As you certainly know, the church’s renovation project goes beyond the building itself but also aims to preserve the books and archives held in the church’s library.
Our collection counts more than 300 volumes of archives, dating back to 1560 for the oldest one. It also comprises of 1,400 books, in majority from the 17th and 18th Century, but also including around a hundred printed before the 1700s:
-the church’s archives date back to its very foundation in 1550. They were mostly written in the 18th Century, but nearly sixty volumes predate 1700. These archives help re-create the life of an emigrants’ community, faced with the turmoils of history, and also reflect the support those refugees enjoyed from the French churches already established in England;
-the collection of books includes comprises the great sacred Christian texts in ancient or modern languages, works of study or commentary by the fathers of the Church, as well as an extensive collection of reformed texts (Bibles, psalters, books by Erasmus, Calvin or John Foxe), highlighting the cruciality of the printed word in the Reformation.
The library grew steadily through purchases.
Private bequests have also played a major role in enhancing the collection.
A lot of them are intimately linked to the history of the “Huguenot refuge” along their owners’ flight from persecution, such as the Marot and Beza Plaster. One of its copies in our library still shows traces of rain, from the clandestine, open air assemblies (au Désert). The bequests also explain why the collection is so varied: for instance, Benjamin Bosanquet, a physician, whose father had fled the persecutions in Languedoc, introduced on our collection a number of scientific treatises.
The poor state of conservation of this unique collection is not at the moment consistent with a wide opening to public, nor allows exhibitions or digitalisation.
Based on the comprehensive conservation report done in February 2018 by the conservator Caroline Bendix, we have applied and have been awarded generous grants from the Fonds de soutien au tissu associatif des Français à l’étranger (STAFE), the French Huguenot Church of London Charitable Trust and the Société Genevoise en faveur des Protestants Disséminés.
It has allowed us to train a team of keen volunteers which are now embarking on the urgent restoration and preservation works.
The first tasks for which our volunteers got trained are: internal and external cleaning of the volumes, binding mending, setting up protective structures, detailed recording of each volume’s characteristics in a specifically developed data base.
The team has been at work since February on a long and painstaking process to identify the books which will need a more thorough studio restoration, and stabilise the others.
Consequently, access to the library is momentarily limited. We apologise for this but we hope you will be happy to know that this unique collection is being well taken care of!