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The Royal Collection of Manuscripts

Introduction The Beginnings of
the Royal Library
The Royal Library
under the Tudors
Further reading



The Royal Library in the Stuart Era

Prince Henry Frederic and the Acquisition of the Lumley Library
Patrick Young and the Royal Library
The Commonwealth Period
Charles II and the Purchase of the Library of John Theyer

Prince Henry Frederic and the Acquisition of the Lumley Library



James I making his son, Prince Henry, the Prince of Wales
Additional 36932

The reign of James I brought another important acquisition of medieval manuscripts into the Old Royal library and a creation of a new library space. In 1604 the King granted his oldest son, Henry Frederic (b. 1594, d. 1612), the palace of St James for his residence. The young Prince was a committed art collector, and in 1610 he funded ‘a new Lybrary Gallery’ built probably under the supervision of Inigo Jones (its plan survived in Christopher Wren’s drawing of 1706). In part, the new library was fitted to house the collection of around 320 manuscripts and 2400 printed books of John, Lord Lumley (b. c. 1533, d. 1609). It is unclear whether the acquisition of this collection was a gift or a purchase (the relevant entry in the Prince’s Privy Purse states only ‘the librarie whiche his highness hade of my lorde Lumley).

John Lumley’s collection was one of the largest of the Elizabethan libraries. It comprised the collection of Lumley’s father-in-law, Henry Fitzalan (b. 1512, d. 1580), 19th Earl of Arundel, Chamberlain to Henry VIII and Edward VI and Lord High Stuart to Mary I. Arundel’s collection was composed mainly of manuscripts acquired during the dissolution of monasteries. It was augmented significantly by the library of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury. Cranmer’s manuscripts (c. 100 volumes), which were confiscated by the Crown after the accession of the Catholic Queen Mary Tudor, granted to the Earl, and housed in his residence at Nonsuch. These books typically bear the archbishop’s signature, ‘Thomas Cantuarensis’, written in black ink on their front pages.

In 1557, after the death of Arundel’s only son, Lumley moved to Nonsuch Palace. At that point Lumley’s own collection merged with that of his father-in-law’s and the names of both collectors were added into the volumes. At least 70 books and manuscripts also bear the name of Humphrey Lloyd (d. 1568), a physician whom Arundel brought from Oxford following his brief appointment as the Chancellor of the University. Lloyd advised Lumley on the composition of his library and married his sister. His manuscripts passed to Lumley after his death.
Royal 3 C. i, f. 1
Peter Lombard, Gloss on the Pauline Epistles
Royal 3 C. i, f. 1

Royal 5 D. v, f. 7
Augustine, Enarrationes in Psalmos
Royal 5 D. v, f. 7

Royal 1 E. vi, f. 43
The Royal Bible
Royal 1 E. vi, f. 43

Royal 1 D. ix, f. 6
The Cnut Gospels
Royal 1 D. ix, f. 6

Royal 14 C. vii, f. 6
Matthew Paris, Historia Anglorum, Chronica majora, Part III
Royal 14 C. vii, f. 6

Royal 18 D. ii, f. 30v
John Lydgate, Troy Book and Siege of Thebes
Royal 18 D. ii, f. 30v

Royal 20 C. viii, f. 2
Honoré Bovet, L'Arbre des batailles
Royal 20 C. viii, f. 2

Patrick Young and the Royal Library

The Scottish scholar Patrick Young (d. 1652) became the royal librarian during the early years of the 17th century. He was initially involved in the foundation of Prince Henry Frederick’s library at St James’s Palace, and after the Prince’s death he continued to work on the enlarged royal collection.

Young is renowned mainly for his cataloguing and scholarly work, but several medieval manuscripts were also incorporated into the library during his time in office. A number of Latin and Greek manuscripts entered the royal library as a result of exchanges he made with the collector Sir Robert Bruce Cotton (b. 1571, d. 1631) in c. 1616. In 1617 Young was involved in the acquisition in Paris of the collection of Greek manuscripts of Isaac Casaubon, which were especially significant for his own scholarly interests. The most famous Royal Greek manuscript, Codex Alexandrinus, also entered the collection during Young’s tenure, as a gift to Charles I.

In 1622, at the king’s request Young was sent ‘to make search in all cathedrals for old manuscripts and ancient records, and to bring an inventory of them to His Majesty’. This resulted in the preparation of catalogues for a number of cathedral libraries, such as Lichfield, St Paul's, Salisbury, Winchester, and Worcester. It is unclear whether any manuscript entered the Royal collection at this time, but at least one Worcester volume, now Royal 15 B. iv, was listed by Young and subsequently passed into the royal library.

Several manuscripts either studied by Young or perhaps also incorporated by him into the collection bear a red seal of a ship at their front pages or flyleaves. The purpose of this mark remains unclear.
Royal 8 B. xix, f. 1
Cassiodorus, Variae
Royal 8 B. xix, f. 1

Royal  15 C. xv, f. 2
Caius Julius Caesar De Bello Galico
Royal 15 C. xv, f. 2

Royal 14 C. i, f. 20
Martinus Polonus, Chronica pontificum et imperatorum, with a continuation to 1292
Royal 14 C. i, f. 20

Royal 1 D. viii, f. 41v
The Codex Alexandrinus
Royal 1 D. viii, f. 41v

The Commonwealth Period

During the Commonwealth period, royal manuscripts apparently were removed from other locations and stored centrally at St James’s Palace. After the Restoration, St James’s remained the principal royal library. A list of books and manuscripts kept there was prepared by the Commonwealth librarian John Durie and handed over to his successor, Thomas Ross (Royal Appendix 86). Another similar inventory was put together in 1666 (Royal Appendix 71).

Charles II and the Purchase of the Library of John Theyer

The last large group of medieval manuscripts entered the Old Royal library with the purchase of the collection of the antiquary John Theyer (v. 1597, d. 1673) of Cooper's Hill, Brockworth, Gloustershire. Theyer inherited a number of manuscripts from his grandmother's brother, Richard Hart, the last prior of Llanthony Secunda, Gloucestershire, and probably acquired the rest of his collection on the antiquarian market and from religious institutions (including, for example, 26 volumes from the Worcester Cathedral). Theyer’s library comprised around 800 manuscripts including 334 from the medieval period, most of which of monastic provenance from the West of England. It also included some exceptional volumes, such as the Westminster Psalter and the Bible Historiale of Charles V of France. Theyer’s manuscripts are easily identifiable thanks to his ownership inscriptions and monograms.

On John Theyer’s death, his collection passed to his grandson Charles Theyer (b. 1651), who sold it to the London bookseller Robert Scott. In 1678, a partial catalogue of its contents was prepared by William Beveridge, later bishop of St Asaph, and William Jane (Royal Appendix, 70) who probably acted as assessors to King Charles II (1660-1685).

In 1681, Charles II appointed Henri Justel a ‘chief inspector of the ancient MSS.’ and ‘curator of all other his MSS.’ His duties included cataloguing and supplementing the Royal collection. The royal library at St James’s was described in the Catalogi librorum manuscriptorum Angliae et Hiberniae, printed in 1698.
Royal 3 A. iv, f. ii
Paschasius Radbertus, Commentary on Lamentations
Royal 3 A. iv, f. ii

Royal 10 D. v, f. 3
Gregory IV, Decretals, glossed by Bernard of Parma
Royal 10 D. v, f. 3

Royal 2 A. xxii, f. 14v
Westminster Psalter
Royal 2 A. xxii, f. 14v

Royal 2 B. vi , 10v
St Albans Psalter

Royal 2 B. vi , 10v

12 C. xix, f. 6
The Royal Bestiary
12 C. xix, f. 6

Royal 17 E. vii, vol. 2, f. 1
Bible Historiale of Charles V
Royal 17 E. vii, vol. 2, f. 1

Royal 5 F. ii, f. 32
Athanasius, Theological treatises, translated by Antonio Beccaria.
Royal 5 F. ii, f. 32


Introduction The Beginnings of
the Royal Library
The Royal Library
under the Tudors
Further reading

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