Rare books

 The Library's rare book collection contains over 11,000 volumes selected from its print collections for their rarity, value or age.

The collection dates from c1485-c1970, with the majority of works dating from the 17th to 19th centuries.

Its main strengths are in economics, political economy, political theory, British and European political and social history, statistics and law. The collection includes not only items of British origin, but also foreign imprints, including significant numbers of items from France and Germany.

Most rare books are listed on Library Search.  All are available via the Reading Room (see Reading Room Access for details).

First editions 

Among the rare books are first editions of key economic and political texts, including:

  • Robert Filmer, Patriarcha or, The natural power of kings, 1680
  • John Locke, Two Treatises of Government, 1689
  • Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 1776
  • Thomas Malthus, Essay on the Principle of Population, 1798
  • David Ricardo, On The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, 1817
  • John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859

English Civil War Tracts

The Library has a collection of over 1000 tracts published during the Civil War, 1642-1649 (reference R(SR)11) .

Economists' libraries

The rare books collection includes the following libraries:

  • James Bonar: over 1100 volumes, 1560s-1900s, on topics such as economics, philosophy, religion, biography and literature
  • Edwin Cannan: over 900 volumes, 1570s-1930s, on the development of economic thought in Europe; also material relating to Adam Smith
  • William Stanley Jevons: over 1000 pamphlets, 1610s-1870s, mainly on economics and statistics 

Other libraries

  • Edward Fry Library of International Law: 76 volumes, 17th-19th centuries
  • Hutchinson Collection: over 1900 volumes, c1830-1935, on left wing, radical and revolutionary movements, such as socialism, anarchism, syndicalism, communism and Marxism, and their opponents
  • Florence Nightingale: 28 volumes, 1850s-1890s, on nursing, public health, hospital administration, and military hospitals (listed on the archives catalogue)