Books in Special Collections aren’t here just because of their subject matter. Many of them are unique because of their ownership history or how they have been used in the past. Every-day life on the railroad, a book belonging to our Transport History Collection, has an inscription inside revealing that it was originally purchased in 1901 to be awarded as a school prize for “perfect attendance and perseverance” to a boy called Armstrong.
From him, it somehow made its way to the railway historian, David Garnett, and formed part of his bequest to the library in 1984. Garnett was born in 1909, so I wonder at what point the book passed into his hands?
The book itself was published by the Religious Tract Society, and seems a strange choice of subject matter for a religious group. The Society originally published evangelical material, but from the 1860s onwards also published material aimed at children and women. The majority of this book covers the history of the railways in Britain, and only the appendix is religious, entitled Christian work on the railway, about the work of the Railway Mission (something which featured in our blog post last year about the Up and Down Lines poster).
As well as books, the Garnett Collection, includes many railway maps, particularly those produced from 1869 by John Airey, an employee of the Railway Clearing House (RCH), and subsequently by the RCH itself. It also includes Ordnance Survey maps and railway maps produced by the various railway companies and catalogues and research notes made by Garnett himself.