Document ReferenceWLC
TitleWollaton Library Collection; 12th-19th century
Date12th-19th century
Extent60 volumes, 3 boxes and 1 folder
AbstractMedieval Literary texts; medieval liturgical texts; publications; printed ephemera
Access ConditionsAccessible to all readers but an advance appointment is required. Use of originals in WLC/LM are restricted for preservation reasons; surrogate copies are available. Please contact us for further advice.
Admin HistoryWollaton Hall, Nottinghamshire was built in the 1580s by Francis Willoughby (1546-1596). A magnificent Tudor building, it reflected the status and aspirations of the family, which had already by this stage acquired lands and interests throughout England. Wollaton remained the principal seat after the family's elevation to the peerage as barons Middleton in the early 18th century. The Hall Library was built up over many centuries to became an important example of an early country house collection. It is not possible to reconstruct its holdings, but an indication of its extent and range can be seen in an inventory, unfortunately damaged and incomplete, which survives in the Middleton Collection (Mi I 17/1). This was made for Thomas Willoughby, 1st Lord Middleton in the late 17th-early 18th centuries. The significance of the medieval manuscripts in the Library was highlighted in the Collection's first published description, by W.H. Stevenson, 'Report of the Manuscripts of Lord Middleton Preserved at Wollaton Hall, Nottinghamshire' (Historical Manuscripts Commission, 1911). When the bulk of the Library was sold at Christie's in 1925, the sale catalogue provided further evidence of its historic importance (Catalogue of Valuable Books Selected from the Library at Wollaton Hall, Nottingham). Despite this loss, a small number of both manuscript and printed works remained to form a series within the Middleton Collection when that extensive family and estate archive came into the care of The University of Nottingham in 1947.

The present Wollaton Library Collection consists of original medieval manuscripts and printed items which were transferred from the Middleton Collection in 2007 to be separately managed by the University. Items which were more closely associated with the history of the Willoughby family, including in particular papers and books of Francis Willughby the naturalist (1635-1672), remain in the Middleton Collection.
Custodial HistoryThe Wollaton Library Collection was acquired in 2007. Catalogue descriptions were enhanced during the course of the Wollaton Library Project, which was the result of a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) award to conserve, catalogue, digitise and provide wider access to the remains of the Wollaton Library Collection at The University of Nottingham. A parallel Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) award for the research project 'The Wollaton Medieval Manuscripts: Texts, Owners and Readers', aimed to further raise public awareness of the manuscripts and their relevance to regional and national history as the remnant of an important early regional gentry library. Both projects were completed in 2010.
DescriptionThe Collection's primary significance lies in ten medieval manuscripts which include a number of important vernacular literary texts from the 13th to 15th centuries. Works in English, French and Anglo Norman, and two texts in Latin, range in subject from romance and poetry to moral literature for the laity and lives of saints.

The volumes are unusual in their long history within a family library collection and in their relative lack of physical attention since the middle ages. Some clearly suffered damage and loss of bindings or leaves over the centuries, but only a few have been the subject of extensive modern conservation. While this means that the works are generally fragile, they also retain important evidence of their medieval creation, including binding structures.

The Collection also includes over 40 published works and many printed pamphlets from the original Wollaton Hall Library. Titles range from the 16th to 19th centuries. As with the manuscripts, many of the works are fragile and show evidence of earlier repair and rebinding. The subjects are varied, but there is a particular concentration of travel writing. Of special note is a copy of Samuel Purchas, 'Purchas his pilgrimes, containing a History of the World in Sea Voyages and Land Travel by Englishmen and Others' (London: 1625), which drew on the travel literature collected by Richard Hakluyt. Seventeenth and early eighteenth-century perceptions of foreign lands and cultures are further represented in the Collection in texts concerning Russia, China, Egypt, Turkey, the East Indies and other territories.

The final small group of papers includes loose papers, broadsheets and newspaper cuttings relating to diverse subjects, with particular relevance to the East Midlands area. They were traditionally housed with the printed works in the Collection.
MgtGroupLiterary and cultural records
MgtSubGrouppre-16thC papers
ArrangementThe Collection is divided into three main categories: medieval manuscripts (WLC/LM); publications (WLC/P) and ephemeral papers (WLC/X)
TermEarly printed books
Illumination of books and manuscripts
Manuscripts, Medieval
FindingAidsCopyright in all Finding Aids belongs to the University of Nottingham. In the Reading Room, King's Meadow Campus: Typescript catalogue, 32 pp Online: Available on the Manuscripts Online Catalogue, accessible from the website of Manuscripts and Special Collections.
ReprodnNoteReprographic copies can be supplied for educational and private study purposes only, depending on access status and the condition of the documents.
Related MaterialMiddleton Collection (Ref: Mi)
Related RecordMi
Publication NoteThe Wollaton Medieval Manuscripts: Texts, Owners and Readers, ed. Ralph Hanna and Thorlac Turville-Petre (Boydell and Brewer, 2010)

Click the links below to view related name indexes

CodePersonNameDates of existence
NA75938Willoughby; family; of Wollaton, Nottinghamshire; Lords Middleton
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