Extracts from the Reports of the Astronomer Royal and Directors relating to the Library and Archives (1836–1987)

 

page under construction

The following extracts relating to the Library and Archives are taken from the following four sources:

  • Annual Reports of the Astronomer Royal to the Board of Visitors (1836–1964)
  • The reports of the Royal Greenwich Observatory published in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1964/5–1973)
  • Royal Greenwich Observatory Reports (Jan 1974 – September 1980)
  • Royal Greenwich Observatory: Telescopes Instruments Research and Services (October 1 1980 – September 30 1987)

The Reports of the Astronomer Royal to the Board of Visitors were presented at the annual visitation, which normally took place in the first week of June. The first was produced in 1836. The report for the following year established a format that remained much the same until 1963, (the year before the Board was abolished).

 

 


 

1934 May 11 to 1935 April 30

Section 2. The annual examination of the Observatory Library has been made. Nine books are reported missing and cannot be accounted for at present. Of these,seven were reported missing last year, and two books, which have been missing for a number of years, are now assumed lost and have now been written off. Three books which were missing last year have since been returned.

Section 10. Two pen and ink drawings of the Royal Observatory, made by Gasselin in 1699, have been presented to the Observatory by the Right Rev. J. H. Greig, late Lord Bishop of Guildford. These drawings, made 24 years after the foundation of the Observatory, are earlier in date than any other known drawings or prints of the Observatory. [According to the 1933 inventory to which they were added (RGO39/6/259–260), they were views of the Observatory from the North and the East, dated September 1699, acquired on 5 October 1934 and hung on the walls of the Astronomer Royal's Room in the New Physical Building (the South Building).]

The original manuscript of the observations of Flamsteed, first Astronomer Royal, which was deposited, sealed up, in 1706 by Flamsteed with Sir Isaac Newton, has been presented to the Observatory by the Radcliffe Trustees [RGO1/74]. The manuscript contains the alterations and emendations made by Halley and, as thus altered, was published in 1711 without Flamsteed's authority. In 1715 Flamsteed obtained possession of all the copies then remaining of this unauthorised publication and committed them to the flames.

The Radcliffe Trustees have also presented a manuscript volume of observations made by Bliss at Oxford during the time when he was Astronomer Royal [RGO3/45?].

 

1935 May 1 to 1936 April 30

Section 2. The annual examination of the Observatory Library has been made. Thirteen books are missing and cannot be traced as present. Of these, seven were reported missing last year.

 

1936 May 1 to 1937 April 30

Section 2. With the increased junior staff at the Nautical Almanac Office and the proposals for the general increase of permanent and temporary staff to provide for the additional annual and temporary work recently undertaken for the Admiralty and the Air Ministry, further accommodation became essential. In October, the Admiral President of the Royal Naval College placed three additional rooms at the disposal of the Office, which were immediately furnished and put into use ; pending the final decision as to the complement required for the extra work, consideration of the question of the future permanent accommodation of the Office has been deferred.

The extra accommodation made possible the redistribution of the staff, with the almost complete separation of mechanical and non-mechanical work, and has also allowed more space for the display of the books in the Nautical Almanac Office library. A card catalogue of these books, which has been urgently desired for many years and has now been made possible, is in preparation.

The annual examination of the Observatory Library has been made. Fifteen books are missing and cannot be traced as present. Of these, eleven were reported missing last year, and two which have been missing for a number of years have now been written off. One book which has been missing for a number of years has been replaced.

 

1937 May 1 to 1938 April 30

Section 2. The annual examination of the Observatory Library has been made. Sixeen books are missing and cannot be traced as present. Of these, eleven were reported missing last year, and two which have been missing for a number of years have now been written off. Two books which were missing last year have since been returned and re-entered in the catalogue.

 

1938 May I to 1939 April 30

Section 2. The annual examination of the Observatory Library has been made. Fourteen books are missing and cannot be traced as present. Of these, eleven were reported missing last year, one of which has been missing for a number of years and has now been written off. Three books which were missing last year have since been found and re-entered in the catalogue.

 

1940, June 1

The Report here presented refers to the period from 1939 May I to 1940 April 30 and exhibits the state of the Observatory on the last-named day.

Section 2. A considerable amount of time has been spent on Passive Defence Work. The 28-inch and 26-inch object glasses have been dismounted and removed to a place of safety. Steps have been taken to protect the Flamsteed manuscripts and other valuable books and records. Suitable refuges for the staff have been prepared.

The annual examination of the Observatory Library has been made. Seventeen books are missing and cannot be traced as present. Of these, fourteen were reported missing last year, one of which has been missing for a number of years and has now been written off.

The Binding Department of H. M. Stationery Office at the British Museum have kindly consented to renovate, and rebind where necessary, about 190 valuable and rare books belonging to the Observatory Library. 100 have been completed and returned, and the remainder are still in their hands. The condition and value of these volumes has been greatly enhanced by this expert treat­ment, and a suitable glass-fronted mahogany bookcase has been acquired for the purpose of housing these books when normal conditions return.

 

1941 June 7

The Report here presented refers to the period from 1940 May I to 1941 April 30 and exhibits the state of the Observatory on the last-named day.

Section 1. The annual examination of the Observatory Library has been made. Seventeen books are missing and cannot be traced at present. Of these, nine were reported missing last year. Eight books which were reported last year as missing have since been recovered.

The renovation and rebinding, by the Binding Department of H.M. Stationary Office, of about 190 valuable and rare books belonging to the Observatory Library has now been completed.

Section 9. The renovation and rebinding of about 190 valuable and rare astronomical books belonging to the Observatory Library was undertaken by the Binding Department of H.M. Stationary Office, at the British Museum. The skill and care with which this work was carried out is much appreciated. These books, together with the early records of the Observatory and Minutes of the Board of Longitude, have been sent away from Greenwich for safety.

 

1942 June 6

The Report here presented refers to the period from 1941 May 1 to 1942 April 30 and exhibits the state of the Observatory on the last-named day.

Section 1. The annual examination of the Observatory Library has been made. Eighteen books are missing and cannot be traced at present. Of these, thirteen were reported missing last year. Four books which were reported last year as missing have since been recovered.

 

1943 June 5

The Report here presented refers to the period from 1942 May 1 to 1943 April 30 and exhibits the state of the Observatory on the last named day.

Section 1. The annual examination of the Observatory Library has been made. Fifteen books are missing and cannot be traced at present. Of these, fourteen were reported missing last year. Four books which were reported last year as missing have since been recovered.

 

1944 June 3

The Report here presented refers to the period from 1943 May 1 to 1944 April 30 and exhibits the state of the Observatory on the last named day.

Section 1. No further damage by enemy action has been sustained during the year. Plate glass is being restored to windows broken in 1940, belonging to parts of the Main Building. Re-labelling of books in the Library has been continued throughout the year.

The annual examination of the Observatory Library has been made. 20 books are missing and cannot be traced at present. Of these, 15 were reported missing last year.

 

1945, June 2

The Report here presented refers to the period from 1944 May 1 to 1945 April 30 and exhibits the state of the Observatory on the last named day.

Section 1. The annual examination of the Observatory Library has been made. 21 books are missing and cannot be traced at present. Of these, 17 were reported missing last year.

 

1946, June 1

The Report here presented refers to the period from 1945 May 1 to 1946 April 30 and exhibits the state of the Observatory on the last named day.

Section 1. The annual examination of the Observatory Library has been made. 19 books are missing and cannot be traced at present. Of these, 16 were reported missing last year. 5 books which were missing last year have now been located.

 

1947 June 7

The Report here presented refers to the period from 1946 May 1 to 1947 April 30 and exhibits the state of the Observatory on the last named day.

Section 1. Owing to shortage of staff and pressure of immediate work it has not been possible to conduct the annual examination of the Observatory Library before the close of the year. The Admiralty has now approved the appointment of a full time Librarian, to cope with the formidable task of re-organization, re-indexing and physical removal of the library to the new site, and it is hoped that an appointment will shortly be made. The first task will then be to complete the annual stocktaking.

The Library has suffered badly in recent years from the errects [effects] of war damage and cramped space, and removal to Herstmonceux will afford a welcome opportunity for it to be expanded and re-arranged on a permanently satisfactory basis.

 

1948 June 5

The Report here presented refers to the period from 1947 may 1 to 1948 April 30 and exhibits the state of the Observatory on the last named day.

Section 1. (a) Greenwich. There is still a good deal of glass to be replaced in the Main Building [Chrisitie's New Physical Building], particularly in the West Library, where the books are suffering from dirt and damp, and some structural damage has yet to be repaired.

(c) Herstmonceux. Conversion work in the Castle and huts is proceeding, and it is expected that "Stage I" of the move will take place in August, ... Work on the chronometer rating rooms, in the Castle, has had to be postponed, because of alterations required in the Great Hall, immediately above them; the Hall is to serve as the Observatory Library, and it will be necessary to reconstruct the floor with steel supports before it can sustain the weight of books involved. A gallery is to be built along one side of the Great Hall, to carry additional book-stacks.

Section 2. The annual examination of the Library is in progress. The appointment of a Librarian, which was approved by the Admiralty (as mentioned in last year's Report), has not yet been made, owing to the difficulty in deciding the rate of remuneration and to the fact that, as is becoming increasingly plain, the proposed scale and standing cannot in any case attract a person the required scientific and educational qualifications. The condition of the Library is highly unsatisfactory at present, as the existing staff cannot be spared for the necessary periods; but even if this were not so the Observatory definitely requires a Librarian considerably more qualifications than can be expected from a Clerical Officer who has had a few weeks' course in librarianship. It is to be hoped that the position may be reconsidered at a suitable level. A start has been made in dealing with the heavy arrears of binding.

Section 11. The actual output of the Observatory is thus much reduced at present; and, apart from this, the situation which will hold from the end of Stage I until comple­tion the move will be gravely disadvantageous in other ways. The Observatory will be divided between Greenwich, Abinger and Herstmonceux, so that only one of the three branches .will have ready access to the Library, and the facilities of the Workshop will also be available only in: a very limited and unsatisfactory degree; this will be true; no matter when the Library and Workshop themselves actually move.

 

1949 June 11

The Report here presented refers to the period from 1948 May 1 to 1949 April 30 and exhibits the state of the Observatory on the last named day.

Section 1. Reconstruction of the floor of the Great Hall, to enable it to carry the weight of books, is nearly complete, and the chronometer rooms, darkroom, and other quarters below it have been progressed. It is hoped to transfer the chronometers and watches from their present temporary quarters fairly soon, so that the rooms at present occupied by them may also be adapted for their permanent purpose.

Section 2. Full checking of the Library has not been possible in recent years, owing to increasing shortage of staff. With the appointment of a Librarian to the staff of the Observatory, the situation is much more satisfactory, and a full check is in progress. It appears that the number of books missing is somewhat greater than in pre-war years, when an annual check was made, but not seriously so. The process of tracing missing volumes has only just begun, and it is expected that several will still be recovered.

Section 9. Authority was also received during the year for the temporary bearing of a trained Librarian and the post was filled on 1949 February 3 by the appointment of Mr. W. P. Preston. It is understood that the appointment will in any case cover the full period of the reorganization caused by moving the library to Herstmonceux and that the situation will thereafter be reviewed. [The later reports show that Preston remained on the staff as part of the Secretariat, and appears to have become permanent at the grade of Executive Officer in the reporting year 1958. According to Wilkins, he resigned in 1965.]

Section 11. The appointment of a qualified Librarian to the staff will make it possible for the heavy arrears of library work to be attended to, and for the problems incidental to moving the library from Greenwich to Herstmonceux to be dealt with. Binding is heavily in arrears, tracts and excerpts require to be sorted and arranged according to subjects; new shelf, subject, and author catalogues will be needed, The re­organization of the library will provide opportunity for books that have no further value to be discarded and for obvious gaps to be filled.

 

1950 June 3

The Report here presented refers to the period from 1949 May I to 1950 April 30 and exhibits the state of the Observatory on the last named day.

Section 1. The Great Hall of the Castle is being adapted as the Library. The steelwork for supporting the gallery is now complete, and the layout of the bookshelves has been determined. The most suitable method of lighting the Library is under consideration.

 

1951 June 2

The Report here presented refers to the period from 1950 May 1 to 1951 April 30 and exhibits the state of the Observatory on the last named day.

Section 1. The adaptation of the Great Hall of the Castle as a library is nearly complete. The constructional work and the decorations have been completed; cork tiles have been laid on the floor, including the gallery floor, and hot water radiators have been installed. The lighting installation is under consideration. Tenders for the supply of shelving will soon be invited.

 

1952 June 7

The Report here presented refers to the period from 1951 May 1 to 1952 April 30 and exhibits the state of the Observatory on the last named day.

Section 1. The adaptation of the Great Hall of the Castle as a library has been completed, except for the lighting, the installation of which is in progress. The main entrance doorway has been reconstructed and new doors have been provided. The shelving for the books has been constructed and erected by Messrs. Libraco Ltd., who have also supplied card catalogues and other accessories. The large oak table from the Octagon Room at Greenwich has been brought to Herstmonceux and placed in the library for the display of current periodicals and publications. The removal of the library books from Greenwich to Herstmonceux has commenced.

 

1953 June 13

The Report here presented refers to the period from 1952 May 1 to 1953 April 30 and exhibits the state of the Observatory on the last named day.

Section 1. A temporary loan is being made to the Maritime Museum of some of the important old manuscripts in the Observatory's possession, for showing in the Octagon Room, which is to be formally opened by H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh on May 8th.

The removal of books from the Library to Herstmonceux, which is being carried out by the Workshop staff, is now nearing completion; about 24,000 volumes have been transported and placed in the new library there. Some of the shelving from Greenwich has been transferred to the huts at Herstmonceux, and will be used for storing some of the contents of the Greenwich Record Rooms.

The lighting of the Great Hall of the Castle, which has been adapted as a library, has been completed except for the reading lamps on the tables. Strip lights have been fitted in each bay between the book stacks under the gallery, and along both sides of each row of stacks in the gallery. Three specially designed fittings provide general illumination. The books brought from Greenwich have been arranged in the library, but not all are as yet in their final places.

Section 2. It is expected that the removal of the library from Greenwich to Herstmonceux will be completed by the end of July. The removal has provided an opportunity to discard many volumes of meteorologlcal observations, for which the Observatory has no use.

It has not been practicable to take stock of the contents of the library this year, and the usual figures relating to missing books are therefore not available, A complete stocktaking will, however, take place in connection with the rearrange­ment and recataloguing of the library which will be begun as soon as the move is complete.

 

1954 June 12

The Report here presented refers to the period from 1953 May 1 to 1954 April 30 and exhibits the state of the Observatory on the last named day.

Section 1. The Octagon Room, which had been handed over to the National Maritime Museum as described in last year's Report, was formally opened by H. R. H. the Duke of Edinburgh on May 8. It has been accessible to the public at regular Museum hours, warders being provided by the Museum. Halley's Transit and Bradley's Zenith Sector are displayed in this room, together with copies of various old prints of the Observatory. Some important old manuscripts in the possession of the Observatory were exhibited for most of the year. The Airy Transit Circle has been shown to visitors, subject to not being in use for observation at the time.

Section 2. The removal of the Library from Greenwich to Herstmonceux was completed in August, 1953, with the exception of the collection of rare books for which a suitable bookcase is being made. It is, however, expected that this collection will be at Herstmonceux within the next few weeks.

The recataloguing and re-arrangement of the Library has been begun, and, in connexion with this work, a complete check of the book stock is being made.

 

1955 June 4 [9]

The Report here presented refers to the period from 1954 May 1 to 1955 March 31 and exhibits the state of the Observatory on the last named day.

Owing to the railway strike, the Annual Visitation and reading of this report was postponed from 1955 June 4 to 1955 July 9.

Section 1. A further quantity of library shelving was removed from Greenwich and erected in a temporary hut at Herstmonceux, for record storage.

Section 2. The removal of the Library from Greenwich [to Herstmonceux] was completed in July 1954.

The cataloguing of the Library is being proceeded with as quickly as circum­stances permit. In addition to an author catalogue, a subject catalogue arranged by Universal Decimal Classification and a new shelf list are being prepared.

Plans for the re-arrangement of the books in classified order are complete and H.M. Stationery Office will send a binder to Herstmonceux to stamp the new class numbers in gold lettering on the spines of the books. It is expected that the binder will commence this work in early April.

In connexion with the work of cataloguing, a check of the contents of the Library is being made. When it is complete, a report on the number of books missing will be submitted.

 

1960 June 11

The Report here presented refers to the period from 1959 April 1 to 1960 March 31 and exhibits the state of the Observatory on the last named day.

In compliance with the Public Record Act, 1958, a catalogue has been prepared of all Royal Greenwich Observatory manuscripts for the period 1675–1881.

Reports of the Astronomer Royal to the Board of Visitors 1956–1964

[There is no mention of the Library or Archives in these 9 reports other than in the staff list.]

 

 

Royal Greenwich Observatory Reports for the period 1964 April 1 to 1967 December 31

[There is no mention of the Library or Archives in these 3 reports.]

 

Royal Greenwich Observatory Report for the year ending 1968 December 31

A start has been made on the microfilming of Royal Greenwich Observatory archives by the Public Record Office. The papers and observation books of the first four Astronomers Royal (1675–1765) have been completed.

Royal Greenwich Observatory Report for the year ending 1969 December 31

 

Microfilm copies of the Royal Observatory records covering the period from Flamsteed to Bradley have been received from the Public REcord Office. It is hoped to continue microfilming of the records in the near future.

 

Royal Greenwich Observatory Report for the years begining 1 Jan 1970 and ending 1973 December 31

[There is no mention of the Library and Archives in these 4 reports.]

 

Royal Greenwich Observatory Report for the year ending 31 December 1974

RGO Archives. The RGO Archives are scheduled under the Public Record Act 1958 as documents of national importance, and are administered under the Act. The Archives Room is a Repository of the Public Record Office and inspected annually. History of science researchers are permitted to examine the manuscripts by appointment. Twelve such historians were assisted during the year by the Archivist, Mr. P.S. Laurie. Approximately 100 enquiries by correspondence were dealt with and copies of material supplied when possible on a reciprocal exchange or prepayment basis.

The papers of the first four Astronomers Royal and the Board of Longitude have already been microfilmed, and the recent provision of a recorder/printer should much improve facilities. However, a very substantial amount of material has still to be catalogued and microfilmed.

Libraries. The RGO Library, supervised by Miss J. E. Perry, now contains over 20,000 volumes covering most branches of astronomy and many other subjects of relevance to the work of the Observatory. Subscriptions are current for 137 journals, and material is exchanged with observatories and institutions in all parts of the world; 126 text books were purchased during the year.

The separate and smaller library of HM Nautical Almanac Office contains more specialized material, but has been expanded in recent years to cover a wider range of current astronomical text books and journals. Dr. G. A. Wilkins, who supervises the NAO Library, has continued to assist in the revision of the Universal Decimal Classifi­cation scheme for astronomy (UDC 52).

 

Royal Greenwich Observatory Report for 1975 January to September

Due to the Tercentenary there was an expected increase in public enquiries (approximately 140 letters) received by the Archivist, Mr. P.S. Laurie, and some dozen historical researchers were given facilities and assistance on visits to examine the archives.

Close collaboration continues with the National Maritime Museum (NMM) on the subject of further microfilming or RGO archives. With Public Record Office (PRO) agreement, a section on chronometers (46 volumes) has been temporarily transferred for this to be carried out.

Late 19th century and early 20th century papers are being rearranged and addition material incorporated in the archives.

At the suggestion of the PRO, a complete set of Royal Observatory publications (from late 18th century to date) is in process of being transferred from store to the archives.

Laurie and Mr. D.A. Calvert (Senior Photographer), in consultation with Lt.-Cdr. H.D. Howse (NMM) have arranged the RGO Photographic Archives under broad headings; they will be catalogued under the system used at NMM.

The work on rearranging and recording the RGO library's holding of publications received from other institutions and of periodicals, has continued under the supervision of the Librarian, Miss J. E. Perry.

Including the Library of HM Nautical Almanac Office, a total of 30,000 volumes is now held, in addition to reprints and unbound parts of current journals. Nearly 150 Journals are obtained regularly, and 150 books were acquired during the nine months under review. The publications of observatories and ephemeris offices throughout the world continue to be obtained in exchange for RGO publications and those of HM Nautical Almanac Office.

 

Royal Greenwich Observatory Report, 1975 October to 1976 September

During the first few weeks of 1976 the RGO Archives were removed from a basement area of the West Building (which they shared with stocks of RGO publications, and where there were no "office" facilities) to more convenient rooms in Herstmonceux Castle, near the main RGO library. Much of the year's work of the Archivist, Mr. P. S. Laurie, was taken up in preparations for this move, and in consequential organization of material. The opportunity was taken to incorporate a complete set of RGO publications to date in the archives. Some progress has been made by Mr. D. A. Calvert in the assembly and listing of the photographic archives.

Laurie provided historical material for the commentary of the film A Crowning Achievement, commissioned by the National Maritime Museum. The film features the reinauguration of the 28-inch refractor and the installation of a new Onion Dome-a replica of the original which was destroyed during the Second World War-at the Old Royal Observatory, Greenwich.

The archives were examined during the year on twelve occasions, the principal researchers being Capt. C. Cotter (UWIST, Cardiff), Pro­fessor J. Stock (University of Connecticut), Miss T. Hitchens (Imperial College, London) and Professor B. Warner (University of Cape Town). Correspondence received and dealt with amounted to 193 letters on a wide range of related subjects.

The need for economy has restricted the number of books ordered by both the RGO Library and the Library of HM Nautical Almanac Office. Subscriptions to several periodicals and "fringe" journals have been cancelled. Publications from other observatories and institutions continue to be received on an exchange basis.

The RGO Library has been used extensively by staff, visiting ob­servers and students from the Astronomy Centre of the University of Sussex. Rearrangement, consequent upon the need to provide more shelf space for rapidly expanding sections, has continued under the supervision of the Librarian, Miss J. E. Perry.

Dr. G. A. Wilkins, in collaboration with Mr. D. A. Kemp (University of Newcastle), completed a draft copy of a handbook on the use of the revised schedules for Astronomy (Section 52) in the Universal Decimal Classification scheme; this received an encouraging response when presented informally at the IAU General Assembly at Grenoble in August. The revised schedule is being introduced into the subject index of the NAO Library.

 

Royal Greenwich Observatory Report, 1976 October 1 to 1977 September 30

For historical reasons the RGO and NAO libraries have in the past been administered as separate units With the retirement of the RGO Archivist in 1977 May the opportunity was taken to group all these activities together in order to provide a better service and greater flexibility in the deployment of staff Dr G A Wilkins has acted as head of the Libraries and Archives Department pending the appointment of a Librarian and Archivist.

Libraries. In 1977 January a specialized collection of about 2500 items was transferred to the library of the Institute of Geological Sciences at Edinburgh as a consequence of the move of the Geomagnetism Unit of IGS from Herstmonceux (see page 6). Much of this collec­tion had been acquired prior to 1967 by the RGO Magnetic and Meteorological Department. Full records of the transfer have been retained. Special attention has been given to the indexing and re-shelving of current periodicals and the publications of observatories and other institutions in the main library (Castle). The reserve stock of similar material in the NAO library (West Building) has also been carefully checked and weeded. The subscription list for periodicals has been pruned and the number of books purchased has been reduced in an endeavour to keep expenditure roughly constant while prices continue to rise quickly. Duplication between the main library and the NAO library has been reduced to an essential minimum.

Archives. The task of indexing and labelling archival material continued until Mr P.S. Laurie (RGO Archivist) retired on 4 May. Since then he has been employed as a consultant for one day each week and has been primarily concerned with answering enquiries and assisting visitors. During the year 27 visitors spent periods of between one day and two months examining documents in the archives and about 150 enquiries by visitors, letter and telephone have been answered.

 

Royal Greenwich Observatory Report, 1977 October 1 to 1978 September 30

Organization. During the first half of the year. the libraries and archives were operated under the day-to-day supervision of Perry. Laurie was employed as a part-time consultant until March 31 to assist in answering archival enquiries. Since February 4, the work has been supervised for the first time by a professionally qualified librarian. Much of Dudley's time has been spent in reviewing the content and state of the libraries and archives and in planning the changes that will be required to provide better services for both staff and visitors, to ensure that the rate of deterioration in the physical state of the older material is reduced to acceptable levels, and to institute systems for the management of modern records.

Libraries. In order to move the focus of the day-to-day operation of the library services into the main library itself, a counter was designed and built, enclosing a working area for the library staff. The tasks of cataloguing, classifying, weeding and, where necessary, rebinding book stock have been started. Some of the older books have been transferred from the open shelves to the rare-book collection which is being rehoused in a separate secure room.

Archives. A report has been prepared on the state of the archives. Discussions an consultations have been held with staff of the Public Record Office and others, and proposals for future action have been put forward. Some papers of the late Professor Redman of the University of Cambridge were received at the end of September; they concern such matters as the planning of the Angle-Australian Telescope and of the Northern Hemisphere Observatory. The microfilming of the Airy papers has been started by the Public

Assistance was given to 25 persons, some from overseas, who came to the Castle to study the archives, often for several days. Over 60 postal enquiries and many telephone enquiries were answered. Amongst the subjects researched were the correspondence between Flamsteed and Sir Jonas Moore, the life of Mrs. Janet Tayler who was an acknowledged nineteenth-century expert on the correction of compasses, Sir John Herschel, the early history of photography, William Dawes and the establishment of the Port Jackson Observatory, the Bidston Observa­tory, and references to Jeremiah Horrocks in the Flamsteed papers.

A team from the Picture Restoration Department of the National Maritime Museum examined and reported on all the RGO pictures and prints. They carried out some conservation work on the premises and will continue more specialized remedial action at Greenwich, particularly on the prints.

 

Royal Greenwich Observatory Report, 1978 October 1 to 1979 September 30

Libraries. All books published prior to 1800 were weeded from the open shelves, as were any publications of which similar or earlier editions were reported as having been sold at auction. All these plus the original rare-book collection are being catalogued und described by Miss B. J. Tilley, a sandwich student from Birmingham School of Librarianship. Much of the pre-1939 scientific stock was also moved from the ground floor of the Castle to clear space for the rearrangement of the periodical collection. The cataloguing and classification of the more modern books continues. Trials, using the link to the IBM 360/ 195 computer at RL, were completed on the Famulus suite of pro­grams and work was commenced on building a computer-held file. A catalogue of periodicals and observatory publications is being compiled. The collection of modern 35-rnm transparencies has been reorganized and a computer-produced KWIC index is being prepared.

Archives. The question of the future of the RGO Archives has been resolved and proper facilities for storage and conservation are to be provided. A new complement post was created for a Senior Conserva­tion Officer. A calender (a detailed list of the contents) of the Flamsteed papers was started by Miss F. Willmoth, a summer vacation student. Assistance was given to 18 visitors, some from overseas and some of whom stayed for several days or weeks. Over 80 postal enquiries were answered.

The first 30 volumes of the Airy papers were microfilmed (12 reels, 1296 frames); in many cases the microfilms are clearer than the originals.

 

Royal Greenwich Observatory Report, 1979 October 1 to 1980 September 30

Libraries. The cataloguing of the modern book collection (some 19th and all 20th century titles) is almost complete; work has concentrated on this task at the expense of input to the IBM 360/195 at RL, although a small file has been formed to test the suitability of the Famulus suite of programs for our applications. The majority of the rare-book collection has also been catalogued by a sandwich student from the Birmingham School of Librarianship. The Collection has been enlarged since the cataloguing exercise started, mainly as a result of weeding the West Building Library stock. The periodicals in the West Building and Castle Libraries have been reorganized to provide for the astrophysicists now working in the West Building. Some transfers of monograph material remain to be done. The indexing of the periodical collection continues. All the current commercial titles have been carded, together with some dead runs. A start has been made on the observatory publications although progress here will be slower because of their complex publication pattern. The slide collection has been assembled and a computer-produced KWIC index to some 1,700 accessions is now available.

Archives. A Senior Conservation Officer, [A.R.] Bish, was appointed in January. Much of his time has been spent assessing RGO's needs and ordering equipment and supplies for a conservation laboratory. Work involving chemicals is severely restricted by the lack of a fume cupboard but it has been possible to do some repair and conservation work. Remedial binding of the rare-book collection continues to be done by an outside craftsman. The calendar of Flamsteed papers is progressing well. 60 of the 76 pieces have been dealt with. The organization of the more modern (19th and 20th century) records has begun now that the Deep Store in the West Building has been equipped with mobile racking. Work in this area is, however, being severely restricted by lack of available effort.

Assistance was given to 17 visitors, some from overseas and some of whom stayed for several days or weeks. Over 140 postal enquiries were answered. 164 pieces of the Airy papers have now been microfilmed (102 reels (10,237 frames)).

 

Royal Greenwich Observatory: Telescopes Instruments Research and Services, October 1 1980 – September 30 1985

Library & Archives

[The three illustrations and captions that accompanied this report have been omitted here.]

The Library and Archives collections of the RGO are the most complete single source available for scholars, both for the current state of the art in astronomy, astrophysics and related subjects and for the history of those subjects. They are also a primary source in the history of science and, to a lesser extent, technology.

They consist of the contemporary publications available on two sites at Herstmonceux (the Castle and West Libraries) and the John Whelan Library of the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on La Palma; the nineteenth-century printed material; the Airy Collection of Rare Books; the Archive collection of manuscripts relating to the history of the Observatory; the modern records, consisting primarily of post-World War II papers; the deposited archival collections of papers relating to, but not originated by, the Observatory and the collections of museum objects, three-dimensional archives and works of art.

Administratively, Library and Archives are part of Almanacs and Time Division, reporting through the Superintendent of the Nautical Almanac Office to the Director. The collections are available as a reference source to all members of the RGO and visiting staff and students, to the staff and students of the Astronomy Centre at Sussex University and other similar departments, to all Fellows of the Royal Astronomical Society and to other bona fide researchers on request. It is in fact true that all of the collections, with the exception of the contemporary publications, are used more by researchers not directly employed by SERC and this is particularly so of the Archives and the Airy Collection.

It was not until the late 1970s that any concerted attempt was made to introduce systematic cataloguing, indexing and arrangement to any of these collections and the sheer size of the problem has made progress somewhat slow. However, the results of the efforts made over the last six years are now becoming apparent.

In the Library, all of the twentieth- and the more used of the nineteenth-century publications have been catalogued, classified by UDC and rearranged on the shelves. The catalogue information is now being entered onto a computer data base. A short-title catalogue of the Whelan Library is already available, as is an interim card catalogue to the Herstmonceux collections. The periodicals catalogue is being put onto computer at RO E as part of a union list of UK holdings of astronomical serials. The Airy Collection of Rare Books is now housed in the Castle Chapel All the titles in this collection have now been catalogued with a full bibliographic description. Thus far it exists in manuscript only but there are long term plans to publish it, possibly as a microfilm edition.

Dealing with the Archives is a much larger and more complex problem. Such lists as did exist had been produced in the late 1950s as a result of the Public Record Act, 1958: the Observatory's records are Public Record within the meaning of the Act and the Observatory itself is a Place of Deposit under Section 4 of that Act. The lists were of necessity brief and occasionally uninformative; in any event they dealt only with certain sections of the records, probably no more than one third of the total. Increasing interest in the collections made sorting and adequate indexing a real priority but the means of so doing were not immediately obvious.

As funding from SERC budgets seemed unlikely to be approved, even in the long term future, the RGO approached the Manpower Services Commission (MSC) with the intention of setting up a team of cataloguers and indexers to be entirely funded by MSC under their Community Programme. Agreement was eventually forthcoming and, in April 1983, a staff of one supervisor, three part-time assistants was appointed to form the Laurie Cataloguing Project. The first year of the Project, 1983–4, produced lists of the papers covering the first 200 years of the Observatory's life, together with some 10,000 entries in an index to the correspondence of G, B. Airy, Astronomer Royal, 1835–81. Another index, to named chronometers in the collections, was also started.

During the second year, 1984–5, the Project tackled the Solar Plate collection, a unique run of daily Sun photographs on glass plates, where vital information would soon have been irretrievably lost and the plates spoilt had no action been taken. By the end of the year over 14,000 out of a run of 22,000 had been saved, the various indexes had doubled in size and the listings reached the twentieth century. To ensure continued MSC funding, the Project also planned and wrote a series of Educational Work Packs, intended for distribution to the many school parties visiting the Observatory. The staff in this second year grew to three full-time and seven part-time employees.

The MSC have now approved a third year, 1985–6, during which the educational aspect of the work will be expanded. It is also hoped to complete the transfer of all the archival listings to word processor disk: the Observatory was the first department to produce its listings in this way.

Although about 75% of the papers have now been listed, the huge indexing task is only 10% complete: to make this information immediately available it should be entered on computer, but financing on the scale required will available from MSC.

As an example of the use to which all these data are put, material in the Archives and Airy Collection has been used by Yallop (RGO) and Clark (RAL) to study the rotation of the Sun.  Records of observations made during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries of the occurrence of sunspots have been used to look for variations with latitude and time on the rate of rotation of the Sun. They found no detectable change in the equatorial period of rotation but they confirmed that the differential rotation with latitude varies with the sunspot cycle.

Lesley Murdin based a study of the practice of astronomy in the time of Newton on the archive material, and gave an account of how astronomers lived, built instruments and were financed in Under Newton's Shadow, Adam Hilger, 1985

The 1985 return of Halley's comet is resulting in a good deal of research being carried out at the Observatory and this precisely illustrates the unique character of the collections. We have in Archives both Edmond Halley's Islington observations of the great comet and the common-place book in which he later calculated its orbit. In the Flamsteed papers are observations made from Greenwich, against one of which is a note to the effect that, on that occasion at least, Flamsteed and Halley observed the comet together.

In the Airy Collection is Halley's Synopsis Astronomiae Cometicae (London, 1680), his first attempt to bring his theories to the public's attention; his note in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 1705, is in the Castle Library.

Also in the Airy Collection are Newton's Principia (3rd ed., London, 1726) which first interested Halley in the calculation of orbits and a number of important early treatises on comets, most notably Hevelius' Cometographia* (Danzig, 1668).

Bradley's observations of the 1758 return from Greenwich are in Archives and much of the published French of the period, particularly that by Clairault and Lalande*, is in the Airy Collection. By 1835, the Royal Observatory, Cape of Good Hope, was operational and Archives has Maclear's important series of southern hemisphere observations of the comet as well as Pond's from Greenwich.

By 1910 it was possible to make photographic plates with the 26-inch refractor at Greenwich and these, together with other plates, most notably again from South Africa, are stored in Archives. Virtually all of the printed material (newspaper articles, pamphlets, journal articles and results) are also available as are, now, a series of files of secondary publications on the present return and of photographs taken at both the Roque de los Muchachos and Herstmonceux.

Many of the images seen on television and in print relating to Halley's comet come from the Observatory. Use of all the collections is increasing rapidly and, as better finding aids become available and the book and periodical catalogues are fully automated, this trend is undoubtedly set to continue.

]. Dudley

Conservation

One of the main causes for concern when the Archive collections were reviewed in the late 1970s was their extremely poor physical condition and the rate at which the modern records, particularly, were deteriorating. After lengthy discussions, a modern and well­ equipped Conservation Laboratory was installed at Herstmonceux and a qualified paper conservator appointed. Although his task is primarily to deal with the Archive collections he carries out some remedial work on the rare books. The main programme dealing with the latter is, however, carried out under contract by individual craftsmen. The Observatory is one of the very few departments to have such a facility funded by central government and it is the only one supported within a research council.

* [Books of these descriptions appear in the 1827 catlaogue, suggesting that it was acquired by Airy's predecessor John Pond, who was fluent in French. In 1809, he translated into English and then published Laplace’s Système du monde. He also translated a substantial work by La Croix that was used by John Pinkerton in 1811 as the Introduction to the new editions of his Modern Geography in place of one by Samuel Vince.]

 

Royal Greenwich Observatory: Telescopes Instruments Research and Services, October 1 1985 – September 30 1987

[There is no mention of the Library and Archives in this report other than staff names]