Frederic Madden Collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises notes on manuscripts, heraldry and genealogical topics compiled by Sir Frederic Madden, together with a transcript of the Alliterative Morte Arthure:

  • English MS 18: A transcript of a manuscript in Lincoln Cathedral of the Alliterative Morte Arthure;
  • English MS 20: Six volumes of papers produced by Madden during his research on the armorial bearings of bishops;
  • English MS 28: Notes on Greek manuscripts;
  • English MS 29: An account of the Cockburn family of Ormiston;
  • English MS 33: Notes on manuscripts preserved at Holkham Hall.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir Frederic Madden (1801-1873), was an antiquary and palaeographer who mainly worked at the British Museum, becoming the head of its Manuscripts Department in 1837. He specialised in Norman-French and Anglo-Saxon literature but published widely. He transcribed and edited major editions of Layamon's Brut, Wiclif's Bible and Matthew Paris's Historia Anglorum, as well as authoring numerous other smaller works and articles. After his death his journals and papers were bequeathed to the Bodleian Library. In 1825 he was engaged, together with William Roscoe, in cataloguing the manuscripts of Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester, at Holkham. Madden completed the catalogue in eight folio volumes in 1828, but it was not published (see English MS 33 below).

Source: Michael Borrie, 'Madden, Sir Frederic (1801-1873)', 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 manuscripts were purchased by Mrs Enriqueta Rylands, on behalf of the John Rylands Library, in 1901 from James Ludovic Lindsay, 26th Earl of Crawford.


Description compiled by Henry Sullivan and Jo Klett, project archivists, with reference to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography articles on Sir Frederic Madden and Adam Cockburn.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1928 (English MSS 18, 20, 28, 29, 33).

Custodial History

These manuscripts were formerly part of the Bibliotheca Lindesiana, the Library of the Earls of Crawford and Balcarres, from Haigh Hall, Wigan, Lancashire.

Related Material

Madden's papers are widely dispersed. The two largest holdings are:

  • British Library, Manuscript Collections: historical and professional correspondence, diaries, notes and papers, c1822-70; papers relating to the restoration of the Cotton Library, 1837-66.
  • Oxford University, Bodleian Library, Special Collections and Western Manuscripts: journals (c.43 vols) and miscellaneous papers, 1819-72; historical and literary notes and papers, including Hampshire collections, c.1830-69.