Moses receiving a scroll from God – a treasure of our Old Library

Manuscripts and Early Printed Books

Bishop William Bateman (c1298 – 1355) bequeathed a number of volumes of civil law, canon law, chapel books and theology. A list of his books can be found in the Exemplar Statutorum (1352) and the Master’s Statute Book (MS 20) which are both housed in the Old Library. Sadly, today only two of Bateman’s books survive: a concordance of the Bible (MS 8) and Tabula Martiana (MS 15), a collection of papal decrees. Many of Trinity Hall’s most valuable manuscripts and early printed books came through the efforts of Robert Hare (d 1611), a Cambridge benefactor and antiquary, who acquired many works from the former monastic libraries. The notable manuscripts include Speculum Augustinianum of Thomas of Elmham (MS 1), Liber Contra XII Errores et Hereses Lollardum by Roger Dymmok (MS 17) and Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy (MS 12). Among the early printed books collected by Robert Hare are the Schoeffer Latin Bible (1472) and the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493). There is a printed catalogue of incunabula: Early Printed Books to the Year 1500 in the Library of Trinity Hall Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1900.

Early Law Library

In 1588 the College received a large bequest of important law books from William Mowse (d. 1588), a former Master of Trinity Hall. They are for the most part finely printed works from continental presses. It is possible that the Old Library was built in order to accommodate this bequest. The law holdings were supplemented by gifts from other masters including Dr Thomas Eden (d. 1645). As Master of the College from 1626 to 1645, he bequeathed over 100 legal works to the Library, including a manuscript of his own unpublished work Commentarius in titulum De Regularis Juris (1633).

Post-1700 Holdings

In the 18th century the Library had an active programme of acquisition over a wide range of subjects. The crowning purchase was the first edition set of Diderot’s famous Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers. Not all volumes in the Library are ancient. There is also a collection of books printed privately by Brooke Crutchley, formerly University Printer. Fine printing on vellum is represented by the ‘Haggadah’, edited by Cecil Roth with sumptuous illustrations and Hebrew script by Arthur Szyk (Beaconsfield Press, 1940), and by Les amours pastorales de Daphnis et Chloéillustrated with woodblock prints by Gwen Raverat (Ashendene Press, 1933). Records for the Old Library’s 19th and 20th century books can be found online by using the Cambridge University’s iDiscover. We are currently working on a project to create online records for the 18th century books.

The Old Library has a card catalogue which is arranged by author name and can be consulted in the Reading Room of the Jerwood Library.

Consulting special collections

The Old Library’s rare books and manuscripts may be consulted in the Jerwood Library, by prior appointment only. For further information on the special collections and arrangements for viewing them please contact the Head of Library Services. All readers will need to provide photographic ID.

Photography of items is permitted. It is also possible to order high-resolution images of items in the collection.

Connect with Trinity Hall