Selling the Harleian Library

Jonathan Richardson the elder – Attributed to Edward Harley 2nd Earl of Oxford 1725 – National Portrait Gallery London

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A series of three lectures by Professor David McKitterick

The printing revolution in 15th-century Europe brought unprecedented quantities of books into the world. It quickly became clear that some selection was necessary if readers were not to drown in a sea of paper. But how to select? What was worth keeping, and what could be ignored? Different groups of people had different ideas, whether based on religious, political or other principles. In a series of lectures, Professor David McKitterick considers how some kinds of books became marked out as being curious in some sense, and as rarities. The criteria established in the 16th century gradually developed into our ideas today of rare book collections, and rare book libraries.

The second lecture looks at the Harleian manuscripts, famous as one of the foundation collections of the British Museum in the mid-18th century. The vast Harleian collection of printed books, dispersed at auction, has been less studied for their part in a bibliographical and social revolution in Britain and on the continent.   

The lectures are not ticketed and seats will be allocated on the night on a first come, first served basis. 


Name: Selling the Harleian Library
Where: Conference Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show Map      How to get to the Library
When: -
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546