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Papers of John Nelson Darby

Date range: 1800–82

John Nelson Darby (1800–82), one of the founder members of the Brethren movement, was born in London and educated at Westminster School and Trinity College Dublin. Although trained in law, he was ordained as a deacon in the Church of Ireland and as a priest in 1826. However, he was to be one of those who broke with the Church, seceding to create the ‘Plymouth Brethren’.

Bible scholar, translator and popularizer, he developed distinctive eschatological views, and an influential dispensational interpretation of the Bible.

He was one of the major protagonists in the controversy that split the Brethren movement into ‘Open’ and ‘Exclusive’ wings and was to be the first leader of the ‘Exclusive Brethren’.

He travelled widely, preaching in France, Switzerland, Germany, New Zealand, Canada and the United States. His ideas were taken up well beyond the confines of the Brethren movement, and he is widely regarded as an important influence on modern fundamentalist Christianity, particularly in the United States.

The archive contains much valuable information relating to the life and activities of John Nelson Darby.

It is a key resource for the early history of the Brethren movement, and is particularly useful for anyone wishing to understand the divisions among nineteenth-century Brethren. 

Items include:

  • a scrapbook of personal memorabilia
  • numerous notebooks on Biblical subjects
  • notes on lectures and seminars by various Brethren activists
  • Darby’s personal annotated Bible and a four-volume edition of the New Testament in Greek containing Darby’s detailed handwritten commentary
  • over three hundred items of correspondence (mostly letters to Darby)

Finding aids

Catalogue available online via ELGAR.


Main Library

Using the reading room in the Main Library