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Coleraine Library

The Henry Davis Collection

This is a brief introduction to the Henry Davis Collection of early printed books held at the Library of the University of Ulster in Coleraine


Henry Davis, 1897-1977, was a businessman who owned factories in London and Belfast, making telephone cable. To escape from this, and in order to provide himself with an interest in his retirement, he began to collect old books. At first he was mainly interested in fine bindings, but his interest grew to encompass the subject matters of the books also.

The bulk of Henry Davis's collection was left to the British Library, but in order to mark his enjoyment of his time in Northern Ireland, he decided to leave a part of his collection to the New University of Ulster, established in Coleraine in 1968.

The collection consists of some 190 printed items, and a few manuscripts, ranging from a leaf of the first book printed using moveable type, the Gutenberg Bible, to the works of the Gregynog and other private twentieth-century presses, and includes examples of the work of some of the most notable of the early printers, especially Aldus Manutius, Nicolas Jenson and Johann and Peter Schoeffer. There are 57 incunabula items dated before 1500 - many of which are still in their original bindings.

The collection is a valuable resource for anyone interested in the history of printing and book illustration, literature, the classics, the Renaissance and the development of scientific thought. Visitors and researchers are always welcome, and there are regular seminars on the collection for students of various disciplines.

A full catalogue of the collection has been published, and is available from the University Library.

  • The Ulster Gift: books presented to the University of Ulster, Benedikt S. Benedikz. Coleraine, University of Ulster,1990 (ISBN: 1871206707). Price 20.

We have highlighted a few of the more interesting items in the collection to give some idea of its scope and importance. Brief catalogue details are given, and these are accompanied by selected illustrations.

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