Home  »  Volume IV: English PROSE AND POETRY SIR THOMAS NORTH TO MICHAEL DRAYTON  »  § 7. Cambridge University Library

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IV. Prose and Poetry: Sir Thomas North to Michael Drayton.

XIX. The Foundation of Libraries

§ 7. Cambridge University Library

The public library of the university of Cambridge dates, apparently, from the early decades of the fifteenth century; and John Croucher, who gave a copy of Chaucer’s translation of Boethius, was regarded by Bradshaw as the founder of our English library. The earliest catalogue contains 122 titles, and, later in the same century (1473), Ralph Songer’s and Richard Cockeram’s catalogue contains 330, classified and arranged. These books were kept in the First room. The library gained greatly through the generous benefactions of Thomas Rotheram, both in books and in buildings. Later benefactors were archbishop Parker and Andrew Perne, master of Peterhouse, who, at a time when the library (owing to successive losses) scarcely contained 180 volumes, worked jointly to increase its usefulness.

  • In July 1577, we find for the first time a member of the university appointed librarian, at an annual stipend of £10. The person chosen was William James, a Peterhouse man … [and in] the vice-chancellor’s accounts for 1584–5 is a payment “for a carte to bring certayne written bookis from Peter howse to the schooles, gyven by Mr Dr Perne to the librarye,” and also “for twoe that did helpe to lade and unlade the same.”
  • Among these, possibly, may be included the eighth century copy of the Latin gospels.