Dr Karen Attar, ‘Trash, Treasure or Trashy Treasure at the Institutional Library’: A Taster

Senate House Library Special Collections Talk and ‘hands-on’ mini-exhibition:

Dr Karen Attar, ‘Trash, Treasure or Trashy Treasure at the Institutional Library’: A Taster

What follows is a preview of Dr Karen Attar’s talk which will be accompanied by a “hands-on” mini exhibition of trashy treasures from the Senate House Library; something to whet the appetite and inspire responses to our CFP.


Halt!Trash is the non-academic or ephemeral material that nobody wanted: that probably never entered academic libraries, and if it did, under legal deposit arrangements, was likely to be disposed of in favour of more worthy, weightier or scholarly tomes. Sometimes it has survived by chance; sometimes because individuals made especial efforts to collect it.  “Halt! (an anonymous, pious, late-Victorian children’s book about the importance of obedience to one’s commanding officer – i.e. to God) might well be considered literary trash, though it made its way into Senate House Library’s recent “Treasures” collection.

Senate House Library acquired Halt! as part of a collection of prize books from J.H.P. Pafford, a former University of London Librarian, who over several decades gave the Library numerous books of varying value. Several of these ones clearly came from charity shops and still had mid- to late-twentieth-century prices pencilled in them (e.g., 10p). The impression I have always gained of the Prize Collection is that the Library felt bound to accept it for reasons of tact and politeness – library documentation gives no sense of effusive gratitude. This particular book was awarded to one Frederick Coleman of the Winfrith Church Sunday School in December 1895. I chose Halt! for the treasures volume because no other copies were recorded in institutional libraries. It therefore added something to our knowledge of the activity of the author of Honor Bright and of the publishing house of Wells Gardner, Darton, as well as contributing an extra item to the wealth of Victorian religious publishing. Brian Alderson, who wrote about Halt! for the treasures volume, himself collected children’s books. Soon after providing the Halt! entry he notified me that he had discovered a pristine copy in his attic, purchased from a charity shop for 25 pence.