Our Collections

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 it was not too long before a general library was created, although at its inception many of the works were scientific in nature, reflecting the main objects of the Society.

As the years went by the scope of the collection widened. In 1811 William Turner produced the first catalogue to be arranged by subject and it can be seen that although natural philosophy (or science) is greatly represented, there is also 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 170,000, with approximately 1,000 volumes being added each year. It was not until 1891 that novels were permitted into the collection.

In addition to the subjects listed above, you will find many items of local interest, tracts, directories, printed and recorded music, children’s books, periodicals and so much more on our shelves.

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.

Gems of our Collection


From Volume II of Narrative of a five years’ expedition against the revolted negroes of Surinam in Guiana on the wild coast of South America from the year 1772, to 1777 by Captain J. G. Stedman

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Naturels de la Nouvelle-Guinee

from 'Voyage autour du monde', by Louis Isidore Duperrey. 1826

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Total Eclipse of The Sun, 8th June 1918

As observed through thin clouds at the U.S. Naval Observatory Station, Baker, Oregon

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A History of the Roman Wall

William Hutton 1802

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The Mummy

The mummy was presented to the Lit & Phil in 1821. it features in the Society's Hedley Papers.

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The Great Barrier Reef

William Saville-Kent 1893

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La Baleine (The Whale)

Image from Encyclopédie ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des metiers, published in France between 1751 and 1772.

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From Almanach Hachette, 1899. Competition No. 10. Whose beards are these?

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As a member you can borrow most books published after 1850 (but not all at once). You can also access wi-fi in the Library and benefit from priority booking at some events. By joining the Lit & Phil, you are also supporting this wonderful institution, so thank you!


See What's On

The Lit & Phil holds a variety of events including lectures and book launches. We also organise themed festivals eg Books on Tyne and Newcastle Noir. Many classes and workshops are held here and we have become a popular space for exhibitions and art installations. Check the 'What's On' page for more details.