Saltram’s library is a wonderful example of an evolving family collection. In 1780, the library moved from its former location (where the dining room now is) to its current spot. Anne Robinson wrote in 1796 that the shelves were enlarged ‘to make more room for books.
Book lovers today will no doubt sympathise with Anne’s need for more storage! In 1818, architect John Foulston remodelled the library, knocking together the previous music and eating room into one, single space. Where the old dividing wall had been, Foulston installed scagliola pillars.
As libraries became more popular, demand for library furniture that was both beautiful and useful also grew. Saltram has a few examples of this so-called ‘metamorphic’ furniture. This includes ‘Campbell’s Newly invented Library Steps’ which neatly packs away into a table. Likewise, a chair designed after Morgan and Standers of London, is a comfortable sit. Turned upside down, it suddenly becomes a set of steps - useful for reaching the highest books.
Nuremberg Chronicle - 1493
The oldest book in the library is a copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle. This was published in 1493 and tells the story of the history of the world. Unusually for its time, it contains numerous woodcut prints illustrations - around 1800 of them! Saltram’s copy originally belonged to a monastery in Bavaria. It came to Saltram at a time in the 19th century when such texts were being acquired to show the wealth and education of the collector.
Light relief – novels
Alongside such serious, historic texts, the library also has a lighter side. Novels were normally borrowed from libraries rather than purchased. The fact that Saltram has its own novel collection is really unusual. We know that members of the family borrowed them to read so perhaps Saltram acted as a sort of lending library to family and friends? When it was published in 1813, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice proved as popular amongst the Parkers as it did wider society. A letter recalls how John Parker III thought that he resembled the book’s hero - Mr Darcy. Whilst a friend – Fanny Smith – apparently commented that the overbearing Mrs Bennet was very much like her own mother!