The main body of manuscripts collected by the Library does not cover the entire field of Congregationalism in a consistent manner, but does offer representative material for many key figures, for instance Philip Henry (1631-96), Matthew Henry (1662-1714), and Mrs Sarah Savage, née Henry (1664-1752), Joseph Hussey (1660-1726), Isaac Watts (1674-1748) and Thomas Bradbury (1677-1759). As with the printed books,the Library’s manuscript holdings are mainly the creation of nineteenth-century collectors, and necessarily reflect the interests of those collectors and the collecting opportunities that came their way. But again, the collection is not confined to Congregationalism. A small number of mediaeval Bibles, Books of Hours and patristic works were donated by Robert Mackenzie Beverley (1798?-1868). From Sir John Bickerton Williams (1792-1855) come many items associated with the Henry family. But the great bulk of the manuscripts come from Joshua Wilson (1795-1874), and consists not only of his collections of historical material, but also his voluminous correspondence on matters of contemporary concern, from the 1820s to the 1870s.
Areas covered by the manuscripts include local history and the records of churches; ministers, their training and work (including sermons); notes (mainly students’ notes) of lectures given in the nonconformist academies; and matters of doctrine and liturgy. Evidence for the lives and opinions of those involved include diaries, commonplace books and correspondence.
Letters held by the Library include the papers of the nonjuror Robert Nelson (1665-1715); the correspondence of James Peirce (1673-1726) with English and foreign divines; a collection of autograph letters of Philip Doddridge (1702-51), principally to his wife; miscellaneous letters addressed to George Whitefield (1714-70), and mostly endorsed by him; letters fromSelina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon (1707-91), to Thomas Wills (1740-1802) and Selina Margaretta Wills, née Wheler (1730-1814); and letters of the Revd Richard Slate(1787-1867) to Joshua Wilson.
Collections of Autographs include one formed by Dr John Stoughton (1807-97) and his son Thomas Wilberforce Stoughton.
Collections of papers include those of John Rippon, senior (1751-1836), including copy for the Baptist Register and incorporating letters and papers of John Collett Ryland (1723-92) and John Ryland (1753-1825); the papers of the McAll Mission among the Working People of Paris, run by Robert Whitaker McAll (1821-93) and his wife Elizabeth Siddall McAll,née Hayward.
Diaries and commonplace books include the autograph diary of Philip Henry (1631-96); transcripts of several volumes of the diary of Matthew Henry (1662-1714); ten leaves of the diary of George Whitefield (1714-70); the diary of William Kingsbury (1744-1818); and the commonplace book of John Cockin (c.1783-1861).
Autobiographies include that of William Kiffin (1616-1701).
There are miscellaneous literary and other records.
Detailed calendars of the manuscripts have been prepared, together with a brief handlist, which may be consulted in the first instance.