Interest in provenance – the previous ownership of printed books – has been growing steadily in recent years. This project showcases digital images of provenance evidence from the collections of Sion College, founded in 1630 as a guild, almshouse and library for clergymen in the City of London. The library’s collections were greatly enriched over the years by numerous donations and bequests and strongly reflect the support of a wide community of London citizens. When the library closed its doors in 1996, the manuscripts, pamphlets, and early printed books were transferred to Lambeth Palace Library, where they are now held.
The Sion College Library Collection is the focus of Lambeth’s largest cataloguing and conservation project and each book in the collection is being given a detailed catalogue record with particular emphasis on provenance.
Provenance informs many facets of research in book history. It can show us how books were read, used and circulated in society. Each copy of a rare book has its own unique history, often developing over centuries, which can help us to understand its role in the lives of the people who owned it. Books may have passed through many different hands before reaching our libraries, with each owner leaving their mark.