Sterling Library

The collection

Over 7,000 volumes of first and fine editions of English literature, divided into four main sections: (I) Authors before 1900; (II) Twentieth-century literature; (III) Private press books; (IV) Illustrated and extra-illustrated works. It includes most high spots of English literature, including two Piers Plowman manuscripts, two books printed by William Caxton; other works by early English printers; the first four Shakespeare folios and three early quartos; and the original parts of three Dickens novels. Particular author strengths include Charles Dickens, W.B. Yeats, Tennyson, and H.E. Bates. The private press section includes all the Kelmscott Press output and most Cuala Press and Golden Cockerel Press items. Napoleoneana and a few ground-breaking non-literary works are also present.


The collector

Based on the library (ca 4,200 items) of managing director of the record company EMI and bibliophile Sir Louis Sterling (1879-1958; see ODNB and Peter Martland, Since Records Began: EMI, the First 100 Years (London: Batsford, 1997)).



The nucleus of the collection was donated by Sir Louis Sterling in 1954, with an endowment to purchase additional material for the collection, most notably a complete set of Dolmen Press books (1994). Bequests and donations have enabled further growth, notably Gregynog Press books from Sir David Hughes Parry (1966); presentation copies and first editions of the works of Sean O’Casey from his widow, Eileen (1966) and of John Masefield from his sister, Mrs Stockdale-Ross (1987); and editions of George Crabbe given by J.H.P. Pafford (1982).



Catalogued online 2003/04. For an overview of the library, do a mixed classmark search on [S.L.]. An author search on “Sterling, Louis” as former owner will isolate items owned by him.


Related archives

Sterling papers (preface: LS); manuscripts belonging to the collection, SLIV and SLV.


Select publications

Private Libraries: Sir Louis Sterling’, Times Literary Supplement, 4 Feb. 1939

The Sterling Library: a Catalogue of the Printed Books and Literary Manuscripts Collected by Sir Louis Sterling and Presented by him to the University of London ([England]: privately printed, 1954)

Walworth, Julia, ‘Sir Louis Sterling and his Library’, Jewish Historical Studies, 40 (2005), 159-75



The Crabbe Collection

Gregynog Press books