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

Burmese palm leaf ms

Burmese Palm Leaf Manuscript (Eighteenth Century)

Palm leaf manuscripts served as the paper of the ancient world for thousands of years and continued to be used in parts of Asia until the introduction of printing presses in the early 19th century.

Burmese palm leaf ma

The leaves are laced together and then tied onto two solid wooden blocks, but their fragility and impermanence meant that documents often needed to be copied onto new sets of dried palm leaves.

Burmese palm leaf ms

The introduction of printing brought the cycle of copying from palm leaves came to an end, and today many governments are making efforts to preserve what is left of their palm leaf documents. The example at Chetham's is remarkably well preserved and beautifully embellished with hand-painted gold leaf.


Thanks to Dr Tilman Frasch, Senior Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University and a leading expert on Burmese history, we have been able to discover more about the palm leaf manuscript.

The manuscript, which dates from April-May 1741, was commissioned by Maung Tha Kyaw and his wife, royal tax collector of Ywa-pulai, and is a commentary on the Buddhist scriptures. Its full title is Vinayavibhanga-Atthakatha (i.e. the Samantapasadika by Buddhaghosa, the main commentary on the Vinaya or rules for monks). Each page has seven lines, and the leaves are contained between two teak blocks. There should be 295 folios but all before folio 123 are missing as well as the final folio. There are three folios with colophons and after each of these leaves, paper slips have been inserted showing in modern handwriting the title of the following section.