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Courtney Library

Cornish History Research Centre

The Courtney Library and Archive is the Royal Institution of Cornwall’s collection of manuscripts, books, and archival materials, housed at Royal Cornwall Museum. It is known as a unique Cornish history research centre for both Members of the Royal Institution of Cornwall and academic researchers.

The library holds some of the most significant collections of manuscripts relating to Cornwall anywhere in the world. Among other topics, we hold books and manuscripts covering:

  • Cornwall and its cultural heritage: artefacts & language
  • The social history of modern Cornwall, experiences & beliefs
  • Medieval and early modern Cornwall, 12th to 18th century
  • Mining, engineering, and smelting
  • Cornish archaeology
  • Place and locality.

Some of our ‘star’ collections include original manuscripts by Poldark author, Winston Graham, and original correspondence from Cornwall’s own giant of steam, Richard Trevithick. 

The Courtney Library is a research library, meaning that it is open to the public by appointment only.

Booking an appointment:

The Courtney Library and Archive will be closed from 1 January to 28 February 2024. In the new year, we are embarking on an exciting project to revitalise the Rashleigh Gallery. For this, we will need all available hands on deck to safely decant the fragile mineral collections while works take place in the gallery.

During this time, we will be continuing our programme of book cleaning and commencing an audit of the book stock. We will aim to answer enquiries once per week, and appreciate your patience as we begin this exciting transformation project.

To make an appointment outside of these dates, please email: [email protected] 

We ask for at least a week’s notice when booking an appointment, with more notice if possible. This is to ensure that we are able to provide researchers with the best possible service. 

When booking an appointment, please let us know the subject you wish to research (with as much detail as possible) with book titles and/or class marks, and archival reference numbers if possible. 

Opening times:

  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday: Closed
  • Wednesday: 10am – 1pm
  • Thursday: Closed
  • Friday: 10am-1pm and 2pm-4pm

Admission cost: 

Research Pass: £4.50 for the day, this can be purchased at the Museum’s front desk. 

Members of the RIC go free, please bring your membership card and scan it at the Museum’s front desk. 

Photography with own camera: 50p per image or £6 for a day’s camera use. (Please note that a copyright declaration form is required for this, and not all our manuscripts or books are able to be copied). 

For digital copies of documents, an additional admin fee applies. Please email [email protected] for advice on this. 

Library and Archive Catalogue

A working copy of our library book catalogue is available to download below. There may be some errors in this document, as it is a working copy being continually updated by a group of dedicated volunteers. 

We do not yet have a full catalogue for all the manuscript material we hold here. Some catalogues are available to view on site at the library. Some of our catalogues are available to search online at the National Archives website: search ‘Royal Institution of Cornwall’ plus either subject/name/place/date. 

For any other enquiries, please refer to the Collections Enquiries FAQs before emailing. 

Welcome to the Courtney Library catalogue of printed books.

This catalogue has some c25,000 entries and can be downloaded as an EXCEL spreadsheet using the link below.  This edition also includes pamphlets and brochures together with some photocopied items, typescripts and ephemera such as scrapbooks.

Our dedicated Volunteers will continue to update this catalogue offline in readiness for the next online edition.

Download a copy here:

Book Catalogue PDF

Book Catalogue Excel Spreadsheet 


  1. Searches can be made by using either the ‘find’ button on the header bar, or by using the keys ‘CTRL + F’.
  2. Entries with no author/editor appear at the end of the catalogue.
  3. The default position is in author/editor order.
  4. Due to the large size of this catalogue the ISBN and pagination columns have, of necessity, been ‘hidden’.
  5. Column widths can be changed by double clicking on the column you’d like to enlarge.
  6. Please quote the class number (see column 2: ‘classmark‘) when requesting any items from the catalogue. NOTE: Due to a cataloguing backlog, accessions post-2008 have no classification number.  For those items please quote the temporary ID number instead (see column 1: ‘ID‘) when contacting us.

This is a working document and therefore not perfect. To report any errors, suggested improvements or queries please contact: [email protected]