Manuscript catalogue of the parish library of Lund in the East Riding of Yorkshire

Item date: c1676
Grant Value: £6,250
Item cost: £25,108
Item date acquired: 2016
Item institution: Cambridge University Library
Town/City: Cambridge
County: Cambridgeshire

Cambridge University Library is very grateful for the grant from the Friends of the National Libraries, which—along with a grant from the Arts Council England/Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund—enabled us to acquire this significant 17th century English manuscript, the catalogue of the parish library from the church at Lund in the East Riding of Yorkshire. The parish library at Lund was established by the gift of Sir Thomas Remington (c.1612‒81), possibly in or shortly before 1676, when this catalogue was made. Though sadly the contents of the library were dispersed in the 19th century, this unique and very detailed catalogue—numbering over 160 pages and probably written by Remington himself—opens a window onto the literary world of 17th century Yorkshire. Catalogues such as this are rare and the books at Lund Church formed an impressive collection, whether it be considered a private or public library.

The catalogue begins with Remington’s ‘designe’ for the library. He goes on to discuss its use, advising readers ‘to take notice of the tablett that hangs up, wheare he shall finde a catalogue of all the bookes in the library with directions wheare to finde any of them’. The catalogue is remarkable for its size—about 1900 titles—which makes it the most comprehensive and voluminous catalogue known to survive of any 17th century parish library. The books listed show an incredible breadth of subjects, and we find works of history and travel (including Hakluyt’s Voyages and Contarini’s history of Venice), science (Copernicus’ De revolutionibus, an extraordinary find in a parish library, and Sacrobosco’s Sphaera mundi), and literature (Herbert’s The Temple along with Rabelais’s Gargantua and Pantagruell), alongside works of law, dictionaries, sermons, Bibles, and at least three 15th century printed books.

Although the manuscript originates from Yorkshire, it has several links to Cambridge. Sir Thomas Remington studied at Peterhouse and it is possible that he acquired books at Cambridge which he later gifted to the church in Lund. The manuscript later passed to Thomas Kerrich (1748‒1828), a fellow of Magdalene College and, from 1797, Protobibliothecarius in the University Library. Finally, the University Library already holds a number of related collections, including the parish libraries of Bassingbourn and Broughton, and the cathedral libraries of Ely and Peterborough, as well as the SPCK archives.

The catalogue is being fully digitised for the Cambridge Digital Library, which will ensure that its research potential for scholars working on book and library history as well as in local and ecclesiastical topics is fully realised. One book formerly owned by Remington and presumably at Lund has already come to light: a copy of The three orations of Demosthenes (London, 1570), now in the Huntington Library in California. But others may follow. The importance of the catalogue cannot be overstated and it will tell us much about a period of library history that has suffered from a distinct lack of documentary evidence.