101 Treasures of Chetham's

A weekly series in which we highlight some of the Library's most interesting stuff, which as well as famous books and manuscripts includes furniture, paintings, and objects from the museum collection.

Limited space means that much of this material is not on permanent display, making this a rare opportunity to get a closer look at some of the jewels in the Library's crown.

Each weekly instalment is archived to create a unique perspective of the Library's holdings. Click on the links below to see treasures from previous weeks:

Opera of St Augustine, Bishop of Hippo

Sir Henry Knyvett's 'Defence of this Realm'

Ben Jonson's Plato

The Manchester Man

Sir William Hamilton: Campi Phlegraei

Tim Bobbin

Hooke's Micrographia

Clog Almanack

Budé Bible

Thomas Barritt's Sketchbook

Strawberry Hill

Aulus Gellius

John Dee

Newton's Principia

Harrold's Diary

Albert Memorial

Bolton's Harmonia Ruralis

Henry VIII's Prosper of Aquitaine

Saxton's Atlas of England and Wales

Latin Vulgate Bible

Portrait of Humphrey Chetham

Plantin Polyglot Bible

Karl Marx's Desk

Kuerden's History of Lancashire

Fore-edge Painting

Poetry of Alain Chartier

Glass Slides

Hollingworth's Mancuniensis

De Bry's Emblemata


Rocque's Map of London

Library of the Parish Church of Gorton

Christians Awake

Cologne Chronicle

Casson and Berry

Mouth of Hell

Manchester Scrapbook

Valentine's Rebus

Luddite Ticket

Book of Common Prayer

Flores Historiarum

William Seward's Diary

The Pigmy Revels

Papal Prayers of Alexander VII

Register of Swan Marks

Palm Leaf Manuscript

Hiroshige Woodblock Print


Death Mask

Medical Recipes

Mandate from Walter Ralegh

General Wolfe's Sword

Halliwell-Phillips Collection

Theatre Royal Playbills

Lysons' Woodchester

Hogarth Prints

Gibbs' Book of Architecture

Mercator's Atlas

Hobson's Musci Britannici

Lord's Prayer in Shorthand

Bomberg Biblia Rabbinica

Homer Editio Princeps

Grant of Edward VI

De Laet's Novus Orbis

Hymnorum de Sanctis Collectio

The Manchester Comet

John Donne's Poems

Withering's Account of the Foxglove

Milton's Paradise Lost

Percival's Census of Manchester

C16th and C17th Greek Orthodox Books

Works of the French Prophets

Southey's Letters to Espriella

Works of Athanasius Kircher

Arabic New Testament

Works of Terence in French and Latin

James Crossley

Chetham's Library Accessions Register and Booksellers' Invoices

Peterloo Massacre

Besler's Hortus Eystettensis

The Papers of Laurence Vaux

Belle Vue

Sarum Missal

Nuremberg Chronicle

Material Relating to John Dalton

The Armburgh Roll

Incline Press

William Hulme's Survey

Acta Sanctorum

Genoa Quadruplex Psalter

William Tyndale's New Testament

Historic Bindings from the Byrom Collection

Diaries and Life Writing

Reading Room Clock

Humphrey Chetham's Private Papers

South West Prospect

Tractatis de nigromatia

Wooden Printing Press

Aulus Gellius illuminated initial

Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae (Latin MS) (c. 1470)

Aulus Gellius (ca. 125 AD—after 180 AD), was a Latin author and grammarian, famous for his Attic Nights, a commonplace book, or compilation of notes on grammar, philosophy, history, antiquarianism and other subjects, preserving fragments of many authors and works who otherwise might be unknown today.

Like many books in the library, this manuscript is more important because of its previous owner than for its subject matter, having been owned at one time by Hungary's greatest King, Matthias Corvinus.

Corvinus (1443-1490), was King of Hungary and Croatia from 1458. He was an indefatigable reader, frequently staying up half the night reading. His library, the Bibliotheca Corviniana, was one of Europe's greatest collections of secular books, second in size only to the Vatican Library. The size of the library is unknown, and estimates range from as little as 500 to as many as 50,000 volumes.

The Library was destroyed in the Turkish sack of Budapest in 1526, but over two hundred books, mostly manuscripts, have survived. The Chetham copy of Aulus Gellius is one of only a handful of Corvinas in UK libraries.

Aulus Gellius with Corvinus binding

The manuscript is written in a clear Roman hand on 252 leaves of vellum, with Greek quotations added in red by a different hand. Each book opens with a large initial decorated with 'white vine-leaf' ornament and the first page of text has a three-quarter border of the same ornament. A coat of arms at the foot of the page has been defaced.

The manuscript was produced in Florence, written by a scribe named Humbertus for the merchant Francesco Sassetti. Sassetti was forced by financial difficulties to sell some books at the end of his life and a number were bought by Corvinus.

Aulus Gellius Erased Arms

The history of the manuscript after the sack of Budapest is not known. in the eighteenth century it was owned by the Manchester poet and shorthand writer John Byrom and was presented to the Library in 1870 by his descendent Miss Eleanora Atherton.

The book has possibly the Library's most beautiful binding: a red goatskin, tooled in gilt and blind, a characteristic product of the Corvinus bindery in Buda. The title is stamped in gold on the lower cover, and Matthias's emblem, a raven standing on a gilt branch and holding a gilt ring in its beak, appears in the centre of both covers.