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Manuscripts: Closed collections

These collections are outlined in the order in which they were acquired after the 'foundation collections' (Cotton, Sloane and Harley).

The Manuscripts Online Catalogue presently offers coverage of most of the descriptions and some of the indexes of the catalogues below. All except the Zweig Collection are indexed in the Index of Manuscripts.

Spine of a catalogue of the Lansdowne Manuscripts

Spine of a catalogue of the Lansdowne Manuscripts. Copyright © The British Library Board

Royal Manuscripts

1. A. I — 20. E. X, Appendix 1 — 89
Collected by English sovereigns from Edward IV onwards, and housed after 1707 with the Cotton collection, but not seriously damaged in the Asburnham House fire of 1731. These manuscripts were transferred to the British Museum by George II in 1757.


G. F. Warner & J. P. Gilson, Catalogue of Western Manuscripts in the Old Royal and King's Collections (London, 1921), 4 vols., with index in vol. 3 and plates in vol. 4.

Lansdowne Manuscripts

1 — 1245
Collected by Sir William Petty, 1st Marquess of Lansdowne (b. 1737, d. 1805), and including the papers of William Cecil, Lord Burghley. Purchased by the British Museum in 1807. The British Library also holds the Bowood Papers of the Marquesses of Lansdowne.


A Catalogue of the Lansdowne Manuscripts in the British Museum (London, 1819). With index (in two parts, the first covering the Burghley Papers only).

Hargrave Manuscripts

1 — 514
Legal manuscripts collected by Francis Hargrave KC (b. 1741?, d. 1821), and purchased by the British Museum in 1813.


A Catalogue of Manuscripts formerly in the possession of Francis Hargrave [1—499], London, 1818. With index. Descriptions of 500—514 added.

Burney Manuscripts

1 — 524
Collected by Charles Burney, classical scholar (b. 1757, d. 1817), and purchased by the British Museum in 1818.


Catalogue of Manuscripts in the British Museum, New Series, vol. I, part 2. The Burney Manuscripts (London, 1840). Bound and indexed jointly with the Arundel MSS.

King's Manuscripts

1 — 446
Collected by George III and transferred to the British Museum in 1823 by George IV. The manuscripts were at first kept with the printed books but were transferred to the Department of Manuscripts in 1840. The manuscript maps, however, remained in the Department of Printed Books, and are now to be found in the Map Library as the King's Topographical Collection.


Sir George F. Wilson & Julius P. Gilson, Catalogue of Western Manuscripts in the Old Royal and King's Collections, 4 vols., (London, 1921), vol. III. With index.

Arundel Manuscripts

1 — 550
Collected by Thomas Howard, 2nd Earl of Arundel (b. 1586, d. 1646). In 1666, his grandson, Henry Howard, divided the collection between the Royal Society and the College of Arms. In 1831, the manuscripts held by the Royal Society were purchased by the British Museum.


Catalogue of Manuscripts in the British Museum, New Series, vol. I, part 1, The Arundel Manuscripts (London, 1834). Bound and indexed jointly with the Burney MSS in part 3.

Stowe Manuscripts

1 — 1085
The manuscripts collected by Richard Temple-Nugent-Brydges-Chandos-Grenville, 1st Duke of Buckingham and Chandos (b. 1776, d. 1839), at Stowe House, near Buckingham. In 1849, the collection was bought by the 4th Earl of Ashburnham, and in 1883 was sold to Parliament by the 5th Earl and deposited in the British Museum, with the exception of those manuscripts of Irish interest which were deposited in the Library of the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin.


Catalogue of the Stowe Manuscripts in the British Museum, 2 vols. (London, 1895—1896). Index in vol. II.

Ashley Manuscripts

A17 — 5768
Collected by T. J. Wise (b 1859, d. 1937) and purchased from his executors after his death. Mainly 19th century literary manuscripts which have since been divided into Ashley MSS (complete manuscripts) and Ashley A and B series (individual items extracted from books into which they had been inserted by Wise).


T. J. Wise, The Ashley Library. A Catalogue of Printed Books, Manuscripts, and Autograph Letters collected by Thomas James Wise, 11 vols. (London, 1922—1936). Wise's own catalogue of his entire collection of manuscripts (except the B series) and books annotated by hand with Ashley MS numbers.

Yates Thompson Manuscripts

1 — 52, Appendix
Illuminated manuscripts collected by Henry Yates Thompson (b. 1838, d. 1928) and bequeathed in 1941 by his widow to the British Museum where they were reunited with other manuscripts previously obtained from Yates Thompson.


M. R. James et al., A descriptive Catalogue of... Manuscripts from the Collection of Henry Yates Thompson [1st series] (Cambridge, 1898); Second Series (1902); Substitutes (1907); [4th series] (1912).

Zweig Manuscripts

1 — 206
Collected by Stefan Zweig (b. 1881, d. 1942) and presented to the British Library by the Trustees of the Stefan Zweig Collection in 1986.


A. Searle, The British Library Stefan Zweig Collection: Catalogue of the Music Manuscripts (London, 1999).

The music manuscripts from this collection are available for study in the Rare Books & Music Reading Room.

The complete Zweig Collection is described and indexed in the Additional Catalogue series (acquisitions 1986—1990).