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12 - The Royal Library from Edward IV to Henry VII


Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2008

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Despite constantly accumulating evidence of the ownership of books and of arrangements for their storage and care during earlier reigns, King Edward IV remains clearly identifiable as the founder of the old Royal Library which was eventually to be presented to the nation by George II in 1757. During the last few years of his reign he acquired a substantial collection of impressive secular manuscripts, many of them irrevocably associated with him by the inclusion of his arms and badges as a feature of their original decoration. The evidence provided by the surviving manuscripts is supported by a number of contemporary documentary references which suggest that something in the nature of a planned acquisitions policy was being carried out in the King’s name towards the end of his second period on the throne.

The bulk of Edward’s manuscripts are large-scale copies of well-known and widely distributed library texts, all in French but frequently translated from Latin originals. Historical narratives are strongly represented, with copies of the chronicles of Froissart and of Wavrin (the latter dedicated to the King), of William of Tyre’s History of the Crusades, and of several works on classical history of the type attractive to the noble society of the day. The Bible historiale of Guyart de Moulins rubs shoulders with standard works of St Augustine, of Gregory the Great and of Vincent de Beauvais. Boccaccio contributes the Decameron as well as the more widely popular Cas des nobles hommes et femmes malheureux.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1999

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