See what's inside our cabinet of curiosities

From a letter written by Mary Shelley to a pair of socks that were presented as evidence in a Scottish murder trial, the drawers of our Cabinet of Curiosities reveal the great range of materials we hold and the ways they can inspire and inform your research. Hover over the cabinet drawers to open them. Learn about the items and how they came to be in our collections as well as contextual information and suggested avenues for related research.

If you find something that piques your curiosity, why not consider using Special Collections’ archives and rare books as evidence in your essay or dissertation? Head over to our research planner which will guide you through the process of using primary sources in your work.

Illustrating insects

The short-horned grasshopper

A hand-coloured copper plate illustration depicting a short-horned grasshopper from British Entomology . . . By John Curtis (1862).

Coalminer's Typewriter

The coalminer's typewriter

The Olympia typewriter which belonged to one of the North East’s most important literary figures, Sid Chaplin. Many of the papers in the Chaplin (Sid) Archive were written on this typewriter.

King's Visit

Martin Luther King’s visit to Newcastle

Photograph of Martin Luther King signing Newcastle University's Visitor Book after receiving his honarary doctorate on 13 November 1967.

Medieval manuscript

Illuminated guide to Christian prayer

An illuminated medieval devotional book.

Woolf's Essays

Virginia Woolf’s Hogarth essays

Title page from a collection of first edition essays in three volumes, printed between 1924 and 1926 by Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s Hogarth Press.

Book of Demons

A poet's 'Book of Demons'

Page from a typescript of Barry MacSweeney's 'Book of Demons' as published by Bloodaxe Books in 1997 including annotations.

Suffragist's Banner

The suffragist’s marching banner

The banner from the archive of Dr Ethel Mary Nucella Williams (1869–1948), Newcastle’s first female doctor and a suffragist.

Children's book

Peg dolls go to work

One from a series of children's books featuring two Dutch peg dolls, Maria and Catharine Susan, by Kathleen Ainslie. In this story, they try a variety of jobs.

Circus act

Mr. Cooke walks the tightrope

A handbill advertising the coming of a circus and its prime act. It is an example of ephemera: cheaply printed transient documents that are rare suvivals today.

Novelist's Correspondence

Mary Shelley’s correspondence

Image of letter from Mary Shelley, famed author of Frankenstein, to Rose Stewart dated 1844.

Letter from Baghdad

The archaeologist’s letters

Letter from Gertrude Bell to her stepmother Florence Bell dated 1920.

Newcastle's architecture

Georgian re-development of Newcastle's town centre

A nineteenth-century engraving depicting Eldon Square as it was after Newcastle was redeveloped by John Dobson, Richard Grainger and John Clayton. It is one of many prints held in our collection of Local Illustrations.

Evidence from trial

A murderer’s socks, allegedly

A photograph of a pair of socks that were allegedly used as evidence in the trial for murder of Alfred John Monson in 1893.

Public health

A cholera outbreak satirized

A cartoon commenting on a cholera outbreak that was one of a series called 'Random Shots' by George Cruikshank, c.1832.

A naturalist's art

How to classify a field mouse?

An engraving depicting a long-tailed field mouse by local naturalist and artist, Thomas Bewick from his book, A General History of Quadrupeds (1790).

Controversial literary periodical

A yellow book that was not yellow at all

Aubrey Beardsley's front cover for the first issue of The Yellow Book, a literary and artistic periodical that supposedly took its name from the illicit French novels that came wrapped in yellow paper.

Coal mining in art

The art in coal mining

An etching by Thomas Harrison Hair depicting the pit-head structures and railways of Wallsend's Church Pit.

The short-horned grasshopper

A hand-coloured copper plate illustration depicting a short-horned grasshopper from British Entomology . . . By John Curtis (1862). Find out more

The coalminer's typewriter

The Olympia typewriter which belonged to one of the North East’s most important literary figures, Sid Chaplin. Many of the papers in the Chaplin (Sid) Archive were written on this typewriter. Find out more

Martin Luther King’s visit to Newcastle

Photograph of Martin Luther King signing Newcastle University's Visitor Book after receiving his honarary doctorate on 13 November 1967. Find out more

Illuminated guide to Christian prayer

An illuminated medieval devotional book. Find out more

Virginia Woolf’s Hogarth essays

Title page from a collection of first edition essays in three volumes, printed between 1924 and 1926 by Virginia and Leonard Woolf’s Hogarth Press. Find out more

A poet's 'Book of Demons'

Page from a typescript of Barry MacSweeney's 'Book of Demons' as published by Bloodaxe Books in 1997 including annotations. Find out more

The suffragist’s marching banner

The banner from the archive of Dr Ethel Mary Nucella Williams (1869–1948), Newcastle’s first female doctor and a suffragist. Find out more

Peg dolls go to work

One from a series of children's books featuring two Dutch peg dolls, Maria and Catharine Susan, by Kathleen Ainslie. In this story, they try a variety of jobs. Find out more

Mr. Cooke walks the tightrope

A handbill advertising the coming of a circus and its prime act. It is an example of ephemera: cheaply printed transient documents that are rare suvivals today. Find out more

Mary Shelley’s correspondence

Image of letter from Mary Shelley, famed author of Frankenstein, to Rose Stewart dated 1844. Find out more

The archaeologist’s letters

Letter from Gertrude Bell to her stepmother Florence Bell dated 1920. Find out more

Georgian re-development of Newcastle's town centre

A nineteenth-century engraving depicting Eldon Square as it was after Newcastle was redeveloped by John Dobson, Richard Grainger and John Clayton. It is one of many prints held in our collection of Local Illustrations. Find out more

A murderer’s socks, allegedly

A photograph of a pair of socks that were allegedly used as evidence in the trial for murder of Alfred John Monson in 1893. Find out more

A cholera outbreak satirized

A cartoon commenting on a cholera outbreak that was one of a series called 'Random Shots' by George Cruikshank, c.1832. Find out more

How to classify a field mouse?

An engraving depicting a long-tailed field mouse by local naturalist and artist, Thomas Bewick from his book, A General History of Quadrupeds (1790). Find out more

A yellow book that was not yellow at all

Aubrey Beardsley's front cover for the first issue of The Yellow Book, a literary and artistic periodical that supposedly took its name from the illicit French novels that came wrapped in yellow paper. Find out more

The art in coal mining

An etching by Thomas Harrison Hair depicting the pit-head structures and railways of Wallsend's Church Pit. Find out more