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Bloomsbury Project

Bloomsbury Institutions


Crew’s Circulating Library

Also known as Spencer’s Library/Crew and Spencer’s


Its origins go back at least to 1800, by which time Richard Spencer was well-established as a publisher; his son, Richard Spencer jr, continued the business (Walter Spencer [son of Richard Spencer jr], Freemasonry: Its Outward and Visible Signs, 1875)

Crew’s business was established by 1815 as a circulating library (The Times, 22 August 1815)

In 1826 the two businesses merged as Crew and Spencer’s, booksellers and stationers, but the partnership only lasted until 1832 (Walter Spencer, Freemasonry: Its Outward and Visible Signs, 1875)

Both continued in the trade, however; Spencer continued to publish from new premises, and Crew remained as a bookseller and stationer in the premises they had shared in Lamb’s Conduit Street

Crew was a man of many interests; he became a correspondent of Dickens in the 1830s and 1840s, and was an “amateur tenor singer of some repute” (Letters of Charles Dickens, vol. 3: 1842–1843, ed Madeline House, Graham Storey, and Kathleen Tillotson, 1974)

Richard Spencer senior had combined his publishing business with the sale of Masonic regalia, a trade which his son, a prominent Mason, continued (Rebecca Coombes, ‘Fraternal Communications: The Rise of the English Masonic Periodical’, Masonic Periodicals Online, mpol.cch.kcl.ac.uk); he also published the Freemasons’ Quarterly Magazine and Review in the 1850s

Francis Crew was also a prominent Mason; he became first Master of the newly-formed Hertford Lodge in 1829, and was Secretary of the Royal Masonic Institution for Girls

The business no longer exists as a library or publishers, although the Spencers’ trade in Masonic paraphernalia was eventually subsumed into the company of Toye Kenning and Spencer, makers of medals, silverware, and regalia of all kinds

What was reforming about it?

Both businesses were also involved in the publication and promotion of Freemasonry

Where in Bloomsbury

Richard Spencer’s original publishing business was in Great Ormond Street, opposite the Lord Chancellor’s residence (Walter Spencer, Freemasonry: Its Outward and Visible Signs, 1875)

Francis Crew’s library was originally at no. 1 Grenville Street (The Times, 27 December 1819; 19 September 1827)

When the two businesses merged, it was at 27 Lamb’s Conduit Street

Following the dissolution of the partnership, Crew remained as a bookseller and stationer at 27 Lamb’s Conduit Street (Pigot’s Directory, 1839; Post Office directories, 1843, 1848), while Spencer moved to 314 High Holborn

Website of current institution

The successor institution is Toye Kenning and Spencer, www.toye.com (opens in new window)

Books about it

None found


None found

This page last modified 13 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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