Rare Books London - London's festival of old and rare books – May – June 2017

May - June 2018


Monday 14th May 6-7.30pm

Three Centuries of English Freemasonry: A Gallery Tour with Books

An exclusive Librarian led tour of the Three Centuries Gallery of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, exploring how the history of English freemasonry can be told using books, manuscripts and ephemera.

Highlights include: Anderson’s Constitutions of 1723, the Grand Lodge of England’s first rule book, with its remarkable frontispiece; ritual books with locked secrets; beautiful masonic bindings; letters from 18th Century African-Americans; minute books kept by prisoners of war and anti-masonic literature from 17th century broadsheets to 1930s fascist propaganda.

Free but ticketed, pre-booking essential.


The Library and Museum of Freemasonry, Freemasons’ Hall, Great Queen Street, London, WC2B 5AZ
Saturday 19th May 11.30am, 3pm

China and Siam Through the Lens of John Thomson: Gallery Tour

A free gallery tour of an exhibition at the Brunei Gallery|SOAS on 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.  Exhibition co-curator Betty Yao MBE will introduce Thomson’s life and work and follow his footsteps in Asia.  She will highlight the people and places he photographed and divulge the story, the twists and turns behind the survival of this valuable collection through 150 years.

For more information on the exhibition go to www.johnthomsonexhibition.org. Related public lectures and a study day will be listed.

Tickets are free, but must be prebooked

The 3pm tour is now full. Spaces still available for 11.30am.


Image courtesy of The Wellcome Collection.

Brunei Gallery SOAS, University of London Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square,  London WC1H 0XG
Monday 21st May 3.30pm and Wednesday 30th May 3.30pm

Discovering Lambeth Palace Library

A Tour of Lambeth Palace Library, led by the Librarian, Giles Mandelbrote. Visitors will have the opportunity to see the 17th-century Great Hall of Lambeth Palace, now part of the Library (founded 1610), and to climb a medieval staircase to visit the Library’s conservation studio in Morton’s Tower.

Numbers limited; pre-booking essential.


Image by Jonty Sexton


The 21st May tour is now Sold Out.

Lambeth Palace, London SE1 7JU
Wednesday 23rd May 3pm

Treasures of the Royal College of Physicians Library

See 500 years of medical history up close. From pocket-sized plague tracts to monumental anatomical atlases, the library of the Royal College of Physicians documents the ongoing struggle to maintain health and fight disease. The rare books librarian Katie Birkwood will lead a hands-on session introducing some of the highlights of the RCP’s collections.

Tickets are free, but must be prebooked.

Image: Vesalius, De humani corporis fabrica (Basel, 1543).


Royal College of Physicians, 11 St Andrews Place, London NW1 4LE
Thursday 31st May 11am-12.30pm

The Middle Temple Library

An exclusive tour of the Middle Temple Library and viewing of a selection of rare books, as well as the Molyneux Globes, guided by the Librarian.

Middle Temple Library was established in 1641 with a bequest of over 3,700 books made by Robert Ashley (1565-1641). Since then, the collection has grown from a Renaissance library to a modern legal library.

Tickets £10 per person, towards the Middle Temple book sponsorship fund.  Prebooking essential.


For an extra cost, ticket-holders can arrange to have lunch in Hall. Details can be found by following the link below.

Middle Temple Library, Middle Temple Lane, London EC4Y 9BT