The Society’s archives hold over 500 pre 1800 book titles. One of the oldest books within this collection is John Speed’s ‘Historie of Great Britaine under the Conquest of the Romans, Saxons, Danes and Normans’ Printed by John Dawson for George Humble, London, 1632. The third edition was published after Speed’s death in 1629. Although the binding, leather spine and marbled paper boards, are in advanced state of deterioration, it is a very valuable book which has some claim to being the first history of England, first published in 1611. See images below.
Pre 1800 books are always an interesting read as many of the spellings are different to how we spell them today. Until 1755 when Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary was published there was no set way of spelling and so it was up to the writer to decide how they thought the word should be spelt, leading to many variations of the same word.
Included within the collection are poll books (of which some are the only known copies), army lists and almanacs. Poll books from this period are particularly interesting as most list voters’ names, occupations, addresses and even whom they voted for. Our poll book collections have been researched and mentioned in many academic publications as one of the most extensive in the world.
It is the Society’s intention to individually enter each book on to the British Library’s English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC) including a description of the content and any unique or unusual features i.e. original binding, extra pages, manuscript additions etc. The ESTC holds information on British printed material before 1801 held by the British Library and by over 2000 other institutions worldwide. This is a very time consuming project and will need the expertise of a qualified librarian. The Society is currently applying to trusts for a grant to employ a part time librarian for one year.