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LIBRAL: the Library of Rural and Agricultural Literature

Version 3.0 now has over 450 digitized items uploaded to it, including 65 volumes of Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England (1839 to 1914), 220 Board of Agriculture leaflets, 20 MAF bulletins and many other twentieth-, nineteenth- and even eighteenth-century works on rural and agricultural topics. We have been working with TannerRitchie Publishing to use their MEMSOshell platform to host our online library. Please sign up here to access it.

Note that LIBRAL Version 3.0 does not work with Internet Explorer: we recommend using Safari or Google Chrome.

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User Guide

Before you start please have a look at this brief User Guide [PDF].


We need feedback on the content and the user experience, to help us improve it and ensure that it meets your needs. Please use the feedback form if you have a question about LIBRAL or experience a problem (even if you have found a solution to it), or any other comments (positive or negative).

LIBRAL Newsletters

The Newsletters list the items that have been added since the previous newsletter:
August 2019 | July 2019 | April 2019 | March 2019 | February 2019 | January 2019 | October 2018 | August 2018 | March 2018 | January 2018

The background to LIBRAL

Brittany cow   Agricultural or rural history – call it what you may – has been slow to take advantage of the digital age. We all know that there is a wealth of historical literature we would like to access, but it is locked in libraries. Even inveterate book-users have to admit that digitised texts are often easier to use and their infinite seachability is capable of revealing information that indexes or speed-reading cannot. So searches on ‘carrot fly’ or ‘harvest home’ or ‘maids’ can produce dividends.

But isn’t all this already out there?

The Core Historical Literature of Agriculture based at the Charles Mann Library, Cornell University, is well-established but it concentrates on American literature. There have been plans for similar initiatives in Britain, but even good intentions to digitise the General Views – surely entry-level stuff – have come to nothing. Whilst this talking has gone on, a great deal of the older literature – including most of the General Views – have been made available on the Internet by American University libraries who have been busy digitising their older collections. But a systematic search proved that finding what you want can be tricky, coverage is patchy and scattered, and some volumes cannot be downloaded and must be read online. It may be a long time before comprehensive coverage is achieved.

The LIBrary of Rural and Agricultural Literature (LIBRAL) is, in the first instance at least, a public, open-access resource, including publications through to about 1950, after which copyright issues become more difficult to negotiate.

Version 1.0 was a first step to creating this resource for rural historians: a catalogue of 18th- and 19th-century literature on agricultural topics that had already been digitised and were available on a variety of Web sites. This was done in 2014. Version 2.0 appeared earlier in 2017 and includes 200 titles all uploaded to a single site with its own search facility. We are now working with TannerRitchie Publishing to use their MEMSOshell platform to provide a better service (faster download times, among many other benefits). This is now available as Version 3.0. We also have many further digitised volumes to make available, including many from the former RASE Library.

Can you help?

Do you have materials in your collection which we could scan and digitise? Don’t send us anything yet but do let us know what you may be able to lend. Scanning is not a destructive process: modern scanning software does not even require the page to be flat as it can correct for a degree of curvature (as well as automatically remove fingers and weights from images!)

What literature do you want to see digitised?

Should we concentrate on county materials, or farming encyclopedias, or the farming press? Are there particular things that you would like to use in teaching that we could usefully prioritise? Do let us know.

Please send us your comments, suggestions and offers of help.