Rare Books & Manuscripts
The Rare Book and Manuscript Collection contains over 9,000 early printed books and approximately 300 manuscripts. The collection reflects the educational and personal interests of barristers spanning the thirteenth to nineteenth centuries. Thus, while the collection contains significant early legal texts, it also contains a wide range of non-legal subjects, including poetry, travel, medicine, theology and science.
The first printed catalogue of the collection was produced in 1700, and since then the collections have been augmented significantly. All of the materials, including the manuscripts, have been catalogued in our online catalogue: http://www.middletemplelibrary.org.uk. All of our early printed bibliographic records (up to 1800) are also available to search on COPAC, the union catalogue for the UK.
Early Printed Books
Many of the books were donated by previous members, as indicated by our archival records. The books' own inscriptions, bookplates and bindings also give clues about their provenance. The earliest recorded donation of books to the Inn is the Robert Ashley bequest, which re-established the library in 1641. See the Early Printed Books page for more information.
The Library holds four exhibitions per year in order to display some of the treasures of the collection. Past exhibitions include displays on Charles Dickens, Food & Drink, Shakespeare’s Legal Connections and The Gunpowder Plot. See the Exhibitions page for the latest exhibit.
The manuscript portion of our collection consists mostly of legal texts, acts and reports, including a manuscript copy of drafts of acts passed during 1652 and 1653, a crucial period in English Parliamentary history. In addition we have some non-legal texts, including a MS copy of Luis Pacheco de Narvaez's Libro delas grandecas dela espada [ca. 1600], an early work on fencing, complete with illustrations, and John Lathbury's Commentary on Lamentations [ca. 1406]. See the Manuscripts section for further details.
Rare Book Images Online
In 2009 the Library created a partnership with the Science Photo Library to digitise science images from our Rare Books Collection. The images can be purchased online via the SPL website. Some of the images have been used to create postcards, which are on sale in the Treasury. There are currently over 700 images available to view online at: http://www.sciencephoto.com/contributor/mtl/list.
This short Flash video was made using three images form Leonhard Thurneisser zum Thurn's Melitsat kai hermeneia, Berlin, 1583.
Book Sponsorship Programme
Since 2007 the Library has run a book sponsorship programme whereby members of the Inn as well as the general public can sponsor the restoration of a rare book or manuscript. There are currently over 200 items from which to choose, ranging in subject matter from biology to witchcraft. a full list of titles is available upon request. See the Book Sponsorship page for more information.
Access and Use
Access to use the collection is by appointment only. Please contact the Senior Librarian for further details, or to make an appointment: firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the fragile nature of some of the items, please consult our Access and Use section for viewing guidelines.
Melitsat kai hermeneia