Miscellaneous works”, not a very useful number! Also the use of WG40, originally intended to be roughly the equivalent of Z in LC, for anything that is for reference only (making a meaningless muddle on the shelves, much of it again with the same letter, particularly W)
  • Library of Congress is the scheme used in the rest of ASSL. The structure is similar, so single letters and double letters denote subjects which there then divided by numbers. More detailed, more flexible, can fit new subjects in. Many sites at Cardiff using a number of different schemes and local variations. We have been working towards more standardization for a number of reasons, although the great divide between LC and DDC is likely to remain. We get lots of complaints about the in-house scheme. Some of the difficulties people have with it are likely to be still there in LC (W, WA, WB is not really any different from P, PA, PB!) It is difficult for cataloguers, partly because of the lack of specific numbers and partly because the idea behind the collection as an entity is not always understood. Unless you use it a lot you are unlikely to become familiar with it, but there are obvious disadvantages to having only one or two people doing it.
  • LC hardly seems to know Wales exists, in some parts of the schedules. Often can subdivide by Scotland or Ireland but not Wales. Seem to expect to use a generic England and Wales number. (Not only Wales – United Kingdom doesn’t exist either!) Classification web seems to omit whole sections where there are 10 numbers each for England, Scotland, and Ireland and 10 numbers missing (which if you check the LC catalogue have obviously been used for Wales). Welsh history does not split up periods as much as we would like for a large collection, and significant Welsh people will tend to have been put in Great Britain numbers rather than Wales. Cutter numbers are likely to be a problem for us: in Cardiff we have only ever used a very simplified version of the Cutter tables, and we will still therefore have the surname problem, which is all the fault of …
  • Henry VIII and his Act of Union 1536; Bishop Rowland Lee is actually credited with the attempt to stamp out the Welsh patronymic system. The Act stated that all official documentation was to be in English, which led to the Anglicisation of names and hence our lack of variety of surnames. This will be a problem with whatever system is used.
  • The Salisbury Library was housed separately for its first 90 years, and only moved into the Arts & Social Studies Library in 1976. At that time it had lots of space on the top floor, including its own office and a separate issue desk, with its own staff. That separateness has gradually been eroded over the years as the collection has been squeezed into less space, the separate staff and issue desk have disappeared, and the office is now shared. The collection was the last part of the library to be part of the retroconversion programme, added to Libertas 1995-1997. In 2004 the creation of SCOLAR (Special Collections and Archives) on the lower ground floor took with it all that part of the collection published before 1900 (including all the books from the original collection), with some later valuable or fragile material. This has been good for preservation but not so good for access, and has also resulted in the collection being split in such a way that even colleagues have difficulty in understanding. A partial refurbishment in 2010, including the installation of mobile shelving for periodicals, has resulted in a wedge being driven between parts of the collection. The separate classification scheme helped to maintain the separate identity: this will be more difficult without it, especially as the physical space which the collection occupied has shrunk and is now less clearly defined.
  • It’s politically and economically difficult to defend this collection as it is, and it’s an unfashionable concept, yet it is the most famous part of the library outside the institution, and a part of the College’s history. It is unpopular with other staff who see it as taking up too much space and being difficult to manage (because the separate identity has been eroded). Modern tendency to separate teaching and research does not favour such a collection. Minority interests not best served by sweeping policies. If you hear the word “fair” in the context of anything Welsh, you can be sure it won’t be in the best interests of Welsh! Always means numbers. Last but not least, the influence of Debbie Shorley, or the “Imperial College” model: the bookless library, cataloguer-less library, subject librarian-less library … (I’ll get my coat now).
  • I’d like to finish with a quotation from Enoch Salisbury’s letter to Ivor James, 17 th June 1886, reproduced in the Journal of the Welsh Bibliographical Society (1937):


  • 1. Reclassification, collectionmanagement and ideas of nation: The Salisbury Library, Cardiff University Helen Price Saunders “Conversations with cataloguers” 6th March 2012
  • 2. Twitter• #ConvCats• @Ceridwen339
  • 3. Enoch Robert Gibbon Salisbury 1819-1890• MP for Chester 1857-1859• Businessman• Barrister• Book collector• Bibliophile• Bankrupt
  • 4. Enoch Salisbury’s books• Books in Welsh• Books about Wales• Books by Welsh writers• Books about the Marches, or Border Counties
  • 5. The Salisbury Library comes to Cardiff• Alleged bankruptcy of Enoch Salisbury• Secret machinations• The purchase in 1886• Special book train!
  • 6. Ideas of nation: a National Library?• A National Library • Memorial of the Corporation of Cardiff in waiting praying that his Majestys• Cardiff Public government may be recommended to appoint Library Cardiff as the site of the• 1905 and all that national museum and library for Wales (1905)
  • 7. Jack the Ripper?
  • 8. High and dry?Beached collectionsSalisbury Library and Cardiff’s rare books
  • 9. Classification• Enoch Salisbury’s • W Celtic original shelf marks • WA Irish• The ubiquitous “W” • WB Scottish• In-house scheme (Gaelic) • WC Manx • WE Cornish • WF Breton • WG Welsh
  • 10. The in-house scheme (W-WF)• 1 General• 2 Philosophy/theology• 3 History• 4 Geography• 5 Folklore/Mythology/Religion• 6 Law• 7 Music/Hymns• 8 Language• 9 Literature
  • 11. The in-house scheme: WG (Welsh)• Begins like the other sections but many more subdivisions• Subdivisions reflected collection at the time (mid 1970s?)• Additions and alterations, uneven growth• WG1-WG20, WG30-WG45, WG50• Range is from WG1-WG19 and WG40-45 only (upstairs), all numbers are in use in SCOLAR
  • 12. My favourite bad bits• WG1 General, Encyclopaedias etc.• WG45 Encyclopaedias• WG2 Philosophy & theology, general works• WG5.3 Works of theologians• WG5.4 Theological works in English
  • 13. More bad bits• WG4.2 History of Wales, 1485 to the present day• WG8 Economics & industries of Wales, & transport• WG9 Social conditions in Wales (Social reform, sport, media)• WG10 Politics• WG20 Miscellaneous works
  • 14. Library of Congress• Similar pattern of numbers and letters• More detailed scheme, easier to fit new subjects in, more specific numbers, consistency with the rest of the library• Standardization• Complaints about the in-house scheme• Clearing the way for outsourcing• BUT …
  • 15. Library of Congress : bad bits• “For Wales, see England”• Lack of focus for a special interest collection• Classweb omits some “Welsh” numbers altogether• Welsh history• Cutter numbers
  • 16. Classification problems•Henry VIII and Cutter numbers
  • 17. A collection with a separate identity?• Housed separately 1886-1976• ASSL 1976-• Creation of SCOLAR split the collection, 2004• ASSL refurbishment
  • 18. The (cold) wind of change• Collection Management policies: “one size fits all”?• Pressure of space• Minority interest• Imperial College London
  • 19. 17 June 1886 th“The loss of my books even is now sweetened to me by the reflection that they are safely housed within her borders, and that they will still be cared for by very loving hearts, some of whom will for years to come think tenderly of my own care for them, nor be likely to forget how they have been the chief comforts of my life. I rejoice to think that year by year they will be added to, and that within the walls of your College will hereafter be found the true history of our nation …”E. Salisbury
  • 20. References• The Western Mail, 15/6/1886 and 16/6/1886• James, B. (1988), “The Salisbury Collection”, New Welsh Review, Vol. 1 no. 2 pp71-73.• Keelan P. (1993), “Salisbury Library, Cardiff: Conspectus assessment”, Y Ddolen, Spring [14] [pp 1-3].• Keelan, P. (1996), “Salisbury Library, Cardiff: Welsh research collection to Celtic Internet database”, Library Review, Vol.45 issue 3 pp.6-20.• Morgan, J.H. (1937), “Y Salesbury”, Y Llenor, Vol. 16 pp39-51.• Morgan, J.H. (1937), “A letter from a book collector: E.R.G. Salisbury”, Journal of the Welsh Bibliographical Society, Vol. 5 no. 1 pp33-40.