Dr Ruth Frendo , our Archivist, has been made aware of the following opportunity in the US:
This summer, Rare Book School at the University of Virginia will be offering 37 of its intensive, five-day courses focused on the history of manuscript, print, and digital materials. We are especially pleased to highlight H-80: The Stationers’ Company to 1775, taught by Ian Gadd (Professor of English at Bath Spa University and President of SHARP, 2013–17). The course runs 2–7 June at the University of Pennsylvania’s Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts in Philadelphia.
Professor Gadd will survey the shifting role and character of the Company up to the Carnan court case of 1775, and will also provide a practical guide to using the Company’s key records in their manuscript and edited forms. Topics include the Company’s structure, regulatory powers, and membership; the Stationers’ Register and other records; the ‘English Stock'; the Company’s relationship with authors; its relationship with other London companies as well as city and national authorities; and its corporate identity.
Rare Book School at the University of Virginia provides continuing-education opportunities for students from all disciplines and skill levels to study the history of written, printed, and digital materials with leading scholars and professionals in the field. At various times during the year, RBS offers about 40 five-day courses on topics concerning book history, cultural heritage, digital initiatives and preservation, the curation of archives, and the care for and study of books and manuscripts. Most courses are limited to twelve students, who make a full-time commitment to any course they attend. The majority of courses take place in Charlottesville, Virginia, but courses are also offered elsewhere throughout the United States, including in New York City; Philadelphia; Bloomington, Indiana; New Haven, Connecticut; Cambridge and Amherst, Massachusetts; and Washington, DC.
Applications for H-80 are now being accepted on a rolling basis until each one fills; anyone who would like more information should visit www.rarebookschool.org for course details, previous student evaluations, and instructions for applying.
The Company of Newspaper Makers held its first meeting on the 15th December 1931. It was constituted as a separate company with its own Hall. This illustration shows the architect’s proposed design for that Hall.
The tower of the new hall was to ‘rise to a height of 277 feet [approx. 84m] from the pavement’, making it ‘very much the highest commercial building in the City of London.’ However, the Company of Newspaper Makers did eventually amalgamate with the Stationers’ Company. Following a petition requesting that the name of the Company be changed in order to reflect this, Letters Patent were issued on 25 January 1937, and sealed with the Great Seal.
Come and find out more at the Stationers' Company Archive Evening on 15th April 2019. Details of how to book can be found here.
The Times was founded in 1785 by John Walter, initially under the title of 'The Thunderer'. It remained in the Walter family’s control until 1908, when it was bought by Lord Northcliffe. Under the proprietorship of Walter's son, John Walter II, the Times established itself as one of the most influential newspapers of its day. This painting of John Walter II, on loan to the Company from the Times Newspapers Limited Archive, is currently attributed to James Lonsdale (1777-1839) and possibly painted between 1816 and 1826.
Past Master Christopher McKane will be giving his talk, 'The Making of the Thunderer', at the Stationers' Company Archive Evening on 15th April 2019. Details of how to book can be found here.
A collection-level description of the records of the Stationers’ Company Archive is now accessible via the Archives Hub portal (https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/search/archives/33966ba3-871b-3d6d-81ba-3312c78583ac).
The Archives Hub (https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/) is a portal for over 300 repositories across the UK. It provides advanced subject searching tools to help researchers to locate collections they may be interested in. Signing up to the Hub also means that our descriptions will be automatically harvested by Archives Portal Europe (https://www.archivesportaleurope.net/), and we will receive regular Google Analytics reports to help us monitor how researchers our accessing our information, and how we can improve our outreach in this respect.
Information technology has transformed our lives in many ways: DNA sequencing, Google searches, MRI scans and cash machines all rely on the ability of computers to perform rapid and accurate calculations on large volumes of data. However, pattern recognition is one task in which the capacity of the human brain easily excels. Developing an artificial intelligence which can perform anywhere near as well, even in a limited context, poses a significant challenge.
Nevertheless, machine reading has developed rapidly over the last few years. Whenever you use a free text search, on a website, electronic document or digital image of a typed or printed text, that search is carried out by software using Optical Character Recognition (OCR). OCR algorithms parse structured texts and match the shapes of the letters, with varying degrees of sophistication. OCR has revolutionised our ability to search documents, but because it relies so much on structured and standardised text, its use has largely been limited to printed material. Hand-written documents present a whole new set of problems: even a trained scribe will not reproduce all of their letters identically each time they write. Because the human brain is very good at second-guessing and ‘filling in the gaps’ to make sense of what is around us, these are problems which, with a little training, we can surmount. Getting an artificial intelligence to do this is not so easy.
When it comes to reading written texts, humans with a competent level of literacy do not process text letter by letter: we generally scan for recognised combinations which we expect to occur in a given context. So it’s not surprising that in the last few years, IT developers have been trying to emulate this approach in developing software which will read handwriting, or Handwritten Text Recognition (HTR) software. This is done by using ‘training data’. Handwritten texts are fed into the software, along with their transcriptions, allowing the programme to correlate between the handwritten and printed texts. The more training data is available, the more accurate the results will be, as false correlations will be eliminated. It’s a sophisticated example of machine learning which is being improved all the time.
We’re delighted to inform you that Adam Matthew Digital are now implementing HTR on some of the material in ‘Literary Print Culture’, their resource presenting the digitised documents from our archive. HTR enhanced texts have a pencil symbol next to their titles. AMD have posted a news story on their website which you are encouraged to share: https://www.amdigital.co.uk/about/news/item/htr-technology-added-to-literary-print-culture
We hope that the new HTR facility will help researchers to make the most of our digital resources. Please be aware, though, that no electronic search system is flawless; so if you don’t find what you’re looking for, please feel free to contact the Archivist for further information. In particular, earlier hand-writing is not always easy to parse. For instance, a search on Liber C for the word ‘goose’ produced some odd results, including the following:
The highlighted and misidentified texts read ‘[preac]her of’ and ‘peace’ respectively – clearly the software has been looking for the down stroke of the ‘g’ followed by a sequence of curved letters without up or down strokes, and I think most of us would agree that the actual writing in the texts is far from obvious! So do use a combination of search techniques (in the case of the early entry books of copy, the transcriptions of Arber and Eyre are also available to search) – including emailing the Archive.
If you’re interested in learning more about HTR technology, there is an excellent blog post by Richard Dunley on HTR at work in the National Archives at https://blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk/blog/machines-reading-the-archive-handwritten-text-recognition-software/, and regular, highly informative blogposts on UCL’s Bentham Project at http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/transcribe-bentham/.
A report from our Archive volunteer, Freeman Richard Gilpin:
If any members of the Company happened to be at the University of London’s Senate House on Tuesday 27th November for its History Day, they will not have failed to notice the Stationers’ Archivist, Ruth Frendo, promoting opportunities for researchers needing to access the Company’s Archive.
History Day, organised by the Institute of Historical Research, was aimed at researchers, and offered a series of high quality panel sessions. These included advice on using archives and libraries; exploring business records; a case study of information-gathering from University archives; the latest news about digital tools and methods (including an update on UCL’s Bentham Project on HTR – handwritten text recognition); researching people across collections; and different approaches to the use of sources.
It also brought together over seventy organisations and publishers, with their displays in three halls on the ground floor of Senate House, alerting visitors to the rich library, archive and digital collections that are held across London and beyond.
Ruth’s display, against a backdrop of images from the archive, included copies of the Company’s new colour leaflet The Stationers’ Company Archive at the Tokefield Centre. This describes the funding and construction of the Carfax Room and Gateway Room, both of them contained within the Tokefield Centre, and offers a brief history of the Stationers’ Company. It lists the records that are currently held within the Archive, including the Registers; the Court Books; membership records from 1555; English Stock records; property records from 1674; Company legal and financial records; many family papers; and a collection of ephemera such as invitation cards, programmes and menus.
The leaflet gives advice and guidance on using the Tokefield Centre’s facilities, suggests areas of research supported by the Archive, and gives days and times when the Gateway Room is open to researchers – by appointment only.
While other Livery companies were notable largely for their absence from the occasion, the Stationers’ Company was a conspicuous participant.
The Company’s display and leaflet, enhanced by Ruth’s enthusiasm, not only fitted in perfectly with the objectives of History Day, but succeeded in raising awareness of the Company’s contribution to research into the regulation of the book trade; copyright; publishing; and the technologies of communication.
In the photo you can see on the left Victoria West, Archivist for the Worshipful Company of Barbers and on the right Ruth Frendo.
Next Tuesday (27th November) sees the return of the University of London’s annual History Day. This free one-day event offers researchers an opportunity to meet librarians and archivists from research organisations including universities, heritage organisations and specialist repositories. Last year the Stationers’ Company became the first livery company to participate in the event, and this year we’ll be joined by the Barbers’ Company and the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries.
As well as finding out more about collections across the country, visitors can also attend a programme of talks on research methods and developments. Topics covered in this year’s programme include corporate histories, digital research tools, and using archival research in creative writing.
To find out more about History Day, and link to blog posts from some of the organisations that will be taking part, visit https://historycollections.blogs.sas.ac.uk/
Our Archivist, Dr Ruth Frendo, writes:- It’s fair to say that most of the records in our Archive relate to men. Given that, throughout most of history, women have had less access to education than men, the fact that, for centuries, men dominated the activities of producing, selling and acquiring books is hardly surprising. However, it’s important to remember that archives only ever hold partial truths: to some extent, archival research is always an act of joining the dots between fragments of evidence.
Some of the latest research into the complexity of women’s historical relationship with the printed word is being presented at a forthcoming one-day conference at the University of London’s Institute of English Studies. Women and the Book (26 October 2018, 9.30am - 6.45pm at Senate House) will explore aspects of women’s participation in reading, writing, commissioning and collecting books, from the Middle Ages to the twentieth-century. To find out more, and to book a place, visit: https://www.ies.sas.ac.uk/events/conferences/women-and-book
To mark Black History Month Dr Ruth Frendo our Archivist researched and wrote up a fascinating piece on The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African. In fact it was so interesting that we felt it deserved star billing and so has been made a feature. You can find it by clicking here. Please do click through to read it.
The Company is a member of this group which is a network for archivists working in the City of London, and it also welcomes anyone with a professional or personal interest in the City’s archives. It was set up in 1986 by our Honorary Archivist Emeritus, Robin Myers MBE and earlier in the Summer Ruth Frendo the current Archivist attended one of the sessions which was held held at the Museum of the Order of St. John (photo above). Her report is in the Features section of the website here. The City Archivists Group's website can be seen here. Do explore both links.