Records of Hull Subscription Library

Scope and Content

The collection consists of records for Hull Subscription Library, including minute books of annual general, general and committee meetings, attendance books for committee meetings, material relating to shares, including the shareholders' register and shareholders' subscription accounts. A series relates to accounts and vouchers [U DSL/25-49] including librarian's annual accounts, book purchase accounts and receipts and payments. The collection also includes documents detailing the library's rules, orders and laws; catalogues, which include lists of subscribers; correspondence, and miscellaneous items including the visitors' book and documents and reports relating to other libraries.

Administrative / Biographical History

This was probably the most important library development in Hull before the coming of the public libraries in 1893. It was founded in 1775 at the instigation of Thomas Lee, a local merchant when an inaugural meeting of 50 people drew up a code of rules and appointed a committee. The admission fee was fixed at one guinea and the annual subscription at 12 shillings. The first premises were part of the bookshop of Thomas Browne, who was paid 10 guineas per annum for rent and his services as librarian and secretary. In 1801 the Library moved to a new purpose-built library building and in 1855 moved again to share the Royal Institution, designed by Cuthbert Broderick, with the Hull Literary and Philosophical Society. The stock consisted almost from the beginning of foreign and standard works together with serials and popular fiction and non-fiction and grew to 80,000 items before financial difficulties led to sales of books in the 1910s and 1920s. The Library also subscribed to Mudie’s Circulating Library to give its members access to popular new books. After the destruction of the Royal Institution in an air raid in 1943 the Library moved into temporary premises and then in 1958 to Hull Church Institute. The impending closure of the Institute together with rising costs led to the closure of the Library in 1970. Its stock of about 16,000 items, mostly fiction and biography, was sold at auction in 1975.


U DSL/1-2 Notices, 1817 - 1868

U DSL/3-15 Minute Books, 1775 - 1970

U DSL/16-19 Attendance Books, 1841 - 1913

U DSL/20-24, 38 Shares, 1833 - 1940

U DSL/25-49 Accounts and vouchers, 1775 - 1954

U DSL/50-59, 61-64, 85(h),

89-91 Rules, Orders, 1775 - 1894

U DSL/60-72, 102 Catalogues and lists of books, 1776 - 1921

U DSL/73-82, 103 Correspondence, 1814 - 1953

U DSL/83-107 Miscellaneous, 1775 - 1945

Access Information

Access will be granted to any accredited reader

Other Finding Aids

Entry in Modern English literature and drama subject guide

Custodial History

Material donated by Hull Subscription Library in 1970 and purchased from C C Kohler, Antiquarian Bookseller in 1977, with the aid of the V&A Purchase Grant Fund.

Related Material

Records of Hull Literary and Philosophical Society [C DSL]


  • An account of the rise and progress of the Subscription Library, Hull (Hull, William Rawson, 1810)
  • History of the Subscription Library at Kingston upon Hull, established December 1775 (Hull, Kirk, 1876)