Notes from a University Library

Alexi mentioned in a previous post that one of the interesting questions for our project is the survival, or not, of the sources with which we deal. Alongside that comes the question of the history of our main archive at the Cambridge University Library. Alexi mentioned that we know the volumes were arranged and bound as we now have them by George Airy, then Astronomer Royal, in the 1850s, and how he commented on their potential as a resource.

A recent new addition to our project is a digitisation side-project at the UL, funded by JISC. We will be making the entire 68 volumes of the Board of Longitude archives available online with summaries, commentaries and biographical information, in a similar format to the wonderful new Newton Papers resource. Those of us on the project who are charged with writing the summary for each volume therefore have the enjoyable task of going through each volume and making it clear how its contents fit into the history of the Board, and the stories told of it so far.

While writing my summary of Volume 1 last week, I came across this note, which was clearly accidentally bound in with the papers in the 1850s. It’s a letter from Airy to Edward Stone, who was Chief Assistant at the Royal Observatory in 1865. It’s interesting that Airy was asking Stone to go through the Board records in the 1860s, and trying to join up the correspondence with the minutes. Exactly what we are now trying to do!