The nucleus of Mead’s library was formed during his grand tour of Italy in 1695. The small number of books that he brought back with him eventually grew to an extensive library of great renown.
Having moved to 49 Great Ormond Street after the death of the renowned physician Sir John Radcliffe, its previous occupant, Mead decided to build a library in the garden to house his growing book collection, to which was added Radcliffe’s collection of over two hundred volumes.
Mead employed for this the architect James Gibbs, who also designed the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford and Trafalgar Square’s St. Martin in the Fields. His library was built between 1732 and 1734 and became a prime destination for scholars, as well as for visitors just wanting to see the building and Mead’s collection of curiosities.
William Macmichael (1783-1839), one of Mead’s biographers, wrote
“Mead threw open…
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