Morrab Library

Founded in 1818, the Morrab Library is an independent subscription library housed in a Victorian mansion within the Morrab Gardens in Penzance, Cornwall.

The Morrab contains around 70,000 non-fiction and fiction titles, both contemporary and historical; an extensive and remarkable photographic archive which is currently being digitised; a historically important local newspaper collection; and a significant archive, all acquired throughout the period since the library was established. The Library’s particular focus, and strength, is on Cornish history, literature and people.

The Archive has been continually enhanced since the library’s inception in 1818. The collection includes material on paper and parchment, drawings, prints and photographs, comprising around 2,500 items. The Archive comprises a variety of manuscripts and documents with varied provenance. The collections include an extensive set of local theatre playbills from the 18th century, information about the Newlyn artists colony, manuscript material relating to eminent local naturalists, scientists, archaeologists and businessmen, historical records of the library; records relating to the fishing industry within the region; and records describing Cornish witchcraft trials in the 17th century.

Key manuscript material includes:

  • papers of Sir Humphry Davy, his wife Jane and other members of the Davy family; including a first­ hand account from Dr John Davy about the Battle of Waterloo.
  • the papers of leading 19th century botanist John Ralf, including his unpublished manuscript of the ‘Flora of West Cornwall’.
  • the Thomas Dawson collection, donated in 1868 to the Morrab, of 3000 prints, engravings, sketches and printed material dating from 1770 to 1840 covering the French Revolution, Napoleon’s rise and fall, Britain’s relationship with France and the Restoration of the monarchy in France.
  • the archive of Derek and Jeannie Tangye – manuscripts of their books, scrapbooks relating to their career, and diaries of their time in Cornwall.
  • The 19th century surgeon and naturalist Jonathan Couch; collections include sketches and drawings in preparation for his book ‘A History of the Fishes of the British Islands’.
  • Individual records include correspondence from Maria Branwell (the Bronte sister’s mother) and William Wordsworth.
This archive entry was last updated on 19/10/2020. Information incorrect or out-of-date?
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