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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: William Noble Booksaccredited archive service logo

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

William Noble Books

The 2000-volume personal library of William Noble (1838-1912), Treasurer of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board.

Image of William Noble's bookplate

Image: William Noble's bookplate

Illustrated, finely printed and limited editions of English books of the late 19th and early 20th century, including a complete set of the publications of the Kelmscott Press, all but one of the Eragny press titles produced in Noble's lifetime, and most of the output of other notable private presses of the period, particularly the Ashendene, Daniel, Doves and Vale Presses. Noble was actively collecting to within a month of his death on 9 November 1912.

The Ashendene Press books include the privately circulated 1898 Hymns and prayers [for] the Marriage of St John Hornby and Cicely Barclay; the Doves Press books include the Press's major work, the Bible of 1903-1905. Letters and woodcuts by Edward Gordon Craig (LUL MS 20) and other letters relating to the collection are kept separately in the manuscripts sequence.

Noble's bequest of 1912 provided for the foundation of the William Noble fellowship (held in the Department of English), and left all his books to the University in the expectation that they "will be used with clean hands". The collection, much of which Noble bought after his retirement in 1906, has been described as "something that had reached the point where possession ends and personality begins".

Some highlights from the William Noble collection

 Front cover of Vale Press edition of John Keats: A Book Beautiful

Vale Press edition of John Keats: A Book Beautiful

SPEC Noble A16.41-42: Charles Ricketts of the Vale Press evolved a severe rectilinear style in which the position of every line or dot was the result of careful experiment, as shown in the special binding for Keats's Poems, 1898 commissioned by William Noble.

Finding and using

  • Noble collection
  • A catalogue of the books collected by William Noble (Liverpool, 1913)
  • At the Sign of the Dial Exhibition catalogue