Monday, 8 September 2008

Going slow day at the New Norcia Library Lecture

New Norcia is an absolute gem of a town, nestled in farming country north east of Perth. It is the only monastic town in Australia, dominated by the still functioning Benedictine Monastery

Each spring for the last decade or more the New Norcia Librarian, Sue Johnson, has organised and hosted the annual New Norcia Library Lecture.

I put myself in “go-slow” mode for the day and headed up there with work colleagues.
The 90 minute drive up from Perth passes through the citrus growing town of Bindoon, which is always worth a stop for mandarins in September. Another highlight is the spring wildflowers along the route, particularly the blue leschenaultias.

This year’s library lecture featured a keynote speaker from the British Library, Giles Mandelbrote, Curator of British and Early Printed Collections. The BL’s Early Printed Collections focus on British printed materials from 1501-1800.

Formerly the British Library's early collections were grown through the acquisition of private or institutional libraries and collections, such as the Old Royal Library and private library of Sir Hans Sloane. These days the items are largely acquired by highly selective acquisition of around 700 individual titles per year

Giles Mandelbrote has what many in the audience considered a dream job, visiting auction houses, such as Sothebys, and purchasing antiquarian books from catalogues or acquiring them by donation. He spoke of one recent acquisition with a high “wow factor” which has already attracted interest from international researchers, as it is the earliest exemplar of a British book of mathematics, printed in 1537.

The supporting speakers were all excellent: Julianne Simpson, Librarian, Wellcome Library of medical history in London; Barbara Patison, Collections Manager State Library of Western Australia; Grant Stone, Manager, Scholarly Resources Murdoch University.

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