From Home

Although we’re now back to working in the Library, we’ll try to make sure there are more things from our collections to enjoy from your screen and we’ll be bringing more posts from the collections to these pages. ‘From Home’: in a new departure for the Library into the world of video, we’re delighted to work in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University to co-curate an in-depth study of Manchester antiquarian Thomas Barritt (1743-1820) with Visiting Curator Dr Peter N. Lindfield FSA from the Department of History and Centre for Gothic Studies. Please have a look and enjoy five videos about this remarkable Georgian Mancunian.

On the menu From Home

We think that the months during lockdown were probably been the longest the Library has ever been physically closed since it opened the doors of its fifteenth-century buildings to the public in August 1655. It’s somewhere visitors and readers like to come to, for items in the collections, for the antiquity of the surroundings, even for the oft-mentioned smell of oak and book dust. While we were all socially distancing and staying in, there wasn’t much we could offer to the sense of smell; but we didn’t have to give up enjoying the collections and the look of the place, even if we had to make do with pictures.


Believed to be Humphrey Chetham’s last selfie

We’re not sure what founder Humphrey Chetham (1580-1653) would have made of all this – he hasn’t posted much on social media recently – but we hope you’ll enjoy some of what’s here.


To celebrate #MuseumFromHome in May 2021, we started Tweeting and Instagramming an image a day from the Library’s Manchester Scrapbook (more on its history on our treasures page).

This mighty tome, a personal creation by Francis Egerton, 1st Earl of Ellesmere, was presented to the Library in 1838. It’s full of rarities, both hand-drawn and print, and centres on Manchester and region. An example is the ‘House of Correction’ image at the top of this page. The scrapbook is a unique collection and gives you the real flavour of industrialising nineteenth-century Manchester and of a pre-industrial past already vanishing. So you don’t have to search through social media posts, we’ll be adding each posted item to a new page dedicated to the Scrapbook – please take a look!

New version of the Printed Items catalogue

Our Printed Items catalogue has had a major upgrade, making it much more attractive and adding things like thumbnails of digitised items, quick updates on our social media etc. Please have a look, and of course please also let us know if you hit problems.

The Library Blog

The blog isn’t in lockdown, and we’re adding new posts with our ‘home front’ resources – please take a look from time to time. This month’s contribution is from Library volunteers Kath Rigby and Patti Collins:  ‘A Small World?’ takes a look at the Library’s early atlases in context.

Coming soon

Tiny detail from the border of a Book of Hours, original perhaps an inch across

In preparation as the lockdown was instituted was our project to give visitors the chance to handle and turn the pages of facsimiles of some of our rarest items, too delicate to bring out frequently, but too good to miss. The physical items will have to wait a while now, but we’ll showcase some of the images taken in preparation.

Here’s one we made earlier

The virtual visitor and reader has had ways to explore slices of the collections for a while, and we’ve been able to add more resources in several projects over time, thanks to help and partnerships from fine organisations such as Salford’s Booth Charities, the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund, Arts Council England and the DCMS/Wolfson Foundation.
Why not beguile a little of your time, or plan your next reading visit with some of these?
101 Treasures : to get an idea of the breadth of the collections in print and in manuscript that the Library has built up over the centuries, start with our 101 Treasures.

From among the 101 Treasures – matching sword and jacket by Next

Bonus question and staff numeracy test – are there really 101?

Visit bygone Belle Vue : There are usually two ways to get there (for those who remember Dinnerladies, neither involves Urmston), our Virtual Belle Vue exhibition; this is offline at present and we may not be able to bring it back in its present form. For the present at least, please visit the collection through the records on our Archives and Manuscripts catalogue, where you’ll find all the material that was available on the Virtual Belle Vue site and all new records. Try something like ‘bears’, or ‘boxing’.

A thumping good time at Belle Vue

IN Salford : Working with the Booth Charities of Salford, another seventeenth-century charitable foundation, we’ve put many thousands of images of the city and its environs online, with many more to come – browse them from here, then break out into your own searches.

Mrs Thornton is ready to take you west of Irwell

Please enjoy these, do let us know what you think, stay well, and we’ll look forward to seeing you when you can visit us!