Page images
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][graphic][subsumed][subsumed][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]


The learned and industrious authors, who have hitherto investigated the antiquities of Cambridge, are all silent touching the foundation of the University Library. One of the earliest proofs of its existence occurs in the Statuta Antiqua, where, on issuing fresh orders with respect to the terms of admission, it is intimated that the Libraria Communis' had, in times anterior to the middle of the fifteenth century, been accessible to all the students. Further traces of this institution are detected in royal grants of 1438 and 1439. At the former date, King Henry VI. acceded to the prayer of the Chancellor, Masters, and Scholars of the University, who appealed to him in aid of the Common Library;' granting for that and other objects the “manor of Ruyslep, in the county of Middlesex, with a certain place called Northwode, with lands, &c. to that manor pertaining, after the death of John Somerseth, to whom it is given for life'.'

If, however, we except these incidental notices, there seems to be no documentary evidence elucidating the character of the


Documents relating to the University, &c., I. 403. Lond. 1852

? Ibid. 1. 41, 42. In 1440 six volumes were bequeathed librarie Universitatis Cantibrigie,' by master Robert Alne of York, the owner of a large collection of books : see Testamenta Eborac. ii. 78, ed. Surtees Society.


Library and the nature of its contents until the second half of the fifteenth century. A catalogue, or inventory, made by the two proctors of the year 1473, has fortunately been preserved among the archives in the custody of the Registrary'; and from it we gather the important fact, that the number of volumes then belonging to the · Libraria Communis' exceeded three hundred. The same record exhibits an imperfect distribution of these volumes into the following classes, at the same time adding the names of the donors in each case, so far as they were ascertainable :

[blocks in formation]

Only two years after the compilation of this catalogue a building was erected for the reception of the Library on the east side of the quadrangle of the schools :' the necessary funds accruing chiefly from the munificence of Thomas Scott, a native of Rotheram

1 The volume is entitled Registrum Librorum et Scriptorum (1473), and the inventory itself, Registrum magistri Radulphi Songer et Ricardi Cokerum procuratorum Cantabrigie compilatum, anno Domini 1473.

2 The title is, Registrum Librorum per varios Benefactores Communi Librarie Universitatis Cantabrigie collati (sic). The number of volumes, of which the titles and names of the donors are both preserved, is 119.

in Yorkshire, who is known among the benefactors of the University' as bishop Rotheram. That prelate, on his translation to the archbishopric of York in 1480, continued to evince an interest in the Cambridge Library, and at his death in 1500 his executors consigned to it a large number of additional volumes, some of which were manuscript.

But notwithstanding Rotheram's benefaction, and a second of considerable value which was afterwards made by bishop Tonstalls, the condition of the Libraria Communis' was very far from flourishing. Many of the volumes,' writes the first historian of the University in 1574, "are still preserved, while many others have been fraudulently abstracted (suffurantium vitio).' Fullerö also makes allusion to the same malpractices. This library,' he says, 'formerly was furnished with plenty of choice books, partly

See, respecting him, the Statuta Antiqua, § 186, where his munificence is described at length (May 13, 1475): “...scholas novam que superius librariam polito lapide, sumptuosa pompa, ac dignis ædificiis perfecerit, eamque omnibus ut decuit rebus exornatam, non paucis vel vilibus libris opulentam reddidit,' &c.

* In the Commemoration of Benefactors, the number of volumes is said to be two hundred. A list of such as were believed to be extant in the seventeenth century will be found in a Catalogus Librorum quos habet Bibliotheca Publica Academiæ Cantabrigiensis (EB, ix. 12). A mayor of the town of Cambridge, John Harris, is commemorated next to Rotheram as a contemporary benefactor of the library: cf. Caius, llist. Canteb. Academ. p. 82. Lond. 1574

* See Caius, Ibid., and the list in E B, ix. 12.

• Caius, Ibid. After stating that the same pilferers had existed at Oxford, he moralizes in the following strain (p. 84): “Tam paucis annis gratitudinem extinguit negligentia et benemeritorum oblivionem parit. Proinde admonendi sunt vtriusque vniuersitatis studentes, vt diligenter conseruandis his quibus affecti sunt beneficiis, colendaque fræquenter Patronorum memoria a supina illa negligentia se prorsus vindicent atque sejungant.'

5 History of the University of Cambridge, p. 119, ed. Nichols. When Leland visited the University at the opening of the sixteenth century, his attention appears to have been arrested by only six of the voluines he saw in Bibliotheca Publica majori (see the list in his Collectanea, 11. 15, ed. Hearne). Caius, in like manner, distinguishes between the two bibliothecæ,' when he says (p. 89) : ‘Altera privata seu nova, altera publica seu vetus dicebatur.'

« PreviousContinue »