Library Services



Special Collections holds one of the largest and most comprehensive mathematical collections in the UK and Ireland. This guide provides an overview of relevant rare book and archive collections.

Page from Geometria theoretica practica by Samuel Charles Kechel

How to use this guide

This guide is intended as a starting point to help you find resources for your studies or research and is arranged in alphabetical order by collection name.

The collections described below are either Printed Collections or Archives and Records.

To find items from the printed collections, search the library catalogue. Follow the links in the collection descriptions below for advice on how to search and browse particular printed collections.

To find archive and record collections, search for the reference on the online catalogue for UCL’s archives and manuscripts.

Accessing these collections

Please see our website for further information and to make an appointment to view any of these collections in one of our reading rooms.

The collections

Biometrika Trust (Archive)

This archive contains papers relating to the foundation and early days of the journal ‘Biometrika’ (1901-1916) and papers relating to the Biometrika Trust (1935). Further papers relating to both can also be found in the ES Pearson archive. ‘Biometrika’ was founded as a journal for the statistical study of biological problems by Francis Galton, Karl Pearson and WFR Weldon in 1901. It was initially edited by Pearson and Weldon.

Black, Arthur (Archive)

A series of 23 manuscript notebooks by Arthur Black on mathematical statistics. Black studied under William Kingdon Clifford, Professor of Applied Mathematics at UCL in the 1870s.

Burnett, J C (Archive)

Thirteen volumes of manuscript notes and calculations about magic squares by mathematician John Chaplyn Burnett, author of “Easy Methods for the Construction of Magic Squares” (London, 1936).

College of Preceptors (Archive)

The College of Preceptors was established as a professional body for secondary teachers. It set examinations for both pupils and teachers and its journal, The Educational Times, featured mathematical problems and articles by many prominent mathematicians. The collection contains an almost complete set of the journal, which is now freely available online.

  • Search Archive ref: COP.
De Morgan, Augustus (Archive)

Several small collections of papers of Augustus De Morgan, first Professor of Mathematics at UCL. These include correspondence, lectures, family papers and miscellaneous notes.

Euclid Collection (Printed Collection)

This collection is dedicated to editions of the works of Euclid. It comprises of ca. 430 titles, and the collection is particularly strong in early works. It contains eighty-three editions printed before 1640, including the first edition of the Elements, published by Erhard Ratdolt in Venice in 1482. It also includes the first translations into Italian (1543), German (1562), French (1564), English (1570) and Arabic (1594), as well as later translations into Turkish, Chinese, Persian, Hebrew, Finnish and other languages.

Galton Papers (Archive)

Consists of papers relating to the personal history of Galton and his family (31 boxes), papers relating to Galton's scientific work (114 boxes), and correspondence (19 boxes). It is one of our larger collections relating to the history of statistical science. Now known primarily for his work on eugenics and its legacy, Galton’s archive also represents his interests in data collection, criminology and statistics.

Galton Laboratory Collection (Printed Collection)

This collection consists of the working library of the Galton Laboratory and Galton’s personal library. It includes ca. 300 early 20th-century titles on statistics in German and in English.

Galton Laboratory (Records)

Consists of records of the Laboratory accumulated since its creation in 1904 to the late 20th Century. Comprises business papers, research papers, data for studies, records relating to 'Annals of Human Genetics' (formerly 'Annals of Eugenics'), 'Treasury of Human Inheritance', visual and audio-visual material, material relating to the history of the Laboratory and its staff, and printed material and ephemera. Note that the archive was collected in a piecemeal fashion and its coverage is not comprehensive; there are very large gaps in the series of records.

The Graves Library (Printed Collection)

The largest book collection dedicated to the history of mathematics in the country. It contains around 9,000 manuscripts, rare books, pamphlets and runs of academic journals, covering the middle ages up to the late nineteenth century. Around half of the Graves Library is dedicated to pure mathematics, with the remainder covering applied mathematics. Well represented branches of applied mathematics include surveying, building, astronomy and astrology, and physics.

Lighthill, Sir [Michael] James (Archive)

Lighthill was an applied mathematician and pioneer in the fields of hydrodynamics, wave mechanics, aerodynamics, biomechanics, and aeroacoustics. The collection of 115 boxes includes working papers, lecture notes, publications, correspondence and personal papers dating from the 1970s-1990s.

London Mathematical Society (Printed Collection)

This library of around 150 rare books includes a copy of the 1770 edition of D’Alembert’s Traité d'équilibre et du mouvement des fluids, and the first editions of Newton’s Opticks (1704) and Euler’s Mechanica (1736). The more extensive 19th-21st century holdings of the LMS have been integrated into the modern UCL Library collections.

London Mathematical Society (Archive)

This collection is also deposited on loan at UCL and comprises around 500 letters to Thomas Archer Hirst, 1853-1892, as well as various administrative papers and ephemera.

  • Search Archive ref: LMS.
Pearson, Karl (Archive)

This extensive archive covers all aspects of Pearson’s life and career and includes material relating to several generations of the Pearson and Sharpe families as well as KP’s research and publications. He was a statistician and a proponent of eugenics, being encouraged in both fields by Francis Galton, and with W F R Weldon co-founded the discipline of biometry. In 1884 he was appointed Goldsmid professor of applied mathematics and mechanics at UCL and in 1911 became the first Galton Professor of Eugenics. The collection also includes some records of the Department of Applied Statistics and the journal Biometrika.

Pearson, Egon Sharpe (Archive)

E S Pearson, son of Karl Pearson and his first wife Maria Sharpe, was Professor of Statistics at UCL from 1935. The collection includes professional and personal papers and correspondence, records of the Department of Statistics; papers relating to the journal Biometrika; and papers relating to E S Pearson's collaborative work with Jerzy Neyman, Walter Shewhart, Florence Nightingale David and Herman Otto Hartley. Also includes material used in preparation for a biography of William Sealy Gosset.

Schools Council for Curriculum and Examinations (Archive)

The Schools Council was established in 1964 by the Secretary of State for Education. It took over responsibility for curriculum and examinations. The collection consists of official records, minutes and committee papers, papers relating to particular programmes and projects, and administrative, subject and policy files. These include various programmes relating to the teaching and examination of mathematics.

  • Search Archive ref: SCC.
For material relating to the teaching of mathematics, there are several collections of interest at the UCL IOE Archives. See for example the papers of George and Judith Baines (ref: BA), Mike Baker (ref: BAK), Louis Christian Schiller (ref: CS), the Girls Day School Trust (ref: GDS), the IOE’s institutional archive (ref: IE) Jessie Frances Harrison (ref: JFH), records of Jack Kitching and former HMIs (ref: KIT), and the records of the Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (ref: UCE).