Guernsey's Guille-Allès library celebrates it's 140th birthday

Bronwen Brown has been along to the exhibition to find out more...

An exhibition displaying one of the rarest books in the world has opened at the Guille-Allès library to celebrate its 140th anniversary.

Thomas Guille and Frederick Allès opened the library in 1882.

The pair emigrated from Guernsey to New York as children and whilst in America, they were amazed by the libraries and made it their life long mission to open one of their own.

Fifty years later on their return to the island, the Guernsey men opened the Guille-Allès library and filled it with 70,000 books which they had collected throughout their time in New York.

Thomas Guille and Frederick Alllès. Credit: ITV Channel Television.

Adam Bayfield, Head of Marketing at the Guille-Allès library, says: "Thomas Guille and Frederick Allès were childhood friends who grew up together in Guernsey and emigrated to New York as teenagers.

"They were so astonished by the libraries that they encountered in New York that they made it their life's mission to one day, come back to Guernsey and make one of their own."

The library was also a museum which displayed taxidermy animals and books dating back to 1455. It was taken over by Guernsey museums in 1979.

A special exhibition is now open to showcase some of the original pieces in the museum.

One of the items is the 'Birds of America' which contains more than 170 life-size paintings of North American birds.

The Birds of America Credit: ITV Channel Television

Chief Librarian, Cornelia James, says: "Reflecting on our history, I'm struck by how far the library continues to embrace the vision that Mr Guille and Mr Allès had in mind when they first opened the doors.

"They started the library because they wanted to give islanders access to knowledge and the opportunity to learn.

"140 years later, we're still going strong and still striving to live up to that vision."

The exhibition is open until the end of January 2023.