Collection highlights

Our archive, rare book and manuscript resources cover all subject areas with major highlights in Twentieth-Century South West Writing, Literature and Visual Culture, Victorian Culture and Imperial Endeavour, Arab and Islamic Studies, and Religious and Parish book collections.

Our materials are used in assessed essays, workshops, seminars, student dissertations and exhibitions. 

Syon Abbey

The community of Bridgettine nuns were based at Syon Abbey South Brent, Devon until 2012. The community was unusual in being able to trace an unbroken tradition reaching back to their Abbey's foundation in 1415. 

The archive and library collections contain books dating back to  the 16th century and twelve complete liturgical and theological manuscripts, dating between the 15th and 17th centuries. The archive contains records, documents and photographs concerning the workings, business and people of Syon Abbey.

Further information on this collection, including holdings in Special Collections can be found on our Syon Abbey resources information sheet, and on the Library and Archive catalogues.

Theo Brown Archive

‌‌Theo [Theodora] Brown (1914-1993) was an important figure in twentieth-century folklore, who documented the arcane tales and traditions of her native Devon through first-hand accounts. In 1952 she was appointed recorder of folklore for the Devonshire Association, and continued researching folklore for the rest of her life. She was elected to the Council of the Folklore Society in 1957. In 1983, she was awarded the Coote Lake Medal by the Folklore Society for outstanding research and scholarship.

The collection contains Brown’s research notes, manuscripts and correspondence letters addressed to Brown about her research.

Further information on this collection can be found on our Theo Brown folklore collections resources information sheet and on the Library and Archive catalogues.

University of Exeter

The University of Exeter archive contains a wide variety of records relating to the University of Exeter and its predecessor institutions, including the Royal Albert Memorial College and the University College of the South West.

The collections contain a wide variety of material; from the photographic archive containing photographs from the late 1800s to the present day, student publications from the early 1900s onwards, registers and building records.

Further information on the collections can be found on the archives catalogue or the library catalogue for print material such as student magazines.

Hypatia Collection

The Hypatia collection contains approximately 10,000 books and journals by or about women. Part of its richness stems from the inclusive collecting habits of its creator who acquired many ephemeral titles and books on subjects and by writers traditionally excluded from the academic canon in her aim 'to make available published documentation about women in every aspect of their lives'.

The collection is strongest on biography, social life, occupations and history, as well as on literature (especially fiction) and the arts. 

Further information on the collection can be found on the library catalogue

Du Maurier Collection

The du Maurier family have a fascinating history, with many of its members leading distinguished and well-documented careers. The family members represented in this collection include Louise Wallace (aunt of George du Maurier), George du Maurier (illustrator and novelist), Gerald du Maurier (actor and manager) and Daphne du Maurier (writer). Also included are papers relating to Sylvia du Maurier (sister to Gerald) and Angela du Maurier (sister to Daphne).

The collection includes several early manuscripts by Daphne du Maurier, including notebooks relating to 'Rebecca' and 'My Cousin Rachel'. Most of her later works are represented in either original typescript or proof.

Further information on the collection can be found on the archives catalogue.

Charles Causley Archive

Charles Causley, poet, was born in Launceston, Cornwall on 24th August 1917

His first and best known book of poetry, 'Farewell Aggie Weston' is a reference to Agnes Weston, the founder of sailors' hostels. The deep rootedness of his work in the Cornish landscape led to him being dubbed 'The Poet Laureate of Cornwall'.

The collection includes all Causley's literary manuscripts, including his notebooks and letters, photographs and diaries are also included. The correspondence includes letters to Causley from writers such as Siegfried Sassoon, Ted Hughes, Jack Clemo, AL Rowse and C Day-Lewis.

Further information on the collection can be found on the archives catalogue.

Chris Brooks Collection

Professor Chris Brooks was one of Britain's leading cultural historians of the Victorian period. His library was donated to the University Library in 2002. 

The collection supports a wide range within the field of Victorian culture and adult and juvenile fiction of the Victorian and Edwardian period forms a major emphasis in the collection.

The Periodical collection contains a complete set of Punch, indexed by Brooks and as such provides an insight into his research topics. Other titles include All the Year Round,The Boy's Own PaperCornhill MagazineFireside, and Good Words.

The library catalogue contains further details of the 10,000 books and journals in the collection.

William Golding

Sir William Golding (1911-1993), novelist, was born in Newquay, Cornwall. He was educated at Marlborough Grammar School and Brasenose College, Oxford. He subsequently taught at Bishop Wordsworth's school.  In 1983  he was awarded the Nobel prize for literature.

The collection consists of notebooks, manuscript and typescript drafts of Golding's novels up to 1989 including the original manuscript and typescript of Lord of the Flies.

Further information on the collection can be found on the archives catalogue. 

Agatha Christie

This collection is from the offices of Hughes Massie and Co. Ltd. relating to Agatha Christie's literary estate. Throughout her career her agent was Edmund Cork, and these files were created by him to reflect his dealings with publishers, film-makers and other professional persons with an interest in the Christie estate, including Agatha Christie herself, and her husband, Sir Max Mallowan.

Each file of correspondence relates to a particular year, and may include correspondence between Agatha Christie and Edmund Cork, correspondence between Cork and American literary agent, Harold Ober, and other interested parties. There are between 5,000-6,000 letters in the collection.

Gale Morant Collection

The Gale Morant collection contains approximately 500 documents relating to Jamaican slave plantations including correspondence, accounts and other papers of the eighteenth century generations of the family.

The accounts are of particular interest for the light they shed on slavery and the life and work of Jamaican sugar estates. Plantation account books show items such as purchases of food, clothing and other items for the slaves, and payments to doctors for medicines and attendance records on slaves, white book keepers and overseers. The papers have particular potential for research in cultural geography, history and medical humanities. A small selection of these papers have been digitised and are available here.

Further information on the collection can be found on the archives catalogue.

Henry Williamson

Henry Williamson (1895-1977), writer, was born in south London. In 1927 he wrote his most well known book, 'Tarka the Otter' and in 1930, 'A Patriot's Progress' based on his trench experiences.

His postwar work is a cycle of fifteen novels entitled, 'A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight', which was completed in 1960.

The collections relating to Henry Williamson include all literary manuscripts and typescripts, the papers of the Henry Williamson Society and correspondence from and to Williamson including illustrator Charles Tunnicliffe, Brocard Sewell and Ronald Duncan.

Further information on the collection can be found on the archives catalogue.

A.L Rowse

Alfred Leslie Rowse, historian, biographer and critic, was born near St. Austell, Cornwall in 1903. He attended St. Austell grammar school and Christ Church, Oxford, gaining a first class honours degree in 1925.

Included in the collections are manuscripts and typescripts of published and unpublished works. including journals and notebooks from throughout his life and his collection of rare books. Rowse was a dedicated correspondent and exchanged letters with an extensive range of people including Daphne du Maurier and T.S. Eliot.

He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Exeter in 1960 and was made a Companion of Honour in 1996, a year before his death in 1997. Further information on the collection can be found on the archives catalogue.

John Jarmain

William John Fletcher Jarmain (1911-1944), novelist and poet, enlisted in 1939 and served throughout the Second World War as a gunnery officer with the 51st Highland Division, during their campaigns in North Africa and Sicily. Much of Jarmain’s best poetry was written at this time with poems such as ‘El Alamein’ and ‘Sand’. Jarmain was killed in Normandy on the 26th of June 1944.

The collection contains 120 manuscript letters written by Jarmain to his wife Beryl during the war. Some of the letters include drafts of the poems which were later published as a collection, providing an insight into his poetry and the context which inspired it.

Further information on this collection can be found on our John Jarmain ‌resources information sheet and on the Library and Archive catalogues

Sir Norman Lockyer

Sir Joseph Norman Lockyer (1836-1920), astronomer, was one of the pioneers of astronomical spectroscopy and became one of the most influential astronomers of his time. His main interest was sun spectroscopy, and he proceeded to push back the frontiers of spectroscopy and science, discovering the theoretical existence of helium. In 1869 Lockyer founded the journal 'Nature'.

The collection contains materials regarding Lockyer himself such as memorials, letters from friends and notes made by Lockyer but also papers relating to the administration of the Norman Lockyer Observatory.

Further information on this collection can be found on our Norman Lockyer ‌resources information sheet and on the Library and Archive catalogues.

The Powys Family

The Powys family is one of the most remarkable in the history of English literature and they attracted a wide circle of friends and admirers. The eleven children born to Charles Francis Powys and his wife Mary Cowper Johnson were all formidable individualists yet united by their passionate love of nature and strong sense of family. Among the brothers, one became a schoolmaster, another an architect, and another a farmer in Kenya. Of the sisters, one was a poet, another a painter and one, in New York, the leading authority on lace. But it is three of the brothers, John Cowper, Theodore Francis and Llewellyn, who as writers were the best known members of the family; their books and papers form the bulk of the collections held here.

Further information on this collection can be found on The Powys Family resources information sheet and on the Archive catalogue.