Medieval Studies Libraries in England and Wales
by
David Bell
  • LAST MODIFIED: 31 March 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0193

Introduction

The period covered in this bibliography is from Anglo-Saxon England to the Dissolution of the Monasteries, or, in date, from the 6th to the mid-16th century. It is limited to England and Wales because during this period both Scotland and Ireland were independent countries with their own languages, cultures, and trade routes. The only part of Ireland that was directly subject to the English king was The Pale, a small area on the west coast around Dublin. Wales had been part of England since the Edwardian conquest of the late 13th century, but the fluctuating border area had been profoundly affected by English influence since shortly after the Norman Conquest. Books in medieval libraries were acquired in three ways: by being produced in a monastic scriptorium, by donation or bequest, or by purchase. In-house production was typical of the period up to the end of the 12th century, while from the beginning of the 13th century professional book production and purchase became ever more common. Donations and bequests were always important, but because it was not possible to choose from such gifts selectively—one had to take what one was given—not all the contents were necessarily useful. It follows from this that the wealth and fame of any institution that required books would inevitably affect the size of its library, and, given the fact that books were always expensive, medieval libraries were, from a modern point of view, not large. The largest Anglo-Saxon libraries may have contained about two hundred books. In 1331 the collection at Christ Church, Canterbury, numbered 1,850, which may well have been the biggest collection in England and Wales. In 1289 the library of the university of Paris contained 1,017 volumes which, by 1338, had increased to 1,722—an increase of about 70 percent. The development of the universities affected the content, appearance, and production of books as well as their price (something that was also much affected by the use of paper rather than parchment), and the introduction of printing with moveable type in the mid-15th century was to have a profound impact on the size and content of all libraries. The effect of the printing revolution, however, was by no means immediate, and it is not until about 1500 that we begin to see its real revolutionary impact. Forty years later, the libraries of more than eight hundred religious institutions in England and Wales would cease to exist.

General Overviews

We are concerned here with what Michael Lapidge has memorably called “the burgeoning field of palaeobibliothecography” (Lapidge 2006, p. 4, cited under Anglo-Saxon Libraries), a splendid ten-syllable word meaning the study of ancient (and now lost) libraries. The first attempt at providing a comprehensive overview of medieval libraries was the work of James Westfall Thompson (b. 1869–d. 1941) whose The Medieval Library first appeared in 1939 (Thompson 1957). His work was continued and much improved by Karl Christ (b. 1878–d. 1943), whose long and detailed account in the Handbuch des Bibliothekswissenschaft was published in the 1950s and translated into English in 1984 (Christ 1984). Both volumes contain information on medieval libraries in England and Wales, but they contain a very great deal of other information as well: on book production, scriptoria, contents of book collections, librarianship, library buildings, the housing and cataloguing of collections, library administration, means of acquisition, the impact of the universities, the libraries of the nobility, private libraries, and so on. Wilson 1958 offers the best and most comprehensive account of the contents of monastic libraries in general, though it is now in need of correction in some details. Thomson 1986, Webber 2006, Bell 1999, and Bell 2006 take the story from the Norman Conquest to the Dissolution of the Monasteries. For an accurate and brief survey of the subject, McCrank 1986 may be recommended. Anglo-Saxon libraries have a section to themselves: see Anglo-Saxon Libraries.

  • Bell, David N. “Monastic Libraries: 1400–1557.” In The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain. Vol. 3, 1400–1557. Edited by Lotte Hellinga and J. B. Trapp, 229–254. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

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    Examines the impact on monastic book collections of the New Learning and the universities, the development of private devotion and vernacular literacy, and the development of printing. The article also considers book production, book buying, donations and bequests, and the book collections of women’s houses at this later period. Available by subscription online.

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  • Bell, David N. “The Libraries of Religious Houses in the Late Middle Ages.” In The Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland. Vol. 1, To 1640. Edited by Elisabeth Leedham-Green and Teresa Webber, 126–151. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

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    Deals with the impact of university studies on the nature and size of books and on the content of monastic book collections, Latin and vernacular literacy, the impact of printing, the acquisition of books, the building of new libraries, and the revitalization of religious life in the late fifteenth century. Available by subscription online.

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  • Christ, Karl. The Handbook of Medieval Library History. Translated by Theophil M. Otto. Edited by Anton Kern. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 1984.

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    Translated from “Das Mittelalter,” Handbuch der Bibliothekswissenschaft, Vol. 3, Geschichte der Bibliotheken (Leipzig: Harrassowitz, 1957). The second edition of the Handbuch was published in five volumes between 1950 and 1965. Christ’s long section on medieval libraries is a distinct improvement on Thompson 1957 and remains a most valuable survey. It covers medieval librarianship, the history of libraries, the libraries of the religious orders, the universities, the nobility, and private libraries.

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  • McCrank, Lawrence J. “Libraries.” In Dictionary of the Middle Ages. Vol. 7. Edited by Joseph R. Strayer, 557–570. New York: Scribner, 1986.

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    A useful introductory survey that includes sections on medieval developments, information services, systems and operation, collection development, library facilities, and librarianship.

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  • Thompson, James W. The Medieval Library. New York: Hafner, 1957.

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    Despite its age and numerous inaccuracies, Thompson’s classic study still merits attention. It is a vast builder’s yard of information containing chapters on British libraries in the Anglo-Saxon period, libraries of Norman and Angevin England, English libraries in the 14th and 15th centuries, the scriptorium, and library administration and the care of books. Reprint, includes supplement by B. Boyer; originally published 1939.

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  • Thomson, Rodney M. “The Norman Conquest and English Libraries.” In The Role of the Book in Medieval Culture, Vol. 2, Proceedings of the Oxford International Symposium, 26 September–1 October 1982. Edited by Peter F. Ganz, 27–40. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1986.

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    Discusses the nature of the changes to English book collections brought about by the Norman Conquest and the methods by which those changes were implemented. The first major change took place from the 1070s to c. 1100; the second from c. 1120 to c. 1150. Reprinted in Rodney M. Thomson, England and the 12th-Century Renaissance. Variorum Collected Studies Series CS 620. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 1998.

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  • Webber, Teresa. “Monastic and Cathedral Book Collections in the Late Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries.” In The Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland. Vol. 1, To 1640. Edited by Elisabeth Leedham-Green and Teresa Webber, 109–125. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

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    Summarizes the content of English monastic and cathedral collections at this period, book production, the location of the collections, public and private reading, and cataloguing. Available by subscription online. See also Reference Works.

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  • Wilson, R. M. “The Contents of the Mediaeval Library.” In The English Library before 1700. Studies in Its History. Edited by Francis Wormald and C. E. Wright, 85–111. London: Athlone, 1958.

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    Although published in 1958, this remains one of the best and most comprehensive surveys of what books one might expect to find in a medieval monastic library.

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Journals and Bibliographies

There are very many journals dealing with libraries, librarianship, library history, medieval studies, and manuscripts, but no journal devoted specifically to medieval libraries in England and Wales or, indeed, to medieval libraries in general. One must therefore have recourse to the search engines of the numerous online bibliographies in history and religious studies. The most directly relevant of these are the International Medieval Bibliography, the Bibliographie de Civilisation Médiévale, and the Bibliography of British and Irish History. Boyle 1984 is old, but still useful, and Derolez 1979 and Nebbiai-Dalla Guarda 1992 (both cited under Cataloguing and the Work of the Librarian) may also be consulted with profit, though in both cases their emphasis is on Europe.

Reference Works

There are three essential works of reference that form a basis for all research on medieval libraries in England and Wales. The first is Ker 1964 and its supplement Ker 1987. Neil Ripley Ker (b. 1908–d. 1982) began giving courses in palaeography at Oxford in 1936, and at about that time he joined with a number of other scholars in an ambitious project to catalogue all surviving books that could certainly or almost certainly be traced to specific medieval libraries in Britain. The card index is still in situ in the Bodleian library, and the result was the 1941 first edition of Medieval Libraries of Great Britain. The second edition of 1964 was much enlarged, and the supplement of 1987 added to Ker’s lists more than 450 manuscripts and eighty printed books. To these volumes all scholars of medieval libraries in Great Britain will be forever indebted. The second essential work of reference are the five volumes of Ker 1969–2002, begun by Ker and completed after his death by A J. Piper, I. C. Cunningham, and A. G. Watson. The advantage of these volumes is that each manuscript is provided with a full catalogue description, unlike the necessarily brief notes in Medieval Libraries of Great Britain. The names of individual owners and provenances appear in the invaluable indexes in the fifth volume. The third essential work of reference is the Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues series published under the general editorship of Professor Richard Sharpe, Professor of Diplomatic in the University of Oxford. Catalogues of vanished book collections are obviously of vital importance, but their publication also underlines a cardinal rule of research in medieval libraries, namely, that the number of surviving manuscripts tells us nothing whatever about the overall size of the library from which they came. For example, only five (or perhaps six) books may safely be traced to the library of the Cistercian abbey of Meaux in Yorkshire, but the 1396 catalogue lists 363 items, many of which contained more than one work. In addition to these primary sources there is also a vast amount of relevant information in Gameson 2012, Hellinga and Trapp 1999, Leedham-Green and Webber 2006, and Morgan and Thomson 2008. Some chapters, naturally, are more relevant than others, and they will be found listed in the appropriate place.

  • Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues. London: British Library, 1990–.

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    An on-going series of editions of all catalogues, inventories, and so on of the libraries of religious institutions, the universities, the royal library, hospitals, towns, and the professions. The volumes offer the most accurate editions of the lists themselves, together with identifications of all items and comprehensive indexes, and the introductions provide much information on the history of the various collections. They are essential tools for any research on medieval libraries in England and Wales.

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  • Gameson, Richard, ed. The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain. Vol. 1, c. 400–1100. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

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    Thirty-nine chapters on all aspects of books, book production, and book collections in Britain from Roman Britain to the years immediately following the Norman Conquest. Gameson presents a brief overall survey on pp. 1–9. There is a comprehensive bibliography and a detailed general index. A fundamental resource. Available by subscription online.

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  • Hellinga, Lotte, and J. B. Trapp, eds. The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain. Vol. 3, 1400–1557. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

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    Twenty-eight chapters, with an excellent introduction, dealing with book production and the book trade, collections and ownership, and the reading and use of books by scholars, the professions, and the lay reader. The volume contains a comprehensive bibliography and a detailed general index, and is a fundamental resource. Available by subscription online.

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  • Ker, Neil R., ed. Medieval Libraries of Great Britain: A List of Surviving Books. Royal Historical Society Guides and Handbooks, 3. 2d ed. London: Royal Historical Society, 1964.

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    This second edition is revised and much enlarged. The first edition was published in 1941.

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  • Ker, Neil R., ed. Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries. 5 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1969–2002.

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    Vol. 1: London; vol. 2: Abbotsford-Keele; vol. 3: Lampeter-Oxford; vol. 4: Paisley-York; vol. 5: indexes and addenda (edited by Ian C. Cunningham and Andrew G. Watson). The indexes include authors, subjects, and titles; names (scribes, illuminators, donors, annotators, etc.); bibles; liturgy; iconography; languages other than Latin; origins and dates of manuscripts; secundo folios; incipits; repertories cited; and manuscripts cited. The index of names includes the names of religious houses and private owners.

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  • Ker, Neil R., ed. Medieval Libraries of Great Britain: A List of Surviving Books: Supplement to the Second Edition. Edited by Andrew G. Watson. Royal Historical Society Guides and Handbooks, 15. London: Royal Historical Society, 1987.

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    The fundamental and indispensable source for all work on medieval libraries in Britain. The revised preface to the first edition (in the second edition), the preface to the second edition itself, and the preface to the Supplement are all essential reading. These volumes contain an astonishing amount of information in a marvelously concise form.

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  • Leedham-Green, Elisabeth, and Teresa Webber, eds. The Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland. Vol. 1, To 1640. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

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    Twenty-five chapters dealing with the physical setting of libraries from the early Middle Ages to 1640, the medieval library and librarians, the impact of the New Learning, the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the variety and use of books, and library organization and administration. A fundamental resource. Available by subscription online.

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  • Morgan, Nigel, and Rodney M. Thomson, eds. The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain. Vol. 2, 1100–1400. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

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    Twenty chapters, with an excellent preface, dealing with books and society, language and literacy, book production and binding, handwriting, readership, cataloguing, the variety of books, and illustration and ornament. The volume contains a comprehensive bibliography and a detailed general index, and is a fundamental resource. Available by subscription online.

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Library Terminology

There is a wide-ranging Latin vocabulary pertaining to books and book collections in the Middle Ages. The vocabulary includes terms for book chests, book cupboards, book collections, libraries, catalogues, book lists, inventories, registers, repertories, inventories, archives, librarians and those in charge of books, scribes, and the books themselves, codices and libri, whether bound or unbound, manuscript or printed, of parchment or paper, and of various sizes. An abundance of such terms appear in the three works here listed: each one complements the others, but Teeuwen 2003 provides the most up-to-date information. Three terms are of particular importance: armarium, “book cupboard” (see especially Vernet 1989), bibliotheca, which might mean a book chest, book room, a collection of books, or a collection of texts in one codex (Teeuwen 2003, pp. 159–160), and librarium or libraria, referring either to a repository for books or the collection of books kept therein (Teeuwen 2003, p. 181). The person responsible for the armarium, bibliotheca, or libraria/um was the armarius, bibliothecarius, or librarius, though all three terms had a wider meaning than simply “librarian.”

  • Teeuwen, Mariken. The Vocabulary of Intellectual Life in the Middle Ages. CIVICIMA: Études sur le vocabulaire intellectuel du Moyen Age 10. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2003.

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    Chapter 2 (pp. 151–212), “The Vocabulary of the Book and Book Production,” includes articles on armarium, bibliotheca, inventarium, librarius, scriba, and scriptorium. A great many of the other terms discussed are indirectly relevant to the study of medieval libraries.

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  • Vernet, André. “Du ‘Chartophylax’ au ‘Librarian.’” In Vocabulaire du livre et de l’écriture au moyen âge: Actes de la table ronde, Paris 24–26 septembre 1987. Edited by Olga Weijers, 155–167. CIVICIMA: Études sur le vocabulaire intellectuel du Moyen Age 2. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1989.

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    A wide-ranging survey of the various terms used to designate the person with overall responsibility for a book collection, especially in cathedrals and monasteries. This must now be supplemented by the information in Teeuwen 2003.

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  • Weijers, Olga. “Catalogues de bibliothèques.” In Dictionnaires et répertoires au moyen âge: Une étude du vocabulaire. Edited by Olga Weijers, 144–148. CIVICIMA: Études sur le vocabulaire intellectuel du Moyen Age 4. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1991.

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    A useful summary, based primarily on Derolez 1979 (cited under Cataloguing and the Work of the Librarian) of the technical Latin vocabulary of medieval library lists and catalogues, distinguishing inventories, registers, indexes, catalogues, repertories, and so on.

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Anglo-Saxon Libraries

An Anglo-Saxon library was not a room with books on shelves but a collection of manuscripts in a book box or boxes. Given the time and expense that copying and binding a book demanded, and given the limited literacy of the period, it is hardly surprising to find that book collections were small. Lapidge 2006 (p. 127) suggests that, in its heyday, the library of Monkwearmouth-Jarrow might have been the largest with perhaps more than two hundred volumes. Literacy, both in Latin and English, was effectively confined to the royalty and aristocracy, the clergy, and male and female religious, though an occasional comment in Bede indicates that laypeople might, on rare occasions, purchase a manuscript. Throughout the whole of the Anglo-Saxon period the main sources of book production were the monastic scriptoria (see Gameson 2012, cited under Scriptoria and Book Production), but by the 10th century Anglo-Saxon kings were keeping permanent pools of scribes at the royal court. This was especially important during the reigns of Alfred (r. 871–899) and Æthelstan (r. 925–939), both of whom encouraged learning and education, both in Latin and (especially with Alfred) English. We should note, however, that the so-called Æthelstan Psalter, now preserved in the British Library (MS Cotton Galba A.XVIII), may have nothing to do with Æthelstan. The evidence associating it with that pious king is exceedingly tenuous. The standard study of Anglo-Saxon libraries, though it does not make for easy reading, is Lapidge 2006, but an excellent brief overview in eighteen pages is Ganz 2006. The important earlier study by Dumville 1981 shows that caution is required when dealing with the evidence for the reconstruction of the contents of Anglo-Saxon libraries. Excellent studies of a number of individual libraries are to be found in Gameson 2012 (cited under Reference Works), namely, the library of Iona (pp. 570–579, by Thomas O’Loughlin), Aldhelm’s library (pp. 591–605, by Andy Orchard), Bede’s library (pp. 606–632, by Rosalind Love), the library of Alcuin’s York (pp. 633–664, by Mary Garrison), Cynewulf’s library (pp. 665–669, by Fiona Gameson), Ælfric’s library (pp. 679–684, by M. R. Godden), Byrhtferth’s library (pp. 685–693, by Michael Lapidge), and Wulfstan of York’s library (pp. 694–700, by Andy Orchard).

  • Dumville, David. “English Libraries before 1066: Use and Abuse of the Manuscript Evidence.” In Insular Latin Studies. Papers on Latin Texts and Manuscripts of the British Isles: 550–1066. Edited by Michael W. Herren, 153–178. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1981.

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    An important cautionary article dealing with the nature of the evidence provided by the manuscripts, the actual manuscripts, determination of provenance, libraries and the use of books, and learning and external contacts. An appendix (pp. 203–219) lists books written by c. 1100 and assigned by N. R. Ker to specific provenances. Reprinted in Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts: Basic Readings (edited by Mary P. Richards. New York: Garland, 1994, pp.169–219).

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  • Ganz, David. “Anglo-Saxon England.” In The Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland. Vol. 1, To 1640. Edited by Elisabeth Leedham-Green and Teresa Webber, 91–108. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

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    Perhaps the best brief introduction to book lists and book collections in Anglo-Saxon England. Available by subscription online. Also see Reference Works.

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  • Lapidge, Michael. The Anglo-Saxon Library. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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    A comprehensive examination of Anglo-Saxon libraries that supersedes all earlier studies, though it is limited to Anglo-Latin books and selected Anglo-Saxon authors. A number of appendixes list inventories of books, surviving manuscripts, Latin books cited by Anglo-Saxon authors, and classical and patristic texts known in Anglo-Saxon England.

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Scriptoria and Book Production

The writing of books was the Carthusians’ main form of manual labor, and Guigo I of La Chartreuse provides a list of those items that each solitary should have in his cell: a writing desk, pens, chalk, pumice, ink horns, a penknife, scrapers for erasing errors, some sort of pricker, an awl, a lead plummet, a straight edge, some variety of ruling board, wax tablets (for note taking), and a stylus (Bell 2006, p. 47). Therefore, Carthusians’ individual cells were their scriptoria. This is not the case with the early 9th-century idealized plan of St Gall, in which the scriptorium is a depicted as a fairly large ground-floor room next to the church. There are seven writing desks lit by seven windows, but that figure was certainly exceeded in some major religious houses in continental Europe. Gameson 2012 shows that in Anglo-Saxon England there are only five places to which the production of extant manuscripts can safely be attributed, but archaeological or documentary evidence reveals the existence of many more. By the mid-13th century the development of carrels had changed the nature of monastic book production, especially in Benedictine houses, and it is improbable that any one room could justly be termed “the scriptorium.” The place required for writing needed to be dry, with good light, sufficient warmth to keep scribal fingers supple and the ink fluid as well as for drying it and freedom from draughts and disturbance. Bell 2006 adduces evidence to suggest that in Cistercian houses at least wooden carrels for copying were constructed in the cloister as early as the middle of the 12th century, but that since the only bulky thing that was essential for a scribe was the writing desk, copying might have been done in a variety of places—certainly in the chapter room and warming house—depending on the weather and the season. Thomson 2008 provides a very useful overview of the most important period of in-house book production and shows how its professionalization in the 13th century effectively put an end to the monastic scriptoria. In two studies of great interest, Doyle 1989 and Doyle 1990 demonstrate that there was in-house copying in the later Middle Ages (especially among the Carthusians and Bridgettines), but it was on a very much reduced scale. If it were done at all, it would not have been done in a common scriptorium or claustral carrels, but in monks’ private chambers which, by this time, had become standard in all orders. See also McLachlan 1986 (cited under Libraries of Individual Cathedrals, Religious Houses, and Universities: Bury St Edmunds).

  • Bell, David N. “Cistercian Scriptoria in England: What They Were and Where They Were.” Cîteaux: Commentarii cistercienses 57 (2006): 45–68.

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    Examines the meaning of the word scriptorium, the size, siting, and customs of the scriptoria, and the reasons for the decline of monastic scriptoria. The author also presents evidence that books might have been copied in a number of places, depending on the season of the year.

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  • Doyle, A. Ian. “Publication by Members of the Religious Orders.” In Book Production and Publishing in Britain 1375–1475. Edited by Jeremy Griffiths and Derek Pearsall, 109–123. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

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    In this first of two complementary studies (Doyle 1990), the author examines the quantity and nature of religious book production at this late period, and demonstrates that most of it came from the pens of Bridgettine and Carthusian writers.

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  • Doyle, A. Ian. “Book Production by the Monastic Orders in England (c. 1375–1530): Assessing the Evidence.” In Medieval Book Production: Assessing the Evidence. Proceedings of the Second Conference of the Seminar in the History of the Book to 1500. Oxford, July 1988. Edited by Linda L. Brownrigg, 1–19. Los Altos Hills, CA: Anderson-Lovelace, 1990.

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    In this second of two complementary studies (Doyle 1989), the author continues his examination of late medieval religious book production by members of monastic Orders in England. He discusses the nature of the material produced, when, where, and for what purposes, for whom the publications were intended, and the relationship between religious and secular scribes.

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  • Gameson, Richard. “Anglo-Saxon Scribes and Scriptoria.” In The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain. Vol. 1, c. 400–1100. Edited by Richard Gameson, 94–120. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

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    Presents a detailed examination of Anglo-Saxon scribes and scriptoria divided into four sections: the scribe, the scriptorium (and the geographic locations of certain or probable scriptoria), scribal work, and a final rationale in which Gameson outlines the main reasons why Anglo-Saxon scribes wrote books. Available by subscription online. Also see Reference Works.

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  • Thomson, Rodney M. “Monastic and Cathedral Book Production.” In The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain. Vol. 2, 1100–1400. Edited by Nigel Morgan and Rodney M. Thomson, 136–167. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

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    In this very sound article, the author deals with the effects of the Norman Conquest, “the heyday” of monastic libraries and scriptoria from ca.1100 to 1150, the influence of the schools from c. 1150 to c. 1200, non-monastic book production in the 12th century, and, at the end, a note on developments in the 13th and 14th centuries. Available by subscription online. Also see Reference Works.

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Library Buildings and the Housing of the Collections

The housing of most monastic book collections began with an armarium or book cupboard, with wooden doors that could be locked, built into the wall of the cloister between the chapter room and the church (Clark 1901, pp. 82–83). Such a space was obviously limited, and toward the end of the 12th century, when book collections began to expand rapidly, the armaria proved too small. The book collections then migrated to the adjoining sacristy, which, in many cases, was then partitioned into two rooms, one for the books and the other for the use of the clergy. In due course, this arrangement also proved inadequate, and books might be stored wherever space could be found. In some cases, monasteries made provision for the future by constructing separate and independent book rooms, but this was not common in England and Wales. The number of books, however, continued to increase, and from the end of the 14th century we see the construction of new and sometimes splendid libraries in a considerable number of places. The monastic and secular cathedrals led the way, and these new libraries were not just places for the safe storage of books but also places for study. The developments that took place in the universities were, inevitably, rather different, because well-lit rooms for both storage and study were necessary from the start. The best account, with numerous illustrations, of the changing physical structures of medieval libraries is Gameson 2006, but Clark 1901, despite its age, still has much to offer. Both Clark 1901 and Sargent 2006 trace the development from lectern system to stall system, which first appears in the 1580s. As to chaining, the earliest documented example of a chained reference collection is that of the Sorbonne in 1289 (Gameson 2006, p. 29), but they seem not to have appeared in England before the 14th century. Streeter 1931 remains the only full-length monograph on chained libraries, but some of the author’s observations are now in need of amendment. More recent accounts of chaining appear in Gameson 2006 and Sargent 2006. Genest 1989 examines the Latin terms for the various furnishings of medieval libraries.

  • Clark, John W. The Care of Books: An Essay on the Development of Libraries and Their Fittings, from the Earliest Times to the End of the Eighteenth Century. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1901.

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    This book, now more a century old, may still be consulted with profit. It focuses on European medieval libraries, especially those in England, and describes, with numerous illustrations, the material culture of libraries: their arrangements, fittings, ordering of books, library statutes, number of volumes, systems of chaining, and the stall system and the lectern system. Available online at archive.org and Project Gutenberg.

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  • Gameson, Richard. “The Medieval Library (to c. 1450).” In The Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland. Vol. 1, To 1640. Edited by Elisabeth Leedham-Green and Teresa Webber, 13–50. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

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    A detailed and up-to-date survey, with numerous illustrations, of the location of book collections, cloister collections, the development of book rooms and library rooms, and chained collections both inside and outside the universities. Available by subscription online. The best survey at present available.

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  • Genest, Jean-François. “Le mobilier des bibliothèques d’aprés les inventaires médiévaux.” In Vocabulaire du livre et de l’écriture au moyen âge: Actes de la table ronde, Paris 24–26 septembre 1987. Edited by Olga Weijers, 136–154. CIVICIMA: Études sur le vocabulaire intellectuel du Moyen Age 2. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1989.

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    An examination of the various terms used to describe book collections, their housing, and their furnishings. The author deals with objets réceptacles, the equivocal term armarium, armarium as synonymous with libraria, and the vocabulary of the lectern system. This must now be supplemented by the information in Teeuwen 2003 (cited under Library Terminology).

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  • Sargent, Clare. “The Early Modern Library (to c. 1640).” In The Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland. Vol. 1, To 1640. Edited by Elisabeth Leedham-Green and Teresa Webber, 51–65. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

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    Pages 51–60 trace the change from lectern system to the stall system, the latter appearing in the 1580s. In college libraries, chaining was standard until the 1540s. Available by subscription online. Also see Reference Works.

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  • Streeter, Burnett H. The Chained Library. A Survey of Four Centuries in the Evolution of the English Library. London: Macmillan, 1931.

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    This study complements Clark 1901 and deals in more detail with the development of chained libraries as well as the stall system and lectern system. The author provides a detailed account of the Hereford library (chapter 2) and nine Oxford libraries (chapter 3). There are numerous illustrations and, despite its age, Streeter’s study retains its value. Available online.

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Cataloguing and the Work of the Librarian

The period from the late 10th century to about 1450 saw the catalogues of book collections develop from simple lists of titles to detailed and practical library catalogues. The oldest descriptive list of books from England dates from the late 10th century and records fourteen volumes. Attempts to describe whole collections survive in England from the first half of the 12th century (the earliest, from 1122–1123, is from Rochester Cathedral Priory). Such lists are generally descriptive, focusing on the contents of the books, and are usually arranged by subject and author. This descriptive approach was common from the early Middle Ages to the 14th century. By that time, donations and bequests had become ever more important, and from the early 14th century some library catalogues were arranged by donor, the earliest survivor being from Ramsey Abbey. Other schemes were used at this time by individual librarians, who often followed their own experimental inclinations. Sometimes, therefore, we find books being catalogued and recatalogued a number of times. In the course of the 14th century catalogues became considerably more detailed, and in the first half of that century we see for the first time the use of dicta probatoria, the first two or three words of the second folio which, in a hand-produced book, could always be used to identify a specific copy. The influx of large numbers of printed books from about 1500 meant that the old cataloguing systems had to be revised. An excellent example is the catalogue of the Bridgettine brothers of Syon (Vincent Gillespie and Ian Doyle, eds. Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues. Vol. 9, Syon Abbey with the Libraries of the Carthusians. London: British Library, 2001), whose catalogue, dating from c. 1500, contains 1,465 entries with class marks, names of donors, second folios, and detailed descriptions of the contents of the volumes. Norris 1939, though somewhat superficial, clearly shows these developments, but Sharpe 2006 and Sharpe 2008 provide far more detail and Sharpe’s excellent studies are essential reading. A wider view is provided by Humphreys 1984, which enables us to put the work of the librarians in a European context. Guthrie 1992 offers a brief but useful overview. Derolez 1979 and Nebbiai-Dalla Guarda 1992 provide introductions to medieval library catalogues in general, but their examples are drawn primarily from continental Europe.

  • Derolez, Albert. Les catalogues de bibliothèques. Typologie des sources du Moyen Âge occidental 31. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1979.

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    Although published in 1979, and in some matters now out of date, this slim volume may still be consulted with profit. Derolez deals with the nature, evolution, and types of library catalogues, their form and function, their language and vocabulary, and the problems they present. Most of his examples, however, are drawn from European libraries.

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  • Guthrie, Lawrence S. “An Overview of Medieval Library Cataloging.” Cataloging and Classification Quarterly 15 (1992): 93–100.

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    A brief overview of the development of monastic library catalogues from inventory lists of treasures for the use of librarians to guides for patrons. The author points out that subject cataloguing was inevitably hindered by the common medieval practice of binding several disparate works into one volume.

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  • Humphreys, Kenneth W. “Medieval Views of the Role of a Librarian.” In Liber Amicorum Herman Liebaers. Edited by Frans Vanwijngaerden, Jean-Marie Duvosquel, Josette Mélard, and Lieve Viaene-Awouters, 49–64. Brussels, Belgium: Amis de La Bibliothèque Royale Albert 1er, 1984.

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    A European-wide survey of the character and work of a librarian “when libraries were small, books very expensive and the clientele usually limited to a closed community” (p. 49). In England, Humphreys considers the work of librarians at Abingdon, St Augustine’s, Canterbury, Eynsham, Dover priory, and Oxford University.

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  • Nebbiai-Dalla Guarda, Donatella. I Documenti per la storia delle biblioteche medievali (secolo IX-XV). Materiali e Ricerche, Nuova Serie 15. Collana della Facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia dell’Università di Venezia in San Sebastiano, Sezione di studi storici 8. Rome, Italy: Jouvence, 1992.

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    This volume complements but does not replace Derolez 1979. The author deals with the state of the question with regard to medieval catalogues, the identification, value, and use of medieval books, and the contents and development of catalogues. The abundant bibliographical references are primarily to Italian collections, and the illustrations, unfortunately, are of poor quality.

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  • Norris, Dorothy M. A History of Cataloguing and Cataloguing Methods 1100–1850: With an Introductory Survey of Ancient Times. London: Grafton, 1939.

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    This is an old and rather superficial study, but it is one of the few monographs devoted entirely to the history of cataloguing. Chapters 1 to 6 outline classification schemes of various medieval libraries, primarily British, and can still offer something of value. At the end is a glossary of Latin words occurring in mediaeval catalogues.

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  • Sharpe, Richard. “The Medieval Librarian.” In The Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland. Vol. 1, To 1640. Edited by Elisabeth Leedham-Green and Teresa Webber, 218–241. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

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    A detailed and fascinating examination of the work of medieval librarians in England, the demands of the office, and the librarian’s role in cataloguing and recataloguing collections. This study is essential reading. Available by subscription online.

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  • Sharpe, Richard. “Library Catalogues and Indexes.” In The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain. Vol. 2, 1100–1400. Edited by Nigel Morgan and Rodney M. Thomson, 197–218. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

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    Examines the development of library cataloguing between 1100 and 1400, using as examples book lists from a number of religious houses and colleges. The article also contains much information on the role of the librarian, and, like Sharpe 2006, is essential reading for the history of cataloguing. Available by subscription online.

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Borrowing and Lending

As Malcolm Parkes has said, “Books were always a luxury in the Middle Ages, but the production of cheaper books meant that they could become a luxury for poorer people” (Malcolm B. Parkes, Scribes, Scripts and Readers: Studies in the Communication, Presentation and Dissemination of Medieval Texts. London: Hambledon, 1991, p. 287). If, then, we think of medieval books as we think of modern cars, the situation becomes clear. Owning five manuscripts in, say, 1300 might be likened to owning five cars today. We might occasionally lend our car, but not, generally, to someone totally unknown to us. There were some medieval book owners, therefore, who thought that lending books was decidedly foolhardy. Smith 1992, in an informative and entertaining paper, provides a very sound summary of the scholastic debate on the question. It is understandable, therefore, that lending and borrowing were always restricted. In-house borrowing was standard, though even there it was strictly regulated. The situation in the universities was much the same. The regulations naturally varied from college to college, but all had the same purpose: careful control of what was borrowed by whom. Borrowers’ lists were standard, both in religious houses and colleges, and a number have survived. Lucas 2006 gives examples of the regulations governing borrowing and lending in both universities and religious houses. How much lending there was among lay people is unclear, though we know that lending circles, centered on devotional books, existed among both men and women. Erler 2002 (cited under the Libraries of Nuns and Laywomen), shows clearly how groups of women, from about 1350 to 1550, owned and exchanged devotional volumes, and more work needs to be done on these devotional reading circles in the later Middle Ages.

  • Lucas, Peter J. “Borrowing and Reference: Access to Libraries in the Late Middle Ages.” In The Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland. Vol. 1, To 1640. Edited by Elisabeth Leedham-Green and Teresa Webber, 242–262. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

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    Deals with regulations governing the lending of books both inside and outside colleges and religious houses, especially among the Friars. The Dominicans might have been more willing than the Franciscans to lend their books, but they were still very selective about those to whom they lent them. Available by subscription online.

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  • Smith, Lesley. “Lending Books: The Growth of a Medieval Question from Langton to Bonaventure.” In Intellectual Life in the Middle Ages. Essays Presented to Margaret Gibson. Edited by Lesley Smith and Benedicta Ward, 265–279. London: Hambledon, 1992.

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    A broad-ranging (and entertaining) survey of attitudes to what might be called the morality and theology of lending books by religious communities, universities, and individuals. Special attention is paid to the Mendicant Orders, and the article begins with a quotation from Stephen Langton: “Not to lend your books is homicide.”

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The Impact of the Universities

The rapid development of the universities in the 13th century had a profound impact on the nature, content, and production of books and book collections. As C. H. Talbot said: “Quiet leisure unhurried writing, artistic adornment, fine binding were out of the question. What was needed in the new circumstances was something immediately useful, practical, convenient for carrying around, relatively inexpensive, and without frills and flourishes. So began industrial book-making” (Talbot 1958, p. 66). Talbot 1958 remains one of the best brief surveys of the overall impact of the universities on books, book production, and libraries. Lovatt 2006 presents an updated, very sound, but rather more restricted account. The consequences were wide-ranging. The contents of the books necessarily reflected the university curricula, and because size, weight, and cost all played an important role, the physical form of books changed significantly. We see changes in script, a wider use of abbreviations, the use of paper rather than parchment, an abandonment of ornament, smaller formats, and the use of stiffened parchment or paper, rather than wooden boards, for the covers. To facilitate the copying of university textbooks there developed in certain universities what has come to be known as the pecia (piece) system. This is not here our concern, but there is now an extensive bibliography on the subject, though many questions still remain unanswered. Leedham-Green 1999 provides a solid account of the signal role played by university booksellers, and Lovatt 2006 a very useful overview of the development and use of the university libraries at both Oxford and Cambridge. The studies by Coates 1997 and Clark 2000 show the impact of the universities on the education of the Benedictines, and Cross 1991 demonstrates how this impact was not limited to Oxford and Cambridge but had a far wider influence, in this case on religious in the north of England. See also Bell 2006 (cited under General Overviews) and Piper 2007 (cited under Durham), Parkes 2004 (cited under Oxford University), and Thomson 2007 (cited under Worcester).

  • Clark, James C. “University Monks in Late Medieval England.” In Medieval Monastic Education. Edited by George Ferzoco and Carolyn Muessig, 56–71. London: Leicester University Press, 2000.

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    Examines the intellectual activities of Benedictine monk-scholars at Oxford and Cambridge (primarily Oxford) in the later 14th and 15th centuries, the form and substance of their studies, and the extent of their scholarly interests.

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  • Coates, Alan. “Benedictine Monks and Their Books in Oxford.” In Benedictines in Oxford. Edited by Henry Wansbrough and Anthony Marett-Crosby, 79–94. London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1997.

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    Deals with the provision and use of books for and by the Oxford Benedictines, cataloguing, library buildings, and the impact of printing. Originally published in 1977.

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  • Cross, Claire. “Monastic Learning and Libraries in Sixteenth-Century Yorkshire.” In Humanism and Reform: The Church in Europe, England, and Scotland, 1400–1643: Studies in Honour of James K. Cameron. Edited by James Kirk, 255–269. Studies in Church History, Subsidia 8. Oxford: Blackwell, 1991.

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    A study of those Yorkshire religious known to have attended university during the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII, the impact of the universities, the influence of humanism, monastic and parish schools, the content of the Yorkshire libraries, and the fortuitous survival of some of the books.

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  • Leedham-Green, Elisabeth. “University Libraries and Booksellers.” In The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain. Vol. 3, 1400–1557. Edited by Lotte Hellinga and J. B. Trapp, 316–353. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

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    Examines the growth of college libraries, electiones, the use of college libraries, the provision of books, both manuscript and printed, the need for books, book ownership, and the impact of the introduction of humanist texts. Available by subscription online.

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  • Lovatt, Roger. “College and University Book Collections and Libraries.” In The Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland. Vol. 1, To 1640. Edited by Elisabeth Leedham-Green and Teresa Webber, 152–177. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

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    A useful overview of the development of the book collections at Oxford and Cambridge, the importance of donations and bequests, the purchase of books, the building of libraries, borrowing, cataloguing, access, and library administration. Available by subscription online.

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  • Talbot, C. Hugh. “The Universities and the Mediaeval Library.” In The English Library before 1700: Studies in Its History. Edited by Francis Wormald and C. E. Wright, 66–84. London: Athlone, 1958.

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    Despite its age, a very useful general survey, dealing with the impact of the universities on library economy and the nature of books. Talbot includes a discussion (now somewhat outdated) of the pecia system, the university book trade, the price of books, the impact of the Friars, and library administration.

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Libraries of Specific Religious Orders

A great deal of information on the libraries of specific religious orders is to be found in the volumes of the Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues (cited under Reference Works). Apart from that, the Carthusians are well served by Thompson 1930 and Doyle 1998 (also see Doyle 1989; Doyle 1990, both cited under Scriptoria and Book Production); the Cistercians by Cheney 1973, Bell 1992, Bell 2002, and Bell 2013; the Premonstratensians by Gribbin 2001; and the Friars by Humphreys 1964. For the Bridgettines, of which there was but one house in England, see Syon. Although published in 1930, Thompson 1930 still offers a useful introduction to English Carthusian libraries, though the work of Ian Doyle has revealed much more about Carthusian books and book production since that time. Christopher Cheney’s suggestion (Cheney 1973) that the Cistercians deliberately restricted their libraries to a narrower range of topics than their monastic confrères receives support in the Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues (Vol. 3, The Libraries of the Cistercians, Gilbertines and Premonstratensians. Edited by David N. Bell. London: British Library, 1992, p. xxv). Bell 1992 provides a comprehensive index of all authors and works to be found in Cistercian libraries in Great Britain, and Bell 2013 presents a re-evaluation of the nature, size, and content of Cistercian libraries in Wales. Gribbin 2001 provides a very sound account of Premonstratensian libraries in England (the only such account available), and Humphreys 1964 is an invaluable study of the book provisions of the Friars, though much of it deals with Europe rather than England. In the Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues (Vol. 1, The Friars’ Libraries. Edited by Kenneth W. Humphreys. London: British Library, 1990, p. xv), Humphreys tells us that although the evidence is limited, “we have enough material to show that the Friars’ contribution to the cultural life of the country was significant. All the mendicants had similar aims and there was little difference in their academic interests.” Bell’s study of printed books from Cistercian libraries (Bell 2002), taken with Doyle’s study of the printed books of the last monks of Durham (see Durham), reveals the falsity of the commonly held idea that by the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, monastic life in Britain was either dead or moribund. It may have been so in some houses, but certainly not in all. Further to this matter, see the commentary to Libraries of Individual Cathedrals, Religious Houses, and Universities.

  • Bell, David N. An Index of Authors and Works in Cistercian Libraries in Great Britain. Cistercian Studies Series 130. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian, 1992.

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    Contains five indexes: of works by author, of anonymous works, of works by library, of titles of anonymous works, and of printed books. The primary sources for the indexes are the contents of the manuscripts recorded in Ker 1964 and Ker 1987 (both cited under Reference Works), the library catalogues of Flaxley, Meaux, and Rievaulx, and the lists compiled by John Leland.

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  • Bell, David N. “Printed Books in English Cistercian Monasteries.” Cîteaux: Commentarii cistercienses 53 (2002): 127–162.

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    A study, with descriptions, of thirty-four printed books that have been traced to fifteen Cistercian houses. The largest number came from Hailes. The importance of the books lies in what they tell us of the revitalization of monastic life in the 16th century and the nature of late medieval Cistercian spirituality.

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  • Bell, David N. “Medieval Welsh Cistercian Libraries: A Reappraisal.” Cîteaux: Commentarii cistercienses 64 (2013): 115–154.

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    Presents evidence to show that the customary view of the libraries of Welsh Cistercian abbeys —that they were all small and of little consequence—is false. The appendix presents a revised list of surviving manuscripts from Welsh Cistercian houses.

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  • Cheney, Christopher R. “English Cistercian libraries: The First Century.” In Medieval Texts and Studies. Edited by Christopher R. Cheney, 328–345. Oxford: Clarendon, 1973.

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    Summarizes the contents of the first century of English Cistercian libraries, and concludes that “the English Cistercians, either unconsciously or more probably deliberately, restricted their libraries to a much narrower range of topics” than did their monastic neighbors (p. 344). “These libraries were definitely libraries for monks, and very practical” (p. 345).

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  • Doyle, A. Ian. “English Carthusian Books Not Yet Linked with a Charterhouse.” In “A Miracle of Learning”: Studies in Manuscripts and Irish Learning: Essays in Honour of William O’Sullivan. Edited by Toby Barnard, Dáibhí Ó Cróinín, and Katherine Simms, 122–136. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 1998.

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    A description of some forty manuscripts “incontrovertibly made for English Carthusian use, or adapted for it, proceeding to ones written or annotated by an identifiable monk’s hand, and finishing with ones including pieces of Carthusian authorship, or so strongly connected with them that these copies are most likely to have been in their possession” (p. 122).

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  • Gribbin, Joseph A. The Premonstratensian Order in Late Medieval England. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell, 2001.

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    Chapter 5 of this thorough study is titled “Learning, Spirituality and Pastoralia: English Premonstratensian Manuscripts, Books and Libraries in the Later Middle Ages.” Gribbin also discusses the relatively few Premonstratensian canons who attended university between c. 1384 and c. 1532, with a list on pp. 168–169. Most took their degree in canon law.

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  • Humphreys, Kenneth W. The Book Provisions of the Mediaeval Friars 1215–1400. Studies in the History of Libraries and Librarianship 1. Amsterdam: Erasmus, 1964.

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    A wide-ranging survey of the libraries and library regulations of the Dominicans, Franciscans, Austin Hermits, and Carmelites. Humphreys’ study deals with Mendicant houses throughout Europe but contains important information on those in England.

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  • Thompson, E. Margaret. The Carthusian Order in England. London: S.P.C.K, 1930.

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    See especially chapter 9 (pp. 313–334 “English Carthusian Libraries”) and chapter 10 (pp. 335–353 “English Carthusian Writers”). This remains the classic study of the English Carthusians, and although it now shows signs of age, the two chapters noted here still provide a useful introductory survey of Carthusian books and book production. The book lists have now been superseded by those in the Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues, vol. 9, Syon Abbey and the Libraries of the Carthusians (edited by Vincent Gillespie and A. I. Doyle. London: British Library, 2001, pp. 609–652).

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Libraries of Individual Cathedrals, Religious Houses, and Universities

What follows here is not, obviously, a comprehensive listing of every work dealing in any way with the libraries of every cathedral or religious institution in England and Wales. It is, in general, limited to recent studies that have either substantially increased our knowledge of the libraries concerned or that have adduced evidence to suggest a re-evaluation of old (though still commonly held) assumptions. The most important of these old assumptions was that after a monastic Golden Age, religious observance slipped into inexorable decline until, by the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, monastic life in England and Wales was decadent, lax, and virtually dead. This was certainly not the case, and in the later Middle Ages Britain had a rich and vibrant monastic culture that was, naturally, different from that of earlier centuries but was far from being in decline. Clear evidence for this may be seen at Durham (Doyle 1988, cited under Durham), Hailes (Bell 2010, cited under Hailes), Monk Bretton (Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues. Vol. 4, English Benedictine Libraries. The Shorter Catalogues. Edited by R. Sharpe, et al. London: British Library, 1996, pp. 266–287), Syon (all the studies listed), and Thurgarton (Webber 1997, cited under Thurgarton). See also Bell 2002 (cited under Libraries of Specific Religious Orders).The studies listed here also have much to say about book production, scriptoria and scribal practices, the contents of libraries, donations and bequests, patronage, the housing, organization and administration of collections, the care of books, nuns’ libraries, monks and universities, the effects of the New Learning, the impact of printing and the importation of printed books, and the loss and survival of books from religious houses. I have not included here studies of the libraries of individual colleges at Oxford and Cambridge.

Barking

Benedictine Abbey of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Ethelburga. See Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues, vol. 4, English Benedictine Libraries. The Shorter Catalogues (edited by R. Sharpe, et al. London: British Library, 1996, pp. 13–16). Brown and Bussell 2012 contains a collection of papers that illustrate admirably the literary culture at Barking. The earlier study by Doyle 1958 is concerned not only with the Barking abbey books in general, but with devotional volumes once in the possession of Elizabeth de Vere, Countess of Oxford, who had close ties to the abbey.

  • Brown, Jennifer N., and Donna Alfano Bussell, eds. Barking Abbey and Medieval Literary Culture. Authorship and Authority in a Female Community. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell, 2012.

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    A collection of thirteen very sound essays with an afterword dealing with all aspects of literary culture at Barking. There are useful notes on the library in the introduction by Bussell and Brown (especially pp. 12–26).

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  • Doyle, A. Ian. “Books Connected with the Vere Family and Barking Abbey.” Transactions of the Essex Archaeological Society 25 n.s. (1958): 222–243.

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    Members of the Vere or De Vere family were Earls of Oxford. Elizabeth, by marriage first Beaumont then Vere, Countess of Oxford (d. 1537), had close ties to Barking. Doyle describes and discusses two devotional books which once belonged to her and adds an appendix (pp. 239–243) on the Barking abbey books.

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Bury St Edmunds

Benedictine abbey of St Edmund. See Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues, vol. 4, English Benedictine Libraries. The Shorter Catalogues (edited by R. Sharpe, et al. London: British Library, 1996, pp. 43–98). James 1895 remains the classic study of the books and library of the abbey but has now been updated and complemented by Thomson 1972. McLachlan 1986 and Webber 1998 both deal with the productions and long life of the Bury scriptorium, while Gransden 1998 covers almost all aspects of book production at the abbey. In a fascinating paper, Sharpe 1998 reconstructs the library from the work of Henry of Kirkstead.

  • Gransden, Antonia. “Some Manuscripts in Cambridge from Bury St Edmunds Abbey: Exhibition Catalogue.” In Bury St Edmunds: Medieval Art, Architecture, Archaeology and Economy. Edited by Antonia Gransden, 228–285. Leeds, UK: British Archaeological Association Conference Transactions XX, 1998.

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    A detailed illustrated catalogue of fifty-three manuscripts formerly from Bury preceded by an excellent introduction. The manuscripts range in date from the 11th to the 15th century, and the article contains a mass of information on the nature of the books, donations, the Bury scriptorium, scripts, illumination, ex libris inscriptions, bindings, the relationship of Bury to the Schools, and preaching.

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  • James, Montague R. On the Abbey of S. Edmund at Bury: I. The Library; II. The Church. Cambridge, UK: Printed for the Cambridge Antiquarian Society, 1895.

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    A detailed study of the history of the library and its extant remains, with brief descriptions of 301 manuscripts. James increased the number by about fifty (while purging others) is his “Bury St. Edmunds Manuscripts” in the English Historical Review 41 (1926): 251–260. See further the lists in Ker 1964 and Ker 1987 (both cited under Reference Works).

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  • McLachlan, Elizabeth P. The Scriptorium of Bury St. Edmunds in the Twelfth Century. New York: Garland, 1986.

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    A comprehensive study of the productions of the Bury scriptorium with a detailed “Catalogue of Surviving Twelfth-Century Manuscripts from Bury St. Edmunds” (pp. 279–347). The book is a revised version of McLachlan’s 1965 Ph.D. dissertation (Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London).

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  • Sharpe, Richard. “Reconstructing the Medieval Library of Bury St Edmunds Abbey: The Lost Catalogue of Henry of Kirkstead.” In Bury St Edmunds: Medieval Art, Architecture, Archaeology and Economy. Edited by Antonia Gransden, 204–218. Leeds, UK: British Archaeological Association Conference Transactions XX, 1998.

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    A splendid detective story in which Sharpe uses the work of the late 14th-century librarian Henry of Kirkstead to reconstruct the Bury library. A list of 216 entries appears on pp. 208–216, and it implies that by the end of the 14th century, Bury possessed one of the very largest libraries in the country. Its only rival might have been Christ Church, Canterbury.

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  • Thomson, Rodney M. “The Library of Bury St Edmunds Abbey in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries.” Speculum 47 (1972): 617–645.

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    Thomson’s careful study does not supersede James 1895 but rather updates and complements it. It is also limited to the Anglo-Norman period, though Thomson’s Ph.D. dissertation, “The Library and Archives of Bury St Edmunds Abbey” (University of Sydney, 1973) has a wider range. In the later Middle Ages Bury could boast one of the largest libraries in England. Reprinted in Rodney M. Thomson, England and the 12th-Century Renaissance. Variorum Collected Studies Series CS 620. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 1998.

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  • Webber, Teresa. “The Provision of Books for Bury St Edmunds Abbey in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries.” In Bury St Edmunds: Medieval Art, Architecture, Archaeology and Economy. Edited by Antonia Gransden, 186–193. Leeds, UK: British Archaeological Association, 1998.

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    Unlike Thomson 1972, Webber is concerned not so much with the history and contents of the library, but with the provision of books and the long life of the Bury scriptorium. This, unusually, was active well into the second half of the 12th century. “The impressive longevity of the Bury scriptorium was almost undoubtedly due to its ability to acquire exemplars of glossed books of the Bible perhaps as early as the 1140s” (p. 191).

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Cambridge University

See Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues, Vol 10, The University and College Libraries of Cambridge (edited by P. D. Clarke. London: British Library, 2002). Oates 1986 remains the standard history of the university library.

  • Oates, John C. T. Cambridge University Library: A History from the Beginnings to the Copyright Act of Queen Anne. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

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    The first three chapters of this standard history of the library deal with its beginnings in 1416, its expansion from the time of Thomas Rotherham to Cuthbert Tunstal, and its fortunes during the Reformation. Oates’s excellent work may now supplemented by the editions of the catalogues in Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues. Vol. 10, The University and College Libraries of Cambridge (edited by P. D. Clarke. London: British Library, 2002).

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Canterbury

Benedictine cathedral priory of the Holy Trinity (Christ Church) and the Benedictine abbey of St Augustine. See Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues, vol. 13, St Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury (edited by B. C. Barker-Benfield. 3 vols. London: British Library, 2008). James 1903 remains, for the moment, the only edition of the Christ Church catalogue. Gameson 2008 cannot be bettered as a survey of the earliest manuscripts from Canterbury cathedral.

  • Gameson, Richard. The Earliest Books of Canterbury Cathedral. Manuscripts and Fragments to c. 1200. London: British Library, 2008.

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    A superb and minutely detailed catalogue of forty-two manuscripts and manuscript fragments from Canterbury (the earliest is a leaf from a Bible of the first half of the 9th century), preceded by an introduction (pp. 19–54) on the history of the library. Every manuscript and fragment is illustrated in color.

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  • James, Montague R. The Ancient Libraries of Canterbury and Dover. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1903.

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    For an edition of the catalogue of Christ Church we are still dependent on James. His long introduction also retains its value, and the book is freely available at a number of sites on the Internet.

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Carisbrooke, Isle of Wight

Benedictine alien priory. See Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues, vol. 4, English Benedictine Libraries. The Shorter Catalogues (edited by R. Sharpe, et al. London: British Library, 1996, pp. 98–101). The article by Le Pesant 1953 remains useful but must now be supplemented by the information in volume 4 of the Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues.

  • Le Pesant, M. “La bibliothèque d’un prieuré normand d’Angleterre.” Annales de Normandie 3 (1953): 87–90.

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    A study of a catalogue from 1260 of the library of the alien priory of Carisbrooke, a dependency of Notre-Dame de Lyre in Normandy. This study must now be supplemented by the Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues, vol. 4, English Benedictine Libraries. The Shorter Catalogues (edited by R. Sharpe, et al. London: British Library, 1996, pp. 98–101). This is the unique example of a library catalogue of an alien priory in England.

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Durham

Benedictine cathedral priory of St Cuthbert. Piper 1978 and Piper 2007 present the best overall surveys of the medieval book collections of the cathedral, Mynors 1939 remains the classic study of the early manuscripts, while Doyle 1988 offers an important study of the nature and content of the printed books of the last monks.

  • Doyle, A. Ian. “The Printed Books of the Last Monks of Durham (The Graham Pollard Memorial Lecture Read before the Bibliographical Society on 17 February 1987).” The Library 6th ser. 10 (1988): 203–219.

    DOI: 10.1093/library/s6-X.3.203Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    About 140 printed books survive from Durham and its dependencies, and they are important not only for their content, but for their bindings, annotations, and notes either of purchase, loan, or gift. This study sheds important light on the nature of late medieval monastic book collections and the interests of late medieval monks.

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  • Mynors, Roger A. B. Durham Cathedral Manuscripts to the End of the Twelfth Century: Ten Plates in Colour and Forty-Seven in Monochrome, with an Introduction by R. A. B. Mynors. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1939.

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    The plates in this very large book (18 × 11) illustrate handwriting and ornament from Durham cathedral manuscripts copied before the end of the 13th century; 154 manuscripts are listed and described in chronological order, and the introduction deals with the medieval book-lists, medieval bindings, and late 11th- and 12th-century ornament. A classic study.

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  • Piper, Alan J. “The Libraries of the Monks of Durham.” In Medieval Scribes, Manuscripts and Libraries: Essays presented to N. R. Ker. Edited by Malcolm B. Parkes and Andrew G. Watson, 213–249. London: Scolar Press, 1978.

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    Deals with the most important locations for books at the cathedral and the nature of the books housed therein. Piper then examines a number of specialized collections: books for the refectory, for the novices, for dependent cells, and for Durham College, Oxford. The best survey of the medieval libraries of the cathedral.

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  • Piper, Alan J. “The Monks of Durham and the Study of Scripture.” In The Culture of Medieval English Monasticism. Edited by James G. Clark, 86–103. Studies in the History of Medieval Religion 30. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell, 2007.

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    Examines those volumes from Durham Cathedral which deal with scriptural topics, their means of acquisition, the books of Durham monks at Oxford, scriptural texts recorded in the various library catalogues, the organization of the collections, and printed editions of biblical texts and commentaries. This article complements Piper 1978.

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Glastonbury

Benedictine abbey of the Blessed Virgin Mary. See Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues, vol. 4, English Benedictine Libraries. The Shorter Catalogues (edited by R. Sharpe, et al. London: British Library, 1996, pp. 157–245). Carley 1986 presents a detailed examination of forty-four titles noted by John Leland sometime between 1536 and 1540.

  • Carley, James P. “John Leland and the Contents of English Pre-Dissolution Libraries: Glastonbury Abbey.” Scriptorium 40 (1986): 107–120.

    DOI: 10.3406/scrip.1986.1433Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An edition, with detailed notes, of Leland’s list in Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Top. gen. c. 3, p. 260. For a less detailed account, see Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues, vol. 4, English Benedictine Libraries. The Shorter Catalogues (edited by R. Sharpe, et al. London: British Library, 1996, pp. 233–238).

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Gloucester

Benedictine abbey of St Peter. See Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues, vol. 4, English Benedictine Libraries. The Shorter Catalogues (edited by R. Sharpe, et al. London: British Library, 1996, pp. 245–255). Thomson 1997 presents an excellent account of the book collection and literary culture at Gloucester in the 12th and 13th centuries.

  • Thomson, Rodney M. “Books and Learning at Gloucester Abbey in the Twelfth and Thirteenth centuries.” In Books and Collectors 1200–1700: Essays Presented to Andrew Watson. Edited by James P. Carley and Colin G. C. Tite, 3–26. London: British Library, 1997.

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    Few books survived the dissolution of Gloucester abbey in 1540, but in this careful study Thomson presents clear evidence that, for a time, the abbey was “an important centre of learning where biblical studies and the liberal arts were pursued with a high degree of commitment” (p. 3). Reprinted in Rodney M. Thomson, England and the 12th-Century Renaissance (Variorum Collected Studies Series CS 620. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 1998).

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Hailes

Cistercian abbey of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Bell 2010 contains descriptions of all books that have been traced to the abbey and shows how they demonstrate the revitalization of monastic life shortly before the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

  • Bell, David N. “Hailes Abbey and Its Books.” Cîteaux: Commentarii cistercienses 61 (2010): 301–364.

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    A detailed study of all books that have been traced to Hailes placed in the context of the abbey’s history. Special attention is given to the revitalization of monastic life in the late 15th and 16th centuries. The two appendixes list manuscripts and printed books correctly and incorrectly associated with the abbey.

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Hereford

Cathedral church of St Ethelbert. Mynors and Thomson 1993 supersedes any earlier catalogues and is now the standard catalogue and study of the manuscripts from Hereford.

  • Mynors, Roger A.B., and Rodney M. Thomson. Catalogue of the Manuscripts of Hereford Cathedral Library. Woodbridge, UK: D. S. Brewer, 1993.

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    This excellent and detailed catalogue, with forty-five colored plates and 107 in black-and-white, opens with a valuable introduction dealing with the history of the library, the chaining of the books, donations, bequests, and acquisition, and (by Michael Gullick) the bindings. Of 229 Western manuscripts preserved at Hereford, 112 were definitely part of the medieval library.

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Lincoln

Cathedral church of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Thomson 1989 supersedes any earlier catalogues and is now the standard catalogue and study of the manuscripts from Lincoln.

  • Thomson, Rodney M. Catalogue of the Manuscripts of Lincoln Cathedral Chapter Library. Woodbridge, UK: D. S. Brewer, 1989.

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    This excellent and detailed catalogue, with ninety-four black-and-white illustrations, opens with a brief but valuable introduction dealing with catalogues of the library, means of acquisition, the chaining of the books, the “new library” of the 15th century, and its later history. About a hundred of the medieval manuscripts were certainly or probably there before the Reformation.

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London, St Paul’s

Cathedral church of St Paul. Ker 1969 presents an excellent overview of the books and records from Old St Paul’s before 1313.

  • Ker, Neil R. “Books at St Paul’s Cathedral before 1313.” In Studies in London History Presented to Philip Edmund Jones. Edited by Albert E. J. Hollaender and William Kellaway, 41–72. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1969.

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    Ker discusses the surviving volumes from Old St Paul’s (with four black-and-white plates), examines all the records pertaining to the book collection, and presents editions of two lists of books, one from 1255 and one from 1295. Before the Great Fire of 1666 the book collection numbered about two hundred manuscripts. Reprinted in Neil R. Ker, Books, Collectors and Libraries: Studies in the Medieval Heritage. Edited by Andrew G. Watson, 209–242. London, UK: Hambledon, 1985.

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Norwich

Benedictine cathedral priory of the Holy Trinity. See Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues, vol. 4, English Benedictine Libraries. The Shorter Catalogues (edited by R. Sharpe, et al. London: British Library, 1996, pp. 288–325). Ker 1949–1953 presents a useful general overview (with a list of surviving volumes) of the nature, contents, and history of the manuscripts from Norwich.

  • Ker, Neil R. “Medieval Manuscripts from Norwich Cathedral Priory.” Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 1 (1949–1953): 1–28.

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    Discusses why so many manuscripts from Norwich ended up in Cambridge University Library and examines the special character of the surviving books, which are mainly productions of the late 13th and 14th centuries. The author lists 109 volumes (there is a 55a and 83a) and includes extracts from the Obedientiary Rolls from 1272 to 1317. Reprinted in Neil R. Ker, Books, Collectors and Libraries: Studies in the Medieval Heritage. Edited by Andrew G. Watson, 243–272. London: Hambledon, 1985.

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Oxford University

The two studies by Neil Ker (Ker 1957–1961; Ker 1978) remain the best overall surveys of the development of the Oxford college libraries from their beginnings to about 1600. Coates and Jensen 1997 deal with certain incunabula (with a descriptive catalogue) in the Bodleian Library, and Parkes 2004 is a superb study of all aspects of book provision at the university from the 12th century to 1500.

  • Coates, Alan, and Kristian Jensen. “The Bodleian Library’s Acquisition of Incunabula with English and Scottish Medieval Monastic Provenances.” In Books and Collectors 1200–1700: Essays Presented to Andrew Watson. Edited by James P. Carley and Colin G. C. Tite, 237–259. London: British Library, 1997.

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    Preceded by an introduction dealing with the mode of acquisition—essentially accidental—of incunabula by the Bodleian, the authors present a descriptive catalogue of twenty-eight volumes from a number of religious houses, chiefly Benedictine. Of a total of forty-three imprints, only three were printed in England. All the others were imported from the continent.

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  • Ker, Neil R. “Oxford College Libraries in the Sixteenth Century.” The Sandars Lectures in Bibliography, Cambridge, 1955. Bodleian Library Record 6 (1957–1961): 459–515.

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    Three lectures which continue the history of the Oxford college libraries from 1500 to about 1600. In this detailed and comprehensive study Ker deals with the surviving books, accounts, book lists, chaining, circulation, library finance and furniture, book buying, donations and bequests, and manuscripts discarded in favor of printed books. Reprinted in Neil R. Ker, Books, Collectors and Libraries: Studies in the Medieval Heritage. Edited by Andrew G. Watson, 379–436. London: Hambledon, 1985.

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  • Ker, Neil R. “Oxford College Libraries before 1500.” In The Universities in the Late Middle Ages. Edited by Jozef Ijsewijn and Jacques Paquet, 293–311. Mediaevalia Lovaniensia, ser. 1, studia 6. Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press, 1978.

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    An excellent analysis of the medieval book collections of the ten secular Oxford colleges: University, Balliol, Merton, Exeter, Oriel, Queen’s, New, Lincoln, All Souls, and Magdalen. Ker discusses the numbers and types of books, and their means of acquisition, which was primarily by donation or bequest. Reprinted in Neil R. Ker, Books, Collectors and Libraries. Studies in the Medieval Heritage. Edited by Andrew G. Watson, 301–320. London: Hambledon, 1985.

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  • Parkes, Malcolm B. “The Provision of Books.” In The History of the University of Oxford. Vol. 2, Late Medieval Oxford. Edited by Jeremy I. Catto and Ralph Evans, 407–483. Oxford: Clarendon, 2004.

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    A masterly study of all aspects of book provision at Oxford from the 12th century to 1500. Parkes deals with gifts, bequests, purchase, loans, pledges, book production, the second-hand book trade, the types of books and their scripts, book collections, library administration and regulations, the pecia system, and labeling and chaining. An exemplary study. Originally published 1992.

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Reading

Benedictine abbey of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues, vol. 4, English Benedictine Libraries. The Shorter Catalogues (edited by R. Sharpe, et al. London: British Library, 1996, pp. 419–463). Coates 1999 offers a comprehensive study, with a list of manuscripts and printed books, of all aspects of the Reading collections from their beginnings to their dispersal.

  • Coates, Alan. English Medieval Books: The Reading Abbey Collections from Foundation to Dispersal. Oxford: Clarendon, 1999.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198207566.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This thorough study examines all the lists and records pertaining to the books of Reading Abbey, the acquisition, housing and management of the collections, and their dispersal at the Dissolution. Appendix F lists 128 manuscripts and three printed books from Reading Abbey and Leominster Priory arranged chronologically by century.

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Rochester

Cathedral priory of St Andrew. See Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues, vol. 4, English Benedictine Libraries. The Shorter Catalogues (edited by R. Sharpe, et al. London: British Library, 1996, pp. 463–537). Richards 1988 is a valuable study, though now somewhat dated, of the history and contents of the priory library.

  • Richards, Mary P. Texts and Their Traditions in the Medieval Library of Rochester Cathedral Priory. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1988.

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    Examines the history of the priory library, its contents, the productions of the scriptorium (especially the Textus Roffensis), and their relation to those of Christ Church, Canterbury. Richards’ work must now be supplemented (but not superseded) by the information in the Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues, vol. 4, English Benedictine Libraries. The Shorter Catalogues (edited by R. Sharpe, et al. London: British Library, 1996, pp. 463–537).

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Salisbury

Cathedral church of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Webber 1992 is a valuable and detailed account of book production and book collection at Salisbury to about 1125. Ker 1949–1950 continues the story to the 17th century with an annotated edition of the catalogue compiled by Patrick Young.

  • Ker, Neil R. “Salisbury Cathedral Manuscripts and Patrick Young’s Catalogue.” Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine 53 (1949–1950): 153–183.

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    Webber 1992 ends at about 1125. This study deals, inter alia, with later manuscripts and presents an annotated edition of Patrick Young’s catalogue which was probably compiled shortly after July 1622. Ker also deals with the loss or abstraction of manuscripts from Salisbury. Reprinted in Neil R. Ker, Books, Collectors and Libraries. Studies in the Medieval Heritage. Edited by Andrew G. Watson, 175–208. London: Hambledon, 1985.

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  • Webber, Teresa. Scribes and Scholars at Salisbury Cathedral, c. 1075–c. 1125. Oxford: Clarendon, 1992.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198203087.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Webber’s thorough study covers book production at Salisbury in the late 11th and early 12th centuries, the contents of the book collection, and what it tells us of intellectual and religious life at the cathedral. Especially valuable is the identification of a large number of Salisbury scribes, with nineteen plates illustrating scribal hands.

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St Alban’s

Benedictine abbey of St Alban. See Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues, vol. 4, English Benedictine Libraries. The Shorter Catalogues (edited by R. Sharpe, et al. London: British Library, 1996, pp. 538–589). The two volumes of Thomson 1982 (text and plates) illustrate the history of the library from its beginnings to 1235. Hunt 1978 presents a wider view of the collection and sheds further light on its history and development after 1235.

  • Hunt, Richard W. “The Library of the Abbey of St. Alban’s.” In Medieval Scribes, Manuscripts & Libraries: Essays presented to N. R. Ker. Edited by Malcolm B. Parkes and Andrew G. Watson, 251–277. London: Scolar Press, 1978.

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    Examines the 12th-century Indiculus of Walter the Chanter, a rare borrowers’ list from between 1420 and 1437, and a list of seventeen volumes sent to St Alban’s from one of its dependent priories sometime between 1396 and 1420. These shed new light on the development of the library after 1235.

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  • Thomson, Rodney M. Manuscripts from St Albans Abbey 1066–1235. I: Text; II: Plates. 2 vols. Woodbridge, UK: D. S. Brewer, 1982.

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    The descriptive catalogue of 108 manuscripts is preceded by a long introduction tracing the history of the collection from the pre-Conquest period to 1235. The most important periods of growth were from 1119 to 1146 and from 1167 to 1195. The second volume contains seven colored plates and 259 in black and white.

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Syon

Bridgettine abbey of St Saviour, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and St Bridget. See Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues, vol. 9, Syon Abbey and the Libraries of the Carthusians (edited by Vincent Gillespie and A. I. Doyle. London: British Library, 2001). Gillespie 2000 and Gillespie 2002 provide a brilliant account of the brothers’ library, and an equally brilliant account of the sisters’ library appears in De Hamel 1991. This last may be supplemented by Hutchison 1995. Erler 1985 is an informative study dealing with the care taken of the Syon books, and Rhodes 1993 examines the books written by the Syon brothers themselves.

  • De Hamel, Christopher F. R. Syon Abbey: The Library of the Bridgettine Nuns and Their Peregrinations after the Reformation. Otley, UK: Roxburghe Club, 1991.

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    Pages 48–150 of this masterly account examine the contents of the medieval library of the Syon sisters and its dispersal at the Dissolution. Syon Abbey was privately printed in a small edition, and the few copies that appear on the market tend to be extremely expensive.

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  • Erler, Mary C. “Syon Abbey’s Care for Books: Its Sacristan’s Account Rolls 1506/7–1535/6.” Scriptorium 39 (1985): 293–307.

    DOI: 10.3406/scrip.1985.1415Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An invaluable study of what the twenty-four sacristan’s account rolls tell us of the care taken of the Syon books. This includes purchase of books and writing materials, binding and repairing, tanning and preparing parchment, the cost of skins and paper, and all else pertaining to the making and care of medieval books.

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  • Gillespie, Vincent. “The Book and the Brotherhood. Reflections on the Lost Library of Syon Abbey.” In The English Medieval Book. Studies in Memory of Jeremy Griffiths. Edited by A. S. G. Edwards, Vincent Gillespie, and Ralph Hanna, 185–208. London: British Library, 2000.

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    A survey of the history, size, contents, methods of acquisition, impact of printing, arrangement, upkeep, and cataloguing of the brothers’ library at Syon, whose contents offer “an unrivalled insight into the intellectual milieu of the house on the brink of the Reformation” (p. 203).

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  • Gillespie, Vincent. “Syon and the New Learning.” In The Religious Orders in Pre-Reformation England. Edited by James G. Clark, 75–95. Studies in the History of Medieval Religion 18. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell, 2002.

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    A lucid examination of the 16th-century registrum of the library of the Syon brethren. Gillespie develops material from his earlier studies, adds new material, revises some of his conclusions, and clearly shows how the catalogue offers remarkable evidence of the continuing efforts to accommodate new material and to dispose of older and less useful volumes.

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  • Hutchison, Ann M. “What the Nuns Read: Literary Evidence from the English Bridgettine House, Syon Abbey.” Mediaeval Studies 57 (1995): 205–222.

    DOI: 10.1484/J.MS.2.306434Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author presents evidence for what the Syon nuns read “from the Rule, from The Myroure of oure Ladye, and from wills and other documents, as well as from existing books known to have belonged to the nuns” (p. 205). A useful survey.

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  • Rhodes, J. T. “Syon Abbey and Its Religious Publications in the Sixteenth Century.” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 44 (1993): 11–25.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0022046900010174Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the books, many of them translations, made by certain brothers of Syon for the Syon sisters. The books seem to have found a good market among religious and devout lay-people outside the abbey, and represent “the final flowering of the late medieval English religious and devotional tradition” (p. 25).

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Thorney

Benedictine abbey of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Botolph. See Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues, vol. 4, English Benedictine Libraries. The Shorter Catalogues (edited by R. Sharpe, et al. London: British Library, 1996, pp 597–605). Sharpe 2005 examines the unique borrowers’ lists from Thorney and what they reveal to us of the reading culture of the community.

  • Sharpe, Richard. “Monastic Reading at Thorney Abbey, 1323–1347.” Traditio 60 (2005): 243–278.

    DOI: 10.1353/trd.2005.0003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An exemplary study of the four lists recording the Lenten distribution of books at Thorney. The lists, which are unique in an English context, date from between 1324 and 1330, and offer “important insights into the reading culture of the community, in all its diversity” (p. 278).

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Thurgarton

Augustinian priory of St Peter. See Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues, vol. 6, The Libraries of the Augustinian Canons (edited by M. T. J. Webber and A. G. Watson. London: British Library, 1998, pp. 414–426). Webber 1997 examines a list of texts almost certainly from Thurgarton and demonstrates how they reveal a need for a re-evaluation of the intellectual and spiritual life of English Augustinian canons in the late Middle Ages.

  • Webber, Teresa. “Latin Devotional Texts and the Books of the Augustinian Canons of Thurgarton Priory and Leicester Abbey in the Late Middle Ages.” In Books and Collectors 1200–1700: Essays Presented to Andrew Watson. Edited by James P. Carley and Colin G. C. Tite, 27–41. London: British Library, 1997.

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    An examination of a fragmentary list of texts almost certainly associated with Thurgarton priory. The works listed contain some that were very well known, but others that were much more rare. Webber’s important study suggests the need to re-evaluate the role of Augustinian canons in the ownership of devotional texts in late medieval England.

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Westminster

Benedictine abbey of St Peter. See Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues, vol. 4, English Benedictine Libraries. The Shorter Catalogues (edited by R. Sharpe, et al. London: British Library, 1996, pp. 608–633). Despite its age, Robinson and James 2011 (originally published 1909) remains a most useful and comprehensive study of all aspects of the library of Westminster abbey from its beginnings to 1660.

  • Robinson, J. Armitage, and Montague R. James. The Manuscripts of Westminster Abbey. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511920110Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Documents the history of the abbey library from 1060 to 1660 and contains information on the library buildings, furniture, holdings, administration, and methods of acquisition, including notes on the budget for buying and restoring books. Originally published 1909. The volume must now be supplemented by the Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues, vol. 4, English Benedictine Libraries. The Shorter Catalogues (edited by R. Sharpe, et al. London: British Library, 1996, pp. 608–633).

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Windsor

Royal Collegiate Chapel of St George. See Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues, vol. 15, The Libraries of Collegiate Churches (edited by James M. W. Willoughby. London: British Library, 2013, pp. 861–950). Between them, James 1932 and Willoughby 2015, offer the most comprehensive account available of the history and contents of the medieval library.

  • James, Montague R. “The Manuscripts of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor.” Library 4th ser. 13 (1932): 55–76.

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    James enumerates the extant manuscripts from Windsor, the vast majority of which have been in the Bodleian Library since 1612 and describes the few medieval manuscripts which remain in the chapel library. In the second part of his paper he summarizes what, up to 1932, was known of the early history of the library and the provenance of the books. This must now be supplemented by Willoughby 2015.

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  • Willoughby, James. The Medieval Library of St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. Documentary Sources. Historical Monographs Relating to St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle 19. Windsor, UK: Dean and Canons of Windsor, 2015.

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    The introduction traces the history of the library from 1348 to its relocation in the Vicars’ Hall in 1692. The documentary sources (annotated) refer to books held by the college and the administration of the library from the reign of Edward III to that of Mary I (d. 1558).

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Worcester

Benedictine cathedral priory of the Blessed Virgin Mary. See Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues, vol. 4, English Benedictine Libraries. The Shorter Catalogues (edited by R. Sharpe, et al. London: British Library, 1996, pp. 651–675). Thomson 2001 supersedes any earlier catalogues and is now the standard catalogue and study of the manuscripts from Worcester. Thomson 2007 deals with the important association of the abbey with Oxford University.

  • Thomson, Rodney M. A Descriptive Catalogue of the Medieval Manuscripts in Worcester Cathedral Library. Cambridge, UK: D. S. Brewer, 2001.

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    This excellent and detailed catalogue, with ninety-two black-and-white plates, opens with a valuable introduction dealing with the history of the library, the nature of the surviving books, the association of Worcester with Oxford (see further Thomson 2007), the location of the library, purchase and acquisition, and (by Michael Gullick) the bindings.

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  • Thomson, Rodney M. “Worcester Monks and Education, c. 1300.” In The Culture of Medieval English Monasticism. Edited by James G. Clark, 104–110. Studies in the History of Medieval Religion, 30. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell, 2007.

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    Deals with the contents, use, and mode of acquisition of thirty-two books at present preserved in the cathedral library and known to be have been made, obtained, or used at Oxford University. Thomson’s study breaks new ground, but, as he himself says, more work remains to be done.

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The Libraries of Nuns and Laywomen

This is an area in which much important work has been done since the 1990s, and it is an area in which important work remains to be done. In 1922 Eileen Power, in her eminently readable Medieval English Nunneries, wrote that what little information we have about nunnery libraries “does not leave the impression that nunneries were rich in books. No catalogue of a nunnery library has come down to us and such references to libraries as occur in inventories show great poverty in this respect, the books being few and chiefly service books” (Eileen Power, Medieval English Nunneries c. 1275 to 1535. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1922, pp. 240–241). Since 1995 these views have been seriously challenged by Bell 1995, Bell 2007, and Erler 2002, and earlier assumptions about the size and content of nuns’ libraries, and the learning and literacy of medieval women religious now need to be reassessed. The same is true of the book collections, learning, and literacy of medieval women in general, and in recent years the groundbreaking studies by Meale 1996, Erler 2002, and Erler 2007 have shown that women’s reading networks played a much more important role in the literary society of medieval England than had hitherto been suspected. As to library catalogues, Power did not know of the list of thirty-nine titles, all in Latin, from Nunnaminster that appears in the Registrum Anglie de libris doctorum et auctorum ueterum (Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues. Vol. 2. Edited by R. H. Rouse and M. A. Rouse. London: British Library, 1991, p. 264, list no 32; Bell 2007, pp. 118–119). The list includes works by Alcuin, Ambrose, Anselm and ps.-Anselm, Augustine and ps.-Augustine, Bede, Cyprian, Eusebius in Rufinus’s translation, Gregory the Great, Haimo of Auxerre, Hilary, Hrabanus Maurus, Isidore of Seville, Ivo of Chartres, Jerome and ps.-Jerome, Paschasius Radbertus, and ps.-Peter Damian. There is also a brief early 15th-century list, almost certainly from Wilton that records three works in Latin (including the Moralia of Gregory the Great), five books for reading in the refectory, and a number of unspecified books in English (Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues, vol. 4, English Benedictine Libraries. The Shorter Catalogues (edited by R. Sharpe, et al. London: British Library, 1996, p. 644–646). Cavanaugh 1980 (cited under Private Libraries) remains the most comprehensive repertorium of books privately owned by both men and women in medieval England, but it is limited to printed sources.

  • Bell, David N. What Nuns Read: Books and Libraries in Medieval English Nunneries. Cistercian Studies Series 158. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian, 1995.

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    The author lists and describes 141 manuscripts and seventeen printed books which came from English nunneries. The introductory chapters deal with incomes and acquisitions, manuscripts and books, and learning and literacy. The book calls for a reassessment of the size of nuns’ libraries and the scholarly attainments of women religious in the later Middle Ages.

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  • Bell, David N. “What Nuns Read: The State of the Question.” In The Culture of Medieval English Monasticism. Edited by James G. Clark, 113–133. Studies in the History of Medieval Religion 30. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell, 2007.

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    Bell presents a summary of developments that have taken place in the decade since the publication of Bell 1995. It includes many new bibliographical references, an examination of a book list from Nunnaminster, and discussion of manuscripts and books from English nunneries identified since 1995.

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  • Erler, Mary C. Women, Reading, and Piety in Late Medieval England. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

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    In this important study, Erler discusses the significance of female networks of book ownership and exchange and examines the book collections of seven women who lived between 1350 and 1550. The three appendixes list surviving books hitherto unidentified, multiple book ownership by religious women, and surviving copies of incunabula formerly in female ownership.

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  • Erler, Mary C. “Private Reading in the Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century English Nunnery.” In The Culture of Medieval English Monasticism. Edited by James G. Clark, 134–146. Studies in the History of Medieval Religion 30. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell, 2007.

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    Examines what is said of reading in the Augustinian Rule, the Benedictine Rule, and the Syon Rule, discusses where personal, private reading was done, and summarizes the nature of that reading.

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  • Meale, Carol M. “‘. . .alle the bokes that I haue of latyn, englisch, and frensch’: Laywomen and Their Books in Late Medieval England.” In Women and Literature in Britain: 1150–1500. 2d ed. Edited by Carol M. Meale, 128–158. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

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    In this important paper, Meale presents evidence from wills for book ownership by laywomen, though wills cannot give a balanced view of the question. The author concludes that religion was certainly the dominant reading interest of medieval women and that the whole question of women’s reading networks demands further investigation.

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Parish Libraries and the Libraries of Parish Priests

That too many parish priests were noticeably deficient in their learning and education was well known in the Middles Ages and not uncommonly the subject of scorn and satire. Reeves 2015 shows how attempts to address the problem were made in the 12th century, but that the real impetus came from the demands of the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215. It was rare, however, for a parish priest to be educated at a cathedral school or, later, at university—it was far more commonly a case of on-the-job training—but after 1215 huge numbers of books, both short and long, were published to help parish priests in their pastoral work (especially in the confessional) and in instructing their flock (Reeves 2015). Every layperson should know the Creed, the Ave Maria, and Lord’s Prayer, and every priest was required to instruct his congregation in the basic tenets of the Christian faith. There were plenty of books to help him, and there is sound evidence that by the later Middle Ages many parish priests owned book collections. The best overall survey of the subject—the only overall survey in fact—is Shinners 1997. Moran 1984 deals with the very interesting “common profit” library once belonging to William Wilmyncote of York and sheds new light on readership and book circulation. Cross 1989 examines the equally interesting library of Robert Barker of Driffield. This last study is also important for its suggestions concerning surviving volumes from the book collections of the dissolved religious houses of Byland and Monk Bretton. Cross presents the key evidence that an inventory, dated 21 July 1558, of books in the possession of two former monks of Monk Bretton represents all that could be salvaged from the priory library at the Dissolution. Dodgson 1960 presents an annotated list of books once belonging to Pott Chapel in Cheshire: a small library but one that contained a very high proportion of new printed books. Its founder had taken some care to remain up to date. See also Scattergood 2006 (cited under Private Libraries). Few books, however, have survived that can be traced to a specific parish church or chapel almost all the provenances listed in Ker 1964 and Ker 1987 (both cited under Reference Works) are represented by only a single volume—and book lists are rare, though a few, happily, have survived: see Ker 1987 (cited under Reference Works, pp. 72–74; s.v. Cambridge [Great St Mary’s], Canterbury [St Andrew’s], Horningsey, London [St Christopher-le-Stocks, St James, St Margaret, St Martin le Grand, St Peter], Mere, Salisbury, Sandwich, and Thame).

  • Cross, Claire. “A Medieval Yorkshire Library.” Northern History 25 (1989): 281–290.

    DOI: 10.1179/nhi.1989.25.1.281Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An examination of the library of about 150 volumes formerly belonging to Robert Barker, vicar of Driffield, Yorkshire. Cross discusses the source of the books (probably the library of the dissolved abbey of Byland) and presents an annotated edition of the inventory of 25 November 1581.

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  • Dodgson, John M. “A Library at Pott Chapel (Pott Shrigley, Cheshire), c. 1493.” Library 5th ser. 15 (1960): 47–53.

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    An annotated list of seventeen volumes, which once formed the library of what is now the parish church of Pott Shrigley, near Macclesfield. The article also contains a transcript of the regulations pertaining to the use of the library. The collection provided “edifying but popular reading, mostly in English, available for borrowing in a remote Cheshire village” (p. 52) in about 1493.

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  • Moran, Jo Ann Hoeppner. “A ‘Common Profit’ Library in Fifteenth-Century England and Other Books for Chaplains.” Manuscripta 28 (1984): 17–25.

    DOI: 10.1484/J.MSS.3.1084Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An important study of the bequest, dated 17 January 1402, of a “common profit” library formerly belonging to William Wilmyncote, a chaplain from Coventry.

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  • Reeves, Andrew. “Education and Religious Instruction.” In The Routledge History of Medieval Christianity 1050–1500. Edited by Robert N. Swanson, 103–115. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2015.

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    A very useful survey of the impact of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), priestly education, the instruction of laypeople, the importance of preaching and the confessional, and the effective use of image and ritual. All this is a necessary background for understanding the nature of medieval parish libraries.

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  • Shinners, John. “Parish Libraries in Medieval England.” In A Distinct Voice. Medieval Studies in Honor of Leonard E. Boyle, O. P. Edited by Jacqueline Brown and William P. Stoneman, 207–230. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1997.

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    An excellent introduction to a neglected subject. Shinners deals with types of books in parish libraries, donations and other means of acquisition, and what we know of the condition of the books. Ker 1964 and Ker 1987 (cited under Reference Works) list 167 books formerly owned by parish churches and chapels.

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Private Libraries

Most of our knowledge of the contents of private libraries in medieval England comes from records of donations or testamentary dispositions in wills, but neither provides a comprehensive picture of the contents of their former owners’ collections. Inventories of private collections are rare and precious. The largest compendium of information from printed sources is to be found in the two volumes of Cavanaugh 1980, which may be supplemented by Friedman 1995, dealing with book production and book ownership in the north of England. Stratford and Webber 2006 examines the personal collections of bishops and kings and begins with a very sound discussion of the difficulties in reconstructing the libraries of private individuals in the Middle Ages. An excellent overall account of the private ownership of printed books is provided by Ford 1999. McFarlane 1973 provides a stimulating discussion of books owned by the nobility, while the collections of laywomen have been studied by Carol Meale and Mary Erler (Meale 1996 and Erler 2002, cited under the Libraries of Nuns and Laywomen). Jo Ann Moran and Claire Cross have published studies of a “common profit” library once belonging to William Wilmyncote of York and the library of Robert Barker of Driffield, which may well have contained a considerable number of books once belonging to Byland abbey (Cross 1989; Moran 1984, both cited under Parish Libraries and the Libraries of Parish Priests). The library of another priest, William de Walcote, has been studied by John Scattergood (Scattergood 2006). One of the most important private collections was that of John Blacman, Oxford scholar and, later, Carthusian monk of the Witham charterhouse. He owned a large and most interesting collection of mystical and devotional writings, which has been the subject of an admirable study by Roger Lovatt (Lovatt 1992). Guy de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, owned a number of romances in French, together with a few other volumes, which he donated to the Cistercian abbey of Bordesley on 1 May 1306 (see David N. Bell, ed. Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues. Vol. 3, The Libraries of the Cistercians, Gilbertines and Premonstratensians. London: British Library, 1992, pp. 4–10), though quite what the monks of Bordesley did with the French romances we do not know. The library of Humfrey, Duke of Gloucester (d. 1447) is the subject of an admirable on-going online project by David Rundle. For the royal collections, which have their own unique characteristics, see the Royal Library.

  • Cavanaugh, Susan Hagen. “A Study of Books Privately Owned in England 1300–1450.” 2 vols. PhD diss, University of Pennsylvania, 1980.

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    A vast (1,040 pages) and very useful compilation drawn from printed medieval wills and inventories in which the author presents sufficient evidence to suggest the kinds of books people owned and used in England during the 14th and early 15th centuries. The owners are arranged in alphabetical order, and there is a comprehensive index of provenances.

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  • Ford, Margaret Lane. “Private Ownership of Printed Books.” In The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain. Vol. 3, 1400–1557. Edited by Lotte Hellinga and J. B. Trapp, 205–228. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

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    Based on a sample of over 4,300 printed books that can be shown to have been in private ownership in Britain before 1557, this admirable study examines “who owned books, what books they owned and what factors influenced that ownership” (p. 205). Available by subscription online.

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  • Friedman, John B. Northern English Books, Owners, and Makers in the Late Middle Ages. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1995.

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    A useful study, though not without flaws, of the book trade, book patrons, and the reading public, especially women, in northern England in the late Middle Ages. The first chapter deals with the evidence from wills and extant manuscripts.

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  • Lovatt, Roger. “The Library of John Blacman and Contemporary Carthusian Spirituality.” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 43 (1992): 195–230.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0022046900000889Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Between about 1463 and 1474, John Blacman gave to the Witham charterhouse “the largest collection of devotional and mystical writings known to have been owned by any individual in late medieval England” (p. 195). Lovatt provides an excellent account of Blacman’s library and of 15th-century Carthusian spirituality.

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  • McFarlane, Kenneth B. The Nobility of Later Medieval England: The Ford Lectures for 1953 and Related Studies. Oxford: Clarendon, 1973.

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    McFarlane’s lecture, “The Education of the Nobility in Later Medieval England.” (pp. 228–247), is a very lively discussion which contains much useful information on the libraries of the English nobility.

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  • Rundle, David. “The Library of Humfrey, Duke of Gloucester.” Bonae Litterae Occasional Writing from David Rundle, Renaissance Scholar.

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    An on-going online project dealing with the creation, contents, uses, and dispersal of the library of Duke Humfrey. A PDF of “Manuscripts Once Owned (or Otherwise) by Humfrey, Duke of Gloucester” is available online. This will undoubtedly become the standard study of the duke’s collection.

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  • Scattergood, John. “Two Medieval Book Lists.” In Manuscripts and Ghosts. Essays on the Transmission of Medieval and Early Renaissance Literature. Edited by John Scattergood, 128–133. Portland, OR: Four Courts, 2006.

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    Editions, with discussion, of the lists of twenty-one books belonging to Sir Simon Burley, executed in 1388, and thirty books belonging to William de Walcote, a turbulent priest whose property was confiscated for debt in 1358. The lists shed valuable light on the nature of private libraries in the 14th century.

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  • Stratford, Jenny, and Teresa Webber. “Bishops and Kings: Private Book Collections in Medieval England.” In The Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland. Vol. 1, To 1640. Edited by Elisabeth Leedham-Green and Teresa Webber, 178–217. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

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    A very valuable paper that begins with a discussion of why any attempt at reconstructing the book collections of private individuals in the Middle Ages is so difficult. The authors then go on to examine episcopal collections, royal collections, and the Royal Library from Henry IV to Edward IV (d. 1483). Available by subscription online.

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The Royal Library

See Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues, vol. 7, The Libraries of King Henry VIII (edited by James P. Carley. London: British Library, 2000). Although some earlier monarchs had an interest in books and amassed their own personal collections, it was Edward IV (d. 1481) who is usually credited with founding what has come to be known as the Royal Library. As the first king to leave “a coherent collection of books” (Stratford 1999, p. 255), this is not inaccurate, for although earlier kings certainly possessed books, no royal library existed as an integral and continuous entity. The sources, however, are difficult to assemble and difficult to interpret. Henry IV and Henry VI both had an interest in books—they might even be called bibliophiles—and both acquired books not only by inheritance, gift, and the like, but also by purchase. Yet what evidence there is seems to indicate that it was during the latter part of the reign of Edward IV that something like a planned acquisitions policy was being carried out in the king’s name. The volumes thus acquired were not, as had previously been the case, simply the consequence of personal choice but intended to be an integral part of the royal household. Edward’s successors, Edward V and Richard III, reigned for only short periods—Edward for no more than eleven weeks and Richard for just over two years—and although Richard loved books, neither he nor Edward made any significant contribution to the growth of the Royal Library. That was left to Henry VII, the first to appoint a royal librarian whose name is known, Quentin Poulet from Lille, and it was Henry who established the foundation for the astonishing growth of the library under his son, Henry VIII. Henry VIII had different book collections in different palaces—he owned more than fifty of them—but the most significant acquisitions were the carefully selected spoils from the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The most important figure here is the antiquarian John Leland. See the Dissolution of the Monasteries and the Dispersal of the Monastic Libraries. Cavanaugh 1988 traces the early history of the royal collections from King John (d. 1216) to Richard II (d. 1399), and Green 1976 deals in more detail with Richard II’s books. A slightly more up-to-date account of this early period is provided by Stratford 1999. The books belonging to Henry V (d. 1422) and his circle are the subject of a very useful study by Krochalis 1988. The crucial period from the reign of Edward IV (d. 1483) to Henry VII (d. 1509) is well discussed by Carley 1999a (pp. 267–273), who continues the story to the reign of Henry VIII (Carley 1999b, pp. 274–281). Some of the gems of Henry’s collections, and those of four of his wives, are illustrated in Carley 2004, a lovely book.

  • Carley, James P. “The Royal Library from Edward IV to Henry VII.” In The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain. Vol. 3, 1400–1557. Edited by Lotte Hellinga and J. B. Trapp, 267–273. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999a.

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    Carley demonstrates that it was Edward and Henry who assembled a collection of manuscripts and printed books “as a feature of the trappings of the royal household rather than as a simple collection of books of personal choice,” and thus laid the foundations for the development of the library under Henry VIII (p. 273). Available by subscription online.

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  • Carley, James P. “The Royal Library under Henry VIII.” In The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain. Vol. 3, 1400–1557. Edited by Lotte Hellinga and J. B. Trapp, 274–281. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999b.

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    The most important feature of the growth of the Royal Library in the 16th century was a direct consequence of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Huge numbers of books were lost at the Dissolution, but Carley shows that “without Westminster Palace, Hampton Court and Greenwich Palace the damage would have been considerably worse” (p. 261). Available by subscription online.

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  • Carley, James P. The Books of King Henry VIII and His Wives. London: British Library, 2004.

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    A beautifully illustrated (in color) survey of the personal collection of one of England’s premier collectors. Carley deals with books inherited by the king together with gifts, purchases and sequestrations. The four wives are Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr. Preface by David Starkey.

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  • Cavanaugh, Susan H. “Royal Books: King John to Richard II.” Library 6th ser. 10 (1988): 304–316.

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    This neat study traces what might be called the prehistory of the royal collections, beginning with six theological texts borrowed by King John from Reading Abbey in 1208 and ending with the books of Richard II. Particularly interesting are the sections dealing with books owned by three Queens of England: Eleanor of Aquitaine, Eleanor of Castile, and Isabella, wife of Edward II.

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  • Green, Richard F. “King Richard II’s Books Revisited.” The Library 5th ser. 31 (1976): 235–239.

    DOI: 10.1093/library/s5-XXXI.3.235Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A discussion of fourteen books of Arthurian romances and chansons de geste inherited by Richard from his grandfather and either sold or pawned by Richard within a year of their passing into his possession. The king is revealed as being more interested in financial than spiritual profit, though Richard and his courtiers would have regarded the books as old-fashioned and hardly worth keeping.

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  • Krochalis, Jeanne E. “The Books and Reading of Henry V and His Circle.” Chaucer Review 23 (1988): 50–77.

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    The useful study includes (among others) an account of the 123 books belonging to Thomas Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, and his wife Eleanor as well as books belonging to the family of John of Gaunt; to Mary de Bohun, the mother of Henry V; to Henry IV; to two noted bibliophiles, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, and John, Duke of Bedford; and to Henry V himself, who “in a circle of collectors, stands out as a reader of books” (p. 70).

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  • Stratford, Jenny. “The Early Royal Collections and the Royal Library to 1461.” In The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain. Vol. 3, 1400–1557. Edited by Lotte Hellinga and J. B. Trapp, 255–266. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

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    Traces the development of the royal collection from the reign of Edward II (d. 1327) to that of Henry VI (d. 1461), and shows that it was Henry IV and Henry V who should really be thought of as bibliophiles and founders of the Royal Library. Available by subscription online.

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The Dissolution of the Monasteries and the Dispersal of the Monastic Libraries

In 1534 the English Parliament passed the Act of Supremacy, which made Henry VIII the Supreme Head of the Church in England. The English Church was now no longer subject to the authority of the pope in Rome, and any monies hitherto sent to Rome were now sent to the king. Because the additional income proved insufficient for the king’s ambitions, late in 1534 he determined to increase the taxes on all ecclesiastical property to enrich the royal coffers. Even these increased taxes proved insufficient, and the Suppression of Religious Houses Act 1535 was enacted in February 1535. By this act all religious houses in England and Wales that had an annual value from lands, rents, and all other sources of income of less than £200 were dissolved. All their wealth (some of it very little) went to the crown. But nor was this enough, and the 1535 Act was followed by the Suppression of Religious Houses Act 1539, which demanded the dissolution of 552 religious houses—some of them very wealthy indeed—which were still functioning after the Act of 1535. The last abbey to be dissolved, in March 1540, was Waltham. Probably about twelve thousand monks, nuns, canons, canonesses, and friars were dispossessed, but this number does not include the huge number of domestic servants and others whose livelihood had long been entirely dependent on the religious houses. As a result of the Dissolution, the structure of English society was completely and irrevocably changed. As to the monastic libraries, some vanished altogether; many were plundered (not least by Henry’s agents, for the king was a great lover of books); and countless numbers of manuscripts (especially music manuscripts) were lost. Wright 1958 proves a useful and readable survey of the whole process, while more recent accounts—both excellent—are provided by Carley 2002 and Carley 2006. De Hamel 1997, in a splendid study, uses the dispersal of the books of Christ Church, Canterbury, as an example. Carley 2002 and Carley 2006 show how many volumes found their way into the collections of English antiquaries, and Selwyn 1997 illustrates this from the library of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. Carley also draws attention to the crucial importance of John Leland in listing selected books—most of them now lost—in the libraries of a considerable number of English houses and in obtaining them for the king’s personal collections.

  • Carley, James P. “Monastic Collections and Their Dispersal.” In The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, Vol. 4, 1557–1695. Edited by John Barnard and D. F. McKenzie, 339–347. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

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    A concise account of the dispersal of the collections with important notes on the activities of John Leland, John Bale, and the acquisitions of monastic volumes by 16th and 17th-century English antiquaries, especially John Dee, Matthew Parker, and Sir Robert Cotton. Available online by subscription.

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  • Carley, James P. “The Dispersal of the Monastic Libraries and the Salvaging of the Spoils.” In The Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland, Vol. 1, To 1640. Edited by Elisabeth Leedham-Green and Teresa Webber, 265–291. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

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    Carley examines John Leland’s role in the dispersal of the monastic libraries and the formation of the Royal Library, concluding with an important discussion of “other contemporary salvaging.” Available by subscription online.

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  • De Hamel, Christopher. “The Dispersal of the Library of Christ Church, Canterbury, from the Fourteenth to the Sixteenth century.” In Books and Collectors 1200–1700: Essays Presented to Andrew Watson. Edited by James P. Carley and Colin G. C. Tite, 263–279. London: British Library, 1997.

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    In this informative and delightfully written paper, De Hamel summarizes our sources for the study of the Canterbury library and then deals with the two major relocations of the books: the first to Canterbury College, Oxford, and the second, after the suppression of Christ Church in 1540, into the collections of local families and former monks.

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  • Selwyn, David G. “Thomas Cranmer and the Dispersal of Medieval Libraries. The Provenance of Some of His Medieval Manuscripts and Printed Books.” In Books and Collectors 1200–1700: Essays Presented to Andrew Watson. Edited by James P. Carley and Colin G. C. Tite, 281–294. London: British Library, 1997.

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    How and when Archbishop Thomas Cranmer (d. 1556) acquired the books in his collection is unclear, but Selwyn tells us that, of fifty-six surviving medieval manuscripts, about half came from twelve different monastic houses. The great majority are of Benedictine provenance, while five volumes come from Augustinian, Carthusian, and Dominican houses.

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  • Wright, C. E. “The Dispersal of the Libraries in the Sixteenth Century.” In The English Library before 1700: Studies in Its History. Edited by Francis Wormald and C. E. Wright, 148–175. London: Athlone, 1958.

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    Wright presents a useful and very readable survey of the background to the dispersal of monastic manuscripts at the Dissolution, contemporary accounts of the dispersal, the removal of books from monastic libraries before their dispersal (especially the case of Monk Bretton), and the nature and number of books that were lost.

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