History isn't confined to the textbooks at our Library

9 October 2019

The Outline of History by H.G Wells has sold more than two million copies since it was first published in 1920, despite being sued for plagiarism eight years after its initial release.

Our library at The Abbey houses a copy of the book which has had a newspaper clipping of the accusation stuck to the title page. The newspaper article from 1928 states that author Florence Deeks sued Wells for stolen content of her unpublished book The Web. Despite the unsuccessful lawsuit at the time, 72 years later, in 2000, a new book was published re-examining the case.

The book The Spinster & the Prophet; Florence Deeks, H. G. Wells, and the Mystery of the Purloined Past paints a portrait of a woman pursuing her right for acknowledgement, who was let down by a legal system that heavily favoured men at that time.

The newspaper article in our book stands as a reminder of the difficulty female authors faced during the 1920s, and shows how far we have come.

As well as highlighting global history, our books also bring the School’s past to light. Milton’s The Poetical Works, published in 1904, was awarded as a Science prize to former Abbey student May Biddulph by then headteacher Miss Musson. Miss. Musson was the Abbey’s headteacher from 1902-1935 and her signature can be clearly seen on the inside cover of the book. May Biddulph donated her prize to the Abbey library in 1955, 43 years after she attended the school!

These books may not have been found however, if it were not for Upper III students, Amy and Hannah. The pupils discovered Peeps in History, a first edition history book published in 1911 whilst browsing the books and were keen to help new librarian, Ms. Wenman, search the library to find others.

Thanks to the curiosity and enthusiasm these girls shared, these historic books can now be proudly displayed and admired in the Libraries ‘Treasured Books from the Abbey Archive’ display.