The Archives and Manuscript collection is a primary source collection including nearly 9000 manuscripts and over 800 archive collections from the United Kingdom and Europe. The material (in some 25 different languages) dates from antiquity to the 21st century. There are internationally significant holdings in a range of subjects, including:
- birth control
- genetics and heredity
- psychiatry, psychoanalysis and psychology
- public health
- the colonial encounter/imperial medicine
- war and medicine
- women in the healthcare professions.
Researching a particular topic? Archivists maintain subject guides to help you identify archives and manuscripts on a specific subject.
Archives in the collection are concentrated on English-language material from the 20th century created in Britain and its former colonies. The archives include:
- personal and family papers, correspondence, notebooks and diaries of scientists, GPs and others
- records of charities, campaigning organisations, and pressure groups
- records of professional bodies, businesses and research institutions
- the Royal Army Medical Corps Muniment Collection
- the Wellcome Archives, including Henry Wellcome's personal papers, the Wellcome Foundation archives, records of the Wellcome Historical Medical Museum.
Examples of other material in the collection include:
- 250 medieval manuscripts
- domestic recipe books dating from the 16th century onwards
- laboratory notebooks, research and lecture notes
- medical case books
- photographs and drawings.
Looking for Asian manuscripts?
These manuscripts are best found in the Library catalogue. Printed catalogues of Asian manuscripts in various languages are also available in PDF format.
More about the Asian Collection
Search the Archives and Manuscripts catalogue to find detailed information about the collection.
All archives and manuscripts are held in closed stores. In order to view items in the Library, you will need to make an online request through the catalogue.
We recommend you order archive material before your visit as it can take up to four hours to deliver archives and manuscripts to the Rare Materials Room. If you plan to visit on a Saturday, be sure to order your materials by 16.00 on Friday.
See the delivery schedule and cut-off times for next day delivery
Limits on availability
Some archive and manuscript collections are restricted or unavailable, including:
- material being digitised
- uncatalogued material
- material containing personal data on living persons
- items closed by request of the donor/depositor. It may be possible to obtain permission to view these items. Contact an archivist for more information about specific collections.
For further information on access to the Library's research collections see our Access to Archives Policy.
To contact an archivist, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone +44 (0)20 7611 8899 during Library opening hours.
Archive and manuscript material relating to the history of medicine can be found in many repositories in the United Kingdom. These four surveys can help you identify resources at other locations.
The Wellcome Library holds an unrivalled collection of domestic recipe manuscripts, with over 270 volumes spanning from the 16th century to the 19th century. Volumes from the 17th century are available online.