Printed books surviving from Canterbury medieval libraries

By the year 1500, the printing industry was over forty years old and had spread to all the major centres of Europe. Many institutional libraries were starting to add printed books to their collections and were even discarding manuscript copies from their shelves in favour of the new ‘modern’ products of the printing press. It is not easy to document this process from surviving books as many must survive without any indication of their original owner, whether personal or institutional. It is still the case that relatively few British libraries have fully researched and made available the provenances of items in their collections, though this situation is slowly improving. Read more

A military guard for the Canterbury Playhouse in 1744

While looking for something else in the Cathedral Treasurer’s Book for 1743/44 (CCA-DCc-TB/79), I came across the following entry on page 68:

Expensa incerta
Nov 9   Given to the Soldiers who guarded the Play-house Nov: 5. to keep off the Mob from rushing on the Dean & Prebs whilst the Kings Scholars were acting before them the Tragedy of Cato.                                                              [£] – 10-6 Read more

The dung heap in St George’s Lane

Wheels_1In 2005 an old friend, the late Kenneth Pinnock, published a small autobiographical booklet called Wheels: A Boy in Canterbury in the 1920s. He described the premises of his father’s horse-drawn haulage, taxi and bus business in St George’s Lane with its stable block in the Mews:

an acre or thereabouts of yards, stables and garages stretching from the main entrance on Watling Street to the double doors at the rear which faced down St George’s Lane. Adjoining this rear entrance there was a collection of tarred timber buildings in Gravel Walk which seemed to have come straight out of some farmyard.
(Kenneth Pinnock, Wheels, 2005, p. 4.)

Read more

Did Canterbury Cathedral Library chain its books in the seventeenth century?

The seventeenth-century library
(D. Stoker)

The Treasurer’s Book for 1676/1677 (CCA DCc/TB-13) has several records of payments relating to the Chapter Library which had been newly built ten or twelve years earlier. The half-yearly stipend for Arthur Kay the Library Keeper is recorded as £2–10–0 and that of his deputy John Sargenson as £1–0–0 (p. 61). Under the heading Expensae necessariae incertae (Necessary miscellaneous expenses, p. 77), Dr Peter Du Moulin, the Treasurer for that year, records for 19 January 1677 the payment of five shillings ‘For halfe yeares wages to ye woman that cleanseth ye Library’ together with a further two shillings ‘For mops & brooms &c for the Library’. There then follows a similar small payment of two shillings ‘For taking off the chains from the books’. Read more

From prison in Philadelphia to a canonry at Canterbury Cathedral

The Rev. Dr Thomas Coombe (1747–1822) was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where his father was health officer of the port of Philadelphia. He was educated at the Academy and College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania) taking his bachelor’s degree in 1766 and master’s degree in 1768. The College’s founding president was Benjamin Franklin, a friend of Coombe’s father.

36 Craven Street, London
(Wiki Commons)

Thomas Coombe then travelled to England to seek ordination in the Church of England, staying for a time in London with Benjamin Franklin at his house at 36 Craven Street (near present-day Trafalgar Square) when Franklin was serving as the London agent for the Pennsylvania Assembly and then as Postmaster for the British North American colonies. Read more

Financial record-keeping at Canterbury Cathedral in the late 17th century

Unlocking the Chest: financial record-keeping at Canterbury Cathedral in the late 17th century

Seventeenth-century chest in Canterbury Cathedral

At the St Katherine’s Audit each November, the Dean and Chapter drew up an account of the Cathedral’s wealth in a single sheet document headed ‘The State of the Church’. The Cathedral Archives has a continuous series of these records from 1679 to 1712 (DCc/SC1-32; 1680 is missing). Read more

Two books from the library of Sir Hans Sloane

Two books from the library of Sir Hans Sloane
The Byble in Englyshe. [London]: Edward Whitchurch, 1540/1541(Dean and Chapter of Canterbury)

Sir Hans Sloane MD, FRS, FRCP (1660–1753), was a celebrated 18th-century physician and scientist. He was a royal physician to Queen Anne, George I and George II, and President of the Royal Society from 1727 to 1740. He was also President of the Royal College of Physicians. More importantly (if that is possible) he accumulated one of the largest collections of books of his time, particularly strong in scientific and medical works. In his will, Sloane offered his collection to the nation on provision of £20,000 for his heirs which was much less than the real value of the books. Parliament accepted the offer and in 1759 his library became one of the founding collections in the library of the newly established British Museum, together with the library of Sir Robert Cotton and the Old Royal Library, given by King George II. Sloane’s contribution to this new national library has been estimated at about 50,000 volumes.

By end of the eighteenth century, Sloane’s printed books had been interspersed with items from other collections, particularly the Old Royal Library, and with subsequent acquisitions. In many cases it was no longer clear which books had belonged to Sloane because of the practice of binding or re-binding the books in the Museum’s own style. This involved removing preliminary leaves where Sloane’s identification marks are often found.

As the British Museum’s library grew, it found itself with many duplicate items when the same edition had been received from several different collections. A number of sales of these duplicates were held between 1769 and 1832. As a result of such sales a large number of Sloane’s books left the Library. Many can now be found in libraries both in the UK and abroad. In addition, a further section of Sloane’s collections moved to what is now the Natural History Museum.

In 2008 a research project led by the Welcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at University College London, in collaboration with the British Library, set out to create a public database of all of Sloane’s known books. This includes rediscovering Sloane items within the British Library’s collections as well as finding items that had been dispersed through the sales of duplicates.

David Shaw, who had directed the project to catalogue the Cathedral Library’s books printed before 1801, knew that the Cathedral owned books with British Museum duplicate stamps. These included 16 items from the duplicate sales in 1787, 1804, 1818 and 1831. Two of these items have an inscription reading ‘Bibliothecae Sloanianae’ (i.e. from the Sloane Library). They are both early editions of the English translation of the Bible:

The Byble in Englyshe, that is to saye … ye olde and newe testament, truly translated after the veryte of the Hebrue and Greke texts

[London]: Prynted by Rychard Grafton and Edward Whitchurch, 1539.

Sloane nos: A 119 (crossed through) and A 242

CO006120: imperfect: title page repaired; prelims and final leaves damaged or missing; on leaf a3: inscription ‘A.119. 242 Bibliothecæ Sloanianæ’; ink stamps on final leaf ‘Duplicate 1804’ and ‘Museum Britannicum’.

The Byble in Englyshe … auctorysed and apoynted by the commaundemente of … Kynge Henrye the .VIII. supreme heade of this his churche and Realme of Englande: to be frequented and vsed in every churche w’in this his sayd realme.

[London]: Edward Whitchurch, 1540/1541.

CO006124: imperfect: title page, prelims and final leaves missing; on leaf a2: inscription ‘Bibliothecæ Sloanianæ A.243’ and ink stamps ‘Museum Britannicum’ and ‘Duplicate 1804’.

Both of these books were disposed of in a duplicate sale in 1804, probably because they were in poorer condition than other copies of these editions in the Museum’s collections. They came into the Cathedral with the library of Archdeacon Benjamin Harrison (1808–1887). Both volumes have his book plate on the front end paper. As Harrison was not born until four years after the sale of British Museum’s duplicates, it is likely that the books were purchased either by Archbishop Howley (1766–1848), who left some of his own library to Archdeacon Harrison, or possibly by Harrison’s father (also called Benjamin, 1771–1856) who is known to have made a collection of Bibles and liturgical works.

Both books have a pencil note on the front flyleaf giving references to the catalogue of Bibles Testaments Psalms and other Books of the Holy Scriptures in English in the Collection of Lea Wilson Esq. F.S.A. Etc., published in 1845. The Library has two copies of this catalogue, one with the book plate of Archbishop Howley, the other apparently given to the Library by Lea Wilson. One of these is likely to have been the source for these annotations.

These two items have been added to the database of Sir Hans Sloane’s printed books, which is being maintained at the British Library.

David Shaw

This article originally appeared in Issue 47 of the Canterbury Cathedral Library and Archives Newsletter in the Autumn of 2010.

Rats in the organ

Rats in the organ at Canterbury Cathedral in 1674 

Hand-blown organ (YouTube)

In 1674, the Treasurer’s Book at Canterbury Cathedral records an ongoing problem in dealing with rats who were nesting in the organ bellows.

In the days before electric motors, the wind for a church organ had to be produced by human muscle in the form of a mechanical bellows made of wood and leather, a perfect home (and food) for a family of rats. Read more