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Archives and special collections

The University’s Archives and Special Collections are closed until further notice. Please send any enquiries to

Post-1945 York Theatre Royal Archive

York St John University acts as custodian for the post-1945 York Theatre Royal Archive. The Archive contains scripts, prompt copies, stage plans, programmes, photographs, show tapes, books of playbills, posters, press cuttings and information on actors from the period after 1945. The collection receives updated material on a regular basis.

Members of staff, students and the general public may access the collection by prior appointment. For further information please contact

Search the Post-1945 York Theatre Royal Archive

The Rees-Williams Collection of Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian Children’s Books

Originally collected by James Rees-Williams, a former York St John Librarian in the 1970s, the York St John University collection of historic children's books consists of over 3000 volumes dating from c1780 to the 1920s.

The collection includes well-known 'classics' of children's literature, as well as a wide spectrum of adventure yarns, improving tales, annuals and now long-forgotten stories. The majority of books are children's fiction, however, a number are early text books, as well as fables and fairy tales, adventure yarns, nursery stories, religious and instructive works, annuals, and historical and biographical books. They represent a wide ranging picture of the writing for children in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

There are many well-known authors included in the collection including Mrs Molesworth, Mrs Sherwood, Lewis CarrollJ. M. Barrie, Charles Kingsley, Jules Verne, Robert Ballantyne, W. H. G. Kingston, Charlotte Yonge, Hesba Stretton, and G. A. Henty. Most of the books have decorated covers, are attractively bound and contain illustrations by artists, including the illustrations of Arthur RackhamRandolph Caldecott, Kate Greenaway and Walter Crane. They in generally very good condition, and retain their original colours.

About the Rees-Williams Collection

YSJ Historical Archives

The University Archive pre-1975 is housed in the archives room in Fountains Learning Centre. It contains items from the York Diocesan Society, Ripon Training College and York Training College, such as Minute books, correspondence, Academic Board papers, Admissions Registers, College magazines, photographs etc.

There is no public access to the Archive, which is held in Fountains Learning Centre, but if visits are arranged in advance, material can be brought out for viewing. Photocopying is possible by arrangement. Digital photography may be permissible: please check with Library & Learning Services staff.

Please email for further information, to arrange a visit, or to deposit items of interest. Alternatively, please write to us at: Library & Learning Services, York St John University, Lord Mayor's Walk, York YO31 7EX.

View the Historical Archives

Yorkshire Theatres playbills and posters

Within the City of York there are a number of collections of playbills which were published to accompany productions at theatres which were part of the ‘York Circuit’ – which initially included the York, Hull, Leeds, Wakefield, Doncaster and Pontefract Theatres. The oldest playbills, dating back to the mid eighteenth century, and collected by the antiquarian and bibliophile, Edward Hailstone (1818-1890), were bequeathed to the Dean and Chapter of York Minster and placed in the York Minster Library as part of what is now called the Hailstone Collection.

Further playbills from the Yorkshire Theatres are deposited with York City Archive. These cover much of the nineteenth century, although there are gaps in the collection from the latter part of the century. A small amount of playbills from the Yorkshire circuit are housed at the Borthwick Institute. There are also both playbills and posters in the post-1945 Theatre Royal Archive Collection housed at York St John University. Many of the playbills from these collections provide historical detail and unwitting testimony which illuminates the social and political history of the time.

Part of the agreement between the Theatre Royal and York St John University in respect to the Theatre Royal Archive, was to look at the eventual digitisation of the collection. It was felt that a collaborative pilot project between all parties (to include the University of York which hosts the cataloguing records of the York Minster Library) to digitise a small number of playbills as a pilot project, would afford a superb platform for, and generate interest in, the playbills themselves and the Theatre Royal Archive generally. There would also be the added possibility that further playbills, from the ‘missing’ period of the nineteenth century, would be discovered and added to the collections.

A pilot project was implemented to digitise 30 of the playbills and posters, covering the period 1746 to the present day, using the Creative Commons license. The digital images are hosted by York St John University, currently on Moodle.

The latest playbills to be digitised are those belonging to the City Archives and are specific to the period just before and during the Great War. A selection of these formed part of a series of exhibitions in Fountains Learning Centre in 2014, focusing on the Great War.

View the Yorkshire Theatres Playbills & Posters here – external users should select "Log in as a guest" to proceed.

Accessing the Archives and Special Collections

Archives and Special Collections are open during the Archives and Special Collections staffed hours, which are usually 9am-5pm weekdays.

Please email if you wish to access items held within our Archives and Special Collections.

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