Code it be Magic: References for Archbishops’ Papers

Why do the Library’s collections of material for Archbishops of Canterbury have such a varying array of reference codes, often including abbreviations, names, numbers or slashes? What lies behind this array of identifiers, each of which should be unique for an orderable archival object, and how do they reflect the collections’ long history?

The earliest records of the administration of Archbishops of Canterbury are the Archbishops’ registers, which don’t have a reference code as such, so the register of Matthew Parker (1504-1575) is Reg. Parker for example. More extensive official papers of Archbishops, which exist from the mid-17th century but not in great quantities until the mid-19th, were traditionally bound into volumes and referenced by the Archbishop’s name and then the volume number, from eighteenth century material for Archbishop Thomas Secker (1693-1768) such as ‘Secker 2’ to more modern material such as ‘Coggan 31’ which includes requests for Archbishop Coggan to pray for rain during the long hot summer of 1976.

Currently work is progressing on the papers of Archbishop Robert Runcie (1921-2000), and his material is housed in archive quality folders with each file having an alphanumeric code which identifies the series of which it forms a part. This could be the so-called ‘main’ section, which reflects the main filing system used within Lambeth Palace at the time or series relating to specific activities, such as Anglican Communion visits (ACV). Some material was not managed as part of these series, so has a reference which reflects that; examples include photographs (PHOTO) and diaries (DIARIES). Further such material relating to senior staff from the period will be added to the catalogue in due course.

From 1933-1982 the Council on Foreign Relations served as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s ‘foreign office’ and its papers were managed separately. Cataloguing work on these is ongoing and the material has the reference CFR. From 1982 its functions were merged into the main Palace administration, so relevant material is within the Runcie papers.

For many earlier Archbishops, some papers which might be considered to be their official material are within the Library’s sequence of manuscripts, which have the reference MS. Often these are items which have entered the Library well after the period of office of the relevant Archbishop. A good example is MS 3274, which are papers of Archbishop Charles Manners Sutton (1755-1828), and which include letters from numerous bishops and politicians. They were acquired through the help of the Friends of the Library in 1984.

The best way to identify relevant material within the Archbishops Papers is to use our online catalogue of archives and manuscripts, where relevant references should be visible in the ‘Order No’ field. But don’t be surprised if they take a variety of forms.

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