Starting Out

Although I’m hoping to get some of my colleagues to join in with my little blog, most of it will be my comments on the Special Collections of the library as that is where the ‘interesting stuff’ lives.  That’s not to say all the other books aren’t interesting, it’s just that you can get to them more easily.  What I deal with is often hidden in cupboards, drawers, cabinets, shelves, stores and buildings to which the customers have no access.  It’s a shame really, as there are some brilliant items lurking in there, just waiting to be found.  The problem is, if you don’t know they’re there, you can’t ask to see them…

As a quick introduction, I thought I would go through some of the items that we have in these ‘special’ collections – I say some because I always forget something when I do this list. So, here goes:

  • books (surprise!) – from the 15th century onwards with some unique or rare items of particular local interest. Within this we have collections of bindings, miniatures, small and limited presses, bound pamphlets, Napoleonic books, Juvenalia etc.
  • manuscripts – personal papers, society records, business records, parish diaries [note – most visitors to Bath took their journals home with them, so we don’t really have any of those, unfortunately]
  • prints, engravings, drawings, watercolours, photos, glass slides, etchings etc.
  • ephemera [a lovely term to cover a multitude of objects] – posters, playbills, Valentines/Easter/Christmas cards, trade cards, scrapbooks
  • maps, plans, sections, elevations, geological maps, land use maps, tithe maps, canals, railways, roads
  • newspapers – lots of those from 1744 to the present day covering approximately 24 titles (some of which did not last very long)

Every time I handle these objects, I’m astounded at what survived the centuries – our oldest item dates from the 14th century, though most of the material is 18th century and later.  They all have a story to tell, so something that may seem the most prosaic on the surface can turn up to have a fascinating tale to tell.

Below is one object with an interesting tale – a bill from a goldsmith, William Evill, to Richard Brinsley Sheridan.  It includes a charge for the repair of two swords…

William Evill, goldsmith – bill for Mr Richard Brinsley Sheridan, 1771 [11360]

All images are © Bath in Time-Bath Central Library unless otherwise stated. Image refs are provided.




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