2019-2020 has been an extraordinary year. Like many heritage organisations, we had to close our doors in March and adapt quickly to a locked-down world. At the same time, we also received notification of our successful application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for our exciting new project, The Next Chapter. Needless to say, there have been ups and downs but we have faced challenges in the spirit of the 19th century scientists who founded the Institution in 1813, adapting and innovating our programme and services so that we have continued to flourish and connect with our members and supporters.
Libraries Week is an annual showcase of the best that libraries have to offer, celebrating the nation's much-loved libraries and their vital role in the UK's book culture. We have been celebrating this week with a series of readings by our members and volunteers. We hope you enjoy them.
Trade cards were printed on fine-quality paper and distributed with deliveries or given to customers at trade counters. Our set of eight postcards includes a bookseller, engraver, chemist, upholsterer, draper, […]
Just in time for Christmas, these six cards feature stained-glass designs from our Exeter Diocesan Architectural Society collection. The Society was established in 1841 to report on the fabric of […]
Daniel Neal (1678-1743), a historian and nonconformist minister, published the first volume of The History of the Puritans in 1732; the final fourth volume appeared in 1738. Neal’s story starts with the Protestant Reformation and concludes with the Act of Toleration in the reign of William and Mary. The second volume includes an account of the voyage of Mayflower to the new ‘Promised Land’.
Much of Exeter’s long history has been well documented, however one area that is less well documented is the West Quarter. Whilst the famous Stepcote Hill is featured in many postcards and guidebooks, the area around it, prosperous in medieval times, was designated a slum area in the 1920s and scheduled for redevelopment.
Last September historian Dr Julia Neville, in collaboration with the DEI, invited members to join a research group to study the history of the West Quarter in the 1920s. The group has been working on the project since then, using resources from the DEI library, those at the Devon Heritage Centre and the Central Library, and websites such as .ancestry.co.uk. Of course, the group’s work has been challenged by the Covid-19 crisis, but members have continued utilising on-line resources.
Our phased reopening plans for the Institution - September 2020
The Devon and Exeter Institution is an Independent Library and Educational Charity in the heart of Exeter, founded in 1813. We welcome new members and visitors of all ages. In March 2020 we were awarded a major grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for our development project 'The Next Chapter'.
Join us here in the Institution garden or online, for Heritage Open Days. This year's theme is 'Hidden Nature' and we invite you to view the Institution from a different perspective.
From his home in London, John Cooke Bourne (1814-1896) witnessed the construction of the London and Birmingham Railway, the first main-line railway to enter London. The London and Birmingham Railway Company was founded in 1833 and work soon began on a London terminus. Engineers George and Robert Stephenson chose a site on the edge of the city; a station with two platforms and two hotels was designed by Philip Hardwick (1792–1870) with a huge 70-foot Doric portico marking the gateway to the north. London Euston station officially opened on 20 July 1837. The following year a temporary terminus opened on Bishop’s Bridge Road in Paddington heralding the expansion of the railways to the west.
Discover brand new ways to support our conservation programme and become part of the history of the Institution
The Institution is a very special place in the heart of Exeter and we need your support now more than ever to ensure that it continues to thrive for generations to come. Watch the video to find out how you can get involved and become part of the fascinating history of the Devon and Exeter Institution.
Our phased reopening plans for the Institution - July and August 2020
Originally from Barnstaple in Devon, John Gay (1685-1732) became one of London’s most renowned dramatists. His satirical ballad opera, The Beggar’s Opera, opened at Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre on 29 January 1728 and ran for 62 nights. Gay’s assault on the topsy-turvy morals, double-standards and self-interests of 18th century politics and aristocratic society remains one of the few 18th century plays still performed today.
This week's Book in Isolation transports you to the Outer Library of the Institution to delve into the history of the Institution's bindings.
Beautiful, intricate and varied, shells have adorned our clothes, our homes and our objects of art for centuries. From the end of the 17th century, natural scientists began to collect, organise, observe and draw them in earnest. George Montagu’s Testacea Britannica (1803) is one of the most important works of natural history to come out of the Age of Enlightenment – and it has a special significance for Exeter.
In his day, W. E. Norris was described as the ‘Gainsborough of English novelists’, an heir to Trollope and a writer of ‘Disraelian intensity’ … so why aren’t we reading his novels today?
Beth Howell investigates curiosity in the animals and wildlife described and depicted in 19th century books of exploration in the collections of the Devon and Exeter Institution - what animal can you draw?
From the early 19th century, Koenig & Bauer’s new steam-powered double-cylinder printing press, capable of printing over 1100 sheets an hour, disseminated information fast. The circulation of The Times newspaper increased from 5,000 to 50,000 by the middle of the century. However, not all printing was about speed – in 1822 William Savage published his guide to fine art printmaking – still a popular art form today.
Furloughed on half pay following the end of the war with France, Captain Hugh Clapperton (1788–1827) looked to augment his income with an intrepid exploration into the African interior.
What is the secret of good writing for children? Is there even such a thing as a children's book? As an adult alert to the child within, Lewis Carroll knew instinctively how to write for children and adults simultaneously.
Throughout March, April and May 2020 we were delighted to bring you our popular family learning programme and Bookworms junior members' club online.
Linked here - Join in with craft activities, workshops and experiments using materials that are easy to find at home.
Lighthouse keepers were certainly used to living in isolation; in this week's guest blog Edward Maunder tells the story of John Smeaton's Eddystone Lighthouse, situated 9 miles south of Rame Head off the Cornish coast.
If you are beginning to tire of the present lockdown you may perhaps find some solace in this little book of travels in the boudoir, or how to travel the world without leaving the house - something, it would seem, that women especially were rather good at in the early 19th century.
The third President of the United States of America is best known for drafting the Declaration of Independence that galvanised the British colonies in their fight to become a new nation. At home he immersed himself in science, engineering, architecture and book collecting – even rescuing one of the world’s greatest libraries.
Lunchtime Lecture: “By all that is sacred in our hopes for the human race, I conjure those who love happiness and truth, to give a fair trial to the vegetable system”-
Percy Bysshe Shelley, A Vindication of Natural Diet
The Devon and Exeter Institution secures National Lottery investment for its project ‘The Next Chapter’
Our latest press release - The Devon and Exeter Institution secures National Lottery investment for its project 'The Next Chapter'
Philip Henry Gosse's invention of the aquarium was 'instantly accepted by naturalists and amateurs alike, and became to the one a portable studio of biology, to the others a charming and fashionable toy'.
Sir John Hawkins' greatest literary achievements were thwarted by bad timing and, according to some accounts, by the 'paltry malice, and base tricks' of his mean-spirited contemporaries.
Parents all over the country are preparing for what could be many months of ‘home schooling’ – but it’s easier said than done. This little book – a two-hundred-year-old ‘domestic […]
Due to the current situation the DEI will remain closed until further notice.
In the meantime we are proud to be bringing much of our programme and events online to provide diversion, entertainment and activities while we are all shut away from the real world. Keep checking our website and social media for new content.
Deadline 8 June 2020 -
We are tendering for a Conservation Architect.
The Devon and Exeter institution is Grade II* listed building adjacent to a Scheduled Monument which houses an independent library and dating from 1813. We have been an educational charity since 1989. We completed a major structural restoration to the roof on time and on budget, between 2015-2017 funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic England.
We are now seeking to appoint an architect to deliver the preliminary works for the development phase of another major National Heritage Lottery Funded project.
As a politician, Pierre Laplace (1749-1827) had an 'incapacity for administration'; as a mathematician he was one of the greatest scientists of all time. His thinking brought him close to the origins of the universe and he was one of the first scientists to suggest the existence of what we now refer to as black holes. This guest blog is written by Edward Maunder following his rediscovery of the first four volumes of Laplace's Traité de mécanique céleste (1798-1805) in our early science collection.