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King's College London Library

Address. King's College London, Strand, London WC2R 2LS.[Map]
Special Collections (to be opened): King's College London Library, Hampstead Campus, Kidderpore Avenue, London NW3 7ST [Map]
Telephone. (020) 7873-2424 (general library en- quiries); (020) 7435-5110 (Special Collections enquiries - site to be opened)
Fax. (020) 7872-0207 (general library en- quiries); (020) 7431-8778 (Special Collections enquiries - site to be opened)
e-mail. [general library enquiries]; [Special collections enquiries]
Internet. http://www.kcl.ac.uk/

Governing body or responsible institution. King's College London
Function. College library.
Subjects. All subjects taught or researched at King's College London; in the humanities especially theology, classics, Modern Greek and Byzantine studies, war studies and Portuguese studies.

Access. The Special Collections Reading Room at the Hampstead site will be open to all members of King's College London and to all bona fide scholars from other institutions. Readers should contact Special Collections staff prior to making a visit. All King's College London readers must present a valid library card; others must bring with them appropriate proof of identity from their own institution (student or staff card and a letter of introduction from employer, research supervisor, etc.). - Opening hours, provisional (Special Collections Reading Room): Monday to Friday throughout the year, 1-5 p.m. Visits before 1 p.m. may be possible by appointment. The Reading Room will be closed on all public holidays and also on College closed days during the Christmas and Easter periods. Readers are advised to consult the College website for the latest information.
Special facilities. Photocopying facilities available, at the discretion of Special Collections staff.
Travel directions to Hampstead campus. By tube: Jubilee or Metropolitan line to Finchley Road, then bus 13, 82 or 113; Northern line to Golders Green, then bus 13, 28, 82 or 139. - By rail: North London Lines to Finchley Road and Frognal, then bus 13, 82 or 113; Thameslink to West Hampstead, then bus 28 or 139. - By bus: 13 from Aldwych, 28 from Kensington, 82 from Victoria, 113 from Oxford Circus. - Parking: Parking spaces can usually be found in Kidderpore Avenue or the neighbouring streets.


1.1 King's College London was founded in 1829 by George D'Oyly (1774-1846), Rector of Lambeth, as an Anglican counterpart to the non-sectarian University College London, founded three years earlier. Initially, King's offered teaching in religion and morals, classics, mathematics, science, philosophy, English literature, history, medicine, laws and modern languages, including German. In 1846 a theological department was opened, for the training of Church of England ordinands. The theological tradition at King's has always been strong, and the Library, opened in 1831, was soon noted for its theological holdings. The University of London was founded in 1836, with the power to confer degrees, and by 1908 all departments at King's, with the exception of theology, which was not incorporated until 1980, had become schools of the University of London. The library, whose total monograph holdings now number 1.2 million items, is spread over a number of sites across London; the modern humanities stock is concentrated at the Strand campus. A new site is planned at the Hampstead campus for the housing of the Rare Books Collections and other Special Collections material; information given here concerning this site is therefore provisional.


Chronological outline

2.1 The library holds 1.2 million monographs in total. The Special Collections include a substantial Rare Books Collection of c. 9,000 items printed before 1800. There are 15 incunabula, c. 2,500 books printed in the 16th and 17th centuries (with 850 foreign from the 17th century) and c. 2,500 foreign from the 18th century. An overview of the more significant German holdings in the library's Special Collections is given below.

Subject outline


2.2 Among the library's 15 incunabula are 4 German imprints. Of particular interest is a copy of the Lübeck Bible, a Low German translation of the Bible, printed at Lübeck by Stephan Arndes in 1494. It contains 152 woodcuts, a number of which, mainly in the Book of Genesis, are the work of the anonymous Dutch artist known as Master A. Also of interest is a rare copy of the Breviarium totius juris canonici of Paulus Florentinus, printed in the town of Memmingen by Albrecht Kunne in 1486.

16th and 17th-century material

2.3 The library holds some 2,500 books printed in the 16th and 17th centuries, of which perhaps approximately 10 per cent are German imprints. The subject range is wide, but particular strengths are theology, classics, history and science. Among the theological holdings are several early editions of the Bible in the German vernacular. These are contained within the Marsden Collection, which comprises books from the library of William Marsden (1754-1836), whose work as Secretary to the East India Company in Sumatra led him to take an interest in philology and the development of printing in different languages. These early German Bibles include the two-volume Biblia dudesch, printed at Halberstadt, probably by Ludwig Trutebul, in 1520, and a copy of the New Testament in High German, printed at Basel by Thomas Wolff in 1524 with woodcuts of the Apocalypse by Holbein the Younger. There is also a copy, in a fine contemporary decorative binding, of the Low German translation of Luther's Bible, Biblia dat ys: De gantze Hillige Schrifft/Dudesch (Magdeburg: Wolfgang Kircher 1578).

2.4 Other theological holdings include patristic works and a large amount of Judaica, much of the latter being from the library of Canon George Herbert Box (1869-1933), Professor of Hebrew at King's, and mainly comprising commentaries on the Talmud, printed in Hebrew in Nuremberg, Basel, Leipzig and elsewhere. Examples of 17th-century Judaica are Johannes Buxtorf, Synagoga Judaica (Basel: Johann Jacob Decker 1661) or Lipman of Mühlhausen, Liber Nizachon (Nuremberg: Wolfgang Endter 1644). Of 18th-century imprints Johann Christoph Georg Bodenschatz, Kirchliche Verfassung der heutigen Juden, sonderlich derer in Deutschland (Frankfurt and Leipzig 1748-1749) or Johann Andreas Eisenmenger, Entdecktes Judenthum (Königsberg 1711) should be mentioned.

2.5 The library holds a good collection of 16th-century editions of the classics, among which are a number printed at Basel. The works of Livy, Ptolemy, Demosthenes and Plautus are all represented, the latter by a fine copy, in a contemporary blind-tooled decorative binding, of the Comediae (Basel: Johann Heravagius and Bernhard Brand 1578). Historical works include a copy of Petrus Albinus's early chronicle of Saxony, Commentarius novus de Mysnia, oder, Newe Meysniche Chronica, printed in German (Wittenberg: Hans Lufft 1580), and a number of works on the Roman Empire, many with fine woodcuts or hand-coloured plates. Early vernacular literature is represented by the primitive epic poetry of the Heldenbuch (Frankfurt: Sigmund Feyerabend 1590).

2.6 The library has a strong collection of early scientific books. Medical works include two copies of the first edition of Vesalius's De humani corporis fabrica (Basel: Johannes Oporinus 1543), with the plates and woodcut title page of Johann Stefan von Calcar and initial letters from Holbein's alphabet. Anatomical illustrations are also found in Andreas Laurentius's Historia anatomica humani corporis (Frankfurt: Matthaeus Becker 1627), and in the Margarita philosophica of Gregorius Reisch, friend of Erasmus (Freiburg: Johann Schott 1503). This latter work, illustrated with woodcuts, is one of the earliest cyclopaedias, and the King's copy appears, from an inscription, to have been acquired in 1507 by the library of the Franciscans at Ingolstadt.

2.7 The library holds a number of early astronomical works, and these include several German imprints. Johannes Kepler is well represented, with copies of, among others, his Harmonices mundi (Linz: Johannes Plancus 1619) and Somnium, seu, ...De astronomia lunari (Frankfurt: [Ludwig Kepler] 1634). Fine astronomical plates are found in Johannes Hevelius's Selenographia, sive, Lunae descriptio (Gdansk [Danzig]: typis Hünefeldianis 1647).

18th and 19th-century material

2.8 The library's holdings of 18th and 19th- century German material are considerable, numbering perhaps some 10,000 vols. German literature is particularly well represented, with a number of early editions of works by Herder, Goethe, Lessing, Schiller, Heine and Jean Paul, among others. First editions include Herder's Kalligone (Frankfurt and Leipzig 1800) and Goethe's Egmont (Leipzig: Joachim Göschen 1788). There is also a wide collection of popular 19th-century German novels.

2.9 18th and 19th-century German holdings maintain the subject profile of the earlier material. Philology is particularly prominent. The Marsden Collection, mentioned above, contains a number of philological works relating to the German language; for example, two editions of Johann Georg Wachter's Glossarium Germanicum (Leipzig 1727 and 1737), Michael Richey's Idioticon Hamburgense (Hamburg 1754), and Johann Christoph Strodtmann's Idioticon Osnaburgense (Leipzig 1756), these two latter being interesting glossaries of German dialects. Also in the Marsden Collection is an extremely rare work of unknown date, the Vocabolario italiano e tedesco, printed at Vienna by Susanna Cristina Cosmerovia, whose press is known to have been in operation between 1686 and 1702.

2.10 The remainder of the library's German holdings from this period cover a range of subjects, including theology (particularly Judaica), science, music, education and history, where works include a copy of a contemporary chronicle of the French Revolution, the Revolutionsalmanach von 1795, printed at Göttingen by Johann Christian Dieterich, with a number of interesting political cartoons and other plates.

2.11 Among significant bequests to the Library in the area of German studies are the Cohn Collection and the Kantorowicz Collection. The Cohn Collection, the library of Prof. Ernst Joseph Cohn (1904-1976), a Visiting Professor of European Law at King's, contains some 500 19th and 20th-century vols, including a large number of reports and periodicals. Their theme is European law, especially German and Swiss, and they complement the collection of Cohn's papers held by the College Archives. The Kantorowicz Collection, the bequest of Dr Ludwig Kantorowicz, a surgeon from Poznan, consists of some 2,000 19th and 20th-century vols. Their subject profile - German literature, science, history and Judaica - reflects that of the Library's German holdings as a whole.


3.1 General catalogues

An active Special Collection cataloguing programme means that records for material of this type are continually being added to the library's online catalogue. This can be accessed via the King's College London website at http://www.opac.kcl.ac.uk. For the remainder of this material readers are referred to the Library's microfiche aid card catalogues. In all cases, readers are advised to consult Special Collections staff.

Consortium of University Research Libraries (CURL) [The college is a memberof CURL, and its library holdings are being added to the COPAC union catalogue. COPAC is accessible on the internet: http://copac.ac.uk/copac/.]

The incunables are recorded in the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC).

3.2 Special catalogues

Marsden, William: Bibliotheca Marsdeniana philologica et Orientalis. A catalogue of books and manuscripts collected with a view to the general comparison of languages. London 1827

Marsden, William: A catalogue of dictionaries, vocabularies, grammars and alphabets ...London 1796

3.3 Historic catalogues

MS catalogue, c. 1841

MS catalogue, 1880 [continued to 1910]

Catalogue of the Library of King's College. London c. 1870; 2nd ed. 1874

[classified; printed accessions lists for 1876-95 and 1914-52; MS accessions registers for most periods]


4.1 Archival sources

All superseded catalogues and accessions registers are now located in College Archives (KAL/CA-KAL/RGG) and can be consulted there.

There are also some records relating to the history of the library.

Details of benefactions can be found in King's College London Calendars.

4.2 Publications

The following two histories of King's College London include information on the development of the library:

Hearnshaw, F. J. C.: The centenary history of King's College London 1828-1928. London 1929

Huelin, Gordon: King's College London 1828-1978. London 1978


The best survey of the Library's collections is found in:

A directory of rare book and special collections ...2nd ed. London 1997, pp. 266-272

November 1997

Katie Sambrook

Quelle: Handbuch der historischen Buchbestände in Deutschland. Digitalisiert von Günter Kükenshöner.
Hrsg. von Bernhard Fabian. Hildesheim: Olms Neue Medien 2003.