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Manchester Geographical Society Collection

4,500 items.

The Manchester Geographical Society was one of the most important provincial geographical societies in Britain, in its heyday rivalling even the Royal Geographical Society of London.

The Society was founded in 1884, stimulated by the commercial opportunities being created by the `opening up’ of Africa. For it was recognized that full exploitation of the new markets by British industry and commerce depended upon the dissemination of geographical knowledge.

The Society grew rapidly, and likewise its library, which was eventually transferred to the University of Manchester Library on permanent loan in 1970.

The collection comprises 200 atlases, 4,000 printed books, of which some 250 pre-date 1850, and 300 periodical titles.

Many of the books and journals date from the late 19th century and illustrate both the spirit of the late Victorian imperialist enterprise, and its geographical interests.

The atlases range from the mid-18th century to the mid-20th, and include fine examples of 18th-century French cartography by Jean Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anville and Guillaume Delisle, 19th-century English atlases published by firms such as A.K. Johnston, George Philip & Son and John Bartholomew & Sons, and more recent specialist atlases.

Many of the earlier atlases are richly decorated and hand-coloured. Britain’s dominance of the seas is reflected in the high number of maritime charts.

The book section includes a number of 17th-century items which contain significant mapping, such as Richard Blome’s A Geographical Description of the Four Parts of the World (1670) and William Camden’s Britannia (1610).

A high proportion of the more modern books relate to Africa and Asia, many containing descriptions of original exploration.

A large number of works also describe Polar exploration, reflecting the period of the Society’s expansion.

There are in addition some 300 periodical titles, many published by geographical societies in France and Germany.

See also

Finding aids

  • Published catalogues, Andrew Lloyd, `Early Atlases and Printed Books from the Manchester Geographical Society Collection: A Catalogue', Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, vol. 73, no. 2 (1991), pp. 37-157.
  • Andrew Lloyd, Manchester Geographical Society Library Catalogue (Manchester, 1992).


Main Library

Using the reading room in the Main Library

pre-1850 material is held at .