King's College Maughan Library and Special Collections
Our hosts today were Katie Sambrook, Head of Special Collections, Adam Ray, Special Collections Manager, and John Wilby, Gift Collections Coordinator. The Foyle Special Collections Library holds over 200 thousand titles of varying subjects. Collection items date from the 15th century to modern day. King's College is research-focused with strengths in the sciences and medicine. Staff works to preserve the collection, commission acquisitions, assist customers in the reading room and online, and teach information science to the student population.
On this day we were given a view of some of the special collection treasures.
Chap books are small little pamphlet-like booklets for poorer readers in the country and the city. From the 16th century, they were printed for lower class readership and were ballads, fairy tales, political pamphlets, English myths, and folklore. I was very taken by these because they were an early form of access. During this time, literacy was only beginning to be widespread and these chap books were accessible to anyone. Cheaply made and sold by door to door salesmen called "chaps", they were an easy way for people of modest means to begin to amass their own library.
The St Thomas Hospital collection holds many historic medical texts including incunabula (books from the inception of printing, before 1500). We saw a medical text that holds the medical wisdom of the time. This was an herbal with historical medicines and also folklore. It is a great example of the customs of the time. It has woodcuts and the color remains in very good condition.
The gifts collection holds art plates like the ones seen above. By Carlos Merida, these artistic plates depicting carnival are of cultural significance. They pose a storage problem because they cannot be stored upright like bound books.
Another treasure made more valuable by provenance, they have a copy of the Charters of the Province of Pennsylvania owned by Benjamin Franklin. His signature is on the front page.
Above, the small non-descript book is a copy of Thomas Paine's Common Sense. Printed in 1776 this copy is full of hiatuses. These blank spaces allowed a printer to print a book with blank passages and "someone" to later fill in the blanks with what one can assume was the author's intended words. This was done in order to avoid sedition charges from the crown.