Summary: over 500 works, almost entirely the accumulation of one collector covering the period 1900 to 1920 plus a few of earlier date.
The collection was built up by James Hardcastle of Halifax over a 20 year period and loaned out to museums and libraries across the North of England. One part of the collection was first on display at Towneley for the Winter exhibition of 1919. The honorary secretary managed to secure another part of the collection to remain on long term loan. He explained to the audience at the opening of the Spring and Summer exhibition in 1920 that the illustrations "were got with the idea of creating an interest in art amongst the scholars, and to assist them in such work". A local newspaper review of the exhibition in April 1922 highlighted these book illustrations, remarking that they were easily understandable and suggesting they were among the most interesting pictures in the whole exhibition. The entire collection was purchased from Hardcastle's widow in October 1927.
There are no plans to add to the collection. Little, other than basic cataloguing has been done on the collection since its acquisition. The basic details have been added to the Modes database as have high quality digital images.
Only a small part of the collection has been displayed at Towneley in recent years. The whole collection is stored in melinex sleeves in solander boxes rather than in frames, however when put on display, individual works are sometimes left in frames after returning to store. Some of the works were still mounted on acidic boards in 20015, at which time there were no conservation plans.