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The Portico Library holds a mainly 19th century collection, and, as such, access is restricted to members and researchers. For more information on becoming a member of the Portico please see our Membership page.

The Collection

This unique collection provides a tangible insight into the Georgian and Victorian culture of Boomtown Manchester, reflecting the literary, intellectual and cultural mindset of the men who founded the Library over 200 years ago and of their successors throughout the 19th century.

bookshelves, armchairs, lamps, table and portrait in Library

The Portico Library collection began with the foundation of the Library in 1806 and is mainly 19th century. There is a wide selection of travel literature, novels, biographies and history. Unusually for such a library in the 19th century, there is also a fine representative selection of fiction, including a number of first editions. Alongside Dickens, Bulwer Lytton, Wilkie Collins and Elizabeth Gaskell there are many lesser known authors who are emerging as important subjects of study.

floor to ceiling book shelves with ladderThe Travel section is particularly strong covering the voyages of Captain Cook, numerous Victorian women travellers and Victorian continental exploration. There are small but growing collections of North West Fiction and of Local History. Topography includes 18th century antiquarian surveys of English counties as well as contemporaneous accounts.

Researchers are welcome to the Library to consult the permanent collection by arrangement where relevant to their area of study. In addition to our frequently up-dated online catalogue, our card catalogue provides essential bibliographic information as do our numerous in-house booklists and bibliographies. Researchers are encouraged to contact the Librarian to discuss their research needs.
Researchers should, in preparation of their visit, fill in the form below (available in Word or as a PDF) and provide a letter of reference from a tutor, supervisor or other person appropriate to their research, whether academically supported or independent.

Corner of Reading Room for members and researchers