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Philatelic Collections: The Crawford Library

The Crawford Library is without doubt the most complete collection of early philatelic literature in existence. It was formed between 1898 and 1913 by James Ludovic, 26th Earl of Crawford and 9th Earl of Balcarres. That such a remark- able specialized library of some 4,500 volumes should have been formed in so short a time only indicates the dedication of the collector.

The great joy of the Crawford Library, apart from its completeness, is the special materials it contains: a run of the early postal notices of China must be very rare if not unique; the notebooks kept by the early collector, Judge F.A. Philbrick, are quite fascinating; the literature and ephemera associated with the early Philatelic Congresses of Great Britain and with early philatelic exhibitions are a delight and give insight into an early philatelic age - these are but three of the very many examples.

The Earl was indeed fortunate in securing the services of Edward (later Sir Edward) Denny Bacon (the Philatelic Advisor to the Trustees of the British Museum, President of the Philatelic Literature Society, later to become Curator of the Royal Philatelic Collection and President of The Royal Philatelic Society, London) to arrange and catalogue his philatelic library, a task which lasted from 1901 to 1911. The result of this work appeared in the latter year as Volume VII of Bibliotheca Lindesiana and included an Introduction by the Earl outlining the history of his Collection and a preface by Bacon describing how to use the book, both retained in this edition. A Supplement appeared in 1926 and an Addenda in 1938. The British Library is pleased to be associated with the publisher, The Printer's Stone Limited, of this revised edition of these three works. The special importance of this edition is that it includes the British Library shelfmarks for the books, thus allowing easier access and better remote identification. The master used for this edition is Sir Edward's personal copy (the handwritten textual notes are his; the numbering by another, later and anonymous hand).

The 26th Earl died in 1913 and bequeathed his outstanding philatelic library to the British Museum of which he had been a Trustee. The library departments of the Museum were transferred to the new national library, The British Library, on its formation in 1973 and it is this institution which now maintains the collection. It is the cornerstone of the British Library's extensive philatelic literature holdings. It is fitting that this present volume should be published in 1991 as the year marks not only the 80th anniversary of the original 1911 edition but also the centenary of the death of Thomas Keay Tapling who bequeathed his remarkable stamp collection to the nation, thus establishing the incomparable national Philatelic Collections, held at the British Library.

It may come as a surprise to some that not all the works listed are in the Library; the user of this volume will know which these are by the absence of a shelfmark. The reason for this is that the original listing, as noted on its title page, was a bibliography, encompassing all known works up to 1911 and was not solely a catalogue of the Earl's collection. The addition of the shelfmarks underscores that duality. To those who will use this catalogue in applying for volumes to be read in the British Library Reading Rooms, or who may wish to identify works by shelfmark, it should be noted that the correct (i.e. complete) shelfmark is made up of the number appearing next to the entry preceded by the word Crawford, for example "Crawford 1721".

In his will, Lord Crawford, referring to his bequest of the philatelic section of his library, said "I am anxious that...it shall be of the greatest use for reference." It is to be hoped that this edition, with shelfmarks, will facilitate the attainment of that wish.

Contact

Philatelic Collections
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Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7635
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7780

E-mail: philatelic@bl.uk