The artistic lure of Egypt: 19th century visitors to Thebes

9789774247057The current situation in Egypt may discourage potential tourists from visiting, but it was a very different scenario in the 18th and 19th centuries when Europeans began to discover the marvels of the ancient Egyptians amidst an impressive landscape.  Archaeologists and scholars, were joined by explorers, collectors of antiquities, and artists, whose paintings and sketches documented the wonders around them.

“Sometimes their drawings were made as aides-memoire in personal journals or as contributions to scholarly surveys of Egyptian culture.  Some were intended for interior designers back in Europe who catered to the Egyptomania sweeping the continent…In many cases, these records are all we have.  Many of the monuments they recorded have since been destroyed by erosion, water, vandalism, and theft, and the modern-day Egyptologist must rely heavily on these nineteenth-century paintings to reconstruct badly damaged tomb and temple walls.” (Foreword, p. 2)

2008BT7733_owen_jones_tomb_cairo2In Explorers and artists in the Valley of the Kings over 12 artists are featured, with brief biographies, and colour illustrations of their paintings, offering the reader a wonderful pictorial trip through Thebes.  One of these artists was the Welsh Owen Jones (1809-1974) who trained as an architect.  When he was 23 he journeyed to Greece, Turkey and Egypt and made many sketches along the way some of which he later turned into lithographs and published in 1843 in Views on the Nile from Cairo to the Second Cataract.

A lovely resource for anyone interested in 19th century travellers to Egypt, the artists who made this ‘grand tour’, or Egyptology in general.

Roehrig, Catharine H. (2002) Explorers and artists in the Valley of the Kings.  Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press.
ISBN: 9774247051
Classmark: Folio DT73.B44.R6 (ASSL)

How do the books get to the library?

Have you ever wondered how the new books get to the library shelves?  Who picks them?  Where do they buy them? Well, this post, one of a series of ‘demystifying cataloguing’ will give you a brief insight into the process.

A pot of money is allocated by the university for books to be bought (that’s an oversimplification by the way!).  Schools, in conjunction with subject librarians, choose which books they think should be bought for their subjects.  Ideally, these would include all the books on your reading lists (if you find items on your reading list are not in the library – let library staff know, and also prompt your lecturers to contact the library too).  Other items will be chosen because we have previous editions, because they complement exisiting collections, because a new course is starting, because your lecturer has written it, because it is needed for reasearch, or because someone (and that could be you!) has suggested that the item would be a good addition to the library.

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Items other than books!

Order forms come to the collection management department, based in McKenzie House on Newport Road.  For now they are paper slips, but we are working on implementing electronic orders to make the process more lean.  Collection management staff (a department which comprises acquisitions staff and cataloguing staff); check the details of these orders – whether we already have copies, or whether we need to create a new order etc.  The orders are then sent (electronically) to our library supplier, Dawsons.  We get the majority of our ‘normal’ items from this company, but more exotic stuff (foreign language material, DVDs, music CDs, out of print material, etc) can be ordered from a whole host of places.


A delivery of boxes!

At this stage you will see a basic record on the library catalogue, but with no items attached you will see that it is ‘on order’.  Once the item arrives, and is unpacked from the delivery boxes and checked, it is received on the system by the acquisitions staff.  On the library catalogue, the book will have items attached but no classmark.

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Books awaiting cataloguing

A cataloguing assistant checks all the books, and if they are extra copies, or an update from a previous edition, they can go straight to the processing shelves.  Otherwise they are passed to the cataloguers to upgrade the catalogue records, and to add subject headings and classification (more on these processes in future posts).  Once the cataloguers have finished with the books they go to processing, where they receive their spine-labels and have their RFID tags activated; once finished here they are put on the shelves assigned to each library, awaiting the couriers to pack them up into black boxes and deliver them to the correct library.  The couriers go out each day to the main libraries (and twice a day to some).  Once the books reach a library they have to be ‘discharged’ on the library system so that they will now show as available.  Library staff then shelve them in their correct places according to classification; and you can find them and borrow them!

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Black boxes containing books waiting to be delivered to libraries

During 2012 collection management staff gave a brief presentation to library staff about these procedures, entitled ‘From pink slip to black box’, and you are welcome to view the slides.

The lure of the dark side

DarksideOriginating from a conference on Demonlogy that took place in 2006, The lure of the dark side: Satan and western demonology in popular culture, explores the topic of demonology tthrough the three categories of music, film and literature.  The word ‘demon‘ originates from the classical Greek ‘daimon‘ which means spirit, and orginally covered good and evil spirits.  The introductory chapter provides an overview of the history of Satan and demonology; so we are told about the ‘fallen angel’ and musicians making pacts with the devil.

“From testimonies of encounters with demons in early modern Scotland to contemporary Satanism and Norwegian black metal, and from the manifestation of evil in Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter to the demonic in Harry Potter, this collection provides a tour de force of the demonic in Western popular culture.” (p. 1)

If you’d like to read about ‘personifications of evil’ and how they pervade our popular culture, then you can find this book in ASSL.

Partridge, Christopher & Christianson, Eric (2009, eds.) The lure of the dark side: Satan and western demonlogy in popular culture. London: Equinox.
ISBN: 9781845533106
Classmark: BF1543.L8  (ASSL)

Looking into Roman toilets

romantoiletsI suspect we can all imagine the jokes that were bandied about when someone proposed a conference on the theme of Roman toilets, but the resulting workshop that was held in Rome in 2007 ultimately produced the book, Roman toilets: their archaeology and cultural history.  Being seen as a rather taboo subject, as likely to be ignored out of embarrassment as much as anything else, has meant that there has not been a great deal of previous research conducted in this area.  The introduction notes that in the 18th and 19th centuries, “…several excavators were blinded by the longstanding taboos about topics like toilets.  They did not even recognize what they were digging up in some cases…The toilet in the macellum of Pozzuoli was regarded as a medical steam bath, and it was thought that, because the steam was so strong, one had to sit down as it was emitted into the room.  The excavator of the toilet underneath the Domus Transitoria in Rome thought it was a machine chamber of a hydraulic lift…other toilets were regarded as chairs for medical treatment, bath showers, or prison installations.” (p. 2)

The discussion on hygiene issues may make you cringe a bit (just think about those communal sponges on sticks); but if you’ve ever had any curiosity about Roman multi-seater latrines or thought about cultural attitudes to toilet behaviour, then this is the most complete study currently available.

Jansen, Gemma C. M., Koloski-Ostrow, Ann Olga & Moormann, Eric M. (2011, eds.) Roman toilets: their archaeology and cultural history. Leuven: Peeters.
ISBN: 9789042925410
Classmark: Folio DG78.R6  (ASSL)