Conservation of the Cambridge University Press Archive
by Fay Humphreys
Cambridge University Press was established as the University’s own printing house in 1696, although the University had been authorised by Henry VIII to licence printers since 1534.
The Archive, which continues to expand, contains minute books, financial records, printing ledgers, art work, author correspondence and photographs, all of which give evidence of the people and changing technologies of Cambridge University Press. Running to approximately 350 linear metres, the records are stored at Cambridge University Library and can be accessed in the Manuscripts Reading Room.
With funding from the Press, the ongoing conservation of the records began in 2014. This work focused on improving the physical condition of the collection, enabling the material to be safely used by researchers today whilst also preserving it for future generations.
Conservation decisions concerning large archives must balance the priority of those items most in need of attention with those most requested. This enables different areas of the collection to be targeted with the appropriate treatments, thereby improving the condition of the collection as a whole. Following an in-depth survey of the archive, wide-reaching preservation measures, such as protective boxing, aim to care for large parts of the collection alongside the intensive conservation treatment of individual items.
From 15 May to 10 June 2017 there will be an exhibition highlighting the conservation work in the Entrance Hall of Cambridge University Library. This provides a unique opportunity to see a selection of original documents and how they have been conserved to ensure their continued accessibility. The items on display include some of the earliest records dating back to 1586, letters from authors and cuttings of artwork for publication. Visit before the 30 May to see the letter from Albert Einstein [UA Pr.A.E.107] as well as illustrations by Gwen Raverat for Frances Cornford’s collection of poems Mountains & Molehills [UA CUP 34/76], as these items will be changed to protect them from light damage.