Spotlight on digital resources

Although the Special Collections and Archives service is currently closed, today we will take a look at the collections which have been digitised and are readily available online. And remember, even though we do not have access to the collections to answer research enquiries, the Special Collections and Archives team are still here to help at

First, let’s start with the oldest collection we house. The SC&A Oxyrynchus Papyri are digitised and available online on their dedicated collections web page. Excavated in 1903 by Arthur Hunt and Bernard Grenfell, the Oxyrhynchus papyri are one of the most important collections discovered since the recovery of papyri began in the mid-18th century. They give an extremely rich insight into everyday ancient life and business, and include such diverse remains as private letters, certificates, receipts, contracts, verses, Old and New Testament passages, the ground plan of a house and many other writings in Greek, often illustrated, which make the papyri an invaluable source for the study of 1st- 7th century AD Egypt.

Reference: LUL OP 859. 3rd C poetical fragments.

In keeping with the theme of Egypt, the largest books SC&A houses are the Denkmäeler aus Aegypten und Aethiopien (Monuments of Egypt and Ethiopia) by Carl Richard Lepsius (1810-1884). These important 12 volumes of plates showing technical drawings of monuments and tombs in Egypt were the fruits of a scientific visit by Lepsius on behalf of His Majesty The King of Prussia, Frederick William IV, from 1842 to 1845. The volumes held in SC&A were gifted to the Liverpool Royal Institution in 1860 by Queen Victoria’s son-in-law. Although it is hard to gauge the size of these volumes by the digitised versions, they stand at nearly a metre tall – see Special Collections Library Katy Hooper with the texts for reference!

A digitised version of the texts may be viewed via the Lepsius Projekt website.

Reference: SPEC SXF/PJ1501.L61

The Gypsy Lore Society Collections contains the records of the Gypsy Lore Society (GLS) 1888-1974, comprising: administrative files on GLS members’ Gypsy research and the publication of the Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, with the Scott Macfie Gypsy Collection of books, manuscripts, photographs, illustrations and press cuttings collected by R.A. Scott Macfie and other GLS members. This is a rich and invaluable resource for those studying the history of Romany communities in Britain and Germany.

The catalogue records for the Fred Shaw Photographic Negatives under the reference ‘Scott Macfie Gypsy Collection Shaw.P‘ contain a preview image. The Journal of the Gypsy Lore society is digitised and available for free via the Haithi Trust.  

Reference: SMGC Shaw P.13. Dozer Smith, his wife, Jack Symes, Render Smiths’s son and wife Jemima – 2 Jun 1910.

The Knowlsley Hall Library contains over 5000 17th-19th Century texts. As part of the 19th Century British Pamphlets Online Project, 1560 pamphlets bound in 139 volumes dating between 1812-1869 have been digitised and are accessible online via JSTOR (requires an institutional login). This covers the reference numbers SPEC Knows. pamph 531 to SPEC Knows. pamph 669; direct links are provided on the catalogue records for the relevant pamphlets on the Library Catalogue.

The nineteenth-century volumes of the Knowsley Pamphlets were accumulated by  Edward George, 14th Earl of Derby (1799-1869). He was successively Irish Secretary (1830-33), colonial secretary (1833-34 and 1841-44) and three times Prime Minister (1852, 1858-59 and 1866-68). His career was summarised by Disraeli as “He abolished slavery, he educated Ireland, he reformed parliament”. The subjects detailed in the pamphlets therefore reflects his parliamentary career and that of his son, Edward Henry, 15th Earl of Derby (1826-1893).

In the realm of modern politics, the collected papers of the Rt Hon the Lord Owen, former Chancellor of the University of Liverpool, cover his political career from his early Labour Party membership until his retirement as SDP MP for Plymouth Devonport. The main body of records date from c.1962-1995. Lord Owen’s distinguished political career has encompassed service as British Foreign Secretary in the 1974-77 Labour government, foundation and leadership of the Social Democratic Party in Britain and co-chairmanship of the International Conference on Former Yugoslavia (1992-1995).

The Balkan Odyssey Digital Archive comprises 760 PDF versions of documents, fully available within the SC&A archives catalogue, relating to the negotiations for peace in the Former Yugoslavia, particularly those relating to the work of Lord Owen, the International Conference on the Former Yugoslavia and the UN.

Lastly, we’ve created an online version of our current exhibition Banned, Binned, Bombed: Selection and Survival in Special Collections and Archives. This means you can still tour the exhibition from the comfort of your own home!

Exhibition cases in Special Collections and Archives
Banned, Binned, Bombed: Selection and Survival in Special Collections and Archives

The Papers of William Crabtree: the Peter Jones building

William Crabtree graduated from the School of Architecture at the University of Liverpool in 1929, having studied under Professor Charles H. Reilly. His final year thesis was a design for a department store in Oxford Street.  

As a result of Crabtree’s work during his degree, Charles Reilly suggested to his friend John Spedan Lewis, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, that Crabtree be given the commission to design the new Peter Jones building.

Crabtree’s papers dating from 1933 to 1940, covering the period when Crabtree worked as an architect on the Peter Jones building and Crabtree’s time as a consultant architect for the John Lewis Company, have recently been added to the University Archive.

Print of the Peter Jones building.
CRB/2/7. Print showing the Peter Jones building.

The Peter Jones building is named after Peter Rees Jones (1842–1905), the son of a Carmarthenshire hat manufacturer who developed a flourishing retail business, the success of which was reflected in the five-story red-brick store that stood on the site of the present Peter Jones building. After Peter Jones’s death in 1905, the business faltered and the store was purchased by John Lewis, who handed it over to his son John Spedan Lewis in 1914. 

By the early 1930’s, Spedan realised that Peter Jones, with its old Victorian layout, needed refurbishment. John Slater and Arthur Moberly were appointed as joint architects, together with Crabtree, with Charles Reilly engaged as consultant.

The Peter Jones building, completed in 1939, is celebrated as an example of the Modern Movement in Britain. Crabtree was influenced heavily by leading Modernist designers, having studied Mendelsohn’s Schocken stores in Germany. Peter Jones was the first property in London to use the glass curtain wall effect, creating a fluid exterior, and the interior was illuminated by lightwells.

CRB/1/2. Examples of letters from manufacturers, including discussions of samples of glass and other materials.

William Crabtree’s papers, donated to Special Collections and archives in November 2019 by Crabtree’s son (Dr. John Crabtree), include correspondence between Crabtree and manufacturing and engineering companies, discussing topics such as the building design and materials, as well as many letters between Crabtree and Charles H. Reilly

Letters from Charles Reilly
CRB/1/3. Examples of correspondence between William Crabtree and Charles Reilly, discussing details of the design of the Peter Jones building, the design of the John Lewis building in Oxford Street, London (never built) and other architectural projects.

Also included are minutes, agenda papers and memorandums from committees governing the development of John Lewis building projects, that offer a fascinating insight into the design and building process.

Building Committee Agenda Papers
CRB/2/2/1. John Lewis Partnerships Building Committee agenda papers.

The catalogue for the papers of William Crabtree is available online.

Richmond, P., ‘Later Architectural Work: 1918–1939’, in Marketing Modernisms: The Architecture and Influence of Charles Reilly (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2001), pp. 162-176.

‘Retail therapy: with sympathy and imagination, a well-loved London landmark has been given a new lease of life by radical alteration and thorough internal revision.’ The Architectural Review, vol. 215, no. 1288, June 2004, p. 88+.