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Enhance your nautical vocabulary at the Caird Library!

If you haven’t visited the Caird Library recently, you may not yet have spotted the addition to the staircase leading up to the Library from the Sammy Ofer Wing ground floor.  A mixture of nautical words and phrases have been painted on our walls.  Some, like “bow”, “galley” and “harpoon”…

Patronage in the Royal Navy: How to sever a connection

Patronage in the Royal Navy: How to sever a connection

April’s item of the month: The real ‘Master and Commander’

April’s item of the month looks at the real life drama on the seas which happened 200 years ago last week…..The hunt for the Essex inspired Patrick O’Brian’s Far Side of the World and in turn the 2003 film, Master and Commander. But Hollywood has airbrushed out the American ship…

The Mysterious Nearchus

Recently we were able to acquire a curious looking pamphlet, which, according to many online library catalogues, seems to be only available at the University of Missouri in their Rare Book Collection. The pamphlet, printed in 1864, bears the title Letters from Nearchus : addressed to a retired officer of…

A Prime Collection of Charts and Maps: The Grenville Collection (GREN)

A new addition to our Sammy Ofer Wing stores in the map collection of William Wyndham Grenville, 1759-1834, succeeding Pitt as prime minster in 1806 he led the ‘All the Talents’ coalition government for a year until 1807. Previously stored off-site, this collection is now fully available to order providing…

Even regular visitors to the Caird Library may not have noticed a new reader in the Library. Far from being unfamiliar, without this particular ‘reader’ there would be no Caird Library and probably no National Maritime Museum. In fact he has been here longer than most of us- the Museum’s founding benefactor, Sir James Caird (1864-1954).


Caird was Glaswegian shipping magnate who became increasingly interest in preserving Britain’s maritime past and after the First World War began collecting manuscripts, rare books, globes, ship models, paintings and all kinds of related objects and artefacts. A Trustee of the Society of Nautical Research (SNR), Caird became instrumental in the founding of a ‘national museum of the sea’ and his collections formed the nucleus of the Museum’s collections as we know them today. The Museum’s Library was named after him.


Now sitting above the Issue Desk in the new Caird Library, carefully overseeing the use of the Archive and Library collections he helped to establish, this bust of Sir James Caird was originally commissioned for the SNR for the Rotunda in the old Caird Library. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1936 but Caird himself was not overly fond of it and another was commissioned instead. This version eventually came to the Museum in 2006 and was displayed in the old Caird Library before its closure in 2011. I quite enjoyed wishing Sir James a ‘Good morning’ while opening up the Library each day!

Find out more about Caird and the founding of the NMM Library at:

The history of Libraries can be a fascinating subject in itself. Why was James Caird so devoted to Britain and the sea?  There is a Library pamphlet that tells all: New horizons : Sir James Caird sailed into history when he created the library at Greenwich’s National Maritime Museum, says Pieter Van Der Merwe  (Item ID PBF 3727). This can be ordered through the Library catalogue with the above reference.

Welcome back Sir James!

A Happy New Year from the Caird Library

As Christmas is well behind us and the new year dawning, we wanted to spring forth and announce January’s Item of the month. But we can’t. The software the Museum uses to post changes on the website is being upgraded and this has caused some delays, meaning we can’t publish it yet. January’s item of the month…

Newly Acquired Manuscripts Catalogued 2013

‘Where are your monuments, your battles, martyrs?’  ‘In the salt chuckle of rocks with their sea pools, there was the sound Like a rumour without any echo  Of History, really beginning.’                                         From The Sea is History by Derek Walcott  “Glory is acquired by virtue but preserved by letters.” Petrarch…

The 1915 Crew List Transcription Project: Your Museum Needs You!

Join up now – The Merchant Navy needs you! Are you interested in volunteer work?  Would you like to volunteer but from the comfort of your own home?  Do you have a computer with broadband?  If you can answer “yes” to these three questions, then we would love to hear…

Further update on plans for new reading room

The work on the Sammy Ofer Wing is continuing, and we are busy preparing the collections to move into the new building in April-July 2011. We’ve updated the information on the progress of the building work and our plans for the new research and reading room on the website. The…