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History Society Lecture

On 18 March the Librarian and the former Master of Library, Master Sally Smith, delivered a talk for the Inner Temple History Society entitled ‘Snapshots of the Inner Temple Library’. Instead of the more usual ‘library history’ lecture that might have been expected, the speakers focused on their predecessors from the last 300 years, their lives, their work and the development of the Library under their direction.

Thirteen Librarians and over 120 Masters of the Library, condensed into a scant 50 minutes. This whistlestop voyage of discovery behind the titles of Librarian and Master of the Library revealed tales of both poverty and privilege across a diverse cast including butlers, a Master of the Library that never was, an esoteric collector, a hanging judge, a close friend of Lord Byron, cricketers, a librarian immortalised by Charles Lamb, historians, well reviewed authors of both fiction and non-fiction, a much denigrated law reporter, and two Readers of Temple Church.

As well as some interesting individuals, they revealed some ancient (but still very sensible) Library rules. The earliest of these was written by Samuel Carter, the Inn’s first Librarian:

“No person not a student or Bencher of the House shall make custom of daily coming and staying there as if it were his own chambers and ordering clients to attend him as if it were a coffee house”.

Although today you are very welcome to stay all day, bring your coffee, and book a space for a conference call with a client, one other Library rule from 1715 is still strictly enforced:

“No person to write upon any book that shall happen to lie before them”.

For those who missed the talk (including those who prioritised the Silks Day parties over History Society Lecture), fear not … The slides and recording of the talk are available on the Inn’s website.

Carter's rules
Samuel Carter’s Rules





Blew's earliest catalogue title page and rules
Joshua Blew’s earliest catalogue, title page and rules