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Humanities reference enquiries

Here are three examples of the kind of enquiry that the Humanities Reference Team can help you with.

If your enquiry requires in-depth research or more specialist help than we can provide we will forward your enquiry to the appropriate person, refer you to our Research Service, or suggest alternative sources of help.

How can I trace details of the Oxford Repertory Company in the 1950s?

Very few brief references to the Oxford Repertory Company, mostly in biographies of actors, can be found searching Google.

George Rowell and Anthony Jackson, The repertory movement: a history of regional theatre in Britain (Cambridge University Press, 1984. British Library shelfmark: X.950/37192) refers to the Oxford Repertory Company performing at the Oxford Playhouse in the 1920s and 1930s, but we have been unable to establish whether this was still the case in the 1950s.
A later resident company was called the Meadow Players.

The Oxford Playhouse Silver Jubilee, 1923-1948 (Oxford, 1948.British Library shelfmark: 11795.s.34) makes no mention of the Oxford Repertory Company, only the Oxford Players (under the management of J B Fagan) in the 1920s.

The archive of the Oxford Playhouse is held in the Oxfordshire Record Office. It may also be worth contacting the Jerwood Library of the Performing Art, a specialist library which has a large collection of playbills and other materials.

Where can I find information about the standards used in the British Library’s Catalogue; specifically the subject arrangements used?

Information about the bibliographic standards currently used by the British Library is available on our website.

Before the adoption of UKMARC and AACR standards, the British Museum General Catalogue of Printed Books was compiled using in-house cataloguing rules.

The most recent set of those rules was published in 1936, reissued in 1951:
British Museum. Department of Printed Books.
Rules for compiling the Catalogues of Printed Books, Maps and Music in the British Museum, etc. Revised edition, reissued.
London, 1951.
British Library shelfmark - HLR Enquiry Desk 025.32

British Library shelfmarks' are used for shelf arrangement in the Library, and are not equivalent to any numbers in any other library. The shelfmarks do not indicate subject or publication date in any consistent way. Some of the older ranges of shelfmarks indicate general subject areas e.g. religion or music, but books are usually placed at the next available shelfmark according to expected level of use. Some ranges e.g. ZA … also indicate that the item is a periodical. New ranges are introduced from time to time on the same principles, for example to accommodate printed items with accompanying computer disks.

The shelfmarks were not changed when the Library moved from the British Museum building to its present location in 1997, except for the shelfmarks of the open access material in the Reading Rooms. This material is now arranged according to the Dewey Decimal Classification scheme, with the exception of the Maps Reading Room.

How do I go about naming a star after a loved one?

The International Star Registry publishes a leaflet Name a star which notes that "the name you choose is registered in the United Kingdom, the United States and Switzerland, and copyrighted in Your place in the cosmos, a listing of all new star names and their co-ordinates which is published every few years and lodged with the British Library in the UK and the Library of Congress in the USA". The International Star Registry also publishes an faq on naming stars.

In the past, some press reports have implied that the names given to these stars are registered and "copyrighted" by the British Library. This is not the case.

The International Astronomical Union is the organisation which is recognised by astronomers as the official authority for the naming of astronomical objects. It has a page "Facts about naming stars" on its website.

The Royal Astronomical Society in the UK has issued an information sheet on the "Naming of Stars". This includes the statement "Some commercial organizations offer to name, or 'redesignate', stars in exchange for payment. Any certificates they issue, and names they allocate, have no official status of any kind whatsoever; they are not used or recognized by astronomers, nor by any other scientists. There is no significance in the recording of such names, or `ownerships', in a book or register, even if that book is subsequently deposited in a copyright library, such as the British Library. (Anyone can – in fact, usually must – send a copy of any published book to such libraries. This doesn't mean that the library approves, checks, or endorses the contents!)"