The Archives and the Library of the Natural History Society of Northumbria are housed in the GNM Hancock Library. The Library was established in 1829 when the Society was founded. The collection now comprises over 10,000 books and 500 periodicals, of which some 100 are current. It holds a wealth of material on natural history, particularly that of the North East of England. It also contains current material on subjects including flora and fauna, ornithology, geology, ecology, the history of natural history and biodiversity.
The collection incorporates material published in the 16th century, such as Pierre Belon’s “Histoire de la Nature des Oyseaux” and William Turner’s “A New Herball”, as well as a number of titles from the 17th and 18th centuries. Included in the Rare Books area of the Library are the finely-bound illustrated works donated by William C. Hewitson and the collection of books relating to the Newcastle illustrator Thomas Bewick. Other notable collections include complete sets of the publications of the Ray Society, the Palaeontographical Society and the Collins New Naturalists Series.
The Archives of the Natural History Society of Northumbria are also located in the Library, providing an important resource for the study of the history of natural history in the North East of England. The Archive covers all aspects of natural history, zoology, botany and geology and includes internationally important material, notably the original watercolours, pencil drawings and proof engravings by Thomas Bewick, the Northumbria-born naturalist and wood engraver.
The collections contain many photographs, manuscript letters, diaries, notebooks and other autograph material relating to renowned northern naturalists such as Bewick, Abel Chapman, George Bolam, John Hancock , William Hewitson, Thomas Bold, Thomas Atthey and many others. In addition, the Society’s own records, dating from its foundation in 1829, form one of the most complete accounts of the history of a natural history society and its museum collections in existence.
The Library is open to everyone with no membership required but please speak to the Library staff before travelling. The Archive material is available to view by appointment only. Please contact the GNM Hancock Library to arrange a visit.