Thursday, 8 November 2012

Day 4 of the OPU display

Today's choice is from Carol Campbell...

My first choice is not a major publication it’s a colouring book - ABC pictures to colour and I came across it when I was working on an enquiry a few years ago. It instantly reminded me of my childhood visits to the National Museum of Scotland, I think I insisted on being bought a new one each time I went!

My next item is another smaller ephemeral item, Be the voice that counts, is careers information leaflet for recruiting female Post Office telephonists published in the early 1970s. I chose this leaflet because it is very much of its era. Looking at it forty years after publication the contents could be viewed as quite sexist – reflecting the attitudes of a pre-equality legislation society. I am really interested the more ephemeral government publications like pamphlets and posters. These are often published in quick response to an emergency like Bird flu or in this case as temporary publication, easy to update as situations change, and were seen as items to be discarded after they stopped being useful. They provide an interesting snapshot of a moment in time, and we are fortunate that the National Library of Scotland retains these items in the collection.

Native American Photography at the Smithsonian is my last selection. The official publications collection includes a very interesting selection of United States material, including Congressional publications on print and microfiche. This item is a republication of the catalogue of the first photography exhibition held at the Smithsonian, but is more than that. This book gives an insight into attitudes of the time – the Native Americans appear to be treated as specimens rather than people and they are often wrongly identified, something that has been rectified where possible in this republication.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Quirky, moi?

Today's choice is from Diane Milligan, she has chosen items of a more quirky nature. Look out in particular for the 1947 vintage style 3-D glasses!

I guess I've made a pretty eclectic selection of material, but there is one overarching theme - the sheer breadth of the official publications collections.

One of the reasons why I chose "Food from the garden" is that it makes me think of my Granddad. When I was little my Mum told me about how he planted vegetables around their Anderson shelter during the Second World War. I also think it’s amazing that we have publications like this which come from that actual era, not to mention other items from the 19th century and earlier; it’s like holding a piece of history in your hands.

I really liked the way that "Air survey for development" takes a quite narrow subject area and makes it accessible, with the various applications of aerial mapping and photography clearly listed and with plenty of illustrations, some of them in 3-D (which explains the accompanying stereoscopic glasses!)

When I came across "Art collector", the Tate Gallery’s twist on the game of Happy Families, I was immediately struck by how it was such a good way to get kids interested in art and artists. We receive many beautiful books from the Tate and other galleries, and I did think that maybe I should have chosen one of those, but in the end this item’s quirkiness and innovation won out.

And last but not least, I was keen to include an electronic item. "Looking for Vikings" is an interactive resource, informing through words, pictures, and occasionally song! It was the result of a collaboration between the National Museums of Scotland, the National Museum of Ireland, and the National Museum of Denmark.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Curator's choice

Francine Millard an OPU curator tells me about her choice.

“I chose ‘Farm fires’ because it represents many Official Publications which have colourful illustrated covers. MAFF (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food) was dissolved in 2002 when its responsibilities became part of the Department of Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs (Defra). Having grown up in rural Lancashire among a menagerie of chickens, goats, ponies, cats and dogs, I have a particularly like publications on farm and animal management.

‘Make your own Egyptian mummy case’ is a British Museum item which I liked not just because of its subject, but because it was an interesting item to catalogue. Its format is ‘visual material.’ It is never to be made, so it is preserved exactly as it was when it arrived in the Library. It is similar to the real British Museum sarcophagi as it will be kept safe for future generations.

Finally, I chose ‘Pandemic flu: important information for you and your family’ because in 2005 governments were considering the danger H5N1 avian influenza (bird flu) if it evolved the ability to spread from human to human. The Welsh Assembly Government, who produced this leaflet in Welsh and English, issued many such publications. These will be important to future epidemiologists and history of medicine scholars who will be able to construct early 21st century reactions to infectious disease.”

Thursday, 1 November 2012


OPU Curators’ choice (part 2)

So why did I choose the other 2 books for the display? There are many fascinating items in the Official Publications collection and I wish I could display all the ones that have caught my eye over the last 25 years. This display just touches the tip of an iceberg of the wealth of material in the collection.

The 2 books that I chose to be displayed are books about my interests – gardening and history.

“Artists Kew” is a delightful book on paintings around Kew Gardens which I love as I am an avid gardener. I came across the book “Nelson” when answering an enquiry. At that time I had just finished reading a book about Lady Emma Hamilton and I started to become fascinated by Lord Nelson turbulent lifestyle.

Part 3 of the OPU Curators choice will appear on Tuesday.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012


OPU Curator’s choice (part 1)

My name is Elaine Simpson and I have worked in this unit for 25 years.  In that time I have seen many unique, important and quirky items pass across my desk and I try to blog about the more unusual ones that catch my eye.
The OPU curators were asked to submit 3 items from the collection for the display.  It was quite a challenge to choose what I thought would be good to view, out of the approximately 2 million items the Official Publications hold. In fact I cheated I just had to have 4 items on display.
My first had to be a parliamentary paper, they might look boring on the outside but inside a wealth of interesting facts appear, from when the first motorway was created to the European Union thoughts on eggs and information on disinewed meat. I have learnt a lot from House of Commons papers. The one I eventually decided to choose was based on the fact it is very new and quite topical “The referendum on separation for Scotland: terminating Trident – days or decades.”
I also chose a Scottish parliamentary paper for the same reason, it is the Public Audit Committee’s fourth report “The Gathering 2009.”

Tomorrow I will blog about my other 2 choices.  In the next few weeks all the curators involved will be explaining why they chose their items. There are quite a few quirky items on display it will be quite interesting to see why they decided on these items.

The display is in the cabinets at the top of the stairs in the George IV Bridge Library.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Coming soon...

The countdown is on....only 5 days to go...not to the next James Bond movie but to the Official Publications Curators' Choice display.  This display of items is showcasing material from the Official Publications collection.  The reason for choosing these books will become more evident from future blogging. 
The display cases are outside the reference services area in the National Library of Scotland.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Summer weather

Protecting the Arctic
I have been concerned about climate change for a long time, and remember going to a conference many, many years ago about this subject, where government scientists did mention there was a need to be aware of this problem.

I was leafing through the recently published report on Protecting the Arctic. In the summary it mentioned the damaging effects of climate change in the Arctic. It is warming twice as fast as anywhere else on the planet, the speed of the ice cap retreating has increased and the previously held view that the ice-cap is not at risk of a summer collapse in the next few years need to be re-examined.

After our summer weather I was dismayed to read in the introduction “ As a result of climate change, a number of “tipping points” that would hasten further global climate change could be approaching, with serious ramifications for the UK’s weather and climate.”

Could we stand more miserable summers? More rain and cold is something we could get used to. However, what about the 4 million people that live there and the species that are unique to that area, if this continues what will happen to them?

This is a very informative parliamentary paper that does make you think about our fragile earth.

The title and shelfmark of the report is –Protecting the Arctic : second report of session 2012-13 by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee.

P.P. 2012-13 HC 171.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Mental Health reports added to Medical History of British India website

Those of you who regularly read this blog will know that I have been working on the digitisation of lunatic asylum reports from British India for some while.

I am delighted to announce that they have been added to the Medical History of British India website as the 'Medicine - Mental health' collection.

The 20,000 pages cover the period of 1867 - 1948 and describe the patients, staff and conditions of asylums throughout colonial India. This free to access material provides extensive research on responses to mental illness when the asylum's role was changing. Detailed reports show how 'moral management' was used by British colonists to treat native and European patients. This material will be particularly valuable to genealogists and those interested in the history of psychiatry, Indian and colonial history.

Please do have a browse and remember that the reports are searchable; just click on 'include book content' when you search.

The material, from the National Library's India Papers collection, was microfilmed and digitised using a grant from the Wellcome Trust.

(Picture shows Block plan of Rangoon Lunatic Asylum from 1893, image number:

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

A long political life

Simon Walker, our latest intern from Strathclyde University, started work with us a few weeks ago. He will be researching vaccinations for smallpox in India using secondary and primary sources to write web text for the Medical History of British India Project website using NLS web writing guidelines.

It turns out that Simon’s grandfather was Harold Walker (Baron Walker of Doncaster), which of course was of great interest to us here in the Official Publications Unit.
Harold Walker was an Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Workers’ Union (AUEW)-sponsored Labour Member of Parliament for Doncaster from 1964, holding the seat for 33 years. His political career progressed through junior whip in Harold Wilson’s government, under-Secretary for Employment, Privy Counsellor and Deputy Speaker. His union links were compromised by his involvement in Barbara Castle’s incomes policy initiative, the controversial “In place of strife”*, but he saw more progress with his work on equal pay, though Hansard shows that he still got a rough ride, despite his best intentions.

According to his obituary in the Telegraph, “One of Walker's most celebrated rulings was to order (with a barely-controlled straight face) the Labour maverick Tam Dalyell from the Chamber in 1986 for calling Mrs Thatcher "a bounder, a liar, a deceiver, a cheat and a crook", thereby uttering the five most un-Parliamentary expressions in a single sentence. Walker also expelled the future Scottish [First Minister] Alex Salmond for interrupting Nigel Lawson's 1988 Budget speech”.

He was knighted and served in the Lords on his retirement in 1997.

*You can access this report at the Library, shelfmark: P.P. 1969-1969 Cmnd 3888, or see the electronic version online, if you are a registered reader, in our licensed digital resources.

Simon was kind enough to bring in various documents, diaries and photographs, including this one of a (much younger!) Simon, with his distinguished granddad receiving his KBE, and Harold's second wife.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Great British bed bugs

In the build-up to the London Olympics, with the invasion of Union Jacks, adverts for sport gear and energy drinks, have you considered another invasion - of bed bugs?

The Australian bed bug epidemic was most likely to have been caused by the mass influx of visitors to the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Now London is bracing itself not only for a year's worth of tourists in 3 weeks but a surge in the bed bug population.

Bed bugs are wingless insects which are transferred from place to place by crawling into clothes and luggage. They can hide in mattresses, bed frames and even clock radios. They thrive in densely packed cities and feed on human blood. Infestations can be dealt with by pest control experts who deploy steam and chemicals against the unwanted insects.

Buyers of secondhand furniture are advised to check all items for bugs very carefully and travellers asked to check hotel beds and headboards while keeping luggage off the floor.

In British India it was suspected that the bed bug caused leishmaniasis, such as in Preliminary report on the development of the Leishman-Donovan body in the bed bug, 1907.

Medical personnel deliberately placed bed bugs on patients who were lying prostrate with malaria as part of their experiments.

In nineteenth century Bengal, bed bugs were a threat to army health as well as causing uncomfortable nights' sleep for the soldiers as they were feared to carry disease-causing parasites.

Europeans were advised to copy the Mahomedans, who shook the bugs out of their beds just outside the house or the Hindus who placed wooden bug traps in their beds.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Dalai Lama visit to National Library of Scotland

On Friday 22nd June, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet visited the National Library of Scotland here in Edinburgh.
He had requested a private viewing of some material, which included some Medical History of British India items.
On this page from His Holiness’s website Jan Usher, Head of Official Publications and one of the founders of the project, shows His Holiness a photograph from 1894 of Indian mendicants in the Report of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

To flog or not!

It never ceases to amaze me what Parliament discusses. I came across volume 156 of  Hansard for the year 1860, and read the discussion about flogging in the Army and Navy.

Mr W. Williams started the debate stating that he can’t understand why flogging was allowed as it would prevent respectable men from joining the Army or Navy.

The argument for flogging was that it had to be maintained as otherwise there would be “total subversion of discipline.”

He goes on to state that for trivial offences the soldiers and sailors would receive worse treatment than convicted criminals and felons!

Apparently the maximum of lashes for the army was one thousand, but this number was reduced to three hundred after a soldier died from flogging, and reduced again by the Duke of Wellington to fifty lashes.

The descriptions of flogging a soldier would appear in newspapers. One such incident concerned a young soldier named Davis, “his back was covered with a mass of large, red, inflamed boils, which bled profusely at every stroke, and reddened the ground under his feet, upon which the cat was ordered to be withheld for a few moments.” Even after pleading for mercy and escaping the confines the punishment still continued.

An interesting note is that the cat used in the Navy was heavier than the Army and was wielded in a different fashion which meant that 50 lashes in the Navy was equivalent to 150 in the Army.

In seconding the motion Mr Bristow when asking a French officer if there is any flogging in the French Army, received the reply “Neither the French men nor the French soldiers are brutes.”

However, later on the debate it is mentioned how the French treated crimes in the Army. “Do not talk about our treating men as brutes, when the French shot where we flogged. In Berlin solders were punished by being placed in a room six feet by four, with a series of re-entering angles, so that it was impossible for him to stand.”

It is a fascinating but horrific debate and an insight into what Parliament discussed in the Victorian era.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Perfect bodies

The British Museum have just published Perfect bodies: sports, medicine and immortality, edited by Vivienne Lo. Based on an interdisciplinary conference and other academic events and exhibitions which began in 2007, this book explores ideas and training and preserving the perfect body. The chapters in the book reveal the changing ideas about how exercise contributes to health and the history of sport and body cultivation. In the run-up to the 2012 London Olympics, this book explores the diverse traditions of perfecting body and soul including early Chinese kickball games, Andreas Vesalius's De humani corporis fabrica of 1543 and twentieth century Chinese exercises to do while brushing teeth. Illustrated throughout, this book is at NLS shelfmark OP6.212.44/2.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Satisfy your morbid curiosity with Official Publications

If you have a morbid curiosity about death there is a small display outside the Reading Room in the Library's George IV Bridge Building. For this display I have collected a variety of Official Publications relating to death customs and the hidden practices of death certification, forensic anthropology and NHS mortuary work. These items also chart the shift in cultural and social attitudes to death from ancient times to the present day. You can find out more about these changes and the items themselves in my two part 'Morbid Curiosity' podcast: 'Morbid Curiosity: death in Official Publications' is on show at George IV Bridge, outside the main reading room until 31st July. 'Morbid Curiosity,' a short film, will be available on the NLS website soon.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

World Blood Donor Day

Today, June 14th, is World Blood Donor Day.

Every year, countries throughout every region of the world organize a huge variety of events and activities to celebrate the day, from football matches to free concerts, and from mobile blood donation clinics to monumental decorations.

The World Health Organization and partners have decided to focus the 2012 campaign on the idea that every one of us can become a hero simply by giving blood. The everyday hero responds to an immediate need, whatever the conditions, despite inconvenience, putting the needs of others above their own. Voluntary blood donors come from all walks of life, all regions, backgrounds, religions and ages. By choosing to donate blood without getting paid, these individuals commit an "heroic" act, a gesture of human solidarity with the power to save lives. Some of them do so dozens of times over several decades.

Find out more here.

(Text from

Friday, 1 June 2012

Royal connection

As a coincidence on the weekend of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee this lovely little booklet Opening of the New Library by Her Majesty the Queen   appeared on my desk. The new library on George IV Bridge was opened by Her Majesty the Queen on the 4th July in 1956.

Enclosed in the booklet is a full order of proceedings, it states

“ 3.0 p.m. Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh will arrive at the main entrance of the New Library on George IV Bridge.” Mr Orchard (the director of Messrs. Colin Macandrew & Partners the principal contactors) will hand the key to the Queen, and the Chairman will ask Her Majesty to unlock the door.

The booklet tells the story of the library, how it started and a description of the new building, with a few black and white photos of various areas inside the building. It is a delightful booklet and well worth a read.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012


A coffee table book if there ever was one, this book Ballgowns british glamour since 1950   published by the Victoria and Albert Museum encapsulates the ballgown. It is full of wonderful photographs of British ballgowns spanning 60 years.

Designs by Alexander McQueen, Garath Pugh and Stella McCartney are just a few of the designers featured in this book. The book explains about the importance of the ballgown from 1950, when formal balls took place and debutantes learned to curtsy for their presentation to court, to wearing the most beautiful evening dresses on the red carpet.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Crimean War

Whilst checking some parliamentary papers, I came across the second report from the Select Committee on the Army before Sebastopol, with the minutes of evidence and appendix. I was immediately transported to the horrors of war by reading it. This is a frightening report where the Select Committee examined men that had been actually there and seen what it was like. Some of the statements are not just harrowing, but extremely gruesome.

There is evidence about the state of the toilets in one of the hospitals; “the pipes soon chocked up and the liquid faeces, the evacuations from those afflicted with diarrhoea, filled up the pipes, floated up over the floor, and came into the room…more than an inch deep when I got there in the morning.” He then goes on to mention that the soldiers who had no slippers or shoes had to use the toilets! The inspector ended up catching diarrhoea within 5 minutes of being there. Ugh!

In another interview it describes the state of the army outfits. The question was “were the men in a ragged and comfortless condition in the camp?” The reply was “Frightful; they had haybands round their legs in very many instances, and their trousers were completely worn out.”

There was a debate about coffee, that it was deeply regretted that it was green and not roasted.

The worst statement I read concerned dead bodies; “it was wrapped in a blanket and carried to the grave, and when placed in the grave the blanket was taken off” This was to stop the digging up of the bodies to steal the blankets.

This report can be found at PP 1854-55 Vol. IX. or if you are a registered reader of the National Library of Scotland, try using the House of Commons Parliamentary Papers resource.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Warren Hastings may be dead but not forgotten in the NLS

I was looking at the reprints of the House of Lords sessional papers, and found 10 volumes from 1794-95, which were entitled the trial of Warren Hastings. I have heard his name many times through my work, and thought that he deserves a mention. He was born in 1732 and died in 1818 and he was the first general governor of India from 1773 to 1785.

However, in 1787 the House of Lords were deemed fit to bring him to trial on

“An impeachment against him for high crimes and misdemeanors, by the knights, Citizens, and Burgesses, in Parliament assembled, in the name of themselves, and of all the Commons of Great Britain.”

The crimes included misconduct, mismanagement, personal corruption and extortion.

It took seven years for him to be acquitted.

Looking through these volumes there is an amazing amount of information, oral and written minutes and appendixes laid before the House Of Lords.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Save Lives : Clean Your Hands Day 5th May 2012

The World Health Organization (WHO) is dedicating the 5th May to its global campaign to improve hand hygiene in health care, led by WHO to support health-care workers. The WHO's website is packed with tools, resources, reports, case studies and even videos and podcasts to support institutions in eliminating diseases such as diarrhoea and influenza and tackling hospital-aquired infections caused by the bacterium MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). (Image from the WHO website).

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Phone-hacking scandal

Hot off the press – the News International and phone-hacking report is published.
It comes in two volumes, vol. 1 report together with formal minutes and vol. 2  oral and written evidence.

The report is examining “whether or not there is good evidence to suggest that the Committee and its predecessor committees have been misled by any witnesses during the course of their work on the phone-hacking scandal.”

This gossip still continues to surround News International and is having major repercussions for the British newspaper industry.

There has been three separate inquiries into the press standards over the last decade.

In the second inquiry it was noted that they were frustrated by the “collective amnesia” that seemed to afflict the witnesses from News International.

Due to a series of events in 2011 the inquiry had to be re-opened and produced News International and phone hacking.

Monday, 30 April 2012

State opening of Parliament

Parliament will soon be in prorogation.  This means the marking of the end of a parliamentary session, before the State Opening of Parliament when the new session starts.
This year the State Opening of Parliament will take place on the 9th May 2012.  The 2010-12 session has been a long one, as it started after the State Opening which took place on Tuesday 25 May 2010 and is only about to finish now.  Normally a new session starts in November and then ends the following November.  However, after the last general election the Fixed Term Parliament Act was passed on the 15 September 2011.  The Act states that the parliamentary general elections will ordinarily take place on the first Thursday in May every five years.  Out of this Act one of the benefits would be that there would be five twelve months parliamentary sessions beginning and ending in spring.

Friday, 20 April 2012

National Allergy Week 23th-27th April 2012

Many people (including myself!)are allergic to pollen (the UK's number one allergen), dust mites, fungi and pet hair. Food allergies and intolerances, skin allergies and fatal anaphylactic reactions seem to be on the rise. Follow the link to find out more on recognising and managing allergies, even those related to work!

Pert PIPs - Breast Implant Scandal

The Stationery Office recently published PIP breast implants and regulation of cosmetic interventions. It was in March 2010 that the French regulator the Agence Française de Sécurité Sanitare des Produits de Santé found that the French Company Poly Implant Prothéses (PIP) had been using non-authorised silicone in the manufacturing of breast implants. In December 2011 there was an increase in reporting of ruptures of PIP implants and fears that the unauthorised silicone could pose a risk of cancer. The French Ministry of Health advised the routine removal of PIP implants on a precautionary and non-urgent basis. It is estimated that about 40 000 UK women have received these implants prior to the withdrawal from the market. Out of the 40 000 only 3 000 women received them through the NHS. Since the PIP breast implant scandal the Government has announced a number of reviews, Sir Bruce Keogh is to access the evidence on the risk of the PIP implant and also will conduct and wider review into the regulation of cosmetics. Earl Howe is conducting a review into the actions of the MHRA and the Department of Health. In the summary it states “ the replacement implants for private patients should only be provided on the NHS where there is a clinical need. However, the Committee invites the Dept. of Health to propose a framework that would allow women in certain circumstances to combine NHS removal of implants with paid-for private surgery to insert replacements.”

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

SOS Iceberg

"The Unsinkable Titanic: books from the Official Publications Collection"

100 years ago this month, the world was rocked by the news that the unsinkable ship, the Titanic, had hit an iceberg and in less than 3 hours had sunk to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

It was at 11.40 pm on the 14th April 1912 that the Titanic hit an iceberg. It took just 2 hours 40 minutes for the ship to sink. Of the 2,223 people that were onboard only 705 survived.
The lifeboats had room for only 1,178 passengers and there were reports that the lifeboats weren’t full to their capacity when they were launched.

These are a selection of books from the Official Publications Collection that encapsulate the story of the Titanic from its conception to the wreck, they're on display in our main reading room till the end of April.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Journey to Mecca

What is Hajj?

Hajj is a sacred duty for Muslims, they must at least once in their lives go to Mecca. Hajj is one of the 5 pillars of Islam, it is also the only one that non-Muslims can neither observe nor take part in.
It should not be done on debt and the pilgrim’s family should not be left without support.
I found this all out in the book Hajj journey to the heart of Islam which recently landed on my desk. The British Museum has produced this book as a companion to their exhibition.
The book explains about the Hajj, the origins so steeped in time. It describes the history of the journey to Mecca, the importance of Hajj through text, pictures, maps and amazing photographs. As I leafed through it I was immediately transported to another world.
It is a fascinating book that delves into this amazing aspect of pilgrimage to Mecca with antidotes from pilgrims.
(photo taken from

Friday, 23 March 2012

World Tuberculosis Day 24th March 2012

World TB Day, falling on March 24th each year, is designed to build public awareness that tuberculosis today remains an epidemic in much of the world, causing the deaths of several million people each year, mostly in developing countries. It commemorates the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch astounded the scientific community by announcing that he had discovered the cause of tuberculosis, the TB bacillus. At the time of Koch’s announcement in Berlin, TB was raging through Europe and the Americas, causing the death of one out of every seven people. Koch’s discovery opened the way towards diagnosing and curing TB. (text from

For those researching tuberculosis in the past, there are plenty of statistics about TB in British India in our Medical History of British India collection. Many soldiers and inmates of jails and asylums died from it and much epidemiological data can be downloaded from the website from the htm files.

Meanwhile, in our stacks here in the Library, reports from the Public Health Commissioner (shelfmark IP/QA.7) explore the prevalence of TB in India under British rule. In 1933 it was estimated that there were over two million cases of TB in India, being particularly serious in Bengal, Madras and the Punjab.

Now in 2012, people of different ages and living in different countries could have these hopes for stopping TB in their lifetimes:

•Zero deaths from TB
•Faster treatment
•A quick, cheap, low-tech test
•An effective vaccine
•A world free of TB.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

New to OPU this week is Wildlife Photographer of the Year Portfolio 21.

This powerful collection of pictures represents the work of 79 photographers from 24 countries. The pictures were selected from 41,000 entries and are chosen by an international panel of judges for their artistic merit.

OPU receives this hardback publication every year, as it is published by the Natural History Museum. Every year there are many stunning images, reminding the reader of the beauty, variety and fragility of the life on our planet.

It is shelved at: OP3.212.11.

The online gallery allows viewing of the winners and also the chance to purchase prints.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The race for the South Pole

January 2012 saw the centenary of Captain Robert Falcon Scott reaching the South Pole alongside four other members of the British Antarctic Expedition.

To commemorate this expedition and that of Norwegian Roald Amundsen, the Natural History Museum has published two lavishly illustrated books which have just arrived in Official Publications.

Scott's Last Expedition by Steve Parker, focuses on the British efforts, from personnel and logistics in setting up the Discovery base to Antarctic observations and specimens. Finally Parker writes of the brutal journey to the South Pole and the search for the missing 5 explorers.

Race to the End by Ross D. E. MacPhee, tells the story of both Scott and Amundsen, comparing their different approaches in leading an expedition and in facing the challenges and hardships of the polar environment.

Packed with detail, both books are generously illustrated with maps, notebook sketches, plans, photographs, newspaper reports, and photos of artefacts such as snow goggles, food tins and dog harnesses.

Race to the End contains foldout panoramic panels from The Sphere's edition of February 2013 (see illustration above, which is taken from Stage VIII panel). Following Scott's journey and the tragic end of his expedition, this series of sketches reveals the jingoistic attitudes of the time more than the truth of what actually happened but is still fascinating to look at.

The National Library of Scotland holds a Mountaineering and Polar collection and the Learning Zone features Scott's last expedition.

Scott's Last Expedition is at shelfmark: OP3.212.10
Race to the End is at shelfmark: OP3.212.13

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Scottish Government leads the way!

 Referendum consultation in ebook format

The Scottish Government will become the first administration in the UK to make an official publication available in digital download format for devices such as iPad and Kindle, after it was confirmed the Your Scotland, Your Referendum consultation will be issued as an eBook.
The latest development will now act as a pilot scheme for future digital distribution of Scottish Government documents, an initiative that will improve access to important public files and could drive down print costs as more and more people in Scotland rely on digital devices for published material.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

UN Monthly Bulletin of Statistics

The Monthly bulletin of statistics from the Statistical Office of the United Nations will cease to be produced in paper copy, however, it will be available free-of-charge in electronic format only. For further information, please visit the website of the Monthly Bulletin of Statistics Online where all data are available in database format and/or in PDF. The latest version of the MBS will be added in this section each month.

Electronic copies of the Monthly Bulletin of Statistics are available in PDF on the website, starting from 2009 and onwards.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Bread, shelter and roses

When working on an enquiry about the Government of Scotland Bill 1924, I came across an entry to the Scottish Stone of Destiny Bill.
I checked Hansard for more information. Mr Kirkwood started the debate by mentioning the history of the stone, that Jacob had it for a pillow at Bethel, when he was fleeing from his brother Esau. It then went into the possession of the Kings of Egypt and over to Ireland before it finally arrived in Scotland.
Lord Apsley from Dunstaffneys mentions that it could be dangerous to follow that theory too close as in should the stone not be sent back to where it originally came from which would be Bethel and the Jews. He also states “I have had to sleep many uncomfortable nights on the Hill of Bethel.”
Mr Kirkwood also points out “My friends and I are accused of being materialists …the charge is false. When we seek bread and shelter for our people we also demand roses.”
I am fascinated about what roses he would demand.
I find that Hansard can be a very interesting and entertaining read. The further you go back in history, the eloquence, articulation and expressive way in which the MPs spoke can be found to be amusing nowadays.
To find out more information about the Scottish Stone of Destiny Bill, and you are a registered reader of the National Library of Scotland, try using the House of Commons Parliamentary Papers resource.

Monday, 20 February 2012

What colour of political animal are you?

Think you know you're a socialist, a Green, a Tory? Well, put your beliefs to the test by trying the Scottish Vote Compass, a joint academic project involving researchers from the Department of Political Science at the University of Strathclyde and the eDemocracy Centre, based at the ZDA, University of Zurich.
You may be surprised! (I was...)

Thursday, 16 February 2012

CSI: India

I’ve been looking at the Chemical Examiner’s reports, which are among the remaining medical items in the India Papers. The NLS plans to put in a bid to the Wellcome Trust to have these digitised and added to the Medical History of British India website. The NLS holds reports dated 1874-1942 from the Punjab, Burma and North-West and Central Provinces and Oudh.

The Chemical Examiners gave independent scientific advice to the Criminal Justice Administration System. The first laboratory was established in Madras in 1849, with one formed in Kerala in 1890 under the orders of Government as part of the Health Department.

The Chemical Examiner’s laboratory investigated cases of human and animal poisoning, stain cases (blood, semen, faecal matter) plus purity of drugs (opium, hemp drugs, cocaine, chloroform) and water.

The reports include short notes on the more important medico-legal cases, including strychnine poisoning and a case of an apple tart laced with croton oil, a ‘drastic purgative.’ The cook had poisoned the tart, which was served up after a cantonment dinner party (Report of the Chemical Examiner to Government, North-West Frontier Province, 1930, shelfmark: IP/29/CB.3).

Hair was also used to detect crime, examined by microscope and ultra-violet light to identify its origin. The work of the American scientific crime detection lab in North-Western University was of interest in India as ‘hair-rings’ could show the age of a human. Hair was as important as a finger-print in tracing criminals, Dr. Hood claimed.
(Report of the Chemical Examiner to Government, North-West Frontier Province, shelfmark: IP/29/CB.3).

The Chemical Examiner’s Laboratory still exists at Kerala and its work is very similar to that of last century.

(picture credit:

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Referendum: the big questions

The Scottish Affairs Select Committee has produced a short report  on its second inquiry into the devolution referendum, scheduled to take place in 2014. It looks at bank regulation, pensions, national currency, membership of international organisations, Scotland's defences and the potential costs of separation from the UK.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Medical Congress 1887

Carrying on with the audit of Official Publications I came across the report on the ninth International Medical Congress held in Washington in 1887 The author is from the army in England, and he notes the presentations given, and the discussions following them.
One of the presentations remarked about a European Officer in the Afghan Campaign whose duties and responsibilities made great calls upon his energies. He listened to a native officer who suggested to try opium as they do, the officer followed his advice with a “striking benefit.”
Another was about abdominal surgery - An Italian was stabbed, he walked to the hospital where the wound was dealt with. On the following day, although his pulse and temperature were normal he felt a lot of pain and then he vomited green material.
Following on from the Medical Congress the author visited the John Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore. He mentions “ Nor do I think that such a hospital, with its elaborate and expensive organisation and arrangements would be necessary or even warranted in this country, where there are so many other and more pressing needs. As regards the sick, the same objects might be attained at a much less cost.”
The plans for this hospital are attached to the book and show great depth of detail. This book gives such an insight into the 1880s field of medicine, civilian and army situations, from drinking water to various gunshot wounds, and the spread of disease.
(photo from book)

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Happy Australia Day!

G’day folks, I thought as it is Australia day I should highlight some of the Australian collection in the Official Publications Unit.
We have a small, in depth range of books from the Australian Government departments. These range from books from the National Library of Australia, the Australian National Gallery and Australian Museum. There is a series on the Historical Records of Australia from series 1 vol. 1, and a wealth of statistics from the mid 60s to the mid 80s from the Bureau of Statistics. We even have books and periodicals from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation. There is also the Australian yearbook from 1980 onwards; the latest can be found in the reading room.
There is a book about the insects of Australia, although I am too scared to look at that one!
If you can’t find the books you are looking for remember to contact the Official Publications Unit.
(photo credit

World Leprosy Day 29th January

World Leprosy Day
is on the last Sunday in January, this year the 29th.
World Leprosy Day encourages prayer, fundraising, awareness and donations to aid those who have the disease. Over 100 countries are taking part and 2012's focus is transformation, focusing on Mozambique, one of the least developed countries in the world.
Leprosy, also known as Hansen's Disease, is caused by the bacillus, Mycobacterium leprae. Although spread by droplets from the nose and mouth - like colds and flu - it is not highly infectious.
It is curable by use of multidrug therapy (MDT). MDT consists of 3 drugs: dapsone, rifampicin and clofazimine.
The World Health Organization is aiming to eliminate leprosy from as many places as possible, by working to have leprosy care integrated into health services, committing resources and funding and removing the stigma of having the disease.
Leprosy was known in ancient civilizations as far back as 600 BC and it is very well documented in the Medical History of British India reports.

(Photo credit:

Friday, 20 January 2012

Scotland's future

I have just catalogued the Scotland’s constitutional future command paper. This consultation paper discusses how to deliver a referendum that is legal, fair and decisive. It sets out the UK Government’s view on the issues in the referendum process which needs to be addressed and offers proposals on how to address them.
(image from

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Bygone Britain

I was dealing with an enquiry yesterday and I came across these seven fascinating books from the Central Office of Information. They are entitled Bygone Britain 1900-1970, and each concentrate on one topic: in the news, at play, at home, on the move, on holiday, childhood and at work.
These books have a preface by Sir Harry Secombe and contain a mixture of illustrations and articles from newspapers and magazines. They explore the vast changes that took place through the first 70 years of the 20th Century, through the serious, and the trivial stories of that period.
In the In the News book, there are wonderful photographs and articles. There is a picture of Dr Crippen as he walks down the gangway of the Montrose with his mistress Ethel Le Neve (she had been travelling disguised as a boy). After a five day trial at the Old Bailey, Crippen was found guilty and hanged on 8 October 1910.
There are pictures of Captain Scott and his ship (Terra Nova), and Mr Meares and Captain Oates cooking food for the dogs in May 1911. From the Daily Mirror 1913 there is an article with the tape message which told London the terrible news of the disaster to the Scott expedition.
There are photographs, cartoons and newspaper articles of Suffragettes. There are articles about the war years, an article from the Daily Herald 1953 when Everest was conquered and loads more.
These books are fascinating to look at to see what was happening in the various decades.
More information about the NLS mountaineering and polar collections here.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

War Horse, Army Donkey, Military Mule

I was pleased to be alerted to this blog entry which features a National Library of Scotland photograph.

The photograph, taken during World War I, shows a man with his arm around a mule . On the back he has written about his animal companion: "She is very stupid but I am very fond of her."

Michael Morpurgo's 2007 moving book War Horse is due out as a Steven Spielberg film this month. It tells the story of farm horse Joey's journey through the battlefields of the First World War.

Morpurgo was inspired to write the book after reading that millions of horses perished on the Western Front. Used in the thick of battle in cavalry charges and for pulling artillery, horses, mules and donkeys were seen as more reliable than
mechanised means.

Horses were very important in British India for the same reasons. The National Library's Medical History of British India website contains many digitised reports dedicated to the procurement of suitable breeding horses for serving the army. Horses imported from England often sickened and died en route. Those which survived were found to be unable to stand hard work in a tropical climate. In 1892 it was recorded that Indian-bred horses were hardier, with greater powers of endurance. Arab and Persian breeds had the same sought-after traits.

Horses, donkeys and mules who served in India, like their human counterparts perished from a variety of ailments and afflictions as this page shows.

Perhaps Michael Morpurgo would consider writing a book about one of these animals?

(Photograph is from the National Library of Scotland's Digital Gallery, First World War Official Photographs collection, image number 74549584)

The truth is out there - somewhere

A report from the UK Border Agency's Migration Advisory Committee, Analysis of the impacts of migration, got very different headlines in the media when it was published today. They ranged from "Migrants keep Britons out of jobs" in the Telegraph, to the Independent's "Immigration does not cause unemployment". Hmm, but which is better? as Harry Hill would say. Well, don't fight about it, read the report and decide for yourself...