Manchester Digital Collections

Browse our collections

Bible illustrations

The Bible Collection at John Rylands Library is one of the finest in the world, spanning six centuries and more than 400 different languages and dialects. It originated with Enriqueta Rylands' purchase of the Spencer Collection in 1892. Subsequent additions included the donation of 2,000 Bibles by Mrs Ernest Hartland of Chepstow in memory of her late husband Mr Hartland in the 1930s.

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Bow in the Cloud

These two volumes contain the original manuscripts of verse and prose contributions to The Bow in the Cloud, or The Negro’s Memorial (London: Jackson and Walford, 1834), together with numerous letters to the volume’s editor, Mary Anne Rawson. The collection features letters from those who contributed, including John Holland and James Montgomery, and those who declined to contribute, including William Wordsworth, Robert Southey and Thomas Moore, and many of the letters express views on slavery. Also included are portraits and engravings of contributors, and newspaper reviews of the publication.

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Hebrew Manuscripts

The University of Manchester Library holds over 400 Hebrew manuscripts dating from the 14th century to the early 20th century. They include deluxe decorated and illustrated religious and literary manuscripts such as the famous Rylands Haggadah, rare and unique items expressing marginal forms of Judaism, a collection of Ketubbot (marriage contracts), and amulets and other magical texts assembled by Moses Gaster.

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History of Medicine

Manchester has played a pivotal role in the development of medicine since the mid-eighteenth century. Long-standing, close ties between the University of Manchester, the influential Manchester Medical Society, Manchester Royal Infirmary and other major teaching hospitals, have encouraged the University of Manchester Library to develop an outstanding collection of manuscript and printed resources for studies in the history of medicine.

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Latin Manuscripts

The Library holds a collection of over 500 Latin manuscripts from across Europe and spanning over 1200 years. They range from deluxe manuscripts once owned by emperors and popes, to workaday texts belonging to impecunious students and mendicant friars. 49 of these items have been fully digitised to date.

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Mapping Manchester

Maps reveal the geographical ideas of the past, the present and the future. They show us our developing knowledge of the world and expose our beliefs. They are powerful objects, which can assert power and deceive. Yet, they also help us to make sense of the world and help us to navigate and construct our cities. Maps stir our imagination and take us to unexplored lands.

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Manchester Museum

Manchester Museum, part of The University of Manchester, first opened in 1890. It is the UK's largest university museum with a collection of about 4.5 million items from every continent.

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Mary Hamilton Papers

Mary Hamilton (1756-1816), courtier and diarist, stood at the nexus of several interlocking royal, aristocratic, literary and artistic circles in late eighteenth-century London. The Mary Hamilton Papers in the John Rylands Library, which include almost 2,500 letters, 16 meticulously detailed diaries, and six manuscript volumes, supplemented by a number of letters, diaries and manuscript volumes held elsewhere, form a rich resource providing a window into the intellectual and social world of Hamilton’s day.

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Middle English Manuscripts

The Middle English manuscripts held at the John Rylands Library are of paramount importance to key subject areas, including literature, history, theology, linguistics and art history. They date from the mid-14th century to the beginning of the 16th. The manuscripts were originally digitised as part of a JISC (the Joint Information Systems Committee) funded project called In the Bigynnyng.

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Papyrus to Print

The University of Manchester Library’s Special Collections are among the most important primary sources in Europe, with enormous research potential across an array of subjects. Rare books range from the pinnacles of European printing, such as Gutenberg and Caxton, to examples of street literature and seditious texts. Manuscripts span four thousand years and over fifty languages, and are written on virtually every medium ever employed, including clay, papyrus, parchment, vellum, linen, palm leaves, copper, ivory, felt, bark and bamboo. We encourage the use of these collections in teaching, especially to investigate the history of the book throughout the medieval and early modern periods, including its classical and late antique antecedents, and the late medieval and early modern transformation into print.

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Persian Manuscripts

The Library holds an important collection of nearly one thousand Persian manuscripts, dating from between the early 13th century CE and the 20th. There are numerous calligraphic and lavishly illustrated texts and decorated bindings, alongside early copies of important literary and historical works.

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Peterloo

The Peterloo collection of documents, pamphlets, maps and newspapers chronicle the 16 August 1819 massacre and its aftermath. It includes a full run of the radical Manchester Observer (1818-1821), materials gathered by magistrates to defend their actions and 2 injuries books which give a human dimension to the tragedy.

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Petrarch

The Petrarch collection holds more than 80 fully-digitized editions of Petrarch's Italian poetry and associated commentary, all printed between 1470 and c. 1650. These editions are held in the collections of the John Rylands Library, and digitized as part of the AHRC-funded project 'Petrarch Commentary and Exegesis in Renaissance Italy, c.1350-c.1650'.

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Photo Jewellery

The Photo Jewellery collection held at The John Rylands Library is an interesting, thought provoking insight into culture and identity. Photography was an invention of the Victorian era and photographic jewellery represented a permanent way to store a memory and carry an image of beloved friends and family. Since the opportunity to be photographed was not as prevalent as it is today, a photograph was a special and precious object.

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Revolutionary France

The French Revolution collection at the John Rylands Library contains an excellent range of printed material published in France between the start of the French Revolution of 1789 and the fall of the 1871 Paris Commune. There are particular strengths in newspapers and periodicals from the first revolutionary decade, and nineteenth-century histories and memoirs dealing with the various Revolutionary, Napoleonic and Restoration eras. Much of the collection was originally part of the enormous private library of the Earls of Crawford, the ‘Bibliotheca Lindesiana’. During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the 26th Earl enthusiastically directed a series of large purchases at auction to build up the collection, which his son then transferred to the JRL during the first half of the twentieth century (in the form of a gift and a ‘semi-permanent’ loan). In the late 1980s, the loan collection, including most the French Revolutionary manuscripts, was withdrawn by the Crawford family and is now available for study at the National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh. However, all the other items (forming the majority of the original collection) are still at the library, and this collection remains a rich resource for the study of France and her revolutionary traditions.

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The Whitworth

The Whitworth is proudly part of the University of Manchester and serves as a bridge between the University and the people of the city; a place to meet, play and learn in public. Its mission is to use art for social change.

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Women in wartime

Arthur Reavil’s photographic album at The John Rylands Library provides a fascinating insight into the working lives of women during the First World War (1914-1919).

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