Who’s got the biggest collection of… Books #1

Books. They’ve been the mainstay of human development since our distant ancestors decided to try cave drawing on a dried leaf. It worked – and from that seminal moment books have been a tool for just about every aspect of our existence. We use them to educate, entertain, document and record. That means that there are a fair few books about. In fact, Google – as part of their ‘Books Project’ to digitise every ‘published’ book in the world – estimated it at 129,864,880. That was in 2010 and you can bet your bottom dollar that there are a fair few more about now. So – in an edition of our who’s got the biggest collection of…  blogs – we take a look at collections of the the printed page…

Books come in all shapes and sizes, and like most things that have shape and size we have a habit of collecting them. At the root of all books are two simple categories – fiction and nonfiction. Or real and made-up as we sometimes prefer to call them. Those simple classifications are so fundamental that our libraries are organised around them. Beyond those headlines though, life is far more complicated and it’s no surprise, that some of the world’s biggest and best book collections tend to specialise a bit…

The Largest Book Collection in the World…

The Library of Congress proclaims to be the largest library in the world. Founded in 1800, it is also the oldest cultural Federal Institution in the USA. Back in 1814 – when the relationship between the UK and her former colony was anything but special –  the ‘Burning of Washington’ saw us Brits set fire to many of the US Capital’s public buildings. Amongst them were the White House and the Library of Congress. Some 3000 books were destroyed, following which Congress approved purchase of Thomas Jefferson’s private collection – which at 6,487 was considerably greater.

That formed the basis for collection we see today – which today is said to include over 36million books, stored amongst 838miles of shelving. The collections smallest book (which at one time held the title of World’s smallest book) is a copy of “Old King Cole.” At just one millimetre square it can’t be classified as especially rare – being one of 85 copies printed – but you will need a microscope to read it.

You can find out more about the  stored in the Library of Congress on their website

Sign Your Name, Sign Your Name… 

photo attributed to George Skidmore

If you collect books as an investment, you can add to their value by getting the author or subject to autograph them. It’s big business and has lead to the ‘book-signing’ phenomenon: long queues of people stringing down streets in front of bookstores, waiting for hours in the rain to meet the author. But in the USA a Pastor called Richard Warren has taken this philosophy to a whole different level. He holds the Guinness World Record  for the Largest Collection of Autographed books. Based in Lake Forest, California, the Guinness World Record entry states that he began collecting autographed books in 1970 and now boasts 2,831 verified published works in his collection.

Read All About It, and then some… 

Today’s news, tomorrow’s chip paper – or so the saying goes.  Fortunately, not every copy of a newspaper is used to wrap our Mushy Peas and Saveloy. There’s no definitive ‘world’s greatest collection of Newspapers’ but the leading candidate has to be the British Library’s collection. Systematic collection of newspapers across the British Empire began in 1822 (long before the first fish and chip shop, which appeared 1860) before that it was down to individuals or institutions to collate their own collections.

Storage of the papers does not quite have the shelving mileage of the Congress Library (partly because lots of stuff is on microfilm) – but is pretty impressive all the same. Over 664,000 bound volumes and parcels, occupy 20 miles of shelves  with over 370,000 reels of microfilm taking up a further 8 miles. That’s a total of 28 miles of shelving in total and covers more than 52,000 separate newspaper, journal and periodical publication titles. We’d dread to think what the word count is.  

So if by chance you happen to be researching Southwark’s great fire of 186 the British Library is likely to have the newspaper reports of the time on file. You can find out more on their website

If you’ve got a private book collection that you want to keep out of harm’s way, here at ABC Selfstore we’ve got the space. Our storage units are safe and secure and we can even help with racking and shelving if you need us to.

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