Friends of Coleridge Special Collection at the Thomas Poole Library, Nether Stowey

FoC books

These two lists (Coleridge Collection catalogue glass fronted case and Coleridge Collection catalogue open shelves) itemise those books owned by the Friends of Coleridge which we believe are either important enough or useful enough to justify being shelved for display and reference in the Thomas Poole Library, Nether Stowey (TPLNS). They represent the cream of a much larger collection acquired over the years by gift, purchase or accident.

The history of the collection has its origins in the idea that Coleridge Cottage would one day house this collection, ideally as part of a Coleridge study centre. Many distinguished scholars and members of the Friends have donated works, in many cases written by themselves, in this hope. However, the renovation of the Cottage in the present century and the existing policies of the National Trust meant that this idea was not to come to fruition. The books, therefore, were removed from the Cottage and stored for safe keeping in Dunster Castle.

The Friends have long debated what to do with these books. Fortunately, Eliza and Terence Sackett, both recent office holders on the committee and residents of Stowey, became involved in the TPLNS and suggested that this would be an appropriate place to display the books. The Library’s trustees swiftly agreed, and two bookcases of the required size were purchased by the Friends, one of which was glass-fronted and lockable.

TPLNS is Nether Stowey’s public library, now totally volunteer-run and a registered charity, while retaining close links with Somerset’s library service. The building used to be Nether Stowey’s free school (the second free school in the whole country), built by Tom Poole in 1813.

Before and after Christmas 2021, Terence and Eliza Sackett, Justin Shepherd and Tom Mayberry checked the books held at Dunster, weeded out those belonging to the National Trust, made a preliminary selection of books suitable for the TPLNS, boxed them all up, and transported them to the appropriate places.

Those in the TPLNS were divided into two categories. In the glass-fronted, lockable case are shelved early editions of Coleridge and his circle; standard modern scholarly editions of the Works, Letters and Notebooks; and miscellaneous other significant volumes. The books on open shelves include books by and about Coleridge and his circle which are useful for those who are, perhaps, less experienced readers of Coleridge.

Highlights of the collection include: a first edition of Joan of Arc, a youthful collaboration with Robert Southey, which Joseph Cottle, its publisher and friend of them both, called with justification ‘the most handsome volume ever to come out of Bristol’. There are also first editions of Sibylline Leaves and some of the prose works.

Visitors to Stowey are urged to visit the TPLNS and ask the librarians to see the books. Access is necessarily controlled, but the books are there to be consulted and enjoyed by anyone who is interested.

Incidentally, we do not have a complete set of the Bollingen Edition of the Collected Works. If you would like to donate a missing volume, or any other volume suitable for display, please contact the Friends.

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