Tag Archives: library history

Celebrating Professional Librarians

Ducarel portrait

As a young man, Ducarel was blinded one eye, which is why it appears cloudy in this portrait. From A Series of above two hundred Ango-Gallic, or Norman and Aquitain coins… (London, 1757). 

On Wednesday, 14 July, the United States Senate confirmed Dr. Carla Hayden as the new Librarian of Congress. In addition to being the first woman and the first African-American to hold the post, she is also the first professional librarian to head the Library of Congress in more than 60 years. Most of the previous appointees have been scholars or writers who did not necessarily hold professional qualifications as librarians. (In the United States, this means a master’s degree in Library and Information Studies from an ALA-accredited programme). Inspired by this historic appointment, today’s blog post looks at another noteworthy librarian, Andrew Coltee Ducarel, who was the first professional librarian of Lambeth Palace.

Andrew Ducarel was born in Paris on 9 June 1713 to a family of Huguenots from Normandy. Fleeing from persecution in France, his family stayed briefly in Amsterdam before settling in England in 1721. After studying law at Oxford and Cambridge, Ducarel was admitted to the College of Advocates (Doctors’ Commons) in November 1743. It was at Doctors’ Commons that he first tried his hand at library work, serving as its librarian from 1754-1757 in addition to his regular legal work.

Ducarel had a keen interest in history and antiquities, and was admitted to the Society of Antiquaries at the the age of twenty-four. Throughout his life, he published several tracts on English and Norman antiquities, especially coins and medals. He was elected a member of the Society of Antiquaries of Cortona in 1760, a fellow of the Royal Society in 1762, of the Society of Antiquaries of Cassel in 1778, and of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in 1781.

numismatics illustration

Ducarel’s antiquarian interests included numismatics, the study of coins and medals. Illustration from Ducarel’s A Series of above two hundred Ango-Gallic, or Norman and Aquitain coins… (London, 1757).

In March 1754, Archbishop Thomas Herring asked Ducarel to prepare an account of Croydon Palace and its surroundings. Assisted by his friend, Edward Rowe Mores, Ducarel presented the Archbishop with a manuscript copy of “Some account of the town, church, and archiepiscopal palace of Croydon” in 1755. (It was not published until 1783.) While preparing the research for this account, the two men spent several weeks in Lambeth Library, sorting and labelling nearly 2000 old records.

At least partly thanks to his work with the Lambeth records in 1754-1755, Ducarel was formally appointed to the position of librarian at Lambeth Palace in 1757, for which he received a salary of £30 per annum. Ducarel was the first layperson appointed to the position, and would become its longest-serving librarian, working under five archbishops over twenty-eight years, until his death in 1785.

Ducarel bookplate

Cardiff University holds two books with Ducarel’s armorial bookplate.

Although the post had previously been viewed as a stepping-stone on the path to greater preferment, Ducarel made caring for the library his life-long occupation. He continued the work of organizing and cataloguing its records, but also acquired, accessioned, and arranged for the binding of new books, pamphlets, and manuscripts; he dealt with visitors and enquiries, drew up surveys and reports in support of the building’s maintenance and repair, and researched the history of the palace and library. Ducarel frequently turned to his antiquary friends for assistance in writing the tracts which bear his name, preferring to devote his attention to organising and indexing the holdings of the library.

After his death. Many of Ducarel’s personal books and manuscripts were left to his friends Richard Gough and John Nichols, and were later sold at auction in 1786. Today, the bulk of his library is divided between Lambeth Palace, the British Library, and the Bodleian Library at Oxford, but at least two volumes from Ducarel’s library now reside at Cardiff University. One of these volumes is Dugdale’s Origines juridiciales (London, 1671). The other is a collection of seven tracts by Ducarel, including his first published work, A tour through Normandy, described in a letter to a friend (London, 1754), four Four letters concerning chesnut and other trees, and biographical notes on Browne Willis. Of the seven tracts, two have not previously been recorded in the English Short Title Catalogue

Table of Contents

This volume from Ducarel’s personal library contains seven of his own tracts bound together with a handwritten contents list.

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A disappointed bibliographer: the revenge of Ifano Jones

As a rule, libraries do not encourage people to write on books. With the passage of time, however, marginalia and other personal annotations become more interesting and can sometimes shed light on past events.

In Cardiff University’s Salisbury Library there are three copies of “The Bible in Wales”, a publication brought out in a limited edition of six hundred copies by the Libraries Committee of Cardiff Corporation in 1906 in connection with its successful, and thoroughly researched, exhibition of Bibles. No author’s name appears on the title page, but in the preface John Ballinger, then the chief librarian at Cardiff and subsequently first librarian of the National Library of Wales, claims responsibility, acknowledging the help of various assistants including James Ifano Jones who, he says, “collated and arranged” the “materials” for the bibliography. That, at least, is what the printed version of the book says! We recently noticed that one of our copies is heavily annotated in ink by its previous owner, Ifano Jones himself:

Ifano2

It is not too difficult to read between the lines here. Sir John Ballinger, as he later became, had worked his way up from becoming a library assistant in the Cardiff Public Library at 15, librarian of Doncaster at 20 and returning to Cardiff in 1884 as chief librarian at the age of 24 (library careers were rather different then!) He was not a Welsh speaker, but he generally gets the credit for building up an impressive Welsh library in Cardiff (as well as the beginning of the rare books collection now at the University). A famous catalogue of the Welsh collection was published in 1898, and subsequent works including this volume in 1906 all must have helped his cause once the decision had been made to found a National Library of Wales. Cardiff, of course, originally expected that the National Library would be there, and John Ballinger would surely have been expected to be appointed. The decision to put the National Library in Aberystwyth instead did not change the situation: Ballinger was duly appointed, and took up his post in 1909.

It has long been thought that Ifano Jones felt that he did not receive due recognition for his work. His own background was in printing, and he had a thorough knowledge of the history of the Welsh printing industry. Unlike Ballinger, he was a Welsh speaker, deeply involved in Welsh cultural life. He was appointed as an assistant in the public library, with special responsibility for the Welsh collections: possibly he felt that Ballinger took the credit for much of what he had done. Ifano Jones was not appointed National Librarian, nor did he become chief librarian at Cardiff when Ballinger left for Aberystwyth, but he did succeed in being known as “The Welsh Librarian, Cardiff”, which is how he appears on the title-page of his “History of printing and printers in Wales …” (1925), still a standard work.

Interestingly, as well as exacting posthumous revenge on Ballinger by leaving us his thoughts in ink, Jones has attached a clipping about himself from The Western Mail, dated 20 January 1909. The newspaper story gives his work at Cardiff the prominence which he clearly felt was his due, and the date is significant, as this was the very month in which John Ballinger took up his appointment as National Librarian. One cannot help wondering whether Ifano Jones himself was the source of the newspaper story.

Ifano

Library history: not just old book stamps

I’m currently cataloguing SCOLAR’s collection of archives relating to the history of Cardiff University Library. It contains the usual types of records you’d expect to find in an organisation’s archives – annual reports, correspondence, minutes, accounts, building plans and personnel records, as well as records specific to the library’s function, such as catalogues, user statistics, readers’ surveys, staff newsletters, and registers for requisitions, accessions, donations, and binding.

The archives do not just consist of paper records – there are slides and audio cassettes used for 1970s library inductions; a gold key used to open the Draper’s Library in 1909, library bookplate printing blocks, a framed Concrete Society prize, awarded in 1976 for the Arts and Social Studies Library (right), and yes, old book stamps.

I have been asked – why keep such archives? Would anyone want to consult ‘201/1/3/1/1 – Inter-Library loan receipts, 1936-37’? Many would be surprised to hear that library history is in fact a thriving academic field, connected to related social history disciplines such as information history, the history of the book, computing history, provenance studies and the history of reading. The archive has recently been consulted by a postgraduate student at Université de Caen, Basse-Normandie, who has written his dissertation on the history of Cardiff University Library, and kindly deposited a copy with us to aid future research.

My favourite item in the collection is a 1980 manual for one of the first personal computers, with enclosed original ‘punch-cards’. These computers processed very basic data stored on stiff card, which had with holes punched in pre-defined positions. Every position represents a single binary digit or ‘bit’ of information: no hole=0, hole=1. It serves to remind me just how far technology has advanced in the last 30 years.

The forthcoming British Librarianship and Information Work 2006-2010 will feature a chapter on Library History authored by Katie Birkwood. If you know of conferences whose proceedings have not (yet) been published, online projects, resources and databases that might not be mentioned in the traditional literature, or any particular trends that you have noticed in recent years and think are worthy of note (ideally with supporting evidence!), Katie needs you!