Religion and philosophy

Holdings in this field range from the 11th century to the 21st. Notable medieval manuscripts include the charters of the Cistercian abbey at Kingswood and the Cobden Book of Hours. Monuments of scholarship such as the Antwerp edition of the Acta sanctorum, España sagrada and John Foxe’s martyrology document aspects of Christian faith and history. Of the non-Christian faiths and understandings, Buddhism, earth mysteries and the goddess movement are most strongly represented.

Focuses include:


The books and papers of the distinguished scholar Edward Conze are divided between Special Collections and the general holdings of the Library. Conze specialised the study of India and Tibet. John Hurrell Crook’s papers include material on Zen Buddhism and Himalayan practice.

Early Science and Philosophy Collection

This collection gathers together much early printed material (15th to 19th century). In it the proponents of natural and revealed religion, the partisans of the divine right of kings and of republicanism, and the doubters and believers in miracles have their say. There is rare material relating to Hobbes and his enemies, and the works of the Cambridge Platonists and the Scottish Enlightenment are well represented.

Ley Trust Archive

The archive contains a broad-ranging collection of books, periodicals, pamphlets and papers concerning the interpretation of the landscape and earth mysteries. The works of Paul Devereux are well represented.

Mathew Blagden Hale

Papers of a senior cleric in colonial Australia, of great significance in documenting the work of the Poonindie Mission to the Aboriginal people. A few important early photographs survive here.

Monica Sjöö (1938-2005)

Held as part of the Feminist Archive South, the Sjöö Papers document the interests of an artist and radical political campaigner who sought an ecological and matriarchal spirituality.

Moravian Church (1742-1936)

This collection is founded upon the deposit of the archive and library of the Bristol Moravian Church of Lower Maudlin Street and the gift of rare published works by the Right Revd. G.W. McLeavy. Congregational diaries and minute books, spiritual memoirs, and records of synods are included. The strong missionary drive of the Moravian Church and its multi-national membership and German headquarters ensure that this collection has a significance far beyond the confines of Bristol. This is vividly demonstrated by the Danckerts atlas of 1696/97, much augmented with later maps and plans of places of interest to Moravians. There is much printed material in German: rare editions from London, as well as those originating on the Continent.

Pocock Collection

A large library centred on Reformation and English church history forms the bulk of this bequest, much of it collected by the respected church historian Nicholas Pocock (1814-1897) and bequeathed by his son Theodore. There are early editions by such key figures such as Bucer, Bellarmine, Bullinger, Latimer and Andrewes, as there are sources for the vicissitudes of the English Civil War, Interregnum and Restoration. The library is complemented by Nicholas Pocock’s manuscript notes.

Swedenborgian Church, Bristol

Minute books, registers and accounts from the re-founded Bristol church, with a small congregational library (principally mid-19th to 20th century).

Early eighteenth century engraving showing angels.
Headpiece for Gospel of Mark in the Oxford "Vinegar" Bible of 1717.
The Virgin Mary, sitting with a book and with raised hand.
Annunciation (detail): Hours of the Virgin in Cobden Book of Hours, fol. 35r.

A medieval manuscript. Online Archive Catalogue

Contains descriptions of many of our archive collections.

Books on a shelf. Library search

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The Cobden Book of Hours

An early 15th-century Book of Hours according to the use of Troyes, very regularly and neatly written (until the last three pages) and very lavishly ornamented.

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