Saturday 15 November 2014

Paper or online? (Paper)

Is it a map? Çatalhöyük, Turkey, 6000 BC
Today I'm working on The Story of Maps, the next in my Story Of... series. The principal source I want to use for the theoretical history and development of cartography is the seminal work on the subject, The History of Cartography, edited by J. B. Harley and David Woodward and published by University of Chicago Press in 1987. But.... although I have Cambridge University Library on my doorstep, there is only one volume of the series available in Cambridge. (It is, happily, in Newnham College Library and as that is my current college affiliation, I can easily see it.) Here are my options:

go to London and use it in the British Library. Can't afford to - £15 a day each day I need to go, which will be many - perhaps 20

buy it.
Can't afford to - each volume changes hands at around £150 and there are seven.

use it online.
This is what I'm doing. The whole thing is available as PDFs from the UCP website - which is a brilliant resource and very generous of them.
It is a map - Jianxi, China, 18th century

 I am hugely grateful that it's there, but I would SO MUCH prefer to use paper copies. Then I could flick through to find pictures of maps I want to discuss. I wouldn't have to wait for hi-res images to appear on the page (not normally a problem, but after my poor computer has buffered about 50 of these it starts to get tired).

The frustration with using the electronic version will probably boost sales of the paper copies. I'm going to be filling in recommendation slips for CUL to buy all the volumes. But this is just the sort of book that should be a real, paper book.


  1. I know just what you mean. I love libraries - all that information that I'll never read. The hush. The smell of old books. The hours spend wandering among shelves and stumbling across something wonderful you had no idea you needed to know.

    The internet can never be the same. But ... so much of the information is there. I needed a street map of a town in New Zealand, as it was 100 years ago, and click, there it was. But sometimes I wish it weren't so easy. And it will never be as much fun.

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  2. No chance of an inter library loan? It would cost you a fee, but cheaper than travelling or buying, and you could claim it on tax. I can see that a book about maps really is best as a print copy. But the Internet is still amazing! I have been downloading PDFs of the Australian Women's Weekly of the war years from te Australian National Library web site. I can do such amazing research with it, and teach my students about primary sources. I can't travel up o Canberra to look at it every time I want to do so, and if I could, I couldn't take it out. They also have newspapers digitised going back to 1803. And recently, when I was researching the story of James Barry, the woman disguised as a man, I found an online newspaper article of the time, revealing all. Nice as it is to be able to get print copies of things, there re times when the Internet is a magical library on the other side of the screen!