Collection Agents

December 14, 2020

If there are silver linings for the LWL in this current Covid moment, one surely is the fact that in the absence of the library’s usual in-residence scholars and of a busy academic year agenda of on-site public events and programs, library staff have been able to devote more time to enhancing the breadth and depth of the collections in Farmington. Additions over the past months have encompassed travel and the Grand Tour, history, politics and diplomacy, the arts and theatre, Anglo-French cultural exchange, typography, music, daily life, trades, and more.   

Selectors – working mostly virtually – have continued to meet weekly to discuss items of interest and make purchase decisions. The usual selection criteria still apply: rarity; fit with current collection strengths; the potential to extend collection scope into promising new directions; relevance to known areas of current researcher interests; and potential to support significant new areas of research. Technical Services staff provide essential support in the selection process by verifying LWL and Yale holdings to avoid unnecessary and costly duplication, or trespass into identifiable areas of collection strength and on-going collecting interest of other special collection units at Yale, in particular the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and the Yale Center for British Art

In normal years, selectors juggle the constant influx of traditional dealer catalogues, auction notifications, and less formal dealer communications, with regular travel to meet with them at their places of business and at the many antiquarian book, manuscript and print fairs sponsored by professional and regional antiquarian trade associations in the US and to the UK. This year, however, with book fairs after March in large part suspended due to the pandemic, “virtual” fairs have become more frequent, and varied.   

Acclimating to the online fair format has had its challenges, but these virtual fairs have offered an unusual opportunity to extend the library’s network of contacts within the dealer community, particularly to those who do not frequent the higher profile international and national fairs. As bits of choice 18th-century content – at times even genuine Walpoliana – can turn up in the most unexpected places, every new dealer made aware of the library’s existence and of the general scope of its collections creates one more opportunity for referrals of items of potential interest, and a dealer whose catalogues library selectors prioritize for review based on past discoveries. 

We look forward to the day when we can once again provide in-person access to these most recent additions to the Lewis Walpole Library’s holdings to all who require it.   But in the meantime, many titles are readily available virtually through the Yale Library’s online catalog, with more to come in the weeks ahead.  Or, if you prefer a more relaxed “stroll” of our newest acquisitions shelf, we encourage you to follow our Recent Antiquarian Acquisitions Blog.   

For more detail on selected antiquarian acquisitions from the past fiscal year, we offer the following list, compiled by selectors Susan Walker (Head of Public Services) and Cynthia Roman (Curator, Prints Drawings, and Paintings) for the fall meeting of the Library’s Board of Managers.

2019-2020 Selected Acquisitions

by Nicole Bouché