Stunning collection offers insight into Victorian Bradford


The BRADFORD Library – which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year – has several collections of nationally significant books.

One of these, the Federer Collection, consisting of 8,000 books and pamphlets, purchased by the City Library on the death of owner Charles Antoine Federer in 1908, provides a fascinating window into Victorian Bradford.

Federer, born in Switzerland in 1837, arrived in England 20 years later, worked as a teacher in Derbyshire and East Yorkshire, then in Low Moor, Bradford.

Passionate about languages ​​and fluent in Latin, Greek, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Danish and Dutch, Federer later got a job as a lecturer at Bradford Mechanic’s Institute. and at the Technical College.

Federer’s extensive library now forms the Federer Collection of Yorkshire Ephemera, housed in the Local Studies Library on the ground floor of Margaret Macmillan Tower, Princes Way.

The collection covers a multitude of subjects. Unsurprisingly, Federer being a non-conformist, many of the articles concern Christian theology and the Bible.

As a Methodist, he became interested in the history of his denomination by collecting early biographies of John and Charles Wesley, as well as the lives of many ministers and lay preachers. These included not only Wesleyan Methodism, but also materials on Primitive Methodism, the Wesleyan Reformed Church, and Protestant Methodism.

The ecumenically minded Federer also collected material on Anglicanism as well as various non-conformist churches such as Baptists, Moravians, Quakers (Society of Friends), Congregationalists, Unitarians and lesser-known groups such as than Swedenborgians, Sudcottians and Britons. Israelites.

Many objects in the collection are non-religious and cover the political, economic, social, legal and civic aspects of Victorian Bradford. Of particular interest are the reports of Bradford Chiefs of Police in the 1880s and the directories of the Bradford Trade and Labor Council. Various leaflets refer to Chartism and the Independent Labor Party (founded in Bradford in the 1890s).

As a maverick, Federer was interested in issues such as the anti-gambling league; the Temperance movement; church rates, the dismantling of the Anglican Church and public education.

The collection contains reports of the national census of 1851 and the local religious census undertaken by the Bradford Observer in 1881 “with press and pulpit commentary”.

Other books and pamphlets cover local topography, geology, fossils, archaeology, astronomy, dialects as well as poetry and literature.

Some articles relate to Patrick Brontë and his famous literary daughters such as Abraham Holroyd’s “Currer Bell and her sisters”, 1855, and Reports of the Brontë Society & Museum, 1896.

The collection contains beautifully illustrated guides to places such as Whitby and Scarborough, Bolton Abbey, Cleckheaton and Castleford. Railway enthusiasts may consult Crowther’s Penny Railway Guide, 1875.

Various books focus on Titus Salt and Saltaire. There are several articles about Edward Baines, owner of the Leeds Mercury and William Byles, owner of the Bradford Observer.

Federer, perhaps an avid sportsman himself, collected publications on amateur athletics, angling, archery and cricket. A very rare item in the collection is the Yorkshire Owl Cricket Annual, Illustrated Cricketer’s Guide, 1896.

The Federer collection contains many documents on medicine, such as reports on the local Fever Hospital, Bradford Children’s Hospital and Hospital for the Blind. Among the invaluable primary sources are the 1904 report on diphtheria in Bradford and the 1849 report on cholera in the western constituency.

The teaching material includes not only grammar books and other textbooks but also class lists relating to Bradford Grammar School, Burnsall Grammar School, Ackworth School and Bradford School Board Minutes.

Several articles are bizarre and controversial, such as the temperance tract entitled “A lecture on a pint of beer: what it is and what it is not, what it is worth and what it costs”, and a leaflet on ‘Capital Punishment: The Thoughts of the Hanged Man Above the Gallows’.

The collection contains rare periodicals such as the Babbler, or Weekly Literary & Scientific Intelligencer, the Bradford Chronicle from the 1850s and 60s; the British Spiritual Telegraph, 1859, and the Eastbrook Herald, 1889 to 1894.

Building on the work done earlier by Bob Duckett, a former Principal Librarian at Bradford, I am putting the catalog online to make the collection known and accessible worldwide. So far, about 40% are cataloged and can be viewed on the library’s website.

Requests are welcome. If you see something of interest in the online catalog, please call the library and make an appointment to view the selected item.

Alternatively, an appointment can be made to view the index of local study records and request any items of interest. Many leaflets have been microfilmed. Please remember, however, that items in the Federer collection are for reference only and cannot be borrowed.

As part of the anniversary celebrations, a series of lunchtime lectures will be given at Local Studies in June. In one of these lectures, I will talk about Charles Federer and his incredible collection.

For more information on the Federer Collection or any of Bradford’s other collections of books, photographs and maps, please contact Local Studies on 01274 433688; or email [email protected]


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