The new library catalogue consists of two parts:

  1. The guide to the library which also includes a list of the journals held in the library.

Link to Library Guide and Journals Catalogue

  1. A catalogue of the books held in the library.

Link to Excel book catalogue

The catalogue of books exists in a Microsoft Excel format. The Excel file may not download with Google Chrome, but works with other web browsers, else email James or Carolyn for a copy of the latest version

If you would rather have a copy of the catalogue in another format please let us know.

Should you spot any errors in the catalogues, or have any questions about them please do let us know.

James Dawson                    SHA Librarian                       

Carolyn Bedwell                 SHA Assistant Librarian     

At the 21 November 2015 SHA Council meeting it was confirmed that James Dawson would take over as SHA Librarian, with the assistance of  Carolyn Bedwell as Assistant Librarian.  All emails sent to will therefore now be received by James.

James and Carolyn have made great progress in the Library as can be seen:-

4sThe Library will be open on the dates shown below*. If there are other dates you are interested in visiting the library, or alternative times on the dates below please contact James Dawson the Librarian. If you are planning a visit the library please contact James in case there is severe weather and either the BMI is closed or the library staff are unable to travel to the library.

* currently not open until covid restrictions allow

The SHA Library Service and its Resources

The SHA Library (named the Sir Robert Ball Library) exists primarily as a resource for members of the Society for the History of Astronomy, but also as a reference library for members of the Birmingham and Midland Institute in which the library is housed.  Managed and run by unpaid volunteers it is dedicated to helping SHA members in their research and to assisting them in increasing their knowledge of, and enjoyment in, the history of astronomy.  Its acquisitions reflect members’ interests, insofar as funds and donations allow. Members are encouraged to contact the library if there are specific items they feel the library should carry, or if they have items they are considering donating to the library for others to enjoy.

The library currently offers the following:

  • Books, journals, miscellaneous publications and AV material.
  • The services of SHA volunteer library staff, by arrangement (eg literature and online searches).
  • Access to a computer, printer, scanner and the internet.
  • Photocopying (A4, black and white).

Location, access and opening

The Sir Robert Ball Library is located in the Benson Room within the Birmingham and Midland Institute (BMI), 9 Margaret Street, Birmingham, B3 3BS, England, see: for a location map.

Located in the heart of the city of Birmingham, the BMI is less than a 10 minute walk from both Birmingham New Street and Snow Hill railway stations.

A regular opening schedule is intended for 2016, with a plan to open the library at least once a month. We hope to publish these dates in the near future. There is no access to the SHA Library at other times and the library is securely double locked and alarmed. If you are a member of the SHA and you wish to use the library, please contact the library staff and we can try and accommodate a time to open which is mutually convenient:

There are toilets nearby in the building, and there is a café on-site (Monday – Friday).  There is no on-site car park, though paid on-street parking may be available in the surrounding streets, and there are several car parks within easy reach.

History of the SHA Library

The original SHA Library came into being in June 2002 when the Society was founded.  Its first and then only, librarian was Madeline Cox, FRAS, who set up and organised the Society’s Lending Library, based at her home and operating by post.

In 2004, premises were kindly made available in the Benson Room at the Birmingham & Midland Institute for a Reference Library, which was subsequently named the Sir Robert Ball Library (SRBL) after a Past President of the BMI who was also a well-known Victorian astronomer, author and lecturer.

The Lending Library, which remained separate, was re-named the Sir Patrick Moore Library, and so the SHA Library Service then comprised two distinct libraries run by volunteer staff.

The SRBL was placed under the management of Stuart Williams, who was then founding Secretary of the SHA and later also its Research Librarian, and was initially set up by Stuart, working closely with then Survey Coordinator Roger Jones (who was until late 2014 also an Assistant Librarian, and who sadly passed away in 2015), under the oversight of Madeline Cox, who subsequently became Chair of the SHA’s newly-formed Library Committee.

In late 2007, re-organisation and expansion of the SHA Library Service was planned and as a result Madeline Cox became Head Librarian.

In early 2008, it was decided to merge the lending and reference libraries at the BMI, to make them more accessible to members and others.  At the same time, fixed opening days ceased and access to the library was made available by arrangement only.  The two libraries, although in the same room, were still managed separately.  It was becoming increasingly clear that it would be more logical to merge the whole operation of these two libraries.

In January 2009 the two libraries were merged together.  The SHA’s library overall would continue to be known as The Sir Robert Ball Library.  Within the SRBL, The Sir Patrick Moore Library became The Sir Patrick Moore Collection, acting as the Lending Section of the SRBL.  The rest of the SRBL’s several Collections (see below), comprising the bulk of its holdings, being for reference only.

In January 2015, the SHA’s founding Librarian, Madeline Cox, FRAS, sadly passed away, and Stuart Williams was appointed as acting Librarian for the SHA.

An enormous bequest of books to the SHA Library from Gilbert Satterthwaite and Madeline Cox brought the library to a stand-still throughout much of 2015 due to countless boxes obstructing the existing collections and making navigating around the library unsafe.

In the Autumn of 2015 new recruit to The Society, James Dawson expressed an interest in taking on the library project and James was subsequently appointed as the SHA Librarian in November 2015. Carolyn Bedwell was appointed as Assistant Librarian at the same time as she too had expressed interest in the library.


For general enquiries about the SHA Library Service and the Sir Robert Ball Library, please contact James Dawson.   For enquiries about the SHA Survey please see the separate Survey of Astronomical History site.


This document is © copyright of the SHA but may be freely downloaded and referred to or printed off for non-commercial reference and research purposes.  It may not be sold, published, edited or given away in printed form, without permission. Organisations, educational establishments and institutions are welcome to print the SHA Library Manual & Catalogue off for reference in their libraries as long as all pages are made available as a complete issue.