Belton’s love of books

Belton House Library

Belton’s second-hand bookshop helps raise funds to support our conservation work and keep the collection special, and every penny counts.

One of our ongoing projects is preserving the very special book collection in our Library. Belton House has one of the largest libraries in the care of the National Trust and contains many rare and important books.

Caring for over 20,000 books can be quite a challenge…

Our collection isn’t simply located in the Library and Study; the attic rooms are also packed full of more amazing volumes all of which require the same TLC as our books on display.

We continually need to raise funds for our ongoing conservation work on the books in our care. Sometimes this can mean sending books away to specialist conservators, but we do a lot of the work here at Belton with our specially-trained team of volunteers.

While the house is closed, the team diligently work their way around the library shelves, cleaning, examining and recording the details of each inspected book. Book conservation is a year-round task, often complicated by unexpected finds.

Inspecting old books for damage
Beltons ook conservation
Inspecting old books for damage

When the conservation team check each book, they have to take great care not to inflict any further damage to the volumes. They search diligently for any insect activity, tears, rips and weird insertions. They're particularly careful when checking for mould;  inhaling live mould spores can cause serious lung problems. Each conservation volunteer receives training on how to deal with such an eventuality to minimise risks to both the team and visitors.

Cleaning with care
Careful book cleaning
Cleaning with care

Every time we look in detail through the books we find new treasures. Many of the books are full of handwritten inscriptions and annotations. These little notes were written by the members of the Brownlow family as they read the books.

John Cust's Eton textbook
John Cust's Eton textbook
John Cust's Eton textbook

One rather battered Latin Primer seems to have suffered this fate at the hands of an old Etonian Brownlow as it contains a very precise ink drawing of one of his classmates - which he even found the time to colour in!

Among the reference works and novels are some very special gems. We even have a volume which documents the types of punishment which had been meted out to religious nonconformists over the centuries with helpful, cartoon-like illustrations of many of these punishments. Not a book for the faint-hearted!

Collect treasures of your own

So when you're next exploring the stable yard at Belton House, why not pop into the second-hand bookshop in the Carriage House, to find some treasures for your own book collection?

Vintage books
Vintage books in the second hand bookshop
Vintage books

Belton has an excellent second-hand bookshop where you can find a huge range of preloved bargains. A dedicated team of volunteers are kept busy sorting through donations to ensure the shelves are constantly brimming with books.

From bestselling fiction to art, history, and travel, there’s a selection of wonderful reads, thanks to generous donations from visitors. Book donations are always welcome.