Skip to main content

Holden Lecture 2020: Bulgarian Tendencies: Stories from the Queer Library of Jonathan Cutbill

Event information>



Event type


In the 2020 Charles Holden Lecture, Dr Justin Bengry examines the histories of books drawn from the vast and important LGBTQ collections of Jonathan Cutbill, recently donated to Senate House Library, and tells the stories behind some dangerous queer books.

Haud Nominandum collection of over 30,000 LGBT+ books gifted to Senate House Library

Last year, Senate House Library was gifted the remarkable collection of over 30,000 books and archives from Jonathan Cutbill, one of the founders of the Gay's The Word Bookshop and a leading LGBT+ rights activist. The collection, which dates from 1760 to the 2010s, is now one of the largest and richest collections of queer literature in the UK.

In an interview for the BBC, Maria Castrillo, Head of Special Collections and Engagement at Senate House Library, said the collection would help fill "fundamental gaps" in LGBT+ history. She added that the Library "recognises the unique qualities of the collection and would like to develop it" and hoped it would be a catalyst for research and community engagement.

You can read more about the history of queer publishing and the life and work of Jonathan Cutbill, in this Senate House Library blog post.

Find out more information about the Friends of Senate House Library.

Even in the first decades of the twentieth century, Edward Carpenter’s, Rose Allatini’s, and Radclyffe Hall’s defenses of homogenic love, homosexuality, and sexual inversion illuminate the challenges encountered by authors and publishers whose trade included these subjects. But their books also illuminate how authors and publishers imagined potential queer markets for writings that promoted tolerance, understanding, and even advocated legal reform.

About the speaker

Dr Justin Bengry is Director of the Centre for Queer History at Goldsmiths, University of London where he convenes the world’s first MA in Queer History. He is a cultural historian of sexualities and the queer past focusing on popular culture, media and policy in twentieth- and twenty-first-century Britain. Read more about Dr Bengry