Catalogue of the Books Printed Upon Vellum in the John Rylands Library, Manchester

  • Reference
      GB 133 Eng MS 1133
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      193 x 123 mm. 1 volume (ix + 174 folios); Binding: dark-blue limp cloth binding.

Scope and Content

Holograph manuscript by Edward Gordon Duff, entitled A catalogue of the books printed upon vellum in the John Rylands Library, Manchester. Although the work was never published, the manuscript has been arranged for printing, as follows:

  • Title-page;
  • Contents List;
  • Introduction (folios i-vii);
  • Catalogue (folios 1-134);
  • Index of Printers (folios 137-141);
  • Index of Towns (folios 142-143);
  • Chronological Index to 1500 (folios 144-149);
  • Folios 149v-174 are blank.

Administrative / Biographical History

Edward Gordon Duff (1863-1924), bibliographer, was born on 16 February 1863 in Liverpool. He was educated at Cheltenham College, and Wadham College, Oxford, graduating in classics in 1887. In 1889 he began to read for the bar. In 1893 he became librarian to Mrs Rylands. He catalogued her books (including the Spencer Collection), advised on new purchases, organised the collection, and supervised its transfer to the new John Rylands Library in Manchester. The library opened in 1900, but Duff resigned shortly afterwards after disagreements with Mrs Rylands. From then on he supported himself with freelance work, various academic appointments and the income from his books.

Duff's first work, Early printed books, was published in 1893, followed by Early English printing in 1896. His works on early printing included two textbooks: The printers, stationers and bookbinders of Westminster and London from 1476 to 1535 (1906) and The English provincial printers, stationers and bookbinders to 1557 (1912); a biographical dictionary, A century of the English book trade, 1457-1557 (1905); and a bibliography, twenty-eight years in the making, of Fifteenth century English books: a bibliography of books and documents printed in England and of books for the English market printed abroad (1917). A work on armorial book-stamps remained unpublished.

Duff regarded bibliography as a science, and his work set new standards of accuracy. He was scathing in his criticism of colleagues whose work did not match these standards. He lived in Liverpool until 1915, and thereafter in Oxford. He died at his home in Oxford on 28 September 1924.

Source: Arnold Hunt, 'Duff, Edward Gordon (1863-1924)', rev., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press -

Access Information

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Acquired by the John Rylands Library from an unknown source prior to July 1948.


Description compiled by Jo Humpleby, project archivist, with reference to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography article on Edward Gordon Duff.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1937-1951 (English MS 1133).

Related Material

The JRUL holds a minute book and address book of the Bibliographical Society of Lancashire, containing references to and entries by Edward Gordon Duff, who was its vice-president, 1900-01 (ref.: GB 133 Eng MS 1134). The archives of the John Rylands Library also contain material relating to Duff.

The following material is held in other repositories:

  • Huntington Library, San Marino, California: correspondence of Edward Gordon Duff, c.1250 items, 1889-1924.
  • Oxford University, Bodleian Library, Special Collections and Western Manuscripts: lists of books (ref.: GB 161 MS Eng misc b 26).


Edward Gordon Duff compiled the three-volume Catalogue of the printed books and manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, Manchester (Manchester: J.E. Cornish, 1899); this received mixed reviews.  For further information on Duff, see the obituary notices by Strickland Gibson, The Library Association Record, 2nd series, vol. 2 (1924), pp. 226-8; and Falconer Madan, Transactions of the Bibliographical Society, 4th series, vol. 5 (1925), pp. 264-66.

Geographical Names