Manchester Society of Architects Library

This collection of architectural books and journals contains important historical works dating back more than 250 years.

The Manchester Society of Architects (MSA) was founded as a strictly professional association for architects. Complementing the MSA was the more liberal Manchester Architectural Association which organised lectures and visits. In 1891 this Association, with more than 90 members and its Library, joined the MSA with affiliation to the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). Alfred Waterhouse (architect for the Manchester Town Hall) was the President of RIBA at that time. Other prominent MSA members were Thomas Worthington, Alexander W Mills (architect of the Royal Exchange), G T Redmayne (architect for the Manchester School of Art), Edward Salomons (designer of the glass house for the Manchester Art Treasures Exposition of 1857) and the Arts and Crafts architect, Edgar Wood.

The Manchester Society of Architects Library dates from within a few years of the Society’s foundation in 1865. In 1906, A W Mills left his artworks, furniture and books to the Society including a series of folio engravings by Piranesi. John Holden donated important folios on classical architecture and in 1912 the books were accommodated in a bookcase designed by Henry Sellers, partner of Edgar Wood. From modest beginnings (the Society’s Annual Report for 1878 indicated that there were only 37 books in the Library at that time) a collection of some 500 books was transferred to the Manchester College of Art and Design in 1967 (now Manchester Metropolitan University).

Plans, elevations, sections and details of the Alhambra. Owen Jones and M Jules Goury, 1842 Published by Owen Jones From the Manchester Society of Architects Library, ©MMU Special Collections Photograph by Ade Hunter

‘Plans, elevations, sections and details of the Alhambra’ Owen Jones and M Jules Goury, 1842. Photograph: Ade Hunter

Scope and Content
This collection’s strength for the architectural historian is in its late eighteenth century and nineteenth century pattern and source books.

Highlights include: W and G Audsley’s ‘Polychromatic decoration’, 1881; Owen Jones’ ‘Plans, sections and details of the Alhambra’, 1842; William Kent’s ‘The designs of Inigo Jones’, 1770; Palladio’s ‘The four books of architecture’, 1738; Piranesi’s ‘Opera’ and Stuart and Revett’s ‘The antiquities of Athens’,1762 – 1816.

The rest of the collection dates from the first half of the twentieth century and includes a set of early volumes of the Survey of London.

The Manchester Society of Architects Library is held in our Reading Room. Some of the books are kept on open access shelving and may be taken from the shelves and viewed at the tables. Other books (those that are too large or fragile to be kept on the shelves) are kept in a store and can be requested from the Helpdesk in the Reading Room. Books should be taken from the shelves and viewed at the tables. Readers may be asked to wear non-allergenic gloves when viewing some of the books in this collection. 

Photography is only permitted for the purposes of research or private study. All items within the Manchester Society of Architects Library remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder’s permission for reproduction of copyright for purposes other than research or private study.

‘Le antichità Romane, Plate XXXI’ Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 1756.

Finding Aids
The collection can be searched on the MMU Library catalogue by entering ‘Manchester Society of Architects’ in the search box.

Manchester Society of Architects’ Kalendar for 1956/7 incorporates the Library Catalogue.  The archives of the MSA are located at the John Rylands University Library of Manchester.

Copies of Cecil Stewart’s ‘Notes on the history of the Manchester Society of Architects, Manchester’, 1962, are available  in the Reading Room. The original pamphlet is available to borrow from the Library’s Reserve Stock.

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