Discovering Old Treasures: Wesley College Bristol library

Work has begun on cataloguing the library of Wesley College Bristol which contains more than 3,500 early printed books and periodicals, thanks to funding from the Methodist Church in Britain.

An image of the front pastedown of a book from the collection, with 'William Knight His Books 1764' noted above a Didsbury College Library bookplate which has been stamped 'cancelled'.
Some of the books in this collection are rich in provenance information.

Cataloguers Anna Hughes and Joe Devlin are working through the wide ranging collection which includes texts on biblical scholarship, classical texts, philosophy and literature and works on travel and history. An outstanding feature of this collection is the number of rare volumes, from the early sixteenth century onwards, which show evidence of provenance through annotations, notes of dedications and armorial bookplates. Amongst these is John Goodwin’s Eirenomachia (1671), which is heavily annotated in John Wesley’s hand.

Wesley College, Bristol, was a training college for Methodist ministers and its library provided texts for all candidates for ministry, who came from very different educational backgrounds. This is shown in the diversity of subjects covered in the library, such as geography and travel.

A single page pamphlet depicting Oliver Cromwell and his council in league with the Devil as tehy consider the execution of Charles I.
One unusual item in the collection is this single page housed in ‘The indictment, arraignment…of twenty-nine regicides…’ (London, 1724), depicting Oliver Cromwell and his council in league with the Devil.

Wesley College Bristol was the successor of the Methodist training college in Didsbury, the ‘Northern Branch’ of the Wesleyan Theological Institution, which closed in 1944. Didsbury College library was transferred to Bristol at this date, and was later enhanced by the addition of collections from Wesley Collge Headingley, Leeds (when it closed in 1966) and some volumes from Hartley College Victoria, Manchester (which closed in 1972). Before coming to John Rylands, this collection was held at Oxfrod Brookes University.

The libraries of both Hartley College Victoria and Richmond College, Surrey (the ‘Southern Branch’) are also held at John Rylands Library, so the return of the Wesley College Bristol books to Manchester marks a reunion and a homecoming for many of these volumes.

The Wesley College Bristol Collection is part of the Methodist Archives and Research Centre which has been housed at John Rylands since 1972 in agreement with the Methodist Church in Britain.

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