Collecting the Past: British Collectors and their Collections from the 18th to the 20th Centuries, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Collecting the Past

British Collectors and their Collections from the 18th to the 20th Centuries, 1st Edition

Edited by Toby Burrows, Cynthia Johnston


144 pages | 15 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9780815382348
pub: 2018-09-11
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781351208550
pub: 2018-10-03
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Today’s libraries and museums are heavily indebted to the passions and obsessions of numerous individual collectors who devoted their lives to amassing collections of books, manuscripts, artworks, and other culturally significant objects. Collecting the Past brings together the latest research on a wide range of significant British collectors from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries, including Hans Sloane, Sarah Sophia Banks, Thomas Phillipps, Sydney Cockerell, J. P. Morgan Jr., Alfred Chester Beatty and R. E. Hart.

Contributors to the volume examine the phenomenon of collecting in a variety of settings and across a range of different materials. Considering the aims and motives that led these collectors to assemble such remarkable collections, the book also examines the history of these collections after the collector’s death. Particular attention is given to the often complicated relationship between collectors and the public institutions that subsequently came to house their collections. Situated within the framework of cultural collecting more generally, this book offers an authoritative series of essays on key collectors.

Collecting the Past should be most interesting to researchers, academics and postgraduate students engaged in the study of museum studies, book history, manuscript studies, museum history, library history and the history of collecting. Professionals in libraries, museums and galleries will also find the volume of great interest.


"The insights and experiences of the contributors to Collecting the Past are major contributions to our understanding both of book history and of the history of the institutions which are themselves a part of that history." John Feather, Loughborough University

Table of Contents

1. Collecting the Past: Manuscript and Book Collecting in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

Toby Burrows and Cynthia Johnston

2. Creating and Keeping a National Treasure: the Changing Uses of Hans Sloane’s Collection in the Eighteenth Century

Alice Marples

3. Sarah Sophia Banks: A ‘truly interesting collection of Visiting Cards and Co.’

Arlene Leis

4. ‘There never was such a collector since the world began’: a new look at Sir Thomas Phillipps

Toby Burrows

5. American Collectors and the Trade in Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts in London, 1919-1939: J. P. Morgan Junior, A. Chester Beatty and Bernard Quaritch Ltd.

Laura Cleaver and Danielle Magnusson

6. Sydney Cockerell: a Bibliophile Director-Collector

Stella Panayotova

7. Spending a Fortune: Robert Edward Hart, bibliophile and numismatist, an industrialist collector in Blackburn, Lancashire

Cynthia Johnston

8. Ossified Collections: the Past Encapsulated in British Institutions Today

Karen Attar

About the Editors

Toby Burrows is Senior Researcher at the University of Oxford, UK, and a Senior Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Western Australia.

Cynthia Johnston is Lecturer in the History of the Book and Communications at the Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London, UK.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ART / Museum Studies
HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Library & Information Science / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Archaeology