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Indiana University

created by Dawn Thornton
April 30, 2003


Fleming began collecting as a result of his conversations with Percy Muir, a bookseller at Dulau's and Elkin Matthews. He first toyed around with collecting modern first editions, but they did not really inspire him. He took a rather unexpected and uncharted route when he asked Muir to acquire for him, in first editions, "books that marked milestones of progress - books that had started something." He sought out the original contributions of scientists whose work was responsible for the great discoveries, inventions, and theories of the 19th century. He had all his purchases specially encased in black buckram fleece-lined boxes with an image of his bookplate on the cover.

Fleming's bookplate design

Fleming went on to join the board of directors at Elkin Matthews and was one of the founders of The Book Collector, a British antiquarian quarterly that continues to this day. Eventually, his collecting tastes grew more expensive and he drifted away from books to other treasures. But he held on to his book collection as a hedge against inflation and left it in trust to his son. The collection finally came to the Lilly in a purchase from Fleming's wife, Anne. Fleming had always intended his collection to remain intact; he rightly believed that it would have "immense educational interest." And that it does: here at the Lilly, the entire Fleming collection is available for personal or scholarly use.

Fleming's library

Visit the short-title list to learn more about the scientific articles that Fleming collected. The articles were removed by Fleming from the journals in which they originally appeared and catalogued individually.

In the summer of 1971, the Lilly held an exhibition of the Fleming collection to celebrate its acquisition. The catalogue from the exhibition is now out of print, but it is available online.

Those interested in Fleming's collecting activities might want to see the records of the correspondence between Fleming and the Elkin Matthews bookselling firm. The records are uncatalogued, so please inquire about them with our reference department.