A key objective of the founders of the Society in 1852 was to have a library for the use of its individual members. The Society’s Library now contains over 15,000 items and is probably one of the best collections of archaeological books, journals and pamphlets outside London. (quote from Andrew Phillips?) Our members, on application to the University Librarian, have access to the books and resources of the whole University Library. Our extensive collection may also be viewed online. [LINK HERE]
Initially the Society’s Library was housed at the Museum in Colchester Castle, which the Society was instrumental in founding in 1860. The first recorded gifts were noted in 1867. In 1876 some two dozen books were received from the late Wm. Bolton Smith, and in 1885 the Society spent £50 on book-cases. Much has been added since which include important bequests from the late Dr Laver in 1941, the late Wykeham Chancellor, FRIBA, H. W. Lewer, FSA, Rev H. L. Elliot, MA(?), and others. Dr Philip G Laver FSA presented several dozen books during 1925 and 1926, and in the following year handed over a large part of his considerable library. Arrangements were made in 1929 to use part of the Hollytrees Museum, and Dr Laver became Honorary Librarian spending many days working there in a voluntary capacity. Rules were drawn up and adopted in 1888, and by 1894 the Society was exchanging publications with twenty-two other societies. That number has since more than doubled. The first catalogue of the contents of the Library was issued in 1895. From 1901 to his retirement in 1926, Mr A G Wright was Curator and Librarian, and a much larger catalogue was published in 1923, which showed an impressive collection of manuscripts as well as books.
Since the 1940s the Society’s manuscripts collection have gradually been deposited on permanent loan at the Essex Record Office in Chelmsford. The arrangement of exchange publications with kindred societies continues today. The Society’s Library was transferred to the University of Essex in 2000 and since 2015 has a dedicated room in the newly extended Albert Sloman Library which is overseen by professional staff. Many of our rare and valuable books are kept under special conditions.
What we do today
Today we continue to own, maintain and add to the collection through the purchase of books or acceptance of gifts from authors and publishers. We aim to give notice of new items to our members and often review new books for our Newsletter or Transactions. Our current collection policy includes the acquisition of books, journals and printed matter relating to:
- Archaeology, Local history, Landscape studies, Maritime studies, Art and Architectural studies, photographic compilations of Essex, and neighbouring areas if considered appropriate such as for comparative study
- Specialist studies and works of synthesis (for example social history) that have drawn upon Essex sources and case studies
- Biography and autobiography of individuals with a strong connection to Essex such as artists, politicians, horticulturalists, industrialists, writers.