Senate House Library

The Collection 

Subject: Sexual behaviour (social sciences) 

Comprises 456 printed titles in 545 volumes from the library of Alec Craig, (Alexander George Craig, 1897-1973), author of Sex and Revolution (1934), The Banned Books of England (1937), The Banned Books of England and Other Countries (1962), and several volumes of poetry. Craig was interested in sexual behaviour and education and the reform of legislation governing sexual behaviour, and in the reform of literary and artistic censorship. The collection consists mainly of early to mid-twentieth-century books on sexual customs and practices, with some works of literary and artistic erotica. It includes many items which were banned or censored. There are particularly strong holdings of the works of De Sade, including deluxe editions from publisher Maurice Heine accompanied by inscriptions and letters to Craig from Heine. The Collection further includes several volumes from the Library of the British Sexological Society, of which Craig was nominally librarian, and inscriptions from Havelock Ellis, Chester Himes and Eric Gill amongst others. There are seven works from the eighteenth century and ten volumes published by the Fortune Press, some of which were the subject of criminal proceedings. Approximately half the volumes are in French. One-tenth of the collection is in German, mostly of seemingly technical and theoretical volumes which are more properly regarded as disguised erotica.

Craig purchased many of the books from the estate of Dr Pelham Horton Box in 1937 and 1939. His entire library passed to Camden Council, and most books were sold without being recorded. In 1974 the Council, nervous of the sexual content, contacted the University of London to review the remainder, and Craig’s widow agreed to donate it as material which ‘because of its rarity and subject matter would have to be used in the controlled academic library situation’.

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    Dr Richard Espley discusses Craig’s life

    Watch Dr Richard Espley discuss Craig’s life, his motivation for collecting works on sexuality, erotic and censored books, and what his collection tells us about censorship and changing social taboos.

    Access 

    For an overview of the collection, do a mixed classmark search on [Craig] or an author search on “Craig, Alec” as former owner.. The collection is held off-site and material requires 48 hours (excluding weekends) to be fetched.

    Related materials 

    • MS1091 Alec George Craig papers, ca 1932-1965 
    • MS1187 and MS1188, single letters to Craig 
    • UoL/UL/4/18/15, Craig collection file 
    • Social sciences material in the research collections

    Further reading 

    Espley, Richard, ‘The Censoring Impulse and the Literary Marketplace: Alec Craig and Proliferating Discourses of Resistance, Redemption and Abjection’, in The Book World: Selling and Distributing Literature, 1900-1940, ed. by Nicola Wilson (Leiden: Brill, 2016), pp. 134-49.