Focus on the collections (part 3) – The library and archives of the Natural History Society of Northumbria

 

The library

Following on from my last two blogs on the library collections, I’m going to tell you about the library and archives of the Natural History Society of Northumbria (NHSN).

Birds Britannica by Mark Cocker and Richard Mabey, Chatto & Windus, 2005 ; Watching birds by James Fisher, Penguin, 1941 ; Photograph of John Hancock (courtesy of the Natural History Society of Northumbria)

Birds Britannica by Mark Cocker and Richard Mabey, Chatto & Windus, 2005 ; Watching birds by James Fisher, Penguin, 1941 ; Photograph of John Hancock (courtesy of the Natural History Society of Northumbria)

The NHSN began acquiring material for its library from its foundation in 1829 and now, with 12,300 items in the printed collections, is one of the largest specialist Natural History libraries in northern England. The coverage of the library reflects the areas of interest of the Society: zoology, botany and geology but also extends into ecology, the history of natural history, biographical studies on naturalists, scientific exploration and ethnography. The collection of material on the natural history of North East England is particularly strong.

Some important donations made to the library include:

  • The library of W.C. Hewitson, including many illustrated 18th century books in fine bindings.
  • The library of Joshua Alder, including a range of 19th century academic texts.
  • The Tully bequest, including many ornithological works. The earliest book in the library, Belon’s l’Histoire des Oyseaux (1555) is from this bequest.
  • A number of books from the library of Thomas Bewick.

The collection is strongest in books published from the 19th century onwards. However, earlier titles include A Newe Herball by the Morpeth-born naturalist William Turner, and Thomas Bewick’s copy of Insectorum sive minimorum animalium theatrum (1634) by Thomas Moffett (the “Little Miss” of the nursery rhyme).

Illustration from: Insectorum sive minimorum animalium theatrum by Thomas Moffett, 1634

Illustration from: Insectorum sive minimorum animalium theatrum by Thomas Moffett, 1634

The NHSN has subscribed to the Ray Society since its foundation in the 1830s and holds a complete run of its illustrated natural history publications. More recently, all of Collins’ New Naturalist series (1945-present) have been acquired.

 As well as books the Society currently subscribes to 112 journals, and obtains 116 titles through exchange with its own Transactions (now called the Northumbrian Naturalist).

Early volumes of the Transactions of the Natural History Society (published since 1831)

Early volumes of the Transactions of the Natural History Society (published since 1831)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The archives

The archives of the Natural History Society of Northumbria are an important resource for the study of local history, the history of natural history and the history of art in the North East.

They cover all aspects of natural history, zoology, botany and geology and include nationally important material, particularly the original watercolours, drawings and proof engravings by Thomas Bewick, the Northumbrian naturalist and wood engraver.

Watercolour of a frog by Thomas Bewick (c.1790s). From the archive of the Natural History Society of Northumbria

Watercolour of a frog by Thomas Bewick (c.1790s). From the archive of the Natural History Society of Northumbria

The collections contain many manuscripts letters, diaries, notebooks and other autograph material relating to renowned northern naturalists such as Thomas Bewick, Abel Chapman, George Bolam, John Hancock, William Hutton, Thomas John Bold, Thomas Atthey and others. In addition, the Society’s own records, dating from its foundation in 1829, form one of the most complete accounts in existence of the history of a natural history society and its museum collections.

Everyone is welcome to look at the Society’s books and journals, for library opening times please visit the Museum’s website or phone 0191 2223555 for more details.

An appointment will be required to view special collections material and archives.

If you want to find out more about the Natural History Society of Northumbria take a look at their website.

Some new books in the Natural History Society of Northumbria’s collection

Advanced bird ID guide: the Western Palearctic / Nils Van Duivendijk, 2010

Mineralization of England and Wales / R.E. Bevins et al., 2010

A new atlas of the Kent flora / Eric G. Philp, 2010

The illustrated guide to chickens / Celia Lewis, 2010

The Gyrfalcon / Eugene Potapov and Richard Sale, 2005

Hydra and the birth of experimental biology-1744 / Sylvia G. Lenhoff and Howard M. Lenhoff, 1986

Handbook of the birds of the world, vol. 15, Weavers to New World Warblers / Josep del Hoyo, Andrew Elliot, David Christie (eds), 2010

A selection of new books

A selection of new books

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