Dr Graham Johnson, Christian Brethren Archivist, writes:
One of the most iconic manuscript volumes relating to the early history of the Christian Brethren movement is now available online. The University of Manchester Library, with financial assistance from the J. W. Laing Trust, has been able to digitise the ‘Fry Manuscript’. This volume was compiled by Alfred C. Fry from the notebooks of Frederick W. Wyatt of Blandford in Dorset, who has been well described as a ‘disciple’ of Benjamin Wills Newton. Newton was one of the founder members of the movement and his dispute with John Nelson Darby in the 1840s gave rise to the fractious division of the movement into the ‘Open’ and ‘Exclusive’ wings, with Newton himself breaking with the movement soon afterwards.
The ‘Manuscript’ is one of the most important items in the ‘Fry Collection’. Wyatt produced detailed transcriptions of Newton’s recollections in old age, copied many original letters from Newton’s time at Oxford University, and provided copies of detailed memoranda and letters to and from Newton from the time of his controversy with Darby (the originals of which have not survived). Wyatt’s transcriptions were meticulous and detailed (including mistakes made by Newton of which Wyatt was aware, along with Newton’s crossings out) and the volume has been widely used and cited by historians of the Brethren including Harold Rowdon, Roy Coad, Tim Grass and Timothy Stunt.
Although a major source for Brethren historians, the volume needs to be read with care. Much of the reminiscences were recorded when Newton was an old man, recording what for him were bruising encounters from his early life. The volume is nonetheless a unique and seminal account of the early experiences of the movement.
You can view the entire manuscript at http://luna.manchester.ac.uk/luna/servlet/s/xd3342.