Papers re Althorp Library

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 ABR/1
  • Dates of Creation
  • Physical Description
      239 pieces (bound in 1 volume with ABR/2)

Scope and Content

Papers primarily relating to the sale of the Althorp Library to Mrs E.A. Rylands, covering 1813-1899, though most material dates from the short period July-September 1892.

Includes mid-nineteenth century papers relating to the Earls Spencer, Railton's summary of the sale (/11), four notebooks containing Railton's notes on the Library for valuation (/14-17), and a huge number of cuttings, some illustrated, relating to the sale and to the later inauguration of the John Rylands Library. The item contains a large number of letters and telegrams, comprising the correspondence of Railton with Mrs E.A. Rylands and her agent J.A. Green and with Spencer's agent Edward G. Hodge (of Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge). All aspects of the sale are covered, from valuation and payment to the administration of transfer, and further negotiations - such as the gift to Mrs Rylands of the portrait of Earl Spencer in return for the Mordaunt family manuscript kept by the Spencers, and the efforts to delay publication of the identity of the purchaser. There are also personal letters to and from Railton concerning the sale, and later letters concerning the failed bid for the Library from an American purchaser.

Bound with ABR/2 in one volume titled 'Papers re the Spencer and Crawford purchases, 1813-1901'. Collection of letters and other papers relating to the purchases, pasted onto sheets by A.B. Railton and bound by Bramhall & Menzies.

List of pieces: 

  • /1: Cutting, portrait photograph of Earl Spencer, as an old man, n.d.
  • /2: Engraving of the Right Hon. Earl Spencer, n.d.
  • /3-5: Three cuttings: obituary of Earl Spencer, not sourced, November 1834; notice of will of Earl Spencer, not sourced, December 1834; note on economies at Althorp since the death of Lord Spencer, 7 January 1835.
  • /7: Letter from Lord Spencer at Ryde to Captain Page, 21 July 1813, concerning 'signals'.
  • /8: Letter from Spencer to Revd Dr Clarke [possibly James Stanier Clarke], 20 November 1818, stamped with Spencer's seal. He states 'I am not acquainted with the Book you mention, & can therefore give no opinion as to its value, which of course will in some degree depend on the condition of the volume; though I have it not, as you think it will be an acquisition to the University library, I should be very sorry to interfere with their possessing it & therefor shall decline bidding for it'.
  • /9: Printed prospectus for a catalogue of the pictures and some of the Library at Althorp, titled 'Aedes Althorpianae' by T.F. Dibdin, annotated in manuscript that the work will form two volumes, rather than one; n.d. [this work was published in 1822].
  • /10: Pamphlet Lord Spencer's Library. A sketch of a Visit to Althorp, Taylor & Son, Northampton, 1870.
  • /11: Typescript summary of the details of the sale of the Bibliotheca Spenceriana to Mrs Rylands, written and annotated by Railton.
  • /12: Cutting, announcement of the decision of Lord Spencer to sell the Althorp Library, The Times, 17 June 1892.
  • /13: Copy of letter [recipient unknown, probably a colleague of Railton's at Sotheran's] 7 July 1892, concerning preliminary enquiries regarding the Althorp Library.
  • /14-17: Four notebooks containing notes taken in situ by Railton on the Althorp Library, apparently listing contents of cases. The first notebook contains a cutting from Liverpool Mercury, 1 August 1892, concerning the identity of the purchaser. Monetary values of individual items and groups of volumes are given in an alphabetical code, the key to which is given at the end of the fourth notebook (numbers 1-9 and 0 corresponding to 'chelmsforx'). The total valuation is given as £193,127.
  • /18: Rough draft of Railton's report on the Althorp Library, 8 July 1892.
  • /19-20: Two letters from John Lawler [a cataloguer], 23 June 1892 and 'Sunday' [?26 June 1892], concerning arrangements for Lawler to help with the valuation of the Althorp Library.
  • /21-23: Copy of letter from Sotheby Wilkinson & Hodge, 19 July 1892, offering the Library 'en bloc' at £220,000, copy of letter to J.A. Green sending the official offer and advising that a 'liberal' offer should be made, 19 July 1892, and signed authorisation of E.A. Rylands for Sotheran & Co. to negotiate the purchase of the Althorp Library for £200,000, 21 July 1892 with a copy on the second part of a statement by Hodge and Sotheran agreeing a purchase price of £210,000, 21 July 1892.
  • /24-25: Copy of letter to J.A. Green, 15 July 1892, regarding commission for the sale, and quoting a fee of one and a quarter percent on the purchase money, with letter from [A.H.] Mayhew, 30 January 1895, concerning an offer of £300,000 which had been bid for the Library by an American, but had been 'blocked' by Railton, and was later found by Mayhew to have come from Mr Lenox Kennedy, with the intention of presenting the collection to the Lenox Library.
  • /26-27: Letter of acceptance of the offer of the Althorp Library for £210,000, with conditions, signed by E.A. Rylands, 22 July 1892, and letter from J.A. Green, 23 July 1892 stating that Mr Hodge was required to accept the conditions in writing before he can transfer the money.
  • /28-31: [on one page] Cutting from The Times, 29 July 1892, concerning the sale of the Althorp Library to an unknown purchaser, with a cutting of a letter to The Times of the same date from H. Sotheran & Co. stating that they effected the sale, and a similar cutting from Brighton Examiner, 2 August 1892. With a letter from J.A. Green, 30 July 1892, commenting on the article that it 'would have been perfect if it had mentioned your name. but after all you are old enough and big enough to take care of yourself in this respect'.
  • /32-33: Copies of letters to friends Dr Lindsay and Mr and Mrs Edmonds, both dated 28 July 1892, proudly describing his role in the sale, commenting that 'providence has had its own end to serve in raising up a Wellington to face the Napoleon of the Second hand book trade'.
  • /34-37: Letter of congratulation from his brother 'Ned', 2 August 1892, and three letters from J.A. Green, 1, 4 and 6 August 1892. In the first letter, Green complains about the notice in The Timesthat 'The "English Gentleman" in inverted comments is tantamount to telling the world that the purchaser is a lady which, in this case, is more that half the secret. Mrs R. is really much annoyed'. His postscript goes on to comment that 'Mrs R. is greatly enjoying the mystery and will do nothing at present to give a public solution'. In the second letter Green dicusses the possibility of an article illustrated with photographs. In the third letter, Green states that 'Mrs R. has stedfastly [sic] declined to authorize any announcement but the Manchester Guardian of this morning seems to be on the right track!!! Where did they get the information from? I am afraid Mrs R. is seriously angry'.
  • /38-41: Three letters from J.A. Green, 6, 7, and 10 August 1892, and one letter from William Linnell, 10 August 1892. In the letter of 6 August, Green comments on the statement by Enriqueta Rylands to the press that she was the purchaser. The other letters concern shelving arrangements at Althorp.
  • /42-45: One letter from J.A. Green, 12 August 1892, concerning transfer of books, and three letters from Edward G. Hodge , 15, 16 and 18 August 1892, concerning the bookcases at Althorp, payment for the Library, and staffing issues.
  • /46-48: Copy of letter to Hodge, 24 August 1892, and reply dated 31 August 1892, concerning the ownership of bound volumes of etchings, with letter from Francis Harvey offering his services, 25 August 1892.
  • /49-52: Letters and telegrams concerning payment of the final instalment, 26-30 August 1892
  • /53: Letter from Enriqueta Rylands, 31 August 1892, concerning the gift of the portrait of the Earl Spencer in exchange for the retention of the Mordaunt family manuscript, thanking Railton for 'the pleasant and quiet manner in which these negotiations have been carried out' but expressing regret that he had been prevented by the press from being able to inform Lord Spencer of her name. She also discusses the potential sale of duplicate copies of Audubon, commenting that 'I am very anxious not to begin immediately with the sale of duplicate books, as this might, through erroneous statements, lead to unpleasant feeling, and this I wish to avoid'.
  • /54-57: Three letters from Hodge, 2, 12, and 20 September 1892, concerning Mrs Ryland's acceptance of the portrait, and the packing of the Althorp Library, problems with the accomodation of packers at Althorp.
  • /58-63: Six cuttings concerning the sale of the Althorp Library, from various newspapers, 30 July - 10 August 1892.
  • /64-67: Four cuttings concerning the sale of the Althorp Library, from various newspapers and magazines, 29 July 1892.
  • /68-83: Sixteen cuttings concerning the sale of the Althorp Library, from various newspapers and magazines, 29 July - 6 August 1892, some including rumours about the identity of the purchaser.
  • /84-96: Thirteen cuttings concerning the sale of the Althorp Library, from various newspapers and magazines, 30 July - 7 August 1892.
  • /97-108: Eleven cuttings concerning the sale of the Althorp Library, from various newspapers and magazines, 3-6 August 1892, with telegram from J.A. Green, 6 August 1892 notifying that he had wired to The Times the name of Mrs Rylands as purchaser.
  • /109-112: Four cuttings concerning the sale of the Althorp Library, from various newspapers and magazines, 6-8 August 1892.
  • /113-116: Cutting, with engravings, concerning the Althorp Library, from Black and White, 20 and 27 August 1892.
  • /117: Cutting, from Illustrated London News, 20 August 1892, with photographs of the interior of Althorp and the erection of the John Rylands Library building on Deansgate.
  • /118: Cutting from Manchester Courier, 20 August 1892.
  • /119: Illustrated cutting from The Graphic, n.d.
  • /120: Illustrated cutting from The Daily Graphic, 22 August 1892.
  • /121-123: Invitation sent for the inauguration of the JRL on 6 October 1899, with two cards for special saloon tickets on trains from Euston to Manchester.
  • /124-125: Two letters from A.J. Bowden, editor of the American Athenaeum,, 7 and 31 October 1892, concerning publication of a photograph of Railton and article about the Althorp Library.
  • /126-128: Three cuttings on John Rylands and the inauguration of the Library, unsourced and undated [October 1899].
  • /129: Invitation to the formal opening of the John Rylands Library on 6 October 1899.
  • /130: Cutting from Our Magazine, on the Althorp Library, n.d. [1899?]
  • /131: Cutting, 'John Rylands of Manchester' by Dr Joseph Parker, n.d. [?1899]
  • /132-134: Three cuttings re the Althorp Library and John Rylands Library, August-September 1892. A cutting from the Library Journal gives the viewpoint of the American book trade.
  • /135-137: Three cuttings re the Althorp Library and John Rylands Library, August 1892. The cutting from Modern Society discusses the siting of the Library in Manchester rather than London.
  • /138-140: Two letters from Enriqueta Rylands, 12 and 14 May 1901, with cutting from catalogue, concerning a manuscript of a Wycliffe translation of the Bible which she purchased for £1200 [probably English Manuscript 91, R55397 ].
  • /141-145: Six cuttings concerning the sale of the Althorp Library, 6-8 August 1892, including the article published by the Manchester Guardian which reports a rumour that the Library had been purchased by Mrs Rylands.
  • /146-152: Seven cuttings concerning the sale of the Althorp Library, 8-11 August 1892.
  • /153-164: Twelve cuttings concerning the sale of the Althorp Library, 6-9 August 1892.
  • /165-174: Ten cuttings concerning the sale of the Althorp Library, 6-14 August 1892.
  • /175: Cutting from The Times, 8 August 1892.
  • /176-181: Six cuttings concerning the sale of the Althorp Library, 9-12 August 1892, including the official statement made by Dr Green in The Times, 12 August 1892.
  • /182-186: Five cuttings concerning the sale of the Althorp Library, 11-12 August 1892.
  • /187-192: Six cuttings concerning the sale of the Althorp Library, 12-15 August 1892.
  • /193-198: Six cuttings concerning the sale of the Althorp Library, 9-12 August 1892.
  • /199-208: Ten cuttings concerning the sale of the Althorp Library,10 August-8 September 1892.
  • /209-216: Eight cuttings concerning the sale of the Althorp Library, 13-20 August 1892.
  • /217-233: Seventeen cuttings concerning the sale of the Althorp Library, 13-27 August 1892.
  • /234: Promotional leaflet for Henry Sotheran & Co., n.d. [c 1893].
  • /235: Cutting concerning rare book purchases, Daily Chronicle, 18 February 1893.
  • /236-237: Letter from Henry March Gilbert, 3 August 1892, and from J.W. Burgoyne, 1 August 1892, both congratulating him on the sale.
  • /238: Printed notice of the retirement of Henry Sotheran as sole partner in Messrs. Henry Sotheran & Co. and the new partnership of his son Henry Cecil Sotheran with Charles Buckland and Railton, n.d. [1893].
  • /239-246: Cutting [on eight pages]: illustrated article by S.G.G. [Samuel Gosnell Green] about the John Rylands Library, n.d. [1899]