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Special Collections

  • About our Special Collections
    • Leeds Central Library holds many beautiful and rare items of special and historical interest which are available on request. If you are a researcher, artist, student or history enthusiast our special collections will have books and archive material to interest and inspire you. Amongst these are the Gott Bequest containing early English botanical and gardening books, the Wing Collection of Civil War tracts, the Gascoigne Collection of militaria, Leeds Pottery Pattern and Drawing Books, the Sanderson Fashion Collection and the unusual Ernestine Henry Collection of material relating to chimney sweeps. Workshops and events will take place during the year to showcase these collections and if you wish to view any item please contact Information and Research 24 hours in advance to arrange an appointment. You will be asked for proof of name and address before accessing special collection material.

  • Special Collections
    • Alan Bennett Collection
      • A collection of books donated and signed by Alan Bennett

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    • E.R. Eddison Collection
      • Born in Adel, Leeds, Eric Rucker Eddison (1882-1945) became a leading civil servant and a writer of fantasy novels, most notably The Worm Ouroboros and The Zimiamvian Trilogy. In the 1960s Eddison’s wife, Winifred, bequeathed many of his original manuscripts and notes to the Leeds Central Library.

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    • Gascoigne Collection of Military History
      • Over three thousand books, pamphlets and periodicals, covering mainly military and naval history, donated in 1968 by Sir Alvary Gascoigne, in memory of his father, Colonel F.R.T. Gascoigne, of Lotherton Hall. Includes army and navy lists from the early nineteenth century, regimental histories and is a rich source for researchers of 19th century military history.

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    • Gott Bequest of Early English Gardening Books
      • A collection of 600 early English gardening books and periodicals including works published in the 16th ,17th and 18th centuries, originally belonging to Alderman Beryl Gott, of the local textile manufacturing family and deposited in the Central Library on her death in 1941. Includes herbals, books on garden design, fine examples of hand coloured botanical illustrations, plus Curtis’s Botanical Magazine dating from 1787.

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    • Ernestine Henry Collection
      • A collection of 'Sweepiana' (things relating to chimney sweeps, their working conditions and the folklore, literature and mythology surrounding the subject) which were collected by Dr Sidney A. Henry and donated to Leeds Museums in 1956 in memory of his mother Ernestine Henry. Dr Henry's interest in sweeps was first aroused by his researches into industrial cancer and particularly on the incidence of this disease among those who worked in sooty surroundings. From this he began to take an interest in sweeps as persons and this led him to investigate the history of the trade. The collection was later divided and much of the books and literature were given to Leeds Central Library, whilst prints and other ephemera remained at the museum.

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    • Frank Kidson Collection
      • Frank Kidson was an English folksong collector and musical scholar. He was also an artist, writer and historian. He was born in Leeds in 1855 in Centenary Street, on the site of what is now Victoria Gardens. He was one of the founders of the Folk Song Society in 1898, and published a number of books on traditional music, song, and dance, and wrote many articles for local newspapers. The majority of his collection is now at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. Leeds Central Library does hold items including original notebooks, sketchbooks and collections of broadsides.

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    • Leeds Pottery Drawing Books & Pattern Books
      • The manuscript volumes known as the Leeds Pottery Drawing Books were compiled and used in the Leeds factory as a guide and record of the products. They contain pen and ink drawings of high quality and where enamelled products are recorded they are in water-colour. The books date from 1778 to 1779. Of the twelve known drawing books, nine are owned by Leeds Libraries and Information Services and the other three are in the Victoria and Albert Museum. The Pattern Books, dated between 1783 and 1814, form the printed trade catalogue of the factory. They contain a series of engraved plates of designs selected from the Drawing Books issued with a key, or index, in several languages.

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    • Alf Mattison Collection
      • Alf Mattison maintained a valuable record of the history of socialism in Leeds and was a prolific compiler and collector of newscuttings, books and ephemera relating to the Labour movement. In 1929 he sold this collection to Edward Brotherton to be housed in the Leeds University Library. His other great interest was local history and he regularly gave lectures in venues across the city and published The Romance of Old Leeds in 1908. The collection of material that was donated to Leeds Central Library by his widow in 1946 is predominantly made up of newspaper cuttings, manuscripts of lecture notes and unpublished articles relating to Leeds history and prominent individuals. It also contains 16 volumes of diaries dating from 1925 – 1944.

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    • Riley Collection
      • A complete set of Willie Riley’s books donated to the Central Library. Many of these have personal dedications by the author written inside to members of his family. The collection also contains a number of Willie’s unpublished short novels, sermons and book reviews.

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    • Sanderson Collection
      • Kenneth Sanderson (1896 -1977) was an avid costume collector and fashion enthusiast throughout his life. Sanderson’s collection was purchased by Leeds City Council in 1949, and was consequently split between Leeds Museums and Leeds Central Library—Lotherton Hall now houses the textiles and costume pieces, and the Library holds the printed materials. This collection contains fashion plates, magazines, books and photographs dating from the 1770s to the 1950s.

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    • Scatcherd Collection
      • The Scatcherd Collection. More details to follow.

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    • Taphouse Collection
      • Collection of mainly 18th Century and some 19th Century books and music including over 650 pieces of loose sheet music in 13 boxes as well as many bound volumes. The collection is part of the collection of Thomas William Taphouse (1838-1905), Mayor of Oxford 1904-5 and at various times described as a piano tuner, art dealer, and owner of a music shop. The Library has a marked auction catalogue which indicates that Leeds bought 143 lots although it is possible that other material we acquired after the official auction. Not all the material is listed in the Taphouse auction catalogue but it is likely that Leeds bought from other auctions and may well have bought from Taphouse during his lifetime.

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    • Victorian Songs
      • A collection of around two hundred 18th and 19th Century popular songs.

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    • Wing Collection
      • The Wing Collection at Leeds Central Library comprises over 800 items printed between 1640 and 1700, mostly Tracts documenting the events, politics, religious debates and social life throughout the turbulent period of the English Civil Wars.

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