ICAEW.com works better with JavaScript enabled.

ICAEW library: provider of 150 years of world class knowledge

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 20 Sep 2021

The year 2021 marks 150 years of ICAEW’s Library & Information Service. In fact, it predates ICAEW by almost a decade. It was a busy year – 1871.

Historians amongst us might associate 1871 with the opening of the UK’s Royal Albert Hall by Queen Victoria, British Columbia joining the confederation of Canada, the Great Chicago Fire or Henry Morton Stanley finding Dr David Livingstone.

1871 was also the year ICAEW’s library first emerged. The founder of the library – the fledgling Institute of Accountants – sought to elevate the status of professional accountants, initially in London and later across the whole of the UK. The legal profession already boasted many fine libraries but no such equivalent existed within the accountancy profession, and many practitioners urged the creation of a similar repository of knowledge they could draw upon to help them compete for business.

Although the early library collection contained few titles on accountancy (reflecting the information needs of accountants at this time, which were heavily weighted towards bankruptcy and company law), the founders set out to advance their knowledge of current accounting practice by looking at the accounts of prominent companies.

On 23 April 1879, the Council told the Institute's Annual General Meeting that they had “much pleasure in reporting that their request to the Secretaries of Public Companies to furnish them with sets of their accounts was most courteously responded to. Accounts have been received from more than 70 companies, many of them covering a great number of years and they have been arranged in the Library of the Institute as to be readily referred to.”

This initiative set in motion a process of relevant information gathering that has not stopped since. There have been many further additions since then that have built upon this early knowledge gathering exercise. Works in ICAEW’s collection from the early twentieth century include rare and sometimes archaic titles such as Laundry accounts, Tramway bookkeeping and accounts simplified, and Cotton spinners' accounts. Many of these works on company accounts were written by ICAEW members, sharing their knowledge with their peers.

“Today, the ICAEW Library & Information Service is one of the largest accountancy libraries in the world,” says Jonathan Bushell, ICAEW Head of Curation and Library Collection. “With a collection of more than 100,000 volumes in more than 20 languages it spans the history of the profession, with a variety of material to interest the researcher, combined with the latest resources on accountancy, tax and business needed by the chartered accountants of today.”

The history of ICAEW’s library is fascinating, but the team of dedicated professionals continue to look forwards and offer a combination of in-person and remote services and resources that the early librarians would be astonished by.

The library can respond to a wide range of enquiries, offering prompt and in-depth expertise. 

Why not get in touch with the enquiry team today to see how they can help you? If you have any query in mind, please contact the enquiry team by calling +44 (0)20 7920 8620, emailing library@icaew.com, or through web chat.

Recommended content

A megaphone
Stay up to date

You can receive email update from ICAEW insights either daily, weekly or monthly, subscribe to whichever works for you.

Sign up
Daily summaries
Three yellow pins planted into a surface in a row
News in brief

Read ICAEW's daily summary of accountancy news from across the mainstream media and broader financing sector.

See more