John Howard Nodal Archive

Scope and Content

This archive consists, principally, of letters sent to the Manchester journalist and newspaper editor John Howard Nodal (1831-1909). In addition to letters relating to Nodal's associations with a number of Manchester newspapers and literary journals the archive also contains letters relating to Nodal's position as Honorary Secretary of the English Dialect Society, President of the Manchester Literary Club and Chairman of the Manchester Arts Club.

The collection contains 154 items, of which 129 are letters written to Nodal (JHN/1). The remainder of the collection is made up of newspaper cuttings and other miscellaneous items accumulated by Nodal. Most of the letters are associated with Nodal's varied journalistic and literary duties; offers of reviews, thanks for notices, requests for advice. Other significant groups are associated with Nodal's work for the English Dialect Society (see particularly the letters from Nodal's successor as Honorary Secretary, Joseph Wright, JHN 1/129) and with a paper Nodal was preparing for the Library Association on Special Collections of Books in Lancashire and Cheshire, 1880 (see JHN/1/26, 1/30, 1/35, 1/65/2, 1/71/1-2, 1/76, 1/78, 1/88, 1/103, 1/104). Correspondents include: the authors Isabella Banks (Mrs G. Linnaeus Banks) (JHN/1/6), William Harrison Ainsworth (JHN/1/2), Edwin Waugh (JHN/1/125), Bram Stoker (1/112), Sir Thomas Henry Hall Caine (JHN/1/23), Alexander Ireland (JHN/1/6), Sydney Grundy (JHN/1/47) and Francis Espinasse (JHN/1/37); the actor Henry Irving; the artist/illustrators Randolph Caldecott (JHN/2/3) and Edward Hull (JHN/1/63); and the antiquarian book collectors Richard Copley Christie (JHN/1/26) and John Parsons Earwaker (JHN/1/35). Very little in the archive concerns Nodal's family life. Amongst the few exceptions are a letter from Nodal's first wife, Helen, to their daughter, Mildred (JHN/2/7), and a newspaper notice of Helen's death in a domestic accident (JHN/3/1/20). The Nodal archive has research potential in a number of fields but most particularly around the development and political concerns of regional journalism in the late nineteenth century; also the literary and artistic community of north-west England during the late nineteenth century; the period's interest in recording and preserving regional dialect speech; developments in local government in Manchester; the Manchester Ship Canal scheme and the creation of special book collections in nineteenth-century Lancashire and Cheshire.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Howard Nodal was born into a Quaker family in the Ardwick area of Manchester on 19 September 1831 and educated at the Quaker school at Ackworth in Yorkshire. Nodal's first journalistic employment was as the editor of the Volunteer Journal between 1860 and 1862. In January 1864, having been the manager of the News and Intelligence Department of the Manchester office of the Electric Telegraph Company, Nodal was appointed to the sub-editorship of the Manchester Courier, a newspaper which had just begun daily publication. Between 1867 and 1870 Nodal was sub-editor of the Manchester Examiner and Times, a paper noted for its support of the Liberal Party. In 1871 Nodal was appointed editor of the Manchester City News, a newspaper established in 1864 by members of Manchester City Council in order to report municipal proceedings. Under Nodal's editorship the City News greatly expanded its coverage to include literature, drama and the visual arts. The City News also became a campaigning newspaper calling for greater openness and accountability within the city administration (see, for example, JHN/1/118/2 and JHN/2/8), and was an early supporter of the Manchester Ship Canal scheme (see for example JHN/1/37). Nodal was a founder member and first President (1874-1879) of the Manchester Literary Club and a founder member and Chairman (1879-1900) of the Manchester Arts Club, and contributed to, and was on the staff of, the Saturday Review between 1875 and 1885. Nodal helped to launch and edited the Manchester-based literary and humorous journals, the Free Lance which appeared weekly between December 1866 and July 1868, and the Sphinx which appeared from 1868 until October 1871. From its foundation in 1858 until 1860 Nodal acted as secretary of the Manchester Working Men's College, which later merged with Owens College. Nodal was an enthusiastic advocate of the recording and preservation of regional dialect speech. Between 1874 and 1896 he acted as Honorary Secretary and Director of the English Dialect Society; he also published a number of works on dialect speech. In conjunction with Walter William Skeet he produced a Bibliographical List of Words Illustrative of the Various English Dialects (London: English Dialect Society, 1877) and with George Milner a Glossary of the Lancashire Dialect (Manchester: Manchester Literary club, 1875). Nodal's other publications included The Bibliography, Biographical and Topographical of Ackworth School (Manchester, 1889). Nodal was twice married; firstly to Helen Wilkinson who died in a domestic accident (see JHN/3/1/20) and then to Edith Robinson. He retired from the editorship of the Manchester City News in 1904 and died on 13 November 1909.


The material in the collection has been rearranged by the archivist. The order, as received from the auctioneers, appears to have been imposed by Nodal's grandson Ellis. An outline descriptive list, which follows this order but is annotated with the new numerical sequence, has been included with the archive. The archive has now been arranged in four classes.

The classes are as follows: 

  • JHN/1: Letters to Nodal.
  • JHN/2: Letters between other individuals.
  • JHN/3: Newspaper Cuttings and other material collected by Nodal.
  • JHN/4: Other miscellaneous items.

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

Other Finding Aids


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.

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 University Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester M3 3EH.

Custodial History

The archive, which was part of the estate of Nodal's grandson J.H. Ellis, was purchased at auction by the John Rylands University Library of Manchester in 1998. A number of letters were separated, by the auctioneers, from the archive before its sale; these included letters from Thomas Hardy, Emmeline Pankhurst and John Ruskin. The present whereabouts of this material are unknown.

Related Material

Manchester Central Library, Archives and Local Studies Unit holds correspondence of Nodal relating to Ackworth School (NRA 18685) and also the minutes of the Manchester City News from 1864-1900