Batch 7b complete

Last week we completed Batch 7b, sent the boxes back to Birmingham Oratory and received Batch 8. The running total of images generated, to date, is 155,000.Batch 7b

Mary Jo, Daniel, Cerys and Jamie were on hand to load and unload the truck.



Digitisation on batch 8 started immediately, and is already presenting its own challenges:


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We are sometimes puzzled by the documents and articles we receive for digitisation within the Newman Project, in the most recent batch are two tin boxes full of duplicate letters. The text reads;

(Page One)

Dear Sir,

As my hand is rather weak, I hope you will excuse me if I leave your letter unanswered.

I am, Dear Sir, yours faithfully

John H Newman


(Page 2)

You are one of those friends and well wishers, who have so kindly addressed to me letters of congratulation on my birthday, – letters for which touched me much, and for your share in which I hereby offer you my sincere thanks.

Feb 24



There are multiple copies of this letter kept in two tin boxes:



As photocopiers had not been invented at the time this letter was composed, and each letter is an exact copy, we assume they hadn’t been copied by hand, so we were a little confused as to how these were made. This led us to look further into Letter Copy Presses and Hectographs, something Cerys had fun researching. If anyone can shed some light on the process that may have been used to produce these copies, then please drop us a comment below.


As the Newman Project comes to the end of its initial two year period of digitisation, we are pleased to announce that the digitisation process will continue until 2016.

Box 147 contains a beautiful hand painted card of congratulations to Cardinal Newman from School Sisters of Notre Dame:


Newman’s elevation to the rank of cardinal took place on 12 May 1879, making him Cardinal-Deacon of San Giorgio al Velabro.


Your Eminence,

My Lord Cardinal.

Uniting ourselves with so many thousands

of English Catholics who rejoice in Your

Eminence’s elevation to the Cardinalate.

we beg humbly to offer our most hearty congrat

ulations for this august occasion.

we need scarcely clothe

21st February 1801

Today marks the 214th year of Cardinal Newman’s Birth. The Newman Team marked the occasion with tea and cake!

The digitisation of the archive continues, with close to 140,000 images processed.

Below is an item of interest selected by Newman Project Photographer Tony Richards. We were debating whether this could be a plan for a stained glass window, or perhaps a tiled floor.

B134_F015_D010bFrom a folder named “Early Church and House Plans and Drawings“,


The Glass Plate Negatives

We have just completed digitisation of the glass plate negatives from Batch Six, after preparation by the John Rylands Collection Care team. The plates were a mix of size and subject matter, ranging from 6x9cm to 10x12in, while the contents ranged from the formal to the informal; from snapshots to precisely posed.



A small selection is included below. The digitised negatives are inverted using our digital capture software in order to create the positive image. The negative image appears as below:


Many of the plates were an early endeavor to photographically record the Newman Archive, meaning that we found ourselves digitising glass plates of letters we most probably photographed in their original format earlier in the project! It is safe to say the digitisation process has improved over the years; as you can see below, drawing pins were used.



Not all attempts were successful, as seen below, flare on paintings can always be an issue:


And we wouldn’t dream of mounting tapestries to a fence or shed wall!


Also included were some exterior shots of the Oratory, and documentation of special events;





Below is a Magic Lantern Slide, a transparent positive image which would be used in a projector.


A 10×12 glass plate documenting Cardinal Newman’s room. This could be of interest to conservation staff who are currently developing a long term preservation strategy for the room, as certain elements have suffered damage over the years.


Working with these plates has certainly been a welcome break from two years of document digitisation, however now the work is complete we are back to the usual content.

Batch 6 Update

Today we exchanged Batch 6 for Batch 7.

Batch 6 was meant to be a smaller batch of twenty boxes, for completion before Christmas. It turned out the contents were greater than expected, just eleven boxes of this batch produced over 19000 images, so the full batch would have been nearer 40000 images! We will carry over nine boxes and add it to Batch 7.

To date we have digitised a total of 119000 images for the archive.


Image from The Press on Cardinal Newman, With A Short Sketch of His Life.

“Ealing School Playground, August 11 1853”.

Today we came across a more unusual and unexpected item in the Newman Archive – in amongst the thousands of letters, an envelope simply labelled “Ealing School Playground, August 11 1853”. Inside, a collection of dry leaves with no further explanation.

B121_A5.1_D001_P054 B121_A5.1_D001_P055

It seems Newman must have paid a visit to Ealing School, where he had studied between the ages of seven and fifteen. At the end of his time at Ealing School, Newman underwent his conversion, influenced by Thomas Scott.  ‘. . . to whom (humanly speaking)  I almost owe my soul.’  Newman would have been 52 years old when he collected these leaves. This would make these preserved leaves over 161 years old!

It’s all a bit of a mystery – can anyone help us get to the root of it?

Glass plate negatives

Presently sitting in the CHICC store are three unassuming boxes and one crate. The contents are a little different to previous digitised material: a collection of glass plate negatives.

They vary in size from small 6×9 cm to larger 10×12 inch plates. Some are copies of letters and correspondence, some are personal candids and the larger 10×12 inch plates show the interior of Cardinal Newman’s room at Birmingham Oratory, potentially an exciting and important visual record.


The plates will have to be carefully cleaned and rehoused by our conservation team prior to digitisation.


For the time being, here is a plate of Cardinal Newman sitting patiently for the camera. We really look forward to getting started on this part of the collection.