Unlocking the Senior Library: Edmund Audley’s gift

This term’s Unlocking event looked at the first major donation to the College library in the 16th century: a collection of manuscripts and incunabula (books printed before 1501) given by Edmund Audley, Bishop of Salisbury (c.1439-1524).

Nicolaus de Lyra, Postilla super totam Bibliam (Cologne: Ulrich Zel, not after 1483)

Audley was one of the College’s earliest, and most generous, donors. In 1518 he gave the College £400 to buy land; the Rector and Fellows acknowledged this generosity by promising to observe Audley’s obit in perpetuity. The donation to the library included 2 manuscripts, one a Greek manuscript of the Gospels (now Lincoln College Greek MS 18), and a number of printed books that reflect Audley’s commitment to religious orthodoxy (he was renowned for his vigorous pursuit of heretics) as well as a more surprising interest in humanist studies. If the exact number of books Audley donated remains somewhat vague it is because the gift is recorded only in the volumes themselves: their provenance is indicated by an inscription, written at a later date, giving the title of the book and the name of the donor. The example here is from an edition of Augustine’s Explanatio Psalmorum and reads “Prima quinquagena Augustini ex dono Edmundi Sarum episcopi.”

Augustine, Explanatio Psalmorum (Southern Netherlands, 1486-1487)

The books in Audley’s donation are interesting not only for what they tell us about Audley but also for the evidence they contain of previous owners. There are traces of Italian ownership, for example, in the illuminated initials in Audley’s copy of Flavius Biondus’ Roma instaurata (Verona, 1481-1482) as well as signs of a later English hand in the decoration of smaller initials and the rubrication.  Audley’s copy of an edition of the letters of St Jerome (Strasbourg, not after 1469) has marginal annotations in several

Flavius Biondus, Roma instaurata (Verona, 1481-1482)

different hands, possibly French or German.  Although most of the books were later rebound, there are several still in early bindings, including an edition of Nicolaus de Lyra’s commentaries on the bible (Cologne, not after 1483) in a blind-stamped calf binding done by the early 16th century London binder John Lettou.

The books also contain evidence of their life at Lincoln.  Above the ex dono inscription in the copy of Augustine mentioned above are the words “Layd in the librarie 1603”. This suggests that in 1603 the book was moved from the list of books that could be circulated among Fellows to a permanent home in the chained library (the marks left by the chain staple are still visible on the upper board). More intriguing are two books that seem to have been claimed by individual fellows before being returned to the library: Audley’s copy of Roma instaurata has the name “Dominus Flower” (possibly the 16th century Fellow George Flower) written in small letters on the back flyleaf; rather less apologetically, Thomas Arderne, a Fellow of Lincoln from 1537-46, inscribed Audley’s copy of Bromyard’s Summa predicantium (Nuremberg, 1485) with the words “Liber Thomas Arderne.”

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