Astrology library progress report
– No. 32: 25th June, 2017
This is the first new progress report since No. 31 dated 26th March, 2016.
As announced in my posting entitled Hiatus on 23rd April, 2016, it was unfortunately necessary for me to suspend the feature for some time; and as anticipated then, I was unable to reinstate it that year. But patience at least sometimes brings rewards.
The practical matters that had to be attended to, as alluded to in my posting of March 26th last year, chiefly comprised preparations for the probable eventuality of international relocation. Shortly before I made that post, I had received news that called into serious question my continuing ability to make ends meet while running Astrolearn as a full-time occupation out on my own in remote rural Sweden.
While I was extremely reluctant to suspend operations and leave the country, economic circumstances left me no realistic choice, and in the end one of my parents booked an international removals company months in advance to show up at my door in early September. This gave me an effective deadline for packing, a massive operation in view of the extent of my book collection. So over the course of the Spring of 2016, I found myself making enquiries about packing boxes online. Without a car or driving licence, I was not in a position to collect my own. But I knew I would need a lot, and in the end I purchased 200 book-packing boxes from Pelican Self Storage in Örebro at a total cost of 1980 SEK, with delivery through a private courier costing 841 SEK extra, that June. Each box measured 45.8 cm long by 32.8 cm wide by 35.8 cm tall.
Bubble wrap had to be ordered separately from specialist bulk mail order suppliers, and would only be delivered as far as the store in a village 6 km from where I lived. The packs being too bulky to fit in my rucksack, I had to carry some of them by hand all the way to my home, though for others I got help from a local villager with a car in return for small payments.
My packing of the book collection itself began on Friday, July 15th and was completed at 1 p.m. on Friday, August 26th. In total, 203 boxes were filled with books and magazines. Although I had purchased only 200, some were reused from my previous move.
It was an immensely demanding operation, owing to the complex logistics of filling boxes securely with size-matched books and the need to pack everything in parcels of bubble wrap. The use of bubble-wrap served two purposes: protection of the books from damage caused by bumps and friction during transit, and equally importantly, protecting them from silverfish infestation, a serious risk in view of silverfish being endemic to the building where I had been living. I had kept the books safe while they were out on their shelves by keeping all shelves permanently lit, but silverfish are hugely attracted to dark boxes and can breed like wildfire in a matter of months within them, as I had previously learned to my cost, so this time I was taking no chances.
The duly packed collection, together with 36 smaller boxes of books shipped from Australia that Spring (of which more below), was taken away by the removals company in an 18-tonne truck together with all my other belongings about a week later. I flew to England ahead of it around 11th September, and supervised the unloading of the book boxes (which were separated from the other items) into storage at a facility where they remain today.
Just days later, I started work at a paid part-time job I’d been offered in connection with my move by my elder brother for his company in Bristol. This remains my sole source of income today.
However, I have not abandoned the Astrolearn project by any stretch of the imagination. On the contrary, I regard it as being in suspended animation owing to economic expediencies. My aim is to move into a permanent place of my own within the next 6-12 months, and the collection with me. For now, I am staying in a spare room at the house of one of my parents, because Bristol rents are far too expensive for it to make any economic sense for me to move out to a rented flat in this city. When I do move, it will almost certainly be to a more affordable location where, with the help of a mortgage, I can purchase a property outright. I hope to rent out spare rooms to meet the cost of mortgage repayments, council tax and water and fuel bills when the time comes. But I’ll still need outside funding to return to working with astrological literature on a full-time basis instead of continuing indefinitely to commute to my current job. As and when the move is complete and the book collection unpacked and ready to use, I’ll be investigating the possibilities for funding arrangements. But that is unlikely to be before early 2018, and until such arrangements are secured, work on Astrolearn will resume on a part-time basis only.
During the past nine months, I have continued to collect using the little income I’ve had to spare after meeting my obligations, and have already filled a small bookcase in my parent’s house with additions that have been quietly integrated into the online copy of the collection catalogue found in the Bibliography section of this site.
The 36 smaller boxes referred to above were a generous donation by Dr. Geoffrey Dean of Perth, Western Australia of nearly all the books and journals on astrology that he has collected since 1978. Dr. Dean is one of the world’s best-known sceptical researchers on astrology, and together with Arthur Mather of Scotland, was co-editor of the vast, controversial but penetrating study ‘Recent Advances in Natal Astrology, 1900-1976’ produced in co-operation with the Astrological Association of Great Britain and published in 1977. As much as his views on astrology are controversial within the astrological community, the scientific scrutiny of astrological tenets and traditions is not without value, and Dr. Dean deserves credit for having tackled in a forthright and analytical manner topics that are uncomfortable for some astrologers. I have struck up a valuable correspondence with him in recent years, and can say from experience that he is a gentleman. It is a matter of considerable importance to him that the materials he has donated to our library should be available to researchers and scholars in the field. I have given him my assurance that they will be, because I’m committed to ensuring the permanence and accessibility of the collection as a whole. As an astrological librarian, I feel a sense of duty to exercise a kind of editorial neutrality when it comes to providing access to printed writings and positions on astrology. A true scholar is open to studying topics from every angle, and this is an opportunity I wish to extend to future visitors, whether they may be astrologers, scholars of the history of astrology, philosophers, social scientists, or sceptical statisticians.
For now, the contents of Dr. Dean’s boxes mostly remain to be catalogued. Knowing that I was about to move when they arrived from the freight company about a year ago, I did not unpack their contents for the most part. While the contents will include some duplicates of items already in the main collection, they promise to add significantly to the range of scarce 1980s-era journals, as well as a variety of material of interest to sceptical positions on astrology as science. I am committed to cataloguing them as a matter of priority once the upcoming move is complete.