This collection of books on the history of science was bequeathed in 1966 by James Riddick Partington (1886-1965), formerly lecturer and demonstrator in chemistry at Manchester University, and Professor of Chemistry at London University from 1919 to 1951. Partington was a leading scholar in the field of inorganic, physical and historical chemistry, and his A History of Chemistry (1964) remains a seminal text.
The collection is particularly rich in books on chemistry, embracing every aspect of the science from the early Greek and Arabic treatises, through the chemical revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries, to modern researches into atomic chemistry.
- 16th-century books of secrets and alchemical and metallurgical works, many illustrated;
- 17th-century editions of such writers as Jan Baptista van Helmont, Andreas Libavius, Johann Rudolf Glauber and Robert Boyle;
- 18th-century texts by Joseph Black, Carl Wilhelm Scheele, Joseph Priestley, Antoine Laurent Lavoisier and Claude Louis Berthollet;
- works by chemists of the 19th century such as Humphry Davy, Michael Faraday and Jöns Jacob Berzelius
Particularly noteworthy are:
- a copy of Robert Hooke's Micrographia (1665); a rare collection of Greek treatises by Demokritos and others, De arte magna (1573)
- a 1533 edition of Georgius Agricola, dealing with medicinal substances
- a very scarce German collection, Alchimia vera, published in the early 17th century
In addition to printed books, the collection contains manuscript notebooks, lantern slides, theses supervised by Partington, and many hundreds of offprints and pamphlets, all as yet uncatalogued.
- Books recorded in general printed-book catalogue;
- Other material uncatalogued.