‘When is a book not a book’?, asks Guildhall Library exhibition

Some books take on a new role - other than just being a book - say the curators of a new exhibition at Guildhall Library.

Books: Used and Abused, which opens on Monday 15 January at the City of London Corporation-owned public reference library, explains what happens when books are customised, decorated or disguised.

Visitors will discover how, and why, older books are more likely than new books to have been altered in an unusual or thoughtful way. Some books have been used as notepads or expanding files; others have become inadvertent containers - or even a box. The exhibition builds on the popularity of last year’s display and will include new examples from Guildhall Library’s extensive collections.

A free ‘book surgery’ advice session will be held at the Guildhall Library exhibition on Thursday 22 February for people to learn more about their own ‘used and abused’ books from an expert conservator and one of the exhibition’s curators.

Graham Packham, Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Culture, Heritage and Libraries Committee, said:

“Whether they’ve been decorated, written in, or hollowed out, the books featured in ‘Used and Abused’ will provide a fascinating insight into what happens when a book is used in a new or unexpected way. It is very encouraging to see the return of this exhibition - with previously unseen items - in one of our flagship libraries.

"For those of us who have well-loved books in various states of disrepair on our shelves or in our lofts, the book surgery in February will provide the ideal opportunity to find out how to repair them or stop from falling to bits.”

The City of London Corporation, which owns and manages Guildhall Library, invests over £100m every year in heritage and cultural activities of all kinds. It is the UK’s largest funder of cultural activities after the government, the BBC, and Heritage Lottery Fund. It is also developing Culture Mile between Farringdon and Moorgate – a multi-million-pound investment which will create a new cultural and creative destination for London over the next 10 to 15 years. This includes £110m funding to support the Museum of London’s move to West Smithfield and £2.5m to support the detailed business case for the proposed Centre for Music.

Books: Used and Abused runs from 15 January to 9 March at Guildhall Library, Aldermanbury, EC2. Admission is FREE. The free advice session will be held on 22 February from 2pm to 3pm. Booking is required via


Notes for Editors:

For further information, please contact:

Andrew Buckingham, Media Officer, City of London Corporation

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

About the City of London Corporation:

The City of London Corporation provides local government and policing services for the financial and commercial heart of Britain, the 'Square Mile'. In addition, the City Corporation has three roles:

• We support London’s communities by working in partnership with neighbouring boroughs on economic regeneration, education and skills projects. In addition, the City of London Corporation’s charity City Bridge Trust makes grants of around £20 million annually to charitable projects across London and we also support education with three independent schools, three City Academies, a primary school and the world-renowned Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

• We also help look after key London’s heritage and green spaces including Tower Bridge, Museum of London, Barbican Arts Centre, City gardens, Hampstead Heath, Epping Forest, Burnham Beeches, and important ‘commons’ in south London.

• We also support and promote the ‘City’ as a world-leading financial and business hub, with outward and inward business delegations, high-profile civic events and research-driven policies all reflecting a long-term approach.

See for more details.

About Guildhall Library:

Guildhall Library is a public reference library which specialises in the history of London. The Library’s printed books collection comprises over 200,000 titles dating from the 15th to the 21st centuries and includes books, pamphlets, periodicals, trade directories and poll books.

Guildhall Library runs an active and engaging programme of events, ranging from afternoon talks on aspects of London History, guided walks of the Square Mile and book launches to monthly evening wine receptions with current authors. The topic for each evening event is designed to be different from the last so that a range of interests can be explored from historical fact to historical fiction, with classical and real-life stories thrown in.

You are very welcome to visit Guildhall Library - no appointment or membership is necessary.