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University College London Library

Address. Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT [Map]
Telephone. (020) 7387-7050; Main Enquiry Desk: (020) 7380-7793
Fax. (020) 7380-7727/7373
Internet. http://library-ucl.ac.uk/

Governing body or responsible institution. University of London
Function. College library.
Subjects. All subjects taught in college; notable exceptions are theology and sociology. Particular strengths are history of science, especially mathematics, astronomy and medicine, Egyptology, Latin American history, London history, and Italian literature.

Access. Open to all researchers, with some restrictions. Some form of identity required. Researchers wishing to use the library for longer than 2 weeks should write to the Librarian. A fee may be payable. - Opening hours: Main Library Issue and Enquiry Desks open 9.30 a.m. - 5.30 p.m.; Manuscripts and Rare Books Reading Room open 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Special facilities. Photocopiers available throughout library (card operated), microform reader-printers; photography and microfilming by arrangement.
Travel directions. Nearest underground stations: Euston, Euston Square, Warren Street, Goodge Street. On several bus routes. - No parking.


1.1 University College London (UCL) was founded, as the University of London, in 1826. It was the first non-sectarian college of higher education in England. The building was designed by William Wilkins and the college opened to students in 1828/29. In 1836 it was renamed University College, and a new University of London, comprising several colleges, was set up as a joint examining body.

1.2 From its inception UCL pioneered new subjects and teaching methods. It was the first college in England to teach modern languages, including English language and literature, French, Italian and German, and the first to establish a Scandinavian Studies department. In science and engineering UCL introduced practical instruction and encouraged experimentation. It was the first college to teach geography, experimental botany and gineering as an academic discipline. The first chemistry (1846), physics and psychology (1897) laboratories in the country were established here. It revolutionised the teaching of medicine and has probably the oldest Zoology department in the United Kingdom.

1.3 The Slade School introduced new methods of teaching in Fine Arts and the departments of Architecture and Town Planning were among the first in England. Above all UCL is noted for its admission policies. It was the first British College to admit women to degrees. Lectures were open to women for some years until, in 1878, they were admitted as full degree students on the same terms as men in the Arts, Laws and Science faculties. Women were not admitted to the Medical Faculty until 1917.

1.4 From the first the library was set up to support teaching. It opened with the College on 19 January 1829, the librarian being Dr Francis Augustus Cox. The library grew very slowly in the 19th century; very little money was spent on books, the authorities relying instead on donations. A large part of the first building was to be given over to the library but this was gradually swallowed up by other departments. The ``General Library' was built in 1848 to the plans of Thomas Donaldson, Professor of Architecture. There were also from an early date separate subject libraries, particularly law and medicine libraries, and, at various times, chemistry and fine art libraries.

1.5 The large majority of the bequests in the 19th century came from the professors of the college. Between 1870 and 1894 ten important science collections were bequeathed by former professors: J. T. Graves (Mathematics, 1870), W. Sharpey (Physiology, 1874), R. E. Grant (Comparative Anatomy, 1874), Sir Richard Quain (Clinical Surgery, 1877), E. A. Parkes (Clinical Medicine, 1877), T. Graham (Chemistry, 1879), W. K. Clifford (Mathematics, 1879), J. Morris (Geology, 1883), M. Beck (Surgery, 1893) and Sir John Eric Erichsen (Medicine and Surgery, 1894). Smaller, but nonetheless valuable, collections also came from George Fownes, T. H. Key, M. J. M. Hill, Ernest Starling, Vaughan Harley, and Arthur Platt. Also during this period the Quain Law Library (John Richard Quaine, 1816-1876), and the Yates Library of Classical Antiquity and Archaeology (James Yates, 1789-1871), were both presented in 1876.

1.6 At the turn of the century major reorganisation affected all parts of the College, including the library. In 1901 R. W. Chambers was appointed Librarian; he faced a controversy between two parties who favoured either a single centralised organisation or separate subject libraries under the professor's own control. Chambers favoured the centralised option and his solution was to keep the books under the library's control, but in separate though linked rooms, as far as possible one for each main subject. Thus with the removal of the junior school in 1907 the South Wing became vacant and was transformed into a series of linked Arts libraries; they covered English, German and Romance Languages, History, Classical Archaeology, Philosophy and Psychology, and Oriental Languages. The area to the north of the Flaxman Gallery became the College's first coherent Science Library. The Oriental books were removed to the School of Oriental and African Studies in 1918. A separate London History Library was formed in 1922, followed by Phonetics and Geography Libraries in 1923, and a Scandinavian Library in 1924. Chambers also instituted a card catalogue where previously there had only been a rather inaccurate printed one (1st ed. 1879).

1.7 UCL suffered more damage during the Second World War than any other British university or college. Two bombs in September 1940 and April 1941 caused terrible damage; several buildings were completely destroyed, and others, including much of the library, were gutted. The library suffered most drastically from the air-raids. The Manuscripts and Rare Books had been evacuated, but some 100,000 books and pamphlets were destroyed as a result of enemy action. The heaviest losses were to the Science Library, the English, German, Scandinavian and Phonetics collections, and the Mocatta Library of Jewish books (see below 2.11 ). Ironically the best working library of German scholarship outside the German-speaking countries was one of the collections largely destroyed.

1.8 After the war many friends of the college rallied around with gifts; Prof. Dawes-Hicks bequeathed his library of c. 4,000 vols on philosophy in 1941 and the following year the psychological library of Dr A. Wohlgemuth was presented by his widow. A collection of R. W. Chambers's books was presented by his sister in 1943 and in 1945 Lady Fleming donated 500 vols from her husband's library. Also in 1945 the library purchased the palaeontological collection of Sir Arthur Smith Woodward, which includes many rare and out of print works. Of particular importance was the gift by the Guildhall Library in 1941 of its Hebraica and Judaica collections. The College also acquired the library of the Anglo-German Academic Bureau in 1945. The books returned in 1948 and the General Library was finally re-opened in 1951.

1.9 UCL Library is now spread over many sites, with upwards of a million volumes. There are four arts and science libraries on the main Gower Street site and eight medical libraries elsewhere. The Manuscripts and Rare Books Room, where special material is consulted, is situated in the Science Library on the main campus.


Strong Room Collections

2.1 The Library contains c. 870,000 vols, excluding deposits. The most valuable rare books in the library, drawn from all collections, are held in the Strong Room Collections. These comprise 202 incunabula, c. 500 pre-1640 English books, c. 320 foreign 16th-century vols, and at least 900 vols English post-1640 and foreign post-1600 books.

2.2 Incunabula. The Library holds a total of 157 vols printed before 1501 (comprising 202 individual works); 48 were printed in Germany or Switzerland, though none are in the German language. They were printed in the following places (highest numbers first): Augsburg (13), Cologne (8), Strasbourg (7), Leipzig (6), Basel (5), Nuremberg (4), and one each in Memmingen, Passau, Ulm and Vienna. The largest proportion are arithmetical or astronomical books but theology, history and philosophy are also represented. There are 2 copies of Boethius's Arithmetica, printed in Augsburg by Ratdolt in 1488; 3 works by Albumasar, 3 by Aristotle, and 3 early editions of Sacro Bosco's Sphaera mundi (Leipzig 1489, 1494, 1499). Religious works include Aquinas's De vitiis et virtutibus (Cologne 1494-1500); the Dialogues (Basel 1496) and Homilies (Augsburg 1473) of Gregory the Great; Sermons of Johannes Herolt (Cologne 1480?); Gratian's Decretum (Nuremberg 1483); Albertus Magnus's Summa de sacramento eucharistiae (Ulm 1474); and works by St. Bernadin, Cassiodorus Senator, and Rabanus Maurus. There is a 1485 Golden Legend (Strasbourg) and a 1473 Ars Moriendi (Augsburg). Of especial interest are a 1485 herbal (Passau) with hand-coloured woodcuts; a 1494 Malleus maleficarum (Nuremberg); and the Nuremberg Chronicle of 1493 which came from the library of Jeremy Bentham.

2.3 The Strong Room C collection contains foreign books printed between 1501 and 1600; 148 were printed in Germany or Switzerland, or in the German language. There are 21 books by Martin Luther and a copy of the Augsburg Confession (Frankfurt 1572). There are many works on medicine and theology by Ulrich von Hutten. Of particular note is a first edition of Copernicus's De revolutionibus (Nuremberg 1543). There are also several important medical works, especially Vesalius's pioneering De humana corporis fabrica (Basel 1555), and Gersdorff's Feldtbuch der wundartzney (Strasbourg 1530), an important early book on surgery.

2.4 The Strong Room E collection contains post-1600 foreign books and post-1640 English books. 131 are printed in Germany or in the German language. Of particular interest are scientific works by Galileo and Kepler, Alsted's Encyclopaedia (1630), and Goethe's Die Leiden des jungen Werthers (1775). Other rare book collections contain many Late Medieval and Renaissance works printed in Germany or Switzerland, such as St. Bonaventura's Die Legend des Heyligen vatters Francisci (Nuremberg 1512); Albertus Magnus's Philosophia naturalis (Basel 1506); and Matthew Paris's Historia Major (Zürich 1589). The classics are very well represented with works by Xenophon, Plutarch, Aristotle, Cicero, Euripides, Isocrates, Nicander, and others. There are also works by humanists such as Erasmus, Bembo, Beza, and Sir Thomas More.

Graves Library

2.5 John Thomas Graves (1806-1870), Professor of Jurisprudence at UCL, bequeathed his magnificent mathematical and scientific library of over 14,000 items. Other items were added from the bequest of W. K. Clifford and by purchase from the Rouse Ball Fund and it is now one of the library's premier collections. 83 of the library's incunabula are from Graves. The collection covers mainly early mathematics, also physics, astronomy, applied mathematics, and some chemistry and biology. It includes nearly 300 editions of Euclid in at least 19 languages, including all the first 19 of 83 pre-1641 editions, and the first translation into German (1562). Books printed in Germany include works by Tycho Brahe, Giordano Bruno, Girolamo Cardano, Kepler, Paracelsus, Joannes Hevelius, Ruggiero Giuseppe Boscovich, Leonhard Euler, Georg Simon Ohm and Robert Wilhelm Bunsen. Of especial note are Michael Stifel's Arithmetica integra (Nuremberg 1544), and his Ein sehr Wunderbarliche Wortrechnung (Nuremberg 1553); Georgius Agricola's De re metallica (Basel 1621); Joannes Hevelius's Cometographia (Danzig 1668); Gaspar Schott's Mechanico hydraulico-pneumatica (Würzburg 1657); Johann Heinrich Lambert's Photometria (Augsburg 1760); and Carl Friedrich Gauss's Theoria motus corporum coelestium (Hamburg 1809), to name but a few. Of 1,143 17th-century items in the collection, 298 are not in the British Library. About 10-15 per cent are German.

Rotton Library

2.6 Sir John Francis Rotton (1837-1926), a member of the College Committee, bequeathed his library of over 30,000 vols. The subjects represented are the literatures and history of France, England, Germany, and Italy, the classics, economics, law and fine art. The strongest period is the 18th century and there are several rare early editions of Pope's works. Most of the books are handsomely bound. The library includes c. 200 16th-century vols. Not more than 5 per cent are German.

Ogden Library

2.7 An important part of the orthological library of Charles Kay Ogden, consisting of some 5,000 vols, including a number of manuscripts and early printed books, was purchased by the Nuffield Foundation in 1953 and deposited in the College Library to serve as a basis of studies in the field of human communication. Ogden's particular interests, which are represented in the collection, were literature, language, including semantics, special forms of notation such as cryptography, shorthand and emblems, dictionaries, alphabets, and esoterica. The collection is especially noted for its many annotated and association copies, some of which are relevant to this survey. There are works such as Firmicus Maternus, Astronomicon (Basel 1533) with the signature of, and annotations by, John Dee and Joannes Werner's Super vigintiduobus elementis conicis (Nuremberg 1522), which has the signatures of both Dee and John Flamsteed. There is a presentation copy of Giordano Bruno's De triplici minimo et mensura (Wittenberg 1588), with signature, from the author to Caspar Kegler. Both the 1531 copy of Joannes Baptista Pontanus's Carminum omnium pars prima (Basel) and André Du Laurens's Historia anatomica humani corporis (Frankfurt 1599) belonged to Drummond of Hawthornden and the copy of Ptolemy's Amalgestum (Basel 1538) has Edmund Halley's annotations.

2.8 Also present is a copy of Hegel's Encyclopaedie der philosophischen Wissenschaften im Grundrisse (Heidelberg 1830) which was presented by the author to the Minister of Education. An 1802 edition of Kant's Physische Geographie (Königsberg) bears the signatures of Hölderlin and Friedrich Gundolf. Particularly interesting is Kant's Vermischte Schriften (Halle 1799) which is heavily annotated by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and was presented by him to Crabb Robinson. The collection also includes works by Joachim Camerarius, Andreas Gottlieb Masch, Georg Ludwig Hueber, August Casimir Redel, Daniel Meissner, Hans Jakob Wecker, Christoph Martin Wieland, Johann Heinrich Alsted, Rabanus Maurus, Joannes Werner, Johann Valentin Andreae, Jan Amos Komensky, Athanasius Kircher, Johann Joachim Becher, and Spinoza. There are 21 incunabula and 394 STC items. Probably not more than 10 per cent are German.

German Collections

2.9 Post-1750 German works are kept in the ordinary stores. Although a large part of the German Library was destroyed in 1940 the collections were largely rebuilt after the war. The collection includes substantial 19th-century works and some 17th and 18th-century editions. Authors represented include Gellert, Klopstock, Wieland (Oberon, 1780), Lessing, Herder, Goethe, Schiller, Kleist, Tieck, Schleiermacher, Schelling, Brentano and Arnim, Novalis, Hoffmann, Hegel, Heine, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche.

Anglo-German Collection

2.10 In 1945 the College acquired the library of the Anglo-German Academic Bureau [Deutsch-Englische Vermittlungsstelle]. This consisted of over 400 items in c. 350 vols, of English translations of German literature and vice versa, especially 18th-century texts and 18th-century editions. German authors translated into English include Gottfried August Bürger, Christian Fürchtegott Gellert, Salomon Gessner, Goethe, Albrecht von Haller, E. T. A. Hoffmann, August von Kotzebue, Schiller, Friedrich von der Trenck, Christoph Martin Wieland, and Johann Georg Zimmermann. English works translated into German include Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, Fielding's Tom Jones, Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield, Hobbes's Leviathan, Richardson's Clarissa and Pamela, and works by Byron, Milton, Pope, Shakespeare, Smollett, Sterne, and Swift.

Jewish Studies Library

2.11 In the early part of this century UCL possessed the foremost library in the field of Anglo-Jewish studies; the nucleus of this was the library of Frederick David Mocatta (1826-1905), covering Anglo-Jewish history, and Biblical, Hassidic and Cabbalistic literature, which had been bequeathed to the Jewish Historical Society. This was deposited at UCL in 1906 and was then further enriched by the libraries of Israel Abrahams (1858-1925), Sir Hermann Gollancz (1852-1930), Lucien Wolf (1857-1930), and Hartwig Herschfield (Hirschfeld; 1854-1934). In 1940 the whole library was destroyed, except the manuscripts, early editions of Josephus, and some other rare books from the Wolf and Gollancz collections which had been evacuated. The library has since been rebuilt to almost its former size, mostly from donations.

2.12 The Guildhall Library, given in 1941, consisted of over 2,000 items, from 1550 onwards, chiefly liturgies, Bibles, commentaries, editions of the Mishnah, works on Cabbalah, and philosophy, history, geography, literature, and bibliography. More recently the late Professor Alexander Altman's library was bequeathed to UCL. It covers mainly philosophy, religion, Jewish history, Jewish religious movements etc. UCL has also acquired Prof. C. Abramsky's vast library, which concentrates on Jewish history, but includes many other subjects of Jewish interest. Between them, the Altman and Abramsky collections cover a wide range of Judaica and Hebraica materials, such as Jewish history, biblical texts and commentaries, rabbinic literature and Jewish law, Jewish philosophy and ethics, Jewish mystical movements, Jewish sects, Jewish literature and many others. In addition a Yiddish library was established with the help of Mr W. Margulies, and was opened officially in March 1993. It covers a wide range of subjects, amongst them language and linguistics, history, folk literature, theatre, biography, with particular strength in literature and criticism, and includes some 19th-century items. The collections do include several rare editions of Josephus, and other early items from the 16th to 19th centuries; probably not more than a quarter are German.


3.1 Modern catalogues

OPAC [the library's automated catalogue eUCLid is available on the Internet: http://library-ucl.ac.uk]

Main author-title card catalogue

[to 1982; afterwards continued on microfiche; includes all subject library and general collections, most special collections, and some deposited collections]

Classified catalogue for most subject libraries [card catalogue]

Author-title catalogue of the Strong Room Collections in the Manuscript and Rare Books Room

[card catalogue, author and classified]

Jewish Studies Library

Card catalogue, authors and subjects [incomplete]

Consortium of University Research Libraries (CURL) [University College is a member of CURL, and all its library holdings recorded online are included in the COPAC union catalogue: http://copac.ac.uk/copac.]

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

3.2 Historic catalogues

Catalogues of books in the General Library. 3 vols. London 1879; supplement 1897; annual lists of additions to 1900 [all include books no longer in the library]

Rye, R. A.: Catalogue of ...the library of Frederick David Mocatta. London 1904

Roth, C.: Magna bibliotheca Anglo-Judaica. London 1937

Löwy, A.: Catalogue of Hebraica and Judaica in the Library of the Corporation of London. London 1891 [lists the Guildhall Collection]


There are several general guides to the library, the most useful is:

Scott, J. W.: The Library of University College London. In: The libraries of London. London 1964

Furlong, G.: UCL's Manuscripts and Rare Books. In: UCL OSA News, 1993

Garside, K.: Guide to the library resources of the University of London. London 1983

Incunabula in the libraries of the University of London. A hand list. London: University of London 1964

Rabinowicz, H. M.: Treasures of Judaica. New York 1971 [on the Mocatta Library pp. 69-79, pp. 80-87]

See also: A directory of rare book and special collections ... 2nd ed. London 1997, pp. 389-399

July 1997

Susan Stead

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