Sinhalese Palm Leaf Manuscripts Digitisation | The University of Manchester John Rylands Library


Really cool to see this work being undertaken at John Rylands.

About 15 years ago, I (re)discovered a collection of around 20 Zoroastrian manuscripts held there; most were acquired by the 26th Earl of Crawford in the mid 19th century. At the time, his family’s collection (the Bibliotheca Lindesiana) contained over 200,000 volumes, including rare bibles, papyri, Orientalia and astronomical texts.

Long story short, financial hardship forced the family to sell off much of the collection. Two large sales took place in 1887 and 1889. The Latin and Oriental manuscripts (which numbered nearly 6000) were the last to go. In 1901, negotiations took place with the bookseller A.B. Railton, who acted on behalf of Mrs Enriqueta Rylands. The asking price was 155,000 pounds, a price the Lord Crawford felt confident that no person would give. Rylands felt the price ‘very high’ but nevertheless agreed, and the sale was completed on July 31st of that year, using the money from her deceased husband’s estate. She founded the library in his name.

There’s much more the story, and with the aid of the staff at John Rylands, I was able to flesh out many details by drawing on correspondence, auction receipts etc etc. Regrettably, I never published my article/catalogue. I should dig it out some time…


Thanks, wow, that’s a really interesting story. These things follow such a winding oath!

It was super-cool to see the careful and professional work of the staff, and see how well such a project could be done.

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