Rare Books London - London's festival of old and rare books – June 2019

June 2019


Talks, Tours
Saturday 12th May, 11am-c. 4pm

A Day at the Type Archive

Before the invention of letterpress printing by the German Johannes Gutenberg, early in the fifteenth century, written words were painstakingly committed to page with pens by scribes; a process so slow that, inevitably, books, and consequently literacy, were the privilege of the few. Letterpress, whilst still time-consuming by modern standards, was a comparatively quick process, and once the type was set and the press ready to roll, multiple near-identical copies of the same page could be made almost ad infinitum. Letterpress was perhaps the first industrial process, and its invention paved the way for an explosion in the distribution of the written word, and undoubtedly hastened the world that we live in today. Letterpress is no longer big business, but its allure still remains. A new generation of designers and readers, brought up on computers, have become fascinated by the humanity of the process and the warmth of its results.

Founded over twenty years ago in the heart of South London, the Type Archive brings together the collected artefacts of the three major players in British type manufacturing history: the Stephenson and Blake foundry, latterly of Sheffield, although originally existing as the William Caslon foundry in the City of London; the Monotype Corporation, in London and Salfords, Surrey; and the De Little wood type manufacturer, in York. The importance of this holy trinity of companies cannot be overestimated: not only are they of national interest, they also had international influence well beyond the borders of the former British Empire. The collections serve as an inspiration and as a resource, not only to designers and academics alike, but also to those interested in the history and complexities of written language.

On Saturday the twelfth of May, 2018, the archive will open its doors to a limited number of Rare Books London visitors. On this day the archive’s staff will guide visitors through the collections and will demonstrate a range of  processes, from casting type through to letterpress printing. Visitors will also have the chance to do some printing themselves. Refreshment will be provided.


The cost of the day is set at £25



Image provided by Jamie Pearson.

Type Archive, 100 Hackford Rd, London SW9 0QU
Sunday 13th May, 2.30pm

Cartographical Highlights from Sotheby’s: 15th May Travel sale

Sotheby’s Book Specialist Cecilie Gasseholm will talk about some of the Map highlights from this upcoming sale, which includes the library of Colin and Joan Deacon (books on voyages and travel). The sale features beautiful works of natural history, world maps and atlases, colour-plate books, accounts of exploration, and topographical photographs.
Tickets are free.
Sotheby's, The Book Room, 34 – 35 New Bond Street, London, W1A 2AA
Monday 14th May 3.30-5pm

Behind the concrete façade: background and highlights of Senate House Library, University of London

Have you seen Shakespeare’s First Folio at close quarters? Or the first edition of Darwin’s Origin of the Species, or coloured sixteenth-century maps? In this hour Rare Books Librarian Dr Karen Attar delivers an insight into the manuscripts and early printed books at the University of London’s Senate House Library, talking about the characters who collected them and how they came here. A small selection of early treasures will be highlighted and displayed.


A limited number of free tickets are available

Senate House Library, Senate House, University of London, Malet St, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7HU
Tuesday 15th May 5.30-7.30pm

The Book Collector Presents: Modern First Editions

The Book Collector will be hosting a podium discussion about Modern First Editions at Senate House on Tuesday, 15th May 2018 from 5.30 pm to 7.30 pm. A panel of experts representing auction houses, antiquarian book dealers and collectors will be discussing how the value of Modern Firsts has evolved over the last 66 years. How fashion has changed and what the current trends are. A chance to ask about dos and don’ts and how best to build your own collection. A discussion that will be informative for new collectors as well as already established ones.

The panel will be chaired by:

Lucy Scholes is a freelance critic and essayist who writes about books, film and art. She is a contributing editor at the online literary magazine Bookanista, and writes for the Financial Times, BBC Culture, the New York Times Book Review, Literary Hub, NYR Daily and Granta, amongst others. She has a PhD in English literature and psychoanalytic theory from Birkbeck, University of London, and used to teach English and History at Goldsmiths. She is a fledgling collector!

The panel consists of:

A. N. Devers is a writer, arts journalist and critic, and rare book dealer based in London. She is the owner of The Second Shelf, a new online and pop-up bookshop of rare books, modern first editions, and rediscovered works by women. The International Contributing Editor of A Public Space, she has written for The New Yorker, New Republic, Lapham’s Quarterly, Lenny, Los Angeles Times, Longreads, The Paris Review, Prospect, Salon, Slate, Fine Books, and The Washington Post, among other publications.She is obsessed with dead authors’ houses and used to run a popular website devoted to them. She lives in London for the moment.

Matthew Haley is head of books and manuscripts at Bonhams auctioneers, and an expert on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow. An undergraduate interest in Virginia Woolf led to curiosity about the Hogarth Press, antiquarian booksellers’ catalogues, and forays into the world of collecting first editions. Starting out as a librarian, Matthew quickly switched to the rare book trade in 2004, and has been working for Bonhams ever since, in London,

New York and Los Angeles.

Neil Pearson has collected rare books for thirty years: his specialism is nineteenth and twentieth century first edition literature, with a particular interest in the expatriate literary movement of Paris between the wars. He is the author of Obelisk (Liverpool University Press, 2007), a history of the notorious Paris imprint which in the 1930s published the early work of, among others, Henry Miller, Lawrence Durrell and Anaïs Nin. In 2011 he researched, compiled and wrote They Were What They Were: A Catalogue of Early Gay Fiction, 1862 -1960. After collecting books for so many years, he’s delighted finally to be selling some.

This will be a discussion followed by drinks and although entry is free, prebooking is essential.

Discussion followed by drinks.

Entry is free, but must be prebooked.


Image kindly provided by Bonhams


Senate House, University of London, Malet St, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7HU
Wednesday 16th May 4-6pm

Handel the Philanthropist: the Gerald Coke Handel Collection at the Foundling Museum

The composer George Frideric Handel is known particularly for his Messiah, a work closely associated with the Foundling Hospital, where performances of the work raised thousands of pounds for the charity.  Join Katharine Hogg, Librarian of the Gerald Coke Handel Collection, for a talk on Handel’s philanthropy and explore treasures from the Coke collection, the largest private collection of Handel memorabilia in the world. The Collection, assembled across the twentieth century by Gerald Coke, includes manuscripts, printed books and music, libretti, artworks and ephemera from the eighteenth century to the present day.


Tickets are free but must be prebooked.

Foundling Museum, 40 Brunswick Square, London WC1N 1AZ
Wednesday 16th May 6-8pm

Traditional and contemporary perspectives on Bookbinding

The University of London Bibliophiles wish to invite you to a panel discussion which will explore a range of traditional and contemporary perspectives on book binding.

In conjunction with Birkbeck’s Arts Week and the Designer Bookbinders, the panel will be comprised of those who work in the industry and the individuals who collect fine bindings. The discussion will explore various perspectives on book binding and will examine the role of book-binding in the modern age.

The panel will be chaired by the President of the UoL Bibliophiles and will be followed by a drinks reception, sponsored by the Private Libraries Association.

The event is free but prebooking is essential.

Room 106, 1st Floor, 43 Gordon Square, Bloomsbury, London, WC1H 0PD
Thursday 17th May 6pm

The Chinese photographs of John Thomson (1837-1921)

Historian and film maker Michael Wood reflects on Thomson’s amazing and moving images, the greatest photographic record of the people of Late Qing dynasty China and the role they played in presenting daily life in China to the Victorian public.

An Accompanying lecture to the Brunei Gallery exhibition China and Siam through the lens of John Thomson 

This is the first London exhibition of Scottish photographer John Thomson’s (1837-1921) work which encompasses his ten years in Asia.  The exhibition will run from 13 April to 23 June and includes images from newly discovered glass negatives held at the Wellcome Library, London.

For more information on the exhibition go to www.johnthomsonexhibition.org.

Tickets are free, but must be prebooked


Image courtesy of The Wellcome Collection.

Khalili Lecture Theatre at SOAS, University of London, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Sunday May 20th 2.30pm

Highlights from Sotheby’s: 22nd May Music Sale

Dr Simon Maguire will talk about some of the upcoming highlights from the Sotheby’s 22nd May Music Sale


No tickets required.

Sotheby's, The Book Room, 34 – 35 New Bond Street, London, W1A 2AA
Monday 21st May, 5.30pm

The Archive of the Incorporated Church Building Society

A fascinating exhibition of church architecture drawn from the Archive of the Incorporated Church Building Society.  Join Lambeth Palace Librarian Giles Mandelbrote for an introduction, before taking the chance to visit the exhibition.

The Incorporated Church Building Society celebrates its 200th anniversary in 2018. It was founded to provide funds for the building and enlargement of Anglican churches throughout England and Wales and its archive, held in Lambeth Palace Library, provides a rich source of church plans and other architectural images. Further papers (some 15,000 files relating to applications from parishes for grants from the Society) give additional information about church building in numerous localities between 1818 and 1982.  The archive also provides information on the careers of many architects, including some of the most famous names active during that period.

Tickets are free but must be prebooked.

Image: Chicklade, Wiltshire, 1832 (ref: ICBS 1454)

Lambeth Palace, London SE1 7JU
Tuesday 22nd May, 6.30 for 7pm

Refugees and Ambassadors: 20th Century emigré booksellers and their books

Armed conflict has remained a driving force in how books and manuscripts have circulated throughout history, as much as it has been an underlying cause of their destruction. From the Thirty Years War to the French Revolution, and more recently, over the course of nearly constant conflict characterising the 20th century, the value of books as cultural heritage, no matter whose culture, has been altered in times of crisis. But how? And for whom?

“Refugees and Ambassadors: 20th Century emigré booksellers and their books,” will discuss this topic as it relates to a major figure in both the creation of value and the survival of books: the bookseller, featuring presentations by Arnold Hunt, Brooke Palmieri, and Julia Rosenthal, and a discussion chaired by William Sherman.

Doors will open at 6.30, the discussion will start at 7pm.

Tickets are free, but must be prebooked.

Image depicts Professor Gershon Scholem, Hebrew University, Palestine, identifying the origin of rare Hebrew manuscripts at the Offenbach Archival Depot after the end of WWII, in order to return them to their original owners from whom they had been stolen by Nazi armies. 

Maggs Bros Ltd, 48 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3DR
Wednesday 23rd May 11am-1pm

The Past Lives of Early Medical Books

Who purchased medical books in the early decades of printing, and how did they use them? This session addresses these questions by exploring the material features of late 15th– and 16th-century printed books in the library at Wellcome Collection, London. Bindings, ownership inscriptions and annotations shed fascinating light on how these books were prized as objects, but were also vital sources of practical information about medicine and health.
Tickets are free but must be prebooked.
Image from Ortus sanitatis (Mainz: Jacob Meydenbach, 1491).
Wellcome Library, 183 Euston Rd, Bloomsbury, London NW1 2BE
Tuesday 29th May From 6 for 6.30pm start

The Summit of Knowledge, the Pinnacle of Alpine Collections

The Alpine Club invites you to experience some of the treasures held in its library.

Since the Club was founded in 1857 it has amassed a large collection of printed books, maps, manuscript diaries and journals, photographs, paintings and artefacts from the 16th century to the present – all on mountaineering and the related arts and sciences, principally in the Alps and the Greater Ranges – by climbers, artists, literary figures and travellers.

From Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn, from Everest to Kanchenjunga, and to the Arctic, we’ll show you everything from first editions of rare books, including presentation copies, to ice axes and alpenstocks, boots, early oxygen equipment, and the original climbers’ diaries of some of the most notable first ascents in the history of mountaineering, not forgetting, of course, our wonderful alpine paintings and photographs.

After a one-hour talk and film we will open the bar, and welcome you to stay and talk to our Librarian and Keepers of Collections, and marvel at our exhibition.

Prebooking required.

The Alpine Club, 55 Charlotte Road, London EC2A 3QF
Wednesday 30th May 3pm

A Library of Sights and Visions

A unique chance to view the historic book collection of the College of Optometrists, including books on the workings of the eye, the science of optics, ocular disease and ophthalmic surgery. Originally gathered by the British Optical Association in Edwardian times and greatly augmented with the help of the microscope historian T. H. Court in the 1920s, the collection includes a 1st Edition of Newton’s ‘Opticks’ (1704) and many other visual treats. The Curator will take books from the shelves especially for this group and turn the pages of volumes that are rarely seen, except by specialist researchers. This visit will also allow time to visit the British Optical Association Museum within the same professional headquarters building.

Tickets are free but must be prebooked.



British Optical Association Museum and Library, The College of Optometrists, 42 Craven Street, London WC2N 5NG
Wednesday 30th May 6pm

Round the World in 20 Books

Take a round the world trip through the library collections of King’s College London.  We will circumnavigate the globe from Chancery Lane, exploring destinations near and far through rare books and manuscripts, maps and photographs. From the Caribbean to the Antipodes, from the 16th century to the present day, our collections document journeys of exploration, conquest, diplomacy, settlement, trade and leisure.  Attendees will see some of the rarest items from our collections, many of them vividly illustrated, at close quarters and will also be able to view our spring exhibition, The printed page, and to see some of the architectural highlights of the Maughan Library building (the former Public Record Office and a masterpiece of Victorian design).
Free, but advance booking essential, as numbers are strictly limited
Image from the 1597 edition of Ptolemy’s Geographia).
The Maughan Library, King’s College London, Chancery Lane, London WC2A 1LR
Thursday 31st May 6.30-8pm

Hawks & doves, bulls & bears: Collecting Economics

The evening will consider aspects of economic thought through rare books. You will discover the long history of book dealer Bernard Quaritch Ltd, meet their specialists and view some stock highlights.
Wine, soft drinks and nibbles will be provided.
Please note: the event will take place on the first floor, which is only accessible by stairs.
Admission is free, but tickets must be prebooked.
Bernard Quaritch Ltd, 40 South Audley Street, London W1K 2PR
Monday 4th June 2.30pm

The Whittington Collection of the Guildhall Library

Richard Whittington is arguably the most famous Londoner. The rags-to-riches story of Dick Whittington coming to London and making his fortune with a little help from a feline friend is a familiar tale. Join Ann Martin, Assistant Librarian, to look how the tale has been passed down the generations through the broadside ballads, chapbooks, children’s books, pantomimes and puzzles through the Guildhall Library’s Whittington collection – a bequest from Ellery Yale Wood, cat lover and children’s book collector.


Tickets are free, but must be prebooked.

Guildhall Library, Aldermanbury, London EC2V 7HH
Tuesday 5th June 5.30-7.30pm

New Perspectives on Seventeenth-Century Libraries

A History of Libraries Research Seminar
This seminar will showcase some recent strands in research on library formation, both public and private, in the seventeenth century. These three short talks will deal with patterns of book selection and acquisition as revealed by individual practice and in seventeenth-century theoretical writing on bibliography. Our presentations – designed to solicit comments and questions from the audience – will include discussion of the potential for research on seventeenth-century libraries and the application of digital methods to this research.

Robyn Adams, Centre for Editing Lives & Letters, University College London  Donations to the Bodleian Library in the Early Seventeenth Century 

Katie Birkwood, Royal College of Physicians Library   Digging Deeper into the Marquess of Dorchester’s Library 

Jacqueline Glomski, Centre for Editing Lives & Letters, University College London   Religion and Libraries in the Seventeenth Century 


Admittance not before 5.15 p.m. via the main gatehouse of Lambeth Palace. There will be a reception afterwards to mark the tenth anniversary of the History of Libraries Seminar.

The Great Hall, Lambeth Palace, London SE1 7JU
Wednesday 6th June, 5.30pm

Bloods and Penny Dreadfuls: a tale of sensational Victorian fiction

“Bloods” and “penny dreadfuls” are terms used to describe sensational  penny fiction written principally for the working classes between 1830 and around 1910.  The often gruesome stories concerned criminals, particularly highwaymen, pirates, ghosts, and sensational historical stories.  Nearly all would have been produced in penny parts, issued weekly, with each part of four or eight pages featuring a lurid illustration.  The ‘moral panic’ amongst certain sections of society brought about by these publications can be related to the similar modern condemnation of ‘video nasties’ and ultra-violent computer games. However, the ephemeral nature of the penny dreadful means that many are now exceptionally rare and highly prized. This talk will include a rare opportunity to view some of the Guildhall Library’s own dastardly and morally reprehensible collection.  Not for the easily corrupted!

Tickets are free, but must be prebooked.
Guildhall Library, Aldermanbury, London EC2V 7HH
Thursday 7th June 7pm

Dr Johnson and his Love of Books

What led Samuel Johnson to become one of the greatest authors of the 18th century and the Father of the modern Dictionary? What made him the ideal choice for the job, but not someone you would want to lend books to? Join Celine Luppo McDaid, Curator of Dr Johnson’s House to explore the influence books had on Johnson, and how they shaped his life.

You’ll also get a chance to see some of the House’s latest acquisitions, including a variety of unusual dictionaries, a James Gillray print satirising Johnson – ‘Apollo and the muses, inflicting penance on Dr Pomposo, round Parnassus’, and a very rare first edition of Johnson’s first paid commission, London – A Poem, (1738).

Tickets are £15, bookable in advance. Numbers are limited.


Dr Johnson’s House, 17 Gough Square, London EC4A 3DE
Thursday 14th June 6pm

John Thomson:  Master Photographer

Richard Ovenden is Bodley’s Librarian, University of Oxford. His book John Thomson (1837 – 1921) Photographer, published two decades ago, remains one of the most authoritative works on John Thomson.

The lecture will explore the life and work of one of the greatest innovators in the history of the photography. John Thomson was the first to photograph the ruins of Angkor Wat, the first Western photographer to travel extensively in the interior of China, and the first photojournalist to document the lives of everyday people on the streets of Victorian London. His life and work will be set in context and will focus on the major contributions he made to the establishment of photography as one of the great modern means of communication.

There will be an opportunity to visit the exhibition at the Brunei Gallery – China and Siam: Through the Lens of John Thomson after the lecture.


Tickets are free, but must be prebooked.

DLT (Djam Lecture Theatre) SOAS, University of London, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square,  London WC1H 0XG