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'Books with manuscript': the case of Thomas Cranmer's library

David G. Selwyn


THE library of Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556), though now widely dispersed, is a significant component of one of the main foundation collections of the present British Library - the Old Royal Library. Despite some losses through War damage and the duplicate sales of 1769 to 1819 there are still some 334 printed books and fifty-one manuscripts remaining there with evidence of Cranmer provenance, and these represent considerably over half the books so far traced from his personal library confiscated by the Marian authorities in 1553. Cranmer's earliest biographers, Ralph Morice and the unknown author of'The lyfe and death of Thomas Cranmer' (BL, Harleian MS. 417) witness to his long hours of study while a don at Cambridge ('seldom...without pen in hand')" and his habit of annotating books in his library; and this practice he apparently continued even as archbishop when he was frequently called upon by the king to deliver his opinion on some 'weighty matter in controversy' with no more than a night to collect his thoughts and the 'authorities' to support them. How far is this claim about Cranmer as an annotator actually supported from the evidence of his books that survive in the present British Library?

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