This photograph of Brougham, presumably with a grandson, is signed Bayall and dated June 1861 on the base of the column within the image.

This photograph of Brougham, presumably with a grandson, is signed Bayall and dated June 1861 on the base of the column within the image.

First definition of the goals and purposes of the SDUK.

First definition of the goals and purposes of the SDUK.

Brougham's Political Philosophy as issued by Charles Knight for the SDUK in 1846. This may be the only work published by the SDUK that had the circular seal of the SDUK stamped into its upper
Creative Commons LicenseJeremy Norman Collection of Images - Creative Commons
Brougham's Political Philosophy as issued by Charles Knight for the SDUK in 1846. This may be the only work published by the SDUK that had the circular seal of the SDUK stamped into its upper covers.
Seal of the SDUK.
Creative Commons LicenseJeremy Norman Collection of Images - Creative Commons
Seal of the SDUK. On the bindings of my set of Brougham's works the seal about the size of a 50 cent coin.
Brougham Discourse 1827 title page
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Listing of the people who founded the SDUK
Public Domain Mark Jeremy Norman Collection of Images - Public Domain
The printed slips pasted to these two numbers of the SDUK's Library of Useful Knowledge explain to subscribers that it was time to renew their subscription to the series if the wanted to cont
Creative Commons LicenseJeremy Norman Collection of Images - Creative Commons
The printed slips pasted to these two numbers of the SDUK's Library of Useful Knowledge explain to subscribers that it was time to renew their subscription to the series if the wanted to continue to receive the subscribers' discount. Prior to acquiring these copies with these slips it was unclear how the publishers distributed copies in the U.S.
SDUK Library of Useful Knowledge parts
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The SDUK began its publication on a relatively large scale soon after it was launched. This is a small selection of issues of the Library of Useful Knowledge, each part of which cost 6 pence. On the upper wrapper of each part the publication lists the authorities who were in charge of the SDUK.

SDUK rear wrappers with different ads
Creative Commons LicenseJeremy Norman Collection of Images - Creative Commons

The publishers used the rear wrappers to advertise a wide variety of their publications, and only occasionally, SDUK publications.

Detail map of London, England, United Kingdom Overview map of London, England, United Kingdom

A: London, England, United Kingdom

Henry Brougham Launches the SDUK and the Library of Useful Knowledge

11/1826 to 1827
Caricature of Brougham with books in or on his head as "A Box of Useful Knowledge" dated 1832.

Caricature of Brougham with books in or on his head as "A Box of Useful Knowledge" dated 1832.

In November 1826 Henry Brougham and a large Committee of fellow educational reformers, many of them Whig or radical MPs and lawyers, founded the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (SDUK) in order to educate the widest range of readers. The purpose of the SDUK was to exploit the new high speed printing technology, and the anticipated growth of railroads, to publish cheap, informative works, and distribute them widely and rapidly. The founders agreed that the Society's publications would avoid party politics and religion in order to avoid controversy and appeal to the widest audiences. Though the SDUK hoped to bring education to the lowest classes of society, and the growing middle class, they found that the primary market for their teaching and publications was the English middle class.

1827 Brougham launched the SDUK's Library of Useful Knowledge with an introductory treatise promoting science:  A Discourse of the Objects, Advantages, and Pleasures of Science, published in 1827 and reaching a sale of 42,000 by 1833. The pamphlet offered a brief survey of mathematics, natural philosophy, the solar system, electricity, and the workings of the steam engine. It was followed by a statement of the aims of the SDUK and its initial publishing program. The Society defined itself as follows:

"The object of the Society is strictly limited to what its title imports, namely, the imparting of useful information to all classes of the community, particularly to such as are unable to available themselves of experience teachers, or may prefer learning by themselves.

"The plan proposed for the attainment of this object, is the periodical publication of Treatises, under the direction and with the sanction of a superintending Committee.

"As numerous Societies already exist for the dissemination of Religious Instruction, and as it is the object of this Society to aid the progress of those branches of general knowledge which can be diffused among all classes of the community, no Treatise published with the sanction of the Committee shall contain any matter of Controversial Divinity, or interfere with the principles of revealed Religion."

 

Timeline Themes