Sir Louis Sterling and his library*

Sir Louis Sterling (1879-1958) is associated today with the Sterling Library, a rare-book collection housed in an oak-panelled room in the Senate House Library of the University of London. Although his name is preserved by his eponymous collection, Sterling was not one of those collectors who are swallowed up by their collection, dedicating their lives to accumulating and curating. Instead, the development of Sterling’s library is best understood within the context of his life as a whole – a life in which rare books played only one part. I shall begin, therefore, with an overview of Sterling’s life and career, before turning to a description of his book collec tion – its development, its nature and how it came to the University of London.

Sterling’s life and career

In broad strokes, Sterling’s life is a classic rags-to-riches tale tied to the rapid technological developments of the early twentieth century. It

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