Edward Allen Brotherton, the first Baron Brotherton, was born on 1st April 1856 in Ardwick, Manchester.
Lord Brotherton was an industrialist who created the largest chemical manufacturing empire of his time. His first encounter with the world of books was in February 1922 when he attempted to buy the 15th century Towneley manuscript of the Wakefield mystery plays to present to the city where he had been mayor. He was outbid at the auction by the American book dealer A.S.W. Rosenbach.
Brotherton's niece-in-law, Dorothy Una Ratcliffe was disappointed by their failure to purchase the manuscript, so he took her to the bookseller Bernard Quaritch and bought instead a first edition of Andrew Marvell's Miscellaneous Poems (1681).
Lord Brotherton and Dorothy started collecting in earnest, engaging J. Alexander Symington as their librarian.
They quickly assembled a large and varied collection, purchasing both ready-made collections and individual books and in 1926 Brotherton published an account of the highlights of his collection as it then stood:
In only four years, he had acquired the four 17th century Shakespeare folios and other rare works of English literature as well as 12 medieval manuscripts and numerous incunabula. These were all kept at his home in Leeds, Roundhay Hall.
In 1927, he donated £100,000 to build a new library for the University of Leeds. The Brotherton Library opened in 1936 and still houses his personal collection of books and manuscripts, which he left to the University on his death in October 1930.
The collection included over 35,000 books, 400 manuscripts, 4,000 deeds, and 30,000 letters.