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Trinity College Library

Address. Trinity College, Cambridge CB2 1TQ [Map]
Telephone. (01223) 33 84 88
Fax. (01223) 33 85 32
e-mail. [trin-lib@lists.cam.ac.uk]
Internet. http://www.trin.cam.ac.uk/

Governing body or responsible institution. Trinity College
Function. College library.
Subjects. All subjects.

Access. Open to resident members of the College. Others wishing to use the early collections should write in advance to make an appointment. - Open to visiting scholars Monday to Friday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Closed on Christmas Eve and the four following days, Good Friday, Easter Monday and the New Year and August bank holidays.
Special facilities. Photocopier; microform reader and reader-printer; ultra-violet light. Full photographic service including computer scanning facilities.
Travel directions. Frequent bus service from railway station to town centre, followed by 500 m. walk. - There is no parking for cars at the library.


1.1 Trinity College was founded by King Henry VIII in 1546, and was an amalgamation principally of two earlier foundations: King's Hall (founded in 1317) and Michaelhouse (founded 1324). The College still possesses three printed books from Michaelhouse including Bartholomaeus Anglicus (Nuremberg 1492), others having been dispersed or lost. At first the new college used the library accommodation it had inherited; nothing came of proposals in the 1550s for a new building, and it is probable that several hundred books were lost in the mid-16th century religious and scholarly upheavals. By 1600 the library contained about 325 vols in manuscript or print, about half of them in theology. As a part of the architectural remodelling of the College under the supervision of Thomas Nevile (Master of the College from 1593, and Dean of Canterbury, d. 1615), the library was moved to a newly appointed room on the first floor on the north range of Great Court. Encouraged by a series of donations from members of the College, most notably from John Whitgift (former Master, Archbishop of Canterbury, d. 1604), Nevile and others, the library grew at a faster rate in the first half of the 17th century, and by 1667 contained 2,681 vols. By the early 1660s it required further space.

1.2 A new library, built to designs by Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723), was begun in 1675/76, but was not completed until 1695. This new library, revolutionary in its design for a college library and recognised from the beginning as an architectural masterpiece, was designed both to meet the great increase in numbers of new books at this period and to contain collections already promised. It attracted commensurate benefactions, including the printed books and some manuscripts (c. 3,400 vols) of Sir Henry Puckering (d. 1701). Amounts of money spent each year on purchases remained small until the 19th century. Major benefactors in the 18th century included the classical scholar Richard Bentley (Master of the College, 1700-1742), whose bequest included a copy of the Pauline Epistles and the Gospels in Greek and Latin parallel texts, written at Reichenau in the tenth century; the mathematician and astronomer Robert Smith (also Master, d. 1768); and Edward Capell, editor of Shakespeare (d. 1781). In 1738 the antiquary Roger Gale presented the renowned collection of manuscripts gathered by his father Thomas, Dean of York (d. 1702), the manuscripts of German interest including an illustrated alchemical manuscript by Leonhard Thurneisser (1530-1596), physician to the Elector of Brandenburg, and a 14th-century illustrated herbal.

1.3 In the 19th century this tradition continued, the largest donations being those of Archdeacon Julius Charles Hare (d. 1855: c. 4,160 vols, containing perhaps twice as many publications: see below 2.7), William Grylls (d. 1863: c. 9,000 vols, including 288 incunabula), and William Whewell, Master of the College (d. 1866: c. 2,190 vols). William Aldis Wright (d. 1914), Shakespearean, Biblical scholar and orientalist, gave c. 7,000 vols in his lifetime and by bequest, thereby inter alia greatly strengthening the library's collection of Bibles in all the major European languages and providing a notable collection

(c. 160 vols) of Hebrew manuscripts, including Yiddish, from the 14th to the 19th centuries. More recent major donations have included the great majority of books once owned by Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727), given by the Pilgrim Trust in 1943, the Rothschild collection (c. 3,000 vols, mainly of 18th-century English literature), given by Lord Rothschild (d. 1990) in 1952, and the Sraffa collection of books on the history of economics (c. 7,700 vols, 15th to 20th century), bequeathed by the economist Piero Sraffa, Fellow of the College, in 1983. The modern emphasis in everyday purchases is on books needed for university curricula, in all subjects.


Chronological outline and analysis by language

2.1 The printed collections comprise approximately 300,000 publications. Of these there are about 740 incunabula, and about 150,000 in all from before 1900. There are c. 6,000 STC titles, c. 15,000 Wing titles, and c. 4,100 Adams titles (s. below section 5). There are notable collections of mid-17th, late 18th and early 19th-century English pamphlets.

2.2 English and Latin predominate, followed by Greek, French, Italian (especially late 16th and early 17th-century) and other modern languages. The Reformation is strongly represented in both German and Latin, but otherwise there are comparatively few German-language publications before the late 18th century: this reflects the preoccupations of the donors from whom the majority of books came to the library before the late 19th century. German imprints of Latin books are much more numerous.

Subject outline

2.3 As the library of a large college (currently the largest in Cambridge), the collections have developed in two ways: as a support for teaching and research, and as a result of scholarly or bibliophile enthusiasms of successive donors. The library now compasses all subjects in both the humanities and the sciences, with an historical emphasis on western and near-eastern studies. It is especially strong in theology, historical subjects (including archaeology, palaeography and numismatics), Greek and Latin language and literature, Hebrew and other Jewish studies, bibliography, economics, travel and topography, architecture, classical sculpture, English literature of all periods, western European languages and literatures, philology, mathematics, astronomy and natural sciences. The following relate particularly to German studies:

2.4 Incunabula. These include about 170 from German-speaking Europe and Strasbourg, among them a copy of Jerome's Epistolae (Mainz: Peter Schoeffer 1470) with decorations signed by one Lazarus of Andlau. German-language books include the Stern des Mechiah (Esslingen 1477), Bernhard von Breydenbach's Die heyligen Reyssen gen Jherusalem (Mainz 1486), Leben der Heiligen (Nuremberg 1488), and Schatzbehalter (Nuremberg 1491).

2.5 Reformation and 16th century. There are about 2,500 editions from German-speaking Europe, predominantly from the Rhine valley and mostly on theology, classics and history. The Hare collection includes 12 quarto volumes containing 223 pamphlets by Luther published between 1518 and 1545, assembled by Jean-François van de Velde (Librarian and Professor of Theology at Leuven, d. 1828): all are listed in Adams (see below 5). Bucer, Melanchthon, Zwingli and other reformers are strongly represented in other parts of the library in contemporary editions.

2.6 17th century. The collection contains about 1,500 editions from German-speaking Europe. About 160 law books from the library (sacked by the Swedish army in 1631) of Prince-Bishop Julius Echter von Mespelbrunn, of Würzburg, were acquired by 1650 (many others are in the University Library). There is a good collection of neo-Latin verse with German imprints (many not in the British Library), assembled partly by James Duport (Professor of Greek and Master of Magdalene College, d. 1679) and John Laughton (Fellow of Trinity College and University Librarian, d. 1712), the latter unusual for Cambridge libraries in including works from north German towns.

2.7 Romantic period. Holdings were mostly collected by J. C. Hare (see above 1.3), who as a child passed a year at Weimar in 1804/05 and by 1825 was considered to have the best private collection of modern German books in England. He collected systematically, not usually as a bibliophile in search of first editions but rather as a scholar studying his contemporaries and those who had influenced them. The following can give only a little indication. There are excellent collections in theology, headed by Schleiermacher and extending to religion and the philosophy of religion and including works of controversy surrounding David Friedrich Straus's Das Leben Jesu (1835-1836). In philosophy mention should be made of the work of Schelling and of the Norwegian Henrich Steffens; in history of Niebuhr (whose History of Rome was translated by Hare and his friend Connop Thirlwall, vols 1-2 published in 1828-1832), of Droysen, Dahlmann, Schlosser and Ranke; in literature of Goethe (though few works in first editions), Schiller, August Wilhelm and Friedrich Schlegel, Tieck (including Franz Sternbalds Wanderungen, Berlin 1798, and Minnelieder aus dem Schwäbischen Zeitalter, Berlin 1803), Arnim (including Berthold's erstes und zweites Leben, Berlin 1817), and Hoffmann.

2.8 Other early novels reflect Hare's interest in the connections between different forms of literature, and include works by Friedrich Schlegel (Lucinde, 1799), Johann Arnold Kann (Gianetta, Bayreuth 1809; Romane aus der Christenwelt aller Zeiten, Nuremberg 1817), Jean Paul (Titan, Berlin 1800-1803; Clavis Fichteana, Erfurt 1800) and Hoffmann (Die Elixiere des Teufels, Berlin 1815, and others). Hare's collection of works by the brothers Grimm is comprehensive. Drama includes major holdings of Zacharias Werner, Ernst Moritz Arndt, Friedrich de La Motte Fouqué and Adam Oehlenschläger (whose Siege of Ancona was translated by Hare in 1820). Hare's books also record his strong interest in philology and local dialects, including Italian authorities. Periodicals include Propyläen (1798-1800), Kunst und Alterthum (1818-1827), the Jahrbücher für Philosophie und Pädagogik (1826-1830), Hermes (1819-1831), Jahrbücher der Literatur (1818-1831), Jahrbücher für Wissenschaftliche Kritik (1827-1837) and Zeitschrift für die Geschichte der Rechtswissenschaft (1815-1845).

2.9 Classical scholarship. The renewed importance attached to Greek and Latin at the beginning of the 19th century, a part of a more general renaissance in studies at Cambridge, coincided with the work in Germany of Friedrich August Wolf, Johann Gottfried Jacob Hermann, Ludwig August Dindorf, etc., and the establishment of Teubner as a major international publisher. As a result, the College paid a special attention to research in Germany, and the work of these scholars was acquired comprehensively. Annotated copies of editions of the Greek dramatists record the reactions of Cambridge Hellenists such as P. P. Dobree, Thomas Kidd and C. J. Blomfield to German philology. In 1910, William Wyse presented c. 1,360 pamphlets on classical subjects, mostly published in Germany between the 1860s and the 1890s and including theses and offprints; for a catalogue of these see below 3.2.

2.10 Other 19th century. Hare died in 1855, and in some respects (especially theology, philosophy and German poetry) his interests coincided with those of his friend William Whewell (see above 1.3). In practice, the collections of the two men complement each other. Whewell's pioneering Architectural notes on German churches was first published in 1830, following two research journeys to Germany. His bequest, encompassing a multiplicity of interests, included not only the antiquarian and historical literature assembled in connection with this book, but also a collection of local guide-books and a large album of topographical engravings.


3.1 Modern general catalogues

Author-title card catalogue [now closed]


[installed 1996 and containing accessions since that date; retrospective conversion of earlier records in progress; accessible on the Web via http://www. trin.cam.ac.uk]

Union catalogues:

Cambridge University online union catalogue


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

16th-century foreign books:

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

[lists Trinity College copies]

3.2 Historic catalogues

A catalogue of the College Library in 1600. In: Philip Gaskell: Trinity College Library. The first 1500 years. Cambridge 1980, pp. 147-258

Sinker, Robert: A catalogue of the fifteenth-century printed books in the library of Trinity College. Cambridge 1876

Sinker, Robert: A catalogue of the English printed books printed before MDCI. now in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge. Cambridge 1885

Greg, W. W.: Catalogue of the books presented by Edward Capell to the library of Trinity College in Cambridge. Cambridge 1903

The Wyse collection of classical pamphlets in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge. Cambridge 1915

The Rothschild library. A catalogue of the collection of eighteenth-century printed books and manuscripts formed by Lord Rothschild, ed. by John Hayward. 2 vols. Cambridge 1954

Harrison, John: The library of Sir Isaac Newton. Cambridge 1978


4.1 Archival sources

Only the principal ones are listed below:

Benefactions and ``register'

 book,  c.  1612
 -  c.  1675. MS
R.17.8. Donations recorded by name of benefactor; written (and in part ornately decorated) c. 1612 - c. 1675, and incomplete

Alphabetical catalogue, c. 1640, giving authors or short titles and locations. Lists 353 manuscripts and 1819 printed works. MS Add.a.103

Draft shelf-lists, c. 1645-1648, excluding law books. British Library MS Sloane 78, ff. 139r-154r

Indexed shelf-lists, 1667-1675. MS Add.a.101

Indexed shelf-lists, c. 1675-1695. MS Add.a.104

Interleaved copy of Thomas Hyde's catalogue of the Bodleian Library (1674). MS Add.a.103 A-B

Interleaved copy of the Bodleian Library catalogue, 1738. MSS Add.a.135-138

Register of donations, 1691-1783. MS Add.a.150

Donors' books, 1823-1974. MSS Add.a.158-161A

Accessions register, 1725. MS Add.a.108

Order books and lists of books bought, 1790-1973. MSS Add.a.123, 162-165

Registers of books borrowed from 1709 to the late 19th century. MSS Add.a.117-122, 124-126, 131-134 and others shelved separately

19th-century catalogue, on slips. Shelved separately

List of books bequeathed by J. C. Hare. Shelved separately

List of books bequeathed by William Grylls. Shelved separately

List of books bequeathed by William Whewell. Shelved separately

List of books given by W. Aldis Wright, 1862-1913. MSS Add.a.154-156

Typescript list of incunabula, in Proctor order, available in the library

There is also a very incomplete notebook recording early provenances.

4.2 Publications (select list only):

Sinker, Robert: The library of Trinity College, Cambridge. Cambridge 1891

Sinker, Robert: Biographical notes on the librarians of Trinity College. Cambridge 1897

Gaskell, Philip; Robson, Robert: The library of Trinity College, Cambridge. A short history. Cambridge 1971

Gaskell, Philip: Trinity College library. The first 150 years. Cambridge 1980

McKitterick, David (ed.): The making of the Wren Library, Trinity College, Cambridge. Cambridge 1995


Fechner, J. U.: English holdings from the library of Julius Echter von Mespelbrunn, Prince-Bishop of Würzburg. M.Litt.thesis. Cambridge 1975 [copy available in University Library]

Paulin, Roger: Julius Hare's German books in Trinity College library, Cambridge. In: Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 9 (1987) pp. 174-93

See also: A directory of rare book and special collections ...2nd ed. London 1997, pp. 38-39

January 1998

David McKitterick

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