Four Centuries of Collectors at Cambridge

shelf-lives.jpgLast week the Cambridge University Library in Cambridge, England, opened an exhibition dedicated to individual book collectors. Shelf Lives: Four Centuries of Collectors and their Books "allows us to observe the changing motives, fashions and tastes of book-collectors over the course of four hundred years." Spanning the sixteenth to the twentieth century, the collector/donors include manuscript collector George Lewis, music collector Marion Margaret Scott, map collector Alfred Harker, and bindings collector Samuel Sandars, along with ten others. Seen here at left are volumes from the collection of Sir Geoffrey Keynes, in one of the bookcases in which he housed them. Keynes' collection includes the work of Jane Austen, William Blake, and Siegfried Sassoon to name a few; these were the books he used to compile his bibliographies.

jenkinson.jpgFrancis Jenkinson, pictured at right in John Singer Sargent's 1915 portrait, is featured in Shelf Lives. Jenkinson was the Cambridge University Librarian from 1889 until 1923 (H.G. Aldis was his secretary!). Jenkinson is an interesting collector because he compiled the War Reserve Collection containing some ten thousand unofficial, personal, and ephemeral works distributed during World War I, e.g. trench journals, battalion orders, and propaganda leaflets. It is a wonderful example of "front-line" collecting.

A list of the exhibition's captions is available online, but should you have the opportunity to view it in person, Shelf Lives runs through June 16 of this year.