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Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge Archives

200 volumes and 121 archive boxes

The fourth major body of 19th century material held at Special Collections after the College's archives, the papers of Lord Brougham and Jeremy Bentham. The records of the Society were deposited in 1848 and supplemented by printed publications which came with the Ogden library. They consist primarily of minutes, financial records, manuscripts of unpublished texts and correspondence. The Society's aim was to 'impart useful information to all classes of the community', by acting as the intermediary between authors and publishers. The collection provides interesting details on what one section of society thought would provide education for another. There is much useful information on the reading preferences of the public, and on the growth and development of Mechanics Institutes. Most of those concerned with the founding of the Society as a project in self-education were also involved in the founding of the new University of London (now UCL), and some, like Augustus De Morgan and George Long actually taught there. There is also considerable information on the work of publishers, illustrators, engravers and booksellers and on writers, whether already established authorities in their field or young hopefuls like G.H.Lewes.

Handlist: The Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, 1826-1848: a handlist of the Society's correspondence and papers, compiled by. J. Percival (London, 1978).