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History of Selwyn Library


The following is a brief history of the Library.


Henry St John Thackeray, Lecturer in Theology, appointed the College's first Librarian.

The Library comprised 9,000 volumes of which 5,000 were donated by Rev William Cooke.  Other early donors were Sarah Selwyn, Lady Martin, widow of Sir William Martin Chief Justice of New Zealand, Bishop Abraham, Mrs William Selwyn and Rev. Professor JEB Mayor.

An article by William Collins describes how the library, which had been housed in the Tower,
was moved to the northern half of the temporary building once used as the chapel. This mentions
in particular the William Cooke bequest.

    "For it must be remembered that, although money may be sunk in them which is
    hardly spared, our Chapel and our Library, and the like, are precisely the things
    which distinguish us from a mere mushroom growth.  The transformation of the
    temporary chapel to its new uses was promptly taken in hand, and by the beginning
    of Lent Term was completed. The eastern half of it is now a Library, many times
    more commodious than the small room over the gateway used to be, but still only
    just large enough to contain the old books together with the new Cooke Library.
    The western half makes a large and lofty lecture-room, which is convenient for
    meetings and is easily converted into a debating-hall."

The library now held 15000 volume, following the gift of Edward Wheatley Balme in 1896.
Further donors this year were: Rev. Charles Gutch, fellow of Sidney Sussex and vicar of
St Cyprian's, Marylebone, and the executors of Rev W.R. Churton, fellow of King's College,
for a large collection of missionary periodicals. Discussion of a purpose-built library appeared
in an article on the extension of college buildings: "crowded with book-cases beyond the limits
of sightliness and convenience", and need for a "permanent home in which the Library may
have room not only to exist but to expand".   A plan was proposed to build the library
next to the chapel and to link them to the master's lodge with a cloister. The Librarian at this time
Henry St John Thackeray.

An article about Wheatley Balme library appeared in the Calendar.

Reference to the cataloguing and binding of the Churton/Gutch pamphlets.

A donation was received of standard missionary literature presented by the SPG, CMS etc.

 JH Srawley succeeded L.A. Borradaile as librarian. Mr Wicks of the University Library carried
out repair work.

Gifts from the Bishop of Ely, Lord Alwyne Compton, (Early English Texts Series and
English Dialect Dictionary) and T.H. Orpen.

A gift of hymn books was received from Rev. C.W.A. Brooke. Mr Wicks did some general work
maintaining the library.  First mention of missing books.

A gift of 48 volumes from the executors of Sarah Selwyn, including several books that belonged to
Bishop Selwyn, and 138 volumes from Major H.J. Selwyn of literature, including first editions of
English authors. Gift of documents relating to Selwyn and Patteson, and an oak bookcase was
commissioned to display them.

A gift of 90 volumes from the executors of Richard Appleton.

200 volumes received from William Collins, Bishop of Gibraltar, after his death. First mention
of weeding "obsolete and duplicate" books.

Gifts received from Mrs Appleton and T.H. Orpen.

A sale took place of obsolete books, also "for the first time for 15 years, the Library has
undergone a thorough cleaning and dusting, in the course of which an attack of bookworm was
detected and, it is hoped, suppressed." J.H. Srawley left.

Gift received from the executors of Rev. P.H. Mason.

A gift of books on New Zealand from Mrs Montresor Smith.

A gift of 38 volumes from Miss BF Payne. Thomas Lyon's article about the memorial library
appeared and collecting began.

The WMF (War Memorial Fund) stood at £2038.

WMF at £2384.

WMF at £2482.

A bequest of 284 volumes from V.H. Stanton, Regius Professor of Divinity. WMF at £2760.

WMF at £2868.

The last instalment of a gift from WC Devereux was received..

A gift of 50 volumes from Dr Murray. WMF at £2969.

An article about the memorial library appeared in the Calendar. C.W. Phillips became Librarian. 
If you are interested in the Library bridge and its swastika, please click here to read an article by the Master. 
During the 1929 long vacation the memorial library was built, and dried out between October and March 1930.

Weeding of books took place prior to the move.  In the Easter term, Messrs Coulson erected the shelves.

"An important feature in the new building is the provision of electric cleaning.  The bane of the old Library was a fine black dust which came from the coke heating apparatus installed there, and this has made many of the books so dirty that one of the largest tasks in reorganising the new Library will be the thorough cleaning of the books."

The final arrangement and cataloguing of books was scheduled to finish in the Spring 1933. Mr. F. Tinworth of the University Library assisted with the cleaning and reconditioning of the folio collection.

The memorial library was opened Michaelmas 1933. The first labelling of book was noted "small tabs
showing the catalogue number on the back of each volume".

Library opening hours were extended to 9 am to 7 pm as it was now possible to read after sunset thanks to electric lighting. A list of the incunabula was published, and a gift received from Mrs Newsom of 50 volumes.

Library opening hours were further extended from 9 am to 10 pm.

The library was available for reference only, borrowing was only permitted during vacations.  Smoking,
however, was allowed (!).

L.W. Forster donated 100 modern languages books, and further gifts of 34 maths books were received from Mrs Prestwich and Audrey Sandford in memory of AR Prestwich.

A temporary JCR was established upstairs in the library. Most valuable books were removed to a place of safety.  C.W. Phillips was replaced by F.S Marsh during his wartime service in the RAF.

Blackout paint was removed from the windows and the library cleaned.   J.K.S. St Joseph took up the
post of librarian. Borradaile bequeathed 50 volumes on zoology, and W.N. Williams donated 300 volumes.

The History Faculty loaned 52 books on American history given by the Rockefeller Foundation.
A bequest of 200 books was received from A.L. Brown.  

The ground floor of the library was used as a temporary chapel, Jun-Oct 1950.

A gift of £200 for the purchase of books or for expenditure on the improvement of the fabric by
was made by Rev. Keith Fraser. Incunabula had been stored in the strongroom during the war
and were returned to the library. A chiming clock purchased by subscribers in memory of the
late RE Thomas was housed on the ground floor of the library.

Fraser's gift used to start replacing pine shelves with oak on the ground floor, supported
on metal racks in wooden uprights to make shelves adjustable. 70 books bequeathed by Rev.
R.B. Luard-Selby.

Further new shelves were installed downstairs in the library by A Edmonds and Co Ltd.
285 volumes were added as a bequest from F.S. Marsh. Also, a large table. Rev. Canon
A.H. Tilt presented a Hebrew bible (1494).

R Butterworth left. Library roof tiles were re-layed because the roof had been built with tiles set with
insufficient overlap and had allowed leaks.

The library was used by the May Ball Committee to serve buffet suppers.

H.M. Adams, Librarian of Trinity College, visited the library to catalogue 16th century books.

A bequest of 237 volumes from Rev. AJ Berry was received. Bishop Westcotts' manuscripts were
presented to the college. The interior of the library was redecorated in the long vacation, 1959

The wooden spoon was given C. Cameron.  It is displayed on the stairwell.

 J. Plumley succeeded St Joseph as librarian.

The upstairs of  the library was partitioned to make a store for books printed before 1800.

W.J. Sartain became Librarian.

A bequest of books was received from W.J. Sartain.

A surplus in the accounts was used to buy extral books for the library (Librarian A Vlasto).
H.E.H. Elam began work on the archives.

P.J. Durrant gave the copy of Gray's map of Cambridge, 1831, which is displayed on the
Bridge. Dick Gutteridge retired as Assistant Librarian and was replaced by Ms Avril Eyres.

The old college offices were converted to house the archives and rare books. Repair of the roof.

A plan was announced to divert residue from the centenary fundraising to building a library extension.

Building work due to start on the extension in August  Gift of 237 volumes from J.J.F. Parson.

The Extension was opened on 11 Jun 1988, providing 22 reader spaces and 2400 feet of shelving.
Designed by Peter Hall Architects and built by Morris Preston Ltd, Sawston. Cost £136, 000.

Two computers introduced to the library office.

The catalogue and circulation system became computerised using the LibBase system.  Gift of 74
volumes from Sir Alan Cook.

Gift of 69 volumes from Sir Alan Cook and books from J. Breay.

The library stock was reorganised to rationalise use of space in the library – the history books being
moved upstairs. Conservation work started by Nicholas Hadgraft. Gift of 56 books from Sir Alan Cook.

The Pilgrim Trust grant to encapsulate Selwyn papers in melinex and box them.

Selwyn joined the Union Catalogue, thus adding the library's records to the centralised database for
Cambridge University libraries.  Two computers were provided for readers to conduct
electronic cataloguing searches. Nicholas Hadgraft working on the incunabula. Gifts of 435 books from
Sir Alan Cook and 800 from Canon J. Sweet.

Further computers were added to the library.

Averil Eyres retired after 19 years as Assistant Librarian. Following a staff re-structuring, Ms Lyn Bailey
was appointed College Librarian.  The Pilgrim Trust granted £5,000 for the conservation of 19th century
pamphlets. Reclassification of the Library to DDC21 began.

RSLP offered a grant to catalogue 19th century pamphlets. Ms Sophie Bridges appointed College Archivist.

Collection development policy was formulated and approved.

A bequest of 99 books was received from A. Vlasto.

Ms Lyn Bailey was replaced as College Librarian by Mrs Sarah Stamford.  Adoption of the Voyager library management system began. Mrs Hazel Sanderson appointed Library Assistant.


Library circulation was moved to the Voyager module. Library rules and borrowing regulations updated. Miss Elizabeth Stratton appointed College Archivist.  Mrs Jane Gregory completes cataloguing of Rare Books collection and begins cataloguing the Old Library stack collection.


Plescon security system installed, stock losses reduced. Collection Development Policy updated.


Photography, scanning and reproduction Fees and Terms and conditions agreed. Undergraduate survey carried out.


Library strategic plan adopted.  Library refurbished during Long Vacation, with new carpeting, redecoration, opening up of the first floor room and refitting the Bridge to provide an I.T. area.


Katie Turner appointed Library Assistant. The committee established a Rare Books Working Group to review our collection, which reported later in the year.


Ms Sonya Adams appointed College Librarian following the retirement of Mrs Sarah Stamford.