The James Crossley Collection

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 418 Crossley
  • Former Reference
      GB 418 E.3.3-E.3.6
  • Dates of Creation
      17th century-19th century
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      5 boxes, 243 files

Scope and Content

Miscellaneous collection of papers compiled and collected by James Crossley (1800-1883), writer, book collector and antiquary. They include letters to Crossley and to Thomas Jones, Chetham's Librarian. Crossley succeeded Jones as Honorary Librarian of Chetham's Library after Jones's death in 1875.

Administrative / Biographical History

James Crossley was born in Halifax co Yorks on 30 March 1800. He was the second son of James Crossley (1767-1831), a merchant in the wool manufacturing trade, and Anne (1772-1813).

Crossley came to Manchester in 1817 where he was articled to the solicitor Thomas Ainsworth (father of William Harrison Ainsworth). He joined the firm as a partner in 1823, when it became known as Ainsworth, Crossley, and Sudlow. He practised as a solicitor until 1860.

Crossley was actively involved in the literary life of Manchester. He became president of the Chetham Society in 1847, a post he held for 35 years, and edited many of its publications. In his capacity as chairman of the committee he was involved in purchasing books for Manchester Free Library which opened in 1852. He was appointed honorary librarian of Chetham's Library in 1877, and was a governor of Chetham's Hospital and Library [from c. 1860]. He was an ardent book collector and accumulated an extensive library which was kept at his home, Stock's House, Cheetham Hill Road, Manchester, where he lived from 1878. In The Annals of Manchester W.E.A. Axon stated Crossley's library numbered 90,000 books, but he himself estimated his collection to be about 50,000 volumes. He was known for his literary knowledge, and was a frequent contributor to Blackwood's Magazine, Retrospective Review and Quarterly Review.

Crossley died on 1 August 1883, and was buried at St Paul's parish church, Kersal, Manchester. His collection of books and manuscripts was sold at three auctions in May 1884, July 1884 and June 1885.

See Stephen Collins, 'Crossley, James (1800-1883)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford University Press, 2004).


The order in which the papers arrived at the Library has not been disturbed.

Access Information

There are no restrictions on access to this collection. Viewing is by prior appointment. Please contact

Acquisition Information

The papers were purchased by the library along with other manuscripts at the sale of the Crossley Library in 1885. See Catalogue of the second portion of…the Library of James Crossley, Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge (1885) Lot nos. 2904-2908.