What is in the catalogues?

Our catalogues contain records describing the collections of the Royal Society and our historic Fellowship of eminent scientists. Together, the collections form a chronicle of the history of science and document the pivotal role played in the development of modern science by the Royal Society and our Fellows since our foundation in 1660.

The collections are divided into three catalogues: archives, printed works and biographical records of past Fellows.

Archive catalogue


Contains records of unpublished material relating to the history of science from the 12th century onwards, as well as the Society’s collection of museum objects. The collection focuses mostly on the work of the Royal Society and our Fellows since our foundation in 1660.

Please note that you can best search the Society’s extensive collection of images, engravings, photographs and negatives of Fellows, as well as images of manuscripts and objects through the digital Picture Library. Where applicable, the Picture Library will provide a link to the relevant entry in the archive catalogue where you may find additional information.

Find out more about the different aspects of the archive collection:

Manuscripts
Personal papers
Scientific papers and correspondence
Administration and institutional records
Audio visual collections
Museum objects

Printed works catalogue


Contains records of the printed books in the Royal Society library. Since the foundation of the Society in 1660, Fellows have been encouraged to present their published books to the library, and the collection therefore documents the works of many of the world’s leading scientists for over 350 years.

Donations, including the Arundel Library given by the Duke of Norfolk in 1667, extend the chronological range back to the 15th century. The library has also acquired an extensive range of international scientific journals. Secondary research material includes biographies of Fellows, works on the history of science, and popular science books acquired via the Society’s book prizes.

Past Fellows database


A list of all past Fellows and Foreign members of the Royal Society providing basic biographical information. This list contains information on deceased Fellows only. It is possible to search for current Fellows in the separate Fellows directory.

Biographical records are available for all our Fellows from 1660 onwards, over 7,500 individuals. Much of the information is based on ’Bulloch’s Roll’, a biographical listing of Fellows from 1663 to 1940 compiled by William Bulloch FRS. From 1941 onwards, Fellows have been invited to provide personal records in order to document details of their lives and careers in a standardised way.

The records contain information including: Fellows’ full name and titles, dates of birth, death and election to the Society, category of membership, offices held, Society medals won and lectures delivered. They may also include details of a Fellow's education, career, membership of other societies, references to further biographical sources and a list of Royal Society archives associated with the Fellow.

A complete listing of the Fellowship from 1660 to 2019 is available for download (PDF).


Archive catalogue


Manuscripts


The collection contains manuscripts relating to natural philosophy and other learned pursuits as well as documents recording the activities of the Society and our Fellowship. It includes manuscripts dating back to the 12th century with the majority of the material dated from the 17th century onwards.

Select material can be viewed in Turning the Pages, an online gallery of some of the most important and beautiful manuscripts in our collection.

Catalogue Reference NumberTitleDates
MSManuscripts General: diverse series of papers by, about, or collected by Fellows of the Royal Society 12th - 21st century
MM Miscellaneous Manuscripts: single manuscript letters or small groups of related documents considered too small to be added to the Manuscripts General series 15th - 20th century


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Personal Papers


The Society holds collections of correspondence, manuscripts and personal papers of eminent scientists, most of whom have been Royal Society Fellows, including several Presidents of the Society. Fellows’ papers can also be found in the ‘Manuscripts General’ collection, this is usually the case when the papers relate to a specific aspect of a Fellow’s life or work. Discrete personal papers collections tend to be larger and have a broader coverage of the individual’s career.

Material less than 30 years old may not be available to researchers for confidentiality reasons, please refer to individual catalogue entries or enquire in advance if you wish to consult recent material. In addition to the following collections, there are some additional uncatalogued personal papers. Please enquire to: library@royalsociety.org

Catalogue Reference NumberNameDates
ASKAskonas, Brigitte (1923-2013)1950s-1980s
MSBBartlett; Maurice Stevenson (1910 - 2002)1929-2002
BEDBeddington, Rosa Susan Penelope (1956-2001)1975-2002
PBBlackett, Patrick Maynard Stuart (1897-1974)1911-1975
CBBlagden, Charles (1748-1820)1771-1820
RBBoyle, Robert (1627-91)17th century
GLBBrown, George Lindor (1903 - 1971)1925-1970
RHBBrown, Robert Hanbury (1916-2002)1911-2007
HDDale, Henry Hallett (1875-1968)1888-1968
AEEgerton, Alfred Charles Glyn (1886-1959)1898-1970
HFFlorey, Howard Walter (1898-1968)1924-1968
JHGGaddum, John Henry (1900-1965)1922-1965
TGGold, Thomas (1920-2004)1944-2004
HSHerschel, John Frederick William (1792-1871)1812-1865
JSHHiggins, Julia Stretton1964-2010s
CHHinshelwood, Cyril Norman (1897-1967)1919-1974
JHJJeans, James Hopwood (1877-1946)1896-1945
KLJJohnson, Kenneth Langstreth (1925-2015)1949-2010s
DEJJones, David Edward Hugh - pseudonym Daedalus (1938-2017)1955-2017
OLLoewi, Otto (1873-1961)1917-1960
CLHLonguet-Higgins, Christopher (1923-2004)1943-2004
JWLLubbock, John William (1803-1865)1821-1860
RORRobinson, Robert (1886-1975)1902-1983
FSSimon, Francis (Franz) Eugen (1893-1956)1906-1956
HWTThompson, Harold Warris (1908-1983)1934-1984
CWWilson, Charles Thomson Rees (1869-1959)1896-1910


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Scientific papers and correspondence


Includes letters sent to the Society, papers presented to meetings of Fellows and papers commissioned by the Society.

Many of the papers were published in Philosophical Transactions, the journal published by the Society. The Philosophical Transactions and other journals published by the Royal Society are accessible online. Some of the archive material related to the history of scientific publishing at the Royal Society is available online as part of our 'Science in the Making' Platform.

Catalogue Reference NumberCollectionDates
APArchived Papers: scientific papers sent to the Royal Society which remained unpublished at their time of receipt1768-1984
CLP Classified Papers: scientific and other papers sent to the Royal Society1660-1741
ELEarly Letters: original manuscripts of letters to the Royal Society1613; 1642; 1651-1740
L&PEarly Letters: original manuscripts of letters to the Royal Society1613; 1642; 1651-1740
MAMeteorological Archives: manuscripts of meteorological observations, with magnetic surveys and tide tables1706-1915
PTPhilosophical Transactions: manuscript versions of papers published in the 'Philosophical Transactions'1807-1865
PPProceedings Papers: manuscripts and occasionally proofs of papers published in the 'Proceedings of the Royal Society1882-1894
RRReferees' Reports: reports on scientific papers submitted for publication to the Royal Society from 1832 to date (peer review)1831-


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Administrative and institutional records


The Society has maintained administrative records and correspondence since its foundation in 1660.

These records include the Society’s Journal Books, which contain minutes of the meetings of the Society since its first official meeting in 1660; the Charter Book, which records the signature of each new Fellow; Election Certificates for all Fellows and Foreign Members since 1849 (when certificates became compulsory) and many examples of earlier election documents.

Minutes of Council, the Governing body of the Royal Society, and of Society Committees are also listed, these are available to the public if 30 years have elapsed since the date of creation, more recent institutional records are closed for business and confidentiality reasons.

Catalogue Reference NumberTitleDates
JBOJournal Book Original: minutes of the ordinary meetings of the Royal Society1660-
CMOCouncil Minutes Original': minutes of meetings of the Royal Society Council1663-
CD'Council Documents': letters and papers submitted to the Royal Society Council1900-1930
CARoyal Society Council Meeting Agenda1950-1975
DCDeeds, Charters and Charter Book1662-
CMBCommittee Minute Books of the Royal Society1678-
ABAccount Books of the Royal Society comprising financial accounts, cash books and ledgers and administration of grants and trust funds1660-2004
RBORegister Book Original: the Register Books contain copies of scientific papers submitted to the Society, the original documents may be found in the Classified Papers1661-1739
LBOLetter Book Original: copies of letters received by the Society, the originals of which are in the Early Letters collection1661-1740
RSLRoyal Society Letters: letters received by the Royal Society, its President or Officers (continued in Miscellaneous Correspondence)1737-1799
MCMiscellaneous Correspondence: letters received by the Royal Society on official business (continuation of Royal Society Letters)1800-1925
NLBNew Letter Books: copies of outgoing administrative letters of the Royal Society1885-1931
DMDomestic Manuscripts: letters and papers relating to the Royal Society's administration1662-1884
MDAModern Domestic Archives: material relating to the Society's administration of its internal affairs1870-1981
RSCRoyal Society Club Archive1743-
EXPRoyal Society Expeditions Papers20th Century
PC Press cuttings and printed ephemera relating to, and commenting on, the Society's activities and collections1846-2012
ECCertificates of Election and Candidature for Fellowship of the Royal Society1731-
LCLapsed Certificates of candidature for Fellowship of the Royal Society1941-


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Audio visual records


Comprises sound and video recordings of Royal Society meetings and expeditions, lectures given by Fellows, and public broadcasts involving Fellows or relating to the Society. Audio visual material can occasionally also be found in other collections within the archive, notably personal papers.

We do not have facilities to play audio-visual material at the Royal Society library. In some cases we have digital copies which we can provide access to, and we are able to arrange viewings for films at London Metropolitan Archives or the British Film Institute.

If you would like to access material from the audio-visual collections, please contact us at library@royalsociety.org and we can advise you further.

Catalogue Reference NumberCollectionDates
AVAudio-Visual Archive1931-


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Museum objects


The museum objects collection includes a range of instruments, artefacts, specimens and furniture from 360 years of science history at the Royal Society. Building up this collection of curiosities and inventions was an important activity of the early Fellows, who wanted a repository to represent all aspects of natural philosophy. This resulted in the creation of a museum known as ‘The Repository’, first described by Nehemiah Grew in 1681. Though inadequate storage meant that many of these holdings were donated to the British Museum in 1781, the Society is still home to a number of intriguing objects. Those retained are listed in the museum objects collection alongside all subsequent acquisitions.

Additional information and digital images for museum objects can often be found in our Picture Library.

If you would like to access material from the museum object collection please contact us in advance at library@royalsociety.org to confirm that material is accessible, as items may be on loan or require special arrangements for viewing.

Catalogue Reference NumberCollectionDates
MOBMuseum Objects1660-2012


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Collection highlights

Browse the records of some of our collections, which cover all branches of science and date from the 12th century onwards. These include the published works of Fellows of the Royal Society, personal papers of eminent scientists, letters and manuscripts sent to the Society or presented at meetings, and administrative records documenting the Society's activities since our foundation in 1660.