Our next stop along our Open Houses Day route was the Royal Society of Antiquaries, founded in 1707. Today, their 3,000 Fellows include many distinguished archaeologists and art and architectural historians holding positions of responsibility across the cultural heritage. The Fellowship is international in its reach and its interests are inclusive of all aspects of the material past. The Society previously had offices in Somerset House before moving in 1874 to a suite of purpose built apartments in the courtyard of Burlington House, Piccadilly, which offered the Society substantially larger rooms. The Society is also responsible for their Library and Museum collections (at Burlington House and at Kelmscott Manor) and offers conservation and research grant awards, a varied programme of events (lectures and seminars), communications such as publications, a website and e-newsletter.

The entire building was filled with fabulous architecture, but you will understand that Victoria and I were both especially interested in the Library.

From the Society’s website: For 300 years the Library has been at the heart of the Society, helping to shape our understanding of the past. The Library is the largest antiquarian library in the country, with an outstanding collection of more than 130,000 books dating from the fifteenth century to the present day, holdings of historic journals and over 500 current subscriptions, manuscripts and archives, and prints and drawings. It covers British and European archaeology, architectural history, art history and the decorative arts (especially medieval), the historic environment, and British local history. Its collection of county historical and archaeological publications is one of the most comprehensive in the country, as its collection of European journals. Our special collections include 2,000 proclamations from 1464 to the mid-nineteenth century, 1,000 broadsides including a printed indulgence from 1513, the Lowther collection of Civil War tracts, the Fairholt Collection on pageantry, the Prattinton Collection on Worcestershire, the Jackson Collection on Wiltshire, the Willson Collection on Lincolnshire, the archives of the Society of Dilettanti and the Roxburghe Club Library. 


  1. I'd love to see the archives of the Society of Dilettanti! (It sounds much more disreputable than it really is; apparently it is a society of noblemen and scholars which sponsors the study of ancient Greek and Roman art, and the creation of new work in the style.)

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