Inevitably, there are significant gaps in the Library’s collection of early printed books, which is understandable given the limited resources available to the trustees, as well as their very deliberate acquisitions policy. Sometimes the works that were missed, as Matthew Yeo’s study of the Library’s early acquisitions shows, can be as interesting as what we actually bought.
With the local history collections however, gaps become more problematic, particularly as our acquisitions policy has long been revised to specialise in the history of Manchester. Happily, we are occasionally able to plug the gaps as we did recently with the purchase at auction of Thomas Talbot Bury’s Coloured Views on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, with Plates of the Coaches, Machines… with Descriptive Particulars, Serving as a Guide to Travellers on the Railway (1831), one of the most beautiful books ever published on the history of the North West. Why this work wasn’t acquired on publication is baffling, as other similarly illustrated works on railways, such as Tait’s Views on the Manchester & Leeds Railway (1845) were bought on publication. It may be a little embarrassing to have waited almost two hundred years to buy the book but we are very glad to add it to the collection.
Thomas Talbot Bury, a pupil of Pugin, produced thirteen views of the railway. The first edition was quickly followed by a second, which was followed by a reissue, French and Spanish editions, and reproductions of the prints for sale in France and Germany. The railway, the world’s first passenger line, was built primarily to address the urgent commercial need for faster links between the Liverpool docks and the factories of Manchester, a need that became ever more pressing as time went on, leading sixty years later to the creation of the Manchester Ship Canal.