The Leeds Library Archive is in the process of being catalogued and digitised.  Please see below for a small selection.

Strong Foundations: Highlights from our 1768 archive collection

In 2017, The Leeds Library commissioned the British Library at Boston Spa to digitise a fraction of our extensive archive in preparation for our 250th Anniversary celebrations in 2018. These materials tell the story of the Library’s beginnings in 1768, from the first members to the first books – the highlights of which you can uncover below!

Strong Foundations

Snapshots: The Leeds Library in the early 19th Century

The Leeds Library moved into its current home in 1808, after deciding in 1804 that our sheer quantity of books warranted their own building. This historic move established the Library as a prominent hallmark of Leeds’ bustling 19th Century city centre. Thankfully, our archive has preserved some documents that provide snapshots of the Library when we first moved in. These documents were part of the digitisation project with the British Library at Boston Spa, and we present a selection here below.

Snapshots: The Library in the early 19th Century

Old Chapters and New: Looking at the Leeds Library’s changing face through the archive

Despite the over-250 years the Leeds Library has existed, one near-constant it has enjoyed is its home on Commercial Street. As we prepare to write our next chapter in 15 Commercial Street, it seems the perfect time to examine how the Library’s face has aged through images from our archive; from our humble beginnings to exciting future.

Old Chapters and New

Highlights from the Archive

Join our Collections and Archives Assistant Niimi Day Gough as she explores The Leeds Library Archive and presents her favourite findings. All images are clickable to view more detail.

Georgian Mortgages: Archive Highlights for Spring 2023

In the first online issue of 2023, Niimi pulls a recent discovery of over 200-year-old British legal documents into the spotlight.

Georgian Mortgages

Special Work Experience Edition of Archive Highlights (Spring 2023)

The Library has recently had the pleasure of hosting three work exchange students from Carr Manor High School. Amongst days spent helping our Library Services team, they had time to sit down with Niimi to get a taste of producing archive highlights and digital exhibitions. They had the choice of three subjects from the Library’s history, and did a fantastic job navigating new software and material. The fruits of their labour are below!

Safah Majid: The Library Ghost

To tie in with our May 2023 pop-up exhibition on the Library’s ghost, Safah presents librarian John MacAlister’s account of seeing (and being spooked by!) the ghost of his predecessor Vincent T. Sternberg, as told in the 1908 Strand Magazine.The library ghost

Emily Carroll: Early Woman Librarians, 1768-1899

Emily’s archive highlight exhibits the interesting history of women in the Library’s staff, tracing them from the first founding five female members in 1768 to our current librarian.

Early Woman Librarians

Nageena Ghafori: The Victorian ‘Lady Assistants’

Drawing from the same inspiration as Emily, Nageena chose to turn a specific focus on a fascinating chapter of the Library’s history with female staff – namely, an 1886 motion to hire some!

The Victorian 'Lady Assistants'

The Library thanks them all for their hard work and wishes them all the best for the future!

Judging Books by their (Dust) Covers: Archive Highlights for Winter 2022

For the Winter 2022 Archive Highlights issue, Niimi shares some beautiful and colourful dust covers from the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s recently found in pristine condition in the archive.

Juding Books by their (Dust) Covers

War Work and Library Stamps: Archive Highlights for Summer 2022

In the Summer 2022 Issue of Archive Highlights, Niimi presents a letter that provides interesting insight into the WW1 home front and a collection of retired Library stamps and etching plates.

War Work and Library Stamps

Street Musicians and Enid Blyton fans: Archive Highlights for Spring 2022

In the first issue of Archive Highlights, Niimi exhibits correspondence condemning 1880s buskers and a 1948 letter from a father despairing over his failure to ‘snaffle’ his daughter her favourite books.

Street Musicians and Enid Blyton Fans

Events at The Leeds Library