The Morrab is an independent library established in 1818, situated in Penzance’s Morrab Gardens overlooking the sea.
In Penwith we are lucky to possess a rare, remarkable and rewarding thing – a large independent library.
The Morrab Library is rare because it is the only one in Cornwall and there are only 30 in the United Kingdom. It is one of the largest – ranking sixth, with more than 70,000 volumes and is strong in literature, history, biography, antiquities, topography and travel and religion.
It is remarkable because it houses a marvellous series of collections which have gradually been acquired since the library was founded in 1818. The Jenner Room has brought together its extensive Cornish collection and its holdings on the other Celtic countries as a centre for Celtic studies.
Some 2,750 of its books were printed before 1801. The Library offers great research potential in its extensive runs of eighteenth- and nineteenth- century periodicals, among which are over a century of Cornish newspapers which start before 1850. There are seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Parliamentary Reports, nineteenth-century Blue Books and Historic Manuscript Commission Reports.
A local history study group, run with the help of Exeter University’s Centre for South Western Historical Studies, is based on the Library and has produced three books on local history with a fourth in preparation.
There is a collection of 3,000 Napoleonic memorabilia, which has been described as “the only great Napoleonic collection in the world”; whilst the Library’s photographic archive has a computerized catalogue of over 10,000 prints and negatives of antiquities, places, people and events in West Cornwall. It has recently acquired a further 15,000 transparencies of buildings, industrial archaeology and related interest.
It is rewarding because it is a real pleasure to be there. Some of that is due to the building itself — a fine Victorian mansion set in delightful gardens, with large and comfortable rooms.
The Reading Room, with its current magazines and reference books, is especially sunny and welcoming — although members use every room as a reading room, except perhaps the pantry where they make themselves coffee. But above all thanks to its members and staff, the Morrab has the happy atmosphere of an unstuffy club.
That atmosphere is probably why most people join the Morrab, certainly why they stay in membership. Although it’s a rich resource for research, the vast majority of members come along for the latest novel or non-fiction book, but they also come to meet with other members. It is a library for all who like books and people and its membership has been steadily growing. We hope that if you are not a member you will pay us a visit and take a look around. In the meantime enjoy our website.