The historic library at Audley End

During the academic year 2018-19 Dr Abigail Brundin collaborated with English Heritage to conduct research in the historic library at Audley End House in Essex. Historic libraries and their books tend to be overlooked in the interpretation of and visitor engagement with country houses. Brundin’s work over a number of years with heritage organisations has aimed to bring these important collections of books more fully into view, open them to researchers and embed them centrally in the visitor experience.

At Audley End, an exhibition focusing on tourism and travel, ‘Souvenirs of Italy: an English family abroad’, was in situ in the library from April 1 to October 31 2019. It told the story of a very personal grand tour, motivated by a family bereavement, through a variety of books and manuscripts, as well as some beautiful objects and images.

A parallel digital exhibition, hosted by Cambridge University Library, showcased books from the library at Audley End that belonged to Sir Thomas Hoby, the sixteenth-century English courtier and translator, whose translation of Castiglione’s Book of the Courtier had a huge impact at the English court and beyond. The books from Audley End were digitally displayed along with other books from Hoby’s library that are now in Cambridge and London libraries. 

Both of these projects aim to showcase the research potential of the historic libraries now in the care of our major heritage organisations, and the value of collaborations with the higher education sector.