When the Lit & Phil was established in 1793 a library was not at the forefront of the minds of its founders. The emphasis was on lectures, discussion and experiments. However, as the years went by the scope of the collection widened. In 1811 the first catalogue shows there is a burgeoning collection of voyages and travels, history, biography, poetry and classics.

When in 1825 the Lit & Phil moved into its present home, the collection numbered some 8,000 volumes. It now contains something in the region of almost 200,000, and we add about another 1,000 every year. In 1891 novels were eventually permitted into the collection!

The library’s broad nature is its strength and the Society can be proud of its historic as well as its contemporary collections – from the several hundred volumes printed before 1701 to newly published crime fiction, the library has something for everyone.

In such a wide ranging collection there are quite a few strange, interesting or simply bizarre items. Here are just a few – come and see what you can find…

New Zealand

Image from ‘New Zealand: its physical geography, geology and natural history’ by Dr Ferdinand von Hochstetter. 1867

Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral: From ‘History and antiquities of the cathedral churches of Great Britain’, by James Storer, published in four volumes 1814-1819

The Soul of Russia

From ‘The Soul of Russia’, edited by Winifred Stephens. 1916. This book was published in aid of the fund for Russian refugees, administered by the general committee of the all Russian Union of Zemstvos.

The Indian Alps

From ‘The Indian Alps and how we crossed them, being a narrative of two years’ residence in the Eastern Himalaya and the Two months’ tour into the interior,’ by A Lady Pioneer. 1876.

Stag and Moon

From ‘Penrose’s Annual: The Process Year Book and Review of the Graphic Arts. 1928.’

The Dodo

The Dodo and its Kindred by H.E. Strickland and A.G.Melvile, pub 1848.
This seminal 1848 monograph sets out to separate the myth from reality regarding perhaps the world’s most famous extinct bird.