Archives are collections of documents, usually ones created by members of a group--a government department, for instance, or a society of some kind--or by an individual, and normally not intended to be published in their original form. For 19th-century researchers, that generally means handwritten documents: letters, diaries, ledgers, rosters, meeting minutes, handwritten originals of books/essays/poems, notebooks, scrapbooks, sketches, and the like. A huge amount of scholarly effort over the past several decades has gone into preparing and publishing reliable transcriptions of manuscripts written by prominent Victorians, hence the still ongoing projects associated with the letters of Carlyle, Gladstone, Dickens, Darwin, Eliot, Nightingale, and others. Several of those projects have now moved online, where they can readily be searched. In some cases, you can consult scans of original manuscripts. Larger collections of more miscellaneous manuscript materials are also online, usually behind subscription paywalls.
For the most part, though, as admirable and useful as these online projects are, they represent only a small fraction of the surviving manuscript heritage of 19th-century life. For everything else, you will physically have to travel to where the documents are kept -- in special collections libraries, local record offices, national archive collections, and private hands -- or else get someone to make copies for you. This is the "offline penumbra" into which many scholars never venture. And yet those who have worked with rare manuscript materials will tell you that such encounters have been among the most exciting and fulfilling experiences of their scholarly lives. The purpose of this section of the VRW is to help you find your way to these kinds of sources.
Your first ports of call for locating the unpublished materials you need to see should be the online databases and finding aids created and maintained by archivists and librarians. Here are some key resources:
- Archives Hub is a gateway to descriptions of thousands of archives held by UK colleges and universities;
- AIM25 is a public gateway to over 150 archival repositories in the Greater London area;
- the Discovery portal from the National Archives gives one-point access to material formerly divided among the National Register of Archives (NRA), Directory of Archives (ARCHON), and Access to Archives (A2A); and
- the London Metropolitan Archives covers a staggering array of government records to do with Greater London. (The Foundling Hospital records alone--eight tons of paper--are astounding.) The catalogue website offers a large set of suggested searches of its subject guides. Register (for free) for the LMA's "History Card" to unlock various features.
- ArchiveGrid consists of MARC records from WorldCat and is best consulted for items in U.S. special collections
County Record Offices. Don't neglect the County Record Office system. Undestandably, many researchers get so caught up in exploring the massive holdings of the British Library or the National Archives that they never venture out to these smaller repositories. Whether you are doing social history research on institutions like schools or asylums or factories, or looking for background material about a politician or scientist or literary or artistic figure, or looking for family or church or business or government records, the county record office will likely have materials that can be found nowhere else--and that few if any other scholars have ever examined. Although listings for their collections may be included in the National Archives database, it is often well worth checking out their individual websites and catalogues. The Lancashire County Council site, for example, has a guide to its substantial collection of diaries and journals that is arranged chronologically, which makes it easy to find the 19th-century materials. The Lincolshire Archives hosts, among its other riches, the Tennyson Research Centre, which contains a number of unique manuscripts associated with the poet. Many such sites (e.g., for Cornwall and North Yorkshire) offer sophisticated search facilities, and all of them will give you information crucial to planning your visit or obtaining copies. Scroll down through this guide to find a list, with links, to the various county record offices The UK CALM group offers a much more comprehennsive list of archives that includes links to local record offices. .
Finding Literary Manuscripts. An ongoing research project at the University of Reading under the direction of David Sutton has created "location registers" of the literary manuscript materials associated with British writers, thus rescuing researchers from many a wasted fishing expedition and fruitless inquiry-letter. The first register to appear was the Location Register of English Literary Manuscripts and Letters: 18th and 19th Centuries. This register has now been integrated into OCLC's WorldCat, the archival section of which is searchable free through the Library of Congress's NUCMUC site. Note, however, that some writers whom one might expect to find there, including many whose first works were published in the latter part of the 19th century (e.g., Thomas Hardy, Rider Haggard, and many others) are instead in the Location Register of English Literary Manuscripts and Letters: 20th Century. In 2003, this location register of 20th century Enlish literary manuscripts and letters, including all additions and corrections since their publication in 1988, was made freely available online by the University of Reading and is updated weekly.
Despite the growing reach of digitized resources, it is worth remembering that another alternative to on-site inspection of manuscript material may be to borrow from among the large collections of documents still available on microfilm at various research libraries. Some libraries, for instance, will still own microfilm collections once sold by Adam Matthew, which is now exclusively a digital publisher; these include Harriet Martineau's papers in Birmingham, the Margaret Oliphant papers at the NLS, and the Browning, Eliot, Thackeray and Trollope mss. held by the British Library. The University of Delaware Library, for instance, thanks to the early advocacy of veteran researcher Charles Robinson, possesses and loans out portions of the 124-reel set of microfilm of the entire Royal Literary Fund Archive, an invaluable resource (now held at the British Library) for any research on the 19th-century literary world. Although it is now available online from Gale Cengage through its Nineteenth Century Collections Online, that database can be hard to find if your nearby research library doesn't subscribe. With research travel so expensive, it's always worth checking to see if materials like these are available to you through Inter-Library Loan.
Sorting out Copyright. Scholars wishing to photocopy, quote from, or otherwise make use of manuscript materials (or, for that matter, printed ones) will find helpful David Sutton's guide to "Locating UK Copyright Holders," which also summarizes the application of current copyright law in Britain. Sutton's guide, links to other copyright resources and, most importantly, a searchable database of copyright holders in the U.S. and U.K., are all part of the WATCH (Writers and Their Copyright Holders) project, a collaborative effort of the University of Texas and the University of Reading. Particularly given recent extensions of copyright protection, it is never safe to assume that the published work of a Victorian author is in the public domain, while unpublished manuscripts remain in copyright indefinitely.
Transcribing. Transcription of 19th-century manuscript material has gone on for years, particularly in the big letters projects for such prominent Victorians as Darwin, Thomas and Jane Carlyle, Arnold, and Swinburne, all of whom have impressive websites dedicated to them, as do such lesser known figures as the fascinatingly well connected Henry Crabb Robinson. Crowd-sourced transcription projects continue to be key parts of research efforts on such diverse 19th-century figures as Jeremy Bentham and Anne Lister. Most scholars, however, who are dealing with letters or diaries by less exalted figures will wind up doing their own transcribing. Software tools like T-PEN and Transcript have emerged as aids to such transcription; check for reviews and free trials. Handwriting recognition software has a fair distance to travel before it can handle the varieties of 19th-c. century handwriting with dependable accuracy, but these developments are worth keeping tabs on.
The National Archives, occupying stunning quarters in Kew, now oversees the whole of the governmental documentary heritage of the United Kingdom, consolidating under one heading what had been the Public Record Office and the Historical Manuscripts Commission. The Archives' fine website should be the first online port of call for general enquiries about where to find government records. (See especially the jazzy animated guides.) Check in advance to see if you need to book a visit, and how to do that.
The best place to begin a search for archival material in the UK is with Discovery, the catalog of the National Archives, which has replaced the former National Register of Archives. The National Archives site also lists materials that have recently been added to archive repositories all over the U.K., organized by topic. New manuscripts are coming to light all the time, and moving from private hands into public ones, so if you are working on a particular person or topic these recent acquisitions are well worth keeping track of. Although a few important manuscripts are online, most are not; if you aren't able to visit the National Archives in person, you might consider employing one of the many independent researchers who can look up and copy records for a fee.
The National Archives puts out scores of research guides to help people make use of their vast holdings, as well as to help them determine if the records they are seeking (such as birth, marriage, or death certificates) are someplace else altogether. Whether you are looking for a person or a subject, a search among the guides, and a close reading of the most relevant ones, is an excellent place to begin. The NA (and before it, the PRO) used to feature a number of guides addressed to specifically 19th-century matters (e.g., a guide to the Ecclesiastical Census of 1851, now gone), but those guides -- which were essentially leaflets -- have all been replaced by more general guides that have useful links to sub-sections of the online site. Among the guides that Victorianists may find particularly interesting are:
- Anglo-Jewish history: 18th-20th centuries
- Bankrupts and Insolvent Debtors
- British Army and Militia, 1760-1915;
- Business Records at the National Archives and Business Records Held by Other Archives
- Census records, 1841-1911
- Chancery Cases in the Supreme Court after 1875
- Chancery Equity Suits after 1559
- Civil Trials in English Assize Courts
- Copyright Records Stationers' Hall
- Coroner's Inquests
- Court of King's Bench (Crown Side) Cases, 1675-1875
- Crimean War
- Crime, Prisons, and Punishment
- Criminal Transportees to Australia
- Criminal Trials in the Assize Courts, 1559-1971
- Death Duty Records, 1796-1903
- Divorces: Further Research
- Home Office Correspondence: 1782-1939
- Mental Health (e.g., lunatic asylum records)
- Newspapers and the Press
- Nineteenth-Century Political History
- Nineteenth-Century Public Health and Epidemics
- Poverty and the Poor Laws
- Trials in the Old Bailey and Central Criminal Court
- Whitechapel Murders (Jack the Ripper)
- Wills and Probate before 1858
- Wills or Administrations after 1858
NUCMCAs noted above, The NUCMC, or National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections, is a free-of-charge cooperative cataloging program operated by the Library of Congress. This gateway offers searching through OCLC Worldcat..
Family and Census DataThe boom in family history is making a splendid array of resources available to all historical researchers, but a fee or subscription is almost always involved. (An exception, thanks to hard-working volunteers, is FreeCen, though not all counties are available for every census.) Ancestry is the most popular of these and can sometimes yield great riches; subscriptions are not inexpensive, but access is sometimes to be had free in the UK through public libraries or county record offices. Useful tips can be found at the GENUKI site, while links to birth, marriage, and death information can be found at UK BMD and Free BMD. Individual family historians are also sharing their research findings online, as Mark Crail has done with his Chartist Ancestors site.
After the first attempt failed due to an overwhelming demand, the National Archives made some adjustments and has now succeeded in making fully available not only the 1901 Census of England and Wales but also (in association with Ancestry.co.uk) the censuses for 1841 through 1911. Easy to use, the service is a boon to genealogical and historical researchers alike. The searching itself is free, but there are charges for viewing the full results of your search in printable form or as downloadable images. (Read the FAQs about charges at both sites carefully, as the fee scheme is a bit complicated.) If you use any of the censuses in person at the National Archives in Kew, viewing the transcripts is free; you pay only for copies.
Civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths in England and Wales began on July 1, 1837, in the first year of Victoria's reign. The General Record Office maintains all death records from 1837 to 1957 and from 1984 on, and publishes a useful guide to navigating these records. Ordering a death certificate costs £11 for a PDF or £15 for a print copy. A company called FindMyPast has put online the parish registers in which this information was recorded. For a fee, researchers can search for, view, and print these indexes. Keep in mind that 19th-century registration could be spotty and the process of conversion to electronic form is necessarily imperfect, so the records do contain a number of mistakes and omissions.
Wills are of obvious interest to researchers. The UK government's Find a Will service allows you to search English and Welsh probate records after 1858 by surname and year of death. Wills before 1858 can be found in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury probate records at the National Archives (see above for more on the NA's holdings). Many pre-1858 wills for the north of England can be found in the Prerogative & Exchequer Courts Of York Probate Index, 1688-1858. Scottish probate records can be found at ScotlandsPeople.
Cemetery records can yield lots of useful information. There is no central repository for these, but many are making their way to sites like Deceased Online. Find a Grave, although mainly U.S., is expanding its coverage of UK cemeteries; BillionGraves is another crowd-sourced service, and can be searched for the UK alone. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission maintains a website with 1.7 million records of those who died in the First and Second world wars. Many burial grounds can be located using the resources available for finding Historic Environment Records (formerly "Sites and Monuments Records") in England and Scotland.
The graphic illustration of 19th-century data of various kinds has steadily advanced since the pioneering 1990s "Mapping the Life Course" project by Humphery Southall and Ben White, as part of the Great Britain Historical GIS Programme. A remarkable offshoot of this program is the lottery-funded A Vision of Britain site, which allows visitors to obtain comparative historical statistics (1801 to 2001) about social class, religion, industry, population, language, and mortality. One of many fun features is the complete text of William Cobbett's classic Rural Rides (1830) whose profuse sprinkling of place-names is linked to information in the database.
Selected Archives with Victorian MaterialsYou sit at a sturdy oak table in a hushed room with a folder open in front of you. Taking up a crisp sheet of paper, holding it with infinite care, you can't help thinking that the paper under your fingertips is the same sheet that their fingers touched, and that few others have touched in the generations since. As you peer at the page, the scribbles stare back at you, as maddeningly difficult to decipher as they were when the ink was still wet. There's a magical sense of connection involved in working with manuscripts that never goes away.As noted at the outset, most of the surviving manuscript materials created in the 19th century are not available online in digital facsimile, and despite the heroic ongoing efforts of librarians and scholars most of them never will be. Yet much of what we want to know about the Victorians can only be found in these kinds of records. This makes it imperative that researchers be able to locate the manuscripts relevant to their projects. For manuscripts that are not in private hands, the work of special collections librarians is crucial to this effort. Most repositories with major collections have worked hard to create finding aids, and to put these online. What follows, merely by way of illustration, are links to a brief selection of online catalogues that include significant manuscript materials of interest to students of the long 19th century.
- Armstrong Browning Library and Museum, Baylor University
- While the ABL's holdings of material related to Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning are unsurpassed, the library also contains many other collections of Victorian literary material, including significant manuscripts of Matthew Arnold and John Ruskin; browse the description for the Victorian Letters Collection. A collaboration with Wellesley College and many others has resulted in a searchable online collection of Browning letters that includes the 574 love letters between the two poets.
- Beinecke Library, Yale University
- Famous for its collection of George Eliot and George Henry Lewes papers (the original catalogue description is by Gordon Haight), the Beinecke also holds significant mss. for J. M. Barrie, Max Beerbohm, Mrs. Humphry Ward, and many other 19th-century figures, including a large collection of Swinburne letters and manuscripts. A Finding Aids Database makes it easy to find descriptions of individual collections.
- University of Birmingham Library
- The Library's Victorian collections include not only the papers of Joseph Chamberlain and his descendants, but thousands of letters, prints, photos, and paintings associated with artist Lawrence Alma-Tadema, the papers of the Church Missionary Society (1799 on), and over 1500 manuscript items in its Harriet Martineau archive, the world's largest collection of her papers. There is no searchable catalogue for such collection descriptions; instead you must look through the alphabetical PDFs for personal and family papers or societies and businesses.
- Bodleian Libraries, Oxford
- The Bodleian's holdings are vast; the archives and manuscripts catalogue is the place to start searching for the materials you need. Nineteenth-century manuscript materials can now be accessed in the Weston Library in its rare books and manuscripts reading room. In addition to its extensive literary collections (which include the original manuscript of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein as well as the papers of such luminaries as Gerard Manley Hopkins), the Bodleian maintains an archive on modern politics that features the papers of Benjamin Disraeli and other Victorian political figures. Among their 19th-c. holdings of literary interest is the correspondence of Bradbury and Evans, the publishers and printers best known as the proprietors of Punch, although they also published Dickens and Thackeray. Students of empire may find of interest the library's 42 volumes of the papers of the Brookes of Sarawak.
- University of Bristol Special Collections
- The gem of Special Collections at Bristol is its vast trove of the papers of the remarkable Brunel family of entrepreneurial engineers, though other items of Victorian interest include the family records of John Addington Symonds. To explore the collections, check out the archives catalogue.
- British Library
- The massive 19th-century manuscript holdings at the BL include the Royal Literary Fund papers and the gargantuan India Office Records, as well as the papers of countless politicians, scientists, and literary figures; see this overview of manuscripts related to modern British history. The catalogue of the BL's entire manuscript collection is now searchable online. Manuscripts can be consulted in the Manuscripts Reading Room.
- Cambridge University Library
- Home of the Darwin Correspondence Project, the CUL also has important collections for such Victorian notables as Lord Acton, the Eyre family, and Edward Fitzgerald. Students of empire will find an astounding range of manuscript and photographic material in the library of the Royal Commonwealth Society. Many other treasures can be found by rummaging through the library's ArchiveSearch facility.
- Centre of South Asian Studies (University of Cambridge)
- A principal gem of the Centre's holdings of private papers concerning the Raj in the 19th and 20th centuries is a fascinating collection of unpublished memoirs that includes a number of first-hand accounts, by both men and women, of the 1857 Rebellion.
- Glasgow University Library
- The collections of the University of Glasgow library includes the largest collection anywhere of papers and correspondence by artist James McNeil Whistler as well as the papers of poet Thomas Campbell and his family. The library also hosts an electronic illustrated catalogue of 1840s photographs by the legendary team of Hill and Adamson.
- Gladstone's Library
- This remarkable institution, formerly known as St. Deiniol's, is Britain's only residential library, founded by William Ewart Gladstone from his own vast collection assembled over a long lifetime of extraordinarily wide-ranging reading, and contains as well a number of the statesman's manuscripts and letters.
- Greater Manchester County Record Office
- The GMCRO is set up to provide guides to family and local history. The Documentary Photography Archive contains thousands of Victorian photographs, and can be searched through A2A. T
- Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas
- Of particular interest to Victorianists is the HRC's catalogue of manuscripts in the Robert Lee Wolff Collection of 19th-century fiction, including the mss. and correspondence to and from 19th-century women authors. Some of this material, and particularly the enormous collection related to Mary Elizabeth Braddon, has been digitized. The Ransom also has smaller but still substantial collections for such figures as Sara Coleridge, Lewis Carroll, W. M. Thackeray, George Meredith, Dinah Maria Mulock Craik, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Max Beerbohm, and Oscar Wilde, to name only a few, as well as quirky holdings like the collection of letters written by various notables to the Times of London in the 1870s.
- University of Huddersfield
- A descendant of the Young Men's Mental Improvement Society of 1841, the University maintains archives of the Huddersfield Mechanics Institution from 1843-1884 as well as those of the associated Female Educational Institute and the Literary and Scientific Society (1857-1882).
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- The Rare Book and Special Collections Library at UIUC contains a large assortment of the papers of two giants of the Victorian book business: Richard Bentley, the publisher, and Charles Mudie, the subscription-library proprietor. The library also holds many of the papers of William Allingham (1824-1899), poet, folklorist, editor, and diarist, as well as those of novelist and publisher Grant Richards (1872-1936).
- Institution of Civil Engineers
- Although you wouldn't know it from browsing its current website, ICE has substantial archives on such feats of Victorian engineering as the Forth Railway Bridge and the Thames Tunnel, as well as assorted manuscripts about individual engineers like William Mackenzie, Thomas Telford, and the Stephensons; additional manuscripts are held by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
- John Forster Collection, National Art Library
- Housed at the NAL, which is a branch of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the vast collection of Dickens' friend and literary executor ranges from the 17th to the 19th century. In addition to letters and a short diary by Dickens, the collection includes almost all of the original mss. of Dickens' novels. As described by Annette Lowe in "The Conservation of Charles Dickens' Manuscripts," efforts to preserve and restore these mss. are revealing corrections and additions that have heretofore remained hidden.
- John Rylands University Library, Manchester
- Among the Rylands' extensive holdings of 19th-century manuscripts is a vast trove of material from the archives of the Manchester Guardian and a collection of Charles Dickens' books and papers, including his letters to Elizabeth Gaskell, while its huge collection of materials on the history of Methodism spans the 18th and 19th centuries.
- University of Kent at Canterbury
- The university's Templeman Library houses several truly extraordinary collections of documents reflecting the life of Victorian and Edwardian theatre, including a rich (and largely uncatalogued) set of materials relating to the staggeringly successful Victorian playwright Dion Boucicault. The large playbill collection can be explored through the catalogue. An introductory essay by Louis James describes the theatre collections and their origins.
- King's College London
- The archives of the KCL library include the papers of such Victorian notables as F. D. Maurice, F. J. Furnivall, George Macdonald, and pioneering scientist Charles Wheatstone. Records of the College and Hospital include student records of Guy's Hospital Medical School, 1725-1992.
- Lambeth Palace Library
- The official repository for material concerning the Church of England, the historic Lambeth Palace Library's manuscript holdings include not only Gladstone's diaries (in 40 volumes) but also the papers of such luminaries as Richard Whately, A. C. Tait, John Keble, and Roundell Palmer, those of a range of other 19th-c. bishops and churchmen and their families, and the records of various Church societies. A handy set of research guides as well as a separate catalogue for archives and manuscripts help you explore these collections.
- Lilly Library, Indiana University
- The Lilly's collection, whose index can be searched online, includes materials on the Temperance movement, World War I, artist Charles Samuel Keene, British patents 1864-1880, and the extensive and fascinating "London Lowlife" collection (digitized, with other materials, by Adam Matthew). The Lilly also holds the papers of influential literary historian Susan Gubar.
- University of Liverpool Library
- In addition to its collection of the papers of reformers Charles Booth and Josephine Butler, the Library also has a large collection of early Victorian literary annuals and keepsakes as well as a complete set of Kelmscott Press books.
- Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick
- The MRC's 19th-century holdings include extensive records of late-Victorian trade unions, builders, the YWCA, and other groups. Also included is the National Cycle Archive, covering centuries' worth of cycling. The MRC is the repository for the papers of historian Eric Hobsbawm, including notes for such books as The Age of Capital and The Age of Empire.
- The Morgan Library and Museum
- The Morgan's stunning holdings of literary and historical manuscripts includes such crowd-pleasers as the original manuscript of Dickens's A Christmas Carol. But there are thousands of lesser-known 19th-centuery manuscripts by Thackeray, Austen, the Brontes, Wordsworth, Trollope, and many others, including John Ruskin's correspondence with Kate Greenaway and Oscar Wilde's letters to his wife, Constance, as well as to Lord Alfred Douglas. CORSAIR, the library's catalogue, is the place to do your searches; its preset "filters" are particularly useful.
- National Archives of Ireland, Dublin
- Formerly the Public Record Office of Ireland, the NAI's collections are full of 19th-century material, including records of persons transported from Ireland to Australia between 1788 and 1868 (the index to which can now be searched on-line), administrative and other records of the Great Famine, and Poor Law records.
- National Portrait Gallery
- The NPG's Heinz Archive and Library contains a number of autograph letters and other documents besides its extensive printed resources on British portraiture.
- National Library of Scotland
- The library is still working to put many of its finding aids online, but its still-evolving manuscript catalogue includes listings for the massive archive of the papers of Blackwood's and other important publishing enterprises. The NLS's extensive literary collections include holdings for Burns, Scott, Stevenson, the Chambers brothers, and of course the letters of Jane and Thomas Carlyle. In 2006 the library acquired the fabulous John Murray Archive for the nation; an expanded version of the original catalogue of this collection has been integrated into the main catalogue. All this, and the magnificent view of Arthur's Seat from the reading room.
- Newcastle University Library
- The collections devoted to Victorian traveler, writer, and diplomat Gertrude Bell and to several members of the prominent Trevelyan family are among the library's largest.
- University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
- UNC's library contains collections of materials relating to publishing firm J. M. Dent, as well as papers of the powerful late-Victorian literary agent A. P. Watt. (The other major collection of Watt's papers is in the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library.)
- Princeton University Library
- The great jewel of Princeton's literary collection is the enormous Morris L. Parrish collection of books by Victorian novelists. Archival holdings include many drawings, mss., and letters by George Cruikshank, the Rossetti family letters (most by Christina) to the Heimann family, a collection of Trollope's papers, large collections of the letters of Wilkie Collins and Charles Reade, and an assortment of letters by such notables as Walter Besant, John Bright, R. D. Blackmore, John Davidson, "George Egerton," G. P. R. James, Coventry Patmore, and G. A. Sala. See also the correspondence files of publisher Smith, Elder. Students of Victorian wood engraving will want to consult the library's collection of materials from the Dalziel Brothers, the ubituitous firm of engravers. An index to finding aids helps in exploring these riches.
- University of Reading
- Reading has assembled an unparalleled set of the business records of Victorian publishers, including George Bell, Routledge, and Longman. (Note that some of these are available on microfilm.) The library also has a number of letters and papers associated with Aubrey Beardsley.
- SOAS, University of London
- The missionary archives at SOAS are particularly rich in 19th-century materials, and the website offers a very useful guide to such materials elsewhere.
- University of Southampton
- The largest collection in the world (100,000 items) of papers relating to the life and career of the Duke of Wellington is accompanied by a splendid searchable database of document descriptions. Southampton also holds extensive materials about 19th- and 20th-century Jewish communities in Britain. In 2007 the library began work on a project to digitize 23,000 19th-c. pamphlets, now available as (what else) 19th Century British Pamphlets online.
- University of Sussex
- The collection at Sussex includes letters concerning the periodical Household Words as well as extensive holdings for Rudyard Kipling and the Bloomsbury Group. Of unusual interest are the papers of the Vizetelly family, Victorian printers, publishers, and journalists.
- University College London
- UCL's major 19th-century holdings include its own college archives as well as enormous collections of the papers of Jeremy Bentham, Henry Brougham, Sir Edwin Chadwick, and the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. And of course a side-benefit of going to UCL, particularly for students of the 19th century, is the chance to pay a visit to Jeremy Bentham's auto-icon.
- Victoria and Albert Museum
- The V&A archives at Blythe House are a treasure-trove of Victorian material. The Theatre and Performance Collection contains drafts of plays, correspondence, photographs, and much else, ranging from the D'Oyly Carte Collection to the Ellen Terry Collection to the 31 boxes of material associated with popular playwright Tom Taylor, and on and on; if you are working on Dickens (see John Forster Collection, above), or on almost any figure associated with the Victorian theatre or Victorian art, the V&A is an essential resource.
- The Wellcome Collection
- No brief description can do justice to the wealth of information to be found in the Wellcome's manuscript holdings concerning all things related to the history of health and medicine. The asylum records -- case studies of patients, admission records, etc. -- are particularly detailed; many of these have been digitized. The library catalogue, which includes listings for many records kept in local record offices and other repositories, allows you to filter by format so as to see only the manuscripts.
- Dr Williams's Library
- Although best known for its extensive materials from the long history of Nonconformity, most of them predating the 19th century, the lovely Dr Williams's Library in Gordon Square is notable as the repository of the voluminous diaries, letters, and notebooks of Henry Crabb Robinson as well as the books owned by George Eliot and George Henry Lewes.
Other archival records
Victorian Publishers' Archives
- Locating publishing records.
When you go in search of 19th-c. publishing records, you should be aware of the sad fact that a great many such records were lost in the bombing of London during World War II. The night raid of December 29, 1940, in particular, wiped out much of the London publishing industry. In that and other raids, the offices and files of Ward Lock, Cassell's, Charles Knight & Co., and many other longtime publishers were utterly destroyed. Yet much remains and such records can be a goldmine of useful information. The most substantial repositories of publishing and book trade records in the UK are the archives at University of Reading, which include the records of Macmillan, Routledge, and many others, and the holdings of the National Library of Scotland, which includes records for John Murray, Cadell, William and Robert Chambers, and William Blackwood & Sons. There are some excellent (though somewhat dated) finding guides specific to publishing records, in addition to the National Archive catalog entries. The first place to check, if you can find a copy, is the British Book Trade Archives location register published by Michael Bott and Alexis Weedon in 1996. This is no longer online, alas, but there is an earlier version by Weedon that can be helpful. The Albinski list, created by Nan Bowman Albinski, also includes American publishers and covers archive locations in the United States. Acquisitions by UK archives of manuscripts relating to publishing and literature can be found, listed by year, on the National Archives acession page. Many of the records of major Victorian publishers were and still are available on microfilm, including the Bentley archives at the University of Illinois and the BL, the Longman archives, and the records of John Murray, Smith, Elder and others at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh. Some of these have subsequently been digitized. There are also odd bits of corespondence to be found in unexpected places, like the 200 letters in the Sampson Low Collection that have been put online by Open University. Links to other collections, as well as more general material about Anglo-American publishing history may be found, with much else, in the "Book History Resources" section of SHARP Web, the page of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing.
- Using publishing records: the Weedon Guide
In 2003, Ashgate published Alexis Weedon's magisterial survey, Victorian Publishing: The Economics of Book Production for a Mass Market 1836-1916. In the first chapter, the author gives detailed practical advice to researchers about how to find and make sense of the kinds of records that have survived from Victorian publishing and printing firms. Professor Weedon and Ashgate have graciously made that chapter freely available here for download, as The Weedon Guide to Research in Victorian Publishing Records. (This file is about 500K and in PDF format, readable with the free Adobe Reader.)
19th-c. ledgers are always going to present puzzles, but this guide goes a long way toward arming researchers with the information they will need to investigate such crucial matters as how profitable or otherwise a given book was, how expensive it was to produce, and how many copies it sold in various editions. We are most grateful to the author and publisher for allowing us to host this very useful handbook here.
Banking RecordsOne exciting and under-utilized source of information about the Victorians is banking records. Writer Jenny Woolf has discussed the potential of such records in "Victorian Bank Accounts as Material for Research," a subject she came to know while investigating Lewis Carroll's surviving bank records. The British Bankers' Association list of mergers may help to trace which current bank may hold the records of its Victorian precursor. A search for "corporate name" in the National Register of Archives can then be most helpful. The Barclays Bank Group Archive where Woolf found the Dodgson/Carroll material, for instance, is located in Wythenshawe, near Manchester, and the NRA records list the subsidiary banks whose records may be found there. As Woolf points out, a bank account record is considered to be in the public domain 100 years or more after the death of the account's owner, so many of these kinds of records for the Victorians are only now becoming available to researchers.
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