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, the Institute of Historical Research, and the Warburg Institute, School of Advanced Study, University of London.
Most seminars take place in Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU, or in the Warburg Institute, Woburn Square, London, WC1H 0AB.
Meetings usually take place monthly during term-time on Tuesdays at 5.30 p.m.
Seminar convenors: Giles Mandelbrote (Lambeth Palace Library); Dr. Keith A. Manley (National Trust); Dr. Raphaële Mouren (Warburg Institute); Professor Isabel Rivers (Queen Mary).
The seminars are jointly sponsored by the Institute of English Studies, the Institute of Historical Research, the Warburg Institute, and the Library & Information History Group of CILIP.

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

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

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

Some podcasts from this seminar are available online

Autumn Term 2015
DateSeminar details
6 October Private collections and public libraries in ancient book culture

Professor Greg Woolf (Director, Institute of Classical Studies, University of London)

The history of ancient libraries has traditionally be written around major bibliographic projects such as the Library of Alexandria and the imperial libraries of Rome, projects that are the subject of most ancient testimonia. Recent research - papyrological, epigraphic and archaeological - has raised some doubts about the scale of those projects and also emphasized the key role played in textual transmission by the collections of private individuals and small textual communities. Drawing on this work I shall suggest a new approach to the history of ancient libraries.

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

3 November Blurred Lines in the History of Domestic Libraries in the Age of Dibdin's Bibliomania.

Dr. K. A. Manley (National Trust)

Not all private libraries contained Caxtons and fine bindings. The average domestic library was probably a small affair, was never confined to one library room, and was not owned by a fanatical bibliomaniac. This talk will take a ramble around a small number of libraries and readers – particularly with an Anglo-Irish setting – at the period when Thomas Dibdin published his famous Bibliomania (1809-11). The question of encouraging younger readers to use libraries will also be broached

Venue: The Senate Room, 1st floor, South block, Senate House

1 December "Books, Libraries, and the First World War British Prisoner of War"

Dr. Edmund G. C. King (Open University)

Here everything is a very lazy life. Nothing at all to do except read + eat.” So wrote Captain John Guest of the 16th Manchester Regiment to his parents from Karlsruhe processing camp shortly after being captured in the German Spring Offensive of March 1918. Guest’s letter expresses the officer’s experience of captivity in stark terms. Exempt from forced labour under international law, officer-prisoners saw themselves reduced to a state of passive consumption – cut off from their former military roles, dependent upon the postal system for emotional connection, and upon the Red Cross and their captors for food and intellectual sustenance. In such an environment, books assumed an outsized importance, both as ways of “passing the time” and means of asserting membership in a shared national culture that belied their captive status. This paper will examine the roles of prisoner of war camp libraries during the First World War. What kind of books did they stock? Who used them? What was the role of books in the ordinary daily routine the POW? How did the officer’s experience of books differ from that of the ordinary-ranked POW?

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

Spring Term 2016
DateSeminar details
2 February The Library of Cardinal Richelieu: an Ongoing Study of his Manuscripts. Detals TBC.

François Bougard (Institut de Recherche et d’Histoire des Textes, CNRS, Paris)

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

1 March A projected new history of the Bodleian

Richard Ovenden (Bodley’s Librarian, Oxford)

Venue: This meeting will take place in the Guard Room of Lambeth Palace.
Those wishing to attend should send their names in advance to Lambeth Palace Library at archives@churchofengland.org or 020 7898 1400, not later than Friday 25th February.  Admittance not before 5.15 p.m. via the main gatehouse of Lambeth Palace.

Summer Term 2016
DateSeminar details
5 April Scholar, courtier, magician: the lost library of John Dee` will explore the life and work of one of Tudor England's `most enigmatic figures

Katie Birkwood (Royal College of Physicians Library)

will lead a curator tour of the College’s forthcoming exhibition of books from the library of John Dee (1527-1609), the Elizabethan mathematician and astrologer.The RCP library holds the largest known extant collection of books surviving from John Dee's library, which was one of the greatest collections of its age.  This will be the first time that these books have been publicly exhibited.Please note that there will be a charge of £2.30 for this event for refreshments, payable at the Library.

Venue: The Library, Royal College of Physicians, 11 St Andrews Place, Regent’s Park, London NW1 4LE, commencing at the usual time of 5.30 p.m.

3 May 'Bibliotheca Abscondita: the Library of Sir Thomas Browne (1604-1682)

Lucy Gwynn (Queen Mary University)

Thomas Browne, Norwich physician and one of the great essayists of the seventeenth century, was drawn to the indiscriminate dissolution and ruin brought by the passage of time, as ‘the iniquity of oblivion blindly scattereth her poppy’.  His recreation of an impossible wunderkammer - the tract Musaeum clausum et bibliotheca abscondita - catalogued books, objects and artworks that had been lost to time, looting, war, and exile.  This paper will compare the narrative of incompleteness and wistful recuperation in Musaeum clausum with my project to reconstruct of the contents of Browne’s own library, now only known to us through the catalogue of its sale in 1711.  It will present evidence of Browne’s book ownership and use, and suggest ways in which Browne’s library, its contents, taxonomies and spaces, can be recovered.
Venue: Warburg Institute, Woburn Square, London, WC1H 0AB.