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Brian Alderson

Rare children’s book collection donated to Newcastle University

Published on: 1 June 2017

Brian Wouldhave Alderson is donating his extraordinary collection of children's books to Newcastle University and Seven Stories: The National Centre for Children’s Books.

More than 20,000 books

Believed to be the largest privately-owned children’s literature collection in the UK, it is made up of more than 20,000 books, dating from the 17th century to the present day. Works come from the United States, France, Germany and Britain, and the collection includes original illustrations and papers related to Brian’s diverse career.

Brian is a respected author, editor, critic, and scholar who has curated many exhibitions and is a former children’s books editor of The Times (1967 – 1996).

He has collected books for more than 60 years, beginning when he was an undergraduate with cheap editions of work by the poets Ezra Pound and T.S.Eliot. His interest in children's books came later but soon became a passion.

Brian Alderson at home with his collection

Long-standing support

The donation is a mark of Brian’s long-standing and ongoing support for both Newcastle University and Seven Stories. He was awarded an honorary degree by the University in 2016. He said: ‘With the University’s scholarly interests in children’s literature and historic children’s book collections, and with Seven Stories being the national home of contemporary children’s books, I am delighted to be able to augment the City's prominence in fostering interest in what is an unduly neglected subject.”

Jill Taylor-Roe, Acting University Librarian at Newcastle University, said: “The Alderson Collection enhances and extends the University Library’s unique and distinctive holdings in Children’s Literature, and together with Seven Stories’ holdings, will create an incredibly rich resource for anyone interested in the history and further development of children’s literature.”

Sarah Lawrance, Collections and Exhibitions Director at Seven Stories: The National Centre for Children’s Books, said: “We are immensely grateful to Brian Alderson for the generous gift of his collection, which includes many rare and unique books – now to be made publicly accessible for the first time – and complements the holdings of Seven Stories and the Philip Robinson Library perfectly.”

Enhance research

The books will enhance the research of the Children’s Literature Unit, a research group within Newcastle University’s School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics.

Kim Reynolds, Professor of Children’s Literature at Newcastle University, said: ‘We are all excited by this splendid donation. Thanks to Brian’s unique expertise, this collection is full of rare and unusual items, and it will be an invaluable contribution to the work of establishing Newcastle as a world-class centre for the study of children’s books.”

The transfer of the Alderson Collection to Newcastle has already begun and, in the future, it is expected that the whole collection will be available for research and teaching, and by members of the public. The material that has already been catalogued is available to view on Newcastle University’s Library Search.

The donation of the Collection jointly to the two organisations is a key outcome of Seven Stories’ and Newcastle University’s Vital North Partnership, funded by Arts Council England. The two organisations are marking Brian’s generous donation with a free exhibition of some of the highlights from the Collection at Newcastle University’s Philip Robinson Library, opening in June 2017 and running throughout the summer.

Brian Alderson will also be giving a free talk at the library about his collection Every book has its own history: Reflections of a collector of children’s books, at 5.30pm on Wednesday 14th June.

More information on Brian Alderson’s work and collection is available here.


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