The Library of Victoria, Lady Welby

The Special Collections of Senate House Library (SHL) include many smaller, less well known collections.  The Lady Welby Library is one such, deposited a hundred years ago this year.  It provides a fascinating insight into the interests and methods of this important writer and theorist.

The collection is the personal working library of Victoria, Lady Welby,  a self-taught philosopher who originated the science of significs (closely related to semiology and semiotics) and corresponded with over 400 intellectuals of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in a range of spheres (Welby’s professional correspondence and papers are held at the Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections, York University, Toronto).  The Lady Welby Library comprises over 1000 volumes and around 1500 uncatalogued pamphlets and offprints on a range of subjects reflecting Lady Welby’s diverse interests.  It was given to the Library following Welby’s death in 1912 by her son, Sir Charles Welby, who hoped to find a home for the collection where it would be of value to scholars and students.  Many of the collection’s books can still be found at the core of SHL’s most important collections such as psychology and philosophy.  The collection is particularly notable for Welby’s extensive annotations and marginalia. In her introduction to a collection of her mother’s letters Echoes of a larger life (1929), Welby’s daughter,  Nina Cust, wrote of her enthusiasm for study and reading: ‘As the years passed, indeed her


An example of Welby’s copious notes in her copy of The Psychology of eduction by J Welton (1912)

Lady Welby's annotations of The Psuchology of education

On p. 313 of The Psychology of education, Welby expresses the importance of ‘significally trained’ teachers’

craving for knowledge increased in a constant progression, and she quickly became the almost embarrassed possessor of innumerable books, scored from cover to cover with notes that never failed to excite if they sometimes tended to bewilder.’   These extensive notes were also remarked upon in the minutes of the University Senate when the collection was first offered to the University Library (University of London Senate Minutes, 1912, minute 3595).

The annotated books of her library offer a valuable insight into Welby’s methods of study, the development of significs and her response to the work of her contemporaries.  The collection is one of several held at Senate House featuring annotations of former owners, including the recently catalogued collection of books owned by T. Sturge-Moore.  The presence of annotations and marginalia is now recorded the in the notes field of an item’s catalogue record to aid researchers in identifying and using this important source for the history of reading, literary studies, intellectual history and many other disciplines.

Welby's mansucript index of here notes and marginalia in Betrand Russell's The Principles of mathematics (1903).

Welby’s manuscript index of her notes and marginalia in Betrand Russell’s The Principles of mathematics (1903).

Marginalia and notes from The Principles of mathematics

Marginalia and notes from The Principles of mathematics

The Lady Welby Library was dispersed among SHL’s collections, most probably in the move from South Kensington to the current home in Senate House, but recently work has been undertaken to improve access by tracing the current location of titles from the original catalogue of the collection’s books and periodicals.  The catalogue is now available to view online as a PDF.


London University 1932 graduates list

Just over eighty years ago, the class of 1932 graduated.  The list of London University graduates of 1932 has recently been added to the student records webpage,

The student records webpage now includes lists of students covering the period, 1836-1932.

Students on Presentation Day, 1930.

Students on Presentation Day, 1930 (reference UoL/FG/5/2)

Among the students who graduated in 1932 was Solly Zuckerman (1904-1993), later Baron Zuckerman, a British public servant, zoologist, and scientific advisor who is perhaps best known as an advisor to the Allies on bombing strategy in the Second World War.  Solly Zuckerman was appointed Chief Scientific Advisor to the British government in 1964.

Buildings, books, blackboards and the beginnings of Senate House Library

‘Buildings, books and blackboards: intersecting narratives’ was the title of an international conference on the history of libraries and education held at the RMIT, Melbourne, Australia , 28 November – 1 December 2012. An examination of the early University of London Library covers all three categories:

  • Buildings: when the University of London moved into its first purpose-built accommodation in Burlington Gardens in 1870 a large room was designated as the library, although its founding collections had not yet been given;
  • Books: library holdings, especially the founding collections of Augustus De Morgan and George Grote;
  • Blackboards (i.e. teaching): the relationship between library holdings and the University curriculum.

Dr Karen Attar discussed these in her conference paper on 30 November on ‘The Origins of the University of London Library’. An expanded version of the paper will be published in due course.

The father of Mediterranean cookery: our book of the month for December

Libro de Cozina
Roberto de Nola
Toledo: R. de Petras for D.P. Davila, 1525
[E.P.] Case E.b.7

The title page.

The title page.

This is the first Spanish edition of a book originally written in Catalan and published in Barcelona in 1520 by a man who became known as the father of Mediterranean cookery. The nationality of the author, Roberto de Nola, is unknown (Catalan? Aragonese? Italian?). What is known, from his description of himself on the title page, is that he was cook to Fernando (Ferdinand I), King of Naples (r. 1458-1494).

Roberto wrote his book to aid the servant who would replace him upon his death. He began by describing such matters as the duties of household officers, dietary health, what drinks should accompany the dishes, how to carve, and how to serve at table. Recipes follow, whereby the Spanish editions add to and adapt the original Catalan recipes. The recipes are generous in their use of olive oil. They include a great number of soups and stews and sauces, and also food for invalids. More than once, the writer claims that chicken broths are so singular and sustaining that they will return or nearly return a dead man to life (fol. 34). Typically for recipes right up until the nineteenth century, the instructions are vague about quantities. An example (fol. 17): 

The upper cover of the binding showing a chef in action.

The upper cover of the binding showing a chef in action.

Take a hen which is more than half cooked and cut it up as if to make portions; and take good bacon which is fatty, and gently fry it with a little bit of onion.  And then gently fry the cut-up hen with it.  And take toasted almonds, and grind them, and mix with them quinces or pears which have been conserved in honey; and take the livers of the hens, and roast them on the coals.  And when they are well-roasted put them in the mortar of the almonds, and grind everything together; and then take a crustless piece of bread toasted and soaked in white vinegar, grind it in the mortar with the other stuff.  And when it is well-ground, blend it with hen’s broth that is well-salted; and strain it all through a sieve; and cast it in a pot; and cast the hen in also; and cast in all fine spices, and a good quantity of sugar.  And this sauce must be a little bit sour.  And when the sauce is cooked, cast in a little finely shredded parsley, and prepare your dishes, and then [cast] upon them sugar and cinnamon.

The book was very popular, undergoing four further editions in Catalan and ten in Spanish.  Diego Granado plagiarised 55 of its recipes for his Libro del Arte de Cozina (1599). Its lasting value is demonstrated by the existence of a restaurant in modern Malaga which cooks its dishes.

This copy of Libro de Cozina came to Senate House Library as part of the Eliot-Phelips Collection in 1950. It is the only copy of the first Spanish edition recorded on COPAC.