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The Lighting the Past project comes to an end

In June 2013 phase 1 of the retrospective cataloguing project, Lighting the Past (LtP), began. Under the charge of a Lead Cataloguer, a workforce of part-time students drawn from the undergraduate and postgraduate student body of St Andrews sought to address the backlog of uncatalogued rare books in the University of St Andrews Library’s Special Collections.

A plate from Three familiar lectures on Craniological physiognomy. The plate was photographed in a week when LtP were cataloguing books on animal magnetism, phrenology, parapsychology, and dreams and nightmares.

Various collections had been identified as suitable for phase 1 work, each of which is now fully available via our online catalogue: Anderson Collection, Beveridge Collection, Crombie Collection, Donaldson Collection, Lang Collection, Librarian’s Collection, Low Collection, Mackenzie Collection, MacGillivray Collection, Reserve Collection (prefix ‘r’), St Andrews Collection, and the Von Hugel Collection.

Facsimiles of horn books: an early uncovered horn-book in black letter; leather-covered oaken horn-book, in Roman letter, stamped with the effigy of Charles II on horseback on the reverse; and an uncovered oaken horn-book of the later period. From volume one of Andrew W. Tuer’s A history of the horn-book recently catalogued by Lighting the Past.

In addition to these collections the LtP team have also completed cataloguing the Copyright Deposit Collection, and funding secured for a sixth year enabled the team to turn their attention to periodicals; previously the student cataloguers had only focused upon monographs. This means we have now been able to get our pre-1860 periodicals into the online catalogue, as well as the periodicals of the Reserve Collection and those which remained in named collections.

One of the periodicals from the MacGillivray Collection, which a 6th year of funding has enabled LtP to catalogue. St Andrews copy McG BV2375.S3.

Over the course of the past six years LtP have created 65,056 bibliographic records and 83,469 item records, exceeding the predicted 80,000 figure for the number of records which would be created during the project. Items which met the criteria for the English Short Title Catalogue were also reported. In total LtP have allowed us to verify 2,414 holdings, amend 93 holdings (e.g. where a classmark may have been incomplete), add 3,481 new holdings, and report 81 unique titles (with a further 27 unique items awaiting upgrading from phase 1 before being reported) where St Andrews holds the only known copy.

The title page and facing tables from Francis Walkingame’s, The tutor’s assistant (r QA101.W2D98). Catalogued in October 2014, St Andrews is currently still the only institution to have reported a copy to ESTC. First published in 1751, it remained one the two most popular arithmetic books until 1800, after which it reigned supreme for another 50 years.

During the project students who worked on LtP helped to promote the material they had catalogued via blog posts, Facebook, and Twitter. Some blog posts focused upon a specific collection, such as those on the Crombie and Donaldson Collections – although as it turns out, at the time a large part of the Donaldson Collection was awaiting classification, the completion of which featured in another blog post. Others focused upon individual items. Typifying how LtP worked together as a team, some blogs were co-authored, such as that on how to read minds, and another on a 16th-century sammelband. In April 2016 residents and visitors to St Andrews had the opportunity to see some of the items first hand when books catalogued by LtP were the focus of a Special Collections ‘show and tell’, entitled “Buccaneers and Buried Gold: Treasure from the Lighting the Past Project”.

The title page of Nathaniel Halhed’s 1778 A Grammar of the Bengal Language, famous in Bengal as the first printed work to feature vernacular type. Hrileena, who worked on LtP, helped to catalogue this work, as well as others in scripts with which she was familiar. You can read about her experience in this blog post.
The latest addition to LtP, Ethan’s daughter Maria, looking like a pro with her book!

In total, almost 40 students have worked on LtP. In good St Andrews style, there has been one marriage, and two babies to break the monotony of cataloguing! Where are they now? We managed to track down some of them, and discover what they’ve been up to since leaving LtP. Almost half of them work in the book, library and heritage sectors while the rest have pursued academic and teaching careers.

Writing, libraries and heritage sector:

Emma Collins (June 2013-February 2015) worked as a Library Assistant here at St Andrews, before moving to the National Library of Scotland, where she is currently Acquisitions Librarian.

Cecilia Vinesse (December 2013-November 2015) has authored two Young Adult novels Seven Days of You and The Summer of Us, published by Little, Brown Books here in the U.K. and the U.S. She also works part-time in a library.

Hrileena Ghosh (February 2015-September 2016) has just finished writing a monograph on John Keats’ Medical Notebook. She lives in Greece with her husband, former LtP colleague Vittorio.

Vittorio Mattioli (October 2015-September 2017) is in Greece working for a book/film agency as an agent, editor and ghost writer.

Jenny Greiner (October 2015-August 2016) returned to Dublin, where after working as Digital Project Assistant in the National Archives of Ireland she is now in charge of Right and Reproductions in the Chester Beatty Library.

Mary-Elisabeth Moore (October 2017-June 2018) is currently a Project Librarian for the Clark Art Institute in Williamston, MA where she enhances bibliographic records by adding detailed binding descriptions.

Katie Feldkamp (October 2018-June 2019) is currently writing her dissertation. She would like to pursue a career in collections management or as an interpretation developer helping people connect with objects and collections.

Academia and teaching:

Marc Cole (June 2013-May 2014) has completed a PhD in Philosophy of Mind at the University of Leeds. Currently he lives in China where he teaches high school biology, high school English composition, and an Honours Module in Philosophy.

Andrew Wade (October 2014-August 2015) followed his doctoral supervisor to the University of Aberdeen before moving to Los Angeles where he spend two years in a seminary-based ministry training programme to become a New Testament Scholar. He also worked as a circulation assistant in the seminary library.

Pierre Azou (October 2015-May 2016) completed a Master’s Degree in French Literature at La Sorbonne, and after a year as a Fulbright Foreign Language Assistant Program in Pennsylvania he is starting a PhD program in French Studies in Princeton.

Emily Savage (February 2015-July 2017) received a PhD in Art History and became Associate Lecturer in the School of Art History at the University of St Andrews. Currently she is writing an article on a 15th/16th century French book of hours forthcoming in an edited volume, and she is working on turning her thesis into a book.

Lizzie Marshall (September 2016-November 2017) is working on her thesis and also working as a blogging intern at the Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities.

Ethan Birney (October 2016-June 2019) has just completed his PhD in Mediaeval History and graduated during the last full week of LtP. He is currently looking for jobs in academia.

Margie McKerron (October 2017-February 2019) works as a research assistant on a project unpacking some of the theological and philosophical implications of T. S. Eliot and Rainer Maria Rilke’s poetry. She continues her research into nineteenth-century Scotland.

The celebration cake to mark the end of LtP!

Next time we’ll hear from LtP workers past and present, and find out what they really thought about working on the project!

Briony Harding
Pilar Gil
Beth Dumas

Lighting the Past Lead Cataloguers, 2013-2019

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5 thoughts on "The Lighting the Past project comes to an end"

    1. Hi Christine, lovely to hear from you. There are more complicated collections (such as George Hay Forbes, and the Bible Collection) which remain to be catalogued, plus collections which have come in since you worked with us. Hopefully they’ll all have their spot in the limelight on Echoes in the future!

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