15th Century illuminated Book of Hours 15th Century illuminated Book of Hours Show image info

15th Century illuminated Book of Hours

Books and Pamphlets

The majority of the bound books and pamphlets in the Record Office are within the Local Studies collections. These are divided into collections as below.

Many of the items listed below are either catalogued on to the LibrariesWest catalogue or the archives catalogue as indicated. We have several additional finding aids at the Record Office that staff can use to help you find any items that interest you. There is also a card catalogue in the entrance to the office relating to much of the as yet uncatalogued reference stock available through local studies. 


The Archives hold most of their books and pamphlets within their own collection, ref PP/, which is currently being added to the catalogue. There are also books in many individual collections, notably the Royal Mineral Water Hospital collection, which includes several historic medical texts. The main Local Studies collections of books are:

Local Studies books

We hold about 20,000 books relating to Bath and the surrounding area, many of which are on open access in the searchrooms. The volumes in our stores are generally the more delicate items or ones only occasionally requested. We have early publications relating to the medical use of Bath waters, literature and histories. Accessible on the LibrariesWest catalogue.

Rare Books

We hold around a thousand books of importance due to their rarity or age, mostly from the 17th and 18th centuries, and often with a local connection. We hold a unique copy of volume three of John Wood Sr’s An essay towards a description of Bath, and our pre-1500 incunabula include a copy of Hartmann Schedel’s Nuremburg Chronicle (1493). Several of the books have contemporary or near-contemporary bindings. There is a handlist of this collection and they are included in the card catalogue.


We hold a small collection of volumes for their bindings, beyond those in the Rare Books collection. The core of this collection are about one hundred bindings by Alvah Cook, a lawyer by trade and amateur art bookbinder. We also hold examples from Chivers’s and Bayntun’s bookbinderies. A handlist of this collection exists, but this does not include binding descriptions as yet.

Bath Fiction

This collection, of nearly 600 volumes, is our largest thematic collection and contains novels and poetry written by persons connected to Bath and vicinity or written about the area. There are significant holdings of work by Sarah Grand, ‘Rita’ (Mrs Humphries) and Horace Annesley Vachell. Accessible on the LibrariesWest catalogue.

Special Presses

We have a small collection of modern handpress books that were often created with limited print runs. They include collections from the Golden Cockerel, Shakespeare’s Head, Kelmscott and Daniel Presses. Handlisted and catalogue cards only.


Music was important in the social history of Bath, and this collection is mainly 18th and 19th century sheet music bound into volumes. It includes full scores of Handel and Haydn pieces, but is predominantly songs and chamber music. Printed catalogue of manuscript music, with detailed handlisting of contents underway.


The majority of the Archives’ collection of pamphlets is within the PP/ series, currently being added to the Archives catalogue. There are also pamphlets distributed through collections such as Civil Defence and the Bath City Police. We have a collection of general reference pamphlets (not specific to local history) within Local Studies accessible on the LibrariesWest catalogue.

Local Studies pamphlets

There are approximately 10,000 publications relating to the local area that are too small or fragile to be kept on shelves. These include short monographs, offprints, extracts, flyers, supplements, reports, catalogues, brochures, guides and leaflets. Accessible on the LibrariesWest catalogue.

Bound Pamphlets

In the 18th and 19th century small publications, offprints and extracts were often collected together and bound to protect them. We have several collections of these ‘bound pamphlets’ – notably Boodle’s Somerset Pamphlets and collections by A W Page, M Oppenheim, and T S Cotterell. Some collectors bound them by subject, and we have books of collected trial reports and sermons. Partially accessible on the LibrariesWest catalogue, otherwise on catalogue cards only.

Early pamphlets

This covers two distinct collections: the Buxton Pamphlets and the pre-1801 pamphlets. The Buxton collection is of 16th to 19th century pamphlets that have never been bound and were collected by the same family until their donation to the Library in the 1950s. The pre-1801 pamphlets are general pamphlets of mainly local interest, including a run of Cheap Repository Tracts by Hannah More and her contemporaries. Both collections are accessible on the LibrariesWest catalogue.