This page contains links to Libraries & Archives with significant holdings related to the Observatory. There are also links to sites which have republished material in digital form.
The University Library is the repository of the archived records of the Royal Observatory and other associated material. Not all the holdings have been catalogued, and, not all are shown on the library’s online catalogue. The National Archive Discovery Search Engine has a more complete listing (though it lacks detail). The collection includes the archive of over 9000 glass plates and negatives of the Observatory’s buildings and instruments that were originally transferred to the National Maritime Museum at the time of the Observatory’s closure in 1998.
The library has also digitised part of its collections together with material held by other bodies. These are of an extremely high quality and include 63,697 images relating to the Board of Longitude.
The older discontinued Janus catalogue (available via webarchive.org.uk) allows the user to see the whole catalgoue entry for a particular classmark on one web-page. It should be noted however that the pages are not updated, and not all classmarks are available.
Main catalogue and digital library:
The old Janus catalogue (archived):
The National Archives at Kew is the repository for the archived records formerly held by government departments. It holds a considerable number of files relating to the Observatory, many of which are complementary to the Observatory’s own archive at Cambridge. Relevant departments include the: Admiralty, Ministry of Works (and its predecessor bodies), Treasury, Department for Education & Science as well as the Privy Council, Cabinet Office and the Prime Minister’s Office.
Since 1998, The National Maritime Museum Library & Archive has been home to the Airy Library – the Observatory’s collection or rare books. The Library also holds copies of most of the Observatory’s published observations for the Greenwich Years as well as a fairly complete run of Nautical Almanacs. The Museum holds a small number of manuscript documents relating to the Observatory as well as an extensive collection of historic photographs of the buildings (of which most of the later are not catalogued, and some of which are copied from the archives in Cambridge (see above). Some objects associated with the Observatory held in the Museum’s collection can also be viewed on in the Museum website.
Located in Central London, The Royal Society holds a number of important manuscripts relating to the pre 1830 period – particularly DM5, MS371, MS372 and MS600. It also published Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society, in which many of the earlier Astronomers Royal published their papers. They can be downloaded via the links below.
Catalogue (Library and Archive)
Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society (1665-1886)
Philosophical transactions A of the Royal Society of London (1887-Present)
Notes and Records of the Royal Society
The third Astronomer Royal James Bradley was simultaneously the Savilian Professor of Astronomy at Oxford. The library holds various of his manuscripts including several that relate to his work at Greenwich.
The Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre holds some of the personal papers of the Astronomer Royal Nevil Maskelyne.
Holding the collections of the former Borough Museum and the Greenwich Local History Library, the Greenwich Heritage Centre was transferred to the newly formed Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust in the summer of 2014. The Centre holds a variety of material connected to the Observatory, from photographs and postcards, to its rare copy of the “pirated” edition of Flamsteed’s Historia Coelestis Libri Duo which was published in 1712 and is especially important as, unusually, it contains nine of the rare Francis Place Etchings which date from around 1676.
The Science Museum (London) has several telescopes and objects from the observatory in its collections. Much of the material is in stores and can be visited by special request.
Located in Central London, the Royal Astronomical Society published numerous papers authored by Observatory Staff. It also holds what is believed to be a complete run of the Observatory’s own publications from at least 1811 onwards. These include the Annals, Bulletins and Annual Reports.
The SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS) is a Digital Library portal for researchers in Astronomy and Physics, operated by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) under a NASA grant. The ADS maintains three bibliographic databases containing more than 10.6 million records: Astronomy and Astrophysics, Physics, and arXiv e-prints.
The Internet Archive is a digital repository of a wide range of books and other cultural media. Google Books connects readers to the digitised books of important libraries across the world.
The BT Digital Archives contain a number of unique images taken at the Observatory on behalf of the Post Office. Most are time related, but some are of telescopes and their accessories.
WorldCat is a global catalgoue that connects its users to the collections and services of more than 10,000 libraries across the world
Access to this archive requires a subscription. The British Newspaper Archive is a partnership between the British Library and findmypast to digitise up to 40 million newspaper pages from the British Library’s collection.