The Rylands Collection

When Mrs Rylands purchased the Spencer Collection in 1892, the Library's position as a rare books repository of international importance was firmly established.  However Mrs Rylands' commitment to the development of the Library went much further.

Mrs Rylands began to purchase books for the Library as early as 1889. By 1892 around 8,500 books on theology and early science and medicine had already been purchased.  Although Mrs Rylands employed an agent for book purchasing and also benefited from the advice of a small group of advisors, she maintained a close personal involvement in the stocking of the Library.

In addition to endowing the Library with an annual income for its maintenance and expansion, Mrs Rylands frequently found funds for rare and expensive items which would otherwise have been beyond the Library's means.  Often, these personal purchases were kept for a time at Mrs Rylands' home, Longford Hall in Stretford, before eventual transfer to the Library.

Under the guidance of the Librarian, Mrs Rylands also purchased a number of important collections.  These include the collection of critical works on Dante formed by Count Guiseppe Lando Passerini (1858-1932) and the Hiero Von Holtorp Collection of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century specimen leaves, which provide a concise survey of early European printing and engraving.

Following Mrs Rylands' death in 1908, several thousand books were transferred to the Library from Longford Hall.  These included many modern editions-deluxe, grangerized or extra-illustrated volumes and publications from various private presses including Kelmscott, Essex House and Dove. 

Mrs Rylands also made generous provision under the terms of her will to ensure the future viability of the Library. Additions to the printed book collections continue to be made by both purchase and donation, ensuring that the Library remains today a place of pilgrimage to the lover of rare books.

Further information about the Library's Special Collections can be found in the , and in .