By Dr Jane Carroll, NCRCL Lecturer
If you’ve been up to visit the children’s literature collection in the University of Roehampton in the past few weeks, you’ll have noticed a new set of old books up on the shelves. This is the Hammersmith and Fulham Early Children’s Books Collection.
This collection, comprising over a thousand early children’s books dating from the late 18th century to the early 20th century, was originally held by Hammersmith and Fulham library. The collection began in 1931-2 with the first 300 books – it then grew by purchase and gift to a total of roughly 1,120 books. Last year, Hammersmith & Fulham libraries approached the University of Roehampton to see if we would be interested in taking it on.
In May 2014 I visited the collection with Julie Mills (Subject Librarian) and Kornelia Cepok (Archivist). With the help of staff from Hammersmith & Fulham library, we picked a few boxes at random to get a sense of what might be there. Once we started unpacking the books we realised that this collection was unusual. While there were lots of well-known texts and good early editions of ‘classics’, there were also plenty of books we’d never even heard of and large numbers of strange non-fiction texts that were unlike anything else in Roehampton’s collections.