The medieval manuscripts include a number of codices and more than 200 fragments. They are predominantly of English or Western European origin and mostly date from 13th - 15th centuries. The subject matter is wide, although religious and philosophical works predominate. The 15th century items include a Bridgentine book of hours, 1467; a set of religious homilies; the Logica Parva of Paulus de Venetiis; and a papal bull of Sixtus IV on the constitutions of the Dominican order, 1474.
The modern manuscripts mainly date from 17th - 19th centuries and are largely in English. Collected by Dr Humphreys primarily to illustrate the development of handwriting over the ages, they are written in hands ranging from the most sophisticated to the near illiterate, with special emphasis on juvenile and semi literate hands. The principal document types are letters; accounts; bills; receipts and bonds; calligraphic, arithmetical and geometrical exercise books; foreign travel journals; commonplace books; poetry books; recipes; and sermons. The collection includes one of three known copies of the marriage treaty of Mary Tudor, 1553; a record of coroners' inquests at Colchester, 1605; a copy of Mother Shipton's prophecies, c. 1700; a Warwickshire farm account book of 1734-1743; a letter of Frederick Augustus, Duke of York, second son of George III, written in 1770 when aged 6, and giving a delightful vignette of the royal nursery; a collection of theorems and problems in solid geometry, late 18th century; in-letters, 1803-1821, of G.B. Niccolini, librarian of the Biblioteca dell' Accademia delle Belle Arti di Firenze; a plumber's bill of 1883; an account of a cruise round the English coast by yacht, 1848; a religious verse written with the toes, 1857 by an armless 10 year old child; correspondence of 3 excise officers, 1843-1856; a description of Bombay, 1877-1882; the visitors' book of the Victoria Hotel, Buttermere, 1877-1880, including the signature of Disraeli; a diary of the visit to Malta by Edward VII in 1903; and the letters to his parents of a soldier of the Great War, Alan Moron, killed in action in 1917.