Policies for the acquisition of printed books at the British Museum Library, 1837-1960 : with particular attention to the procurement of works from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America
Using Panizzi's 1837 declaration to the Trustees of the British Museum as the model, the acquisitions policy for a national library is a statement of the need to acquire the national printed archive followed by an indication of the desirable coverage of foreign publishing. Minimum requirements to achieve this are adequate finance, a knowledgeable staff, sufficient space for both the staff and the collections and the ability to make resources available. The role of Panizzi in ensuring the status of the British Museum Library as the national collection has been well documented. Less well known is the part played by his subordinates and successors in helping him and in ensuring that his ideals were implemented and amplified. The more notable of these have been neglected by library history, the more pedestrian completely forgotten. The period from the later 1850s through the 1880s were years of liberal funding and acquisitions growth matched only by that of the first decade of the British Library. It seems possible that even the recent halcyon days will not match the extraordinary development of the collections during the earlier period. Legal deposit, even though difficult to enforce overseas, and a system of international exchanges played an important role when government was forced to curtail the generous grant. It is not feasible to draw firm conclusions about the percentage of world publishing acquired by the British Museum Library as most countries do not yet have accurate figures for their printed output, nor is it possible to be definite about the quantities procured by the Library since the basis for reporting additions changed frequently. In order to gain a picture of what and how material was obtained it was necessary to make lists of registers and receipt books now in the departmental archives. These lists are reproduced in tables and appendices.