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UBC Publications

Biblos Mar 1, 1966

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As a matter of interest to our readers, we present this special issue
of Biblos, discussing the buying trip to Europe last November of
Messrs Basil Stuart-Stubbs and Robert M. Hamilton.
Following the return of the voyagers, Biblos asked some Faculty
members and the heads of the Library processing divisions for their
comments with regard to the results of the trip and the effects it
would have on their departments.
The following includes an account of the trip written by Mr, Hamilton
and the replies received in answer to our questions. THE TRI P
B & B have written before for Biblos on the book-buying trip to
Europe.  Since our return one of us has spoken publicly about
the trip several times, to the students of the Library School,
to members of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, and most importantly, perhaps, to the librarians on our own staff,  Some of
the reasons for the trip, an assessment of the experience
gained, the probable results have already been presented thereby to a large number of Biblos readers.  But there are other
members of the staff who have heard little about the trip, and
whose interest may well be more casual.  The professional staff
ha-s already heard as much as they want to hear, the others
don't especially want to hear much at all, and so perhaps the
best approach is to present some of the superficialities of the
trip, some of the simplicities.  Other pages in this issue carry
weightier information and keener analysis.
Preparations for the trip were haphazard and tentative until
the last.  Pressure of work kept us from organizing as much as
we felt we might, or should, but we had reservations about this
because we weren't sure what we were planning for.  Written
accounts of similar trips made by U.S. university libraries
were conflicting on many points or shed no significant light
on our fuzzy questions.  (Should we go to Helsinki to look for
Russian books, or had the place really been cleaned out by
that man from U.C.L.A.?)
Among the haphazard preparations were the discussions with
about a dozen members of faculty concerning their main interests in European books, some of them provided "want" lists.
We also drew from the files some more or less up-to-date
"want" lists covering a variety of subjects.  These went into a
briefcase which we carried hopefully into every bookstore we
visited,  Included were treaty series, French poetry, medical
periodicals, forestry periodicals, German serials, economic
periodicals, Buddhist philosophy, 18th century British history,
Commonwealth literature, government publications,  Another
form of helpful preparation consisted of one of us walking
along the shelves in some class areas in our stacks in hopes
of storing up an all too evanescent visual record of serials
and other titles. 3
Perhaps if our preparations had been based on personal experience
we would not have found ourselves in a situation where the only
thing to do in order to make two of the "want1;1 lists workable
was to put them in alphebetical order.  This we accomplished by
sitting down on the floor of the hotel room and clipping, with
nail scissors, the "want" lists into shreds of spaghetti-1ike
paper, each with an author-title entry which could then be rearranged.
Our expectations of what we would find were as vague as our
preparations. All we were sjre of was that we were going to
fly to Amsterdam to start a 3-day book-hunt.  The itinerary
thereafter included the Hague, Leiden, Stockholm, Copenhagen,
Burssels, Paris, Oxford and London.  Our length of stay in any
one place would be short, from two days as in Brussels (too
short) to five days in Paris (too long) or London (too long
for one of us, too short for the other).  Our flight arrangements and hotel reservations were left open.  This meant,
theoretically, more freedom from a strict timetable; it made
little difference as it happened because we followed our tentative programme strictly - which did mean sometimes scrambling for reservations at the last moment.
Our quarries were the bookstores in the cities and we expected
to "mine" them as best we could. As soon as we landed in
Amsterdam, we scouted the city for bookstores.  It was Sunday,
but some were open.  Our first was Antiqua, a newish place
which already had a promising stock of music, mostly biography,
criticism, history.  We had our first conversation with an
owner and started learning fast, at least, one of us did.  The
next morning we visited other bookstores - Nebrink's, Van Der
Peet's, Swets and Zeitlinger's.  We asked questions, presented
lists of desiderata to those who would accept them, and where-
ever we could we pulled books off the shelves. All dealers
were happy to quote prices on the books we piled up.  So it
went day after day.  Looking back now, one of us has the composite impression of miles and miles of ill-lighted shelves
crammed with dusty books in freezing-cold rooms, miles of
day-long trudging of streets looking for the bookstores, or
rushing to them by subway. A few of the shops were reasonably wel1-arranged for our kind of
foraging; good pockets of the kinds of books we wanted meant
that we could "pull" quickly.  Where the books were shelved
indiscriminately and their shelf-location kept track of on cards,
we could not take the time to check from card to book.  Seeing
the book was everything.
But the miles of shelves and the miles of streets did not make
for weariness.  The stimulus of the constant search was invigorating and occasionally we struck it rich.  The composite
impression should also include, however, the countless cups of
inadequate expresso coffee, the two dozen replenishing and restoring dinners we felt we had nobly earned at the end of the
day, together with the dozen varieties of vin rose; and lastly,
the twenty-six relaxing, but all-too-short evenings in hotel
rooms writing and reporting the day's work back to headquarters
(or, at least, writing postcards intended to impress our
We took time off for relaxation rarely, and none for sightseeing,  Name any of the famous sights of Paris (the Louvre?
the Eiffel Tower? Rue Pigalle?) or London (Westminster Abbey?
Buckingham Palace? Madame Tussaud's?) or of anywhere else and
one or both of us can honestly boast we never saw it, or even
had time to think of it.  If we saw its exterior it was only
because it happened to be in our way.
One of us (the one with the sieve-mind) after the visit to
the Antlqua store saw immediately that total recall of the
trip would be difficult without notes.  Which bookstores had
been visited, on which day, what had transpired there, and so
on, would be impossible to remember without written record.
So that particular one of us surreptitiously jotted down the
names of the bookstores where transactions of consequence or
information of import were gained.  This dutiful data processor has counted the number for this article.  The total is
51. And this doesn't count the dozens of unimportant ones
which took time to locate or explore, before their uselessness
was proven.  The statistics now derived, the list is of no
further use. 5
The good, or better, bookstores remain in one's mind for a
variety of reasons - and denote different things. Magis,
in Paris, was good, although it was a piled-high junkyard
of books, and you washed your hands over a sink that looked
like a Huguenot's gravestone chipped half-inch deep to slow
the flow of water from an incongrous faucet.  Rosenkilde
and Bagger, in Copenhagen, was good because it was rich and
patrician and had fine, comfortable furnishings and appealed
to the book-snob in one of us.  Tulkens, in Brussels, was
good, although we didn't see a book to touch; files of cards
proved it to be one of the largest stocks in Europe, and
would be well worth a separate foray some day.
We bought many books from those good bookstores which had
them for sale.  Swets and Zeitlinger's had plenty of medical
periodicals,  Nijhoff, in the Hague, had just published a
new catalogue of French history and we were one of the first
to buy from it.  They also gave us the proofsheets of a
catalogue of linguistics and philology materials and we had
a scoop on that.  La Porte Etoite, a small out-of-the-way
bookstore in Brussels was good because we found much there
on French history, music and theatre - the prices were about
half what they later proved to be in Paris,  We cleaned all
the good stuff out of that store.
What guided us (apart from the usual supernatural intervention) in our choice of books?  Simple - one of us just
watched what the other was selecting and chose accordingly.
Statistically our performance was phenominally good, as you
can see from the figures supplied in this issue,  The moral
may well be not to underestimate your supernatural auspices.  Fortunately, we have not yet heard of any faculty
member complaining that the figure looks good only because
we chose stuff that shouldn't be in the library anyway!
We chose books ranging from a few items, to whole collections,
We bought small collections of German philosophy and of
Oceanography, and, subsequently, a large collection of medical history. On one occasion we made an offer to buy seven shelves of French
drama books as a lot but the proprietor refused to sell because he had taken thirty years to gather them together and
couldn't bear to see it all go at once, regardless of the
pri ce.
& B.
ACQUISITIONS DIVISION    Bibliographic Searching Section
The most notable effect of the Stubbs-Hami1 ton European buying trip upon our section was a galvanizing into action of
every staff member,  After the arrival of a few lists and
catalogues to be checked against library holdings, it became
obvious that for the next month all of us would have to
devote all of our time to this work in order to keep up
with the flow from abroad.  Time was of the essence,
especially in checking whole catalogues "hot off the press"
or proof sheets.  The telegraph wires and cables hummed
with our cryptic messages.
An unfortunate side effect of all this activity occasioned
by B & B was that we were unable to keep up with the usual
catalogue ordering - much to the chagrin of some faculty
members,  Most were cooperative and sympathetic and we were
grateful for their patience.
The following table summarizes the results of the trip as
seen through our eyes - which are still a little bleary!
Scand i navi a
1 terns  chec
4154 3107 Collections Items checked Ordered
Soci ali sm
Music & Theatre
German 1 i teratu re
1 terns  chec
As the above figures show, the library lacked and therefore
ordered approximately 75% of the titles checked - a fairly good
"batting average".
Dorothy Shields
The effects of B & B's buying trip to Europe has been felt by
the Ordering Section in two separate waves (tidal waves!)
First, last fall, the typists were swamped with rush orders-.,
and confirming orders so that regular batches were, by force,
set aside for almost a month.  Some orders were placed by
letter and telegram after being searched.but before being
verified by the searchers and they were given to the typists
for the order cards to be typed.  The last of these, a catalogue of 850 items, was given to the Ordering Section in
If the order typists felt as if they had been hit by an avalanche of orders, the receiving people were later to feel that
they had been hit by a whole mountain.
The smaller shipments which came by mail began  arriving  in
December and were handled along with other shipments without
special procedure, the only difference being a greater volume
of work - making us very thankful for the extra staff granted
us in December. The larger shipments came later,  We did not hear of them until
mid-January when suddenly our clerk in charge of Customs clearances went frantic trying to match cryptic notices from the
National Harbours Board, bearing only the name of the ship and
port of departure, with invoices and M.A. forms bearing the
name of the vendor, but not of the ship.  This is not difficult
when only one shipment is expected but when several arrive at
once, and two or three are exactly the same number of crates,
it becomes quite a puzzle.  (Moreover, Customs officials frown
upon identification by coin-flipping.)
The next stage was receipt of the shipnents, and who does not
remember easing themselves through the narrow passageway between wooden crates piled high in the Receiving Room?  The
prospect of another shipment filling that last meagre space
forced us into a wild game of musical shelves.  We managed to
procure storage space in order to clear shelves for the Canner
shipment which, when moved, left space for books from the
Nijhoff shipment, which when unpacked left floor space in the
Receiving Room for the next load:-::
The Nijhoff shipment, consisting of over 30 crates, has
proven to be the largest and most difficult to handle.  Since
serials and monographs were not shipped separately, they must
now be sorted out so that the periodicals can be routed through
Serials Division.  Staff from Serials Division is giving us
much appreciated help with this task, enabling us to expend
more of our energies elsewhere.  This is more of a job than
the number of orders placed would indicate, since there are
many sets, some being 100 and 150 volumes per title.  One
title consists of 1,172 volumes bound into 646.  Sometimes,
the notation on an invoice 100 volumes means 150 parts bound
into 100 volumes and other times it means 100 parts bound into
75 volumes.  Sometimes it means 80 volumes of the title describee
on the card and 20 volumes of a related but blbliographically
separate title described in tiny print in the catalogue (said
fine print having been missed in typing the cards). Because order cards were typed after the order was sent by
cable, there is no vendor's copy of the order form in each
book to identify it and since most of the material is in
foreign languages, the task of finding the order for each is
not always easy, although there are many cases where it is
routine.  This is complicated by the fact that there are no
orders at all typed for some of the books, i.e. one item in
the catalogue turned out to be a collection of 158 books,
(necessitating searching, checking, verifying and typing
cards before the books can be processed).  If such collections had been any larger they would have seriously impaired
the typists' ability to produce new orders,
We are processing the Nijhoff shipment at a fairly steady rate,
being able to load book trucks only as empty ones come back
from Cataloguing.
There appears to be one more shipment of 11 cases still to
come and if we are lucky we might have enough shelves cleared
for it not more than a week or two after it arrives.  If we
are really lucky we might clear up everything by the time Hans
Burndorfer goes to Germany to buy more books.  (Dear Hans,
please remember your friends back home!)
Rita Butterfield
It is clear that the European buying trip will result in a
sharply increased volume of work for the Cataloguing Division,
As the books reach us, we will search the Library of Congress
catalogue and order printed cards wherever possible.  Books
with cards should be processed and added to the collection
during the spring of 1966.  However, since most of the items
will be out of print books published in Europe, we suspect
that only a relatively small proportion of them will be covered
by LC cards.  Those that require original cataloguing will be 10
divided into two groups.  The more valuable acquisitions will
be catalogued first.  The rest will be added to the existing
backlog.  In due course each of the letter group will be
represented by an entry in both the card catalogue and the
supplement to the backlog list,  Requests for specific books
will be dealt with immediately; the remainder will probably
not be catalogued until some time in 1967, unless we are very,
very lucky, and nobody else goes on buying trips, and we get
lots of super-efficient additional staff.
Gerry Dobbin
The  trip  gave  the  Library  first-hand  acquaintance with  a
number of  European  dealers,   and  a  general    impression  of  the
market  there.     At   some  future  date  a junior member of  the
staff will   go well   "tipped-off".     Dealers   in  question  have
an  open   door  to  U.B.C;   for myself,   I   am  able  to  deal   with
these  Scandinavians   in  a more "en  pantoufles" manner.
I   wish   the trip  had  been  to Africa,   wh'ch  would  have  given
the  travellers  some holiday-time  and  tan,   and would  have
brought  the   library material   in  English  and   French.     Things
like "Historisk Tidskrift"   (Stockholm),"Historisk Tidsskrift"
(Copenhagen)   and "Historik Tidsskrift"   (Oslo);   "Norges"
this,  "Nordisk"   that,   and "Norsk"   the other,   crisscrossed
between   the  three  countries,   almost   throw me  berserk.
R.   J.   Lanning
DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY - Dr. Christopher W. Stocker
The recent European expedition of Mr. Stuart-Stubbs and Mr.
Hamilton proved very useful in the field of European
history, particularly in French history and the history of
the Low Countries,  The purchase of material in French history from M. Nijhoff -- negotiated as a direct result of
this expedition -- was an event of major importance in the
development of faci 1 i t ies for graduate study in Early Modern
France, my own field of special interest,  I feel that there
is a very definite value in this technique of book buying
in European history. 11
The principal task in developing our holdings is to secure
the old standard material (both monographs and published
sources and source collections, especially) now out of print,
much of it (in my own field) long out of print.
Heretofore we have had to rely on the catalogues issued by
the major second hand dealers of Europe,  In the time that
these catalogues are printed up, shipped, checked out by us
for materials, and the resulting orders placed, much has
already been lost to other buyers.
In their recent expedition Mr. Stuart-Stubbs and Mr, Hamilton
happened, partly through good fortune, to reach a number of
dealers who were just about to, or who had just circulated
new catalogues and by air-mailing them and arranging to hold
material pending confirmation, the library was able to improve
substantially its "percentages" on catalogue items,  I am
fairly certain that this method will inevitably yield results
far more satisfactory than the old catalogue orders and so I
would support, the idea of more such tours in the future (while
not, of course, ceasing catalogue ordering),  In addition, it
may well be that the personal contact and volume of business
so transacted, will result in some kind of especially favorable treatment or services from some of the establishments
vi s ited.
The very success of the expedition created one very serious
problem that has disturbed the entire history department and
that is that the processing of all the orders resulting from
the visit has called a halt to normal catalogue ordering.
It is doubtless true that a greater amount of more valuable
material was secured as a result of the expedition, than
would have been secured from the result of neglected "at-home"
catalogues,  However, it remains unfortunate that this price
had to be paid.  This is especially so since only a few areas
of European history benefitted from the expedition, while the
cessation of catalogue ordering affected every field of
history,  I would wholeheartedly support whatever needs to be
done to speed and increase the processing of orders from
catalogues and expeditions and the speed of cataloguing and
making available materials thus secured. 12
The buying trip of Mr. Stuart-Stubbs and Mr. Hamilton to
Europe has at last placed the UBC Library in the big leagues
from the point of view of methods employed in acquiring books.
Harvard and several other large U.S. libraries have followed
this practice for many years, and this accounts in no small
measure, for their impressive holdings in many fields.  Although the two gentlemen limited their European visit to the
Western parts of Europe, they were responsible for the Library
acquiring important and rare materials relating to both Western
and Eastern Europe, materials which would otherwise have
slipped through our hands and fallen into the laps of other
insti tut ions.
I, for one, was presented, for the first time in ten years,
with a large catalogue and told to choose everything of
significance in it.  This happened without any advance warning and it is only a small exaggeration to say that this novel
munificence unnerved me.  I don't think the Library should do
this to a man whom it has taught the virtue of parsimony for
years; I had to go through the catalogue actually three times
(this is not an exaggeration) before gathering enough courage
to order everything that seemed of significance.  There is no
way to organize book purchases on a scale now envisioned by
the Library save by being on the spot, gaining the confidence
of the dealers, and cajoling them into giving us access to
out-of-print stock before catalogues are prepared.  These
are hard facts of competition which cannot be ignored.
May I enter one or two recommendations.  It is to be hoped
that both Germany and Eastern Europe will be covered by a
similar enterprise in the near future, in order to reinforce
our already respectable collection of books from this part
of the world,  A colleague of mine, now in Eastern Europe
on a sabbatical, is looking only incidentally for books, and
has just been able to obtain a large collection of out-of-
print scholarly books for an average of only $1,50 a volume.
The difference between the amount the _ibrary will pay for
this collection and the amount it would have to pay for it
through regular channels would defray the cost of one return 13
fare by air between Vancouver and Paris. Also, is it asking
too much that Asia be placed on the list? And how about
occasional shorter trips closer to home, notably to Kraus and
Johnson in New York, with their largest stocks of periodicals
sets in the world?
One reason why the Harvard Library has the most impressive
collection in many fields is attributable to the ability of
its directing staff to anticipate avenues of scholarly endeavour not just for tomorrow or next year, but for twenty
years from now.  Our own library is seeking to determine
future trends to guide its purchases and here are a few suggestions for the field of history.  The next few years will
see expanding studies of economic and social history (at least
with regard to Continental Europe), There will be growing
use of continental European daily newspapers (nineteenth century) of which virtually no North American library has any
substantial holdings or back files, not excluding Harvard.
In this connection, it may be remarked that our Library prudently decided to acquire runs of newspapers in the future
only on microfilm; however, could this rule be relaxed for
some parts of Europe?  Unless this is done, there is no
chBnce of building up any holdings for some countries since
many of their newspapers have little chance of being reproduced in micro-form for commercial distribution, for the
pre-1945 period. Another future trend will be the history
of science and the UBC Library is already making great
strides in this direction.  Further it would be desirable
to collect manuscript material for certain selected fields,
in addition to what is already being done by Special Collections.
One last note.  I hope the Library will be able to expand its
staff lest shortage of personnel should inhibit the acquisition
and processing of books which the increased budget allows,
I wish to say first of all that there can be few faculty
members whose fields of work have been better served than
mine by the overseas trip of Mr, Stuart-Stubbs and Mr, Hamilton, 14
The collection of French historical books which they bought from
Nijhoff in Holland is extremely valuable for our graduate work
in European History.  Many of the items in the col lection were
already sold by the time our order arrived, but had our Librarians not been in Holland when they were, we should have lost a
lot more.  Their trip was therefore of direct benefit to the
History Department.  Useful collections of historical material
are becoming rarer and more and more have to be sought out.
This can best be done directly by someone travelling to the
book dealers.  It is my impression from visiting French book
dealers over several years that there is not much relation between their catalogues and their collections.  Furthermore,
they don't really like to sell their books and seem to prefer
to think of their business as finding a good home for their
books rather than selling them.  In short, someone on the spot
can usually do better than someone writing at long-range.
Certain American universities have known this for many years.
From talking with your travelling librarians after their trip,
I have the impression that with patience and a little more
travelling, we could find important collections in the minor
capitals of Europe such as Brussels, Stockholm and Munich as
well as in the more obvious centres,
Dr, R. W. Gregg
I should like to say that Mr. Stubbs' and Mr. Hamiltons'
overseas trip provided a wonderful opportunity for buying
books on linguistics that otherwise we would have missed.
They were able to have their pick of the linguistics items
in an unpublished catalogue in Holland and I understand
that all the items we requested were made available to us.
In particular this gave us a chance to build up our linguistic atlases which is one of our important projects right
now. 15
The only books acquired during the expedition which are of
direct interest to the Philosophy Department comprise a lot
of about five hundred, purchased in Sweden,  There are  among
these a number of worthwhile items, but unfortunately there
are also many books of little interest and many which duplicate items in our present holdings.  My impression is that
we have paid a high price for those books in the lot which
are worth having,
I had provided the Librarian with a list of desiderata
before his departure, but I gather that he was unable to
find any of these items,
I do not wish to suggest that I do not think the trip was
of value, even in the area of my own interests; however, I
think that its utility consisted for the most part in the
contacts which were made with European bookdealers, and that
the real benefits of the trip are to be hoped for in the
future.  In connection with this I think that our best means
of building up the collectior lies in selective ordering from
the second-hand lists and in the fastest possible processing
of these orders,  It would also be useful if faculty or
members of the library staff who were going to be in Europe
and other distant parts couIc be encouraged to do a bit of
scouting in their spare time,  It might also be useful to
send out more want lists and to cultivate the services of
local book scouts in various regions,
We hope that this special issue of Biblos has filled in a
few gaps, raised a few questions, and supported the general
feeling that book-buying trips of this magnitude are of great
value to the University as a research community and to the
Library as a depository for the accumulated thought and
knowledge of civilizations.


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