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About the Samuel Butler Project


St John’s College Library holds an extensive collection of material produced by and relating to the Victorian polymath Samuel Butler (1835-1902), which includes:

  • around 100 boxes of papers, articles and correspondence
  • more than 600 printed books
  • around 450 paintings, watercolours, drawings and prints
  • 50 artefacts
  • a substantial photographic archive, comprising more than 1500 glass plate negatives, five albums of snapshots and 550 loose photographs, plus 125 prints produced more recently for exhibitions.

The Samuel Butler Project ran from July 2011 to June 2013, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and St John’s College. Its aim was to catalogue the collection fully, and to make it accessible to researchers, schools and the public through exhibitions and events.

Rebecca Watts was employed as the Butler Project Associate, responsible for most of the cataloguing and for planning and hosting exhibitions, events and school visits. Rebecca had previously worked as a postgraduate researcher on the papers of the poet Louis MacNeice and as an intern with the collections at the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere.

Rebecca kept a monthly diary of her work, which you can read on the Butler Project Diary pages.

If you have an enquiry about the Samuel Butler Collection, please contact the Special Collections Librarian, Kathryn McKee, by email at or by phone on 01223 339393.