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Sterling, Sir Louis Saul

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0096 LS
Held at: Senate House Library, University of London
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Full title: Sterling, Sir Louis Saul
Date(s): 1903-1974
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 11 Boxes and 4 Volumes
Name of creator(s): Sterling | Sir | Louis Saul | 1879-1958 | Knight | businessman and book collector
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Louis Saul Sterling was born in New York on 16 May 1879. In 1903 he left the United States for London, where he began working as a travelling representative for Gramophone and Typewriter Ltd. The following year, Sterling became manager of the British Zonophone Company, which produced playing machines and disc records. In 1905 Sterling established the Sterling Record Company, which was bought, within a few months, by the Russell Hunting Record Company. Sterling became the managing director of the firm. By 1908 Sterling had formed the Rena Manufacturing Company which produced playing machines and records. In 1909 the Columbia Phonograph Company bought Rena and Sterling was appointed Columbia's British Sales Manager. At Columbia during the First World War, 1914-1918, Sterling introduced the production of patriotic war songs and original cast recordings of songs from London shows. By the end of the war Sterling was the managing director of the Columbia Graphophone Company Ltd. When Columbia bought out its American parent company in 1927, Sterling was made chairman of its New York board. During the early 1930s Sterling became the managing director of Electrical and Musical Industries Ltd, (EMI), which had merged with Columbia. Sterling also served on the board of the merchant bank, S G Warburg. On leaving EMI he served as a director of the music publishers Chapell and Co and later became the managing director and then chairman of the electrical engineers, AC Cosser Ltd. Sterling established a number of charitable organisations including the Sterling Club in 1937 and the Sir Louis Sterling Charitable Trust in 1938. Later he became involved in Jewish charitable work and was President of the British Committee for Technical Development in Israel. Sterling's main interest outside business was collecting books. Although he started collecting books in 1917, the majority of the items in his collection were purchased in the 1920s and 1930s. By 1956 the collection had grown to over 5000 books and manuscripts. In 1945 Sterling approached the University of London about donating his collection to the library. Under the direction of John Hayward a team from the University Library catalogued the collection at the Sterling home. On 30 October 1956 the Sterling collection was in place in the University of London Library and formally opened. Sterling was knighted in 1937 and he received an honorary D. Litt from the University of London in 1947. Sterling died in London on 2 June 1958.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Sir Louis Saul Sterling (1879-1958), including: lists and catalogues of books, manuscripts and other material held in the Sterling Library, perhaps compiled by Sir Louis Sterling or by members of the University of London Library prior to the transfer of the Library to Senate House, c1950; ephemera and photographs relating to the opening of the Sterling Library at Senate House Library, University of London by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, 1956; material concerning the life and work of Sir Louis Sterling, including an early scrapbook concerning Sterling's work in the gramophone industry, bound and boxed scrapbooks of letters and ephemera celebrating Sterling's 50th birthday and the award of his knighthood, certificates and other ephemera, 1903-1981; material relating to the functions and running of the Sterling Club which aimed to organise theatrical performances and other social events in order to raise money for charity; and to 'further the interests of Anglo-American friendship', 1938; photographs concerning the life and work of Sir Louis Sterling, including photographs of Sterling and Lady Sterling, personal holidays and meetings with friends and family, social engagements and from the official opening of the Sterling Library at Senate House Library, University of London, 1904-1956; letters, mostly to Sir Louis Sterling, concerning Sterling's library and its contents, the purchase of books or manuscripts for the library, arrangements to visit the library and personal matters, including letters from H.E.Bates, Hector Bolthio, Sir Compton MacKenzie, Louis Golding, Emil Ludwig, various booksellers and others, 1923-1974.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The collection is divided into the following sections:
LS/1: Sterling Library Catalogues and Lists
LS/2: Administration of Book Purchases
LS/3: Opening of the Sterling Library
LS/4: Sir Louis Sterling: Biographical Material
LS/5: The Sterling Club
LS/6: Photographs
LS/7: Correspondence concerning the Sterling Library

Conditions governing access:

Access to the items in the collection is unrestricted for the purpose of private study and personal research within the controlled environment and restrictions of the Library's Palaeography Room Uncatalogued material may not be seen. Please contact the University Archivist for details.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copies may be made, subject to the condition of the original. Copying must be undertaken by the Palaeography Room staff, who will need a minimum of 24 hours to process requests.

Finding aids:

This collection has been fully listed and is included in the ULRLS on-line catalogue,

Archival Information

Archival history:

The papers were previously part of the Sterling Library collection (SLV100-104).

Immediate source of acquisition:

Allied Materials

Related material:

Senate House Library also holds the Sterling Library Manuscripts (SLMS) collected by Louis Sterling during his lifetime, which form part of the Sterling Library collection.

The EMI Music Archives also hold papers concerning Sir Louis Sterling (c1931-1958)

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:

Date(s) of descriptions:
Catalogued by Stefan Dickers (January 2005); Richard Temple, 2007-07-22

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