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M A Library

1. What is the MA Library?

The Library of the Mathematical Association comprises nearly 11000 books and 700 runs of periodicals from many different countries. The collection covers mathematics, its teaching, history and popularisation, and is particularly rich in its coverage of school and university mathematics textbooks of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The collection also includes over 850 older or rarer items going back to the sixteenth century. The Library as a whole is a unique primary source for the history of the mathematics curriculum in the United Kingdom.

2. What is in the MA Library?

The whole of the MA Library has been catalogued electronically by the University of Leicester Library and can be accessed worldwide via the Web.

For a start go to the University's External Home Page:

To see all the electronic records for MA books:

Scroll down to collections and use the drop-down menu to select Mathematical Association Collection.

  • Click on Search

This list identifies all the older or rarer books in the MA collection, using a prefix SC for Special Collection, and S for small, M for medium and T for tall items.

Other MA books have the prefix M.A. or FM.A. for larger items (F for folio).

  • Click on details for individual item information and the catalogue record.

To look for a particular item:

  • Click on Author/Title Search; enter the author's surname only, and the title, excluding words a, an, the.

Without any Search Limits, the search will identify a book in the University's Library as a whole, including the subset of MA books.

3. Where is the MA Library?

The Library of the Mathematical Association is accommodated in the David Wilson Library on the main campus of the University of Leicester. The postal address is:

  • David Wilson Library
    PO Box 248
    University Road
    Leicester LE1 9QD

To find the Library, go to the, the University's External Home Page

The bulk of the MA Library is accommodated on moving stack shelves in the Blue Zone on David Wilson Library Floor 1, next to the University's mathematical books. The older or rarer items are part of the University's Special Collections, which are accommodated in the Library Basement as part of the Kirby and West Suite. MA periodicals are also accommodated in the Basement, on moving stack shelving.

For travel to the University of Leicester main campus:

4. Who manages the MA Library and supports its use?

The Library of the Mathematical Association is managed by a small Library Committee, under the chairmanship of the MA Librarian, appointed by the MA Council:

The University Library staff support the MA Library's development in many ways and are represented on the Committee by:

  • Dr Simon Dixon, University of Leicester Digital Humanities and Special Collections Manager
    tel. 0116-2522056

Committee meetings and the administration of periodical exchange arrangements internationally are supported from MA HQ by:

  • Marcia Murray, Senior Administraror
    The Mathematical Association
    259 London Road
    Leicester LE2 3BE
    tel. 0116-2210013

5. How do I gain access in person?

Campus Entry and Parking:

MA members who register with the University Library are treated as external readers. Enter the main campus by Visitor Entrance 1, near the Welford Road (A50) end, and explain your business to the Security Officer when you get to the barrier.

For parking, external readers are not normally entitled to use visitor parking spaces. Parking is available on a pay and display basis, on the right by Wyggeston College, after passing through the security barrier


To register for a day, reference-only, visitor pass you must provide valid proof of ID and a letter from MA HQ which confirms your current membership of the MA and the expiry date. Full registration, including the borrowing entitlement, is for a maximum of one year, or up to the date of membership expiry, and you must additionally provide two passport-style photographs when you register. Registration is renewable annually. The costs of reference-only or borrowing readership are waived for current MA members.

On entry to the David Wilson Library you will need to explain at Reception that you wish to register, or show your current library registration card.

  • Library Registration
    tel. 0116-2522040

Time Restrictions on Access:

Access to MA books and periodicals in the open stacks is possible during all opening hours.

The MA books in the Special Collection are subject to special rules for reference-only use in the Reading Room of the Kirby and West Suite. Arrangements should be made in advance by contacting:

This facility is only open Monday-Friday, 9.00am-5.00pm.

For up-to-date Library opening hours and special closure details please visit the University of Leicester Library home page


For any further information or help you can contact:

6. How can I borrow items?

The borrowing entitlement is up to a maximum of four items, for up to four weeks excluding short loan items, from the MA or University collection as a whole. For borrowing in person, check the opening hours for loans from the Library Home Page on the Web.

There is a Postal Book Loan Service for MA members registered with the University Library. MA members may borrow MA books only, by post, subject to their borrowing entitlement. The only charge is for postage and packing to supply, and the borrower pays for return.

Books may be returned by post (see 3 above for the postal address), at the borrower's own risk until received by the Library.

Loans may be set up or renewed by contacting:

NB The Special Collections are reference only.

7. What other services are available?

As registered external readers, MA members may request inter-library loans or limited photocopying. For details and costs, contact the Document Supply Service:

8. How does the MA Library grow?

The Library of the Mathematical Association grows through donations via publishers, from MA members or their relatives following bereavement. For a history of the Library's growth since 1890, see:

Mary Walmsley, Mike Price and Michael Dampier, Mathematical Textbooks from Six Centuries,  Mathematical Association, 2005, available from MA HQ (see 4 above)

This publication includes a complete list of MA Special Collection books held up to 2005. Since 2005 the Collection has grown to over 850 titles. The main contribution to this remarkable growth - over 300 titles - has come from the historical library of the late John Hersee. The current listing can be downloaded:


The Special Collection also holds some runs of a number of early mathematical serials and the current list can be downloaded:


The list includes cross-references (A number) to the authoritative survey of such serials by R C Archibald, ‘Notes on some minor English mathematical serials’, Mathematical Gazette, vol.xiv, no. 200, April 1929, 379-400.

The Manuscript Collection

The MA’s Special Collection now holds an exceptional collection in 49 conservation boxes of nearly 300 mathematical manuscript exercise or copy books from the 18th and 19th centuries, including the earliest example from 1704.

The collection came from the historical library of the late John Hersee, a former MA President (1992-3), and was the largest such collection in private hands in the UK.

The majority of these books are properly bound and run to 100 or more pages, up to a maximum of over 500, and some are multi-volume sets from one writer. They largely served as carefully cyphered works of reference for the learner, before the use of cheaply printed pupil textbooks and flimsy exercise books became the norm from the late-nineteenth century. Some of the books include illustrations, sometimes quite lavish and in colour.

The mathematical content of these books is predominantly restricted to elementary subjects: mainly arithmetic and mensuration but also some geometry, trigonometry and algebra, and applications, particularly commerce and accounting, but also gauging (excise measurements), surveying and navigation.

To find out more about this extraordinary collection, reference may be made to the web pages of the David Wilson Library. Googling on ‘Hersee manuscripts’ will provide a quick link to the welcome page for these manuscripts in Special Collections. Here there is a watercolour illustration of a trigonometrical problem from 1832, and a web link to the collection’s full catalogue record. The links also include a full listing of all the books and their contents (building on Hersee's own work) with nearly forty additional illustrations, and a YouTube video link from the 2011 MA Conference, featuring the oldest 1704 volume and the colour illustrated volume of 1832.

Since Hersee’s very generous donation, the largest collection of such manuscript books in private hands must be the accumulation of over 125 volumes in the library of John Denniss. He has recently produced a richly illustrated monograph on these books: Figuring It Out (2012), published by Huxley Scientific Press and available for £10 (plus £1.50 P&P): go to

9. The MA Library at MA HQ

Visitors to MA HQ may also access, on a reference-only basis, an interesting collection of over 200 older books, principally from the libraries of the late Charles Attwood and John Hersee. These books are duplicate copies of books held in the David Wilson Library and a handlist is available for reference in the John Hersee Room at MA HQ.

10. Donations

Enquiries about possible donations should be addressed in the first instance to Marcia Murray at MA HQ (see 4 above). Possible material for the MA Library should not be delivered to or deposited at MA HQ without invitation.

Mike Price

revised February 2014

Primary Mathematics Challenge