Copinger-Hartland Manuscripts Collection

Scope and Content

The collection, which was formed by Walter Arthur Copinger (1847-1910) and later passed to Ernest Hartland, comprises:

  • Eng MS 882: a volume of seventeenth-century copies of letters between Thomas Wolsey and the ambassadors of Henry VIII at Rome;
  • Eng MS 883: a sketch-book containing drawings by Wenceslaus Hollar, c 1626-1652;
  • Eng MS 884: an eighteenth-century notebook containing notes and verses by John Bowle and the poet laureate, Thomas Warton;
  • Eng MS 885: a catalogue of English coins, with manuscript additions by James Atkins;
  • Eng MS 886: a nineteenth-century manuscript of part of the New Testament;
  • Eng MS 887: a volume containing copies of papers relating to Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork;
  • Eng MSS 888-890: papers relating to Charles Tilstone Beke and his expeditions to Abyssinia.

Administrative / Biographical History

Walter Arthur Copinger (1847-1910), jurist and author, was born on 14 April 1847 in Clapham. He was educated at a private school in Brighton and University College, Durham. He left Durham without completing his course and entered a solicitor's office in London. In 1866 he was admitted a student of the Middle Temple, and was called to the bar on 26 January 1869. The following year he published his Law of copyright in works of literature and art. He settled in Manchester and began practising as an equity draftsman and conveyancer, and in the chancery court of the county palatine of Lancaster. Amid his professional work Copinger continued to write on legal subjects, particularly on conveyancing. In 1876 he published An essay on the abolition of capital punishment. In 1888 he was appointed lecturer in law at Owens College, Manchester, and in 1892 he became dean of the faculty of law in the Victoria University. He received the Lambeth degree of doctor of laws from Archbishop Benson in 1889, and an MA from the Victoria University of Manchester in 1905. He was president of the Manchester Law Society's library.

Copinger was a keen bibliographer, and it was largely due to his efforts, supported by Richard Copley Christie, that the Bibliographical Society was founded in London in 1892. He was the Society's first president, and held the office for four years. Between 1895 and 1898 he published his most important bibliographical work, the Supplement to Hain's Repertorium bibliographicum, comprising 7,000 corrections of and additions to the collations of fifteenth-century works described or mentioned by Ludwig Hain, and a list of nearly 6,000 works not referred to by him. Copinger contributed several papers to the Transactions of the Bibliographical Society, including an exhaustive monograph on the fifteenth-century printed editions of Virgil. In 1892 he published a bibliographical account of 124 incunabula editions of the Latin Bible. He set up a small press at The Priory, Greenheys, Manchester, at which he printed four bibliographical works for private circulation.

Copinger was also keenly interested in genealogy, heraldry, and manorial history. His last years were devoted almost exclusively to the history of Suffolk. Between 1902 and his death he produced a stream of works on this subject, including a five-volume general history of Suffolk and a work on the manors of Suffolk which ran to seven volumes. Another interest was theology. The work which Copinger valued most among his writings was his huge treatise on A treatise on predestination, election, and grace, historical, doctrinal, and practical (1889). He was an ardent book collector and accumulated a considerable library. He died at his home in Lower Broughton, Salford, on 13 March 1910.

Source: Henry Guppy, 'Copinger, Walter Arthur (1847-1910)', rev. Catherine Pease-Watkin, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press -

Access Information

The collection is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

The collection was presented to the John Rylands Library by Mrs Ernest Hartland of Hardwick Court, Chepstow, in May 1936. Mrs Hartland presented 2,000 Bibles and 1,500 other printed books, including thirty-two incunables, as well as thirty manuscripts.


Description compiled by Henry Sullivan and Jo Klett, project archivists, with reference to:

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Supplementary Hand-List of Western Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1937 (English MSS 882-890).

Custodial History

The manuscripts once formed part of Dr Walter Arthur Copinger's collection, which was later acquired by Ernest Hartland MA, FSA, JP, of Chepstow.

Related Material

Mrs Hartland presented to the John Rylands Library twenty-four other manuscripts, including ten Bibles from the 13th-15th centuries, Horae and other liturgical works (refs: GB 133 Latin MSS 426-445 and Dutch MSS 12-13, French MS 129 and German MS 13).

The British Library, Manuscript Collections, holds letters from R. Garnett and J. Wright to W.A. Copinger, c 1889-92 (ref.: GB 058 Add MSS 62551).