The Collections




Rare Books Collection

The John Innes Centre holds an impressive library of rare books from 1511 representing an important resource covering natural science, horticulture and botanical art across five centuries.

Subjects range from plant anatomy, medical botany, and plant pathology, to ornamental plants, horticulture, gardening, plant breeding, and agriculture. Included is a fine collection of floras with illustrations of the native plants of Britain and Europe, and of rare and exotic plants discovered around the world.

View the John Innes Historical Collections’ Rare Books Catalogue






The Archive

The John Innes Centre Archive stores over a century of records on genetics, plant breeding, horticultural research, and plant and microbial science.

Notable collections include the William Bateson archive, comprising 10,000 items (c. 1869-1926) documenting the life and work of Britain’s founding father of genetics.

thearchiveThe Archive also holds the records of the Genetics Society (from 1919), and of research organisations which have been incorporated within the John Innes Centre: the Virus Research Unit (1952-79), the Plant Breeding Institute (c. 1928-1993), and the Unit of Nitrogen Fixation (1966-1987).

The collections include letters, lecture notes, notebooks, specimens, book manuscripts, photographs, press cuttings, cartoons, and oral history.

View a list of Significant Collections in the Archive

View the William Bateson Letters Database


wtvm050454A 15 month Wellcome Trust funded project to catalogue the William Bateson and Cyril Darlington archives took place 2012-13. A Bateson and Darlington Archives Blog about the collections was written by archivist Simon Coleman, and in 2014 a searchable catalogue became available.






historyofgeneticsHistory of Genetics Library

4,000 books on Darwin, evolution, genetics, anthropology, biogeography, geology, palaeontology, microscopy, science and religion, population and many other subjects, as well as popular science work.

The Library holds works on heredity by geneticists, biometricians, and cell biologists from around the world including Gregor Mendel, William Bateson, Hugo de Vries, Francis Galton, Karl Pearson, and T H Morgan.

The History of Genetics library is complimented by two annotated libraries in the John Innes Archive: the William Bateson and Cyril Darlington libraries.

View the John Innes Historical Collections’ History of Genetics Library Catalogue






instituterecordsInstitute and Alumni records

The John Innes Centre’s records encompass a wide range of Institute activities since its foundation in 1910 as the ‘John Innes Horticultural Institution’.

Captured are the careers of gardeners and scientists, while photograph albums, cricket scoring books, pantomime scripts, tape recordings, memoirs, and film recall the atmosphere and communal life of John Innes laboratories and glasshouses.

Key series include: Minutes of the John Innes Governing Council and the John Innes Charity; Directors’ Correspondence; Annual Reports; and Estate Records, including maps and plans of the Institute’s Merton, Bayfordbury and Colney sites.






unexpectedThe Unexpected

The John Innes historical collections are diverse and exceptional.

Our earliest records include the Court Rolls and Court Books of the Manor of Merton (1701-1928), and material relating to John Innes’ many business interests in Merton, the first home of the John Innes Horticultural Institution.

Unusual items in the Innes Family Collections include letters from James Archibald Ines to his sister during the Boer War. Other shelves hold letters by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, hand-drawn maps of bomb strikes near the Institute during WW2, boxes of horticultural medals, an early calculating machine…

What treasures will you find on your visit?





If you have any questions about the John Innes Historical Collections, or simply wish to find out more, please see our Frequently Asked Questions section, or alternatively, contact us via our Get In Touch page.