Library Services


Graves Library


History of Mathematics 

Page from Geometria theoretica practica, a manuscript from 1665 on applied geometry by Samuel Charles Kechel (MS GRAVES 33)


51 manuscripts, ca. 9000 books, pamphlets and periodicals, including 105 incunabula

Scope and content

The Graves Library is the largest collection dedicated to the history of mathematics in the country. It comprises of 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 collection is dedicated to pure mathematics, with the remainder covering applied mathematics. Well represented branches include surveying, building, astronomy and astrology, and physics. A significant proportion of the material is in foreign languages, with an emphasis on German and French.

Around a quarter of the printed items date from before 1700. The collection contains copies of first and early editions of standard texts, such as Newton's Principia and Opticks, Thomas Salusbury's Mathematical collections of 1661-65, and works by Sacrobosco, Priestley, Boyle, Kepler, Galileo and Napier. The 51 manuscripts date from the 13th to the 19th century. They include eleven rare medieval manuscripts on astronomy, astrology, mathematics and medicine. 


John Thomas Graves, Professor of Jurisprudence at UCL between 1838-43, bequeathed this collection to the university in 1870.

References to finding aids and published descriptions

  • The Graves manuscripts are listed in D.K. Coveney, Descriptive catalogue of the manuscripts in the Library of University College (London: University of London, 1935)
  • Dorling, A.R. 'The Graves mathematical collection', Annals of Science, 33 (1976), 307-10


The collection is fully catalogued. To browse the records for the printed material, conduct a search for GRAVESCOLLECTION, without spaces, on Explore. To view the records for the manuscripts, conduct a search for MS Graves on the UCL Archives catalogue.