The collection

Approximately 4,000 volumes, including 300 volumes of pamphlets, mostly published between 1750 and 1809. Most are in English, with some in French and a few in Latin. The collection is primarily the working library of Beilby Porteus. Its emphasis is theological (ecclesiastical affairs; sermons), but the collection covers a wide range of subjects, including the French Revolution, travel and topography, history, classics, and English literature (especially contemporary). Items relating to slavery and the slave trade, the subject of a separate manuscript catalogue compiled by or for Porteus himself, are especially significant. Pamphlet coverage further includes the American Revolution, India, the Union with Ireland, and the Regency. Many books retain their contemporary calf bindings.


The collector

Primarily Beilby Porteus (1731-1809), bishop of London (see ODNB). William Howley (1766-1848), archbishop of Canterbury (see ODNB), added a later collection, mainly volumes of sermons and charges.



Deposited by the Church of England in 1958.



Pamphlets and some books have been catalogued online. For an overview of this material, do a mixed classmark search on [Porteus]. The remaining books are on the online card catalogue.Books are arranged partly by the Bliss Classification scheme, partly by a home-grown one. There is also a card catalogue of subjects in the collection; ask Special Collections staff if you are interested.

Material with a classmark beginning “[Porteus] B.P.” can be delivered on the day ordered (or, for material ordered after 4.00 p.m., on the following day). The rest of the collection is held off-site and material requires 48 hours (excluding weekends) to be fetched.


Related archives

Manuscript catalogues of the Porteus Library (MS1118).


Select publications

Richnell, D.T., ‘The Library of Bishop Porteus’, Library Association Record, 61 (1959), 156-8