Rare Books Collection

The recent edition of the Marlburian Club magazine features an article on the library of rare books kept at the College which is overseen by Dr Simon McKeown (CR 2009-Present). With only a handful of schools in the country having a library of rare books, Marlborough has a substantial collection of 3000 volumes on the shelves. Particular strengths within the collection include historic bibles and materials about the English Civil War. The older books first stood in the College’s original library, located in the Adderley, and took on their present form through the efforts of the librarian at the time, Trisha Rae (CR 1992-2006), who ensured they were kept in the correct conditions and categorised separately.

The recent Club magazine features a Q&A between Simon McKeown and Molly Fisher (EL 2013-18). The article unveils the story of a particular book in the collection which links to the tragic story of Allen Wedgwood (CO 1907-11) who joined the Northumberland Fusiliers in 1914 and was lost at Gallipoli a year later. His name lives on at the College in the playing field and standing stone which bears his name.

Allen was keen a botanist and had joined his mother on expeditions around the South of England. Upon his death, Mrs Wedgwood embarked on an extraordinary project of collecting a specimen of every plant listed in The London Catalogue of British Plants. The finished work was presented in The Wedgwood Herbarium to the College in 1936. Simon then goes on to talk about the manuscript catalogue for the Herbarium which is an intimate and illuminated manuscript that is abundantly illustrated with representations of flowers and plants.  The manuscript bears a colophon that reads ‘Written for Mrs Wedgwood by Ethel Sandell at Hillside in the Parish of Potterne in the County of Wilts’. In 1932 a species of rose, the Rubus Wedgwoodiae, was named after Mrs Wedgwood in recognition of her services to botany. After moving to Marlborough to escape the Blitz, she died here aged 99 and is remembered as not just a great benefactress to the College, but as a woman of science.

The Rare Book Collection remains integrated into College life with all Shell pupils allocated a session in a small group to see a few of the volumes up close and the older pupils using them for research. You can explore some of the books in the collection here.