Guildhall librarians “astonished” by Dick Whittington treasures

The largest known private collection of items relating to Dick Whittington has been bequeathed to Guildhall Library by Ellery Yale Wood, the prolific children's book collector.

Ms Yale Wood left her collection of several thousand children's books to her former school, Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, and her collection "which relates to Dick Whittington and his cat” to Guildhall Library. Over 300 items and dating from the 17th-century to the 20th-century, it includes plays, poems, portraits, theatre programmes, lantern slides and puzzles. 

Guildhall librarians, who did not know what to expect when they opened the seven boxes of material relating to ‘a Whittington collection’, believe that it would have taken decades of dedicated collecting at book fairs and rare book shops.

According to the well-known story, Richard Whittington was a poor orphan, who heeded the chimes of Bow Bells to become, arguably, the most famous Lord Mayor of the City of London. He served in office three times and left money in his will to found Guildhall Library in 1425.

Ann Martin, the City of London Corporation’s assistant librarian at Guildhall Library, said:

“My colleagues and I have been taken completely by surprise by the collection. When they were delivered to us, each box revealed more and more treasures, each seemingly trumping the previous one for rarity, beauty, or charm, and it dawned on us that we had been given an astonishing collection of treasures. Miss Yale Wood would have certainly recognised the importance to us of such a generous bequest, so we owe her – and of course, Richard Whittington - a huge debt of gratitude.”

Guildhall Library staff have catalogued the items and are now looking into how to preserve them for future generations. The Library, which hopes to secure funding for the care and conservation of the Whittington Collection, is drawing up plans for an exhibition celebrating Dick Whittington and the founding of the original Guildhall Library.

The City of London Corporation, which owns and manages Guildhall Library, invests £80m every year in heritage and cultural activities of all kinds. It is the country’s biggest funder of culture after the Government, the BBC and the Heritage Lottery Fund.


For more information, please contact:

Ann Martin, assistant librarian at Guildhall Library, is available for media interviews. For interview requests and high resolution images of selected items from the Whittington Collection, please contact:

Andrew Buckingham, Media Officer (Features), City of London Corporation

Tel: 020 7332 1452 / Mobile: 07795 333060 / Email

About the City of London Corporation:

The City of London Corporation is a uniquely diverse organisation. It supports and promotes the City as a world leader in international finance and business services and provides local services and policing for those working in, living in and visiting the Square Mile. It also provides valued services to London and the nation. These include the Barbican Centre, Barbican Music Library, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Guildhall Library, Guildhall Art Gallery and Roman Amphitheatre, London Metropolitan Archives, a range of education provision (including three City Academies); five Thames bridges (including Tower Bridge and Millennium Bridge), Central Criminal Court at Old Bailey, over 10,000 acres of open spaces (including Hampstead Heath and Epping Forest), and three wholesale food markets. The City of London Corporation is London’s Port Health Authority and also runs the Animal Reception Centre at Heathrow. For more details, visit