Archives

Richard Baxter (1615-1691)

Among the most precious assets held in the archives are the letters and treatises of Richard Baxter. The largest single group of correspondents consist of men who, like Baxter himself, having held benefices in the 1650s, became nonconformists after 1662. Letters exchanged with some 70 ejected ministers are extant. They include eminent presbyterians like John Howe and William Bates. Most of Baxter's surviving letters are copies of his letters. After 1662 those letters which Baxter kept were, like all his possessions, subject to the discomforts which accompanied nonconformity. Almost half of the extant correspondence is from the decade prior to 1660; half is from the last thirty years of Baxter's life.

Francis Blackburne (1705-1787).

Francis Blackburne, rector of Richmond, Yorkshire from 1739 to 1787, archdeacon of Cleveland and prebendary of York Minster, in each case from 1750 to 1787, was a prominent exponent of the Latitudinarian tradition in the eighteenth-century Church of England, and a committed Whig in politics. A prolific (and polemical) author whose collected works were published in seven volumes in 1804, he campaigned for the abolition of subscription to the thirty-nine articles and was the inspiration behind the Feathers Tavern petition of 1772. That in later life he had many contacts with Dissenters helps to explain why the largest section of his correspondence is held by Dr Williams’s Library.

Philip Doddridge and the New College, London Collection.

See entries in Printed Works.

Henry family: Philip Henry (1631-96), Matthew Henry (1662-1714); Sarah Savage (1664-1752)

The Henry family were perhaps the most celebrated family of dissenters in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The father, 'eminent, holy, heavenly' Mr Philip Henry (1631-96), was ejected from the curacy of Worthenbury Chapel, Flintshire, in 1661, but was able to retire to his wife's property, a farm at Broad Oak. His son Matthew (1662-1714) was the most celebrated minister of his generation, noted for a remarkable evangelical ministry both in the pulpit and in the study. He was minister at Chester, 1687 - 1712, and then Mare Street, Hackney. Matthew's eldest sister, Sarah Savage, who long outlived her father and brother, is now better known than either Philip or Matthew because of her remarkable record of diary-keeping from 1686 until her death in 1752, and the interest in women's history.

Their diaries, correspondence, sermons and common place books have been extensively preserved. The Library has one of the three main collections of original letters of Philip and Matthew Henry (with the British Library and the Bodleian Library, Oxford), and many of their original sermon notes, and probably the main collection of surviving papers relating to Sarah Savage including her diary for 1743-48 and commonplace books. The collection contains the papers of other descendants of Philip Henry.

Joseph Priestley (1733-1804)

Although Priestley can be described as a Unitarian minister, theologian, scientist and radical,
he is chiefly remembered today as a scientist, but he thought of himself primarily as a minister and a theologian. A prolific and wide-ranging author he wrote on grammar, history, political theory, optics, electrics, experimental chemistry, and theology. Many of his papers were lost by the destruction of his house and library in Birmingham by the Church and King mob in 1791. In 1794 he left for exile in America.

The Library holds the largest collection of his surviving letters; about two-fifths of the 600 surviving letters. They are addressed mainly to his Unitarian friends, Theophilus Lindsey and Thomas Belsham and concern mainly theology and political reform. There are few references to scientific matters. Many have been published (in part at least) in The Theological and Miscellaneous Works of Joseph Priestley, ed., J. T. Rutt, 25 vols (London, 1817-35) vol 1, parts 1 & 2; The Letters of Joseph Priestley to Theophilus Lindsey 1769-1794, ed. Simon Mills, http://www.qmulreligionandliterature.co.uk/online-publications/the-letters-of-joseph-priestley-to-theophilus-lindsey-1769-1794-edited-by-simon-mills/

Henry Crabb Robinson (1775-1867)

Henry Crabb Robinson's extensive archive came to Dr Williams's Library in 1877. Crabb Robinson was one of the most prolific diarists and letter writers in modern British history. His manuscripts record his various activities as journalist, traveller, barrister, mediator of German philosophy and literature, European literary networker, co-founder of London university, and campaigner for the rights of dissenters, especially the Unitarians.

Robinson was apprenticed to an attorney in Colchester at the age of fourteen. There he began to read, first using his master’s library and then borrowing books for a penny a night from the town’s circulating library. He eventually built up an exceptional private library of his own, and his collection of German works attracted a number of scholars including George Eliot. Robinson gave many books away towards the end of his life. A selection of the remaining books went to Dr Williams’s Library, of which Robinson was a trustee; and some books, especially those that had gone to Edwin Wilkins Field, were donated to the Library in the early twentieth century.

The vast manuscript collection consists of 4 volumes of Reminiscences; correspondence principally in 32 large guard books; various pocket diaries, memorandum books and other diaries prior to 1811; 33 volumes of diary from 1811 onwards; 29 volumes of travel diaries; and ‘bundles’ containing miscellaneous papers. For the book historian this material is of particular importance as Robinson purchased blank books from stationers from all over Europe. His collection of correspondence, too, is a potentially rich source for the study of English and European handmade laid and wove paper. A great respecter of books and archives, Robinson himself took impeccable care of his collection. The archive is now housed in an environmentally controlled storage area in the Library strong room.

The Crabb Robinson Project, under the editorship of Timothy Whelan and James Vigus, Oxford University Press is contracted to publish Robinson’s Reminiscences in 4 volumes, 2 volumes of early miscellaneous diaries, and the main Diary (1811-1867) in c.35 volumes.

For more information about The Henry Crabb Robinson Project at Queen Mary University, follow this link.

Christopher Walton (1809-1877)

For Walton see entry in Printed Works