Romance Collections

The Romance Languages Collections form the centrepiece of the Senate House Library’s foreign language and literature holdings, and are located on the 5th floor of Senate House.

These very broad-ranging collections cover the field of Romance linguistics, literature, and literary criticism, with an emphasis on contemporary primary literature, and comprise material on the following languages:

  • French and Occitan
  • Spanish, Catalan and Galician
  • Italian
  • Portuguese
  • Romanian

The majority of the Romance Languages Collections are print-based and supported by a small number of electronic periodicals. Outside the primary four languages (French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese), the collections include books in Galician, Occitan, and Romanian (the latter limited to works in English).


The collection is broadly comprehensive, covering language and literature from the medieval period onwards, but is particularly strong in literature from the mid-19th century onwards. Other areas covered include: Old French to 1500, Provençal literature, Anglo-Norman French, the history of French literature, French literature of Asia and North Africa, French literature of Africa, Belgian literature, and French-Canadian literature.


With the exception of canonical figures such as Cervantes, the majority of the Spanish collection is devoted to 20th-century writing, particularly of the post-Franco period. Literature from Spanish-speaking Latin-America can be found in the Latin-American Studies Collection. The collection’s Catalan holdings were augmented by the acquisition of the collection of Joan Lluis I Serra, the noted Catalan antiquarian bookseller, publisher, scholar and translator. The Gili Collection totals almost 2,000 items, mainly in Catalan, but with some material in Castilian Spanish, French, English and German. The focus of the collection is on Catalan language and literature, with representative examples of major Catalan authors.


The Italian collection does not have a strong emphasis on a particular period and/or author, but covers general history and criticism, grammar, dialects, as well as Italian literature from the medieval period to the present.


In comparison to the other Romance languages, the Portuguese collection is relatively compact, with a definitive emphasis on the post-war period. It includes material from Portuguese-speaking Africa, but not Latin-America (held in the Latin-American Studies Collection). Areas covered are Portuguese language and literature from the medieval period onwards, general history and criticism, dictionaries, grammar and syntax, and language-learning textbooks.