The collection

Comprises 456 printed titles in 543 volumes from the library of Alec Craig, many purchased by him from the estate of Dr Pelham Horton Box in 1937 and 1939. The collection consists mainly of early to mid-twentieth-century books in English, French and German on sexual customs and practices, with some works of literary and artistic erotica. There are particularly strong holdings of the works of De Sade. The collection includes seven works from the eighteenth century and ten volumes published by the Fortune Press, including some that were the subject of criminal proceedings.

The collector

Alec Craig (Alexander George Craig, 1897-1973), author of Sex and Revolution (1934), The Banned Books of England (1937), The Banned Books of England and Other Countries (1962), and several volumes of poetry. Craig was interested generally in sexual behaviour and reform, and was also engaged with the socialist movement.


Donated by Craig’s widow in 1974.


Catalogued online in 2013. For an overview of the collection do a mixed classmark search on [Craig] or an author search on “Craig, Alec” as former owner.
The collection is held off-site and material requires 48 hours (excluding weekends) to be fetched.

Related archives

There is a small archive of correspondence, papers and pamphlets associated with the collection (MS1091; MS1187; MS1188).


Select publications

Espley, Richard, ‘The Censoring Impulse and the Literary Marketplace: Alec Craig and Proliferating Discourses of Resistance, Redemption and Abjection’, in The Book World: Selling and Distributing Literature, 1900-1940, ed. Nicola Wilson (Leiden: Brill, forthcoming).

Dr Richard Espley discusses Craig’s life

Watch Dr Richard Espley discuss Craig’s life, his motivation for collecting works on sexuality, erotic and censored books, and what his collection tells us about censorship and changing social taboos.