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Hartley Collection, Special Collections, Hartley Library: Home


For general enquiries about the Hartley Collection contact:

Jenny Ruthven:

email: or tel. 023 80593335

Search Room Bookings:

email: or tel. 023 80592721

Address: Special Collections, Hartley Library, University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton SO17 1BJ

Special Collections Home Page

Printed Special Collections

A-Z List of Collections

Related Collections

Printed Collections

  • Bullar Collection the library of John Bullar, a contemporary of Henry Robinson Hartley

Archive Collections

  • MS 45 Papers of William Mogg

Related E-Book Collections

Access to some collections is restricted to members of the University.

Hartley Collection

In many ways a typical gentleman’s library, the Hartley Collection reflects Henry Robinson Hartley’s interests in travel, the classics and natural history. Reluctant to travel himself, Hartley acquired books to “fill out his ideas” of different parts of the world, collecting descriptions of world voyages, of journeys to Africa and Arabia, Lapland and Russia, as well as reports of tours through Europe.

His lifelong interest in classical literature makes this one of the largest sections of the collection whilst the Arabic, Hebrew and Turkish grammars and dictionaries demonstrate his wider interest in languages. 

Hartley’s natural history books include a copy Martini Lister Historiae Conchyliorum (1685-1698), engraved throughout, and John Latham’s A General Synopsis of Birds (1781-1787).

Extent: Over 500 books ranging in date from the 17th century to the early 19th century.

Location and Access


The Hartley Collection is part of Special Collections on level 4 of the Hartley Library and items are fetched for use in the Archives, Manuscripts and Rare Books Search Room.


The Search Room is open Tuesday-Thursday 1000-1600. All visits are by prior appointment and all visitors will be required to book their visit and to order their material at least 1 working day in advance. 

Bookings are made by emailing providing details of name, University ID number (members of the University of Southampton only), permanent residential address and contact details, date of visit and list of items to be consulted.

If you do not have a University I.D. Card, you will need to show photographic I.D. and a form of I.D. which includes your permanent residential address when you enter the Hartley Library and also when you arrive at the Search Room.


The books are listed by author in the Card Catalogue which is in the Film and Music Resources Room on level 5 of the Hartley Library.

There are records for a small proportion of the collection on WebCat, the online catalogue.

Collection History

Henry Robinson Hartley (1777-1850) bequeathed almost all of his estate to the Corporation of Southampton, intending that it should be used to 'promote the study and advancement of the sciences of natural history, astronomy, antiquities, classical and oriental literature in the town, such as by forming a public library, botanic gardens, observatory'. It was also his wish that his three houses in the High Street should be maintained and his effects, in particular his manuscripts, preserved.

In 1862, the Hartley Institution, the forerunner of the University of Southampton, opened on the site of Hartley's property. In the period since his death, his manuscripts had been destroyed by his trustees, who regarded his revolutionary and atheistical ideas as 'obscene and blasphemous', but his personal library survived, becoming the first of the new library's special collections.

Bookplate of the Hartley Bequest

Hartley Bookplate 

Reprographics Service

Bound volumes cannot be photocopied but you can request photographic or microfilm copies, subject to the age and condition of the item.

See Reprographics Service for a list of the types of copy available and charges.

John Latham A General Synopsis of Birds v.1 (1781)

Title page of book with coloured engraving of bird

Rare Books Hartley Coll. QL 673