Crawford (Bibliotheca Lindesiana) Collections


Crawford (Bibliotheca Lindesiana) Collections


The Crawford collections are the special collections of the Bibliotheca Lindesiana, the family library of the Earls of Crawford and Balcarres, mostly assembled during the 19th century by two ardent bibliophiles, Alexander William Crawford Lindsay, the 25th Earl of Crawford and 8th Earl of Balcarres (1812-1880), and his son (James) Ludovic Lindsay (1847-1913), the 26th Earl. The 25th Earl's father was able to use his family's wealth, derived in significant part from slavery, to invest in the profitable coal industry, creating the Wigan Coal and Iron Company when he added more collieries and ironworks to the family's holdings in 1865 (UCL Encyclopaedia of British Slave-ownership).

The Bibliotheca Lindesiana was conceived by the 25th Earl on the principles of utility and the pursuit of knowledge, as part of a wider plan to create a private museum and library which would represent all branches of science, literature and art, and all stages in the development of human intellectual progress. It was housed in the family home of Haigh Hall, near Wigan, Lancashire. After his father's death, the 26th Earl continued to add to the collection, in particular, acquiring large collections of proclamations, broadsides, ballads and documents of the French Revolution and Napoleonic era, making the Crawford family library one of the largest private collections ever assembled in Britain. He also assembled a major collection of rare books on another passion of his, astronomy. However, from the late 1880s onwards, due to the economic depression of the time, parts of the collection were sold off to raise money. In the 1890s the 26th Earl employed a librarian, JP Edmond, and a team of assistants to help him catalogue and organise the library, resulting in the publication of printed catalogues of some of the individual parts of the overall collection.

After the death of the 26th Earl further sales from the library took place in the 1920s. In 1947 the 28th Earl sold Haigh Hall and its grounds to Wigan Corporation. The majority of items remaining in the library were sold at auction, the rest were deposited in the John Rylands Library in Manchester, or retained by the family. The collections held in the Rylands Library were later transferred to the National Library by the 29th Earl, enhancing its printed holdings by around 50,000 items. They are now the property of the Balcarres Heritage Trust.


The collections form 11 separate groups, which are described individually here. Some of the collections have been fully catalogued and can be found in the Library's catalogue, the rest are partially catalogued or have collection-level records; some are also listed in the short title catalogues cited for each individual collection, which were compiled in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


Two of the Crawford collections (the Reformation and Lutheran Tracts and the Indulgences) have been on deposit since the mid-1970s. In 1988 the other printed collections were transferred from the John Rylands University Library in Manchester and deposited in the Library. Further items were transferred from the Rylands to the National Library in 2015 and added to the French Revolutionary (and Napoleonic) Tracts Collection.

Related collections

The Crawford family archive was also transferred, as a deposit, from the John Rylands University Library in 1988. The manuscripts are held at Acc.9769.

The astronomical library formed by the 26th Earl was presented by him in 1888 to the Scottish nation on condition that the Government build and maintain a new Royal Observatory in Edinburgh to replace the one on Calton Hill. The collection is now housed in the Royal Observatory building on Blackford Hill, Edinburgh, established in 1896.


'Bibliotheca Lindesiana: the Lives and Collections of Alexander William, 25th Earl of Crawford and 8th Earl of Balcarres, and James Ludovic, 26th Earl of Crawford and 9th Earl of Balcarres', N Barker, London, 1977.

'Hand-List of Personal Papers from the Muniments of the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres', GA Matheson and F Taylor, Manchester, 1976. Inventory of part of the archive.




Crawford family and library