The National Trust
The National Trust owns 140 historic libraries (around 230,000 books in 400,000 volumes) generally preserved in the places where they were originally assembled and read. Many are country house libraries some collected by wealthy bibliophiles, others containing more practical everyday books, including rare provincial printing. 150,000 books have been catalogued so far and the project is ongoing.
The NT’s Libraries Curator, Mark Purcell, has prepared a gazetteer* of NT’s principal libraries listing the principal book collections, of which the following are examples in the West Midlands:
Attingham Park, Shropshire
The great library assembled by the 1st and 2nd Lord Berwick was massively depleted by sale in the Regency period, but the house retains a substantial number of early family books, as well books collected by the 3rd Lord Berwick in the nineteenth century, and the 8th and last Lord Berwick in the twentieth. These, together with sundry set-dressing books, bring the total up to ca. 4500 titles. All of the indigenous Attingham books are catalogued online.
Baddesley Clinton, Warwickshire
Small library (ca. 2,000 titles) in an ancient moated manor house; some of the books recorded in an inventory in 1760 are still present, with today some 300 pre-1801 books sitting alongside later material, including Catholic printing and a small collection of educational books. All but a few of the books have been catalogued online.
Calke Abbey, Derbyshire
8,514 books divided between two large and essentially separate libraries. The main collection is the ancestral library of the Harpur-Crewes, assembled since ca. 1700, but rich in eighteenth- and especially nineteenth-century books, often of a markedly domestic kind, with novels, natural history and devotional books predominating over connoisseur books, and many books in boards or original publisher's cloth. The library of the Egyptologist Sir John Gardiner Wilkinson (1797-1875) contains learned books on classical art and archaeology, as well and antiquarian material and books from the Balkans and the Middle East. Partially catalogued online.
Canons Ashby, Northamptonshire
Only a small remnant (still shelved together) survives from the original library of the Dryden family; the remainder of the shelves contain a miscellany of books from various sources, including a small collection of editions of the poet John Dryden and a collection of editions of Walton's Compleat Angler (formerly at Norbury Hall, Derbyshire). The historic parish library from Bromham, Bedfordshire (founded 1739) is on long term loan. Cataloguing almost complete.
Charlecote Park, Warwickshire
Magnificent library of the Lucy family, consisting of books in the house since at least the seventeenth century, and grand nineteenth century collecting via William Pickering. Includes large numbers of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century books (many in early bindings), pamphlets, a small collection of nineteenth-century music, colour plate books, Victorian novels, and much else. Approximately 1450 pre-1801 books, including Jacobean drama, a couple of incunables, a medieval manuscript, and a large group of eighteenth-century sermons.
Small country squires' library, rich in ordinary books of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century; roughly 400 books printed before 1801. Many books fragile.
COUGHTON COURT, WARWICKSHIRE
A small group of medieval manuscripts, as well as a seventeenth-century travelling library, in an important Catholic house.
The majority of family archives from Trust properties are on permanent deposit in the appropriate County Record Office, while other archives are deposited in the Bodleian, Cambridge University Library and the National Library of Scotland.
The bulk of the books remain in private hands, but the Trust owns a small collection of twentieth-century botanical books, and a small collection of devotional and other books associated with Lady Lucy Wolryche-Whitmore (d. 1840), daughter of the 2nd Earl of Bradford.
Hughenden Manor, Buckinghamshire
The working library of the Victorian Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), slightly depleted by twentieth-century sale, including within it a substantial remnant of the bibliomaniac library of his father, best-selling author Isaac D'Israeli (1766-1846). 1656 titles, including roughly 1000 nineteenth-century British books and over 500 earlier books. Presentation copies from, among others, Queen Victoria and Matthew Arnold. Some material relating to the Congress of Berlin, 1878, Anglo-Jewry, the proclamation of Victoria as Empress of India.
Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire
The Curzon collection at Kedleston consists of roughly 1,400 historic books shelved together in the room which Robert Adam designed to house them. Rich in both English and Continental printing, including novels, a couple of incunables (one illuminated), and a good general collection of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century books, the most striking feature is the magnificent collection of architectural books. In addition to the main collection, the downstairs rooms contain a large number of later nineteenth- and early twentieth-century books, which form at least part of the working collection of George Nathanial Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston, Viceroy of India from 1898 to 1905.
A large part of the library of the Anson family, Earls of Lichfield, was sold at auction in 1842. The substantial remnant which remains in the house includes books from the Renaissance onward, both British and Continental, as well as a larger collection of mostly early nineteenth century books. Only a small proportion is so far online, mostly books of which the Trust owns a copy in another collection.
Sudbury Hall, Derbyshire
The great library of the Vernons - which once filled the huge Long Gallery at Sudbury - was progressively dispersed, with many books ending up in the Holford collection, itself subsequently broken up. The only books on the catalogue to date are set-dressing books imported by the Trust. Basic records from the electronic inventory of the associated Museum of Childhood (once managed by Derbyshire County Council) have been loaded into Copac, but form not more than a skeleton guide to a very large collection of mostly twentieth-century children's books.
Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire
Stupendous collection of mostly French books, many in bindings of the greatest possible quality and magnificence (these are not reading copies), usually of royal and aristocratic provenance, all assembled by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839-98); illustrated catalogue published by Giles Barber in 2013. Small collection of superb medieval manuscripts (printed catalogue by Delaissé, 1977). Waddesdon also has an extensive collection of French and German trade cards from the eighteenth and nineteenth century.
Wightwick Manor, West Midlands
A large collection of mostly late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century books, few so far catalogued online. Includes a recent acquisition: a Kelmscott Chaucer (on permanent display). (Wightwick has over many decades been treated as an open collection, with appropriate objects of all kinds being brought in.)