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About the Rare Book Collection

The Geological Society Library’s Rare Book collection is one of the finest collections of antiquarian books on geology and related subjects, containing approximately 3500 volumes mostly published after 1800, as well as some 18th Century volumes and a few titles dating back to the 16th Century. It includes impressive early volumes annotated by the 19th Century geologists who originally owned them. 

 Greenough   The collection initially benefited from the benevolence of the Society's first President, George Bellas Greenough (1778-1855). During his life Greenough presented many volumes to the Society and in his Will he bequeathed “all his books, maps, charts, sections, and engravings relating to geology (amounting to upwards of 1,150 volumes, and 60 cases of maps).”

The oldest item in the collection is Georg Agricola’s De ortu & causis subterraneorum (1546) while one of the most valuable is that same author's De re metallica (1561). Other valuable books include William Smith's geological sections (1817 - 1824), George Cuvier's Recherche sur les ossemens fossiles de quadrupedes (1812) and Walter Raleigh's Historie of the world in five volumes (1628 or 1634). 

Most of the Society's rare books are kept in the William Buckland Room in the Society's apartments, while the rarest material is stored in the Archive vaults.  The majority of items in the collection can be consulted in the Library by Fellows and visitors (please contact us in advance of your visit if there is an item you wish to view).

If you have any questions about the Rare Book collection please contact us.

   De Re Metallica

Rare Book of the Month

Read the Library's regular feature on important books dating from the 16th - early 20th centuries