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The Collection

The Portico Library collection offers a unique insight into the minds of the men who contributed to the making of the city at a time when Georgian Manchester was making international history.

Subjects Areas available for search online:
Voyages and Travels
Fine Arts
Local History
Poetry & Drama
Natural History (In Progress)

We have established the first stage of our OPAC (online public access catalogue) in order to widen access to this unique collection and emphasise our reputation as a centre for Nineteenth Century Studies. Our important historical collection covers a range of subjects with a strong focus on topography, biography, history and voyages and travels.

The Portico Library online catalogue is a work in progress; we currently have over 20,000 of our approximately 25,000 volumes recorded on the system. If you would like to enquire regarding specific titles or subjects our dedicated staff can be contacted with any queries you may have. The card catalogue is available to members generally and to researchers by arrangement.

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.

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.

The 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.