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New year, new office, new challenges!

Helen Hartley
24 January 2011
Can you work it out? Kew's Directors' Correspondence Digitisation Team set a challenge to decipher some 19th century handwriting as they start the new year in their brand new offices.

From our humble beginnings - four members of staff sharing one small basement office in Kew's Herbarium - the Directors' Correspondence Digitisation team have, quite literally, moved up in the world. In the spring of 2010, we moved out of the basement into a roomy, but temporary home on the first floor. Then, at the end of last year, we finally moved into our new, long-term accommodation, the Library Digitisation Suite: purpose-built offices situated within the original library on the first floor of the Herbarium. The suite comprises a main office, a scanning room/meeting room and a dark room for our digital camera set up.  


Part of the main office of the new Library Digitisation Suite

Thank you

Many thanks must go to the Estates staff for remodelling the library space to construct the new offices and for helping us to move our desks and equipment. Thanks also go to the IT and communications staff who ensured that everything was in working order on the day of our move, and to Andrew McRobb, one of Kew's in-house photographers, who set up and calibrated our digital camera – for the second time in a year.

 A challenge for our readers

We have started the New Year in our new suite with renewed vigour and enthusiasm! Our project is going well and, since starting the digitisation of the Asia Directors' Correspondence collection in April last year, we have digitised eight out of the 26 volumes of correspondence: that translates to the team having read through, summarised and imaged over 6,000 pages of predominantly hand-written letters – no mean feat! In fact, to give you a small taste of what we do every day, we'd like to set our readers a bit of a challenge... 



Extract of a letter from Justus Karl Hasskarl to Sir William Jackson Hooker – can you decipher the handwriting?

Above is an extract taken from a six-page letter written by Justus Karl Hasskarl to Sir William Jackson Hooker, from Priangan, Java, in 1855. As you can see, the writing from one side of a page has bled through to the other side of the page. Have a go and see if you can work out what it says? 

Thankfully not all the correspondence is this difficult to decipher! We look forward to telling you more about what we find in the collection over the coming year. 

- Helen -


Further Information


29 January 2011
I am most thankful for you to your promise to me ... were it not indiscreet I fairly should ask you to send me your specimen ...
24 January 2011
You think this is fun - try Gertrude Jekyll's hand written planting plans; illegible latin.

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