Information Services


The Manuscript Collection includes material dating from the twelfth century on, with a particular bias towards the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, covering issues as diverse as politics, music and language in eighteenth century Ireland, politics, culture and business in nineteenth and early twentieth century China. The personal and literary papers of writers such as Somerville & Ross and Helen Waddell, and the notes and papers of academics Thomas Andrews, James Thomson, R.M. Henry and Charles MacDouall are also included. 

Additional information on featured collections can be found in our Special Collections & Archives LibGuide

Please note that access to manuscripts must be arranged in advance.  Access may be restricted in the evenings and at weekends.

Below is a list of our Manuscript holdings.  Where available, links to further information and detailed inventories are provided. Name and place indices for all listings in process.

Allen Collection (MS23) - Listing 
Robert Allen (1904-1968) was a minister of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and a noted historian of the denomination. The collection contains some of his working papers, especially related to his 'The Presbyterian College Belfast 1853-1953', and some of his correspondence. A significant proportion of the material is from the Revd William Thomas Latimer (1842-1919) another Presbyterian minister and historian of the church. The Latimer material includes volumes of newspaper cuttings, extracts from original church records, and a idiosyncratic continuation of his 'A history of the Irish Presbyterians' (1893; 1902). The archive also contains material from the Revd Aston Robinson, Latimer’s son-in-law and another historian of Presbyterianism in Ireland.

Andrews Manuscripts (MS2) - Listing
This collection consists of a selection of scientific papers and correspondence by and addressed to Chemist and Physicist, Thomas Andrews (1813-85), chiefly written in his own hand or copied by his daughters, Elizabeth Andrews and Mary K. Andrews, and forming part of the documents used in the preparation of 'The Scientific Papers of the Late Thomas Andrews. With a Memoir by P.G. Tait and A. Crum Brown' (London, 1889).

Bartley Collection (MS42) - Listing 
A collection of 155 event programmes (mostly theatrical) dating from 1924 to 1939, the bulk are for Belfast theatrical productions between 1928 and 1932.

Belfast Creative Writing Group File (MS1/204) - Listing
Work produced by the Belfast Creative Writing Group (1962-1966).

Branagh Collection (MS41) - Listing 
Material relating to the professional life and work of Sir Kenneth Branagh.  It is largely made up of paper documents (many are photocopies), but also holds recordings and merchandise related to individual productions.

Brett Collection (MS3) - Listing 
Small collection of miscellaneous papers and documents deposited by the Belfast solicitor, Sir Charles Brett (1839-1926). The collection consists of a variety of material, mainly of antiquarian interest, including books, extracts, manuscripts, and other documents relating principally to early English civil and ecclesiastical law, land and/or property in Yorkshire, c 1220-c 1600, and Wakefield, c 1763-1824, and the observations of the Rev T.J. Hussey on English birds, c 1828. The collection is also notable for a series of correspondence between Hussey and his daughter, Charlotte, during a stay in Aleppo, Syria from 1779-80 and an unexecuted grant of tithes, c 1145-53 from the Archbishop of Mainz. Digital Special Collections & Archives provides online access to the correspondence between the Rev. T.J. Hussey and his daughter Charlotte (MS3/2-48A).     Book: The First Protestants in the Arab World: The contribution to Christian mission of the English Aleppo chaplains 1597 - 1782, Andrew Lake.


Bullock Manuscripts (MS24) - Listing
Papers of novelist Shan Fadh Bullock [formerly John William Bullock] (1865–1935).  Collection includes manuscripts of unpublished novels, plays, short stories and essays.

Bunting Collection (MS4) - Listing 
Major collection of Irish musical manuscripts, notebooks and correspondence etc concerning the work of the Irish Music Collector and Musician, Edward Bunting (1773-1843) arising out of the Belfast Harpers Festival of 1792 and published in ‘A General Collection of Ancient Irish Music’ in 1796 (revised 1809 and 1840). It includes three editions of Bunting’s A General Collection of Ancient Irish Music (published in 1796, revised in 1809 and 1840) and the musical manuscripts of Irish traditional music which he compiled during the Belfast Harp Festival of 1792 and his subsequent travels around Ireland. The collection also contains Patrick Lynch’s notebooks of Roman and Gaelic lyrics which he compiled for Bunting during a tour in 1802, and a folio of letters to Bunting. Digital Special Collection & Archives provides online access to a selection of manuscripts from the Bunting Collection.


Burdett Correspondence (MS46) - Listing                                                                                                                                                                                                Sixteen autograph letters written by novelist Forrest Reid (1875-1947) to biographer and critic Osbert Burdett (1885-1936).  Letters date from 1907 to 1931.

 Campbell Collection (MS36)


Carnduff Collection (MS21) - Listing
Personal, literary and collected papers of and/or relating to Thomas Carnduff (1886-1956), the Belfast essayist, playwright and poet. An important figure in cultural circles during the early 20th century, Thomas Carnduff, the so-called 'Shipyard Poet,' was a prolific writer and acute observer of Belfast life.

Charles Collection (MS5) - Listing
Small collection of papers and photographic material presented to the University Library by the Biblical Scholar, R.H. Charles, Archdeacon of Westminster (1855-1931) consisting mainly of photographs (positive and negative) of original Aramaic, Greek and Ethiopic biblical manuscripts dating from the 10th to the 15th centuries. These items were largely used by Charles in the preparation of his scholarly texts on 'The Ethiopic Version of the Book of Enoch' (1906) and 'The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs' (1908). Annotated editions of these publications are included in the collection as is his 'Lectures on the Apocalypse' from 1922.

Comintern Papers (Irish Labour Movement) (MS57) - Listing
This collection comprises copies of files held in the Russian Archive for Social and Political History (RGASPI), Moscow. The files pertain to the Irish labour movement and the history of Communism in Ireland, comprising documents from the departments and standing committees of the Executive Committee Communist International (ECCI) including speeches, reports, letters, agendas, fliers, handwritten notes, lists, telegrams, minutes and posters. The papers provide considerable insight into the personalities, organisation and policy development of Irish Communism during the 1920s/1930s. Included in the collection are ten microfilms (representing approximately 4,000 pages) detailing contacts between the Communist International and Irish groups between 1919 and 1943. All materials in the collection were selected and the catalogue prepared by two academics, Dr Emmet O'Connor (Ulster University, Northern Ireland) and Dr Finbarr McLoughlin (University of Vienna, Austria) and copied in 1995. The microfilms were deposited with Special Collections and Archives in December 2011 and the paper copies were deposited in July 2012.

Ferguson Collection (MS12) - Listing
Collection of research materials collected by Godfrey W. Ferguson (d. c 1939/40) of Belfast, President of the Belfast Literary Society (1922-23, 1934-35), concerning Anne Isabella Milbanke, Lady Byron (1792-1860), wife of the Romantic Poet, Lord George Gordon Byron (1788-1824).

Fielden Manuscripts (MS25) - Listing
Manuscripts of mainly unpublished works by novelist and playwright Olga Fielden.


Forster Correspondence (MS44/1/22) - Listing
Correspondence from the novelist Edward Morgan Forster (1879-1970 to Forrest Reid, covering a period of thirty-four and a half years (31st January 1912 – 18th August 1946). This collection includes 217 letters and cards and is one of the most significant parts of the Forrest Reid papers (MS 44). A research grant from the British Academy has allowed some detailed listing to be completed on this material (MS44/1/22).
Article: The correspondence of E.M. Forster and Forrest Reid: Content and Implications of a New Literary Archive, by Brian G Caraher and Emma Hegarty, Queen's University Belfat, Northern Ireland.
Catalogue: Forrest Reid & Stephen Gilbert Exhibition - 2008


Fownes/ Tighe Collection (MS29)

 Gibson Collection (MS26)


Gilbert Collection (MS45) - Listing
The papers of novelist Stephen Gilbert (1912-2010).  Includes draft autograph and typescript manuscripts of novels and short stories, proof copies and quires, correspondence, notes, synopses, draft speeches, draft poems, juvenilia, school reports, photographs, scrapbooks, and postcards. The correspondence includes letters written by authors such as a Walter de la Mare, George Buchanan, Forrest Reid and E.M. Forster.
The purchase of this collection was due to the generous funding of the Heritage Lottery Fund and the following supporting funders: The Pilgrim Trust, Esme Mitchell Trust, The John Jefferson Smurfit Monegasque Foundation, Dr. Michael and Mrs Ruth West and Sir Donnell Deeny.
Catalogue: Forrest Reid and Stephen Gilbert exhibition - 2008


Green Manuscripts (MS40) - Listing
Small collection of offprints and lectures by Professor Edward Rodney Richey Green (1920-1981).  Green was a historian and also held the post of Director of the Institute of Irish Studies from 1970-1981.

 J.N. Hart Collection (MS47) - Listing                                                                                                                                                                                                 John N. Hart (1881[?]-1963) was a lifelong friend of  novelist Forrest Reid (1875-1947), the material in this collection relates to Reid.


Hart Collection (MS15) - Listing
Substantial collection of personal and official papers of Sir Robert Hart (1835-1911), Inspector General of the Imperial Customs, Peking, 1863-1908. The collection contains a range of interesting and insightful material relating to Hart’s official duties and experiences in Peking during his long career in charge of the Chinese Customs Service. Significant in this regard is the long series of 77 personal journals which Hart kept during this time. The collection also contains a significant series of correspondence amounting to some 7000 letters dating from 1899 to 1911. Digital Special Collections & Archives provides online access to a selection of images from the Hart Collection. 


Harty Collection (MS14)
Collection of holograph manuscripts of the composer and conductor, Sir Hamilton Harty (1879-1941) featuring full and part scores to a range of orchestral and choral pieces composed or arranged by Harty, c 1900-1939. Included in the collection are arrangements of Handel and Berlioz, whose performances of which Harty was most noted, and autograph manuscripts of approx. 48 original works including ‘Symphony in D (Irish)’ (1915), ‘The Children of Lir’ (c 1939), ‘In Ireland, A Fantasy for flute, harp and small orchestra’ and ‘Quartet in F for 2 violins, viola and ‘cello’ for which he won the Feis Ceoil prize in 1900. The collection also contains an incomplete autobiographical memoir, letters, telegrams, photographs and various typescript copies of lectures and articles by Harty on Berlioz and piano accompaniment, c 1926-c 1936. The collection also includes a set of 5 scrapbooks containing cuttings from newspapers and periodicals, letters, photographs, autographs etc by or relating to Harty, compiled by his sisters-in-law, Olive and Nell Baguley.
Harty Performance Sets Listing
Borrowing Harty Performance Sets
Listing is being revised, please contact Special Collections staff if you wish to consult this material.


Heaney Manuscripts (MS20) - Listing
The manuscripts are primarily composed of materials relating to Seamus Heaney's translation of the Old English epic 'Beowulf', including the original manuscript drafts and subsequent typescript drafts that trace the revision process, as well as late drafts and correspondence detailing the publication process and illustrating Heaney's consultation with academics. The collection also contains a small assortment of other writings and correspondence, interspersed with the Beowulf translation materials. These include drafts of lectures and other prose by Heaney, usually translating Beowulf. Also included are drafts of other poems composed during the period, including a number which were not subsequently collected, and may never have been published. 

Henry Collection (MS27) 


R.M. Henry Collection (MS10) - Listing
Collection of correspondence, working notes and papers of Robert Mitchell Henry (1873-1950), Professor of Latin at Queen’s University Belfast (1907-38) and later Professor of Humanities at the University of St. Andrews, Edinburgh (1939-47) and honorary chair of Classical Literature at Trinity College, Dublin (1947-50). Broad in its scope, the collection consists of a variety of material reflecting Henry’s wide range of academic, adminstrative and personal interests. Included are papers and notes on various classical Latin and Greek subjects, the American poet and journalist, Walt Whitman (1819-92), and the study of Irish History. There is also a series of letters, c 1855-1941, addressed to Henry from a variety of correspondents, but principally Sir Samuel Dill (1844-1924), Ramsey Kier and Denis O’Keefe, a set of 14 pocket diaries kept by Henry from 1910-45 and a group of in-letters and miscellaneous papers from the Registrar’s Office of Queen's University, 1877-79. The collection also consists of papers relating to Henry’s involvement with the Workers Educational Association, the Classical Association of Ireland and the Royal Belfast Academical Institution. Maps and plans of Queen’s, 1854-1945 are also to be found in the collection, as are a series of original drawings of maps and diagrams used in Moody and Beckett’s official history of the university (‘Queen's, Belfast 1845-1949: the history of a university,’ T.W. Moody and J.C. Beckett, 1959).

Lewis Correspondence (MS56) - Listing                                                                                                                                                                                                   A collection of 11 letters from C.S. Lewis to Captain Bernard Acworth. In the series of letters, written between 1944 and 1960, Lewis explains, in response to Acworth’s views on the incompatibility of evolution and Christianity, his own views on the question of origins. The letters also contain references to some aspects of Lewis’s private life, including his marriage and visits to Donegal. See also Letter from C.S. Lewis to Anne Waller (MS1/247). The letter contains an explanation of the "Narnia" series of children's novels.

MacDouall Manuscripts (MS6) - Listing
Collection of holograph papers and working notes of Professor Charles MacDouall (1813-83), Professor of Latin and subsequently of Greek at Queen’s College, Belfast, (1849-78). The collection consists of finished essays, reference aids, lectures, emendations and miscellaneous notes prepared and used by MacDouall in his work, reflecting his wide range of academic interests and pursuits. Topics highlighted include comparative philology, etymology, religious and philosophical ideas and systems, Semitic and Indo-European languages, Latin verse and the drama, customs and dress of different countries e.g. Spain, Portugal, Germany, Ancient Greece etc.

McFadden Manuscripts (MS22) 
Papers of Roy McFadden (1921-1999) poet and literary figure.  Consultation of a draft listing can be arranged by contacting Special Collections & Archives (


McNeill Papers (MS39)


Megaw Collection (MS53) - Listing                                                                                                                                                                                                  Papers and publications deposited by the Megaw family. 


Megaw Manuscripts (MS28) - Listing
Papers, notebooks and clipping books of Arthur Stanley Megaw (1873-1961).  In middle life Megaw gave up  the law to pursue literary interests and is most famous as an anthologist publishing under the name of Arthur Stanley.  Works include 'Bedside Book', 'Fireside Book', 'Bedside Shakespeare' and 'Bedside Bible'.  Megaw was also prominent in the Belfast Literary Society for over 50 years and was Honorary Secretary for 30 years.


Miscellaneous Manuscripts (MS1) - Listing
A series of varied, unrelated manuscript collections. It runs from MS1/1 to MS1/267 and includes ancient Irish, medieval and modern material. This listing is under review with the intent to highlight more significant items. The following listings have been taken from the original and expanded upon: Belfast Creative Writing Group File (MS1/204)O'Rahilly (MS1/236) - Letters from George Russell (AE) to T.F. O'Rahilly; O'Rahilly (MS1/237) - Letters from D.J. O'Sullivan to O'Rahilly, 1926-28.

Nelson Collection (MS51) - Listing

Newport Collection (MS7) - Listing
Collection of letters and other papers relating to the public and private affairs of Sir John Newport (1756-1843), Irish Politician and Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer, banker and landowner. The bulk of the collection consists of some 250 letters, c 1765-c 1862, addressed to, and received from, some of the leading political figures in Ireland of the time commenting on some of the prominent issues of the day. Included are letters from William Conyngham Plunkett, Earl Grey, Lord Duncannon, Daniel O’Connell, John V. Nugent, Thomas Spring Rice, Edward Stanley and Thomas Grenville discussing mainly Irish affairs, in particular highlighting the republican sentiments of the population and the disaffection felt throughout. References are also made to the general European situation and to British politics. Of the personal letters noted, two are from Newport’s nephew, Simon, writing from Eton and enclosing some examples of Latin verse with others from Newport’s mother, father and brother. Among the miscellaneous papers and memos are a list of books taken to London, a rental of the Bishop’s Hall Estate, household expenses etc. The collection also includes a series of extracts from the records of the English Exchequer copied by Frederick Devon, c 1836 and consisting of miscellaneous accounts from the reigns of Richard I, Edward I, Oliver Cromwell, and Charles II. A copy of the original auctioneer’s catalogue (Colbeck Radford & Company) of 1937, from which the collection was bought, is also to be found.

NI Advisory Commission [i. Charitable Trusts Law, ii. Public Libraries] (MS30)

O'Rahilly Collection (MS11) - Listing                                                                                                                                                                                              Collection of Irish manuscripts and printed books annotated by the distinguished Celtic Scholar, T.F. O’Rahilly (1883-1953). A relatively small assemblage of material, the books are extensively annotated by O'Rahilly and include a range of titles on Irish dialect, grammar and Irish Literature, dating from c 1849-1937. Among the authors featured are Brian Merriman (1749-1805), Joseph Henry Lloyd, Peter O'Leary (1839-1920), John O'Tuomy, Pierce Fitzgerald and John Clarach MacDonald. An annotated draft of the 1937 Constitution of Ireland is also to be found within the collection in addition to a manuscript inscription from Eamon DeValera thanking O'Rahilly for his assistance on it. The collection also includes a miscellaneous series of other papers and correspondence. Of the correspondence can be found 15 letters from D.J. O'Sullivan to O'Rahilly, 1926-28, regarding O'Sullivan's edition to the Bunting Collection of Irish Music (QUB MS/4) (MS1/237). Also included are letters from George Russell to O'Rahilly concerning state financial support for Gaelic scholarship (MS1/236). Other correspondents include M. O'Cathain, A. Martin Freeman, Paul Grosjean, James Hogan and Liam Price.


O'Regan Archive [Mixed Media] (MS38)


O'Shaughnessy Manuscripts (MS8) - Listing
Collection of literary manuscripts of the Victorian poet, Arthur O’Shaughnessy (1844-81) comprising chiefly of some 21 annotated notebooks of poems, prose and verse composed by him, c 1860-70, and appearing in his published works, ‘An Epic of Women’ (1870), ‘Lays of France’ (1872), ‘Music and Moonlight’ (1874) and ‘Songs of a Worker’ (1881). Other notable items contained in the collection include notes and book lists prepared by O’Shaughnessy on the work of others, a volume entitled ‘Trifles in Verse’ (1825) containing copies of 40 short pieces by various authors, and a small notebook of views of the Isle of Wight (N.D.). Some papers relating to the actual acquisition of the manuscripts in 1916 are also to be found.

Piry Collection (MS19) - Listing
Collection of private papers of Théophile Piry (fl. 1880-1915), Commissioner of Customs and first Postmaster General of the Imperial Postal Service, China, 1911-1915. This collection contains a range of material bearing on Piry’s later career in the Chinese administration including drafts, notes, copies of correspondence, memoranda, reports etc relating to customs affairs in Lappa and Macao and, later, the establishment of the modern postal service in China from 1911 until Piry’s retirement in 1915. Of particular interest are the various papers concerning the development of the Imperial Postal Service, most notably in relation to arrangements with foreign counties (the so-called ‘Guest Post’ system) and the formalisation of relations with these countries both individually and through membership of the Universal Postal Union. Included can be found copies of postal agreements between China and France (1900), Germany (1905), Russia (1909) and Japan (1910), correspondence relating to China’s entry to the Universal Postal Union, 1913-1915 and two historical notes and analyses concerning the development of the postal service (U-Tchau) in China.

Ramsay Collection (MS37) - Listing 
A collection of printed material which belonged to the book collector and bibliographer Andrew Gibson (1841-1931).  The collection contains many editions of the works of Allan Ramsay (1684-1758), around 200 chap books mostly from Scotland and Ireland as well as material relating to Robert Burns.

Reid Collection (MS44) - Listing
In September 2007 Special Collections acquired the papers of Belfast novelist and critic Forrest Reid (1875-1947).  The purchase of this collection was due to the generous funding of the Heritage Lottery Fund and the following supporting funders: The Pilgrim Trust, Esme Mitchell Trust, The John Jefferson Smurfit Monegasque Foundation, Dr. Michael and Mrs Ruth West and Sir Donnell Deeny.
One of the most significant parts of the Forrest Reid papers is his correspondence with the novelist Edward Morgan Forster (1879-1970).  The correspondence covers a period of thirty-four and a half years (31st January 1912 – 18th August 1946) and includes 217 letters and cards from E.M. Forster. 
Article: The Correspondence of E. M. Forster and Forrest Reid: Content and Implications of a New Literary Archive, by Brian G Caraher and Emma Hegarty, Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland.
MS44/1/22 - Listing: A research grant from the British Academy has allowed some detailed listing to be completed on this material.
Catalogue: Forrest Reid & Stephen Gilbert Exhibition - 2008. 

Rosenfield Collection (MS43) - Listing
Clippings, other writings and miscellaneous material relating to Belfast journalists/critics (and sisters) Judith and Ray [Rachel] Rosenfield.

Royal Commission on the Constitution [Working Papers] (MS31)

Savage-Armstrong Collection (MS32)                                                                                                                                                                                             Large unlisted collection of papers and correspondence that belonged to the poet George Francis Savage-Armstrong (1845-1906).


Scarman Tribunal 1969 (MS33) - Listing
Exhibits, submissions and evidence relating to the Scarman Tribunal into violence and civil disturbances in Northern Ireland in 1968.

Shaw Collection (MS34) - Listing
Papers of Judge James Johnston Shaw (1845-1910).

Simms Collection (MS35)


Smith Collection (MS54) - Listing
A collection of legal and business documents dating from 1845-1877 reflecting the activities of the Smith family in Virginia (USA) and in particular their involvement in slavery.

Somerville & Ross Manuscripts (MS17) - Listing
Significant collection of personal and literary papers of Edith Somerville (1858-1949) and Violet Martin (1862-1915) alias “Somerville and Ross,” one of Ireland's most celebrated literary partnerships. An important and unique collection reflecting the lives, interests and work of the two authors, the Somerville & Ross Papers consist largely of diaries, correspondence, working papers, and draft manuscripts relating to the authors’ literary activities, personal interests and affairs.
Catalogue: Somerville & Ross Exhibition - 2006

Thomson Collection (MS13) - Listing                                                                                                                                                                                                  Collection of scientific papers and notebooks, memoranda, lectures, correspondence etc of James Thomson (1822-1892), Professor of Engineering at Queen’s College, Belfast, 1857-1873. Various topics are highlighted in the collection reflecting Professor Thomson’s wide range of research interests. These include such areas as fluid motion, the formation of river bars, ventilation, atmospheric circulation, the atmosphere of Jupiter and the freezing and melting of solid, liquid and gaseous states of matter, which he investigated with his Belfast colleague, Thomas Andrews (1813-85). The collection also includes many manuscript drafts of lectures and scientific papers, printed offprints of papers by Thomson and other contemporaries, newspapers and journals, pamphlets and patent specifications. There are also a large quantity of letters to and from Thomson with about 50 correspondents. These include his brother, the eminent physicist, Lord Kelvin, Michael Faraday, James Clerk Maxwell, P.G. Tait, J.J. Murphy, Thomas Andrews, Galbraith, G.G. Stokes, Sir R. Ball, W.J.M. Rankine and others. Most of this material is of a technical nature. The collection also contains some manuscripts belonging to Thomson’s father, James Thomson, senior (1786-1849).


Waddell Manuscripts (MS18) - Listing
Papers of the Ulster writer and scholar, Helen Waddell (1889-1965). The collection consists of notes, translations, holograph and typescript manuscripts of published and unpublished works by Waddell, c 1909-47, and an extensive series of correspondence with the critic and historian George Saintsbury (1845-1933), c 1914-33.
Also includes Collection of 133 manuscript and typescript letters from 34 correspondents to Otto Kyllmann (d. 1958), senior partner of the publishing firm, Constable & Co., with typescript copies of 16 of his letters to various correspondents, and one note in his hand; the whole collection spanning the period 1900-1957 and arranged chronologically.


Wright Collection (MS16) - Listing
Papers and books of Dr. Stanley Fowler Wright (1873-1953), Commissioner of Customs and Personal Secretary to the Inspector General, the Chinese Maritime Customs. In addition to manuscripts, there are books in Chinese, books and pamphlets on China and on the Chinese Customs, many official printed papers, reports, etc., and copies of Customs publications, some with manuscript annotations by Wright. Among the manuscripts in the Collection are Wright's notes and papers for his various published works, including, 'Hart and the Chinese Customs' (Belfast, 1950), some letters of Sir Robert Hart, some of Wright's own official papers, and some of Wright's later correspondence, relating mainly to his published works.