We have a very special post this month as it forms part of History Day 2021. This exciting event showcases history collections from the UK and beyond, bringing together archives, libraries, publishers, and other organisations to share together their incredible history collections. A free, annual one day event, History Day is created collaboratively between the Institute of Historical Research and Senate House Library. This year’s theme is environmental history and will explore the collections that capture the experiences of ordinary people, collectors and scientists, looking at nature, landscape, climate change and much more.
Jisc Library Hub Discover, a free service, exposes rare and unique research material by bringing together the library catalogues of major UK and Irish libraries. This post will explore a selection of the libraries that we have available on Discover and an insight into their environmental history collections.
The Linnean Society Library
The library at the Linnean Society holds outstanding historical works of natural history and is a major repository for information on plant and animal classification, as well as the life and work of Carl Linnaeus. The collection of printed books covers the literature of biology from 1483 to date with especially strong collections of eighteenth and nineteenth century titles in all languages. The library has special areas of interest including plant and animal classification, ecology, wildlife conservation, expedition reports and much more. Find out even more about the treasures of the Linnean Library on our dedicated blog post.
Royal Astronomical Society Library
The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) was founded in 1820 and encourages and promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science. The Library was founded at the inception of the Society and is now one of the most comprehensive collections of astronomical and geophysical works. The library holds about 25,000 bound volumes, with books dating from 1472 to the present day, including 53 incunables, and key works by Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, and Johannes Kepler. The library also subscribes to 40 current journals and holds over 3,000 non-current journals. There is also a notable collection of star catalogues and star atlases. The RAS archives contain institutional and membership records dating back to 1820, as well as the working papers of William, Caroline and John Herschel, and other leading 19th- and 20th-century astronomers.
Prince Philip Zoological Library and Archives – Zoological Society of London
ZSL’s Prince Philip Zoological Library & Archives contains a unique collection of resources on zoology and animal conservation. Founded in 1826, ZSL Library is one of the major zoological libraries in the world and is open to all. The library contains a wide range of books and journal on all types of animals and their conservation. It has books dating from 16th century to the present, ranging from popular to technical, more than 200,000 volumes, The ZSL Archives, special collections relating to information on zoos, a collection on the impact of climate change and the ZSL drawings and prints collection as well as an image collection.
Royal Horticultural Society Library
The Royal Horticultural Society libraries hold the world’s finest collection of books and printed materials on gardening and collections span over 500 years of garden history, art and science. The lending and research collections include printed material on all aspects of practical gardening, horticultural science and taxonomy and focus on the history of the RHS, the history and folklore of gardening and plants, modern and historical garden design, and the history and techniques of botanical art. They include an extensive collection of early gardening periodicals, nursery catalogues and horticultural ephemera as well as works on herbals and medicinal plants, children’s gardening literature and the largest collection of books on flower arranging. The library also provides digital collections which explore more of their outstanding works online.
The Royal Observatory of Edinburgh Library
The Royal Observatory of Edinburgh is an astronomical institution, unique among UK scientific establishments in that it houses on a single site a university astronomy research group, an establishment of a UK Research Council and a Visitor Centre. The library possesses one of the most comprehensive collections of astronomical literature and includes rich comprehensive material on astronomy and physics, including works on mathematics and optical engineering. The library comprises the Main Library which holds twentieth and twenty-first century material covering all fields of astronomy, the Crawford Collection and the ROE Archives.
Royal Botanic Gardens Kew Library
The Library, Art and Archives of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew was established 160 years ago and contains one of the largest collections of material in the world relating to botany. The collections comprise 300,000 printed volumes, 5,000 journal titles and 25,000 maps. The Art and Illustrations Collection is made up of over 200,000 items – watercolours, prints, drawings, oil paintings and photographs – by some of the finest artists working in the field of botanical art and illustration. Kew’s own archive of some seven million letters, lists, field notebooks, diaries and manuscript pages complete the paper collections. In total they form an unparalleled resource which supports all aspects of the institution’s work and also serves visiting scholars and researchers from around the world.
Natural History Museum Library
The Museum’s Library and Archives maintain one of the world’s finest collections of natural history literature, artwork and manuscripts and have been building an unparalleled collection since the Museum opened in 1881. The collection contains more than one million items, including almost 400,000 books, 22,000 ongoing journal titles, 350,000 artworks and over 100,000 catalogued archival items. The Library’s special collections include some of the Museum’s most treasured items, from printed books and manuscripts to spectacular artwork. Some of their collection highlights include women artists, The modern botanical illustration collection and The Bauer Brothers Collection.
The George Waterston Library, Scottish Ornithologists Club
The Scottish Ornithologists’ Club’s library, known as the George Waterston Library, is located in Waterston House overlooking Aberlady Bay in East Lothian. It contains around 5000 books and 130 journals making it the largest ornithological collection in Scotland. The library has a particular emphasis on Scottish material and meets the needs of beginner bird watchers, researchers and professional ornithologists. In addition, the archive contains a unique collection of ornithological ephemera and artefacts including notebooks, correspondence and photographs belonging to amateur enthusiasts and eminent Scottish ornithologists.
The Geological Society of London Library
The Geological Society Library is one of the largest geological libraries in the world and collects current post-graduate material in all the main fields of Earth sciences. It holds in Burlington House approximately 300,000 volumes of books and serials going back to the 16th century and subscribes to around 600 printed and electronic journal titles. Its map collection is of national importance and comprises over 40,000 items dating from the beginning of geological mapping through to the present. The Library also maintains the Society’s archives (from its foundation), modern records and a number of special collections.