Llanthony Manuscripts

The Theyer Library

Richard Hart, the last prior of Llanthony Secunda, Gloucestershire, was lord of the manor of Brockworth, and the builder of Brockworth Court; he was also the brother of Theyer’s grandmother Ann Hart. Theyer inherited Hart’s library of manuscripts, which determined his direction as collector. He collected manuscripts from the West Midlands, in particular he made acquisitions from Worcester and West of England religious houses, including Buckfast Abbey and Hailes Abbey.

To his grandson Charles, Theyer bequeathed 800 manuscripts. Charles Theyer then offered them to Oxford University, and the Bodleian Library despatched Edward Bernard to see them, but no purchase was made, and they passed into the hands of Robert Scott, a bookseller of London. A catalogue of 336 volumes, dated 29 July 1678, was prepared by William Beveridge and William Jane. The Theyer collection was bought by Charles II, after Beveridge and Jane had beaten Scott down to half the asking price on some key items. This 1678 accession to the Library was handled by Henry Thynne; it is considered the major addition to the collection of this period, excepting only the Codex Alexandrinus. The 1697 Catalogus Manuscriptorum Angliæ by Bernard does not mention the location as the Royal Library, an anomaly for which Richard Bentley was responsible as librarian. It gives 312 items.

The whole collection passed with the Old Royal Library to the British Museum (see Royal manuscripts, British Library). futher information can be accessed via http://www.bl.uk/collection-items

Montague Rhodes James researched the bequest to Charles Theyer. It led him to trace the passage of manuscripts at Llanthony to the library at Lambeth Palace.]

Particular items

Theyer’s library included works of Roger Bacon, and manuscripts of Thomas Cranmer once thought lost. Humphrey Wanley claimed that Cranmer’s Commonplace Book was acquired by Henry Compton, and only later was added to the larger collection of the Old Royal Library. Other items were literature, the Canterbury Tales and William Forrest.

Theyer had a manuscript of Dives and Pauper, a work from around 1400, and attributed it to the Carmelite Henry Parker, as did John Bale, but modern scholarship disagrees. A Harley manuscript (MS Harley 460) has a list of the books at Llanthony Priory in about 1350, and an Anglo-Saxon prayerbook of about 820, in Latin with glosses in a Mercian dialect of Old English, which may have been written for a female physician. Perhaps the best known manuscript is the Westminster Psalter, a psalter from Westminster Abbey with important illuminations, begun about 1200, to which five tinted drawings were added some fifty years later. According to the British Library it contains “some of the most elegant and refined painting of the period”