The Bodleian Library (1868)
From Literary Anecdotes About 19th Century Authors Born After 1829

THREE folio volumes of treatises in Canon and Civil Law, printed between 1502 and 1511, were given to the Bodleian by the Revd. David Royce, M.A., Vicar of Nether Swell, Gloucestershire, to which a very curious history attaches, of a kind which would have seemed almost impossible to have become a history in the latter half of this century. On the death of the owner of a certain old estate, it was thought wise by heirs or executors to destroy en masse certain old writings, books, and papers, which they could not read or understand, and which they were unwilling should pass into other hands, as they themselves did not know what the contents might be. So these wise men of Gotham made a fire, and condemned the books to be burned. But the soul of the village cobbler was moved, for he saw that vellum might be more useful as material for cutting out patterns of shapely shoes and as padding than as fuel; and so he hurried to the place of execution and prayed that he might have a cartful from the heap; and his prayer was granted. Some time after, Mr. Royce heard of what had occurred, and by his means the cobbler was `interviewed', and all that was left of the precious load was obtained from him. And among vellum fragments were the three above-mentioned books on paper, perfect copies, books which the Bodleian did not possess. And by the gift of my old friend who was the means of their rescue, I have some fragments of a fine 13th century manuscript (M.S.) of one of St. Augustine's treatises, cut and marked for the measure of some rustic foot. That a remnant of an old monastic library perished on this occasion, there is only too much reason to fear.

From W. D. Macray, Annals of the Bodleian (2nd edn.,1890), p. 384.

« NEXT » « Authors Born After 1929 » « All Anecdotes » « Humour » « Library »