Bodleian Library, University of Oxford

MSS. Laud:
manuscripts given by Archbishop William Laud (1573-1645)



The manuscripts are listed briefly, with a number of corrigenda to the Coxe catalogues, in Summary Catalogue, II pt. 1, pp. 12-69.

[The MSS. were first catalogued in print in Edward Bernard, Catalogi librorum manuscriptorum Angliæ et Hiberniæ in unum collecti (2 vols., Oxford, ‘1697’ [in reality 1698]); this served as the Library's catalogue of its manuscripts until the 19th century, when the ‘Quarto’ series of catalogues were published. Bernard then came to be referred to as the ‘Old Catalogue’ (abbreviated to ‘O. C.’, as below); and when the Summary Catalogue (‘SC’) was planned, the numbers (as opposed to their shelfmarks) allocated to manuscripts by Bernard were retained for the purpose of consistency.]

History of the collection

[The following notes are taken from the Summary Catalogue, vol. II pt. 1, pp. 12-14]

Archbishop William Laud was born on Oct. 7, 1573, the son of a clothier at Reading. He matriculated at St. John's College, Oxford, in 1589, four years after became Fellow, and was President from 1611 to 1621, when he became bishop of St. Davids. His greater promotions came from Charles I, the bishopric of London in 1628, the archbishopric of Canterbury in 1633. As Chancellor of the University from April 1629, to June 28, 1641, he took an active part in the reform and regulation of the place, especially in the preparation of the Laudian Code of Statutes (1636), under which the University lived until 1854. On Aug. 30, 1636, he showed the King over the Bodleian Library. In Dec. 1640 the House of Commons impeached him for treason, but his actual trial did not begin till March 12, 1643/4, and on Jan. 10, 1644/5 he was beheaded on Tower Hill in London.

Of the institutions of the University the Printing Press and the Bodleian occupied his chief attention. The former he set on a firm basis, and to the latter he made four separate donations of manuscripts (in 1635, 1636, 1639, and 1640), besides presenting to it a large number of coins. Fortunately what is now known as the Selden End was finished, as far as the stonework was concerned, in July 1636, and in 1638-9 £300 was paid for shelving and other fittings. The transference of the Barocci, Roe, Laud, and Digby collections to their new position took place in 1640 and 1641: until then the Laudian MSS. at least lay unchained in the Schools Tower, and from about the end of 1639 in the Picture ‘Gallerie closett’.

A. On May 22, 1635, were sent 467 MSS., five Rolls and two ‘Chartae’ among which were forty-six Latin MSS. (see no. 511, &c. in the Catalogue), rescued from Würzburg in 1631, when the Swedish army overran that part of Germany. Lord Arundel is known also to have given Laud some Latin MSS. obtained in Germany, which Laud included in his third donation. In this as well as the subsequent donations some printed books are included in the MSS. and in the totals here given, thirty-one in all. This first donation comprises nos. 1658-2114 in the 3rd series of marks in the following catalogue.

B. On June 16, 1636, were despatched 183 MSS., all stated to have been bought within the year past, five cabinets of coins, an Arabian astrolabe (O. C. 920), two ‘idola’ (O. C. 915 and 915*), and a bust of Charles I. The MSS. are nos. 2115-2293 in the 3rd column of the catalogue.

C. When Laud’s troubles were gathering round him he sent a third donation -- the largest of all -- on June 28, 1639, comprising 554 MSS., among which were the bilingual Codex Laudianus of the Acts (O. C. 1119) and the Peterborough (Anglo-Saxon) Chronicle (O. C. 1003). With these came a magic wand (O. C. 921), some more coins and a catalogue of the latter (O. C. 1523). The MSS. are nos. 2294-2838 as above.

D. On Nov. 6, 1640, was sent a fourth gift of forty-seven MSS. only, and in 1641 came perhaps most of the fifteen more miscellaneous ones which were at some time received. These together occupy nos. 2839-2898, as above.

The totals of genuine Laudian MSS., excluding printed books and insititious volumes, are: A: 458 MSS.; B: 179 MSS.; C: 545 MSS.; D: 47 MSS.; at unspecified dates, 13 MSS., in all 1,242. Into this collection were swept, besides a few miscellaneous MSS., thirty-six Oriental MSS. entrusted by Sir Kenelm Digby to Laud for presentation to the University, which were received with Laud’s fourth gift in 1640 and actually inscribed and stamped as if Laud’s own volumes: they were not separated until about A. D. 1885.

In 1641 the Laudian MSS. were arranged in eleven compartments lettered A-L, occupying the whole of the S.W. gallery at the Selden End. The arrangement was almost haphazard, except that A-B chiefly contained Oriental MSS. About 1790, when the Auctarium became available, a great upheaval of the collection took place. The Greek MSS. and the Latin Biblical and Classical MSS. were taken out, placed in the new room (in ‘Auct. C’) and called ‘Laud Greek’ and ‘Laud Latin’ respectively. The gaps left in A-I were filled up by volumes taken from the ends of A-L, but all K and L disappeared in the process. Soon after this, probably about 1810-12, the Oriental MSS. were picked out and sent to the Oriental Room, while the entire residue were massed in one clumsy series called ‘Laud Misc.’, in a new haphazard order, and were about the same time removed in turn to the Auctarium.

It remains to mention the old catalogues of the collection. The number of copies of them made is evidence of the great interest taken in the extensive gift of archbishop Laud, which with the recent donations of Digby more than doubled the manuscript contents of the Library. The original catalogues (which now count as Library papers) are, in probable order of formation, MS. Laud Misc. 705 (donations A+B), which contains on fol. 55 writing in the hand of William Dell, Laud's secretary, and so probably was the original catalogue which came with the collection, 692 (A+B+C), 556 (all four, interwoven: a standard catalogue), 691 (perhaps a copy of the last). The Benefactors’ Register also contains a full list of the donations separately.

[There follow ‘supplementary notes’ by Craster, with further footnotes supplied by Nicholson, largely concerning the provenance of the manuscripts and the dates of Laud’s gifts of them to the Library: see Summary Catalogue, II, pp. 14-18.]

Western manuscripts to c. 1500
Western manuscripts
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