An ancient but still informative overview for Victorianists in search of archival resources is Richard Storey and Lionel Madden, Primary Sources for Victorian Studies: A Guide to the Location and Use of Unpublished Materials (London: Phillimore, 1977). This was supplemented in 1987 by Richard Storey's booklet, Primary Sources for Victorian Studies: An Updating, published in the series "Occasional Papers in Bibliography" by the Victorian Studies Centre, University of Leicester, Leicester LE1 7RH. Both works focus on materials available in the United Kingdom.
R. J. Olney's 1995 overview is still helpful: Manuscript Sources for British History: Their Nature, Location and Use. Although now showing its age (the last edition appeared in 2002), the best printed guide to archival repositories for British history is British Archives: A Guide to Archival Resources in the United Kingdom (4th edn., 2002), by Janet Foster, Julia Sheppard, and Richard Storey. However, this sturdy volume is probably the last of its kind, as online reference resources are vastly more usable and easily updated. These include:
- Repositories of Primary Sources, Terry Abraham's meta-collection of archival links
[which, however, ceased to be updated as of January, 2015]
- Archives Hub, a gateway to descriptions of thousands of archives held by UK colleges and universities;
- Mark Howell's very dated but still helpful set of links to local record offices in England and Scotland;
- the Discovery portal from the National Archive, which 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, covering a staggering array of government records to do with Greater London, and including a helpful set of subject guides
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-c. literary manuscripts, including all additions and corrections since their publication in 1988, was made freely available online by the University of Reading. Some other online sources for archival literary material may be found in the next sections.
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.
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. Adam Matthew Publications, for example, although now primarily a digital publisher, has long made the filming of historical and literary mss. a specialty, including 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 the 124-reel set of microfilm of the entire Royal Literary Fund Archive, an invaluable resource for any research on the 19th-century literary world. With research travel so expensive, it's always worth checking to see if materials like these are available to you through Inter-Library Loan.
Transcription of 19th-century manuscript material has gone on for years, particularly in the big letters projects for such prominent Victorians as Thomas and Jane Carlyle , Arnold, and Swinburne, all of whom have impressive websites dedicated to them. Most scholars, however, dealing with letters or diaries by less exalted figures, wind up doing their own transcribing. A new tool, T-PEN, has emerged as an aid to such transcription. Although developed for early modern manuscripts, it is easily adaptable for more modern projects, such as the Chesson Diaries Transcription Project under way at Northwestern University under the direction of Tracy C. Davis.
Increasingly, specialized databases of archival materials are bringing together location information for particular subject categories. One example is MUNDUS, a guide to missionary collections in the United Kingdom that is particularly rich in 19th-century materials. Others include the Medical Archives and Manuscripts Survey undertaken by the Wellcome Trust.
The National Archives, occupying the stunning quarters in Kew once known as the Public Record Office, now oversees the whole of the governmental documentary heritage of the United Kingdom, consolidating under one heading what had been the PRO 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 leaflet and map as well as the jazzy animated guides.)
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. A separate guide lists more specialized databases. The NA site also lists materials that have recently been added to archive repositories all over the U.K., organized by topic; the list of 2013 additions, for instance, has a separate listing for literary history that tells of an accession of manuscripts by the poet John Clare at the Peterborough Archives and a Coleridge letter acquired by the Somerset Heritage Centre. Although a few important manuscripts are online, most are not; if you're unable to visit the NA 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, whether you are in search of a a person or a subject. Among the guides that Victorianists may find particularly interesting are:
- Anglo-Jewish history: 18th-20th centuries
- Australia, Transportation to
- Bankrupts and Insolvent Debtors: 1710-1869
- Bankruptcy Records After 1869
- British Army: Campaign Records, 1816-1913;
- Census 1801-1901, Statistical Reports
- Copyright Records Stationers' Hall
- Crimean War
- Criminals: Tracing 19th and 20th Century Criminals in the PRO
- Divorce Records After 1858
- Divorce Before 1858
- Ecclesiastical Census of 1851
- Death Duty Records from 1796
- Home Office Correspondence: 1839-1949
- Jack the Ripper: Research Notes
- Lunatic Asylums, 18th-20th Centuries
- Newspapers and the Press
- Nineteenth-Century Political History
- Nineteenth-Century Public Health and Epidemics
- Old Bailey and the Central Criminal Court: Criminal Trials
- The Poor and the Poor Laws
- Poor Law Records 1834-1871
- Wills before 1858: where to start
- Wills and Death Duty Records after 1858
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..The boom in family history is making a splendid array of resources available to all historical researchers. Useful tips can be found at the GENUKI site, while links to birth, marriage, and death information can be found at UK 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 PRO (now 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 1891. 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 saveable images. On the 1901 census, which is on the National Archives website, the minimum fee per 7-day session is £5, billed to your credit card; it's best to bundle a number of searches and transcript-orders, which are charged individually, into one session. The earlier censuses, on the Ancestry site, cost £6.99 for a 7-day session. (Read the FAQ's 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 Achives 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. A company called FindMyPast has put online the indexes to these records, which now include the 1861 census returns, as well. For a fee, researchers can search for, view, and print these indexes. A limited but growing free version of these index entries is also available. 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.
The Victorian Census Project at Staffordshire University aims to make available in electronic form a number of important source documents for Victorian social history, including census abstracts. Subsets of the abstracts for 1831 and 1861 are downloadable from the Web in comma-delimited form, which allows researchers to import the data into their own database programs. Likewise, the AHDS History (formerly the History Data Service) at the University of Essex is making available a number of datasets, some orderable for a small fee and others (such as 19th-century employment, marriage, and poor law statistics) available free online to registered users through its Great Britain Historical Database Online service.
The Database of Irish Historical Statistics project at Queen's University, Belfast collects an enormous amount of information beginning with the first Irish census of 1813, and is committed to making all of this data available via the Web in several formats.
Some of the exciting new possibilities for graphically illustrating data of various kinds are demonstrated with 19th-century examples in "Mapping the Life Course" by Humphery Southall and Ben White, as part of the Great Britain Historical GIS Programme. Presentations using animated mapping of Victorian cholera epidemics and infant mortality help to demonstrate just how much this approach has to offer. A remarkable offshoot of this program is the lottery-funded 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 whose profuse sprinkling of place-names is linked to information in the database.
A genealogical research company in the UK has provided a useful introduction to the 19th-century census at their website, as does the National Archive pamphlet, Census: Read This First. For location guides to records in Britain, see Census Returns 1841-1891 in Microform: A Directory to Local Holdings in Great Britain; Channel Islands; Isle of Man by J Gibson and E Hampson (Federation of Family History Societies, 6th edn 1997 update), and Marriage and Census Indexes for Family Historians, by the same authors (Federation of Family History Societies, 7th edn 1998). Many of these personal name indexes to the census are available at the Family Records Centre.More and more archives are making descriptions of their holdings available on the Web. What follows are links to a selection of online catalogues that include significant manuscript materials of interest to students of the long 19th century. (Note, however, that several major repositories of such materials--including the Houghton Library at Harvard, the New York Public Library's Berg Collection and the National Library of Scotland--have yet to establish detailed Web-based guides to their holdings.) The highlighted name of the library connects to an overview of that library's manuscript holdings, while links to more specific descriptions, where available, can be found in the entry that follows.
- Armstrong Browning Library, 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. The website provides a sample listing of selected letters and manuscripts.
- 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 others, and has recently acquired a large collection of Swinburne letters and manuscripts. The splendid new web-based finding aids database makes it easy to find and display specific collection descriptions.
- 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 and over 1500 manuscript items in its Harriet Martineau archive, the world's largest collection of her papers.
- Bodleian Library, Oxford
- In addition to its extensive literary collections (which include the original ms. of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein), the Bodleian maintains an archive on modern politics that features Benjamin Disraeli's papers as well as those of other Victorian political figures.
- University of Bristol Information Services
- 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. In May 2007 the library began work on the 19th-Century Pamphlets Project, with plans to digitize 23,000 of these rare documents.
- British Library
- Recent additions to the massive manuscript holdings at the BL include the gargantuan Oriental and India Office Records. The catalogue of the BL's entire manuscript collection is now searchable online, a marvelous convenience.
- Cambridge University Library
- The CUL houses important collections relating to 19th-century science, including the Charles Darwin papers (associated with the Darwin Correspondence Project) and the records of the Royal Greenwich Observatory, as well as the papers of such Victorian notables as Lord Acton and Randolph Churchill. Students of empire will find an astounding range of manuscript and photographic material in the library of the Royal Commonwealth Society.
- 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 Mutiny.
- 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.
- Greater Manchester County Record Office
- The GMCRO is set up to provide guides to family history, including its microfilm records of the . The Documentary Photography Archive contains thousands of Victorian photographs, and can be searched through A2A. The Pathfinder database consolidates thousands of descriptions of the holdings of local government offices in the Manchester area.
- 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 mss. and correspondence to and from 19th-century women authors (Note that this file is quite large [300K] and may take some time to retrieve.)
- 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
- The 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.
- Institution of Electrical Engineers
- The IEE's London archives contain not only its own papers (it was founded in 1871), but an extensive collection of manuscript materials relating to Victorian science and scientists, including notebooks of Michael Faraday.
- 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," recent 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 recent additions to its 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 an introductory essay by noted scholar Louis James, the website for these collections features an enormously useful online catalogue of playbills from both London and provincial theatres.
- King's College London
- The archives of the KCL library include the papers of such Victorian notables as F. D. Maurice, F. J. Furnivall, and George Macdonald, as well as records of the College and Hospital going back to, respectively, 1828 and 1839.
- 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 and other papers 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.
- Lilly Library, Indiana University
- The Lilly's extensive collection, whose index can be searched online, includes materials on the Bloomsbury Group and World War I, as well as British poetry.
- 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 (summarized here by archivist Alan Crookham) includes extensive records of Victorian trade unions, builders, the YWCA, and other groups. The complete database of descriptions can now be searched online.
- 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 sources for women's history.
- 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. The NPG's website features images and transcriptions of correspondence involving various 19th-c. subjects of portraits.
- National Library of Scotland
- Though detailed descriptions of the NLS's manuscript collections are not yet online, the library's still-evolving manuscript catalogue includes a small sampling of descriptions from its massive archive of the papers of the Blackwood's publishing firm. 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 succeeded in acquiring the fabulous John Murray Archive for the nation.
- Newcastle University Library
- The collections devoted to Victorian traveller, 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 firms J. M. Dent and John Murray, 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 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, 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- St Deiniol's Library
- This remarkable institution, Britain's only residential library, was 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Women's Library
- A major repository of materials for the study of British feminism and women's history, the Women's Library--formerly and still better known as the Fawcett Library--has been expanding into new quarters in Old Castle Street. Of particular interest among its extensive holdings is its Josephine Butler Society Collection, which illuminates Butler's life and work and contains important documentary sources on Victorian prostitution. The Library opened in its new building in February of 2002.
- Locating publishing records.
There are excellent finding guides for those in search of the archives of Victorian publishers. The Bott/Weedon location register of 19th-century publishers' records, covers locations in the United Kingdom. The Albinski list, which also includes American publishers, covers archive locations in the United States. Acquisitions by UK archives of manuscripts relating to publishing in 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005 are listed on the NRA pages. Many of the records of major Victorian publishers are available on microfilm, including the Bentley archives at the University of Illinois and the BL, the Longman archives at Reading, and John Murray Archive and Smith, Elder correspondence and records at the National Library of Scotland. More general material about Anglo-American publishing history may be found, with much else, on 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. VRW is most grateful to the author and publisher for allowing us to host this very useful handbook here.
One 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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