Rare books collection

To celebrate the completion of our work with our rare books, we want to provide an introduction to this remarkable collection.

First of all, just how “rare” are these books? Some which have found their way into this collection are more commonplace, such as Charles Booth’s Life and Labour, which has been reprinted many times and is a social study of poverty- the one in our collection is a 2nd edition copy. And then there are volumes such as Oeuvres morales et meslees, a translation in French of Plutarch’s essays about morals which was originally written in Greek. This latter item is from the 16th century, and has subsequently been rebound due to its age.

The topics these books cover include art, history, sculpture, photography, religion, architecture and engineering. The dates of publishing range from the 1500s to the 1900s and some are first editions as well as some which are facsimiles- a copy of a book that is supposed to emulate the original. There are scrapbooks, manuscripts, printed texts and musical scores. Here you can see a small sample of what lies within the pages.

The books themselves can be visually astounding, with covers featuring antique designs and the pages within featuring illustrations. One of my favourites was Great Flower Books 1700 – 1900: A Bibliographical Record of Two Centuries of Finely-Illustrated Flower Books which is a heavily illustrated book featuring a variety of flora. Here we can see a classic marbled book cover, the prominence of the use of the colour gold for decoration and text and the lack of titles being printed on the cover.

The purpose of our recent work was to make this collection accessible to the public. The work undertaken by our Archive Assistants included preservation tasks, e.g. cleaning the books and arranging them to avoid further damage to spines, and sorting the list we had of the books, which detailed publication dates and authors, so that this can be added to the catalogue. If you wish to take a look at the collection search for HUD/LB/2/9/3 in the reference box at http://heritagequay.org/archives or click this link http://heritagequay.org/archives/HUD/LB/2/9/3/. And if you want to see one of these books in person, email us to book an appointment.

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