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Bookblitz

We've posted a lot about the Bioblitz project, but while the Natural History team have been busy sorting through thousands of specimens, our librarian Helen has been tackling her own review of the Horniman Library's historic books.

  • An 18th century travel journal from the library's historic collection, Photo by Vicky Pearce
    , Photo by Vicky Pearce

The Horniman Museum and Gardens has always had a library, which used to be in the room now taken up by the Hands On Base before it got its own dedicated building.

Librarians have continued to add to the library right up to the present day, focusing on books which have strong connections to the collections - Natural History, Anthropology and Musical Instruments - and to the Horniman itself.

Now, the Horniman Library is regularly used by staff for research purposes, and is open to the public by appointment on Thursdays and Fridays (email enquiry@horniman.ac.uk to arrange a visit). You can also browse the library catalogue online.

  • A 19th century book of handwritten 'recipes', Photo by Vicky Pearce
    , Photo by Vicky Pearce

The library's oldest volumes were donated when the museum was founded, including many by the Horniman family. Some volumes are centuries old, while others tell stories from the 19th and early 20th centuries. It is this historic collection which has been the focus of Helen's 'Bookblitz' for the last year.

  • Frederick Horniman's own bookplate in an early Entomology volume, Photo by Vicky Pearce
    , Photo by Vicky Pearce

The reasons behind carrying out this review are similar to those behind Bioblitz and Collections People Stories. By examining each volume on the shelves closely, Helen is able to establish exactly what we have, and whether anything is particularly special or needs extra attention, either from researchers or our Conservation team.

  • An old volume showing signs of damage from bookworm , Photo by Vicky Pearce
    , Photo by Vicky Pearce

One of the most important tasks is checking that the numbers assigned to each book in the original accession registers and modern catalogue, and those attached to the books themselves all match. Just like in the object collections, these unique numbers allow us to track the book's history and everything we have learnt about it.

  • An original accession register, showing volumes added to the Horniman Library in the 1930s, Photo by Vicky Pearce
    , Photo by Vicky Pearce

With the other collections reviews running alongside, the Bookblitz has offered a fantastic opportunity to make new links with other Horniman collections. We even have some books which tell the story of how our own museum objects were collected.

  • An intriguing title, Photo by Vicky Pearce
    , Photo by Vicky Pearce

Just like Bioblitz and Collections People Stories, people with specialist knowledge have thrown new light on some of the library's collection. Judith MaGee, Special Collections Curator at the Natural History Museum, joined Helen to look over the fantastic Natural History volumes.

  • An early entomology volume complete with stunning illustrations, Photo by Vicky Pearce
    , Photo by Vicky Pearce

We'll be blogging about a few of the discoveries Helen has made when making her way through the library's catalogues, so stay tuned to see more fascinating historical books.

Bookblitz blog posts:

Crocodile Hunting in Central America

Japanese Fairy Tales

Man: His Structure and Physiology

Another Frederick Hornemann

The Oldest Book in the Collection: De Materia Medica