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Manuscripts and Printed Books

The Department of Manuscripts and Printed Books houses world-class collections fit for a National Library under the roof of a fine arts museum, and is home to two highly renowned research projects.

The heart of the department is the Founder’s Library, an integral part of the Founder’s Building, opened to the public in 1848. The Library retains its original fittings of carved oak bookcases, classical columns and pilasters, and an expansive marble fireplace, all designed to reflect the gentleman’s library at its core, the collection of Richard, 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam (1745–1816). His bequest of over 10,000 printed books, 130 manuscripts, and a wealth of musical scores and early printed music has been enriched by the generosity of later benefactors, such as Frank McClean (1837–1904) and Charles Brinsley Marlay (1831–1912), and the purchases of scholarly directors, such as Sydney Cockerell (1908–1937), so that the department’s holdings now range from early printed books to modern literary autographs, from the archives of novelists and poets to the correspondence of painters and composers, from autograph scores by Handel and Elgar to early printed music, and from ninth-century Byzantine Gospel Books to Persian poetry and to some of the finest medieval and Renaissance manuscripts in existence.

The collections are the focus of advanced conservation and research projects by the department's conservators, curators and research associates.

The Department’s collections can be consulted by researchers by appointment. Please visit our Research Facilities page.


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