A PERFECT PLAN FOR THE PERFECT SCORE
This is a detailed survey of libraries in Britain and Ireland, covering both institutional and private libraries, large and small, the interplay between them and the uses to which they were put.
Vol. I. This volume is the first detailed survey of libraries in Britain and Ireland up to the Civil War. It traces the transition from collections of books without a fixed local habitation to the library, chiefly of printed books, much as we know it today. It examines changing patterns in the formation of book collections in the earlier medieval period, traces the combined impact of the activities of the mendicant orders and the scholarship of the universities in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and the adoption of the library room and the growth of private book collections in the fourteenth and fifteenth. The volume then focuses upon the dispersal of the monastic libraries in the mid-sixteenth centuries, the creation of new types of library, and finally, the steps whereby the collections amassed by antiquaries came to form the bases of the national and institutional libraries of Britain and Ireland.
Vol. II. A History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland describes the development of libraries in Great Britain and Ireland over some 1500 years, and their role as a part of the social, intellectual and cultural history. In addition to obvious links with the history of books and literature, the volumes include consideration of education, technology, social philosophy, architecture and the arts, as they have affected libraries. The significant international dimension, which has affected British and Irish libraries from the Middle Ages to the present, receives due attention. Other themes considered in each volume include the housing, storage and maintenance of books and other material; the individuals responsible for their care and those who used them; developments in provision, organization and cataloguing; and the principles and attitudes – of librarians and users – which such developments reflect.
Vol. III. The period covered by this volume of The Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland presents challenges of a kind and on a scale not found in earlier volumes. Since the mid-nineteenth century an unprecedented expansion and diversification of library activity has taken place, which is reflected in the range of topics covered in this third volume. Libraries have become an industry rather than a localised phenomenon, and librarianship has developed from a scholarly craft to a scientific profession. The complexity arises in part from the place of libraries within a society that has seen itself as increasingly ‘modern’ in its commitment to public knowledge, education and democracy, and also to organisational efficiency and economic advance. Obviously it is libraries and librarianship that take the central position, rather than the wider scene which can be studied in depth elsewhere; however, it is not possible to provide a satisfactory account of library developments without a full appreciation of the social, economic and political environments that have produced and sustained libraries, and a proper balance between the two aspects must be maintained.