Skip to main content
Senate House Library

Manuscript and print studies

Explore over 1000 years of the creation, use and dissemination of manuscripts, documents, books and print media.

Subject Librarian: Tansy Barton

Phone: 020 7862 8475

Senate House Library’s collections on Manuscript and Print studies include specialist research collections on palaeography, manuscripts, documents, printing, publishing, book art, reading, periodicals, news media and all things bibliographic.

In addition, the Library holds significant collections of manuscripts and documents, early printed books from the 15th to 18th century and extensive 19th and 20th century print culture material in many formats.

The Manuscript Studies and Palaeography Collection

This collection covers the history of western manuscript traditions from late antiquity to the early modern period.

The collection is of national importance in its coverage the subject as well as distinct for housing material on the subject in one discreet collection with much of the printed material easily accessible on open shelves. It continues to be housed in the space built for the collection on the Library’s 4th floor, familiar to many users as the Palaeography Room.

All aspects of manuscript production and use are covered from the study to scripts to decoration and illumination, medieval libraries and textual transmission. The collection provides a range of resources for working with manuscripts and documents including catalogues, guides to scripts, vocabularies, reference sources and bibliographies and facsimiles.

The collection was developed and continues to be a central resource for students and researchers of manuscripts at all colleges and institutions of the University of London and beyond.

The Print Studies Collection

The Print Studies collection focuses on the history of the printed book from the 15th century and the beginning of printing with moveable type in the west, to the present day. The collection also covers a range of print and increasingly electronic media in many formats such as newspapers, journals and ephemera.

Subjects covered include printing, publishing, reading, collecting and libraries, illustration, binding and decoration, paper and typography. Holdings include publications from the 17th to the 21st centuries and the collection is increasingly international in its scope: publications on printing traditions around the world are added with a growing number as e-books.

The collection supports the unique History of the Book MA run the Institute of English Studies as well as students across the University of London of literature, art, design, history and media and communication studies. It reflects a growing emphasis on the material and social context of the production and dissemination of information and texts.

The Special Collections and Archives

 These sections contain a wealth of primary sources for study, teaching and research.

The Archive collections include medieval manuscript and fragments, frequently used in the teaching of palaeography and codicology, the Fuller collection of documents and seals from the 12th-19th century, early modern manuscripts, literary manuscripts in the Sterling Library and papers and correspondence of publishers.

Among the Special Collections and rare books are examples of printing and publishing from the 15th to 21st century with strengths in early English and European books, 19th century first editions and print culture, private and small press books and ephemeral material in the form of pamphlets, broadsides and cheap press editions.

Specialist Subject guides

Further resources and access

Free access to the Palaeography Collection

In addition to our regular memberships, we offer a free day ticket for researchers accessing the Palaeography Collection. (This ticket is not valid for accessing other areas or resources within the Library.) Please email to request access in advance of your visit. Proof of address and photo ID is required.

Teaching Manuscript Studies and Book History at SHL

The Library can supply a range of original materials for teaching book history, from introductions to manuscripts to specialist sessions on subjects such as incunabula or Victorian periodicals.

Contact the Subject Librarian or the Rare Books Librarian for more information on running a session in the Library.

LibGuides eresources

The Library subscribes to a range of full-text and bibliographical resources to support your research in Manuscript and Print Studies. These included Bloomsbury Medieval Studies, Book History Online, Early European Books and Jisc Historical texts. Check the A to Z list on our LibGuides platform.