The collection falls into the following main physical categories:
There are approximately one hundred of these covering the period of sixty years from 1728 until shortly before Wesley's death. They deal with both personal and official matters and were written to various correspondents.
Loose literary manuscripts and Literary notebooks
This category consists of poems or hymns in Wesley's hand, written at different times and largely undated. Some were set to music and used by the Methodist and other Churches, but a great many others remained unpublished until very recently. Very little of the verse show signs of alteration and so can be considered to represent final copies of the poem in question.
A large number of poems are also to be found within letters, especially those to members of the family or close friends.
During the nineteenth century many manuscripts were fixed into three large scrapbooks, containing a total of about four hundred items. This was not done in accordance with any recognisable order or arrangement. The manuscripts include correspondence, so-called journal letters, poems, financial papers, and copies of original documents, many of which are now lost.
In addition to the literary note books referred to above, there are several manuscript account books containing very detailed household and other accounts covering the years which the Wesley family spent in London. The collection also includes several other note books containing shorthand and other miscellaneous notes.
A draft manuscript journal covering the years is also preserved within the collection. This is complemented by the journal letters in the scrap books.
Unless otherwise stated all the letters and hymns listed in this catalogue were written by Charles Wesley, and similarly in the case of letters written by other people, the addressee is Charles Wesley.
For the sake of consistency, poems written by Charles Wesley are referred to in the catalogue as hymns.
Wherever possible people and places mentioned in the collection have been identified in notes after each entry, and their significance indicated. All the source material used in this identification can be consulted at the John Rylands University Library, and wherever possible widely available sources such as the Dictionary of National Biography, or the Encyclopedia of World Methodism are cited.
Where documents have been transcribed or quoted in printed sources, this has been indicated at the end of each entry.
In the case of undated manuscripts every effort has been made to date the item from internal evidence and the use of chronological tables - such dates have been placed in square brackets at the end of the entry. Dr Frank Baker of Duke University in North Carolina, has also kindly assisted in the dating of several of the letters.
Letters written by or addressed to John Wesley have not been catalogued in detail, as these have been largely published, most recently in the Oxford edition of Wesley's Works.