Leeds University Library

Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society Collections

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Search the collections and archives of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society. You can find papers, proceedings, and reports on the Society’s activities as well as its book collection and a collection of technical drawings and correspondence related to the inventor Louis Le Prince.

About the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society

The Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society was founded in 1819. It played an important role in further education in the sciences and the humanities in Leeds throughout most of the 19th century.

Changing patterns of higher education and other circumstances before the First World War caused the Society to reconsider the scope of its activities. It concentrated its efforts on publishing the results of research, and transferred its museum to the City of Leeds and its library to the University.

In 1925 it launched two series of Proceedings; Scientific, and Literary & Historical.

The Proceedings are now discontinued, but the Society still sponsors occasional publications and it maintains the tradition of publishing annual reports on its activities.

Currently the Society’s principal activities are its programme of public lectures and scheme of competitive grants to groups, societies, and individuals, focusing on projects with a connection to Leeds.

The Society deposited its papers on the understanding that anybody wishing to make substantial use of them, or to publish substantial extracts, shall seek permission from the President of the Society.

What’s in the archive

The archive contains many of the Society’s business records including Council minute books, bye-laws and correspondence dating from its inception in 1819 to the early 2000s.

It also encompasses financial and legal documents relating to the Society’s affairs. There are papers regarding its membership particularly in the 19th century and some members’ publications.

Archives relating to the Society’s educational activities include lecture programmes from the 1930s and library records from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

What’s in the Book collection

The Society’s book collection ranges widely over many disciplines, especially scientific subjects. It doesn’t just cover British research, but also American and Canadian publications.

A handful of works date from the 17th century, around a hundred from the 18th and the rest are spread from 1800 to 2000.

The collection has many long runs of journals and series. It is a useful resource for students of the history of science. The zoology section includes a remarkable number of handbooks and catalogues of species.

Reports of the Society Council

The collection contains a complete run from 1819 to the present of the Society’s annual reports on its activities.

Louis Le Prince Collection

The Society’s collection also contains material related to the inventor Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince (28 August 1841–vanished 16 September 1890). Le Prince was known for using a single lens camera to shoot the first moving pictures.

The Louis Le Prince Collection includes annotated technical drawings of cameras and lighting equipment.

The correspondence files contain letters sent by Le Prince to his wife, Lizzie, in which he describes testing his inventions. Other letters dated after Le Prince’s disappearance were written by his son, Adolphe, and chief mechanic, James Longley.