The University of Sheffield provides access to a wealth of rich sources material. The University Library Special Collections possesses many archive and print materials. Highlights include the Elizabeth Firth Manuscripts, comprising a series of finely-detailed diaries of a young girl in a Yorkshire village during the 1810s and 1820s, and a two-volume collection of caricatures by Thomas Rowlandson (1757-1827). Special Collections also has a collection of eighteenth-century pamphlets with strengths in drama, medicine, politics, religion and trade. The library holds runs of Sheffield newspapers (1794-1863), the Annual Register from 1758, the Gentleman´s Magazine (from 1731 onwards), The Spectator (1711-14) and The Tatler (from 1711 onwards).
The University Library also subscribes to a series of very important digital collections. These include the British Library´s 17th-18th Century Burney Collection of Newspapers and British Periodicals, 1680 – 1800, `Eighteenth-Century Collections Online´ (ECCO, a fully searchable database of 180,000 eighteenth-century printed books), and `Literature Online´ (LION, an enormous collection of English and American poetry and prose which also contains bibliographical records of articles, monographs and dissertations). The University is also the host institution for `The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1913´, a vital source for those researching not only crime and justice but also the lives of the non-elite.
There are many sources available for eighteenth-century studies in various city repositories and collections. Sheffield Archives & Local Studies have valuable collections of print and manuscript material. These include trade directories from 1774, newspapers from 1787, town plans of Sheffield from 1736 and county maps of Yorkshire from 1607. Amongst the manuscript collections are the Arundel Castle Manuscripts and the Fairbank Collection. The former date from the 12th to the 20th century, consisting of the muniments of the Dukes of Norfolk and relating to their Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire estates. This large collection allows study of work, class and urban and regional development. The important Fairbank collection consists of the plans and business papers of the Fairbank family of surveyors who practiced in Sheffield from about 1736 to 1848. This collection includes detailed annotated plans and other documents relating to domestic and public buildings, enclosure, canals and railways. There are many other ephemeral or miscellaneous items.
The University´s Turner Museum of Glass has a little-known but important collection of eighteenth-century drinking glasses. Museums Sheffield holds relevant collections in Decorative Art, Social History and Visual Art. The Metalwork collection is recognised as a nationally designated collection, and the Metalwork Gallery contains unrivalled displays in the history of style, design and production of metalware, much of it centred on the long eighteenth century.
Given Sheffield´s industrial past, several collections allow sustained research into the metal trades. These include those held at the Company of Cutlers (incorporated in 1624), Sheffield Assay Office (hallmarking Sheffield silver since 1773) and Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust. Together, these organizations boast extensive collections of print, manuscript, material culture, architecture and archaeological data.
Further afield, Sheffield is well-placed for research in other Northern and Midland cities (York, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham), and county archives. On the edge of the Peak District and close to many large country estates, several important collections in private country house archives are also easily accessible. The British Library reading room at Boston Spa, near Wetherby, West Yorkshire is also a short journey away. The University also runs a free minibus to Boston Spa.
Further details of manuscripts held in Sheffield and regional collections can be found through `Access to Archives´: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/a2a/