All posts by Helen

Plume Lecture 2021 – Libraries in the Age of Thomas Plume: Fragility and Perseverance

by Professor Andrew Pettegree and Dr Arthur der Weduwen

Thomas Plume was one of the great English collectors of the seventeenth century. Although he was not unusual in bequeathing his collection to his hometown, the longevity of his library was exceptional. In this lecture, Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen place the Plume Library in this wider context: securing its future in an age when other institutional libraries struggled for survival, and parish and city libraries were often smaller collections than those of private collectors. This lecture will demonstrate the essential and underrated part that private collecting has played in the development of the library; and reflect upon the inherent fragility of the institutional library, in Plume’s time as in every age.

Andrew Pettegree, FBA is Professor of Modern History at the University of St Andrews and Director of the Universal Short Title Catalogue. He is the author of over a dozen books in the fields of Reformation history and the history of communication including Reformation and the Culture of PersuasionThe Book in the RenaissanceThe Invention of News, and Brand Luther: 1517, Print and the Making of the Reformation.

Arthur der Weduwen is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of St Andrews and Deputy Director of the Universal Short Title Catalogue. He researches and writes on the history of the Dutch Republic, books, news, libraries and early modern politics. He is the author of Dutch and Flemish Newspapers of the Seventeenth CenturyThe Bookshop of the World. Making and Trading Books in the Dutch Golden Age (co-authored with Andrew Pettegree) and two books on early newspaper advertising in the Netherlands.

The Library: A Fragile History, is published by Profile on 14 October.

7 pm, 23 October 2021 at the United Reformed Church, Market Hill

Please book seats in / 01621 854850. Free entry; donation box available.

Copies of The Library: A Fragile History will be on sale, together with the recent Plume biography: Dr Thomas Plume (1630-1704): His life and legacies in Essex, Kent and Cambridge.


Heritage Open Day 2020:

Saturday 12 September 

Link to a video of the Exhibition

We will be open on 12 September 2020 from 10am to 4pm for tours of the Library and our exhibition on Hidden Nature.

Please telephone 01621 854850 to book an appointment for one household bubble for a 20-minute session.

Re-opening in july

The Library will be re-opening on Tuesday 7th July 2020, initially by appointment only, during our normal opening hours (Tuesday-Thursday 2-4, Saturday 10-12).

Please telephone: 01621 854850, or email

to book either:

  • a 20-minute visitor tour (1-2 adults plus up to 2 children per tour); or
  • a reader appointment for up to two hours.

Please comply with our safety procedures when asked, by using the hand sanitiser provided and maintaining a 2m distance from our staff.

If you feel at all unwell or have coronavirus symptoms, please defer your visit.

Can you help us with raising some money to safeguard our collection?

The Library ceiling needs to be replaced urgently, and we need to remove and store the books, manuscripts, and paintings before the work takes place.

In addition to applying to various fundraising bodies for help, we have created a “Sponsor-a-Shelf” scheme, where sponsors can make a donation (suggested minimum of £50 by a group or an individual). The sponsors’ names will be displayed on a list of benefactors in the Library and they will receive a certificate of thanks.

As well as our 148 shelves of books, our pictures and chest of manuscripts can also be sponsored (for the pictures and the chest suggested minimum donations of £100 and £500 respectively). Our globe has already been claimed with a donation of £250. We hope to raise upwards of £10,000 towards the cost of the work.

We hope that you will be able to participate in our scheme. Please telephone or email us to find out more, and we hope you will come to visit the Library soon!


Plume Lecture 2019

The Plume lecture took place on Saturday 16th November in the United reformed Church Maldon. The guest speaker was actor and President of the Independent Libraries Association, Neil Pearson.

Plume Library Trustee and High Sheriff of Essex, Dr James Bettley’s conversation with Neil ranged over a number of topics: his acting career, his collection of rare books, his authorship of Obelisk: A History of Jack Kahane and the Obelisk Press, and his business as a rare books dealer.

Neil was eloquent in his enthusiasm and knowledge and the audience, of over one hundred people, responded with laughter, rapt attention and thoughtful questions.

The Archive Project

The Library is pleased to announce that that our recent application to the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust has been successful. This will enable staff and volunteers to make significant progress with the conservation and cataloging of the archive.

This money, together with a grant from the Friends of Thomas Plume’s Library, a bequest from Catherine Whitworth Jones and a contribution from the Trustees will enable us to finish the project which has been a goal of the Library’s Trustees for some time.
On completion of the project, which is expected to be by January 2018, it will be possible to make these items available to our users and make them known via the OPAC. This will be a real achievement and will make this valuable resource available to academics, students, and local and family historians for the first time.