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The Manuscripts Department holds four major collections of business archives. Records of the trading firm, Jardine, Matheson & Co., transferred from Hong Kong in 1935 and in various tranches since then, form perhaps the largest single accumulation of company papers relating to commerce in the Far East during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Papers, photographic negatives, and cine film formerly stored in the head office of Vickers Plc on Millbank chart the rise and post-war metamorphosis of what was once one of the largest armaments companies in the world. The bulk of this collection covers the period 1870-1970, and includes records of Vickers' former rivals Armstrong Whitworth of Newcastle, taken over in 1928. With its absorption by Sun Alliance in the mid-1980s, some central archives of the insurance company Phoenix Assurance, founded in 1782, were transferred to the Library. These include surviving records of several Phoenix subsidiaries, Pelican Life and the London Guarantee and Accident Co. among them. Papers and negatives of the Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company chart the history of a nationally-important precision engineering concern between 1878 and 1971.

Access to the Jardine, Matheson archive is subject to special conditions and is at the discretion of Matheson & Co, part of the Jardine Matheson Group: please refer to the application form. Printed copies of the form are also available by post: please contact John Wells in the University Library (details below). No restriction is placed on any part of the archives of Vickers or CSIC. Those wishing to consult the Phoenix archive require the permission in writing of Royal & Sun Alliance plc, and should in the first instance contact John Wells. Generally speaking a fifty-year closed period applies to papers in the Phoenix collection, although there are several exceptions.

There is an online catalogue of the Jardine Matheson Archive on the ArchiveSearch database. The thistle and the jade: a celebration of 175 years of Jardine Matheson, edited by Maggie Keswick, revised and updated by Clara Weatherall, London: Frances Lincoln Limited, 2008, provides some indication of the collection as a whole.

There is an online catalogue of documents and photographs in the Vickers Archive on the ArchiveSearch database. Also of use is L.A. Ritchie, The shipbuilding industry: a guide to historical records, Manchester, 1992. J.D. Scott's Vickers: a history, London, 1963, draws heavily on the collection, and Scott's own papers are themselves now incorporated in the archive.

The Phoenix archives are described in H. A. L. Cockerell and Edwin Green, The British insurance business: a guide to its history and records, Sheffield, 1994 and were used extensively by Clive Trebilcock in Phoenix Assurance and the development of British insurance, 2 vols, Cambridge, 1985-1998.

For the CSIC see M.J.G. Cattermole and A.F. Wolfe, Horace Darwin's shop: a history of the Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company 1878 to 1968, Bristol, 1987.

Handlists to all four collections are available from the Manuscripts Reading Room desk.

Contact: John Wells (01223 333055;


Cambridge University Press archives

The University Archives holds one major business archive. Cambridge University Press was established as the University’s own printing house in 1696, although the University had been authorised to licence printers since 1534, with the first book printed in 1584. The Press has been the Queen's Printers since 1989.

Minute books, photographs, building plans, financial records, printing ledgers, art work, newspaper cuttings, and author correspondence files give evidence of the people and changing technologies of Cambridge University Press.

Some treasures in the Press Archive include the Articles appointing Thomas Thomas as Printer to the University (1586), Press petitions to the monarch relating to printing privileges and disputes (from 1615), vouchers for payments made by University Printers (from 1696), minutes of Syndicate meetings (from 1696), agents' accounts for the delivery of books (1766), letters from authors to the Press (from 1873), estimates and orders records (from 1840), and a printed war-service list for staff (1939–45).

The Cambridge University Press Archivist is working to improve the structure and detail of the current listing of the Press Archive, to complete the retrospective conversion of paper finding aids and to create descriptions from scratch for uncatalogued material. The resultant catalogue will greatly enhance access to the archives, which, at more than 500m, form the largest constituent part of the University Archives outside the records of the central administration and are unique among publishers’ records in their diversity and time span. Cambridge University Press generously agreed to fund this project, which began in January 2010.

Records are being added to ArchiveSearch, the webserver for catalogues of Cambridge archives. Please see the collection level description for more information about the size and scope of the archive. To understand how the records are arranged and catalogued, it is important to recognise that they fall within various categories and it may be necessary to search in more than one place to find the information you require. Papers created before the appointment of the first Curators (later Syndics) in 1696, will be found in the University Archives rather than the Press Archive (for example, the Letters Patent of 26 Henry VIII granting to the University the right to appoint three stationers within the University and to print all manner of books, 20 July 1534 is found in UA Luard 162). Internal administrative records created after 1696 are organised within a distinct Press Archive.

Press records have been transferred to the University Archives on permanent loan at various dates from 1957 onwards.
For enquiries relating to the Cambridge University Press archives, please contact Rosalind Grooms (, Press Archivist.