Finding Items in the Cole Library

Written by Helen Westhrop, Library Assistant

Next week I begin the reclassification of the Cole Library; by this I mean to give each item a place on the electronic catalogue. Until now, some of the items have been added to Enterprise, the Library catalogue, while the rest have only been accessible by the card catalogue. When the collection was held at the Main Library, it was browsable (and still is, by appointment with the UMASCS Librarians), but is now held in closed access storage and needs to be accessible via the Enterprise catalogue to make it easy for readers to request items for consultation in the Reading Room at Special Collections.  

The Cole Library holds approximately 8,000 volumes of printed books and scientific papers, covering the history of early medicine and zoology in general, and more particularly, comparative anatomy and reproductive physiology, from earliest times to the present day. Among these there are 1,700 or more pre-1851 works, including many continental books. Many significant works in the history of the biological sciences are present, by authors such as Galen, Fabricius, Belon, Wotton, Gesner, Bartholin, Swammerdam, Harvey, Ray, Haller, Leeuwenhoek, Linnaeus, the Hunters and Darwin.  There are also some individual works like: Pliny’s Natural history, Venice : Jenson (1472) with illuminations; Vesalius’s De humani corporis fabrica 1st ed., Basle (1543) and 2nd ed. (1555); in a contemporary Swiss binding and a substantial run of the Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society, from 1665 that attract a lot of interest from visitors.

The collection was originally the private library of Professor F J Cole (1872-1959), F.R.S.,  Professor of Zoology in the University of Reading from 1907 to 1939. He was a book collector and bibliophile from his schooldays until his death. His major historical work A history of comparative anatomy(1944) was based substantially on his own collection.

For this project, I will begin by adding items to the database to ensure that each book is findable.  I will be working alongside a cataloguer who will be noting the illustrations, illustrators and any fine binding on folio sized books so I will have an expert on hand at all times to ensure the collection and all information is shared as much as possible.

We have looked forward to this project for a long time; we are excited to be making the Cole Library more easily and widely searchable to students and raise the profile of the collection to a much wider number of researchers.  I will encounter much dry material such as fish morphology; however there will also be some incredible texts to to make the task enjoyable.  During my task I will be on the lookout for non-science texts; for example, history, culture and literature and will also be watchful for nineteenth-century medical holdings or anatomical atlases.

So there is a lot to do and week by week I hope to post images from the collection by way of a progress report.

3 thoughts on “Finding Items in the Cole Library

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