Ten volumes from Thomas Plume’s Library

Item date: 16th and 17th centuries.
Grant Value: £10,812 [B H Breslauer Foundation Fund]
Item cost: £20,312
Item date acquired: 2020
Item institution: Thomas Plume's Library
Town/City: Maldon
County: Essex

Dr Helen Kemp, Plume Librarian, writes: Thomas Plume's Library is an extraordinary survival. In 1704 Dr Thomas Plume (1630-1704), Archdeacon of Rochester, bequeathed his collection of c. 8,000 books to his birthplace, Maldon, to establish a public lending library in the redundant Church of St Peter.  The library is still housed in the same building and the books are on the original shelves.  The books are mostly from the 16th and 17th centuries, they were printed all over Europe, and encompass a wide range of topics.

In the early 20th-century, when Thomas Plume’s Library was still a lending institution, many books went missing.  In 1987 a local resident noticed that a book bearing the library’s Ex Libris inscription was being offered for sale in a New York book auction. He clubbed together with some friends and bought the book for the Library. The Librarian then made a careful comparison of the previous two catalogues and noted down details of all the missing books. The Friends of Thomas Plume’s Library were formed and, since that first book was discovered, they have sought to help the Trustees in buying replacement books – in a few cases the originals.

When searching auction catalogues the librarians sometimes come across a couple of books from missing list but - to some amazement - in the auction of the Fox Pointe Library, held in September 2020, twelve books were identified. Our rare books appraiser recommended a maximum bid for each and, with only a few days before the auction, the Friends of the National Libraries generously offered a flexible grant (to augment a sum offered by the Library’s own Friends) to enable us to bid for the books. We were very lucky to get ten of the twelve books we wanted (the remaining two were sold far above the recommended value). The books are in very good condition and we are delighted to have been able to bring them home to Plume’s library.

The books purchased are as follows:

  • Gregory Martin, A discoverie of the Manifold Corruptions of the Holy Scriptures by the Heretikes of our Daies, first edition (1582);
  • Herman Hugo, The Siege of Breda, translated by Captain Henry Gage, first edition in English (1627);
  • Gildas, The Epistle of Gildas, the Most Ancient British Author, Faithfully translated out of the Originall Latine [by Thomas Abington], first edition in English (1638);
  • Martin Lluelyn, Men-Miracles. With other poems, first edition (1646);
  • James Shirley, Poems, etc, first collected edition (1646);
  • Thomas Heywood, Merlins Prophesies and Predictions Interpreted and their truth made good by our English Annalls, with the Life of Merlin (1651);
  • Nicolas Villaut, A Relation of the Coasts of Africk called Guinee, second edition (1670);
  • Juan Palafox Y Mendoza, The History of the Conquest of China by the Tartars, first edition in English (1671);
  • Murtadha ibin Al-Khafif, The Egyptian History, treating the pyramids, the inundation of the Nile, and other prodigies of Egypt, first edition in English (1672);
  • Samuel Haworth, A description of the Dukes Bagnio, and of the Mineral Bath and New Spaw thereunto belonging, first edition (1683).
Item Provenance
Bought from Forum Auctions (20 September 2020, various lots)