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Exciting acquisitions: rare works of historical and cultural significance


We've recently acquired a fantastic collection of rare literature and historical works of cultural significance.

First pages of book by John Thomas Looney with a portrait of Edward de Vere

One of our most exciting acquisitions was the recently discovered archive of John Thomas Looney (1870-1944), which was passed to us by scholar James A. Warren. Looney was the first man to suggest in print that the works of Shakespeare were in fact the work of Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford. Building on the authorship controversies around Shakespeare, this was quite thrilling as the archive’s existence was entirely unknown until it was discovered by Warren at the UK home of Looney's descendants. A retired diplomat and independent Shakespeare researcher, Warren has published several works on Looney's theory.  This is also a very timely new asset, as next year is the 400th anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare’s First Folio.

We have also recently acquired a very rare suffragette pamphlet from 1908. The Unjust Laws of England as They Affect Women was published by the Conservative and Unionist Women's Franchise Association, a group of female members of the Conservative Party that had been formed in response to the very large contingent within the Party who opposed women's suffrage.

Other acquisitions include a charitable report to the City of London from 1851, arguing for young men and boys to be employed to remove manure from the streets to keep sewers clear; a limited-edition artist’s book by Simon Popper that reimagines James Joyce’s Ulysses by reproducing every word of the novel in alphabetical order; and Bestiary, a limited-edition handbound pamphlet of short stories by New York novelist Seth Fried. Just 53 copies of Bestiary were produced, each one numbered and signed by the author.  It is an example of how we collect literature in print where the item itself has a distinctive physical value - in this case as an example of small press publishing and of high-quality manual book production. It would not typically be collected by academic libraries, and at present we are the only recorded UK research library to hold a copy.

Last but not least, we now have more than 700 titles dating back to 1739, including many rare nineteenth-century works of natural history, such as Anne Pratt’s The Flowering Plants, Grasses, Sedges, and Ferns of Great Britain, which features striking chromolithographs.

chromolithograph drawing of flowers