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Library records of the Geological Society

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 378 GSL/LIB
Held at: Geological Society of London
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Full title: Library records of the Geological Society
Date(s): [1829]-2007
Level of description: Series
Extent: 42 volumes and 10 files
Name of creator(s): Geological Society Library | 1809-
Lonsdale | William | 1794-1871 | geologist
Jones | Thomas Rupert | 1819-1911 | geologist and palaeontologist
Sheppard | Thomas | 1876-1945 | museum curator


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Library of the Geological Society is considered to have been founded in 1809, when on 3 March of that year it was noted that 'presents have been made of some works on Geology and Mineralogy'. Much of the initial collection came through donations from Members and authors or exchanges with other organisations, and from the earliest period users could borrow material.

When the Society moved to Somerset House in 1828 the modest 1,000 or so volumes of the Library were housed in a single room. The Museum collections, on the other hand, were spread around the apartments, eventually taking up the entire second floor and part of the third as well as being displayed along the staircases and hall. However by the 1860s, the Library collection had multiplied at a far greater rate than the Museum, with books having to be housed in the Assistant Secretary's room, Meeting Room, Tea-Room and Council Room. Indeed by then, the Fellows considered the Library collections as being more important than the Museum. In 1869 (in preparation for the Society's move to Burlington House in 1874), the Museum collection was slimmed down and restricted to only those specimens which directly related to a published paper, however it still took up the majority of the second floor of the new apartments. As its use by Fellows gradually decreased, it was decided at the end of the 19th century that the Museum should be disposed of and the space be used instead to house the Library. Referred to as the 'Upper Library' (as opposed to the original 'Lower Library'), from 1911 it has been the main Library space for readers, housing the most heavily used material. Nowadays the Library collection consists of around 300,000 volumes of monographs, periodicals and textbooks.

The first 'Librarian' was Thomas Webster, who oversaw the Library alongside his duties as Keeper of the Museum, secretary, Journal editor, etc. His successor William Lonsdale was appointed in 1829, and the first extensive catalogues date from his tenure. On Lonsdale's final retirement in 1842, Edward Forbes took over the duties as Librarian and Curator, succeeded in 1844 by David Thomas Ansted. When Ansted's duties were revised, becoming Vice-Secretary, James de Carle Sowerby became Curator and Librarian between 1846-1848. There followed: James Nicol (1847-1850); Thomas Rupert Jones (1850-1862); Henry Michael Jenkins (1862-1868); William Sweetland Dallas (1869-1890); Louis Belinfante (1890-1916); C P Chatwin (1916-1919); Arthur Greig (1919-?1939); Emelyn Eastwood (1939-1946); Pamela Robinson (1946-1947); Miss A Barber (1947-1960); Mrs C E Nash (1960); Miss Ann M Paddick (1960-1962); Mrs J L Green (1962-1965); Mrs A M Tyler (1965-1970); Mrs Edeltraud Nutt (1970-1987).


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Library of the Geological Society, [1829]-2007, comprising:

Library accession registers, 1836-2006 [incomplete]; Catalogues and indexes to the Library collections, [1829]-1967; Library recommendations book, 1922-1939; Library ephemera, including greetings cards, newsletters and guides, [1970s]-2007; Correspondence of the Librarian, 1917-2001. [note: all series incomplete].

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The general arrangement follows the order of the legacy listing, however the library catalogue volumes have been rearranged under phase or Librarian.

Conditions governing access:

The later files of the Librarian's correspondence are restricted as they contain information covered by the Data Protection Act. The other files are open. Access is by appointment only, daily readership fee is applicable unless you are a member of the Society. Please contact the Archivist for further information.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copies, subject to copyright and the condition of the original, may be supplied. Requests to publish original material should be submitted to the Archivist.

Finding aids:

A detailed catalogue will be available online shortly.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Source: Woodward, H B. 'The History of the Geological Society of London', London: Longmans, Green and Co, 1908; Herries Davies, G. 'Whatever is Under the Earth', London: Geological Society, 2007; Council Minutes (GSL/CM). Description by Caroline Lam.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
October 2013; updated March 2014

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