In 1753, the physician, scientist and collector Hans Sloane died, bequeathing his collections of books, plant specimens, fossils, stuffed animals and much more to the nation for a bargain price of only £20,000 to be paid to his heirs. This was to become one of the foundation collections of the British Museum, and thus also the Natural History Museum and the British Library.
Approaching a project in which the parameters had been as broadly defined as ‘discuss this library, or this collection of books’, the obvious starting point was to define exactly what I meant by those terms. Coming from an English Literature background with a particular interest in the material Early Modern book, I am always interested in pushing at the boundaries: is a library simply a collection of books, placing the field of historical library studies comfortably within that of collection history, or is there something else going on? In this sense, Sloane’s collection both is and isn’t like other early collections at the British Library. Its roots go much deeper into the question of what does and doesn’t belong where.
In addition to this, I work on early modern botany and language, and help organise the London 18th Century Reading Group; I also contribute to the Sloane's Printed Book Catalogue (based at the BL).