Wednesday, February 15, 2017


Data card copied from Hayes Catalogue
Click on any image for a larger version

When I was researching the local history of Ballybrack/Killiney, County Dublin, I trawled the Hayes Catalogue, Manuscript Sources for the History of Irish Civilization. The catalogue was laid out like a series of card indexes and, over a number of volumes. In the volume sorted by place and under the heading Killiney, I found a reference to a survey of Killiney Bay from 1797, the manuscript of which was in the British Museum. I carefully copied down the information for my card index and you can see the card above.

All of this was in the pre-internet era, 1973 to be precise, so I wrote a letter to the British Museum looking for a copy. After some further correspondence I got my copy and ascertained what use I was allowed to make of it, and some other sundry details. I should add that it turned out to be in French. Anyway it all worked out very well and I even published an article on it in The Irish Sword, Ireland's journal of military history.

Then one day, in more recent times, I was perusing the now online version of the Hayes Catalogue when I came across the same reference. Only this time there was something new. The National Library of Ireland now had a microfilm copy of the manuscript.

I wondered what this might be exactly. When I got the copy of the manuscript from the British Museum in 1973 I typed it up and then translated it into English. Apart from the use I made of this myself, I sent a copy of the original, the typescript, and the translation, to Catríona Crowe in the Public Records Office (now the National Archive) in case they were interested.

I now wondered if this might be what was on microfilm in the National Library and yesterday I went in to see. However, it turned out to be only a simple copy of what I had originally got from the British Museum. Apparently the National Library purchased a lot of this stuff from the British Museum on microfilm sometime in the past. I wondered when that might have been as I had not been aware of its existence when I found the original reference.

So with the help of Justin, and a further consultation of the original (1965) Hayes Catalogue, we ascertained that the microfilm had been in the Library since before 1965. In fact the microfilm itself recorded its having been photographed in 1951.

How could I have missed knowing this in my original 1973 consultation of the Catalogue. Sure enough the National Library call number for the microfilm was there in front of my eyes. Why had I not noted it down in 1973. I was kicking myself and scurried home to fish out my original data card.

And there it was. Clear as day. I had actually written down the call number without realising its significance. There had been no need to write to the British Museum in the first place.

Well, now that I have got over the shock, I realise that I probably would have had to write to the British Museum anyway for permission to use and reproduce the document. They also told me that the document did not have a bibliography. In other words nobody, at least as far as they were aware, had published it or written about it. I was the first. And they only charged me 2/6d for what was a better copy than the microfilm version. So, at the end of the day I'm happy enough.

You can read an extended version of the affair and its content here.

So why am I bothering to do this post.

RTFM - look it up.


Anonymous said...

And I thought RTFM meant "read the f*cking manual".
Among techies, anyway.

Anonymous said...

"So why am I bothering to do this post."

Because you're obsessed with blogging. You'll be blogging about what time you got up
in the morning, next.

Póló said...

@ Anonymous at 22:43

That's exactly what it means. Think about it.

Póló said...

@ Anonymous at 22:45

D'éirigh mé ar a h-ocht a chlog ar maidin.