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Emmanuel College Library

Address. Emmanuel College, Cambridge, CB2 3AP
Telephone. (01223) 33 42 33
e-mail. [emm1@ula.cam.ac.uk]

Governing body or responsible institution. The Master and Fellows of Emmanuel College
Function. College library.
Subjects. All subjects.

Access. Open to members of the College. Visiting scholars should apply in writing to the librarian. - Opening hours: Monday to Friday 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. and 2.15 p.m. - 5.15 p.m.
Special facilities. Photographic reproduction can usually be arranged; the library has no photographic services of its own.
Travel directions. Frequent bus service from railway station to city centre.


1.1 Emmanuel College was founded by Sir Walter Mildmay in 1584. Sir Walter was Chancellor of the Exchequer in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. The earliest surviving list of books in the College Library dates to c. 1598. The next book list was not compiled until 1621, followed by lists in 1622, 1626, 1628, 1632, and 1637. In the 1670s a new list of books was drawn up prior to the accession of new books acquired through the benefaction of Rachel, Dowager Countess of Bath, a descendant of the Founder. Two subsequent catalogues were based on editions of the catalogue of the Bodleian Library, Oxford, of 1674, and 1738. These were interleaved and the Emmanuel holdings added. The 1738 edition was used as the basis for a new catalogue in the 19th century.

1.2 About a dozen books were given to Emmanuel by Sir Walter Mildmay. Five books which bear the initials R. C. and the arms of the University of Cambridge are believed to have been given to the College Library by Richard Culverwell. These books are recorded in the first book list (c. 1598). William Branthwaite (d. 1619), a Fellow of Emmanuel, and later Master of Gonville and Caius, bequeathed c. 17 books to Emmanuel. In 1625 the library received an important bequest from one of the first Fellows, Dr John Richardson (later Master of Peterhouse 1609-1615, and Master of Trinity 1615-1625). Among other benefactions was a gift of £200 for the purchase of books. This was made by Rachel, Dowager Countess of Bath in c. 1677.

1.3 Towards the end of his life William Sancroft (1617-1693), Master of Emmanuel (1662-1665), Archbishop of Canterbury (1677-1690) decided to give most of his private library to Emmanuel. His books, which were received in two batches, one prior to his death in 1693, and the second after his death in 1694, numbered c. 7,500 items. The subject coverage of his books includes works on theology, liturgy, church history, medicine, natural sciences, history, philology, astronomy, geography and classical literature etc. It was by far the greatest gift the College Library had received, and it more than doubled the library's holdings.

1.4 One of the results of the accession of Sancroft's books was that many books already in stock were duplicated, and this resulted in the passing of a college order, dated 20th March 1712, to permit the sale of duplicates. Sancroft's copies were retained, but for example, 22 books which were originally part of the Countess of Bath's benefaction were sold.

1.5 Another significant gift was made by John Richardson, a former Fellow, Rector of North Luffenham, Rutland 1685-1690, deprived as a non-juror. He died c. 1725. Richardson gave his library of over 2,000 vols to the College; however, many of his books duplicated books already on the library shelves and were sold.

1.6 In the 20th century a number of donations were made. In 1908 the Rev. W. C. Bishop presented a collection of books on liturgy, and in 1933 a collection of printed editions of the Bible came to the library, the bequest of T. J. G. Duncanson. The most significant gift was an important collection of colour-plate books, c. 1,700 mainly predating 1850, which were given by W. Graham Watson in 1975, and which are housed in their own room.


2.1 The earliest printed book in the library is Cicero's De officiis (Mainz: Fust and Schoeffer 1465). It was printed on vellum, and illuminated for the elder brother of Henry VIII, Prince Arthur. Among the other early printed books there is a copy of Publius Terentius Afer's Comoediae, which was printed in Strasbourg in 1496. The library, as might be expected, has a good collection of theological works. The Sancroft Collection is particularly rich in 16th and 17th-century theology, and includes a number of 17th-century German theological dissertations. Besides theology the library contains books with German imprints in other subject areas. For example there is a copy of Bartolomeo de Platina's Historia ...de vitis pontificum Romanorum ... printed in Cologne in 1600, Albertus Krantz's Saxonia (Cologne 1520), and Petrus Dasypodius's Dictionarium Latino-Germanicum (Strasbourg 1540), Daniel Sennert's Practicae medicinae ... (5 vols, Wittenberg 1628-1634), and John Jonston's Historiae naturalis de insectis. Libri. III (Frankfurt 1653).


3.1 Modern catalogues

Rare Books Catalogue

[card catalogue arranged alphabetically by author; includes books from the Sancroft collection]

Graham Watson Collection

[author catalogue written on slips]

The incunables are recorded in the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC).

3.2 Printed catalogues

Wood, P. W.: Early printed books to the year 1500 in the Library of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. Cambridge 1911 (and Supplements)

Wood, P. W.: A hand-list of English books in the Library of Emmanuel College, Cambridge printed before 1641. Cambridge 1915

Adams, H. M.: Catalogue of books printed on the continent of Europe, 1501-1600, in Cambridge libraries. 2 vols. Cambridge 1967

[lists Emmanuel College copies]


History of the college:

Bendall, S.; Brooke, C; Collinson, P.: A history of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. Woodbridge 1999

History of the library:

Munby, A. N. L.: Cambridge College Libraries. 2nd ed. Cambridge 1962

Stubbings, F.: A brief history of Emmanuel College Library. Cambridge 1981 (rev. ed. 1996)

Bush, Sargent Jr.; Rasmussen, Carl. J.: The library of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, 1584-1637. Cambridge 1986


Stubbings, F.: The Graham Watson collection of colour-plate books. Cambridge 1993

See also: A directory of rare book and special collections ...London 1997, pp. 31-32

January 2000

Helen C. Carron

Quelle: Handbuch der historischen Buchbestände in Deutschland. Digitalisiert von Günter Kükenshöner.
Hrsg. von Bernhard Fabian. Hildesheim: Olms Neue Medien 2003.