Catalogue of the Arley Charters now Online


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Volunteer Sandra Cruise reports on the completion of a landmark catalogue of the Arley Charters, begun by fellow volunteer Robert Stansfield in 2011.

A catalogue of one of the Rylands’ most important collection of muniments is now available via the library’s on-line catalogue, ELGAR. The Arley Charters, which mainly concern the Dutton and Warburton families and their Cheshire estates during the medieval period, are of national importance, noted for the large number of early charters and many fine seals appended thereto.


Deed of gift from Robert the hunter of Thelwall to John the Hunter of Appleton, n.d. [c.1250-1290]. Arley Charters, ARL/16A/2.

The charters, over 750 in total, form the earliest component of the collections of the Warburton family of Arley Hall, Cheshire. They commence c.1170 with gifts of land to one of the earliest family members, Adam de Dutton (fl. 1172-1212), who was both Steward of Widnes and, from 1178, Steward of Blackburnshire, and continue through the family’s change of name from de Dutton to Warburton c1311, concluding in the late 18th century with documents relating to the fifth and last baronet, Peter XI.  The bulk of the collection relates to the medieval, Tudor and Stuart periods and to the family estates of Appleton, Aston by Budworth, Aston by Sutton, Chester, Dutton, Great Budworth, Lower Walton, Lymm, Newton by Chester, Northwich, Poulton, Pulford, Sutton, Thelwall, Warburton, Wincham and Winnington. Included are examples relating to the constables of Chester, several monastic charters, plus a small number of Papal bullae. In addition, there are some deeds of the 13th and 14th centuries relating mainly to Beverley in Yorkshire, to property which ultimately devolved on the Cheshire family of Winnington (later connected to the Warburtons through marriage in the early 16th century).

As significant landowners, the family undertook many important roles, as already indicated. Sir Geoffrey I (d. 1248), also known as ‘de Budworth’, married Alice, daughter of John de Lacy, constable of Chester and was a member of the latter’s retinue on Crusade in the Holy Land in 1218. Some years later, Sir Geoffrey V (d. 1382) was a retainer of Edward, Prince of Wales, the ‘Black Prince’, indentured in 1367 to serve him in peace and war with two esquires.


Indenture of retainer from Edward, Prince of Wales (the Black Prince) to Geoffrey de Warburton, 6 June 1365. Arley Charters, ARL/14/5.

Names of the witnesses of the charters can also be revealing, including in their number not only the Duttons’ and Warburtons’ eminent Cheshire neighbours, but also sheriffs and justices of Chester, whose names have helped to date some of the undated documents in the archive, and even, in some instances, the names of the clerk who penned the charter.

The collection is also notable for its seals. Examples include those of the constables of Chester, Royal (Great seals) and monastic seals, Papal bullae, plus many from the Duttons, Warburtons and other Cheshire families. Amongst the Yorkshire charters are some seals of women, such as Agnes de Castell and Isabella de Burton, and of a tailor, William de Scheldware.

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Also significant are the early examples of trade receipts, such as those of draper, John Ridley of Chester, and grocer, ‘Market’ Dingley, who supplied wares to Sir John Warburton in 1559 and 1560 respectively. There is also a small number of letters and other documents relating to the living of the church of Lymm-cum-Warburton in the 18th century, plus other estate related papers, and a pedigree of the Warburtons of Hargrave, Cheshire, of 1696.

The catalogue is based on William Beamont’s printed calendar of 1866, compiled at the behest of Rowland Egerton Warburton (1804–1891), who had inherited the Warburton estates from his grand-uncle, the last baronet. The new version includes some 20 or more additional items not included in Beamont’s original, and is arranged in box, rather than in Beamont’s geographical order, which should make searching considerably easier for the researcher.

The archive provides a valuable record of the history and development of a landed family over 500 years. Topographical names and details, some of which may have long-since vanished, will be a rich resource for local historians.

Sacred Sounds and Radical Printing


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In the 1530s, England was in turmoil. After centuries of following the Catholic faith, people were being told that their beliefs were wrong, and the ways in which they should express them must change.

An ordinary experience?

Image of the contents page of 'The King's Book'

‘The King’s Book’ detailed what Henry VIII’s subjects were meant to believe and how they should practice their religion.

It is hard to find out about the experience of ordinary people during the Reformation in England, but we do have some clues. Our current exhibition, The Reformation, includes a copy of the King’s Book (The Necessary Doctrine and Erudition for Any Christian Man) in which Henry VIII addressed his people directly. Published in 1543, the King’s Book brought together a number of existing publications, including the Ten articles of 1536 and the Six Articles of 1539, with some significant edits. It was a traditionalist revision of the religious changes which had been sweeping the kingdom for a decade, reflecting Henry’s own shift back towards orthodox Catholic beliefs. There was, of course, one notable difference to Henry’s Catholicism: in England, the king remained head of the Church.

The importance of print.

We know that this book was popular since it was reprinted many times. This may indicate the wide appeal of the king’s word, but may equally demonstrate that people were desperate to know what they should believe, and how they should show it.

The Radical Print demonstration on Thursday 8th February will show the John Rylands’ nineteenth century printing press in action and offer an insight into how print revolutionised life in the fifteenth century.

Sacred Sounds.

Central to the experience of Christinanity for many people at the time were encounters with sacred music. On Thursday 15th February, the John Rylands will host Sacred Sounds, an evening performance by Ad Solem, bringing the music of The Reformation to life. Ad Solem is a student-led chamber choir and part of the Manchester University Music Society.

In the unique setting of the John Rylands Library, visitors will be able to experience some of the new music which the Reformation brought into people’s lives.

Join us at this free event on 15th February, to experience sounds of the Reformation which brought such change to people’s lives five centuries ago.

Sacred Sounds is a free, unticketed event but spaces will be limited. The performance will start at 5:45pm and conclude by 6.30pm.

Radical Print is a free, drop-in demonstration of the nineteenth century printing press between 11.15 and 11.45am on Thursday 8th February. Booking is not required.

For more information, please see the John Rylands Library events pages at

The Language of Catalogue Descriptions



The Heritage Imaging Team has recently completed a project to digitise 901 lantern slides held in the Christian Brethren Archive. As mentioned in a previous blog post, in the case of many of these slides, we had very little contextual information, or information relating to their provenance.

The creation of a catalogue for visual material without much knowledge of origin or content presents certain challenges and concerns.

If you are unable to identify the origin of the image, and the scene it depicts, the cataloguer may be reduced to simply describing what they can see, and thus descriptions like ‘Man under tree holding stick’ are born. As there were several cataloguers involved with this project, there are further concerns in terms of the standardisation of language, as one person may decide to to describe the same moving body of water as a river, and another as a stream.

There are also challenges in terms of the elements of the image which are chosen for description. Is the weather relevant? Do you mention any figures in the background, or stick to the foreground? The cataloguer may be fairly certain that the building depicted is a school, but without any corroborating data, may have to simply describe it as a building.


Another pressing concern is the importance of employing terminology that is culturally sensitive. If the cataloguer is unfamiliar with the subject matter and the culture depicted, it is crucial to try not to make assumptions, or produce descriptions which may prove to be inaccurate.

The cataloguer is left with the options of the potential inclusion of misleading, culturally insensitive information, or catalogue descriptions that are so bland and vague as to impart no useful information at all, thus rendering them not terribly useful as finding aids.

Early on in the process of cataloguing these slides, I decided that I would prefer to avoid misrepresentation by guesswork, and to opt for the best descriptions we could create based upon what could be identified within the images.


The inclusion of information generated by those belonging to the community to which the records relate, and from experts, has become a recognised and valued technique for descriptions of community collections and archives. Now that the lantern slides are available online, I am attempting to obtain more information from members of the Brethren Archivists and Historians Network, from members of the Christian Brethren, and from academics and researchers with expert knowledge on China, Africa and race relations.

There has also been some suggestion in the archival profession that perhaps an attempt should be made to return to archive catalogues created in the past, and improve the outdated terminology used within the descriptions. A problem with this approach is that, in 100 years, elements of the language which we currently use may be considered incorrect, or potentially offensive. Furthermore, the cataloguer must consider what terminology is likely to be employed by researchers when searching for records. It may be more helpful to enhance (rather than replace) descriptions with new additional terminology, to best ensure that a catalogue remains effective.

In the course of this project, I have come to appreciate again that the language used in archival description is important. The use of participatory description is significant and necessary, as we aim to be inclusive custodians of cultural memory.

Online Catalogue of John Dalton Manuscripts


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Dr James Peters writes:

We are pleased to announce that an online catalogue for the John Dalton manuscripts is now available on ELGAR.

The Dalton manuscripts are one of our most important scientific collections, and are a key part of Manchester’s scientific heritage. Until now, however, discovering information about this collection has been difficult, so this new on-line catalogue will make for greater accessibility.

etching of John Dalton

Engraving of John Dalton by J. Stephenson (Dalton Add MS 1).

The Library purchased the collection from the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society in 1979, and it is the largest single collection of documents relating to Dalton. In fact, the Lit & Phil’s collection was once much larger, but in December 1940 a significant portion of it was destroyed during the Manchester ‘Blitz’. Much of the surviving material was disorganised and fire damaged. In the early 1990s, the Library completed a major conservation project for the collection, which involved enclosing the manuscripts in polyester wallets.

However, while this work made the manuscripts physically accessible, information about the collection’s contents was much harder to come by. A. L. Smyth’s John Dalton 1766-1844: a bibliography of works by and about him… was the main source of information. First published in 1966, and reissued in 1997, this is an inventory of all known Dalton-related source material. It was reasonably comprehensive, reflecting Smyth’s extensive  knowledge of Dalton, but no on-line version existed and some descriptions were out-of-date or incomplete.

Our catalogue of Dalton manuscripts is based on Smyth’s bibliography, but with amended and expanded descriptions. We have retained Smyth’s original references for documents, as these are now part of established usage.

The collection is relatively compact, comprising over 130 manuscripts, mostly in Dalton’s own hand. The content is diverse, and includes manuscript lectures by Dalton, and research papers and notebooks on meteorology, optics, chemistry, maths, astronomy, and acoustics.   There are also more personal documents, including Dalton’s accounts books, which provide interesting information on the sources of his income and the objects of his expenditure.


Page from, ‘Sequel to an essay on the constitution of the atmosphere’, fire-damaged notebook of John Dalton. DAL/100.

Correspondence is not a major feature of the collection. Dalton’s own letters tend to be domestic in nature and reveal little of his scientific ideas. However, he received several interesting letters from scientific correspondents.  The letters reveal that Dalton was particularly in demand to explain unusual natural phenomena. One correspondent, Thomas Watson reports a strange lightning storm witnessed at Cambridge (MS 352), while H. H. Watson asks for his opinion of an unexplained “blood red light” in the sky at Bolton (MS 351) and Dalton’s friend Jonathan Otley recounts “an extraordinary exhibition of prismatic colour” on Derwent Water (MS 339). A more earthly phenomenon is reported by Charles Taylor, who describes encountering heat “like a furnace” emanating from a ditch while out walking in Suffolk, and asks for an explanation (MS 350).

The collection includes the papers of the Dalton Testimonial Committee, which raised funds for a monument to Manchester’s leading scientist. The sculptor Francis Chantrey was commissioned to create the statue of Dalton, which now resides in Manchester Town Hall. The collection includes correspondence with Chantrey about this work.

Cataloguing often reveals unexpected items in collections, and in this case, some unknown letters of the scientist Joseph Priestley (1733-1804)  were discovered (Dalton Add MS 1). Their connection to the rest of collection is unclear, as Priestley was not apparently associated with Dalton. The letters were written to Priestley’s sister, firstly, on the eve of his departure to the United States in 1794 to escape political and religious persecution, and secondly, describing his new life in rural Pennsylvania.

A Twelfth-Century Binding Fragment in Ottonian Gospel Book, Latin Ms. 98


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Emerson Richards,  a PhD student at Indiana University, recently spent several months at the Library as John Rylands Research Institute  Lilly Library Doctoral Exchange Fellow, studying medieval manuscripts. She writes:

M. R. James states of the Ottonian Gospel Book (Manchester, John Rylands Library, Latin Ms. 98) that it was ‘presumably written for either Otto II (955-983) or Otto III (983-1002)’ (176), though he did not detect evident suggesting for which of the Holy Roman Emperors the gilded, purple-leafed book, executed in a precise Carolingian minuscule, was created. Current scholarly opinion dates the manuscript to the end of Otto III’s reign, c.996-1002.


Frontispiece to Matthew, Ottonian Gospel Book, c.1000. Latin MS 98, f. 16r.

Neither James nor Frank Taylor, who updated James’s A Descriptive Catalogue of the Latin Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library at Manchester in 1980,* mention the two binding fragments in the front and back of the book.

The two binding fragments are only about 200 mm tall by less than 10 mm wide. Each strip accommodates only one or two consecutive letters, which have been pasted between the early modern (paper) and the medieval (parchment) fly leaves. The front fragment has been effectively pasted down to the paper, whereas, the way the rear fragment is incorporated by sewing allows for the ‘recto’ and ‘verso’ to be examined. Both fragments were cut from vertical strips of text and utilized in an inverse orientation to function, presumably as re-enforcement when the manuscript was rebound. Taylor remarks that the watermark, a fleur-de-lis, is similar to Heawood, ‘Nos. 1673, 1679 (Dutch, 1690s)’ (34).

The fragments themselves, Michelle Brown suggests in personal correspondence, are probably twelfth-century, evidenced by an ff and trailing s, which may indicate that these strips are from a legal text under Bolognese influence, but they are certainly English. They utilize uncial ds and ms, the h on the rear fragment shows a well-defined serif on the ascender, as are single compartment, and a single q bears a bar abbreviation. The front fragment appears to display a symbol a barred cross, closer to the original top of the fragment. The clearest section of text is on the verso of the rear fragment; here we see several consecutive letters, such as ad and et.

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Further examination of the fragments and the paper may yield a better understanding of the history of this book and its rebinding. The fragments are of most interest to codicology and provenance studies, rather than paleography.

* James, M. R., A Descriptive Catalogue of the Latin Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library at Manchester, ed. Frank Taylor (Munich, 1980), 34, 176.

‘Here Beginneth Cytology’: John Peter Smith and the Development of the Cervical Smear Test


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Ginny Dawe-Woodings, Wellcome Archivist, writes:

The recent acquisition of John Peter Smith’s papers on the foundation of the cervical cytology unit in Manchester has triggered interest into the origins of cervical smear testing in the UK.

Sir John Williams first identified the lesion that would eventually be known as carcinoma in situ of the cervix in 1886; however, cancer has been described since Egyptian times, and both Hippocrates and Galen recorded it in their patients, and Paul of Aegina (c. 600AD) diagnosed and treated the disease cancers of the uterus. However, it would not be until the development of microscopes and histology that diagnosing and effectively treating cancers could be achieved.

The pathologist Walter Schiller was the first to propose the term “pre-invasive carcinoma”, but it would be George N. Papanicolaou’s contributions which would have a profound impact on cervical cancer diagnosis. Papanicolaou discovered, courtesy of a willing (female) hospital volunteer, that individual cells from the cervix have morphological features which may be used to diagnose carcinoma. In 1938 Papanicoloau and gynaecologist Herbert Traut worked on a study which concluded that many asymptomatic cancer cases could be detected by smear at an earlier stage than was detectable by biopsy. The pair were critical of the biopsy method, which they argued was time-consuming and expensive, and thus didn’t have large scale feasibility. This meant that treatment for uterine cancer was limited to well developed or late-stage cancers. This discovery led to preventative screening gaining traction throughout the 1940s and 1950s, and local trials were set up in North America, including one in British Columbia set up by David Boyes and Fidler as a project to determine whether screening with Pap. smears could reduce the incidence and mortality from invasive cervical carcinoma.


Photograph of John Peter Smith, provided by his family.

It was likely that this project inspired John Peter Smith in 1962. Smith was born on 11 July 1922 and was educated at the University of Manchester. He had a successful career as a pathologist before returning to Manchester in 1954 as a lecturer in pathology. Smith had been made consultant pathologist at the Christie Hospital in 1960 and was now contemplating conducting his own similar cervical screening project in Manchester.

In a research grant application (submitted in 1962) [JPS/1/2/1]  which would help establish a cytodiagnostic unit at the Christie Hospital, Smith makes reference to Vancouver and British Columbian studies (likely Boyes and Fidler’s project), reiterating the success rate of reducing the incidence of invasive cervix cancer.

In 1963 a pilot programme for cervical screening was developed and initiated by Smith. At present Christie Hospital is the largest cancer treatment centre of its kind in Europe, and has a long history of treating cancers, from the industrial cancers of the industrial nineteenth century through to pioneering work in radiotherapy, pharmacological treatments for breast cancer, cultured bone marrow for leukaemia treatment, and photo-dynamic therapy for skin cancers. It was Christie’s that Smith chose to be the site of his pilot study, stating that:

“We feel that an attempt to emulate [the] Vancouver work should be undertaken in this region and that the Christie Hospital is admirably suited to do it…Laboratory accommodation is already available …and our Endowment Fund is able to provide laboratory equipment.” [JPS/1/2/1]

The archival material covers the appointment of Muskett, a graduate cytologist, who was transferred from the Christie’s associated research laboratories to work directly with the pilot scheme. There is also discussion about the best method for performing the cervical test; they weighed up the merits of the “Davis pipette technique”, the Papanicolaou test, and Ayre’s smear. Both the Papanicolaou and Davis tests were praised for their simplicity; being able to be performed without special instrumentation or patient preparation. However, a paper submitted to the Lancet which reflected on the project shows that the project opted for the Ayres method on the grounds that it provided the most complete spectrum of cells for analysis, and the “visualisation of the cervix by a trained person… may assist the interpretation of the smear.” Recognising that the Ayre technique was more complicated and required more training, a demonstration film showing the methods of fixing, preparation and packing was made at the Christie and St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester. The project also developed a new way of transporting the smears from the GP to the cytodiagnostic laboratory, by preparing a fixative with dissolved wax which allowed the samples to be transported by post.

With the practicalities of staffing, facilities and methodology taken care of, the next area to tackle was garnering interest amongst both the medical and patient communities. Smith had taken smears from family clinics prior to 1963; however this was not a standard practice. A letter was distributed in May 1963 to “family doctors” [General Practitioners] outlining the project and explaining the assistance they needed, both in implementing the project and recommending cases for testing. The project also made contact with the local medical committee, family planning clinics, and local health authorities. They explained their desire for GPs to take smears, “[the GP] can persuade the female patients in [their] own practice to attend for testing; (2) if a positive smear is reported it would naturally fall to the general practitioner to refer [their] patient to the gynaecologist of [their] choice for further investigation and management; and (3) one family practice represents a very manageable group of patients.”


Photograph presumed to be of the Christie Hospital, labelled ‘Here Beginneth Cytology’ c.1963. Ref. JPS/3/1.

In the 1965 article written by Smith, Muskett and (the then director of radiology at the Christie Hospital) Eric Easson, the trio reflect on the project with a sense of disappointment that the take up wasn’t higher, stating that reaching a 50% engagement rate was proving difficult. Despite this frustration, they revealed that 25,000 smears had been taken since the project had begun (est. 1963 to late 1964),and soon there was interest in their project beyond Manchester. They began accepting requests from GPs outside of the city of Manchester who were interested in contributing to the project by setting up their own cervical smear programs. Smith, Muskett and Easson recommended that each hospital region should “appoint a consultant cytologist to supervise the integration of the two or three sub-regional laboratories and, above all, to maintain the enthusiasm of the staff and quality of reporting.”

Sadly, Smith was killed in a car crash in Italy in August 1964. His untimely death meant he never saw the impact that his pilot had on cervical screening in Manchester or the rest of the UK. It would take until 1988 for the UK government to create a centrally organised cervical screening program. This system placed emphasis on follow-up procedures, something which was highlighted back in 1964 by Smith when he suggested that patients should be recalled every three years or a more optimal period, concluding that “[follow-up] is of particular importance when it is remembered that one smear in a woman’s lifetime is quite useless.”

In the 50+ years since Smith set about establishing his pilot study the [face] of cervical screening has changed. Before 1963 cervical screening was conducted by pathologists and GPs with concerns about individual patients, but by the mid-1990s the NHS screening program had become embedded into routine public health practice, and regular cervical cancer screening combined with a national program of HPV vaccination is now seen as standard for women aged 25-64.

Scholars have described the introduction of cervical screening in 1964 as haphazard; at the time programmes were established on the back of individual cytologists, gynaecologists and pathologists. The early twentieth century saw progress towards identifying the early stages of cervical cancer, which precipitated a move towards not only prediction of the likelihood of cancer but also preventative methods. Smith’s project furthered cervical screening as a practice centred on preventative medicine, instead of a procedure performed purely as a diagnostic tool, and consequently Manchester can regard itself as one of the foundations of cervical smears .

Readers can consult Smith’s archive on the University of Manchester Special Collections catalogue:


  • Patricia A Shaw MD FRCPC, ‘The History of Cervical Screening I: The Pap. Test’, Journal of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (2000), 22(2), pp. 110-14.
  • J P Smith, S M Muskett, E C Easson, ‘Evolution of a Community-Screening Project’, The Lancet (July 1965), pp. 74-5.
  • George N Papanicolaou MD PhD, Herbert F Traut MD, ‘Diagnosis of Uterine Cancer by the Vaginal Smear’ (1943), in Dona Schneider and David E Lilienfeld (eds), Public Health: The Development of a Discipline, Twentieth Century Challenges (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2011).
  • Dona Schneider and David E Lilienfeld (eds), Public Health: The Development of a Discipline, Twentieth Century Challenges (New Brunswick: Rutgers Press, 2011).


Tyndale Treasures


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A 16th century engraving of William Tyndale, religious radical responsible for the first printing of the Bible into English.

A 16th century engraving of William Tyndale, religious radical responsible for the first printing of the Bible into English.

Renegade, rogue and radical: Martin Luther, King Henry VIII and William Tyndale. Of the three pillars of our Reformation exhibition, the radical Tyndale is the least well-known, yet he has been credited with founding the English Reformation and his legacy still influences us today.

His first print translation of the New Testament into English had profound consequences for England, the reformist movement and the future of Christianity in Europe. Only twelve unique editions of Tyndale’s New Testament were produced during his lifetime (there are also three variants and four questionable dates), six of which are in the collections of the John Rylands Library.

Three copies of the Rylands Library New Testaments came from Mrs Rylands’ own collection; a 1534 edition printed by ‘M. Emperowr’ (R14876) and two other Antwerp editions, printed in 1536 (R5051, R13962). All of these books were in the Library by March 1908, just eight years after its official opening. It appears that at least one of these had remained in Mrs Rylands’ personal collection until this time, emphasising their importance to her personal views, as well as her public initiative.

Photograph of the first page of the Gospel of St Mark showing a woodcut of the Evngelist.

First page of the Gospel of St Mark in a 1536 Antwerp printing (R17689)

With the intention of forming the most extensive Bible collection in Britain, early librarians at the John Rylands managed to purchase three further copies of Tyndale’s New Testament. Two had previously been part of the Amherst Collection which was sold between 1908 and 1909. One of these was a 1535 Martin de Keyser printing, bought by the library in 1913 from the British and Foreign Bible Society (R33166); the other was a further 1536 Antwerp printing, purchased through Bernard Quaritch booksellers in March 1909 (R17689). The sixth Tyndale New Testament in the collection, a 1536 Antwerp edition, was acquired in 1914 (R37634).

As well as these copies, Mrs Rylands acquired two other Tyndale Bible editions from her purchase of the Spencer Collection; a 1534 printing of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) and a further copy of the New Testament which claims a 1536 imprint, but scholars believe may be closer to 1549. Mrs Rylands’ own collections then continued to provide Tyndale material for the Library, with the addition of a number of his pamphlets after her death.

The impressive number of Tyndale editions in the John Rylands Library is testament to Mrs Rylands’ own vision, and the shared purpose with the librarians who built the collections. Her Nonconformist Christian views were an important driving force in setting up the Library, although the collections were far broader than her own beliefs. As a radical, printing copies of his illegal writings abroad and smuggling them back into England, Tyndale’s period of work was shortlived: in 1535 he was captured and was executed the following year. This martyrdom was recorded in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, and it is this propaganda source which tells us most about Tyndale’s life.

A photograph showing verses in Matthew from the 1536 Antwerp edition.

Tyndale’s translation made his radical views clear: this verse of Matthew he translates as: ‘And I say also unto the[e], that thou art Peter: and upon this rock I wyll bylde my congregacyon’. Later versions of the Bible in English, including the King James Version, would revert to the traditional ‘Church’ instead of ‘congregation’, which implied more equality between believers. (R17689)

From Tyndale’s own writings, it seems that he sympathised with the Lollards, a sect active in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, which had circulated manuscript copies of the Bible in English, fiercely criticised the Church and was then suppressed by Henry IV. While Mrs Rylands may never have been so vocally critical of those in power, she shared one key ideal with William Tyndale: that an English translation of the Bible was essential for people to understand the Christian message, and live a godly life.

Beyond his death, Tyndale had a profound effect upon the English language, his translation stirred up new theological debates and ultimately supported the English break away from Rome with its long term consequences. His translations of both the New and parts of the Old Testament were the basis of succeeding Bible editions in English, including the third authorised edition, known as the King James Version. Editions published during his lifetime are scarce: this may be due to effective destruction of copies by the authorities, but equally owners may have used their copies so much that they simply did not survive. Which makes the existence of six copies in the John Rylands Library all the more remarkable.

Parr’s Pubs: New Photograph Collection


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In contrast to the many Victorian photographs that we blogged about last year, we’re pleased to share the news that the library has expanded its photographic portfolio with a collection of photographs from 1983. There are twenty four, signed, gelatin silver prints by photographer Martin Parr, which detail scenes from Yates’s Wine Lodges in England.

Martin Parr, via Wikimedia Commons

Martin Parr, via Wikimedia Commons

Martin Parr is an award winning British photographer, photo-journalist, artist and curator with an international reputation.  Over five decades his radical approach to social documentary photography has made a substantial contribution to photographic expression in the UK and beyond.

Although Parr originates from the South of England he can also be claimed as a Manchester Man and son of the North.  From 1970-73 he was a student at Manchester Polytechnic and throughout the 1970s and 1980s he lived in Greater Manchester, on the Wirral and in West Yorkshire.  Parr’s profound engagement with Northerners, Northern-ness and Northern places has been a recurring theme throughout his career as demonstrated in this photo-story, Yates’s Wine Lodges, England, 1983.

These images are shot mainly in Northern towns and cities and this collection examines the culture of one of Britain’s oldest pub chains.  Yates’s was established in Oldham, Lancashire by Peter and Simon Yates in 1884. Yates’s Wine Lodges spread nationwide, but retained a stronghold in the north of England with its headquarters in Manchester.

Martin Parr signature from the reverse of VPH.24.1

Martin Parr signature from the reverse of VPH.24.1

It is interesting to look at these images with a glance towards our other collections and what they say about the social mores and attitudes from the era when Yates’s was established.  For example, the image below is from a nineteenth-century Temperance Movement cuttings book that the library holds.  The illustrations depict the physical and moral consequences of drinking alcohol and Yates’s motto of ‘moderation is true temperance’ is perhaps a nod to those values. It will be fascinating to see what our readers feel our new photographs reveal about the pub culture of the 1980s.

Temperance Movement Cuttings Book, Ref: JRL1410614

Temperance Movement Cuttings Book, Ref: JRL1410614

By the 1980s, when Parr was working on this project, the firm had become synonymous with what the Manchester Evening News reporters described as images of a ‘smoky, dimly-lit, male-dominated environments more in keeping with Victorian England’. These are precisely the qualities that Parr has captured in his elegiac, black and white evocations.  Despite the extensive refurbishment, rebranding and financial success of Yates’s in the 1990s, and periods of subsequent rebranding campaigns, this image still persists.

Parr’s photographs form part of a broader, more substantial, sociological shift that plots the demise of British pub culture which has resulted in the closure of over 21,000 public houses to date.  They embody, in visual form, an account of a national trend by showing its impact on particular people and places at a particular historical moment in time.  It tells a national story in a Northern accent.

Details and descriptions of these images can be found on Library Search.

All images unless otherwise stated are copyright of the University of Manchester and can be used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike Licence. With thanks to the Heritage Imaging Team.

What price would you pay?


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It is the time of year for resolutions – go on a diet, join a gym, give up drink. Whatever your guilty pleasure might be, what if you were offered an easy way out. A way of writing off all that guilt and sin, for a price. Would you take it? In the middle ages the Church had just the thing for you and by the early 16th century it seemed that just about everyone with enough spare cash would be buying an indulgence to ease their guilt and smooth the path to heaven.

At this time, the sacraments of the medieval Catholic Church were at the heart of everyone’s lives, and it was important to perform them in order to get into heaven. The confession of sins, and the ability of a priest to absolve people’s sins, was a central feature of the medieval Church. Indulgences were intended to offer remission from other punishments that might be handed out as part of confession.  People believed that the forgiveness of sin reduced their time in purgatory – a temporary stop for souls before entrance to heaven. As Purgatory became more prominent in Christian thinking, the idea developed that the term of indulgences related to remission of time in Purgatory.

The sale of indulgences became an important income stream for the Church. Many were issued in the late 15th century to raise funds for a new crusade against the Ottoman Turks. In 1517, Pope Leo X offered indulgences for those who gave alms to rebuild St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The aggressive marketing practices of Johann Tetzel in promoting this cause provoked Martin Luther to write his 95 Theses, condemning what he saw as the purchase and sale of salvation. In Thesis 28 Luther objected to a saying attributed to Tetzel: “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs”.

The invention of printing boosted the use of indulgences, allowing thousands to be printed at one time. We have a number of original printed indulgences in our collection, many of which only survive as fragments reused in the bindings of books. The example currently on display in our Reformation exhibition is especially significant as it has been preserved exactly as it was issued on 7 March 1455. This particular indulgence was ordered by Pope Nicolas V in support of the defense of Cyprus and the distribution was delegated to the Cypriot nobleman Paul Chappe whose name can be seen in the middle of the first line. When Chappe arrived in Germany he commissioned Johann Gutenberg to produce the indulgences for him on his new printing press. This makes our indulgence one of the earliest dated examples of printing.


Indulgentia, Printed by Johann Gutenberg, Mainz, 1454-1455. Ref. Spencer 17250.2

This indulgence was issued at Würzburg to Heinrich Deupprecht and his wife Anna (Heinricus Deupprecht et Anna vxor eius legitima). Under the fold at the bottom of the document are the further details that it was sold by Johannes Allendorf, the abbot of St. Burkhard monastery in Würzburg for the sum of 1 florin. This was equivalent to about a week’s wages for a skilled labourer – a price worth paying to absolve you of all your sin ?