From medical handbooks to the Mediterranean: Special Collections at King’s College London

Katie Sambrook, Head of Special Collections at King’s College London, tells us about the collections in her charge and how she and her colleagues are promoting them.

View of the Botanic Gardens St. Vincent, 1825.

View of the Botanic Gardens St. Vincent, 1825.

The Foyle Special Collections Library at King’s College London holds over 180,000 items – mainly printed books, periodicals and pamphlets, but also maps, manuscripts and photographs – in a landmark Victorian building in central London. The grade 2* listed edifice, which also houses the Maughan Library (the university’s largest library), served until the 1990s as the Public Record Office, the home of the nation’s documentary heritage, so its current purpose, as a repository of special collections of international importance, is very much in keeping with that for which it was originally constructed.

Photograph of Maughan Library, Chancery Lane (KCL), taken in winter.

Maughan Library Chancery Lane taken in winter. Part of the Strand Campus of King’s College London.

Our special collections

For me perhaps the most attractive aspect of our special collections, and one which helps to make my role so rewarding, is their wide variety. Ranging in date from the 15th century to the present day and spanning the humanities, social sciences and sciences, our special collections provide endless scope for research, teaching and public engagement.

Image of Godess Hygeia standing over a male patient with a bandaged head.

Godess Hygeia standing over a male patient with a bandaged head. Manchester Evening Chronicle household medical adviser, 1900.

Medicine is a notable strength; King’s has a long and rich tradition in this area, incorporating not only the foundation of King’s College Hospital in 1840 but the merger in the 1990s with two far older institutions of medical education and training, St Thomas’s Hospital (originally a medieval foundation) and Guy’s Hospital, founded in 1721.  All these institutions assembled large and important collections of rare and historical medical books, supplemented in psychiatry by that of another institution with which King’s merged in the 1990s, the Institute of Psychiatry.  In total we hold over 20,000 rare books and journals in the medical sciences, one of the most significant such collections in a UK university library.  To help promote their riches, we are a partner in the Jisc / Wellcome Trust-funded digitisation project, the UK Medical Heritage Library, which aims to digitise 15 million pages of 19th and early 20th century medical books. And we’re adding to our medical collections too, seeking out items that fill gaps in our holdings, like this attractively bound household medical handbook, for example.

Image of a rock warbler, 1822.

A rock warbler hunting an insect as depicted in John William Lewin’s ‘A natural history of the birds of New South Wales’, London, 1822.

Perhaps the most important of all our special collections – and it’s certainly the largest –is the FCO Historical Collection, the former library collection of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), which was transferred to King’s in 2007. Spanning 500 years of history and every corner of the world, this magnificent collection encompasses such themes as travel and exploration, war, peace and diplomacy, trade and transport, the growth and abolition of the Atlantic slave trade, the rise, rule and decline of empires and the creation of the Commonwealth.  Many items in the collection are rare; some are unrecorded elsewhere. Items range from sumptuously produced works, such as this early study of the bird life of New South Wales, to cheaply produced but no less interesting pamphlets and magazines, such as the rare Falkland Islands magazine, which documents daily life on the islands in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Image of Christ Church Cathedral, Falkland Islands Magazine cover, 1901.

Christ Church Cathedral, Falkland Islands Magazine cover, no. 6, Vol. XIII, October 1901.

Promoting our special collections

I see the active promotion of our special collections, both within King’s and to the wider world, as an essential part of our role.  Our central London location within a historic building that is a destination in its own right makes public exhibitions an obvious promotional tool for us, and it’s one in which we consequently invest a good deal of effort. We run three public exhibitions a year; they are free to visit and attract visitors from all around the world.  Our current exhibition is called West of Suez: Britain and the Mediterranean, 1704-1967, a theme we chose because it plays to the strengths of the FCO Historical Collection, has a compelling narrative with topical resonance and, not least, gives us scope to display some visually attractive and intriguing items.

Scenes of Gibraltar life in the 1950's.

Scenes of Gibraltar life in the 1950’s, including a British policeman and his Spanish counterpart checking documents at the frontier with Spain and Spanish workmen returning home after a day’s work. Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1958.

The exhibition runs until 7 May and you will find full details on our exhibitions web page.

Not everyone can visit our exhibitions, of course, so we also ensure that we make as many of our past exhibitions as we can available in online form. In the last year we’ve explored such topics as the Battle of Waterloo and the fight against infectious disease in both physical and digital form.

One of the characteristics of special collections – their capacity to foster cross-disciplinary research – is closely aligned to King’s College London’s strength in imaginative interdisciplinarity in research and teaching, and this ties in with another way in which we seek to promote use of our collections, by way of seminars with our academic colleagues, introducing them and their students to the vast array of material available to them. Most of the seminars we run are for King’s students, of course – this term we’re running seminars for English Literature and Medicine undergraduates, to give just two examples – but we can also provide this service for staff and students of other institutions; we’ve developed a successful pair of seminars for the MA in African Studies course at the School of Oriental and African Studies. Some seminars are introductory in nature, while others are more in-depth, requiring students to undertake a sustained piece of work on an item or items in our special collections.  I’m interested in developing creative partnerships with academic colleagues and departments further and would like to explore how we can best foster fuller exploitation of the potential of our special collections to generate new research, perhaps by fellowships, perhaps by internships or perhaps by some other means – we have plenty of ideas and this is an area we’re hoping to focus on in the next few years.

www.kcl.ac.uk/specialcollections

Katie Sambrook
Head of Special Collections
Library Services
King’s College London

All images copyright the King’s College London Library and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holder.

Royal College of Physicians of London and the lost library of John Dee

We’re pleased to welcome a new contributor to Copac, the library of the Royal College of Physicians of London.

The Royal College of Physicians of London (RCP) is the professional body for physicians, with over 30,000 members and fellows across the globe. The RCP has an extensive library, supporting the needs of its members and reflecting their interests since the RCP’s foundation in 1518. Today the print collections number more than 55,000 titles, including current clinical, educational and professional resources, secondary sources on the history of medicine and a large collection of rare books whose highlights include 119 items from before 1501, and over 100 books previously owned by Elizabethan astrologer John Dee.

Portrait of John Dee. Stipple engraving by Robert Cooper after unknown artist, late 18th to early 19th century.

Portrait of John Dee. Stipple engraving by Robert Cooper after unknown artist, late 18th to early 19th century.

John Dee (1527–1609) was one of Tudor England’s most extraordinary and enigmatic figures – a Renaissance polymath, with interests in almost all branches of learning. The Royal College of Physicians of London library holds more than 100 volumes stolen from Dee during his lifetime, the largest single collection of Dee’s books in the world. From 18 January until 29 July 2016 a new exhibition at the RCP will display many of these for the first time.

Dee’s evocative sketch of a ship in full sail. Opera. Cicero, published Paris, 1539. © Royal College of Physicians / John Chase

Dee’s evocative sketch of a ship in full sail. Opera. Cicero, published Paris, 1539. © Royal College of Physicians / John Chase

Dee built, and lost, one of the greatest private libraries of 16th century England. He claimed to own over 3,000 books and 1,000 manuscripts. The authors and subjects of Dee’s books are wide-ranging, and reflect his extraordinary breadth of knowledge and expertise. They include diverse topics such as mathematics, natural history, music, astronomy, military history, cryptography, ancient history and alchemy. These books give us an extraordinary insight into Dee’s interests and beliefs and personality through his hand-written illustrations and annotations.

While Dee travelled to Europe in the 1580s, he entrusted the care of his library and laboratories to his brother-in-law Nicholas Fromond. But according to Dee, he ‘unduely sold it presently upon my departure, or caused it to be carried away’. A large number of Dee’s books came into the possession of Nicholas Saunder. Little is known about Saunder, or whether he personally stole Dee’s books. Saunder must, however,  have known that his books once belonged to Dee, because he repeatedly tried to erase or overwrite Dee’s signature with his own. Given that several books have part of the title page missing, we can also assume that Saunder probably cut and tore signatures from some books. Saunder’s collections later passed to Henry Pierrepont, the Marquis of Dorchester: a devoted book collector. Dorchester’s family presented his entire library to the RCP after his death in 1680, where this exceptional collection of early printed books remains today.

John Dee’s signature. Cinquante jeus divers d’honnete entretien. Innocenzio Ringhieri, published Lyon, 1555. © Royal College of Physicians / Mike Fear

John Dee’s signature. Cinquante jeus divers d’honnete entretien. Innocenzio Ringhieri, published Lyon, 1555. © Royal College of Physicians / Mike Fear

The exhibition ‘Scholar, courtier, magician: the lost library of John Dee’ runs from 18 January until 29 July 2016.

You can browse a list of the books in the RCP Dee exhibition on Copac.

 

Celebration of Christmas

Image from "The Coming of Father Christmas", 1894

Nativity image from “The Coming of Father Christmas”, 1894. British Library images.

For Christmas, we’re highlighting a selection of seasonal books, music and other material from some of our contributing libraries.

Carols and Music

In amongst the many works of Christmas Carols on Copac I’ve picked out a few that particularly appealed.

Chetham’s Library and the National Library of Scotland hold a song sheet entitled ‘The twelve good joys of Mary: a carol, for the twelve days of Christmas’ (also known by the first line ‘First good joy that Mary had’). This is believed to have been printed by George Angus (1783-1829), who was active in Newcastle between 1813 and 1825:

Records on Copac

The National Trust Libraries hold the book ‘Choice carols for Christmas holydays’. Changing tastes are reflected within this book that contains some carols still familiar today but others rather less so. Published in England in c.1800, songs include: ‘God rest you merry gentlemen’, ‘In friendly love and unity’, ‘Upon the 25th. of December’ and ‘When bloody Herod reigned king’:

Records on Copac

The Royal Academy of Music’s collection includes ‘Rumanian folk music. Vol.4 Carols and Christmas music (Colinde)’ by Bela Bartok, published in The Hague in 1975. This volume was formerly owned by the famous violinist Yehudi Menuhin (1916-1999):

Record on Copac

Children’s Books

First published in 1785 is the wonderfully named ‘Christmas tales: for the amusement and instruction of young ladies and gentlemen in winter evenings’ by Solomon Sobersides. Copies printed and sold by J. Marshall and Co. “… ordered all the booksellers, both in town and country, to make a present of it to good girls and boys, they paying six-pence only to defray the expences of binding”.

Libraries holding this book include Cambridge University (Special Collections), V & A National Art Library and York University:

Records on Copac

Image of reindeer pulling children in sledges

Image: Reindeer pulling children in sledges (1803). Wellcome Library, London. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

‘The home of Santa Claus : a story of Leslie Gordon’s visit to Father Christmas, and of the strange sights he beheld in the town of toys’ by George A. Best was published in 1900 and illustrated from photographs by Arthur Ullyett. Holding libraries include Oxford University and Liverpool University:

Records on Copac

Published around 1780-1800, ‘Mirth without mischief’, contains the English Folk song ‘The twelve days of Christmas’. It also includes the intriguing sounding ‘play of the gaping-wide-mouthed-wadling frog’. Libraries holding this illustrated children’s book include the British Library, Edinburgh University and Leeds University:

Records on Copac

Classic Christmas stories

Photo of a Christmas tree made of books

Image ‘Bibliojela’ (a Christmas tree made of books) by ToopaGia.

A Christmas Carol

Published in to critical acclaim in 1843 as ‘A Christmas carol: In prose. Being a ghost story of Christmas’, we follow the transformation of Scrooge’s character through his chilling encounters with the ghosts of Marley, Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. Libraries holding the first edition of this well-loved story by Charles Dickens include City of London, Guildhall Library and University of London, Senate House Libraries:

Records on Copac

The Night Before Christmas

This magical poem was first published c.1870 as ‘Santa Claus: or, The night before Christmas’ by Clement C. Moore in New York. Also known as ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’, it inspired many Christmas traditions and popular culture An early edition is held by Trinity College Dublin Library:

Record on Copac

***Happy Christmas from the Copac team!***

Scottish Ornithologists’ Club catalogue loaded

We’re pleased to announce that the holdings of the George Waterston Library at the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club Headquarters have been added to Copac.

George Waterston Library

The George Waterston Library at Waterston House, SOC Headquarters

The library is now in its tenth year at Waterston House. George Waterston, co-founder of the SOC, was instrumental in forming the collection by begging books from various sources. Many books in the Club’s collection were formally part of his and his wife’s library, alongside donations made by others in the early 1930’s.

With an outlook over Aberlady bay, the library offers a calm and tranquil environment to sit and read. It is open to all-researchers, birdwatchers of all levels, artists and historians, seven days a week during HQ’s normal opening hours.

As the largest ornithology library in Scotland and one of the top collections of its kind in Britain, the facility contains over 5,000 books, around 130 different journals and houses a unique and distinctive archive. The library aims, as far as possible, to be a complete repository of all material on Scottish ornithology. As such, it has a collection not just of books but of some fascinating diaries, photographs and letters from eminent Scottish ornithologists.

This wonderful resource also contains a range of non-Scottish ornithology titles including standard works on avifauna of all parts of the world, handbooks on identification, and works on bird behaviour and methodology.

The library has complete runs of the key British journals, all the main international periodicals and all the bird reports from Scotland, neighbouring English counties, Wales and Ireland.

To browse, or limit your search to the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club, go to the main tab on copac.jisc.ac.uk and choose ‘Scottish Ornithologists’ Club’ from the list of libraries.

Explore The Scottish Ornithologists’ Club records on Copac.

Exhibition at Middle Temple Library: 250 years of Blackstone’s Commentaries

Renae Satterley, Deputy Librarian at Middle Temple Library, writes about their forthcoming exhibition.

Photo of Unidentified bookplate found in the second copy of the second edition of the Commentaries (shelfmark BAY L551)

Unidentified bookplate found in the second copy of the second edition of the Commentaries (shelfmark BAY L551)

Middle Temple Library will be hosting an exhibition from Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the publication of Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England. This exhibition was curated by Mike Widener, Rare Book Librarian at the Lillian Goldman Law Library, and Wilfrid Prest, Professor Emeritus of History and Law at the University of Adelaide.

Image: 4.A colour plate from The Comic Blackstone

A colour plate from The Comic Blackstone

The exhibition was first shown at Yale from March to June 2015. It will be on display at Middle Temple Library from September to November, after which it will be on display at the Sir John Salmond Law Library at the University of Adelaide from December 2015 to January 2016.

The exhibition features over 40 items from Yale’s Law Library collection which depict the origins of the Commentaries, its publishing success and its impact on the common law system and more broadly on English and American society. The items include a volume annotated by one of Blackstone’s students, a legal treatise with Blackstone’s marginalia, the first English editions of the Commentaries, early Irish and American pirated editions, abridgments, teaching aids, student manuscripts, critiques, translations (into French, German, Italian, and Chinese), and a 1963 liquor advertisement.

Image: Portrait of Blackstone

Portrait of Blackstone

Sir William Blackstone (1723-1780) was a member of Middle Temple, admitted 20 November 1741, called to the Bar 28 November 1746 and made a Bencher (i.e. senior member of the Inn) on 1 May 1761. Sir William was Vinerian Professor of the Law of England at Oxford in 1758. Although he was “particularly fond of architecture and poetry” upon entering Middle Temple he gave up his first love to concentrate on the study of law. While Vinerian Professor, he presented a course of lectures which later became the foundation of the Commentaries.

The Commentaries was first printed in four volumes in 1765-9, later going through thirteen English editions in the 18th century alone, while also being published in Dublin and Philadelphia. The book continues to be published up to this day. According to his entry in the Dictionary of National Biography, the “tortuous” complexities of the common law “were outlined in a manner at once authoritative, clear, elegant, and even engaging” and the Commentaries “would become the most celebrated, widely circulated, and influential law book ever published in the English language.”

Image: Bookplate of Sir William Blackstone

Bookplate of Sir William Blackstone

In 1759 Sir William donated his own copy of The Great charter and Charter of the forest to Middle Temple Library. The library also holds his personal copy (with bookplate) of Thomas Wentworth’s The office and duty of executors. Unfortunately the latter is damaged, with the title page missing, and was thus mis-catalogued in our collection until recently.

While the library is not open to members of the public, the exhibition can be viewed by making an appointment with the Deputy Librarian (r.satterley@middletemple.org.uk). The library is also participating in the event ‘Open House London: Revealing Magna Carta’ on 19 and 20 September where Inner Temple, Middle Temple, Temple Church and the Royal Courts of Justice will be open to the public. Full details on this event are available at: http://www.middletemple.org.uk/about-us/magna-carta-lecture-series.

The exhibition catalogue, which was published with the support of William S. Hein & Co., is available to download for free at: http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1009&context=amlaw. Mark S Weiner has created a video interview with Professor Wilfrid Prest which can be viewed here: https://worldsoflaw.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/blackstone-goes-hollywood/.

Further information about Yale Law Library’s rare books can be found here: http://library.law.yale.edu/rarebooks. Information about the Law Library at the University of Adelaide can be found here: http://www.adelaide.edu.au/library/about/libraries/law/.

Last but not least, information about Middle Temple Library can be found at: http://www.middletemple.org.uk/library-and-archive/library.

Renae Satterley is Deputy Librarian at Middle Temple Library and has been working at the library since January 2006, when she was hired as Rare Books Librarian. She completed her MLIS at McGill University in 2004 and worked at Emmanuel College Cambridge from 2004-2005. She is currently Chair of CILIP’s Library & Information History Group and has written on the history of Robert Ashley’s (1565-1641) library.

Royal Asiatic Society catalogue loaded

We’re pleased to announce that the holdings of the Royal Asiatic Society have been added to Copac.

 IRoyal Asiatic Society Library

Image: Royal Asiatic Society Library

The collections of the Royal Asiatic Society have developed continually since the founding of the Society in 1823, and today incorporate some 80,000 books and journals, thousands of manuscripts, paintings and drawings, and maps, as well as extensive archive holdings.

The printed collections date back to the sixteenth century, and in subject and language span the whole of Asia as well as adjacent regions, with Indian and Persian cultures particularly well-represented. The core of the printed collections is the nineteenth-century material, which is representative of the development of Oriental studies during that period.

A vast range of subjects are covered, with the main strengths being in languages, philology, art, history, literature, religion, and philosophy.

To browse, or limit your search to the Royal Asiatic Society, go to the main tab on copac.jisc.ac.uk and choose ‘Royal Asiatic Society’ from the list of libraries.

Cranfield University (Technical Reports Collection) catalogue loaded

We’re pleased to announce that the holdings of Cranfield University (Technical Reports Collection) have been added to Copac.

Image of Kings Norton Library, Cranfield University

Kings Norton Library, Cranfield University (Image copyright: Cranfield University)

This Collection specialises in Aeronautics and is also strong in Agriculture and Soil Sciences, Automotive/motorsport, Engineering, Environment and Management. The metadata is particularly rich as each report is catalogued at item rather than series level. Reports are generally available for interlibrary loan and a growing number are digitised.

Cranfield’s Aeronautical reports comprise a nationally, if not internationally, important collection of current and historical technical and research reports relating to aerospace and air transport engineering and management from leading research establishments and organisations. Many reports date back to the early the 1940s and 1950s and some even earlier. The translations of reports produced at the Luftfahrtforschungsanstalt Hermann Goring (LFA), Volkenrode which describe German aeronautical research, especially during the 1940s are of particular historical interest.

• National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
• NATO Advisory Group for Aerospace Research and Development (AGARD)
• European Space Agency (ESA)
• International Civil Aviation Organization
• Aeronautical Research Council (ARC)
• Royal Aircraft / Aerospace Establishment (RAE)
• Office National d’Études et de Recherches Aérosatiales (ONERA)
• Nationaal Lucht- en Ruimtevaartlaboratorium
• Deutsche Luft- und Raumfahrt
• National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA)

To browse, or limit your search to the Cranfield University (Technical Reports Collection), go to the main tab on copac.ac.uk and choose ‘Cranfield University (Technical Reports Collection)’ from the list of libraries.

Institution of Civil Engineers Library catalogue loaded

We’re pleased to announce that the holdings of the Institution of Civil Engineers Library have been added to Copac.

Image of Institution of Civil Engineers Library

Photo copyright: Institution of Civil Engineers.

The Institution of Civil Engineers was founded in 1818 by a small group of idealistic young men and granted a royal charter in 1828 where it declared that its aim was to “foster and promote the art and science of civil engineering”. With over 130,000 titles, including major conference series and over 900 periodical titles, the ICE Library is the largest single resource in Civil Engineering in the world.

The ICE archives contain records relating to the ICE from its formation to the present, as well as, records relating to prominent engineers of the past including James Brindley, John Smeaton, Thomas Telford, The Rennies, and engineering wonders like the Marc Brunel’s Thames Tunnel, Robert Stephenson’s Britannia Bridge, the Forth Railway Bridge, and the Panama Canal.

To browse, or limit your search to the Institution of Civil Engineers Library, go to the main tab on copac.ac.uk and choose ‘Institution of Civil Engineers’ from the list of libraries.

Brunel University London Library’s Special Collections catalogue loaded

We’re pleased to announce that the holdings of Brunel University London Library’s Special Collections have been added to Copac.

Photograph of Mural by Joe Tilson in Brunel University Library

Mural by Joe Tilson in Brunel University Library (Image copyright: Brunel University)

Special Collections at Brunel University London houses a variety of book and archival collections dating principally from the 19th century onwards, which have mostly been collected since the 1980s. They include comprehensive collections relating to transport history (particularly railways), the history of tunnelling under the English Channel, operational research and working class autobiographies. Other themes are poetry and dialect, South Asian literature, art, theatre and music, Shakespeare authorship and issues around equality and advocacy (including child protection and disability history).

To browse, or limit your search to the holdings of Brunel University London Library’s Special Collections, go to the main tab on copac.ac.uk and choose ‘Brunel University London (Special Collections)’ from the list of libraries.

St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, Chapter Library

Dr Clare Rider, Archivist and Chapter Librarian, writes about the collections at the Chapter Library, St George’s Chapel.

The College of St George, comprising St George’s Chapel and surrounding buildings, occupies the lower ward of Windsor Castle.  Founded in 1348 by King Edward III as a collegiate religious institution, its purpose was to act as the spiritual counterpart of the Order of the Garter, the oldest and most prestigious order of chivalry in Britain. The library has been an integral part of the life of the College from its foundation, serving the Dean and Canons who make up the Windsor Chapter.

Grail roof boss, St George's Chapel Library

Roof boss in medieval library room

An introduction to the medieval library and a survey of the documentary sources for its study are the subject of a new St George’s Chapel monograph by Dr James Willoughby, published at the end of 2014.   Dr Willoughby describes how the first books were kept chained to desks in the Chapel. On the orders of Edward IV, who donated a number of books to the College, a separate library was built in the 1480s above the Dean’s Cloister to house the growing number of volumes. Despite the loss of seventy of its manuscript books in 1612, donated to Sir Thomas Bodley for his new library in Oxford where they continue to reside, the library’s holdings continued to expand.

Vicars’ Hall in use as Chapter Library

Vicars’ Hall in use as Chapter Library

In 1692 the books were removed to the Vicars’ Hall, where they remained for three centuries as a working library, augmented by later acquisitions until, in 1947, the newly formed Library Committee decided to convert the Chapter Library into a ‘museum–library’,  arranging for the sale of its post-1692 publications. A few eighteenth and nineteenth century volumes escaped the cull and a small number of additions have been made to the rare-book collection since then.  However, the vast majority of the library’s collection of approximately 6,000 rare-books, dates from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, forming a splendid sequence from the main English and

Illustration of a scholar at a lectern from Wynkyn de Worde’s The crafte to lyve well and to dye well (1505)

Illustration of a scholar at a lectern from Wynkyn de Worde’s The crafte to lyve well and to dye well (1505)

and European printing presses of the time. The volumes cover a wide range of subjects:  theology, ecclesiastical and political history, classics, geography, topography, navigation, bibliography, mathematics and medicine. The nine incunables in the collection include a fine edition of Caxton’s The mirrour of the world (1481), and a beautifully illustrated copy of The crafte to lyve well and to dye well printed by Wynkyn de Worde (1505).

Image of Typus Cosmographicus Universali

Typus Cosmographicus Universali by Sebastian Munster (left-side)

Amongst the most interesting of the non-theological holdings is the rich collection of sixteenth and seventeenth century topographical and navigational works and atlases including all four parts of Sir Robert Dudley’s Dell’arcano del mare (1606), a fine edition of John Speed’s The theatre of the empire of Great-Britain (1676), Mercator’s Atlas siue Cosmographicae (1606), Jan Blaeu’s Atlas maior (1662) and Moses Pitt’s The English atlas (1680-1683).  One of the earliest published world maps, Typus Cosmographicus Universali by Sebastian Munster (1488-1552), is included (in two parts) in the 1555 edition of Simon Grynaeus’ Nouus orbis regionum which also forms part of this collection. With its lively depictions of cannibals, winged serpents, elephants, and monsters, and its curious topographical interpretation of North America (labelled as the land of Cuba), it makes a fascinating study.

Image of page from volume of Papal scrutiny papers, 1676

Page from volume of Papal scrutiny papers, 1676

An intriguing eighteenth century addition to the Chapter Library was the donation by Canon Walter Harte of a bound volume entitled ‘The Scrutiny at the Conclave held at Rome in the year 1676, when Cardinal Odescalchi was chosen Pope (Innocent XI)’. The volume, which Canon Harte purchased in Italy, contains daily scrutiny papers (printed lists of cardinals with manuscript annotations recording number of votes for each on a daily basis) from the Papal Conclave held in the Vatican from 4 September to 21 September 1676, ending with an engraving of Odescalchi in his new role as Pope. The Apostolic Constitution governing papal elections requires all notes as well as ballot papers to be burnt in order to maintain secrecy. These papers, presumably smuggled out of the Vatican for the antiquarian market in Rome, offer a unique insight into an important moment in the Roman Catholic Church.

Photo of Vicars’ Hall with entrance to Undercroft

Vicars’ Hall with entrance to Undercroft

In 1999, the rare-books moved down into the Vicars’ Hall Undercroft, which had been converted into an archives and library repository with the assistance of a Heritage Lottery Fund grant. The library collections are open to the public for research without charge (by prior appointment) and the Archives and Chapter Library welcomes group visits, donations from which contribute to the library conservation fund. The introduction of a successful Adopt-a-Book scheme in 1998, together with charitable grants and donations, has enabled the professional restoration of over six hundred rare-books since 1998.  We are delighted that the library’s catalogue is now included in Copac which has assisted in opening up the collection to a wider audience.

You can see the full St George’s Chapel collection here on Copac. Search within the collection to view details of individual items.

For more information about the Archives and Chapter Library, please visit our website: http://www.stgeorges-windsor.org/archives.html

Published catalogues and guides to the Chapter Library

J. Callard, A Catalogue of Printed Books (Pre-1751) in the Library of St George’s Chapel Windsor Castle Historical Monographs relating to St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle no.15 (Windsor, 1976)

J. Willoughby, The Medieval Library of St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle: Documentary Sources, Historical Monographs relating to St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle no.19 (Windsor, 2014)

All images copyrigr.ht St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holder.