The establishment of the Hull Subscription Library was probably the most important library development in Hull before the coming of the public libraries in 1893. It was founded in 1775 at the instigation of Thomas Lee, a local merchant, when an inaugural meeting of 50 people drew up a code of rules and appointed a committee.
The admission fee was fixed at one guinea and the annual subscription at 12 shillings. The first premises were part of the bookshop of Thomas Browne, who was paid 10 guineas per annum for rent and his services as librarian and secretary. In 1801 the Library moved to a new purpose-built library building and in 1855 moved again to share the Royal Institution, designed by Cuthbert Broderick, with the Hull Literary and Philosophical Society.
The stock consisted almost from the beginning of foreign and standard works together with serials, popular fiction and non-fiction, growing to 80,000 items before financial difficulties led to sales of books in the 1910s and 1920s. The Library also subscribed to Mudie’s Circulating Library to give its members access to popular new books. After the destruction of the Royal Institution in an air raid in 1943, the Library moved into temporary premises and then in 1958 to Hull Church Institute. The impending closure of the Institute together with rising costs led to the closure of the Library in 1970. Its stock of about 16,000 items, mostly fiction and biography, was sold at auction in 1975.
What records will I find in the collection?
The collection (ref U DSL) consists of records for Hull Subscription Library, including minute books of annual, general and committee meetings, attendance books for committee meetings, material relating to shares, including the shareholders’ register and shareholders’ subscription accounts.
A series relates to accounts and vouchers including librarian’s annual accounts, book purchase accounts and receipts and payments.
The collection also includes documents detailing the library’s rules, orders and laws; catalogues, which include lists of subscribers; correspondence; and miscellaneous items including the visitors’ book and reports relating to other libraries.
How do I access the Collection?
The collection is available for anyone to use in our searchroom.