Publication approaches

… we’re dreaming a dream we never thought
Would ever quite come true for us,
Share with us, share with us please
(Noël Coward)

It is true: The Directory is due for publication in October. The advertisement for it on the Facet website makes the Directory seem very real:

A huge thank you to everybody who has helped to make it happen!

Contributing libraries who buy directly from Facet will be entitled to the 20% publisher’s discount normally reserved for individual CILIP members. Good news indeed!

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Nearly there

This blog has been silent for several months, as the priority for the Directory of Rare Book and Special Collections in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland has been to edit entries. Now it is nearly there, and the end of April (yes, tomorrow) is the agreed submission date. But several libraries did not answer repeated requests to update their entries. The economic situation is tough: some places run on volunteers, a huge amount of restructuring has taken place in the public sector, positions have fallen vacant and not been filled so that there has been nobody to do an update. So if you know anybody who works or has worked in any of the following libraries and can update its entry, please could you contact them and urge them to send an entry today? And if you know that a library no longer exists, please can you tell me, also today, at:

The libraries are mostly school libraries, public libraries, libraries in museums, and parish libraries.

All the libraries listed have received the text of their previous entry (published 1997). Instructions for entry are available via this page (see the bar at the top): they include an exploded entry.

Your research community needs you. Thank you!

(Dr) Karen Attar, editor

Ardrossan Cunninghame District Library
Armagh Armagh County Museum
Banbury Bloxham School Library
Belfast Ulster Museum
Berkhamsted Berkhamsted School Library
Beverley Beverley Local Studies Library
Bishop Aukland Library of the See of Durham
Bognor Regis West Sussex Institute of Higher Education, Bognor Regis College Lib.
Bolton Bolton School (Boys’ Div.) Library
Bournemouth Lansdowne Reference Library
Bradford Bolling Hall Museum
Bridlington Bridlington Library
Brighton Preston Manor
Bristol John Wesley’s Chapel
Bristol University of Bristol Spelaeological Society
Cambridge Scientific Periodicals Library (closing)
Canterbury Franciscan Central Library (now Franciscan International Study Centre Library)
Cardiff South Glamorgan County Libs.
Cardington Cardington Parochial Library
Carmarthen Carmarthen Museum
Cashel G.P.A. Bolton Library
Chatham Royal School of Military Engineering
Cheltenham Cheltenham Divisional Library
Chertsey Chertsey Museum
Christchurch Red House Museum Art Gallery
Colchester Essex Libraries, Local Studies Department
Connemara Kylemore Abbey
Cultra Ulster Folk & Transport Museum
Darwen Darwen Library
Derby Derby Central Lib. (Local Studies Dept.)
Dorchester Dorset County Museum
Dorchester Dorchester Reference Library
Dublin Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland
Durham Arts, Libraries and Museums Department, Durham County Library
Durham Bibliotecha Fransiscana
Farnborough St Michael’s Abbey
Farnham Forestry Commission Lib.
Farnham Museum of Farnham (Waverley Borough Council)
Felsted Felsted School Library
Gateshead Gateshead Libraries and Arts Departmet, Central Library
Gillingham Gillingham Central Library
Glasgow Library of the Religious Society of Friends, Glasgow Meeting
Godalming Gerald Coke Lib., King Edward’s School, Witley
Grantham Grantham Public Library
Grantham St. Wulfram’s Church
Guernsey German Occupation Museum
Guildford Guildford Institute Lib.
Haileybury Haileybury and Imperial Service College
Harrogate Harrogate Lib.
Harrow Harrow Public Libraries
High Wycombe The Library, Watson Hawksley
Holt Gresham’s School Library
Hull Hull Maritime Museum
Hull Wilberforce House
Aberystwyth Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences, Aberystywyth University
Illford Redbridge Public Libraries
Isle of Man King William’s College
King’s Cliffe Law’s Library, The Library House, King’s Cliffe
King’s Lynn King’s Lynn Museum Library
Kingston-upon-Thames Kingston Libraries
Kingston-upon-Thames Museum and Heritage Centre
Lansdown Kingswood School Library
Leeds Leeds Incorporated Law Society
Leeds Leeds (Roman Catholic) Diocesan Lib.
Leeds Trinity and All Saints’ College
Leominster Lord’s Day Observance Society
Lewes Lewes Area Lib.
Lincoln Lincolnshire Archives
London Army and Navy Club
London Art Workers Guild Library
London Bank of England Reference Library
London Barnet Public Libraries Archives and Local History Department
London British Institute of Radiology, Mackenzie Davidson Library
London Business Archives Council Library
London Camden Public Libraries (CPL) – Swiss Cottage Library
London CPL – Holborn Library
London CPL – St Pancras Reference Library
London Catholic Central Library
London Chelsea Physic Garden
London Franciscan Friars Minor Provincial Archives
London French Protestant Church
London Woolwich Reference Library
London Plumstead Library
London Guildhall School of Music and Drama Library
London Gunnersbury Park Museum
London Hackney College
London Hammersmith and Fulham Archives and Reference Libraries
London Institute of Army Education
London Institute of Cost and Executive Accountants Library
London Islington Central Library
London Islington –Finsbury Library
London Kensington and Chelsea Public Libraries – all
London Labour Party Library and Archives
London Marx Memorial Library
London Merton Public Libraries
London Marylebone Cricket Club Library
London Newham Public Libraries
London Polish Library
London Royal Artillery Library and Archives
London Royal College of Music Library
London Royal Free Hospital and School of Medicine Medical Library
London Royal Institution Society
London Royal Naval College Library
London Royal Opera House Archives
London St Joseph’s College
London Savage Club
London Savile Club
London Socialist Party of Great Britain Library
London Society of Chiropodists Library
London Southwark Pub Libs: Newington Library
London Southwark Pub Libs: John Harvard Library
London Stationers’ and Newspaper Makers’ Company
London United Oxford and Cambridge University Club
London United Reformed Church History Society, W B Shaw Library
London Civil Liberties Library
Loughborough Co-operative College
Luton Luton Museum & Art Gallery
Lytham St. Anne’s Guardian Royal Exchange Assurance Archives
Manchester Royal Northern College of Music Library
Middlesbrough Cleveland County Library
London (Harrow) Middlesex Yeomanry
Newburgh North East Fife District Lib. Service, Laing Lib. and Museum
Newbury Newbury Library
Newcastle Society of Friends Library
Newton Abbot St Augustine’s Priory Library
Newtown Powys Lib. Service
Northampton Northamptonshire Record Society
Old Heathfield All Saints Church
Oxford The Feneley Library (Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies)
Oxford Greyfriars Library
Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery – Cottonian Collection Library
Plymouth Devon Library Services – Local Studies & Naval History
Pocklington Pocklington School
Pontefract Ackworth School Lib.
Portsmouth City of Portsmouth Museums and Art Gallery
Portsmouth Portsmouth Central Library
Richmond Richmond upon Thames Public Libraries
Salford Broughton Library
Salford Walkden Library
Sandy RSPB
Sheffield Ecclesfield Parish Church
Southampton King Edward VI School
St. Albans Museum of St. Albans
Swaffham Church of St Peter and St Paul
Swansea Central Lib., West Glamorgan County Lib.
Thetford Thetford Library
Torquay Torquay Natural History Museum
Totnes Totnes Museum
Newark British Horological Institute (formerly at Upton)
Uxbridge Hillingdon Public Libraries
Wakefield Queen Elizabeth Grammar School Lib.
Waltham Abbey Abbey Church of Waltham Holy Cross and St Lawrence
Waltham Abbey Waltham Abbey Historical Society Library
Welshpool Powysland Lib.
Weymouth Weymouth Library
Winchester Winchester District Library
York The Bar Convent, Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary


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Updates from you?

Thank you very much to everyone who sent an entry, new or revised, for the forthcoming edition of the Directory of Rare Book and Special Collections in the UK and Republic of Ireland. As I write this, final edits are going ahead and I am firing off numerous emails to request clarification about particular collections. Thanks to everyone who is responding to queries quickly and with good humour.

If anything has happened with your collections since you submitted your entry – for example, if you have acquired any new printed special collections of any vintage (including 20th-21st century), disposed of collections, if you reported collections as uncatalogued that are now catalogued, etc, or indeed if you have moved location, changed telephone number or email address etc, please could you let me know by emailing by 31 January 2015?

(Dr) Karen Attar
Editor, Directory of Rare Book and Special Collections in the UK and Republic of Ireland

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Draughts in Glasgow

Special Collections Inventory ProjectMost Scots are completely unaware that there’s a game at which they were world champions for over a hundred years – the game of draughts. Often regarded as a simple children’s pastime, it is in fact a deep and complex game, every bit as subtle and sophisticated as chess. Between 1820 and 1930 Scotland dominated the world of draughts and produced no less than 6 world champions. This ‘flowering’ of the Scottish game was reflected in the quantity and quality of the literature produced at the time, and in 1898 Glasgow Corporation purchased the collection of a young draughts enthusiast, James W. Hillhouse, for the sum of £70. This important collection includes early works by Joshua Sturges, a notebook detailing the matches between Andrew Anderson and James Wyllie for the Scottish Championship in 1847, and an outstanding collection of newspaper columns.

Thus writes Linda Burke, Librarian at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. The Hillhouse Collection is just one of the special collections at the Mitchell Library: a significant library with getting on for 1.25 million volumes, but one which may be off the radar for many users in the academic community because its holdings are not yet on Copac. It is a perfect illustration of the value of collection-level descriptions over a broad spectrum of libraries.

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Directory recommendations

What senior librarians and academics say about the Directory of Rare Book and Special Collections in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland:

richard ovendenThe new edition of the Directory of Rare Book and Special Collections is a long-awaited reference work which will help researchers identify the UK and Republic of Ireland’s great collections of research materials. It provides detailed and authoritative information and is a must for all serious researchers.
Librarians, archivists, and curators should make sure they provide the fullest and most current information for the Directory of Rare Book and Special Collections. This reference work – which has not been superceded by the provision of online information – is still a very  useful and much-consulted work of reference. Take this opportunity to help drive use of your collections!
Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian, Oxford

david prosserTogether, institutions in the UK and Ireland hold unrivalled special collection.  From our great National Libraries, through university collections to the smaller collections of specialist societies, cathedrals, historic homes, and museums we have a centuries-old tradition of collecting, preserving and giving access.  Scholars from around the world and across disciplinary differences rely on the treasures held by libraries listed in the Directory to pursue their research and help us make sense of the world in which we live.  Inclusion in the Directory aids researchers discover collections of interest and allows librarians to ensure that their collections are publicised and well-used.
David Prosser, Executive Director, RLUK

simon eliotConsulting the invaluable Directory of Rare Book and Special Collections in the UK and Republic of Ireland is often a critical first stage in developing a worthwhile research project in the humanities. Its thoroughness and comprehensiveness serve both the scholar and librarian well. As long as the library is recorded in its pages, the researcher can speedily identify relevant materials, and the librarian can be sure that the collection will receive proper public recognition.
Simon Eliot, Prof. of the History of the Book, University of London

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A milestone: National Trust libraries

Generally preserved in the places where they were originally assembled and read, the historic libraries of the National Trust provide an unparalleled resource for the study of private book ownership in Britain and Ireland from the fifteenth to the twentieth century. Together the libraries contain well in excess of 250,000 titles in c. 400,000 volumes, held in over 160 properties in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. They range from the grandiose collections of aristocratic bibliophiles, through to more humble libraries assembled by ordinary gentry families. The earliest collections have their roots in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, but most were assembled between about 1660 and the middle of the nineteenth century. More recent collections include the personal libraries of literary figures as diverse as Rudyard Kipling, Thomas Carlyle and Agatha Christie; and of public figures, notably Churchill and Disraeli. Some of the libraries are quite modest in size, but the grandest equal or exceed many university rare book collections, cathedral libraries and even the libraries of some Oxford and Cambridge colleges. Naturally the libraries are dominated by books which belonged to wealthy men, but the shelves are also contain books which belonged to people whose historical experience has traditionally been more marginalized, including women, servants, and a family of yeoman farmers. The overwhelmingly majority of the Trust’s libraries are indigenous to their houses; only a small proportion have been brought in to dress empty shelves, though some even of these may be of interest to researchers.

Books at Townend; picture copyright of the National Trust

Books at Townend; picture copyright of the National Trust

Since the last edition of the Directory of Rare Book and Special Collections was published, the National Trust has done a great deal to raise the profile of its library collections. Catalogue records for most of Trust’s books are available via Copac (results can be confined to individual houses if desired by using keywords). Articles and treasures volumes have appeared about specific libraries. There have also been articles and books about National Trust libraries more generally: for example, Nicolas Barker’s Treasures from the Libraries of National Trust Country Houses (1999) and Mark Purcell’s The Big House Library in Ireland (2011). The Directory reflects advances made. Some National Trust properties were represented in the 1997 Directory. An additional thirty-eight are represented in the 2015 Directory, from Cumbrian and other chap books (plus much else) in Townend in Troutbeck, Cumbria, in what is essentially a seventeenth-century yeoman farmer’s house, to the remnant of George Bernard Shaw’s books at his country home near Welwyn in Hertfordshire. In a single volume, the Directory alerts researchers who might want books in National Trust properties for the following reasons:

Books at Townend, with titles written on the fore-edges; picture copyright of the National Trust

Books at Townend, with titles written on the fore-edges; picture copyright of the National Trust

  • To investigate books which are not readily available elsewhere, and which have not yet been digitized;
  • To study whole collections or to investigate features peculiar to individual copies;
  • To conduct a census of a particular book.

There are various milestones in preparing the Directory, and gathering all the National Trust entries – a sterling effort over an extended period by Libraries Curator, Mark Purcell, and Assistant Libraries Curator, Nicola Thwaite – was definitely one of them.

(Thanks to Mark Purcell for contributing much of this blog post.)

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ABA support

ABALike all academic books, the new edition of the Directory of Rare Book and Special Collections began with a proposal for the publisher detailing aim, scope, market and so forth. The heading “Market” listed among potential purchasers antiquarian booksellers, and noted the Directory’s value for vendors offering collections (or, indeed, single items) to libraries on the basis of existing strengths.

Support from the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association (ABA) was evident early on, as an encouraging comment on this blog. Offered to publicise the published Directory, the ABA has stated: “it’s obviously a book every serious bookseller should have.” (May every acquisitions librarian feel the same way about libraries!) Beyond that, the ABA is helping to ensure that the Directory will be as good as it can be, in two ways:

  • Encouraging its members to submit entries of their own collections where relevant. This can be very important indeed, as individual booksellers may have marked-up copies of their own catalogues – and sale catalogues, whether marked up or not, are not always easy to find. Their value for provenance research, book trade history and library history is obvious; and as booksellers’ archives are not research libraries, they not to be found on Copac, and arguably constitute “hidden collections”. Sotheby’s had an entry in the 1997 Directory, which will not appear in 2015, because the archival set of its sale catalogues has been transferred to the British Library in recognition of its significance. Other booksellers may yield treasures.
  • Asking members if they know of any very obscure, low-profile and local libraries with special collections which might conceivably get overlooked in the Directory. I have appealed to the library, archive and museum field for new entries, but appeals via standard library lists can easily miss precisely the kind of low-profile and local libraries it is desirable to reach.  Booksellers represent another way in, and the assistance is very welcome.

“I am sure that with our members’ input we will be able to enhance the already considerable value of the Directory”, wrote one member of the ABA. I, as editor of the Directory, am sure of it too.

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