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Library History

The Society's Library is among its most significant philatelic assets. It contains an unparalleled collection of philatelic literature from all over the world. Items may be consulted in comfortable surroundings in the Large Library and Small Library on the ground floor.

The history of the library pre-dates the ownership of No. 41 Devonshire Place. The first full time librarian was appointed in 1889. The pattern used for the indexing of the books owes its origin to L.W. Fulcher, who was Honorary Librarian from 1902 until 1928. During his period of office the Society was the recipient of several important libraries. Among the first was that of H. Fraenkel of Berlin, whose library was bought intact by the Earl of Crawford. Crawford incorporated what he needed into his own outstanding collection and donated the balance to the Society, thus giving it an extensive holding of many European language periodicals. Over 500 volumes were presented in 1916 by F. Reichenheim and, a year later, the library of the immediate past President M.P. Castle was received as a bequest.

Very many of the volumes bear witness to their origins, having been signed by their authors, many of whom have been members of the Society. Others contain the bookplates of past owners, with names such as R.B. Yardley or T.W. Hall adding a historical interest and importance to the technical contents of the book itself.

With the origins of the Society so close to the birth of the collecting of stamps, it is to be expected that the very earliest philatelic incunabula will be strongly represented. This is very much the case, with the early catalogues bearing the names of Oscar Berger-Levrault, Alfred Potiquet, Frederick Booty (the first illustrated catalogue with representations of the stamps hand drawn by the author) and Ferdinand Mount Brown being present. The first edition of the catalogue written by Dr Edward Gray FRS of the British Museum did not mention the colour of the stamps, on the basis that only the design and value were important. He was forced to change this approach and the publication went on to a total of seven editions. The wonderful catalogue published by Jean Baptiste Moens of Brussels in 1864 shows such wonderfully engraved illustrations of the stamps that numerous forgers used these as models for their forgeries.

The Large Library contains part of the Society's collection of periodicals, from the 19th century to date, in English and foreign languages in nearly complete or complete runs.

The Small Library and Basement Library house the Society's main collection of reference books. Many specialist volumes are limited editions and of considerable value to researchers worldwide. They also house bibliographies and indexes, including a catalogue of the philatelic library of the Earl of Crawford, published in 1911.

The Society's collection also includes items from 1881 to date produced by the organisers of major international, UK national and other specialist exhibitions and displays. This provides valuable information on events generally, lists of exhibitors and awards made. The literature frequently includes philatelic information and articles not available elsewhere.

The Main Library


The Small Library


The Society also holds a range of other philatelic and related research material including individual articles, personal research notes, copies of collections and displays.