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Due to refurbishment works in the Sydney Jones Library, Special Collections and Archives is closed to users from Monday 3 June until Monday 16 September (inclusive). We're still available for your enquiries via email.

Special Collections & Archives: Liverpool Royal Institution Exhibitionaccredited archive service logo

SC&A includes manuscripts and archives, medieval to modern; early and finely printed books, and science fiction collections.

Roscoe's University: Liverpool Royal Institution 1817-2017

An exhibition in co-operation with the University's School of the Arts, and School of Histories, Languages, and Cultures to mark the bi-centenary of the Liverpool Royal Institution and William Roscoe's opening address at its Colquitt St building on 25 November 1817.

Image of exhibition poster and cases

Liverpool Royal Institution was the brainchild of Liverpool's cultural historian, abolitionist and MP, William Roscoe, and friends.

Their 1814 Detailed Plan envisaged a 'School, Public Lectures, facilities for Societies, Collections of Books, Art, and Natural History, a Laboratory and other Apparatus', and meeting rooms for the Proprietors, the plan's financial backers.

The new Institution drew on the cultural impetus Roscoe and his circle had given Liverpool during  the late 18th century - founding the Athenaeum, Literary and Philosophical Society, Lyceum, Liverpool Academy and Botanic Garden - in the service of “promoting the increase and diffusion of Literature, Science and the Arts”.

The Institution opened in 1817 and developed throughout the 19th century into "the nucleus of a modern University College, with separate Faculties of Medicine, Science and Arts”.

Highlights of the exhibition include:

  • Contemporary watercolour of the Liverpool Royal Institution building on Colquitt Street, kindly loaned by Liverpool Record Office at Liverpool Central Library
  • William Roscoe's presentation copy of his 80-page opening address for the Liverpool Royal Institution
  • Sixteenth-century books bequeathed to Liverpool Royal Institution Library by Benjamin Gibson
  • 1828 colour plate atlas of Roscoe's Monandrian Plants, with illustrations drawn from examples in the Liverpool Botanic Gardens on Myrtle Street
  • Advertisement for 1819 lectures on Ventilation, with doodles of chemical apparatus perhaps made during the lecture
  • Cartoon of G. H. Rendall, President of the Liverpool Royal Institution and Principal of University College, Liverpool, referring to the transfer of the 1834 Medical School to the new College, which became the University of Liverpool