One of lighter 'elephant' books in the British Architectural Library, RIBA

One of lighter 'elephant' books in the British Architectural Library, RIBA

'Elephant' books being recorded and moved by RIBA librarian Jonathan Ridsdale

'Elephant' books being recorded and moved by RIBA librarian Jonathan Ridsdale

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!

Books being moved through 66 Portland Place

Books being moved through 66 Portland Place

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:

Plate from 'Monographie de la cathedrale de Chartres', 1867

Plate from 'Monographie de la cathedrale de Chartres', 1867

Plate from 'Monographie de la cathedrale de Chartres', 1867

Plate from 'Monographie de la cathedrale de Chartres', 1867

Close-up of a plate from 'Les mosquees de Samarcande', 1905

Close-up of a plate from 'Les mosquees de Samarcande', 1905

Plate from 'Kunstdenkmaler des Christlichen mittelalters in den Rheinlanden', 1857-1866

Plate from 'Kunstdenkmaler des Christlichen mittelalters in den Rheinlanden', 1857-1866

Close-up of the title page from 'Kunstdenkmaler des Christlichen mittelalters in den Rheinlanden', 1857-1866

Close-up of the title page from 'Kunstdenkmaler des Christlichen mittelalters in den Rheinlanden', 1857-1866

Isometric view of the 'Improvements in the neighbourhood of Smithfield proposed by the Corporation of London', 1851

Isometric view of the 'Improvements in the neighbourhood of Smithfield proposed by the Corporation of London', 1851

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.

The 'elephants' in their new home

The 'elephants' in their new home

 

About Wilson Yau
I work for the British Architectural Library at the RIBA as part of a team to share news, images and information online about the activities of the Library and the fascinating items we have in our architectural collections – it contains over four million items, so there's plenty to see! If you’re curious about what we do at the Library and with the collections, or want to discover the latest about our education programmes, public events and exhibitions at the RIBA, please visit www.architecture.com

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2 Comments
  1. KB

    February 24, 2012

    what/where is the Piper Centre?

    • wilson.yau

      February 24, 2012

      The Piper Centre is a new, enhanced, purpose-made facility for some of the RIBA’s architectural collections. We have the space for most of the collections at the RIBA headquarters (66 Portland Place) and at the Victoria and Albert Museum, both of which are both open to the public, but the new site is in another part of London and will provide space for the collections to expand and to improve access for researchers. Work is still going on in the Piper Centre and visits will be by appointment when it opens next month.

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