Collection Spotlight: Manchester Central Library

Bridgeman is proud to represent the Manchester Central Library, which holds an outstanding collection of rare books and treasures.


Manchester was the first authority to establish a rate-supported public library. The library was housed in various buildings until the opening of the current Central Library building in 1934. 


Peterloo Massacre, published by Richard Carlile, 1st October 1819 (coloured engraving), English School, (19th century) / Manchester Central Library, UK 


After the Free Libraries Act was passed in 1850, the Mayor of Manchester, Sir John Potter, led a campaign to collect subscriptions to purchase a building and books for a library. Donations came from a variety of places: from the working men's committee to Prince Albert.


LS Lowry in New Cross, Manchester, 21st May 1905 (b/w photo) / Manchester Central Library, UK


In September 1852 Manchester became the first authority to establish a rate-supported public lending and reference library under the Free Libraries Act.


Edward Edwards, who was an active public library campaigner, became the first Manchester Librarian in 1852. He started the collection which contained a range of rare and older published material, many of which was published in 17th and 18th century. The collection grew under successive librarians as it was supplemented by donations from businessmen throughout the 19th and 20th century.


Boys fishing, c.1950s (b/w photo) / Manchester Central Library, UK

This has resulted in Central Library having outstanding collections and ‘treasures’, more comparable to academic and special libraries than to other public libraries.


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