LIBRARY RECORDS PROJECT 1785-1953 UPDATE 3

Dr Richard Palmer reports that during August and September the Project focused on the librarianship of Samuel Wayland Kershaw from 1868 to the beginning of 1910. Kershaw owed his appointment to the limited funding available for the Librarian’s salary which made it impossible to appoint a more qualified person. He endured throughout his librarianship the assistance, or perhaps supervision, of a succession of Honorary Curators and Honorary Librarians who were intended to make up for  his supposed deficiencies or lack of standing. Nevertheless Kershaw proved to be a diligent Librarian who enhanced and extended the role of the Library during the primacies of the five Archbishops of Canterbury whom he served.

ms1680f23

Archbishop Longley (MS 1680 f 23)

 

The project has catalogued the extensive records which he generated through his work. Kershaw took forward the intention of Archbishop Longley, who appointed him, to make the Library more widely available for public use. Initially Kershaw attended the Library on only three days a week, with long breaks at Christmas and Easter and in the Autumn, but from 1880 the Library’s opening hours were extended and the result may be seen in the registers of readers which Kershaw maintained. He also opened the Library extensively to visiting groups, as well as to royal and other distinguished visitors, and installed an exhibition case in the Great Hall to display treasures of the Library, many of which he also publicised through his Art Treasures of the Lambeth Library (London, 1873). Correspondence on the loan of manuscripts for publication or transcription, each requiring the Archbishop’s approval, show another aspect of his work. He also introduced regular loans of printed books to readers and enlisted public support to form special collections on the local history of Kent and on monasteries in England and Wales.

Kershaw was also responsible for a new catalogue of printed books, based on an interleaved copy of the Bodleian Library catalogue, and compiled additional catalogues of ‘modern books’ and of pamphlets, including an extensive collection of pamphlets given by Archbishop Howley. The project has also catalogued a large number of indexes which he compiled to manuscript and archives in the Library. It also fell to Kershaw to oversee a major programme of conservation, resulting from an exceptional grant made by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1869, which is recorded in his bookbinding accounts.

Despite these achievements, which were set against a background of acute financial stringency, Kershaw does not seem to have won appreciation. His long reign as Librarian (his ‘amusing despotism’ as one reader put it) was finally terminated at the beginning of 1910 when Archbishop Davidson winkled him out of office. Davidson’s draft letter to Kershaw which brought this about is a masterpiece of tact and persuasion.

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