History of art and architecture

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Manuscript collections

Aside from the abundance of richly-illuminated Western medieval, Near Eastern and Far Eastern Manuscripts, the Library holds outstanding collections relating to 19th-century art history, and especially to the Pre-Raphaelite circle, with papers of the artist William Holman Hunt, the artist and collector Charles Fairfax Murray, the writer and critic John Ruskin, the critic and connoisseur Marion Harry Spielmann, and the Manchester artist Robert Crozier.

20th-century material includes the papers of the artist Frank O. Salisbury, who specialized in portraiture and in historical and religious subjects, Margaret Pilkington, wood-engraver and Honorary Director of the Whitworth Art Gallery, and Stephen Raw, contemporary letter artist.

Other material of potential interest to art historians occurs in drama and film-related collections such as the Basil Dean, Robert Donat and Stephen Joseph papers (which contain original artwork, photographs, and set and costume designs), in the Carcanet Press Archive, and in the papers of the concrete poet dom sylvester houédard and the children's writer Alison Uttley.

The papers of Dorothy Richardson comprise detailed accounts of travel in England during the late 18th century, illustrated with drawings, and offer extensive scope for cultural, social, gender and art historical studies.

Architectural holdings comprise the archives of the Manchester Society of Architects and the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain, the papers of the distinguished architect Sir Hubert Worthington, and the Edward Freeman Papers, which include thousands of drawings of churches and correspondence with Sir George Gilbert Scott and other architects.

The archives of the John Rylands Library contain information on the design and construction of this internationally-important, Grade I listed building. Students of country-house architecture, landscape design and garden history will also find useful material among the Muniment and Charter Collections.

Printed resources

The Library's holdings of printed materials relating to the history of art are outstanding, and range chronologically from early 15th-century block-books to finely illustrated books and designer bookbindings of the late 20th century.

The Incunabula Collection contains block-books and pre-1500 publications which combine woodcuts with movable type.

However, the Library's holdings of Illustrated Books range through the whole history of printing, representing the work of hundreds of artists and illustrators, from Dürer to Raw, and featuring almost every technique ever employed in book illustration.

The Library holds a wide range of other printed materials of interest to students of art history, in addition to illustrated books:

  • a complete set of the engravings of Piranesi
  • a set of Turner's Liber Studiorum in the best states
  • a large collection of loose cartoons and caricatures by Hogarth, Gillray, Rowlandson, Cruikshank and others
  • a copy of William Fox Talbot's pioneering photographic work, The Pencil of Nature (1844)
  • the John Ruskin Book Collection
  • within the dom sylvester houédard Book Collection numerous poster poems, concrete poems, artists' books and three-dimensional works of art
  • bookplates by Charles William Sherborn and John Paul Rylands within the Viner Bookplate Collection
  • historic and contemporary bookbindings and book jackets

Secondary sources include facsimile editions and standard reference works on antiquities, fine art, engravings, numismatics, furniture, stained glass, ceramics, textiles and costume.

Students of architecture will find a large collection of historic surveys and treatises, both English and Continental, including works on the Classical, Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Georgian and Victorian periods. Authors include Vitruvius, Alberti, Palladio, Adam, Soane and Repton.

In addition to works on 'bricks and mortar' architecture, there are texts of interest for studies in landscape history and land use, garden history, death and the afterlife, the functioning of cities and concepts of space and ritual. The Temple Collection is particularly rich in books on landscape and garden history.