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Old English Libraries, The Making, Collection, and Use of Books During the Middle Ages by Ernest A. Savage

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An excellent example of a stocktaking record made
at Christ Church, Canterbury, has been preserved. The
inspection took place in 1337. First are recorded the
books missing from the two "demonstrations," as recorded
"in magnis tabulis," e.g.,

Primo: deficit liber Transfiguratus in Crucifixum, ad
quem est in nota Frater W. de Coventre.

Nineteen books were missing from the two "demonstrations,"
or displays. Nineteen service books were missing
"in parvis tabulis." No less than thirty-eight books,
twenty-eight of them for service, either of the large or the
small tables, were wanting: for these deceased brethren
had been responsible.[1]

[1] Literae Cantuarienses, ii. 146; James (M. R.), 146.

The "large tables" are believed to be boards whereon
the borrowers of books had their names and borrowings
noted. "I find," writes Dr. James, "in a St. Augustine's
manuscript a note written on the fly-leaf by a monk, of
the books pro quibus scribor in tabula'--'for which I am
down on the board.' "[1] Large tables were in use at
Pembroke College, Cambridge; probably they were of a
similar kind. "And let the said keeper,"--so the statute
runs--"have ready large pieces of board (tabulas magnas),
covered with wax and parchment, that the titles of the
books may be written on the parchment, and the names
of the Fellows who hold them on the wax beside it."[2]
Monastic catalogues were sometimes written on such
boards. At Cluni, Mabillon and Martene found the
catalogue inscribed on parchment-covered boards three
feet and a half long and a foot and a half wide--great
tablets which closed together like a book.

[1] James (M. R.), xiv, 502-503; Camb. Univ. Lib. MS., Ff. 4. 40,
last fol.

[2] Clark, 133.

Besides the example of an audit at Canterbury we have
one belonging to Durham, a little later in date (1416).
The list of books assigned to the Spendement was evidently
read over, and a tick or point was put against every
volume found in its place. On a second check certain
books were accounted for, and notes of their whereabouts
were added to the inventory. Some were found in the
cloister, others were in the library; the prior of Finchale
had a number; many had been sent to Oxford. In one
case a book is noted as given to Bishop Kempe of London.[1]

[1] Surtees Soc., vii. 85.

The catalogue was usually a simple inventory. Sometimes
the entries were classified, as in the case of a
catalogue of the York library of the Friars Eremites of
the Augustinian order. The fifteenth-century catalogue
of St. Augustine's, Canterbury, is classified under sixteen
headings, but it is probably incomplete.[1] As a rule the
entries were only just sufficient to identify the books: all
the treatises in a volume were not often recorded, but only
the title of the first. This is an entry from a Durham
F. Legenda Sanctorum, sive Passionarum pro mensibus
Februaria et Marcii. II. fo., non surrexerunt.

[1] See also Bateson, vi-vii.

The letter F was employed as a distinctive mark. The
note "II fo., non surrexerunt" signifies that the second
folio began with these words, and was used as the most
convenient method of distinguishing two copies of the
same book, for it would rarely happen that one scribe
would begin the second sheet with the same word as
another. In some houses the practice was extended to
printed books in the sixteenth century; and consequently
no fewer that nearly four hundred editions have been
named in the catalogue of Syon monastery.[1] In some
other catalogues the information given was fuller. The
catalogue of Syon notes first the press-mark in a bold
hand; then on the left side the donor's name, and on the
opposite side the words of the second folio; and beneath
the description of the book.

[1] Bateson, vii.

GRAUNTE P1m indutum est

Biblia perpulcra et complete cum interpretacionibus.
{P} Tabula sentencialis super eandem per totum. {P} Item
alla tabula expositoria vocabulorum difficilium eiusdem

WOODE P2 osee 2o

Concordancie cum textu expresso.

The catalogue of St. Augustine's, already referred to,
recorded the general title of the volume, or of the first
treatise in it; the name of the donor; the other contents
of the volume; the first words of the second leaf, and
the press-mark. Where necessary, cross-references were
supplied. The press-marks used for monastic books are
generally of two kinds: press-marks properly so called, or
class-marks. At St. Augustine's, Canterbury, the
distinctions or tiers were numbered, as D3; and the
gradus or shelves of each distinction were numbered, as
G 4. A similar method seems to have been adopted for
St. Albans; in one book from that abbey is this mark:
"de armariolo 4/A et quarto gradu fiber quartus."[1] But
such a mark assigned a book to one particular place and
fixed its relation to other books. Consequently, if any
large accession were made to the library, the classification
of the books in broad subject-divisions could only be
maintained by the alteration of many press-marks, both
on the books and in the catalogue. At Titchfield each
class was marked with a letter of the alphabet, and the
shelves bearing it were numbered: thus a book might be
assigned to G2, or class G, shelf 2.[2] This method of
marking was more flexible. But at Syon Monastery the
books were arranged quite independently of the presses
and shelves; each volume receiving a different number, as
well as a class-letter.

[1] Pemb. Coll., Camb., MS. 180.

[2] Madan, 7, 8.

The most elaborate example of monkish cataloguing
comes from Dover Priory, a cell belonging to Canterbury.
One John Whytefield compiled it in 1389. The note
preceding the catalogue tells of unbounded enthusiasm for
the library and a meticulous regard for order. No better
proof of the care taken of books by most monks could be
found. The catalogue is in three parts. First there is
a brief inventory of the books as they are arranged on the
shelves. This is a shelf-list designed for the use of the
preceptor; just the sort of record modern librarians regard
as indispensable in the administration of their libraries.
Secondly, our industrious monk has provided a catalogue,
--a repetition of the shelf-list, but with all the contents
of each volume set out. His chief aim in making this
compilation is to show up fully the resources of his
collection, and to lead studious brethren to read zealously
and frequently. Lastly, an analytical index to the
catalogue is supplied: it is in alphabetical order, and is
intended to point out to the user the whereabouts in a
volume of any individual treatise. A similar index, by
the way, is appended to the catalogue of Syon monastery.[1]
The library seems to have been spread over nine tiers
(distinctions) of book-casing, each marked with a letter of
the alphabet. A tier had seven shelves (gradus) marked
by Roman numeral figures, the numbers beginning from
the bottom of the tier. Each book bore a small Arabic
figure which fixed its order on the shelf. The full pressmark
of a book was therefore A. v. 4. Such marks were
written inside the books and on their bindings. On the
second, third, or fourth leaf of a book, or thereabouts, the
title was written on the bottom margin, with the pressmark
and the first words of that leaf. All these marks
were copied in the inventory or shelf-list: first the tier
letter, then the shelf number, afterwards the book number;
followed by the title, the number of the leaf whence the
identifying words were taken, then the identifying words,
with the number of leaves in the volume, and finally the
number of tracts it contains. Here are some entries:--

A. v.

Nomina Dicciones
voluminum. probatorie.
1 Psalterium vetus glosa- 6 apprehendite disci 105 1

2 Prima pars psalterii 4 cument que il fait 195 2
glosata gallice
3 Glose super sp Iterio 6 nullas habebunt veri 104 2

[1] Bateson, 202. Ut scilicet prima particula de numero et
perfecta voluminum cognicione loci precentorem informet, secunda
ad solicitam leccionis frequenciam ffratres studiosos provocet,
et tercia de singulorum tractatuum repercione festina scolaribus
itinera manifestet.--James, 407.

In the second part, or catalogue following the shelf-list, are
set out the tier letter, shelf number, book number, short
title; then the number of the folio on which each tract in
a volume begins, and finally the first words of the tract

[1] James (M. R.), 410. For further information on monastic
catalogues consult Surtees Soc., vii; Becker; James (M. R.);
Bateson; Zentralblatt; Gottlieb.

Most books were bound by the monks themselves.
The commonest materials used for ordinary manuscripts
were wooden boards, covered with deerskin and calfskin,
either coloured red or used in its natural tint, and
parchment usually stained or painted red or purple.
Charles the Great authorised the Abbot of St. Bertin to
enjoy hunting rights so that the monks could get skins for
binding. In mid-ninth century, Geoffroi Martel, Count of
Anjou, commanded that the tithe of the roeskins captured
in the island of Oleron should be used to bind the books in
an abbey of his foundation. Few monastic bindings have
been preserved, because many great collectors have had
their manuscripts rebound. Several examples of Winchester
work remain. Mr. Yates Thompson has a mid-twelfth
century manuscript bound in the monastic style, the leather
being stamped with cold irons of many curious rectangular
shapes. The manuscript of the Winton Domesday has a
binding with stamps exactly like those on Mr. Thompson's
book. "At Durham in the last half of the twelfth century
there was an equally important school of binding, with
some one hundred and fourteen different stamps. The
binding for Hugh Pudsey's Bible has nearly five hundred
impressions."[1] In Pembroke College library an excellent
specimen of twelfth century stamped binding remains on
MS. 147. Such stamps were small, and frequently of
geometrical or floral design, always rudimentary; but
animals of the quaintest form--grotesque birds and dragons
--were also introduced. A hammer or mallet was employed
to obtain an impression from the stamp. Sometimes the
oak boards were not covered with skin but were painted.

[1] Bateson, Med. Eng., 86.

If a book was specially prized the binding was often
rich. The covers of the Gospels of Lindau, a superb
example of Carolingian art, bear nearly five hundred gems
encrusted in gold.[1] Abbot Paul of St. Albans gave to his
church two books adorned with gold and silver and gems.
Abbot Godfrey of Malmesbury, partly to meet a heavy tax
imposed by William Rufus, stripped twelve Gospels of their
decorations. "Books are clothed with precious stones," cried
St. Jerome, "whilst Christ's poor die in nakedness at the
door."[2] In spite of the many references to jewelled
monastic bindings in medieval records, very few are extant.

[1] Now in Mr. Pierpont Morgan's library, Illustrated in La
Bioliofilia, xi. 169.

[2] Cf. Register of S. Osmund, ii. 127. Textus unus aureus magnus
continens saphiros xx., et smaragdos [emeralds] vi., et thopasios
viii., et alemandinas [? carbuncle or ruby] xviii., et gernettas
[garnets] viii., et perlas xii. Also i. 276; ii. 43. Jerome, Ad
Eustoch, Ep. t8.


Section I

To the books of the monastery some human interest
clings: we can at once conjure up a picture of the
cloister and the scribe at his work; the handling of
an old manuscript, the turning over of finely-written and
quaintly-illuminated yellow pages, throws the mind flashing
back centuries to the silent writer in his carrell. But the
church library is not rich in associations. It was a small
"working" collection: one part for the use of the clergy,
the other part--consisting of a few chained books--for
the use of the people. These chained books, which now
suggest a scarcely conceivable restriction upon the circulation
of literature--even theological literature--were, in fact,
the sign of a glimmer of liberal thought in the church.
During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, not only
were monastic books issued to lay people more freely, but
many more books were chained in places of worship than
in the sixteenth century, when the proclamation for the
"setting-up" of Bibles in churches was granted unwillingly.

Some collections which later were distinctively church
libraries were at first claustral. For convenience' sake we
shall treat all of them as church libraries. The amount of
information on medieval church libraries is surprisingly
extensive, albeit a great deal more must remain hidden
still, for all our cathedral libraries have not been subjects
of such loving scholarship as Canon Church has bestowed
upon the ancient treasure-house at Wells. Still the material
is extensive, and our difficulty in making a selection for
such a compendious book as the present is complicated,
because we often do not find it possible to say whether the
books referred to in the available records are merely service
books, or books of an ordinary character. To evade this
difficulty we must ignore all material relating to unnamed
books, which we cannot reasonably suppose to have been
the nucleus of a more general collection, or an addition to it.

Exeter Cathedral Library was a monastic hoard. It
originated with Bishop Leofric, who got together over sixty
books about sixteen years before the Conquest. His books
were a curious collection: among copies of the classics and
ecclesiastical works were books of night songs, summer and
winter reading books, a precious book of blessings, and a
"Mycel Englisc boc"--a large English book, on all sorts
of things, wrought in verse. The last is the famous Exeter
book, still preserved in the library. A small folio of 130
leaves of vellum, it is remarkable to the student of
manuscripts for its bold, clear, and graceful calligraphy, and
priceless to the student of literature as the only source of
much of our small store of Anglo-Saxon poetry. Some
other Leofrican books remain. In the library of Corpus
Christi College, Cambridge, is an eleventh century copy
of Bede's history in Anglo-Saxon, which was given to
Exeter by Leofric, although it is not mentioned in the list
of his gifts in the Bodleian manuscript. The inscription in
it reads: Hunc librum dat leofricus episcopus ecclesie sancti
petri apostoli in exonia ubi sedes episcopalis est ad utilitatem
successorum suorum. Si quis illum abstulerit inde, subiaceat
malediction). Fiat. Fiat. Fiat.[1] A manuscript of Bede on
the Apocalypse, now at Lambeth Palace, seems almost
certainly to have come from St. Mary's Church, Crediton,
and it bears the inscription:--"A: in nomine domini.
Amen. Leofricus Pater."[2] Another book given by Leofric,
a missal dating from 969, is preserved in the Bodleian

[1] M.S., 41; James 17, 81.

[2] C. A. S., 8vo. publ. No. 33 (1900), 25.

[3] MS. Bodl., Auct. D. 2. 16 fo. Ia; Dugdale, ii. 527; Oxford
Philol. Soc. Trans., 1881-83, p. 2.

Although the age of these books suggests that the
collection has existed continuously since the eleventh
century, after Leofric's time no important reference to
the library occurs until 1327, when an inventory of the
books was drawn up. Then about 230 volumes (excluding
service books) were in the possession of the Chapter.[1] In
this same year a breviary and a missal were chained up in
the choir for the use of the people.[2] Twelve months later
John Grandisson arrived at Exeter to take charge of his
diocese. A book-loving bishop, he was a benefactor to
the library, maybe to a very praiseworthy extent; but a
few words will record what is definitely known about this
part of his work. In 1366 he gave two folio volumes,
still extant. One contains Lessons from the Bible, and
the homilies appointed to be read, and the other is the
Legends of the Saints.[3] In his will he gave two other
books, perhaps Pontificals of his own compilation, to his
successors.[4] He himself owned an extensive library, which
he divided principally between his chapter and the collegiate
churches of Ottery, Crediton, and Boseham, and Exeter
College, Oxford.[5] All St. Thomas Aquinas' works he
bequeathed to the Black Friars' convent at Exeter. To
Simon Islip, Archbishop of Canterbury, he gave a fine
copy of St. Anselm's letters, now by good fortune in the
British Museum. A Hebrew Pentateuch once belonging
to him is in the capitular library of Westminster: is it
possible that the bishop was a Hebrew scholar?[6] Among
the books of Windsor College was a volume, De Legendis
et Missis de B. V. Maria, which had been given by him.

[1] Full inventory in Oliver, Lives of the Bps., 301-310.

[2] C. A. S. (N.S.), 8vo. ser. iv. 311.

[3] Ego I. de G. Exon., do Eccle. Exon librum istum cum pari suo,
in festo Annuntiationis Dominice. Manu mea, anno consecrationis
mee xxxix.--Oliver, Lives of the Bps., 85.

[4] Lego eisdem libros meos episcopales, majorem et minorem, quos
ego compilavi.--Ibid, 86.

[5] In 1329 he wrote to Richard de Ratforde from Chudleigh:
"Regraciamur vobis quod Librum Sermonum Beati Augustini pro
nobis, prout Magister Ricardus filius Radulphi, ex parte nostra,
vos rogavit, retinuistis, nobisque et condiciones
ejusdem significastis et precium. Et, quia ipsum Librum habere
volumus, lx solidos sterlingorum Magistro Johanni de Sovenaisshe
[Sevenashe], Magistro Scolarum nostre Civitatis Exoniensis, pro
ipso Libro tradi fecimus, ut nobis eundem, quamcicius nuncii
securitas affuerit, transmittatis. Libros, eciam,
Theologicos Originales, veteres saltem et raros, ac Sermones
antiquos, eciam sine Divisionibus Thematum, pro nostris usibus
exploretis; scribentes nobis condiciones et precium
eorundem."--O.H.S., 27 Boase, 2.

[6] Robinson, 63.

A library room was built over the east cloister in
1412-13.[1] Probably the building was found necessary on
account of a considerable accession of books, and we hazard
a guess that Grandisson's bequest, received in 1370, formed
the bulk of the accretion. At all events, among the
accounts for the building are charges for 191 chains for
books not secured before. No fewer than 67 books
were also sewed or bound on this same occasion, the
master binder being paid L 6 and his man 36s. 8d. Thus
at the beginning of the fifteenth century--the age of
library building--the capitular hoard at Exeter was furbished
up, newly housed, and arranged. But the interest in the
collection seems to have waned. Another chain was
bought for sixteenpence in 1430-31 for a copy of Rationale
Divinorum, which was given by one Rolder; but such gifts
were few and far between. In 1506 the Chapter owned
363 volumes, but 133 more than in 1327,[2] so that few
additions besides Grandisson's were made in nearly two
centuries, or many books were lost.[3] According to this
second inventory the books were arranged in eleven desks;
eight books were chained opposite the west door; twenty-
eight were not chained; seven were chained behind the
treasurer's stall (a Bible in three volumes, Lyra also in
three, and a Concordance); and fourteen volumes of canon
and civil law behind the succentor's stall.[4] The Dean and
Chapter were in a strangely generous mood at the end of
this century. In 1566 they gave one of Leofric's books to
Archbishop Parker: it is now in Corpus Christi College,
Cambridge. The collection was despoiled of eighty-one
of its finest books to enrich Bodley's foundation at Oxford,
1602.[5] Although the book-lover does not like to see
treasures torn from their associations, yet in this instance
the alienation was fortunate. By 1752 only twenty
volumes noted in the inventory of 1506 were left at

[1] Building accounts in C. A. S. (N.S.), 8vo. ser. iv. 296.

[2] Oliver, 366-375.

[3] Between 1385 and 1425 the bishops were giving books to Exeter
College, Oxford.

[4] Oliver, 359, 360, 366-375.

[5] List in Oliver, Lives, 376; C. A. S. (N.S. ), iv. 306 (8vo.

[6] Oliver, 376.

Besides the Exeter Book, one other very ancient and
valuable manuscript is preserved in the Cathedral: this is
the part of the Domesday Book referring to Devon, Cornwall,
and Somerset, which is probably not much later in
date than the Exchequer record. Two ancient book-boxes
are also to be found there. These are fixed in a sloping
position by means of iron supports embedded in the pillars.
The late Dr. J. W. Clark was led to believe them to be
intended for books by finding a wooden bookboard nailed to
the inside bottom of one of the boxes. For the protection
of the book each box has a cover, which does not seem ever
to have been fastened: a reader would raise the lid when
he wanted to use the manuscript, and close it before he
went away.[1] Erasmus seems to have seen similar boxes
fixed to the pillars in the nave at Canterbury.[2]

[1] C. A. S. (N.S.), iv. 312.

[2] I have to thank my friend Mr. Tapley Soper, F.R,Hist,S., for
his willing help in sending me information about this library.
Our account of church libraries will appear inadequate if it is
not borne in mind that we do not propose to go beyond the
manuscript age. An excellent account of modern church libraries
is given in English Church Furniture, in this series. Also see
Clark, 257.

Section II

When gifts or bequests were received by a church or
monastery, it was a beautiful custom to lay them, or something
to represent them, upon the altar: "a book, or turf,
or, in fact, almost any portable object, was offered for
property such as land; or a bough or twig of a tree, if
the gift were a forest." King Offa's gift of churches to
Worcester monastery in 780 was accompanied by a great
book with golden clasps, with every probability a Bible.[1]
A gift was made under similar circumstances in c. 1057,
about the time Bishop Leofric was founding the library at
Exeter, when Lady Godiva, the wife of another Leofric,
restored some manors to Worcester, and with them gave
a Bible in two parts. Before this, Bishop Werfrith, to
whom we have referred before as a helper of King Alfred,
had sent to Worcester the Anglo-Saxon version of Gregory's
Cura Pastoralis; the very copy of it is now in the Bodleian

[1] Reliquary, vii, II (Floyer).

Such were perhaps the beginnings of the library of
Worcester Cathedral. We cannot but think that a collection
of books was formed slowly and steadily here, as in
other foundations of the same kind, although actual records
are scanty and meagre. In over forty of the manuscripts
now at Worcester are inscriptions on fly-leaves stating where
they were procured: sometimes the price is given. The
dates of these inscriptions run from about 1283 to 1462,
or later.[1] "In 1464," writes the Rev. J. K. Floyer, in his
article entitled A Thousard Years of a Cathedral Library,
"we first hear of a regular endowment for the acquisition of
books. Bishop Carpenter made a library in the charnel
house chantry, and endowed it with L 10 for a librarian.
The charnel house was near the north porch of the
Cathedral, and stood on or near the site of the present
Precentor's house. It was a separate institution from the
monastery, and had its own endowments and priests.
Bishop Carpenter's foundation was probably entirely
separate from the collection of books kept for
the use of the monks in the cloister."[2] At the
same time, the bishop made regulations for the use
of the library. The keeper was to be a graduate in
theology, and a good preacher. He was to live in the
chantry, where a dwelling had been erected for him at the
end of the library. Among other duties he had to take
care of the books. The library was to be open to the
public every week day for two hours before Nones (or nine),
and for two hours after Nones. This alone was a most
liberal regulation, for making which Bishop Carpenter
deserves all honour. But he went still further. When
asked to do so the keeper was to explain difficult passages
of Scripture, and once a week was to deliver a public
lecture in the library. The Bishop's idea of a library is
precisely that embodied in the modern town library: a
collection of good books, for the free use of the public, with
some personal help to the proper use of them when
necessary. Three lists of the books were to be drawn up,
one to be kept by the Bishop, the second by the sacrist,
and the third by the keeper. Once a year stock was
taken, and if a book were missing through the keeper's
neglect, he was to forfeit its value within a month, or in
default was to pay forty-shillings more than the value of
it, one half of the sum to go to the Bishop, the other
half to the sacrist. Unfortunately these and other regulations
were not observed with care, and within forty years
the Bishop's work was completely neglected and forgotten.

[1] Reliquary, vii. 14 (Floyer).

[2] Ibid., 17.

At the Dissolution the Priory was deprived of much of
its church plate, service books and vestments, and probably
of many of its books. But the library there suffered a good
deal less than those of other houses, and the Cathedral now
has in its possession some respectable remains of its ancient
collection of books.[1]

[1] The best account of Worcester Cathedral Library is in
Reliquary, vii. Il, by the Rev. J. K. Floyer, M.A.

Section III

The history of an old library can only be traced intermittently,
the facts playing hide and seek like a distant
lantern carried over broken ground. Little is known of the
early history of Hereford's cathedral library. An ancient
copy of the Gospels, said to have been bequeathed by the
last Saxon bishop, Athelstan (1012), is one of the earliest
gifts. In 1186 Bishop Robert Folliott gave "multa bona
in ferris et libris." Bishop Hugh Folliott also left ornaments
and books. Another bishop, R. de Maidstone, although "vir
magnae literaturae, et in theologia nominatissimus," only
seems to have given the church two antiphonaries, some
psalters, and a Legenda. Bishop Charleton (1369) left a Bible,
a concordance, a glossary, Nicholas de Lyra, and five Books
of Moses, all to be chained in the cathedral. Very shortly
afterwards we hear of fittings, for in 1395 Walter of
Ramsbury gave L 10 for making the desks. Probably a
book-room, which was over the west cloister, was then put
up. A long interval elapsed, during which little seems to
have been done for the library. But between c. 1516-35
Bishop Booth and Dean Frowcester left many fine volumes.
In 1589 the book-room was abandoned and the contents
shifted to the Lady Chapel.

A new library was built in 1897. Herein are to be
seen what are almost certainly the original bookcases, albeit
they have been taken to pieces and somewhat altered before
being fitted together again. One of the bookcases still has
all the old chains and fittings for the books, and it presents
a very curious appearance. Every chain is from three to
four feet long, with a ring at each end, and a swivel in the
middle. One ring is strung on to an iron rod, which is
secured at one end of the bookcase by metal work, with
lock and key. For convenience in using the book on the
reading slope which was attached to the case, the ring at
the other end of the chain was fixed to the fore edge of the
book-cover instead of to the back; when standing on
the shelves the books therefore present their fore edges to
the reader. The cases are roughly finished, but very solid
in make.[1]

[1] Havergal, Fasti Heref. (1869), 181-182.

Section IV

At Old Sarum Church, Bishop Osmund (1078-99)
collected, wrote, and bound books.[1] In his time, too, the
chancellor used to superintend the schools and correct
books: either books used in the school or service books.[2]
The income from a virgate of land was assigned to correct-
ing books towards the end of the twelfth century (1175-80).[3]
The new Salisbury Cathedral was erected in the thirteenth
century; but apparently a special library room was not
used until shortly after 1444, when it was put up to cover
the whole eastern cloister. This room was altered and
reduced in size in 1758. About the time the room was
completed one of the canons gave some books, on the
inside covers of two of which is a note in a fifteenth century
hand bidding they should be chained in the new library.[4]
Nearly two hundred manuscripts, of various date from the
ninth to the fourteenth century, are now in the library.
Among them several notable volumes are to be found: a
Psalter with curious illuminations; another Psalter, with the
Gallican and Hebrew of Jerome's translation in parallel
columns, also illuminated; Chaucer's translation of Boethius;
Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain of
the twelfth century; a thirteenth century Lectionary, with
golden and coloured initials; a Tonale according to Sarum
use, bound with a fourteenth century Ordinal; and a
fifteenth century Processional containing some notes on local

[1] W. of Malmesbury, Gesta Pont., 184.

[2] Register of St. Osmund, i. 8, 214.

[3] Register of St. Osmund, i. 224.

[4] Cox and Harvey, English Church Furniture, 331.

Section V

Books were given to Lincoln Cathedral about 1150 by
Hugh of Leicester; one of them bears the inscription, Ex
dono Hugonis Archidiaconi Leycestriae. They may still be
seen at Lincoln. Forty-two volumes and a map came into the
charge of Hamo when he became chancellor in 1150.[1] During
his chancellorship thirty-one volumes were added by gift, so
making the total seventy-three volumes: Bishops Alexander
and Chesney were among the benefactors. But here, as at
Salisbury, not until the fifteenth century was a separate
library room built. Two gifts "to the new library" by
Bishop Repyngton who also befriended Oxford University
Library--and Chancellor Duffield in 1419 and 1426, fix
the date. It was put up over the north half of the eastern
cloisters, relatively the same position as at Salisbury and
Wells. Originally it had five bays, but in 1789 the two
southernmost bays were pulled down: In this room the
fine fifteenth century oaken roof, with its carved ornaments,
has been preserved, but at Salisbury the roof is modern, with
a plaster ceiling. Lincoln's new library, designed by Wren
and erected in 1674, is next to this old room. According
to a 1450 catalogue now preserved at Lincoln the library
contained one hundred and seven works, more than seventy
of which now remain. Among the most important manuscripts
are a mid-fifteenth century copy of old English
romances of great literary value, collected by Robert de
Thornton, archdeacon of Bedford (c. 1430); and a contemporary
copy of Magna Carta.

[1] See list in Giraldus Cambrensis, vii. 165-166.

Section VI

In an inventory of St. Paul's Cathedral, taken in 1245,
mention is made of thirty-five volumes.[1] Before this, in
Ralph of Diceto's time, a binder of books was an officer
of the church. As at Salisbury, the chancellor's duties
included taking charge of the school books. In 1283 a
writer of books was included among the ministers. The
two offices were combined in the beginning of the next
century. When Dean Ralph Baldock made a visitation
of St. Paul's treasury in 1295, he found thirteen Gospels
adorned with precious metals and stones; some other
parts of the Scriptures; and a commentary of Thomas
Aquinas. In 1313 Baldock, who died Bishop of London,
bequeathed fifteen volumes, chiefly theological books.[2]
To Baldock's time probably belongs the reference to
twelve scribes, no doubt retained for business purposes
as well as for book-making. They were bound by an
oath to be faithful to the church and to write without
fraud or malice. Aeneas Sylvius tells us he saw a Latin
translation of Thucydides in the sacristy of the cathedral

[1] Archaeologia, I. 496.

[2] Hist. MSS., 9th Rept., App. 46a.

[3] Ep., 126; Creighton, Papacy, iii 53n.

A library room was erected in the fifteenth century. "Ouer
the East Quadrant of this Cloyster, was a fayre Librarie,
builded at the costes and charges of Waltar Sherington,
Chancellor of the Duchie of Lancaster, in the raigne of
Henrie the 6 which hath beene well furnished with faire
written books in Vellem."[1] The catalogue of 1458 bears out
Stow's description of the library as well-furnished. Some one
hundred and seventy volumes were in the Chapter's possession;
they were of the usual kind, grammatical books, Bibles
and commentaries, works of the fathers; books on medicine
by Galen, Hippocrates, Avicenna, and Egidius; Ralph de
Diceto's chronicles; and some works of Seneca, Cicero,
Suetonius, and Virgil.[2] In 1486, however, only fifty-two
volumes were found after the death of John Grimston the
sacrist.[3] Leland gives a list of only twenty-one manuscripts,
but it was not his habit to make full inventories. In Stow's
time, however, few books remained.[4] Three volumes only
can be traced now--(1) a manuscript of Avicenna, (2) the
Chronicle of Ralph de Diceto in the Lambeth Palace
Library, and (3) the Miracles of the Virgin, in the Aberdeen
University Library.[5]

[1] Stow, i. 328.

[2] Dugdale, Hist. of St. Paul's, 392-398.

[3] Ibid., 399.

[4] Stow, i. 328.

[5] Ibid., ii. 346; Simpson, Reg. S. Pauli, 13, 78, 133, 173,

Section VII

Although neither a monastic nor a collegiate church,
Wells was already in the thirteenth century a place with
some equipment for educational work. Besides the
choristers' school, a schola grammaticalis of a higher
grade was in existence. After 1240 the Chancellor's
duties included lecturing on theology. Not improbably,
therefore, a collection of books was formed very early.
And indeed the Dean and Chapter in 1291 received from
the Dean of Sarum books lent by the Chapter, and some
others bequeathed to them. Hugo of St. Victor, Speculum
de Sacramentis, and Bede, De Temporibus, were the books
returned from Sarum; among those bequeathed were
Augustine's Epistles and De Civitate Dei, Gregory the
Great's Speculum, and John Damascenus. We know
nothing of the character and size of the library at this
time, although it seems to have been preserved in a special
room. In 1297, the Chapter ordered the two side doors
of the choir screen in the aisles to be shut at night. One
door near the library (versus librarium) and the Chapter
was only to be open from the first stroke of matins until
the proper choir door was opened at the third bell. At
other times during the day it was always to be closed,
so that people could not injure the books in the library,
or overhear the conferences of the Chapter (secreta capituli).
This library was most likely on the north side of the
church, with the Chapter House beside it, in the north
transept, as shown conjecturally in the plan given in
Canon Church's admirable Chapters in the Early History of
the Church of Wells.[1] That so early, in a church neither
monastic nor collegiate, a school was at work, and a
library had been formed, is a specially significant fact in
the study of our subject.

[1] Pp. 1, 325-327.

In this position the library remained until the fifteenth
century. Two notices occur of it, one in 1340 and
another in 1406, in both cases in connection with an
image of the Holy Saviour, "near the library."

But in the fifteenth century a new library was built
over the eastern cloister. Bishop Nicholas of Bubwith,
in his will of 1424, bequeathed one thousand marks to
be faithfully applied and disposed for the construction and
new building of a certain library to be newly erected upon
the eastern space of the cloister, situate between the south
door of the church next the chamber of the escheator of
the church and the gate which leads directly from the
church by the cloister into the palace of the bishop.[1] The
work was begun by his executors, but certain signs of
break in the building suggest some delay in finishing it.
This room is probably the only cathedral library built over
a cloister which remains in its original completeness. It
is 165 feet by 12 feet; now only about two-thirds of it
are devoted to the library. When this room was first
fitted up as a library no one knows; but tradition fixes
the date at 1472. The present fittings were put in during
Bishop Creighton's time (1670-72).

[1] In the fifteenth century the bishops of Wells were good
friends of learning: Skirlaw gave books to University College,
Oxford; Bowet left a large library; Stafford gave books; Bekynton
was the companion of the most cultivated men of his time. Dean
Gunthorpe is well known as a pilgrim to Italy, who returned laden
with manuscripts (see p. 192).

Shortly after the date of Bubwith's will Bishop Stafford
(1425-43) gave ten books--not an inspiriting collection--
but he desired to retain possession of them during his
lifetime.[1] In 1452 Richard Browne (alias Cordone),
Archdeacon of Rochester, left to the library of Wells,
Petrus de Crescentiis De Agricultura, and two other books,
Jerome's Epistles, and Lathbury Super librum Trenorum,
which were to be kept in the church in wooden cases.[2]
Were these cases to resemble the boxes still remaining
in Exeter Cathedral? The same will ordered the Decretales
of Clement, which had been borrowed for copying, to be restored
to this library; two other books were also given back;
and the will further notes that there are several books
belonging to the library in a certain great bag in the inner
room of the treasury at Wells.[3]

[1] Hist, MSS. Rept. 3, App. 363a.

[2] Mun. Acad., 649,

[3] Mun. Acad., 652-653.

Leland only mentions forty-six books in the library
in his time. "I went into the library, which
whilome had been magnificently furnished with a considerable
number of books by its bishops and canons,
and I found great treasures of high antiquity." Among
the books he found were sermons by Gregory and Aelfric
in Anglo-Saxon, Terence, and "Dantes translatus in
carmen Latinum." Very few books belonging to the
old library before the Dissolution have survived. Some
are in the British Museum, the Bodleian, and certain
collegiate libraries; and several manuscripts remain in the
hands of the Dean and Chapter. Among them are three
manuscripts known as Liber albus I, Liber ruber II, and
Liber albus III, which contain an extremely valuable series
of documents.[1]

[1] L. A. R., viii. 372; Canon Church's account of the library,
in Archaeologia, lvii. pt. 2, is very full and interesting.

Section VIII

In the York fabric rolls appear from time to time
expenses for writing, illuminating, and binding church
books; but we know little or nothing about the Chapter
library, if such existed. William de Feriby, a canon,
bequeathed his books in 1379. Between 1418 and 1422,
a library was built at the south-west corner of the south
transept. The building is in two floors, and the upper
appears to have been the book-room; it is still in existence.
In the rolls are several references to the building.

1419. Et de 26l. 13s. 4d. de elemosina domini Thomae Haxey ad
cooperturam novi librarii cum plumbo.

Haxey was a good friend to the cathedral; and he gave
handsomely toward the library. His arms were put up in
one of the new library windows.

1419. In sarracione iiij arborum datarum novo librario per
Abbatem de Selby, 6/8.

1419. Et Johanni Grene, joynor, pro joynacione tabularum pro
libraria et planacione et gropyng de waynscott, per annum,
17s. 8d.

In operacione cc ferri in boltes pro nova libraria per Johannem
Harpham, fabrum, 8s.[1]

[1] Surtees Soc., xxxv. 36-40.

In 1418 John de Newton, the church treasurer,
bequeathed to the Chapter a number of books, including
Bibles, commentaries, and patristical and historical works,
as well as Petrarch's De remediis utriusque fortunae.[1]
They were chained to the library desks, and were guarded
with horn and studs, to protect them from the consequences
of careless use by readers.

[1] Hunter, Notes of Wills in Registers of York, 15.

1421. Johanni Upton pro superscriptura librorum nuper magistri
Johannis Neuton thesaurarii istius ecclesiae legatorum librario,
2s. Thomae Hornar de Petergate pro hornyng et naillyng
superscriptorum librorum, 2s. 6d. Radulpho Lorymar de
Conyngstrete pro factura et emendacione xl cathenarum pro
eisdem libris annexis in librario predicto, 23s. Id.[1]

[1] Surtees Soc., xxxv., 45-46.

From time to time a few other bequests were made:
thus, Archdeacon Stephen Scrope bequeathed some books
on canon law, after a beneficiary had had them in use
during his life (1418). Robert Ragenhill, advocate of the
court of York, enriched the church with a small collection
(1430); and Robert Wolveden, treasurer of the church,
left to the library his theological books (1432).[1]

[1] Ibid., iv. 385; xiv. 89, 91.

Section IX

The Sacrist's Roll of Lichfield Cathedral, under date
1345, contains en inventory of the books then in possession
of the church. All of them were service books, excepting
only a De Gestis Anglorum.[1] Thereafter we cannot discover
a notice of the library until 1489, when Dean Thomas
Heywood gave L 40 towards building a home for the books.
Dean Yotton assisted in the good work. By 1493 the
building was finished. It stood on the north side of the
Cathedral, west of the north door, or "ex parte boreali in
cimeterio."[2] The Dean and Chapter had it pulled down
in 1758.

[1] W. Salt Arch. Soc., vi. pt. 2, 211.

[2] Capit. Acts, v. 3.

Nearly all the books of the early collection perished
during the Civil War; but the finest manuscript, known as
St. Chad's Gospels, was saved by the preceptor. Among
the other manuscripts in the possession of the Chapter are
a fine vellum copy of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, with
beautiful initials, and the Taxatio Ecclesiastica, a tithe book
showing the value of church property in Edward I's time.[1]

[1] Harwood, Hist. and Antiq. of the Ch.... of Lichfield (1806),

Section X

Many other churches, some of them small and unimportant,
owned books, and received them as gifts or
bequests. In the time of Richard II the Royal collegiate
chapel of Windsor Castle had, besides service books,
thirty-four volumes on different subjects chained in the
church, among them a Bible and a Concordance, and two
books of French romance, one of which was the Liber de Rose.[1]

[1] Vict. County Hist. of Berkshire, ii. 109.

The library of St. Mary's Church, Warwick, was first
formed by the celebrated antiquary, John Rous. Before
his time we hear only of one or two books. In 1407
there was a collection of fifty service books, and a
Catholicon, the latter being perhaps the nucleus of a
library.[1] "At my lorde's auter," that is, at the Earl of
Warwick's altar, were to be found among other goods and
books, the Bible, the fourth book of the Sentenccs, Pupilla
Oculi, a work by Reymond de Pennaforte, Isidore, and
some canon law.[2] John Rous seems to have inherited the
bookish tastes of his relative, William Kous. William had
bequeathed his books to the Dean, charging him to allow
John to read them when he came of age and had received
priest's orders.

[1] Vict. Hist. Warwickshire, ii. 127 b.

[2] Ibid., ii. 128a.

Among the Harleian MSS. in the British Museum is
a small volume written on parchment by Humphrey Wanley,
which includes a copy of a curious inventory of vestments,
plate, books, and other goods made in the time of John
Rous, 1464. A portion of this inventory has been printed
in Notices of the Churches of Warwickshire, i. 15--16. "It.
v bokes beynge in the handes of Maister John Rous now
priest whuche were Sir William Rous and bequath hem to
the Dean and Chapitre of the forseide Chirche Collegiall
under condicon that the seid maister John beynge priest
shulde have hem for his special edificacon duryng his fief.
And after his decees to remayne and to be for ever to the
seide Dean and Chapitre as it appereth by endentures
thereof made whereof one party leveth with the Dean and
Chapitre. That is to say i book quem composuit ffrater
Antoninus Rampologus de Janis 2 fo Chorinth 14. It.
1 book cald pars dextera et pars sinistra 2 fo non carere.
It. 1 bible versefied cald patris in Aurora 2 fo huic opifox.
It. 1 book of powles epistoles glosed 2 fo de Jhu qui dr
Xtus. It. 1 book cald pharetra 2 fo hora est jam nos de
sompno surgere. It. 1 quayer in the whuche is conteyned
the exposicon of the masse 2 fo cods offerim."

John also seems to have given books as well as a room
to house them.[1] An old view of the church, taken before
the great fire which destroyed the town in 1694, shows
the south porch surmounted with his library, as then
standing; but this room was destroyed in the fire, and it
seems certain the books were burnt. The present library
was founded in 1701, and includes no part of the original

[1] Johannes Rous, capellanus Cantariae de Guy-Cliffe, qui super
porticum australem librariam construxit, et libris
ornavit.--Gentleman's Magazine (N.S), xxv. 37. The chapel of
Guy's Cliffe was erected by Richard Beauchamp for the repose of
the soul of his "ancestor," Guy of Warwick, the hero of

[2] Mr. W. T. Carter, of the Warwick Public Libtary, has kindly
given me much information about St. Mary's Church library.

Bequests to churches of service books, such as that to
the church of St. Mary, Castle-gate, York (1394), were
numerous; they may be set apart with bequests of vestments,
plate, and money. Some bequests have a different
character. A chancellor of York, Thomas de Farnylaw,
leaves books, bound and unbound, to the Vicar of Waghen;
a volume of sermons and a "quire" to the church of
Embleton; and a Bible and Concordance to be chained in
the north porch of St. Nicholas' Church, Newcastle, "for
common use, for the good of the soul of his lord William
of Middleton" (1378). A chaplain leaves service books,
Speculum Ecclesiae, and the Gospels in English to Holy
Trinity Church, Goodramgate, York (1394). A Bristol
merchant bequeaths two books on canon law to St. Mary
Redcliffe Church, there to be preserved for the use of the
vicar and chaplains (1416). In the same year a Canon of
York enriches Beverley Church with all his books of canon
and civil law. Books were also chained in the church of
St. Mary of Oxford. Bishop Lyndwood of St. David's
bequeaths a copy of his digest of the synodal constitutions
of the province of Canterbury for chaining in St. Stephen's
Chapel, "to serve as a standard for future editions" (1443).
Richard Browne, or Cordone, who has left books to Wells,
reserves for the parish church of Naas in Ireland a Catholicon
and other manuscripts (1452). To Boston Church a
rector of Kirkby Ravensworth bequeaths several books,
but one named John Bosbery was to have the use of them
for life: among the gifts was Polichronicon (1457). Canon
Nicholas Holme leaves Pupilla Oculi to the parish church
of Redmarshall (1458). A chaplain bequeaths one book
to St. Mary's Church, Bolton, another to St. Wilfrid's
Church, Brensall in Craven, and a third to All Saints'
Church, Peseholme, York (1466). Sir Richard Willoughby
orders church books and a Crede mihi to be given to
Woollaton Parish Church (1469). Robert Est, possibly
a chantry-priest in York Minster, enriches the parish
church of his native Lincoln village, Brigsley, with a copy
of Legends of the Saints, Speculum Christiani, Gesta
Romanorum cum aliis fabulis Isopi et mutis narrationibus,
and a Psalter (1474-75). To the church of St. Mary's,
Nottingham, the vicar leaves a Golden Legend, a Polichronicon,
besides Pupilla Oculi, and a portiforium to Wragby
Church, and a missal to Snenton Church (1476). Sir
Thomas Lyttleton befriends King's Norton Church by
leaving it a Latin-English dictionary, and that of Halesowen
in Worcestershire by leaving a Catholicon, the Constitutiones
Provinciales (possibly Lyndwood's digest, the Provinciale),
and the Gesta Romanorum (1481). A man of Leicester
was sued by the church wardens of the parish church of
Welford, in the county of Leicester, on a charge of having
taken away certain books belonging to the church and
sold them (1490). The vicar of Ruddington bequeaths
three books, "ad tenendum et ligandum cum cathena ferrea
in quadam sede in capella B. M. de Rodington" (1491).
Thomas Rotherham, benefactor of Cambridge University
Library, gave to the church of Rochester ten pounds for
building a library (1500). To Wetheringsett Church a
chaplain of Bury carefully reserves "a book called
Fasiculus Mors [Fasciculus morum], to lye in the chauncell,
for priests to occupye ther tyme when it shall please them,
praying them to have my soule in remembraunce as it shall
please them of their charite" (1519).[1]

[1] Arch. Inst. City of York (1846), 10-11; Surtees Soc., iv.
102-103, 196; xiv. 57-59, 159, 171, 220-222, 221n; xxvi. 2-3;
xxx. 219, 275; Cox and Harvey, English Church Furniture, 331;
Mun. Acad., 648-649; Library, i. 411; Cam. Soc., Bury Wills, 253.

A very little research would add considerably to our
list; while, apart from records of gifts and bequests, are
numberless references to books in churches. For example:
in the churchwarden's account book (c. 1525) of All Saints,
Derby, occurs an entry beginning: "These be the bokes in
our lady Chapell tyed with chenes yt were gyffen to
Alhaloes church in Derby--

In primis one Boke called summa summarum.
Item A boke called Summa Raumundi [Summa poenitentia et
matrimonio of Reymond de Pennaforte of Barcelona].
Item Anoyer called pupilla occult [Pupilla oculi, by J. de
Item Anoyer called the Sexte [Liber Sextus Decretalium].
Item A boke called Hugucyon [see pp. 223-4].
Item A boke called Vitas Patrum.
Item Anoyer boke called pauls pistols.
Item A boke called Januensis super evangeliis dominicalibus
[Sermons of Jacobus de Voragine, Abp. of Genoa, on the
Gospels for the Sundays throughout the year].
Item a grette portuose [a large breviary].
Item Anoyer boke called Legenda Aurea [Legenda sanctorum
aurea of Jacobus de Voragine]. [l]

[1] Cox, J. C., and Hope, W. H. St. John, Chronicles of the
Colleg. Ch. of All Saints, Derby (1881), 175-177.

This is a respectable list for such a church. Some
sixty years before there were apparently only service
books (1465).[1]

[1] Ibid., 157.

From 1456 to 1475 charges occur in the accounts of
St. Michael's Church, Cornhill, for chains to fix psalters,
and for writing.[1] At St. Peter's upon Cornhill there would
appear to have been a good library. "True it is," writes
Stow, "that a library there was pertaining to this Parrish
Church, of olde time builded of stone, and of late repayred
with bricke by the executors of Sir John Crosby Alderman,
as his Armes on the south end doth witnes. This library
hath beene of late time, to wit, within these fifty yeares,
well furnished of bookes: John Leyland viewed and commended
them, but now those bookes be gone, and the place
is occupied by a schoolemaister."[2] In 1483 the Church of
St. Christopher-le-Stocks, London, seems to have had a
collection only of service books; but five years later
mention is made of "a grete librarie." "On the south side
of the vestrarie standeth a grete librarie with ii longe
lecturnalles thereon to lay on the bookes."[3] About the
middle of the sixteenth century certain inhabitants of
Rayleigh held a meeting one Sunday, after service, and,
without the consent of the churchwardens, sold fifteen
service books, and "four other manuscript volumes," as
well as some other church goods, for forty shillings.[4]

[1] Library, i. 417.

[2] Stow, i. 194. Leland, iv. 48, has a note of four MSS. "in
bibliotheca Petrina Londini." Possibly this library was formed by
Rector Hugh Damlet, who was a learned man, and gave several books
to Pembroke College, Cambridge.--James 10, 184.

[3] Archaeologia, xiv. 118, 120.

[4] R. H. S., vi. 205.

But we might continue for a long time to bring
togather facts of this kind. Enough has been written to
suggest the character and extent of the work done by the
churches. Many of these small collections were for use
in connexion with the schools; they were formed for the
benefit of clergy and the increase of clergy. The few
books chained up in the churches for the use of the people
were displayed for various reasons. The Catholicon, a
Latin grammar and a dictionary, was a large book,
obtainable only at great cost, yet for reference
purposes all students and scholars constantly needed it.
Wealthy ecclesiastics and benefactors would therefore
naturally leave such a book for chaining up in the church,
which was then the real centre of communal life. The
Catholicon was chained up for reference in French churches,
and the practice was imitated here, possibly in nearly all
the large churches.[1] The Medulla grammatice, left to
King's Norton Church by Sir Thomas Lyttleton, was a
book of similar character, and would be deposited in church
for a like purpose. Books of canon law would also be
useful for reference purposes when chained in the church.
Some other shackled books were homiletical in character.
Should we be accused of excess of imagination if we
conjured up a picture of a little cluster of people standing
by a clerk who reads to them a sermon or a passage of
Holy Writ? The collection of tales, each with a moral,
known as the Gesta Romanorum, would make especially
attractive reading. Some books often found in churches
and frequently mentioned in this book, as the Summa
Praedicantium of John de Bromyarde, Pupilla Oculi, by
John de Burgo, and the Speculum Christiani, by John
Walton, were manuals for the instruction of priests.

[1] Sandys, i. 606; Le Clerc, Hist. Litt. (2nd ed.), 430.


"Ingenia hominum rem publicam fecerunt."

Section I

Probably a few scribes plied their craft in Oxford
in early days long before the students began to
make a settlement, for the town had been a flourishing
borough, one of the largest in England. But until the
end of the twelfth century we hear nothing about books
and their makers or users in Oxford. Then we find illuminators,
bookbinders, parchmenters, and a scribe referred
to in a document relating to the sale of land in Cat Street.
This record is very significant, as it suggests the active
employment of book-makers in the centre of Oxford's
student life. St. Mary's Church was the hub. Cat Street,
School Street running parallel with it from High Street
to the north boundary, and Schydyard Street, the continuation
of School Street on the southern side of High Street,
alleys of the usual medieval narrowness and mean appearance,
the buildings on either hand almost touching one
another, and the way dark--were the haunts of masters
and scholars and all those depending on them. Students,
old and young, of high station and low, are crowded in
lodging-houses, many of which are shabby, dirty, and
disreputable. Hence they come forth to play their games
or carry on their feuds. Some haunt taverns and worse
places. Others eke out their means by begging at street
corners. All get their teaching by gathering round masters
whose rostrum is the church doorstep or the threshold of
the lodging-house. Amid the manifold distractions of this
queerly-ordered life the maker and seller of books earns
what living he can; his chief patrons being indigent
masters, who often must starve themselves to get books, and
students so poor that pawning becomes a custom regulated
by the University itself.

Not till the University became firmly established as a
corporate body could a common library be formed. The
beginning was simple. The first books reserved for
common use had their home in St. Mary's Church: some
lay in chests, and were lent in exchange for a suitable
pledge; others were chained to desks so that students
could readily refer to them. These books were almost
certainly theological in character, and all were no doubt
given by benefactors, now unknowm. Such a gift was
received early in the thirteenth century from Roger de
L'Isle, Dean of York, who gave a Bible, divided into four
parts for the convenience of copyists, and the Book of
Exodus, glossed, but old and of little value.[1] Possibly
some books remained in the church even after an independent
library was founded, for as late as 1414 a copy
of Nicholas de Lyra was chained in the chancel for public
use, where it was inspected by the Chancellor and proctors
every year.[2]

[1] N. Bishop's Collectanea, now at Cambridge; Wood, Hist. and
Antiq. U. of O., ed. Gutch, 1796 2, vol. ii. pt. 2, 910.

[2] Mun. Acad., 270.

To a "good clerk" who had gathered his learning at
three Universities--the arts at Paris, canon law at Oxford,
and theology at Cambridge--the University library appropriately
owes its origin. Bishop Cobham left his books
and three hundred and fifty marks for this purpose in
1327. He had proposed to build a two-storied building,
the lower chamber to be the Congregation House, and the
upper a library; or perhaps the Congregation House was
already standing, and he had the idea of adding another
story, for use as an oratory and library. Therein his
books would bide when he died.[1] Not till long after his
death was the building completed. His books did not
come to the University without much trouble. Bequests
were elusive in the Middle Ages, for people sometimes
dreamed of projects they could not realize while they lived,
and sanguinely hoped their executors would win prayers
for the dead by successfully stretching poor means to a
good end. Cobham died in debt. His books were pawned
to settle his estate and pay for his funeral. Adam de
Brome redeemed the pledges, and handed them over, not
to the University, but to his newly-founded college of
Oriel.[2] In peace the books were enjoyed at Oriel until
four years after de Brome's death. The Fellows claimed
them, it appears, not only because he redeemed them, but
because, as impropriating rectors of the church, both
building and library were theirs, they argued, by right.
The University was equally persistent in its claim. At
last, ten years after Cobham's death, the Commissary,
taking mean advantage of the small number of Fellows in
residence in autumn, went to Oriel with "a multitude of
others," and brought the books away by force. Thereafter
the University held them, but it took nearly seventy years
to settle the dispute about them, and to decide the ownership
of the Congregation House (1410).[3]

[1] Clark, 144; Pietas O., 5; Lyte, 97; Oriel document.

[2] O. H. S. 5, Collect., i, 62-65.

[3] Univ. Arch. W. P. G., 4-6.

Long before 1410 the "good clerk's" books had been
made of real service to students. Fittings were put up in
the library room (1365). Then regulations for managing
the library were drawn up (1367). The books were to be
put in the chamber over the Congregation House, marshalled
in convenient order and chained. There, at certain times,
scholars were to have access to them. Now first appeared
upon the scene a University librarian. The University's
means were slender, and L 40 worth of the books were sold
to provide a stipend for a chaplain-librarian: in place of
these books others of less value were bought; probably
some of Cobham's books were finely illuminated, and the
intention was to purchase less costly copies in their stead.
The chaplain was to pray for the souls of Cobham and of
University benefactors; and to have the charge of the
bishop's books, of the books in the chests, and of any books
coming to the University afterwards.[1]

[1] Mun. Acad., 226-228.

We can easily imagine what the library was like. The
chamber over the Congregation House is small, scarcely
larger than the average class-room of to-day; lighted by
seven windows on each side. Between some, if not all, of
the windows bookcases would stand at right angles to the
wall, forming little alcoves, fit for the quiet pursuit of
knowledge. Learning itself was shackled. Chains from a
bar running the length of each case secured the books,
which could only be read on the slope fixed a few feet
above the floor. In each alcove was a bench for readers
to sit upon. A large and conspicuous board, with titles
and names of benefactors written upon it in a fair hand,
hung up in the room.[1] Here then would come the flower
of Oxford scholarship to study, any time after eight in the
morning. Every student is welcome if he does not enter
in wet clothing, or bring in ink, or a knife, or dagger. We
like to picture this small room, fitted with solid, rude
furniture, monastic in its austerity of appearance; full of
students working eagerly in their quest for knowledge--
making extracts in pencil, or with styles on their tablets,
amid a silence broken only by the crackle of vellum leaves,
and the rattle of a chain.

[1] Ibid., 267.

Such a picture would perhaps be overdrawn. Young
Oxford was not always quiet, or whole-heartedly studious.
The liberal regulations seem to have been liable to abuse.
Students soiled and damaged the books. The little room
was more than full: it was overcrowded with scholars, and
with "throngs of visitors" who disturbed the readers.
After 1412 only graduates and religious who had studied
philosophy for eight years could enter the library, and
while there they must be robed. Even such mature
students had to make solemn oath, in the Chancellor's
presence, to use the books properly: make no erasures or
blots, or otherwise spoil the precious writing.[1] Under these
regulations the library was open from nine to eleven in the
morning, and from one to four in the afternoon, Sundays
and mass days excepted. Strangers of eminence and the
Chancellor could pay a visit at any time by daylight. The
chaplain, who was to be a man of parts, of proved
morality and uprightness, now received 106s. 8d. a year.
The Proctors were bound to pay this stipend half-yearly,
with punctuality, or be fined the heavy sum of forty
shillings: the chaplain, it is explained, must have no
grievance to nurse--no ground for carrying out his duties
in a slovenly or perfunctory manner. He, indeed, was an
important officer. For health's sake he must have a
month's holiday during the long vacation. As it was
absurd for him to have fewer perquisites than those below
him in station, every beneficed graduate, at graduation, was
required to give him robes.[2] The finicking character of
these regulations suggests that the University statute-
maker had as great a dislike for "understandings" as
Dr. Newman.

[1] Mun. Acad., 265.

[2] Ibid,, 261 et seq.

Thus was established firmly, in the early years of the
fifteenth century, a University Library, an important resort
of students; the proper place, as the common rendezvous
of members of the University, for publishing the Lollard
doctrines condemned at London in 1411. No town in
England was better supplied with libraries than Oxford,
for besides the collections of the University, the monastic
colleges and the convents, libraries were already formed at
Merton, University, Oriel and New Colleges. Such progress
in providing scholars' armouries is remarkable, the greater
part of it being accomplished during a period of great
social and religious unrest--not the unrest of a wind-fretted
surface, but of a grim and far-sweeping underswell--a
period when pestilence, violent tempests and earthquakes,
seemed bodeful of Divine displeasure; not a time surely
when the studious life would be attractive, or when much
care would be taken to establish libraries, unless indeed
controversy made recourse to books more necessary or the
signs of the times gave birth to a greater number of

[1] After the Black Death, Trinity Hall, Cambridge, possibly
Corpus Christi, Cambridge, Canterbury College and New College,
Oxford, were founded, and University (Clare) Hall, Cambridge, was
enlarged, partly, at any rate, to repair the ravages the plague
had made among the clergy.--Camb. Lit., ii. 354; cf. Hist. MSS.,
5th Rep., 450.

But the University library was to become the richest
and most considerable in the town. Benefactors were well
greeted. Besides praying for their souls--and some of
them, like Bishop Reed, were pathetically anxious about
the prayers--the University showed every reasonable sign
of its gratitude: posted up donors' names in the library
itself; submitted each gift to congregation three days after
receiving it, and within twelve days later had it chained
up.[1] Many gifts of books were received, some from the
highest in the land: from King Henry the Fourth and his
warlike and ambitious sons--Henry V, Clarence, Bedford,
and Gloucester; from Edmund, Earl of March; from
prelates--Archbishop Arundel, Repyngton of Lincoln,
Courtney of Norwich, and Molyneux of Chichester; from
great Abbot Whethamstede of St. Albans; from wealthy
Archdeacon Browne or Cordone; from rich citizens of
London--Thomas Knolles the grocer and T. Grauntt; and
from Henry VI's physician, John Somersett. John Tiptoft,
Earl of Worcester, also promised books worth five hundred
marks, but after his death they did not come to hand.[2]

[1] Mun. Acad., 267.

[2] Ibid., 266; O. H. S. 35-36, Anstey, 222, 229, 279, 313, 373,
382, 397.

By far the most generous of friends was the Duke of
Gloucester, whose first gift was made before 1413,[1] and his
last when he died in 1447. His record as the helper and
protector of Oxford, his patronage of learning, and of such
exponents of it as Titus Livius of Forli, Leonardo Bruni,
Lydgate and Capgrave, the fact that, notwithstanding his
"staat and dignyte,"

"His courage never cloth appall
To study in bokes of antiquitie,"

earned for him the name of the "good" duke--an appellation
to which the shady labyrinth of his career as a politician,
as a persecutor of the Lollards, and as a licentious man, did
not entitle him. But then Oxford--and its library--was
most in need of such a friend as this English Gismondo
Malatesta; not only on account of his generosity, but
because his royal connexions enabled him to exert influence
on the University's behalf, both at home and abroad.

[1] Mun. Acad., 266.

Of the character of the Duke's gifts in 1413 and in
1430 we know nothing: in 1435 he gave books and money,
but how many books or how much money is not recorded.
Three years later the University sought another gift from
him, and he forthwith sent no fewer than 120 volumes
(1439).[1] The University's gratitude was unbounded. On
certain festivals during the Duke's lifetime prayers were to
be said for him, within ten days after he died a funeral
service was to be celebrated, and on every anniversary of
his death he and his consort were to be commemorated.[2]
Their letters were fulsome: as a founder of libraries he was
compared with Julius Caesar--a compliment also paid him
about the same time by Pier Candid Decembrio; Parliament
was besought to thank him "hertyly, and also prey Godd
to thanke hym in tyme commyng, wher goode dedys teen
rewarded";[3] as a prince he was most serene and illustrious,
lord of glorious renown, son of a king, brother of a king,
uncle of a king, "the very beams of the sun himself"; as a
donor, as greatly and munificently liberal as the recipients
were lowly and humble.[4]

[1] The indenture in which the books are catalogued mentions nine
books received before: possibly these were the gift of
1435.--Mun. Acad., 758; O. H. .S. 35, Anstey, 177.

[2] O. H. S. 35, Anstey, 184-90.

[3] O. H. S. 35, Anstey, 184.

[4] Mun. Acad., 758.

Congregation further marked its appreciation by decreeing
a fresh set of library regulations. A new register,
containing a list of the books already given, was to be
made, and deposited in the chest "of five keys"; lists were
also to be written in the statute books. No volume was
to be sold, given away, exchanged, pledged, lent to be
copied, or removed from the library--except when it needed
repair, or when the Duke himself wanted to borrow it, as
he could, though only under indenture.[1] All books for
the study of the seven liberal arts--the trivium and the
quadrivium--and the three philosophies were to be kept in
a chest called the "chest of the three philosophies and the
seven sciences"; a name suggesting a talisman, like the
golden fleece or the Holy Grail, for which one would
exchange the world and all its ways. The librarian had
charge of this wonderful chest. From it, by indenture, he
could lend books--apparently these books were excepted
from the general rule--to masters of arts lecturing in these
subjects, or, if there were no lecturers, to principals of halls
and masters. And, following older custom, a stationer set
upon each book a price greater than its real value, to lead
borrowers to take more care of it.[2] From a manuscript
preserved in the library of Earl Fitzwilliam at Wentworth
Woodhouse are taken the following curious lines indicating
the character and arrangement of his books:--

"At Oxenford thys lord his bookie fele [many]
Hath eu'y clerk at werk. They of hem gete
Metaphisic; phisic these rather feele;
They natural, moral they rather trete;
Theologie here ye is with to mete;
Him liketh loke in boke historial.
In deskis XII hym serve as half a strete
Hath looked their librair uniu'al."[3] [universal]

[1] O. H. S: 35, Anstey, 246.

[2] O. H. S. 35, Anstey, 187-89; Mun. Acad., 326-29.

[3] Athenaeum, Nov. 17, '88, p. 664; Hulton, Clerk of Oxford in
Fiction, 35.

A year later Gloucester sent 7 more books; then
after a while 9 more (1440-41);[1] and a little later still
his largest gift, amounting to 135 volumes. These handsome
accessions made the collection the finest academic
library in England, not excepting the excellent library of
380 volumes then at Peterhouse. It had a character
of its own. The usual overwhelming mass of Bibles,
of church books, of the Fathers and the Schoolmen
does not depress us with its disproportion. The collection
was strong in astronomy and medicine: Ptolemy,
Albumazar, Rhazes, Serapion, Avicenna, Haly Abenragel,
Zaael, and others were all represented. Besides these, there
was a fine selection of the classics--Plato, Aristotle, including
the Politica and Ethica, Aeschines' orations, Terence, Varro's
De Originae linguae Latinae, Cicero's letters, Verrine and
other orations, and "opera viginti duo Tullii in magno
volumine," Livy, Ovid, Seneca's tragedies, Quintilian, Aulus
Gellius, Noctes Attacae, the Golden Ass of Apulelus, and
Suetonius. But the most interesting items in the list of
his books are the new translations of Plato, and of Aristotle,
whose Ethica was rendered by Leonardo Bruni; the Greek
and Latin dictionary; and the works of Dante, Petrarch
(de Vita solitaria, de Refiais memorandis, de Remediis
utriusque fortunae), Boccaccio, and of Coluccio Salutati's

[1] O. H. S. 35, Anstey, 197 204.

[2] See lists of Gloucester's books in Mun. Acad., 758-65; O. H.
S., Anstey, 179, 183, 232

The library's character might still further have been
freshened had Gloucester's bequest of his Latin books--the
books, we may suppose, he himself prized too highly to
part with during his lifetime--been carried into effect.[1]

[1] He also owned some French manuscripts: what he gave to Oxford
formed part of a much larger private library.

"Our right special Lord and mighty Prince the Duke of
Gloucester, late passed out of this world,--whose soul God
assoil for his high mercy,--not long before his decease,
being in our said University among all the doctors and
masters of the same assembled together, granted unto us
all his Latin books, to the loving of God, increase of clergy
and cunning men, to the good governance and prosperity
of the realm of England without end . . . the which gift
oftentimes after, by our messengers, and also in his last
testament, as we understand, he confirmed." But alas!
Gloucester's bequest was even more elusive than
Cobham's. These books they could, "by no manner of
labours, since he deceased, obtain."[1] What followed is
interesting. Letters asking for the books were sent to the
king, to Mr. John Somersett, His Majesty's physician, "lately
come to influence," to William of Waynflete, provost of the
king's pet project, Eton College, and much in favour; and
to the king's chamberlain (1447). As these appeals were
unavailing, another letter was sent to the king in 1450,
and several others to influential persons, some being to
Gloucester's executors; then, in the same year, the House of
Lords was petitioned. All this wire-pulling failed to serve
its end. The University became angry. An outspoken
letter was sent to Master John Somersett, "lately come to
influence": "Our proctor, Mr. Luke, tells us of your
efforts for us to obtain the books given by the late Duke
of Gloucester, and of your intercession with the king in our
cause: also that you propose to add, of your own gift,
other books to his bequest." All this is very good of you,
the letter proceeds, in effect, "but how is it that, under
these circumstances, the Duke's books, which came into
your custody, are not delivered to us, unless it be that
some powerful influence is exerted to prevent it; for a
steadfast and good man will not be made to swerve from
the path of justice by interest or cupidity. Use your
endeavours to get these books: so do us a good favour; and
clear your character." Three years later it was discovered
the books were scattered and in private hands (1453),[2] or,
as seems likely, at King's College, Cambridge, and Eton.

[1] O. H. S. 35, Anstey, 294-95.

[2] O. H. S. 35, Anstey, 285-86, 300-I, 318.

Now the library over the Congregation House was all
too small. A Divinity School seems to have been first
projected in 1423; building began about seven years
later;[1] but the work proceeded very slowly, owing to
want of money, which the authorities tried to raise in
various ways, even by granting degrees on easy terms.
When Gloucester's books came to overcrowd the old
library--and the books were chained so closely together
that a student when reading one prevented the use of
three or four books near to it--the idea was apparently
first mooted of erecting a bigger room over the new school,
where scholars might study far from the hum of men (a
strepitu succulari). The University sent an appeal to the
Duke for help to carry out this scheme (1445), but he had
then lost power and was in trouble, and does not seem to
have responded favourably, albeit they suggested adroitly
the new library should bear his name.[2] The building was
finished forty years after his death. This ultimate success
was due chiefly to the generosity of Cardinal Beaufort, the
Duchess of Suffolk, and Cardinal Kempe--whose own
library was magnificent.[3]

[1] O. H. S. 35, Anstey, 9, 46.

[2] O. H. S. 35, Anstey, 245-46.

[3] O. H. S. 35-36, Anstey, 326, 439.

By 1488, then, the University was in full enjoyment of
the chamber known ever since as Duke Humfrey's Library,
the noblest storehouse of books then existing in England.[1]
In the same year an old scholar, not known by name,
gave 31 books, and in 1490 Dr. Litchfield, Archdeacon
of Middlesex, presented 132 volumes and a sum of L 200.
These gifts mark the culminating point in the history of the
first University library--a collection over a century and a
half old, accumulated slowly by the forethought and generosity
of the University's friends, only, alas! in a few years'
time to be almost completely dispersed and destroyed.

[1] The plan resembled that of the old library built by Adam de
Brome. For notes on the architectural history of this library,
see Pietas O.

Section II

Before speaking of the dispersion of the University
collection it will be well to observe what had been done in
the colleges, where libraries must have formed an important
part of the collegiate economy. Books, indeed, were eagerly
sought, carefully guarded and preserved; and wealthy Fellows
--even Fellows not to be described as wealthy--often proved
their affection for their college by giving manuscripts.

The first house of the University, William of Durham's
Hall orUniversity Hall (now University College), was founded
between 1249 and 1292, when its statutes were drawn up.
In these statutes are the earliest regulations of the University
for dealing with books in its possession.[1] It seems clear that
the college enjoyed a library--perhaps of some importance,--with
excellent regulations for its use, at the end of the thirteenth
century. What is true of University College is true also of
nearly all the other colleges. Although most of them were not
rich foundations, one of the first efforts of a society was to
collect books for common use. A few years after Merton's
inception (1264) the teacher of grammar was supplied with books
out of the common purse, and directions were given for the care
of books.[2] To Balliol, Bishop Gravesend of London bequeathed
books (1336) some fifty years after the statutes were given by
the founder's wife.[3] Four years later Sir William de
Felton presented to the college the advowson of the
Church of Abboldesley, so that the number of scholars
could be raised, each could have sufficient clothing, receive
twelvepence a week, and possess in common books relating
to the various Faculties.[4] The earliest reference to the
library of Exeter College, or Stapledon Hall, occurs also
about half a century after its foundation: in 1366 payment
was made for copying a book called Domyltone--possibly
one of John of Dumbleton's works. Oriel College either
had a library from its foundation, or the regulations of
1329 were drawn up for Bishop Cobham's books, which
Adam de Brome had redeemed. In 1375 Oriel certainly
had its own library of nearly one hundred volumes, more
than half of them being on theology and philosophy, with
some translations of Aristotle, but otherwise not a single
classic work; a collection to be fairly considered as
representative of the academic libraries of this period.[5]
Queen's College was one of those to which Simon de Bredon,
the astronomer, bequeathed books in 1368, nearly thirty
years after its foundation.[6] "Seint Marie College of
Wynchestr," or New College, made a better start than any
house (1380). The founder, William of Wykeham, endowed
it with no fewer than 240 or 243 volumes, of which
135 or 138 were theology, 28 philosophy, 41 canon law,
36 civil law; somebody unnamed, but possibly the founder,
presented 37 volumes of medicine and 15 chained books
in the library; and Bishop Reed--also the good friend of
Merton--gave 58 volumes of theology, 2 of philosophy,
and 3 of canon law.[7] Lincoln College had a collection of
books at its foundation (1429); Dr. Gascoigne gave 6
manuscripts worth nearly three pounds apiece (1432); and
Robert Flemming, a cousin of the founder, renowned for
his travels and studies and collections in Italy, left a
number of manuscripts, variously estimated at 25
and 38 in number, to his house. In 1474 this
college had 135 manuscripts, stored in seven presses.
Rules for the use of books were included in the first
statutes of All Souls College, founded in 1438. At
Magdalen the library had a magnificent start when
William of Waynflete brought with him no fewer than
800 volumes on his visit in 1481; many of these were
printed books.

[1] Mun. Acad., 58, 59; cf. Smith, Annals of U.C., 37-39.

[2] Commiss. Docts., Oxford, i., Statutes, p. 24.

[3] Lyte, 181.

[4] Paravicini, Ball. Coll., 169, 173.

[5] O. H. S. 5, Collect., i. 66.

[6] Hist. MSS., ix. 1, 46.

[7] O, H. S. 32, Collect., iii. 225; cf. Hist. MSS. 2nd Rep.,
App. 135a; Walcott, W. of Wykeham, 285.

To tell the story of each of these early college libraries
with continuity is not to our purpose, and is perhaps not
feasible. So many details are lacking. We do not know
whether all the libraries, once started, were constantly
maintained; but it is reasonable to assume they were, as
records--a few only--of purchases and donations are
preserved. Usually gifts were made only to the college in
which the donor felt special interest, but sometimes generous
men were more catholic. Four colleges--University, Balliol,
Merton, and Oriel--benefited under Bishop Stephen
Gravesend's will (1336); six--University, Balliol, Merton,
Exeter, Oriel, and Queen's--under the will of Simon de
Bredon, astronomer and sometime Proctor of the University
(1368): in both cases the testators distributed their gifts
among all the secular colleges in existence at the time.[1]
Dr. Thomas Gascoigne gave many books to Balliol, Oriel,
Durham, and Lincoln Colleges (1432)[2] William Reed,
Bishop of Chichester, also was the friend of more than
one society, for New College, as we have seen, got 63
volumes from him, Exeter some others, and Merton
99.[3] Roger Whelpdale (d. 1423) bequeathed books to
Balliol and Queen's Colleges. Henry VI gave 23 manuscripts
to All Souls College (1440). Robert Twaytes
gave books to Balliol in 1451: his example was followed
by George Nevil, Bishop of Exeter and afterwards Archbishop
of York (1455, 1475), Dr. Bole (1478), and John
Waltham (1492). An old Fellow showed his gratitude
to University College by bestowing 68 books, mostly
Scriptural commentaries, on its library (1473). Some of
the gifts were smaller.[4] A chancellor of the church of
York bequeathed a single volume to Merton. Bishop
Skirlaw--a good friend of the college in other ways--gave
6 books to University in 1404: they were to be chained
in the library and never lent. Such gifts were received as
gratefully as the larger donations; indeed, it was esteemed
a feather in the cap of the Master that while he held office
Skirlaw's books were received. Never at any time were
books more highly appreciated than in Oxford of the
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Sometimes gifts took
the form of money for a curious purpose. For example,
Robert Hesyl, a country rector, bequeathed the sum of
6s. 8d. "ad intitulandum nomina librorum in libraria collegii
Lincoln: contentorum, supra dorsa eorum cooperienda
cornu et clavis."[5] But the colleges did not depend wholly
on gifts, for records are preserved of purchases for Queen's
College in 1366-67;[6] All Souls College between 1449 and
1460; for Magdalen College between 1481 and 1539; for
Merton College between 1322 and 1379; and for New
College between 1462 and 1481.

[1] Hist. MSS. 8th Rep., i. 46; Reg. Abp. Whittlesey, fo. 122,
cited by Lyte,

[2] Rogers, Agric. and Prices, iv. 599-600.

[3] O. H. S. 32, Collect., 223, 214-15.

[4] See the gifts to Exeter College, O. H. S. 27, Boase, passim.

[5] Mun. Acad., ii. 706.

[6] Hist. MSS. 2nd Rep., 140a.

The growth of the libraries made the provision of
special bookrooms a necessity. A library on the ground
floor of University College is referred to in the Bursar's
Roll (1391). At Merton the books were originally kept
in a chest under three locks. A room was set apart quite
early: books were chained up in it in 1284. In 1354 a
carpenter was paid for fittings and "deskis." Bishop
Reed of Chichester erected a library building in 1377-79;
Wyllyot and John Wendover contributed towards the cost,
which amounted to L 462. With the exception of the
room thrown into the south library at its eastern end, of
two large dormers, and of the glass in the west room, the
original structure has been altered very little, and it is
therefore one of the best examples of a medieval library in
this country. When the old library of Exeter College was
first used we do not know: it was possibly one of the
tenements originally given to the college by Peter de
Skelton and partly repaired by the founder. Money was
disbursed for thatching it in 1375.[1] Nearly ten years
later a new library was put up. Bishop Brantingham and
John More, rector of St. Petrock's, Exeter, contributed
handsomely towards the cost; another Bishop of Exeter,
Edmund Stafford,--in whose time the name of the house
was changed from Stapledon Hall to Exeter College,--
enlarged the building in 1404; and Bishops Grandisson,
Brantingham, Stafford, and Lacy gave books.[2] In the
library room some of the books were chained to desks, and
some were kept in chests.[3] All this points to a flourishing
library at Exeter; although, on occasions when their yearly
expenses were heavier than usual, the Fellows were obliged
to pawn books to one of the loan chests of the University,
or even to their barber.[4]

[1] Hist. MSS. App. 2nd Rep., 129; O. H. S. 27, Boase, xlvii.

[2] Brantingham gave L 20 towards the building; More, L 10.
Account of building expenses, amounting to L 57, 13s. 5 1/2 d.,
is given in O. H. S., 27, Boase, 345, see p. xiii.

[3] O. H. S., 27, Boase, xlviii. In 1392 "iiiis pro ligacione
septem librorum et Id pro cervisia in eisdem ligatoribus, VId
erario pro labore suo circa eosdem libros, et IId Johanni Lokyer
pro impositione eorundem librorum in descis."

[4] Ibid., xlviii.

The monastic college of Durham enjoyed a "fayre
library, well-decked and well flowred withe a timber Flowre
over it," built in 1417 and fitted in 1431.[1] Another college
belonging to the monks of Christ Church, Canterbury,
also had a library, which had been replenished with books
from the mother-house.[2] In 1431 a library building was
begun at Balliol College by Mr. Thomas Chace, after he
had resigned the office of Master. Bishop William Grey,
besides enriching his college with manuscripts, also
completed the home for them (c. 1477), on a window of which
are still to be read his name and the name of Robert
Abdy, the Master.

"His Deus adjecit; Deus his det gaudia celi,
Abdy perfecit opus hoc Gray presul et Ely."[3]

[1] The building, which is still standing as a part of Trinity
College, cost L 42; fittings, L 6, 165. 8d. Blakiston, Trin.
Coll., 26.

[2] James, xlvii.

[3] Cf. Willis, Arch. Hist. Camb., ii. 410.

In another window, on the north side, was inscribed--

"Conditor ecce novi structus hujus fuit Abdy.
Praesul et huic Oedi Gray libros contulit Ely."

The first library of Oriel College, on the east side of
the quadrangle, was not erected until about 1444; before
that the books seem to have been kept in chests, although
the collection was large for the time.[1] As early as 1388-89
payments were made for making desks for the library of
Queen's College.[2] In the case of New, Lincoln, All Souls,
and Magdalen Colleges, library rooms were included when
the college buildings were first erected. Magdalen's library
was copied from All Souls: the windows in it were "to be
as good as or better than" those in the earlier foundation.

[1] Willis, iii. 410.

[2] Hist. MSS. 2nd Rep., 141a.

Section III

Towards the end of the fifteenth century the beginning
of the sad end of all this good work may be traced. Some
part of the collections disappeared gradually. In 1458
books were chained at Exeter College, because some of
them had been taken away. When volumes became
damaged and worn out, they were not replaced by others.
Some were pledged, and although every effort was made
to redeem them, as at Exeter College in 1466, 1470,
1472 and 1473, yet it seems certain many were permanently
alienated. Others were perhaps sold, or given
away, as John Phylypp gave away two Exeter College
manuscripts in 1468.[1] The University library was in
similar case. When Erasmus saw the scanty remains of
this collection he could have wept. "Before it had
continued eighty years in its flourishing state," writes
Wood of the library, "[it] was rifled of its precious treasure!
by unreasonable persons. That several scholars would,,
upon small pledges given in, borrow books . . . that were
never restored. Polydore Virgil . . . borrowed many after
such a way; but at length being denied, did upon petition
made to the king obtain his license for the taking out of
any MS. for his use (in order, I suppose, for the collecting
materials for his English History or Chronicle of England),
which being imitated by others, the library thereby suffered
very great loss." Matters became still worse. Owing to
the threatened suppression of the religious houses, the
number of students at Oxford decreased enormously. In
1535, 108 men graduated, in the next year only 44 did
so; until the end of Henry VIII's reign the average number
graduating was 57, and in Edward's reign the average was
33.[2] Naturally, therefore, some laxity crept into the
administration of the University and the colleges. Active
enemies of our literary treasures were not behindhand,
In 1535 Dr. Layton, visitor of monasteries, descended
upon Oxford. "We have sett Dunce [Duns Scotus] in
Bocardo, and have utterly banisshede hym Oxforde for
ever, with all his blinde glosses, and is nowe made a comon
servant to evere man, faste nailede up upon posses in all
comon howses of easment: id quod oculis meis vidi.
And the seconde tyme we came to New Colege, affter we
trade declarede your injunctions, we fownde all the gret
quadrant court full of the leiffes of Dunce, the wynde
blowyng them into evere corner. And ther we fownde
one Mr. Grenefelde, a gentilman of Bukynghamshire,
getheryng up part of the saide bowke leiffes (as he saide)
therwith to make hym sewelles or blawnsherres to kepe the
dere within the woode, therby to have the better cry with
his howndes."[3] A commission assembled at Oxford in
1550, and met many times at St. Mary's Church. No
documentary evidence of their treatment of libraries
remains, but it was certainly most drastic. Any illuminated
manuscript, or even a mathematical treatise illustrated with
diagrams, was deemed unfit to survive, and was thrown out
for sale or destruction. Some of the college libraries did
not suffer severely. Most of Grey's books survived in
Balliol, although the miniatures were cut out. Queen's,
All Souls, and Merton came through the ordeal nearly
unscathed. But Lincoln lost the books given by Gascoigne
and the Italian importations of Flemming; Exeter College
was purged. The University library itself was entirely
dispersed. One of the commissioners, "by name Richard
Coxe, Dean of Christ Church, shewed himself so zealous
in purging this place of its rarities . . . that . . . savoured
of superstition, that he left not one of those goodly MSS.
given by the before mentioned benefactors. Of all which
there were none restored in Q. Mary's reign, when then an

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