Henry Crabb Robinson
Henry Crabb Robinson (1775-1867): archive collection.
Robinson was apprenticed to an attorney in Colchester at the age of fourteen. There he began to read, first using his master’s library and then borrowing books for a penny a night from the town’s circulating library. He eventually built up an exceptional private library of his own, and his collection of German works attracted a number of scholars including George Eliot. Robinson gave many books away towards the end of his life. A selection of the remaining books went to Dr Williams’s Library, of which Robinson was a trustee; and some books, especially those that had gone to Edwin Wilkins Field, were donated to the Library in the early twentieth century. A portion of the German volumes contain Robinson’s own marginalia, and since they stand in particular need of conservation, would be suitable items for adoption.
The vast manuscript collection (see the online catalogue) consists of 4 volumes of Reminiscences; correspondence principally in 32 large guard books; various pocket diaries, memorandum books and other diaries prior to 1811; 33 volumes of diary from 1811 onwards; 29 volumes of travel diaries; and ‘bundles’ containing miscellaneous papers. For the book historian this material is of particular importance as Robinson purchased blank books from stationers from all over Europe. His collection of correspondence, too, is a potentially rich source for the study of English and European handmade laid and wove paper. A great respecter of books and archives, Robinson himself took impeccable care of his collection. The archive is now housed in an environmentally controlled storage area in the Library strong room. Much work on conservation and storage remains to be done, most urgently for the correspondence. For the book historian this material is of particular importance as Robinson purchased blank books from stationers from all over Europe. His collection of correspondence, too, is a potentially rich source for the study of English and European handmade laid and wove paper.
All conservation work on the collection also assists the Crabb Robinson Project, the largest project of the Dr Williams’s Centre for Dissenting Studies. Under the series editorship of Timothy Whelan and James Vigus, Oxford University Press is contracted to publish Robinson’s Reminiscences in 4 volumes, a volume of early miscellaneous diaries, and the main Diary (1811-1867) in c.35 volumes.