Empire Books
Parliamentary Papers
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Not only are Parliamentary Papers important, they are also rare. The original number of copies printed of each Parliamentary Paper changed over the years; those issued before 1820 varied between 200 to 1,000 copies. For a print run of 1,000 copies, 700 - 900 were delivered to the Parliamentary Vote Office to be given gratis to sitting Members of Parliament. A few further subscribed copies were delivered to offices (such as newspapers, embassies, clubs, town councils. In addition, perhaps an average of 20-50 copies were delivered to government officers. (Those copies that remained were pulped; the Report from the Select Committee on Parliamentary Papers, 1853, p.195; notes that “all the superfluous stock has been disposed of”).
Not many of even the major libraries of Britain can boast of having anything approaching a complete set of Parliamentary Papers. None, not even the House of Commons itself or the British Library, has an absolutely perfect run of them. Outside Britain they are rarer still.

The 11 Institutional libraries that are recorded as collecting Parliamentary Papers comprehensively in 1853, both in subject and date-range were: House of Commons; British Museum; Bodleian Library; University of Cambridge; King’s College Library; Lincoln’s Inn Library (Law Society); College Library Edinburgh; Advocates’ Library, Edinburgh; King’s-Inn Library, Dublin; the Royal Dublin Society. In addition, four foreign libraries subscribed; two in France, one in Belgium and one in Canada. None were subscribed for by America. (See Report from the Select Committee on Parliamentary Papers, 1853).

In the years folowing 1853 more libraries took up subscriptions to Parliamentary Papers but earlier issues would be difficult to obtain.

In recent decades a small number of major libraries have disposed of their Parliamentary Papers:- All Souls College Oxford; League of Nations; London County Council, Home Office, Board of Trade, University College London Historical Insitute set, Liverpool Library, New Zealand Parliamentary Library, Lincoln’s Inn (Law Society) and The Public Record Office. As the specialists in Parliamentary Papers, Empire Books have obtained material from all of these libraries.
It is difficult to calculate how many copies now survive. However, it is likely that those given to Members of Parliament and those sold to the public now only exist in a few random examples. There is anecdotal evidence that many MP’s even had permanent contracts with pulp merchants who took their copies for salvage on a regular basis. Parliamentary Papers, being folio size, were found to be ideal for wrapping butter, cheese and sausages!