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  • Writer's pictureMary Allen

Celebrating our Library Collections for World Book Day

This year, on the 2nd of March, over 100 countries across the world will be celebrating World Book Day, and 2017 marks the 20th such annual celebration of authors, illustrators, books and reading, designated by UNESCO.

Here at the British Jesuit Archives, it is not purely archival material, which preserves the records of the British Province in the form of unique written documents, that we care for. We also look after a large number of antiquarian books dating to the 16th-17th centuries, 19th century and modern pamphlets, and a large reference library. Although we prioritise the cataloguing of our archive collections, we must also celebrate the rich published sources that we hold.

Antiquarian Books:

Antiquarian books are a grey area, sitting somewhere between archive and library. They are generally old, as the name would suggest, and rare, if not unique, and therefore deserve the quality of care due to archival documents in order to preserve them indefinitely. They are not kept on open access and cannot be borrowed.

Last week, our temperature controlled Antiquarian Room, which houses our antiquarian book collection, was refurbished to help with this ongoing preservation: the sky lights were blocked up to help stabilise the environment and the old carpet replaced with vinyl flooring to keep dust and pests at bay. Some of the treasures in our collection include 17th

century copies of works by St Edmund Campion SJ and various versions of the Bible.

Reference Library:

The main differences between archive and library material are that library material is published and archives are generally unpublished works, books are treated as individual items whereas archives form collections with their own provenance, and multiple copies of library books exist and can be replaced if lost or damaged, while archives are unique and irreplaceable.

Our reference library is available for visitors to the archives to browse, and consists of books largely by or about Jesuits and some general history. Amongst some of the most important and heavily used reference material that we hold are the series of provincial catalogues, dating from 1803 to the present, and the internal publication Letters and Notices, a quarterly publication started in 1863 to provide province news to its members.

The differences between archives and libraries means that the skills required of archivists and librarians are quite different, despite the professions coming under the information professional bracket, so the nuances of book cataloguing can sometimes be challenging. Nevertheless, our ever-growing library collection is an invaluable part of the Jesuits in Britain Archives, and is certainly worth celebrating this World Book Day.

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