Radcliffe Collection

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 3389 radcliffe
  • Dates of Creation
      800 - ongoing
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      Latin English French Greek (Modern) German Italian Dutch Arabic Slavic languages Russian
  • Physical Description
      6000 items in total [1000 items in the manuscript and early printed book collection and nearly 5000 items in the collection of books published after 1801]
  • Digital Materials
  • Digital Content

Scope and Content

The Radcliffe collection, named after its chief donor Sir Frederick Radcliffe (1861-1952), is the Anglican library of Liverpool Cathedral and St Aidan's Theological College. Primarily the focus of the collection was to be a 'liturgical library'. Radcliffe aimed to buy exemplars of every book printed for liturgical use in England during the Tudor and Stuart reigns, both Roman Catholic and Anglican, to be brought together alongside medieval manuscripts to document and observe the liturgical transition during this period. The collection houses:

  • Missals dating from the pre-Reformation era.
  • 15th century European manuscript books of hours.
  • 16th and 17th century Bibles and early commentaries.
  • Hymn books and ecclesiastical music.
  • Early printed books chiefly of liturgical and scholastic interest, including 26 incunabula (books printed before 1501).
  • The library of Christopher Wordsworth (1848-1938); which reflects his academic interest in historical and liturgical research, as well as containing books and manuscripts that had belonged to or were written by members of his family.
  • A collection of antiquarian liturgical books and books of general theological interest donated by St. Aidan's Theological College.

Administrative / Biographical History

Three men who were to play a significant role in the library's creation included the cathedral's first dean, Frederick William Dwelly (1881-1957), Sir Frederick Radcliffe (1861-1952), sometime chair of the cathedral's building committee, and Francis Carolus Eeles (1876-1954), liturgical historian and secretary to the Central Council for the Care of Churches. Radcliffe, after whom the library was named, was its chief donor, and at Dwelly's suggestion he engaged as his primary advisors first Eeles and later Stanley Morison (1888-1967), a typographical historian and the man responsible for the design of the now ubiquitous 'Times New Roman' typeface. By 1933 Eeles had already systematically built up a small collection of around 150 books with a strong liturgical focus but the engagement of Radcliffe in the library project allowed for more expensive purchases. At the sale by Sotheby's of London of the library of John Meade Falkner (1858-1932), former chairman of the Armstrong armaments manufacturing company, Eeles purchased on Radcliffe's behalf five manuscripts and eight early printed books, including the Shepton Beauchamp Missal (MS.29).

The purchased manuscripts indicate a concern to acquire texts from the pre-Reformation era. At that time the Roman rite was celebrated in England according to a number of local traditions called 'Uses'. Chief among these were the Uses of Salisbury – or 'Sarum' – and of York. Hence Eeles acquired for Radcliffe two Sarum Missals (Ker, 162-213, nos. 29 and 40, sale lots 294 and 229 respectively), a Sarum Manual of the fourteenth century (Ker no. 20; lot 264), and a Sarum Processional dated between the second half of the fourteenth century and the fifteenth century (Ker no. 35; lot 397). There is also, from beyond England, a Cologne Manual (Ker no. 14; lot 262). The printed texts include a cluster of office books comprising a two volume Sarum Breviary of 1556-7 (lot 121), a Cistercian Breviary of 1542 (lot 126), and a Sarum Book of Hours of 1526 (lot 228). Alongside them Eeles also bought four printed Missals: Sarum Missals of 1514 (lot 330) and 1527 (lot 338), a 1533 York Missal (lot 313) and a Cistercian Missal of 1560 (lot 339). The sale was completed with a Roman Catholic Primer of 1669 (lot 395).

The library was developed through three principal means: the purchase or donation of libraries; Dwelly's own move to a more systematic approach to purchasing modern texts; and Radcliffe's own individual purchases of manuscripts and early printed liturgical books. In terms of the acquisition of libraries, some were the small, personal collections of deceased clergyman, the purchase of which was negotiated by Eeles with widows or heirs throughout the 1930s. In addition to these minor purchases, three substantial acquisitions were made, that brought a number of significant items into the library.

The first was the collection of Hon. Kenneth Francis Gibbs (1856-1935), late archdeacon of St Albans. This was a principally biblical collection that brought into the library a number of sixteenth and seventeenth century bibles and early commentaries. The second was the donation of liturgical manuscripts and early printed books collected by the chemical industrialist Sir Max Muspratt (1872-1934). Through the gift of this collection to the cathedral by Muspratt's widow, the library acquired a number of fifteenth century European manuscript books of hours (Ker nos. 8, 9 and 17) and some manuscript copies of non-liturgical patristic and medieval works (Ker nos. 12, 21, 28 and 34). The Muspratt donation also included a mid-thirteenth century Latin bible (Ker no. 13), and a large number of early printed books chiefly of liturgical and scholastic interest.

The largest and most significant acquisition of a single library was that of Christopher Wordsworth (1848-1938). Wordsworth was the last significant scion of a dynasty of academics and high church clergyman descended from a previous Christopher Wordsworth (1774-1846), Master of Trinity College Cambridge and the youngest brother of the poet William Wordsworth. Two sons of the first Christopher became Anglican bishops: Charles (1806-1892), bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane and Christopher (1807-1885), bishop of Lincoln.

Of the two sons of this second Christopher, the elder, John (1843-1911), became bishop of Salisbury, while the younger was the Christopher whose library Radcliffe purchased. This third Christopher was himself an ordained priest of the Church of England, and his ecclesiastical appointments closely tracked the episcopal careers of his father and brother: he served as chancellor of Lincoln Cathedral and later was a canon of Salisbury Cathedral, where he held a number of posts including that of librarian and chancellor. From 1895 until his death he was also warden of St Nicholas' Hospice in Salisbury (History of Wiltshire 1956, 343-356) and it was in the Master's house there that he housed not only his own collection but also family books and manuscripts that had belonged to or were written by his brother, father, uncle and grandfather.

Access Information

Please consult the Visiting the Library webpage containing access information for external visitors. The archives and special collections are available for consultation by special appointment only. To arrange an appointment please email specialcollections@hope.ac.uk . Allow at least 24 hours' notice. Please note that, in line with other archives and special collections, we require personal identification, and may, in some circumstances, ask you to provide references from your research supervisor or other suitable person or body.

The collections are reference only and must be consulted in the Reading Room with the supervision of the Special Collections Librarian. For more information about our collections and archives please visit the Archives and Special Collections webpages.

Acquisition Information

The Radcliffe Collection, owned by Liverpool Cathedral, was deposited in completion at Liverpool Hope University in 2012.

Other Finding Aids

The Radcliffe Collection is not yet fully catalogued. The catalogued part of the collection, post-1801 material, can be searched using the main Library Catalogue. The Radcliffe Collection Catalogue lists the holdings of books printed before 1801, including 26 incunabula (books printed before 1501), the manuscript holdings and the small collection of St. Aidan's Theological College's early printed books. The catalogue is available to download together with other finding aids from the Archives & Special Collections Finding Aids webpage.

Ker, Neil Ripley. Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries Vol 3, Lampeter-Oxford. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983. [Liverpool Cathedral, pp.162-213]

Archivist's Note

Created by Jane Ronson (Archives Hub team) using the Archives Hub EAD Editor, June 2014.

Description provided by Karen Backhouse (Special Collections Librarian, The Sheppard-Worlock Library) Liverpool Hope University, February 2014.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic images can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition and size of the original documents, as long as it complies with copyright law and Data Protection legislation.

To reproduce an image for publication, either for personal or commercial purposes, requires written consent from the rights holder. Please refer to Access the Collections webpage for detailed information on restrictions to access, digital reproduction and image licensing.

Custodial History

The manuscripts and early printed books were deposited at Liverpool University in 1972. Mr David Cook, formerly of the Cohen Library in Liverpool University and then Manchester University, produced a short-title catalogue of the books printed before 1801 which was printed in 1968. This catalogue has recently been edited by librarian Karen Backhouse, prior to full cataloguing, to include the private presses, limited editions, the later additions to the collection, and the St. Aidan's rare books, and is now available for download from The Sheppard-Worlock Library website.

The remainder of the collection, containing liturgical and antiquarian books and books of general theological interest, was transferred to The Sheppard-Worlock Library at Liverpool Hope University in 2009. After the refurbishment of The Sheppard-Worlock Library and the construction of a British Standard vault in 2012, the manuscript and early printed book collection was reunited with the rest of the Radcliffe Collection at Liverpool Hope University and can now be used as it was intended as an important resource for liturgical scholarship.


Ker, Neil Ripley. Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries Vol 3, Lampeter-Oxford. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983.