History seminars at the IHR

History of Libraries

 A series of research seminars, which are freely open for anyone to attend, has been organized by the Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London.

The seminars are jointly sponsored by the Institute of English Studies, the Institute of Historical Research, and the Library & Information History Group of CILIP.

Meetings usually take place monthly during term-time on Tuesdays at 5.30 p.m. in Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU, but a number have been arranged elsewhere (see below).

Conveners: Giles Mandelbrote (Lambeth Palace Library); Dr. Keith A. Manley (National Trust); Professor Simon Eliot (Institute of English Studies); Dr.Raphaële Mouren (Warburg Institute); Professor Isabel Rivers (Queen Mary)

For enquiries relating to this seminar please contact Jon Millington: jon.millington@sas.ac.uk

Venue: Various locations inside and outside the University of London, as in the programme, below.

Time: Mainly Tuesdays, beginning at 17:30, unless otherwise indicated in the programme, below. 

Some podcasts from this seminar are available online

Autumn Term 2014
DateSeminar details
4 November From 'The Blue Lagoon' to 'The Enchanted Mountains': portrait of a marriage in books
Harvey James (National Trust)


This presentation offers a fresh perspective on Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson as seen through their library at Sissinghurst. The book collection gives many surprising and suggestive glimpses into their lives, their reading, tastes and influences. In addition to the widespread annotations made to assist their reviews and research for their own work, the books often contain a variety of additional material that broadens our understanding of the significance of the collection. After four years of cataloguing the library, it seems to me that it is the personal resonances that make the library so special.

Please note:  this session takes place in the Woburn Suite, G22/26, Senate House, ground floor.


12 December For Artisans, Artists and Others: the Library at the V. & A.

Dr. Rowan Watson and Elizabeth James (National Art Library, V. & A.)

The V&A’s library was set up as part of an educational movement spurred along by the Great Exhibition of 1851. Growth was rapid, and the title National Art Library was adopted in 1865. The seminar aims to show the nature of the library’s development, its relation to the museum of which it forms part, and the agendas which have governed how it has collected both in the 19th century and today.

Please note:  this event takes place on a Friday.  The talk will commence at 5.30. Refreshments will not be available at the Seminar, but the V. & A. Museum and its cafeteria will be open until 9.30 p.m. Please note that the Library is closed in the evenings.

Venue: The Research Department Seminar Room, National Art Library, Victoria & Albert Museum,
South Kensington, London SW7 2RL.

There is no charge, but if you wish to attend, please RSVP via this link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/history-of-libraries-research-seminar-tickets-14753868217.


Spring Term 2015
DateSeminar details
23 January 'Improv'd the General Conversation of Americans': Social Libraries Before 1854

Professor Wayne Wiegand (California)

With the help of a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, I launched a major book-length research project tentatively entitled Part of Our Lives: A People’s History of the American Public Library. The study differs from others because it takes a 'bottom up' perspective rather than a traditional 'top down' approach. In addition, it looks beyond librarianship’s conventional discourse by tapping newer humanistic scholarship on reading and the public sphere to more accurately assess the historical role of library as place. I propose to extract from Chapter One those parts of the narrative that 'explain the emergence of libraries in the "public sphere"' between 1731, when Franklin started the Library Company of Philadelphia, and 1854, when the Boston Public Library opened and became the prototype for the subsequent American public library movement. I will comment on connections between social libraries and public sphere activities like the 19th century lyceum movement, art galleries, and 'reading rooms' intended for discussion more than silence.

Venue:  The Senate Room, Senate House, first floor

A joint meeting with the Community Libraries Conference


3 February The Archaeology of an Elizabethan Library: Reading Richard Stonley (c.1520-1600)

Dr. Jason Scott-Warren (Gonville & Caius, University of Cambridge)

Richard Stonley, an Elizabethan exchequer official and the first documented reader of Shakespeare, left two fascinating traces in the archives. The first comprises three volumes of journals covering periods of the 1580s and 1590s; the second is a booklist that was compiled when the contents of Stonley's house on London’s Aldersgate Street were sold off to defray his alleged embezzlements in office in 1597. This paper will dig into both documents in order to contextualize a highly distinctive early modern library.

Venue: Woburn Suite, G22/26, South Block, Ground floor


3 March The Borrowers' Register of St. Andrews University Library

Dr. Matthew Sangster (University of Birmingham)

Venue: a room to be confirmed in Senate House


10 March On the history of the Jesuit library of Jersey in the 19th and 20th centuries. Details TBA.

Dr Sheza Moledina (Bibliothèque Municipale de Lyon)

Venue: Warburg Institute, Woburn Square, London, WC1H 0AB.

This talk will commence at 4.30 p.m.


Summer Term 2015
DateSeminar details
5 May Bombs on Books: Germany's Lost Libraries of WWII

Dr. Jan L. Alessandrini (University of St. Andrews)

Questions concerning the rescue, reconstruction, and restitution of libraries during (and after) WWII continue to fox book historians. This paper focuses on the administrative and practical measures undertaken by German libraries that suffered some of the worst damages, including Hamburg, Lübeck and Rostock, to rescue rare books from deliberate destruction. Furthermore, it investigates the reconstruction that took place in the immediate aftermath of WWII, whilst tracing the displacement of books taken as trophies of war. Finally, this paper tackles the (thorny) issue of restitution, considering Cold War relationships, transnational policies implemented to return lost books after the thaw in the 1990s, as well as the technological initiatives that are making rediscovered materials available again to wider audiences.

Venue:  TBC

2 June 'Painters, limners, writers, and bookbinders': Matthew Parker's printed books
William Hale (Cambridge University Library)


The Parker collection of manuscripts at Corpus Christi College is one of the glories of Cambridge, but Parker's still larger library of printed books has remained relatively little explored. As Parker Taylor Bibliographer, William Hale spent three years cataloguing the collection and here looks at the history and characteristics of the library of one of the great English reformers.

Venue: Lambeth Palace at 5.30 p.m. Pre-booking is required, and details will be supplied later.

 

June / July 

Repeat of last year’s new library walk by Alice Ford-Smith (Bernard Quaritch Ltd.)