Library and Archives history

Information on the history of the IET Library and Archives, its foundation and collections. 

IET Library Reading room in the early 20th Century History of the IET Library

The IET Library was founded in 1880, and houses more than 65,000 books and pamphlets and over 3,000 periodical titles. The collections of the British Computer Society (BCS), Institution of Electronic & Radio Engineers (IERE), the Institution of Manufacturing Engineers (IMfgE) and the Institution of Incorporated Engineers (IIE) were incorporated into the library in 1977, 1988,1991 and 2006 respectively.

Some 2,000 books are added annually and the library currently subscribes to over 800 periodical titles. In addition, the library provides members with online access to thousands of full-text electronic books, journals and magazines.
The library is one of the significant advantages of being a member with many of its services offered free of charge. The reading room in Savoy Place receives almost 12,000 visitors each year, some 22,500 items are issued on loan and 4,000 enquiries answered.

The Archives of the IET

These are the official records and working papers concerning the activities of the IET since its foundation as the Society of Telegraph Engineers in 1871. We preserve the records of the IET's 130-year history, including material from the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE), IERE, IIE and also IMfgE who were formerly the Institution of Production Engineers (IProdE). The IET Archives are made up of the archives of the IET itself, dating from 1871, and collections on the history of technology that have been deposited with us.

The special collection manuscripts

The IET has acquired the papers and manuscripts of many distinguished people concerned with science and technology. These include the papers of Sir Francis Ronalds, and Oliver Heaviside, plus many others. Other manuscripts and documents relate to the development of the telegraph (particularly the Atlantic submarine cable) and the development of electrical equipment in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Perhaps one of the most important collections held is the Faraday Collection. These manuscripts were presented to the IET in 1915 by David James Blaikley on the condition that they were preserved and made available to researchers. The collection consists of notebooks, correspondence and manuscripts covering his travels in Europe with Sir Humphry Davy, his chemical notes and some 600 letters from many famous names in science and current affairs.

The National Archive for Electrical Science and Technology (NAEST)

This collection consists of corporate records, constituting a considerable business archive in engineering policy and innovation. The records cover the early nineteenth century to the present day and range from company records, records of societies, working papers of engineers and scientists, plans, drawings, photographs and trade literature.
Three major collections are the archives of the Women’s Engineering Society, the Electrical Association for Women and the personal papers of Dame Caroline Haslett.

Rare book collections

The IET is fortunate to have acquired two fine rare books collections. The library of Sir Francis Ronalds, which comprises about 2000 volumes and 4000 pamphlets on electricity and magnetism, was bequeathed to his brother-in-law but in accordance with Ronalds’ wish that the library should remain together it was transferred to the IET in 1876. It includes many books collected during his travels abroad.

Silvanus Philips Thompson’s library of 900 rare books, 3700 scientific and technical books and 8000 pamphlets was purchased in 1917 by the IET with a grant from the council and subscriptions from members and his old students at Finsbury Technical College. The library includes rare books from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries and thirteen manuscripts including Peter Peregrinus’ Epsitola De Magnete and Chaucer’s Astrolabe, dated 1391.

The two collections together form one of the finest small collections of books and manuscripts relating to magnetism and the development of electrical science and technology.