Our large Book Collection is a mix of reference books about the local area, its history and its people, and historic as well as important editions that form the collections proper. Reference works and primary sources include original trade directories and bound photocopies of a short run of Kelly’s directories, as well as books written by past and present members of the Museum and Wimbledon Society.
Old and important books from the mid-16th – 20th centuries include: John Evelyn’s Sylva (1694), Frederick Marryat’s The Universal Code of Signals for the Mercantile Marine of all Nations (1854), Joseph Toynbee’s Hints on the Formation of Local Museums (1863), and Sphairistike (1874) by Walter Wingfield, as well as personal, school, and family bibles. Books also interrelate with other items and archives in the Collections. Histories by Bartlett (1865) and others illustrated with local views are an invaluable record of old Wimbledon. A few have amusing additions, for example an Edwardian schoolboy’s history textbook with a doodle, a caricature perhaps of his teacher. The earliest book is a compendium of extracts from the gospels by Thomas Paynell in 1553.
We have also begun to collect children’s books and have a charming and growing collection of books once owned by local youngsters in the Victorian period and early 20th century, as well as some modern ones by local authors. Many early children’s books are battered and worn, showing how much they were loved and read. Better preserved and more pristine are copies of edifying works to be read on Sunday afternoons.