The Oxford and Cambridge Club was established in 1830, following a meeting at which Lord Palmerston presided. It originally occupied premises in St James’ Square and in 1837 moved into a building in Pall Mall, which had been designed by Sir Robert Smirke. It continues to occupy this building. For well over a century, membership was limited to men who were members and former members of the universities of Oxford or Cambridge. In 1971 it was decided that graduates of any university could be members and in 1996 women were finally admitted as full members. In 1972 the club amalgamated with the United University Club to form the United Oxford and Cambridge University Club, but it reverted to the simpler name of the Oxford and Cambridge Club in 2001.
The Oxford and Cambridge Club assembled one of the finest libraries of any of the London clubs. It was particularly strong in classics and history. In the middle years of the twentieth century, about 12 000 volumes, including many of the most valuable books, were sold, leaving a collection of about 20 000 volumes.
The Oxford and Cambridge Club Pamphlet Collection was purchased by the Library at a Sotheby’s sale in London in 1968.
The collection comprises about 1300 pamphlets and tracts that had been bound by the club in 121 volumes. Apart from a few French pamphlets, the works are all in English. They were published in Britain between 1829 and 1882, with the majority appearing in the period 1830–50. They provide a valuable record of the issues that were discussed and debated in Britain in the middle decades of the nineteenth century.
Among the subjects covered by the collection are the ballot and elections (one volume), banking (one volume), Canada (one volume), church reform (three volumes), classical literature (three volumes), Corn Laws (two volumes), Crimean War (one volume), currency (two volumes), ecclesiastical questions (seven volumes), education (one volume), foreign affairs (four volumes), Franco–Prussian War (one volume), India (three volumes), Ireland (seven volumes), Irish Church (one volume), Irish land question (two volumes), Jewish disabilities and Unitarians (one volume), legal issues (five volumes), military and naval (three volumes), Oxford Movement (one volume), parliamentary reform (five volumes), railways (two volumes), science and art (one volume), US slave trade (one volume), universities (three volumes) and the West Indies (one volume). The pamphlets tend to reflect orthodox and conservative views. There is, for instance, very little on Chartism.
Many of the pamphlets are anonymous or pseudonymous. Among the more prolific writers represented in the collection are Thomas Arnold, Lord Brougham, Richard Cobden, Bishop Edward Denison, W.E. Gladstone, Montagu Gore, Lord Grey (3rd Earl), Rowland Hill, William Hutt, William Smith O’Brien, Sir Robert Peel, Edmund Pusey, G. Poulett Scrope, Nassau William Senior, Robert Torrens, Archbishop Richard Whately, William Whewell and Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman.
The Oxford and Cambridge Club Pamphlet Collection is kept together as a formed collection within the Rare Books Collection. It is shelved at RB 082.O98. A full listing of the collection was published in 1971.
Catalogue of the Library of the Oxford and Cambridge Club, Aberdeen University Press, Aberdeen, 1887.
Lejeune, Anthony, The Gentlemen’s Clubs of London, Macdonald and Jane’s, London, 1979.
National Library of Australia, Oxford and Cambridge University Club Pamphlet Collection: Contents List, National Library of Australia, Canberra, 1971.