The Danson Library houses, in the main, books collected by three generations of the Danson family and bequeathed to the college in 1976.
The collection was started by John Towne Danson (1817-1898), a barrister at the Middle Temple. In later life he was heavily involved in promoting education in the North West, especially in the establishment of Liverpool University. It is likely that John Towne Danson saw the books that formed his library as a working collection, and used it to support his various intellectual activities, although he clearly ‘collected’ volumes of interest as well.
When he died in 1897, his son, Francis Chatillon Danson (1855-1926), the senior partner in F. C. Danson & Co., average adjusters, inherited the library. His entry in Who’s Who records his recreations as being ‘motoring, collecting books and antiquities’.
On the death of Sir Francis in 1926, his younger son, Lt.-Col. John Raymond (Ray) Danson (1893-1976), took over the collection. Ray matriculated at Trinity in 1912, and read Law. After the 1st World War he joined the family firm. He had first approached his old college with regard to leaving it his library in 1932. He was a bachelor, and, when he died in 1976, the collection came in its entirety to Trinity.
The collecting policy of the library was focused on the acquisition of illustrated books. This part of the collection alone probably represented one of finest of its sort still in private hands The collection also contained illuminated manuscripts, incunabula, important early printed books from the 16th-18th centuries, a small number of modern first editions and approximately 450 volumes of erotica (some of considerable rarity). The erotica has been fully catalogued, and the catalogue of this collection is available here: Danson Erotica Collection Annotated Catalogue.
Included in the terms of Danson’s will were the stipulations that the college retain the erotica, although they could be placed on deposit in the Bodleian. Other material could be sold, if the College wished. In fact, the College has chosen to retain the bulk of the collection although the manuscripts have been deposited in the Bodleian.
The Danson Library was extensively refurbished in 2010-11 to provide better shelving for the Danson collection and for a number of other bequests, including antiquarian books from the estate of Edgar Wind, late Professor of the History of Art. The Library also holds donations to the College including a collection of Faber art books from the De La Mare family; 18th century French books from Professor Russell Egdell and the Chadwyck-Healey Bible collection as well as a number of individual gifts. The renovation has also provided shelving to house the overspill from the Old Library and has allowed for the appropriate storage of the very large folios.