Friday, 31 August 2007

Guildhall Library

The Guildhall Library is located within the square mile that makes up the actual City of London and, accordingly, is a public library devoted to London materials including books, newspapers, and a print and art collection (some of which was on display, prints illustrating Cheapside from various eras). The library is similar to a national archive in that it holds collections such as that of the London Stock Exchange and Lloyds of London (the famous insurance company and now bank as well); the library also has family histories, Parliament materials, and English history all important in chronicling the history of London. It gets its name from its collections retained from several guilds including the Clock and Watch Makers Guild (the collection also includes materials from the guilds such as clocks). The arts collection of the Guildhall Library also has a very useful database called COLLAGE that provides images from their collection as well as a way to purchase those images, making art more available for the masses and providing details about the works the Guildhall houses; I was very pleased to see that their collection included some Hogarth engravings I had previously studied, the Beer Street and Gin Lane prints as well as having one of his prints on display in the Cheapside exhibit.

The library has moved through four different buildings since its beginnings in the 1420s, and survived a rather greedy snatch by the Duke of Somerset, he wanted a library, Guildhall had a library, he decided to take it. The collection retains one Bible that was in the original set of materials, but thankfully their collection has grown back up over time, despite more recent collection losses occurring during World War II in the Blitz that bombed out quite a large chunk of London. Currently the Guildhall Library is a public lending library, although its collections lead me to thinking that it wasn’t, a collection devoted to the city of London just sounded reference only but happily that’s not the case for those who need to do research and don’t have time to explain why or provide lots of identification such as traveling students.

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