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

Astrologica

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

Ipomadon

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

H

Portrait of Humphrey Chetham

The portrait of Humphrey Chetham (1580-1653) which is displayed in the Reading Room is the only known portrait of this weathy gentleman merchant and founder of the Hospital School and Library.

For such a well-known painting, its uncertain provenance is surprising. The half-length portrait is of a man wearing a distinctive embroidered cap and clothes that one would associate with a gentleman of the first half of the seventeenth century. It would not have been unusual for a man of Chetham's wealth and position to sit for such a portrait. But the picture contains no symbolism relating to Chetham's public offices, religious beliefs, business affairs or charities, and, moreover, there is no direct evidence of the identity of the artist, when and where the portrait was painted, and why and for whom the likeness was preserved.

It is not listed in any inventory of Chetham's goods, nor in any of the early archives of the Chetham's charity. The earliest mention of it is in 1704 when the Bishop of Carlisle, William Nicholson, visited the charity and wrote, 'His picture, drawn at a guess hangs… in the Dineinge Room (ie the Baronial Hall). Why he thought it was not painted from life is not clear. Indeed when it comes to this well-known and frequently reproduced painting, there are more questions than answers.

For a little more information on Humphrey Chetham, visit our History page.