Library collections

Our catalogue is hosted by the University of Exeter and can be accessed online.

The Collection

The Library contains some 40,000 items. The original collection acquired during the 19th century includes long runs of contemporary journals, many early scientific books, natural history, travel and exploration.  We also have many works by local authors and a large collection of printed historical source material.  The collection of bound volumes of local newspapers, some dating from the 18th century, is unique. There are many early illustrated books, topographical and travel literature, maps, prints and drawings and a comprehensive holding of standard books and journals for the study of South West England. This last collection in particular is being continuously consolidated and enlarged.

The collection is currently undergoing extensive preservation work; the Institution has been able to undertake this project with the assistance of a grant from The Heritage Lottery Fund.

Aims of the Library

The DEI aims to ensure that the existing collection is maintained for future generations, to purchase additional resources to support learning and research activities and to promote the collection.

 Library Catalogue

The stock of the library is available on the online catalogue which is available through a link on the library page of the University of Exeter or from the website of the DEI. There is also a card catalogue useful for some items which were added to stock before the automated catalogue. The collection is shelved using several classification systems.

Please ask for help in locating books or other items


At present many items published after 1917 are available for loan. The maximum number of items on loan at any one time is 6 for a period of 4 weeks. Please take any items you wish to borrow to the library desk.

New Additions

The Librarian welcomes suggestions for stock from members and researchers, but cannot guarantee all suggestions will be purchased.   Please fill in the form available or speak to the person on the library desk.


In addition to long runs of 19th century journals and many back copies of local publications, the library takes several current local journals and contemporary titles.  These are displayed in the Inner Library.

The library also maintains an extensive collection of newsletters, reports and transactions of societies and institutions in Devon and beyond.  The library has an extensive collection of local newspapers on microfilm, and a microfilm reader is available: please ask for help.  Daily and weekly newspapers are available.  Please do not remove these from the library.


The collection currently includes ordnance survey maps of differing scales, town plans and folded maps and guides, both historical and contemporary


The collection includes prints, drawings, postcards, watercolours and photographs.  Please ask the library staff for help with these.

 Pamphlets and Tracts

The library holds a large and fascinating collection of pamphlets and tracts; these are listed in the library catalogue. Please ask for help locating these.

 Study and Research

A small number of study places are available for booking; please see the library staff for details.

Members are very welcome to ask for assistance when looking for research information and using the library catalogue.

Photocopying, printing and scanning facilities are available. Those users who wish to photograph items will be asked to sign a disclaimer.

Wi-Fi is available and there is a PC for general use from which you may access the Internet.

Our collection contains many beautiful and irreplaceable items. For this reason food and drink may not be consumed in the library.  Pencils are available on request at the library desk.