Lilly Library Manuscript Collections


The Manby mss., 1855-1882, consist of correspondence concerned with the proposed construction of the Suez Canal, chiefly to and from Charles Manby, 1804-1884, civil engineer, secretary to The Institution of Civil Engineers for seventeen years, and Fellow of the Royal Society. He was the son of Aaron Manby, 1776-1850, who built the first iron steamship to go to sea.

The early correspondence relates the planning for the meeting of the International Commission for Piercing the Suez at Paris in late October of 1855, the exploratory expedition of the Commission to Egypt in December, and the Report of these activities. A reunion of the Commission occurred in Paris in June of 1856 and soon thereafter orders began to go out for the practical considerations of canal building: pumps, engines, pipes.

In July of 1857 a contretemps occurred over Robert Stephenson's speech to the House of Commons on the 17th, to which speech Ferdinand de Lesseps took umbrage, and an exchange of letters took place, here present.

The later letters refer to the final illness of Stephenson, a proposed paper on the Suez by W. O'Brien, and the belief of Member of Parliament John Bramley Moore that "the day is far distant" when the mails and passengers will go through the canal.

Especially descriptive of the work of the Commission, the times, and the places, are the letters of John Robinson McClean at Lake Timsah in Egypt on December 23, 1855; of Robert Stephenson from Malta on June 24, 1857; and of Stephenson to Ayrton at Cairo on August 2, 1857. Other letters originated from Paris and London. A number of the letters are in French. Some of the letters are published: see the Inventory.

The correspondents are Jules Barthelemy Saint Hilaire, Charles Cannon, Sir Daniel Adolphus Lange, Ferdinand Marie, vicomte de Lesseps, John Robinson McClean, Charles Manby, John Bramley Moore, W. O'Brien, James Meadows Rendel, E. Sanderson, J. Spiers, Robert Stephenson, and Paulin Francois Talabot.

There is an item inventory of the collection in the Vertical File.

Collection size: 75 items

For more information about this collection and any related materials contact the Public Services Department, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405. Call (812) 855-2452 or send an email using our Ask a Question form.