Word of the Day

This year sees the 250th anniversary of the oldest subscription library in the United Kingdom – The Leeds Library.

Founded in 1768 the library is now based in a Grade II listed building in the heart of Leeds and is the the oldest surviving example of this sort of library in the country and has around 880 members. To mark the anniversary there are a range of events planned throughout the year.

Yesterday I went along to the library to shoot some pictures on assignment for Getty Images. This remarkable facility offered much to photograph. From the grand rooms to the members of staff and members in the library to the ever popular ‘Word of the Day’ sign outside to of course the stars of the show – the books. Around 140,000 of them fill the shelves throughout the building.

Many are stored in the basement where the process of repairing some of the flaking leather-bound books falls to Brian Cole. The book binder. This skilled but painstaking work involves re-covering the leather books that are beginning to rot away due to the acids used in the original tanning process.

He estimated that the to repair all the books currently waiting on his shelves would take around 100-years!

The oldest book in the library is John de Mandeville’s book, Travels in the Holyland which was written in 1483 but the one that caught my attention was an 1859 first edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. One of only 275 copies that are said to still exist.

Oh and Just for reference if you happen to have a battered old copy of this book sitting around or see one at a car boot sale check out the 11th line on page 20. In the first edition’s the word ‘species’ is miss-spelled ‘speceies’. But if you sell it we go halves yeah?

Here’s a few pictures from my visit to the Leeds Library.


Images (c) Ian Forsyth 2018/ Getty Images

See more of my work in the galleries & blog at Room 2850

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