Night Climbing in Cambridge
One of my more successful projects has been taking old books about student japes on the rooftops of Cambridge, and putting them online. The interest started when I was looking for copies of the books myself and found they were being traded at an enormous markup — there were simply far fewer books than there was demand. Since I knew many Cambridge climbers who would love to read these books, I decided to make them available online.
The first book to be systematically photographed and converted to a Web page was the infamous “The Night Climbers of Cambridge”, which was achieved with the help of a fairly large group of helpers, predominantly from the University Mountaineering Club. A high point was when the increased attention to the book contributed to its successful republishing in 2007 by Cambridge’s independent Oleander Press. With the lessons learned from that experience, digitising the 1960s sequel, “Cambridge Nightclimbing”, was comparably straightforward and required only myself and the loan of a scanner.
I can claim little responsibility for the addition of the venerable “Roof Climber’s Guide to Trinity,” which was supplied to me by Nick Russell. This book in its original 1900 incarnation can lay claim to being the first Cambridge night climbing volume, authored by famed climber and writer Geoffrey Winthrop Young, who is quoted in the frontispiece of the more well-known NCOC. His style, abounding with literary references both serious and playful, was clearly a huge influence on “Whipplesnaith.” The version presented here is the 2nd edition, published in 1930. It was produced from a PDF given to me by Nick Russell, which I then fiddled into restructuredText (reST) format, having got thoroughly tired of docbook during the previous two efforts. A few diagrams and flourishes remain to be added but, having done little with his generously-donated PDF for several months, it seems best to get it out there so the world can read it.
A couple of legalistic points: the legality of these online copies is as yet untested. So far no-one has challenged them, and it would seem churlish to obstruct a project which brings specialist (and, at least originally, out of print) books to the masses. However, if you’re wondering why the photos haven’t been painstakingly restored in these online copies, the reason is that I still want there to be a reason for afficionados to go out and buy the books, either old or new. For the casual browser, I hope these online versions provide sufficient entertainment. You can now find many other night climbing titles from Oleander Press, who’ve really taken republishing of night climbing classics to heart – I never knew there were so many!
Take me to the books!
- The Roof Climber’s Guide to Trinity (originally 1900 — 1930 2nd ed. transcribed here)
- Night Climbers of Cambridge (1930s)
- Cambridge Nightclimbing (1960s)
Other night climbing articles
- Nares Craig’s memoirs
- Richard William’s “Cambridge night climbing history” talk/article (PDF)
- Night climbing: Sunday Times feature, 2007
- Night climbing: The Times, Nov 2007
Please let me know if you find any errors or areas for improvement. And thanks to everyone who helped to make it happen.