Pamphlets at Senate House Library & the Michael Marks Awards for Poetry

2009 winner
2010 winner

Senate House Library’s modern collections are rich in monographs and periodicals covering 14 named subject areas in the arts, literature, humanities and social sciences. What may not be initially apparent is that nestling within these print collections are numerous pamphlets, also reflecting the Library’s research specialisms.

Over 3,000 pamphlets on all topics are housed in the Pamphlet Store and many more are interspersed within the specific research collections. The English Studies collection alone has approximately 2000 pamphlets covering a similar range of periods and topics, from Anglo-Saxon to date, as the English book collection. Many of the English Studies pamphlets were purchased over the previous few decades and as parts of it are uncatalogued a project is underway to add these items to the online catalogue, with the aim that they will be searchable and thus more accessible.

2011 winner
2012 winner

Glaister, in his ‘Glossary of the Book’*, defines a pamphlet as “a short piece of polemical writing intended for wide circulation, printed and issued as an unbound publication, with either stapled or sewn pages; it may or may not have a paper cover” (p.358). The English literature pamphlets at Senate House Library would support this definition in many ways, certainly in matters of physical form and quite often in the critical nature of the content, although there are also numerous volumes of poetry and dramatic works. There are examples of publications from university presses, literary societies, local history groups, churches and religious societies, individual private printers, and libraries.

2013 winner
2014 winner

The pamphlets reflect an alternative to the mainstream of academic writing and also show the hobbyist side of printing and private press work which provides an interesting counterpoint to the fine printing and private press publications held within Senate House Library’s Special Collections.

Today, the small printed pamphlet appears to be thriving, the tactile nature of print still very much battling the speed and ease of online publishing. The recent Small Publishers Fair at Conway Hall was packed with stalls selling handmade booklets and pamphlets, many of them containing poetry, and since 2009 the Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets have been granted annually to publishers and individual pamphlets. Whilst the contemporary poetry pamphlet may not wholly fulfil Glaister’s definition of the polemical publication (although sometimes it will) perhaps the format itself is a critical statement in these days of virtual communication.

2015 winner
2016 winner

The most recent additions to the Senate House Library literature pamphlets are the 8 winners to date of the aforementioned Michael Marks Awards for individual poetry pamphlets. The Awards are presented by the Wordsworth Trust and the British Library in association with the Times Literary Supplement and the Harvard University Centre for Hellenic Studies. These winning pamphlets are all on the Senate House Library catalogue, and their cover images are scattered throughout this blog post.



*Glaister, G.A. (1979) Glaister’s glossary of the book: terms used in papermaking, printing, bookbinding and publishing with notes on illuminated manuscripts and private presses 2nd rev. ed. London: Allen and Unwin.