Tobias Theodores Papers

  • Reference
      GB 133 TTP
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      Predominantly German ; some material in Hebrew  and English
  • Physical Description
      0.3 li.m. 118 items
  • Location
      Collection available at University Archive and Records Centre, main University Library.

Scope and Content

The collection is divided into two main sections: Theodores' correspondence with Gustav Gottheil (TTP/1) and his research notebooks (TTP/2)

Theodores letters to Gottheil, which date from the latter's departure from Manchester almost until Theodores' death in 1886 are an invaluable source of information for Theodores' opinions on theological and political issues (in the UK and Germany), the Jewish communities in Britain and Germany, relations between Christians and Jews, as well as more informal, occasionally gossipy, comments on mutual acquaintances and family. The letters are primarily written in German in a Kurrent script.

The notebooks which have not been catalogued in detail contain Theodores' notes and transcriptions of literary, political, historical, linguistic and theological works he had studied. They are written in German, English and Hebrew, with some material in Arabic, French and Greek.

Administrative / Biographical History

Tobias Theodores was born Theodore Tobias in Posen Province, Prussia in 1808. He entered business at an early stage, and moved to England, where worked in London and Manchester.

Although little is known of his early life, it appears that he spent periods teaching in Lancashire and Yorkshire. In 1851, Theodores was appointed tutor in German at the newly-opened Owens College in Manchester. In 1860, he was promoted to a chair in modern and oriental languages, which covered German, French, Hebrew and Arabic. In 1879, he relinquished the modern European languages part of this post. He retired from Owens College in 1884.

Theodores was best-known as a teacher, and succeeded in putting modern languages on a firm footing at Owens. His own capacity for learning new languages was considered phenomenal, and he is believed to have spoken at least several dozen different languages.

Theodores was a practising Jew, and closely associated with Reform Judaism, a movement which became increasingly prominent after 1850. Reform Judaism stressed, amongst other things, a diligent personal spirituality, a close reference to scriptural authority in matters of doctrine and law, and openness to non-Judaic religions and secular ideas.

Theodores wrote relatively few academic works. His best-known religious work was The Rabbinical law of excommunication published in 1854. He was however an active publicist for Judaism in the press, writing numerous articles for the Jewish Chronicle. In 1841, Theodores had come to public attention, writing a strong defence of the Jewish community in Damascus, which had been the subject of a blood libel. Theodores had been active in the establishment of the Manchester Congregation of British Jews in 1856, and was a close friend of its second rabbi, Gustav Gottheil (1827-1903).

Gottheil had moved to Manchester in 1860; previously he had been closely associated with advanced Jewish circles in Berlin. In 1873 Gottheil moved from Manchester to New York, eventually becoming rabbi at Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan, another Reform Jewish congregation. Theodores’ correspondence with Gottheil, after he left Manchester, forms the basis of this collection.

Theodores married Sarah Horsfall in 1839; they had one son, who predeceased them. He died at his home in Rumford St, Manchester on 27 April 1886.

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

The Theodores-Gottheil letters were donated by Gottheil's son, Professor Richard Gottheil (1862-1936) in March 1936. At least two of Theodores' notebooks were donated to the Library by T C Horsfall on 25 February 1895, although it is possible that the other volumes were part of Theodores' library, which was given to Owens College.

Archivist's Note

The Gottheil correspondence (TTP/1) has been catalogued in German as well as English.

Dr Katharina Keim assisted with the translation of some Hebrew words.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.


None expected.

Related Material

Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives hold another collection of Theodores' papers GB 127.M251. This comprises some letters, manuscripts of articles or lectures, and printed articles or lectures. Gustav Gottheil's papers are held by the Jewish Theological Seminary Library, 3080 Broadway, New York (ref. ARC 44).


Burns, J. (2015-05-28). Theodores, Tobias (1808-1886), linguist and Jewish scholar. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 6 Apr. 2018, from

Geographical Names