Liverpool Cathedral’s Radcliffe Collection @ Liverpool Hope University

The Radcliffe Library’s manuscripts and early printed books were reunited with the post-1800 printed collection when deposited at Liverpool Hope University’s The Sheppard-Worlock Library in 2012, following the completion of the library refurbishment and the installation of an environmentally controlled vault.

Radcliffe library
The Sheppard-Worlock Library, Archives & Special Collections, Hope Park

Named after its chief donor, Sir Frederick Radcliffe (1861-1952), the Radcliffe Collection is the Anglican library of Liverpool Cathedral and St Aidan’s Theological College. The focus of the collection was primarily to be a ‘liturgical library’. Radcliffe aimed to buy exemplars of every book printed for liturgical use in England during the Tudor and Stuart reigns, both Roman Catholic and Anglican, brought together alongside medieval manuscripts to document and observe the liturgical transition during this period. Indeed the collection houses Missals dating from the pre-Reformation era, some 15th century European manuscript books of hours, 16th and 17th century bibles and early commentaries, hymn books and ecclesiastical music, and a large number of early printed books chiefly of liturgical and scholastic interest.

There are also significant holdings of materials from the library of Christopher Wordsworth (1848-1938), who served as chancellor of Lincoln Cathedral and later was a canon of Salisbury Cathedral, where he held a number of posts including that of librarian and chancellor. ‌Wordsworth’s library collection reflects his academic interest in historical and liturgical research as well as containing books and manuscripts that belonged to or were written by his brother, father, uncle and grandfather. More information about the collection can be located on our webpages.

Since the opening in 2012, the Archives & Special Collections unit has gone from strength to strength. Our initial focus was to collaborate with the academics in developing sessions with our own undergraduate and post-graduate students, embedding Special Collections into the Library and Information Skills Programme in support of the research and teaching activities at Liverpool Hope University.

Liverpool Hope is unique in allowing, even encouraging, undergraduate students to handle the rare medieval manuscripts and early printed books, only after, I hasten to add, an in-depth training session delivered by the Special Collections Librarian on collection care and handling techniques. The Special Collections Librarian is always present to give help in using the book supports and snake weights and to remind users of the two most important rules when coming to Special Collections… CLEAN, DRY HANDS! and NO PENS!

Theology, Philosophy and Religious Studies students use the Radcliffe Collection, as you would expect. Pictured below is Peter the Lombard’s Sentences (Radcliffe B583 – Petrus, Lombardus, Liber sententiarum (ca. 1150). Anton Koberger, Nuremberg 10 May 1481), the scholastic commentary on the Sentences of the Masters and accepted manual of the Schools in the 12th century, until it was supplanted by St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica. This beautiful incunabulum, (book printed before 1501), is bound in a leaf of a 12th century manuscript, notably from one of the Book of Maccabees.

Peter Lombard
Petrus, Lombardus, Liber sententiarum (Radcliffe B583)
Leaf of 12th century manuscript used for binding

Not only Theology students, but also students studying Art & Design History, Sacred Music, History, English Language and Archival Research & Publishing History also consult the Collection. The English department has developed a new curriculum for Archival Research and Publishing History scholars to encompass the medieval and early modern periods and is looking to re-design the English Language curriculum to open up the use of the unique materials entrusted to Liverpool Hope to more students.

Lecturer in Theology and Biblical Studies
Dr Gergely Juhasz, Senior Lecturer in Theology & Biblical Studies
Christian Theology second year students

Lecturer in English Literature
Dr Louise Wilson, Lecturer in English Literature (Medieval to Early Modern)
English Literature students ‘Personal Development’

The number of student sessions in Special Collections has increased 67% since they began in 2013 and will continue to increase as the opportunity to utilise the wonderful collections in learning and teaching programmes across the university flourishes. The Radcliffe Collection is also open to visiting researchers, local residents, serving clergy and members of the public affiliated with Liverpool Cathedral. Information about access to visitors can be located on our webpages. For all enquiries please email the Special Collections Librarian at

Karen Backhouse

Special Collections Librarian