Friday, 5 September 2014

Weston Library - Music Update

The Weston Library is now very near completion so here is some more information about what Musicians can expect to find when the new building opens and a warning of a certain amount of disruption in the next few weeks as the reading room is transferred from Duke Humfrey.

As already advertised elsewhere, Duke Humfrey’s Library will close to readers at 7.00pm on Friday 19th September and there will be no access to the Music open shelf collections nor any fetching of music scores until service is resumed in the Weston Library on Monday 29th September. The intervening week will be spent in moving the books, equipment and staff currently located in Duke Humfrey and preparing the new reading room for use the following week. All material still on reserve in Duke Humfrey and the Special Collections Reading Room will be returned to the stacks on 19th. A small number of music scores which are moving to the Weston Library open shelves are being moved in advance of the closure of Duke Humfrey so will, regrettably, be unavailable until service resumes on 29th. Although the building is opening to readers at the end of September, it will only gradually be filled and the programme of collection moves will continue all the way through to next summer. However, disruption will be kept to a minimum and it is expected that material being moved will be unavailable for only very short periods.

As most of you will know, Music will be accommodated in the Sir Charles Mackerras Reading Room which is located on the first floor of the Weston Library, in more-or-less the same position that it was latterly before the closure of the New Library (i.e. the old ‘PPE Gallery’). The room will also accommodate the reserve desk, serving not only the Mackerras Reading Room but also the adjoining reading room for western manuscripts, maps and rare books. You should be aware that, since the whole building is devoted to Special Collections (which includes all Music items), security in the building will be tight and the same restrictions (regarding food and drink, no bags, pencils only, etc.) which are currently in place in Duke Humfrey and the Special Collections Reading Room at the RSL will still apply.

Architect's impression of the Mackerras Reading Room
However, we are fortunate to have a great deal more space for Music than ever before so it will be possible for much more material to be on open access. When the reading room opens on 29th September, you should find there the collection of open shelf books moved from Duke Humfrey (with a few additions), along with a selection of composer collected editions, with a few other music series and periodicals overflowing into other open access areas adjacent to the reading room itself. With one specific exception, this will be the first time that the Bodleian has had music scores on open shelves in living memory. While this material is being moved, during the next couple of weeks, it may not be available for ordering but other copies of much of it will also be found in the Music Faculty Library.

Architect's impression of the Weston Library as viewed from Broad Street
Over the course of the next few months, before the public opening of the building in March, more music materials will be moved from the Book Storage Facility in Swindon to other open access areas adjacent to the Mackerras Reading Room. This will include more collected editions and series but the final extent and make-up of the open access collection is yet to be determined. When this material arrives, it may cause the initial distribution of books and scores on the open shelves in the reading room to be revised so there will be a period of readjustment while we settle into our new home and work out how to make best use of the space.

Initially, closed access scores and other material will still need to be requested from its remote storage in Swindon but, during the course of the next few months, a large proportion of the remaining printed music collections will be moved back from Swindon into the Weston Library stacks so that fetching times for most items will be greatly reduced. The state-of-the-art bookstacks will at last provide appropriate conditions for the storage of our wealth of rare books and manuscripts.
Long-standing users of the Bodleian’s Music collections will remember the days when the old Music Reading Room was adjacent to the Music staff office, with an inter-connecting door which was always open, so that specialist Music staff were always on hand. While it is not possible for us to return to that position, it is intended that a member of the Music team will be on duty in the new reading room for most of the time during core hours.

Finally, I should like to thank everyone for their forbearance during several years of disruption while we have existed in conditions which have been far from ideal. We ask for your continued patience as we now settle in to our new surroundings. Although it will be several months before all the collections reach their final homes, we hope that the increased quantity of material on open access and improved facilities in the new building, coupled with the fact that records for all the printed music collections (generated from the old card catalogues) will shortly be loaded into SOLO, will provide greatly improved access to the Bodleian’s rich and varied music holdings.
For more information on the Weston Library and collection moves, please see If you have any questions about any of this, please ask and I’ll do my best to answer them.


Tuesday, 13 May 2014

150 Years Ago

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of the music hall entertainer Vesta Tilley (1864-1952). Born Matilda Alice Powles, in Worcester, on 13th May 1864, she became a child star who earned enough by the age of 11 to support both her parents and her twelve siblings. Her father was Harry Ball, a comedy performer himself and theatre manager, who promoted his daughter’s career and wrote songs for her to sing. She first appeared in public at the age of three and a half, at her father’s theatre in Gloucester, and toured the provinces as ‘The Great Little Tilley’ from the age of six until she adopted the name of Vesta Tilley 1878.

As a child, she was initially billed as “The Pocket Sims Reeves”, for her impersonation of the famous singer, John Sims Reeves (1821-1900), and she went on to become the country’s most popular male impersonator. She dressed as fashionable young men in top hats and tail coats and, singing in her very feminine soprano voice, she entertained her working-class audiences by mildly satirizing the foppish manners of the rich in songs such as ‘Berlington Bertie’, ‘The latest chap on earth’ and ‘I’m a bachelor’.

In 1894, she made the first of several tours of the United States where she also enjoyed great popularity. She was at the height of her powers during the First World War and worked tirelessly for the war effort by singing patriotic recruitment songs. She retired from the stage in 1920 at the age of 56, drawing to a close a career which had lasted for over 50 years but thereafter making occasional charity appearances until her death more than 30 years later, in 1952.

The present anniversary is conveniently encapsulated in the title of the song illustrated here, one of dozens of Vesta Tilley song sheets in the Bodleian Library’s vast collections of music hall songs.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Easter vacation opening hours

Vacation borrowing begins on Monday 10th March. Please note that the MFL will be closed for one week of the Easter break. Full details of our vacation opening hours are here: