Treasures Of The Lambeth Palace Library 1610-2010

To celebrate 400 years since its foundation, Lambeth Palace Library offers the public a fascinating exhibition ‘Treasures
of Lambeth Palace Library – 400th Anniversary Exhibition 1610-2010′, opening in London at Lambeth Palace’s Great
Hall from Monday 17 May until Friday 23 July 2010. The exhibition reveals centuries of history and hints at the depth
and intellectual value of the items in the Library’s care, some of which will be on display for the first time. It draws from
the incomparably rich and diverse collections of manuscripts, archives and printed books, built up over the past four
centuries. Richard Bancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1604 until his death in 1610, bequeathed his extensive
collection of printed books and manuscripts “to the Arch-Bishops of Canterbury successively for ever,” resulting in the
formation of Lambeth Palace Library.
On show are key items collected during Lambeth Palace Library’s four hundred years as a working library, beginning
with the founding collection owned and used by Archbishop Bancroft as his ‘theological arsenal’ in a time of religious
controversy and as a scholar and patron of learning. Treasures include a Gutenberg Bible (Mainz, 1455), the first book
printed in Western Europe from movable metal type; the 12th century Lambeth Bible, regarded as one of the
monuments of Romanesque art; some unique witchcraft tracts collected by Bancroft through his interest in debates over
diabolic possession and exorcism and Henry Jacob, To the right high and mightie Prince, Iames … An humble suppliation for
toleration, (Middleborough 1609), annotated angrily by King James I .
Founding collection treasures include manuscripts from the dissolved monasteries of Christ Church Canterbury and St
Augustine’s in Canterbury, Llanthony Priory and Waltham Abbey. Many books and manuscripts are linked with great
names of the past – a set of the works of Aristotle, printed in Venice between 1495 and 1498, was owned by Robert
Dudley, Earl of Leicester, favourite of Queen Elizabeth I – handwritten inscriptions on each title page are thought to
represent the entwined cipher signature of Elizabeth and Leicester; and King Richard III’s 15th century manuscript Book
of Hours, which was in his tent at the Battle of Bosworth in August 1485.
In the 17th century, further manuscripts and books were added to the Library, including an account of Archbishop
Laud’s trial, which had belonged to King Charles I and is inscribed ‘Dum spiro spero’ (‘While I breathe I have hope’).
Others included George Carew’s papers on Irish history and journals of Elizabethan and Jacobean voyages to the
During the 18th and 19th centuries, the collections developed with the addition of historical treasures such as the 9th
century Macdurnan Gospelbook, manufactured in Ireland during the early Middle Ages and owned by King Athelstan
of Wessex (reigned 924-939), a masterpiece of Insular book production; Greek manuscripts dating from the 10th century,
many in their original Byzantine bindings; and physicians’ reports on the illness of King George III.
An important development in 1964 was the establishment of the Friends of Lambeth Palace Library. The Friends have
presented some very special items to the Library’s collection including a 1516 letter of indulgence, issued by Pope Leo X,
for the rebuilding of St Peter’s in Rome; first editions of landmark texts in the history of the Church of England; a copy of
the warrant for the execution of Mary Queen of Scots and an accompanying letter from the Privy Council, dated 3
February 1587; papers relating to the divorce of King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon; an account of the baptism of
the future King Charles II; papers relating to the rebuilding of St Paul’s Cathedral after the Great Fire; and a hand
coloured lithograph of the christening of the Princess Royal, 1841. In 1996 the Library was enhanced through the transfer
of the pre-1850 collections from Sion College Library (established in 1630 for the benefit of the London clergy), including
an extremely rare Babylonian Talmud printed by Daniel Bomberg at Venice between 1526 and 1548.
As part of the Scala ‘Great Libraries of the World’ series, a beautiful book accompanies the exhibition ‘Lambeth Palace
Library: Treasures from the Collection of the Archbishops of Canterbury’, edited by Dr Richard Palmer and Dr Michelle
Brown. Published in hardback in March 2010, a softback edition will be on sale at the Exhibition.
For further information and advance bookings (recommended), visit

Duration 17 May 2010 - 23 July 2010
Times Monday to Saturday: 10.00 am to 5.00 pm, last admission 4.30pm. Closed on Sundays and on 22 May, 12 and 26 June 2010
Cost Adult £8, concessions £7
Venue Lambeth Palace Library
Address The Great Hall London SE1 7JU, ,
Contact / /

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