‘Passio’ launch, Tuesday 6 December

By , 27 November 2011 10:45 am

Poet and translator George Gömöri. Photo: Ben Gömöri.

Tuesday 6 December will see the launch in the the Library of Passio, a new collection of fourteen poems by János Pilinszky, translated from the Hungarian by George Gömöri and Clive Wilmer and published by the Worple Press. The event will take place in the Library’s Morison Room, starting at 5.00 p.m. and with readings from 5.30. The readings from the poems will be complemented by a display of items from the University Library’s collections relating to the translation of modern Hungarian poetry. Admission is free.

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Babies Make News

By , 24 November 2011 9:28 am

On Saturday 26 November Peter Jones, Fellow-Librarian of King’s College, will be giving a talk to the Friends of the Library entitled ‘Babies Make News’. Mr Jones is one of the curators of the ‘Books and Babies’ exhibition currently on display in the Library, and his talk will explore ways in which the subject of human reproduction has shaped books, manuscripts, newspapers and films, and how communications media have in turn framed thinking about babies. The event will take place in the Morison Room in the Library, starting at 11.30 a.m. (following the Friends’ AGM). All are welcome: Friends of the Library and junior members of Cambridge University: free, others: £3.50.

‘Picture This #10′—’The perfection of wisdom’ in 8,000 lines

By , 20 November 2011 1:12 pm

Illustration from MS Add. 1464Cambridge, University Library, MS Add. 1464, The perfection of wisdom in 8,000 lines, features as the tenth image in the University’s ‘Picture This’ series—short articles exploring images from around the University. Commissioned by a female devotee of Buddhism, this exquisitely painted palm leaf from the 10th century is part of the oldest dated and illustrated Sanskrit manuscript known worldwide. Written in an ornamental South Asian script known as Kuṭila, the palm leaf shows  Buddha, making the gesture of teaching, with disciples sitting either side. Although the manuscript is over 1,000 years old, the source is much older: an oral text thought to have been originally composed in South India between 100 BCE and 100 CE.

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Cambridge Bibliographical Society talk, 16 November 2011

By , 15 November 2011 9:02 pm

Dr Nick Hopwood will give a talk on ‘Icons of evolution: from alleged forgeries to textbook illustrations’ on Wednesday, 16 November, 5:00 pm in the Morison Room, Cambridge University Library. Non-members are welcome and there is no admission charge. Tea is served from 4:30 pm.

Powerful words

By , 11 November 2011 12:01 pm

Sanskrit manuscriptsAncient manuscripts that hold important clues to India’s intellectual and religious traditions will be the focus of a new study.

A major exercise in ‘linguistic archaeology’ has set out to complete a comprehensive survey of Cambridge University Library’s South Asian manuscript collection, which includes the oldest dated and illustrated Sanskrit manuscript known worldwide.

Written on now-fragile birch bark, palm leaf and paper, the 2,000 manuscripts in the collection express centuries-old South Asian thinking on religion, philosophy, astronomy, grammar, law and poetry.

Read the full story at http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/newspublishing/detail.php?news=315

A challenge to amateur spies: the Hugh Childers papers 2

By , 4 November 2011 2:05 pm
RCMS 37/5/76

As promised, the restored text of Queen Victoria’s rebuke to Secretary of State for War Hugh Childers has been reproduced, as no cryptanalyst has stepped forward to decode it:

I have received your letter and proposal [and I am] extremely astonished as I think [I have] already said that the appointment of Sir G. Wolseley as adjutant general is one I cannot approve (RCMS 37/77) .

In this example, Victoria’s message (plaintext in the language of the cryptologist), has been transformed using a substitution system (or code), in which codenumbers have replaced individual words or phrases. This was an efficient and cost effective method for use with telegrams transmitted using Morse Code.  The words in brackets have been supplied in place of obvious errors made either during the encoding or decoding of the telegram.  For more information on the fascinating complexities of cryptography, please see David Kahn, ‘The codebreakers: the story of secret writing’ (New York, 1996).

RCMS 37 is not only an important set of political papers, but it also preserves a wealth of information on the history of the Childers family. Anyone wishing to recreate the life of a fashionable Oxford undergraduate of the 1870s, for example, would be intrigued by the section of the archives relating to Hugh Childers’s son Rowland, who went up to Balliol College in 1875.

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