The Royal Institution
of Cornwall (RIC)

River Street, Truro, TR1 2SJ
Tel: (01872) 272205
Email: enquiries@royalcornwallmuseum.org.uk
Web: www.royalcornwallmuseum.org.uk


Where its all held

The Courtney Library

The RIC is the oldest established Cornish History Research Centre in the County. Since 1818 the RIC has pioneered Cornish historical and cultural research. Our membership is worldwide: details available on request. The library holds some of the most significant collections of Cornish manuscripts anywhere in the world. It also includes steam engine inventor and engineer Richard Trevithick's original correspondence, and internationally best-selling author, Winston Graham's original manuscripts.

Access and publications

The Courtney Library is a private library for RIC members although the study area is freely available to non-members for research. Wheelchair access to all facilities via lift (coffee shop, toilets)

Recommended for use of microfilm/fiche readers.

Free + SAE/IRC
Access and Scale of Charges [photocopies etc]; Copyright and Copying from Books and Manuscripts in the Courtney Library.
Parish Registers on Microfilm; Parish Register Transcripts; Sources for Maritime Research: these are 20p each, please send SAE / IRC.

ANNUAL JOURNAL and bi-annual NEWSLETTER - free to RIC members. We have some back numbers of the R.I.C. journal in stock from 1907 onwards, except for a large gap from 1939 - 1945. Details available on request.

Resources and facilities for researchers

The Courtney Library is used by almost 4,000 researchers worldwide each year. The subjects we cover include history, archaeology, geology, mining and religion with particular emphasis on the social and cultural history of Cornwall.

Reference only; no loans service. Holdings approx. 30,000 volumes.
Printed works include Cornish village, town, parish and county histories (some from the 17th century). Also guidebooks (19th/20th c); trades directories (from 1793); Telephone directories (from 1948).
Collections include approx. 2,000 volumes on the Fine Arts and books on maritime history (shipping); Cornish Methodist history and a substantial coverage in the Rolls series and 19th century Public Record Office publications (State Papers).

The titles held are wide-ranging and include national as well as regional and Cornish journals and newsletters:

Agricultural History Review (from 1953)
Antiquaries Journal (from 1921)
Antiquity (from 1927)
Archaeologia (from 1871)
Archaeological Journal (from 1845-1866, 1935 to date)
An Baner Kernewek (from 1975)
Cornish Life (from 1973)
Devon & Cornwall Notes and Queries (from 1900)
Devon & Cornwall Record Society (from 1945)
Devonshire Association Trans. (from 1862)
Gentleman's Magazine (from 1740-1753, 1780-1818 and 1838-1850)
Mariner's Mirror (from 1936)
Medieval Archaeology (from 1957)
Newcomen Society Transactions (from 1953)
Old Cornwall (from 1925)
Post Medieval Archaeology (from 1967)
Prehistoric Society Proceedings (from 1927)
Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society (from 1833)
Royal Geological Society of Cornwall (from 1818)
Royal Institution of Cornwall Reports (from 1818)
Royal Institution of Cornwall Journals (from 1864)
Scillonian Magazine (from 1925)
Sea Breezes (from 1946)
Ussher Society Proceedings (from 1962)
Western Antiquary (from 1881-1890)
Cardinham Cross
Cardinham Cross

NOTE: Enquire at nearest Public Library for details of Inter-Library Loan Scheme and for supplies of photocopying from above titles.

Cornubian (Falmouth) (1831-1832)
Courier (London) (1796-1797)
Royal Cornwall Gazette (Truro) (1801-1951)
Sherborne Mercury (Sherborne) (1798-1816)
West Briton (Truro) (1810-1856)
Western Luminary (Exeter) (1813-1828)

NOTE - The above newspaper titles are bound original paper copies. Due to the fragile nature of certain issues, individual volumes have been withdrawn. Microfilmed copies are being progressively introduced from which print-outs will eventually be made available.

Collections of printed and manuscript maps and plans - principally of Cornwall (some from 17th c). Includes county, parish and some estate maps and mining plans. Ordnance survey maps (Cornwall) 1st edition 1809-1813 (scale: 1 inch to 1 mile); 1st edition 1880 (scale: 25 inch); 1st and 2nd editions 1880 and 1906-1909 (scale: 6 inch). Some town maps 1st edition 1880 (scale: 10 feet).

Large collections of mid-19th century posters, handbills and broadsheets. Subjects include agriculture, mining, religion.

Comprehensive index arranged by subjects, places and people of illustrative material contained in printed books and engravings collection.

Approximately 35,000 original items (some dating from the 1850's but principally from 1880 to 1910). This is considered to be the best collection of original early photographs (glass-plates, negatives and prints) in the County. Subjects include maritime, fishing, mining, transport, places and events.

Details available on request: The Senior Curator, The Photographic Collection at The Royal Institution of Cornwall (see address above).

Cornish parish registers - approximately 50% of county available on microfilm - some from mid-16th century to 1959.
Census 1881 (Cornwall and Devon only) on microfiche.
International Genealogical Index (Devon and Cornwall only) on microfiche.

For more than 100 years the RIC has been the repository for the papers of local historians and researchers in specialist subjects. Currently we hold more than 100 boxes of this type of material. The subjects include Cornwall's Shipwrecks from 1790's and other maritime matters such as ports and harbours; The Post Office Packet Service (Falmouth vessels, captains and sailings from late 18th century); Turnpike roads, railways, mining and fishing, archaeological records, county-wide survey of Cornish crosses (including photographs and sketches); Cornish language, customs and culture; parish notes and the Truro Research Project.

Cornish built ships from 1790's compiled by Captain George Hogg. Details include place, date and builder, registry number, physical description, construction materials, owners and trade.

The Library contains a number of card and file indexes compiled by members of staff over a period of almost 50 years. This work is continuing with the aid of volunteers. The subjects include Cornish Inns and Innkeepers, watermills and the History of Truro. There are surname indexes to the documents collections [see under DOCUMENTS] and the Phillimore and Taylor Cornwall Marriage Register series (marriages pre-1812) and marriages in Cornwall of mariners, soldiers and Custom and Excise Officers (1754-1837). Special subjects indexed from 19th century local newspapers include Cornish People Overseas (1840-1885); Cornish Memorial Scheme [emigrants]; Migrants from Cornwall (UK only) etc.

Collections of about 30,000 original documents (from 12th century) principally estate papers of local landowning families. Some archives have been transcribed with translations. [see under CATALOGUES]. Advance notice of intended visit is recommended.

Catalogues and lists of documents as well as other finding aids are available in the Library.

Excessive levels of photocopying have unfortunately caused substantial and, in many cases, irreparable damage to many of the original bindings in the printed books collections. Therefore no photocopies can be supplied from items printed prior to 1900. Fragile, oversized or bound manuscript items will likewise not be photocopied. (see under LEAFLETS: Copyright & Copying from Books and Manuscripts in the Courtney Library).


Within easy walking distance of Truro city centre.

Opening Times

Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday
10.00am - 1.00pm & 2.00pm - 4.00pm
by appointment only

Free for members or £4.50 for a Library Pass

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