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History and architecture


When the Yorkshire College became the University of Leeds in 1904, the Library had a modest size of 4,742 arts volumes, 2,251 maths and science volumes and 1,139 technology volumes. By 1926 the University Library’s collection had grown to over 100,000 volumes.

The library’s collections also grew from donations by generous benefactors. The first endowment the Library received was from George Denison, who presented £225 in 1923, in memory of his two sons killed in action in the First World War.

By far the most important donation for the future of the library was from Lord Brotherton of Wakefield, who had one of the country's leading private collections of rare books and manuscripts. This collection forms the bedrock of our Special Collections. Brotherton's niece, Dorothy Una McGrigor Phillips, donated the Romany Collection in 1950, and in 1961 the Jewish historian Dr Cecil Roth donated over 900 items pre-dating 1850, including Hebrew bibles, literature and histories.

The millennium brought exciting new donations to enhance and complement our cultural collections. The manuscripts of Oscar Wilde and Evelyn Waugh joined the English literary collections as part of the Fay and Geoffrey Elliott Collection, presented to the library in 2002. Melvyn Bragg, author, broadcaster and a long-serving University Chancellor, donated the South Bank archive and his own collection of papers and manuscripts.

Today, the Library's collections hold almost 3 million items, to serve and inspire research and learning at the University of Leeds and beyond.