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Archives and Special Collections: Victorian and Edwardian Culture


                            This LibGuide provides an overview of some of the items and collections held by the University of Exeter that date to the Victorian and Edwardian period (circa 1820 to 1914). The boxes below describe different book collections and archives, and contain links to the catalogues.

The resources highlighted in this guide have been identified using our catalogues, but are not exhaustive. You can search our archives catalogue and library catalogue with key word searches to identify further items of interest. More information on searching the catalogues can be found on the Search our Catalogues LibGuide. If you come across any other sources within our collections that you think should be included in this guide, we would be very pleased to hear about them.

Archives and rare books held by Special Collections are available to everyone. More information about accessing the collections can be found in our Visiting Heritage Collections LibGuide. Please note that there may be some restrictions on accessing and copying (including photography) material in the archives and books held by Special Collections in line with current data protection and copyright legislation. Always make sure to check the access conditions on the archive catalogue and email Special Collections before your visit for more information about specific restrictions.

Bill Douglas Cinema Museum


The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum is both a public museum and an academic research centre, housing one of Britain's largest public collections of books, prints, artefacts and ephemera relating to the long history of screen practice. There are over 80,000 items in the collection. Holdings include many examples of nineteenth-century panoramas, dioramas, magic lanterns, stereoscopes, peepshows, optical illusions, and early cinema handbills. Artefacts are complemented by printed works relating to nineteenth-century science, technology, domestic leisure and popular entertainment. is home to one of the largest collections of material on the moving image in Britain.

The Chris Brooks Collection of Victorian Culture

The Fireside
Professor Chris Brooks was one of Britain's leading cultural historians of the Victorian period.
Strong in periodicals, fiction, art and architecture, the Brooks Collection supports a wide range within the field of Victorian culture. Adult and juvenile fiction of the Victorian and Edwardian period forms a major part of the collection. You can browse the titles here or on the Library's classic catalogue by performing a 'local classmark' search on 'Brooks' (for books) and 'Brooks P' (for periodicals).

Sir John Betjeman's Library

ceiling boss

Sir John Betjeman's Library contains more than 4,000 printed books and pamphlets from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. Subjects include English poetry, especially of the nineteenth-century; the English parish church; nineteenth and twentieth-century architecture; and English topography. The collection, which also contains many items with fine bindings, is arranged into the following subject categories: poetry, churches, architecture, topography, art, theology, Victorian bindings, biography, early twentieth-century schoolboy novels, and the English public school.

You can browse the titles on the Library's classic catalogue by performing a 'local classmark' search on Betjeman

Sabine Baring-Gould Library

Best known for writing the well-loved hymn Onward Christian Soldiers, the Exeter-born clergyman, folklorist, writer and Icelandic scholar was, from 1881 until his death in 1924, parson and squire of Devon’s Lewtrenchard Manor. The Baring-Gould Library holds around 3,000 books, the majority of which were collected by Sabine Baring-Gould, and include many books written by Baring-Gould himself. The Library includes many books written in a variety of languages and on many different subjects, including literature, history, folklore, mythology, religion, music, architecture, art, and natural history. The earliest book dates to 1534 and the most recent to 1975, but the majority of books were printed in the 19th and early 20th century.

You can browse the titles on the Library's classic catalogue by performing a 'local classmark' search on Sabine Baring-Gould.

Hypatia Collection

What a young girl ought to know

The Hypatia collection is a rich and diverse collection of books and journals by or about women, collected by Dr Melissa Hardie. Chiefly nineteenth to twentieth-century, the collection is strongest on biography, social life, occupations and history, as well as on literature (especially fiction) and the arts.

The books and pamphlets are arranged within subjects: Biographies; Health; Education; Occupations; Science; Crime; Religion; Marriage and the Family; Politics; Archaeology; History; Domestic Science; Art; Humour; Natural World; Poetry; Performing Arts; Diaries; Nursing; Literature; Myths and Legends; Travel; Topography; The Cornish Woman; The American Woman; Women and War; Fiction, Journals.

You can browse the titles on the Library's classic catalogue by performing a 'local classmark' search on 'Hypatia' (books) and 'Hypatia Jou' (journals). To browse all titles within a subject add the first 3 letters of the subject eg ‘Hypatia Bio’ will find all the material in the Biography section.

British Empire and Colonialism


Search our archive catalogue and library catalogue for more resources.


University Archive (EUL UA) The University Archive includes records of the university's predecessor institutions - St Luke's College and the Royal Albert Memorial College - such as admissions registers, annual reports, student magazines and photographs. The can provide insight into higher education for both men and women in the 19th and early 20th century.

Lady Jersey's Personal Papers (EUL MS 10) Papers of a miscellaneous nature, including invitations to events, political satires, and short communications.

William Lynd's diary (EUL MS 14) William Lynd was an actor and had an interest in the latest in science and technology. He was an expert on the phonograph. The diary is a printed pocket daily diary, and is filled in as a daily account of Lynd's activities, but is especially full of information about his record-making activities, describing the machines with which he was supplied, the rates at which he made records and wax cylinders, and his tours demonstrating the invention in England and Ireland.

William Keble Martin papers relating to botany (EUL MS 15) William Keble Martin (1876-1969) was a clergyman and botanical author. The earliest notes are a diary of observations arranged under the headings of scientific names while a student at Oxford. Other notes for 'The Concise British Flora in Colour' are also included, including notes taken from journals.

Simms family papers (EUL MS 18) Most of the letters are addressed to the Revd. Edward Simms or his daughter, Miss M N Simms. Those addressed to his father include several relating to his poetry, especially his lines in memory of Sir Walter Scott, and his translations from Homer.

Art student's diary (EUL MS 21b) The diary begins on 30 Dec 1852 and has extensive, irregular entries on art, art history, friendsand the Royal Academy to 5 Jul 1853. There is one further entry, dated 11 Aug 1853, on which occasion the author notes he was in Colyton.

'Bird Book' containing watercolour illustrations of birds and eggs (EUL MS 23) The volume is a bound series of seventy-five watercolour illustrations of birds and one of eggs, some of which are annotated and dated (from 1802 at the earliest to 1831 at the latest) and which seem to be local to the Devon/Cornwall border: some are recorded to have been sketched 'at the boathouse', and Calstock is on the River Tamar. A number of sketches have contemporary manuscript notes attached.

Autograph letter collection of John Marshall (EUL MS 31a) The collection is an autograph collection compiled by Ada Blanche Marshall, daughter of John Marshall, Professor of Surgery, and for the most part being composed of letters sent to Professor Marshall from eminent English people.

John Gendall sketchbooks (EUL MS 37b) The volumes are a series of sketches pasted in at a later date. They include watercolour drawings, pencil sketches, chalk and charcoal drawings of various picturesque locations at Lynmouth and Plymouth (one volume), Okehampton, Gloucester and Tintern (another), and other places (a miscellaneous volume).

R D Blackmore literary papers (EUL MS 41) R.D. Blackmore (1825-1900) was a novelist and poet of the second half of the nineteenth century, often referred to as the 'Last Victorian'.  Four boxes of literary fragments, exercise books, completed drafts and corrected proofs. Includes poems in progress and finished, whole manuscripts and part manuscript novels, plus typescript novels and short stories in proof. There are also a few letters. In addition, a set of 21 printed pamphlets of editions and transcriptions of Blackmore's work by David Blackmore. These include a comprehensive overview of Blackmore's writings, transcriptions of Blackmore’s letters to his sister, and his diary.

Papers of Stafford Henry Northcote (EUL MS 81) The papers include typed copies of Northcote's letters to colleagues, friends, family and political associates, including many to Gladstone and Disraeli, 1843-1887. In addition there are pamphlets, addresses, typed copies of letters to Northcote, cartoons from magazines, newspaper cuttings, appreciations of Northcote, verses by Northcote, notes for Lord Iddesleigh's biography by T.H. Farrer, anecdotes and other miscellanea.

Archive materials from the John Betjeman Library (EUL MS 117) This small collection contains manuscripts of stray archival materials found loose within the working library collection. Included are letters and cards, draft articles and reviews, drawings, notes, manuscript poem drafts/fragments, and original and copy typescripts and manuscripts of unpublished works.

Papers of Dorothy Johnson relating to theatre history and John Lawrence Toole (EUL MS 149) This collection includes theatre playbills; mounted letters and telegrams relating to performances; and an album of mounted engravings of various actors and actresses.

Papers relating to Sarah Bernhardt (EUL MS 170) This collection contains theatre pamphlets and other papers relating to Bernhardt's life and career.

Theatre Royal (Exeter) playbills collection (EUL MS 202) Nearly 2,400 playbills are held, relating to all types of production at the theatre over a fifty year period. Included are bills for ballets, plays, variety and revue performances, musicals, operas, pantomimes and film showings.

Papers relating to George du Maurier (1834-1896)  illustrator, cartoonist and novelist. EUL MS 207/2 includes drawings, artwork and correspondence. George du Maurier was a magazine illustrator, working for both 'Once a Week' and 'Punch' as a cartoonist. He illustrated the novels of Thomas Hardy, Elizabeth Gaskell and Wilkie Collins. His illustrations were published in London literary magazines throughout his life. He was also a successful novelist, publishing 'Peter Ibbetson' (1889), 'Trilby' (1894) and 'The Martian' (1897). See EUL MS 144/2 for literary papers. See EUL MS 462/3/2 for further letters and drawings by George du Maurier. 

Papers relating to Gerald du Maurier (EUL MS 207/3) Gerald du Maurier was an actor and theatrical manager. These papers include items regarding his acting career, such as press cuttings and photographs.

The Hudson Transparencies (EUL MS 214) Created by Hudson to illustrate his lectures, the 'Hudson transparencies' are a collection of 58 large framed paintings on paper screens. These visual teaching aids illustrate microscopic organisms and were designed to be viewed backlit in a darkened room.

Leopold Hartley Grindon: Plant specimen album (EUL MS 277) This bound volume is entitled 'Illustrations of the grasses indigenous to Great Britain and a few typical examples of British Cyperacae', 1866. The volume contains pressed plant specimens, with printed attached labels. An index is available.

Russel Harris: Algae specimen album (EUL MS 278) Bound volume entitled 'Marine algae collected in Plymouth', containing pressed specimens, with printed attached labels, late 19th / early 20th century

Syon Abbey archive (EUL MS 389) The archive of the Bridgettine nuns of Syon Abbey includes a wide variety of records such as correspondence, diaries, account books, personal papers, photographs and artwork. Between the 19th and early 20th century, the community lived in Lisbon (Portugal), Spetisbury (Dorset) and Chudleigh (Devon).

Cecil Harmsworth archive (EUL MS 435) Cecil Harmsworth (1869-1948) was a politician, businessman and the first Baron Harmsworth of Egham. The archive includes diaries, correspondence and papers, speeches and literary papers, photographs, and printed material. A highlight of the archive are the collection of diaries kept by Cecil Harmsworth between 1900 and 1948, which are full of observations and notes on domestic and foreign policy, parliamentary colleagues, and his political duties as an MP.

19th manuscript book of poetry from Cornwall, probably by a Thomas Bolitho (EUL MS 437)

Further resources

The Devon and Exeter Institution is strong in Victorian fiction, architecture and periodicals. Exeter University students and staff are able to use the DEI free of charge.The DEI catalogue is hosted by the University of Exeter and can be accessed online.

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