Rare book collections

The following collections are held in the location(s) listed below, predominantly Special Collections, Arts and Social Sciences Library, but also Biological Sciences Library (parts of Botany and Wiglesworth collection), Education Library (D.H. Oldham collection), Medical Library (Medical and Parry collection), Physics Library (Physics), Queens Library (Engineering and Nelson collection) and Wills Library (Geology and Law). Brief collection descriptions are given here, with details of fuller collection descriptions where available.

Access and contact details are given on the main Special Collections page.

Architecture

Originally established in 1851 as the library of the Bristol Society of Architects, it is, in consequence, one of the best collections of old and rare books on architecture in the provinces.

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Botany

Built up by bequest, gift and purchase. Major bequests include those from Hiatt Baker, Agnes Fry, S.H.Vines and James Walter White. The collection includes much material from the 16th to 18th centuries. There are also manuscript notes for the revision of J.W. White's Flora of the Bristol Coalfield, and volumes of paintings of British plants by J. Steuart-Powell and F.E. Cundall.

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Business history

Books and pamphlets collected by A.C. Langford, Officer of Customs and Excise at Bristol Airport, and later acquired by the University. The original collection has been much augmented by gift and purchase and now contains about 24,000 volumes. Much of the material is ephemeral, published by firms for limited circulation among their employees.

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Courtesy books

A small collection, built up by purchase, it contains material from the 16th to the mid-19th century.

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D.H. Oldham collection

This collection of children's books was presented to the Library by Donald Oldham of Bath. Publication dates range from 1788 to 1945, but most of the material is 19th century. It forms a valuable introduction to children's literature of the period.

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EEBO: Early English Books Online

From the first book printed in English by William Caxton, through the age of Spenser and Shakespeare and the tumult of the English Civil War, EEBO: Early English Books Online will contain over 125,000 titles listed in Pollard and Redgrave's short-title catalogue (1475-1640), Wing's short-title catalogue (1641-1700), the Thomason Tracts (1640-1661), and the Early English Tract Supplement - all in full digital facsimile from the Early English Books microfilm collection. Further information is available on the database.

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Early novels

Built up by W.L. Cooper, Librarian of the University (1923-46), and now, again, added to regularly. The collection is of English novels to about 1850, together with early English translations of foreign novels. Most are first editions.

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Early science and philosophy

A large collection, built up by gift and purchase, it includes the works of virtually all the significant British scientists to 1800. The Library also possesses the Readex Microprint collection Landmarks of science, comprising some 3900 works of some 1900 scientific authors.

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Engineering

A large collection, built up by gift and purchase, the collection consists of the collected works of famous engineers of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, together with some of the more important single works.

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Exley collection

This collection of mathematical interest was formed by two Bristol teachers, Thomas Exley (1775-1855) and his son John Thompson Exley (1815-99). The bulk of the library was presented to the University College in 1899. Other books of early date, later added to the Exley Collection, came in part from the Library of the Bristol Education Society, established in 1770.

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Eyles collection

Formerly considered to be the finest accumulation of early geological publishing in private hands, the Collection formed part of the library of Dr V.A. and Mrs J. M. Eyles and was bequeathed to the University in 1986. It includes many maps and atlases as well as books and periodicals. It is regularly added to.

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Garden history

Built up by gift and purchase: part of the University Library's substantial holdings in horticultural and agricultural history. Modern limited editions accompany the earlier works.

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Garner collection

Mainly chemical and alchemical history, with some items of more general interest. At least half the volumes were donated by Professor William Edward Garner (1889-1960), who was on the staff of the Chemistry Department of the University 1926-54. Some came from the collection of Philip John Worsley, one of the original sponsors of the University College in 1874, and a member of the University Council until 1917. Many of the remainder were donated by other members of the teaching staff of the School of Chemistry.

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Geology

The collection has been assembled mainly as a result of the personal enthusiasm of two professors of Geology at the University - Sidney Hugh Reynolds, who held the Channing-Wills Chair from 1901-33; and Walter Frederick Whittard who held the same chair from 1937-66. Other donors include Herbert Leader Hawkins (1887-1968) of the University of Reading; Henry Woods (1868-1952), lecturer in Paleozoology at the University of Cambridge; Stanley Smith (1883-1955), of the University of Bristol; the Ducie family of Tortworth Court; Ernest Handel Cossham Wethered (1878-1975); and Sir Edward Fry (1827-1918). Books acquired from the Bristol Baptist College include former possessions of Andrew Gifford (1700-84).

The collection includes works from the mid-seventeenth century onwards important in the historical developments of geology, the local geology of the Bristol and Bath areas, stratigraphy, mineralogy and palaeontology. There are interesting early works on gemmology, volcanology, palaeobotany, conchology and evolutionary theory.

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Gladstone Library

Formerly in the possession of the National Liberal Club, Whitehall Place, London, which was founded in 1883. Purchased by the University in 1976, the Gladstone Library incorporated the libraries of the daughters of Richard Cobden and T. Fisher Unwin, and a large pamphlet collection started by Charles Bradlaugh. The pamphlet collection, which contains much rare and early material, covers subjects such as slavery and the slave trade, English liberalism, socialism, railways, and bi-metallism. The books and serials have been dispersed among the general and restricted collections of the University Library. Further details are available of the National Liberal Club pamphlets at Bristol and of the 19th Century Pamphlets Online Project, incorporating some of our collections.

References

A.W. Hutton, 'A political club library', The Library, v.2 (1890).
The Gladstone Library: a unique service, London: National Liberal Club, 1967.
Early railway pamphlets 1825-1900, London: National Liberal Club, 1938.

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Law

Built up by bequest, gift and purchase, this collection contains works from the 15th to the mid-19th centuries.  It incorporates material acquired for the Library from the Bristol Law Society in 1934 by Gilbert Alan Hamilton Wills, the first Lord Dulverton.

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Leonard Forster collection

The Forster Collection is a celebration of the polyglot culture of baroque Europe, and a monument to the broad sympathies and wide learning of its originator, Professor Leonard Wilson Forster (1913-1997). From the Schröder Chair of German in the University of Cambridge, Forster championed engagement with a period remarkable not only for its literary productions but more especially for cultural achievement in the midst of the devastating ebb and flow of the armed might of nations and confessions. As Curt von Faber du Faur has said, ā propos of German baroque literature, almost every text is a valuable survivor of wartime catastrophe and generations of critical neglect and the misprision that arises from the imprint of poverty in the physical appearance of the book. Professor Forster's rare books, so generously bestowed upon the University Library, were collected, however, not as mere bibliographical curiosities but, in the recollection of Professor Peter Skrine of the University's Department of German, as "the primary objects of his scrutiny, many of them directly connected with his publications, and constituting what in Germany is so aptly termed a Handbibliothek." The collection is European, though particularly German, in scope. It encompasses the weighty canonical collections of Opitz's verse and the superbly-produced Gottfried von Bulljon, as well as the slender and excessively rare Hirten Gespräch of the Silesian Christian Cunrad. There is a considerable body of Late Latin poetry and there is material representative of every possible literary form, from courtesy and emblem books, through drama and devotion, to epistolary paradigms, classical editions, fiction, humour and history. Two gatherings of the British Baroque Symposium have given occasion to exhibit this many-faceted jewel among the treasures in Special Collections, alongside other German editions of the seventeenth century. As a result of this publicity, the editorial board of German Life and Letters made a generous grant to complete the recataloguing in electronic form of these other editions and to begin work on the Dutch imprints of the period. In this the board sought to honour the memory of one of the periodical's most distinguished editors and to continue his advocacy of the baroque age.

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Medical (general collections)

The library was founded in 1893 as the joint library of the Medical School (founded in 1833) and the Bristol Medico-Chirurgical Society (founded in 1874; library founded 1890). Incorporated are collections originally forming the libraries of the Bristol Royal Infirmary (founded 1735; library, acquired 1894, established 1826 with gifts of books from Richard Smith (1772-1843), and Richard Lowe (died 1850)), the Bristol General Hospital (founded 1831, library acquired 1894), the Bristol Medical Library, later the Bristol Museum and Library (founded in 1832), and the Royal United Hospital, Bath. The early collections, which cover most aspects of contemporary medicine, including basic sciences, dentistry and veterinary science are:

  • Strongroom Collection (1478-1799) contains about 1,900 18th century and 300 earlier volumes.
  • Nineteenth Century Collection (1800-99) contains 7,640 books, 6,240 periodical volumes and 4,750 pamphlets.
  • Mineral Waters and Spas Collection contains 285 volumes, the majority from the 18th century.

References

Catalogue of the Bristol Royal Infirmary Library. Bristol: Taylor, 1857.
L.M. Griffiths, 'The Bristol Medical Library', Bristol medico-chirurgical journal v.29, no. 114 (Dec.1911), p.335-44.
A.E.S. Roberts, 'The Medical Library of the University of Bristol', Medical journal of the South West v.73, no. 267 (Jan. 1958), p.12-14.
"On the history and growth of the Bristol Medical School Library", Bristol medico-chirurgical journal v.85, no. 316 (Oct 1970), p. 93-100.

Further details are also available from the web guide to the 19th Century Pamphlets Online Project, which incorporates some of our collection.

Location

  • Medical Library, collections accessible throughout the Library's opening hours.

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Moravian collection

Formerly the parish library of the Maudlin Street Bristol congregation of the Moravian Church, deposited on permanent loan in the University Library in 1966. The deposits were accompanied by a gift of books from Bishop Macleavy, formerly part of the library of Bishop Benjamin Latrobe. Books are mainly from the 18th century. Included also is a rare early edition of the atlas of Justus Danckerts (26 maps about 1670-90, augmented by J.P. Homann and other eighteenth century maps, all hand-coloured and extensively indexed; formerly the property of Dr H.O. Stephens).

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Nelson collection

The collection of mainly 19th century mathematical tables made by Edward Miles Nelson (1851-1938), was given to the University in 1933. Some volumes have been added from the Exley Collection.

Location

  • Queen's Building Library. Card catalogue. A subject approach is possible via Fletcher, Miller & Rosenhead, An index of mathematical tables, 1946.

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Parliamentary papers

The Library has a complete set of Command papers and House of Commons papers from 1715 to date. Between 1801 and 1944/45 the papers are in microform.

Location

  • Arts and Social Sciences Library (open access throughout the Library's opening hours). Her Majesty's Stationery Office (HMSO) and other printed indexes are the chief finding tool.

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Parry collection

The library of Caleb Hillier Parry (1755-1822), a Bath physician, agriculturalist and geologist, containing 900 early medical works. It was presented by his son to the Royal United Hospital, Bath, and passed to Bath City Reference Library in 1933, together with the library (estimated in 1948 at 220 items) of John Smith Soden (1780-1863), an original member of the BMA, and Surgeon to the Royal United Hospital, Bath. Both collections were donated to the University by Bath City Council in 1950. The Parry part has a separate manuscript sheaf catalogue, and is kept together as "The Parry Collection", while the others have been absorbed into the general arrangement of the Medical Library.

Reference

R.W.M. Wright, 'Bath Hospital Medical Library', The Record: bulletin of the Victoria Art Gallery and Municipal Library, Bath, no.7 (1948), p.225-34.

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Penguin Books collection

Originally the gift of Sir Allen Lane in 1960 to mark his completion of 25 years as chairman of Penguin Books Ltd, it was supplemented by him in 1965 and 1966, and rounded off in 1969. In 1975 Penguin Books Ltd undertook to supply a copy of each new or reprinted title, and this arrangement continues. With few exceptions, each volume published before 1970 is signed by its author, editor or translator, and there are also many signed letters, photographs and other memorabilia. Most volumes are first editions, many of the early ones complete with wrappers.

Location

  • Special Collections, Arts and Social Sciences Library. Publisher's printed catalogue of 1970.

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Physics

Built up from gifts and from a section of the Exley Bequest, the collection has substantial holdings of 17th, 18th and early 19th century monographs and serials.

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Wiglesworth collection (ornithology)

A large collection bequeathed to the University by Dr Joseph Wiglesworth, 1853-1919, and since augmented by purchase. In addition to the early material there are many fine 19th and early 20th-century editions with chromo-litho or hand- coloured plates.

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Miscellaneous collections

Built up by gift, bequest and purchase, the collection incorporates early and rare material from the libraries of Nicholas Pocock, 1814-97, Oskar Teichman, 1880-1959, Thomas Exley, 1775-1855, David Cathcart King, members of the Wills and Fry families and others connected with the life of the University.

Theological literature and controversy is especially well represented, complementing the theological aspects of many of the more specialised collections. The classics, literature and history, particularly agricultural history and the castle also feature strongly. There is a useful cartographical section containing early maps and atlases. The Fry bequests include many extra-illustrated books.

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Microform material

Apart from the Landmarks of science and Parliamentary paper microforms already mentioned above, the following are amongst the more significant collections of primary and secondary research material in microform held by the University Library:

  • Anti-slavery collection: 18th and 19th centuries. (World Microfilms)
  • Archives of the British Conservative, Labour, Independent Labour and Liberal Parties. (Harvester and Adam Matthew)
  • Archives of the Trades Union Congress. (Harvester)
  • British Cabinet papers, 1880-1916. (Harvester)
  • British Treasury, economic depression and international finance. (Harvester)
  • Changes of government, cabinet reconstructions and political crises, 1837-1901. (Harvester)
  • Complete transcripts of the Court of Appeal (Civil Division) judgments, 1951-1980. (HMSO)
  • EEBO: Early English Books Online: the texts of many of the works listed in Pollard and Redgrave's Short Title catalogue. (University Microfilms).
  • Episcopal registers, 1209-1705. (Harvester)
  • Francis Place papers. (Harvester)
  • Harleian, Lansdowne and Tanner manuscripts. (Harvester)
  • Landmarks of Science. (Readex)
  • Mass Observation archive. (Harvester)
  • Public order, discontent and protest, 1820-1850. (Harvester)
  • State domestic papers, 1547-1625. (Harvester)
  • State provision for social need: the Beveridge Committee report on the Welfare State (Adam Matthew)
  • Unpublished state papers of the Civil War and the Interregnum. (Harvester)

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