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Printed Historical Sources: Overview

The Printed Historical Sources team works with researchers to place the Library's collections of British printed publications into their historical context.  

Our main focus is the national collection of books printed in Britain from the 15th to the 21st centuries. We are also responsible for 15th-century books from across Europe (incunabula), for bookbindings, and for providing expertise on book history. The collection covers a range of formats, including monographs, periodicals, pre-1801 newspapers, handbills and advertisements. 

We continue to acquire antiquarian and second-hand materials, seeking to provide the most complete record of over five and a half centuries of British publishing. We also acquire selected current publications to supplement materials received through Legal Deposit. The materials we collect are available for consultation through the Library's Reading Rooms (Humanities or Rare Books & Music, depending on age or rarity), and increasingly as digital facsimiles through the our website, the Library's main online catalogue, or academic subscription services.

An image from 'A short introduction for to learne to swimme'

From A short introduction for to learne to swimme, by Everard Digby (London, 1595). C.194.a.833.

Printed Historical Sources is divided into a number of specialist sections. Further information about the collections, catalogues, databases and current research projects can be found by following the links below:

Incunabula Collections (British and European printed books, 1454-1500)

Printed Historical Sources 1501-1800
Contact: Karen Limper-Herz

Printed Historical Sources 1801-1914
Contacts Helen Peden

Printed Historical Sources 1914-
Contact: Alison Bailey

Bindings and decorated papers
Contact: Philippa Marks

Or contact: Adrian Edwards
Lead Curator, Printed Historical Sources