Replying to Andrew Cook, I hope it was clear I am very aware of the
negative aspects of what I am proposing to do, but:
(a) I don't think I should say who wrote this, but it wasn't me:
>About 18 months ago [our] Library Committee agreed to dispose
>of our set of British Parliamentary Papers. The decision reflected the
>critical shortage of space to expand the remaining collections, and the
>existence of other printed sets in the [nearby] library, which has a
>chronological set and also one bound thematically. The chronological set
>was significantly better than [ours], even before we took the
>opportunity to use [our] set to fill some gaps in it before selling
>the remaining volumes.
(b) Having made extensive use of several different sets of British
Parliamentary Papers in major libraries, the state of the maps bound
into them is often lamentable, and it is not hard to imagine a
situation where substantial parts of EVERY copy of a particular map
have disintegrated, even though the volumes they are part of still
look very imposing sitting on the shelves. The combination of thin
high acid paper with regular unfolding and re-folding is very unfortunate.
(c) The treatment of these maps by projects to microfilm or scan the
BPP volumes has also been poor. In at least parts of the
Chadwyck-Healey microfiche editions, they are treated as if they were
the same size as the ordinary pages when they are in fact much
bigger; as a result, they were unreadable at least on the viewer I
had access to. Even more seriously, they had been reproduced in
monochrome. Boundary maps almost always use a monochrome base map
with the boundary lines superimposed in colour, so monochrome images
are almost useless; completely so with the Boundary Commission maps,
which generally show "before and after" boundaries, or even multiple
alternatives, using different colours which are indistinguishable
when reduced to monochrome.
(d) There therefore seems to be a case for a project which focuses on
capturing the maps as fully as possible, and also ensures the
physical preservation of one set of the maps.
(e) Other will know more, but my sense is that the boundary
commission maps from 1868 onwards are cartographically
unremarkable. However, the maps in the 1831/2 report are often based
on specially commissioned surveys, and look to be hand
coloured. There is no proposal to disassemble those volumes, and I
am now very concerned we find a good home for them when we are
finished; fortunately, the bindings are generally in a much better
state than the later volumes, some of which are half disassembled already.
I should maybe add that our twentieth century boundary maps come
mainly from the map library of St. Catharine's House, discarded by
the Office of National Statistics when they moved to Pimlico and
quite literally rescued by us from a builder's skip. I am grateful
to the individual librarians at ONS who alerted us (and the Royal
Statistical Society) to what was going on, but this incident in
particular made me very aware of the slim margin between the
priceless -- which no library would lend us for digitising -- and the
worthless. The really alarming part is that a few of those ONS maps
include additional hand-drawn lines showing boundaries which may not
be recorded elsewhere. The new funding I cannot talk about yet may
not be doing all that much for the physical preservation of boundary
maps, but it will ensure the preservation of the information on them.
At 17:54 10/01/2007, you wrote:
>Three points about British Parliamentary Papers:
>1. The more people butcher sets of BPP, 'given that there are several
>other copies ... in more easily accessible locations', the fewer sets
>are left to consult. Repeatedly destroying just one more because there
>were plenty left was what killed off the dodo in Mauritius, and
>deforested Easter Island. Will the person butchering the last set,
>please turn out the light in the archives of parliamentary democracy.
>2. The sets 'in more easily accessible locations' are subjected to
>heavier use, and suffer the most damage and casual depredation,
>particularly damage to and loss of folding maps. Not even the most
>important libraries, and the libraries of last resort, can keep pace
>with this heavy use, nor make good the gaps which result.
>3. It is not necessarily the case that the maps in all copies of a PP
>are from the same printing or issue. They can also differ in content.
>This is one of the bibliographical questions about BPP which await
>fuller investigation, after Susan Gole alerted us to the phenomenon a
>few years ago in her work on maps of the Mediterranean in BPP.
>Andrew S Cook MA PhD FRHistS FRSA
>Map Archivist, India Office Records
>The British Library
>96 Euston Road
>London NW1 2DB
>+44 20 7412 7828
>From: A forum for issues related to map & spatial data librarianship
>[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Humphrey Southall
>Sent: 10 January 2007 17:18
>To: [log in to unmask]
>Subject: Separating and mounting maps from 19th century reports
>I am not allowed to say anything about the funding for this, but this is
>about something we need to do in the near future. I also apologise to
>anyone offended by the proposed act of vandalism!
>The reports of the Parliamentary Boundary Commissions form part of the
>vast body of British Parliamentary Papers, i.e. big fat volumes, mostly
>quarto in size. However, unlike most BPP volumes, they of course
>include a large number of maps bound in. With the exception of the very
>first Boundary Commission, for 1831-2, the maps are usually much larger
>than the ordinary pages, so they are inserted folded. Over the years,
>there were fewer and fewer ordinary pages, so by the mid-20th century
>the report consisted literally of a box containing a set of folded maps.
>However, this is about the 1868,
>1884 and 1917 reports.
>We need to scan a set of these maps both as the first stage of a project
>to construct vector boundaries and to create scans as a resource in
>their own right. We have had a set of the reports on long-term and
>informal loan, and we have just been told by the actual owners they do
>not want them back: they are disposing of the rest of their collection
>of BPP reports, and are donating to us the ones they have loaned.
>Here comes the vandalism bit: given that there are several other copies
>of the reports in more easily accessible locations, and given that the
>bindings for our copies are in very poor condition, I am proposing to
>have the books taken apart with the aim of creating a really good set of
>the maps, both for scanning and for long-term preservation. The maps
>are mostly printed on thin and fairly brittle paper (i.e. high acid), so
>so long as they are stored as part of the volumes and have to be
>un-folded and re-folded each time they are used, they will be subject to
>continuing damage. My guess is that they need to be permanently mounted
>on some kind of backing sheet.
>Has anyone experience of a project like this? Not having to scan the
>maps in situ within the books will cut the cost of scanning, giving us a
>budget to pay for restoring the maps (while, sadly, butchering the
>books). Can anyone suggest possible contractors?
Reader in Geography/Director,
Great Britain Historical GIS Project
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