The Library contents are made up of a number of sections:
The Society’s Journal
These contain learned research papers reflecting the contemporary thinking of those leading the developments that have taken place in Agriculture in its widest meaning, prize essays and many reports of competitions staged by the Society to promote both good agricultural practice as well as encouraging the development of new machinery.
The catalogues of the Royal Show
These contain, not only valuable historical records relating to the breeding and ownership of livestock, including all prize-winners, but also provide a fascinating insight into the contemporary developments which were taking place in the evolution of farm machinery as is evidenced in the entries relating to the Trade Exhibitors.
Complete sets of circulars & documents and records of the proceedings of the Council are also held.
Older records, including minutes of the earlier meetings, membership lists and accounts are lodged alongside other of the Society’s important archives in the Museum of English Rural Life at the University of Reading. The records of the old Board of Agriculture are also lodged there.
Serials and journals
Journals, other than the Society's Journal, form an important part of the collection. They include extensive runs of 18th 19th & early 20th Century publications such as The Farmers' Magazine (1776 – 1864), Annals of Agriculture (1786 – 1808), Agricultural Magazine (1806 – 1855), Quarterly Journal of Agriculture (1828 – 1868), The Agricultural Gazette (1876 – 1890) and a complete set of The Board of Agriculture / MAFF Journals (1894 – 1972).
Long runs of the journals of The Highland and Agricultural Society, The Bath and West and Southern Counties Agricultural Society and The Welsh Journal for Agricultural are also held, as are the journals of The Farmers’ Club, The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers, The Land Agents’ Society and The Country Gentleman’s Magazine.
The Annual Reports of the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (NFYFC) and, a complete run of Young Farmer Magazine are held for safe keeping on behalf of NFYFC together with their photographic archive.
A recent accession is a long run of the Implement & Machinery Review/Farm Implement & Machinery Review (1876-1956, some early volumes are missing). They will be of particular interest to those researching the development of farm machinery as well as collectors of vintage farm equipment.
The complete collection of press cuttings of Farm Mail edited by John Winter (Daily Mail 1959-1979) presents a fascinating insight into the journalist’s approach to presenting topics of agricultural interest to a largely lay readership, and identifies the importance placed on the subject by editors of the period.
Pre 1700 publications
Although modest in size, the holding, which dates back to1486, contains important works of this period and includes renowned authors such as Bacon, de Crescentiis, de Grey, Dodoen, Estienne, Evelyn, Hartlib, Hyll, Markham, Tatti, Tusser and Worlidge.
1700 to 1839 publications
A number of these holdings are technical books published prior to 1840. They include such gems as Flora Londinensis ‘Plates and Descriptions of Plants as grow wild in the Environs of London’ - William Curtis, 1798; Hortus Gramineus Woburnensis ‘An account of the results of experiments on the produce and nutritive qualities of different grasses and other plants instituted by John, Duke of Bedford’ - George Sinclair, 1816 and ‘The Breeds of the domestic animals of the British Islands’ described by David Low, in two volumes.
Other notable authors include Bradley, Garrard, Hale, Harte, and Hunter; early Cyclopedia by Morton, Wilson, Green and Potts are also featured.
The County Agricultural Surveys (both first and revised editions are held), commissioned and published by the old Board of Agriculture c1790 – 1810 feature in this section, alongside works by Sir John Sinclair, Bt, President of the Board and Arthur Young, its Secretary and one of the more prolific writers of the period.
Social history and economics are well represented with a first edition of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations and Sir John Eden’s State of the Poor included in the holding.
Post 1839 Publications
The major portion of the library is comprised of books published after 1839 and includes the annual additions of books to keep the library historically up to date. This part of the collection reflects the policy of the Society of the annual purchase of landmark books.
The accessions policy that the Society has followed since its formation has enabled a contemporary holding of books to be assembled reflecting agricultural publications over some 160 years. This policy of ensuring that landmark books are regularly purchased is being maintained so as to ensure that the library continues to reflect both the technical developments taking place within the industry and the thinking of leading contemporary agricultural and rural social history writers.
Both horticulture and forestry are well represented in this section.
The Gilbey Pamphlets
A prized and rare collection of papers, published from the late 18th up to the middle of the 19th Century, they were assembled, bound by and then acquired from Sir Walter Gilbey Bt, President (1895 – 96) and provide a fascinating insight into the topics, be they political or of a technical nature, which were occupying the minds of writers of the period.
Topics include The Corn Laws, with fiercely argued cases both for and against; The Poor Laws; the development of agricultural machinery and implements, illustrated with manufacturers’ catalogues; the reclamation of heath and wetlands; early livestock breeding, supported by sale catalogues of the time, and a wide range of contemporary statistical data.
It is believed that some of these pamphlets may well be unique and a number of them certainly do not appear in the catalogues of other major collections. Many of them contain hand written notations added by readers to page margins over a long period of time.
Other areas of special interest
Throughout the Library there are a number of subject areas that may be of special interest to both students and researchers: these include Agricultural Economics, Rural Social History, Early Livestock Breeding including European breeds, Horticulture, Forestry and Poultry.
We welcome visitors to the library by prior arrangement. There is no charge for access but we do ask for a donation towards running costs. Visits by researchers are welcomed but books may not be removed. The best days to visit are Tuesdays and Thursdays when our librarian is in attendance.
RASE, Librarian: email@example.com, telephone 02476 853076.
You can search through the library database here. It will provide you with access to the library catalogue that can be searched in a number of ways including by 'keywords' - just type in the details of title/author etc. or a keyword such as RASE and run the search facility. You will be presented with a list of all entries that are relevant.
You can access some of our library information directly here:
List of obituaries and biographical notes appearing in the Society’s Journal
This lists all obituaries and main biographical notes published in the Society’s Journal. Entries are confined to individuals who were involved with the Society.
For many years the Society ran a competition for Prize Farms. An integral part of the Society’s policy of fostering good agricultural practice, it was restricted to entrants farming in counties that either hosted or were adjacent to the peripatetic Royal Show. It ran from 1870 – 1892 (not 1889) and was revived from 1907 –1915.
This list records the prize winners. The detailed descriptions of many of these prize winning farms are featured in contemporary editions of the Society Journal. They provide an interesting insight into farming practices at a time when intense development was taking place in the industry and some were known to have changed the name of their farm to ‘Model Farm’ as a result of this success!
The Society’s library holds a complete run of the revised and of many of the original surveys of counties in the British Isles commissioned by the old Board of Agriculture during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It also has a number of early survey works by authors such as Sir John Sinclair and Arthur Young.
In addition, from its formation in 1838, the Society has run competitions for prize essays and reports, and has commissioned articles for the Journal, many of which are related to the state of agriculture. The Society also commissioned a number of county reports that were published between 1954 and 1969.
For convenience they are listed in alphabetical order.
The Library holdings have a number of publications relating to breeds of livestock. In addition, the Society’s Journal has, over the years, published numerous articles relating to particular breeds. In each case, regardless of the general nature of a title, all entries listed include descriptions of one or more breeds of livestock.
The list is alphabetical.