Click here to skip to content

Sloane Printed Books Project

From 2008 to 2011 the Sloane Printed Books Project was  funded by the Wellcome Trust Research Resources in Medical History. Between 2008 and 2010 it was run in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at University College London, and from April 2010 to July 2011 the collaborating partner was Birkbeck, University of London, led by Professor Michael Hunter. The project makes available for research and public use a database of the books once belonging to Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753), which, after his death, formed one of the foundation collections of the British Museum Library.

L’Obel, Matthias de, Plantarum seu Stirpium historia...

L’Obel, Matthias de, Plantarum seu Stirpium historia... (Antverpiæ, 1591), BL Shelfmark: 443.a.4 . © The British Library.


Sloane's library of approximately 40,000 volumes, now dispersed within the collections of the British Library and other research libraries, is being identified. Bibliographical descriptions are enhanced with information about pre-Sloane provenance, annotations and other copy-specific information. The information accumulated is being made available through a web-accessible database, the Sloane Printed Books catalogue, maintained by the British Library. The work of this project will form a significant research resource for medical, scientific and intellectual historians of the period.

The key goals of the project are:
- identification of Sloane's books, their provenances and other associations
- presentation of the findings as a public resource for research
- communication of the findings through a conference and papers

An international conference, 'From Books to Bezoars' was held at the British Library on 7-8 June 2010, to celebrate the 350th annversary of Sloane’s birth. The proceedings will be published by the British Library in 2012.

NEWS: The Robert Boyle Project has published (November 2011) Magic and Mental Disorder: Sir Hans Sloane’s Memoir of John Beaumont, by Michael Hunter. Sir Hans Sloane’s memoir of the Somerset virtuoso and occultist, John Beaumont (c.1640–1731), is here published in full for the first time in annotated form and with an English translation. Sloane wrote it in French in 1740 and sent it to his French contact, the abbé Bignon, whose comments on it survive and are also reproduced here. The text is revealing not least for the brutally reductionist attitude towards magical belief that it displays in relation not only to Beaumont but also to others with similar commitments, including such luminaries as John Dee and Simon Forman whose manuscripts Sloane collected. Its implication is that a major and neglected impulse to Sloane’s activity in collecting magical manuscripts was a wish to illustrate the proneness of his fellow humans to delusion from which they might be saved by enlightened attitudes like his.

NEWS: Amy Blakeway, The Library Catalogues of Sir Hans Sloane: Their Authors, Organization, and Functions, has appeared in the Electronic British Library Journal. This extensive article examines the library catalogues of Sir Hans Sloane, Sloane MS 3972B, Sloane MS 3972C, Sloane MS 3972D and an interleaved copy of the medical bibliography Lindenius Renovatus. Several of Sloane's hitherto anonymous amanuenses are identified, and it is argued that their role was more significant than previous commentators have appreciated. This article also refines the dating of Sloane's library catalogues, finding that they were started in 1692 rather than 1693, and, revises the date when the index to the catalogues was commenced to the early 1710s rather than the early 1690s.



Alison Walker
Lead Researcher, Sloane Printed Books Project
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7465