The BSR’s artists and scholars have left their mark on our library’s collections. We can discover in the stacks the kind of inspirations and sources readers could draw on in their studies from Classical to Renaissance art and culture to the contemporary era. Director, Thomas Ashby (1874-1931) and Librarian and then Assistant Director, Eugénie Sellers Strong (1860-1943) made considerable contributions to the library, purchasing and donating most of the books in the fields of classical studies and archeology. Yet it was also the responsibility of the scholars to add to the Library’s collections. In the 1920s, the Library Committee had a representative scholar from each of the BSR’s Faculties. Artists would make suggestions for the books they most wanted to read. As a result we can track the interests and influences of the administration and artists in this period.

The Library Main Reading Room, c. 1921-1922 (BSR Photographic Archive, BS Collection)

Committee notes from 1922-1923 give an indication of the tastes and values of the artists and scholars. Expressing their pleasure at new books arriving from London they take note of what is still lacking. In architecture, Stephen R. Pierce (1896–1966) notes with delight that books by Gauthier, Gromort and Racinet have been shipped but they are still in need of the important volume of Hauptmann’s Palast Architecture in Ober Italien in five volumes and the American periodicals. Winifred Knights (1899-1947) states that the illustrated biographies and Flemish section of the collection on paintings are now improved but requests works on Oriental (Chinese) Art and requests that a large facsimile edition of reproductions of illuminated MSS be sent from the British Museum. In Sculpture, Alfred Hardiman (1891-1947) reports that only the books on Rodin and Alfred Stevens have arrived. Lilian Whitehead (1894-1959) requests books on Legros, Muirhead Bone and Goya for the engraving and etching collection.

Other volumes readers appreciated include books on Piero della Francesca, Rembrandt, Romanesque and Lombardy Architecture, Town planning guides and volumes of drawings of the Greeks. Later, PK Baillie Reynolds (1896–1973) became committee member for archeology, history and letters.

It is notable that a number of important books were not purchased. One example is the lack of works on modernist architecture. The BSR’s administration was cautious of modernist ideas, wishing to maintain an interest in traditional methods and themes.

Committee meeting notes and a memo are available to read in the BSR’s Administrative Archive.

Where would you like to go next? Who would you like to meet?

Meet Alfred Hardiman (1891-1949)
Meet Winifred Knights (1899-1947)
Learn more about Architecture at the BSR, 1913-1930
Meet Eugénie Sellers Strong (1860-1943)
Meet Lillian Whitehead (1894-1959)

Meet Stephen Rowland Pierce (1986-1966)

For a full bibliography and further reading, see here.