John Rylands Library
Watch an introductory video to the John Rylands Library here.
The world famous John Rylands Library is one of Britain’s finest academic libraries. The JRL houses its remarkable and rich ‘Special Collections’ at its Deansgate building in central Manchester. This historic purpose-built library building, the ‘finest example of neo-Gothic architecture in Europe,’ has resources ‘from papyrus to plastic’ that ‘constitute one of Britain’s greatest cultural assets’. It is an internationally renowned centre of scholarship as well as a wonderfully inspiring building in which to study: ‘one of Britain’s great university buildings’.
This historic Victorian gem has been refurbished and ‘unlocked’ by a new magnificently crafted extension, sensitively and tastefully added to make it even more user friendly and accessible. The Special Collections of the JRL contain a wealth of primary source materials with numerous collections and libraries of rare books and manuscripts that span six millennia and originate from cultures across the world.
Online access is available and researchers are able to access detailed descriptions through a newly developed online catalogue.
Fellows of the MWRC enjoy access to the JRL, the University of Manchester Library, and the resources of the Nazarene Theological College and MWRC libraries at the MWRC premises in Didsbury.
The MWRC is designed to guide and support research students in finding their way through this ‘labyrinth [of an] endless multiplicity of books’ (as John Wesley described such a problem facing his own eighteenth century students when writing the Preface to his fifty-volume Christian Library, published 1749-55). The MWRC facilitates access and use of one unique part of these Special Collections: the internationally renowned Methodist Archives and Research Centre (MARC) which holds the world’s largest collection of manuscripts relating to the founders of Methodism, John and Charles Wesley and other members and close associates of the Wesley family. The MARC also holds vast resources on the development of Methodism up to the present.
What Resources are held in the Archives?
The Archives include the personal libraries of both Charles Wesley and John Fletcher (John Wesley’s ‘designated successor’). The majority of Samuel, Susanna, John and Charles Wesley manuscripts that survive are part of the MARC collection. There is also an outstanding collection of ‘anti-Methodist’ printed materials and other items. The MARC also contains an extensive collection of over 5,000 hymnals (not merely of Methodist denominations) including many rare items - such as the only complete copy of the Collection of Psalms and Hymns printed in 1737 for John Wesley when he was in Charles-town (now Charleston, South Carolina).
This volume is what one scholar, Winfred Douglas in 1937, described as ‘the first real Anglican Hymnal’. Of course, the number and width of all kinds of items of Methodist interest is increasing each year, as the MARC extends the collection by adding modern (as well as older) books, pamphlets, periodicals, newspapers, manuscripts and other materials relating to Methodism.
In addition to the Wesley family documents themselves, MARC also has extensive collections of the personal papers of numerous prominent evangelicals of the 18th century and later Methodists up to the present, including John Fletcher and his wife Mary Bosanquet, George Whitefield, Selena the Countess of Huntingdon, Benjamin Ingham, Howel Harris, Thomas Coke, Adam Clarke, Hugh Bourne, Jabez Bunting, John Ernest Rattenbury, and Rupert Davies. The collection also includes extensive Conference and other institutional records of all major pre-union (i.e. pre-1932) British Methodist denominations.