Martin Conway Bequests

Collection highlights

The Conway Collection of 1,170 items was donated to the Institute of Historical Research over a ten year period between 1921 and 1931 by Lady Katrina Conway née Glidden (1856-1933) and Sir. Martin Conway (1856-1937), Baron of Allington. The collection consists of books and pamphlets on European and American topics published from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries. Owing to its family provenance, the collection is closely associated with Manton Marble Collections held at the Senate House Library and the Houghton Library, Harvard University as well as the Conway collections housed at the Courtauld Institute of Art, Royal Geographical Society, and Cambridge University. Lady Conway was the daughter-in-law of successful American newspaper magnate Manton Marble (1834-1917) who married her mother following the death of her first husband (Katrina’s father) in 1909.  Katrina’s husband, Sir Martin Conway was a prominent art critic and historian who published widely on topics ranging from Joshua Reynolds, mountaineering, and Zionism. In 1901 he became the Slade Professor of Fine Art at Cambridge University before being elected to represent the universities in Parliament as a Unionist MP (1918-1931). He was the first director-general of the Imperial War Museum and served as a trustee on the boards of the Wallace Collection and the National Portrait Gallery. Both Martin and Katrina were friends and correspondents of the American novelist Henry James.

The majority of works in this collection consist of works dealing with the government and foreign policy of the United States. Sir Martin Conway donated the first tranche of books to the library at the foundation of the Institute in 1921. These works include many volumes of Supreme Court reports and hearings and the annual reports of both houses of the US Congress. Both Lady and Sir Conway continued to donate books to the library throughout the 1920s. In 1931 the library used money from a fund set aside for the development of the American collections to purchase 284 titles from Lady Conway. The majority of these titles also focused on US government records and included several late eighteenth-century editions of the proceedings of the House of Representatives and Senate. Other interesting books in the collection include two bound tract volumes of pamphlets about the Northeast border dispute (1783-1842) between the United States and Great Britain over the boundary between the state of Maine and the colony of New Brunswick. The 1931 purchase of Lady Conway’s collection also included the published papers of notable political figures including the Papers of Jeremiah Black, Supreme Court Justice (1851-1856) and Secretary of State (1860-1861).