Senate House Histories

Senate House Library’s Special Collections holds a wealth of materials, from medieval to modern

Rare book holdings precede even the existence of the library itself. The first donation to the special collection made 33 years ahead of the founding collection. Donor Baron Overstone gave his collection in the hope that it would form the ‘first fruits of a Library which shall ere long become such in all respects as the London University ought to possess’.

While acquisitions have become more gradual they continue to arrive, with twenty-first century gifts ranging from the M.S. Anderson Collection of Writings on Russia Printed between 1525 and 1917 to the working library of Walter de la Mare and to two growing collections, of left-wing politics and of the works in all editions and translations of Terry Pratchett.

More about the Special Collections.

Cool Timeline

1838
January 1

First donations of 185

1838 First donation of 185 18th century German volumes are donated to the University.
1871
March 18

Founding collection given by Baron Overstone

1871 Founding collection given by Baron Overstone, including 2,800 Agustus De Morgan mathematical books printed between 1474 and 1870, including some copies annotated by the author
1903
January 1

Donation by the Worshipful Company of Goldsmith’s

1903 Library doubles in size following the donation of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmith’s gift of the Goldsmith Library of Economic Literature; 30,000 volumes on economics from the 15th to 19th Century amassed by Herbert Somerton Foxwell. The collection includes a copy of Das Kapital inscribed by Karl Marx.
1910
January 1

Thousands of old and rare books go to the Special Collections

1910s Thousands of old and rare books go to the Library after the folding of the London Institute in Finsbury Circus  
1921
May 5

Acquires a 14th century manuscript recounting the Life of Edward

1921 The library acquires a 14th century manuscript recounting the Life of Edward, the Black Prince.  
1929
June 1

Sir Edwin Durning-Lawrence’s widow donates his literature library

1929 Sir Edwin Durning-Lawrence’s widow donated his English literature library, including works by Sir Francis Bacon and the first four Shakespeare folios  
1947
October 1

London County Council permits the Library’s use of the Senate House

1947 London County Council permits the Library’s use of the Senate House tower, significantly increasing capacity and storage capabilities.  
1948
March 29

Harry Price gives his collection on magical literature

1948 Harry Price gives the University his collection of books on magical literature, on topics ranging from sleight of han to spiritualism, in a bid for respectability for his area of interest  
1956
October 30

EMI Director Sir Louis Sterling donated 4,200 titles

1956 EMI Director Sir Louis Sterling donated 4,200 titles ranging from a manuscript of Piers Plowman and books printed by William Caxton to seventeenth century Shakespeare quartos and folios, as well as original parts of novels by Charles Dickens
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