Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

In the 17th and 18th centuries, a time before Instagram, National Geographic, or even David Attenborough, there was great interest amongst Europeans in the animals which roamed distant realms. These fantastic beasts were eagerly read about in publications written by explorers brave enough to adventure to far-off lands, with detailed engravings made from eye-witness accounts …

Colley Cibber

If ever there was a case of success and fame being the result of luck, rather than talent, then Colley Cibber is it. He was an awful poet who became Poet Laureate through his political connections; a middling actor who connived to became a pioneering actor-manager in Drury Lane; and an unscrupulous and divisive man …

Homage to the Arboreal World

Trees have long been of significant importance to the human species. Our relationship with trees began with their ability to satisfy neolithic needs such as shelter and nutrients, which progressively shifted towards trees’ later central contribution to the evolution of agriculture and machinery. Indeed, major socio-economic changes over the 15th to 18th Centuries saw the …

Off to the races!

As today is final day of the Cheltenham Races, we’re trotting out some documents about horse racing in Britain and how some of its notable figures crop up in our collections. It’s become a  cliche that the feckless elder son of an aristocrat gambles away the family fortune on cards and horses, but although there …

Monday Mystery: Celebrity Scrapbook, 19th century style

The Manvers family of Holme Pierrpont were one of the most influential families in Nottinghamshire in the second half of the 19th century. The men held high-ranking positions in various Army regiments, served as local MPs, and held other important civic offices, such as magistrates or Master of the Hunt. The archives we hold very …

The Witches of East Mids

Early Modern European society is notorious for its waves of enthusiastic witch-hunts. The causes have been debated by historians, but they were almost always a combination of religious, societal and economic upheaval and uncertainty. Powers commonly ascribed to witches include turning food inedible, flying, and making people and livestock ill and crops fail. Witches were …

Meet our German manuscripts and Special Collections

Have you ever wondered what DIY books were available to borrow from an East German public library? Is the distribution of pigs in 1930s Germany a persistent niggling gap in your knowledge? Do you worry that when the 18th century dispute between the Houses of Hesse-Homburg and Hesse-Darmstadt comes up in casual conversation, you won’t …

New Manvers catalogue describes Thoresby in the 20th century

Newly catalogued papers in the Manvers Collection extend the story of the Thoresby Estate into the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. One of the largest collections held by Manuscripts and Special Collections is the Manvers Collection (Ma). It contains a record of the Pierrepont family’s landed estates, based at Holme Pierrepont and Thoresby, from the mid-seventeenth …

The Canterbury Tales

Geoffrey Chaucer (1340s – 25 October 1400) is widely considered the greatest English poet and author of the Middle Ages. He played a significant role in legitimising the use of the Middle English vernacular in literary works in an age when many authors in England wrote in French and Latin. He died in 1400 and …

Look at our new Digital Gallery!

Around 1,500 digitised images from our collections are now available on the Manuscripts and Special Collections Digital Gallery. We have arranged the photographs, cartoons, portraits, maps, manuscripts, and pages from books into collections based on themes. These themes can be browsed from the front page of the Digital Gallery. Click the thumbnail to get to …