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The Brynmor Jones Library Signed by Philip Larkin first edition 1979

The Brynmor Jones Library Signed by Philip Larkin first edition 1979


LARKIN, Philip

The Brynmor Jones Library 1929-1979

Hull: The University of Hull, 1979


8vo., photographic card wrappers featuring a wraparound image of the building’s exterior; pp. [v], 6-36; 4 pp. Of black and white photographs between p. 8-9 and 28-29; overall light toning, staples a little rusted; essentially, though, fine. 


First issue of an original pamphlet on the subject of Hull University Library, signed and underlined by the author to the title. 


In 1979, the Brynmor Jones Library, located on campus at the University of Hull, marked its 50th year anniversary. At the time it was written, Philip Larkin was Librarian and, although it was published anonymously, evidence of the author can be found in both his photograph (printed towards the rear of the text - captioned simply ‘Professor T. E. Jessop and the Librarian at the Jubilee exhibition in the Library, May 1978’), and the list of Librarians to the rear of the text: 


Miss Agnes Cuming 1928-1955

Dr Philip Arthur Larkin 1955-


Opened almost two years after the founding of the University in 1927, Larkin believed that the Brynmor Jones Library deserved its own personal historical account, and over the 30 pages which make up the pamphlet, he recounts the Librarian before him who helped to develop the collection in its earliest days, as well as notable events - the evacuation of 45,000 books in 1941, the rebuilding of the structure to accommodate a new capacity of students and books (opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother), the addition of a rare books room, and the naming of the library thus in 1967, after the then Vice-Chancellor. The pamphlet ends with a hint at modernisation, although as Larkin quotes directly from a colleague, “Hull Library automation is a dead duck”. 


In an article published in the year of the poet’s 100th birthday, Stewart Mottram, Senior Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Hull, reassessed popular opinion of Larkin’s  time as Librarian. Many, he claims, are of the belief “that Larkin would have been greater still were it not for the demands of his day job as a librarian at the University of Hull ''. However, he continues, Larkin was “a serious and conscientious librarian”. Drawing on minutes of library committees, as well as correspondence written by the poet at the time, and in particular his interviews for the University newspaper, Mottram reveals a different story: “I was under the impression,” Larkin wrote to the editor of Torchlight, “that the Library is the one thing in the University of Hull which its students can claim is better than in any other university of our age and size.”


Perhaps the best evidence for Larkin’s opinion of his workplace, however, can be found in his poem written especially on that subject, and entitled Library Ode


New eyes each year

Find old books here,

And new books, too,

Old eyes renew;

So youth and age

Like ink and page

In this house join,

Minting new coin.


In total, Larkin held the position of Librarian at the University of Hull for 30 years, between 1955 and 1985.

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