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Lambeth Palace Library

Address. Lambeth Palace, London SE1 7JU [Map]
Telephone. (020) 928-6222
Fax. (020) 928-7932

Governing body or responsible institution. Church of England
Function. Research library.
Subjects. Ecclesiastical history, particularly of the Church of England; British political history; liturgy; ecumenism; pre-1945 theology; early printed books.

Access. Open to all researchers; letter of introduction required. Open Monday to Friday, 10 a. m. - 5 p. m. 10 day closures at Christmas and Easter.
Special facilities. Photocopier; microfilm/microfiche readers; reader-printer; microfilming and other photography by arrangement.
Travel directions. Nearest underground stations: Westminster, Waterloo and Lambeth North. On several bus routes. - No parking.


1.1 Lambeth Palace has been the London residence of the Archbishops of Canterbury since the twelfth century, but a permanent library open to the public was not established until 1610, when Archbishop Richard Bancroft (1544-1610) bequeathed his own collections and those of his predecessor Archbishop John Whitgift (1530-1604) to his successors for this purpose. The foundation collection amounted to c. 6,000 books and incorporated some from the libraries of earlier Archbishops such as Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) and Matthew Parker (1504-1575) and other prominent figures including Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester (1532-1588) and John Foxe the martyrologist (1516-1587). Bancroft's immediate successor, Archbishop George Abbot (1562-1633), undertook the organization of the collections and bequeathed his own library (a further 2,667 vols).

1.2 Growth was interrupted during the Interregnum when the established Church of England was abolished and the Lambeth collections transferred temporarily to Cambridge University Library. After the Restoration in 1660 and the re-establishment of the Church of England, the library was returned to Lambeth and continued to expand steadily, in the main by donations from the Archbishops and others, notably c. 2,500 books from Archbishop Gilbert Sheldon (1598-1677), c. 1,500 books from Archbishop Thomas Tenison (1636-1715) and c. 2,000 books and c. 1,500 pamphlets from Archbishop Thomas Secker (1693-1768). The only other serious disruption took place during the Second World War: the early holdings were partially evacuated but the buildings and remaining collections suffered serious bomb damage (c. 10,000 books were damaged or destroyed). Losses were partly made good by a post-war appeal, which included for example the donation of c. 700 vols of 16th and 17th-century Protestant theology and history from the London Dutch Church Library.

1.3 In 1996 the pre-1850 collections from Sion College Library, amounting to some 35,000 books and pamphlets, were transferred to Lambeth Palace Library. The Sion library had been established in 1630 for the benefit of the London clergy, and in subject, date and language content, it greatly resembles the Lambeth collections. The holdings are particularly strong in theology, history and literature.

1.4 The Lambeth library was supported at the Archbishops' private expense until 1866 but is now maintained by the Church Commissioners for the Church of England and assisted in the continuing purchase of rare books and manuscripts by the Friends of the Library. Lambeth is the principal historical library and archive centre of the Church of England and in addition to the printed collections holds c. 4,000 MSS dating from the ninth century to the present day and the extant archives of the Province of Canterbury from the twelfth century onwards.


Chronological outline and analysis by language

2.1 The printed collections comprise approximately 200,000 works, of which about 20,000 were printed before 1700 and a further 20,000 between 1700 and 1800. There are 200 incunabula. The collections are unusually strong in ephemeral, controversial and pamphlet literature.

2.2 No accurate breakdown by language has been undertaken, but of the early printed material by far the majority was published in English or Latin. There are also substantial holdings in other languages: (in descending order) French, Greek, Dutch, German, Italian, Hebrew, and others. As a proportion of the whole, German language holdings would be at maximum one per cent, and German imprint holdings perhaps 5 per cent.

Subject outline

2.3 The holdings largely reflect the interests of past archbishops: ecclesiastical, political and general history, both British and Continental, but also art and architecture, astrology, bibliography, law, literature, medicine, philosophy, topography, etc. The most important fields for German-language or German-imprint collections or items of interest are the following.

2.4 Incunabula. None of the Lambeth incunabula are German-language but 71 out of 200 have German or Swiss imprints. They include the Gutenberg New Testament on vellum and illuminated, both the 1465 and 1466 Fust and Schoeffer editions of Cicero's De officiis, the 1486 and 1490 editions of Breydenbach's Peregrinatio, the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493) and the rare Hildesheim Missal (1499). Included in the collection is a block book of the earliest extant edition of the Ars Moriendi (District of the Rhine, c. 1465). The most common imprints are from Strasbourg (20 titles), Nuremberg (16), Cologne (9) and Basel (7), but the collection also includes works printed in Augsburg, Hagenau, Heidelberg, Mainz, Stuttgart, Tübingen, etc. The individual titles are detailed in the standard bibliographical reference works for incunabula.

2.5 Reformation and Counter-Reformation. The library is very strong in this field, including substantial holdings of books published in Germany, though with the text generally in Latin. The overall proportion of material of German origin in this area might rise to 25 per cent, but as there is no systematic catalogue of Continental books between 1501 and 1700 and the works are distributed throughout the collections, no exact figures are possible. Using the library's holdings of works by Martin Luther as an example: Lambeth has 48 titles by Luther published before 1700 and mainly early to mid-16th century; of these only three have German text, five are English translations, and the rest are all in Latin but with a variety of German or Swiss imprints; they include the Melanchthon edition of the Opera omnia (Wittenberg 1551-1558), several early selections and biblical commentaries, the Epistolae (Jena 1556-1565), a copy of Luther's first published work, the Tractatulus (Landshut 1517), the satirical Cranach woodcuts Passional Christi und Antichristi (Wittenberg 1521) with text traditionally ascribed to Luther or Melanchthon, and a full collection (with of course the English responses) of the controversy with Henry VIII including a copy of Contra Henricum regem Angliae Martinus Luther (Wittenberg 1522) with annotations apparently by Luther himself.

2.6 Bibles. Holdings of German or German-Swiss imprint Bibles are considerable, beginning with the Gutenberg and including 1478 and 1497 Koberger editions, the 1504 Basel Vulgate in 6 vols with the commentaries of Hugo de St. Cher, the 1516 Basel polyglot Psalms, the first and second editions of Erasmus's Greek and Latin New Testament (Basel: Froben 1516, 1519) and the first edition of Châteillon's Latin version (Basel 1551). The German language holdings are of interest occasionally for provenance; for example the Luther New Testament published in Berlin in 1851, dedicated to Friedrich Wilhelm II and Queen Victoria, and presented to Archbishop Sumner by Prince (later Kaiser) Frederick on the occasion of his marriage to the Princess Royal, 25 January 1858.

2.7 Liturgy. Holdings contain the earliest and sometimes unique translations of the Anglican liturgy into German, including Die Ordnung der Heiligen Communion (1548) and Die Englische Liturgie (Frankfurt/Oder 1704). The latter was presumably issued in connection with Frederick I's abortive attempt at uniting the German Lutheran and Reformed Churches into a single episcopal church in communion with the Church of England, and must be connected with the Prussian Ein Gebeht an Sonn- und Fest-Tagen in der Königl. Hoff- und Ordens-Capellen and Kirchen-Gebehte. Welche von Seiner Königl. Majestät in Preussen ...vorzubehten verordnet seyn (1705), copies of which are also in Lambeth. The liturgical holdings also include later German translations of the Book of Common Prayer, and 16th and 17th-century German and Swiss liturgies. The Lutheran material includes two folio vols of music and text adapted from the Roman rite by Matthaeus Ludecus, Missale, hoc est, cantica, preces et lectiones sacrae and Vesperale, et matutinale, hoc est, cantica, hymni, et precationes ecclesiasticae (Wittenberg 1589).

2.8 Patristica. The collection is particularly strong in early editions of works of the Fathers and major medieval theologians: the German and Swiss incunabula include the works of Ambrose (Basel 1492), Anselm (Nuremberg 1491; Strasbourg c. 1496; Basel c. 1497), Cassian (Basel 1497), Cyprian (Stuttgart c. 1486) and Ockham (Urach 1483; Strasbourg c. 1491). There are 16th-century German and Swiss imprints for most of the Fathers, including many of the large Froben editions of the works; for example the annotated copy of Jerome (Basel: Froben 1516) owned by Archbishop Cranmer.

2.9 Hebraica. The library has a small collection of early printed works in Hebrew or on Judaism of which c. 100 are German imprints. Most of these are 17th and 18th-century publications but the 16th-century imprints include the founder's set of the Froben Talmud (Basel 1578-1581), Johann Reuchlin's De rudimentis hebraicis (Pforzheim 1506) and De arte cabalistica (Hagenau 1517), and among other biblical texts, the 1537, 1557 and 1582 Basel editions of St. Matthew's Gospel in Hebrew with notes and Latin translation by Sebastian Münster, an early edition of Münster's Hebrew Bible (Basel 1546) and Elias Hutter's Hebrew Bible (Hamburg 1587).

2.10 German history. As well as Reformation material, Lambeth has a large collection on European political history with a strong bias to the early printed. There are c. 80 16th and 17th-century German imprints from over 20 different places of publication, the only noticeable grouping being c. 20 imprints published in Frankfurt between 1580 and 1633. The collection is concentrated on substantial histories and chronicles, but also contains shorter works on contemporary events. The earlier imprints include Germaniae exegeseos volumina duodecim (Hagenau 1518) by Franciscus Irenicus, Pro divo Carolo, eius nominis Quinto Romanorum Imperatore invictissimo (Basel 1527), and Archbishop Cranmer's copies of Rerum Germanicarum libri tres by Beatus Bildius Rhenanus, bound with Rerum ab Henrico et Ottone I impp. gestarum libri III by Wittekindus (Basel 1531 and 1532).

2.11 Moravian collection. It contains approximately 200 items by and on the Moravian Brethren, both for and against. They include in particular the library of Heinrich Rimius (d. 1759) who came to England from Prussia in the 1750s and published anti-Moravian tracts. His collection was acquired by the anti-Moravian (and anti-Methodist) Bishop of Exeter, George Lavington (1684-1762) on behalf of Archbishop Secker (1693-1768), and formed part of Secker's bequest to the Library. The books written by Rimius himself are all in English with London imprints; those by Count Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1700-1760), the movement's main supporter, are mainly in German with German imprints. About half the total collection is in German and bears German imprints, the rest being English, Dutch or Latin. Though there are a few earlier and some later books, the majority were published between 1731 and 1755. The German imprints include some specifically noted as published by the Brethren, but there are over 20 different places of publication of which the most frequent are Leipzig, Frankfurt am Main, Görlitz and Wittenberg.


3.1 Modern general catalogues

Microfiche catalogue

[filmed from the author-title card catalogue. Cambridge: Chadwyck-Healey Ltd. 1989]

Author-title card catalogue and classified card catalogue

[of all current printed material accessed until 31 December 1994]

Computerized catalogue (Dynix Library Systems)

[of new accessions from 1 January 1995; retrospective conversion began in 1995]

There are no modern special catalogues of relevance.

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

3.2 Historic catalogues

There are over 40 superseded historical catalogues mainly in manuscript form in the Library Records, of which the most relevant for the collections noted above are the following:

Catalogues of foundation collections of Archbishops Bancroft and Abbot. 1612-1633 [Library Records F1-6]

Catalogue of Archbishop Sheldon's books. 1677 [L. R. F7]

Catalogue of Archbishop Tenison's books. 1697 [L. R. F11]

Catalogus Bibliothecae Lambethanae. 1718 [L. R. F17-19]

Catalogue of books concerning the Moravian Sect. 1760 [L. R. F20]

Catalogue of Archbishop Secker's books. 1768 [L. R. F21-22]

Catalogues of pamphlets. 1773, 1802 [L. R. F23-25, 27]

A list of some of the early printed books in the Archiepiscopal Library, by S. R. Maitland. 1843 [Related lists in Library Records; L. R. F28-29]

Catalogus librorum impressorum Bibliothecae Bodleianae, 1843-1851 [1851-c. 1900; interleaved and annotated with Lambeth holdings]


4.1 Archival sources

Archival material in Lambeth Library Records and Manuscripts, Bodleian Library Oxford, Cambridge University Library, etc.

4.2 Publications

Most recent significant publications:

Cox-Johnson, A.: Lambeth Palace Library 1610-1664. In: Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 2 (1958) pp. 105-126

James, M. R.: The history of Lambeth Palace Library. In: Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 3 (1959) pp. 1-31

Bill, E. G. W.: Lambeth Palace Library. In: The Library 21 (1966) pp. 192-206

Annual Review [published by Lambeth Palace Library]


There are numerous publications on aspects of the collections, but none specifically related to material of German origin. The best general surveys of both the Lambeth and the Sion collections are to be found in: A directory of rare book and special collections ... 2nd ed. London 1997, pp. 274-279.

July 1997

Christina Mackwell

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