Gutta percha: forgotten material of the communication revolution

Few other materials have had such a revolutionary impact on the world. And few others have been forgotten so quickly. (Ben Wilson, Heyday: Britain and the birth of the modern world, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London, 2016, p. xxiii) Describing gutta percha as "the vanished material that made the telecommunication revolution possible", Ben Wilson gives it… Continue reading Gutta percha: forgotten material of the communication revolution

Remembering the real old Foyles

Somewhat belatedly, I should record my pleasure at the opening of Foyles new flagship bookship on Charing Cross Road. Visiting it is not so very different from what it used to be, as they’ve only moved a few doors down the road, to get premises which can be laid out more like a shiny new… Continue reading Remembering the real old Foyles

Senate House Library and the context of documents

“Research is concerned with discovery”, Christopher Pressler tells us in his introduction to Scala Publishing’s splendid new book on the University of London’s Senate House Library, “Libraries are the essential mode of travel.” The centrality of collections of documents in an organized space is the intellectual theme to what might (wrongly) be dismissed as a… Continue reading Senate House Library and the context of documents

Knowledge, documents and a London location

As documents, and the whole information and communication environment, become increasingly digital, it is natural to assume that physical location becomes of less importance. Two newly published books remind us that this idea should be examined with a critical eye. Rosemary Ashton’s Victorian Bloomsbury, a splendidly scholarly and well-produced intellectual and cultural history of that… Continue reading Knowledge, documents and a London location

London (and Aslib) old and new

While leading a course for Aslib last week at the Etc. venues training centre near the Tower of London last week, I was struck by the view out of the window; which, I'm glad to say, the participants were polite enough not to stare at. In the foreground, Robert Smirke's Royal Mint building of 1809,… Continue reading London (and Aslib) old and new

Remembering Ludvik Finkelstein

Rather belated, this posting marks the death in August this year of Ludwik Finkelstein, formerly Dean of Engineering at City University London. Finkelstein was born in Lvov in Poland (now Lviv in the Ukraine) in 1929, and seemed destined for a career in his family's iron and steel business. Like so many from that part… Continue reading Remembering Ludvik Finkelstein

Brian Vickery (and the uneasy information scientists)

At the start of the 2010, we heard the sad news of the death of Brian Vickery in October last year. He was one of the leading lights of British information science over many years. This post is an expanded version of a short appreciation which I wrote as an editorial for Journal of Documentation.… Continue reading Brian Vickery (and the uneasy information scientists)