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

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 Copyright Literature in St Andrews University Library

Dr. Matthew Sangster (University of Birmingham)

During the eighteenth century, the university library at St Andrews was transformed by the accessions of thousands of books, plays and pamphlets sent under the aegis of the 1710 Copyright Act.  This paper will explore the ways that these publications were used and valued by examining the contents of the library's accession records, considering samples from its extensive and detailed borrowing registers and presenting some of the revealing marginalia preserved in surviving books.

Venue: Torrington Room, 104, Senate House, South Block, first floor

10 March Libraries 'in exile': the case of the library of the Jesuit seminary in Jersey (1880-1939)

Dr Sheza Moledina (Bibliothèque Municipale de Lyon)

The history of the Jesuit libraries is like a never-ending saga, full of adventures, developments and peregrinations. Ever since the foundation of the Society of Jesus in the 16th century, Jesuits have always given great priority to the formation and the development of their libraries. Books were always considered as indispensable tools for the Jesuits’ various ministries, as well as for their training for priesthood.

The contemporary period has been less studied than the Jesuit libraries of the Ancien Régime. Many libraries belonging to the French Jesuits have perished in flames, been sold off or divided, but some have prospered. Some have been transferred to other lands. This paper will discuss the history of one of the most prestigious Jesuit libraries, which flourished on the Channel island of Jersey. In 1880, as a consequence of anti-clerical laws the majority of French Jesuits chose “exile” to non-Republican neighbouring countries so as to continue undisturbed their religious training and teaching activities. Jersey was intended as a temporary settlement. However, by force of circumstance, the seminary only closed down with the outbreak of WW2. We will examine how this library evolved during these 60 years spent in Jersey and how it went on to form the nucleus of the Library of Gouvieux-Chantilly, the largest French Jesuit library ever, in the second half of the 20th century.

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

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.)