Senate House Library: the Special Collections in Print

Richard W. Oram and Joseph Nicholson in their Collecting, Curating and Researching Writers’ Libraries (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2014) list the collections of literary writers held in libraries across the United Kingdom, United States and Canada. They include the library of the poet Walter de la Mare, which came to Senate House Library in 2005, and also, although he was not a literary author, that of the Baconian Sir Edwin Durning-Lawrence, bequeathed to the University of London by Durning-Lawrence’s widow in 1929. David Pearson, reviewing Oram and Nicholson’s book in The Library (7th ser. 16, March 2015), notes the reference to the Durning-Lawrence library.

In Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society, 15(2) (2013) – actually published in 2015 – Timothy Underhill has written an article entitled ‘John Byrom and Shorthand in Early Eighteenth-Century Cambridge’. This uses two manuscripts in the Carlton Shorthand Collection at Senate House Library (Carlton 35/12(i) and Carlton 3/1), one of them a neat shorthand transcription of the Book of Common Prayer calligraphed by Fisher Littleton, a fellow-commoner of Emmanuel College in Cambridge who learned shorthand in the late 1740s.

David McKitterick, reviewing a catalogue of the library of Piero Sraffa in The Book Collector (spring 2015) refers to the Goldsmiths’ Library of Economic Literature.

January saw the publication of The Cambridge Companion to the History of the Book, edited by Leslie Howsam (Cambridge University Press, 2015). In the chapter ‘Books in the Library’, Karen Attar highlighted an item from the Quick Memorial Library, Claude Hollyband’s The Italian Schoole-Maister (London: T. Purfoot, 1597), which retains a gathering replaced in most copies of the book so that it vilifies as a ‘rich vilaine, without learning, ciuilitie, humanitie & courtesie’ a scrivener who in the Harvard copy, reproduced on the database Early English Books Online, becomes ‘a verie skilfull man in his trade’. One of the three illustrations in The Cambridge Companion to the History of the Book is from another item at Senate House Library, Giovanni Battista Riccioli’s Geographiae et Hydrographiae Reformatae, enlivened by Augustus De Morgan’s provenance note: ‘This was one of Sloane’s books – and the British Museum ought to have been ashamed of itself for selling away part of one of the founding collections. The book is rare …‘


Annotation by Thomas Carlyle on E.B. Browning, Aurora Leigh ([S.L.] I [Browning E.B. – 1857]

Karen Attar’s chapter ‘Victorian Readers and their Library Records Today’ in Reading and the Victorians, edited by Matthew Bradley and Juliet John (Farnham: Ashgate, 2015) focuses on collections at Senate House Library: the library and annotations of mathematician and mathematical historian Augustus De Morgan (1806-1871), known for annotating his books informatively, amusingly or both; that of De Morgan’s contemporary, the classical historian George Grote (1794-1871), an equally voracious reader and keen acquirer, who preferred to make his notes about his reading outside the books themselves; and a single poem, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh, annotated acidly throughout by Thomas Carlyle.

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