Libraries in Leeds: A Historical Survey 1152 - c.1939

2018 publication coverTHIS IS THE first comprehensive history of the development of libraries in a UK city or town, focusing on Leeds, Peter Morrish's volume happily coincides with the celebrations of the 250th anniversary of the foundation of the Leeds Library.

The book surveys libraries in and around Leeds from, the Dissolution of the large monastic houses, when many books and archives found their way into the hands of local families, such as the Saviles and the Fairfaxes. .Ralph Thoresby was another collector and bibliophile, linked to others, notably Lady Elizabeth Hastings at Ledston Hail, and his friend Dr Richardson, Later grandees, th- irvvins of Temple Newsam, the Lascelles at Harewood, and the Winns at Nostell Priory all built libraries, but none found a home in Leeds.

The project for a town library at the Grammar School failed, as did many circulating libraries, but in 1768 the Leeds Library was formed as a members* subscription library, with Joseph Priestley as its first secretary. In 1768, the 'New' library offered a more radical book stock. Tne Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society created a library and museum in 1821. Self-help subsequently led to the library of the Mechanics' Institute (1824), and the Literary Institute (1834), which merged in 1842, before the Central Public Library followed in 1871. The Mechanics' library closed in 1940, but a number of faith-community libraries had already emerged, with the Catholic Literary Institute (1851), Leeds Church Institure (1857), and the Hebrew Literary Society(1907), but the oldest of all was the book stock of the Quaker Meeting House, largely merged into the University library in the 1970s. Libraries were part of the Anglican seminary, and the longer-lived St Joseph's R.C.seminary; Wesley College, Headingley (1869) also had its library. None survived beyond the mid-twentieth century.

The University library, developed from the institution's inception in 1874, was the exceptional survivor, benefiting from the incorporation of holdings other libraries and collections, not least of which was the outstanding personal library of Lord Brotherton. The book is a welcome reminder of the importance of libraries in urban culture, especially at a time when the public library as national institution is so widely under threat.

A West-countryman by origin, P. S. Morrish joined the Brotherton Library of the University from that of Merton College, Oxford, and served as Keeper of its Special Collections, He is a former President of the Thoresby Society, Editor of Library History (1976-87), and author of two monographs on Merton, and numerous articles on library and ecclesiastical history


ISBN : 978-0-900741-79-1
ISSN : 0082-4232

Available from The Thoresby Society,
The Leeds Library,
18 Commercial Street,
Leeds, LS1 6AL                                  

Publication, 2019                   


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