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John Nelson Darby Papers

Date range: 1800–1882

Medium: Archive

John Nelson Darby (1800–1882), one of the founder members of the Brethren movement, was born in London and educated at Westminster School and Trinity College Dublin. He was ordained as a deacon in the Church of Ireland and as a priest in 1826.

Darby became a leading figure amongst a group of like-minded Christians who met for Bible study in Dublin in the 1820s. The members of this group had become frustrated with the established churches, and decided to begin anew. Darby took the fundamental principles of these early meetings and founded a new meeting in Plymouth in 1831, which was known as an assembly. However, 17 years after the founding of the first Brethren assembly in the UK, tensions developed, and in 1848, the Brethren movement divided into the Exclusive Brethren, who followed Darby, and the Open Brethren, who preferred to retain their autonomy.

A bible scholar and translator, he developed distinctive eschatological views, and an influential dispensational interpretation of the Bible. 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 collection is a significant resource for the early history of the Brethren movement, and for research on the divisions that took place within the movement in the 19th century.

The material includes:

  • A scrapbook letters, certificates, newspaper cuttings, tickets and other ephemera relating to the life of Darby, and Darby’s last will and testament;
  • A collection of notebooks by Darby on Biblical subjects, notes on lectures and sermons by various Brethren activists, and copies of Darby's letters to a variety of correspondents;
  • Bibles containing occasional comments by Darby, and four separate large volumes, which together make up the Novum Testamentum Graece (London: 1818), each containing extensive notes by Darby;
  • Darby’s personal annotated Bible and a four-volume edition of the New Testament in Greek containing Darby’s detailed handwritten commentary;
  • Sheaves of unbound papers containing handwritten notes from lectures and readings conducted by J. G. Bellett, J. N. Darby, W. H. Dorman, C. H. Mackintosh, W. Trotter, G. V. Wigram, J. Willans, and others on biblical texts;
  • Correspondence, made up mostly of letters addressed to Darby.

Also included are notices, reports and other items.

In addition to this material, there is also an additional series of photocopies of correspondence by Darby, donated prior to the originals in this collection, and a letter book containing transcriptions of letters written whilst Darby was in Ontario [1862-3].

Further information:

  • Catalogue available online via ELGAR.

  • A catalogue of additional correspondence of John Nelson Darby is available online via ELGAR.

Alternative formats:

Digital copies of material from this collection can be found at Manchester Digital Collections, including:


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