With the RIBA’s Piper Centre soon opening, some material from the architectural collections are being moved to their new home. Yesterday it was the turn of the ‘elephants’, a small collection of 42 oversized books which form part of the RIBA’s Books and Periodicals Collections held in the British Architectural Library. ’Elephants’ is not the official title of this collection of rare books, but the term ‘elephant folio’ is given to larger sizes of books and which accurately describes their attributes in terms of size and weight. At over a metre at their longest length and some at over ten kilograms in weight, they are bigger than most tables and in some cases need two people to lift!
Yesterday’s move has required staff time and logistics: careful packing, moving material down several busy floors of the RIBA’s headquarters, loading it all into a van and unpacking it at its destination. It was an opportunity for these books to be viewed temporarily, catalogued, and most importantly to be moved safely. Most of the Library’s other books will remain available in their current home at 66 Portland Place, but the ‘elephants’ will be accessible again to the public once the Piper Centre opens. Many are illustrated and capture between their covers some of the architectural features and buildings from across the world – a few examples are shown with today’s post:
Publication dates vary – but most were produced in the latter half of the 19th century and several date from other periods right up to the 1970s. By the end of yesterday the collection made its way safely to the Piper Centre thanks to RIBA staff Jonathan Ridsdale and Michael Duckworth. Large in weight, but representing a fraction of the four million items in the collections, these books are a part of the long history of architecture and a unique element of the collections which the RIBA takes care of for future architects and generations.