15 August 2016: The Library of Hugh Selbourne
Over the next few weeks our website will be seeing the addition of many books from the library of Hugh Selbourne (1906-1973). Selbourne was a noted book collector and diarist. His diaries, A Doctor’s Life: The Diaries of Hugh Selbourne MD, follow his life as a hospital consultant and are edited by his son David, a writer and political consultant. His books convey his varying range of interests over his lifetime in a library which developed from over forty years of collecting.
Selbourne was Jewish, born in Montamartre in 1906. Upon the start of the First World War his family moved to England and settled in the East End. His son has noted that his vast book collection is testament to ‘his overcoming of early hardship as an immigrant to Britain and to his erudition’.
The collection contains a variety of works on ranging subjects from classic literature to philosophy and religion. He had a fascinating collection of bibliographical texts discussing book collecting and the history of the book. There is also a comprehensive selection of first edition texts by and about D H Lawrence. A lot of Selbourne’s editions of ancient literature by the likes of Aristophanes and Ovid are first edition from John Lane, The Bodley Head and illustrated by the fascinating occultist artist Jean de Bosschere. There are a wide range of first and early edition texts from the romantic canon such as works by Byron and Shelley as well as some fascinating spurious editions and facsimile pamphlets from the Shelley Society. Selbourne’s political awareness is conveyed through his collection of speeches by John Galsworthy and an interest in scarce Victorian children’s books is evident from the dozens soon to be added to our website. There are also some beautiful private press and limited edition books to be added to our website in the next few weeks by the ever-collectible Nonesuch Press and Vizetelly.
This post is just a taste of the depth and range in Selbourne’s tastes in what he called a ‘harmless and instructive hobby’. All of our books acquired from the Selbourne library are clearly stated in their description and from the quality and fascinating subjects, there is something for everyone!