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Books seen by Samuel Ward 'In Bibliotheca regia' circa 1614

James P. Carley


As early as the 1530s the antiquary John Leland (1503?-1552) envisaged the establishment of some sort of royal library, designed as a repository for the manuscript collections being removed from their previous monastic homes. From the period in which Leland was gathering, there is one particularly valuable piece of evidence: a list of the 910 books found in the Upper Library at Westminster Palace in 1542. The list was arranged alphabetically and each book given an inventory number; this was then inscribed in the upper right margin of the first or second folio. At much the same time a second collection must have been inventoried, since there are at least 190 surviving manuscripts and approximately seventy-five printed books bearing inventory numbers from 911 to 1450. These books were also arranged in alphabetical order.

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