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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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inquisition was made after them, but only one of the parts
of Valerius Maximus, illustrated with the Commentaries of
Dionysius de Burgo, an Augustine Fryer, and with the
Tables of John Whethamsteed, Abbat of St. Alban's.
That some of the books so taken out by the Reformers were
burnt, some sold away for Robin Hood's pennyworths,[4]
either to Booksellers, or to Glovers, to press their gloves,
or Taylors to make measures, or to bookbinders to cover
books bound by them, and some also kept by the Reformers
for their own use. That the said library being
thus deprived of its furniture was employed, as the schools
were, for infamous uses. That in laying waste in that
manner, and not in a possibility (as the academians
thought) of restoring it to its former estate, they ordered
certain persons in a Convocation (Reg. 1. fol. 157a held
Jan. 25, 1555-56 to sell the benches and desks "herein; so
that being strips stark naked (as I may say) continued so
till Bodley restored it."[5] The only cheerful reference to
this period is that by Wood, who tells us some friendly
people bought in a number of the manuscripts, and
ultimately handed them over to the University after the
library's restoration.[6] But of all the books given by the
Duke of Gloucester only three are now in the Bodleian,
and only three others in Corpus Christi, Oriel, and
Magdalen. The British Museum possesses nine; Cambridge
one; private collectors two. Six are in France:
two Latin--both Oxford books--and three French manuscripts
in the Bibliotheque Nationale, and one manuscript
at the Bibliotheque Ste. Genevieve. The Ste. Genevieve
book[7] is a magnificent Livy, once belonging to the famous
Louvre Library. It bears the inscription: "Cest livre est a
moy Homfrey, duc de Gloucestre, du don mon tres chier
cousin le conte de Warewic."[8]

[1] O. H. S. 27, Boase; O. H. S. 5, Collect., 62. At C. C, Christ
Church, and St. John's Colleges the least useful books could be
sold if the libraries became too large.--Oxford Stat.

[2] Camb. Lit., iii. 50.

[3] Cam. Soc., xxvi. 71.

[4] I.e. for practically nothing, a mere song.

[5] Wood (Gulch), 918-19.

[6] With Bodley's noble work this book has no concern. The story
has been told briefly in Mr. Nicholson's Pietas Oxoniensis, and
with more detail in Dr. Macray's Annals of the Bodleian.

[7] MS. francais, I. I.

[8] Delisle, Le Cabinet des MSS., i. 152.


Section I

AS the libraries of Cambridge were mostly of later
foundation than those at Oxford, and as the collections
were of the same character, it is less necessary
to describe them in detail, especially after having dealt
fully with the collections of the sister university. Cambridge
University does not seem to have owned books in
common until the first quarter of the fifteenth century.
Before that, in 1384, the books intended for use in the
University were submitted to the Chancellor and Doctors,
so that any containing heretical and objectionable opinions
could be weeded out and burnt. In 1408-9 it was
ordered that books suspected to contain Lollard doctrines
should be examined by the authorities of both Universities;
if approved by them and by the Archbishop of Canterbury,
they could be delivered to the stationers for copying, but
not before. And in 1480 keepers of chests were forbidden
to receive as a pledge any book written on paper.[1] Certain
regulations were also made with regard to the status of
stationers and others engaged in book-making in the town.
But there seems to have been no common library.

[1] Cooper, i. 128, 152, 224.

About the time when Gloucester made his first gift of
books to Oxford University a public library was possibly
"founded" by John Croucher, who gave a copy of Chaucer's
translation of Boethius' De Consolatione philosophiae. Richard
Holme, Warden of King's Hall, who died in 1424, gave
sixteen volumes. At this time the collection amounted to
seventy-six volumes. Robert Fitzhugh, Bishop of London,
now left two books, a Textus moralis philosophiae and
Codeton Super quatuor libros Sertentiarum (1435-6). By
1435 or 1440 it had increased to one hundred and
twenty-two books: theology accounting for sixty-nine,
natural and moral philosophy for seventeen, canon law
for twenty-three, medicine for five, grammar for six, and
logic and sophistry for one each. Besides Holme's books
there were in this library eight books given by John
Aylemer, six given by Thomas Paxton, ten by James
Matissale, five each by John Preston, John Water,
Robert Alne (1440),[1] and John Tesdale: other benefactors
gave one or two or three.[2]

[1] Surtees Soc., xxx. 78-79.

[2] Bradshaw, 19-34; Willis, iii. 404.

In 1423 one John Herrys or Harris gave ten pounds
for the library, possibly for a building, as books do not
seem to have been bought with it.[1] A common library
is mentioned in 1438.[2] In the same year a grant was
made by the king of the manor of Ruyslip and a place
called Northwood for a library. The first room was erected
between this year and 1457. After 1454 many entries
occur in the University accounts for the roof of the new
chapel and the library, for the general repairs of the same
buildings, for the chaining and binding of books, and for
their custody during a fire in King's College in 1457.[3] A
sketch of the Schools quadrangle drawn about 1459 shows
this library, libraria nova, above the Canon Law schools, on
the west side.[4] Between the completion of this library
and 1470 the south side of the quadrangle was built, the
school of civil law occupying the ground floor, and the
Great Library or Common Library the first floor. The
second extant catalogue of books (1473) relates to the
books in this room: possibly the west room had been
cleared for other purposes. Now the inventory proves the
library to have been in possession of three hundred and
thirty volumes, stored upon eight stalls or desks on the north
side and upon nine stalls on the southern side, facing King's
College Chapel.[5] But in a few years the buildings were
extended and the collection augmented munificently by
Thomas Rotherham or Scot, then Chancellor of the
University and Bishop of Lincoln, afterwards Archbishop
of York. Rotherham completed the building begun on
the east side of the quadrangle by erecting the library
which occupies the whole of the first floor (1470-75). In
this libraria domini cancellarii his own books were stored.
His generosity was recognised by the University in the
fullest possible manner; special care was taken of his
books, and his library came to be known as the private
library, to which only a few privileged persons were
admitted, while the great library remained in use as the
public room.[6]

[1] Cooper, i. 170; Rotuli Parl., iv. 321.

[2] Willis, Arch. Hist. Camb., iii. 11.

[3] Ibid., iii. 12.

[4] Ibid., iii. 5.

[5] Bradshaw, 35-53; C.A.S Comm., ii. 258.

[6] Willis. iii. 25.

The learned Bishop Tunstall gave some Greek books
to the library in 1529, just before he was translated to
the see of Durham. Even then, however, the collection
was on the down grade. Nine years later, owing to a
decline in numbers at the University and a loss of revenue,
some of the books, described as "useless," were sold.[1]
Then again, in 1547, occurs a more significant notice. A
Grace was passed recommending the conversion of the
great or common library into a school for the Regius
Professor of Divinity, because "in its present state it is no
use to anybody."[2] Neglect and worse had laid this part
of the library as waste as Dulce Humfrey's room at Oxford.
Apparently then only the Chancellor's library remained.
More "old" books were removed from the collection in
1572-3. In this same year a catalogue was drawn up.
Only one hundred and seventy-seven volumes were left:
"moste parse of all theis bookes be of velam and parchment,
but very sore cut and mangled for the lymned letters and
pictures."[3] Clearly sad havoc had been played with this
library, which had started with so much promise.

[1] Mullinger, ii. 50.

[2] Willis, iii. 25.

[3] Ibid., iii. 25-26n.

Section II

The earliest collegiate libraries were Peterhouse,
Pembroke Hall, Clare Hall, Trinity Hall, and Gonville.
Peterhouse had the first library in Cambridge. Hugh of
Balsham, Bishop of Ely, introduced into an Augustinian
Hospital at Cambridge a number of scholars who were to
live with the brethren. Before Hugh died the brethren
and the scholars quarrelled, and the latter were removed
to two hostels on the site of the present college (1281-84).
He did not forget to provide his new foundation with
books, among other properties. In the statutes of 1344
are stringent provisions for the care of books, which prove
that the society had a library worthy of some thought.
Clare College was founded by the University as University
Hall (1326), then refounded twelve years later by Lady
Elizabeth de Clare as Clare Hall. In 1355 she bequeathed
a few books. Pembroke College, founded in 1346, received
a gift of ten books from the first Master, William
Styband. The statutes of Trinity Hall, which was
founded by Bishop William Bateman in 1350, partly to
repair the losses of scholarly clergy during the Black
Death, also contain a special section relating to the college
books. It was not drawn up in anticipation of the formation
of a library, for the founder himself gave seventy
volumes on civil and canon law and theology, besides
fourteen books for the chapel; forty-eight, including seven
chapel books, were reserved for the Bishop's own use during
his life.[1] To Gonville College, founded as the Hall of the
Annunciation in 1348, Archdeacon Stephen Scrope left a
Catholicon in 1418[2] King's Hall, later absorbed in
Trinity College, some sixty years after its foundation,
possessed a library of eighty-seven volumes (1394). Gifts
of books were made to Corpus Christi College soon after
its foundation in 1352, but a library is not referred to in
the old statutes. Thomas de Eltisle, the first Master,
gave several books, among them a very fine missal, "most
excellently annotated throughout all the offices, and bound
with a cover of white deer leather, and with red clasps."
At this time (1376) we find an inventory showing that
the contents of the library were chiefly theological and
law books.

[1] C. A. S. Comm., ii. 73; Willis, iii. 402.

[2] Surtees Soc,, iv. 385.

The intention of King Henry VI was to make the
library of King's College and that of Eton very good. In
his great plan for the former, which was never carried out,
Henry proposed to have in the west side of the court,
"atte the ende toward the chirch," "a librarie, conteynyng
in lengthe . cx . fete, and in brede . xxiiij . fete, and under
hit a large hous for redyug and disputacions, conteynyng
in lengthe . xl . fete, and . ij . chambres under the same
librarie, euery conteynyng . xxix. fete in lengthe and in
brede . xxiiij . fete."[1] But an apartment was set aside
for books, and, as a charge was incurred for strewing it
with rushes in expectation of a visit from the king, it was
evidently a repository worth seeing.[2] Early in 1445 the
king sent Richard Chester, sometime his envoy at the
Papal court, to France and other countries, and to certain
parts of England, in search of books and relics for his
foundations. Within two years, however, a joint petition
came from Eton and King's College, stating that neither
of these colleges "nowe late fownded and newe growyng"
"were sufficiently supplied with books for divine service and
for their libraries and studies, or with vestments and
ornaments, whiche thinges may not be had withoute
great and diligente labour be longe processe and right
besy inquisicion.' They therefore begged that the king
would order Chester to take to hym suche men as shall
be seen to hym expedient and profitable, and in especial!
John Pye,' the King's stacioner of London, and other
suche as teen connyng and have undirstonding in such
matiers,' charging them all to laboure effectually, inquere
and diligently inserche in all place that ben under' the
King's obeysaunce, to gete knowleche where suche bokes,
onourmentes, and other necessaries for' the saide colleges
may be founder to selle.' They were anxious that
Richard Chester should have authority to bye, take, and
receive alle suche goodes afore eny other man . . . satisfying
to the owners of suche godes suche pris as thei may
resonably accorde and agree. Soo that he may have the
ferste choise of alle suche goodes afore eny other man,
and in especiall of all maner bokes, ornementes, and other
necessaries as nowe late were perteyning to the Duke of
Gloucestre.' "[3] At King's College many charges were
incurred for books a year later, in 1448 By 1452 this
foundation had 174 or 175 books, on philosophy, theology,
medicine, astrology, mathematics, canon law, grammar, and
in classical literature.[4] The only volume now remaining
of this collection once belonged to Duke Humfrey, and as
the list contains a fair number of classical books--Aristotle,
Liber policie Platonis, Tullius in noua rethorica, Seneca,
Sallust, Ovid, Julius Caesar, Plutarch--besides a book of
Poggio Bracciolini, it seems likely that King's College, and
perhaps Eton, received some of the books promised by the
Duke to Oxford University and begged for repeatedly and
in vain by that University, after his death.[5]

[1] Willis, i. 370.

[2] Willis, i. 537.

[3] Lyte, Eton, 28-29.

[4] James 2, 72-83.

[5] James 2, 70-71; and see p. 144.

Likewise at Eton--which may be referred to appropriately
here--the king desired to have a good library.
"Item the Est pane in lengthe within the walles . ccxxx.
fete in the myddel whereof directly agayns the entre of
the cloistre a librarie conteynyng in lengthe . lij . fete and
in brede . xxiiij . fete with . iij . chambres aboue on the
oon side and . iiij . on the other side and benethe . ix.
chambres euery of them in lengthe . xxvj . fete and in brede
. xviij . fete with . v. utter toures and . v. ynner toures."[1]

[1] Willis, i. 356.

A library room is referred to in 1445 or 1446; then
"floryshid" glass was bought for the windows of it.[1] In
1484-85 it is again mentioned in connexion with repairs.
A year later a lock and twelve keys for the library were
paid for.[2] Then in 1517, we are told, "the fyrst stone was
layd yn the fundacyon off the weste parse off the College,
whereon ys bylded Mr. Provost's logyn, the Gate, and the
Lyberary."[3] It would seem that these several references
are to the vestry of the Chapel, in which the books were
first kept, and then to the Election Hall, to which they were
subsequently removed.[4] Henry VI seems to have given
L 200 "for to purvey them books to the pleasure of God."[5]

[1] Lyte, Eton, 37; Willis, i. 393.

[2] Willis, i. 414

[3] Lyte, Eton, 101.

[4] James 14 viii.

[5] Lyte, Eton, 29.

St. Catharine's Hall, founded in 1473-75, in a few
years enjoyed the use of 104 volumes, of which 85 were
given by the founder, Dr. Robert Wodelarke. At Queens'
College a library was included in the first buildings; and
some twenty-five years after the foundation in 1448, no
fewer than 224 volumes were on the desks.[1]

[1] C. A. S. Comm., ii. 165.

As at Oxford, these collections were augmented by the
gifts of generous friends and loyal scholars. Peterhouse
had many friends. Thomas Lisle, Bishop of Ely, gave a
large Bible (1300).[1] In 1418 a welcome gift came from
a former Master, John de Newton, who had reserved some
theological books, Seneca, Valerius Maximus, and other
books for his old house. At this time Peterhouse had 380
volumes: at Oxford the University library was no larger,
although it was possibly richer, and in numbers only the
library of New College can have beaten it. Sir Thomas
Beaufort, Duke of Exeter, bequeathed a volume of sermons
in 1427.[2] Later Dr. Thomas Lane gave some good books
(1450). Then Dr. Roger Marshall presented a large
number of volumes, some of which were to be placed in
libraria secretiori, and in chains, if the Master and Fellows
thought fit, while the remainder were to be chained in apertiori
libraria, where they could not be borrowed, but were
easily accessible (1472): this benefactor evidently fully
appreciated Peterhouse's division of its library into reference
and lending sections. Less than a decade later Dr. John
Warkworth, the Master, presented fifty-five manuscripts,
among which was his own Chronicle. "Among the gifts
made to the library in the fifteenth century are one or two
which raise curious questions. One book comes from Bury
and has the Bury mark. Another belonged to the canons
of Hereford; another to Worcester; another to Durham (it
is still identifiable in the Durham catalogue of 1391); and
there are other instances of the kind. Such a phenomenon
makes one very anxious to know how freely and under what
conditions collegiate and monastic bodies were in the habit
of parting with their books during the time before the
Dissolution. Was there not very probably an extensive
system of sale of duplicates? I prefer this notion," writes
Dr. James, "to the idea that they got rid of their books
indiscriminately, because the study of monastic catalogues
shows quite plainly that the number of duplicates in any
considerable library was very large. On the other hand, it
is clear that books often got out of the old libraries into the
hands of quite unauthorised persons: so that there was
probably both fair and foul play in this matter."[3] To
Pembroke College came gifts from successive Masters and
from friends between the date of foundation and the year
1484, when the College had received 158 volumes in this
way.[4] One of the donors was Rotherham, the great friend
of the public library. During the same period a number of
books were also purchased. Corpus Christi received a like
series of donations. The third Master, John Kynne, gave
a Bible, which he had "bought at Northampton at the time
(1380) when the Parliament was there, for the purpose of
reading therefrom in the Hall at the time of dinner." The
fifth and sixth Masters, Drs. Billingford and Tytleshale,
were benefactors to the library; and during the latter's
mastership one of the fellows, Thomas Markaunt the
antiquary, bequeathed seventy-six volumes, then valued at
over L 100 (1439).[5] Later Dr. Cosyn presented books; and
Dr. Nobys, the twelfth Master, left a large number of
volumes, which were chained in the library.

[1] C. A. S. (N.S.), iii. (8vo. ser.) 398.

[2] Ibid., 399.

[3] C. A. S. (N.S.), iii. (8vo. ser.), 399.

[4] James (M. R.) 10, xiii.-xvii.; C. A. S., ii, (8vo. ser.
1864), 13-21.

[5] MS. 232, in the library, contains his will, a list of his
books with their prices another catalogue, and a register of the
borrowers of the books from 1440 to 1516.

A vicar of St. Mary's, Nottingham, named John Hurte,
gave books to several colleges--to Clare Hall seven books,
including Guido delle Colonne's Troy book, Ptolemy in
Quadripartito; to the College of God's House, afterwards
absorbed in Christ's College, Egidius and a Doctrinale; to
King's College Isaac de Urinis; to the University Library
three books; as well as an astronomical work to Gotham
Chest (1476).[1]

[1] Surtees Soc., xiv. 220-22.

At Peterhouse in 1414 special provision was being
made for the books in a long room on the first floor. The
workman employed on the job was to receive, in addition
to his wages, a gown if the College were pleased with his
work. By 1431 a new library was necessary, and a
contract was entered into for building it. Sixteen years
later the work had so progressed that desks were being
made. In 1450 the old desks were broken up, and locks
and keys were bought for sixteen new cases. This library
was on the west side of the quadrangle. A library for
Clare Hall was built between 1420 and 1430. A little
before this a new library was begun for King's Hall,
probably to replace a smaller room. For the books of
Pembroke College a storey was added to the Hall about
1452. The early collection of Gonville Hall was kept in
a strong-room; then in 1441 a special room was included
in the buildings on the west side of the quadrangle. At
Trinity Hall the books were stored in a room over the
passage from one court to the other and at the east end of
the chapel, and here they remained until after the Reformation.
The early library room of Corpus Christi was in
the Old Court, on the first floor next to the Master's lodge.
In Queens', St. Catharine's, Jesus Christ's, St. John's and
Magdalene a library formed a part of the original quadrangle.[1]

[1] Willis, i. 200, 226; iii. 411.


Here it will be convenient to give some account of the
regulations for the use of books in colleges, both at
Oxford and Cambridge. The University libraries
were for reference: the College libraries were for both
reference and lending use, and the regulations are therefore
different in essentials. By the statutes of University
College (1292) one book of every kind that the college had
was to be put in some common and safe place, so that
the Fellows, and others with the consent of the Fellows,
might have the use of it. Sometimes, especially in the
colleges of early foundation, this common collection was
kept in chests; usually the books were securely chained to
desks. The common books were chained at New College
(statutes, 1400) and at Lincoln College (1429). At Peterhouse,
soon after 1418, some 220 volumes were preserved for
reference, and 160 were distributed among the Fellows.[1] At
All Souls College a number of books selected by the warden,
vice-wardens, and deans, were chained, together with the
books given on the express condition that they should be
chained (statutes, 1443). This collection, then, was the
college reference library; corresponding with the common
aumbry of the monastery, but also indicative of the principle
of all library organisation that, while it is desirable to lend
books, it is also necessary to keep a number of them all
together in one fixed place for reference.

[1] Clark, 140.

The libri distribuendi, or books for lending, were the
special feature of the college library. At Merton the
books were distributed by the warden and sub-warden
under an adequate pledge (1276). Once a year, after
the books had been inspected, each Fellow of Oriel could
select a book on the subject he was reading up, and could
keep it, if he chose, until the next distribution a year
later, while if there were more books than Fellows, those
over could be selected in the same way (statutes, 1329). At
Peterhouse, the Senior Dean distributed the books to scholars
in the manner he saw fit; later it was ruled that all the
books not chained might be circulated once every two years
on a day to be fixed by the Master and Senior Dean
(statutes, 1344, 1480). At New College students in civil
and canon law could have two books for their special use
during the time they devoted themselves to those faculties,
if they did not own the books themselves. If books
remained over, after this distribution, they were to be
distributed annually in the usual way (statutes, 1400).
Similarly the books were circulated at All Souls (statutes,
1443), at Magdalen (1459), at Exeter[1] and at Queen's. At
Lincoln College bachelors could only have logical and
philosophical books distributed to them, and not theology
(statutes, 1429).

[1] In winter 1382 "viid. ob pro ligature cuiusdam textus
philosophic de eleccione Johannis Mattecote." Winter 1405, "id.
ob pro pergameno empto pro novo registro faciendo pro eleccione
librorum"; winter 1457, "iiiid. More stacionario pro labore suo
duobus diebus appreciando libros collegii qui traduntur in
eleccionibus sociorum." Autumn 1488, "iis. id. pro redempcione
librorum quondam eleccionis domini Ricardi Symon."--O. H. S. 27,
Boase, xlix.

The procedure was the same as at the annual claustral
distribution. Although these regulations suggest restrictions
and little else, the students were as a rule fairly
well provided with books. Even if they did not own a
single volume of their own, they had the use of the public
library of the University, and of the college common
library. It is true the distribution or electio librorum took
place only once or twice a year, and then a student got
only a few volumes. Yet we should not assume that he
was obliged to confine his attention to this small dole alone,
for it is but reasonable to suppose he could exchange his
books with those selected by another student. The electio
librorum was a method of securing the safety of the books
by distributing the responsibility for making good losses
equally over the whole community. In the case of
University College an Opponent in theology, a teacher
of the Sentences, and a Regent who also taught, had the
right to borrow freely any book he wanted if he would
restore it, when he had done with it, to the Fellow who
had chosen it at the distribution (statutes, 1292).

A register of loans was carefully maintained. The
Fellows of All Souls were required to have a small
indenture drawn up for each book borrowed, and such
indenture was to be left with the warden or the vice-
warden (statutes, 1443) At Pembroke College, Cambridge,
the librarian or keeper was to prepare large tablets covered
with wax and parchment: on the latter were to be written
the titles of books, on the former the names of the
borrowers; when each book was returned, the borrower's
name was pressed out. This was a monastic practice.
Such records, even if trifling, were in turn the subject of an
indenture if they were transferred from one person to

[1] P. R. O., Anc. Deeds, c. 1782.

The rules drawn up to prevent loss were as stringent
for college as for monastic libraries. No Fellow of
University College could take away, sell, or pawn books
belonging to his house without the consent of all the
fellows (statutes, 1292). At Peterhouse scholars were
bound by oath to similar effect (statutes, 1344). A
statute of Magdalen is most insistent--a book could not be
alienated, under any excuse whatever, nor lent outside
the college, nor could it be lent in quires for copying to
a member of the College or a stranger, either in the Hall
or out of it, nor could it be taken out of the town, or
even out of the Hall, either whole or in sheets, by the
Master or any one else, but to the schools it could be
taken when necessary and on condition that it was brought
back to the college before nightfall (1459). A like
injunction was given at Pembroke College, Cambridge, and
Brasenose College.

Lending outside a college was unusual, but was sometimes
allowed, as in monasteries, under indenture, and upon
deposit of a pledge of greater value than the book lent,
and with the general consent of Fellows (University College
statutes, 1292; All Souls statutes, 1443). Every book
belonging to University College had a high value set upon
it, so that a borrower should not be careless in his use of
it (statutes, 1292); and at Peterhouse the Master and two
Deans were expected to set a value upon the books (special
statute, 1480). Punishment for default was severe. Any
Fellow of Oriel neglecting or refusing to restore his books,
or to pay the value set upon them, forfeited his right of
selecting for another year, and if he failed to make good
the loss before the following Christmas, he was no longer a
Fellow--eo facto non socius ibidem existat (1441). If a
Fellow of Peterhouse did not produce his book at the fresh
selection, or appoint a deputy to bring it, he was liable to be
put out of commons until he restored it (statute, 1480).

Equal care was taken of the books which were not
circulated. At Merton they were to be kept under three
locks (1276). The deeds, books, muniments, and money
of Stapeldon Hall or Exeter College were kept in a
chest, of which one key was in the hands of the Rector,
another of the Senior Scholar, and a third of the Chaplain
(statutes, 1316). Three different locks, two large and one
small, were used to secure the library door of New College:
the Senior Dean and the Senior Bursar had the keys of the
large locks, and each Fellow had a key of the small lock;
all three locks were to be secured at night (statutes, 1400).
An indenture was drawn up of all the books, charters, and
muniments of Peterhouse in the presence of the greater
number of the scholars: all the books were named and
classified according to faculty. One part of the indenture
was retained by the Master, the other part by the Deans.
All these books and records were preserved in chests, each
of which had two keys, one in the care of the Master, the
other in the hands of the Senior Dean (statutes, 1344).
Books being regarded as an inestimable treasure, which
ought to be most religiously guarded, they could not be
taken from Peterhouse, if chained up, except with the
consent of the Master and all the Fellows in residence, who
must be a majority of the whole Society; and books given
on condition of being chained were not to be removed
under any pretext, excepting only for repair. Even libri
distribuendi were not to be without the college at night,
except by permission of the Master or a Dean, and then
they could not be retained for six months in succession
(statute, 1480).

To detect missing books stock was taken, usually once
a year: again, as in the monasteries. Once a year on a
fixed day the books of Oriel were to be brought out and
displayed for inspection before the Provost or his deputy
and all the Fellows (statutes, 1329). The same ceremony
took place at Trinity Hall twice a year; the books were to
be laid out one by one, so that they could be seen by
everybody (statutes, 1350); at Peterhouse the inspection
was held only once in two years (statute, 1480). At All
Souls an inspection was held (statutes, 1443); at the
Pembroke College inspection each book was exhibited in
order to the Masters and Fellows. At Magdalen, as elsewhere,
the inspection was thorough: the books were to be
shown realiter, visibiliter, et distincte.

The above rules embody the common practice of the
colleges. Certain houses had unusual provisions. Every
Fellow of Magdalen College was to close the book he had
been reading before he left, and also shut the windows
(statutes, 1459). With the beginning of the sixteenth
century comes a faint hint of discrimination in selecting
books. No book was to be brought into the library of
Corpus Christi College, Oxford, or chained there, if it were
not of sufficent worth and importance (nisi sit competentis
pretii aut utilitas) (unless it had been given with specific
direction that it should be chained), but it was to go among
the books for lending (statutes, 1517).[1]

[1] See further, Documents relating to the University and
Colleges of Cambridge (3v. 1852); Statutes of the College of
Oxford (3v. 1853), especially i. 54, 97; ii. 60, 89; and Mun.
Acad. Cf. Willis, Camb., iii. 387.

In certain of the colleges a book was read aloud during
meals. It is noted that in 1284 the scholars of Merton
were so noisy that the person appointed to read from
Gregory's Moralia could not be properly heard.[1] Reading
aloud was also enjoined at University Hall, Oxford.[2]
This was, of course, a monastic practice.

[1] Lyte, 81.

[2] Ibid., 84.

This brief description of the practice of the colleges in
regard to books may be concluded fittingly with an account
of the rules which Richard de Bury proposed to apply for
the safety of his library when reposed within the walls of
Durham Hall. These provisions are specially interesting
as an example of the care with which a fussy bookworm
attempted to safeguard his treasures, and because they
permit free lending of books outside the Hall. Five of
the scholars sojourning in the Hall were to be appointed
by the Master to have charge of the books, "of which five
persons three and not fewer" might lend any book or
books for inspection and study. No book was to be
allowed outside the walls of the house for copying.
"Therefore, when any scholar, secular or religious, whom
for this purpose we regard with equal favour, shall seek
to borrow any book, let the keepers diligently consider if
they have a duplicate of the said book, and if so, let
them lend him the book, taking such pledge as in their
judgment exceeds the value of the book delivered, and
let a record be made forthwith of the pledge, and of the
book lent, containing the names of the persons delivering
the book and of the person who receives it, together with
the day and year when the loan is made." But if the
book was not in duplicate, the keepers were forbidden to
lend it to anybody not belonging to the Hall, "unless
perhaps for inspection within the walls of the aforesaid
house or Hall, but not to be carried beyond it."

A book could be lent to any of the scholars in the
Hall by three of the keepers, on condition that the
borrower's name and the date on which he received the
book were recorded. This book could not be transferred
to another scholar except by permission of three keepers,
and then the record must be altered.

"Each keeper shall take an oath to observe all these
regulations when they enter upon the charge of the books.
And the recipients of any book or books shall thereupon
swear that they will not use the book or books for any
other purpose but that of inspection or study, and that
they will not take or permit to be taken it or them beyond
the town and suburbs of Oxford.

"Moreover, every year the aforesaid keepers shall render
an account to the Master of the House and two of his
scholars whom he shall associate with himself, or if he
shall not be at leisure, he shall appoint three inspectors,
other than the keepers, who shall peruse the catalogue of
books, and see that they have them all, either in the
volumes themselves or at least as represented by deposits.
And the more fitting season for rendering this account we
believe to be from the first of July until the festival of
the Translation of the Glorious Martyr S. Thomas next

"We add this further provision, that anyone to whom
a book has been lent, shall once a year exhibit it to the
keepers, and shall, if he wishes it, see his pledge. Moreover,
if it chances that a book is lost by death, theft, fraud,
or carelessness, he who has lost it or his representative or
executor shall pay the value of the book and receive back
his deposit. But if in any wise any profit shall accrue to
the keepers, it shall not be applied to any purpose but
the repair and maintenance of the books."[1]

[1] R. de B., ed. Thomas, pp. 246-48.

It will be seen that had De Bury's aim been consummated,
a small public lending library would have been
founded in Oxford, from which at first only a few duplicates
would be issued, but which might, in time, have become
an important institution.


Section I

The cheapening of books has brought many pleasures,
but has been the cause of our losing--or almost
losing--one pleasant social custom,--the pastime
of reciting tales by the fireside or at festivities, which was
popular until the end of the manuscript age.

"Men lykyn jestis for to here
And romans rede in divers manere."

At their games and feasts and over their ale men were
wont to hear tales and verses.[1] The tale-tellers were
usually professional wayfaring entertainers: "japers and
mynstralles' that sell glee,' " as the scald sang his lays
before King Hygelac and roused Beowulf to slay

"Gestiours, that tellen tales
Bothe of weping and of game."[2]

Call hither, cries Sir Thopas, minstrels and gestours, "for
to tellen tales"--

"Of romances that been royales,
Of popes and of cardinals,
And eek of love-lykinge." (II. 2035-40).

[1] Troilus, Bk. v. Il. 1797-98.

[2] Piers Plowman.

Rhymers and poets had these entertainments in mind
when they wrote--

"And red wher-so thou be, or elles songe,
That thou be understonde I god beseche,"

cries Chaucer.[1] Note also the preliminary request for
silence and attention at the beginning of Sir Thopas--

"Listeth, lordes, in good entent,
And I wol telle verrayment
Of mirthe and of solas [solace];
Al of a kuyght was fair and gent [gallant]
In bataille and in tourneyment,
His name was Sir Thopas."

[1] Hous of Fame, 1. 1198.

At the beginning of his metrical chronicle of England
Robert Mannyng of Brunne begs the "Lordynges that be
now here" to listen to the story of England, as he had
found it and Englished it for the solace of those "lewed"
men who knew not Latin or French.[1]

[1] Furnivall's ed., Rolls S., pt. 1, p. 1.

References to these minstrels are common--

"I warne you furst at the beginninge,
That I will make no vain carpinge [talk]
Of cedes of armys ne of amours,
As dus mynstrelles and jestours,
That makys carpinge in many a place
Of Octoviane and Isembrase,
And of many other jestes,
And namely, when they come to festes;
Ne of the life of Bevys of Hampton,
That was a knight of gret renoun,
Ne of Sir Gye of Warwyke."[2]

[2] MS. Reg. 17, C, viii. f. 2; cited in Skeat's Chaucer, v. 194.

The monks of Hyde Abbey or New Minster paid an
annuity to a harper (1180). No less a sum than seventy
shillings was paid to minstrels hired to sing and play the
harp at the feast of the installation of an abbot of St.
Augustine's, Canterbury (1309). When the bishop of
Winchester visited the cathedral priory of St. Swithin or Old
Minster, a minstrel was hired to sing the song of Colbrond the
Danish giant--a legend connected with Winchester--and
the tale of Queen Emma delivered from the ploughshares
(1338). Payments to minstrels were commonly made by
monks: at Bicester Priory, for example (1431), and at
Maxstoke, where mimi, joculatores, jocatores, lusores, and
citharistae were hired. A curious provision occurs in the
statutes of New College, Oxford (1380). The founder gives
his permission to the scholars, for their recreation on festival
days in the winter, to light a fire in the hall after dinner
and supper, where they could amuse themselves with songs
and other entertainments of decent sort, and could recite
poems, chronicles of kingdoms, the wonders of the world,
and such like compositions, provided they befitted the
clerical character. At Winchester College--where minstrels
were often employed--and Magdalen College the same
practice was followed. Commonly minstrels formed a
regular part of the household of rich men.[1]

[1] Warton, 96-99; Rashdall and Rait, New Coll., 60.

This part of the subject is so interesting that we feel
tempted to linger over it, but it is sufficient for our purpose
to observe that minstrelsy, before and after the Conquest
--indeed, up to nearly the end of the manuscript period--
was the chief and almost the only means of circulating
literature among seculars. This fact should be borne in
mind when any comparison is made between the number
of religious and scholastic books in circulation and the
number of books of lighter character. Even books of the
scholastic class were read aloud to students in class, and
often to small audiences of older people; but this method
had obvious disadvantages, and the necessity of studying
them personally soon came to be recognised as imperative.
Hence such books, and especially those which summarised
the subject of study, were greatly multiplied. On the other
hand, romances were better heard than read, and only
enough copies of them were made to supply wealthy
households and the minstrels and jesters whose business
it was to learn and recite them. Rarely, therefore, did the
ordinary layman of medieval England own many books.
The large class to whom romances appealed seldom owned
books at all, simply because the people of this class, even
if wealthy and of noble rank, could not in ninety cases out
of one hundred read at all, or could read so poorly that the
pastime was irksome. Among the educated classes, the
books needed were those with which a reader had made
acquaintance at his university, or which were necessary
for his special study and occupation. Yet it is uncommon
to find private libraries; and with few exceptions they
were ridiculously small. The vast majority of the books
were owned in common by monastic or collegiate societies.

Let us bring together the meagre records of three
centuries, and some exceptions to the general rule which
serve only to show up the general poverty of the land.
Henry II, an ardent sportsman, a ruler almost completely
immersed in affairs of State, made time for private reading
and for working out knotty questions,[1] and very probably
he had a library to his hand. King John received from
the sacristan of Reading a small collection of books of
the Bible and severe theology, perhaps as a diplomatic
gift, perhaps as a subtle reminder that a little food for the
spirit would improve his morals and ameliorate the lot of
his subjects. Edward II borrowed at least two books, the
Miracles of St. Thomas and the Lives of St. Thomas and
St. Anselm, from Christ Church, Canterbury.[2] Great Earl
Simon had a Digestum vetus from the same source. Guy
de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick (d. 1315), had a little
hoard of romances, and some other books. Hugh le
Despenser the elder enjoyed a "librarie of bookes"
(c. 1321), how big or of what character we do not know.
Archbishop Meopham (d. 1333) gave some books to Christ
Church, Canterbury; and his successor, John Stratford,
presented a few to the same house. Lady Elizabeth de
Clare, foundress of Clare Hall, bequeathed to her foundation
a tiny collection of service books and volumes on canon
law (1355). William de Feriby, Archdeacon of Cleveland,
left a small theological library (1378). One John Percyhay
of Swinton in Rydal (1392), Sir Robert de Roos
(1392), John de Clifford, treasurer of York Church (1392),
Canon Bragge of York (1396), and Eleanor Bohun, Duchess
of Gloucester (1399), all left Bibles; and small collections
of books, much alike in character, consisting usually of
psalters, books of religious offfices, legends of the saints,
Peter of Blois, Nicholas Trivet, the Brut chronicle, books
of Decretals, and the Corpus Juris Civilis,--most of it sorry
stuff, the last achievements of dogmatism on threadbare
subjects. "Among all the church dignitaries whose wills
are recorded in Bishop Stafford's register at Exeter (1395-
1419), the largest library mentioned is only of fourteen
volumes. The sixty testators include a dean, two archdeacons,
twenty canons or prebendaries, thirteen rectors,
six vicars, and eighteen layfolk, mostly rich people. The
whole sixty apparently possessed only two Bibles between
them, and only one hundred and thirty-eight books
altogether: or, omitting church service-books, only
sixty; i.e. exactly one each on an average. Thirteen of
the beneficed clergy were altogether bookless, though
several of them possessed the baselard or dagger which
church councils had forbidden in vain for centuries past;
four more had only their breviary. Of the laity fifteen
were bookless, while three had service books, one of these
being a knight who simply bequeathed them as part of the
furniture of his private chapel."[3]

[1] Stubbs, Lect. on Med. Hist., 137.

[2] James (M. R.), 148.

[3] Coulton, Chaucer and his England, 99.

A few exceptions there were, as we have said. Not
till the fifteenth century do we find that a few books were
commonly in the possession of well-to-do and cultivated
people; suggesting an advance in culture upon the prevlous
age. But before 1400 several book collectors were sharp
aberrations from the general rule. Richard de Gravesend,
Bishop of London, owned nearly a hundred books, almost
all theological, and each worth on an average more than
a sovereign a volume, or in all about L 1740 of our money.
A certain Abbot Thomas of St. Augustine's Abbey,
Canterbury, gave to his house over one hundred volumes.[1]
To the same monastery a certain John of London, probably
a pupil of Friar Bacon, left a specialist's library of
about eighty books, no fewer than forty-six being on
mathematics, astronomy, and medicine.[2] Simon Langham,
too, bequeathed to Westminister Abbey ninety-one works,
some very costly.[3] John de Newton, treasurer of York,
left a good library, part of which he bequeathed to York
Minster and part to Peterhouse (1418). A canon of York,
Thomas Greenwood, died worth more than thirty pounds
in books alone (1421). And Henry Bowet, Archbishop
of York, left a collection of thirty-three volumes, nearly all
of great price,--copies de luxe, finely illuminated and
embellished, worth on an average a pound a volume

[1] James (M. R.), lxxli.; this number is probably correct, but
owing to confusion between three Abbots of this name it is not
certainly right.

[2] Ibid., lxxiv.

[3] Robinson, 4-7.

But Richard de Bury, Bishop of Durham, is at once the
bibliomaniac's ideal and enigma (1287-1345). All accounts
agree in saying he collected a large number of books.

What became of them we do not know. In the
Philobiblon, of which he is the reputed author, he expressed
his intention of founding a hall at Oxford, and of leaving
his books to it. Durham College, however, was not completed
until thirty-six years after his death. Among the
Durham College documents is a catalogue of the books it
owned at the beginning of the fifteenth century, and only
the books sent to Oxford in 1315, and as many more are
mentioned, so that his large library did not go to the
college, but was probably dispersed." De Bury, like
Cobham, was a heavy debtor, and as he lay dying his
servants stole all his moveable goods and left him naked
on his bed save for an undershirt which a lackey had
thrown over him.[2] His executors, as we know, were glad
to resell to St. Albans Abbey the books he had bought
from the monks there.

[1] O. H. S., 32, Collect. 36-40; also 9.

[2] Blakiston, Trin. Coll. 5, 7; A. de Murimuth, 171.

De Bury has left us an account of his methods of collecting which
throws some light upon the trade in books in his time. "Although
from our youth upwards we had always delighted in holding social
commune with learned men and lovers of books, yet when we
prospered in the world, . . . we obtained ampler facilities for
visiting everywhere as we would, and of hunting as it were
certain most choice preserves, libraries private as well as
public, and of the regular as well as of the secular clergy....
There was afforded to us, in consideration of the royal favour,
easy access for the purpose of freely searching the retreats of
books. In fact, the fame of our love of them had been
soon winged abroad everywhere, and we were reported to
burn with such desire for books, and especially old ones,
that it was more easy for any man to gain our favour by
means of books than of money. Wherefore, since supported
by the goodness of the aforesaid prince of worthy memory,
we were able to requite a man well or ill . . . there flowed in,
instead of presents and guerdons, and instead of gifts and
jewels, soiled tracts and battered codices, gladsome alike to
our eye and heart. Then the aumbries of the most famous
monasteries were thrown open, cases were unlocked and
caskets were undone, and volumes that had slumbered
through long ages in their tombs wake up and are
astonished, and those that had lain hidden in dark places
are bathed in the ray of unwonted light. These long lifeless
books, once most dainty, but now become corrupt and
loathesome, covered with litters of mice and pierced with
the gnawings of the worms, and who were once clothed in
purple and fine linen, now Iying in sackcloth and ashes,
given up to oblivion, seemed to have become habitations of
the moth.... Thus the sacred vessels of learning came into
our control and stewardship; some by gift, others by
purchase, and some lent to us for a season."[1]

[1] R. de B., 197-199.

If his words are true, monastic and other libraries must
have been seriously despoiled to build up his own collection.
He was bribed by St. Albans Abbey, and nobody need
disbelieve him when he says he got many presents from
other houses, for the merit of being open-handed was
rewarded with more good mediation and favours than the
giver's cause deserved; indeed, De Bury himself seems to
have made judicious use of bribes for his own advancement.[1]
Usually gifts were in jewels or plate, but books
were given to men known to love them; as when
Whethamstede presented Humfrey of Gloucester and
the Duke of Bedford with books they coveted.

[1] "R. de Bury . . . qui ipsum episcopatum et omnia sua
beneficia prius habita per preces magnatum et ambitionis vitium
adquisivit, et ideo toto tempore suo inopia laboravit et prodigus
exstitit in expensis."--Murimuth, 171.

While acting as emissary for his "illustrious prince,"
de Bury hunts his quarry in the narrow ways of Paris,
and captures "inestimable books" by freely opening his
purse, the coins of which are, to his mind, "mud and sand"
compared with the treasures he gets. He blesses the friars
and protects them, and they rout out books from the
"universities and high schools of various provinces"; but
how, whether rightfully or wrongfully, we do not know.
He "does not disdain," he tells us--in truth, he is surely
overjoyed--to visit "their libraries and any other repositories
of books"; nay, there he finds heaped up amid the utmost
poverty the utmost riches of wisdom. He freely employs
the booksellers, but the wiles of the collector are as notorious
as the wiles of women, and his chief aim is to "captivate
the affection of all" who can get him books;--not even
forgetting "the rectors of schools and the instructors of rude
boys," although we cannot think he gets much from them.
If he cannot buy books, he has copies made: about his
person are scribes and correctors, illuminators and binders,
and generally all who can usefully labour in the service of
books; in large numbers--in no small multitude. And by
these means he gets together more books than all the other
English bishops put together: more than five waggon
loads; a veritable hoard, overflowing into the hall of his
house, and into his bedroom, where he steps over them to
get to his couch. He was a man "of small learning," says
Murimuth; "passably literate," writes Chambre; at the
best, according to Petrarch, "of ardent temperament, not
ignorant of literature, with a natural curiosity for out-of-the-
way lore": an antiquarian, not of the lovable kind, but
unscrupulous, pedantic, and vain, indulging an inordinate taste
for collecting and hoarding books, perhaps to satisfy a
craving for shreds and patches of knowledge, but more
likely to earn a reputation as a great clerk.[1] For De Bury
was something of a humbug; the Philobiblon, if it is his
work, reaches the utmost limit of affectation in the love of

[1] "Volens tamen magnus clericus reputari."--Murimuth, 171.

Section II

The literature of the later part of the fourteenth century
affords us glimpses of other readers who were not merely
collectors. The author--or authors--of Piers Plowman
seems to have had within his reach a fair library. His
reading was carelessly done for the most part, his references
are vague and incorrect, and his quotations not always exact.
But he was well read in the Scriptures, which he knew far
better than any other book. From the Fathers he gathered
much, perhaps by means of collections of extracts from
their works. He used the Golden Legend, Huon de Meri's
allegorical poem of the fight between Jesus and the Antichrist,
Peter Comestor's Bible History, Rustebeuf's La Voie
de Paradis, Grosseteste's religious allegory of Le Chastel
d' Amour, the paraded learning of Vincent of Beauvais in
Speculum Historiale, and other works--numerous and small
signs of booklore, which are completely overshadowed by
his illuminating comprehension of the popular side in the
politics of his day. Gower, too, had at his disposal a little
library of some account, including the Scriptures, theological
writings and ecclesiastical histories, Aristotle, some of
the classics, and a good deal of romance in prose and verse.

But Chaucer was the ideal book-lover: knowing Dante,
Boccaccio, and in some degree "Franceys Petrark, the
laureat poete," who "enlumined al Itaille of poetry," Virgil,
Cicero, Seneca, Ovid--his favourite author--and Boethius;
as well as Guido delle Colonne's prose epic of the story of
Troy, the poems of Guillaume de Machaut, the Roman de
la Rose, and a work on the astrolabe by Messahala.[1] We
have some excellent pictures of Chaucer's habit of reading.
When his day's work is done he goes home and buries
himself with his books--

"Domb as any stoon,
Thou sittest at another boke,
Til fully daswed is thy loke."[2]

[1] Skeat's Chaucer, vi. 381.

[2] Hous of Fame, Works, iii. bk. ii. l. 656-58.

In the Parliament of Fowls he tells us that he read books
often for instruction and pleasure, and the coming on of
night alone would force him to put away his book. He
would not have been a true reader had he not developed
the habit of reading in bed.

". . . Whan I saw I might not slepe,
Til now late, this other night,
Upon my bedde I sat upright
And bad oon reche me a book,
A romance, and he hit me took
To rede and dryve the night away;
. . . . . . . . .
And in this boke were writen fables
That clerkes hadde, in olde tyme,
And other poets, put in ryme...."[1]

[1] Book of the Duchesse, 44.

So he found solace and delight, as countless thousands
have done, in his Ovid. The world of books and of
reading is apt to seem stuffy, the favoured home of the
moody spirit, a lair to which a dirty and ragged Magliabechi
retreats, a palace where a Beckford gloats solitary
over his treasures--a world whence we often desire to
escape, since we know we can return to it when we will.
For if good books shelter us from the realities of life, life
itself refreshes the student like cool rain upon the fevered
brow. Chaucer was the bright spirit who let his books fill
their proper place in his life. In books, he says--

"I me delyte,
And to hem give I feyth and ful credence,
And in myn heart have hem in reverence
So hertely that ther is game noon
That fro my bokes maketh me to goon."

Yet books are something much less than life: there is the
open air,--the meadows bright with flowers,--the melody
of birds,--

". . . Whan that the month of May
Is comen, and that I hear the foules singe,
And that the flowers 'ginnen for to spring
Farwel my book...."[1]

[1] Legend of Good Women, prol. 30ff.

Section III

By the end of the fourteenth century we find signs
that books more often formed a part of well-to-do households,
and that the formal reading and reciting entertainments
were giving place gradually to the informal and
personal use of books. Among many pieces of evidence
that this was so, Chaucer himself furnishes us with two of
the best, one in the Wife of Bath's Tale, and the other in
his Troilus and Criseide. The Wife took for her fifth
husband, "God his soule blesse," a clerk of Oxenford--

"He was, I trowe, a twenty winter old,
And I was fourty, if I shal seye sooth."

Joly Jankin, as the clerk was called,

"Hadde a book that gladly, night and day,
For his desport he wolde rede alway.

He cleped [called] it Valerie and Theofraste,[1]
At whiche book he lough alwey ful faste.
And every night and day was his custume,
. . . . . . . . .
When he had leyser and vacacioun
From other worldly occupacioun,
To reden on this book of wikked wyves."[2]

[1] Valerie: possibly Epistola Valerii ad Rifinum de uxore non
ducenda, attributed to Walter Mapes; it is a short treatise of
about eight folios; it is printed in Cam. Soc. xvi. 77.
Theofraste: Aureolus liber de Nuptiis, by one Theophrastus.

[2] Ll. 669-85.

And having quickly taken measure of the Wife's character,
he could not refrain from reading to her stories which
seemed to contain a lesson and to point a moral for her.
She lost patience, and was "beten for a book, pardee."

"Up-on a night Jankin, that was our syre,
Redde on his book, as he sat by the fyre."

And when his wife saw he would "never fyne" to read
"this cursed book al night," all suddenly she plucked
three leaves out of it, "right as he radde," and with
her fist so took him on the cheek that he fell "bakward
adoun" in the fire. Springing up like a mad lion he
smote her on the head with his fist, and she lay upon the
floor as she were dead. Whereupon he stood aghast, sorry
for what he had done; and "with muchel care and wo"
they made up their quarrel: our clerk, let us hope, winning
peace, and his wife securing the mastery of their household
affairs and the destruction of the "cursed book."

In Troilus we are told that Uncle Pandarus comes
into the paved parlour, where he finds his niece sitting
with two other ladies--

". . . And they three
Herden a mayden reden hem the geste
Of the Sege of Thebes . . ."

"What are you reading?" cries Pandarus. "For
Goddes love, what seith it? Tel it us. Is it of love?"
Whereupon the niece returns him a saucy answer, and
"with that they gonnen laughe," and then she says--

"This romaunce is of Thebes, that we rede;
And we can herd how that King Laius deyde
Thurgh Edippus his sone, and al that cede;
And here we stenten [left off] at these lettres recle,
How the bisshop, as the book can telle,
Amphiorax, fil through the ground to helle."[1]

[1] Troilus, ii. 81-105.

This picture of a little informal reading circle is not to be
found in like perfection elsewhere in English medieval

[1] It seems to be Chaucer's own; only ahout one-third of the
poem comes from Boccaccio's Filostrato. Chaucer had a copy of the
Thebais of Statius.--Troilus, v. 1. 1484.

Section IV

By the middle of the fifteenth century book-collecting
was a more fashionable pastime. Had it not been so we
should have been surprised. From 1365 to 1450 was an
age of library building. Oxford University now had its
library: in quick succession the colleges of Merton,
William of Wykeham, Exeter, University, Durham, Balliol,
Peterhouse, Lincoln, All Souls, Magdalen, Queens'
(Cambridge), Pembroke (Cambridge), and St. John's
(Cambridge) followed the example. Library rooms also
had been put up in the cathedrals of Hereford, Exeter,
York, Lincoln, Wells, Salisbury, St. Paul's, and Lichfield.
Moreover, in London had been established the first
public library. Dick Whittington, of famous memory,
and William Bury founded it between 1421 and 1426.
The civic records tell us that "Upon the petition of John
Coventry, John Carpenter, and William Grove, the executors
of Richard Whittington and William Bury, the Custody of
the New House, or Library, which they had built, with the
Chamber under, was placed at their disposal by the Lord
Mayor, Aldermen, and Commonalty."[1] The foundation is
described as "a certen house next unto the sam Chapel
apperteynyug, called the library, all waies res'ved for
students to resorte unto, wt three chambres under nithe
the saide library, which library being covered wt slate is
valued together wt the chambres at xiijs. iiijd. yerely....
The sated library is a house appointed by the sated Maior
and cominaltie for . . . resorte of all students for their
education in Divine Scriptures."[2] Stow, writing in 1598,
spoke of it as "sometime a fayre and large library, furnished
with books.... The armes of Whitington are placed on
the one side in the stone worke, and two letters, to wit,
W. and B., for William Bury, on the other side." Wealthy
citizens came forward with pecuniary aid then as they have
ever done. William Chichele, sometime Sheriff, bequeathed
"xli to be bestowyed on books notable to be layde in the
newe librarye at the gildehall at London for to be memoriall
for John Hadle, sumtyme meyre, and for me there while
they mowe laste."[3] This was in 1425. Eighteen years
later one of Whittington's executors, named John Carpenter,
made this direction in his will: "If any good or rare books
shall be found amongst the said residue of my goods,
which, by the discretion of the aforesaid Master William
Lichfield and Reginald Pecock, may seem necessary to the
common library at Guildhall, for the profit of the students
there, and those discoursing to the common people, then I
will and bequeath that those books be placed by my
executors and chained in that library that the visitors and
students thereof may be the sooner admonished to pray for
my soul" (1442)[4] But this library, like so many others, did
not survive the disastrous years of mid-sixteenth century.

[1] Letter book K, fo. 39, July 4, 1426.

[2] From schedule of the possessions of the Guildhall College,
July 24, 1549.--L. A. R., x. 381.

[3] Chichele Register, pt. I, fo. 392b, Lamb. Pal.; L. A. R., x.

[4] Conf. of Librarians (1877), 216; L. A. R., x. 382.

It would be singular if this progress in library making
were not reflected in the habits of a considerable section of
the people. The court and its entourage set the fashion.
Henry VI was a lover of books and a collector. His
uncle, John, Duke of Bedford, although much occupied
with public affairs and mercilessly warring with France,
got together a rich library, particularly noteworthy for
finely illuminated books: the famous library of the
Louvre was a part of his French booty. Of his
brother Gloucester we have already spoken. Archbishop
Kempe owned a library of theology, canon and
civil law, and other books, worth more than L 260. He
also gave money towards the cost of Gloucester's library at
Oxford; as did also Cardinal Beaufort and the Duchess of
Gloucester. Sir John Fastolf possessed a small number
of books at Caistor (c. 1450). The collection was of some
distinction, as the inventory will show: "In the Stewe
hous; of Frenche books, the Bible, the Cronycles of France,
the Cronicles of Titus Levius, a booke of Jullius Cesar, lez
Propretez dez Choses [by Barth Glanville], Petrus de
Crescentiis, fiber Almagesti, fiber Geomancie cum iiij aliis
Astronomie, fiber de Roy Artour, Romaunce la Rose,
Cronicles d'Angleterre, Veges de larte Chevalerie, Instituts
of Justien Emperer, Brute in ryme, fiber Etiques, fiber de
Sentence Joseph, Problemate Aristotelis, Vice and Vertues,
fiber de Cronykes de Grant Bretagne in ryme, Meditacions
Saynt Bernard."[1] Perhaps this little hoard may be taken
as a fair example of a wealthy gentleman's library in the
fifteenth century. A collection perhaps accurately representing
the average prelatical library was that of Richard
Browne, running to more than thirty books of the common
medieval character (1452). A canon residentiary of York
named William Duffield had a library of forty volumes, as
fine as Archbishop Bowet's collection, and valued at a
higher figure (1452). Ralph Dreff, of Broadgates Hall,
possessed no fewer than twenty-three volumes, a larger
collection than Oxford students usually had. A vicar of
Cookfield owned twenty-four books, some of them priced
cheaply (1451).

[1] Hist. MSS., 8th Rept., pt. I, 268a

Some collections were pathetically small. A disreputable
student of Oxford, John Brette, had among his "bits
of things" a book and a pamphlet. Thomas Cooper,
scholar of Brasenose Hall, enjoyed the use of six volumes.
Another scholar, John Lassehowe, had a like number;
and another, Simon Berynton, had fifteen books, worth
sixpence (c. 1448)! A rector also had six, one of them
Greek; a chaplain was equipped with six medical works;
and James Hedyan, bachelor of canon and civil law,
could employ his leisure in reading one of his little store
of eight volumes. One Elizabeth Sywardby owned eight
books, three being costly (1468).

Section V

More records of the same kind may be obtained from
almost any collection of wills and inventories, the number
of them increasing towards the end of the manuscript age.
How far this change was due to the influence of Italy we
do not fully know. Certainly before the end of Henry VI's
reign the first impulse of the Italian renascence--the
impulse to gather up the materials of a more catholic and
liberal knowledge--had been transmitted to England.
Students left our shores to widen their studies in Italy.
Public men in England corresponded with Italians, and
fall into sympathy with their aims. Occasianally scholars
came hither from Italy. Manuel Chrysoloras, one of the
leading revivers of Greek studies in Italy, visited England
in the service of Manuel Palaeologus, and possibly stayed
at Christ Church monastery in 1408.[1] Poggio Bracciolini
came to this country in 1418-23 at the invitation of
Cardinal Beautort: what he did while here we know far
too little about, but this visit of Italy's greatest book-
collector and discoverer of Latin classical manuscripts
cannot have been without some effect upon English
students. For Poggio the visit was almost without result.
He was in search of manuscripts, but apparently failed to
get any with which he was unacquainted. He dismissed
our libraries with the sharp criticism that they were full of
trash, and described Englishmen as almost devoid of love
for letters.[2] Aeneas Sylvius also came here, and his visit
likewise must have borne some fruit (1435).

[1] Gasquet 2, 20; Sandys, ii. 220; Legrand, Bibliographie
Hellenique, i. (1885) xxiv., where the date is 1405-6.

[2] Epp. (ed. Tonelli, 1832-61), i. 43, 70, 74.

Much also was accomplished by correspondence.
Among those in communication with Italians and acquainted
with the course of their studies, were Bishop
Bekington, one of the earliest alumni of Wykeham's
foundation at Oxford, Adam de Molyneux, the correspondent
of Aeneas Sylvius, Thomas Chaundler, warden
of New College, Archdeacon Bildstone, Archbishop Arundel,
the benefactor of Oxford University Library and correspondent
of Salutati, Cardinal Beaufort's secretary, and
Humfrey of Gloucester. Upon the last-named Italian
influence was strong. Among the books he gave to
Oxford were Petrarch, Dante, and Boccaccio, but probably
the strongest evidence of this influence would be found in
the books he retained for his own use. He sought a
rendering of Aristotle's Politics from Bruni; of Cicero's
Republic from Decembrio; of certain of Plutarch's Lives
from Lapo da Castiglionchio; and had other works

[1] "Cest livre est a moy Homfrey Duc de Glocestre, lequel je fis
translater de Grec en Latin par un de mes secretaires, Antoyne de
Beccariane de Verone." --Cam. Soc. 1843, Ellis, Letters, 357.

But many English students were attracted to visit Italy
for the express purpose of sitting under Italian teachers.
As early as 1395, one Thomas of England, a brother of
the Augustine order, went to Italy and purchased manuscripts,
"books of the modern poets," and translations and
other early works of Leonardo Bruni.[1] Thomas was one
of the first of a number of enlightened Englishmen who
journeyed laboriously and in steady procession to Italy,
this time not only to Rome, but to the northern towns,
then, with Venice, "the common ports of humanity,"
whither they were attracted by the fame of the bright
galaxy of humanists--of Coluccio Salutati, collector of
Latin manuscripts, Manuel Chrysoloras, Niccolo de' Niccoli,
grubbing Poggio Bracciolini, Pope Nicholas, sometime
Cosimo de' Medici's librarian and the founder of the
Vatican Library, Giovanni Aurispa, famous collector of
Greek manuscripts in the East, the renowned Guarino da
Verona, Palla degli Strozzi, would-be founder of a public
library, Cosimo de' Medici, whose princely collections are
the chiefest treasures of the Laurentian Library, Francesco
Filelfo, another importer of Greek books from Constantinople,
and Vespasiano, the great bookseller.

[1] Gherardi, Statuti della Univ. e Studio Fiorentino, 364;
Sandys, ii. 220; Einstein, 15.

Sometimes these pilgrims to Italy were poor men,
as were John Free, and the two Oxford men, Norton
and Bulkeley, who went thither in 1425-29.[1] But as a
rule such a journey was only possible for wealthy men.
An important pilgrim was Andrew Holes, who represensed
England at the Pope's court in Florence.[2] In
the eyes of Vespasiano, Holes was one of the most
cultivated of Englishmen. He appears to have bought
too many books to send by land, and so was obliged to
wait for a ship to transport them. What became of these
books?--did he collect for his own use?--or was he acting
merely for Duke Humfrey or the king?--or did he leave
them, as it is said, to his Church? Unfortunately these
are questions which cannot be answered.

[1] O. H. S., 35, Anstey, 17, 45.

[2] "Messer Andrea Ols" in Italian authority; identified by Dr.

Four other men, Tiptoft, Grey, Free, and Gunthorpe,
all of Balliol College, where the influence of Duke Humfrey
may fairly be suspected, journeyed to Italy. "Butcher"
Tiptoft, an intimate of another enlightened community at
Christ Church, visited Guarino, walked Florentine streets
arm-in-arm with Vespasiano, thrilled Aeneas Sylvius, then
Pope, with a Latin oration, and returned to his own country
with many books, some of which he intended to give
to Oxford University--one of the best deeds of his
unhappy and calamitous life.[1] While in Italy, William
Grey, who sat under Guarino, and made Niccolo Perotti,
well known as a grammarian, free of his princely establishment,
was conspicuously industrious in accumulating books.
If he could not obtain them in any other way he employed
scribes to copy for him, and an artist of Florence to adorn
them in a costly manner with miniatures and initials. In
nearly six years he collected over two hundred volumes
of manuscripts, some as old as the twelfth century;
probably the finest library sent to England in that age.
No fewer than 152 of his manuscripts are now in the
Balliol College library, to which he gave his whole collection
in 1478; unfortunately most of the miniatures are
destroyed. To his patronage of learning and his book-
collecting propensities Grey owed his friendship with
Nicholas V, and his bishopric of Ely. Grey was also a
good friend to Free or Phreas, a poor student, and aided
him in Italy with money for his expenses of living and to
obtain Greek manuscripts to translate.[2] Free and John
Gunthorpe, Dean of Wells, went to Italy together: Free
did not live to return, but Gunthorp brought home
manuscripts. He gave the bulk of them to Jesus College,
where only one or two are left; some have found their
way to other Cambridge Colleges.[3] Another Oxford
scholar, Robert Flemming, was in Italy in 1450: here he
became the friend of the great librarian of the Vatican,
Platina; and got together a number of manuscripts,
afterwards given to Lincoln College.

[1] O. H. S., 36, Anstey, ii. 380-01; Sandys, ii. 221-26;
Einstein, 26.

[2] MS. 587 Bodl.

[3] Leland 3, 463; Leland, iii. 13; Einstein, 23, 54-5; C. A.
S., 8vo ser., No. 32 (1899), 13.

Section VI

The intercourse of all these scholars with Italians was
carried on before mid-fifteenth century. Their chief interest
was in Latin books, although a large number of Greek
manuscripts had been brought to Italy by Angeli da
Scarparia, Guarino, Giovanni Aurispa, and Filelfo. After
the fall of Constantinople the Greek immigrants introduced
books into Italy much more freely. George Hermonymus
of Sparta, a Greek teacher and copyist of Greek manuscripts,
visited England on a papal mission in 1475, but
whether he had any influence on our intellectual pursuits
does not appear.[1] Certainly, however, English scholars
soon appreciated this new literature.

[1] E. H. R., xxv. 449.

Letters sent to Pope Sixtus in 1484 by the king, refer
to the skill of John Shirwood, bishop of Durham, in Latin
and Greek.[1] Shirwood seems to have collected a respectable
library. His Latin books were acquired by Bishop Foxe,
and formed the nucleus of the library with which the latter
endowed Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Some thirty
volumes, a number of them printed, now remain at the
College to bring him to mind: among them we find Pliny,
Terence, Cicero, Livy, Suetonius, Plutarch, and Horace.
Less fortunate has been the fate of his Greek books, which
went to the collegiate church of Bishop Auckland. At the
end of the fifteenth century this church owned about forty
volumes. The only exceptions to its medieval character
were Cicero's Letters and Offices, Silius Italicus, and
Theodore Gaza's Greek grammar.[2] But Leland tells us
that Tunstall, who succeeded to the bishopric in 1530,
found a store of Shirwood's Greek manuscripts at this
church. What became of them we do not know.[3]

[1] Rymer, Foedera, xii. 214, 216; E. H. R., xxv. 450.

[2] Now MS. lit 4, 16, at Cambridge University Library.

[3] On Shirwood's books see E. H. R., xxv. 449-53.

About this same time a certain Emmanuel of Constantinople
seems to have been employed in England as a
copyist. For Archbishop Neville he produced a Greek
manuscript containing some sermones judiciales of Demosthenes,
and letters of Aeschines, Plato, and Chion (1468).[1]
Dr. Montague James has shown that this manuscript of
Emmanuel is by the same hand as the manuscripts known
as the "Ferrar group," which comprises "a Plato and
Aristotle now at Durham, two psalters in Cambridge
libraries, a psalter and part of a Suidas at Oxford, and
the famous Leicester Codex of the Gospels."[2] Dr. James
believes the Plato and the Aristotle to have been transcribed
for Neville by Emmanuel. In 1472 the archbishop's household
was broken up, and the "greete klerkys and famous
doctors" of his entourage went to Cambridge. Among
them, it is conjectured, was Emmanuel, and so it came to
pass that three manuscripts in his writing have been at
Cambridge; two psalters, as we have said, are there now,
land in the beginning of the sixteenth century one of them,
with the Leicester Codex, was certainly in the hands of the
Grey Friars at Cambridge. This happy fruit of Dr. James'
research throws a welcome ray of light on the pursuit of
Greek studies in the last quarter of the fifteenth century.[3]

[1] Leiden, Voss. MSS. Graec., 56.

[2] On this group see Harris, Jas. Rendel, The Leicester Codex.

[3] E. H. R., xxv. 446-7; James.

In view of all the hard things which have been said of
the religious, it is significant to find them taking a leading
part in bringing Greek studies to England. We cannot
collate all the instances here, but a few may be brought
together. Two Benedictines named William of Selling and
William Hadley, some time warden of Canterbury College,
Oxford, were in Italy studying and buying books for
three years after 1464.[1] The former became distinguished
for his aptitude in learning the ancient tongues, and
consequently won the friendship of Angelo Poliziano.
At least two other visits to Italy were made by him;
the last being undertaken as an emissary of the king.
On these occasions he got together as many Greek
and Latin books as he could, and brought them--a
large and precious store--to Canterbury. [2] For some
reason the books were kept in the Prior's lodging
instead of in the monastic library, and here they perished
through the carelessness of Layton's myrmidons.[3] Among
the books lost was possibly a copy of Cicero's Republic.
Only five manuscripts have been found which can be connected
with Selling's library: a fifteenth-century Greek
Psalter, a copy of the Psalms in Hebrew and Latin, a
Euripides, a Livy, and a magnificent Homer.[4] This
Homer we have already referred to in an earlier chapter,
when describing the work of Theodore of Tarsus. The
signature has now been more plausibly explained,
"The following note," writes Dr. James, "which I found in
Dr. Masters's copy of Stanley's Catalogue, preserved in
[Corpus Christi] College Library, suggests another origin
for this Homer. I have been unable to identify the document
to which reference is made. It should obviously be a
letter of an Italian humanist in the Harleian collection....
Mr. Humphrey Wanley, Librarian to the late Earl of
Oxford, told Mr. Fran. Stanley, son of the author, a little
before his death, that in looking over some papers in the
papers in the Earl's library, he found a Letter from a learned
Italian to his Friend in England, wherein he told him there
was then a very stately Homer just transcribed for Theodorus
Gaza, of whose Illumination he gives him a very particular
description, which answer'd so exactly in every part to that
here set forth, that he [Wanley] was fully perswaded it was
this very Book, and yet the at the bottom of 1st
page order'd to be placed there by Gaza as his own name,
gave occasion to Abp. Parker to imagine it might have
belonged to Theodore of Canterbury, which however Hody
was of opinion could not be of that age. "Th. Gaza,"
continues Dr. James, "died in 1478; the suggestion here
made is quite compatible with the hypothesis that Sellinge
was the means of conveying the Homer to England,
and does supply a rather welcome interpretation of the
inscription." This reasonable hypothesis may
be strengthened if we point out that Gaza was in Rome
from 1464 to 1472, and Selling visited that city between
1464 and 1467 and again in 1469. Selling may have got
the manuscript from Gaza on one of these occasions.

[1] Literae Cant. (Rolls Seh), iii. 239; cf. Campbell, Matls for
Hist. of H. VII., ii. 85, 114, 224.

[2] Leland 3, 482. The Obit in Christ Church MS. D. 12 refers
to Selling as "Sacrae Theologiae Doctor. Hic in divinis agendis
multum devotus et lingua Graeca et Latina valde
eruditus."--Gasquet 2, 24,

[3] Gasquet 2, 24; James, li.

[4] Homer and Euripides are in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge,
the others are in Trinity College, Cambridge.--James 16, 9;
Gasquet 2, 30.

There is evidence of Greek studies at other monasteries,
--at Westminster after 1465, when Millyng, an "able
graecian," became prior at Reading in 1499 and 1500,
and at Glastonbury during the time of Abbot Bere.[1]

[1] Gasquet 2, 37.

But Canterbury's share was greatest Selling seems
to have taught Greek at Christ Church. In the monastic
school there Thomas Linacre was instructed, and probably
got the rudiments of Greek from Selling himself. Thence
Linacre went to Oxford, where he pursued Greek under
Cornelius Vitelli, an Italian visitor acting as praelector in
New College.[1] In 1485-6 Linacre went with his old
master to Italy--his Sancta Mater Studiorum--where Selling
seems to have introduced him to Poliziano. Linacre
perfected his Greek pursuits under Chalcondylas, and
became acquainted with Aldo Manuzio the famous printer,
and Hermolaus Barbarus. A little story is told of
his meeting with Hermolaus. He was reading a copy of
Plato's Phaedo in the Vatican Library when the great
humanist came up to him and said "the youth had no
claim, as he had himself, to the title Barbarus, if it were
lawful to judge from his choice of a book"--an incident
which led to a great friendship between the two. Grocyn
and Latimer were with Linacre in Rome. The former
was the first to carry on effectively the teaching of Greek
begun at Oxford possibly by Vitelli; but he was nevertheless
a conservative scholar, well read in the medieval
schoolmen, as his library clearly proves. This library is of
interest because one hundred and five of the one hundred
and twenty-one books in it were printed. The manuscript
age is well past, and the costliness of books, the chief
obstacle to the dissemination of thought, was soon to give
no cause for remark.

[2] The point is disputed; cf. Einstein, 32; Lyte, 386; Camb.
Lit., iii. 5, 6; Rashdall and Rait, New. Coll., 93; Dr. Sandys
does not mention Vitelli.


Secular makers of books have plied their trade in
Europe since classic times, but during the early age
of monachism their numbers were very small and
they must have come nigh extinction altogether. In and
after the eleventh century they increased in numbers and
importance; their ranks being recruited not only by
seculars trained in the monastic schools, but by monks
who for various reasons had been ejected from their order.
These traders were divided into several classes: parchment-
makers, scribes, rubrishers or illuminators, bookbinders,
and stationers or booksellers. The stationer usually controlled
the operations of the other craftsmen; he was the
middleman. Scribes were either ordinary scriveners called
librarii, or writers who drew up legal documents, known as
notarii. But the librarius and notarius often trenched
upon each other's work, and consequently a good deal of
ill-feeling usually existed between them.

Bookbinders, and booksellers or stationarii, probably
first plied their trade most prosperously in England at
Oxford and Cambridge. By about 1180 quite a number of
such tradesmen were living in Oxford; a single document
transferring property in Cat Street bears the names of
three illuminators, a bookbinder, a scribe, and two

[1] Rashdall, ii. 343.

Half a century later a bookbinder is mentioned
in a deed as a former owner of property in the parish of
St. Peter's in the East; another bookbinder is witness to the
deed (c. 1232-40).[1] After this bookbinders and others of
the craft are frequently mentioned. Towards the end of the
thirteenth century Schydyerd Street and Cat Street, the
centre of University life, were the homes of many people
engaged in bookmaking and selling; the former street
especially was frequented by parchment makers and
sellers. In this street, too, "a tenement called Bokbynder's
is mentioned in a charter of 1363-4; and although bookbinding
may not have been carried on there at that date,
the fact of the name having been attached to the place
seems sufficient to justify the assumption that a binder
or guild of binders had formerly been established there.
In Cat Street a Tenementum Bokbyndere, owned by Osney
Abbey, was rented in 1402 by Henry the lymner, at a somewhat
later date by Richard the parchment-seller, and in
1453 by All Souls' College."[2]

[1] Biblio. Soc. Monogr. x. (S. Gibson), 43-6.

[2] Ibid, p. 1; O H.S, 29; Madan, 267, contains long list of

Stationers had transcripts made, bought, sold and hired
out books and received them in pawn. They acted as
agents when books and other goods were sold; in 1389, for
example, a stationer received twenty pence for his services
in buying two books, one costing L 4 and the other five
marks.[1] They attended the fair at St. Giles near Oxford
to sell books. This was not their only interest, for they
dealt in goods of many kinds. They were in fact general
tradesmen: sellers, valuers, and agents; liable to be called
upon to have a book copied, to buy or sell a book, to set a
value upon a pledge, to make an inventory and valuation
of a scholar's goods and chattels after his death. Their
office was such an important one for the well-being of
the scholars that it was found convenient to extend to
them the privileges and protection of the University, and
in return to exact an oath of fairdealing from them.[2]

[1] O. H. S., 27, Boase, xxxvi.

[2] Cf. Grace B. ix, xiii, xliii.; O. H. S., 29, Madan,
Early Oxf. Press, 266; Mun. Acad., 532, 544, 579.

Before the end of the thirteenth century the University's
privileges had been extended to servientes known
as parchment-makers, scribes, and illuminators; in 1290
the privileges were confirmed.[1] Certain stationers were
then undoubtedly within the University as servientes, but
in 1356 they are recorded positively as being so with
parchmenters, illuminators, and writers: and again in 1459 "alle
stacioners" and "alle bokebynders" enjoyed the privileges
of the University, with "lympners, wryters, and pergemeners."[2]
These privileges took them out of the jurisdiction
of the city, although they still had to pay taxes, which
were collected by the University and paid over to the city

[1] Mun. Acad., 52.

[2] Ibid., 174, 346.

Stationers regarded as the University's servants were
sworn, as we have already indicated. The document
giving the form of their oath is undated, but most likely
the rules laid down were observed from the time the
stationers were first attached to the University. The oath
was strict. A part of their duties was the valuation of
books and other articles which were pledged by scholars
in return for money from the University chests. These
chests or hutches were expressly founded by wealthy men
for the assistance of poor scholars. By the end of the
fifteenth century there were at Oxford twenty-four such
chests, valued at two thousand marks; a large pawnbroking
fund, but probably by no means too large.[1] Mr. Anstey, the
editor of Munimenta Academica, has drawn a vivid picture
of the inspection of one of these chests and of the business;
conducted round them, and we cannot do better than
reproduce it. Master T. Parys, principal of St. Mary Hall,
and Master Lowson are visiting the chest of W. de Seltone.
We enter St. Mary's Church with them, "and there we
see ranged on either side several ponderous iron chests,
eight or ten feet in length and about half that width, for
they have to contain perhaps as many as a hundred or
more large volumes, besides other valuables deposited as
pledges by those who have borrowed from the chest.
Each draws from beneath his cape a huge key, which one
after the other are applied to the two locks; a system of
bolts, which radiate from the centre of the lid and shoot
into the iron sides in a dozen different places, slide back,
and the lid is opened. At the top lies the register of
the contents, containing the particulars;--dates, names,
and amounts--of the loans granted. This they remove
and begin to compare its statements with the contents of
the chest. There are a large number of manuscript
volumes, many of great value, beautifully illuminated and
carefully kept, for each is almost the sole valuable possession
perhaps of its owner! Then the money remaining in
one corner of the chest is carefully counted and compared
with the account in the register. If we look in we can
see also here and there among the books other valuables
of less peaceful character. There lie two or three daggers
of more than ordinary workmanship, and by them a silver
cup or two, and again more than one hood lined with
minever. By this time a number of persons has collected
around the chest, and the business begins. That man in
an ordinary civilian's dress who stands beside Master
Parys is John More, the University stationer, and it is his
office to fix the value of the pledges offered, and to take
care that none are sold at less than their real value. It is
a motley group that stands around; there are several
masters and bachelors,. . . but the larger proportion is of
boys or quite young men in every variety of coloured dress,
blue and red, medley, and the like, but without any
academical dress. Many of them are very scantily clothed,
and all have their attention rivetted on the chest, each with
curious eye watching for his pledge, his book or his cup,
brought from some country village, perhaps an old treasure
of his family, and now pledged in his extremity, for last
term he could not pay the principal of his hall the rent
of his miserable garret, nor the manciple for his battels, but
now he is in funds again, and pulls from his leathern
money-pouch at his girdle the coin which is to repossess
him of his property."[2] Naturally their duty as valuers of
much-prized property invested the stationers with some
importance. Their work was thought to be so laborious
and anxious that about 1400 every new graduate was
expected to give clothes to one of them; such method of
rewarding services with livery or clothing being common in
the middle ages.[3] The form of their oath was especially
designed to make them protect the chests from loss. All
monies received by them for the sale of pledges were to be
paid into the chests within eight days. The sale of a pledge
was not to be deferred longer than three weeks. Without
special leave they could not themselves buy the pledges,
directly or indirectly: a wholesome and no doubt very
necessary provision. Pledges were not to be lent for more
than ten days. All pledges were to be honestly appraised.
When a pledge was sold, the buyer's name was to be
written in the stationer's indenture. No stationer could
refuse to sell a pledge; nor could he take it away from
Oxford and sell it elsewhere. He was bound to mark all
books exposed for sale, as pledges, in the usual way, by
quoting the beginning of the second folio. All persons
lending books, whether stationers or other people, were
bound to lend perfect copies. This oath was sworn afresh
every year.[4]

[1] Ibid., xxxviii.

[2] Mun, Acad., xl.-xlii.

[3] Ibid., 253.

[4] Mun. Acad., 383-7.

Many stationers were not sworn. They speedily
became serious competitors with the privileged traders.
By 1373 their number had increased largely, and restrictions
were imposed upon them. Books of great value were
sold through their agency, and carried away from Oxford.
Owners were cheated. All unsworn booksellers living within
the jurisdiction of the University were forbidden, therefore,
to sell any book, either their own property, or belonging
to others, exceeding half a mark in value. If disobedient
they were liable to suffer pain of imprisonment for the first
offence, a fine of half a mark for the second--a curious
example of graduated punishment--and a prohibition to ply
their trade within the precincts of the University for the

[1] Ibid., 233-4.

At this time bookselling was a thriving trade. De
Bury tells us: "We secured the acquaintance of stationers
and scribes, not only within our own country, but of those
spread over the realms of France, Germany and Italy,
money flying forth in abundance to anticipate their demands:
nor were they hindered by any distance, or by the fury of
the seas, or by the lack of means for their expenses, from
sending or bringing to us the books that we required."[1]

[1] R. de B., 205.

Records of various transactions are extant, of which the
following may serve as examples. In 1445, a stationer and
a lymner in his employ had a dispute, and as the two arbiters
to whom the matter was referred failed to reach a settlement
in due time, the Chancellor of the University stepped
in and determined the quarrel. The judgment was as
follows: the lymner, or illuminator, was to serve the
stationer, in liminando bene et fideliter libros suos, for one
year, and meantime was to work for nobody else. His

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