London has a long history of gentlemen’s clubs, and there are more of them than in any other city in the world. And yet this was the first exhibition to bring together under one roof some of their many treasures, normally hidden from public view.
The Association of Pall Mall Libraries was founded in December 2004 by the librarians of the Army & Navy, the Athenaeum, the Naval and Military, the Oxford and Cambridge, the Reform, the Royal Automobile Club and the Travellers Club. The Association rapidly expanded beyond the traditional confines of clubland, and includes members from all over central London.
The inaugural exhibition of the APML offered a unique opportunity for the general public to see books and artefacts from the collections of the Alpine Club, the Army & Navy, the Athenaeum, the East India, the Garrick, the Naval & Military, the Oriental, the Reform, the Royal Automobile Club, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the Royal Society of Medicine, the Royal United Services Institute, and the Travellers Club. The exhibits on display included items not only of intrinsic interest, but also of relevance to their respective institutions. The Garrick, for example, displayed Alec Guinness’s copy of a limited edition of Hamlet, illustrated by Henry Moore and dedicated to John Gielgud. The Royal Automobile Club exhibited the pressure gauge meter from the ‘Bluebird’ in which Donald Campbell achieved the record speed of 403.1 mph on 17 July 1964; and the Royal Society of Medicine, which hosted the exhibition in its newly opened Heritage Centre, displayed Rudyard Kipling’s copy of Culpeper’s book on herbs, and we must not forget the Army and Navy Club’s Emperor penguin, a survivor from the first of Scott’s Antarctic expeditions.
Sheila Markham (APML Chairman 2006-08)