On Documenting Performance and Suzsanne Briet

UPDATE 29/11/2016 – Dr Lyn Robinson has kindly cross-posted this piece to documentingperformane.com and provided a great introduction to the concepts of Documentation and what we mean by documents, please make sure you check it out here.

On 31st October #citylis hosted an fascinating event called The Future of Documents: Documenting Performance the one day interdisciplinary symposium was intended to “bring together scholars, researchers, artists and practitioners from the disciplines of library & information science and theatre & performance, to share and consider respective conceptual views of documents, and the processes and procedures associated with documentation1

The event was ‘sold out‘ with attendees from a wide range of performance organisations as well as library and information scientists and a contingent of interested #citylis students, including myself, in the capacity of both technical support and attendee.

The event was organised by Dr Lyn Robinson and Joseph Dunne of Rose Bruford College, born out their mutual interest in the documentation of participatory experience, performance and partially-immersive, or complex documents, described by Robinson as:

“provide the reader (player, participant, viewer) with a compelling and realistic world, but one which is delineated to varying extents from actual reality. The reader knows that they, and the document with which they are engaging, are a part of the real world (for want of a better phrase). This is in contrast to the experience delivered by fully immersive-document (as yet theoretical) where the reader cannot distinguish between the unreality and reality, and the interface between human and computer is invisible and frictionless.”2

The day was arranged into 3 acts or sessions. In the first session, Documents and Documentation, the focus was on how memory institutions document performance. Following on from that Exploring Performance as a Document looked at how we can document non-traditional aspects of performance. The third and final act, Beyond the Boundaries, considered what should be documented from newer forms of performance.

Performance Documents or Performance Documentation?

Following a warm welcome and introduction from Lyn and Joseph, the first session featured an excellent talk by Toni Sant, titled The Future of Documenting Performance: Plenty of Performance Documents but Not Enough Performance Documentation. Sant has a background is in Performance Studies, (holding an MA and PhD from New York University) has also lectured on performance and digital technology, in Malta, New York, most recently he has worked in the United Kingdom as Reader in Digital Curation at the University of  Hull.

In his talk Sant spoke about Documentation from a Library and Information Science perspective and referred to the work of Suzanne Briet, whose manifesto on Documentation Qu’est-ce que la documentation?, was highly influential to a number of LIS thinkers, particularly Michael Buckland, whilst earning her the nickname Madame Documentation. In talking about Performance Documentation Sant used Briet’s definition of a document as ‘evidence in support of fact’ 3 and:

“any physical or symbolic sign, preserved or recorded, intended to represent, to reconstruct, or to  demonstrate a physical or conceptual phenomenon” 

As Buckland states, in his article What is a “document?”the implication of Briet’s work is that Documentation should not concerned with texts, but access to evidence.3   Sant champions Briet’s work on documentation over those of performance studies scholars such as Peggy Phelan, who claimed in her writings that performance cannot be documented:

 “Performance’s only life is in the present. Performance cannot be saved,  recorded, documented, or otherwise participate in the circulation of representations: once it does so it becomes something other than performance”4

Sant went on to argue that documentation of performance is often an afterthought and that there is a tendency to mistake documents for documentation. Documentation he said is the process of storing and organizing documents (physical and digital)  in a systematic way to ensure long-term access.

Sant’s talk was a call to action, saying “forget Peggy Phelan” and arguing there was a need to focus less on documents and more on Documentation.

Connaissez-vous Suzanne Briet? 

Renée-Marie-Hélène-Suzanne Briet was born in Ardennes, 1 February 1894, but grew up in Paris. She was part of a generation of women who would come of age in the wake of the First World War. After spending time as a teacher, Briet began her career in Librarianship, at the Bibliothèque National in 1924, and would not only bear witness to but also influence the development of the Library profession in France as a result of its convergence with the field of Documentation. In his article Suzanne Briet:  An Appreciation Ronald E. Day claims that Briet’s vision of documentation and documentation agencies:

“…constituted a revision of librarianship and a radical redefinition of what we consider to be documents.” 5

Recognising the importance of the work of the staff in the national  library, Briet wrote that it was the duty of librarians “to conserve, to catalog, to make [materials] accessible on the one hand; to orient and instruct on the other.6

Her time at the BNF coincided with a great see of technological change, the year of her appointment (1924) saw the electrification of the 17th century Richelieu building,  she described the effect of this writing:

 “I attended the birth of electricity at the BN. . . . During winter season, and under cloudy skies, all work was impossible in the reading rooms and offices after three in the afternoon. . . . It was an unforgettable spectacle to see the green lamps burst into flower on the tables”7

Administrator Pierre-René Roland-Marcel’s efforts to modernize the services and structure of the BNF led to the creation of the Office of Documentation. In 1928 after remarking that the already ‘overburdened’ staff were struggling to answer written requests for information from the office, as it disrupted their normal activity flow, Briet was assigned responsibility for coordinating all such requests, assigning them to qualified Librarians or forwarding them onto the Office of Documentation, as necessary.8

In 1927 Briet was assigned the task of compiling a directory of special collections held across major French Libraries. At this time she was influenced by the Institute of Intellectual Co-operation (IIC) of the League of Nations, which made a number of recommendations regarding the establishment of national information centres in  national libraries. According to Naack these recommendations included:

 (1) each national library establish a “national information center” where   researchers could find out in which library or special collection the printed materials or documentation they needed would be located; (2) that the national information center be adequately funded and provided with card catalogues, printed bibliographies, biographical sources, union catalogues and directories of   special collections throughout the country; (3) that these national centers be in close contact with one another in   order to answer questions about resources within their home country and to centralize researchers’ requests for information that would need to be answered abroad.9

Over the next two years Roland-Marcel and Briet laid the foundations for such a centre at the BNF,  and developed plans for a Centre d’Orientation that would respond to requests for information from French and international researchers. From 1934 to 1954 Briet was in charge of the Salles des Catalogues et des Bibliographies, more commonly known today as Salle X.

Briet alongside chemist Jean Gérard was responsible for co-founding the Union Française des Organismes de Documentation (UFOD) in 1931, the french equivalent of  ASLIB or the American Documentation Institution.  Soon after she was tasked with surveying documentation centers across the country the results of which were published in a 1935 directory (Répertoire des centres de documentation en France),  which identified n 1937 she attended the World Congress of Universal Documentation, in Paris, alongside other notable figures such as Paul Otlet, Henri De La Fontaine and H.G. Wells, the latter of which gave a lecture in which he argued that his concept of the ‘world-brain‘(a form of world encylopaedia) was a precursor for the concepts under discussion at the conference.10 

In 1950 Briet became the founding director of studies for the  l’Institut National des Techniques de la Documentation, one of the oldest Library schools in france when the training programme of the UFOD was formally adopted by the prestigious  Conservatoire Nationale des Arts et Metiers. Briet herself was closely involved with the curriculum including as teacher. The programme was spread over two years and included:

“…included a general introduction to selection, acquisitions, cataloging, classification, indexing, diffusion, exploitation, and   reproduction of documents.   The second year focused on research and on documentation in the specialized fields, including the social sciences and economics as well as science and technology.”11

Following on from her interest in ‘professional education’, Briet was awarded a Fulbright grant to visit the United States from 1951 – 52, and whilst there she continued her survey of professional education. According to Maack, she also sought to understand the meaning of ‘reference work’, with of focus on technique rather than technology and on users and reference services, rather than information retrieval.12

In 1954 at the age of 60, she took early retirement to pursue a 2nd career, as a historian, studying Rimbaud, Rimbaud’s mother and Jean, Comte de Montdejeux. When her memoirs, were  published, in 1976, she arranged them in alphabetical order, dispending with a chronological order in favour of  presenting her recollections under key words, described by Maack as ‘idiosyncratic’.13

Briet died in Boulogne at the age of 95. When looking reflecting back upon her life and career she expressed the following as summary:

 “At the age of twenty, I had as my motto: ‘To weep perhaps, but never to hate.’ At forty it was: ‘To serve.’ At eighty it could be: ‘To return to the Spirit’ “(l’Esprit) (1976, p.30).

Pour Briet Qu’est-ce que la documentation?

Briet’s treatise on documentation was published in 1951 by EDIT, the publishing arm of the UFOD, was not some lengthy treatise, but rather a slim volume stretching to around 37 pages long. It largely went unnoticed outside of France until the publication of Michael Buckland’s What is a Document? in 1997.

It begins with the definition of a document, not in terms of material object’s such as the book that Paul Otlet, favoured, but by declaring, “Un document est une preuve à l’appui d’un fait” “A document is evidence in support of a fact.” She then provides a more detailed definition claiming that a document is:

“any concrete or symbolic indexical sign[indice], preserved or recorded towards the ends of representing, of reconstituting, or of proving a physical or intellectual phenomenon.”14

Briet’s definition, dispenses with the notion of tieing documents to a physical format and instead focuses on a wider definition of documents, giving an example as follows:

“Is a star a document? Is a pebble rolled by a torrent a document? Is a living animal a document? No. But the photographs and the catalogues of stars, the stones in a museum of mineralogy , and the animals that are cataloged and shown in a zoo, are documents.”15

Briet’s explanation of documents is that objects can be documents when placed into a system such as a taxonomy, catalogue, or indice. Most famously she claims that even an Antelope could be a document, in the circumstance of it being a newly discovered species placed inside a botanical garden:

“Let us admire the documentary fertility of a simple originary fact: for example, an antelope of a new kind has been encountered in Africa by an explorer who has succeeded in capturing an individual that is then brought back  to Europe for our Botanical Garden [Jardin de Plantes]. A press release makes the event known by newspaper, by radio, and by newsreels. The discovery becomes the topic of an announcement at the Academy of Sciences. A professor of the Museum discusses it in his courses.The living animal is placed in a cage and cataloged (zoological garden). Once it is dead, it will be stuffed and preserved (in the Musuem). It is loaned to an Exposition. It is played on a soundtrack at the cinema. Its voice recorded on a disk. The first monograph serves to establish part of a treatise with plates, then a special encyclopedia(zoological), then  general encyclopedia. The works are cataloged in a Library, after having been announced at publication…The documents that relate to this event are the object of scientific classifying (fauna) and of an ideologic [idéologique] classifying (classification). Their ultimate conservation and utilization are determined by some general techniques and by methods that apply to all documents-methods that are studied in national association and international Congresses.”16

Lastly she argues “The cataloged antelope is an initial and the other documents are secondary or derived.” By this reasoning objects such as paintings, sculpture, photographs and films are documents, and even a person being studied perhaps for scientific, medical or anthropological reasons could be described as a document. Michael Buckland, in his article about Briet’s definition argues that although she doesn’t make her rules explicit the following can be inferred about defining documents:

Briet’s rules for determining when an object has become a document are not made clear. We infer, however, from her discussion that:

1. There is materiality: Physical objects and physical signs only;

2. There is intentionality: It is intended that the object be treated as evidence;

3. The objects have to be processed: They have to be made into documents; and, we think,

4. There is a phenomenological position: The object is perceived to be a document.

This situation is reminiscent of discussions of how an image is made art by framing it as art. Did Briet mean that just as “art” is made art by “framing” (i.e. treating) it as art, so an object becomes a “document” when it is treated as a document, i.e. as a physical or symbolic sign, preserved or recorded, intended to represent, to reconstruct, or to demonstrate a physical or conceptual phenomenon?17

Wild Antelopes

Returning to performance and performance documentation, we must ask what can Briet’s rules and Buckland’s interpretation of them tell us about how we document performance? Taking the rules as defined above the performance itself is not a document, any more than a wild antelope running around the plains of Africa, but writings, photographs, sound recordings and so forth of the performance can be considered documents. And these documents can, it could be said, in the spirit of Briet’s original assertion, be considered as the “evidence in support of fact” that the performance exists or took place in that they are “intended to represent, to reconstruct, or to  demonstrate a physical or conceptual phenomenon”.

Suzanne Briet

 – Fin –


  1. Robinson, L. (2016 )Documenting Performance: the backstory.
  2. ibid
  3. Buckland, M.K. (1997)”What Is a “Document”?”, Journal of the American Society for Information Science 48(9) pp. 804-809.
  4. Phelan, P. (2003) Unmarked : The Politics of Performance (1), Routledge, Florence, US. Available from: ProQuest ebrary. p.146
  5. Day, R, E. (2006) Suzanne Briet:  An Appreciation.  Bulletin December 2006/ January 2007
  6. Maack, M. N. (2004) The Lady and the Antelope: Suzanne Briet’s Contribution to the French Documentation Movement. Library Trends 52(4): 719-747 
  7. Briet 1976:66 in Maack 2004
  8. Maack
  9. ibid
  10. World Congress of Universal Documentation En.wikipedia.org. (2016). World Congress of Universal Documentation

  11. Maack

  12. ibid
  13. Briet, S. 1976 l’Esprit 1976, p.30 In Maack 2004
  14. Briet, S 1951 p.10 in Briet, S., Day, R. E., Martinet, L., & Anghelescu, H., G., B. (2006). What is documentation? : English translation of the classic French text. Scarecrow Press.
  15. ibid
  16. ibid
  17. Buckland, M.K. (1997)”What Is a “Document”?”, Journal of the American Society for Information Science 48(9) pp. 804-809.

Further reading

Digital Humanities and the Archaeology of Reading

FeaturedDigital Humanities and the Archaeology of Reading

LIS can be a very broad discipline that covers everything from theories of information, social media, scholarly communication to the effects of the internet on human thought. It also supports and intersects with many academic disciplines, with elements of science, sociology and humanities. As digital technology has evolved the discipline of LIS has adapted to confront and consider issues that have arisen around the management, conservation, preservation of documents in the digital realm. It has also utilised the potential of digital technology and tools to not only preserve physical documents, but also make them available to new audiences.

One academic discipline which has also begun to harness the potential of digital tools and technology is the humanities. Much like LIS they too work with documents, such as books and manuscripts, and make use of digitisation, digital libraries and data mining. Indeed, as Welshnotes there has even been a debate as to whether LIS, as an academic discipline falls within the humanities, noting the placement of some iSchools within humanities department in some Universities, whereas in others, such as #citylis it is grouped with computer science. To further complicate matters, humanities itself has a subset known as Digital Humanities which as I noted before is concerned with utilizing Digital tools to enhance their understanding and knowledge of humanistic texts. The history of the Digital Humanities, dates back to the early 1990s, when humanities scholars realized that the internet could provide them with new methods for exploring and discussing scholarly texts. And in 1994 the Text Encoding Initiative(TEI) was launched as standard for the representation of texts in digital form.

Gabriel Harvey by Thomas Nashe via Wikemedia Commons

Gabriel Harvey and The Archaeology of Reading

Born in Saffron Walden circa 1550 Gabriel Harvey, was an English writer and friend of Elizabethan poet Edmund Spencer. He was a scholar and well educated studying Christ College Cambridge, before becoming a fellow at Pembroke Hall (later College), in 1570. After failing to be elected a master of Trinity Hall Cambridge, he would go onto complete his doctorate of civil law at Oxford. During the last decade of the 1500s he engaged in a pamphlet-war with Thomas-Nashe and retired in 1598, having again failed to obtain a mastership at Trinity Hall.2

As well as publishing commentaries he was a prolific annotator of books, his annotations have become the subject of study as much as his letters, providing a window of insight into the way in which reading was carried out in the early modern period for scholars such as Anthony Grafton and the late Professor Lisa Jardine. The density and extent of annotations made by Harvey, have proved a considerable challenge for anyone studying his texts. Not only did they include marginal notes, but also underlining of words, and use of symbols each with a specific meaning, requiring deciphering and understanding not only at page level, but also within the wider body of the text as a whole and perhaps also Harvey’s collection of books.

On Thursday October 13, UCL’s Centre for Lives and Letters (CELL) hosted a launch event for phase one of the Archaeology of Reading in Early Modern Europe. Having an interest in early modern history, Digital Humanities and libraries, I signed up to what was billed as a workshop on the history of reading and the Digital Humanities, to see what I could learn. The answer quite a lot!

A Digital Bookwheel

The Archaeology of Reading(AOR), is a digital humanities initiative from CELL, Johns Hopkins University, and Princeton University, funded by the Mellon Foundation. The project is intended to build upon:

…several decades of humanistic research that has focused upon the printing revolution of the sixteenth century, and the widespread practice by active readers of leaving often dense, interpretive manuscript annotations in the margins, and between the lines, of the books they read. This diverse evidence of annotation provides a considerable range of unique and largely untapped research materials, which reveal that readers—much as users of the internet today—adapted quickly to the technology of print: interacting intimately, dynamically, socially, and even virtually with texts.3

In many ways this could be an LIS project, current LIS research often considers and examines the way in which technology is changing the way we think and consume information. This project looks at annotation by readers such as Harvey as evidence of how they adapted to print, that is how print affected their reading habits. My first assignment for #citylis took a similar approach, in considering how the changes is in the form of documents, from Manuscript to Printed Book affected LIS and to a degree human thinking. LIS researchers have also drawn parallels between the information explosion of printing and that of the internet (See Bawden & Robinson 2000), and it was this that drew me to the event.

A page from Harvey's T. Livius, Romanae historiae principis (1555) showing his annotation
A page from Harvey’s T. Livius, Romanae historiae principis (1555) showing his annotation

The evening took the format of presentations followed by a Q&A from a panel that included AOR-chaeologists. Earl Havens, Johns Hopkins University Principal Investigator for AOR, kicked off the vent with a talk about the genesis of the project, a meeting between himself and Anthony Grafton, where they were discussing how Harvey read his copy of Livy’s History of Rome. Information overflow was a theme of the discussions of the project and of Harvey’s own writings and readings, as co-principal investigator Matthew Symonds (UCL/CELL) talked about their approach of  treating Harvey’s annotations, as a dataset, he gave a useful definition of big data, as being ‘too much information’ for one person to handle.

Symonds talked about the role of curation saying that the word is not commonly recognised in the contact of Digital Humanities projects, but that it is a bad sign if projects don’t talk about curation, arguing that it affects decisions and involved the prgmatics of corpus selection, getting not just the books, but also the right editions and taking care of them.

Dr Jaap Geraerts, Postdoctoral fellow at CELL, gave an overview of the technical aspects of the project, discussing the different layers served up by the interface of the AOR website. This includes a storage layer, archive layer and a tools access layer which an IIF API for serving up images, through the Mirador viewer. The use of IIIF ensures that the project integrates standards which will allow for future interoperability and allow for future migration to interoperable viewers with greater capacity. The top two layers comprise the AOR website and the aforementioned viewer.

Technical structure of the AOR -
Technical structure of the AOR – Source: archaeologyofreading.org

He went on to discuss how the different teams kept in touch via fortnightly Skype meetings, during the two year development period, saying also that there was close integration between the developers and the humanities staff.

Geraerts gave an interesting presentation on the development of the XML framework used for the project, highlighting how they built a custom specification to accommodate the variety of different types of annotations created by Harvey. He explained that they chose an XML Schema over simple transcription of the annotations, as an unstructured data approach would not have been sufficient to allow them to answer the questions they wanted to ask. For AOR it was decided that they would create their own schema, rather than use an existing one, such as the one developed for TEI which seen as too  ‘top-heavy’ for their purposes. The Schema developed was constructed around classification of different annotation types, but is also flexible enough that it could be easily updated to allow the inclusion of additional books. It also takes advantage of XMLs rich data functionality to allow the tagging of mentioned authors and cross searching the entire corpus.

In all 13 books were chosen for the project with the 13th being purchased and immediately digitised by Johns Hopkins, specifically for the project. All annotations were translated from Latin to English, and across the entire corpus the captured nearly  230,000 words to create the data-set. The platform allows a range of query based searches and includes an advanced search function which allows you to combine searches across multiple annotation types.

Example of advanced search in the Archaeology of Reading
Example of advanced search in the Archaeology of Reading

Silence and emotion in the Margins

Arnoud Visser (University of Utrecht) gave a presentation gave an interesting presentation  on the presence of silence and emotion in Harvey’s annotations, looking at what was unwritten, absence or alluded to in Harvey’s marginalia. He cited various examples of where Harvey had written either cryptic or admonishing marginalia, either addressing himself or the writer.

In one example he wrote in his copy of Livy:

Multa uix audeo scribere, qua[e] obitèr cogito legens..” 
“Much of what I think in passing while I am reading, I hardly dare to write down…” 

Screenshot of Harvey's Livy p.481
P.481 of Gabriel Harvey’s Livy featuring the annotation: “Much of what I think in passing while I am reading, I hardly dare to write down…” (bottom of page)

Elsewhere, he implores himself to spend more time simply reading rather than annotating, writing:

“Minus scriptionis: plus, plusq[ue] lectionis mihi conducit, expedit actori. Eccè Liuius ipse instar omnium notarum schola[e], aut obseruationum mundi.”

” It would be proper for me and expedient for a man of action to do less writing, and much more reading. Look, Livy himself is equivalent to all comments of the academy, or observations in the world.”

Annotation at the bottom of page p.386 of Harvey's Livy
Harvey’s Livy with the annotation reminding himself to: “do less writing, and much more reading”

Visser compares Harvey’s interactions with his texts to Luther’s reading of Erasmus, arguing that much like Luther Harvey was not a ‘kind reader‘, citing pages in Luther’s own books where ink splodges on the pages where left where he had slammed the book shut in anger. As he writes in Erasmus, Luther and the Margins of Biblical Understanding:

“The marginalia vividly show which arguments triggered Luther’s ire. Ink marks on pages opposite to those with heated notes reveal how Luther on some occasions closed the book without even waiting for the ink to dry.“4

A slide from Arnoud Visser's Presentation on emotion in Harvey's Marginalia
A slide from Arnoud Visser’s Presentation on emotion in Harvey’s Marginalia
Luther's copy of the New Testament in which he describes himself as 'not a kind reader'
Luther’s copy of the New Testament in which he describes himself as ‘not a kind reader’ via Annotated Books Online

By contrast Harvey at least appears more respectful and even admiring of his authors, as seen by Anthony Grafton and the aforementioned late Lisa Jardine in their now seminal article on how Harvey read Livy when they note that:

Near the beginning of the Livy he has a long note on Livy’s style and its importance: Livy’s style, especially in the speeches. No Latin or Greek speeches deserve more careful reading or meticulous selection than Livy’s; Perion assembled them into a sort of technical order. Hence, when I have time to read, or to imitate, or even to emulate speeches, I prefer no others to these, or others of Livy’s, which are both sharp in sense and polished in expression.

After the presentations had finished there was a drinks reception, including commemoration of Lisa Jardine, and the announcement of a further grant from Mellon Foundation for Phase 2 of the project. This will be more ambitious and aims to make 21 books belonging to the lost library of Dr John Dee from British libraries, UCL and the Royal College of Physicians. There was also a speech by Bill Sherman, Head of Research at the V&A, and John Dee scholar, who spoke about how Dee’s marginalia are far more visual than Harvey.He is currently working on a study of visual marginalia called The Reader’s Eye, asking if ‘reading’ is the right word to describe the activities of Dee and Harvey. The visual nature of Dee’s reading will pose challenges for the next phase requiring significant reworking of the xml schema.

John Dee's drawing of a ship on a page of the complete works of Cicero Photograph by John Chase, image © Royal College of Physicians
John Dee’s drawing of a ship on a page of the complete works of Cicero – Photograph by John Chase, image ©Royal College of Physicians

During the reception I had a chance to briefly talk to some of the panellists and guests, such as Geraerts and the Librarian from the Royal College of Physicians, the latter of which was kind enough to tell me more about John Dee and his Library.

Early Modern Information Retrieval

It was a very interesting event, despite the fact that I had never heard of Gabriel Harvey prior to the evening, and new equally as much about the study of marginalia. And it made me think about whether marginalia can be seen as documents in their own right. Clearly they are mostly (con)text dependent, I believe they may sometimes be classified as a paratexts, but can we consider these to be documents in their own right distinct from the original text?

Furthermore, Harvey’s marginalia form a kind of early modern hypertext with numerous cross references between parts of individual texts and across multiple texts, as Grafton and Jardine note:

“In addition to the richness and density of annotation throughout them, there is persist- ent echoing of sentiments from one book to another; cross-referencing of one of these authors in the margins of another; recognizable continuity of handwriting, to the extent that we can sometimes hazard a guess as to which book succeeded which other in the circulating process of reading and annotation; narrative notes about contemporary or near contemporary affairs continued from the margins of one volume to another..”(p.51)

This multithreaded approach to reading makes it harder to view the marginalia of individual texts in isolation, but rather as constituent parts of a larger whole. In LIS terms Harvey’s approach to his texts could be considered a form of early modern hypertext or linked data, where the reader moves back and forth between documents. His marginal notes make it apparent that he worked on several books at a time. This was by no means an insignificant undertaking, practically and logistically it required having space to not only access but also write in up to 15 books at a time with handwriting which was described, by rival Thomas Nashe no less, as being more elaborate than “many a copyholder or magistral scribe that holds all his living by setting schoolboys copies”5

Harvey’s practices of reading could only have been possible through use of an invention of Agostino Ramelli, the book wheel. The book wheel was one of several designs published by Ramelli, a military engineer, in his book Le diverse et artificiose machine del Capitano Agostino Ramelli (The various and ingenious machines of Captain Agostino Ramelli). The machine utilized a system of cogs and gears, known as epicyclic gearing, normally found in astronomical clocks, to ensure that all the books remain at a constant angle so that the reader could keep their place.

Bookwheel, from Agostino Ramelli's Le diverse et artifiose machine, 1588
Bookwheel, from Agostino Ramelli’s Le diverse et artifiose machine, 1588 – Wikimedia Commons

As Ramelli wrote about his design

“This wheel is made in the manner shown, that is, it is constructed so that when the books are laid on its lecturns they never fall or move from the place where they are laid even as the wheel is turned and revolved all the way around. Indeed, they will always remain in the same position and will be displayed to the reader in the same way as they were laid on their small lecturns, without any need to tie or hold them with anything”7

For me the discovery of the existence of such a machine is almost as intriguing as the books of Harvey and explains the choice of logo for the AOR website and blog. It also further  informs us about early modern approaches to reading and information retrieval, as Grafton and Jardine put it:

“The book-wheel and the centrifugal mode of reading it made possible amounted to an effective form of information retrieval – and that in a society where books were seen as offering powerful knowledge, and the reader who could focus the largest number of books on a problem or an opportunity would therefore appear to have the advantage”.8

Just as we(in LIS) study the history of books, documents and Libraries, so too we should consider also the history of reading, and reading practices to gain greater insights into how knowledge is acquired from books and other how the understanding of and knowledge. As Haven’s remarked following the announcement of the project in 2014:

“There are so many parallels between our project, and the digital world of information that we live in today….these notes reveal a largely unvarnished history of personal reading within the early modern historical moment. They also embody an active tradition of physically mapping and personalizing knowledge upon the printed page. The added practice of referencing and cross-referencing other works in these marginal annotations also allows us, like those early readers, to engage with the presence of ‘virtual libraries’ within the space of a single book.”.9


  1. Welsh, A (2012) “Historical bibliography in the digital world” in  Warwick et al (2012) 2012, Digital humanities in practice Facet : London.
  2.  The Archaeology of Reading in Early Modern Europe: Centre for Editing Lives and Letters http://www.livesandletters.ac.uk/projects/archaeology-reading-early-modern-europe
  3. Senchyne, J. (2016) “Between Knowledge and Metaknowledge: Shifting Disciplinary Borders in Digital Humanities and Library and Information Studies” in Debates in the Digital Humanities Minneapolis : University Minnesota Press.
  4. Visser, A (2016) Erasmus, Luther, and the Margins of Biblical Misunderstanding in For the sake of learning : essays in honor of Anthony Grafton Leiden ; Boston : Brill.
  5.  Grafton, A & Jardine, L (1990) “Studied for Action”: How Gabriel Harvey Read His Livy Past & Present, No. 129 (Nov., 1990), pp. 30-78
  6. Nashe, T  Selected Writings, ed. S. Wells in rafton, A & Jardine, L (1990) “Studied for Action”: How Gabriel Harvey Read His Livy Past & Present, No. 129 (Nov., 1990), pp. 30-78
  7.  Historyofinformation.com. (2016). Agostini Ramelli Describes a Renaissance Information Retrieval Device and Other Machines (1588) : HistoryofInformation.com.
  8.  Grafton, A & Jardine, L (1990) “Studied for Action”: How Gabriel Harvey Read His Livy Past & Present, No. 129 (Nov., 1990), pp.48.
  9. Exploring the Archaeology of reading.(July 10, 2014) News Release. Johns Hopkins University Office of Communications. 
Further Reading

British Library Digital Conversations: EThOS & Multimedia PhD Theses

British Library Digital Conversations: EThOS & Multimedia PhD Theses

Kicking off the autumn season of LIS related events, I recently attended an excellent #bldigital talk on EThOS and Multimedia Thesis, alongside #citylis students @NowrinShohana and@Chrisjph. The event hosted in the British Library’s Bronte Room was described as a celebration of non-text and multimedia outputs being submitted with digital theses, and was full of intrigue and surprises.

EThOS and the PhD Theses

EThOS is the UK national database for theses, operated by the British Library, it stores details of all UK PhD theses, and provides full-text downloads for the majority of submissions either directly or through links to individual institutions. Traditionally PhD Theses are heavily text-based and although there have been previous attempts to incorporate multimedia outputs into them, there is still limited support for these, as we learnt during the evening and where they have been included it has largely been in analogue format as part of the appendices. To date only one

The event focused on the issues faced by PhD candidates who are innovating with digital and multimedia as part of their research, but face difficulties in incorporating such outputs into their theses. The evening began with a brief introduction from Stella Wisdom (@miss_wisdom)Digital Curator at the British Library, who welcomed everyone to the event which before handing over to the evenings chair Coral Manton(@CoralAnimation). Coral is herself a current PhD candidate, at University of Plymouth’s i-DAT research and design collective, she has professional background working in Libraries, Museums and Immersive Digital Practice (something that sounds very relevant to #citylis, which often talks about how we can records immersive documents and experiences). Coral’s current research is focused on the development of an immersive museums collections database, creating data visualisations of collection data enabling “enhanced curatorial and visitor understanding”1

As part of a research placement with the British Library, Coral has been investigating multimedia and non-text PhD research and examining ways in which EThOS can adapt to meet the challenge of such outputs. This has led her to meet a variety of PhD candidates whose theses don’t conform to the traditional text based output or whose research has led them to use digital technologies, such as motion capture, virtual avatars or apps for data-collection. Among her discoveries was that many of the researchers she spoke to had had very little or no contact with their Library, especially with regards to issues of data management and archiving, leading to situations whereby they were unable to include images and artwork,that formed an integral part of their work, in their final submission. (See this blog post more details of Coral’s work).

Imogen Lesser

The first speaker of the evening was Imogen Lesser (@ImogenLesser) from the University of Kent, her doctoral research is on the architecture of the language used Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast Trilogy, and the spaces created within the texts. As part of her research she has used both digital technology and traditional media, such as drawing and sculpture to convey her ideas and map out the spaces and relations between spaces created within the text of Peake’s work. Her first step was to compile a digital document in the form of an excel spreadsheet identifying spaces within the text, from which she produced a digital map, using AutoCad of the relationship between spaces found in the four texts. To better understand the spaces detailed in Peake’s work Imogen produced a series of incredibly detailed drawings as well as models.  She took the digital maps and printed them out at before drawing over them to create A1 1:10,000 scale maps as an aid to her writing.

To help showcase her work and make it more accessible she put on an exhibition in which she displayed her drawings and sculpture alongside excerpts from the texts. One of the main problems that Imogen is facing is that while the maps and architectural drawings are the most effective way of representing the spacial data, extracted from the text providing a more accessible means of disseminating her research, there is no effective means of incorporating such work into her thesis. Even though her drawings and models are the most effective means of conveying and examining the spaces in the text she is still expected to  write 80,000 words, architecture is a language in itself, which can not  effectively  be related through text, this relates closely to something that Coral Manton said about video, arguing that rather than having to describe a video, it would be simpler to be able to include the video as part the thesis.


This would be a common theme for the evening, how to effectively convey research that doesn’t lend itself to textual methods of description, the emphasis on text based thesis, excludes the use on non-text media, even when they are the most effective means of relating information. For Lesser one of her main concerns is the storage and archiving of her work such as drawings through her library and their accessibility. If she submits her drawings as an appendix to her thesis, they won’t be stored or accessible through the Library. A better system for archiving and making them accessible is needed.

Craig Hamilton and Harkive

Craig Hamilton (@craigfots) from the School of Media at Birmingham City University was the evenings second speaker. Craig’s research focuses on “how the experience of listening to and consuming popular music is changing, with a particular focus on digital technologies.”2 In order to do this Craig developed Harkive an online platform that utilises digital crowd-sourcing techniques to collect stories and comments about the how, where and why of people’s music listening habits.

Craig’s background is in music and music technology but he had develop skills of a data scientist and programmer in order to make sense of the data he has collected through the Harkive project. He spoke about how he had to learn R, a programming language for handling data (see here for more  details) and was able to develop his skills through utilising podcasts, meetings with “tech-guys” and attending conferences, in order to understand how to utilise and harness the data he would be gathering. It took him 9 months to learn R from scratch, through a culture of knowledge sharing and collaboration with members of the R online community, something he believes he would never have achieved through reading a manual.

His research has produced to a range of non-text and multimedia outputs, which has helped him in explaining his research to others, attract collaborators and disseminate his research. All of the outputs he has created he considers part of the work he has done for his PhD and include a Data Explorer, the Harkive API, and code repository. The latter allow others to reuse and build upon his existing code, or reuse the data in their own work. He has also created a series of blogs, how-to-videos and a Harkive Podcast, to aid the dissemination of his research. For Craig dissemination and finding ways to bring his research to a wider audience is important and he cites the fact that he receives public funding makes it his responsibility to ensure that his research is widely disseminated and accessible. On the question of archiving his research or data with the Library, Craig said that it wasn’t something he had considered or been asked. He uses GitHub to manage his code and said that the his funders (AHRC) did not appear to be directly concerned with the infrastructure surrounding his data, but were very pleased that he appeared on Radio 4.

Tara Copplestone Archeogamer

The last speaker of the evening was Tara Copplestone (@gamingarchaeo) a PhD Student at the universities of York and Aarhus. Her research looks at how the creation and communication of video games might provide new methods of building arguments about archaeology. She focuses on making arguments through the narrative of games and game-play  rather than through reading. She had written a postgraduate thesis about

Her research into “Archaeogaming” interrogates how creating and communicating through the video-game media form might provide novel methods of assembling arguments about archaeology. Part of her thesis involves creating games and examining the ways in which video-games depict past. This involves going out to archaeological sites and creating video-games with the archaeologists on-site, working with games publishers to find out why they depict the past in the way they do and considers other ways in which they could present history in games. She also gets archaeologists to make their own games and observes how the medium of games influences their choices and narratives in the depiction of archaeology.

Although Tara’s focus is on archaeology through games, it  could be argued that her work is highly relevant to LIS. At #citylis we have often discussed the challenges that LIS practitioners face when recording and documenting immersive experiences and documents, as well as considering the nature of the document in the age of virtual reality and the evolving internet. The forthcoming Documenting Performance symposium will examine the document in relation to theater and performing arts and considers how we can document and preserve the essence of live performance and it seems to me that Tara’s practice and work could could be another perspective that informs documentation in this sense.

Her approach has been to focus on the process and the branching narratives of the video game are examined placing her  research “at the intersection of code, art and narrative and has a particular focus on challenging how academic and creative practices can interpolate with each other through the video-game medium.3

For Tara using games is an effective way of exploring how archaeology is carried out and how archaeology is explored and thought of. Although she has produced 8 different case studies, its not the outcomes that are important to her compared to the process. She made reference concept of procedural rhetoric‘ coined by Ian Bogost,as well as to Marshall McLuhan’s ‘the medium is the message’ to affirm that the process and experience of gaming is an argument (rhetorically)in itself.

A significant problem she faced was how to record all aspects of the process, which couldn’t necessarily leading her to create various additional outputs that could be included in her thesis such as the Archaeogaming idea generator as well a various Dummies  In addition to this she created her own application system in order to record all the many elements of the process, beyond what screen capture or code itself could achieve, leading to to questions of how to store the 32 terabytes of data that she has generated from working on this every day for two years. The most common suggestion she gets from well meaning advisers is to transcribe it and  “Put it in the appendix” effectively putting her in a position of having to produce two PhDs!

Another difficulty she has faced is issues of Copyright and plagiarism. She had to stop publishing her games to online open platforms because of the risk of self-infringement. A third issue she has had to deal with relates to issues of co-creation, co-authorship and deviating away from the linear structure of traditional documents and models of knowledge transmission, towards more branching narratives, where the reader is also author.


Following on from the presentations was ain which the panel took  questions from the audience. One of the more interesting questions from an LIS perspective was about what support could Librarians provide. This was met with somewhat muted response from the panel, who stated that they had little to no help from their Librarians.Hamilton stated he hadn’t considered asking the Library about storing his data, although he said he could consider giving his code to the Library, he wasn’t fully sure if this would be of value. For Lesser, she felt that their needed to be greater advocacy from Librarians about how they could support candidates pursuing no-traditional PhDs, especially at the start of the process. Copplestone on the other-hand said that she was working with the Library to develop best practices, whilst she learnt about Copyright the Library learnt about games, in many cases she said that people only understood her research once they had participated in it.

All on the panel agreed that Multimedia PhDs enabled research to be more widely disseminated to the public and felt that they had an important responsibility to disseminate and communicate this knowledge to the public as widely as possible. Asked about the sector is adapting to better support non-text and multimedia PhDs they said that its a slow process of incremental change, but changes are taking place, although its still down to researcher to initiate the dialogue.


This was a great  evening with some great speakers, whose passion for their work is unmistakable despite the challenges they face.  The evening brought into focus the question of what is a PhD, to paraphrase fellow guest Karolina Andersdotter (@Karolingva) is it merely a 80,000 word PDF?, oral defense (viva) or are we measuring something more?How important is the presentation of knowledge and learning to understanding? And does the formal language of PhDs and academic writing impede the wider understanding of academic research. In many ways this also ties into the question of whether knowledge and academic research should be consider public good? And if it is how do we go about making it accessible to the wider public.

For the LIS community we can consider questions of how we can assist in the documenting and recording of non-text outputs and processes. We have been considering what a document is and how we can record immersive experiences, we should look for input from researchers such as Craig, Imogen and Tara and see what their perspective is.

We also need to consider how we can provide better solutions for the storage and accessibility of research data and even non-text outputs  whether they are games, video audio or other forms that are not yet obvious for PhDs and communicating such solutions to the wider community. Clearly, as well, we should be proactive in our approaches, it’s not enough for us to sit an wait for researchers to come to us, we need to be collaborating with them to develop these soloutions.



  1. i-DAT.org Digital Conversations @ British Library: Ethos & Multimedia Phd Theses
  2. British Library Digital Scholarship Case Studies Craig Hamilton: multimedia PhD research
  3.  Description: British Library Digital Conversations: EThOS & Multimedia PhD Theses (1/2: Talks)

Further Reading

Videos from the evening are available via YouTube:

Back to Library School

Back to Library School

This week saw the start of the new term for the #citylis, with induction for City University’s (now City, University of London) Library and Information Science Masters students, for 2016/17 on Friday. It’s strange to think that a year ago I was just starting on my new adventures in Library Science, and now here I was welcoming the new class and givingadvice, guidance and encouragement.

Before the summer recess I had been asked by course director and Badass Lecturer Lyn Robinson to assist with induction by talking to the new students about blogging, and so there I was in-front of the new class of #citylis giving them an introduction to LIS blogging! I have to admit I was nervous, but in the end it was a fun experience.

As is often typical for me I has stayed up until the early hours the night before, to finish, my presentation, but despite this it all went smoothly apart from the weird colour effects of the project (which actually complemented my choice of background anyway.As well as Lyn and David Bawden, fellow #citylisers Ludi, Sal and Isabel were also on hand to welcome the new students.

Once I’d said my piece Lyn gave a short talk about Twitter, emphasising that we use it for communication and dissemination, as well as the occasional promotional photo like this one:

Afterwards I was able to answer a few questions about blogging and Twitter, and was able to talk a bit to a couple of the new students. No doubt as term goes on, there will be a chance to meet them all and if any of you are reading this I encourage you to say hi and be sure to drop me a message if you have any questions about the course, blogging, Tweeting and so forth.

As for me, my lectures start on Friday with the catchilly tilted Information Management and Policy and Research Methods and Communication…now where did that reading list go…

Click this link to view my presentation slides and be sure tone in next time for the next instalment of  Adventures in Library and Information Science

– Fin –


The Wellcome Library

The Wellcome Library

Recently, I joined a CILIP Thames Valley tour of the Wellcome Library, which is part of the Wellcome Collection based on Euston Road, London.

The Wellcome Trust

The Wellcome Collection which was left by Sir Henry Wellcome after his death in 1936. Sir Henry made his fortune from selling drugs and medicines, and was responsible for the standardization of pills, he was an avid collector of objects and items related to the history of medicine. Following his death in 1936, a charitable foundation, the charitable foundation known as The Wellcome Trust was established, with the aim of advancing medical research and its history.

Today, The Wellcome Trust is an independent global charitable foundation which provides funding for public engagement, academic and scientific research in the field of medicine and health. The present building which exhibits the Wellcome Collection was opened in 1997.

The trust provides around £60-70 million a year in grants to Universities and other institutions. Funding is provided via the trusts diverse investments around the world.

The Library

The Library is spread across two floors and holds more than 750,000 books, journals, as well manuscripts, archives and films. The library also hosts the Wellcome Images collection and has an extensive program of digitization. The Library has around 80 staff in different roles, each department within the Library is fairly siloed, meaning they tend to work largely within their divisions without much crossover.

The Library is free to join open to anyone with an interest in the history of health and medicine. Membership lasts for 5 years and enables you to take full advantage of all services, including digital resources and requesting material from the store, including many of the rare books, manuscripts and pictures that make up the archives and collection.

The collection covers a broad array of subjects related to health and the history of medicine, including books on nutrition, food and food history, plants and natural history. It also includes material on meditation and complementary and alternative therapies. Despite the small size of the collection in comparison to other Libraries such as the BL, it has a very international scope.

The Library holds a wide selection of medical and health journals ranging from the mainstream BMJ and Lancet to the more obscure titles such as the Newsletter of Medical Philately.

We continued the tour upstairs and across to the Reading Room, which is actually separate to Library. This intriguing space is part library (with its own selection of books, many of which can also be found in the Library), part exhibition space and part events space. On the day that I visited they were holding a Body Mapping Exercise which seemed to be a sort of guided meditation for getting in touch with your body. The Reading Room is open to the public and is a nice space where you can just go and relax, read or explore the artefacts on display, which range from an early X-ray machine, to straight jackets and a plastinated body slice produced by Gunther Von Hagens.

We resumed the tour and passed the Rare Materials Room, a separate space within the Library where you can view any requested archival materials such as paintings, manuscripts and rare books. We stopped to look at the different classifications that our found in the Library which uses National Library of Medicine and Barnard Classification, both interfiled among the shelves. Fortunately, staff are on hand to assist users in locating materials. Having been shown round the Library, our guide took us behind the scenes and down into the bowels of the building. We made our way down to the lower ground of the building and along a series of service corridors, which backed onto the kitchens (which apparently once featured in an episode of MasterChef), before arriving at our destination, the first of two underground book stores.

The Wellcome Library has two stores, one in the basement and the other in the sub-basement. Each is temperature controlled and are outfitted with rolling stack, secure access and fire suppression systems similar to that used at the British Library. The sub-basement where contains mostly archive serials and periodicals, as well as some printed ephemera and pamphlet materials from companies such as Boots, related to medicines and healthcare. We told that they also hold a wide selection of materials of Phrenology and other pseudo-sciences, as well as archiving a wide range of materials including government publications and were once asked by a Whitehall department for a copy of the official AIDS leaflet produced by the Government as they no longer had a copy themselves!

The systems they use for preservation and conservation are the same as in the British Library. To guard against damage in the event of flooding the rarer materials including, incunabula and manuscripts are kept in the basement, whereas the sub-basement where we were kept materials which is considered less valuable. In the event of books becoming water damaged they freeze them to prevent further damage, they also keep plenty of plastic sheeting to hand, which is stored in pouches on the end of stack. They have an agreement with local supermarkets for the use of their freezers in the event of a disaster.

The Wellcome digitizes a lot of material and has its own team dedicated to this that also work in partnership with other organisations, such as the Internet Archive to ensure that work is not duplicated. One example of their digitization efforts is the London’s Pulse: Medical Officer of Health Reports: a fully searchable collection of over 5500 Medical Officer of Health reports from 1848-1972 for the greater London area.

Our tour concluded where we started in the viewing room where we were able to collect our belongings and thank our guide Danny for such an interesting tour. Afterwards there was an opportunity to look round the exhibitions and find out a bit more about some of the other members of the tour. Many thanks to Danny Rees at the Wellcome for showing us around and Sonja Kujansuu for arranging the visit.

The Wellcome Collection us based at 183 Euston Road, London, for more information about the Wellcome Library including opening times and the library catalogue visit their website: http://wellcomelibrary.org/

Read the Wellcome Blog for more on the history of the Wellcome Collection.





The Stanley Kubrick Archive

The Stanley Kubrick Archive

In the midst of grappling with end of year assignments, I took time out to join a CILIP in Kent visit to the Stanley Kubrick Archive which is located  at the University of the Arts London Archives & Special Collections Centre, which providess a fascinating glimpse into the life and work of celebrated filmmaker.

Stanley Kubrick, aged 21

Stanley Kubrick made a total twelve films between the 1950s- 90s, spending an increasing amount of time on pre-production and research. Not long  after completing post-production on Eyes Wide Shut(1999), Kubrick passed away in his sleep, after suffering a major heart attack, the archive spans his entire career.

The Archives and Special Collections Centre

Opened in 2007, the centre was specially constructed to house the vast quantity of material Kubrick accumulated for his films during the course of his life time and which had previously been located at his home in Hertfordshire. Realizing that there was a great deal of interest in his work, the family sought to ensure the archive stayed in the UK and was made available to a new generation of film makers.

The archive documents Kubrick’s work and includes material from both released and unmade films, including  draft and completed scripts, research materials such as books, magazines and location photographs. It also holds set plans and production documents such as call sheets, shooting schedules, continuity reports and continuity Polaroids. Props, costumes, poster designs, sound tapes and records also feature, alongside publicity press cuttings.

The Kubrick Archive
The Kubrick Archive

The archive was designed to meet the British Standard for the Storage and Exhibition of Archival Materials and includes a reading room that can accommodate up-to six researchers at a time.  Along with the Kubrick Collection the archive provides access to more than seventeen other collections and archives, receiving around 1700 visitors a year. Alongside the Archives and Special Collections Centre, other collections are held by the individual colleges of the University.

We were shown around by Georgia and Sarah who provided us with the history of the archive and a selection of material from the archives.

Stanley Kubrick’s films

After his father gave him a camera for his seventeenth birthday, Kubrick became an avid photographer and was offered an apprenticeship with ‘Look’ Magazine.

Whilst there he began to develop an  interest in cinema. He produced his first short film, the documentary Day of the Fight in 1951, followed by two further documentary shorts Flying Padre (1951), and The Seafarers (1953). After producing The Killing (1956), for United Artists, he worked with Kirk Douglas on Paths of Glory (1957) and Spartacus (1960).

Lolita and Strangelove

His first UK feature film was Lolita (1962) was based on Vladimir Nabokov’s novel about a College Professor who develops an infatuation with a teenage nymphet, starred Peter Sellers who would take the leading role in his next feature Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb a satirical black comedy about nuclear war.

The material displayed included a cube featuring promotional photos of Sue Lyon as Lolita by Bert Stern. A copy of the screenplay with highlighted passages that were deemed problematic for the censors, underneath Kubrick had written his responses.

Elsewhere we saw slides featuring Stern’s photography for the film.

The press pack for Dr Strangelove was sent out in the form of a top secret dossier. Also on display was a Nuclear Bomb Effects Computer which can  be seen in the final scenes of the film.

Nuclear Bomb Effects Computer as seen in Dr Strangelove
A Nuclear Bomb Effects Computer as seen in Dr Strangelove


In 1968 Kubrick collaborated with science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke on 2001: A Space Odyssey regarded as one of the most groundbreaking and influential films of all time, its true meaning is still the subject of great debate.

Here we saw material related to the production of the film including memos related to the loan of IBM computers for the film and the infamous HAL, whose name was a dig at the company after they decided they didn’t want to be associated with a killer computer!

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Kubrick approached several companies to work on the film in order to make it as realistic a vision of the future as possible. In addition to IBM, Bell Labs and General Electric were consulted for various aspects of the films design

A Clockwork Orange

Kubrick’s next film, A Clockwork Orange (1971), based on the novel by Anthony Burgess, was the source of  such controversy, for its depiction of sex and violence, that it was pulled from circulation by the director himself.

On display was an annotated script featuring Kubrick’s annotations to the initial treatment. A handwritten note featuring the earlier title ‘The Ludovico Treatment’ has been crossed out, along with the words ‘based on a novel by Anthony Burgess’, evidence of the period in which Kubrick fell out with Burgess.

The annotated script for a Clockwork Orange

Barry Lyndon

Barry Lyndon (1975) a period drama about an Irish rogue, based on the novel by William Makepeace Thackeray. The film won four Academy Awards, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, and Best Musical Score, more than any of his other films.

When filming Kubrick used candlelight for interior scenes, in order to cope with the low-light he used specially modified lenses which had been developed for NASA.

we see evidence of Kubrick’s meticulous research with a ring binder full of material for costume designs and hair styles, some pieces have annotation such as character names, others have raffle tickets attached to them the meaning of which is unknown. Note the annotations in the margin ‘convalescence no.4’ 

An example of the research conducted for Barry Lyndon
Stanley Kubrick, aged 21

The Shining

The Shining (1980) was the directors first foray into horror, and featured Jack Nicholson in the iconic role of Jack Torrance, a writer who takes a job as winter caretaker at the remote Overlook Hotel in Colorado. Disregarding warnings that the last caretaker went mad due to isolation, Jack moves in along with his wife Wendy and son Danny, whose paranormal abilities make him aware of an evil spiritual presence. As the hotel gets cut off by winter storms, the family must face Jack’s descent into madness and the malevolent supernatural presence that resides in the hotel.

20160425_113810 (2)
A design for the poster of the Shining

We saw a variety of material related to the film including correspondence with Saul Bass, advertising and poster designs. Also on display were Danny’s  jacket (with fake snow still preserved in the zip) and jumper. Both were stored in archival boxes developed by students.

Jack’s manuscript, hand typed by Kubrick’s assistant, featuring the phrase ‘”All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”  repeatedly. He had separate versions made for the international release of the film, the Italian release used the phrase “Il mattino ha l’ oro in bocca” or “He who wakes up early meets a golden day”. In Germany it was “Was Du heute kannst besorgen, das verschiebe nicht auf Morgen” (“Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today”). The Spanish version reads “No por mucho madrugar amanece más temprano” (“Rising early will not make dawn sooner.”). For the French version, it was “Un ‘Tiens’ vaut mieux que deux ‘Tu l’auras’” (“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”).


Full Metal Jacket

It would be seven years before Kubrick released another film, 1987s Full Metal Jacket,closely based on Gustav Hatsford’s novel The Short-Timers. The two part story portrays the dehumanizing effect of military combat on a platoon of US Marines during training and through the experience of two of the Marines on the battlefield during the Tet Offensive of the Vietnam War.

We learnt that the Beckton Gas Works, in Docklands was used as the location for the City of Hue, and Kubrick deliberately used low angles to hide the London skyline. Various location photographs were on display with annotations.

Eyes Wide Shut

Kubrick’s final film Eyes Wide Shut (1999) starred Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, was released just a short while after his death. Adapted from the 1926 novella Dream Story, the film sees New York City doctor Bill Hartford, who after learning his wife once considered an affair, embarks on dangerous night-long odyssey of sexual and moral discovery, during which he infiltrates the masked orgy of an unnamed secret society.

A model of a shop front from Eyes Wide Shut
Top: A model of a shop front from Eyes Wide Shut Bottom: Location photo from Full Metal

The photograph above shows a highly detailed model from Eyes Wide Shut, right down to the newspapers in front. There was also an entire box full of photographs of iron gates which was used as research for just one scene.

The majority of the collection has not been digitized, although some material with images and metadata is available on request and they occasionally digitize material for students. Researchers must obtain permission to use photographs of items in the collection as the rights are held by the Kubrick state.

The archive participates in global and national exhibitions and symposiums. A selection of material forms part of a touring exhibition currently on display in San Francisco, following which it will move to Mexico City.

Unfinished business

During his lifetime Kubrick worked on a  number of projects which never made it to production. The archive includes scripts, story treatments, research and more for several projects:

Napoleon a biographical epic based about Napoleon Bonepart

The Aryan Papers a film based on the novel ‘War Time Lies’ about a boy and  his aunt as they try to hide from the Nazi’s during the Holocaust using falsified papers.

A.I Artificial Intelligence development for the film later produced by Steven Spielberg in 2001 began with Stanley Kubrick who after many years of development passed the project on to Spielberg.

Projects based on the Archives

The archives are used in teaching and learning at the University for example some students had produced a set of colouring books for Kubrick’s films using material from the archives.

Colouring books for Kubrick's films based on material in the archives
Colouring books for Kubrick’s films based on material in the archives

In 2009 Turner Prize nominated artists Jane and Louise Wilson were commisioned by The British Film Institute and Animate Projects to produce Unfolding the Aryan Papers a film based upon material in the archive relating to one of Kubrick’s unfinished works The Aryan Papers. Follow this link for more details.

Stanley Kubrick: New Perspectives a new book features a collection of essay by scholars who examined the archives, gaining a new understanding of his methods.

Other Collections

The archive holds a number of other collections, including:

Comic book collection: a collection of British, American as well as European comics graphic annuals and graphic novels including mainstream titles such as Batman, Star Trek and artists such as

Tom Eckersley Collection: material produced by the graphic designer including posters for the Ministry of Information.

Clive Exton Archive: a screenwriter for Jeeves & Wooster and Poirot TV series the archive contains draft screenplays and press packs.

Above: A selection of material on display from other collections included works by Charles Addams and Edward Gorey

The tour concluded with a look inside the archive itself, where we were able to get a glimpse of many more items that form part of the collection, including props, papers and film posters. Material being returned to the archive must be re-acclimatized before being shelved, to ensure its continued preservation.

All in all it was a great visit which provided a fascinating glimpse into the work of director Stanley Kubrick and the archive is undoubtedly a unique resource which deserves to be showcased.

Many thanks to CILIP in Kent for organizing the visit.

To learn  more about the history of the archive I recommend the Jon Ronson’s documentary Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes:


The Archives and Special Collections website:


Additional Sources:

Stationers Hall

Stationers Hall

The area around St Paul’s Cathedral was once the heart of London’s book trade, hidden away behind a rather bland looking office block lies the Stationer’s Hall, home to The Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers.

Earlier this week myself and a few others from #citylis and #citypublishing were fortunate enough to be given a tour of the hall by David Pearson Director of Culture, Heritage and Libraries for the City of London.

David , who is also a liveryman of the company gave us an overview of the history of the Stationers Company and Stationers Hall. The Stationers Company as it is commonly known is the City of London Livery Company for printing, publishing and broadcasting. It can trace its origins back to the early 15th century, when the Guild of Stationers was formed in 1403. In 1557 the Company was  granted its Royal Charter by Queen Mary and after two years, they were permitted to wear the the Company’s distinctive blue and yellow livery. The name stationers comes from the fixed (stationary) location of the book sellers who worked near St Paul’s.

A portrait of Queen Mary of England
A portrait of Queen Mary of England – who awarded the Company its Royal Charter

A form of trades union and quality assurance body the Livery Company of the Stationers, was involved in the earliest forms of Copyright  Law and Legal deposit. The first Copyright Act of 1709 known as the Act of Anne or an “Act for the Encouragement of Learning by Vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or Purchasers of such Copies. During the Times Therein Mentioned”  granted a Copyright to any authors who’s works were entered into the Stationers’Register 1. This practice continued through to the early 20th Century when the 1911 Copyright Act was passed.

The tour began in what is known as the Crush Landing, a small space dominated by the main stairs and used for drinks receptions prior to a main event. Portraits of former members who have served as Lord Mayors hang on the walls and a small model of the Company’s barge used on Lord Mayor’s day sits on the first stage of the landing.

A model of the barge of the Stationers

Moving up the stairs we pass into the Stockroom. It was from here that the Company would administer the English Stock, a bundle of titles, such as almanacs, the Company held the publishing rights to. The most popular of these was ‘Old Moore’ and the stockholders were prominent members of the Company. As well as generating a profit for the Company the sales of Stock were also used to provide pensions for poor and needy members.2

The room itself is decorated with dark wood paneling that dates to the 17th Century, while the shields were carried by former liveryman are said to have been carried in the 1749 Lord Mayor’s procession. The ceiling dates to a later renovation and above the fireplace is the small portrait of Queen Mary shown above. Carved books are featured in decoration above the doorways and the fireplace and an old printing press are featured as reminders of the link between publishing and the Stationers.

From the Stockroom we pass through to the great Hall a magnificent room decorated with Stained Glass windows, a beautiful ceiling and more dark wood paneling.

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The Stationers Hall

The Hall itself was constructed between 1670 and 1673 on the site of the earlier hall which was destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666. The pennants that hang from the walls are of masters who held the office of Lord Mayor. At the far end of the hall is a wooden screen topped by decorations and a gallery which we were able to access via a small staircase through the doorway. From atop the gallery you can get an amazing view of the large stained glass window inserted into the north-wall.

Painted glass window depicting the King visiting the printers
Painted glass window depicting the King visiting the printers – courtesy of @book_turner

The hall was renovated in the early 1800s and the stained glass windows and stone facade of the hall all date from this time. Each window depicts figures and scenes from history of printing including Shakespeare, William Caxton, William Tynedale, St Cecilia and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer who served Henry VIII, Edward and Mary.


David said that in 1611 John Norton made a bequest that every Shrove Tuesday all members attend the hall and are provided with cake and ale followed by a service at St Pauls a tradition that carries on today. The ceiling carries the Latin inscription  verbum domini manet in aeternum – the word of the Lord endures forever – the motto of the Lutheran reformation.3

From the Hall we passed through a small anteroom into the elegant looking Court Room. It is here that the small group of Liverymen that comprise the Court decide the affairs of the company. At present there are around 460 Liverymen, members join as Freemen and can go onto become Liverymen. Membership is made up of people who are work in or supply the paper, print, publishing, broadcasting or online media industries, including Libraries.

Ceiling detail in the Hall features the Latin motto Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum

The Court Room decoration dates to a refurbishment of 1757 and features an overmantel and gilt ceiling ornamentation in Rocco style. At the far end of the room the Court was in session so we couldn’t venture too far into the room, although I managed to snap a picture of the beautifully illuminated charter which dates from 1687 and features a portrait of Charles II.

Here again you will notice the nods to printing in the carved books on either side of the room.

This marked the end of the tour and we gradually made our way back through the rooms taking a few more pictures along the way before returning to the small courtyard where we started our tour.

Many thanks to Lyn Robinson and David for arranging the tour and to Lyn and @book_turner for the use of their tweets. A fascinating glimpse into a building with a unique role in the history of printing and publishing. For more information about the Hall and Company visit stationers.org and Noel Osborne’s The Stationers’ Company and Copyright: a brief introdcution


  1. J.C.T. Oates, Cambridge University Library: a historical sketch
    Cambridge: Cambridge University Library, 1975 available at http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/history/4.html
  2. Leaflet provided for the tour
  3. List of Latin Phrases wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Latin_phrases_(V)